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Pleasing Mr. Parker: Chapter 28

Griffin

Reed as he raises his brows at me.

“Was that Maria?”

He slides a glass of bourbon toward me and nods at the bartender. “Two more.”

“Yes.” I drop my head into my hands and scrub them down my face.

“What did she say?”

I lift the glass and swirl the deep, amber-colored liquid around inside it before knocking it back in one hit. Reed passes me another wordlessly, taking a mouthful of his own as he rests one arm on the bar.

“She was about to head to the hospital.”

“Ah.” He shifts on his bar stool, getting comfortable, probably sensing we might be here awhile.

“That’s the last fucking thing this shit-show needs.”

I place my glass down, my eyes fixing on a stain in the deep brown wood of the bar. This is the place Reed and I come when shit gets serious. The small bar attracts a different clientele. The kind who all have something to drink about. And it isn’t rainbows and candy. No one bothers us, and we don’t bother them.

I side-eye Reed, who’s frowning into his glass.

“Why do you look so fucking glum? You’re not the one getting sued.”

“It won’t come to that.” He fixes his eyes on me as I slam my glass down on the bar, attracting a glance from the bartender.

“It’s already fucking come to that! They’re going for the whole fucking lot. Actual bodily harm, negligence… you fucking name it, it’s on those papers.” I hiss at the burn in my throat as I knock back the rest of my drink.

“That’s what they do, Griff. They wave some enormous balls around to scare you a bit, and then they settle. And that’s if The Songbird was at fault. How do you know this woman hadn’t eaten some weird superfood or some shit that made her swell up?”

I shake my head, cursing under my breath as I remember the unrecognizable face of Josanna Frederick as she was wheeled past me on a stretcher. Although, I don’t need my memory. It was plastered all over social media before she even got to the hospital.

Fucking fans and their cell phones.

“It doesn’t matter. No one fucking cares. All they see is the editor of US Vogue almost dying at The Songbird.”

“She swelled up a bit, so what?” Reed shrugs. “It happened to a guy I knew back in LA. Had his dick sucked during lunchtime by his mistress, who’d eaten a peanut butter sandwich an hour earlier. Poor bastard was more worried about his wife finding out than the state of his dick and face where she kissed him. I reckon the quick trip to hospital was the least of his worries.”

“This isn’t some guy who pushes papers around a desk, Reed. This is Josanna Frederick.” I meet his eyes as he looks at me, rubbing his fingers over his lips in thought.

“Your legal team is handling it. There’s nothing more you can do tonight. Why don’t you go home? Tell Maria what’s going on. She deserves to know.”

“Since when did you grow a conscience?”

He smirks at me before his face falls serious again. “It’s not her fault. Don’t ruin what you’ve got with her over this.”

“That’s not what I’m doing.”

Reeds raises a brow at me, his silence saying more than words can.

“I’m not,” I mutter, clenching my fist and releasing it again as the familiar twitch of feeling like I’m losing it prickles in my fingers.

“It’s all under control. Don’t worry. It’ll get sorted and be old news by the end of the week.”

I snort as I clench and release my hand again. It’s not under control. It’s fucking so far out of control that it felt like the ground was moving with every step I took out of Vogue’s offices this afternoon. The head of our legal team accompanied me. He knew what was coming. Fucking assholes. They’re going to drag The Songbird through the courts over this if they can. They don’t care about the money. It’s the story they’re after.

The Songbird is headlining the papers again, for all the wrong reasons. We only just got past the stolen formulations scandal, and now this.

And to think it happened in Maria’s spa, of all fucking places.

I’m too pissed to decide what to make of it yet. All I can focus on is proving that it wasn’t The Songbird’s fault. Avoid a fucking media circus. I’ve called an emergency meeting with the entire legal team at seven in the morning. We need to cut this off before it grows.

“Go talk to her,” Reed urges as the bartender takes our empty glasses.

I look around the bar. We are the last two drinkers. How the fuck did that happen? Another glance at my watch tells me it’s much later than I originally thought.

Looks like I will be running on extra coffee tomorrow morning.

I nod at Reed. He pats me on the shoulder, and we leave the bar and head home.


“Maria?”

I stomp into the darkened living area, yanking my tie off and throwing it onto the back of a chair, along with my jacket.

The dark outline on the sofa doesn’t move.

“You’re back, then?” Her voice is monotone.

“Yeah, I am.” I reach down and pull off my shoes, dropping them to one side before I stretch my neck side to side, cracking it.

“Why are you sitting out here in the dark?” I turn to her but can only make out the outline of her long hair falling around her shoulders.

“I was waiting for you. You sounded different on the phone. I thought something must be wrong.”

Wrong is an understatement.

“It’s—”

“Of course, I couldn’t ask you, because you hung up on me before I had a chance,” she snaps.

My skin prickles and I roll my lips. “Right, and you’re pissed about that.” I let out a sarcastic laugh. “I’m the one who spent the afternoon in Vogue’s head office explaining how their editor almost fucking died in my hotel. And you’re pissed because I didn’t take the time to talk to you on the phone!”

I walk over to the lamp and flick it on, bathing the room in a dim light.

“That’s not my point.”

“Well, what fucking is?”

I look over at her. She’s glaring at me, her eyes like deep brown crystals shimmering in the light. She’s still wearing her work dress, and it hits me—she’s been sitting here all evening. Sitting here getting pissed at me for not taking the time to engage in small talk on the phone when I was in the middle of handling a crisis.

“You don’t have to be an asshole.” She stands from the sofa, jabbing a finger in my direction. “Did you ever think I might want to know what was going on in those meetings? It happened in my spa, for God’s sake. I have a right to be involved!”

I stride over to her, blood rushing in my ears as I stop inches away, so our bodies are almost touching.

“It’s still my fucking hotel,” I hiss, my eyes holding hers as she stares back at me.

Her eyes drop over my shirt and back up. She tips her chin up, before whispering softly, “Fuck you.”

The way she says it makes it almost sound like something sweet. But the dark, dangerous hue her eyes have taken on tells me she meant it to hit me like a missile. Leave a huge fucking crater in all sense of reason that I might have had and taking all my restraint away with it.

“What did you say?” My eyes bulge in their sockets as I lean toward her.

She stands her ground, quirking her brows at me. “I said Fuck. You. Would you like me to spell it out for you? F. U—”

My jaw tenses. “Don’t fucking push me tonight, Sweetheart. I’ve reached my limit.”

“Oh? You’ve reached your limit? Well, maybe I’m sick and tired of you and your limits. Did you ever think about that? Hmm? What about me and my limits? I’m a part of this hotel as well. Something you can’t get through your thick skull.”

“They’re suing us.”

Her eyes go wide, but she doesn’t move.

I expect her to react. To gasp, ask questions… something.

I don’t expect silence.

“Did you hear what I—?”

“You blame me.” She stumbles back a step, her shoulders slumping like all the air has left her lungs.

Her statement stabs me in the gut, cutting through the foggy haze the long day and hard liquor have created.

“Of course not!” I snap back, screwing my face up.

“That’s why you spent the night out at a bar instead of coming home.” She looks to the ceiling, shaking her head. Her eyes are bloodshot, like she’s exhausted, emotionally, and physically.

“No, Maria, I don’t, I—”

‘It’s okay. I’d be asking myself how it happened. I am asking myself how it could have happened. I keep wondering what I missed. There’s nothing I can think of. I went to housekeeping to check what they launder the robes and towels in, what they mop the floors with. I spoke to maintenance to see if they made any changes to the air filters. I can’t understand it.”

“That’s what you did this afternoon?”

Despite everything, I can’t help the swell of pride in my chest, impressed with the lengths she’s gone to trying to make sense of what happened.

She glances at me, and then away again. “Yes. It’s what I did. And I was going to tell you when you got back from Vogue. Harley told me you were there. Only you chose to keep me out, deal with it yourself, feel like the one in control. Like usual.” She snorts, crossing her arms over her chest.

“I’m telling you now, aren’t I?” I take a step toward her, aching to touch her suddenly. We’ve never been alone in private like this, where she can’t even stand to look at me. “Jesus, Maria, what do you want from me?” I almost shout, my head spinning.

I grab a cushion that’s fallen from the sofa and hurl it across the room.

She watches it hit the wall, knocking a frame off center, then snaps her eyes back to me, something igniting in them.

“I want you to stop trying to buy me. Stop sending me flowers! Stop buying me designer bags! Stop spouting off romantic crap and giving me diamond earrings that make me think of you every time I look in the damn mirror!” Her eyes are wild as her chest heaves. She’s on a roll. “I don’t care about any of those things!”

“Then what do you fucking care about?” I step forward so I’m almost nose to nose with her. Her perfume washes over me, sending blood racing through my body. I flex my hands at my sides, itching to reach out and pull her to me.

She steps back again, distancing herself from me.

“You! This hotel! My job! I want you to stop shutting me out at work. I don’t know how many times I need to tell you.”

As my heart races in my chest, my control slips further through my fingers.

Pain… in her eyes. Pain I put there.

“Maria.” I reach for her, but she steps further away. “I get it, okay? You’re pissed. I was just trying to get my head around this fucking mess. Trying to think of some way I can stop them from suing the hell out of the hotel and turning everything to shit.”

“We can handle it.”

“No.” I squeeze my eyes shut. “will handle it. I’m meeting the legal team in the morning.” I need to get control of it. Of everything. Before it’s too late.

A huff of air escapes her lips as she rolls her eyes.

“What?” I grit, blood coursing through my veins.

“Nothing.” The disdain falls from her voice like water through a net. When her eyes come back to mine, they’re dull, their usual brightness extinguished. “Consider this my notice, Griffin. I think we both know it’s time I went back to California.”

“What? No!”

I’m on her before I even register what I’m doing. Forcing her back down onto the sofa seat as I hover on my arms above her, my lungs sucking in giant mouthfuls of air.

“You can’t fucking leave! I won’t allow it!”

“I can’t stay, either!”

She pushes at my chest, but I don’t move. I can’t move. The idea of her leaving has me paralyzed.

“You will never give up control. It’s like Emily said, this hotel is your wife! No one will ever be good enough to be trusted.”

My lips are inches from her as I hiss, “You know why I’m this way. As soon as I find out who stole from me, then I can—”

“You’ll what? Be magically cured?” She laughs quickly before her voice turns icy. “You’ll never be able to get over it.”

My eyes drop over her neck and her pulse beating out a powerful rhythm against her delicate skin. I’ve kissed that neck, felt that pulse beneath my lips so many times now.

She can’t leave me.

She can’t.

I’ve never wanted to change so badly for anyone. To let someone in. Until her. And now she’s threatening to leave me?

Anger courses in my veins as bile rises in my throat. Maybe that’s why the words race out of my mouth before I can stop them.

“Like you can’t get over your dad and your ex stealing from you, you mean? Always having to account for every cent, keep every fucking receipt. I’ve seen your purse. You’re living in the past as much as I am, Sweetheart.” I sneer.

Slap!

My head snaps to the side as her palm connects with my cheek. My skin stings from her touch. I pull my eyes back to hers. The fire has well and truly returned to them.

“You’re an asshole,” she hisses.

I glare back at her, my rage mixing with lust at how much fight she has in her.

It’s that fucking spirit that I love so much.

She can’t leave.

Arousal drowns my muscles as the strength in her voice breaks the dam, and I know beyond doubt what I need tonight. It’s not drinking my self-fucking pity away in a bar.

It’s her.

She’s my fucking lighthouse in a storm.

I should never have pushed her away tonight. Just breathing the same air as her now…

Fuck. Pushing her away was a mistake.

We are both panting, a mix of fury and something else in our eyes as our hot breath mixes together.

“I’m sorry.”

She turns her face to the side.

“I’m sorry,” I whisper again, moving my head so she has to look at me. My eyes hold hers, pleading with them.

She stares back at me.

Her eyes shine as she finally speaks. “That was really low.”

My heart plummets in my chest.

“I know… you’re the last person on this earth I want to hurt.” My eyes pinch at the corners as I stroke her hair back from her face. “I am sorry.”

I stare deep into her eyes, hating myself for the hurt that’s reflected. She’s done nothing but be incredible since she arrived in New York. She only wants what she deserves, what she’s earned—my respect and trust at work. Something I am so close to giving. So close. I thought I was there. But my actions tonight prove otherwise.

She doesn’t deserve this.

“Never disappear on me like that again.” Her eyes burn into mine, her chest rising as she sucks in wild, angry breaths. “Never again,” she repeats.

“I won’t,” I breathe, staring back at her.

She means so much to me. I want her more than I ever have. My cheek stings, but it only makes my already hard cock stiffer.

She glares at me a second longer, her chest rising and falling with angered breaths. Then she grabs the back of my head, pulling my mouth to hers in a desperate kiss.

I push my body into hers, one hand curling around her neck, holding her in place underneath me as I dive into her, devouring every soft moan she makes against my mouth. Each one speaking directly to my cock as I push against her.

We kiss until we are forced to pull apart to breathe.

“Fuck, I need you, Sweetheart. I need you so bad, I will explode if I can’t be inside you,” I gasp against her lips.

She gazes back at me, her beautiful hazel eyes captivating me, just like every time she looks at me like this—like I’m everything she was searching for.

“Show me.” Her words are stained with an undercurrent of hurt… and anger. But the fact that she’s still here, her hands holding my face to hers, tells me all I need to know.

“Don’t leave me, Sweetheart. Don’t ever leave me,” I murmur, my voice unsteady.

I unbuckle my pants, pushing them down as I yank her dress up around her waist.

“Griff?”

I stop, searching her face as she runs her fingers over my cheek. Her brows pull together as she traces the hot skin on my cheek.

“Yes?”

“I’m sorry I slapped you. But don’t push me away. Please. Never push me away.”

I hold her eyes. “I’m sorry. I’m sor—”

She grabs me, pulling my mouth to hers again, a whimper fighting its way from her throat as I drive my tongue inside her mouth and she grabs at my shirt, our bodies in their own hot, desperate fight to connect. To join together.

Desperate to just be.

I don’t even bother trying to remove her soaked panties; I just rip them to the side before sinking my cock deep inside her.

A deep, guttural groan leaves my lips as I drive forwards until my balls meet her skin.

“Fuck, Sweetheart. Fuck.” I hiss, one hand still on her throat, the other dropping to grasp her hip as she parts her legs wide.

Her eyes lock onto mine and her lips part. She clenches around me, hugging my cock inside her as I fight to maintain any semblance of control. She thinks I have it all the time. But she doesn’t realize she’s the one person who can unravel me. Her body, her scent, her touch… her words.

Threatening to leave me.

“You’re mine. You’ll always be mine.” I pump into her.

She tilts her head back and peels her spine away from the sofa, pushing her body up to meet me. I rotate my hips each time I drive down so her swollen clit rubs against my body.

“Look at me.”

She brings her eyes back to mine, lust flashing in them as her hands grip the back of my neck.

“You’re such a good girl, taking my cock so well.”

My words draw a deep moan from her lips as she wriggles underneath me, opening herself up further so I can sink deeper. I hold her eyes as pleasure bathes itself over her face. She loves it when I praise her. Despite all her fire, and me knowing I’ve met my match in her, I still have that. That one power over her I could so easily abuse, but never would.

She wants to please me.

It’s in her eyes, it’s the taste on her skin. Even when she fights with me, she can’t deny it. She needs it as much as I need to control. It fulfills some twisted part of each of us, planted there firmly from our pasts. We can both fight it. Deny it. But it will always be there. Like a scar that we wear. Only together, it can be something beautiful, worn like a mark of survival.

“Harder,” she cries, dropping her hands to my ass and pulling me into her. “Please, Griff… harder.”

I lean over to grab the arm of the sofa behind her head with both hands, using it to drive my body forward with everything I have, losing myself inside her.

She moans, shaking underneath me, covering me in her wetness.

“Fuck. Such a good, tight… Such a fucking tight—”

Her moans turn into gasps, and she screws her eyes shut, grabbing one of my shoulders and sinking her nails into my skin.

I know her body, her sounds.

She’s about to come.

“Look at me,” I growl.

She peels her eyes open, her pupils dilating.

I bite my lip and thrust into her once more, circling my cock inside as I’m buried to the hilt. It’s the final touch that sets her off and she bucks and writhes around below me.

“Fucking beautiful,” I murmur, as she comes undone and her wetness soaks my straining cock.

I thrust into her harder, her orgasm loosening her up so I can push even deeper. Even my balls grow slick from how wet she is. She watches me, her mouth slack as the familiar heat grows in my groin.

“You’re amazing, Sweetheart. Now watch as I fill you with my cum. Remember who this cunt belongs to.”

Her gaze never falters as I groan, then suck in a sharp breath, my cock going wild, pumping out my heat inside her.

Our eyes lock on to one another as I growl, “Mine.”

I’m clenching my ass cheeks. My cock threatening to cause me to take off, like a rocket. The strength of my release has me panting, searching her eyes.

“You’re mine,” I whisper, all strength from my voice deserting me.

Leaving me.

She nods, sucking in a breath, then pulls my face to hers, kissing me. Holding me against her. Being everything I need right when I need it most.

Right after I left her alone and then hurt her with words.

I screw my face up as we kiss.

She’s right. I am an asshole.

The biggest asshole in history.

“I love you.”

She freezes, and I hold my breath as she looks at me, her face serious.

She strokes along my jawline. “I believe you.” She kisses me again, her lips soft against mine. “Griff?”

“Sweetheart?” My chest shakes as the final parts of me leave, filling her body, giving her everything.

Including my heart.

The way she looks back at me steals my breath.

“I love you, too.”

She smiles.

And then her lips are back on mine.


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