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Home > Beneath This Man (This Man #2)(7)

Beneath This Man (This Man #2)(7)
Author: Jodi Ellen Malpas

I nod and help myself, John following suit, putting an incredible four sugars into his coffee. I know there is no milk, but it would be pointless sharing this.

‘So,’ Sam begins. ‘Now we’ve found him, what are we going to do with him?’ he jokes.

Carefree Sam is back and it’s quite a relief. Seeing him so fraught had only fuelled my own worry, and as it turns out, he had every reason to be anxious. I inwardly shudder at the thought of Jesse alone and suffering for the last five days. How much longer would he have been lying there if I had refused to come? They would have surely phoned the police.

John pipes up. ‘Everything is running smoothly at The Manor. We don’t have to worry about that. He’ll be back to normal after nursing a week long hangover.’

‘Doesn’t he need to go to rehab?’ I ask. ‘Or therapy, I don’t know.’ I have no idea how these things work.

John shakes his head and puts his glasses back on, and I start to wonder about his relationship with Jesse. I thought he was just an employee, but he seems to be the one in the know about all of this.

‘No rehab.’ John states firmly. ‘He’s not an alcoholic in the classic sense of the word. He’s not obsessed with alcohol, Ava. He drank to lighten his foul mood, to fill a gap. Once he starts, he can’t stop.’ He offers me a small smile. ‘You helped, girl.’

‘What did I do?’ I ask defensively. I don’t know why I sound so hurt by John’s statement. He has just told me I helped the situation, but I can’t help feeling like he’s insinuating that I might have helped with the relapse as well.

Sam places his hand over mine on the worktop. ‘His attention was focused elsewhere.’

‘But then I left him.’ I say quietly. I’m just confirming what they are both thinking. We were not together in the couple sense for me to leave him, though. Nothing had been established as to where we both stood. We never did get to lay our cards on the table or sort this shit out.

‘It’s not your fault, Ava.’ Sam reassures me firmly. ‘You weren’t to know.’

‘He never told me,’ I whisper. ‘If I had known, things would have been different.’ I’m still defending myself. I’m not sure how things would have been different if Jesse had told me, or if I had worked it out myself. I know I never want to see Jesse like he was last Sunday again. If I leave now, will that happen again? Or I could stay and help him, but would I be doing that out of guilt or because I love him? He might not even want me here. He was so mad at me. My head is a jumbled mess. I prop my elbows on the counter and plant my head in my hands. What the hell am I supposed to do?

‘Ava?’ John’s deep rumble pulls my head back up. ‘He’s a good man.’

‘What made him drink? How bad is it?’ I ask. I know he’s a good man deep down, but if I know more I might understand better.

‘Who knows?’ John muses, and then looks at me. ‘Don’t be thinking he was smashed all day every day. He wasn’t. How he is right now, that’s just because of misery, not because he’s an alcoholic.’

‘And he didn’t drink when I turned up?’ I can’t believe that.

John laughs. ‘He didn’t, although you have brought out some other rather nasty qualities in him, girl.’

I frown, but I know exactly what John’s talking about, and so does Sam by the look on his cheeky face. I’ve been told Jesse is usually quite a laidback type, but I have only ever seen snippets of a laidback Jesse Ward, and that was mostly when he was getting his own way. Most of the time, all I’ve seen is an unreasonable control freak. He even admitted himself that he’s only like it with me…lucky me.

What would they be faced with if I was to walk away again? ‘I’ll stay, but if he comes round and he doesn’t want me here, I will be calling one of you two.’ I warn.

Sam visibly sags. ‘That won’t happen, Ava.’

John nods. ‘I need to get myself back to The Manor and run that mother f**ker’s business.’ He gets himself up from the barstool. ‘Ava, you need my number. Where’s your phone?’

I look around for my bag and realise that I’ve left it on the terrace, so I jump up and leave Sam and John in the kitchen while I go to fetch it.

On my way back to the kitchen, I see Jesse is still out for the count. How long will he be like this and at what point should I really worry? I have no idea what I’m supposed to do.

I stand silently watching him, his lashes flickering mildly, his chest rising and falling steadily. Even unconscious he looks troubled. I approach quietly and pull the blanket up to his chin. I can’t help it. I’ve never looked after him before, but it’s instinctive. I kneel and rest my lips on his cold cheek, soaking up the little bit of comfort I get from the contact before standing and making my way back to the kitchen. John has gone.

‘Here,’ Sam passes me a piece of paper. ‘John’s number.’

‘Was he in a rush?’ I ask. He could have waited for me.

‘He never hangs around for longer than necessary. Listen, I’ve spoken to Kate. She’s bringing some clothes over for you.’

‘Oh, okay.’ My poor clothes are going to wonder where they live. They have been transported back and forth to this place on numerous occasions.

‘Thank you, Ava.’ Sam says sincerely.

‘Don’t thank me.’ I protest, feeling uncomfortable, especially since this is partly my fault.

Sam shuffles nervously. ‘I know. It’s just…well, after last Sunday, the whole Manor shock.’

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