‘Not bad? I’ve done a better job than you’d ever do, lady.’ He jumps up from the bed. ‘You’re so lucky to have me.’
I scoff. ‘Are you not lucky?’ I ask incredulously. He’s such an arrogant arse.
‘I’m luckier.’ He winks, and I’m speedily dragged from my offended state on a sigh. ‘Come on, lady. Let’s go exploring.’
* * *
We pull off a roundabout and up to a security gate that leads down to a port. Jesse lowers his window and flashes a plastic card at a screen and the gate opens instantly, allowing him to drive through. ‘Where are we?’ I ask, edging forward in my seat to look down the road ahead.
‘This is The Port, baby.’ He proceeds at a crawl and turns onto a pedestrianized area, people mechanically moving to make way, not giving the DBS a second glance. I would’ve thought this strange, but I quickly register the dozens of prestigious cars, all parked in bays along the front. And not just the odd Merc or BMW. I’m looking at rows of Bentleys, Ferraris and even another Aston Martin, all screaming billionaires. These people are quite clearly used to ridiculously expensive cars, but my attention is speedily drawn from the row of expensive vehicles when I clock the rows and rows of boats. No, not boats. These are yachts.
‘Fucking hell.’ I whisper as Jesse slips into an empty bay and turns the ignition off.
‘Ava! Please, watch your fucking mouth.’ He heaves a tired breath and gets himself out of the car, making his way around to my side. I’m stuck in my seat, astounded by the bright whiteness of many huge floating mountains on the marina. ‘Out you get.’
I absentmindedly eject myself with the assistance of Jesse’s hand while keeping my eyes on the boats. I can’t even find words. But then I do. ‘Please don’t tell me you own one of those.’ I look at him with wide eyes. I don’t know why I sound so shocked. This man is beyond wealthy, but a yacht?
He smiles and slips his shades on. ‘No, I sold it many years ago.’
‘So you did have one?’
‘Yes, but I didn’t have a fucking clue how to sail the stupid thing.’ He takes my hand and leads me away from the car, towards a pathway where we’re safe from moving vehicles.
‘Why did you buy it in the first place then?’ I ask, looking up at him, but he just shrugs my question off and points out across the sea.
‘Over there is Morocco.’
I follow the direction of his hand, but all I see is open water. He’s trying to divert my enquiring mind. ‘Lovely,’ I say with lashings of sarcasm, just so he knows that I know his ploy. I’m drawing my own conclusions on Paradise and big yachts, but as I’ve reminded myself before, Jesse’s past is exactly that.
‘Sarcasm doesn’t suit you, lady.’ He pulls me under his arm and makes a meal of biting at my ear. ‘What would you like to do?’
‘Let’s mooch about.’
‘Yes, mooch.’ I repeat, looking up at an amused expression. ‘Like browse, peruse, mooch about.’
He smiles down at me, almost fascinated. ‘Okay. I feel another Camden coming on.’
‘Yes, exactly like Camden, but no funny sex shops.’ I finish quietly.
Now he’s laughing. ‘Oh, there are plenty of funny sex shops on the back streets. Want to see?’
‘No, I don’t.’ I grumble, reflecting back to our very own little pole dancing treat by that demented, leather clad, dominatrix type. I inwardly gasp. A Sarah type. Holy shit, she looked just like Sarah, minus the whip, instead playing with a pole. Sarah may very well have a pole, who knows, but my sudden comprehension is overshadowing the similarities of the women. ‘You didn’t find that attractive, did you?’ I don’t need to elaborate. He knows what I’m referring to.
My chin is grasped and pulled to face him. ‘I’ve told you before. There’s only one thing that turns me on, and I love her in lace.’
‘Good.’ I say quietly, because I don’t know what else to say. He’s probably made the Sarah connection, too, and even though Sarah more or less confirmed Jesse’s aversion to her leather clad arse, I needed to hear it for myself and from him.
He kisses my forehead and takes a deep breath into my hair. ‘Come on, Mrs Ward. Let’s mooch.’
* * *
I’m thoroughly fed-up of mooching by the time we’re back on the marina front, and I know Jesse has humoured me to within an inch of his life, insisting on buying everything that I picked up or looked at in a bid to reduce my browsing time. This wouldn’t have bothered me too much if it wasn’t for the kind of stores in which we were mooching. This is no Camden. Yes, there were a few knickknack stalls, but I was mainly directed into the abundance of designer stores, leaving me feeling a million times more conspicuous than I ever did in Harrods. The quiet, minimal spaces were dressed with just a few key pieces, not leaving much scope for mooching at all. I did see an exquisite tan bag which I braved a touch of, just to feel the softness of the leather, and Jesse, of course, took this small motion as an indication of my liking and quickly had it wrapped and bagged. I didn’t try to stop him. I really do love my new bag, so I showed him my gratitude, to which he responded by buying me everything that I looked at throughout the afternoon, each time giving me an expectant look to prompt my thank you.
He’s weighed down with bags now, and God bless him, he looks harassed. ‘I’ll put these in the car. Wait there.’ He leaves me on the side of the pedestrianized area, coating my lips in Chapstick, while he goes over to the car to dump the bags, making his way quickly back over and grabbing me. I stifle a yelp as I’m suspended in his arms and ravished. ‘God, I’ve missed you.’ His mouth slides over my freshly moisturised lips with ease as he takes me for all to see. As always, I’m oblivious to our location and company, letting him do as he pleases with me. ‘Hmm, you taste good.’ He pulls back and pouts, his own lips shimmering slightly from the transfer of my Chapstick.
‘If you want to wear ladies lipstick, then do it properly.’ I reach up to apply, and he does nothing to stop me, even puckering to make the coating easier. ‘Better,’ I conclude on a smile. ‘You’re even more handsome with shimmery lips.’
‘Probably.’ he agrees, with complete ease, smacking his lips together. ‘Come on, I need to feed my wife and peanuts.’ He returns me to a vertical position and starts to reposition the slipping straps of my little yellow sundress. ‘These need tightening.’
Shrugging his fussing hands away, I lead on, pulling my own straps into place and disregarding the grunts of protest coming from behind me. ‘Where are you feeding me?’ I ask over my shoulder, keeping up my stride. I’m not striding for long, though. My wrist is seized, and I’m suddenly pulling against a dead weight.
‘Don’t walk away from me,’ he practically growls, spinning me around to face him. He’s scowling, while I’m grinning. ‘And you can wipe that grin off your face.’ He proceeds to tighten my straps, muttering some rubbish about an insufferable wife, who drives him fucking crazy. ‘Better. Where are all the clothes I bought you?’
‘At home.’ I answer curtly, not that any were suitable for a holiday in the sun. I wasn’t exactly given time to go holiday shopping, so I made do with my holiday wardrobe from a few years ago. I was early twenties then, and these clothes he keeps moaning about reflect it.
He takes a deep breath of patience. ‘Why do you insist on being so difficult?’
‘Because I know it drives you crazy.’
‘You just enjoy reducing me to a crazy madman.’
‘You make yourself a crazy madman.’ I laugh. ‘You need no help in that department, Jesse. I’ve told you before; you do not dictate my wardrobe.’
His eyes burn with green displeasure, but I don’t shy away from his hulking, fierceness. I’m really rather brave. ‘You drive me crazy.’ he repeats, because he doesn’t know what else he can say.
‘What are you going to do?’ I ask smugly. ‘Divorce me?’
‘Watch your fucking mouth!’
‘I didn’t even swear!’ I’m really laughing now.
‘Yes, you fucking did! The worse word, in fact. I forbid you to say it.’
Oh, now I’ve really got the chuckles. ‘You forbid me?’
His arms fold over his chest in an act of authority, like I’m a bloody child. ‘Yes, I forbid you.’
‘Divorce.’ I whisper.
‘Now you’re just being childish.’ he huffs, just like a child.
‘-ish.’ I shrug. ‘Feed me.’
He scoffs loudly and shakes his head. ‘I should fucking starve you and reward you with food when you do what you’re fucking told.’ My shoulders are clenched, I’m turned around and then guided towards a sea-front restaurant. ‘I’ll feed you here.’
We’re shown to a table for two on the outside terrace and settled by a happy Spanish man with slicked black hair and a moustache to match. ‘Drinks?’ he asks in a thick Spanish accent.
‘Water, thank you.’ Jesse sits me down and tucks me under the table before taking a seat opposite and passing me a menu. ‘The Tapas are sublime.’
‘You pick.’ I hand the menu back over the table. ‘I’m sure you’ll make a suitable choice.’ My eyebrows are raised cheekily, and the menu is taken from my hand thoughtfully, but with no scorn or reproving look.
‘Thank you.’ he says slowly.
‘You’re welcome,’ I counter, pouring us a glass of water each when the waiter places an ice cold jug on the table. It’s muggy and my thirst has hit hard at the sight of water trickling down the side of the glass pitcher. I down the whole glass in one foul swoop and immediately pour another.
‘Thirsty?’ he watches in astonishment as I make quick work of the second glass, nodding over the rim. ‘Be careful.’ he warns. I’m frowning over the rim, but unable to stop gulping the icy liquid. ‘You might drown the babies.’
I cough a little on a laugh and place my water down to grab a napkin. ‘Will you stop with that?’
‘What? I’m just showing some fatherly concern.’ He looks hurt, but I know better.
‘You don’t think I can look after our babies, do you?’
‘Yes I do.’ he retorts softly, with absolutely zero conviction. He really doesn’t. I’m shocked, and my face probably shows it, even if he’s refusing to meet my eyes so he can see for himself.
‘What the hell do you think I’m going to do?’ I regret the question the second it falls from my mouth, even more so when his head snaps up and I’m hit with a sceptical look. ‘Don’t’ I warn, my voice cracking and tears of regret immediately burning the back of my eyes. I work hard to blink them back, mentally beating myself up for my cold hearted thoughts. I feel terrible enough all on my own, without Jesse enflaming the guilt.
I’m looking anywhere and everywhere, except at Jesse because to look at his face right now will remind me of the dark place I need to forget. I don’t blame him for doubting my capabilities, I’m pretty doubtful myself, but I have him, as he keeps reminding me.
He’s sitting next to me in a heartbeat and pulling me into his side, stroking my back and burying his mouth into hair. ‘I’m sorry. Don’t get upset, please.’
‘I’m okay,’ I brush his concern away. It’s plain to see that I’m not okay, but I can’t lose control of my emotions in the middle of a restaurant for all to see. I’m already being stared at by a woman a few tables away. I’m in no mood for nosey parkers, so I flip her a look before pulling out of Jesse’s chest. ‘I said I’m fine.’ I snap shortly, picking my glass up, just for something to do other than cry.