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Pleasing Mr. Parker: Chapter 2


the sky, a majestic creature, just like her name. I haven’t gone inside the main entrance yet. I’m still taking it all in. I went out of the private residence’s door this morning and took a walk in Central Park to clear my head. And because it was dark when the cab dropped me off from the airport last night, this is the first time I’m seeing the hotel’s main frontage in all its glory.

Pulling my shoulders back, I take in a deep, cleansing breath. It’s magnificent. All regal, stone architraves with gold accents around the windows. It looks old and luxurious in its French Renaissance style. Elegant and timeless. That’s how I described my vision for the spa in my first meeting with Mr. Parker. Working here is going to be magical—I can sense it.

“Impressive, huh?”

I turn. Bright eyes watch me in amusement.

“Hi!” I grin at Harley, Griffin’s personal assistant. I’ve spent more hours than I can count talking to her on video calls and setting up my move to New York.

“Is that all I get?” She laughs, her light, breathy voice matching her appearance perfectly. Her light blonde hair and hourglass figure make her a modern-day Marilyn. But all those video calls that veered off work talk and on to more fun topics mean I’m not fooled. Harley may look sweet, but she’s feisty and impulsive and very driven. I know we’re going to be good friends. And thank God because I know absolutely no-one in New York.

“Come here!” She pulls me into a hug, beaming brightly. “I can’t believe I’m actually seeing you again in person—finally!” Her eyes rake over my face and down my long, dark hair, which I’ve straightened and left down. “Oh, my God! You’re even more beautiful than I remember.”

I chuckle at how naturally she tosses out compliments. It’s something that struck me about her when she accompanied Mr. Parker to LA for that first meeting. She spent ages talking to all the staff at the hotel there, laughing and joking with them. Spreading positivity like a ball of luminous sunshine. I don’t think she realizes quite how beautiful that makes her.

“Thanks.” I laugh as she bounces on her toes and her eyes light up.

God, I remember being in my twenties and having that much energy.

“How’s the apartment? Did you sleep okay your first night?”

“I did, thank you. Well, after my neighbor’s guests left, anyway.” I shake my head, recalling the loud session that served as my ‘welcome to the building’ party.

“I didn’t realize he had guests staying.” Harley wrinkles her nose before shrugging her shoulders. Before I can ask who—or explain that they weren’t the out-of-town family type of guests—she links her arm through mine and pulls me across the plush sidewalk carpet and up the steps toward The Songbird’s main door. “Come on, let’s go in!”

I say good morning to the doorman as he tips his hat and gives me a warm smile.

“Good morning, Ms. Taylor.”

“How did—?”

“Oh, it’s Earl’s job to know everyone around here. Isn’t it, Earl?” Harley stands on her toes and gives him a kiss on his gray whiskered cheek. The action draws a twinkle to his eyes, and he shakes his head at her.

“You’ll be getting me into trouble, Harley.” He chuckles.

“I don’t know the meaning of the word.” She winks at him. “How’s pigeon-gate going?”

I look between them in puzzlement.

“Earl’s been having problems with some locals and the sidewalk welcome carpet.” Harley tips her head to the deep pink carpet we’re standing on.

“Pigeons,” Earl mutters. “Every morning, I shoo them away. But sometimes they’ve already left us a gift. I have to make sure the evidence is gone before Mr. Parker arrives.”

“Yeah. That would not go down well.” Harley snorts. “He’s a control freak, as you’ll no doubt find out, Maria. If it’s not perfect, then he demands to know why.”

“He’s not so bad,” Earl adds, looking at me and smiling kindly. “If you’re good to him, he’ll be good to you. I’ve worked here for forty years, in various positions around the hotel. First for senior Mr. Parker, and now for Mr. Parker. They’re a wonderful family who hold trust and loyalty highly.”

“Thank you, that’s good to hear.” I smile back.

“Forty years, Earl?” Harley shrieks. “You don’t look a day over thirty-five.”

His eyes crinkle at the corners. “You’ve made an old man’s day, Harley, even if you do need glasses.”

“Never! Mrs. Earl is a lucky lady.” She grins at him and pulls me in through the main door.

Earl holds it open for us and chuckles as we head inside.

My jaw almost hits the floor, and I compose myself before I look like a star-struck idiot.

Holy… Wow!

“I know, right?” Harley laughs. “And you thought outside was impressive.”

She leads us across the giant cream marble lobby, and underneath a crystal chandelier the size of a small country. The online video tours of the hotel I watched online in preparation did not do it justice.

“It looks so much… bigger in person,” I say as I swallow down a tiny bubble of anxiety dancing in the pit of my stomach.

I’m not usually nervous. And Mr. Parker wouldn’t have chosen me personally if he didn’t believe I was capable. What the hell has gotten into me? I can do this job standing on my head. I know I can. It’s just, talking about contracts, and looking at photographs and videos is not the same as standing here in person. Not even close. The Songbird is simply breath-taking. It would be enough to make anyone nervous.

I press my lips together and take another subtle look around. The nerves in my stomach turn into flutters of excitement as it sinks in. This is me now. This is my challenge for the next six months. To hell with being nervous. From this moment on, I intend to enjoy every second.

Harley smiles at me. “Come on. Let’s go find Mr. Parker and say good morning. Then I’m giving you the grand tour before all the boring ‘welcome to the company’ paperwork begins.”

I laugh as Harley feigns a yawn, and we walk across the lobby toward a bank of elevators. Even the thought of filling out a pile of forms cannot deter the warmth that is spreading in my chest. All the creams, golds, and deep pinks—this place is hotel class at its finest. I can’t describe it, but something here feels right—like I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. I know working here will push me into achieving something spectacular.

Harley scans her employee ID card to the elevator control as we step inside. “We need to get you one of these. We’ll take you to security later and get your picture taken.” She reaches out a glossy pink nail and presses a button for one of the high floors.

“Mr. Parker’s office is near the top?”

“Yes, almost. The big penthouses take up most of the higher levels. But we have a section of offices in the east wing. We’ve got a great view of the park from there. Mr. Parker’s office has the best view, naturally.” She laughs and checks her watch. “This time of the morning, he’ll be in his office making calls.”

“Right.” I nod, even though I don’t have the first idea what the routine for someone like him is. Harley told me she has been Mr. Parker’s assistant for the last five years. His routine is second nature to her. She probably knows it better than him.

The elevator doors slide open slowly and I walk alongside Harley into an open reception area. A young man in a suit with short blond hair gives us a dazzling smile from his seat behind a giant curved marble desk. Behind him is an office full of people working at desks.

“Maria, meet Will.”

I raise a hand in a wave and give him a bright smile.

“Will is your go-to guy for anything around here. You need something fixed in the spa? Call Will. You need an emergency outfit because you spilled coffee all down yours? Will. Emergency condom for a hot date? Will.” Harley ticks off things on her fingers as she talks. “Of course, these are just examples. No-one has ever come to you for condoms, right, Will?”

I look between the two of them with a raised brow, and Will laughs as Harley gives him an exaggerated wink. Then he turns his attention to me.

“It’s so nice to meet you, Maria. I’ve heard all about your visions for the spa. They sound incredible. I’m sure you’ll love working here at The Songbird. We’re a friendly bunch. Like Harley said, if you need anything, you just ask. My official role here is head of hotel administration. But as Harley’s wonderful introduction said, whatever you need, just ask. If I can’t help, I can find someone who will.”

“Thank you.”

I’m going to love it here, if Harley, Will, and Earl are anything to go by.

“Right. Let’s go see Mr. Parker.” Harley spins away from the desk.

“He’s in his office making calls,” Will says.

“Glad to see he’s on schedule,” Harley calls over her shoulder as we walk down a wide corridor. “Seriously, Maria, you could set your watch according to Mr. Parker. He likes to do things a certain way. I’m sure you know what that’s like, having already run your own business.”

I nod as we walk past a long glass-fronted office with closed blinds and stop in front of the door. I know what that’s like. I’m exactly the same. That’s part of the passion for running your own business. You want things to be perfect.

The sound of a deep, throaty voice talking inside filters out. I expect Harley to say we will come back later. He’s obviously on a call, but she lifts her hand and knocks on the glass door.

“Come in,” the voice calls.

Harley opens the door and stands back so I can enter first. The second I cross the threshold; cool blue eyes lure me in. Mr. Parker is standing by the window; Manhattan’s magnificent skyline behind him.

He assesses me coolly, subtly taking in my fitted red dress. It hugs all the right places, but in a powerful way. A way which, when teamed with my shiny, heeled pumps, says, ‘this woman knows what she’s doing.’ At least that’s what I thought it said. Now I feel like it was the wrong choice entirely. I dart my eyes to either side of him quickly before coming back to hold his gaze and giving him a polite smile.

Maybe he hates the color. Judging by his office—all black, chrome, and glass—he doesn’t strike me as a lover of bright things. Even his designer suit is charcoal, and his tie deep gray. Then again, it makes the crystal blue of his eyes stand out. Maybe that’s his plan. Distract his enemy with his hypnotic gaze. It takes me back to our first meeting. This is obviously how he is. Brilliant at what he does—The Songbird is like stepping into a magical world of luxury, where you can imagine your dreams coming true. But he is also cool and calculated. It makes sense. This is business, after all, not the PTA bake sale. I’m not here to make friends. I’m here for one thing, and one thing only—to create something special.

Taking in a deep breath and clearing my throat, I square my shoulders back as he says goodbye to whoever is on the other end of the line and drops the phone onto his desk. I’m being stupid and forgetting what’s important. Frankly, I don’t give a shit whether he likes my dress or not. I’m here to do a job, not to please him with my wardrobe choices.

“Ms. Taylor.” He gives me a formal nod as he rounds his desk and holds his hand out. The scent of something fresh and invigorating follows him, like the air in a tropical garden after rain.

I reach out and take his hand, staring into his eyes. He finally smiles at me, but it seems to take a great effort to do so. I’d even go as far to say he looks pissed.

“My apologies if we disturbed you,” I offer with my best business-like smile as his large, warm hand envelops mine. It’s another thing I noticed about him when we first met. His hands are huge. Strong and masculine, with long fingers and clean, neat nails. I always admire a man’s hands. They can tell you a lot about someone. My ex, for example, always had dirty nails. I hated that he didn’t care enough to wash them properly. It’s not like he even worked outside or in a job where they got dirty every day. He had no reason for it, except downright laziness.

Mr. Parker keeps my hand firmly in his as I hold his gaze. “And please, call me Maria.”

Something seems to shift in him, like he’s remembered where he is, and that Harley is standing next to me. He slides effortlessly into business mode, giving me a warm smile, which, when added to his dark hair and jawline that could cut glass, makes him look like a Greek god dressed in Prada.

“Maria. It’s a pleasure to see you in person again. I can’t tell you how excited we are to have you here, joining us at The Songbird.” He places his other hand over mine, completely trapping it between his. “Please, call me Griffin. I hope your first night was comfortable?”

I hold back the smirk that’s threatening to take over my face as the gold class ring on his pinkie finger glints at me. The same one I saw last night, squeezing the blonde’s ass in the hallway.

Oh, Mr. Parker. I’ve got you figured out.

Harley told me he has a penthouse in the building. I just didn’t expect to be given the one next door while I’m working here.

“It was brilliant, thank you. Although the sound proofing between apartments could do with updating.” I raise my eyes to his.

He’s studying me intently, his brow furrowed. “Really?”

“Yes.” I stare back into his eyes. I bet he’s great at poker. His face gives nothing away. He’s got balls; I’ll give him that. I’ve as good as told him I heard him fucking two women all evening, and he’s totally unfazed. Then again, why wouldn’t he be? He doesn’t have to explain himself to me.

“Well, I’m sorry if it affected your ability to relax. I’ll get someone to see to it straight away.” He takes both of his hands back, and the cold air hits my skin.

“That’s very considerate of you, thank you.” I smile as he runs a hand down over his tie, his eyes never leaving mine.

“Has Harley given you a tour yet? I’m sorry I can’t do it myself, but I have a meeting this morning, which couldn’t be rescheduled.” He clears his throat and looks at Harley.

“That’s next on our list. We came to see you first.”

“Excellent.” He turns and walks back around his desk. “Harley can help you with HR and security, getting everything organized, and I will see you this afternoon.”

“This afternoon?”

“At the meeting with the spa product suppliers,” Harley adds, as I frown.

“Yes, I’m aware of the meeting. I just didn’t see your name on the attendees’ schedule that I was sent over.” I direct my statement to Mr. Parker.

“You wouldn’t have, Maria. I’m not on it.” He looks down at a pile of papers on his desk and starts flicking through them.

My stomach tightens.

You’re not on it because there’s no reason you need to be there.

It’s exactly the sort of meeting I would run back in LA. And exactly what I thought we’d agreed I would do by myself when I took the role up here. I don’t need him breathing down my neck, checking I know how to do my job properly. If he doesn’t think I’m capable, why did he hire me?

“I thought I could make the introductions, seeing as you haven’t met before.” His eyes leave the paperwork on his desk, and he looks up at me, arching a brow.

Why, you arrogant…

I smile politely, not buying a word. “Of course. That’s kind of you. But I’m more than happy to attend alone. I’m sure you have a busy schedule.”

Harley’s eyes dart between the two of us.

“You’re welcome. But I insist, Maria.” He smiles at me, his brow arching higher over his intense gaze.

I wasn’t thanking him. Cocky, self-assured—

“Right, we’ll leave you to it.” Harley cuts in, steering me out of the room and closing the door behind us before I can object any further. She waits until we’re at the end of the hallway before she turns to me. “Oh, my god.”

“I know,” I tut, shaking my head. The bloody nerve of him. I can see working with him is going to be harder than I thought. Mr. Parker is obviously not a man who is used to giving up control.

“I’ve never seen him like that before.” Harley’s eyes widen. “You know what that was, don’t you?”

A controlling ass in a suit?

“Mr. Parker not trusting me,” I huff out.

She wrinkles her nose in confusion. “No, Maria. That was sexual tension at its absolute finest.” She grabs my arm, and I look at her like she’s deranged. She ignores me and grins, her eyes gleaming. “No one ever affects Mr. Parker. You being here is going to be so much fun!”

The rest of the morning whizzes by. Harley is the perfect host, giving me a tour of the hotel, and telling me gossip about things guests and members of staff have gotten up to. Especially at some of their famous charity galas, which a close family friend of Mr. Parker’s runs. Maybe that’s what it takes to earn his trust—years of playing in sandboxes together as kids. I only have six months to show him what I can do. But it’s enough. He will eat one of his silk ties when I show him what I’m capable of.

After seeing the spa and meeting the team there, we head to lunch. The hotel has multiple restaurants, but Harley insists we go to her favorite deli around the corner, saying we need to escape ‘the nest’ before we go ‘cuckoo’.

“You okay? You’re kind of glowing.” Harley looks at me as we join the line in the deli.

“Is it that obvious?”

She raises her brows and then breaks into a giggle. “It’s pretty spectacular, isn’t it?”

“That’s one word for it.” I can’t help my wide ear-to-ear grin that’s been there ever since we went into the spa. It’s like no place on earth. One foot in through its large, ornate doors, and you are stepping into heaven, or the Garden of Eden. You’re surrounded by lush, green plants, the sound of running water, and incredible giant columns made of Jerusalem limestone flown in from Israel. I saw pictures of it before moving to New York, but they did not do it justice.

“A guy in London who owns a global property re-development business designed it. Him and Mr. Parker are good friends,” Harley says as she scans the menu board behind the counter.

“Yes, I read about Mr. Grayson. How long have they known each other?”

“Um, just over three years. They met while I’ve been at The Songbird.”

I rub my lips together as I take in this new piece of information.

“What happened to the lady who was the spa manager before me?” I ask as we reach the front of the line.

Before Harley can answer, the server takes both our orders. Harley takes her card out, ready to pay.

“Oh no, you don’t.” I place my hand over hers and pass the server a twenty. I ask for a receipt and Harley’s gaze lands on my wallet as I neatly fold it and place it next to the rest of the receipts, which are squeezed so tightly inside that it’s almost prevented from zipping closed.

I slot the wallet into my purse, and we take our food and drinks and walk over to a free table.

“Thanks for lunch.” She smiles as we take a seat. She lifts the lid off her latte and inhales deeply. “Ah, come to Mama, baby.” She catches me smiling and looks pointedly at my cup. “Trust me, Maria. You’ll want to kiss me. No place makes them better. Not even The Songbird.”

I laugh and take a sip of mine. “You know? I think I must agree.” I swallow the sweet, creamy liquid as Harley clinks her cup gently against mine.

“Yes! Latte sisters.” She laughs.

I smile at her as we unwrap our sandwiches and eat.

“Okay. The last spa manager,” she says after finishing a mouthful. “Where do I even start?”

I wait as she purses her lips in thought.

“She was okay. Gwen, I mean. The spa was doing well. But then there was all this stuff with the formulations for the signature products going missing. It was suspicious. There were only a handful of people who had access to them. Gwen being one of them. It all got weird. Then she and Mr. Parker broke up, and she left. No one really knows what happened.”

I stop, my sandwich poised halfway to my lips. “Hang on. They broke up?”

“Yeah. They were dating for a while. Two months, I think.”

I put the sandwich down and lean back in my seat. Mr. Parker dated someone at The Songbird? I would expect him to want to keep his work and personal life separate, like I do. But then, he isn’t me. He’s a billionaire. That kind of wealth and power buys you the luxury to do whatever the hell you want.

“He never looked at her the way he does at you, though,” Harley says, observing me.

“What? God, no, I’m not thinking that.”

“Really?” She raises an eyebrow.

“No! No, no, no.” I protest as Harley’s lips curl into a small smile.

She goes back to eating her sandwich, her eyes on me. I cannot believe she thinks I’m asking about them dating because I’m interested in him like that.

“I’m just surprised he dates people he works with, that’s all,” I say as I take a sip of my drink.

“There was only Gwen. And he hasn’t dated anyone else at work since. He learned that lesson the hard way,” she says. “Well, I thought he had. Until I saw the way he looked at you when we came to LA, and again today.”

“You’re wrong.”

My skin prickles as I picture his cool blue eyes assessing me. If anything, I would say Mr. Parker doesn’t even like me. Not personally, anyway. He must have chosen me because he knew I could do a great job. But outside of a professional capacity, I cannot see us having anything in common.

“Maybe. But I doubt it. I can read men very well. It’s a skill I’m well rewarded for.”

I narrow my eyes at Harley in interest. “Sounds intriguing. I’m guessing there’s more to that comment?”

She laughs. “Come for drinks one night with me, and I’ll tell you all about it. Right now, we need to think about heading back. You’ve got the supplier meeting this afternoon, and we still need to go to security to pick your pass up. It should be ready now.”

“Oh, yes,” I groan.

The meeting, which Mr. Parker is hijacking.

I can’t wait.


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