Beneath This Man

Chapter 26

I walk into the bedroom after a fresh shower and shake my head at Jesse, who's sprawled on his back across the bed wearing only his tight, white boxer shorts and making a damn effective point of letting me know he's not happy. I sit myself in front of the floor length mirror and start drying my hair. We've spent all day carting the obscene amount of clothes and accessories up the stairs. I now have my own side of the colossal walk-in-wardrobe and a very happy man, until I started to get myself ready for my night out with Kate. His contented mood soon changed, but with Tom and Victoria catching up with us too and a whole pile of shit to land on Kate, I'm looking forward to it and Jesse has got to learn to share me.

I finish my hair and turn the dryer off to hear heaving, huffing and puffing coming from the bed. He's behaving like a schoolboy, so I ignore it and make my way into the bathroom to cream up and get my make-up on. I'm mid-mascara application when he walks in, all casual, and lies himself down on the chaise lounge with an almighty exhale of air, his lean body reclining coolly and his arms draping over his head, accentuating every fine muscle on his torso. I try to ignore him, but Jesse prancing around in a pair of white, tight Armani boxer shorts is very distracting. He's doing it on purpose.

I make a hasty retreat from the bathroom to find my underwear and something to wear. That could take some time, especially with Jesse's critical eyes watching over me, but I don't even make it to my newly appointed underwear drawer before I'm seized and slung onto the bed, minus one towel. I should have known; he's going to trample me and mark me and send me out with his scent all over me. He's done this before.

I'm flipped over onto my hands and knees, and my legs spread as he grasps my waist, efficiently restraining me. 'You won't come.' he growls as he plunges two fingers into me and starts scooping them around, stretching me and preparing me.

The sudden invasion has me burying my face in the bedding to stifle my cry. He's going to leave me pre-orgasm again, I know it.

'This is for my pleasure, not yours.' he grates firmly. He starts circling my entrance, and I moan into the bed in desolation. This is ultimate torture. He knows exactly what he's doing. I stiffen all over in response to his touch.

'Relax, Ava. I don't want to hurt you.' He pushes into me with his fingers, my natural instinct having me tensing my muscles in an attempt to prevent his invasion.

I cry out.

'Relax!' he yells, and I will my body to obey his command, but it's not having any of it. I'm fighting the inevitable that will be Jesse abandoning me before I explode. I don't want to go out this evening full of pent up pressure in my groin. I want to be sated and relaxed and he can do that. The bloody arse! I feel him position himself at my opening.

I whimper.

'Damn it, Ava.' His tone is full of aggravation 'Stop fighting me.'

'You're going to desert me, aren't you? You're not going to see me through.' I pant desperately.

'That's my call, baby.' He slaps my backside. 'Relax!'

'I can't!' The sting radiates through me from his swift collide, and he yells in frustration at my non-conformity as he reaches underneath me to brush his fingers over my pulsing centre. 'Ohhhhhhhh!' I relax instantly as the connection of his heated touch blasts my senses and rockets me forward, flicking the switch that he has a direct link to. A sea of intense pleasure drowns me and I start a hasty build up towards a furious climax. I try and grab it and keep hold, but he withdraws his fingers. 'No!' I shout, completely frustrated.

'Oh, yes.' His fingers re-enter me, sweeping through me, his thumb skimming across the very tip of my clitoris, prompting me to push back in a desperate attempt to try and capture more friction. He pulls out, spreading the moisture up my crease.

'No, Jesse!' I feel his solid cock pushing against my opening. 'Please!'

'You love it, Ava.' He advances, breaching me, slowly and controlled. 'Oh, FUCK.'

I could cry with infuriation and frustration, but it doesn't stop me from pushing back, taking him all of the way. I know I'm not going to come, but I can't help myself.

He yells, grabs my waist, and then thunders forward, knocking every scrap of air from my lungs.

'Oh, God!' I scream as he fills me completely. He charges forward, giving me no time to adjust to him. He means business.

'Oh, Ava.' he pants, holding himself inside me. 'You feel fucking amazing, baby.' He grinds himself against me on a long drawn out moan, and I concentrate on getting my ragged breaths under control. 'Brace yourself on the headboard.'

I take a deep breath and reach up to wrap my hands around one of the wooden planks, crying out as the change in position has him penetrating me deeper. He holds still as I follow through on his orders, running his palm down my spine gently. The fireworks crackling at my core are bordering painful.

'Do you have a good grip?'

'Yes!' I spit shortly, earning myself a swift slap across my backside. I'm going to scream with frustration and he's not even done with me yet. Why the hell am I not stopping this?

I hear him suck in a sharp breath as he starts withdrawing from me, the fullness alleviating slightly, but then I'm thrust forward as he re-enters me on a punishing drive. I scream again.

'Brace your arms, Ava!' He repeats the delectable move, and I stiffen my arms and rest my sweating forehead on my forearm.

'Jesse, please.' I beg.

'It's feels good, doesn't it?' he asks, his voice carnal and hungry.


'You love me taking you hard, don't you, Ava?'


'I know you do,' He shifts his grip from my hips and hooks his hands over my shoulders before he crashes forward again and again, yelling in fulfilment each and every time. He reaches under me and glides over my quivering clit with his fingers.

I scream and sink my teeth into my arm in desperation as my head starts to spin with a mixture of incredible pleasure and sharp stabbing pains. I can feel my climax approaching, and in a fraught attempt to seize it, I push back against him on each of his incessant blows.

'Oh, no you don't.' he growls, removing his fingers and withdrawing his cock.

I cry out in anger as he yanks my hands from the headboard and spins me around, pushing me down on the bed. He straddles my stomach, trapping my arms by my side with his knees and starts lashing his fist back and forth over his pulsing cock. I close my eyes.

'Open your eyes, Ava!' he shouts and grabs my hipbone, prompting me to scream and buck under him.

'You're a bastard!' I throw him my evilest look. 'I'm going to get so drunk tonight!'

'No, you're not.' He continues working himself over me as I watch, his eyes hooded and dark, his strained neck muscles bulging. I press my lips together. I will not be opening my mouth!

He falls forward, bracing his free hand on the bed and spills himself all over my breasts on a loud yell that resounds around the whole bedroom. He pants above me, slowing his strokes as I wriggle futilely. My breasts are coated in his warn cum, my hair is all over the place, my make-up probably needs re-doing and I'm fit to burst with the immense pressure in my groin. I am not a happy girl.

'Do you want to come?' he asks, looking down at me, sweat coating his forehead.

'I'm going out!' I bark, just to make it clear that I am not bargaining with him on this. No way!

'Stubborn woman.' He reaches down and wipes his palm all over my chest, spreading himself over every square inch of my torso. 'My work here is done,' he says on a half-smile, before leaning down and pressing his lips hard on mine.

My lips part involuntarily and I soak up the greedy lashes of his tongue, moaning, begging for more, but then he pulls back and I thrash my head from side to side, flipping myself onto my front. I hear him laugh, and then he slaps my arse hard before he gets off the bed. 'Don't shower.'

'I've not got time!' I yell to his back as he rearranges his boxers on his way out. I shout and thrash myself about on the bed for a few moments. I don't know what this is going to achieve, apart from messing my hair up some more and smudging my make-up further. I can't believe he did that. What am I talking about? Of course I can believe it. This man is beyond unreasonable and challenging.

Right! I jump off the bed and set about sorting myself out. My blow dried waves are now more of a tousled array of brunette and my cheeks are flushed. I look well and truly fucked, which is ironic because I'm not. Not in the satisfying sense, anyway. I clench my thighs together on a groan and grab a wash cloth to wipe the remnants of Jesse from my chest. There is no wiping away the huge love bite on my boob. There will be no low cut anything for me tonight and not just because of the bruise on my chest.

Control freak!

After refreshing my make-up and getting dressed, I walk down the stairs as quietly as possible. I'm heading straight out that door and with any luck, it will be a while before he notices I'm gone. He is nowhere to be seen as I scan the vastness of the penthouse, so I tiptoe to the kitchen and poke my head around the archway. Where is he?

'You're not fucking wearing that!'

My legs instantly kick into gear at the sound of that fierce voice and I dash for the door, slamming it behind me to hinder his pursuit while praying the elevator is open. I thank all that is holy and dive in the lift, punching the code in frantically. The doors shut just as I see Jesse's raging face appear through the tiny gape. I give him a cheeky wave and turn to look at myself in the mirror.

Okay, so the grey Chloe number is a bit on the racy side, but my legs look incredible, even if I do say so myself. He asked for this.

The elevator door opens and I scurry across the marble floor, searching for my keys as I go. He's got to get some clothes on and wait for the elevator to get back up to the penthouse, so I should be fine.

'Hi, Clive!' I sing, running past him and emerging into the evening air. I fire my key fob at my car and run across the car park.

I hear him before I see him. I turn and watch as he flies out the foyer of Lusso, looking like the Devil himself. I clench my lips shut to suppress my laugh. He looks homicidal. He tears towards me, barefoot and gloriously naked, except for his fine, tight boxer shorts. I stay where I am. I knew I wouldn't be going out in this dress, whether he caught me here or at the bar, I was always going to be hauled home in disgrace and dressed in something more suitable by Jesse's standards.

He grabs me and flings me up onto his shoulder, reaching up to hold the hem of my dress down before taking me straight back into Lusso. 'It's just my fucking luck that I go and fall crazy in love with most impossible woman in the fucking world. Evening, Clive.'

'Mr Ward,' Clive nods without paying much attention to us. 'Hello, Ava.'

'Hi Clive!' I sing through my laughter. Jesse gets in the elevator and punches the code in while muttering under his breath.

'Have you still not got that code changed?' I smooth my palm down his back and into the seam of his boxers, giving him a little squeeze.

'Shut up, Ava.' he spits.

'Are we friends?'

'No!' he slaps my arse hard and I yelp. 'Don't fuck with me, beautiful girl. You should know by now, I always win.'

'I know. I love you.'

'I love you too, but you're a fucking pain in the arse.'

We pull up outside Kate's super late after I gained Jesse's approval on a blush Ponte dress and matching heels, but I very nearly got handcuffed to the bed again when he saw my engagement ring on the bedside table. I completely forgot about it, but Jesse made sure it made it onto my finger. I managed to convince him to leave the necklace in the safe, though. I'm not comfortable with this dirty great big rock sat on my finger as it is. The necklace added to the equation will tip me over the edge of nervousness.

Kate comes barreling out of her house and Jesse gets out, letting her in the back of the car. 'Wow! I like this better than the Porsche.' she says as she gets comfortable in the back. 'Don't tell Samuel I said that. Come on then, let's have a look.'

'What?' I shift in my seat so I can see my fiery friend.

She freezes and throws the back of Jesse's head a fearful look. 'Oh shit!'

'It's fine.' Jesse assures her.

I gape at him. 'She knew?'

'I needed one of your rings to make sure the size was right.' He shrugs and keeps his attention on the road. I hear Kate sigh in relief.

'You knew?' I fire at her accusingly.

'Yep. Was it romantic? Show me.' She gestures for me to pass her my hand.

I actually laugh - really hard. Jesse looks at me out the corner of his eye, his lips pressed into a straight line as he weaves in and out of the traffic. 'Yeah, it was romantic.' I snort. If you call handcuffs and being forced to swallow romantic. I thrust my hand at her.

'Fucking hell!' She grabs my hand with both of hers and gets up close and personal with the diamond. 'That is some serious special. So, when's the wedding?' She drops my hand and fishes around in her bag, pulling out her compact mirror. 'Shit, Ava. Have you told your Mum and Dad?'

Kate has just innocently hit on two very sore subjects. We will be discussing the date of the wedding like grownups soon, and as for my parents? Well, I'm still stumped there. 'Don't know and no.' I answer.

Jesse shifts in his seat and flicks me a displeased stare. I ignore it. I'm not getting into this now. I turn back around in my seat to face Kate. 'Did you enjoy your evening?' I ask sweetly.

'Yes it was fab.' She brushes my question off and keeps her eyes in her mirror.

'What time did you wrap up?' I push.

'I can't remember.' She pouts in the mirror and then flicks her big blues to me. 'Is there a point to this line of enquiry?'

Jesse laughs a little. 'I think Ava would like to know if you enjoyed yourself upstairs after I took her home.' he clarifies. I gawk at him, and he flicks a raised brow at me. Do I need to blunt up?

Kate slaps him on the shoulder. 'That, my friend, is none of your business. Well, it is, but it isn't.' She laughs and once again, I'm stunned. I turn around and shake my head in dismay. I'm surrounded by crazy people.

Jesse pulls up outside Baroque and gets out to free Kate from the back.

'I'll get the drinks!' she declares as she dances into the bar.

Jesse waits for me to come around to the pavement. He's brooding again and it doesn't escape my notice that he has just given the doorman a nod.

As soon as I'm close enough, he pulls me into his chest and sucks in a deep breath from my hair. 'Don't drink.'

'I won't.'

He pulls back and rests his forehead on mine. 'I mean it.'

'I won't drink.' I assure him. I'm not arguing. It will get me nowhere, except in his car and back at Lusso before I blink.

'I'll pick you up. Ring me.' He brushes my hair out of my face and kisses me deeply, a public display of ownership. I'm wearing a colossal diamond; you don't get more claimed than that. He seems so despondent, I almost don't want to leave him, but we have got to get over this unreasonable anxiousness at me being anywhere other than with him.

I cup his face and kiss his stubbled cheek. 'I'll ring you. Go for a run or something.' I leave him on the pavement and mentally pray that he goes home, gets his running kit on and does twelve laps of the Royal Parks. I smile sweetly at the doorman as I pass and he cocks his head at me, giving me a knowing smile. Ridiculous!

I find Kate at the bar with Tom and Victoria, who are already being served. Victoria looks a little less sulky and Tom looks delighted to see me. He's wearing a ridiculous pink and yellow, candy striped shirt.

'Ava!' he screeches. 'Wow, fabulous dress!' he croons as he strokes me.

'Thanks.' God knows what his reaction would have been to the grey number.

'What are you having, Ava?' Victoria asks over her shoulder.

'Wine!' I blurt desperately, and all three of them laugh.

We settle at a table, and I take my first relaxed sip of wine. I gasp in pleasure and close my eyes in appreciation. Oh, that is so good.

'Oh good Lord! What the hell is that?' Tom dives over the table and grabs my hand and proceeds to dribble all over my new friend. 'The Adonis?'

I shrug. 'I'm crazy in love.'

'You've known him, what...a month?' Victoria's disapproving tone riles me. 'And he owns a sex club?'

'And?' I spit at her. I feel all defensive.

She recoils at my hostility. 'And nothing, I'm just saying.' she huffs, and flops back on the stool.

'When did this happen? The last I knew, you were just sleeping with him.' Tom mimics my own words.

'Well, now I'm marrying him.' I yank my hand back and take refuge in my glass of wine. I'm conscious of the fact that I'm facing an Olympic gold medal worthy interrogation from my parents and Dan. I don't need it from this lot too. Oh, Dan's back tomorrow. With all of the spectacular events of the last few days, it had slipped my mind. A wave of guilt washes over me for forgetting his return, but it's soon replaced with a twinge of excitement and then, just as quickly, replaced with dread. What will Dan say to all of this? I glance over my glass and Kate gives me a reassuring smile.

'It just is.' I muse.

'How's Drew?' Kate asks Victoria.

I'm not so sure that it's a sensible question. After Victoria's foul mood and the revelation that Drew had invited her to The Manor, plus the fact she wasn't with him last night, I can't imagine the response is going to be good, but I'm thankful for my friend's diversion tactic.

'I wouldn't know.' she answers haughtily. 'I'm not seeing him anymore. I have a date.'

'Tonight?' Tom asks perplexed, leaning over the table accusingly.

'Yes.' she answers.

Tom scoffs and sits back in his chair. 'Well, thanks a lot! You're ditching me!' he exclaims.

I look at Kate, who has the same expression on her face that I suspect I have on mine; humour.

Victoria's eyes bulge at Tom's huffiness. 'You don't think twice about casting me aside if you're offered a bit of action!' Her tone is reproachful and quite rightly. Tom has abandoned Victoria on many occasions if a gay man flashes him a promising stare.

'Still, there are six other days you could have picked. Who is it, anyway?' He stirs his Pina Colada, trying his hardest to look bored.

'Just a friend of a friend.' she muses. I'm glad she seems unaffected, and she's clearly over the dashing, black haired Drew. They just don't make sense. 'Oh, there he is,' She jumps up. 'See ya!' She heads towards an average height, average looking guy at the bar and they greet each other with an awkward kiss on the cheek and a hand shake. She says something in his ear and he nods before they leave. That's a sensible move. We'll all be watching how the date progresses and Tom will just be a total bitch.

'Well,' Tom huffs. 'Isn't that just marvelous?'

Over the next hour, we laugh, chat about anything and everything, and drink. It's lovely. I'm reminded why I need to battle with my challenging man on this matter. I need my friends, especially Kate. With Tom here, I've not had an opportunity to bring her up to date with the Mikael and Coral saga or interrogate her on The Manor and her recent visits there.

'And how's Sam?' Tom turns his attention to Kate.

'Why? Do you still want to screw him?' she jokes, winking at me. Tom flushes from head to toe and flashes Kate a gay, dirty look. It still staggers me how he is so taken by laidback, casual, goodtime junky Sam.

'No,' He tuts and crosses his legs. It's the gayest possible gesture. 'I was just being polite. How's Jesse?'

My glass is just touching my lips, ready for a tilt and gulp, when he asks the question. He can't be avoided all night and I am marrying the man. It's common knowledge that he's challenging...but only with me. Everyone sat at this table - and quite a few who are not - have seen him in action at some point.

'Why? You want to screw him too?' Kate jumps in with her tongue and cheek question, and I burst into laughter as Tom gapes at her.

He looks between us in disgust. 'So, it's pick on Tom night, is it?'

'Looks like it.' I say and raise my glass. 'Tom, Jesse would blow...your...mind.' I say seriously.

'Ava!' he gasps.

'Oh, please! I have to endure torturous stories of your sexual encounters.'

Kate laughs. 'I'm going for a fag if we're getting into Tom's sex life.' She jumps down from the stool and makes her way to the smoking area.

'I need the lavatory.' Tom grumbles, and clears off to the toilets, leaving me people watching, a pastime I usually enjoy, but then Matt comes into my field of vision and I find myself ducking slightly.


My ring is suddenly burning through the flesh of my finger and I'm breaking out in a sweat. I didn't reply to his apology text and I know the slimy worm has been on the phone to my parents again. Just when I think I've evaded him, his beady eyes land on me like a kettle-bell and I sag on my stool as he approaches. I glance around the bar, mindful that the doorman could be watching out for me, and then return my eyes to Matt, catching a glimpse of a healing black eye. I mentally applaud Jesse and suddenly wish I had relented and stayed at home with him.

'Ava.' he greets cheerfully, as if nothing has happened, as if he hasn't been feeding my parents duff information and spouting off that Jesse's an alcoholic, which promptly reminds me that he knows about Jesse's issue.

How? But he's not an alcoholic. I ignore the small part of my brain currently advising me that I might be in slight denial. 'Matt, I think it is probably best if you leave.' I maintain a steady, firm voice.

'Oh?' He looks truly shocked. 'Ava, please hear me out. I couldn't be sorrier, really. I was a complete twat. I deserved everything.' He shifts uncomfortably on his feet and stares into his pint glass. 'If you're with someone else now, then I accept that.' he says quietly. 'I'm gutted, but I accept it.'

I keep my hands under the table, the ring firmly out of sight. I have to ask, I can't help it. 'How do you know about Jesse?'

His shocked eyes fly up from his pint glass. 'So, you're still seeing him then?'

'That's none of your business, Matt. And why are you ringing my parents, telling them a load of crap?'

'Is it crap?' he shoots back.

'Who have you been talking to?'

'No one.' He won't meet my eyes, but then he leans his elbows on the table and gets too close. 'Ava, I still want you back.'

My back straightens and I flick my eyes to the entrance to make sure I'm not being spied on. What am I going to say? He just told me that he accepted it all. How many times do I have to tell him that there is no chance?

I could kiss Tom when he returns from the toilets and gives Matt his roving eye. Matt abruptly pushes himself away from the table as soon as Tom appears opposite him, knocking my bag flying to the floor. His tolerance level of my forward, gay friend has not improved. I jump down from my stool.

'Oh, darling!' Tom crouches down to help me gather my scattered possessions. 'He's still hot!' he whispers to me on the floor.

'He is not.' I screw my face up. I find Matt anything but hot now. He makes my skin crawl. I rise to find Matt walking away, holding his hand up in a catch-you-later gesture.

'Oh, where's he going?' Tom exclaims, stamping his foot.

'Hopefully, to jump off a cliff.' I mutter uncharitably under my breath. I finish my wine in one foul swig. After seeing Matt, I could do with another.

'Matt's in here!' Kate throws herself on the barstool. 'And he has a black eye. High five Jesse!'

'Well, it's been a pleasure girls, but I need some action tonight and it doesn't look like I'm going to get it in here,' Tom throws a disgusted look in the general direction of all the blatantly straight men, 'I'm going to Route Sixty. Want to come?' he asks hopefully.

'No!' Kate and I shout in unison, leaving us laughing and Tom stropping out of the bar in search of action.

'Did the snake speak to you?' Kate asks when she's stopped chuckling.

'He tried.' I'm just about to volunteer bar duties when Tom flies back into the bar and collides with the table. He's huffing and puffing all over the place. Kate and I point frowns at him.

He gets his breathing under control. 'You will not believe who I've just seen.'

'Who?' Kate asks before I have a chance to engage my mouth.

'Sally.' His face breaks out into a big grin and he glances over his shoulder before returning excited eyes to us. 'Sally...wearing a miniskirt and low cut top - a very tight, short miniskirt and a very low cut top. She has a date!'

'Oh?' I say, a little surprised, but not because of the apparent outfit. I'm surprised because she looked suicidal on Thursday.

'What? Wallflower Sally? Boring office girl Sally?' Kate asks.

'Yes.' I confirm. 'Tom, leave the girl alone.' I return to my glass, promptly remembering that I want another.

'I might get a picture!' Tom dances out of the bar, getting his phone from his pocket.

'I'll get the drinks.' I slide off the stool and grab my purse. 'Same again?'

'Do you need to ask?' She rolls her eyes and waves her empty glass at me.

I fight my way to the bar and wait my turn, attracting the attention of some muscle pumped, ponytailed slime-ball. I ignore his leering stare and order our drinks.

'Hi, can I buy you a drink?'

I glance around and smile sweetly. 'No, thank you.'

'Come on, just one drink.' he presses and moves in closer.

'No, really. I've got it, but thanks.'

The barman places one glass of wine on the bar. 'I've just got to pop down the cellar. We're out.' He leaves me stood at the bar with ponytailed guy dribbling all over me. I roll my eyes, not that the barman notices.

'Maybe I could take you out sometime then?' He is really close now.

'I'm involved with someone.' I say over my shoulder. He can't have missed the gigantic diamond on my finger. I take a swig of my wine.


I turn towards him. 'And...I'm involved with someone.' I flash my ring and he nods, but not in an accepting way. I think I've just made the challenge more interesting.

'He's not here, though, is he?'

'No, lucky for you, he's not.' I reply curtly, turning back towards the bar. I'm immensely relieved when I see the barman approaching.

He places Kate's wine down and I pass him a note, willing him to be quick. My skin is prickling under the leery eyes of the overinflated man stood next to me. I take another long sip of my wine and try to blank him out. I'm beyond exasperated when the barman signals no change. He walks off to the end of the bar and starts faffing about in various tills.

Ponytailed creep moves in closer. 'If you were mine, you wouldn't be out of my sight.'

Oh good God! 'Listen, I've tried to be polite. Back off!'

'I think we could show each other a good time.' He runs his fingertip down my arm.

I jump, instantly furious with myself for appearing anxious, but then I'm distracted by the barman returning. Thank God! He hands me my change and I grasp Kate's drink quickly, keen to escape this toad. Turning a bit too hastily, I drop my coins everywhere.


I place the glasses back on the bar and retrieve the coins within grabbing distance and leave whatever else there may have been. I'm not that desperate. I grab the drinks and catch my heel awkwardly causing me to stagger slightly.

'Shit!' I curse. Now he'll think I'm pissed and easy.

I'm met with the twat again when I turn back around. 'A bit drunk, sweetheart?' he sneers.

'Fuck off!' I've tried to be patient.

'Oh, feisty.' he laughs, as I push my way past him, thinking how grateful he should be that Jesse isn't here. He would be flattened by now.

I make it over to Kate and place the drinks down a bit too sloppily, spilling a considerable amount. I shake my head mildly and take my position on the barstool, staggering again. Kate frowns at me.

'Shoes.' I mutter.

'Are you okay?' Kate leans forward, looking all concerned.

'Yeah, I'm fine.' I assure her. I'm not drunk. This is only my third glass of wine.

'Who was that idiot?' She nods in the direction of the self-proclaimed stud muffin as she has a sip of her fresh glass of wine.

'Exactly idiot.' I say shortly. 'Anyway, you have some explaining to do.'

'I have?' she blurts.

'Yes, you have, and don't you dare brush me off. What's going on?'

She glugs down more wine, refusing to meet my eyes. 'What are you talking about?'

I feel myself getting a bit impatient with my fiery friend. She would never allow me to evade her questioning, and I wouldn't anyway. We tell each other everything. 'I'm talking about you, Sam and The Manor.'

'Fun!' she snaps.

'No! Don't you dare!'

'I'm just having some fun, Ava. What are you? The sex police?'

I recoil, 'So there's no feelings?'


'You know, if you were me, you'd be twiddling your hair.' I huff, and take a long swig of my wine. No feelings? She's impossible. 'Okay, try and help me out. Being as you're refusing to open up, I'll dump my shit on you. I value your opinion.' I smile sweetly.

She ignores my snipe, her eyebrows shooting up. 'This sounds serious.'

'It is. You know the developer of Lusso, the one who asked me to dinner?'

Kate nods. 'Yeah, the Dane, handsome in a Scandinavian kind of way.'

'Yes, Mikael. Jesse slept with his wife. He's going through a divorce at the moment.'

'No!' Kate leans in.

'Yes, and now he's on some sort of revenge mission to turn Jesse over and it looks like he's decided that I'm the best way to do this. I've got to meet him, and I know it won't be work related.'

'Oh shit!'

'I know. The wife has been sniffing around too.'

'What are you going to do?'

I shake my head, taking another swig of my wine. 'I don't know, just like I don't know what to do about that woman, the one who turned up at The Manor's anniversary.'

'Who is she?' Kate's eyes are widening by the second. I'm not surprised. This is information overload.

'Coral. Do you remember that nasty man at The Manor the day we found the communal room?'

'Oh yes! Jesse crushed him. It was frightening, Ava.'

I laugh to myself. I can imagine. 'That's her husband. She asked Jesse to be the third in a threesome. She fell in love with him, left her husband and now has nothing. She wants Jesse. She turned up at Lusso and rang his phone. I've told Jesse about neither, but I answered the call. She warned me off.'

'Oh my fucking God!' Kate flops back on her stool, and I take another glug of wine.

Hearing it all out loud, it sounds ridiculous, crazy, unreal...

'So, Jesse's had a threesome?' she asks.

I frown into my wine glass. 'Yes, I guess so.' I hadn't thought about it. I was too busy trying to work out how I felt about Coral being in love with my boyfriend...fiance...whatever he is. 'Fucking hell!' I exclaim, looking up at Kate, mouth gaping.

Kate starts nodding. 'Have you just had the same thought I have?'

My wine gets placed on the table, my eyes flicking from Kate's wide blues to the floor and back again. But then I laugh. 'No! I saw Jesse's face when Tom felt him up at the launch night of Lusso. There is no way he's bisexual. Not a chance.' I grab my wine again. 'You can have threesomes with two men and a woman; it doesn't mean that the men have to touch each other.' Down goes another huge mouthful as I remember the scene from the communal room. None of them men touched each other. The other scenario, the one with two women and one man, starts skipping around my brain, laughing at me. I wipe the back of my hand across my brow, a shimmer of sweat breaking out. I really don't feel right. Looking up, I see Kate's face light up as she follows the path of someone approaching behind me. I don't have to turn around to see who it is.


I look up and see Sam grinning from ear to ear. What is he doing here? It's supposed to be a girls' night out and Kate still hasn't given her verdict on my current screwed up situation.

He shoves his tongue in Kate's ear, and I huff to myself. Kate would never let any man invade her girl time. I pick my wine up and down the rest, watching over the rim of my glass as Sam greets Kate and she accepts willingly. If she tries to tell me tomorrow that this is just fun, then I'll challenge her...hard!

'I'm going to the toilet.' I inform them.

'Okay.' Kate says idly.

I lower myself to the floor and turn towards the entrance, reaching up to rub my temples in an attempt to sooth my thumping head. As I make my way through the roaring crowd, the sound around me dulls into a faint hum and my head starts spinning slightly. I push my way past the blurry gatherings of people and very nearly have a seizure when I clock Jesse stood a few meters ahead of me in the doorway of the bar.

Oh shit!

I freeze on the spot. I knew he wouldn't be able to leave me be, not even for a few hours to enjoy a few glasses of well-earned wine. My vision might be challenged, but there is no mistaking the pure fury that's spread across his handsome features. I don't know why. I'm not drunk. I've had a few glasses of wine, and I've enjoyed them. He's the one with the drink issue, not me.

And with that thought, I stagger slightly again. Maybe I'm just topping up last night's session.

We stand staring at each other for a few moments, then he starts stalking towards me. I make a grab for a table when I feel my legs wobble and the change in his approaching expression from rage to pure terror is the last thing I see before the black sets in and I become weightless.

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