‘Ava.’ he says quietly, but I can’t look at him. I can’t look into the eyes of the man I love when I know he’ll be showing utter contempt for me. Will he ever let me forget this? ‘Look at me,’ He sounds harsher, firmer now, but I disobey, noticing that bloody woman still staring. I meet her eyes, enhancing my fuck off look, which quickly prompts her to return to her dinner. ‘Three,’
I actually roll my eyes, but not because he’s started the countdown. No, it’s because I know I won’t be getting any Jesse style fuck or trample when he reaches zero.
It’s like he’s dangling a carrot that I’m never going to get a bite of. Stupid, I know, but the need for Jesse and all of his talent for fucking me into submission has become engrained in me, pregnancy only seeming to enhance my desire for it.
I exhale tiredly and start fiddling with my fork, refusing to submit, probably only shortening his fuse.
‘Zero, baby.’ I’m snatched from my chair before my brain filters the final call of the countdown, and I’m on the floor, wrists pinned above my head and Jesse straddling my waist. My eyes are wide and the restaurant is silent. You could hear a pin drop. I’m staring up at Jesse, who is unashamed and most unconcerned by our surroundings. He’s got me sprawled on the floor in a restaurant. What the fucking hell is he playing at? I dare not even look away from him. I can feel a million sets of shocked eyes drilling into the spectacle Jesse has created. I’m mortified.
‘Jesse, let me up.’ I wouldn’t put much past him, but this? This is way past unashamed. Fucking hell, what if someone tries to pull him off me?
‘I did warn you, baby.’ His face is awash with amusement, while I’m simply horrified. ‘Wherever, whenever.’
‘Yes, okay.’ I wriggle. ‘You’ve made your point.’
‘I don’t think I have.’ he says casually, making himself comfortable, suspending his face over mine. ‘I love you.’
I want the ground to swallow me up whole. Ravishing me and kissing the living daylights out of me on a busy street is one thing. Pinning me to the floor in a busy restaurant is insane. ‘I know, let me up.’
Oh God, I can’t even hear the chinking of knives and forks, which tells me all eating has halted. ‘Please,’ I beg quietly.
‘Tell me you love me.’
‘I love you,’ I grate the words through my teeth.
‘Say it like you mean it, Ava.’ He’s not going to give up, not until I follow through on his stupid, unreasonable order to his satisfaction.
‘I love you.’ I sound softer, but still uneasy.
He eyes me suspiciously, but what the hell does he expect? I’m beyond relieved when he shifts and pulls me to my feet, choosing to remain on his knees in front of me. I take my time straightening myself out, anything to avoid facing the masses of diners, who are undoubtedly looking on in shock. After I’ve spent much more time than is really necessary brushing myself down, I chance a quick look around the restaurant, then proceed to die a thousand deaths on the spot. I’m tempted to run for it, but I notice Jesse still on his knees in front of me.
‘Get up.’ I say on a hushed whisper, despite the obviousness of being heard. It’s still eerily silent.
He walks forward on his knees until he’s flush with the front on my legs, and then slides his hands around to my arse, looking up at me with puppy dog eyes. ‘Ava Ward, my beautiful, defiant girl.’ My face is heating further by the second. ‘You make me the happiest man on this fucking planet. You married me, and now you’re blessing me with twin babies.’ He slips a hand from my arse and onto my tummy, circling adoringly before dropping a kiss in the centre. There’s definitely a few sighs from our spectators. ‘I love you so fucking much. You’re going to be an incredible mummy to my babies.’ I can do nothing more than stare down at him as he makes his public declaration, the embarrassing fool. And there are more sighs. He kisses his way up my body until he’s in my neck. ‘Don’t try to stop me from loving you. It makes me sad.’
‘Sad or crazy?’ I ask quietly.
He emerges from his hiding place in my neck and gathers my hair, draping it down my back before cupping both of my cheeks in my palms. ‘Sad.’ he affirms. ‘Kiss me, wife.’
I’m not up for any further embarrassment, so I conform and give him exactly what he wants. This way I get to escape sooner. But then clapping starts, and I’m soon missing Jesse’s lips on mine as he takes a bow and sits me back down. We’re staying?
‘I love her.’ He shrugs, like that explains why he has just manhandled me to the floor and demanded a declaration of love, before announcing to a bunch of strangers that we’re expecting twins.
I jump at the excited, broken English of the waiter, who waves a bottle of champagne in front of us. ‘You must celebrate.’ He pops the cork and pours two glasses. I cringe. It’s very thoughtful, but there’s no way either of us are drinking it.
‘Thank you,’ I smile up at him, praying he doesn’t hang around to watch us clink glasses and swig. ‘That’s very kind.’ He must hear my mental plea or see my distressed face because he backs away, leaving me assessing the surroundings. People have returned to their meals, some flicking fond looks every so often, but the interest seems to have died down. That woman is still staring, though. I frown at her, but I’m distracted when Jesse’s hand lands on my knee. I turn and find a face full of mischievousness. Yes, he’s demonstrated his point loud and clear, and for everyone to see.
‘I cannot believe you did that.’
‘Why?’ He pushes the champagne flutes away from us.
I’m about to argue my case, but I can feel eyes on me again, and I know who it is. I turn slowly, finding her staring again. She’s quite a few tables away, and there are masses of people between us, but a small gap in the crowd is giving me a clear view, and it’s obviously giving her one, too, because she’s making the most of it. ‘Do you know that woman?’ I ask, keeping my eyes on her, even though she’s returned to her meal.
‘What woman?’ Jesse asks, leaning over me to see where my gaze is directed.
‘There, the women with the pale blue cardigan.’ I almost point across the restaurant, but quickly rein in my lifting hand. ‘Can you see?’
After what seems like forever has passed and he still hasn’t answered me, I turn and watch as the colour drains from his face, leaving a pasty shocked one in place of the tanned content one.
‘What’s the matter?’ I instinctively slap my hand on his forehead to gage his temperature, noting with just a second’s touch that he’s stone cold. ‘Jesse?’ He’s staring blankly past me in a complete trance. I’m worried. ‘Jesse, what’s wrong?’
He shakes his head, like he’s shaking off a concussion, and turns haunted eyes onto me. I can see that he’s trying to look okay, but my husband is failing miserably. There’s something seriously wrong. ‘We’re leaving.’ He stands, knocking a glass over, attracting a little bit more attention. Throwing a pile of notes on the table, he wastes no time lifting my perplexed arse from the chair and leading me out of the restaurant.
He strides with complete purpose towards the car, virtually pulling me along behind him. ‘What is wrong with you?’ I try again, but I know it’s in vain. He has completely shut down.
The car door is opened, and I look up at him as he starts to guide me in, but I get nothing. No acknowledgment, no expression, no explanation. I do notice his shoulder tense and rise, though, and his chest is beginning to heave. He’s looking past me, yet still trying to push me into the car.
‘Jesse?’ The unfamiliar female voice pulls my attention away from my spaced out husband and to a women behind me. The woman. I stare at her in confusion, feeling Jesse’s hand grip me tighter. I can hear his breathing now, too. I’m completely bewildered, but I still manage to take her in, running my eyes up and down this stranger who has spent the best part of her time in the seafront eatery staring at me, or Jesse, or us. I’m not sure. But the longer I’m looking at her, the clearer it’s all becoming.
Jesse tries to reposition me to get me in the car, but I shrug him off, too intrigued by who I’m looking at. ‘Ava, baby, we’re going.’ He’s not demanding or shouting at me impatiently, despite my defiance. It makes me want to cry.
‘Jesse, son.’ The women steps forward and my fears are confirmed.
‘You don’t get to call me that.’ Jesse says tightly. ‘Ava, get in the car.’
I get in. That was all the confirmation I needed. I don’t need to hear anything else, no shouting matches or explanations. That’s Jesse’s mum. I shift my body in the seat and watch him make his way around the back of the car, feeling concerned when I see his mum hurry past the front to intercept him. I watch as she places a hand on his arm and he shrugs it off, I hear as she pleads for a chance to talk, and then I see as she presses her body up against the driver’s door to prevent him from accessing the car. His hands fly to his hair and yank, the pain on his face breaking my heart. He won’t physically remove his mother, which leaves him out there vulnerable. I can’t just sit here and watch him struggle like this, so I get out and make my way around to Jesse and his mother, with nothing but determination coursing through me.
I stand in front of Jesse, like a protective shield, and look her square in the eye. ‘Please, I’m asking you to move.’
He leans over me. ‘You shouldn’t be here. Why are you here?’ Jesse’s voice is broken and shaky, as is his body. I can feel the vibrations seeping into my back. ‘It’s Amalie’s wedding weekend in Seville. Why are you here?’
Realisation dawns. I didn’t read far enough into the invite to note a date or location, but Jesse obviously did. Why else would he bring me here, unless he knew his parents would be gone? But they are here. And it’s sent Jesse spiralling into turmoil.
‘It’s your father,’ she begins. ‘The wedding, it got postponed because your father had a heart attack. Amalie tried to get in touch after you never replied to her wedding invite.’
Jesse’s chest presses into mine, and I know he’s going to speak, which is good because I can think of nothing to say. I’m struck dumb. This is information overload. ‘So tell me why Amalie tried to contact me? Why not you?’
‘I thought you would answer your sister.’ she replies quickly. ‘I was hoping you would answer you sister’s calls.’
‘Well you were wrong!’ he roars over my shoulder, making me wince. ‘You don’t get to do this to me. No more, Mum. Your influence already fucked my life up, and now I’m making it right all on my own!’
She flinches, but she doesn’t defend herself. Her green eyes—just like Jesse’s—are all clouded and desperate. So many thoughts are racing through my brain, but my priority is Jesse and his obvious distress.
‘Twins,’ his mom whispers, reaching forward with her hand.
I freeze. I can’t move. Her eyes are studying my stomach, and I see pain etched all over her wrinkled face. I’m pulled back, just avoiding a skimming of her hand on my tummy. It snaps me from my daze and makes me reassess the situation. It doesn’t take long. I need to get Jesse away.
‘Ava,’ His voice has softened in my ear. ‘Please, get me out of here.’
My heart splits straight down the middle. ‘I’m asking you nicely.’ I look at his mother, whose eyes are still focused on my midriff. ‘Please move.’
‘It’s another chance, Jesse.’ She’s sobbing now, but I don’t feel any sympathy for her. Jesse doesn’t speak. He remains still and quiet behind me. I think he might have fallen into a trance, and I’m not at all surprised. Those few words have only heightened my determination and turned my building tears into pure anger. I can’t lash out at his mother, though.