Home > Beneath This Man (This Man #2)(12)

Beneath This Man (This Man #2)(12)
Author: Jodi Ellen Malpas

‘I like you however you come.’

Just not drunk!

The fleeting look that passes over his face nearly has me convinced he’s read my mind, but then he’s probably thinking the exact same thing. ‘I’m not touching another drop again.’ he declares confidently, ensuring he maintains our eye contact as he makes his vow.

‘You sound confident.’ I retort quietly.

‘I am.’ He sits himself up in the bath and turns to face me, lifting his battered hand to cup my face and wincing when he realises he can’t. ‘I mean it, never again. I promise you.’ He sounds so sincere. ‘I’m not a raving alcoholic, Ava. I admit I get carried away once I do have a drink and I find it hard to stop, but I can take it or leave it. I was in a bad place after you left me. I just wanted to numb the pain.’

My heart tightens in my chest, and I feel a sense of relief mixed with a little doubt. Everyone gets a little carried away when they’ve had a drink, right? ‘I came back,’ I look past him, trying to piece together what I need to say. Millions of words have been trampling my mind for days, but now I can’t think of any of them. ‘Why didn’t you tell me sooner? Is this what you meant when you said I would cause more damage if I left?’

His head drops. ‘That was a shitty thing to say.’

‘It was.’

He returns his eyes to mine. ‘I just wanted you to stay. I was stunned when you told me that I had a nice hotel.’ He smiles a little, and I feel stupid. ‘Things got pretty intense, pretty quickly. I didn’t know how to tell you. I didn’t want you to run away again. You kept running away.’ He spells out the last four words, clearly still frustrated by my evasion of him. I was right, though. All along I was right to try and escape him.

‘I didn’t get far, did I? You wouldn’t let me.’

‘I was going to tell you. You weren’t supposed to come to The Manor like that. I wasn’t prepared, Ava.’

That much was obvious. All of the times I had been to the supposed hotel, I’d been chaperoned or confined to Jesse’s office. I’m sure people were warned off talking to me and no one approached Jesse when I was with him. And he’s right, things did get pretty intense, pretty quickly, but that was nothing to do with me. God, there is so much to talk about. I need to know things and he has got to tell me. The nasty little creature who Jesse pounded on at The Manor had some pretty interesting things to say. Has Jesse had an affair with his wife?

So many questions.

I sigh. ‘Come on, you’re pruning.’ I hold a towel up, and he mirrors my sigh before pushing himself up on the side of the bath with his good hand. He steps out and I run the towel over his body as he watches me closely.

The corners of his lips lift slightly into the semblance of a smile when I reach his neck. ‘A few weeks ago, I was nursing your hangover.’ he says quietly.

‘I bet your head is banging a lot harder than mine was.’ I dismiss his reminiscing and secure the towel around his waist. ‘Food and then the hospital.’

‘Hospital?’ he blurts, his voice startled. ‘I don’t need a hospital, Ava.’

‘Your hand.’ I clarify. He probably thinks I want to section him.

I see understanding surface in his eyes as he lifts his hand up to inspect it. The blood has all washed away, but it still looks nasty. ‘It’s fine.’ he grumbles.

‘I don’t think it is.’ I protest softly.

‘Ava, I don’t need to go to the hospital.’

‘Don’t go then.’ I turn and walk into the bedroom.

Following me in, he collapses on the end of the bed and watches as I disappear into his huge walk-in-wardrobe. I rummage through his clothes, finding him some marl grey sweatpants and a white t-shirt. He needs comfort. I retrieve some boxer shorts from his chest of drawers and walk back over to find him sprawled back on the bed. Just getting him upstairs and bathed has knackered him out. I can’t imagine a hangover on this scale.

‘Here, put these on.’ I place the clothes on the bed next to him, and he turns his head to inspect my selection, letting out a heavy, tired breath.

When he makes no attempt to dress himself, I pick up his boxers and kneel down in front of him, holding them at his feet. He’s done this to me plenty of times. I tap his ankle and he pushes himself up on the bed, looking down at me, a small twinkle lighting his eyes. It’s another familiar trait.

He silently lifts his feet into the waiting holes and stands so I can negotiate the boxers up his legs, but then his towel drops when I’m halfway up his body and I come face to face with his huge arousal.

I release his boxers and jump back from him, like it might burn me or something. Not all of him is broken then, I think to myself, trying to ignore the steel rod of flesh within touching distance. I flick a glance up to him and for the first time, his eyes sparkle fully, but it’s not a good thing. I’ve seen that look, more than once, heaps in fact, and it’s not what I need right now, although my body is completely disagreeing with my brain. I struggle to control the urge to push him on the bed and straddle him. I’m not risking sidetracking either of us with sex. There’s a lot to talk about.

He reaches down to pull his boxers up the rest of the way. ‘I’ll go to the hospital.’ he says. ‘If you want me to, then I’ll go.’

I frown at him. ‘Agreeing to have your hand looked at won’t make me fall to your feet in gratitude.’ I say curtly.

His eyes narrow slightly at my harshness. ‘I’ll let that slip.’

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