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Discovering Mr. X: Chapter 25

RACHEL

“Harder, Tan!” I moan, throwing my head back as Tanner thrusts into me again. I’m on my back on his bed, my legs around his ears, and my hands gripping his biceps underneath my thighs with white-knuckle force.

“God, Rach, you saying my name like that will not help this last longer,” he pants, keeping a relentless rhythm going.

I bring my chin back down and stare into his eyes. They light up as I smile and clench around him tightly.

“Argh, fuck! Okay, you asked for it.” He laughs, pushing my legs even wider apart as he slams into me so hard his balls slap my skin.

I moan loudly at how good it feels before letting out a giggle.

“Not helping, Rach.” His voice wavers as he bites his lip.

I look at him, the concentration on his face clear as he fights to hold his orgasm back. I’ve already had two; I don’t know why he thinks I need to have another before he’s allowed. But then this is Tanner, and as I’ve come to learn, he’s extremely generous when it comes to dishing out the big O’s.

I bring one hand to his lips, and knowing what I want him to do, he draws two of my fingers into his mouth and sucks, wetting them for me.

He drags in a breath through clenched teeth. “You know I love watching you touch yourself,” he groans as I slide my hand down to my throbbing clit and rub in circles.

“And you know I love that you love watching me.” I smile as I stroke myself faster.

His eyes drop to my hand and then back up to my face as I feel the tingling building in my toes and up my legs.

“Come for me, baby,” he growls, pressing his cock into me hard and deep, over and over.

There’s no way I could disobey him when he talks to me like that, even if I wanted to. His voice is deep, sexy, and in control—in control of me.

“Fuck, Tan!” I cry as I tip over the edge of my release, spiraling out of control as my back arches off the bed, and I shudder underneath him.

“That’s it, baby. I love feeling you come on my cock.” His eyes look stormy as he drives into me, drawing my orgasm out for longer.

Holy shit, I love the way he looks at me.

His cock swells against my walls, and a rush of heat ignites inside me as he groans loudly, coming deep inside my body.

“God, Rach, I…” He struggles with his words as his orgasm takes his breath.

“You what?” I pant back, bringing my hands to either side of his face as he looks at me and draws in deep breaths.

“I…” his eyes search mine.

Fuck, is he going to say…?

“I can’t get enough of you,” he says quickly, leaning down to kiss me.

I welcome his warm lips to mine, but I swear he’s only kissing me now so that he can avoid eye contact. I would bet anything that Tanner was on the verge of saying he loves me.

Only he didn’t.

I shift in his muscular arms, trying to ease the burning discomfort in my chest. I’m disappointed. No, it’s more than that. My lungs deflate like someone has sucked all the air out, and everything falls quiet around me, except the sound of my heart racing in my ears.

That sudden lurch in my stomach when he didn’t say what I hoped he was going to can only mean one thing—I am totally in love with Tanner Grayson.

Shit.


“Morning, beautiful.” Tanner grins as he walks around the bed in his boxers and places a steaming mug of caramel latte on the bedside table next to me. He’s made it with the new machine he bought, specifically because it makes lattes exactly how I like them—smooth, creamy, and hot.

“Did I tell you how much you’ve grown on me?” I smile, stretching my arms over my head before pulling myself up to a sitting position against the headboard, bringing the sheets with me to cover my breasts.

“Nowhere near enough. Tell me again.” Tanner grins as he climbs over me on the bed, pausing halfway to straddle me, and pulls the covers down so he can suck on both of my nipples. “Don’t cover yourself up, Rach. I love your tits,” he growls playfully as he swings his second leg over and leans back against the headboard next to me.

I turn towards him, so I can study him. He starts scrolling through emails on his phone, one arm slung behind his head. His eyes scan side to side as he reads, deep in thought. He looks a lot younger than thirty-one right now, with his messy bed hair and pouty lips, which move slightly as he reads. A sudden image of him naked except for a superman cape suddenly comes to me, and my heart squeezes.

“You love them?” I ask slowly.

“I love all of your body, Rachel,” he answers easily, his eyes staying on his phone as he continues reading.

I watch him for a few more moments, and when I’m sure he’s not about to drop any bombs of the “I love you” variety on me, I pick up my latte and take a sip, blowing out a long sigh as its heat spreads through me.

“This is so good. You didn’t have to get a whole new coffee machine just for the odd night I’m here, though.”

“Of course, I did,” Tanner says, still studying his phone, a small frown on his face. “It’s more than the odd night, and I like my girl sufficiently caffeinated.” He throws his phone down on the bed and looks up at me, the amber flecks in his eyes glistening. “She can be a bit of a snarky bitch if you get in her bad books.”

I narrow my eyes at him. “She sounds like a nightmare. Why do you put up with her?”

Tanner shrugs a shoulder and pushes out his bottom lip. “Well, we’ve sort of known each other since she was born. I must have imprinted on her or some shit as I can’t stop thinking about her.”

I snort. “I thought you were superman, not a werewolf.”

“Rach, if it turns you on, I’m happy to dress up as any kinky shit you like.” He grins as I shove his shoulder.

“Wanker,” I mutter, not able to hold back my smile as Tanner turns his head and kisses my temple. I look down at his phone on the bed. “Work emails?”

“Yeah,” he groans, dragging a hand down over his face. “We’ve won a contract with a client in Vegas to redesign their entire casino. It’s a three-month project, which was supposed to start in the spring. Only now they’ve decided they want to bring it forward.”

“Can’t you tell them no?”

Tanner rubs his lips as he thinks. “Yes, we can. They’ve signed the contract; we don’t have to be flexible at all. But it would benefit us if I can sort out the logistics as spring will be busy for us, especially in London. Tying this one up early would actually make sense.” He drums the fingers of his other hand against his thighs as he speaks.

“So, what’s the problem?”

He pauses for a moment. “Nothing really.” He turns to smile at me. “Just need to juggle some people around a bit to make it possible.”

“I bet being the boss makes you really unpopular sometimes, especially messing with people’s work schedules so close to Christmas. More unpopular than you already are, I mean,” I tease, glancing at him.

“Hey, my staff love me!” Tanner cries, his eyes rounding on me. His face softens as he sees my smirk.

“Not what Penny said last night,” I joke.

“Oh, really?” He lifts his chin, daring me with his eyes to continue.

I widen my eyes and lower my voice. “Did you know your staff used to call you ‘Grumpy Grayson?’ I think they were being quite kind, actually.” I giggle as I see the outraged look on Tan’s face.

“I am not grumpy. I buy the snacks every week for the Monday meeting.” He shakes his head, tutting to himself before looking back at me. “You said used to? What do they call me now? Or don’t I want to know?”

“Actually, Penny says you’ve been delightful the last three months. Not a grump in sight. Said you even smile.”

“The last three months, you say?” Tanner looks thoughtful.

“Yeah, now what’s happened in the last three months that could have put a smile on Mr. Grumpy’s face?” I tease. I watch as the corners of Tanner’s mouth twitch.

“No idea,” he says, avoiding my gaze.

“None?” I smile, placing my mug back down on the bedside table.

“Nope.” He blows out a breath, putting his hands behind his head and pretending to sound bored.

“Maybe I can help you remember just what’s been happening the last three months that could be considered as life-changing.” I smile as I run my hands over the stubble on his jaw and turn his face to me so I can lean in and kiss his lips.

“Maybe I need a memory jog,” he murmurs against my mouth, cupping the back of my head with one hand as he kisses me back deeply.

I break the kiss and slide a hand down into his boxers, where his cock is already hard. I wrap my fingers around him.

“Let’s get jogging.”


“Is Drew okay?” I ask absentmindedly as Tanner comes back into the bedroom. I’m finishing packing my bag. I’ve spent the day here but need to head home. I’ve got an early flight tomorrow and need a good night’s sleep. I know I would be too tempted to stay up late, ‘jogging’ Tan’s memory some more if I stay here.

“Yeah, yeah. He’s good,” Tanner says, sounding distracted.

“You weren’t on the phone long?” I look up at him. His brow is furrowed, and his jaw is set. He looks tense about something. “Everything okay?”

“Yeah. You’re going to Miami tomorrow, aren’t you?” he asks, obviously not wanting to talk about whatever Drew said.

“Yep. Just for one night. I’ll see you when I get back, though. You can come and stay at mine. I think Nigel misses you,” I joke, glancing up at Tan’s face as I pull the zip around my bag. He’s staring into space still—what is up with him?

I finish zipping my bag shut and stand up, moving over to him so I can slide my palms up onto his broad chest, the cotton of his t-shirt soft beneath my fingers.

“There’s no need to sulk. I know you’re going to miss me,” I say sweetly, reaching up to kiss him. He looks back at me with an expression I’ve never seen on him before. His brows are drawn together, his eyes intense, something clouding over them.

He looks tormented.

“Tan, what is it?” I say, my voice sounding serious, even to my own ears.

He brings a hand up and holds my bottom lip with his thumb, his eyes staring into mine, anguish now clear in them. “Since meeting you, Rach…” he starts and then stops, his eyes looking upwards as though he’s trying to find the right words. “I’ve never felt like this about anyone before.” He rests his forehead against mine.

I move my head, so he has to look at me again. I know what he’s trying to say, so why does he look so pained to say it? Maybe being in love with me feels like torture to him? The look on his face would certainly make anyone think so.

“Tan,” I whisper, looking into his eyes and smiling. “You can say it. It’s okay. I’m a big girl and meeting you has changed me. These last three months, they’ve been incredible. I can handle what you’re going to say without running out on you.” I kiss his lips, wanting to reassure him I’m not the girl he first met—who couldn’t allow herself to be loved. But he just stands frozen and doesn’t kiss me back.

His voice is so quiet I have to strain to hear him. “Rachel, there’s nothing I want more than to tell you exactly how I feel about you. But there’s something you need to see first.”

He must see the confusion on my face. “Come with me,” he says, taking my hand in his and leading me down the hall into one of the spare bedrooms.

“Are you secretly hiding a dead body in here or something?” I joke, watching as he goes to the cupboard and lifts out a large cardboard box, setting it on the bed.

His eyes look up to my face. His mouth is set in a grim line, as though he’s waiting for a prison sentence to be read out to him.

“I’m a fucking idiot, Rachel. I should have told you so much sooner. I just didn’t know how.”

“What are you talking about?”

I look at his face, searching it for answers, but Tanner just rips the tape off the top of the box and opens it. I take a step closer, peering inside. It’s full of brown and white packets. I don’t know why the hell he’s showing me these. I lean in so that I can see more clearly. What are—?

Oh, Hell no!

Nausea grabs my stomach, twisting it as the blood in my veins turns to ice. I reach out to touch a packet, pulling my hand back as though it’s burnt me. I don’t need to lift it up to see my handwriting on the address label or know what it says. I wrote it so many times over those eighteen months that I lost count.

To Mr. X.

“What the hell!” I cry, stumbling backward as my hand flies to my mouth.

He can’t be.

“Rachel, I can explain. It’s not what you think!” Tanner’s frantic voice cuts through the fog that’s descended over me.

I trusted him.

“You don’t know what the hell I’m thinking,” I hiss.

He takes a step towards me.

“Don’t you fucking dare!” I spit, pointing a finger at him.

My heart’s pounding in my ears. Why does he have these? But it’s obvious. There’s only one reason he has every single packet I ever posted in a box in his spare room.

Tanner is Mr. X.

The generous, funny, caring man I’ve spent the last three months with cannot be the same man who was sending me money—a lot of money—for my worn panties.

He can’t be. He just can’t be!

I shudder, remembering the special embroidered ones I had made in Shanghai, back when Mr. X was just some stranger I would never actually meet. Back when it was anonymous. When I couldn’t be identified.

Back when I couldn’t get hurt.

I’ve opened myself up to a man for the first time in my life, and this is what I get?

Way to fucking go, Rach.

“Are you some weird stalker? Is that what this is? You thought you’d seek out the girl who provided help with your fetish and try to date her?” I stare at him, and he stands rooted to the spot, probably unsure whether to risk moving any closer to me again.

“Of course not!” he fires back angrily.

“I even told you I used to do this in the bath that night. You never said a word! It was you the whole time! All you went on about was how many clients I had. Is that why you were so bothered? You wanted to know you were the only one?” I glare at him, wishing this is all some kind of sick joke and Matt is going to jump out filming and shout, “Gotcha!”

Tanner drags both hands back through his hair, but not in the way he does when he’s turned on. He looks frantic. “Yes! I mean, no. Fuck, Rachel, this isn’t how it is. Please, just let me explain,” he pleads.

I shake my head. “A dead body would have been better than this.” I look at him in disgust. “I have no idea who you are, not really. Is your name even Tanner?” I say, my voice threatening to break.

These last three months have been a lie, a complete lie. I opened up to him. I let him into my heart. I’m a fucking idiot. The first man I really let myself be vulnerable with, he doesn’t even exist. All this time, he was just pretending. I don’t even know him.

How could I have missed that he was lying to me every damn day?

How could I have been so stupid?

My heart constricts in my chest, and it feels like the air has been sucked from the room.

How could I have fallen in love?

“I need to leave. I don’t want to be anywhere near you—whoever the fuck you are!” I shout as I turn to leave the room. “Don’t you dare follow me!” I add over my shoulder as I race back to Tanner’s bedroom and grab my bag.

Thank fuck I’d finished packing.

I run down the stairs, pulling my boots on quickly as I hear Tanner calling after me. He drove me here in his car, so I’m going to have to call a taxi and wait down the road somewhere. Anywhere as long as it’s nowhere near his lying face. My throat burns, and my eyes sting as I wrench open the front door. All this time, I’ve never needed anyone. And then I finally met someone I thought I could trust, someone I was imagining a future with.

And it all turns out to be one giant fucking con.

I should have known better.

Never again.

I slam the door behind me and tear down the driveway to the gates. Luck must be on my side for once today, as one of Tanner’s neighbors is just driving in as I get there. The gates swing open automatically, and I slip through, glimpsing Tanner running down the driveway behind me, shouting my name. He has to slow down, so he doesn’t end up under the neighbor’s tires, and the gates close again before he makes it through them.

I take a deep breath and stride off down the street, never looking back.


“I just don’t believe it!” Matt says, looking at Megan and then at Holly on the laptop screen. They both nod in agreement.

Luckily, Matt was on a day off today, and Megan and Holly were free when I texted them all for an immediate group crisis meeting.

“The entire time?” Holly asks, her eyes wide.

“The entire eighteen months,” I confirm, holding Nigel against my chest. He’s been extra cuddly recently. After all the stuff with my mom and now this, he seems to know that I need it. I sink my nose into his soft grey fur as I let out a small sigh.

“How did he know it was you, though, Rach? You only had photos of your legs and feet on your website,” Megan says.

“I don’t know, it’s so weird—” I’m struck by a sudden realization and struggle to swallow the bile in my throat. “Wait. When we were in New York, he told me we met briefly at Heathrow. He left his laptop behind, and I helped return it. I was in such a rush, though, since I was on a late warning, that I barely looked at him. I certainly didn’t remember him.”

“But he never forgot you,” Matt says, leaning forward on the sofa so he can rest his elbows on his legs as he thinks. “Still, it’s got to be a weird coincidence that you met, and then he contacted you through your website, surely? There’s no way he could have known that was your site.”

“I’ve had enough of weird coincidences, thanks,” I mutter.

“I still can’t believe your moms were friends,” Holly says, her voice gentle, worry oozing from it. I can tell she probably wishes more than anything she was here right now and not an eleven-hour flight away. I wish she were too.

“I know. Just too many coincidences, don’t you think?” I snort.

“Do you really think he’s got a screw loose? That he somehow stalked you?” Matt asks, sounding worried and not making a joke about something for once.

“He seemed so nice,” Megan murmurs into her mug of tea, disbelief still showing all over her face.

“I just don’t know. I thought I could tell a bullshitter from a mile away, but he’s been lying to me for months. I don’t know why he bought all the underwear I sold or whether he sought me out on purpose. I don’t know anything.” I chew my lip as I lean my head back on the sofa and stare at the living room wall. ‘Midnight lover’ blue paint stares back at me, taunting me. God, we even had sex on the floor in here. What was he thinking then? How clever he was that I had no idea who he really was?

“Did he, you know, have any weird requests when you two were together?” Matt asks.

I look at Matt, unimpressed.

“What?” He shrugs. “I’m just wondering since he paid thousands to buy your lingerie. Most men don’t go to that extreme. He’s a hot guy too. Surely he can get plenty of women to give him their panties for free happily.”

“Not helping,” I warn, before blowing out a breath, all my fight gone. “Besides, I don’t care if he’s into it. I’m hardly a saint.”

It only looked like there were packets in my handwriting in that box, but what if there were more? Others that I hadn’t seen from other women? I shake the thought from my head. What the hell is wrong with me? I can’t be jealous of the thought I wasn’t the only one. Yet, I want to know if there were others. Not that it matters now: He isn’t the Tanner I thought he was.

It was a lie.

He was one big lie.

“So, if him being Mr. X isn’t the actual issue, then what is?” Holly asks gently.

I look at her open, encouraging eyes. Their emerald, green glittering through the screen. “It’s that he lied to me every single day. He wasn’t honest. Everything we had was a lie. Everything…” I trail off.

She nods as she listens.

I don’t know how to explain it. I feel stupid. So stupid for believing that he was different. But I’m angry too. I’m so fucking angry and disappointed in myself. I’ve never needed anyone before. I’ve been fine by myself. Being single suited me. But Tanner, he made me want new things. I let my guard down with him.

A mistake I will never make again.

My phone buzzes on the coffee table. No need to guess who’s calling me—again. “You can fuck off!” I shout at my phone, letting it go to voicemail.

Megan looks up at me. “Don’t you want to know what he’s got to say?”

“Nope,” I say without missing a beat.

“Maybe there’s an explanation,” Matt says, although even he doesn’t look convinced.

“You’ve had a shock, Rach. Take some time to process it. Let it sink in,” Holly suggests.

“That’s a good idea. I’ve got the Miami flight tomorrow. I checked the loads, and it’s full, so that will keep me occupied. There’ll be no time to think. Then I can go for a drink down-route with the crew and get shit-faced, forget the wanker ever existed,” I say as I plan out my next few days.

Matt and Megan glance at one another and then at Holly.

“Keep us updated, Rach. We are all here if you need a chat, anytime, day or night,” Holly says, giving me a lopsided smile. “I wish I was there so I could hug you.”

“I’d like to see you try with that bump,” I joke weakly as I look at her growing belly, most of it hidden below the camera.

“I’d find a way, trust me.” She smiles.

My phone beeps with a text, and I groan as Megan passes it to me.

Tan: Please talk to me, Rachel.

There’s no way I want to hear anything he has to say, but there’s a strong chance the stubborn wanker will drive around here and camp outside if I don’t answer him.

Me: Everything out of your mouth is a lie. I’ve heard enough. Don’t even think about turning up here. It’s over.

I press down the off button on my phone and watch the screen go black, just like the walls that are building back up around my heart.


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