This Man Confessed (Page 177)

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‘I just…’ she stammers over her words, placing her wrinkled palm on my stomach and rubbing lightly. ‘I just worry, that’s all.’

I know she does, but she has no need to. I can enjoy a few beers, just like the rest of them, and I can do it in a relaxed atmosphere with my family. I still don’t touch the vodka, though. ‘Well, I said you shouldn’t, so you won’t. End of.’ I encourage her to take a seat next to my father. ‘Do you want a beer, Dad?’

He looks up at me on a smile. ‘No, son. I promised Jacob a few bounces on that inflatable thing.’ He points across the lawns and I turn, seeing dozens of kids, pumped up on E-numbers, jumping and screaming on the bouncy castle.

‘Good luck!’ David laughs, resting his hand on his pregnant wife’s bulging belly. I smile fondly and watch my dad slowly make his way over to Jacob, who’s frantically waving for his granddad. And then I spot Elizabeth knelt in front of Maddie, tying her locks in f**king bunches.

‘Leave her alone, Mum!’ I shout across the garden, earning myself a filthy look from Elizabeth and a giggle from my little lady.

‘Trample, Daddy!’ Maddie shrieks, batting her nana’s hand away from her hair and running off to reclaim her tree house.

I’m grinning as I watch Ava’s long suffering mother pull herself to her feet. I can’t help it. She turns a frighteningly dirty look on me, making me grin further. Nothing gives me greater pleasure than rubbing her up the wrong way, but she doesn’t do a bad job of returning the favour, so I’m not going to beat myself up about it. I’ll just keep enjoying it.

‘Why did your daughter have to be like you?’ she yells across to me.

I nearly spit my beer out. ‘Me?’

‘Yes, you! Challenging!’

I scoff. She has to be joking. ‘I think you’ll find that my little lady is the prodigy of your daughter. Defiant!’

She huffs and puffs, straightening out her blouse before heading towards the kitchen to help Ava. Challenging? The stupid woman doesn’t know what she’s f**king talking about.

Leaving my mum with Amalie and David, I stroll over to our friends, who have all, unsurprisingly, taken up residence by the bar.

‘My man!’ Sam slaps my back and John nods as I dip so Kate can kiss my cheek.

‘Everyone good?’ I ask, collapsing into one of the chairs. ‘Where’s Drew?’

Kate laughs, pointing to the bouncy castle where Drew is scrambling through the masses of kids to find his daughter. ‘He’s making sure that Georgia returns to her mother with no cuts or bruises.’

‘Talking of kids,’ I point my bottle between Kate and Sam, and fail to maintain my seriousness when John’s body starts shaking, making the whole f**king house vibrate behind me with that deep, rolling laugh.

‘Jesse,’ she breathes, exhausted by the constant question. ‘I’ve told you. There is not a maternal bone in this body.’

‘You manage my babies all right.’ I point out. She’s great with them.

‘Yes, that is because I get to hand the adorable creatures back to you when I’m fed up of them.’ She grins, and I match it, raising my bottle for her to chink.

‘I’m going to find my wife.’ I stand back up, keen to locate her and advise her on what exactly I plan on doing to her later.

Where is she?

I find her in the kitchen with Cathy, who has taken over food preparations. ‘There’s my boy!’ My old housekeeper sings, reaching up to kiss my cheek before exiting the kitchen with a tray full of tiny sandwiches, crusts cut off. ‘I’ll tell Clive to gather the children. Wonderful day!’

Watching her leave, I turn slowly until my eyes find what they’re looking for. She’s watching me closely, and those eyes are smoking out. She’ll never get enough of me.

‘I’ve missed you.’ I stalk forward, placing my bottle on the worktop as I pass. The tea towel is dropped from her hands, and she’s leaning back on the counter, willing me on, the little temptress.

I’m not gentle. I grab her and pin her to the wall, my mouth falling to the sweet flesh of her neck. ‘Jesse, don’t.’ she exhales, arching herself into my chest.

‘Later, I’m ripping this dress off and I’m going to f**k you into next year.’

She moans, raising her bare knee and rubbing it lightly over my solid c**k.

Control, control, control. F*****g control.

‘Deal.’ She wisely agrees, not that she has a choice. Wherever, whenever, she knows that. But not f**king now.

I growl my frustration and rip my body from hers. ‘I f**king love you.’

‘I know.’ She smiles, but it doesn’t make her eyes sparkle like usual.

‘What’s up, baby?’ I hunker down to get my face level with hers. ‘Tell me.’

She sighs and flicks me almost nervous eyes. ‘I wish Dan was here.’

It takes every ounce of my love for this woman, not to roll my eyes or growl in frustration. The bloke rubs me up the wrong way, I can’t help it. ‘Hey, you know he’s fine.’ I remind her. F**k me, the prick’s cost me near on half a f**king million since I’ve known him, not that I will ever share that with Ava. She knows about the first bailout, but not the subsequent two. She’ll only get her knickers in a twist. He just can’t keep himself out of trouble. ‘It’s too hard for him,’ I say what I know will ease her. ‘With Kate and Sam, you know.’

‘I know.’ she agrees. ‘I’m being stupid.’

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