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Home > Beneath This Man (This Man #2)(3)

Beneath This Man (This Man #2)(3)
Author: Jodi Ellen Malpas

‘Ruth, please!’ she shakes her head. ‘I look forward to it, Ava.’

‘Of course, Ruth.’ I leave Miss Quinn, relieved that I’ve fulfilled all necessary pleasantries, for now, anyway – until I meet my brother tomorrow.

I drag myself down the street towards Kate’s house, hoping she’s not home so I can retreat to my room before she resumes mission perk-Ava-up.

‘Ava!’

I stop and see Sam hanging out of his car window as he cruises slowly beside me. ‘Hey, Samuel.’ I say on a strained smile as I carry on walking.

‘Ava, please don’t join your evil friend in the piss-Sam-off club. I might be forced to move out.’ He parks up and gets out of his Porsche, meeting me on the pavement outside Kate’s house.

He looks his usual laidback self, with ridiculously baggy shorts, a Rolling Stones t-shirt and his mousey brown hair a disheveled mess.

‘I’m sorry. Have you moved in permanently now?’ I ask on an arched brow. Sam has his own swanky apartment on Hyde Park with much more room, but with Kate’s workshop on the ground floor of her house, she insists on him staying at hers.

‘No, I haven’t. Kate said you would be home by six. I was hoping to catch you.’ He suddenly looks all nervous which is making me feel extremely uncomfortable.

‘Is everything okay?’ I ask.

He offers a little smile, but it doesn’t reach his dimple. ‘Not really. Ava, I need you to come with me.’ he says quietly.

‘Where?’ Why is he acting so shifty? This is not like Sam. He is usually so carefree and unapologetic.

‘To Jesse’s place.’

Sam must see the look of horror on my face because he steps towards me with a pleading expression. Just the mention of his name sends me into panic. Why does he want me to go to Jesse’s? After our last meeting, you would have to drag me there kicking and screaming. There is no chance in Hell I’m returning to that place – not ever.

‘Sam, I don’t think so.’ I take a step back, shaking my head. My body has started shaking too.

He sighs and scuffs his trainers on the pavement. ‘Ava, I’m getting worried. He’s not answering his phone and no one has heard from him. I don’t know what else to do. I know you don’t want to talk about him, but it’s been nearly five days’. I’ve been to Lusso, but the concierge refuses to let us up. He’ll let you. Kate said you know him. Can’t you just get us up there? I just need to know he’s okay.’

‘No, Sam. I’m sorry, I can’t.’ I croak.

‘Ava, I’m worried he’s done something stupid. Please.’

My throat starts to close up and Sam starts walking towards me with his hands outstretched. I didn’t realise I was moving backwards. ‘Sam, please don’t. I can’t do that. He won’t want to see me and I don’t want to see him.’

He grabs my hands to halt my retreat, pulling me into his chest and holding me tight against him. ‘Ava, I wouldn’t ask, I really wouldn’t, but I need to get up there and check on him.’

My shoulders droop, defeated in his embrace, and a quiet sob escapes, just when I thought there were no tears left. ‘I can’t see him, Sam.’

‘Hey,’ He pulls back and looks at me. ‘Just get us past the concierge. That’s all I’m asking.’ He wipes away a stray tear and smiles pleadingly.

‘I’m not going in.’ I affirm, my stomach a knot of panic at the thought of seeing him again. But what if he has done something stupid.

‘Ava, just get us up to his penthouse.’

I nod and wipe away the rolling tears.

‘Thank you,’ He tugs me towards his Porsche. ‘Get in. Drew and John are meeting us there.’ He opens the passenger door and directs me into the car.

With John and Drew meeting us there, he must have assumed I would agree. I can’t blame the guy for being optimistic.

I climb in and let Sam drive me to Lusso at St Katherine Docks – a place I swore that I would never return to again.

Chapter 2

As Lusso comes into view, I start hyperventilating. The overwhelming desire to open the door and jump out of Sam’s moving car is hard to resist. He glances at me, an obvious anxious look on his cute face, as if he senses my intention to bolt.

Once we’re parked outside the gates, Sam comes around to collect me, keeping a firm grip on me as he guides us towards the pedestrian gates where Drew is waiting.

He’s dressed in his usual finery, all suited and booted, with perfectly styled black hair, but he doesn’t make me feel uncomfortable anymore. I’m more than shocked when he takes over Sam’s hold of me, though, pulling me into him and squeezing me hard. This is the first actual contact I’ve ever had with the man. To say he was stand-offish would be a major understatement.

‘Ava, thank you for coming.’ he says, holding me in his tight clinch.

I say nothing because I really don’t know what to say. They’re truly worried about Jesse, and I feel guilty and even more anxious now. He releases me and offers a small, reassuring smile. It does nothing to reassure me, though.

Sam points up the road. ‘Here’s the big guy.’

We turn to see John pull up in his black Range Rover, skidding to an abrupt halt behind Sam’s car. He slides his big body out, removes his wraparound sunglasses and nods in greeting. This is John’s usual wordless acknowledgment. Good Lord he looks pissed. I’ve only ever got a brief glimpse of his eyes – they are always concealed behind those glasses, even at night or inside, but the sun is shining now, so why he has taken them off is beyond me. Maybe he wants everyone to know how pissed he is. It’s working. He looks formidable.

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