Home > Beneath This Man (This Man #2)(11)

Beneath This Man (This Man #2)(11)
Author: Jodi Ellen Malpas

I crumble to the floor, feeling helpless and fragile. I’m already broken, but he can dish the final blow that will finish me off. ‘Please, don’t.’ I sob. ‘Please, don’t make this harder.’

He collapses to the floor with me, pulling me onto his lap and smothering me completely. I sob relentlessly into his chest. I can’t control it.

His face pushes into my hair. ‘I’m sorry,’ he whispers. ‘I’m so, so sorry. I don’t deserve it, but give me a chance.’ He squeezes me hard. ‘I need another chance.’

‘I don’t know what to do.’ I’m being honest. I really don’t know what to do. I feel the need to escape him, but at the same time, I feel the need to stay and let him make things better. But if I stay, will I get dealt that death blow? Or if I leave, will that be the death blow? For both of us?

All I know is the strong, firm, assertive Jesse, the Jesse who broods when I defy him, manhandles me when I threaten to leave him and f**ks me until I’m delirious. This is the furthest away from that man

‘Don’t run away from me again.’ he begs, holding me tight. I notice his shakes have subsided.

I pull back, wiping my tear stained face with the back of my hand, my eyes fixed on his stomach, his scar bigger and more obvious than ever before. I can’t look at his eyes. They are not familiar to me anymore. They are not dark with anger or sparkling with pleasure – not narrowed fiercely or hooded with lust for me. They are empty pits of nothing, with no comfort to offer me. Despite that, though, I know if I walk out of that door, I’m finished. My only hope is to stay, find the answers that I need and pray they don’t destroy me. He has the power to destroy me.

His cold hand slides under my chin and pulls my face up to his. ‘I’m going to make this all right. I’m going to make you remember, Ava.’

I stare into his eyes and see determination through the haze of green. Determination is good, but does it eradicate the pain and madness that has come before it? ‘Can you make me remember the conventional way?’ I ask seriously. It’s not a joke, although he smiles a little.

‘I’m making it my mission objective. I’ll do anything.’

His words, a repeat from the launch night of Lusso, are spoken with as much resolve as they were back then. He kept his promise to prove that I wanted him. A small flicker of hope lightens my heavy heart, and I sink my face back down into his chest, clinging onto him. I believe him.

A quiet exhale of breath escapes his lips as he pulls me closer and holds on like his life depends on it.

It probably does. And mine too.

‘Your bath will get cold.’ I mumble into his bare chest when we’re still crumpled on the floor in a firm hold some time later.

‘I’m comfy.’ he complains, and I detect a familiar piece of Jesse in his tone.

‘You need to eat as well,’ I inform him, feeling strange dishing out instructions to him. ‘And that hand needs seeing to. Does it hurt?’

‘Like hell.’ he confirms.

I’m not surprised. It looks terrible. I hope it’s not broken because five days without any medical treatment could have the bones setting out of place. ‘Come on.’ I peel myself out of his vice grip. He grumbles but releases me. Standing up, I put my hand out to him, and he looks up at me with a small smile before taking it and lifting himself from the floor.

We walk quietly up the stairs and back to the master-suite.

‘In you get.’ I order quietly, pointing at the bath.

‘Are you making demands?’ His eyebrows rise. He obviously finds the reversal peculiar too.

‘It sounds like it,’ I nod towards the bath.

He starts chewing his lip, making no attempt to get in the bath. ‘Will you get in with me?’ he asks quietly.

I suddenly feel awkward and out of place. ‘I can’t.’ I shake my head and step back slightly. This goes against all of my impulses, but I know as soon as I surrender to his affection and touch, I’ll be sidetracked from my aim to straighten my head, to get answers.

‘Ava, you’re asking me not to touch you. That goes against all of my instincts.’

‘Jesse, please. I need time.’

‘It’s not natural, Ava. For me not to touch you, it’s not right.’

He’s right, but I can’t allow myself to get swallowed up by him. I need to keep a level head because as soon as he gets his hands on me, I’m distracted.

I don’t say anything. I just look at the bath again before returning my eyes to him. He shakes his head, un-wrapping the blanket from around his waist before stepping into the bath and lowering himself gingerly into the water. I collect a cup from the vanity unit and crouch by the side of the bath to wash his hair.

‘It’s not the same without you in here with me.’ he grumbles, leaning back and closing his eyes.

I ignore his gripe and start washing his hair and soaping his fine body from head to toe, fighting off the inevitable fizzles streaming through me at the contact.

Lingering around his scar on his abdomen thoughtfully, I quietly hope it will prompt him to explain it. It doesn’t. He keeps his eyes closed and his mouth shut. I have a feeling this is going to be a tough ride. He never volunteers information, and he dodges my questions with a stern warning or by distraction tactics. I can’t let that happen again. This is going to take all of my strength and willpower. It’s just not natural for me to evade him.

I run my hand down his rough face. ‘You need a shave.’

He opens his eyes and cups his chin with his good hand, stroking his stubble. ‘You don’t like it?’

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