Discovering Mr. X: Chapter 19

RACHEL

“Then what happened?” Megan asks, her eyes glued to me as I tell her and Holly about New York with Tan.

“Then we go ice-skating, and he falls on his ass.”

“Aww no, bless him.” Holly giggles.

I’ve got the laptop set up on the coffee table so we can all see each other. It’s four in the afternoon here, eight in the morning for Holly in LA.

“He’ll live.” I snort, causing both Holly and Megan to laugh.

“Ever the concerned girlfriend, hey?” Megan jokes.

“Whoa, whoa,” I say, stroking Nigel, who’s spread himself out over my lap. “I’m not his girlfriend.”

Megan folds her arms and smiles at Holly, both knowing me well enough to leave that point—for now, at least.

“We bumped into one of his ex-girlfriends, though.”

“Did you use one of your kickboxing moves on her?” Megan’s eyes light up.

“More like, killed her with kindness, I bet,” Holly says.

“Exactly.” I smile at Holly. “Although something she said has got me thinking. Well, something Tanner said, really.”

“What was it?” Megan asks.

“She said Tanner had bought her this really expensive-looking designer coat she was wearing. It was really nice.”

“What’s wrong with that?” Holly asks. “If they were dating, I’m sure he gave her the odd gift?”

“Yeah, I know. Only, afterward, Tanner said that he didn’t intend to buy it for her; she forgot her purse. He said she forgot her purse all the time.”

“Gold-digging hussy!” someone calls out from behind Holly.

“Matt! Either get in the conversation properly or piss off,” I fire back. “And don’t get too comfortable there; you aren’t getting a guest house built!”

Holly’s camera is engulfed by Matt’s up-close middle finger extended towards me as he walks by. “Stefan and I are off out for breakfast. You can fill me in on the rest at the house party when I get back,” he calls.

“Finally, now we can talk about what the hell that is he’s wearing!” I wink at Holly.

“Still here!” he yells back as we all laugh.

“Okay, so back to Tanner’s ex. Why are you bothered if she was using him for his money?” Megan asks, focusing us all again.

“Well, the way I see it, he was pretty unimpressed that she seemed all too happy to use him for his money when it suited her,” I say.

“And?” Holly encourages.

“And… well, how am I meant to tell him I used to sell my worn panties for money now?” I groan, throwing my head back against the sofa. Nigel nudges his head into my hand, encouraging me to stroke him again. “I know, boy, I know you’d never judge me,” I whisper to him as I rub his ears.

“That’s totally different,” Holly says.

“How is it?” I sigh.

“Holly’s right,” Megan says, glancing at the screen as Holly nods, “that was a business you set up to save for something really important—this house.” She waves her arms around the room.

“Plus, you don’t even do it anymore,” Holly says. “You stopped as soon as you achieved your goal.”

“Do you even need to tell him?” Megan asks.

“I don’t know.” I shrug. “Being honest goes with this whole ‘new Rachel’ I’m trying to embrace. The one who opens up to her feelings and stays after sex. It’s a whole new world, I’m telling you.”

“You like it, though?” Holly asks hopefully.

“It’s… growing on me,” I admit, with a small smile.

“Yes!” Megan grins. “I knew it. I said you’d meet someone that made you want the romance one day.”

“Yeah, your soulmate of dating, remember?” Holly smiles, referring to a conversation I had with her when she met Jay.

“Hang on, don’t get carried away. I’ve only just learned his last name,” I say seriously.

“Yeah, we know. He’s Tanner-loaded-Grayson.” Megan rolls her eyes.

“Exactly. He’s Mr. Money-bags, who has an issue with an ex using him to get money spent on her. What if he thinks the panty business is the same thing?” I say.

“He won’t,” Holly says decidedly. “It’s not the same thing at all, Rach. Loads of flight attendants do it, so it’s hardly shocking. Plus, you weren’t using men for their money. They were more than happy to pay, and besides, you only ever had one customer, anyway.”

“When did you get so great at arguing a point?” I joke.

“Four words, Matt and guest house.” She laughs.

“You’re right. Maybe it makes it easier for a guy to handle, knowing there’s only one potential weirdo out there sniffing on my things?” I joke.

“Totally.” Megan nods. “There’s just this one, unknown Mr. X, who doesn’t even know who you really are and what you look like. He’s not even a client anymore. He’s probably forgotten all about you by now. Tanner has nothing to be bothered about.”

“You’re right, you’re both right,” I say. “He has nothing to be bothered about, and if he’s going to be a dick about it, then that’s his choice.”

“So, you’re going to tell him then?” Holly asks.

“Yeah, I’ll tell him. What have I got to lose?”


Two days later and I’m applying my red lipstick when the doorbell rings. “I’ll get it!” I call to Megan as I shake my hair in front of the mirror.

This will have to do. It’s seven-thirty, and our friends will start arriving at eight for the housewarming. We’ve only invited a handful of people; some from the airline, a few of Megan’s new colleagues from her office, our new neighbor Lucy, and Tanner and his friend Drew.

I walk down the stairs in my high black stilettos and open the front door.

“You can take instructions then?” Tanner says as his eyes roam over my figure-hugging red dress, an appreciative smile on his lips.

Wait for it. Yep, there’s the hand in the hair too.

I give him a coy smile. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

He puts the box of drinks and snacks down that he’s holding and pulls me into his arms, his mouth flying to my neck as his hands roam over my ass.

“Just how well did you listen? That’s the question,” he growls into my neck, kissing it roughly as his hands try to slide up underneath my dress.

“Easy boy.” I smirk, sliding his hand back down off my thigh. “If I think you deserve it, then I may give you the answer to your question later,” I throw over my shoulder as I head into the kitchen.

I hear him groan to himself as he picks the box up and follows me. “I thought I may have gotten a warmer welcome than that. I haven’t seen you since New York,” he says to me, pretending to look hurt as he places the box down on the counter and starts taking out bottles of champagne and wine.

“Three days is nothing. Wait until I get rostered a Sydney flight again. You won’t see me for at least a week,” I say, peering into the box at all the fancy-looking cheese, crackers, and dips next to the bottles.

“That’s not fucking happening,” he blurts.

I look up and raise an eyebrow at his pouting face.

“I’d come with you. I can work remotely,” he says, his expression already softening as he considers his solution.

“What? No!” I scoff, shaking my head at how ridiculous he sounds. “You’re not following me around when I’m working.”

He looks at me darkly. “We’ll save this discussion for when it’s more relevant. Tonight is your party, and it’s about celebrating your new home and how hard you’ve worked.”

I narrow my eyes at him. Why does he have to look so spectacularly sexy when he’s all dark and brooding? He’s got dark jeans and an olive-green shirt on, the sleeves rolled up his tanned forearms.

“So, what’s all this?” I ask, happy to change topics.

“These…” he gestures to the Michelin star-worthy items he’s setting out, “are some things for your guests to enjoy.”

“What did you do? Raid Harrods food court?” I pick up a bottle of Cristal champagne and quickly put it down as I mentally tally up how many bottles he’s brought. “Tanner, there’s at least two grand worth of champagne here, let alone all the wine and food.”

His brow creases. “Oh! Almost forgot, there’s one more thing in the car.” He disappears out the front door, reappearing minutes later with another giant box in his arms.

“What the hell’s that?” I cry as I move bottles aside so he can put the box down on the counter.

“This,” he lifts the lid theatrically, “is your new home cake!”

I look in the box, and my hand flies to my mouth. “Is that…? Did you and Megan plan this?” I ask as I take in the picture on the cake.

“We sure did,” a happy voice sings, and I turn to see Megan walk into the room. She’s wearing a dark blue sparkly dress, her curls tumbling down her back. “Do you like it?”

“I love it,” I whisper, staring at the printed illustration on the cake. There’s the front of the house, looking all cool and sleek with its grey paint, large bay window, and black railings. Then stood in front of the door are Me and Megan, Nigel wrapped in my arms.

“I can’t believe you two did this without me even knowing.” I look up between the two of them.

“It was worth all the extra late-night sketching just to see your face right now.” Megan smiles, “Although I can’t take all the credit. It was Tan’s idea.”

I look up at him, and he’s watching my face carefully, an easy smile on his lips. “I’m glad you like it,” he says, his voice warm and deep.

“I do, thank you.” I reach over, squeeze Megan’s hand, and then turn back to Tanner and wrap my fingers around his.

“Right, I’m just going to take Nigel next door to Lucy,” Megan says.

Tanner looks at me.

“She’s our next-door neighbor who’s coming to the party. She’s got older kids who are going to look after Nigel until the party’s finished,” I explain.

“We were worried he wouldn’t like all the noise and people,” Megan says as she goes to the dining room and picks up his cat-carrying crate. A moment later, she carries him in from the living room and encourages him into the crate with a treat. “See you guys in ten,” she calls over her shoulder as she heads into the hallway with him.

As the door shuts, Tanner’s eyes come to my face, glinting with mischief. “Ten whole minutes of you to myself. That’s the most I will probably get this evening once your guests arrive.”

I put my palms on his chest as I look up at him. “What are you going to do with your ten minutes?” I smile.

“Seven minutes, baby. I know exactly what I’m doing with my first three.” And with that, he pulls my skirt up roughly around my waist. He leans me back against the kitchen counter as he expertly slides two fingers inside my pussy, where I’m already wet just from the desire of having him close by.

“Tan,” I gasp.

“That’s it,” he growls as I part my legs wider, and his fingers find my g-spot while his thumb goes straight to my clit, rubbing in small circles with the perfect pressure. “I hoped you’d remember me saying I wanted no panties under this dress,” he says as his lips crash against mine and his tongue claims my mouth.

I break our kiss, already panting from my growing orgasm. “And I remember you saying you didn’t need three whole minutes,” I say, watching his eyes light up at my challenge.

“Prepare to scream out my name, Snarky.” He smirks as he leans in and bites my bottom lip.

I push back against him, kissing him hard, my hands braced on the kitchen counter behind me as his fingers continue their assault on my senses. He slides them out before slowly adding a third and finger fucking me roughly, hitting my g-spot and swollen clit with each thrust. My legs shake underneath me as I feel what’s coming.

“Tan,” I moan loudly as I roll my head back and come in deep, intense surges, my body hugging his fingers tightly.

“That’s it, Snow. Cover my fingers with your juices. I’m going to enjoy sucking it off,” Tanner growls as I look back into his eyes. His jaw is set hard as I writhe against his hand, whimpering at the intensity of the fast orgasm he just gave me. I take a couple of deep breaths and let out a contented sigh as relaxation sweeps through me.

Tanner’s dark eyes hold mine as he slowly slides his fingers out and brings them to his lips, slowly sucking each one down to his knuckles. I could come again, just watching him do it. The intensity in his eyes looks hot enough to burn me. Once he’s finished, he gently smooths my dress back down over my hips and thighs and plants a gentle kiss on my lips.

“That will have to be enough until I can have you again properly,” he says, readjusting himself in his jeans. “And for the record, that was two minutes and fifty-three seconds.” He smirks.

“Show-off.” I smile at him, my senses completely heightened and every nerve ending on high alert in anticipation of when we can finish what we started.

This is going to be one long party.


“Then Tan says, ‘leave it, mate, Drew can manage’, and I’m left holding this fucking massive chandelier that costs sixty grand while balancing on the highest ladder. Scared shitless of letting go in case something didn’t fix right, and it’s about to smash all over the floor.”

Matt titters in delight at another of Drew’s stories about him and Tanner in the early days when less than ten people were working for him—before the business grew and started winning more and more lucrative contracts and expanding overseas. I look around at Megan, Matt, and a couple of guys from Megan’s office who are completely engrossed in Drew’s amusing stories.

“Want to escape to the kitchen for a refill?” Tanner whispers to me.

I lift my glass and down the remaining half glass of my champagne. “I do now.” I smile.

As we head towards the kitchen, the doorbell rings.

“I’ll get it, you go ahead,” I say.

Tanner smiles at me, taking my glass, and heads into the kitchen. Lyndsey and Katie, two other flight attendants, clock him going in and make a beeline to talk to him. My eyes roll. He’s been quite the star guest of the party. All my flying friends want to know who he is and how we met. And Megan’s friends from her office want to pick his brains about business and talk about how he finds his inspiration for the designs. He’s proving to be rather popular, and he’s obviously used to it. He’s answering everyone’s questions with charm and humor, glancing across to me every few minutes when we’re separated.

I head back through to the hallway and pull open the front door. The frosty night air whips me in the face, suddenly bringing things back into clearer focus after all the champagne I’ve been drinking.

“Hey, Rach.” Chris leans forward and kisses me on the lips before moving back and holding up a bottle of wine in front of my stunned face.

“What are you doing here?” I ask, unable to keep the agitation out of my voice.

“Matt mentioned you were having a party a while ago to celebrate your new house,” he says, oblivious to my annoyance as he steps inside. “Looks good, Rach.” He glances around. “You’ve done a great job.” He leans a little closer, and I can smell his familiar, fresh aftershave. A scent I had become so used to after six months of friendship. Until recently, anyway. I haven’t called or even text him once since the night before the house auction. The day that Tanner came into my life, turning it up like a hurricane.

“Thanks,” I say out of politeness. “Glasses and food are in the kitchen. Actually…” I stall, remembering Tanner is in there. “Why don’t you come and meet Lucy, our new next-door neighbor?” I say, steering him by the elbow into the living room and over towards the fireplace, where he can’t be seen from the kitchen.

God, this is when I wish this house was bigger. Having only three rooms downstairs that all connect to each other is hardly helpful for keeping two people apart for long.

“Lucy!” I say brightly. “This is Chris; he’s a pilot at Atlantic Airways. Lucy’s son is interested in studying to be a pilot,” I say with a wide smile as I nudge Chris forwards. I’m relieved when he extends a hand to Lucy, and her eyes light up in response as he talks.

Lucy is a total MILF, with long blonde hair and a curvy body. I wouldn’t put it past Chris to be asking for her number by the end of the night. Actually, that would really help me out. He’s been texting, asking when I next want to meet up, and I’ve been ignoring him.

I head past Megan and her workmates, back into the kitchen where Drew has joined Tanner, Lyndsey, and Katie.

“So, tell me, is it true that some of you flight attendants sell your worn tights and panties online to make extra money?” Drew asks curiously.

I look over his shoulder accusingly to where Matt’s getting himself another drink. His head snaps up, and his eyes meet mine. He shakes his head subtly.

Okay, he’s usually the one with the big mouth, but he’s implying it wasn’t him. I groan inwardly. I hope this is just an unlucky coincidence.

“Where did you hear that?” Katie laughs.

“A friend,” Drew says. “Aren’t you all at it, then? Please, girls, don’t disappoint me.” He laughs.

I notice that Tanner’s scowling, his jaw tense as he listens to Drew. Maybe confessing my old side business to him isn’t the best idea, judging by his reaction.

“I don’t think you should believe everything your friend tells you.” Lyndsey giggles. “Sure, it happens, but it’s not taught in ground training or anything. Some girls do it and do very well out of it. If they’re lucky, they have a regular guy who they send things to.”

“Is that so?” Drew sounds amused, his eyes sparkling while he looks like he’s fighting back a grin.

I glance at Tanner again, and he looks like he’s about to murder someone. His eyes are dark, his jaw is set, and his fists are clenched by his sides.

“Tan,” I say gently, running a hand up his arm, “I need your help upstairs. I’m sure we’ve got a cake knife, but I think it’s still packed in a box from the move. Will you help me look?”

He tears his eyes away from Drew. “Sure,” he says with an edge to his voice as he follows me out through the dining room and into the living room. I sneak a look at Chris and am relieved to see he’s still deep in conversation with Lucy.

“I think it’s in a box in my room. I’ve got a special one Holly gave me for my eighteenth birthday,” I say as I climb the stairs.

I open my bedroom door and head to my wardrobe, bending to root around in the box at the bottom. “I’m sure it’s here somewhere,” I mutter as I lift the photo albums and an old version of the flying uniform I still have. The one from before it was re-designed to the new one with patent red shoes.

“Did Megan draw this?” Tanner asks.

I look over to the picture on my wall he’s staring at.

“Yeah, she did.” I smile as I stand beside him.

“She looks like you, Rach,” Tanner says, his voice faltering slightly as he continues to stare at the picture.

“She’s my mom,” I say, my shoulders drooping as I look at her beautiful, delicate face with fair skin, dark wavy hair, bright eyes, and red lips. “I don’t have many photos of her, but this is one of my favorites. Megan drew it for me as a gift after she moved in.”

“She’s beautiful, Rachel,” Tanner whispers, seemingly unable to take his eyes away from the drawing. “Why has she written this here?” He points to Megan’s fancy script writing across the bottom of the picture.

“Oh, well, I think it was one of my mom’s favorite sayings. She had it on a keyring. Again, one of the few things I have of hers. But it obviously meant something to her as she kept it,” I say sadly as I reach for my purse and take the keyring out, holding it up.

Tanner reaches out and carefully takes the silver heart between his fingers, turning it over in his palm.

“Have you ever heard it before?” I ask, “It’s quite unusual, isn’t it?”

“Difficult roads lead to beautiful destinations,” he murmurs quietly, totally absorbed as he looks from the picture of my mom to the keyring in his hand and back again. “I have heard it, yes. More than once.”

“I’ve never heard it anywhere else before, but I think if I did, it would be Mom sending me a message.” I smile, taking it from his hand and putting it back into my purse. “I’m too scared to use it on my keys in case it gets scratched,” I explain when I see his puzzled face as I put it away.

I head back to the wardrobe and rifle around in the box some more. “Found it!” I smile, wielding the knife in the air like a trophy.

“Hey, watch it!” Tanner yells, “You almost had my balls off!”

“How do you know that’s not what I was aiming for?” I smirk at him.

“Be careful, Snow, or I might have to fuck those pretty red lips of yours as punishment for your snarky attitude.” He takes my hand and pulls me to my feet.

“You’d have to do it without your balls then,” I tease.

He pulls me to him sharply, his teeth swooping down on my neck. “Don’t fucking push me,” he says through gritted teeth.

Something has definitely riled him tonight. Even though I’ve heard him talk like this before—and frankly, I love his dirty threats—tonight, his voice has a hard edge to it. He’s pissed about something.

I curl my arms up around his neck and turn my head, inviting him to kiss me. His lips push against mine, all heat, control, and power.

As hot as it is, I’m merely a spectator, along for the ride.

“Rach! Tan! You better not be having sex up there! We want cake!” Matt’s voice screeches up the stairs, breaking Tanner out of his emotionally fueled rampage of my lips.

His eyes are blazing as he looks at me. What has got into him?

“What’s wrong?” I ask, searching his eyes.

“Nothing,” he says, glancing away and back to the drawing of my mom, his grip on my waist loosening. “Nothing.” He blows out a breath. “Too much champagne, I think.”

His fingers brush my hair away from my neck so he can look at where his teeth were. His face softens as he strokes my skin with his thumb. It obviously left a mark, but it can’t be that bad as it didn’t hurt. If anything, it was a fucking turn-on. “I’m sorry,” he says softly.

“You don’t need to be sorry. You just need to talk to me sometimes, like I’m trying to do with you. It works both ways, Tan,” I say as I give him a small smile and hold my hand out to him to lead him downstairs. He nods silently as he wraps strong fingers around mine.

I can already feel the growing sense of dread in my stomach as we head downstairs. I did not think this through properly. There are less than twenty people here. There’s no way Tanner and Chris will not see each other. Does it matter, though? It’s not like Tanner will even know who he is.

God, this is one downside to having someone who is more than just a friend with benefits. This sick feeling, wondering what their reaction will be when they meet someone else you’ve had sex with. I would never have been in this situation before. What have I got myself into?

I look back at Tanner. His deep brown eyes widen in response to my attention on them. He’s dark, brooding, and irritating. I look at his thick, wavy hair and perfect, kissable mouth. He’s also sexy as fuck and funny. Maybe this is why people put themselves in awkward situations like this because against the odds, they meet someone who makes them wonder if it might be worth the risk.

I shake my head. I’ve had too much champagne; I sound all sloppy, like Matt, for fuck’s sake. I should have stuck to the whisky, stayed with what I knew I could handle. It must be the champagne’s tiny bubbles—tiny globules of mass destruction, turning your head and emotions to shit.

“What took you two so long?” Matt asks as we walk into the living room, and he quickly bustles us through the dining room towards the kitchen, where most people are squeezed in. I glance around quickly but can’t see Chris. He must have been in the dining room.

“Speech!” Megan smiles as she moves aside to make space next to the cake. Tanner lets go of my hand, and I squeeze in next to her, giving her a subtle elbow in the ribs for throwing me under the bus.

“Thanks, Megan.” I smile at her in mock sweetness as people laugh.

“Okay, I’ll keep it short. Thank you all for coming and for helping to celebrate the new house with us. I hope you’ll all visit whenever you like; you’re welcome anytime.” I look up and straight into Chris’ eyes as he leans on the kitchen door frame, listening to me. “Well, most of you,” I continue as people laugh again, thinking I’m joking. “It’s been a long time coming, but here’s to new starts!” I smile.

There are some cheers and whoops, and Tanner passes me a glass of champagne, clinking his own against it as I take it from him.

“To new starts,” he says, smiling. His strange mood from earlier is either momentarily forgotten or at least well disguised.

I take a sip and then place the glass down and pick the cake knife up. It seems such a shame to cut into Megan’s incredible picture.

“Don’t worry, I’ve got the original,” she says to me as if sensing my hesitation.

“Well, in that case—” I laugh as I push the knife in, chopping the image in half and carving out slices, handing them to Matt, who plates them and passes them around.

“It’s like being at work all over again,” he jokes, “tea or coffee, anyone?” He laughs.

Lyndsey laughs and then draws him into a conversation about his next roster. I hear him say he’s back in LA for most of the month. Now, why doesn’t that surprise me? Megan talks to Drew and her work colleagues, telling them about the traffic cone incident. From the sounds of her work mates’ comments, they think her boss is a dick too. I can’t see Tanner, so I head off to find him, but I don’t get far when Lucy stops me.

“Rachel, thank you for inviting me,” she says warmly.

“You’re welcome, Lucy. Thank you for coming.”

“I love what you’ve done with the place. You must have worked day and night to get this all done,” she says kindly. “I really love the blue in the living room. You’ll have to let me know the name of the color.”

“Midnight lover, wasn’t it, Rach?” Tanner appears and wraps an arm around my waist, pulling me into his side.

Lucy’s eyes light up as she looks at him.

“Lucy, this is Tanner. He’s who helped me get the house ready so fast,” I say, as his hand slides down to cup my ass out of view.

“Yeah, she had me hard at it in the living room especially,” he says smoothly as he squeezes. “Isn’t that right, Rach?” He flashes a dazzling smile at Lucy, who beams back at us both.

“Well, looks like you chose a good helper,” she says to me. “Nice to meet you, Tanner.” She turns to leave.

“You too, Lucy,” he says as I flash him a “behave” look.

“I’ll see you to the door,” I say, following her out.

“If I had him helping me, I’d make sure he was hard at something too.” Lucy laughs as she steps out the front door. “I’ll see you when you’re ready to pick Nigel up. No rush, though. My son will keep him company, and he will be up for hours—teenagers,” she tuts as she walks down the path and back to next door.

I close the door and turn straight into Chris’s chest.

“God, Chris! You’re lucky I didn’t hand you your ass, sneaking up on me like that.” I scowl, stepping back.

“Who’s the guy that had his hand on your ass?” He cuts straight to it.

“Is that any of your business?”

“No.” He shrugs, his playful eyes assessing me. “Just wanted to know who the guy is that’s caused you to stop returning my texts.”

“His name’s Tanner,” I whisper, glancing over Chris’ shoulder towards the living room.

“Are you worried he’s going to hear us talking?” Chris says, following my eyes.

“Yes. I mean, no.” I fold my arms across my chest.

“Relax, Rachel. I’m just messing with you. I’m pleased for you, really. Even if this means the end to our mutual agreement.” He looks at me questioningly as I nod my head.

“Yes, Chris. It does.” I roll my eyes at his audacity. He would have happily kept it up if I’d been willing.

“I never thought I’d see the day that someone tamed Rachel Jones.” He smiles.

“I’m not a wild animal, Chris.” I give him a small smile.

“Could have fooled me… plenty of times.” He winks.

That’s when I see Tanner over his shoulder. Chris follows my gaze and turns.

“Chris, you’re a friend of Rachel’s?” Tanner says, smiling and offering his hand.

“Yes, nice to meet you,” Chris says, shaking it.

Tanner’s a couple of inches taller than Chris and his complete polar opposite. Dark and tanned, sexy, and authoritative, compared with Chris, who’s more of a pretty boy with his blonde hair and playful eyes and smile.

I stand rooted to the spot, watching their exchange with interest.

“You’re a very lucky man,” Chris says as he takes his hand back.

Tanner says nothing, just nods his head, effectively bringing the conversation to an end.

Chris turns back to me. “It was nice to see you, Rachel. Congratulations on the house.” For a second, it looks like he may lean in and give me a kiss on the cheek, but he seems to think better of it. Thank fuck.

I open the door and happily close it behind him as he leaves.

“That was Chris?” Tanner asks, as though I’ve mentioned Chris by name before when I clearly haven’t.

“Yes, that was Chris.” I move to walk past him.

He takes a step to the side, blocking me.

“He’s one of your ‘friends,’ I take it?” His voice is deep, his expression unreadable.

“He was my friend, yes. Not anymore.” I look at him, waiting for the shit show to erupt. He’s too calm, too in control. Not what I expected when he just shook hands with the guy I used to meet for casual sex. But then, did I get jealous when we bumped into Mandy? Well yeah, I did, but I didn’t show it. Tanner has no clue that I wanted to stuff that expensive coat down her whiny throat at the mere idea of her having shared private moments with him.

“Not anymore?” he repeats my words in question as his hand reaches up to cup my chin.

“That’s what I said.” I stare at him, waiting.

“Good, that’s settled then,” he says as he brings his lips down onto mine and kisses me like he owns me.

If I had any doubts over just how intense his feelings are for me, then this kiss has just wiped them into oblivion.


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