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Home > Beneath This Man (This Man #2)(4)

Beneath This Man (This Man #2)(4)
Author: Jodi Ellen Malpas

I take a deep breath and punch the gate code in, pushing it open for the guys. I wish this was as far as I had to go. Drew gestures for me to lead the way, ever the gentleman, so I pick my feet up and start my walk across the car park in silence. I see Jesse’s car and notice his window is still smashed. My stomach flips. We enter the marble foyer of Lusso quietly, except for the thumping of our footsteps. My insides start churning, my breathing speeding up. So much has happened in this place. Lusso was my first major accomplishment in design. My first sexual encounter with Jesse happened here, as did my final encounter with him. It all started and ended here.

Clive looks up from his big, curved marble desk as we approach, his expression screaming tiresome.

‘Clive,’ I say on a forced smile.

He eyes me, and then the three ominous beings accompanying me before his eyes settle on me again. ‘Hello, Ava. How are you?’

‘I’m good, Clive.’ I lie. I am far from good. ‘You?’

‘Yes, I’m fine.’ He’s weary, no doubt after having a few heated encounters with the three men escorting me, and judging by his cold reception towards me, they were not pleasant.

‘Clive, I would be grateful if you would let us up to the penthouse to check on Jesse.’ I load my voice with lashings of confidence, but I feel anything but. My heart is speeding up by the second.

‘Ava, I have told your friends here, I could lose my job if I allow that.’ He flicks a cautious gaze to the boys’ again.

‘I know, Clive, but they’re worried.’ I say, sounding completely detached. ‘They just want to check he’s okay, and then they’ll be leaving.’ I try with graciousness as I know Drew, Sam and John would have been a lot less than that.

‘Ava, I have been up and knocked on Mr Ward’s door and got no response. We’ve checked some of the CCTV, and I have not seen him leave or return on my watch. Security cannot check five days of continuous footage. I have told your friends this. If I let you up, it’s more than my job is worth.’

I’m stunned at Clive’s sudden turnabout in concierge etiquette. If only he had been this professional and stubborn when I came to see Jesse on Sunday, then we might never have had the altercation we did. But then I would still be blissfully unaware of Jesse’s little problem.

I feel Sam press up against my back. ‘Let us up, for f**k sake!’ he yells over my shoulder.

I flinch slightly, but I can’t blame him for being frustrated. I’m feeling pretty frustrated myself. I just want to get them past Clive and go. I can feel the walls closing in on all sides of me. I can see Jesse carrying me across the marble floor in his arms. All of the images swamping my brain are now all the more clearer for being here.

I turn and see John with a face like thunder and his hand on Sam’s shoulder, his way of telling Sam to calm down. I didn’t want to do this, but tempers are fraying. ‘Clive, I would hate to resort to blackmail.’ I say tightly, turning back to face him. He looks at me in confusion, and I can see his brain ticking over, trying to think of what I could possibly blackmail him with. ‘I would hate for anyone to find out about Mr Gomez’s regular visitors, or Mr Holland’s aversion to a Thai girl or two.’ I watch as Clive’s face screws up into a contortion of defeatism.

‘Ava, you play nasty, my girl.’

‘You leave me no other choice, Clive.’ I spit.

He shakes his head and motions us on to the elevator while muttering insults under his breath.

‘Brilliant!’ Sam chants as they make their way over to the penthouse lift.

I don’t have any idea how it happens, but I find my feet lifting and taking small steps behind them, following them to the elevator. ‘Jesse might have changed the code.’ I say to their backs.

Sam swings around, looking alarmed.

I shrug. ‘If he has, then there is no way of getting up there.’

All of a sudden, I’m stood in front of the elevator, taking a deep breath and punching in the developer code. There’s a chorus of exhales as the doors open and they all get in. I stand on the outside and look up at Sam, and he smiles, jerking his head mildly, encouraging me to board with them.

I do.

I get in the elevator, Sam and Drew flanking me on one side, John on the other. I enter the code again. We travel up in an uncomfortable silence, and as the lift doors open, we’re faced with the double doors that lead into Jesse’s penthouse.

Sam is the first to exit the lift, striding towards the doors and jiggling the handle calmly before he starts hammering on the door like a madman. ‘Jesse! Open the f**king door!’

Drew and John approach and pull him away, and then John tries the door himself, but it doesn’t budge. I can’t help but think I might have been the last person to exit the penthouse. I remember making a point of slamming the door as hard as I could.

‘Sam, mate, he might not even be here.’ Drew soothes.

‘Where the hell is he then?’ Sam yells.

‘Oh, he’s in there,’ John rumbles. ‘And the mother f**ker has been drowning in his sorrows for too long now. He’s got a business to run.’

I’m still stood in the elevator when the doors start to shut, snapping me out of my dazed state. My natural reflex has my arm flinging up to stop them closing before I step out into the penthouse foyer. I know I said that I would get them up here and leave, I know I should just go, but seeing Sam in such a state has me even more worried, and John’s words are prickling me. Drowning in his sorrows or drowning in vodka? If I stay, am I going to be faced with drunken, raging Jesse again?

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