Home > This Man Confessed (This Man #3)(15)

This Man Confessed (This Man #3)(15)
Author: Jodi Ellen Malpas

Through my low, pathetic weeping, I hear him approaching behind me. I can smell his fresh water and minty scent. And through my total numbness, I can still feel his presence. Every part of my being senses him, but my eyes don’t want to look at him.

I brush my tears away and sniff a little. ‘I know you’re there.’ I say quietly, keeping my eyes pointing downwards.

‘I know you do.’ His evenly spaced steps crunch over the ground, getting louder as he nears, and in my peripheral vision, I see him lower himself next to me. But he doesn’t touch me. His hands are clasped in front of him, his thumbs circling each other slowly. I can hear the tail end of his heavy breathing subsiding. He’s been running around the grounds like a madman trying to find me, and now he’s just sitting next to me, all silent when he should be explaining himself, explaining why he abandoned me on our wedding day so he could see a woman who’s in love with him—another woman who’s in love with him.

I laugh to myself. ‘Isn’t it funny how we’re so in touch with each other, yet you sit here now and don’t know what to say to me?’ I see him shift next to me, and then his hand drifts across the space between us and rests on my thigh, his heated touch doing things that I really don’t want it to do. I look down at his spread fingers, his flat, platinum and diamond wedding band that matches my own, sparkling as he flexes his hand and squeezes my thigh. ‘So he touches me.’ I say quietly.

‘He loves you.’ he whispers. ‘He wishes he could eliminate the past that’s hurting you.’

I turn my face to his and see green puddles of regret. ‘Then why did you see her? On our wedding day, when you vowed to have me by your side all day, why did you desert me to see her?’

‘I couldn’t leave her at the gates with guests arriving, Ava.’

‘So tell her to go away.’

‘And cause a scene?’

‘What did she want?’ I ask. She was here for a reason. ‘Did she know we were getting married today?’

His frown line crawls across his brow and sets firmly in place, his lip disappearing between his teeth. ‘Yes, she knew.’

So he’s spoken to her? ‘And she still came? Was she hoping to stop it? Was she going to barge through the summer room doors and declare that we shouldn’t be joined in holy matrimony?’ This is laughable.

‘I don’t know, Ava.’ He looks away.

‘When did you speak to her?’ He sighs. ‘She’s been calling and turning up at The Manor. I’ve told her repeatedly I’m not helping her. I’ve told her there are no feelings. I’m not sure what else I can do, Ava.’

‘What’s your definition of an affair?’ I ask.

His eyes swiftly return to mine, all confused by my question. ‘What do you mean?’

‘I mean, she’s in love with you, and you’ve said it was only sex. It was obviously more to her.’ I assess him, trying to gage his reaction.

‘Baby, I’ve told you before, just sex. They always wanted more, but I never gave them any reason to expect it. Never.’

I wince at the referral to they. He means many—many women who want him, many women who’ve had him, many women who have fallen in love with him. I want to tell him what Coral said about him making her need him, but then he’ll know that I intercepted her call. And after having him, who wouldn’t want him again, maybe even think they need him. I know that I did, but now my need is a lot deeper than his physical touch. Now I need him to breath. ‘I don’t want you to see her again.’ I insist.

He returns his eyes to mine. ‘I won’t. I’ve no need to.’

I take a deep breath and return to scanning the ground. ‘I’ve had enough of my wedding. I’d like to leave.’

‘Ava, look at me.’ he orders gently.

‘Jesse, don’t start making demands when I’m feeling like this.’

‘Perhaps you didn’t hear me right. I said, look at me.’ He’s not asking gently now, but my despondency prevents me from defying him. ‘What?’ I ask, following through on his unreasonable order.

He falls to his knees in front of me and takes my hands. ‘I’ve f**ked up. I’m so sorry, but I was trying to keep her away from you. I panicked and thought I could talk some sense into her. I didn’t want her kicking up a stink on your special day.’

‘It’s your special day, too.’ I remind him quietly. ‘You should’ve just told me.’

‘I know.’ He leans up and wraps me in his arms. ‘Let me make it up to you. What do you want me do, baby? Name it.’

I relax into him. ‘Just take me to bed.’ I demand quietly.

‘Deal.’ He stands me up and reinforces his apology with a deep, meaningful kiss. ‘We’ll make friends properly later.’ He scoops me up and starts back towards The Manor.

We enter the summer room via the huge French doors, and we’re immediately attacked by my mother’s infuriated glare. ‘There you are!’ She scuttles towards us, still tipsy, but obviously annoyed. ‘You’ve not cut the cake and you need to have your first dance. Tell me, are we having a wedding?’

I want to do none of those things. Evening guests are here, and we should socialise, but I just can’t be bothered. ‘I’m taking Ava upstairs. She’s tired.’ He doesn’t stop for my mum, and he doesn’t put me down. I’m being carried through the summer room, through all of our guests, and he isn’t stopping for anyone.

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