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Home > Beneath This Man (This Man #2)(9)

Beneath This Man (This Man #2)(9)
Author: Jodi Ellen Malpas

My mind flicks back to last Sunday and the things he said to me. “You’re a f**king prick tease, Ava”, “I needed you and you left me”. Then I had left him…again. He’d said he didn’t tell me because he didn’t want me to have another excuse to leave him, but then he said he wasn’t an alcoholic. John said the same thing. If it’s a problem and it involves alcohol, then doesn’t that make him an alcoholic?

I shut the laptop in exasperation and put it on the coffee table. It’s only ten o’clock, but I’m totally spent. I don’t want to go upstairs to bed in case he wakes up and I don’t want to make myself comfortable, so I gather a few cushions up, lay them on the floor next to him and settle myself, resting my head on the sofa and stroking the hairs on his toned arms. It relaxes me to have the contact and it’s not long before my eyes are heavy and I’m drifting off.

Chapter 3

‘I love you.’

I’m vaguely aware of his palm holding the back of my head, his fingers running through my hair, and it feels so comforting…so right. I open my eyes and I’m met by a duller version of the green I know so well.

I jump to my feet and smack my ankle on the coffee table. ‘Shit!’ I curse.

‘Watch your mouth!’ he scolds me, his voice gritty and broken.

I grasp my ankle, but then I wake up fully and remember where I am. I drop my foot and swing my gaze to the sofa, finding Jesse sat up slightly, looking terrible, but at least he’s awake. ‘You’re awake!’ I cry.

He winces, clasping his head with his good hand.

Oh shit!

He must have the hangover from hell and here I am screeching like a banshee. I walk back the few steps needed to find the chair behind me, and then lower myself onto the seat. I have no idea what to say to him. I’m not about to ask how he’s feeling, that is pretty obvious, and I’m not going to hit him with a lecture about personal safety or for disregarding his health. I really want to ask him if he remembers our fight. What should I do?

I don’t know, so I resolve to sit with my hands in my lap and shut up.

I look at him, looking at me and my mind is racing with things I want to say, none of which I can. I want to tell him that I love him, for a start. And I want to ask him why he didn’t tell me he owns a sex club or that he has an issue with drink. Is he wondering what I’m doing here? Does he want me to leave? Oh, God, does he need a drink? The silence is killing me.

‘How are you feeling?’ I blurt, instantly wishing I had kept my mouth shut.

He sighs and inspects his damaged hand. ‘Shit.’ he states sharply.

Oh, okay. Now what do I say? He doesn’t seem pleased to see me at all, so perhaps I should go before I push him to crack another bottle open. He’ll have to go buy some more, though. That will probably be even more of a reason to be mad at me.

I decide he must need some fluids, so I get up and head towards the kitchen. I’ll get him some water and then I’ll leave.

‘Where are you going?’ he asks, slightly panicky and bolting upright on the couch.

‘I thought you might need some water.’ I assure him, my heart lifting a little. He doesn’t want me to leave. I’ve seen that face plenty of times. The domineering control freak usually follows, after he’s pinned me down somewhere, but I won’t get my hopes up too high. He hasn’t got the strength to be chasing, pinning or dominating me at the moment. I’m disappointed.

He settles at my response, and I carry on my way to the kitchen, glancing at the clock on the oven as I fetch a glass. Eight o’clock. I’ve slept for ten hours straight. That hasn’t happened since…well, since I was last with Jesse.

I grab a bottle of water from the fridge and fill the glass before traipsing back into the vast open space to find Jesse sat up on the sofa with his head in his hands, the blanket pooling in his lap.

When I reach him, he lifts his gaze to mine and our eyes lock. I hand him the water. With his good hand, he takes the glass, his fingers resting over mine. I retract mine quickly, the water splashing out of the glass. I don’t know why that happened, and the look on his face makes me feel instantly heartless. He’s shaking dreadfully, and I’m wondering if it’s withdrawal. I’m sure I read shakiness as a symptom, along with a catalogue of other signs.

He follows my eyes to his hand and shakes his head. This is weird. Things have never been like this between us. Neither of us knows what to say.

‘When did you last have a drink?’ I ask. This is pink elephant in the room territory, but I’ve got to say something.

He sips his water and then slumps back on the sofa, his abdominals looking sharper from his slight weight loss. ‘I don’t know. What day is it?’

‘Saturday.’

‘Saturday?’ he asks, obviously shocked. ‘Fuck.’

I’m assuming this means he’s lost a lot of time, but he can’t have been in this penthouse for five days solid, just drinking. Surely he would be dead?

And then the silence falls again and I find myself back on the chair opposite him, twiddling my thumbs and searching my brain for the right thing to say. I hate this. I wouldn’t usually think twice about diving on him and throwing my arms around him, letting him smother me completely, but he’s so delicate at the moment, which is crazy, considering his tall, if a bit leaner frame. My strong rogue is reduced to a shaking mess. It’s killing me. And on top of all that, I don’t even know if he would want me to. I’m not sure I really want to either. This man is not the man I fell in love with. Is this the real Jesse?

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