‘You’re really arrogant.’
‘No, not this time. This time I’m just honest. You see, I realised that I was in love with you before then.’
I pout. ‘Does that make you cleverer than me?’
‘Yes, it does. The whole time you were running, I was so frustrated. I was thinking there must’ve been something wrong with you.’ He smiles shyly. ‘You know, because you wouldn’t submit to me.’
‘Like the others did.’ I confirm his point. I imagine rejection was very frustrating for a man who always took what he wanted with complete ease. He nods, and I sigh. ‘It was only because I knew I’d get hurt. Even though I didn’t know you, it was obvious you…’ I pause briefly. ‘were experienced.’ I was going to say a womaniser, but I don’t think Jesse could be labelled that at all. Women threw themselves at his feet, made it easy for him, so he didn’t need to resort to chasing. Until he met me.
His fingertips start tracing up my shins, and he watches their path. ‘When I left you for those four days…’
‘Don’t!’ I blurt. ‘Please don’t talk about that.’
‘Just let me explain something. It’s important.’ He reaches up and pulls me down so we’re nose to nose. ‘I was so confused by what I was feeling. It took that time away from you to piece together exactly what it was. I couldn’t work out why I was behaving like a madman. I really did think I was going fucking crazy, Ava.’
I absolutely do not relish these reminders. I don’t know where this is leading to, but I already know that he left me because he knew he was in trouble, because he didn’t want to hurt me. I don’t need to hear it all again.
He has a little nibble of his lip, right under my nose, and then presses on. ‘I spent day three and four reliving every single moment with you. I replayed them repeatedly until I was torturing myself, so I came to find you. Then you fucking ran again.’
Of course I ran again. My instincts didn’t fail me. Even if I wasn’t wholly sure of why I should be running, I knew I had to.
‘Ava, the night when you told me that you love me, everything became so fucking clear, but at the same time it was a massive blur. I wanted you to love me, but I knew you didn’t really know me. I knew there was stuff that would make you run again, but I also knew that I belonged to you, and it scared me to fucking death to think that once you started unravelling it all, you’d be off again. I couldn’t risk it, not after it took me so long to find you.’ His eyes close and he takes a further deep breath of confidence. ‘I took your pills that night.’
I’m not even shocked. He’s confessed, not only to stealing them, but why he did. It makes sense to him in his crazy world, and worryingly, it kind of does to me.
His lips press to mine softly. ‘I sat there all night and watched you sleeping, and all I thought about was every reason for you not to want me. I knew it was wrong to take them, but I saw it as collateral. That’s how desperate I was.’
I relax into him, my face falling into his neck. ‘So you don’t want a baby? You just want to keep me?’
He pulls me out of his neck and hits me with his smile, reserved only for me. ‘I want everything in the world with you, baby, and I want it all yesterday.’
Deep down, I think I knew that, too. ‘Thank you for my watch.’
He smiles and reaches up to drag his finger across my bottom lip. ‘You’re more than welcome.’
I fall to his lips and lose myself in him. It’s slow, it’s soft, it’s exquisite. It’s just how it’s supposed to be in this moment.
The familiar sound of whirring and banging wakes me, and knowing where to find him, I take myself down to the gym. I stand on the other side of the glass door and watch his sweat drenched back flexing and rippling as he pounds the treadmill while watching the sports news on the suspended television. Opening the door quietly, I wander in and take myself around the front of the machine, sitting my naked arse on the weights bench in front of him.
He’s running very fast, and when I lean back on my arms, he slams his fist on the slow button, and starts a steady pace down until he’s stopped completely. My sleepy eyes are beside themselves, watching as he grabs a towel and runs it through his hair and over his face. He’s a mass of pure, solid, shimmering sweatiness. I could eat him.
I’m being watched very closely as he bends forward and rests his forearms on the front of the machine. ‘Morning.’ His eyes run down my front and all the way back up again until he’s back at my eyes.
‘Morning yourself. Why are you running in here?’ I already know the answer to that question, and if I’m going by the tiny, barely noticeable grin on his face, he knows I know the answer to that question, too.
‘I fancied a change.’
I throw him a questioning look, but don’t bother challenging him on it. If pregnancy stops him from dragging me out of bed at sunbreak for a trek around London, then I’m looking more forward to the next eight months. ‘I don’t remember falling asleep.’
‘You went out like a light. I was happy to have you tucked into my side, so I let you be. You’re sleeping for England, baby.’
At that comment, I yawn and stretch my arms over my head. ‘What time is it?’ Just as the words leave my lips, I hear the front door open and shut, and then the cheerful calling of Cathy. If Cathy’s here, then it’s got to be eight o’clock-ish, and I’m stark bollock naked! I jump up. ‘I’m naked!’
He smirks and steps down from the treadmill. ‘So you are.’ he laughs, walking over to me. ‘Whatever will Cathy think?’
I do a quick scan of the gym, looking for a towel or anything to conceal my naked form so I can escape upstairs with my dignity still intact. I laugh to myself. I lost my dignity the morning Cathy walked in on us both naked. My eyes land on the towel in Jesse’s hand, and I quickly snatch it from his grasp to flap it out.
‘I don’t think that’ll quite cover it.’ he muses smugly.
He’s right. It’s little more than a face cloth. ‘Help me.’ I lift pleading eyes to him and find a soft smile.
‘Come here.’ He opens his arms, and I walk right into them, lifting myself up in my usual chimp-ish manner. His damp skin is slippery and smells delicious.
Walking to the gym door, he opens it and sticks his head out. ‘Cathy?’ he calls.
‘Where are you?’
‘In the kitchen.’
With that confirmation, he slips out and takes the stairs quickly. I watch over his shoulder as we rise, praying that Cathy doesn’t come to investigate his questioning. She doesn’t. I make it to the safety of the master-suite with my dignity still whole.
‘There.’ he places me on my feet and drops a kiss on my forehead.
‘What time is it?’
‘Ten to eight.’
I roll my eyes and point an accusing glare at him. ‘Why didn’t you wake me?’ I walk off to the bathroom.
‘You needed to sleep.’
‘Not for fifteen hours.’ I flip the shower on and step straight into the water, not bothering to wait for it to warm. I need waking up. I make quick work of wetting my hair and slapping some shampoo in my palms.
He’s standing on the other side of the glass removing his running shoes. ‘You obviously do need it.’ he mumbles.
I rinse my hair, condition, and then slip past him, ignoring more grumbles as he steps in. It takes me tens minute flat to dry my hair, apply my make-up and get dressed, and I’m on my way downstairs before Jesse.
‘Morning, Cathy,’ I take my phone off the charger and slip it in my bag.
‘Ava, you look a little brighter.’ Cathy dries her hands on the front of her apron and does a little assessment of me. ‘Yes, much brighter.’
‘I feel it,’ I laugh.
‘What would you like for breakfast?’
‘Oh, I’m late, Cathy. I’ll grab something at work.’ I throw my bag over my shoulder.
‘You’ll eat!’ Jesse’s stern, take no shit voice hits me from behind, and I turn to find a scowl fixed to his face as he fastens his tie. ‘She’ll have a bagel, Cathy.’ His suit-clad perfection reaches me and lifts me to a stool. ‘With eggs.’ He seems to consider something for a second. ‘Actually, no eggs.’
My eyes widen, and I quickly remove myself from the barstool, looking across at Jesse’s confused housekeeper. ‘Cathy, thank you, but I’ll eat at work.’ I walk out of the kitchen, leaving Jesse with his jaw slightly gaping.
‘Hey!’ His shocked voice reaches me as I slam the penthouse door behind me. No run. I will eat. No eggs. My contentment was short lived. I stab at the elevator keypad, but it doesn’t open, so I re-stab, getting myself more and more worked up. ‘No eggs?’ I yell at the row of numbers when the door still doesn’t shift.
I swing around and find my neurotic control freak with his hands draped loosely in his trouser pockets, watching me lose my temper with the innocent keypad. ‘I can eat eggs!’ I yell at him. ‘What’s the new code?’
‘You heard.’ I bash the pad with the side of my fist.
‘Yes, I heard. But I’m giving you a chance to retract that tone.’ He’s completely straight faced and unaffected by my little outburst, while my eyes have just bulged at his insolence. Giving me a chance to retract it?
I walk up to him, calm and composed, and reach up on my tiptoes so I’m as near as possible to his nauseatingly splendid face—the one I want to smash in at this particular moment in time. ‘Fuck… off.’ I breathe on him before stomping off towards the stairwell, praying he hasn’t took the initiative to change the code on this door yet. He hasn’t. I smile smugly as I push my way through. Thirteen floors is going to kill me, but I start tackling them anyway, thanking the stair God’s that I’m going down them and not up.
By floor seven, I’ve removed my heels and by floor four, I have to stop and take a breather. I’m hot, sweaty and I feel sick. ‘Fucking man.’ I grumble, taking a deep breath and carrying on my way. I push my way through the fire door and walk straight into that chest, before being pushed back into the stairwell. I don’t even try to battle free from his grasp. I’m absolutely beat.
I’m lifted from my feet and held in place against the concrete wall. I’m damp with sweat and panting heavy, exhausted breaths in his face after pounding the stairs down to the foyer, while Jesse is breathing steady, calm streams of air after taking the luxurious elevators from the top of Lusso.
‘You’re not getting an apology fuck.’ I practically wheeze all over him. Even through my slightly sick feeling, I’m struggling to fight off his potency. I’m not yielding to this. It’s no eggs today, but it’ll be something more extreme tomorrow.
His lips form a straight line and his greens eyes narrow. ‘Mouth!’
‘No! You are not…’ That’s as far as I get before his mouth hits mine, attacking me full force. I know exactly what he’s doing, but that doesn’t stop my bag from dropping to the ground and my hands from grappling at his suit covered back. My legs lift and curl around his waist. This is the Jesse I know and love. I couldn’t be happier. I moan, I yank at his jacket, I pull his hair and bite at his lip.
‘Stubborn woman.’ he works up to my ear and bites down, clinking my earing with his teeth. ‘Someone’s gagging for it.’ He kisses the sensitive void under my lobe, and I shudder from top to toe. ‘Shall I make you scream in the stairwell, Ava?’
Oh good Lord, I want him to fuck me in the stairwell. ‘Yes,’