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Drawn to Mr. King: Chapter 11

Jaxon

    of today’s schedule, Mr King,” Veronica says to me as we get into the back of the car.

“Thank you.” I take the bound paper and flick through it. I already know exactly what’s in here; I’ve memorised it. Nine thirty, welcome all the kids from the five local schools—age range six to twelve years old—who were selected to act as a ‘test panel’ for this stage of the White Fire project. Ten, Tina to give a brief talk to introduce the book series. At ten-thirty, read them some passages from the books and ask them to discuss them in groups afterwards. Then a break before showing them images the team has come up with, etc., etc. Then comes the feedback questionnaires—the open discussions—for which there is a team of note-takers and two cameras recording, so we don’t miss anything.

Lastly, there’s the round-up, thanks, and goody-bags. Some older kids coming today may like to be treated like adults, but I’ll bet my ass they won’t be too old for a thank-you goody-bag. Not when they see what we’ve put in them.

Fifteen minutes later, we pull up to the hotel where we are hosting the event.

“Oh, doesn’t it look great since the refurbishment?” Veronica exclaims as she climbs out of the car.

I thank our driver and tell him we will see him later and then lead Veronica into the hotel’s grand foyer.

We head over to the reception desk, and the young woman there looks up with a smile.

“Good morning, Mr King, Mrs Mills. I trust you had a pleasant journey here, and the traffic wasn’t too bad?”

“It was fine, thank you.” I look at her briefly before my gaze is drawn to the wall behind her.

“It’s a lovely piece, isn’t it?” the receptionist says, looking up at the giant artwork. “We get a lot of comments about it.”

“Oh, it’s marvellous,” Veronica adds. “I see what you mean now, Mr King. It is quite striking.”

“Yes.” I clear my throat, peeling my eyes away from Megan’s work.

This is one of the stupidest ideas I’ve ever had.

What was I thinking, asking Veronica to book the event here?

This hotel, that picture?

Fuck.

Just looking at it evokes too many memories.

Memories of the way she looked at me that night. The way she said my name. The sounds she made when she came, the taste of her sweet skin on my tongue.

God, I’m an idiot.

Being here, in this hotel. In the same room as her. It’s completely different from the last time I was in a room in this hotel with her.

It will be torture.

And it’s nothing less than I deserve.

“Everything’s set up for you, just as you requested,” the receptionist says as she makes her way around from behind the desk. “Please, if you’ll come with me, I will show you the way.”

I take one last glance at the picture on the wall and follow her.

The conference hall is set up with round tables. Each sits five—four kids and one adult from either King Publishing or Articulate to take notes and ask the kids’ questions. At the front are a few chairs and a table where Tina is already linking up her laptop for the large screen behind her. She gives me a wave, and I nod in greeting. She’s got her PA, Sarah, with her, who’s setting up a couple of cameras. Over to one side is a long table with tea, coffee, and various pastries set out to welcome everyone at nine-thirty.

We’re all good to go.

“Mr King,” the receptionist turns to me as Veronica heads over to the front table to set up, “please let me know if there’s anything else you need throughout the day. We will, of course, keep all the refreshments topped up. You wanted lunch brought in at noon. Is that still the case?”

“Yes, thank you.”

“Very well, then. I shall bring your guests through as they arrive.” She gives me a smile and heads out of the room.

I walk around between the tables, reading the place cards.

Electra-Star, Honeybelle, Thor…

“Where do people come up with these names?”

I turn, and Megan is standing next to me, her nose wrinkled in thought as she reads the cards.

“I have no idea.” I chuckle, looking at her sideways.

She’s wearing a pair of dark green, fitted trousers with high-heels and a cream silk blouse. Her curls are swept into a low ponytail, which is draped over one shoulder.

You hear people described as looking like an angel when they’re beautiful. But Megan’s beauty is unique. It’s ethereal and whimsical. It suits her creativity and her sweet nature. She’s more like a woodland fairy, rare.

Magical.

I shake the stupid thought out of my head. I only have to be near her, and my brain misfires.

“Would you like a coffee?” I turn towards the table, and she walks beside me.

When we get there, she chews on her pink lips, and I pick up a mug, just to stop myself from reaching out and pulling her to me by her chin.

“I’ve been off coffee for a couple of weeks now.” She frowns, looking through the herbal tea bags, which are in a tray on the table.

“I thought you might say that.”

I head over to the front desk, where the equipment I brought with me has been placed. I find what I’m looking for and head back over to Megan.

“Here.” I take the lid off the flask and pour it into a mug, handing it to her.

She leans over the mug, peering at its contents. “What’s this?”

“Ginger tea. It’s my mother’s recipe. She used to make it for me to help when I was upset, after my dad—” I trail off. “We discovered it’s pretty nice to drink when you can’t stomach anything else.”

“Oh.” Megan’s eyes close momentarily in pleasure as she takes a sip. “It’s delicious. Thank you.”

“You’re very welcome, Megan.” Her name rolls off my tongue, and I swear her cheeks flush ever-so-slightly pink when I say it.

I catch her eyes, and they light up as she looks at me. I smile at her, no make that grin. I full-on fucking grin at her. So much for keeping it professional. If I thought for a second I could spend this time with her and be able to keep a lid on my feelings, then I was wrong. Seeing her now, smiling at me, sharing a moment, shows just how far off I was.

I know I should keep a distance.

But what I should do and want to do are fighting a war inside me right now, and it’s becoming clearer each time I see her which one will win.

“Mr King, good morning,” Megan’s friend, Lydia, pipes up as she comes to join us, closely followed by their manager, Phil.

I don’t miss the fact that his eyes are on Lydia’s legs as he reaches us.

Lydia says something to Megan, which I don’t hear, but she coughs into her mug as her eyes land on Phil’s bright yellow tie. I raise an eyebrow at her in question, but she just smiles at me innocently. I’ll have to remember that she can pull a good poker face when she chooses to.

I reach out a hand. “Good morning, Phil.”

“It is a good morning, isn’t it? I must commend you on your choice of hotel. It’s very impressive. Did you see the artwork behind the reception area? Outstanding.” He grins as he pumps my hand enthusiastically.

“It certainly is. You are very lucky to have such talented people on your team like Megan.”

Phil frowns in confusion, and Megan looks at me in surprise before I nod at her and Lydia, then head off to talk to Tina.

Four hours later, we are almost finished.

The day has been a success.

The kids have been excitable and loud, as expected, but they’ve given us some great feedback and were engaging in the group discussions.

I head over to Megan’s table, where she’s sat with some younger children, two boys and two girls.

“Okay, okay, I’m almost done.” She smiles as she sweeps her pencil over the sketchpad on the table.

I walk up behind her and lean over her chair, resting one hand on the table.

“Did anyone ever tell you, you should be an artist?” I whisper.

She jumps in her seat, and the kids erupt into giggles.

“He scared you!” a delighted boy says.

“I thought you were going to scream!” A little girl with a gap where her two front teeth should be grins.

“Yes, he did.” Megan smiles, turning to narrow her eyes at me. “Don’t you know it’s rude to creep up on people, Mr King?”

My dick twitches.

Mr King?

Fuck, the sound of her saying it like that has my mind racing off down all sorts of sordid rabbit holes.

“My apologies, Megan.”

I pull up a spare chair from the neighbouring table and sit down next to her. She looks at me from the corner of her eye as a smile plays on her lips.

“Have you finished now?” the little girl with the toothy grin asks.

“Yes, I’m all done.” Megan tears the page from her sketchbook and hands it to her.

“That’s so awesome!” the little boy next to her cries.

“I know! I’m riding a dragon.” She turns to the little boy and gives him her best dragon roar.

Megan’s grinning as she watches them.

“Did you do all the kids one?”

I look at the drawings. I can recognise each child from Megan’s table, all drawn as mythical cartoon versions of themselves. One is riding a dragon, another one feeding a unicorn. One looks like he’s flying over a lake with a monster in it, and the last one is twirling up some kind of magical rainbow storm wearing a cape.

“Yes, just the ones at this table.” She smiles and shrugs her shoulders as I catch her eye.

“We’re the best table!” the little boy leans over and whispers.

“We know the about the magic,” another little girl hisses.

“Don’t tell him!” The little boy folds his arms and sticks out his bottom lip.

“It’s okay,” Megan points to me and leans forward, lowering her voice, “he’s one of the friendly ones.”

A little girl looks me up and down. “Are you sure? He doesn’t look friendly to me.”

I stick out my tongue at her and cross my eyes until she giggles and claps a hand over her mouth.

“Oh, he’s just had too much grumpy juice this morning,” Megan says.

I pull an exaggerated frown and then pretend to cry, rubbing my fists against my eyes. Megan looks at me, and her shoulders shake as she laughs.

“Is that the stuff grown-ups drink that smells like dirt?” The little boy screws up his nose.

Megan’s still laughing as she tilts her head to the side. “Yeah, I guess it is.”

“You didn’t have any this morning. You had your happy juice,” the little girl says, looking at Megan’s now-empty mug of ginger tea.

“I did indeed. Jaxon gave me that. So, we know he’s a friendly one.” She gives me a smile, and my heart literally skips a beat.

“But the one in the yellow tie, he’s a grumpy one?” the girl asks.

“He can be,” Megan says.

“He makes you draw other people’s bottoms!” the little boy squeals, and they all start giggling again.

“Yes, he does that. But now I’m here with all of you, drawing all sorts of fun stuff!” She grins at the kids.

Tina’s PA, Sarah, appears and announces it’s time to go. The kids all groan in unison but soon perk up as she hands them each a goody-bag with theme park tickets and various magical treats and tricks in. They form a line, and all wait to give Megan a hug goodbye before they leave. She seems overwhelmed by it, smiling and saying something to each one of them.

She turns to me when they’ve all gone.

“Wow. Tough crowd, but I think we won them over.” Her eyes are shining brightly with energy.

“You won them over, you mean?” I look at her glowing face.

“I think the funny faces helped.” She smirks as she gathers up her things and starts packing them into her bag.

I blow out a chuckle and rub a hand across my chin. “I have a grown-up son. It’s been a while since I spent time with kids that age, though.”

Megan nods in understanding. My mention of Christopher doesn’t seem to be a surprise to her.

“Well, you’re very good with them. They liked you.”

“I don’t know how I did it now, looking back. It’s exhausting. They’re on the go twenty-four seven.”

“I can imagine.” She smiles.

“Thank God, that’s all behind me. I can enjoy things like lie-ins again now.”

Listen to me. I never lie in. I’m always too busy working.

Megan’s smile fades, and her brow creases. She rises from her seat in a rush.

“I’ll see you at the feedback meeting,” she says, avoiding my gaze.

“Yes, okay. See you then,” I say, puzzled.

She gathers her things together and slips past me.

“Bye, Jaxon.”

We were just chatting and laughing together minutes ago. Now she can’t wait to get away from me.

I just can’t get it right with her.

I try to keep away from her and end up coming across like I’m in a perpetually foul mood. Now, when I try to loosen up and chat with her, she clams up.

I watch her walk across the room to meet Lydia.

The two of them walk out of the hall together, along with my last shred of hope that I have even the faintest clue about what just happened.


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