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Discovering Mr. X: Chapter 17

RACHEL

I close the door to my hotel room and pull my coat off, throwing it onto the bed. I’ve spent the last two-and-a-half hours wandering aimlessly around the city. I spoke to Holly on the phone, who—like the incredible friend she is—listened to me go over and over Tanner’s hurtful words. She didn’t say “I told you so” or “serves you right.” She just listened to me moan and whine and get lost in my anger and self-pity.

What the hell happened today? It started off so well. Then the next minute, we’re arguing, and he’s telling me I am incapable of having feelings. God, that was low. The only thing worse than hearing Tanner say that to me is the clawing worry inside me that it’s true. What if I can’t feel anything? Not properly, like a normal person?

I’ve never had a boyfriend before, just friends with benefits. I’ve never wanted to get close to anyone before. I’ve always thought I’m better on my own. No one else to rely on that will ultimately let me down. But recently, I’ve been wondering, what if I’m not a total lost cause? It must be real for some people; it must be possible. I mean, look at Holly and Jay. I’ve never seen a couple as in love as they are. Their path wasn’t smooth, though either, not in the beginning. Although I doubt either is as fucked up as me when it comes to intimacy.

Holly said I should talk to Tanner. That a guy who’s willing to do all he has for me wouldn’t have meant what he said. She thinks he’s as hurt by me pushing him away as I am by him basically calling me a cold-hearted bitch.

This is such a mess.

I walk across my room to my suitcase. Okay, what the hell do I wear to dinner? I’ve only packed casual clothes for the daytime.

I throw it open and pull the top layer of clothes out; I don’t know what I’m hoping to find, although, what the? My eyes glimpse the silky material of one of my nicest dresses. It’s a dark, smoky grey with thin straps and a gorgeous fabric that skims my hips and stops mid-thigh. Next to it are my black patent heels with a piece of paper tucked inside. I unfold it and see the words You’re welcome, Megan xxx written in her fancy handwritten script. I’m going to have to have words with her when I get home, sneaking things into my case!

I feel a warm rush of happiness. I have great friends, one who will listen to me talk shit for hours on the phone and one who cares for me enough to know to put a dinner-worthy dress in my case. I wasn’t intending to go to dinner with Tanner when he told me he was on my flight, but Megan is obviously more intuitive than me. It’s more than the dress though, her doing this for me shows me I can have normal feelings.

Because right now, I want to hug her.


“I thought we could eat at the hotel I’m staying in,” Tanner says as he holds open the door of the yellow cab for me.

“Sure.” I pull my coat around me as I step out into the cool evening air.

He hands the driver some cash as I look up at the hotel and realize where we are. “You’re staying at The Songbird?” I ask, taking in the hotel’s exterior. It’s magnificent and regal. It occupies one of the best spots in Manhattan, facing directly onto Central Park.

“Yeah, I’m friends with the owner.”

“Griffin Parker,” I say at the same time as Tanner.

He looks at my face carefully.

“Hang on, you—” I trail off as I look at Tanner, something niggling at me, deep inside. “I helped a guy get back a laptop bag once who was coming to meet Griffin Parker.” I look at Tanner, who’s smiling at me. “That was you?” I ask slowly, trying my best to remember more but drawing a blank.

“Yep. I’m not sure whether to be offended that you never recognized me. I obviously made a great impression,” he jokes.

“I was in such a rush I probably barely even looked at you,” I say as I try my best to bring back any more detail of the day. All I remember was identifying a passenger to a security officer and hurrying off, so I wasn’t late for my check-in time. I was on a warning for being late twice after getting stuck in traffic. The only reason I remember it at all is that he mentioned Griffin Parker, whom I had met on my previous flight. I remember Griffin because he was so charming and gave me some brilliant advice on web designing. Of course, he didn’t know what kind of website I was running.

“I can’t believe that was you.” I study Tanner as though I might suddenly remember that day in vivid detail. “Why didn’t you say something? And be careful how you answer that after earlier.” I raise a brow at him.

“I was just another faceless passenger to you. I didn’t expect you to remember me. Plus, schoolboy pride—why would I ask you if you remembered me when you clearly didn’t at the auction? Especially when I was then admitting that I never forgot your face,” he says, watching me with amusement dancing in his eyes.

“You never forgot my face?” I say, more to myself.

“Never.” His eyes drop to my lips as he runs his hand through his hair.

Despite the cool evening air, heat fires through my body, heading straight between my legs. Not this again. How can I lose all control over my body when he looks at me like that? It’s almost as if my body surrenders control to him.

I can’t believe we met before, albeit briefly. Then, a year and a half later, we were at the same auction. If I believed in higher powers at work, I might be tempted to wonder if this meant something. I know Matt would pee his pants in excitement, thinking it’s some sort of magical sign when really, it’s just a coincidence.

“You want to go inside?” Tanner’s voice breaks into my thoughts.

“Yes, let’s go,” I say, as his hand goes gently to the base of my back as we walk. I pretend not to notice and let it stay there.

The restaurant itself is on a high floor set in a long, enclosed glass balcony with a glass roof. We are shown to a table with a spectacular view of Central Park and the Manhattan skyline.

“Wow, this is beautiful.” I take in the regal décor. Beautiful creams and gold with dark pink velvet chairs and drapes. “Please tell me your company did this?” I say, looking around.

“We won that contract because of you.” Tanner comes up behind me and slips my coat from my shoulders to hand to the server. His breath stalls, and when he lets it out, its warmth against my skin makes all the tiny hairs on the back of my neck stand up. “You look incredible,” he says as his eyes roam my dress appreciatively.

“Thank you.” I sit down as he pushes my chair in for me.

“You know, Griffin’s a good friend now,” Tanner says as he takes his seat. “We spent most of the meeting talking about his boat.” He smiles over the table at me, and I smile back. “I went out on it with him quite a few times while I was living here for the year.”

“Oh, I remember you saying you’d lived here for a year at the whisky night.”

“You listen to me sometimes then?” He smirks, “When I’m not a total idiot, anyway.” His face falls.

“Let’s not talk about it anymore.”

I don’t know what happened this afternoon, but I don’t need a replay; once was enough.

“Okay.” He nods gratefully, running his hand around the back of his neck, his shoulders relaxing. “So, you like the design then?” He gestures around the restaurant.

“I do; I love it. It’s regal and in keeping with the history of the building. Totally different to the place in London we went to with the Grayson bar.” I smirk.

“Oh, don’t,” he groans. “I never wanted them to call it that. My friend, Drew, told them to go ahead. He thought he was a right comedian, heard about it around the office for weeks.” Tanner shakes his head, smiling.

I settle back in my chair and listen as he talks about work, his face lighting up with enthusiasm and passion. I could watch and listen to him all night like this. Seeing him get so animated over something he has clearly worked so hard to achieve is wonderful. I swallow a niggle of unease down as something hits me—I am on a date, an actual date, and I’m enjoying myself.


“This isn’t a guise to get you to my room, I promise,” Tanner says smoothly as he opens the door to the penthouse suite. “I just wanted to show you more of the work we did when I was over here.”

I can’t stop the gasp from flying out of my mouth as I look around the room. It’s the same regal theme as the rest of the hotel; creams and golds with dusky pink. A circular inner hallway greets us first, a giant vase of fresh flowers spilling out of it in an elaborate display. Sets of giant, ornate double doors lead off the hallway before opening into a magnificent open-plan kitchen, dining, and living area.

“Gym, office, meeting room.” Tanner points at various doors off the hallway. “There are three en suite bedrooms down there, and the master is that way.” He extends a hand across the open living area to another set of ornate doors.

“This is stunning,” I say, running my hand over the cool marble of the kitchen island.

“Praise from you is praise indeed.” Tanner smiles, his hands pushed deep in his suit pants pockets.

I shoot him a “watch it” look, and he shakes his head as he laughs and looks down at the floor. “You’re something else, Rachel.”

Seeing him standing there, in his dark blue suit, my body’s reaction to him betraying me is almost too much to handle. I can’t take my eyes off his face—his dark eyes full of warmth when he smiles, the thick, dark waves of his hair. Some strands fall forward as he looks at the floor.

What the hell is going on here?

“Are you okay?” he asks, his eyes coming back up and resting on my face.

My heart races in my chest. Am I okay? I don’t know what the hell is going on here. I just know that if he doesn’t touch me soon, I feel like I might combust.

“Yeah, fine,” I reply as he walks over to me.

Why does he have to have this effect on me? This isn’t me. I’m always the one in control. His warm, spicy cologne dances into my senses as I look up at him. He’s standing in front of me, close enough that if I just lean forward slightly, I could sink against his chest, into his arms.

“You don’t sound fine,” he says. “Where’s snarky gone?”

I raise my eyebrows. “She’s having a night off. It’s exhausting being around you. You give her far too much material to work with.” I look up at him from under my lashes.

Tanner gives me the most pantie-soaking devilish grin I’ve ever seen. “She’s not so bad. I don’t mind being called a wanker by you if it’s under the right circumstances.”

He lifts his hand and dusts his thumb over my bottom lip. I’m frozen to the spot, just watching him, my skin buzzing at his touch.

“Although, it might be nice to try something different while she’s not here,” he whispers as he puts his fingers under my chin and gently tilts it up, his lips coming to meet mine gently.

His kiss is soft, and he takes his time to caress my lips, his fingers still holding my chin delicately. “You’re so beautiful,” he murmurs against my lips, and his words act as a key, unlocking me so that my hands can wrap up around his face and draw him closer.

He brings his hands to cup my face, and we kiss deeply, savoring each other, our bodies pressed as tightly together as they can get. I could stay right here in this moment, forever.

Tanner’s kisses pause, but his hands stay on my face, his thumbs stroking my cheeks as he looks at me with the depth of the universe in his eyes.

“Trust me,” he whispers as he drops his hands to my bum and lifts me up with ease. My dress rides up around my waist as I wrap my legs around him, crossing my ankles around his back as I draw him back into another kiss, my hands never leaving his face. “I will never hurt you on purpose, Rachel,” he murmurs, his deep voice sending shivers down over my skin as he carries me across the room. He holds me with one arm, his eyes never leaving mine, as he opens the door to the bedroom and takes us both inside.

We fall onto the bed together, Tanner’s lips back on mine as he presses his entire body against me. This feels so different from the other times—his kisses, the slower pace, the way his hands caress my hair as he kisses me.

This feels tender. This feels loving.

“What’s wrong?” He draws back, his dark eyes searching mine.

“Nothing,” I answer quickly.

“You’re all tense, Rachel.” His eyes search mine.

Do I say it? God, this has never happened before.

“I’m nervous,” I say quietly, avoiding his gaze as I blink furiously.

“Rachel.” He turns my face back to him. His eyes are full of warmth, the amber flecks in them glowing, making me think of a log fire, the feeling of calm sitting in front of it with the heat radiating out on a frosty night. “I’m nervous too.” He smiles. “You make me nervous every fucking day.”

I stare back at him, feeling my body loosen slightly. “That is not true. How can being with me make you nervous?”

He rubs his thumb back and forth across my lips, his eyes watching their path as though he’s contemplating his next words carefully. “It’s not being with you that makes me nervous,” he says, his eyes rising to meet mine again, “it’s the thought of being without you that does.”

My eyes widen as I look back at him. He’s studying me carefully, waiting for my reaction. No one has ever said anything like that to me before, not even close. I can feel my heart beating in my chest, the sound of each pump strong in my ears, as Tanner continues to watch me.

I give him the tiniest nod. “Tan, let’s be brave together,” I whisper as I pull him back to me and kiss him with everything I have. His hand goes down to my leg, pulling it up around him as he sinks into the kiss, a low groan escaping his lips as I pull the back of his shirt from his pants and run my hands up the firm muscles of his back.

“God, Rachel,” he moans, pressing into me so I can feel his erection against my inner thigh.

“Take it off, Tan,” I murmur between kisses, “take it all off.”

He sits back on his knees and smiles at me as he shrugs his jacket off, then yanks his tie loose, passing it over his head. I’m growing wetter just watching him, my pulse now taking up its own steady rhythm between my legs.

He’s sultry, sexy, and wears a suit better than anyone I’ve ever seen. There’s no way I could be anything less than soaking wet for him right now. My eyes rake over his hard, toned stomach as he discards his shirt and stands at the bottom of the bed. He kicks off his shoes, undoing his belt and removing every item of clothing until his cock hangs hard and thick between his legs.

“Your turn, Snow,” he whispers.

I sit up and slide to the bottom of the bed, pulling my shoes off, before sinking my feet into the thick carpet as I stand up next to him. I watch his Adam’s apple move in his throat as he swallows deeply. His eyes cast down to where my dress skims my legs. He clears his throat as I lift the hem and pull it off over my head, my hair tumbling back down to my shoulders as I drop the silk fabric onto the floor.

“Jesus.” He lets out a breath at the sight of my white lace strapless bra and thong. I watch his jaw tense and his eyes darken as I reach around and unhook it, holding it out to the side and letting it drop on top of my dress. The air hits my nipples, and they tighten under his gaze. I’ve never felt so sexy, and all he’s doing is watching me. Finally, I gently roll the thin lace down over my hips and let my thong drop to the floor before stepping out of it.

“I must have been a fucking saint in a previous life,” Tanner says, reaching forward and gently pulling me against his body. The heat of his skin meeting mine makes me moan out loud. He smiles down at me. “Moaning already? I haven’t even started yet,” he says darkly as his lips take mine, and he moves us back onto the bed.

He lays over the top of me, one muscular thigh between my legs, teasing them apart. His lips continue their exploration of mine, and he gently pushes deeper, his tongue seeking mine, stroking and tasting me. I whimper against his lips; my body has been taken over by someone I don’t even recognize.

“I love the sounds you make.” His lips drop to my neck, trailing open-mouthed kisses from my ear to my collarbone and back as his fingers reach between my legs and swipe through my hot flesh. “You’re so wet,” he says in awe as he gently slides two fingers deep inside me and pumps them slowly, swirling them around, hitting my g-spot.

“Tan.” I shudder, my back arching off the bed.

What he’s doing feels so good, so intense. He’s moving a lot slower than usual. We’ve always gone at it hard and heavy before, but this is different. He’s taking his time, and it feels incredible.

I place my hands on either side of his face again, running my fingers along his jaw as I pull him back to kiss me. I want him closer, deeper; I need him; I need all of him.

“I need you inside me,” I whisper, clenching down on his fingers to stress my point.

“Whatever you want, Rachel, I’ll just get—” he tries to pull away to get a condom.

“I want you,” I say, looking into his eyes. “I need all of you tonight.”

He looks at me, his brow creasing as it dawns on him what I mean. “Are you sure?”

I nod. “I’m on the pill, and I’ve always used condoms… so if you have, too?” I search his eyes.

“I swear, every single time. I’ve never…” he trails off, “… it would be the first time.”

“Mine too,” I say, watching him.

He pauses before leaning forward and gently taking my lips in his again, our kisses deepening further while his skilled fingers continue their worshipping inside my body. The intensity of it has me bucking off the bed within minutes. I pull back and grab onto his wrist, my breath hitching in my throat. “If you keep doing that, I’m going to come.”

A dark smile crosses Tan’s face, “then what are you doing stopping me?” He tilts his chin forward, his eyes focused on my face as he continues stroking me in deep circles with two fingers, his thumb stroking my clit at the same time. I’m writhing underneath him, completely at his mercy, and he knows it.

“Tan,” I moan.

“That’s it, Snow. Come for me. You’re so beautiful when you come.” His command sends me over the edge, and his eyes never leave my face as the first burst of my orgasm pushes through to the surface, and I contract around his fingers.

“Tan,” I moan again.

“I’m here, Snow, I’m here,” he says, his lips finding mine again as his fingers delve deeper, harder. The next contraction hits me, and I’m unraveling beneath him, kissing him between each gasp and moan. My hands in his hair, his name keeps tumbling from my lips repeatedly as I shudder uncontrollably.

“Oh, God,” I whisper as the last shudder leaves my body.

“You have no idea how long I’ve waited for you, Rachel,” he says as he slowly slides his fingers out of me, pausing to look at me as if silently checking one last time.

I give him a small nod and hold his gaze as he positions himself over me, holding himself up with his arms. He pauses for a second and then slowly pushes inside me, inch by thick inch.

“Rach,” he hisses. His eyes look like they might roll back in his head. “God, you feel amazing,” he forces out through gritted teeth.

My eyes see him, but I’m lost in my own intense pleasure, knowing that he’s inside me, bare skin to bare skin. Nothing has ever felt so intense before.

So right.

A whole new wave of arousal spills from my body, surrounding him as he pumps into me slowly.

“God,” he hisses again, his eyes coming to mine.

I lift one hand up to the side of his face, and he turns to kiss the inside of my wrist as I spread my legs wider beneath him. My other hand drops to his hip, and with each thrust, I pull him closer, brushing him against my clitoris. I want him as deep and close as I can possibly have him, wanting him and all of this to be mine.

All mine.

Even though it scares the shit out of me to admit it.

I want him more than I’ve ever wanted anything before.

His arms shake, and his chest expands with each breath he draws in as he slides in and out of me with increasing speed. I’m mesmerized by his face. His dark eyes haven’t left mine, and his lips are murmuring my name as though he has to convince himself that I’m real and am actually here with him.

“Rachel,” he groans loudly, lowering his arms, so they’re on either side of my head, his hands reaching into my hair as he pushes into me again.

I grind against him. His eyes lock onto mine, and with one more thrust, he’s coming hard inside me. The telling swell of his cock as he pumps out his hot orgasm is too much, and I feel my own release explode around him, wrapping him tighter, drinking him in.

I reach both hands around to his buttocks and pull them hard against me as I force my legs as wide as they will go, pulling his orgasm into me as mine continues to ravage through me. I want to feel every shudder, every tightening of his body inside me, and every response of mine around him.

His mouth finds mine, and he gives me a kiss that steals my breath. We ride our orgasms out together, sweat covering our bodies. Finally, we stop shaking, and our breathing returns to normal. Tanner’s hands are still in my hair, gently stroking through it as our kisses grow softer and slower.

“You are fucking incredible, Rachel Jones,” Tanner says quietly, a slow, sexy smile spreading over his lips as he rests his forehead against mine.

“And you’re—” I begin.

“Don’t say a wanker,” he jokes, his eyes sparkling at me.

I smile back at him. “And you’re not so bad yourself, Tanner Grayson,” I say, pressing a kiss to his lips.

He grins back at me.

I don’t stand a chance. I know now that I’m done fighting. I’m done pushing him away. As his dark eyes gaze into mine, I feel something I’ve never felt before.

I feel like I belong.


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