WITH THIS MAN (This Man Book #4) – Coming March 20, 2018
Jesse Ward is back in the newest novel in the #1 New York Times bestselling This Man series!
POINT. CLICK. WOW!! My March just got a whole lot easier. Some things we hold sacred and that’s The Lord of the Manor is Back – Jesse Ward. We have a sneak peak at Chapter 17 inside.
As I look up at the imposing building, I conclude that this is just as weird for me as it must be for Ava. The Manor is still The Manor, except now it’s The Manor Golf Resort and Spa. The grounds are as spotless as they were when I sold the place, and the building as impressive.
“We met playing golf?”Ava asks, a little laughter in her tone. “How romantic.”
“There wasn’t much romantic about our first encounter, baby,”I say, guiding her up the steps to the open doors, checking for her limp. It’s there, if mild. “There wasn’t?” She sounds so disappointed, her head dropped far back, taking in the extraordinary structure. “You know, this could be your perfect opportunity to change that.”
I skid to a stop, looking down at her, a little stunned. She remains quiet while I fish for a response to that. I have nothing, so I pull her on, my mind spinning into overdrive. Not about her hinting that maybe I should be romantic, but because she’s shown a suggestive side, and I like it a lot. I shouldn’t, however, take that subtle hint as a green light to ravage her. Not just yet, anyway.
“This way.”I lead her into the bar, pick her up, and place her on a stool, trying to ignore the fact that despite the exterior of The Manor remaining the same, the interior has changed dramatically. It looks utterly shit. I gaze around, caught between resentment and reminiscence. The general layout is the same, though the décor is very different.
“Why are you scowling?”Ava asks. This will probably do nothing to help her remember. How could it when I barely recognize it myself? “It just isn’t how I remember,”I tell her, pointing to the barman, who’s kitted out in some green penguin suit that matches the rest of the décor. “Mario looked much better.”
“Who’s Mario?”“My head barman.”
“Your head barman?”she blurts.
“Oh yeah.”I look down at her, smiling nervously. “I used to own this place.”
“You owned a golf resort?”Her mouth hangs open as she takes a look around her. “The house, your flash Aston, this place. Are we rich?”
“We’re comfortable,”I say nonchalantly, hoping that is the end of that, for now, at least. The complexity of The Manor and how I came to own it isn’t top of my priority list of things to tell her. It’s us that’s important. I order two waters and quietly ask the barman if I can speak to the manager.
“Why did you sell it?”
“It wasn’t a golf resort when I owned it,”I say, fully aware that I’ve just opened the floodgates to an inquisition. I take the glass and pass it to her, waiting for the inevitable. “Then what was it?”She takes a small sip, looking at me, waiting for an answer. I stall, avoiding her gaze, like she might find the answer in my eyes.
“Oh, look, a lovely painting of St. Andrews.”I point my glass to a wall on the other side of the bar, where tasteful art used to hang. She looks over her shoulder briefly, clearly not in the least bit interested. “What was this place when you owned it?”she repeats, leveling an expectant look on me.
This simple question has made me realize just how much there is for her to remember. Fucking hell, this is getting more daunting by the minute. My arse drops to the seat of the stool next to Ava, and I sigh, long and defeated. “A sex club,”I say quietly, not that there’s anyone around to overhear. “Pardon?”She coughs, her glass of water landing on the bar.
“It was an exclusive sex club for the rich and beautiful.” I rest an elbow on the bar, propping my head in my hand. Her lovely mouth is hanging open again. And I’m inwardly laughing. She’s heard nothing yet, and for the first time, I wonder if there are certain things that I should hold back forever. Things that nearly broke us. Things that I would love to have wiped from her memory even before the accident. But that wouldn’t be fair. Our story is our story, after all, and I have to have faith that she got past it back then, so she can get past it again.
“Wait.”She retreats on her seat. “You said we met here.”
Her finger comes up and swirls the air around her head, comprehension beginning to dawn. The fear of her thoughts is endearing.
“Tell me I didn’t…”
“You didn’t,”I assure her on a small smile. “Oh, thank God,”she breathes, her hand coming up to her chest. “Finding out I’m married with kids is enough to wrap my brain around, without the added knowledge that I was a kinky bitch.” I laugh at her evident relief.
“Oh, you’re kinky, lady. And in a whole league of your own.”
“What do you mean?”Her cheeks flush. I haven’t seen embarrassment on my wife for years. It still looks good on her. I relish in the sight, leaning in toward her to get close. “You’re a teasing temptress, baby. A savage when you want to be.”
“Biting. Clawing.”I smile a little at her growing shock. “Screaming, really loud. We’re fucking perfect together.”Her blush gets even brighter, her eyes darting away from mine. “Oh.”I chuckle at her prudishness.
“Well, this is a strange sight.”
“What is?”“My wife being all shy and reserved.”
“Well, it’s not every day you find out your husband owned a glamorous sex club.”
“It’s not every day your wife forgets who you are,” I reply, with no hurt or harshness behind my words. It’s just a factual statement. “We’re both out of our comfort zone here, Ava.” She looks at me in quiet contemplation. “Why do I get the feeling that I’m about to experience something incredible?”
I smile and take her hand, helping her down from the stool. “Because you are. Because our story is truly incredible. Come on.”
I find the manager and have a quiet word while Ava stands in the entrance hall, staring up the sweeping staircase to the balcony landing. Just watching her there, taking everything in, looking so out of place, brings back so many memories. It’s sweetly reminiscent, if a little painful. The sight is beautiful, but the feelings are ugly. I don’t have the all-consuming intrigue and awe swirling within me like I did back then. I have anxiety instead. I join Ava and stare up to the first floor, too. The doors off the landing are all closed—doors to guests’hotel rooms, as opposed to doors that lead to hours of pleasure.
“This way,”I whisper in her ear, making her jump a little. I hold my hand out and smile when she takes it, walking us leisurely though what was The Manor. When we hit the ballroom, which is now a huge restaurant with a terrace onto the golf course, I look back, trying not to hope too much that any of this is familiar to her. It’s a long shot, since it’s so very different from how I remember it. “Our wedding breakfast was in this room,”I say over my shoulder, leading her through the scattering of tables. “Please tell me you sold this place before we got married.”
I return my attention forward, smiling when she sighs. My smile stretches when I spot an elaborate spray of flowers in a huge glass vase with bursts of every color imaginable. I divert us to the table where it stands and scan the bouquet, spotting what I’m looking for. There’s only one. But it doesn’t matter. I only need one.
I pluck the calla from the middle and turn, handing it to Ava. She’s unsure as she reaches for it, eyes flicking from me to the flower. “It’s beautiful.”I smile mildly and pull her on. “Understated elegance,”I say over my shoulder, relishing the beam she gives me in return. “They’re your favorite flowers.”
“Since the day you met me,” I tell her as we approach my office door, thinking I was quite romantic back then after all.
I look up at the solid wooden door, my mind bombarded with so many memories, the most poignant and important being the first time that Ava O’Shea wandered in. I remember it like it could have been yesterday. I was hungover. Grumpy. Wishing I didn’t have to endure the mundane meeting with an interior designer. Then John showed her in, and all headaches and irritability were forgotten. Instant intrigue, desire, and want replaced them. “Wait here,”I order lightly, dropping her hand and opening the door, stepping into the vortex of memories. Her head cranes around me, trying to see into the office. “Wait?”
“I want you to wait one minute and then knock on the door.”She laughs a little. “Why?”
“Because that’s how it was when we met.”I shut the door and spin around, taking in my office. “Really?”I ask thin air. What the fuck have they done to it? I rush across to the corner and drag the desk to where it should be. I haven’t got time to rearrange the entire space to replicate what it was all those years ago, so this will have to do. I hear a knock and fall into the chair, quickly rolling up the sleeves of my shirt and roughing up my hair a little. “Come in,”
I call, grabbing a pen and jotting something down on a pad to the side. The sound of the door opening fills the office, and I look up to find she’s poked her head around the door. “I don’t even know why I’m here,”she says on a shrug, making me sag in the uncomfortable office chair. “Just come in.”I flap an impatient hand, beckoning her. She shuts the door and stands across the office, looking around, a bit bewildered. “Nice.”
“It was better when it was my office,”I say, following her lead and taking the space in. I sniff my disgust and find my wife again. She’s the only thing that looks right in here, even if she’s staring at me a little blankly, her face asking me what next? Her dark hair, currently piled high in a messy knot, isn’t as glossy, and her eyes aren’t as shiny. But she still takes my breath away. I get up from the chair and slowly round the desk, dragging my fingers across the wood. Then I rest my arse on the edge, crossing my legs at the ankles and my arms over my chest. Her eyes fall to my torso, and I smile to myself. “What do you see?”I ask, prompting her to look up through her lashes at me. “What do you mean?”
“Here.”I indicate down my tall frame, eyebrows raised in question. “What do you see?”
“I see you.”
“Play the game, Ava,”I warn—low and husky, instantly making her shift on her feet. That’s more like it. She’s fidgeting. Good. Let’s get this fucking show on the road. She breathes in, long and deep. She’s finding the courage to say what she wants to say, and I silently will her on. “I see dirty blond hair,”she begins, clearing her throat in order to continue, as if the silly act will wipe her voice of the lust that’s growing. “Green eyes.”
“And a body to die for.”She smiles shyly on a little shrug of one shoulder, color creeping into her cheeks again. “Which I’m guessing you must work hard for, given your age.”
I just manage to keep my eyebrows from jumping up in surprise.
“I don’t work that hard,”I clarify, thinking now would usually be a perfect time to start the countdown and warn her to take that back. But not now .
“And you don’t know how old I am,” I point out.
“How old are you?”
She laughs lightly , looking away. She’s struggling to keep our eye contact, and I just know it’s because she’s finding it too intense to deal with. This is good.
Life is good for Jesse “The Lord” Ward. Perfect, actually. He still has the charm, he’s in great shape, and he still reduces his wife, Ava, to a pool of desire with a mere look.
He’s in full control, just how he likes it.
But Jesse’s perfect world falls apart when a terrible accident lands Ava in the hospital with a life-threatening head injury. Devastated and angry, he feels like his entire existence hangs in the balance. He cannot survive without this woman’s love. So when she finally comes around, his shaking world begins to level out.
But his nightmare doesn’t end there. It’s only just begun.
Because his wife can’t remember the last sixteen years of her life. That’s all of him. All of their time together. He is a stranger to her.
Now Jesse must do whatever it takes to find her memories . . . and help her fall madly, passionately in love with him all over again.