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The Interview: Chapter 5

MIMI

After Polly’s planned lunch ambush, when Whit offers me a ride home, I try not to get too excited. I know what the topic of conversation will be.

Spoiler alert: not the fun stuff.

“It’s three houses down from here,” I say, pointing at Aunt Doreen’s house. “You really didn’t need to drive me all the way out here, you know. I have my Oyster travel card. I really enjoy taking the Tube.”

“You enjoy the novelty,” he states. “It won’t last long.”

I give a little giggle. “You are like a dog with a bone.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Don’t tell me you weren’t about to suggest I live too far out to travel into the city every day.”

“As if I’d even presume,” he mutters flatly.

“You totally would if you thought it would work to keep me from the office.”

“Edgeware might as well be Middle-earth,” he huffs as his fancy sports car glides to a stop in the tree-lined residential street. Uniform red-brick terraced houses flank both sides, neatly painted front doors and garden gates showing the inhabitant’s individuality.

“Why are you staying with your aunt, anyway?” Whit’s hand slides from the leather steering wheel, and as he turns in his seat to face me, the heady scent of his cologne blends with that of the expensive leather interior.

“It was a compromise.” I slide my hair behind my ear and duck my gaze. Now is probably not the right time to wrap my hands in his jacket to jerk him closer so I can sink my nose into his collar. “My parents,” I say with a tight shrug. “They didn’t want me to leave.”

“They were against you moving to London?”

“They’re against me going anywhere,” I say, shifting against the warm leather seat.

“You’re twenty-four.” His brows pinch a little, but I don’t expect him to understand.

“I’m aware.” And ready to make up for lost time. The new Mimi has limited time and a limited budget and a mantra to live by: life is short, so get you some. Life. Sex. Eat the cake. Whatever. “After losing Connor, they became fearful, I guess.” They see danger everywhere. I’m only sad I let it get this far.

“I’m sure that’s understandable.”

“So is wanting to live my own life.” My reply is more than a touch defensive.

“And your aunt is… nice?”

“She’s kind of crazy,” I say with a chuckle, glancing toward her house. Aunt Doreen isn’t really my aunt. She’s more of a distant relation. My grandmother’s second cousin or something. When I made my intentions clear to my parents, when I told them I was coming to London before—

Deep breath. In for three, out for four.

When I told them I was coming to London, they were dead set against it. Tears were cried and guilt was liberally used, but given I’d recently undergone a literal come to Jesus moment, I’d dug in my heels and put my needs and wants in front of theirs for the first time since Connor died. My stubborn streak had come as a shock to them, though there wasn’t a whole lot they could do about it. But because I’m also a loving and mostly dutiful daughter, I agreed to stay with family to give them some peace. My parents weren’t always like this, but they have more reason than most to want to wrap me in cotton.

“The good kind of crazy, I hope,” he says, ducking his head to stare out the passenger side window. “Is that a pink front door?”

“Yep. That’s the kind of crazy Aunt Doreen is.”

“Is she a fan of Barbie, this aunt of yours?”

“That’s more Pepto-Bismol pink than Barbie.”

“Did she get the paint cheap?” He frowns at the door as though it offends him.

“It’s bright and cheerful,” I say in her defense. “And we can’t all live in a fancy penthouse or hire a decorator. Or live in palaces of monotone.”

Those striking eyes flit my way, and I know what he’s thinking. I’ve been to his apartment. And I found a little bit of paradise there.

He clears his throat. “Palaces of monotone?”

“Yes.” I nod like I mean it. Like the color palette offends me when I haven’t even thought about it.

“I suppose it is a bit…”

“Boring,” I mutter, supplying the words he wasn’t looking for.

“Are you enjoying living in London?” he says in a subject change.

So we’re going to beat around all the bushes. Now that we’re alone, we’re going to ignore what happened that night. Fine, I can play along. “So far, I like it a lot.”

“You don’t mind the weather? Surely, you must miss all that Florida sun.”

“The sun shines here, too.” I glance out the window to where the sun is just setting in a watery, orange haze. The spring days have been pleasant, but the sun has been little more than a yellow ball in the sky, lacking heat and intensity.

“What about friends? Have you made friends?”

“This is beginning to sound like a phone call from home,” I reply with a huffing chuckle. “I’m not fifteen, you know.”

“It’s hard sometimes not to slip into old roles, I suppose.”

“You’re not my brother.” Not even close. “I don’t need anyone to take care of me.” Not in the way he’s talking about. “What about you, Whit? London looks good on you.”

He doesn’t answer, though his brows pinch.

“Do you date very much?” I ask, not playing along.

“I didn’t ask you about your dating life,” he answers carefully.

“I assumed that’s what you meant when you asked about friends.”

“It was not.”

“Aren’t you curious?” I twist in my seat, mirroring his position. Okay, exaggerating it. It wouldn’t be too much of a stretch for my lips to brush his.

“Mimi,” he says, filling my name with a warning.

“I am. I am so, so curious. Especially in light of recent developments. You see, I have this insatiable”—his eyes flare—“curiosity.”

His eyes hold mine before dropping very deliberately to my lips. He leans forward, just a touch, and my breath halts, half in and half out of my mouth. I almost anticipate him moving closer, my body tilting of its own accord. I want it so bad I can almost taste it… when his head dips and his gaze slides to the house again.

“It’s going to be a buzzkill taking a date back there,” his low voice rumbles.

Dammit, Whit! He totally played me. I swallow and brush aside the moment, not ready to throw in the towel. “That was an excellent sidestep. I’m pretty sure that makes you the buzzkill in this scenario.”

“I think it’s better if we keep it that way,” he says as his eyes cut to mine. “In fact, if you want to work for me, I insist on it.”

“I’m not working for you right now.”

“Behave.”

“I am behaving!” I protest with a giggle. “Come on, Whit. Put yourself in my shoes. Wouldn’t you have questions? Wouldn’t you be curious?” He doesn’t answer, and his expression gives nothing away. “Fine, you play the monster. I know better than that.”

“No, you only think you do.”

At his dark tone, something hot and sweet flares between my legs, though I silently congratulate myself when I carry on as though unaffected. “Do you think this whole hot and enigmatic thing will kill my curiosity?”

With a pained groan, he tips his head back. The long line of his throat makes everything below my navel tighten. It doesn’t matter that he’s probably pleading for divine intervention through the car’s fancy panoramic sunroof because that’s not where my mind has tripped. Tripped, skipped, and jumped its way to some dirty musing. In this scenario, I’ll be straddling him, his head thrown back and his hands balled into tight fists. I’ll press my lips to his throat to feel the ripple of his taut swallow and the vibration of his moan as I do strange, wild things to him.

Note to self: discover what strange, wild things I could offer.

Addendum: maybe explore porn for inspiration.

It wouldn’t be the first time.

His chin drops with the gust of a sigh, those dark eyes refusing to meet mine. Meanwhile, I rub the backs of my fingers over my mouth in a surreptitious drool check. How the heck is it possible that I’m turned on by his Adam’s apple?

“Go on, spit it out,” he says, resigned. “Let’s get it over with.”

“Really?” No drool, thankfully. “I should just rip off the Band-Aid?”

“If you must.”

“Is that your thing?” I ask a little too enthusiastically.

“Yes, because I’m the kind of deviant who enjoys having the hairs on his legs pulled out by the follicle.” He scowls. “No, Mimi, that is not my thing.”

“I’m not a child. I know that’s not your thing.” But now I’m wondering if that might be someone’s thing. “You know that’s not what I was asking. I was talking about what happened in your apartment.” More specifically, my orgasm. “Is that, I mean, I know you said you didn’t recognize me, but that only leaves me with more questions.”

“I don’t pay for sex if that’s what you’re asking.”

Could I pay you for sex? I’m tempted to ask.

He’d totally be out of my budget.

“I wouldn’t judge. It’s the oldest profession in the world for a reason.” I adjust my purse on my lap and then glance out of the windshield. One of the neighbors and his four-legged friend trots out of his front gate, his attention doubling back on Whit’s fancy wheels. I smile because the Labrador retriever isn’t so impressed, yanking his human by the leash. I take a deep breath. “Do you… do you often hook up with strangers?” It takes supreme effort to turn back to face him.

He doesn’t answer, at least not right away. He just presses his elbow to the leather seat back as he kind of examines me. “Does that titillate you?” The sultriness to his tone catches me off guard, but he’s already played me once.

“There is something kind of hot about it.” I blow out a nervous breath. “You were so… and I felt. And honestly, I can’t stop thinking about it.”

“Fuck!” Whit snaps back as though my answer offends him.

“You asked! If you weren’t prepared for the answer, maybe you shouldn’t have.”

“I wasn’t prepared for that answer, Mimi. You can’t go around admitting to things like that. You barely know me.”

“I know you well enough.”

“I might be a massive fucking pervert!”

I shrug as my mind whispers, a girl can only hope…

Whit blows out a frustrated breath. Leaning closer, he suddenly takes my chin between his thumb and forefinger. “Do you always say what comes into that head of yours?”

“If you don’t like the answers, think before you ask the question. Also, don’t give me the answers if you want to keep me thinking about it.” Who am I kidding? Answers or not, I’ll still be thinking about it.

“She wasn’t an anonymous hookup. Not completely.” I feel the loss of his touch as he draws away. “So don’t get any ideas.”

I give my head a slight shake, my eyebrows riding high on my forehead. “What kind of ideas?”

“The kind you’ve already begun imagining. Anonymous hookups are dangerous, especially for women.”

“There’s a double standard if I ever heard one.”

“I don’t make the rules,” he retorts.

“I hear there are places for anonymous hookups.” I might be sheltered, but I’ve had access to the internet. I also read the occasional Cosmo article online. “I’m sure there would be in a city like London.”

“Are you looking to get hurt?” he almost splutters.

“Death by Band-Aid isn’t really my thing. If you want the truth, I don’t know my thing.”

“What do you mean?” By his expression, he immediately regrets asking.

“I’m not a virgin, Whit.” Yep, he definitely regrets it, judging by that face he just made. “I’m just inexperienced, but I’m open to exploring. To seeing wherever this takes me.”

“Where what takes you?” He sounds almost panicked.

“Life.” I affect a short shrug. I’m grabbing mine with both hands. “I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy what happened between us. But I get it. Things need to remain professional between us. But that doesn’t mean I can’t explore what London has to offer, right?”

“You are dangerous, Mimi Valente. Imagine if it hadn’t been me in—what if I’d been a stranger? What if I’d wanted to hurt you?”

“But you aren’t a stranger,” I reply softly. “I knew it was you, even if you didn’t recognize me.” His eyes darken as they roam over me. The effect feels like hot, caressing fingertips. But then his gaze shutters, and he takes a deep breath.

“I’m sorry,” he says with sincerity. “I’m sorry for not realizing it was you. I’m also sorry for what happened.”

“I’m not.”

“That’s not helpful.”

“Well, sometimes the truth is inconvenient.” I should know. It’s why I’m here in London, after all. “I won’t take it back. I’d never felt so turned on, and I don’t know what to do with that information.”

“I suggest you put it to the back of your mind,” he recommends coolly. “If you want to work at VirTu, it can’t happen again.”

Oh, Whit. Is that really what you think? “Fine,” I say instead, hugging my purse a little closer. “But that still leaves me with the question of who you were expecting. Did she turn up later? Did you do it all again? And what was with the whole…” I can’t bring myself to say it, even if thinking it draws my nipples to tight points under my shirt. Daddy. I want to say it—I really do. Just thinking that word makes an electric current work its way down my body. “Do you really like being called that?”

“Really, Mimi,” he chides, “these questions are invasive.”

“Don’t you get it? I’m trying to make sense of what it meant. It was the hottest thing that’s ever happened to me, and I have all these…” Feelings. “Thoughts.”

His gaze slices my way with a flash of surprise, then what looks like pain.

“If you can’t answer me, then who will?”

“The internet.” His voice sounds strangled. “We can’t have this conversation. It’s inappropriate on so many fucking levels.”

“Oh, we passed inappropriate a few miles back,” I argue. “A few days back. Inappropriate was when I lifted my skirt because you told me to. Inappropriate was when you slid your hand between—”

“Jesus Christ, will you stop!” He shoves a rough hand through his hair.

“Sure.” I give a tight shrug. “When you explain it to me.”

“Explain?” he asks, with a dash of alarm.

“Who was she? The other girl.”

“I’d met her before at a party.” I feel my eyebrows dispute this, because how? Unless she was my double. “She was wearing a mask,” he adds, perceiving my doubt. “A mask and very little else.”

“Oh, it was that kind of thing.” I nod sagely as though I have firsthand knowledge of such gatherings rather than intel gathered from hot billionaire romance books.

“She was blond and of a similar build to you.” I can literally feel his eyes strain not to look at me again. I guess that makes me Whit’s type. “When the porter called up, I obviously wasn’t listening well enough. I just assumed it was her, that she’d taken me up on my invitation.”

“Your invitation to…”

“To fuck.” The way his teeth graze his lip, the harsh sounding fricative, makes my insides a puddle of goo.

What if we’d gone further? What if I hadn’t said my name? Then he would’ve screwed some random woman, my mind whispers. He wouldn’t have been screwing you.

“So did she turn up after? After me?”

“No,” he answers simply.

I don’t think he realizes my relief. But then, I didn’t expect to feel it, either. “But she likes that kind of stuff?”

His soft laughter makes my arms feel all goose bumpy. “What kind of stuff would that be?” he all but purrs, like he can’t help himself.

“Calling you Daddy.” There, I said it—I said it as I resist the urge to wet my parched lips. “Showing you her underwear because you told her to.” My words sound shaky as I glance down at my lap. “Being touched like that. Being talked to like that.” Being owned, I add mentally. Thinking about it makes my insides pulse and my outsides hot and shivery. When I glance up again, it’s with a jolt of pleasure that I realize he’s eating my words up.

“Yes, I think it’s fair to say she enjoys that kind of thing.”

“Why do you think that is?”

“Because she gets off on it.” His voice is a low rumble, his gaze owning mine. “She enjoys the dynamic.”

“What do you mean?”

“That she enjoys being directed. She gets off on the praise.”

“Oh.” Story… so it checks out. “You think?”

“I do. She probably revels in the power play because she’s a little sexually submissive.”

My answer is a puff of air. I’m submissive? Because the she we’re discussing is obviously me. I blink and look up. “Submissive,” I whisper to myself before my attention switches to Whit. “So that would make you, what?”

“That would make me…” He crooks a finger, and I lean in closer before he closes the space between us. I shiver as his soft hair brushes my cheek, his lips just a breath from my ear. “None of your business,” he whispers.

I spring back, my cheeks not the only part of me burning. He watches as I lift my hand to the spot beneath my ear as though I could further experience that caress. He watches me without bothering to hide his satisfaction.

“You play dirty.”

“If you’re going to play…” He frowns, leaving the end of his sentence dangling in the air.

“How does a person find someone to play with?” I ask with wide-eyed innocence. I’m not even kidding. I’m not a virgin, but I might as well be as far as this conversation goes. I’m not kidding. All my knowledge of this stuff comes from books and Cosmo. “You know, should someone be interested.”

His jaw flexes. The shadow of bristles suits him, somehow highlighting the broad strokes of his bone structure. I’m disappointed when he offers me nothing else but a narrow-eyed dark-gold stare.

“I mean it. If a girl thinks she might like that sort of thing, how does she find someone who also—”

“Mimi.” He makes my name sound like a reprimand. “Cut it out.”

“What? I’m only asking! You can’t get angry with me for that.”

“What you’re asking is impossible.”

“What you’re picking up isn’t what I’m putting down,” I retort, folding my arms. “This is the same as me turning up at your house unexpected, and you serving me cake I’ve never had before. Cake that it, turns out, I like. I’m only asking what the recipe is. What store I can visit. Because honestly, Whit, I kind of want a bigger portion. I want to taste it properly.”

“Get out of the car,” he grates out, all commanding. “Whatever your start date is, wipe it from your calendar. I’ll help you find something else.”

I laugh. If he wants to get rid of me, he’s going to have to change the way he speaks to me. That whole dominating, do as I say just seems to ring my bell. “I don’t want something else. I don’t want to work anywhere else.”

“This isn’t going to work.”

“How? I have no idea what you’re talking about?”

“You’re not that innocent.”

“I’m talking to you as a friend, not as my boss. I’m not trying to seduce you—I wouldn’t even know what that looked like.” True story. This is just my own brand of wearing him down.

“Friends don’t do to you what I did,” he replies with a glower.

“That depends on what kind of friendship you have. This woman you were expecting. Wasn’t she that kind of friend? What do they call them? Friends with benefits?”

“I’m rarely friends with the people I fuck. And I never fuck people I work with.”

“Well.” I flick my shoulder. “We haven’t fucked, so cool beans.” Urgh. Cool beans? Do I have to regress to fourteen? What next? I’ll ask him if he wants to listen to my iPod? “Look, Whit, I will be working for VirTu. I respect Jody too much. I won’t make problems for her. And like I said, I’ve already signed my contract.”

“I’ll get someone in from an agency to fill in.” His words fall rapidly. “I’ll write you a check to keep you afloat until you find something else.”

“That sounds suspiciously like you’re trying to buy me off.”

“That’s not what this is, and you know it.”

“You’re making such a big deal out of nothing,” I say with a chuckle that I hope doesn’t sound too forced. The next six months of my life is the only time I’ll get to live for myself and do what I want. And what I want to do is him. I just have to get him on the same page. “I won’t do it, Whit. Jody has enough to deal with without worrying about you and what kind of mess an agency will leave her to clear up.”

“Mimi, come on. I can’t take that night back.”

“I wouldn’t give it to you,” I reply softly. It was the hottest experience of my life, so to hear him deny me would break me a little. But I also don’t believe him. I was there. I saw the way he watched me. Sensed his desire through his fingertips. “Would you really take it back? If you could?”

“You shouldn’t ask me that.”

And there is my answer. The truth in his troubled expression, and I’m sorry for it. Sorry he feels troubled, at least as he frowns and rubs a knuckle over his left eyebrow, refusing now to look at me.

“I don’t want to turn the clock back.” Relief rushes through me at the admission I thought I’d never hear. “This is exactly why you shouldn’t be anywhere near me, because every time you step into my office, I won’t see you professionally. I’ll be remembering how wet and warm you felt. How your body bent for me. And every time your mouth moves, I’ll hear the sounds falling from your lips and think of how exquisite you are when you come.”

A blush runs across my skin, my eyelashes fluttering as I take this all in. That right there sounds like a beautiful sort of work-life balance.


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