‘I know you’re excited, but could we hold off telling people?’
‘I want to shout about it,’ he complains. ‘Tell everyone.’
You would never know this was the same man. From the arrogant, conceited arsehole the day I met him in this exact office, to this? ‘I know, but I’m only a few weeks. It’s bad luck. Women usually wait until their first scan, at least.’
‘When’s the first scan? I’ll pay. We’ll get one tomorrow.’
I laugh and pull away. ‘It’s far too early for a scan, and anyway, the hospital will do it.
He looks at me like I’ve just grown another head. ‘You are not having my baby in a NHS hospital!’
‘No, Ava. This is not up for discussion. End of.’ It’s that tone—the one I know, for absolutely sure, never to challenge. ‘Never, no way.’ He shakes his head. He’s horrified at the thought, clearly.
‘What do you think they’ll do?’
‘I don’t know, but I’m not giving them the chance.’ He takes my hand and starts leading me from his office.
‘You pay your taxes and so do I. It’s a privilege to have a National Health Service. You should be grateful.’
‘I am, it’s wonderful, but we won’t be utilising it. End of.’
‘Neurotic,’ I mutter, looking up at him on a grin.
My grin is returned, even though I can see he’s trying to remain serious. ‘-ish.’ he replies. ‘I like your dress.’ His eyes wander down the front of my nude structured pencil dress, as do mine.
‘I want to show you something. Come on.’ He opens the door and places his hand on the small of my back to guide me.
‘What?’ I ask, letting my body be gently pushed from his office and down the corridor.
I shiver when I feel his mouth at my ear. ‘You’ll see.’
I’m curious, and I’m also feeling… a little breathless. Just from a few whispered words and his hand on my body, I’m mentally begging for him. Pregnancy might be responsible, or it could just be him. No, it’s the latter, for sure, but combined I could be in a whole heap of sexual trouble.
We pass the members of The Manor in the summer room, Jesse nodding, me smiling sweetly, and make our way up the stairs until we’re walking down the corridor to the extension.
He opens the door to the very last room, the one I fled from, the one I sat on my arse sketching drafts in, and the one in which I received my warning from Sarah. I don’t particularly like this room, but as I’m pushed through and the whole area comes into view, I gasp.
It’s no longer an empty shell of raw plaster and a rough wooden floor. It’s now a palatial space, garnished in sumptuous materials, all in black and gold. I gingerly wander in, gazing around, drinking in the stunning space. The huge bed that I sketched has come to life and is dominating the room, dressed in pale gold satin with huge, black lace calla lilies embroidered across the material. The windows are adorned with heavy gold drapes of the same material, and the floor is soft and squidgy under my heels. I look down and find I’m standing on a gigantic plush rug, so thick that I can’t see the tops of my feet. I trail my eyes across the walls, finding the paper I picked on one wall and the three remaining walls painted in a dull gold to match the bedding and curtains. It’s almost an exact replica of my rough drawing.
I turn to face Jesse. ‘You did this?’
He shuts the door quietly. ‘I gave someone your drawing and told them to create it. Is it close?’
‘It is. When?’ I ask.
‘It doesn’t matter when. What matters is if you like it.’ He’s trying to gage my reaction, looking a little cautious and maybe even a little nervous, too.
He was nervous because he has just visibly relaxed. ‘It’s ours.’
My eyes widen a little. ‘Ours?’ What does he mean by that? Does he want us to live here? I’m not living here.
He must catch the worry on my face because he smiles mildly. ‘No one has ever been in this room and no one ever will be. This is our room. If I’m working and you’re with me, maybe you’ll want a sleep or some rest.’
‘You mean when I have swollen ankles or exhaustion from carrying too much weight?’ I’m suddenly contemplating the awful thought that we’re having a baby, we are starting a family, and The Manor will be a huge feature and presence in our lives. My baby’s daddy owns a sex club. Once I have this baby, I’ll never want to bring it here, and with Jesse working I’ll hardly see him. He’ll hardly see us. The terrifying, unsure feelings are still lying dormant, and with this sudden realisation, they are threatening to rear their ugly head and send me back a few paces. He’ll never sell this place. He’s already confirmed that. It was Carmichael’s baby.
‘I mean, if we need it, it will be here.’ he says quietly.
I don’t want to need it. If we were never here, then we wouldn’t need it. I don’t say that, though. He’s gone to all of this trouble for me, so instead, I break my eyes away from Jesse’s thoughtful greens and cast them around the pale gold walls. There’s no wall art, no pictures or decorative pieces.
Except the cross.
My eyes remained fixed on the giant, dark wooden crucifix, and I notice at each end of the horizontal piece of wood spanning two thirds of the way up, there are manacles—shiny, gold, intricately carved pieces of mental bolted to the far edges to hold something in place.
To hold a person in place.
I slowly turn my eyes back to Jesse’s and find his are still on me, watching carefully, assessing my reaction to the piece of art. ‘Why is that in here?’ I ask quietly.
‘Because I had it put in here.’ He’s just as quiet, and his hands are draped loosely in his pockets, his legs slightly spread.
‘I think it might… help.’ His eyes are smoking out, his lip being chewed.
Help? With what? Jesse is just standing there with rapt intention written all over that heart-stopping face, and it’s playing havoc with my vital signs. ‘What do we need help with?’ My voice is a husky murmur, full of want and longing.
All of those vital signs escalate further when he slowly starts walking towards me. ‘You want it hard.’ he says quietly, ‘and I’m not very comfortable with that when you’re carrying my baby.’ He removes his Grensons and socks, then slides his jacket off his shoulders and drapes it on the bed. ‘So I thought carefully and came up with the compromise fuck.’
My exhale falters in my throat and for some reason unbeknown to me, I step back. I don’t know why, I trust him, but I’m a little shocked by his obvious intention. ‘I don’t understand.’
He reaches up and pulls at his tie before slowly unfastening his shirt buttons. ‘You will.’ He leaves his shirt draping open, teasing my eyes with only a sliver of his flesh, and walks across the room, opening a cupboard door and fiddling with something. Then the whole room is swamped with a slow building hum of spiritual, tingle provoking music.
I go rigid. ‘What is this?’ I ask as he walks slowly back towards me, reaching my body and breathing down on me.
‘This is Amber, Sexual.’ he says gently. ‘Afterlife. Appropriate, don’t you think?’
I couldn’t agree more, but my mouth refuses to speak and tell him so.
‘It doesn’t always have to be hard, Ava. I hold the power, no matter how I take you.’ He pushes me back gently until I’m positioned in front of the cross. ‘It’s not the hard you love, anyway. It’s me taking you so unapologetically.’ His voice is low and sure. It should be. He’s totally right. It’s the power he has over me, not just the power of his body.
‘You’ll never fuck any sense into me again?’ I ask, just as low, but not so sure.
His lips break into a concealed smile. ‘Will you defy me again?’
‘Probably,’ I breathe.
‘Then I’ve absolutely no doubt that I will, my temptress.’ He rests his finger under my chin and brings my face up to his. ‘If I want to fuck you hard and make you scream, then I will. If I want to make love to you, Ava, and make you purr, then I will.’ He places his lips gently over mine, and my eyes close, my breathing hitching quietly. ‘If I want to bind you on this cross, then I will.’ He reaches around my back and lazily draws the zipper of my dress down before pulling it away and lowering himself with it so I can step out. Working his way back up my body, he takes my hand and kisses my wedding ring. ‘And you are mine, so I’ll do what I like with you.’
My eyes are still closed, my head dropped low. My breathing is weak and shallow, too, and my ears are saturated by the sensual tones of the calm music. My flesh screams for his touch. However he wants to do it. However he wants to take me.
I feel my bra being removed, and the slow lift of my hand to meet the gold manacle. It clips into place and he kisses me again before slowly guiding my free hand to the other gold shackle.
I’m bound, spread on the cross and at his mercy. But I’m one hundred per cent safe, and I’m one hundred per cent comfortable.
‘Look at me, baby.’ he whispers, stroking my cheek.
My heavy lids lift and I’m crippled by dark green pools of pure love. ‘Tell me you’ve never done this before.’ It’s the only distracting thought running through my mind. The time I spent in the communal room never suggested this level of intensity or intimacy between two people. But my time was brief and even though what I witnessed was intense, it certainly never carried an element of love. We have that love.
Sliding his hand around the nape of my neck, he pulls me forward slightly so our faces are as close as can be without touching. ‘Never.’ His mouth meets mine tenderly, and I close my eyes, opening to his soft lips willingly, but not frenzied. I feel calm and serene as he leisurely works his tongue through my mouth, rolling, lapping and withdrawing before evenly plunging back inside to continue lazily seducing me. My lack of ability to hold him is not bothering me at all. He’s holding my neck firmly, kissing me like I’m glass, and I have no physical hold of him. His mouth is giving me everything I need. I have no desire to demand harsher contact. This is just perfect.
Trailing his mouth to my ear, he runs his tongue up the edge of my lobe, my cheek pushing into his jaw, his light stubble comforting and so familiar. I’m riddled with tingles, every scrap of my form buzzing to the erotic routine of his lips. And then they leave my ear and he pulls away. ‘Eyes, baby.’
I rip my eyes open with some determined effort and watch as he shrugs off his shirt, the revealing of slightly tanned, toned, smooth flesh attacking my eyes. My gaze drifts all over the hard vastness of his chest, over his pecs, over his abdomen, over his scar. The sight makes me shift in my heels and wish that I wasn’t bound at all. But I’m quickly distracted from my need to lay my hands on him when his belt is unfastened, along with his button and zipper, and he’s pushing his trousers down his robust thighs.
He’s standing before me, uncovered and unforgivingly phenomenal. I’m not serene any longer. I’m fighting the instinct to wrestle with my restraints and shout a demand for contact. He must catch my pending loss of control because he’s pressed up to my body in a split second and looking down into my desperate eyes.
‘Let the music sink back in, Ava. Control it.’
I try, but with his naked muscles spread all over my restrained frame, it’s just way too hard. ‘I can’t.’ I admit unashamedly. I’m not ashamed. I’m consumed. I close my eyes again, willing some strength from my weakness to obey him. My hands are suddenly warm, and I realise that his palms are encasing the fists I have formed. I flex them silently, showing my cooperation, and he releases me before lightly dragging his fingers up the insides of my arms, a flurry of goose bumps tracking their path until he’s on my chest and cupping both of my breasts. My eyes are still closed, but I know his mouth is moving in. I can feel his breath spreading further over my skin the closer he’s getting. And then there is the unmistakable heat of his mouth completely closed around my right breast. His tactic is exact. He sucks deeply, rolls his tongue slowly and pulls back to kiss my nipple sweetly before repeating, sucking, rolling and kissing. My head falls back, and I moan, a low, raspy noise of surrender. I soak up the attentive motions, as I quietly sigh and let my head go completely limp. A buzzing has developed between my thighs and is beating a steady, consistent thrum.