Discovering Mr. X: Chapter 13


“Why don’t we just stay here all night?” Tanner murmurs, his lips against my neck, the cold tiles of the shower hard against my back.

I smile as his kisses trail up over my chin and back onto my lips.

This man can kiss.

I sink into him for a moment. I’m floating somewhere between a dream and reality. Maybe I can stay here after all.

He draws back, gazing at me.

Fuck, this isn’t going to turn into one of those deep after-sex talks, is it?

“So, what’s this thing I do with my hair?” he asks.

I laugh, relaxing again. “Has no one ever noticed before?”

His raised brow confirms it’s a ‘no.’

“Really?” I shake my head with a sigh. “You run your hand back through your hair when you’re aroused.”

“I do not!” Tanner smiles, tightening his grip on my waist.

“You so do!” I laugh, my palms resting against his warm, hard chest. “I can’t believe I’m the first person to notice.”

“Maybe you’re the first person who’s noticed because you’re the only person who’s seen it every time we are together?” he says, pulling me closer so my breasts press against the back of my hands. I move them up around his neck, and his eyes widen as my nipples take their place against his skin.

“Maybe that’s it.” I roll my eyes as he lands a playful slap across my bum.

“Hey, I’m serious, Rachel.” Tanner’s eyes hold mine intently.

I slide my arms down and slip out of his grasp.

“And I’m seriously going to wash away if I stay in here any longer.”

I open the door and reach out to grab a towel, wrapping it around me as I step out.

There’s a pause before the water is turned off, and Tanner steps out behind me. I pass him another towel.

He clears his throat. “Thanks.”

I glance back at him; he’s wrapped the towel around his waist, water droplets still cover his perfect abs. He’s staring off into space, his jaw tight.

God, he’s a fine specimen of a man.

“I’m just going to get dressed,” I say, inclining my head towards the door.

Tanner doesn’t meet my gaze. “Sure,” he says as he bends down and picks up the discarded condom from the floor.

“I’ll see you downstairs?” I pause for a second, but he’s already got his back to me, pulling on his clothes.

What’s got into him suddenly?

I head into my room and pull on some clean joggers and a t-shirt, quickly towel drying my hair and running my brush through it.

Before I’m ready to go downstairs, there’s a soft knock at the door.

“Rach?” My stomach lifts at his voice. “I’m heading off.”

What? I rush to the door and fling it open.

“No!” I say in a rush.

His eyes rise to meet mine, his face serious. “No?”

“You don’t need to leave.”

What the hell am I doing?

“Not yet, anyway. I mean, it’s not that late.”

“Rachel.” He looks off towards the stairs, letting out a sigh before his eyes come back to my face. “I don’t enjoy the feeling that me still being here makes you uncomfortable.”

I fold my arms across my chest. “It doesn’t.”

“Really?” Tanner says, raising a dark brow.

“Don’t be ridiculous. You’ve seen every part of my body from all sorts of angles. How could you being here make me uncomfortable?” My voice spills out quickly, defensively.

The corners of Tanner’s mouth turn down, and his shoulders drop. “We both know that’s not it, Rachel.”

I’m stumped over what to say. He’s right. I am uncomfortable with the idea of him being here after sex at night. I mean, am I supposed to cuddle up in bed and bare the darkest parts of my soul to him, wake up in the morning and make waffles together? The thought makes my chest tighten.

“I’ll let myself out,” he says as he turns to leave.

“Wait, Tan, please,” I whisper.

He turns his eyes back to me, and more than anything, I want to be normal, to not feel this overwhelming urge to turn and run like hell.

“I would like it if you stayed. We could put a movie on?” I look up at him, holding my breath.

He puts one arm up against the doorframe, leaning his head against his fist. His bicep stretches the fabric of his white t-shirt. I drop my eyes to his grey jogging bottoms and swallow the lump in my throat.

“You sure about this?”

“Yes.” I nod.

He looks away again before his eyes return to mine, a hint of their usual brightness back. “Fine, but I get to pick which film.”

“Sure.” I smile.

“Hey, Rach. Psst! You awake?”

“Huh? Meg, what time is it?” I groan, pulling the pillow over my head.

Cool air whips across my face as Megan flings my pillow onto the floor.

“Hey! What was that for?” I look over to the gap in the curtains. The sun is barely coming up; it must be early.

“You need to see this!” Megan whispers.

Her face looks like a kid’s on Christmas morning. Well, the ones I saw on toy adverts growing up.

“What is it? Hang on…” I look at the empty space in the bed next to me. I don’t remember getting in here, and I’m still wearing my joggers and t-shirt from last night. That must mean… “Where’s Tanner?”

“That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you.” Megan rolls her eyes as she grabs my hand and hauls me out of bed.

“Shh, be really quiet.” She motions for me to follow her downstairs, stopping at the living room door. She holds a finger up to her lips before she slowly opens it.

We both peer our heads around the side of the door, looking into the darkened room. I can hear slow, rhythmic breathing, in and out, in and out. Megan pokes me in the side and points. One look at the sofa tells me where it’s coming from.

There, laid out on his back, eyes tightly shut, is Tanner. He’s got one arm slung behind his head and—I don’t believe this—his other arm gently cradling a large, grey mass, which is sprawled across him, Nigel.

Megan clasps her hand over her mouth, but it’s too late. A snort escapes, and she grabs my hand and pulls me into the kitchen.

“Oh my God, Rach! Did you see Nigel?” Her shoulders shake as more giggles threaten to erupt. “I’m sorry, it’s just, they look so cute together.”

“Where’s your phone?” I ask quickly.

“Here.” She pulls it out of her dressing gown pocket.

“Gimme.” I pluck it out of her hand as I sneak back to the lounge door.

I turn the phone torch on, reasoning it will be less obvious than the flash and snap a picture of the two of them together.

“Thank you, send me it,” I say, handing Megan back her phone in the kitchen. She taps the screen a few times.

“All sent.” She smiles.

“I can’t believe that little floozy, Nigel. Tanner feeds him one time, and now they’ve got their own little bromance going on.”

“I know! Crazy, isn’t it? He usually hates new people for ages. Don’t you remember how long it took him to get used to Matt?”

“Yeah, I do.” I lean back against the counter. “He had to bring him at least four sets of treats before Nigel would even let him stroke him. They were the really good ones too.”

“Well, looks like he’s accepted Tanner into his club.” She laughs. “What the hell’s he doing on the sofa, anyway? Did you spend all night together again?”

“Yes, well, no,” I say.

Megan’s watching me, spinning her hand in front of her stomach, urging me to go on.

“The last thing I remember is watching a movie together. I don’t even know how I got to bed.”

“He must have carried you up there like Sleeping Beauty!” Megan exclaims, grinning at me. “Wait until we tell Matt!”

“Hang on a minute.” I hold my hands up, moving them up and down like I’m trying to talk down a crazed attacker. “We are not telling Matt anything. He will totally get the wrong idea and get carried away.”

“The right idea, don’t you mean?” Megan says, the grin still firmly plastered on her face.

“What are you talking about?”

“Come on, Rach, are you kidding me? That guy is so into you.”

“No, he isn’t. He’s just a friend.”

“A friend that gives you toe-curling orgasms and sleeps on the sofa with a twenty-pound rabbit on his chest because he’s already noticed how fucked up you are about actual intimacy, like sleeping in the same bed!” Megan cries.

“Megan, keep your voice down,” I hiss.

“Rachel, wake up. He isn’t the same as your other ‘friends’, like Chris—who was at the same bar as me last night and asked after you, by the way.”

“Ugh,” I groan. I haven’t called Chris in weeks. He probably thinks it’s strange. “What did you tell him?”

“I told him you’d been busy getting the house ready.”

“Thank you.” I blow out a breath. We’ve never pried into each other’s lives before. The less he knows, the better.

“Honestly though, Rach, I should have told him the truth.”

“Which is?” I raise an eyebrow at her.

“That you’ve met a great guy who is good for you and that you won’t be calling him ever again! It’s not like he hasn’t got a load of other girls he can call to keep him company.”

“I thought you liked Chris?” I look at her.

“He’s nice enough. But he isn’t Tanner,” she says pointedly.

“Meg.” I sigh, tipping my head back to look at the ceiling, “this thing with Tanner, that’s just sex too,” I say, although even I don’t believe myself.

A sound at the door makes us both jump.

“Tanner!” I say.

Fuck! How long has he been standing there?

“Good morning.” He nods to Megan before his eyes lock onto mine. His dark hair is tousled from sleep, a dark shadow of growth running along his firm jaw. My heart leaps into my chest.

“Morning, Tan. I’m grabbing a shower,” Megan chirps at us both before passing him in the doorway and retreating upstairs.

“You slept on the sofa?” I say, more like a question.

“I did.” He keeps his eyes on mine, not giving anything away.

Oh, he has a good poker face.

I narrow my eyes at him. “Why?”

“Why what?” he asks, his eyes dropping to my lips.

“Why did you sleep on the sofa?” I ask, studying his face.

I don’t know what it is I’m waiting for. For him to admit that he was thinking of my feelings? Didn’t want me to feel uncomfortable in the morning? What will I say if he admits to it? Why would he put so much thought into something like that when this is just sex? And it is just sex; it can’t be anything else.

“I was thinking about someone else’s comfort,” he says smoothly.

Oh, fuck.

“Oh?” I say, trying to keep my voice steady as my chest tightens.

“Yeah. I think Nigel gets lonely at night. You ever thought about getting him a girlfriend?”

“A girlfriend?” I smirk, relief washing over me.

“Yeah. He could have a friend to play with when you’re out. Someone to sleep next to at night.” Tan’s eyes are studying me carefully.

Are we still talking about Nigel?

“He’s a rabbit. He would spend all night shagging himself to death if he had a girlfriend.”

“I can think of worse ways to go.” Tanner grins at me.

I smile back. “Do you want some breakfast?”

“Sounds good,” he says, coming to lean his elbows casually against the counter as he watches me grab eggs out of the fridge.

“I have to feed you if you’re helping move the last things across to the new house today,” I say over my shoulder to him as I fill a pan with water and put it on top of the cooker.

“Am I?” I can hear the amusement in his voice.

“Aren’t you?” I say, getting out three mugs.

He chuckles, and just like that, the conversation flows easily again; no more talk of sharing beds, no more being reminded of just how messed up I am.

For now, at least.


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