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Pleasing Mr. Parker: Chapter 5


dot, there’s a determined knock at my office door.

“Griffin, I’d better let you get back to work. Thank you for lunch.”

Emily stands from the large leather sofa and picks up her purse.

“Don’t mention it. Give the family my regards, won’t you?”

Emily’s eyes drop to the clasp on her bag as she fiddles with it. “Of course. Dad’s always asking after you.”

“I’ll have to grab a drink with him. Join him and my dad at the club next time they’re in the city.”

A small frown passes Emily’s lips. It’s no secret that she’s always had a tense relationship with her father, Owen, my dad’s best friend. Too many drinks once at one of many family get-togethers, and he announced to the room how he had never been blessed with a son. I think life as an only child was lonely for her. She lived for all the holidays our families used to take together so she could hang out with me and my two brothers.

“Take care, Em. I’ll see you soon.”

“You can count on it. I’ve got some ideas for the fundraiser I want to run past you.”

“Of course,” I answer her as I open the door, but my eyes are drawn to Maria, who is standing behind it, heat radiating off her as she fixes her gaze on me.

“Ah, Maria. Thank you for coming. This is Emily. Emily, this is Maria, The Songbird’s new spa manager.” I step back as I make the introductions.

Emily looks at me in surprise, her brows shooting up her forehead, before recovering quickly to smile at Maria.

“Of course. Maria, it is so nice to meet you. Griffin was telling me you had started. And you’ve come all the way from LA. How have you found your first week?”

Maria’s gaze moves from me to Emily, and her face takes on a beautiful, open smile.

“Oh, it’s been interesting.” Her eyes flick to me again, then back to Emily. “It’s a stunning spa. I have some great ideas for it.”

“I would love to hear them“—Emily glances at her watch, her forehead wrinkling—”but I have to go.”

“Please don’t let me hold you up. It was lovely meeting you,” Maria says.

Emily smiles at her. “I’m so sorry to rush off. How about I come in next week? I’d love to spend more than one minute talking.”

“That sounds great.”

Emily nods at Maria and then turns to me, placing one hand gently against my chest as she reaches up and kisses me on the cheek.

“I’ll call you.”

My eyes meet Maria’s over Emily’s shoulder as she hugs me. Maria only breaks eye contact when Emily turns back to her.

“Bye, Maria.”

“Nice to meet you,” Maria says, watching Emily leave and close the door behind her, before whipping her eyes back to me, a trace of annoyance flashing in them.

“Maria, have a seat.”

I walk over to the large black leather sofas to one side of my office and undo the top button of my jacket with one hand, waiting for Maria to sit first before I sit opposite her.

“How was your lunch with Todd? You two looked rather comfortable together.”

Her shoulders pull upward as I say his name, her eyes pinching at the corners ever so slightly.

“Really, Griffin?” Her top lip curls as she shakes her head in what I can only describe as disgust.

I hold my hands up, studying her. How that little muscle tenses in her cheek.

“Merely an observation,” I say, dropping my gaze from her cheek, to her lips, then back to her eyes.

I could tell from across the restaurant just how close that fucker was getting. The thought irks me, and I run a hand down over my tie.

“If you are implying that I cannot be professional and keep my personal life separate from business, then you’re very much mistaken.” She narrows her eyes at me. “Of anyone in this hotel, you can trust me the most not to blur the lines.”

I stare back at her, and she refuses to drop her eyes away from mine—a silent challenge. She hasn’t denied there’s something going on between her and Todd. But I decide to leave that topic of conversation—for now.

“It sounds like you’re talking from experience?”

I lean back on the sofa, one arm slung casually over the cushions, and rest one foot over my other knee as I study her. I know everything there is to know about how she works and her achievements in LA. But the real Maria, who she is outside of work, what made her into the person she is—I’m clueless.

She drops her gaze, ignoring my question.

“Lunch was productive.” She sweeps her long, dark hair over her shoulder, and I sit mesmerized as my eyes follow it.

Does she even know what that does to any sane man?

Images of curling it around my fist flash through my mind.

“Of course, you could have joined us and heard it all for yourself. You were there, after all.” She appears irritated, her lips pursing as she stares back at me.

My lips curl slightly at the corners.

She is irritated.

“Greenhams does great fish. In the city, that isn’t always the easiest thing to find. When you mentioned it before, it reminded me I haven’t been there in a while,” I say calmly.

“Convenient,” Maria clips, her eyes assessing my casual position as she sits up straight, her hands clasped in her lap. The corners of her red glossy lips turn down before she takes a breath. “If you don’t trust me to take meetings alone and run the spa myself, then why did you approach me when I was in LA?”

And there it is. The reason I can’t get her out of my mind.

Another trace of amusement passes over my lips, and I hide it before she sees. I sit forward, resting my elbows on my knees. This is one thing that impressed me about Maria when I first met her. She’s direct. To the point. You don’t wonder where you are with her. And in business, that can save a lot of time and a great deal of wasted energy. It’s a sign of confidence and strength that I greatly admire.

“Maria. I don’t trust anyone completely. I’ve learned that lesson the hard way.” She parts her lips to speak, but I smile softly at her and continue. “I came to find you because I knew you were the best person to bring in for the role. You are what The Songbird needs. You have passion, drive, and determination. You bring something unique that no one else can. It was only a matter of time before someone else made you theirs. And I wasn’t about to let that happen.”

Her expression softens an iota, but her eyes remain fixed on mine.

“You’re right. I am passionate about what I do. And I am determined to make The Songbird even more successful than it already is. But in order for me to do that, I need to have the ability to make decisions, and know that you support me.”

She fixes me with a look that tells me she’s waiting for my compliance.

So I take my time answering, enjoying the way her red lips press tighter together with each stretching second.

I run my finger back and forth over my lips before finally nodding.

“I understand. I want the same things you do.” My eyes drop to her lips and back up again. “My interests are purely with the hotel and its continued success. Nothing is more important to me.”

“Good.” She seems to accept my answer as she reaches into her bag and takes out her cell phone. “So, you wanted an update on today’s meeting? Well, Todd and I—”

I scoff. Todd and I. Sounds fucking cozy.

Maria looks up from her phone and arches a brow at me before continuing.

“Todd and I were discussing the grower in The Bahamas. We’ve decided a face-to-face meeting is best. I’m going to suggest to him we book a flight for next Friday.” She types into her phone. “I’m putting it in my schedule now. So you’ll know where I am if you decide to check it.”

She looks up at me again, and I fight the compelling urge to snap a comeback at her, but instead I take a breath before I answer.

“Why would I do that? You’ve just told me where you’ll be. I don’t forget things easily, Maria.”

She swallows and purses her lips, then slides her phone back into her bag.

“So, you’ll be flying out early and coming back that evening?”

“Actually, it may include a one-night stay. The flight times don’t work out,” she replies.

“I see.” My shoulders tense as I run my hand down over my tie again. “Will Serena be accompanying you?”

“I don’t believe so. We can handle it.”

“I’ve no doubt you can, Maria.”

My brow furrows as I stand and invite her to do the same. I bet Tiny Tears Todd thinks all his fucking Christmases have come at once. Staying overnight in The Bahamas with Maria? He can ogle her till his balls feel like they’re going to explode.

“Once we’ve spoken to the grower, we can make plans going forward. I know we can source coconut sugar cheaper elsewhere. But I know this grower, and his quality is high. And you’ve used him for a long time, haven’t you? Loyalty perhaps counts for something.” She tilts her head to the side, her eyes narrowed as though she’s testing me.

“Hmm.” I realize I’ve been standing with my jaw clenched instead of showing her out. “Yes, loyalty, of course.”

“It’s becoming rarer, wouldn’t you say?”

She’s still looking at me, her eyes glinting. It’s like I’m on the fucking witness stand being cross-examined.

“Not for me.” I stare back at her, challenging her to say whatever it is she’s obviously thinking.

Instead, her eyes drop over my dark gray suit for the tiniest fragment of a second, before she speaks.

“Always a pleasure, Griffin. I’ll see myself out.”

She walks to the door and my gaze wanders down her long legs, and her high black stilettos with red soles as she leaves, clicking the door shut behind her.

I walk around my desk and reach my forearm up, resting it against the cool, hard glass of the window. Central Park spreads off into the distance. A young boy chases a group of pigeons just inside the entrance.

What the fuck was I thinking? I went to Maria, just as she’s said. I headhunted her.

I headhunted a woman with a sharp mind, who isn’t afraid to use it and call me out. A woman with long dark hair that I picture wrapping around my fist as I remind her which one of us is really in control. A fist, which has had to make do with wrapping around my hardened dick day and night, trying to banish this ridiculous interest she has piqued inside me.

I don’t mix dating and work. Or sex and work. It’s a recipe for disaster.

No… just no.

I headhunted her.

What the fuck have I done?


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