Beneath This Man

Chapter 21

When dessert and coffee has been served and my cheeks hurt from Kate and Sam antics at the table, John stands and announces, in his usual booming voice, that everyone should clear the room so it can be emptied of tables, ready for the band.

Jesse stands and helps me up from my chair, making a meal of showering me with attention, which I petulantly brush off. He's trying his hardest to distract me from my sulks. I'm stopped from walking away from the table when he grabs my elbow and whirls me around so we're front on front.

He burns a hole into me with pools of green displeasure. 'Are you going to behave like a spoilt brat for the rest of the evening, or have I got to take you upstairs and fuck some sense into you?'

I recoil at his animosity as he looks past me and smiles, obviously acknowledging someone who is behind me. He returns his eyes to mine, his smile disappearing instantly. I'm stunned by his reaction to my grievance. He reaches around me and places a firm palm on my bum, pushing me into his groin and circling those damn hips, hard and slow. I curse my treacherous body for tensing, and my hands for instinctively flying up to grab his shoulders.

He leans into my ear. 'Do you feel that?' He grinds hard again.

I lose the battle to restrain my moan of pleasure. I do not want to be getting horny here because there is not a chance in hell I'm going to let him take me while we're in this place. Not ever.

'Answer the question, Ava.' He clamps onto my earlobe and drags it through his teeth.

My grip of his shoulders tightens. 'I feel it.' My voice is broken and low.

'Good. It's yours. All of it.' He pushes harder, further into me. 'So stop with the fucking sulks. Do you understand me?'

'Yes.' I exhale into his shoulder.

He releases me and stands back, raising expectant eyebrows at me. I nod, trying to gather myself together. Will he always have this influence on me? I'm trembling and seriously rethinking my vow to avoid sex at The Manor. I could, quite easily, drag him upstairs to one of the private suites and let him eat me alive.

I glance past him and catch the viper glare of Sarah, and in a pathetic stamp of ownership, I put myself into Jesse's chest again and look up at him with sorry eyes.

He gives an approving nod of his head and leans down to rest his lips on mine. 'That's better.' he says into my mouth. He turns me around and starts guiding me out of the summer room. 'I'm struggling to deal with all of the admiring stares you're attracting.' he says, placing his hand firmly at my lower back.

I scoff. He has to be joking. I'm surrounded by women, who all, for absolutely sure, want me gone. I'm severely gatecrashing their party. 'You're attracting quite a bit of attention yourself.' I muse, just as we pass an attractive brunette.

She smiles brightly at Jesse and strokes his arm. 'Jesse, you're looking as delicious as ever.' she gushes.

I can't help the small shocked burst of laughter that flies from my mouth. She's got some front, and I'm hugely offended that she clearly thinks I'll just take her brazen flirting without so much as a word. I'm about to stop and put her in her place, but Jesse pushes me on, preventing me from following through on my intent. I'm shocked by the shameless hussy.

'Natasha, you are an intolerable flirt as ever.' Jesse retorts wryly, draping his arm over my shoulder and landing me with a chaste kiss, obviously sensing my irritation. She smiles slyly and narrows slutty, easy eyes on me.

Has he slept with her too? I feel my new found possessiveness simmering steadily inside me. I can't imagine that I'm going to be spending much time here if this is the response I'm going to be getting whenever I do. Not that I particularly want to be here, but with it being Jesse's place of work, it would be handy if I could come here and feel comfortable and not feel like I'm stepping on a million attractive women's toes. And that's another point; does Jesse only offer membership to women who are of an eight or above on the good looks scale? Retirement is looking more likely as time goes on. I want to spend every second stuck to Jesse so I can slap down these brazen, desperate tarts. I'm mentally trampling again.

As we walk into the bar, we find the stool that I always seem to get positioned on is taken by a man. He soon makes way when he sees us approaching, raising his glass in greeting. I'm lifted onto the stool and Mario is with us without delay, leaving the members of The Manor to be served by one of the other bar staff.

'What would you like to drink?' Jesse perches on his stool opposite me and takes my hand in his. 'Most Marvelous?' He raises his eyebrows.

I turn to a waiting Mario. 'Please, Mario.' I say, and he smiles his usual fond smile, but looks a little more flustered than he did earlier. I'm not surprised; he's being run off his feet.

'I'll have one of those.' Kate joins us and leans on Jesse's shoulder with a huff. 'These shoes are killing me!' she exclaims with a look of true pain on her pale face. 'Seriously. A man categorically devised the high heel and he did it in an attempt to make it easier for you dudes to rugby tackle us womenfolk to the ground and haul us back to your beds.'

Jesse throws his head back and laughs a proper belly laugh as Sam and Drew find us.

'What's the score?' Sam asks as he eyes Jesse laughing hard. He looks at me and Kate and we both shrug on wide smirks. Kate slaps Jesse's shoulder affectionately. I can't help but share in Jesse's amusement at Kate's dry comment. When he laughs like that, faint lines spring from his twinkling greens and fan his temples. He looks so handsome.

'I'm sorry, drinks?' he asks, getting his laughter under control and giving me a wink.

I pool on the stool, sending him a telepathic message to take me home. Basking in the sun on Central Jesse Cloud Nine has resumed. I'm in my element.

Drew and Sam throw their orders at Mario, but he's already halfway to the fridge to collect their beers. I scoop our cocktails up and pass one to Kate, catching her nodding over my shoulder. I frown at her, so she repeats the jig of her head, and I realise what she is signaling - she wants a cigarette. I lean into Jesse, and he drops his conversation with the boys', instantly turning his face to me.

'What's up, baby?' He looks worried.

'Nothing, I'm just going to use the ladies'.' I lower myself from the stool and grab my clutch from the bar. 'I won't be long.'

'Okay.' He kisses my hand.

I walk away and join Kate. 'I need a fag.' she spits urgently.

'Really? I thought you wanted to drag me upstairs,' I flip as she leads me out. My casualness with regards to upstairs must be a result of Mario's Most Marvelous. 'I'm going to the toilet quickly, I'll meet you outside.'

'The front.' she calls, making her way to the entrance hall, while I head in the other direction towards the toilets.

I find the ladies' empty and let myself into a cubicle. I've not attempted the task of using the toilet in this dress yet. I could be a while. I negotiate the dress up to my waist with relative ease and make sure I hold it all up before I sit. I don't know why I'm worrying; the toilet floor is spotless. I hear the door open and a few voices chatting happily.

'Have you seen her? She is young for our Jesse.'

Oh no!

I freeze mid-wee and hold my breath. Our Jesse? What? Did they share him? I sag on the toilet and release my bladder. I've started now, I can't stop.

'He's all over her. Fucking hell, did you see the diamond around her neck?' Voice number two gushes.

'You can hardly miss it. It's obvious what she's after.' Voice number three pipes up.

How many of them are there out there? I finish up and start pulling my dress back down while contemplating what I should do. What I want to do is go out there and put them straight on the whole money business.

'Ah, come on, Natasha. Jesse is beyond a fucking God. The money is just a bonus.' That's voice number two, and now I know that voice number three is Natasha, the incorrigible flirt. And he's my fucking God!

'Well, it looks like we've made all this effort for nothing. I had heard, but I didn't believe, not until I saw it with my own eyes. It looks like our Jesse has been whipped from under our feet.' Voice number one laughs.

I stand in the cubicle willing them to leave so I can escape, but I can hear the pops of lips from the reapplication of lipstick and the spray of perfume going on.

'It's a shame, he's the best I've had and I'm never going to get to try it again.' Voice number three - AKA Natasha - muses.

My hackles rise. He has slept with her. I look up at the ceiling, trying desperately to gather some calming thoughts, but it's impossible, especially with three tarts out there having a good old chinwag about my God's sexual capabilities.

'Oh, me too.' Voice number one adds, and I stand there with my jaw on the toilet floor, waiting for voice number two to pipe up and make it a clean sweep.

'Well, I don't know about you two, but he was too good to give up trying.' Voice number two totally finishes me off.

I can't listen to this shit. I flush the chain, silencing all three, and make sure my dress isn't tucked into my bodice before I swing the door open and walk casually out of the cubicle. I smile politely at the three women, all with some sort of make-up suspended in front of their faces, staring completely flummoxed at me as I make my way to a mirror at the other end of the bathroom. I calmly wash my hands and dry them before topping up my gloss, all in silence and under the wary eyes of the three brazen hussies at the other end of the ladies'. I waltz past and leave the bathroom without a word, my dignity still firmly intact.

My heart is jumping and my legs are slightly shaky, but I make it to the entrance hall still standing. That was horrific, and while I knew that Jesse has dabbled, did I really consider the extent of it. Hearing those women talk about him like that has me more upset than mad. He really has put it about...everywhere...with a lot of women. I think I need a cigarette too.

I know I audibly groan when Sarah steps out from the doorway that usually serves the restaurant. She's been waiting for this moment all night and after what I've just endured, I'm feeling even less tolerant of her than usual. I'm facing the fourth woman in as many minutes - no, probably seconds - who Jesse has fucked. I feel sick and in no mood for Sarah and her viper gob, but I also don't want to have a catfight in my stupidly expensive gown.

'Sarah, you've done an amazing job tonight.' I say courteously. I'll get in first with the pleasantries so there is no mistaking my attempt to keep things civil, even though it is taking every ounce of strength I have.

She folds an arm under her already high chest, boosting it further while holding her sloe gin in front of her mouth. Her posture and body language scream superiority, and I'm bracing myself for the inevitable warning.

'Did you collect your gift bag from the table?' she asks on a smile.

It throws me completely. She's changed her tone. I thought we were past faking pleasantries, especially when Jesse's not around. 'No, I didn't.' I answer warily. After seeing Kate's face, I really didn't want it.

She broadens her smile. 'Oh, that's a shame. There was something in there that may have been of use to you.'

'Like what?' I can't help the curiosity in my voice. What's her game?

'The vibrator. I noticed yours was left in a million pieces on Jesse's bedroom floor.'

'Pardon?' I blurt on a laugh.

She smiles slyly, and I dread the words I know she's about to say. 'Yes, when I rescued him on Wednesday morning after you left him handcuffed to his bed,' She shakes her head. 'Not a wise move.'

My stomach falls into my heels as I watch her weighing up my reaction to her information overload. Jesse called Sarah? When he was bollock naked, handcuffed to the bed and with a vibrator next to him, he chose Sarah to come and release him?


I thought John freed him. Why did I think that? I can't even reflect that far back. At the moment, I'm just looking at the nasty creature stood in front of me, smugly delighting in my misery. I'm going to kill him, but first I'm going to wipe that sly smile off of her botox pumped face.

'Have you ever heard of tit tape, Sarah?' I ask coolly. Her face drops, as do her eyes to her chest. I start walking forward. Oh, she is so getting trampled!

'Excuse me?' she laughs.

'Tit tape. It's widely known to keep breasts secure, or...' I shake my head. 'Of course, it's your intention to assault people's eyes with your overinflated chest.' I stop in front of her. 'Less is more, Sarah. Have you ever heard of that saying? You would do well to remember it, especially at your age.'


No! Oh no no, no!

I turn and find Jesse stood with his frown line perfectly in place. Good, because he should be really concerned. I hear Sarah's heels disappear off into the restaurant. Yes, she's dropped her bombshell and has now fucked off to avoid being hit by the shrapnel.

'What's going on?' he asks, his handsome face full of confusion and concern.

I don't even know what to say. I glance around the entrance hall of The Manor and see many members making their way upstairs. It must be past ten thirty.


I return my eyes to Jesse as he starts walking towards me. I step back and he stops in his tracks. 'I'm leaving.' My tone is completely resolute. I can't stay here and listen to women boast about their sexual encounters with Jesse, listen to them pass judgment on why I'm with him. Neither am I watching as he disappears with another woman with no explanation. And I'm certainly not setting myself up for humiliation by Sarah. I turn and walk with purpose to the huge, double doors that will take me out of this hellhole. My heart is hammering and tears of frustration are brimming.

'Ava!' I hear him yell, and then the telltale signs of his thumping footsteps coming after me.

I have no idea what I plan on doing when I get outside. I know he will catch me, and I know he won't let me leave. I'll steal a car. I don't care that I'm way over the limit. My visit to the toilet was bad enough, but Sarah has completely finished me off. I can't subject myself to this torture anymore. It's rotting my reasonableness, turning me into a jealous, resentful monster. I shouldn't have come here.

'Ava, get your fucking arse here!'

I make it to the steps and bump into Kate. 'Where have you been?' she asks shortly, her eyes widening when she obviously catches sight of Jesse in pursuit of me.

'I'm going.' I blurt, gathering my dress up, ready to take the steps. She watches me hastily pass her with a what-the-hell look coated all over her pale face. I fly down the steps, stupidly fast, and collide with his solid, suit-covered chest. That fucking chest! I'm hoofed up and slung over his shoulder with no effort at all.

'You're not fucking going anywhere, lady.' he growls, and starts back up the steps to The Manor.

I flick my hair out of my face and push my hands into his lower back to try and break free. 'Let go of me!' I yell frantically as I wriggle, but he has a tight hold, and I know he would die before letting me go. 'Jesse!'

Kate watches with an open mouth as we pass her, before throwing her cigarette butt on the floor and following us in. 'What's going on?'

'He's an arsehole! That's what is going on!' I yell, attracting the attention of all the valet staff, who halt all duties and quietly observe me being jostled back into The Manor. 'Jesse, put me down!'

'No!' He continues through the entrance hall and towards the summer room. 'It's fine Kate. I just need a little chat with Ava.' he says calmly, increasing his grip on me as I continue to battle his hold.

Looking up, I see Kate stop at the bar entrance and shrug at me. I want to scream at her, but I know she'll be of little use in trying to prize Jesse off me. I'm carried through the summer room, where all of the tables have been cleared and a dance floor set up. The band stops their sound check and watch as Jesse strides through with me draped across his shoulder. I crane my neck around and spot John coming from the direction of Jesse's office, and he laughs as he shakes his head. It's not bloody funny. We pass him in the corridor, but he says nothing. He just moves to let us by before carrying on his way, like this is an everyday, normal occurrence. I suppose it is.

Jesse kicks his office door shut and dumps me on my feet, his face contorted with rage, which only boosts my own fury. He points his finger in my face. 'Don't you EVER walk away from me!' he roars.

I flinch.

He throws his arms up in frustration and walks over to the drinks cabinet as I make for the door again. Will he have a drink if I leave? At the moment, I'm too mad to care. I grab the handle of the door, but make no further progress. I'm grabbed and yanked back before he places me on my feet again and practically kicks a cabinet until it blocks the exit.

'What the fuck are you playing at?' He grasps my shoulders and shakes me ever so slightly. 'What's going on?'

I regain possession of my body and walk away from him. He growls but leaves me. It's not like I can go anywhere now.

I swing around and throw him the filthiest look I can muster. 'I can't believe you trample all over any man who so much as looks at me, yet you think it's perfectly okay for you to have another woman in your bedroom while you are naked and laying on the bed!' My voice is getting higher. I'm so mad! 'I thought John freed you!'

His face drops slightly as he takes on board what I have just screeched at him. 'Well, he didn't!' he yells. 'He was at The Manor, Sam was unobtainable and Sarah was nearby. What did you want me to do?'

I gape at him. How can he be mad with me? 'Well, I wouldn't want you calling another woman!'

'Well, you shouldn't have left me handcuffed to our fucking bed!'

'It's your bed!' I'm poking again.

His eyes widen. 'OURS!'

'Yours!' I counter childishly. He throws his head back and curses at the ceiling. I don't care. He is not turning this around on me. 'And, while we're at it, I've just had the pleasure of listening to three women compare notes on your sexual abilities. That, I really enjoyed. Oh, and Zoe kindly informed me of your busy bed habits. And who the hell was that woman?' I try and regain a bit of composure. I'm struggling. The constant thoughts and mental images of Jesse entertaining another woman are poisoning my mind. It's ridiculous. He's thirty seven years old.

He walks towards me. 'You know I have a history, Ava.' he says impatiently.

'Yes, but have you fucked every female member of The Manor?'

'Watch your fucking mouth!'

'NO!' I walk over to the drinks cabinet and grab the first bottle of alcohol I can lay my hands on - which happens to be vodka - and pour some into a tumbler. My hands are shaking as I lift the glass and tip the neat contents down my throat. It's only now I wonder why he keeps alcohol in his office if he wants to avoid drinking it. My throat burns and I shudder as I slam the glass down on the polished wooden counter. I'm not stupid enough to pour another. I stand with my hands braced on the cabinet staring at the wall.

He's silent.

My throat is sore and gravelly and I feel completely out of control, consumed by jealousy and hatred. 'How would you feel if another man laid his eyes all over my naked body while I was handcuffed to a bed?' I ask evenly.

The heavy breath that travels the short distance between us and warms my back tells me my answer. 'Murderous,' he snarls.

As I thought. 'How would you feel listening to someone voice their opinions on my bedroom manner? Saying they were not going to give up trying to get me in bed.'


I turn to find him watching me closely, his jaw ticking wildly. 'My work here is done.' I quip and make my way to the door. That sideboard looks heavy, but I don't get the opportunity to try and move it. Jesse steps in my way, halting my progress. I take a calming breath and look up at him. 'You should know, I'm not leaving, but only because I can't. I'm going out there and I'm going to have a drink, and tomorrow night I'm going out with Kate. And you are not going to stop me.'

'We'll see about that.' he fires confidently.

'Yes, we will.'

He starts chewing his lip, his eyes burning into mine. 'I can't change my past, Ava.'

'I know. And it doesn't look like I'm going to be able to forget about it either. Will you move the cabinet, please?'

'I love you.'

'Move the cabinet, please.'

'We need to make friends.' His face is deadpan, while my eyes have just widened.

'No!' I shout, disgusted by his intention to win me over with a quick fuck.

He takes a step forward, and I take one back. 'I'll trample, Ava.' he warns calmly. I take another step back, watching as he regards me carefully. 'Are you going to deny me?' He arches a cautionary eyebrow, and I carry on stepping back until my backside is pushed up against the drinks cabinet and my hands are braced on the edge. If he gets his hands on me, I'm completely done for, and I want to stay mad. I need to stay mad. He's going to try and blind me with his touch again.

He reaches me and places his hands over mine. My face is level with his neck and jaw. I try to block off my sense of smell, but fail miserably. I know I won't be allowed to leave his office until he's happy that we're friends.

'Tomorrow, I'm going back to Kate's.' I say bravely. I need time to try and sort my unreasonable jealous frame of mind out. It would seem that Jesse Ward has brought out some rather nasty qualities in me too.

'You know that's never going to happen, Ava. But just you saying it makes me really fucking mad.'

'I am.' I retort. I'm being stupidly daring, but I need him to know how much this is bothering me.

He bends so he's at my eyelevel. 'Crazy mad, Ava.' he warns softly. 'Look at me.' he breathes in my face.

I whimper slightly. 'No.' It'll be game over and one tally on Jesse's scoreboard if I do.

'I said, look at me.'

I shake my head faintly and he heaves a sigh.

'Three.' he starts clearly.

My eyes instinctively fly up to his, but not because he's started the countdown and I don't want him to reach zero. It's because I'm shocked. I've unwittingly complied with his command, and I'm now staring into dark green pools of lust.

'Kiss me.' he demands.

I purse my lips and shake my head, attempting to pull my arms free.

'Three.' he begins again and I freeze, my mouth dropping open in shock. He brushes his lips gently over mine. 'Two.'

This isn't fair. He could kiss me, but I know he won't. He wants me to submit and I'm desperately trying to resist, even though my treacherous body is screaming for him.

'One.' His lips meet mine again.

I snap my head away and wriggle under his hold, desperately fighting him off. 'No, you're not distracting me, Jesse.'

He shouts a frustrated yell and releases his grip, my hands flying up to his chest to push him away. We battle, my flailing hands beating him away from me as he tries to grab at my wrists.

'Ava!' he yells, securing me and spinning me around. I don't know why I'm doing this. I could never win, even though he is obviously handling me with care. 'Fucking stop it, you crazy woman!'

I ignore him, rage and adrenalin spiking my stamina to continue fighting him off.

'For fuck sake!' he shouts, taking me down to the floor and securing me under his body. 'Pack it in!'

I heave under him, every muscle aching, my hammering heart jumping from my chest. I open my eyes, finding a perplexed look on his face. He doesn't know what to do with me. I'm losing complete control.

We stare at each other, both of us panting from the exertion of our physical battle. And then we both move forward fast, our mouths crashing together, our tongues dueling urgently.

It's a tally for Jesse. He moans, releasing his grip of my wrists and fisting my hair in his hands as he tackles my mouth with as much force as I'm taking his. This is a possessive kiss. I'm reinforcing my claim to him, trying to make him see how strongly I feel about him, how the thought of other women and Jesse can make me just as crazy mad as him. His hand finds my breast and grabs me hard through the material of my dress, kneading and squeezing as he groans.

My tongue aches, my lips are becoming sore, but neither one of us is letting up. We're both trying to make a point here. My hands move from his biceps to his head, and I yank his hair before applying pressure, pushing him into me. I'm fizzing all over, burning up completely as I writher on the floor beneath him, making a damn successful point of ownership. And then he rolls us over and my lips leave his, drifting down his suit covered torso until I reach the zipper of his trousers. I yank it down and make quick work of releasing him, his cock slipping free, my hand wrapping around his shaft without delay.

In a complete frenzied mess, my mouth coats him and I take him all of the way, no soft caressing, no light licks or teasing strokes. I attack him, frantic and desperate.

'Fuck!' he barks, as I feel him hit the back of my throat. 'Fuck, fuck, fuck!'

I don't gag, or heave. I thrust him into my mouth repeatedly, tirelessly, squeezing his base and reaching between his thighs to grasp his heavy sacks. Hard.

'JESUS!' His hips fly up. 'Ava!' His hands find my head and yanks at my hair. I don't know if he's begging me or scolding me.

I concentrate on reinforcing my desperation for him, working him fast and harshly, his flesh feeling silky on the insides of my mouth, the friction from the speed of my strokes heating us both.

'Keep me in your mouth, Ava.' he orders, his hips meeting my every advance. My cheeks are aching, but I power on.

And then I recognise the sign of him expanding in my mouth, his breathing becoming disjointed and his fists tightening in my hair. I moan around him, increasing my iron grip on his balls and moving my other hand under his shirt. I grab his nipple, squeezing hard.

He bellows, his groin shoots up and he pushes my head down onto him, his tip pushing against the back of my throat.

He comes.

I swallow.

We both moan.

'Fucking hell, woman.' he pants, withdrawing from my mouth and pulling me up his body. 'Fucking, fucking hell.' He takes my lips again, sweeping his tongue through my mouth, sharing his salty essence. 'I take it that means you're sorry.' he puffs between firm lashes of his tongue.

I have unwittingly just given him an apology fuck. Am I sorry? For being a complete unreasonable, possessive fool...just like him? 'No, I'm not.' I affirm. I'm really not. Our tongues keep up together, both of our groans and shifting hands working all over each other's bodies.

I reach back down and wrap my hand around his semi-erect length, relentlessly working him while we both tackle each other's mouths hard...aggressively. I'm not prepared to stop. He pulls away, panting, his chest heaving, but I don't give up. I push my abused lips back to his, plunging my tongue in, continuing with my frantic handling of his cock.

'Ava, stop.' He grabs my hand from is groin and turns his face to break our lip contact.

I don't give up, even now. I fight him, urgently smothering him with my mouth. He's never refused me before.

'Ava! Please!' He loses his patience and pushes me over onto my back, pinning me under his body.

I feel tears stabbing at my eyes. I'm more desperate than any of those women. I'm not dealing with this well at all. A sob slips through my lips and I turn away from him, completely ashamed.

'Baby, don't.' he pleads softly, pulling my face back to his and brushing my wild hair from my face. He gazes down at me, almost in sympathy. 'I understand.' he whispers, wiping his thumb under my eye. 'Don't cry.' he skims my lips with his. 'It's always just you.'

I blink back my tears. 'I'm not coping with this.' I reach up to touch his face. 'I feel violent.' I admit. I can't believe I just openly volunteered that information, and I'm stunned I really do feel like that. 'Mine.' I say quietly.

He nods. He gets it. 'Always just yours.' He pulls my palm to his lips and kisses it firmly. 'Please, ignore them. They're shocked, that's all. Their noses have been put firmly out of joint by a young, dark eyed, breathtaking beauty. My beauty.'

'You're my beauty.' I affirm harshly.

'All of me, Ava. Every single piece.' Shifting his body, he rests himself all over me, completely coating me. He grasps my face in his palms, his green eyes staring down at me. 'Ava, you own me.' He places his lips on mine, 'Do you understand me?'

I nod in his hold, feeling weak and needy.

'Good girl.' he whispers. 'You are mine and I am yours.'

I nod again for fear of wailing if I open my mouth. I didn't think I could love him more.

He runs his palms over my cheeks and his eyes scan every inch of my face. 'I know this is hard for you.'

'I love you.' I just about manage to get the words out.

'I know you do. And I you.' He sits up and secures himself before helping me up. 'We'll make friends properly later. I don't want to trample your dress,' He smiles a little and spins me around. 'It looks like it needs a bit of patience and we all know how little of that I have when it comes to you.' He turns me back and rubs his nose over mine. 'Better?'


'Good. Let's go.' He takes my hand and leads me to the door, dropping it briefly to shift the sideboard back, before reclaiming it and leading me back to the party. I feel so much better. He understands.

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