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The Interview: Chapter 34

MIMI

I can’t stop blushing. Every time I glance his way, I can feel my cheeks heating. I’m not even a blusher, per se, yet here I go again. It’s not even nine in the morning, and I must be on blush number six, at least.

“Kissing your hand makes you blush?” Whit’s gaze shines approvingly as he peers over the top of our linked fingers. The Bentley then goes over a bump in the road and our knuckles inadvertently catch him under the nose.

“Oh, ouch!” I say yet can’t stop my giggle as he, then stares at me through one narrowed eye. “What’s that look for? If you hadn’t been holding my hand—”

“And I can’t help that I can’t stop touching you.”

Ah, me. With each passing day, I turn a little more into Romeo’s love-sick girlfriend. But it can’t go on forever, can it? It’s just all that new relationship energy. And that’s what we’ve agreed on—a relationship. Even if it is going to be temporary. I don’t know. Maybe it’s that factor that makes things seem so much more joyful and brighter—because we have an end date in sight and we’re either consciously or unconsciously trying to cram all those moments in. It would explain Whit’s insatiable sexual appetite, I guess. Mine, too. We just can’t keep our hands off each other. It’s no wonder I blush.

“Then I guess you’ll just have to take those knocks.” Leaning over the center console, I press my free hand to his cheek and bend in for a kiss. But again, the Bentley goes over a pothole, and I miss my intended target, my lips grazing the divot above his finely carved top lip. He gives a satisfied little hum at the contact, and I find myself murmuring, “That answers that question.”

“What question?” Amusement seeps into his reply. “I said nothing.”

And there I go, blushing again. “You didn’t ask the question. It was a question I asked myself. Before.” Before we’d even kissed. Not that kissing was our first act of intimacy. “I just wondered what noise you’d make if I kissed you here.” I press my finger to the space. It fits perfectly. “I liked it,” I add softly. Taking my hand, I pull a face as I land a tiny punch to his arm.

“What was that for?”

“For making me a total simp.”

“I hope that’s a good thing.”

“Depends which angling you’re looking from,” I grumble.

“You don’t have a bad angle.” Dropping his voice, he adds, “I especially liked the rear aspect last night when you were on all fours.”

I inhale a tiny gasp, angling my gaze George’s way.

“Don’t worry. He can’t hear.”

“How can you tell?”

“Because I pay him enough not to.”

“I don’t think that’s how hearing works. Good Lord.” My plea to the heavens comes out on a quiet breath. “This can’t go on forever,” I then mutter to myself.

“What can’t?”

“This…” I make a gesture back and forth between us, kind of manically waving my hand. “How we are.” I lower my voice to a whisper. “It can’t be normal to have this much sex.”

Whit’s peel of laughter fills the car, loud and unrepentant. “Is there a prescribed number of times, do you think?”

I slide him a look because, really. What kind of question is that? Neither of us can get enough, which is only part of the reason I haven’t moved back to Doreen’s place. But then, she hasn’t gone back, either. The house was given declared structurally sound last week, though Doreen has taken Frank up on his sudden offer to make his house slippers a permanent fixture under her bed. They’re even talking about getting married. Of course, I’d asked her not to mention where I was sleeping to my parents.

Us girls can stick together,” she’d said. “A little white lie won’t hurt them.”

Them, no. Me? I guess eventually.

Meanwhile, I’m just enjoying the benefits of having a man like Whit around. And enjoying those benefits repeatedly. It’s a good thing Whit is so busy during the day, or I’d never get any work done. Because when he is there, oh boy. Yesterday, for instance, he called me into his office to ask me to pick up a dropped pencil. Next thing, his hand is on my ass and from there, our clothes just seemed to disappear. Then there was the spanking I got for trying to redecorate his office (that monument to the love of monotone) when all I did was place a cactus no bigger than a bar of soap on his desk. It was in a pink and yellow pot, and had googly eyes, but still. I also might’ve dotted a few more of them around the place.

But that spanking lead to other things.

Last week, in an effort to do something normal, I bought tickets to a local movie theater. Whit was so amused when I insisted on paying for his popcorn too and made some comment that it would cost me more than a movie and a bucket of popcorn to get him to put out. This was a blatant mistruth given we were forced to leave before the movie had reached the halfway point. It was either that or face a potential public indecency charge. Then there was the drive out to the countryside when it began to rain unexpectedly. We’d taken a picnic but didn’t make it that far, gorging on each other instead. And in a car the Bugatti’s size called for some invention, let me tell you.

I could go on. Netflix and chill were we never got beyond the home screen. A glass of wine after dinner where the bottle ended up being used indecently. Scrambled eggs for breakfast where the only thing scrambled was my brain. It doesn’t seem to matter what we set out to do, we invariably end up doing the same thing.

Each other.

I’m not complaining. Not really. But in my quiet moments, I worry what’s on the other side of this. Heartbreak is my guess, but what’s one more issue to the pile?

“Are you worried it might fall off?”

“Worried what might fall…” Urgh. I catch on belatedly.

Which laughs again before, to my mortification, he brings George into the conversation. “Hey, George. Have you ever heard of anyone having sex so much their todger falls off?”

George scoffs as I whisper, “Todger?”

“Another Brit word to add to your vocabulary.”

“No, thank you.”

Whit leans closer, his lips a whisper from my ear. “Store it in your dirty dicktionary, between bellend and cheeky wank.”

“Todger would come after cheeky—” I halt, noting the gleam in his eye. “Good try,” I say, eyeing him stonily.

“Do you reckon todger comes after or before cheeky wank? I suppose you need a todger before you can have the other.” As he speaks, Whit’s gaze remains fixed on me.

“Good grief.” With a groan, I drop forward and briefly bury my face in my hands.

“My eldest girl, Della,” George pipes up, “is a nurse at St. Barts. She told me that a fella once came with a broken whatsit.”

Whit sucks in a sharp breath, almost as though he can feel the unknown man’s pain.

“I mean, your old fella doesn’t have any bones in it, ’scuse me for saying so, Miss Mimi.” I manage not to snicker. No bones for the boner. “But it can still break, particularly if you have vigorous intimate relations.”

Nope, can’t keep that giggle in. Whit, meanwhile, still looks like he’s in pain.

“Right you are then, we’re here,” George then announces, maneuvering the car to the side of the road.

“Here?” My head bounces left, then right. We haven’t been in the car long enough to be at the office. “Here where?”

“We’ve taken a minor detour,” Whit adds.

“But your schedule is full today?” No time to take detours or mess around.

“And now it’s not. Well, mostly just this morning.”

Oh, my poor little heart. As if excellent sex wasn’t enough, if laughter, good company, thoughtful gifts, and new experiences weren’t enough, now he’s clearing his schedule for me?

“Come on.” He shoos me to turn to where George is already opening the passenger door.

I slide on my purse, crossbody style, as I wait on the sidewalk for Whit, wondering why I’m standing at Hyde Park Corner. Which is just a stone’s throw from Buckingham Palace, but also basically just along the street from Whit’s place.

“Have we just driven around the park?” I ask as he draws closer.

“Might have.”

“But you live just down… there.” I point in the general direction of his swanky building. Whit just grins. “Okay.” The word seems to draw out over several syllables, all of its own accord. “I guess Marble Arch seems pretty in the morning.” I shrug, kind of. I have no idea what we’re doing here and, honestly, Marble Arch looks like a piece of history that was picked up then put down in the wrong place. An anachronism plonked in front of a sandwich shop chain. “What are we doing here?”

“Well, the sun is shining, and I thought, why don’t we have a walk through the park before work?”

“Hyde Park?”

“Yep.”

“The fact that we drove around it doesn’t seem odd to you?” I make a circle in the air with my index finger.

“Sunshine.” He points at the sky. “Birds singing.” He then points at the trees, and I notice how some are heavy with spring blossom, like spring has sprung overnight. “And fabulous company.” He thumbs his chest. “Where’s your sense of adventure?”

“Adventure in a park?”

“Not like that,” he says with a dirty gleam. “It’s the wrong park for it.”

“I’m not even going to ask what that means.”

“It’s much too nice to be cooped up in the office,” she says, hooking out his elbow. “Shall we?”

I feed my hand through the loop he’s made. It’s a little different, but I can roll with it. “Why not?”

“Have you walked through here yet?” he asks as we stroll.

“No, but I’ve looked out your living room window and thought about it.”

“You won’t have seen Speaker’s Corner,” he says as we pass through a nondescript path flanked by railings. Black cabs, buses, and all kinds of commuters whiz by on the other side.

“Can’t hear any speaking.” Not over the traffic noise. “Is it supposed to be some kind of phenomenon?” I glance up at the treetops, wondering if it’s something to do with the wind. Maybe on days where people aren’t rushing to work?

“No.” He chuckles, amused, as though it isn’t odd enough that a corner of a London park is named for speakers. “It’s a spot you often find people saying stuff they feel others need to hear. Sometimes it’s controversial and there’s a bit of a debate. Sometimes they just get heckled.”

No,” I full of false disbelief answer. “Here in London? People wouldn’t be so rude.”

“I know, right? But it can be mayhem along here some Sunday mornings, especially if the weather is like this.” He tilts his head, the sun’s rays catching his cheekbones and making a golden living god out of him for a beat.

“Looks like Wednesdays at eight in the morning is a good time to get a slot.”

“Yeah. Have you got anything you want to say?” he asks, slanting his gaze my way.

I love you. I think I’ve always loved you. I think I will always love you.

I paint on a bland expression and give my head a quick shake. “Can’t think of anything. How about you?”

“Morning.” It takes a split second to process he’s not speaking to me as he inclines his head, and a passerby returns his greeting.

“What’s with the stepladder?” I whisper once she’s passed by and is no longer in earshot.

“Her version of a soapbox would be my guess. Want to stay and listen to what she has to say?”

“No thanks. I get enough of being lectured in Florida.”

His expression falters, my home state a sudden, stark reminder between us.

“Why here?” I babble. “Debates in a park seem a little odd. Wouldn’t they be more at home, say, in a pub?”

His shoes scuff against the path, our footsteps slowing before he turns to face the way we came. “Over there, just outside of the park, but there’s a spot marked with a plaque that shows where the Tyburn hanging tree stood.”

“I’m guessing that wasn’t a garden.”

“It wasn’t even a tree, I don’t think. For centuries, that spot was used for public executions. Criminals, heretics, that sort of thing. I suppose Speaker’s Corner sprang out of that. Spectators probably made a day of it. Pack a bag with a bottle of beer, add a couple of pies, then head off to watch some criminals swing. Maybe later, pop over here to listen to the dissenters of the realm.”

“I think I’ll stick to Netflix.”

“And I’ll provide the chill,” he says in that velvety tone of his.

“There is zero chill in you.” I tighten my grip on his arm, trying to absorb the sense of him. The man he is. “You’re more like the frenetic frenzy of f—”

He’s a frenetic frenzy of the f-word. And I’m a frenetic frenzy of feelings.

“Nearly,” he says with a gleam. “Frenetic, eh?” His gaze slices my way. “We can try tantric, if you want. In fact, we can try whatever you want.”

“Are you trying to make my heart stop?” It seems the universe does not like this invocation, throwing up pebbles in my way, making me stumble.

“Are you trying to make mine stop?” he says, catching me before I face-plant. “I should’ve thought about those.” He glowers down at my heels as though they just cursed his lineage.

“And spoil the surprise?” Of a walk around the park, which is way better than work.

“Exactly.” Instead of straightening, Whit sweeps me up off my feet, bridal style.

“Hey, no! Whit, put me down!” I demand as my purse flops against my hip.

“I will, just not yet. Morning.” He greets another passerby with a wide grin. A dog walker, I notice as they pass by.

“Good morning,” I add in a much smaller voice, then whack Whit again with a demand he put me down before I flash the world my knickers. He does put me down, but not for a while when we walk hand in hand toward a…

“A lake?”

“Yeah.” His expression turns almost bashful. “It seems stupid now that we’re here, but I thought you said you wanted to do touristy stuff. I was out for a run, and I saw the boats, and I sort of convinced myself you’d like to go out on one.”

Oh, my heart. An unsure Leif Whittington is adorable. “I would—I would love to!” Now. Five minutes ago, I would’ve been ambivalent.

“Then the day started so well, sunshine and blue skies, and I thought, fuck it, let’s do it. But now that we’re here,” he says, bringing a hand to his mouth to hide his grin, “I feel like a bit of a tit.”

“Why? It’s a great idea—I love it!”

“Yeah? You wouldn’t prefer afternoon tea at The Ritz or an evening of cocktails at the top of The Shard?”

“No, I want to row a boat,” I say, taking his hand. I love that he thought of me, and I love how sweet and awkward he’s being right now.

“Yeah?” His answer seems filled with doubt.

“I love, love it!” I insist, practically jumping up and down on the spot. “Come on—let’s get on a boat! I mean, if it’s even open.” I turn to where blue paddle boats are lined up by two men in matching polo shirts. There aren’t many people looking to hire this morning, the passerby mostly dogwalkers and commuters taking shortcuts.

“It’s not officially open…”

“Then how can we—”

He shrugs, a little more confident now. “It’s just open for us.”

“Have you been using your influence, Mr. Sexy CEO?”

“Not unduly, Miss Valente. Not the way I do with you.” He slides his arm around my shoulder, pulling me against him as we stroll toward the men in polo shirts. “Not everyone is interested in my cock the way you are.”

“Hush! You’ll offend the swans.”

The shorter of the two boat attendants has either met Whit or senses he’s this morning’s special customer. It’s not a huge leap, I guess, given the choice between Whit in his sharp suit and the man in jeans being pulled along by a Labrador.

“Mr. Whittington?” the man hedges.

“Just Whit,” he corrects, holding out his hand.

The man looks surprised but smothers it well. The pair shake before he directs us behind him. “We have your rowboat ready over there.”

“You mean we’re not going on one of the blue paddleboats?”

“We can, but that means you’ll have to pedal.” Whit glances doubtfully at my shoes.

“Or I could just watch you row, I guess.” My gaze slides over him suggestively. “You’re gonna need to take off the jacket, though.”

“Yeah?”

“At the very least.”

“We should go to Venice one weekend. I’ll get you on a gondola.”

“They don’t have public indecency charges in Italy?”

“Get your mind out of the gutter, Miss Valente.”

Polo-shirt guy clears his throat. As we turn to him, he ducks his head sideways, his face as pink as mine right now. “This one’s yours.”

Ours is apparently a little wooden rowboat with extras! The plank benches are covered with brightly colored blankets and cushions, and there’s an honest-to-goodness picnic basket placed between them. The kind that Yogi has, though Yogi’s stolen bootie wasn’t from the food hall of Fortnum and Mason. Yum.

“You went all out!”

“Second best to a gondola in Venice,” Whit asserts, holding my hand to allow me to clamber in. “Hang on.” He drops to his heels, and before I know what he’s doing, his fingers make an anklet as he lifts my foot to slip off my shoes. This time, my mind definitely does roll into the gutter as a fragment of memory flashes in my head. We’re in his office and my cheek is resting on his desk. One minute, Whit is looking over at me, and the next, he’s sliding my ankles wider. “Okay?” Our eyes meet as he stands, and I just know he’s thinking the same.

He takes my hand again, and this time, I step into the tiny rocking boat. A moment later, his jacket comes off and he throws it my way. I place it over the cushion next to me.

Polo-shirt guy gives him the safety rundown without any great enthusiasm as Whit loosens his cuffs and folds them back. He catches me watching, and one of his brows lift, seeming to speak a language all its own.

“You’re staring,” he murmurs as he steps into the boat, settling himself on the wooden bench opposite me.

“I know.” Just banking the memories for the rainy days ahead. “I should’ve taken a picture, right? It’d last longer.”

“You can if you like.”

“I can what?”

“Take pictures. Film video.”

The suggestions feel like some kind of sensual jackpot. Or a trap as he takes the oars in each of his hands, his eyes sliding past me as he uses one oar to maneuver the boat away from the dock.

“Pictures of you?” My voice sounds a little high. “Or us?”

He doesn’t immediately answer, but once satisfied with the course, he begins to row, his arms moving simultaneously, the power in his back and abs powering the bow smoothly through the water.

“What would you have me do?”

“Touch yourself.” My answer is instinctual.

“While you settle back and enjoy the show?”

“A bit like now,” I agree, allowing my gaze to meander over him. Watching him row is worth taking a video.

“I think you should open your legs for me.”

“No way.” My denial, like my will around him, is wobbly. “We’re not getting freaky out in the water.” My gaze darts to the boat ramp. “Don’t come a-knocking when the boat is rocking? People will see. We’d probably fall in!”

“I just meant if you widen your legs, it’d make it easier for me to row.”

I glance down and realize he’s right. It’s all abs, arms, and thighs, and his are planted wide. “Fine.” Instead of sliding them wider, I bring them together, bent at the knee.

“I can still see your knickers,” he taunts.

“No, you can’t. “I like this pastime,” I add, not bothering to move my eyes from him as his shirt tightens around his shoulders and biceps, the muscles in his forearms springing to prominence with the movement.

“But you know what would make this better? If you were shirtless. Maybe even in your underwear.”

“You want to play Cleopatra and her slave?” My laughter fills the air. “You know that means I oil you up and feed you grapes.”

“Come for the oil, stay for the grapes?”

“Oh, you’d definitely come.”

“The longer I know you, the worse you get.”

“That’s because the longer I know you, the more I want you.”

“Isn’t that the opposite of how this is supposed to work? Isn’t the glow supposed to dim?” Which is what I was asking myself earlier.

“I don’t know. I’ve never experienced anything like this.”

“Same,” I whisper, satisfied to let the creak of the oars and the swish of the water fill the silence.

“It never dimmed for my parents,” he eventually says, pulling smoothly on the oars, his thighs flexing. “They were always so happy together.” He pulls a face. “So, so… naked.” He seems to shake off the thought as my reply shoots out of my mouth.

“Sounds like us.”

“It does, doesn’t it?” He smiles sweetly, so I keep the rest to myself. Without the happy ending.

We go once around the lake, Whit pointing out places of interest. During the warmer months, a section is cordoned off for swimming. Whit tells me his mom would sometimes bring the brood during the summer vacation where they’d swim in the icy water, then sun themselves on the banks.

In the middle of the water, Whit brings the oars in to rest.

“What’s in the basket?” he asks.

“Have you worked up an appetite?”

“My appetite is constant when near you.” Pressing his hands behind him, he tips his face to the sun. He looks like a giant house cat, much loved and at home in his own skin. In his own lovability. A house cat with a tiger’s gaze, I realize with a pleasurable jolt when his attention moves abruptly back.

“I’d let you film me,” he says, picking up the thread of our earlier conversation. “But you’d have to give me an incentive.”

With a chuckle, I lean forward and lift the lid on the basket. “You’re incorrigible.”

“So you might’ve mentioned once or twice.”

As it turns out, there are grapes in the basket. I pluck one from out and throw it at him. Of course, Mr. Almost Perfect Sexy CEO catches it in his mouth. Even the way he chews is inciting.

“I’m not like this with everyone, you know. Women, I mean.” I don’t know how to answer that, selecting and abandoning responses before he speaks again. “I’m not short of partners, but I’ve never met anyone who I want to spend this much time with outside of the bedroom.”

“Or the office.” My flippant words fall flat.

“You’re a one-off, Mimi Valente.”

“I’d say that’s a good thing,” I answer, picking at a thread on my skirt.

“Agreed. I couldn’t cope with two of you. Though I’d give it a really good try.” When I look up, all trace of seriousness has gone. I almost breathe out a happy sigh.

“I say again, incorrigible.”

“And you love it.”

And that’s a problem because I really do.

We drift for a while, talking about nothing, picking at food neither of us seems hungry for. There’s champagne in the hamper, but I say I’d rather not, so we stick to bottled water from the Scottish Highlands.

“Are you having fun?” Whit asks suddenly. Somehow, it feels like he’s been waiting for the opportunity to bring the conversation around.

“Of course. What’s not to be happy about?”

“I’ve noticed that about you. Your happiness doesn’t depend on stuff.” I frown, and he adds, “Things. Deeds. You don’t require a lot.” Maybe he’s comparing me to his family. It would be an unfair comparison.

“I don’t need a lot, but you keep giving.”

“That’s what you do for people you like, though, right?”

“I guess.”

“You buy them a cactus to decorate their desk.”

“What can I say? I saw it and thought of you.”

“I bet you did,” he murmurs, leans back again. “Do you enjoying your work?”

“Is this where I’m supposed to say I have a really great boss?”

He transfers his weight onto one palm to scratch his cheek, making the boat rock the tiniest bit. “That’s a given, isn’t it?”

“I don’t know. You were a hard-ass in the beginning.” And I kind of loved it. I loved how he made me work for him, and though in some ways I feel like it was a role I’d stepped in to, I feel like, being with him, has made me that girl.

“And you were relentless.” His head moves from side to side as though he can’t quite believe he gave in.

“I’ve never wanted anything the way I wanted you.” Want you still.

“I know the feeling.” His expression turns soft, and my heart flutters in my chest. Despite being out in the open, maybe unreachable in this small body of water, the moment feels intimate, the air between us suddenly heavy and expectant.

As those flutters turn to panicked wings beating in my chest, I turn my head. “Whit.” Please don’t. Please don’t make me deny this because I don’t think I can. A sudden gust of wind whips the hair out of my face, and I turn my head to slide it away. Like a sign from above, I notice a woman at the side of the lake. “Whit, is that your mom?”


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