This Man

Page 60

He grabs the top of my arm to steady me, causing a slight stab of pain to radiate through me, snapping me out of my spellbound state on a sharp inhale. He drops my arm and stands back from me, his soft eyes raging and focused on the scatter of bruises at the top of my arm, courtesy of Mr Baldy Jag. His jaw starts ticking, his chest puffing, as he stares at my arm.

All I can think about is how lucky Mr Baldy Jag is that these bruises weren’t present yesterday. ‘I’m fine,’ I cover my arm with my palm in the hope that concealing the offending area might snap him out of his fuming state. He looks positively homicidal. Is he mad because I have a few bruises? ‘I need to get back to work.’ My voice is small, nervous even.

He drags his stare from my arm, back to my eyes, looking at me like I’m the offending object. A flash of irritation passes over his handsome face as he reaches up to rub his temples with his fingertips. It’s an obvious sigh of stress.

He eventually shakes his head lightly and stalks off, without another word, leaving me standing on the pavement wondering what in the world just happened. I look down to the ground, my eyes darting about, like I might find the answer written in chalk on the slabs.

Is that it? Is it over? The look on his face said it is. I’m not sure how I feel about that. One second he’s thrusting his hips into me on a moan, the next he’s looking at me in pure irritation. What am I supposed to make of this? I really don’t know. I shake myself out of my reverie and head back into the office. The silence is awkward, everyone obviously pretending to look busy.

‘You okay?’ Tom asks, slowly passing my desk. I look up, seeing his usual nosey expression is dotted with concern.

‘I’m fine. Not a word to Patrick.’ It comes out harsher than I intended.

‘Of course, I’ll say no more.’ He holds his hands up in defense.

Fuck! All I need is Patrick to find out that I’m caught up with a client. I should have been stronger and resisted his advances. I’m really not very comfortable with how I feel right now. I think…I think it’s somewhere in the realms of…abandonment?

Chapter 16

I practically crawl through the front door in an exhausted heap. I find Kate in the kitchen, hanging out of the window having a cheeky fag.

‘You need to pack that in.’ I scorn her. She doesn’t smoke much, just a couple here and there, but it’s a bad habit, nevertheless.

She takes a last drag and throws it out of the window before hastily climbing down from the worktop. ‘It helps me think.’ She defends herself. Yes, she claims this whenever I catch her having a sneaky puff. Now, I’m supposed to ask what she’s thinking about, but I already know the answer to that question.

‘Where’s the wine?’ She grabs my bag from me, pulling it open, before looking at me in disgust. I’ve just committed a cardinal sin – I forgot the wine.

I shrug. I’ve had other things on my mind. ‘Sorry.’

‘I’ll go to the shop, you get changed. Fish and chips?’ She grabs her purse from the table as she shoves her feet in her flip flops.

‘Just chips.’ I make my way down the hall to my bedroom. I feel completely deflated.

I sit with Kate on the couch, picking at the chips on my plate. I have absolutely no appetite, and I’m only half watching the re-run of Friends. My mind is all over the place, and I’m so furious with myself for letting it be.

‘Come on then, spit it out.’ Kate demands.

I turn to face my fiery friend with a chip half way to my mouth. I was an idiot if I thought I could get away with mooding in peace. I give her a non-committal shrug, popping the chip in my mouth and chewing lazily. Talking about it will only emphasise the fact that I am actually mooding over it – “it” being a man.

‘You like him.’

Yes, I do. I don’t want to, but I do. ‘He’s bad news. You saw him today.’ I grumble.

She makes a dramatic display of rolling her eyes and throwing herself back on the sofa. ‘You stood him up for your ex-boyfriend,’ She puts her plate on the coffee table in front of the sofa. ‘Ava, what did you expect?’

I frown at her. ‘He didn’t know why I stood him up. As far as he’s concerned, I just stood him up.’

‘Well, he doesn’t like being stood up then, does he? She laughs. ‘Oh, by the way, I’m seething with you.’ She turns all serious.

What have I done? Oh, yes. She must be talking about my little Dan grenade. ‘Would you have preferred it if I hadn’t of told you?’ I ask.

‘You’ve not left me much time to leave town!’ she wails at me.

Oh, the drama! ‘You’re overreacting. You don’t have to see him.’

‘No, I don’t. And I won’t!’

‘That’s okay then, isn’t it?’ I go for subject change. ‘Sam?’ I raise my eyebrows.

‘Isn’t he yummy? Jesse came back to the bar – with a face like thunder, by the way – so I left them to it. He took my number.’

‘You’re a tart Kate Matthews!’

‘I know!’ she shrieks. ‘How were things left with the Lord?’ She looks at me carefully, weighing up my reaction to her question.

‘He was still mad, he stormed off.’ I shrug.

She smiles. ‘He’s pretty intense.’

I start laughing. ‘Pretty? I lose all cognitive thought when I’m around him. When he touches me, it’s like I hand over all control of my mind and body to him. It’s frightening.’

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