Mr Baldy Jag’s fat, ugly head snaps up in Jesse’s direction, a deep look of panic instantly invading his sweaty features. I feel his grip ease up. Letting go of me and stepping back from Margo, he starts weighing up the mountain of lean tallness that’s running at full pelt towards us. The intention to scarper is clear on his ugly face. He doesn’t get the chance to, though. Jesse charges him before he sets his short legs to work, taking him clean from his feet and sending him crashing to the tarmac.
My God! I was wrong. Baldy isn’t the angriest man I’ve ever seen. I watch as Jesse’s fist collides with Baldies face before he kicks him in the gut, causing him to cry out.
‘Get off your fat arse and apologise,’ Jesse yanks him up from the road, presenting him to me. ‘Apologise!’ he roars.
I look at Baldy, who’s huffing and puffing, his nose clearly broken, blood dripping down his slimy suit. I would feel sorry for him, if he wasn’t such a nasty bastard. What sort of man does that to a woman?
‘I…I’m s…sorry.’ he stutters, looking completely dazed.
Jesse’s fisted hand in Baldies jacket shakes him. ‘Lay a finger of her again, I’ll rip your f**king head off,’ His voice is menacing. ‘Now, f**k off.’ He shoves the crumpled heap of a man out of his hands and grabs me, yanking me into his chest.
I fall apart. I’m a stupid blubbering wreck as I sob all over Jesse’s expensive suit, while he holds me in his hard, warm chest.
‘I should have finished the bastard off,’ he grumbles. ‘Hey, stop the tears, I’ll get crazy mad.’ He spreads his palm over the back of my head and sighs in my hair.
‘Where did you come from?’ I mumble into his chest. I don’t care, I’m just glad he’s here.
‘I wasn’t far, and you weren’t hard to find. It’s anarchy back there. Where’s Kate?’
Yes, where is Kate? Mayhem has broken out and she’s still nowhere to be seen. I’m going to kill her! After I’ve had my fix of Jesse, I’m going to kill her.
‘Hey, what’s going on?’
I emerge from Jesse’s chest and see Kate stood at the front of Margo, looking rather bewildered.
‘I think you need to move your van, Kate.’ Jesse advises diplomatically. He’s not even broke a sweat.
‘Oh, okay.’ She shrugs, completely oblivious.
Jesse pulls back, running his eyes down my body. ‘Where are your shoes?’ he asks on a frown, his eyes darkening with rage again, clearly thinking I lost them in the ruckus with baldy.
‘They’re in the back of Margo,’ I sniffle. ‘The van,’ I elaborate, when his brow knits in confusion.
He picks me up and carries me around to the pavement, sitting me on a wall outside Mrs Link’s house. ‘I’m not even going to ask how they got there.’
‘I’ll get them,’ Kate shouts. She bloody should as well. She comes running over with my heels. ‘What happened?’
‘Where were you?’ I ask shortly.
She rolls her eyes. ‘I got dragged upstairs for a showing of the party dress. It was way too small and pretty painful to watch. It took them ten minutes to stuff her in the thing.’ She glances over at Jesse, who’s grabbing my bag from the front seat of Margo. ‘What happened?’ she asks again on a whisper. ‘He looks fuming.’
‘I got roughed up by Mr Jaguar,’ I brush the gravel from the bottom of my sore soles and put my heels on. ‘Jesse called as it kicked off. I don’t know where he came from.’
‘Ava, I’m sorry.’ She sits on the wall and puts an arm around me. ‘Thank God for the Lord, ah?’ I can detect the suggestion in her tone.
‘Kate, you need to shift that van before war breaks out.’ He strolls over with my bag, and I get to my feet. Damn, they hurt. I rest my bum back down on the wall again. I wince. Oh, my arse hurts too. Jesse frowns when he catches me flinching. ‘I’m taking Ava with me.’ He watches me shift my aching backside on the wall.
‘You are?’ I blurt.
He raises his eyebrows. ‘Yes, I am,’ he retorts in a tone that dares me to object.
‘It’s fine. I can go with Kate.’ I suggest, anyway. I’ve probably disrupted whatever he was doing, with my Monday evening drama.
‘No, you’re coming with me.’ He spells the words out, his lips pressing into a straight line. Yeah, I’m not arguing with him on this.
Kate does a tennis spectator impression, looking to and fro between us, eventually getting up.
‘I’ll see you at home.’ She kisses my temple and plants a big kiss on Jesse’s cheek, making his eyes bulge and my jaw drop.
What’s that all about? As she strolls off towards Margo, with absolutely no urgency, she looks back, grins and winks. I flick a warning stare that she completely ignores.
I look up at the tall, handsome beast in front of me – looking edible in his grey suit and crisp white shirt – and find sludgy green eyes narrowed on me.
‘Why are you flinching?’ he asks.
I stand up, wincing again when my feet take my full weight. ‘My backside hurts,’ I rub my battered bum and reach to take my bag from him. ‘I was holding Kate’s cake up in the back of Margo.’
‘You didn’t have a seatbelt on?’
‘No, you don’t get seatbelts in the back of vans, Jesse.’
He shakes his head and picks me up, cradling me in his strong arms, before striding off down the street. I sigh heavily and let him do his thing, resting my head against his shoulder and wrapping my arms around his neck.