I know it’s him, but that doesn’t stop me taking a right, and then a right, and then a right again, bringing me back to where I started, and as I knew it would be, the DBS is still tailing me a few cars behind. I’m leading him on a merry dance. I feel around on the seat for my phone and stab at the buttons.
‘Yes?’ he spits, short, curt and clipped. Not his usual baby or pleasure filled tone. I’m astounded.
‘Nice drive?’ I ask.
‘Are you having a nice drive?’ I repeat myself, this time the words pushed through clenched teeth.
‘Ava, what the fuck are you talking about? And when I send John to fetch you, get in is fucking car.’
I ignore that last part and glance back up to my rear view mirror, just to check I’m not imagining things. I’m not. ‘I’m talking about you following me.’
‘What?’ he yells impatiently. ‘Ava, I haven’t got time for fucking riddles.’
‘I’m not talking in riddles, Jesse. Why the hell are you following me?’
‘I’m not following you, Ava.’
I glance up again. ‘So I suppose there are hundreds of Aston Martins driving around London, and one just happens to be following me.’
Silence falls down the phone line, then his heavy breathing starts. ‘You’re driving?’
‘Yes!’ I shriek. ‘I’m driving around in bloody circles, and you’re following me. You’d make a shit detective!’
‘My car’s following you?’
‘Yes!’ I actually hit my steering wheel in a temper. Does he think I’m stupid?
‘Ava, baby, I’m not driving my car. I’m at Lusso.’ He doesn’t sound impatient anymore. He sounds concerned, which only concerns me.
I take another look in my mirror and find the DBS is now only one car behind me, drifting in and out of my sight. ‘But it’s your car.’ I say quietly.
‘Fuck!’ he roars, and I instinctively pull the phone away from my ear. ‘John!’
‘Jesse? What’s going on?’ My stomach is suddenly a knot of panic at his reaction.
‘My car’s been stolen.’
‘Stolen? How can you steal an Aston Martin?’ Surely it would be impossible.
‘Where are you?’ he asks.
Frantically looking around, I search for something familiar. ‘I’m on the embankment, driving towards the city.’
‘John! The embankment. City bound. Call her in two.’ I hear car doors closing. ‘Baby, listen to me. Just keep driving, okay?’
‘Okay.’ I agree, my earlier anger giving way to pure fear.
‘I’ve got to put the phone down now.’
‘I don’t want you to.’ I murmur. ‘Stay on the phone, please.’
‘Ava, I’ve got to put the phone down. John’s going to call you as soon as I hang up. Put it on loudspeaker and place it in your lap so you can concentrate. Understand?’
He’s trying to stay calm, but he’s failing to conceal his distress. It’s thick in his husky voice, and I’m frightened by it.
‘Ava, baby. Tell me you understand!’
‘I understand.’ I whisper, and then the distinctive roar of a motorbike pours down the line. One of Jesse’s bikes. The phone goes dead.
My heart has gone berserk and is punching its way through my chest, my hand is visibly shaking on the wheel and my eyes are glazing over with panic fuelled tears. When my phone starts ringing, I fumble with the keypad until I manage to connect the call.
‘Hey, girl. Are you on hands free?’
‘No, wait.’ I quickly place the call on loudspeaker before dropping my phone into my lap and replacing my hand on the wheel, gripping harder to try and stop the shakes. ‘I’m done. I’ve done it.’
‘S’all good, girl.’ He sounds so calm. ‘Just take a quick peek and tell me how far back Jesse’s car is.’
I do as I’m told. ‘It’s only one car behind.’
He hums a little. ‘I want you to drive as slowly as possible, without looking suspicious. Just below the limit, you got it?’
I instantly ease off the accelerator a little. ‘Okay.’
‘Good girl. Now, tell me exactly where you are.’
I glance to my left. ‘I’m approaching Millennium Bridge.’
‘That’s good.’ he muses. ‘Concentrate on the road now.’
‘Okay. Why are you so calm?’ I ask. I’m not complaining because it’s rubbing off on me. An air of serenity is traveling down the line and calming me, which is crazy, considering the source of it—a giant, mean looking, wraparound wearing black man, who oozes terror.
‘One crazy mother fucker is enough, don’t you think?’
I manage a small smile through my growing fear. ‘Yes,’ I agree.
‘Now, tell me how you’ve been today.’ He asks it like we’re having a perfectly normal conversation.
‘Fine. I’ve been fine.’ Of course, I’m not being truthful, but what sort of question is that when I’m being chased down in a car? What next? An axe wielding madman? Jesus, since I’ve met this man I’ve been through the wringer, but this is going into the realms of a Hollywood blockbuster. Who the hell is following me?
‘He’ll be an extraordinary daddy, Ava.’
John’s softly spoken words that seep from the phone and seem to linger in the closed air around me, immediately pull me back. ‘I know he will.’ I can’t see John, but if I could, I know I would see that illusive gold tooth.
‘So you two are going to stop fucking about and sort this shit out?’ He sounds like a father, and my fondness grows for the burly beast of a man.
‘Yes,’ I agree. ‘Oh!’ I’m suddenly thrust forward in my seat and my seatbelt locks, pulling straight across my collarbone and burning the skin beneath my dress.
‘Ava?’ John’s voice is distant and muffled, and I can’t work out why. ‘Ava, girl!’
‘John?’ I feel around on my lap, but there’s nothing. ‘John!’
I’m jolted forward again, my arms instinctively locking on the wheel and sending a sharp flash of pain straight up to my shoulders. ‘Shit!’ I look in the rear view mirror and freeze when I see the DBS now directly behind me, but it’s quite a way back. ‘John?’ I yell. ‘John, can you hear me?’ My eyes are moving constantly from the road ahead to the mirror, back and forth, and each time they’re back on the mirror, Jesse’s car is closer. I attempt to step on the accelerator, but all body functions are failing me, except my eyes which are watching in horror as the DBS gains on me.
‘No!’ I cry, as I swerve and struggle to regain control on my Mini. I don’t stand a chance. My brain is being inundated by a million different orders, but I can’t gather any cognitive thought to establish my best move. I straighten up my car to be immediately hit again. Now I’m crying. My emotions are taking hold, telling me that I should be crying, that I should be frightened. And I am. I’m terrified.
This time I lose complete control. I scream as the wheel starts spinning of its own accord, and I’m suddenly travelling sideways down the carriage way. Then I’m hit again and facing forward once more. I frantically grapple with the steering wheel, but it’s got a mind of its own and in a total panic, I yank at the handbrake. I’m not sure what happens next, but I’m thrown forward and back again, and I’m dizzy, blurred images whirling past the windows. Buildings, people and cars are all spinning around me until eventually a loud crash rings through my ears, my body jolts violently and my eyes close. I don’t know where I am. But I’m still. I’m not moving anymore.
I flex my neck on a groan and open my eyes to look out of the window. The traffic has stopped. All of it. People are getting out of their cars and wandering over to me. I shuffle my legs and move my arms, quickly noting that I have feeling in all of them, before I unclip my belt and let myself out of my car. People are walking towards me, but I’m walking away. I’m walking towards the DBS, which is sitting a few yards away, the engine still purring. I should be running in the other direction, but I’m not. I’m running towards it. The desperate need to know who would do this has suddenly flattened my fear. Date rape, threats, and now this? What planet if this person on? The accumulation of incidents is now hitting me hard.
I’m only a few yards away when the engine starts revving, like some sort of eerie fucked up threat. It doesn’t stop me. What does, though, is the sound of a high powered machine getting louder and louder. I halt and stand rooted to the spot as I watch the DBS screech off, and then John’s Range Rover go sailing past in pursuit. This isn’t happening to me. I want to pinch myself, slap myself across the face, or, at the very least, wake up. I slowly turn when it sounds like one of Jesse’s superbikes is speeding around in my head. He skids to a stop and throws his bike down before sprinting towards me, no leathers, no helmet, just some faded jeans and a plain black t-shirt protecting his body—the clothes that he yanked from the wardrobe before he walked out on me. I can’t move. All I can do is wait where I am for him to reach me, and he soon does, his hands starting to work fast strokes all over my stunned face as I stare blankly into his green eyes, which are drowned in pure terror.
‘Ava? Jesus, baby.’ I’m pulled into his chest, one hand cradling the back of my head, the other wrapped around my waist to hold me tight. I want to hold him back, I need to hold him back, but nothing is happening when I tell it to happen. I hear Jesse’s phone ringing and he releases my head to fish around in his pocket. ‘John?’
Being buried under Jesse’s chin, I can hear the low rumble of John’s pissed off voice, and I distinctly hear him asking why the fuck he has to own such a stupidly fast mother fucking car.
‘Where are you?’ Jesse asks, kissing my head between words.
This time I can’t hear him. All I can hear are sirens—coming from every direction are sirens. I pull out of Jesse’s chest and find a mass of police cars and two ambulances. Just for me? But then I notice a crumple heap of a car, and it’s not mine. Neither is the one wrapped around a lamppost nearby. I search through the chaos of people and abandoned cars and spot my Mini crunched up against some railings that are separating the road from the pavement. I shudder.
‘John, don’t stop until you’ve found out who’s in my fucking car.’ Jesse hangs up and stuffs his phone back in his pocket. He pulls at my chin. ‘Look at me, baby.’
I gaze up at him. I’m not sure what to say. ‘Where’s your helmet?’
He takes a deep breath and claps my cheeks in his palms. ‘Fucking hell.’ He kisses me hard on the lips. ‘Why do you refuse to play ball?’ He kisses my nose, my lips, my eyes, my cheeks. ‘I sent John to get you, Ava. Why didn’t you let him take you to work?’
‘Because I wanted to shred Matt.’ I admit. ‘But you beat me to it.’
‘I was so angry, Ava.’
‘I would never have seen it through. I wouldn’t have killed our baby.’ I know I need to say this, at the very least.
‘Shhh.’ He continues placing his lips all over my face and my arms finally lift to hold him tightly. I never want to let go.
‘Excuse me, sir.’ The strange voice pulls both of our attention to the side where a policeman is standing. ‘Is the young lady okay?’
Jesse looks back at me and starts doing an all over visual assessment. ‘I don’t know. Are you okay?’
‘I’m fine.’ I smile awkwardly. ‘What about the other drivers?’ I look across to the two wrecked cars.