Beneath This Man (Chapter 28)
I lower myself quietly onto the top step and watch him through the curving glass that leads down to the big open space. He looks fresh but troubled.
'I don't know.' he says quietly, picking at the fabric on the arm of the chair. 'I swear to God, I'll claw their fucking eyes out.' He moves his hand from the arm and rubs his eyes. 'I'm close, John. I really need it. Fuck, it's a mess.'
Oh God, am I pushing him towards drink again?
As if he's heard my silent question, his eyes flick up and find mine. I shift uncomfortably on the top step as he studies me. 'See what you can find out, John. I won't be in for a few days…yeah, thanks, big man.' His phone slides into the centre of his palm, but his hand remains by his ear, his elbow resting on the arm. I feel like a complete intruder.
He sits in his chair and I sit on the top step for the longest time, just staring at each other through the glass. I have no idea what to say to him. He looks like the weight of the world is on his shoulders. Should I go? I know that whoever has spiked my drink has probably made my life a million times more difficult. I wanted to prove that he was being unreasonable with his over-the-top protectiveness, but now I've just made it one hundred percent worse. He's never going to let me out of his sight.
As I'm contemplating my next move, he rises from his chair and starts walking towards the bottom of the stairs. I follow his slow climb up until he's standing a few steps below me, looking down at me. What is he thinking? His expression is flicking from anger to sorrow, back and forth, and his frown line looks like it's been set in place for a long, long while.
'If you are going to shout at me, then I'll go now.' I say through the dryness of my throat. I don't need Mr Neurotic on my case. I just want to forget about it and think myself lucky that it wasn't worse. It could have been so much worse.
'I've shouted enough.' he replies, and I detect the hoarseness of his own voice. 'How do you feel?'
'Fine.' I rip my eyes away from his magnets and stare down at my bare feet. I'm naked except for my black lacy underwear, and I feel small with him towering over me like this. Uncomfortable.
'Ish?' he asks.
'No, fine.' I sound stroppy.
He lowers himself to his knees a couple of steps below me so we're on a more equal level, but he still looks down at me. He plants his hands on the top step, either side of my body, and I glance up from my feet to look at him.
'I'm crazy mad, Ava.' His voice is soft.
'I wasn't drunk'. I affirm sharply. Damn it! I wasn't even remotely drunk.
'I told you not to drink at all. I knew I shouldn't have let you go out.'
'I'm curious as to why you think you can dictate what I do.' I challenge bravely. 'I'm a grown woman. Do you expect me to live a life with you where my every move is controlled?' My voice is quiet, but firm through my dryness. He has to see my point.
His lips form a straight line and I can hear the cogs start whirling into action. 'You are mine.' he grates. 'It's my job to keep you safe.'
I drop my eyes on a sigh. Yes, I'm his, but his objectives with regards to keeping me out of harm's way are too ambitious. 'You said you were close. Close to what?' I pull my face up.
He searches my eyes. He must know that I heard. He looked directly at me after he uttered the words. 'Nothing.' he answers.
'Nothing?' I can't help sounding disbelieving. 'You want a drink, don't you? That's what you need to deal with this fucking mess.'
His eyes widen. 'Will.you.watch.your.fucking.mouth!' he spells out the words. 'We're in this fucking mess because you went out and completely defied me.' He pushes his face up close to mine. 'We would not be in this situation if you'd fucking listened to me.'
'I'm sorry!' I spit angrily. 'I'm sorry for not listening.' I stand up, leaving him kneeling on the stairs. 'I'm sorry if you feel the need to drown in vodka because of me! I'm obviously bad for your health. I'll put your out of your misery.' I pivot and stalk into the bedroom, physically shaking with anger. I heard with my own ears his confession to John. If I go he'll probably have a drink and if I stay he will also probably drink. I'm between the Devil and the deep blue sea. Why can't he see that it's his own unreasonable expectations that are pushing him to complete madness, not me.
'Crazy mad, Ava.'
I turn and find him stalking towards me with a face like thunder. I back up slightly, and then mentally curse myself for not standing my ground. He stops in front of me, his chest puffing, breathing his minty breath all over me. 'Kiss me.'
'No!' I cry incredulously. The bloody man is deluded! He gives me a royal ticking off for disobeying him, and then starts making more unreasonable demands. I'm not kissing him.
His eyes darken and narrow. 'Three.'
He must be joking. 'Are you mad?'
'Crazy fucking mad, Ava. Two.'
He is completely serious. Oh my God!
'One.' he whispers. I scan the doorway past him and disregard that option completely. I'm not getting past him, that's for sure. 'Zero.'
I bolt across the room and over the bed. It's no surprise that I'm captured and pinned under him before I make any significant distance. I'm on my back with my arms pinned above my head with one of his. His jean clad leg rest over my thighs, restraining me. I'm completely immobile and exhausted from trying to break free. You would think I would have learnt by now. I pant in his face as he breathes down on me, tracing the line of my stomach with his finger, and then up the centre of my body to my mouth. He rests the tip on my bottom lip before letting it travel back down my body. The bastard is unleashing that craving for him again. It will never go away.
I run my eyes down the length of his bare torso and to his spare hand tracing light, feathery circles in the hollow void above my hip. 'I'm putting your resistance down to the drugs.' he says quietly and critically. 'I'm giving you another three seconds to make the right decision.' He lowers his lips so that they hover over mine, as close as possible without touching. 'Three.' he breathes over my mouth.
I wriggle and try to fight myself free, as well as fighting the traitorous response my body is having to him. I am incredibly weak and desperate. I open my eyes and find unmoved, puddles of green desire, fanned with his glorious lashes.
'Two.' he whispers and moves his gaze to my lips.
He gets no further. I lift my head and capture his mouth, my craving for him just way too powerful to fight back. He pushes his mouth down, forcing me to rest my head back on the bed as his glides his hands over my stomach.
'Please don't have a drink.' I plead into his mouth. I would never forgive myself if he put his body through that again because of me.
'I'm not going to have a drink, Ava.' His voice is flat and unconvincing. It makes me uncomfortable. He pushes himself up to his knees before pulling me up to straddle his lap. He brushes my hair out of my face and clasps my cheeks with his hands. 'Last night in the hospital when you wouldn't come round, I felt my heart getting slower by the minute. You will never know how much I love you. If you were ever taken away from me, I wouldn't survive it, Ava. I want to rip my own head off for giving you room to defy me.'
My eyes widen at his confession. His face is deadly serious and that's troubling. He is, in effect, saying he would kill himself, isn't he? Well, that is just crazy talk, but I don't think I would do well to point that out. 'I'm okay.' I say in a futile attempt to lighten him up. He looks distressed.
'But what if you weren't? What if I didn't come when I did?' He clenches his eyes shut. 'I just came to the bar to check you were okay, and then I was going to leave. Can you imagine how it felt to see you collapse like that?' His eyes open and they're glazed and haunted. I know now, for sure, I may as well handcuff myself to the bed. This is not healthy… for him or for me.
'It was a freak incident, someone playing stupid games. I was in the wrong place at the wrong time, that's all.' I take his hands from my face and rest them between our bodies. 'You will put yourself in a stress induced coma at this rate, and then what will I do?' I ask quietly. I'm not ignorant to the fact that I couldn't be without him either, but you don't see me spiraling into breakdown and controlling him.
He shakes his head and then starts chewing his lip. What's he thinking? 'You looked relieved when the Doctor said you weren't pregnant.' He fixes me with an enquiring eye.
Oh no no no! I could be pregnant. I could be fucking pregnant. Yes, it was negative, but it's only been a week since I finished my period and it's way too early to detect if I am. Fucking hell, we've been having sex like rabbits and with no protection.
I look anywhere but at him. 'I missed a pill.' I feel his hand shift and close around mine and I look up cautiously, finding his accusing eyes and an arched brow. 'I missed a few, I lost them again.' I confess.
'You've not replaced them?'
'I forgot.' I shrug, like the feeble loser that I am.
He studies me for a while. I feel like I'm under a microscope that identifies useless idiots. 'Okay. So when did you last take your pill?'
'Only a few days ago.' I answer quietly. I'm lying through the skin of my teeth, fighting my hand from delving into my hair. I can't believe I've been nearly a whole week and not replaced them.
'So you'll replace them?'
'Tomorrow.' I confirm. That is one appointment I'm not looking forward to, and damn I'm too late to munch on a morning after pill.
A funny look passes over his face. Regret? Okay, I've dismissed the thought before, but that look has just put me on a major high alert. I would say he wouldn't do such a thing, but I can't put it past him. I wouldn't put anything past him.
'Jesse,' I pause, not knowing how to piece together what I'm about to imply.
'What?' he asks, looking cautious and actually slightly guilty. He knows what I'm thinking, I know he does, and I'm super suspicious now. He can't have seriously been trying to get me pregnant? But if he has been hiding them, then he knows damn well I've not been taking them for a week. Or did he think I'd replaced them already?
'Nothing.' I say, shaking my head. I know he won't admit it, so I'm playing dumb, but I'll be searching every square inch of this penthouse at the first opportunity.
'Your brother rang.' he says casually, in an obvious attempt to distract me from my drifting thoughts – the thoughts he knows I'm having.
I straighten up. It's worked. 'Dan?'
'You spoke to him?'
He gives me a dubious look. 'Well, I couldn't leave it ringing constantly, he would have been worried. And why is there a lock on your phone?'
I laugh to myself. I wonder how many combinations he tried to unlock it. 'It didn't stop you answering, though, did it? What did you say to my brother?' My voice is slightly panicked which is fine because I'm panicking. Dan will be straight on the phone to Mum and this on top of everything else is not something I want to be explaining.
'Well, I didn't tell him what had happened. I don't want your family thinking that I can't look after you. He said you were supposed to be seeing him.' He looks at me like I've committed a serious sin for not telling him of my plans, even though there are no firm plans yet.
'You told him I'm living with you, didn't you.' My lips straighten.
'Yes.' He is completely unapologetic.
I could kill him! 'Jesse, what have you done?' I drop my head onto his shoulder in hopelessness.
'Hey, look at me.' He sounds angry again. I drag my head away from its resting place and look at him with all the misery I feel. His frown line has joined the argument. 'Don't you think he would've been worried if I had left your phone to ring off continuously?'
This is awful – my worst nightmare. Dan had undoubtedly called my parents.
He pulls me down onto his chest and I notice his heart bucking wildly. 'I'm going for a run. You take a shower. I'll get something to eat while I'm out.'
He's going for a run? That's my fault. 'Can't you stay?' I ask into his chest. I don't want him to go.
'No.' He lifts me and directs me into the bathroom. 'In the shower.' He turns it on and leaves me in the bathroom feeling affronted and worried. He never wants to leave me.