Authors: J.D. Chase
Tags: #PART TWO OF THE PASSION NOIRE SERIES
‘Of course I’m going to wash my hands first,’ I mutter but he’s out of earshot. ‘Does he think I’m going to eat food from these disgusting hands?’
I walk into the bathroom and almost howl out loud. I’m a state. I’m a complete fucking mess. My hair’s come loose here, there and almost everywhere and my face ... I look like I’ve just walked out of a coal mine. I fill the hand basin with hot water but the soot only seems to move around my face, leaving a horrid tide mark around my jawline.
In desperation, I turn on the shower, strip my clothes off and step under the hot spray. I don’t luxuriate though, I scrub hard and fast because my lunch is going cold. I’m stepping out, reaching for my towel when Jones walks in. I’d forgotten to close the fucking door. I see the surprise register on his face as he tries valiantly to keep his eyes on mine.
‘The door was open,’ he says, stating the bleeding obvious. ‘I didn’t know.’
I grab the towel and cover myself quickly. ‘I didn’t think. It wouldn’t wash off and I got desperate. It’s not your fault
I see his eyes widen when he gets the insinuation. ‘I don’t suppose it matters, since I’ve already seen you in the buff, does it?’
He turns on his heel and leaves me in peace. It’s then that I realise that I have no clean clothes here so I pad into my bedroom with my towel wrapped around me and take an outfit out of the wardrobe, keeping it on the hanger. I join him on the balcony and hang my clothes over the safety rail to air.
His eyebrows twitch but he says nothing as he dishes up the lamb tagine that’s making my mouth water.
‘I thought I’d treat my neighbours,’ I say flippantly. I assumed I’d be pretty safe on that score anyway—these flats are expensive and my neighbours spend most of their time at work. I glance around and find that the other balconies are indeed empty.
He smiles. ‘Veuve, if you want to do that, you need to remove this.’
Quick as a flash, his hand shoots out and pulls the corner of the towel loose so that it falls open.
I resist the urge to squeal like a girl. It’s not a huge urge after all. Nudity doesn’t bother me; I’d sit out here naked all the time if society would accept it. Instead I shrug, telling him that I couldn’t care less about sitting here naked.
I see the disappointment in his eyes. I go for the win. ‘It’s no big deal, you’ve already seen me naked several times. What does once more matter?’
He goes to say something—probably about the world and his wife being able to see me, should they happen to look up to my balcony—but decides against it.
I’m not sure which is better, the sun on my naked front or the scrumptious meal. With a full stomach and the heat of the sun on me, I feel sleepy. After I’d crept into Jones’ spare bed with The Kid, I’d barely slept. He’d pulled his tee-shirt and boxers on and had slept on top of the duvet but my little boxes were rattling like mad. I didn’t get much sleep.
I know I shouldn’t, that there’s lots to do but resting my eyes for five minutes won’t hurt, not to mention resting my muscles. My back and shoulders are stiff after scrubbing the entire hallway. I push the chair away from the table and lounge back, closing my eyes. I hear Jones collecting the dirty dishes but I need a few minutes before I tackle the carpets.
I hear Jones’ voice and realise he’s on the phone. I tune it out until I hear Thierri’s name being mentioned. I assume he’s trying to get information on the nursing agency but, even from the one-sided responses, I work out that he’s actually digging around for background information on my former mentor. I catch myself before I give away the fact that I’m listening. I remember that he was going to try to find out whether Thierri had given his will to an establishment for safekeeping. I’d be interested to find out what he learns. Anything that I could use against Thierri’s bitch sister would be good.
Typically, Jones just replies in single syllables so I don’t know what he’s being told. I hear him thank his friend, telling him he owes him a pint and then he ends the call. It falls silent. I have no idea whether he’s still nearby or not. I open my eyes and find him leaning against the door frame, unabashedly drinking in the sight of my naked body. I realise my legs fell apart as I dozed.
His eyes are too busy appraising my pussy to notice that I’ve opened mine—or so I think. My eyes flick down to determine whether there’s a bulge in his trousers—of course there is—and, when I raise them again, he’s looking at me with a raised eyebrow. The corner of his mouth is twitching, the tosser.
‘Slick. Real slick,’ I mutter, letting him know I know he baited me into that trap.
‘That’s nice to know,’ he says. ‘Wet dream was it?’
‘I’ve got better things to do than get into a verbal sparring session with you,’ I mutter.
‘I could think of better things to do, now you mention it,’ he says, allowing his eyes to drift to my lap.
‘I might be tempted if I didn’t have better things to do ... like cleaning the carpets,’ I smirk, closing my legs firmly and stretching my arms above my head.
‘So be tempted ...’ he says, his eyes on mine now. ‘I’ve cleaned the carpets, Sleeping Beauty.’
I gasp and sit up, grabbing my phone from the table top.
‘Fuck. I must have been asleep for over an hour,’ I cry, the burden of how much work there is inside the flat falling back on to my shoulders.
‘And the rest,’ he chuckles. ‘I draped bedding over your balcony rail so that you wouldn’t get perved on by the entire local male population while I cleaned the carpets. But purely on principle, you wouldn’t allow yourself to be tempted now, would you?’
I lift my chin defiantly. ‘It’s not a matter of principles or temptation, I need to get this place in a habitable state again, as soon as possible.’
‘Is staying at mine really that bad?’ he asks, an unfathomable expression on his face.
Good manners dictate that I should lie. Odd that. Twisted morals.
‘I ... It’s just your flat’s too small and we’re encroaching on your space.’
‘Bollocks,’ he snaps. ‘You’re embarrassed about what happened last night and you’d rather move back here before it’s ready than sleep at mine again because of your pride. You could at least admit it.’
‘You’re talking out of your arse,’ I fire back, pulling my towel around me. ‘I’m not embarrassed. But what does it matter, you’re busting a gut to get this place habitable again so you’re as keen to see us gone as I am to leave.’
He rakes a hand through his hair. ‘Because it’s obviously what you want. You attacked those walls like a mad woman, giving your orders to me about the washing and drying ... you don’t have to be a detective to read the clues you were giving out.’
‘I just think you and The Kid need some space,’ I say, lamely. It might be true, after Jones sits him down and questions him tonight. That’s the plan, he told me on the way over here.
‘I think you should tell me the truth. You were fine until you had that nightmare. I’m not making light of it—I’ve had night terrors—but you’ve not been the same with me since. The way you fled from me. The horror in your eyes ... you could have talked to me about it. I would have understood. You could have slept in my bed. If you couldn’t bear to be around me, if you were that embarrassed, I’d have slept on the sofa. You didn’t need to sleep with The Kid.’
I sigh and decide to get this over with. ‘I wasn’t embarrassed. I was scared.’
‘Scared? What, scared of telling me you’d had a nightmare?’
I shake my head. ‘No, I was scared of you.’
If I’d smacked him around the head with one of the chairs, he wouldn’t look more surprised ... or more confused.
‘Why would you be scared of me? Just because I’m a man, after what that bastard did to you? Or because of my previous life?’ He looks hurt.
I look down and squeeze my eyes shut. I don’t want to see his face when I tell him the truth.
‘When I told you about meeting him yesterday, I don’t suppose you remember what he looked like, do you?’
‘Of course I do. If I’m to protect you, I need to know anything and everything about the monster. You said he was a rugby player—a prop, an engineer, six foot four, blond, blue eyes and ...’
It goes quiet. I think the cogs of his brain have stopped turning to allow him to process the ramifications of that description.
‘He looks like me ... that’s why you were scared. You woke from your nightmare and thought he was there with you.’ And there’s the hurt that I didn’t want to see ... I get to hear it instead.
I don’t know what he wants me to say.
Yeah, every time I see you, it’s like I’m seeing the bastard who nearly killed me. Every time I look into your eyes, it’s like looking into his.
‘That’s why you’ve been uncomfortable around me since we met, why you often won’t look me in the eye, why you didn’t want me in Vouloir ... why you can’t take your eyes off my body but you hate that. You see him ... I’m the ghost of him. Fucking hell, Veuve. No wonder you don’t want me touching you.’
The cruel truth sounds harsh falling from his lips, especially when they’re laced with sadness. I nod, my hands rising up into the air to indicate something that my tongue can’t say but they fall back into my lap. What can they say? He’s just said it all.
No, he hasn’t actually. He hasn’t said how I’m acclimatising slowly, barring yesterday’s emotional triggers—it was a hell of a day and, after telling him everything about my past as we sat overlooking Thierri’s, my little boxes were like rattlesnakes. Add the drama of the fire and then Kid’s realisation and it’s no wonder I had a nightmare.
But what he doesn’t know is how much I’ve forced myself to tolerate him and how I’ve fought to see past his blond hair and blue eyes. He doesn’t know how upset I was that I couldn’t be near him after my nightmare last night. I was on the verge of a meltdown—not an abrupt minor one like I’d had at his flat yesterday. No, a fuck off meltdown of catastrophic proportions.
I couldn’t risk that happening in front of The Kid, he was battling his own demons after seeing the photo of Jones’ sister. The only way I know to bring me back from the abyss if I’d succumbed would be to have a trusted sub, like Gabe, at my feet. The potential fallout from coming face to face with a Paul lookalike in that state is unthinkable.
And I wasn’t just thinking of it for my sake ... or The Kid’s. I wouldn’t want to put Jones through that either. I haven’t had a full on meltdown for some time, thank fuck. They’re evil, leaving me a gibbering wreck for days, weeks even.
What Jones also doesn’t know is that I’d hoped he’d help me to confront my demons, hidden in those little boxes when I agreed to take him on as a client. To evict them from their boxes and exorcise them as the physical representation of my nemesis prostrated himself at my feet. Meltdowns would become a thing of the past. And I’d finally be free of my past.
Unless that bastard isn’t behind bars.
I’d hoped that Jones would help to keep me safe from my demons and from the devil himself.
I look up, determined to find the words to tell him all of this ... but he’s gone.
Jumping to my feet, I hold my towel in place and go off in search of him. My flat is empty. All the carpets are wet and so is the sofa. There’s a fresh load of washing in the machine and a new mat is covering the melted patch of carpet by my broken front door.
I walk into the kitchen to get a drink and peer out of the kitchen window. Jones’ car has gone too. I guess I’ve fucked that up spectacularly.
I know The Kid’s safe. Maybe Jones has gone to get him now that I’ve made my position clear. Or maybe I’ll have to get a cab to collect him later. I retrieve my clothes from the balcony and set to making our beds with the freshly laundered bedding.
Remembering the curtains need dropping off at the dry cleaner, I curse. I’ve no way of securing my door if I go out. I decide to make do with hanging the bedroom curtains over the balcony railings to air them after I give them a good spray with Febreze. The curtains from the office and the lounge can be dry cleaned whenever I can sort it. At least tonight we’d have clean carpets, clean bedding and aired curtains in our bedrooms.
I keep busy, giving Jones at least an hour to return with The Kid. He doesn’t. I still have the dilemma of leaving my flat unsecured if I go out anywhere. I contemplate calling Jones but figure that he’s made his viewpoint clear enough by fucking off. I can’t say I blame him. I wouldn’t want to hang around where I wasn’t wanted.
I’m wiping down the kitchen cupboards when I hear a faint noise in the hall. It occurs to me that I’m in here alone without a locked front door. I pick up a cast iron griddle and a nasty-looking carving knife then creep towards the door that’s standing slightly ajar. I peer through the gap and see some bald bloke disappearing into the living room.
He can get ready for a griddle pan to the face if he’s got anything of mine in his hands when he comes back out. I pull the kitchen door and creep out into the hall, my fingers tightening their grip on my weapons. I’m getting into place to knock him into the middle of next week before he knows what’s hit him when the door opens. I swing the pan at shoulder height with all my strength.
‘Fuck,’ he shouts, but the bastard ducks. He’s wearing dark glasses, presumably as a disguise. I hope the security camera has caught him.
The griddle wallops the wall and pain sears through my wrist. My fingers release automatically and I have to jump so that it doesn’t land on my toes. My hands fly up as I jump and I almost accidentally cut him with the knife.
‘Fucking hell, Veuve. Put the damn knife down before you run me through,’ the guy shouts and it’s my name that I recognise, not the voice and definitely not the bald, sunglasses-wearing guy in front of me.
I take a step back as my brain plays catch up but I don’t drop the knife.
He’s shaking his head at me. ‘You don’t need a fucking bodyguard, Veuve. Jesus!’
‘What have you done?’ I’m shaking my head too.
He rubs his hand back and forth on the top of his head, like he’s ruffling his hair ... if he had any. Gone are his blond locks ... his head has been completely shaved.