I turn back to her. ‘What happened?’
She looks vague as she hands drinks to Kate and Tom. They accept, swiftly returning to the floor. ‘What happened where?’ she asks on a frown.
I roll my eyes. She’s so dim sometimes. ‘Starbucks, what happened?’
‘Oh.’ She’s back in the game. ‘She just walked in, started screaming and shouting, and lobbed a coffee over the poor bloke.’
‘What did she say?’
‘Oh, I can’t remember. She called him a selfish, cheating something or other.’ she flips casually. Sam has a girlfriend? I’ll have to warn Kate, she seems to like him. ‘Hey, he’s with the guy who hoofed you out of the office.’
‘Yeah, listen, keep that to yourself, okay?’
She frowns at me. ‘What?’
‘I mean the flying coffee. And while we’re at it, not a word to Patrick about the hoofing either.’
She shrugs. ‘Whatever. Oh, I love this song. Ava, come on.’
I watch as Victoria dances her way back through the crowd, but I can’t move. I can feel his eyes burning into my back. I know I should just walk away, but the magnet affect he has on me sets me turning towards him instead. He has his phone in his hand, and he waves it in the air in a kind of look gesture. I don’t know why I do, but I do. I get my phone from my bag, and not so much to my surprise, Jesse’s name is illuminating my screen. I glance back up, seeing him put his phone to his ear. He wants me to answer it.
The loud music around me fades out into a dull base, pulsing in my ears, and the hum of laughing and chatting diminishes into a low mumble of sound around me. I’m being swallowed up by his eyes. I’m completely immobilised. My senses are assaulted by the presence of Jesse Ward, the sight of him triggering all the memories of his voice, his smell, his touch. The unforgiving power he holds over me is playing the Devil’s advocate with my intelligence, and my heart is hammering a wild, uneven beat in my ears.
I watch as he lowers his phone from his ear, shaking his head. He starts towards me. I see Sam look in my direction as Jesse leaves their group, Drew flipping his eyes up too. They both look uneasy at Jesse’s obvious target.
I momentarily recapture my senses when Sam grabs Jesse’s arm to pull him back, but gets shoved out of the way. The music and activity crashes back into my brain. I plead with my legs to listen to the sensible side of my brain and take me away from here before my stupid side allows me to fall victim to his physical magnetism again. I abandon my drink on the bar and kick my legs into action, bolting through the crowd, knocking people out of the way, as my retreat becomes fraught with the need to make it to the safety of the toilets. No contact and no derailment. Hazardous doesn’t quite cover it. He’s proved tonight exactly why I need to avoid him like the plague.
I throw the cubicle door shut, fighting to secure the latch as he pushes against the other side, hindering my attempts to keep him away. My adrenalin is pumping. For the briefest of moments, I think I’ve managed to block his access because the resistance on the other side eases, but not enough to for me to get the lock engaged.
‘Ava, I’m coming in or you’re coming out. I don’t want to hurt you, but if you don’t stop fighting me, I’ll break the f**king door down.’ His breathing is heavy.
Resting my back against the door, I try to get some air into my lungs. I look up around me. I’m cornered. You would think I would be safe in the ladies. I can’t look at him, I’ll cave if he gets is hands on me. I need not to be in this f**king position! How did I get myself in the situation? I jump when the bang of a fist on the door resonates through me.
‘God damn it, Ava!’ Bang! ‘Ava, please.’
I repeatedly jolt forward under the thumps of Jesse’s fist. I’m screwed. ‘Go away, please!’ I shout.
His fist collides with the door again. ‘No, f**k. Ava!’
I just have to leave. He won’t restrain me in such a public place. I need to walk away. Block it out…block him out. There’s silence. I hold my breath. Has he gone? I stand quietly for a few minutes, my eyes darting around the small cubicle, constantly looking up to check he’s not coming over the top. He’s gone. I stupidly relax against the door.
Within in two seconds flat, I’m thrust forward and he’s in. When I turn around, there’s less than a foot between us, and the first thing I notice is his rapid breathing, his black shirt lifting with the rise and fall of his chest. I stare at his jeans. If I look up at his handsome face, I’m at an instant disadvantage.
‘Ava, look at me.’ he demands harshly. I clap my hands over my ears, lowering myself to the toilet seat. I need to block it all out. ‘Ava, why are you doing this?’ he asks.
Oh, how long have I got to sit here and block it all out? I start humming in my head as I stare down at the floor. I feel his hands clap around my wrists, pulling my hands away from my ears. His touch heats my skin. Why does he think I’m doing this?
‘I don’t want to do this in the toilets of a bar, Ava.’
‘Then don’t.’ I try to regain possession of my hands but, as usual, he overpowers me. ‘Please, just let me walk away.’
He slowly crouches down in front of me, still holding my wrists. ‘Never.’ he whispers.
The tears in my eyes spill over, splashing the top of my bare knees. ‘Why are you doing this to me?’
He clenches my jaw, pulling it up so I have no choice but to look at him. His eyes are glazed. ‘Doing what?’