‘Then don’t bloody tell anyone.’ I snap, feeling immensely pissed off with my mum and her reaction. I can’t blame her, it is shocking, more so than she’ll ever know, but to suggest I was rushed down the aisle because of it? That just makes me fuming mad, so I don’t know how Jesse must be feeling. His twitching, tense frame should be a clue, and when he takes my left hand and starts twirling my wedding ring, I know that my mum is about to be trampled.
He leans forward, and I close my eyes. ‘Elizabeth, I’m not an eighteen year old lad being forced to do the right thing after a quick fuck about with a girl.’ He’s not quite snarling at my mother, but as I open my eyes to gage exactly how much fierceness we’re dealing with, I immediately notice him fighting a curling lip. ‘I’m thirty eight years old. Ava is my wife, and I’m not having her worked up or upset, so you can accept it and give us your blessing, or you can carry on like this and I’ll take my girl home now.’ He’s still twirling my ring, and even though he has just firmly put my melodramatic mother in her place, and quite harshly, I could kiss him. And slap him, too. He doesn’t want me worked up? Coming from him, that’s bloody hilarious.
‘Now, let’s all just calm down a little, shall we?’ My dad says, all calm and softly, ever the mediator. Not only does he avoid affection, he’s not all that keen on confrontation, either. I notice he gives my mother a sideway glace in warning, something rare from my father and only delivered to his wife when he thinks it’s absolutely necessary. It is definitely necessary right now because if mum doesn’t rein it in, Jesse will trample all over her, and it won’t be delicately either. He has been unusually tolerant so far, but then again, mum has been pretty tolerant of my challenging man, too.
‘Ava,’ Dad smiles at me across the table, keeping his hand on his wife’s arm, a subtle message to shut the hell up. ‘How do you feel about this?’
‘Fine,’ I answer quickly, feeling Jesse squeeze my hand. I need to find a replacement for fine. ‘Perfect. Couldn’t be happier.’ I return my dad’s smile.
‘Well, then. They’re married, financially stable,’ He laughs. It’s quite funny to say that Jesse is financially stable. ‘And they’re bloody adults, Elizabeth. Get a grip. You’re going to be a granny.’
I’m feeling pretty mortified. After what has just transpired, you would think we were a pair of teenagers. I smile apologetically at Jesse, who shakes his head in complete exasperation.
‘I will not be a granny!’ Mum chokes. ‘I’m forty seven years old.’ She fluffs her hair. ‘I could be a Nana, though.’ She muses thoughtfully.
‘You can be whatever you like, Elizabeth.’ Jesse picks the menu back up, clearly fighting to leave it there. I can tell he’s dying to trample further.
‘And you should watch your language, Jesse Ward!’ She reaches over the table and flicks the top of his menu, but he doesn’t apologise. ‘Wait!’ she shrieks.
‘For what?’ Dad asks.
Mum’s eyes are passing between me and Jesse, back and forth, again and again before finally resting on Jesse, who has raised brows, waiting for her to advise us on what we’re waiting for. ‘You said babies, plural. You said our babies.’
‘Twins.’ Jesse smiles brightly, all irritation and trampling signs disappearing in a split second. He rubs my tummy lightly. ‘Two babies. Two grandchildren.’
‘Well, I’ll be damned.’ Dad laughs. ‘Now that really is very special. Congratulations!’ His chest swells a little in pride, making me smile fondly.
‘Twins?’ Mum jumps in. ‘Oh, Ava, darling! You are going to be exhausted. What are…’
‘No, she won’t.’ Jesse cuts her off completely before she can dig herself any further into his trampling pit. ‘She’s got me. End of.’
Mum sits back vigilantly and shuts her trap, and I melt on a little sigh. Yes, I have him.
‘And you have us, darling.’ Mum says quietly. ‘I’m so sorry. It’s just a bit of a shock.’ She leans over and puts her hand out. I take it. ‘You’ll always have us.’
I smile, but realise instantly that I won’t actually have them. They live miles away from London, and with Jesse’s family well out of the picture, there will be no calling the grandparents to pop over and relieve me for an hour. There will be no popping in to see my mum for a cup of tea and a chat so she can see her grandchildren. I feel Jesse’s hand tighten around mine, dragging me from my unexpected, unwelcome thoughts. I look at him, and he gazes straight into my eyes.
‘You have me.’ he affirms, as if he’s read my mind. He probably has.
I nod, trying to convince myself that he is all I need, but with two babies to take care of and Jesse at The Manor, I can see loneliness looming—a place where adult interaction is limited because, let’s face it, getting out and about with two babies is going to be tough and relying on visits from friends will be what I’m resorted to.
‘Have you decided?’
I look up, finding a waitress armed with a pad and pen, ready to take our order. She’s smiling brightly, and she’s smiling brightly at Jesse. ‘I’ll have the steak, please.’ I say, my hand slipping onto his knee instinctively, indicating the beginning of my own little trampling session. She makes no attempt to write anything down and doesn’t ask how I’d like it cooked. She just hovers, all starry eyed and dreamy as her greedy eyes run continuous trails up and down my God’s seated frame. ‘I’ll have the steak.’ I repeat, minus the please. ‘Medium.’
‘Pardon?’ She rips her eyes away from Jesse, who is hiding a small smirk as he pretends to read the menu.
‘The steak. Medium. Would you like me to write it down for you?’ I ask tightly. I hear Jesse chuckle.
‘Oh, of course.’ Her pen hand kicks into action. ‘And for you?’ she asks, looking at my parents.
‘Mussels for me.’ Dad grunts.
‘And the seafood platter for me.’ Mum sings. ‘And I’ll have another wine.’ She raises her glass.
The waitress scribbles it all down before turning back towards Jesse. She’s smiling again. ‘And for you, sir?’
‘What would you recommend?’ He blows her back a few metres with his smile, reserved only for women.
I roll my eyes as I watch her pull at her ponytail and blush profusely. ‘The lamb is good.’
‘He’ll have the same as me.’ I collect up the menus and shove them at her, smiling sweetly. ‘Medium.’
‘Oh?’ She looks at Jesse for confirmation.
‘The wife has spoken.’ He leans in and drapes his arm over my shoulder, but keeps his eyes on the waitress. ‘I do as I’m told, so it looks like I’m having the steak.’
I scoff, mum and dad laugh, and the waitress swoons all over her pad, almost certainly wishing that she had a God who did what he’s told. What a joke. She backs away, slipping her pen and pad into the front pocket of her apron.
‘You’re impossible.’ I say quietly, as my parents chuckle and look across the table fondly at Jesse making a meal of eating my neck. ‘And since when do you do what you’re told?’
‘Ava, that was really quite rude.’ Mum chastises me. ‘Jesse can make his own meal choices.’
‘It’s okay, Elizabeth.’ He sucks on my neck a bit more. ‘She knows what I like.’
‘You like to be impossible.’ I quip, rubbing the side of face into his stubble.
‘I love watching you in trampling action.’ he whispers in my ear. ‘I could bend you over this table and fuck you really hard.’
I don’t gasp or recoil at his crass words, spoken with no concern for the company we’re sharing. They were definitely for my ears only. I turn into him, pushing my mouth to his ear. ‘Stop saying the word fuck, unless you’re going to fuck me.’
‘Watch your mouth.’
He laughs and bites my neck. ‘Cheeky.’
‘Let’s raise a toast!’ Dad’s cheerful tone pulls us out of our private moment. ‘To twins!’
‘To twins!’ Mum chants, and we all clink our glasses in acknowledgment to the fact that I’m going to get really fat.
* * *
I enjoy my steak, but I can’t help staring longingly across the table as my mum and dad plough their way through a delicious selection of seafood. After Jesse pays the bill, we take a slow wander back to my parent’s house, mum pointing out all of sites to Jesse as we walk and chat. When we get home, dad takes his usual seat in the window, armed with his remote control, and mum puts the kettle on.
‘Bedtime tea?’ she asks.
Jesse looks across the kitchen to me, clocking me yawning. ‘No, I’m taking Ava to bed. Come on, lady.’ He walks over and rests his hands on my shoulders, then proceeds to direct me out of the kitchen. I make no objection, whatsoever. ‘Say goodnight to your mother.’
‘Yes, you get to bed. You have an early start.’ she says, flicking the kettle on.
‘Say goodnight to your father.’ Jesse instructs as we pass the lounge.
‘Goodnight, you two.’ Dad doesn’t even crane his neck around from the television.
I’m pushed up the stairs and guided down the hallway until we reach the guest room, where he begins to strip me down. ‘That was nice.’ I muse as my dress is pulled up over my head.
‘It was, but your mum is still a pain in the arse.’ Jesse replies dryly. ‘Give me your wrist.’
I hold my hand up to him and watch whilst he removes my Rolex and slides it onto the bedside table. ‘You trampled her again.’ I’m smiling.
Reaching up to my neck, he starts unknotting my cream lace scarf. ‘She’ll learn eventually.’ My scarf is removed, revealing my diamond. He smiles, straightening it out. ‘Are you looking forward to a few days of constant contact?’
‘I can’t wait.’ I answer without a second hesitation, reaching up to unbutton his shirt. I really can’t. This evening has been lovely, but I’ll be well and truly on Central Jesse Cloud Nine with no one else around. Pushing his shirt from his shoulders, I sigh. ‘You’re just too perfect.’ I lean in and kiss his chest, leaving my lips lingering.
‘I know.’ He agrees, with no humour or sarcasm. He really does know, the arrogant arse.
I drop his shirt and start working the button fly of his jeans before sliding my hands into the back and working them over the solidness of his arse. ‘I love this.’ I dig my nails in as I pass.
‘I know.’ he concurs again, making me smile. When I’m down to his thighs, I slip my hand around the front and grasp him loosely. He’s solid, as I knew he would be. ‘And you know how much I love this.’
He sucks in a hiss of breath through his teeth and pulls his groin away, but I maintain my hold. ‘Ava, baby, there is no way in hell I’m taking you under your mother’s roof.’
‘Why?’ I pout. ‘I can be quiet.’ I’m drifting into temptress mode.
He looks at me doubtfully, and so he should. I can’t guarantee that at all. ‘I don’t think you can.’
I lower to my knees and unlace his shoes, and he lifts each in turn for me to remove them, along with his socks. Taking the waist of his jeans, I slowly pull them down his legs. ‘I think you’ll be surprised by what I can do. Lift.’ I tap his ankle.
‘You mean I’ll be surprised by what I can make you do.’ He lifts in turn, so I can remove his jeans and boxers. ‘And I’m never surprised. I have that effect on you.’