Annoyed with myself, I walk a little quicker to break the contact of his hand from my back, stopping when I reach the point of two possible routes.
He reaches me, pointing out across the lawns to the tennis courts. ‘Do you play?’
I actually laugh, but it’s a comfortable laugh. ‘No, I don’t.’ I can run, but that’s about it. Give me a bat, racket or a ball, then you’re asking for trouble. The corners of his mouth twitch into a grin at my reaction, bolstering the green of his eyes and lengthening his generous lashes. I smile, shaking my head in wonder at this glorious man. ‘You?’ I ask.
He continues through to the entrance hall, me following. ‘I don’t mind the odd game, but I’m more of an extreme sports kinda guy.’ He stops, and I halt with him.
He looks ridiculously fit and toned. ‘What sort of extreme sports?’
‘Snow-boarding, mainly, but I’ve tried my hand at white water rafting, bungee jumping and skydiving. I’m a bit of an adrenalin junky. I like to feel the blood pumping.’ He watches me as he speaks, making me feel scrutinised. You would have to anesthetise me before you got me doing any of his blood pumping pastimes. I’ll stick to a run every so often.
‘Extreme.’ I say, studying this magnificent man of an age I don’t know.
‘Very extreme,’ he confirms quietly. My breath catches again and I close my eyes, mentally yelling at myself for being such a loser. ‘Shall we continue?’ he asks. I can hear humour in his voice.
I open my eyes to be met by his penetrating, green stare. ‘Yes, please.’
I wish he would stop looking at me like that. He half smiles again and walks into the bar, greeting the men I saw earlier by clapping them on the shoulders. The woman is no longer here. The two men are very attractive, young – probably late twenties – and perched on bar stools, drinking bottles of beer.
‘Guys, this is Ava. Ava, this is Sam Kelt and Drew Davies.’
‘Good afternoon.’ Drew drawls. He’s a bit miserable. His appearance – he’s handsome in a rugged kind of way – and character, tell me he’s smart, confident and a business type. His black hair is perfectly styled, his suit pristine, his eyes shrewd.
‘Hi.’ I smile politely.
‘Welcome to the pleasure dome,’ Sam laughs, raising his bottle. ‘Can I buy you a drink?’
I notice Ward shake his head lightly on an eye roll. Sam grins. He’s the polar opposite of Drew – all casual and laid back, in old jeans, a Superdry T-shirt and converse. He has a cheeky face, complimented by one dimple on his left cheek. His blue eyes twinkle, adding to his cheekiness, and his mousey brown, shoulder length hair is all over the place.
‘No, I’m fine, thanks.’ I answer.
He nods at Ward. ‘Jesse?’
‘No, I’m good, I‘m just giving Ava a tour of the extension. She’ll be working on the interiors.’ he says, smiling at me.
I quietly scoff to myself. Not if I have anything to do with it. Anyway, he’s jumping the gun a bit, isn’t he? We’ve not discussed rates, briefs or anything, for that matter.
‘About time, there are never any rooms available.’ Drew grumbles into his bottle. Why have I never heard of this place?
‘How was the boarding in Cortina, my man?’ Sam asks.
Ward perches on another stool. ‘Amazing. The Italian way of skiing follows pretty closely to their laid back lifestyle,’ He smiles broadly, the first proper full beam smile since I’ve laid eyes on him – all straight, white and lush. This man is a God. ‘I got up late, found a great mountain, ran the slopes until my legs buckled, had a siesta, ate late and started all over again the next day.’ He’s addressing us all but staring at me. His passion for the slopes is demonstrated in his wide smile.
I can’t help but return his beam. ‘You’re good?’ I ask, because it’s the only thing that comes to mind. I imagine he’s good at everything.
‘Very,’ he confirms quietly. I nod my approval, and for a few seconds, our eyes are locked. I’m the first to break it. ‘Shall we?’ he asks, pushing himself up from the stool and gesturing towards the exit.
‘Yes.’ I smile. I’m supposedly here to work, after all. All I’ve achieved so far is a hot flush and an establishment of extreme sports. I feel like I’m in a trance.
From the moment I pulled up to those gates, I knew it wasn’t going to be an average day to day meeting, and I was right. In the four years I’ve been visiting people in their homes, work places and new builds, I’ve never come across a Jesse Ward. I probably never will do again. It’s undoubtedly a good job.
I turn to the two guys at the bar, smiling my goodbye, prompting them to raise their bottles before they continue with their conversation. I walk towards the door that leads back to the entrance hall, feeling him close behind me. He’s too close; I can smell him. I close my eyes, sending a small prayer to God to get me through this quickly, with at least a bit of dignity intact. He’s just way too intense and it’s throwing my senses in a million different directions.
‘So, now for the main feature,’ He begins to climb the wide staircase. I follow him, gazing around the colossal void that leads to a huge gallery landing. ‘These are the private rooms.’ he says, pointing to various doors that lead off of the landing.
I follow, admiring his lovely backside, thinking he possibly has the sexiest walk I’ve ever had the privilege of seeing. When I drag my eyes from his tidy rear, I see that there are at least twenty doors, evenly spaced and leading into rooms beyond. He leads me until we reach another grand staircase that stretches to another floor. At the foot of the stairs, there’s a beautiful stained glass window and an archway leading to another wing.