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Discovering Mr. X: Chapter 7

RACHEL

“Cheers!” I clink my champagne flute against Megan and Matt’s.

“To making lots of new happy memories in your new house,” Megan says, taking a sip.

“And to the amazing house party we are throwing when you move in!” Matt says, a devilish smile spreading across his face.

I raise my eyebrows at him. “As long as you promise not to get so drunk again that you run around naked and slip over. That night in hospital with you is one night of my life I will never get back, and the images are forever burned into my memory.” I shudder.

“Oh, Rach, I had almost forgotten about that, hah!” Matt chuckles as he leans back into our sofa.

“When will you get the keys, Rach?” Megan asks.

“Well, we’re close to officially exchanging contracts now, so the sale will be legally binding soon. Rich said I can pick up the keys a week on Saturday.” I smile as I take a large gulp of champagne, the bubbles fizzing against my tongue. I can’t believe I’m here, toasting this moment. I’ve done it! I’ve finally bought my house. It’s going to be the first proper home I’ve ever had.

“I still think it’s incredible that you’re getting all the paperwork done for the sale so fast,” Megan says.

“That’s all thanks to Holly. She asked her sister Sophie for help. She’s a lawyer. She doesn’t deal with property conveyancing, but she put me in touch with a friend of hers, who has been amazing. She’s pushing it through as fast as she can.”

“Aww, our lovely Holly, always there to help, even all the way from LA.” Matt sighs.

“I know. I miss her. Although you must see her all the time? I’m sure you’ve bribed the whole crewing department by now so that you can operate all the LA flights?” I smile as an image of Holly and Jay in their beachfront house pops into my head.

“Of course, I have. What would Stefan do without me if I weren’t there as much as possible?” He grins at the mention of his boyfriend—and Jay’s best friend—Stefan.

“I’m pretty sure he’d forget about you within a week and be shagging some Californian hunk,” I say, keeping a straight face.

Matt stares daggers at me even though I’m sure after all our years of friendship, he knows I’m only teasing him. “Never! He’s the one, Rach, I’m telling you. It’s incredible between us.”

“I’ll take your word for it.” I roll my eyes. “No strings for me, every time.”

Megan leans forward to get a handful of crisps from the bowl on the coffee table, sitting back carefully to not disturb Nigel, who is sprawled out on the sofa, taking up most of the space. “I’ve tried telling her, Matt,” she says between mouthfuls, “all this hot sex is okay, but one day she’s going to meet a man who will make her want more.”

“Nope, not going to happen.” I shake my head firmly.

Matt is about to say something but looks down and raises an eyebrow at Nigel as he shuffles about, his furry tail rubbing against Matt’s thigh. “Well, I guess his tail’s lucky, isn’t it? Even if I do smell like rabbit butt now.”

“It’s a rabbit’s foot that’s meant to be lucky.” Megan gently places her hands over Nigel’s ears. “And that’s when it’s made into a keyring,” she whispers.

Matt’s mouth drops open in horror. “That’s barbaric! Who’d want to fish around in their pocket for that each time they want to open the front door?”

“I know, horrible, right?” Megan agrees. “Going back to keys and doors, though, has Rach told you about the guy who helped her find the house?”

“You told me it was some stuffy property bore?” Matt says, his eyes rounding on me.

Megan scoffs into her champagne glass. “Rach! You did not?”

“What?” I say, “he is. He’s got more money than sense. He drives an Aston Martin, for goodness’ sake. He barely smiles, unless it’s for looking smug and annoying, and I bet he has no clue how to loosen up and have fun.”

Megan raises her eyebrows at me. “He’s totally hot though, admit it, Rach.”

When I say nothing, she turns her attention to Matt. “He’s got this dark, wavy hair and intense, sexy eyes and an amazing body, from what I could tell, anyway.” She giggles.

Matt narrows his eyes at me in suspicion. “How old is this sexy man?”

“I dunno.” I shrug. “Mid-thirties, maybe. And he’s not that sexy.”

“Ah! So, you’ll admit you think he’s a teeny bit sexy?” Megan says, holding her fingers up in the air an inch apart.

I shake my head as I knock back my champagne. “Don’t put words in my mouth.”

“The question is, what would you let Mr. Sexy put in your mouth, Rach?” Matt asks with a smirk. “Have you even spoken to him since he helped line up this house for you?” Matt continues, not at all bothered that I’m glaring at him.

“Yeah, he’s texted a couple of times to see how it’s going. Asked if I needed any help with getting the paperwork sorted.”

“And?” Matt coaxes.

“And nothing. The lawyer has it all in hand. Besides, I like to do things myself. I don’t need some man I hardly know sticking his nose in.”

“This hot guy, what’s his name?” Matt looks across at Megan.

“Tanner,” she says.

“Oh, sounds strong. I like it.” Matt grins. “So, hot Tanner offers to assist you, after finding you the house in the first place, and you won’t accept his help?”

“Exactly.” Megan nods at Matt.

“Rachel,” he tuts, “where are your manners? You need to thank this man properly.”

“I’m not shagging him as a thank you, Matt,” I say, rolling my eyes, unimpressed.

“I wasn’t suggesting that. But you should show your gratitude in some other way. What does he like?”

“I have no idea.” I blow out a breath and shrug my shoulders. “Expensive crap and being nosey. Did you know he asked who you were when I thought it was you on the phone winding me up?”

Matt catches Megan’s eye, and they exchange a knowing look. Before I can ask what it’s all about, Megan’s eyes light up. “He likes whisky! Same as you, Rach. He was drinking it at the nightclub, remember?”

I kind of remember seeing a bottle on the table of their booth. But my main memory of that night is how much I wanted to slap the smug look off his face. That and the heat of his eyes on me all night.

“Perfect!” Matt says as he taps away on his phone. “Take him here.” He shoves the screen in front of my face. It’s an advert for a whisky tasting night at a nearby swanky hotel.

“Are you serious? You think I should ask him to go there with me?”

“Absolutely, why not?”

“It’s not as if you couldn’t handle it way better than him anyway, Rach. We’ve all seen you drink that stuff like water,” Meg pipes up.

She has a good point. I can hold my drink. It would be the perfect chance to show Tanner that I’m capable of looking after myself. And God knows he could do with loosening up. This might not be such a bad idea after all.

“Okay,” I say to Matt, “how do I book?”


I operate a flight to Boston with a one-night layover, and before I know it, it’s Saturday evening, the night of the whisky tasting. I wasn’t entirely sure Tanner would want to go, but when I texted him, he said he thought he could make time. I mean, come on, like I should feel lucky that he’s taken time out of his busy work schedule to meet me. The guy has such a nerve.

“Holls, I think we’re almost there,” I groan, glancing out of the window, then back to my phone screen. Holly’s smiling face looks back at me. “I’d much rather stay in the cab and talk to you.”

“Try to have fun, Rach. I’m sure he’s not that awful.”

“You haven’t met him,” I say, screwing up my nose. “I swear I’m going to kill Matt. This is such a bad idea.”

“Go!” She giggles. “I want to hear all about it tomorrow.”

“Yeah, yeah, okay.”

“Love you, Rach.”

“You too, Holls,” I say as I hang up.

This is great. Why did I let Matt talk me into this? Surely a thank-you bottle of whisky would have sufficed. Now I have to spend a whole evening with Tanner. I would rather stick pins in my nails. Ugh, I hope it doesn’t drag too much.

I smooth down my knee-length black dress as I get out of the cab. It’s one of my favorites, sleeveless, with a high neck and a long, fitted pencil skirt. I’ve teamed it with pointy black heels. I’ve noticed how much bigger Tanner is than me, in both height and build, especially at the house that day when I hugged him—God, what was I thinking? Excitement does stupid things to you.

I walk up to the hotel in front of me. It’s a beautiful old building with a brick pillared entryway that extends out to the pavement. There’s a dark grey carpet rolled out, the hotel’s emblem sparkling in silver on it. I love central London, especially parts like Knightsbridge, with its history.

The doorman dips his head in greeting as he holds the large, heavy door open.

“Good evening, Madam.”

I step inside. It’s all black, grey, and silver, with mirrors everywhere—large, arch-shaped, paneled ones.

Wow.

The building itself may be old, but the inside has been completely remodeled. I make my way over to the reception desk, also made entirely of mirrored glass.

How the hell do they keep it so shiny?

“Can I help you, miss?” the lady behind the desk asks me, smiling, her deep plum lipstick catching my eye.

“Yes, I’m here for the whisky tasting event. I’m meeting a friend.”

“Your name, please?” she asks as she glances down at her computer.

“Rachel Jones.”

“Oh yes, I see you here, Ms. Jones.” She looks up from the screen and smiles. “The evening will take place in the Grayson Bar. Please, if you follow me, I can show you to the bar area. You can wait here for your friend. Then once it’s time to begin, one of our hosts will show you to your table.”

“Okay, thank you,” I say as I walk alongside her.

The bar has the same theme as the foyer—grey, black, and mirrors. The intimate tables in here are marble, each with black velvet chairs tucked underneath them. A few couples stand around talking, and most of the stools at the main bar are already occupied.

I feel the heat of his eyes on the bare skin of my arms before I see him. I scan down the length of the main bar, and there, sitting at the end, is Tanner. His dark eyes catch mine as he runs a hand back through his hair, his mouth in a firm line. He’s wearing dark grey slacks and a crisp white shirt, unbuttoned at the neck. If I didn’t know better, I would fall into the trap of even saying he looks sexy. In a dark, moody way, if you’re into that sort of thing.

“Here you are.” The receptionist gestures to a free stool at the bar. “Have a seat here while you wait for your friend.”

“Actually, I can see him over there,” I say, looking over in Tanner’s direction.

“Oh?” The receptionist’s mouth forms a small, surprised ‘O’ briefly as she sees Tanner looking at me. “Well, I will leave you to it then.” She smiles. “Have a nice evening.”

“Thank you,” I reply before walking over to Tanner. His eyes haven’t left mine. His mouth is still set in a straight line. Looks like I’m in for a great evening with Mr. ‘Can’t-crack-a-smile’.

“Rachel,” he says smoothly, rising to his feet to greet me. His warm, smooth jaw brushes against my skin as he kisses me on each cheek, one hand lightly holding my elbow. A buzz of electricity runs up my arm where his hand is.

What the hell?

“Tanner,” I say in greeting as I slide onto the stool next to him.

“You look beautiful,” he says, taking me by surprise.

“Erm, thank you.” I clear my throat as I look at him. This is weird, getting compliments from him.

“You seem surprised?” He rests a finger against his lips and watches me, his eyes crinkling with amusement. “Does it surprise you that I find you beautiful?”

“It surprises me you would think of commenting on it to me. After all, this isn’t a date,” I say, staring straight into his eyes.

“Of course not,” he replies, with what looks like the start of a tiny smile forming on his lips.

“Think of it as a business drink. Thanking you for your help with the house.”

“As you wish, Rachel,” he says. That is definitely a smile he’s trying to hide. Smarmy bastard: he thinks I fancy him, and this was a ploy to get him on a date.

“So, are you all ready to collect the keys next week?” he asks.

“Yes.” I smile, pleased to be back on-topic. “I don’t think I’ve ever been more ready for anything.”

“I’ve seen a lot of people buy houses; none quite as focused as you. It really means something to you, doesn’t it?” he asks, his eyes staring into mine.

“It does.” I clear my throat, not wanting to elaborate further.

He narrows his eyes at me like he’s trying to work something out.

A male staff member approaches us, “Madam, Mr.—” he begins, but Tanner cuts in, “Tanner, please call me Tanner, and this is Rachel.”

“Very well.” The young man smiles. “Rachel and Tanner, my name is Samuel. If you would please follow me, I will show you to your table to start the tasting evening.”

“Thank you.” I slide down off my stool and follow him. Tanner walks behind me. I’m aware of his eyes on me as we cross the room to our table, which is tucked away into an intimate corner of the bar. A single low lamp hangs in its center, giving off a warm glow.

“Here you are. Please make yourselves comfortable,” Samuel says as he pulls a chair out for me.

“Thank you, Samuel,” Tanner says, taking the chair from him and pushing it in as I sit down.

Samuel smiles as he steps to one side. “I will be back shortly,” he says before disappearing back to the bar.

Tanner sits down in the other chair. It isn’t opposite me, but at a ninety-degree angle, so he’s practically right next to me. His leg brushes up against mine as he pulls his chair in. I swallow at the uncomfortableness of having him so close. I can even smell his aftershave, spicy and warm.

“Have you ever been here before?” I ask.

“I have actually,” he says, his voice deep, “more than once. Have you?”

“No, first time. I like it, though. It’s very stylish.” I look around at the modern décor.

Tanner raises his eyebrows at me. “You like the style of it?”

“I do. It’s a bit pretentious, but I think they get away with it.”

He smirks as he studies my face. “Tell me, Rachel, how will you decorate your new house?”

“I haven’t decided yet. It must feel homely, though. I want my friends to know they’re welcome anytime. I want them to come in and help themselves to a cup of tea and make themselves at home.”

“What did your family say when you told them your news?” Tanner asks.

“I don’t have any family,” I say, looking into his eyes. I wait for him to probe, ask what I mean, or say he’s sorry. The usual things people say when I tell them. But he doesn’t. Instead, he just looks deep into my eyes, as though he’s trying to see my soul.

“I think your vision for your new home sounds perfect. I’m sure you’ll have plenty of friends wishing to visit.”

“You being one of them?” I tease, raising an eyebrow, immediately wondering why the hell I just said it.

“Most definitely,” Tanner replies, his dark chocolate eyes glinting.

I feel a rush of heat between my legs at the way he’s looking at me. I’ve never noticed before, but his irises have a circle of fiery amber around the pupil. The effect is mesmerizing. My body feels like a traitor, reacting this way in his company. He is absolutely not the type of guy I usually find attractive. I don’t know what’s got into me. I’m going to need those whiskeys tonight.

With impeccable timing, Samuel reappears, and I gratefully turn my gaze onto him as he speaks.

“Rachel, Tanner, welcome again to our taster evening. Tonight, we will present you with a selection of fine whiskeys from around the world. Each has its own unique flavor and story of how they are created. They will also be accompanied by small sharing dishes designed to complement,” Samuel says as he sets down two glasses and fills them from a jug of iced water.

“Thank you,” we both say in unison, and I look up and catch Tanner’s eyes. He smiles at me, but I look away quickly and back to Samuel, who is busy setting down a board of smoked fish, cheese, and crackers. He follows that with two long trays, each with ten shots of whisky on. Their various honey colors shine in the lamplight.

Now we’re talking.

I smile at the sight of each seductive little glass.

“If you wish, I can introduce each whisky to you. Please let me know when you are ready. Or if you wish for some privacy…” Samuel looks to Tanner, “then all descriptions can be found here.” He hands us each a beautiful menu in a black velvet case.

“I think we can take it from here, thank you, Samuel,” Tanner says.

Samuel smiles and heads back across the bar to greet an elderly couple who have just arrived. They must be in their eighties and are holding hands.

Tanner follows my gaze to where the older man is now helping the lady take her coat off before passing it to Samuel. “Still having date night, good for them.”

“Unless they’re having an illicit affair,” I say, raising an eyebrow, “would make it more interesting, don’t you think?”

Tanner turns his gaze back to me. “Does the idea of romance and loving one person for life not appeal to you, Rachel? I thought that was what all women want.”

I snort. “I’m not all women.”

He studies me intently. The amber in his dark eyes catches the light on the table and glows like embers in a fire. “No, you’re not. Forgive me. I should know better than to make any assumptions when it comes to you, Rachel,” he says my name again, taking his time, as though savoring the feel of it on his tongue.

We sit looking at each other for a few moments, my eyes challenging him to look away first. If he thinks he is the one in control here, he’s mistaken. I can’t quite work him out, but I know he’s probably used to getting his own way and being in charge at all his bigwig meetings. Too bad for him, he’s spending the evening with me, and I give as good as I get.

“Shall we?” He gestures to the first glass, and I feel a small sense of childish victory that he broke eye contact first. “This is a Scottish malt with bursts of chocolate and fudge,” he reads from the menu.

“Sounds delicious,” I say as I take the first whisky from the tray and bring it up to my eye level, admiring its warm, honey color. Tanner’s eyes hold mine as we both lift the glasses to our lips and take a sip. The warmth spreads around my mouth and down my throat. I can’t help but blink slowly as I savor it. “That’s one sexy whisky.” I smile as I tip my head back and finish the glass, licking my lips.

“Isn’t it just,” Tanner says darkly, his eyes dropping to my lips as he finishes his.

“Where does the name Tanner come from?” I ask as the whisky’s heat spreads throughout my body. “It doesn’t sound English.”

“I was born in Chicago. We moved here when I was a baby.” He leans his chin on his hands and runs a finger along his lips absentmindedly as he speaks. I watch as it glides back and forth.

“Your parents are American?”

“My mom’s English. My father is American. Although, I don’t remember him. He didn’t react well when my mom told him she was pregnant. Stuck around for a bit but left before I was six months old.” Tanner’s forehead creases and his eyes darken momentarily. “It was just Mom and me growing up.”

“What’s she like?” I ask, despite never normally caring about peoples’ family lives. Maybe because of the complete lack of mine.

He smiles, the most genuine smile I’ve ever seen. “She’s amazing. I never felt like I was lacking anything growing up. She worked three jobs at one point just to make ends meet. Yet she was always there for me.” He stares off in the distance as though lost in a memory.

“You didn’t grow up with money then?”

He shakes his head as he looks back at me. “You have the wrong impression of me, Rachel.”

“What impression would that be?” I ask with a small smile.

“I see the way you look at me. I’ve heard the comments you’ve made about my watch and my job. You think I’m some smug wanker.”

I widen my eyes and can’t help my smile from growing. He’s hit the nail on the head. One thing he isn’t is stupid. “So, enlighten me,” I say, looking into his eyes.

Over the Irish and Indian whiskey, Tanner tells me how he started working as a builder’s apprentice. Before working his way up to having his own property development business and living in New York for a year for a contract he won.

The Japanese and American whisky leads to me regaling him with stories about what it’s like working as a long-haul flight attendant, including the time I discovered a very well-known actor and a woman who wasn’t his wife, joining the mile-high club in the toilet.

Two more Scottish whiskies opens a can-of-worms’ story about him and his best friend Drew getting lost at a friend’s stag party wearing nothing but homemade togas, not much bigger than a flannel. I throw my head back and laugh at this story, attracting the couple’s attention at the next table. The idea of Tanner wearing a toga and being anything other than serious and in control seems crazy.

Two more whiskeys from Taiwan and Ireland, and my lips have been well and truly loosened by the alcohol, and I’m telling him how Nigel is the only male I would ever want to live with and that I’ve never had a real boyfriend, just “friends”.

“Okay. Okay.” I giggle. “This is the last one; you read it.” I slap the menu down in front of Tanner, who frowns as he tries to focus on it. He fixates on it, making me think of a schoolboy being asked to read in the class by the teacher. “Here, I’ll do it,” I say, putting my hand on the menu.

“No, No, I can manage.” Tanner smiles and returns to his serious face, his bottom lip pulled in as he stares at the page again. These whiskies are the strongest I’ve ever had. I would never usually feel this drunk.

“Come on, Mr. Sixty-nine, let me do it.” I giggle as I slide the menu over to me.

Tanner puts his hand on top of mine, and warmth spreads up my arm.

“I can do it,” he says again.

God, he’s even stubborn when he’s drunk. He leaves his hand on mine and lifts my fingers up one by one to read the description. “This one is triple distilled and purified. It has the highest alcohol content of the lot.”

“Oh, fuck.” I snort. “Save the best till last, eh? Let’s do it on three.” I lift the glass with my spare hand. I haven’t moved the other one out of Tanner’s warm grip yet. We lift our glasses and clink them together. “One, two, three!” I count and knock mine back in one. Fuck, that was strong. Although, I’m determined not to let it show on my face. I look at Tanner, who hasn’t even blinked. Fucker.

“You called me Mr. Sixty-nine,” he says, smirking. His thumb rubs back and forth across my knuckles.

“I’ve called you a lot of things since I met you,” I say, noticing his pupils dilate as I look into his eyes.

“Have you?” he says, reaching forward and gently dusting the pad of his thumb over my bottom lip, his eyes following its path.

I know I should turn away or move out of his grasp. Do something. Yet, I just sit glued to the spot, watching his face as he studies my lips.

“It’s time I called a taxi. Shall I order one for you?” I ask, still not moving out of his touch. What’s wrong with me?

“No, Snow. I’ve got a room here for the night,” he says as he draws his hand back, the warmth leaving my lips.

“Snow?” I murmur.

His lips curl. “You said you’ve called me all sorts of things. Don’t I get to call you something?”

“Why Snow?” I ask, finding myself looking at his hand and wanting to feel it against my lips again.

“You make me think of Snow White. Your dark hair, your red lips,” he says, his eyes dropping to them again.

“And the seven dwarves I live with?” I raise an eyebrow at him.

“They’d be seven fucking lucky fellas.” His eyes meet mine, and I feel my heart hammering in my chest. Seriously, what the hell is wrong with me? Flirting is nothing new to me. Hell, I’m no saint, but I’m always in control. Somehow here, with Tanner, I can feel it slipping through my fingers. I know I should run, but my body is willing me—No—begging me to stay.

“You could be Grumpy,” I say. His eyes crease in amusement, but they never leave my lips.

“Come up to my room, Rachel,” he says quietly, running a hand through his hair and shifting in his seat so he’s closer to me and his thigh is pressed up against mine.

I swallow down the flutters rising from my stomach as I allow my eyes to roam from his face down over his broad shoulders, and muscular arms, and chest.

I know I should say no, but it’s not like I haven’t done this a ton of times before. It’s just sex, and he looks kind of hot tonight. Maybe it will put a stop to whatever this weird feeling is. Nip my growing attraction to him in the bud. I can fuck it out of my system and still be home by midnight.

“Fine,” I say, “but I’m not coming just because you want me to.”

He grins at me. “We’ll see about that.”


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