Home > Beneath This Man (This Man #2)

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

Chapter 1

It’s been five days since I have seen Jesse Ward. Five days of agony, five days of emptiness and five days of sobbing. There is nothing left in me. No emotion, no soul and no tears – nothing.

Every time my eyes close he’s there, the images flickering from the sure, confident, beautiful man who completely took me, to the hollow, hurtful, drunken creature who has destroyed me. I’m at a complete loss. Empty and incomplete. He made me need him, and now he’s gone.

In the darkness I see his face and in the silence I hear his voice. There is no escaping it. I’m unaware of the activity around me, every noise a distant hum, every image a slow blur. I’m in Hell. Empty. Incomplete. I’m in absolute agony.

I left Jesse drunk and raging at his penthouse last Sunday. I’ve not heard from him since that day I walked out, leaving him yelling and stumbling around. There have been no phone calls, no messages, no flowers...nothing.

Sam is still a regular, semi naked presence at Kate’s, but he knows better than to talk to me about Jesse. He keeps quiet and well away from me. I must be painful to be around at the moment. How can a man who I’ve known a few short weeks’ make me feel like this? In those short few weeks’ I have known him, though, I’ve learnt that he is intense, hot-blooded and controlling, but he is also gentle, affectionate and protective. I miss him so much, but I do not miss the drunken, hollow man who I was confronted with the last time I saw him. That was not the Jesse who I had fallen in love with. That brief time of trading insults, though, did not even come close to eradicating the few weeks before that nightmare Sunday of just me and him. I would gladly take all of his frustrating, challenging ways over the ugliness that was Jesse drunk. Strangely, I miss those infuriating traits too.

I’ve not even thought about The Manor and what it represents. That has almost paled into insignificance. Apparently, Jesse falling off the wagon was my entire fault. He advised me, on a slur, that he had warned me there would be damage if I left. He had. He just didn’t explain what sort of damage or why. It was another one of his enigmatic brainteasers that he never elaborated on. I should have pressed for more, but I was too busy being swallowed up by him. I was distracted from everything, blinded by lust and drowning in his intensity. He completely consumed me. I never anticipated he was Lord of the Sex Manor, and I certainly never anticipated he was an alcoholic. I was literally walking around with my eyes wide shut.

I’m lucky that I’ve managed to avoid any pressing questions from Patrick regarding Mr Ward’s project. When one hundred thousand pounds landed in Rococo Union’s bank account, courtesy of Mr Ward, I was immensely grateful. With so much money paid up front, I could fob Patrick off with an imaginary business trip that’s keeping Mr Ward out of the country and the project on hold. I know I’ll have to deal with this eventually, I just don’t feel strong enough at the moment, and I’m not sure when I will. Perhaps never.

Poor Kate has tried so hard to pull me out of the black hole that I’ve put myself in. She’s tried to occupy me with yoga classes, drinks at the pub and cake decorating, but I’m happier festering in my bed. And she meets me without fail every lunchtime. Not that I eat anything. It’s hard enough to swallow, without trying to get food past the permanent lump that’s wedged in my throat.

The only thing I look forward to at the moment is my morning walk. I’m not sleeping, so dragging myself out of bed at five o’clock every morning is relatively easy.

In the quiet, morning fresh air, I make my way to the spot in The Green Park where I collapsed with exhaustion the morning Jesse dragged me around the streets of London on one of his torturous marathons. I sit quietly, picking at the dew coated blades of grass until my backside is numb and sodden and I’m ready to wander back slowly to prepare myself for another day without Jesse.

How long can I go on like this?

My brother, Dan, is back in London tomorrow after visiting my parents in Cornwall. I should be looking forward to seeing him, it’s been six months since I last did, but where am I going to find the energy to put on a front? With the added benefit of Matt’s friendly little phone call to my Mum, informing her that I was seeing another man, I’m facing interrogation. I told my mother it wasn’t true – it was true at the time, not now – but I know my Mum well enough to know she didn’t believe me, even when I’m on the other end of a phone and she can’t see me twiddling my hair. What would I tell them? That I have fallen in love with a man and I don’t know how old he is? He owns a sex club and, oh yes, he’s an alcoholic. I’ve not helped myself by not making the trip to see them, my work excuse pitiful, and I fully expect the third degree from Dan when I see him tomorrow. I need to prepare myself for his questioning. It’s going to be the grilling of my life.

My mobile blurts from my desk, dragging me from my daydreams and tapping pen. It’s Ruth Quinn. I inwardly groan. This woman is proving to be a challenge herself. She rang on Tuesday and demanded an appointment for the same day, and I explained that I was busy and suggested someone else may be able to make it, but she insisted she wanted me. She eventually settled for my first appointment, which happened to be today, and she has since called every day to remind me. I should just ignore it, but she will only call the office.

‘Miss Quinn.’ I greet tiredly.

‘Ava, how are you?’

She always asks, which is nice, I suppose. I won’t tell her the truth. ‘I’m good. And you?’

‘Yes, yes, fine,’ she chirps. ‘I just wanted to check our appointment.’

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