Their Protector: An MC Outlaw Halloween Romance, page 103
Asher grabs my shoulders and shakes me, pulling me back into the moment.
“What did you do? Dear God, Jim, what did you do?”
I feel bad letting my friend down, but I don’t regret any of it for one second. Even one night with her is worth it. That isn’t to say I don’t intensely want more, because I do. I can’t even fucking deny it to myself anymore.
“I slept with her and she hasn’t been back to work since and I’m worried that—”
“You slept,” he starts off shouting, but quickly brings it down to a loud whisper, “with her? After we all had a meeting about the firm’s image crisis? Need I remind you that an image crisis can lead to an actual crisis? What if she sues? What if Ron finds out? Do you have a plan?”
He’s assaulting me with questions I have no answers to, but soon his tone turns a bit more caring. I can tell he’s telling himself not to be a hypocrite. And I do understand why he’s mad. I have put the company in jeopardy. But this time, it wasn’t just for my libido. It may’ve started out that way, but I found myself genuinely liking Erin’s presence. She managed to fit into my life, so perfectly. And any moves I made were done because I wanted her to stay. Because I didn’t want to lose her.
“I know people have said that you come across as a saint but you have all these secret relationship,” Asher says, running his hand through his hair as if he’s trying to figure everything out. “I wasn’t sure if I should believe them or not. Frankly, it wasn’t any of my business. I wasn’t one to talk, and as long as you weren’t getting the firm in trouble, I didn’t care what you did. But what I’m trying to figure out is, why now? Why her ? Just when we’re facing this crisis as a firm…”
“I know,” I tell Asher, patting him on the shoulder. “I know. It makes no sense. And none of the rest have been like her. If it wasn’t her , we wouldn’t even be having this conversation. I’d be done with her and would have moved onto the next just like I usually do.”
“Holy shit,” Asher says, throwing his hands up in resignation. “That’s it.”
“What’s it?” I ask. He’d better not dare threaten me. I’m just as important to this firm as he is. I may have messed up, but he can’t toss me out.
“That’s it, you’re in fucking love ,” he says.
I suck my breath in and just look at him, surprised not only at what he said but also that he’s right. At least, I think he’s right?
“In love?” I ask, as if it’s a foreign language. “How do you know?”
“Because this is the same fucking thing that happened to me and Madilyn,” he says. “Same exact way, pretty much.”
I’m about to ask Asher more questions about this crazy thing called love when we hear someone at the door— which neither of us had bothered to shut. We both turn and see Katie standing there, giving us an amused look. She always looks like she knows more than the rest of us. And she probably does. She did, after all, manage to make one of the richest men in the world fall in love with her .
“What are you two chit chatting about?” she asks, in her normal daring way.
I turn towards Asher, not sure what he plans to do. He could tell everyone, we’d have another meeting of the partners, and I could technically be forced out or he could try and protect me.
“We’re just having a friendly chat about…” I can see him searching for an excuse. He’s usually much better on his feet, but emotions are running high for him.
Katie basically ignores him and without missing a beat says, “Because if it’s about the receptionist named Erin you’ve been so obviously crushing on, Jim, I thought you should know she just quit. Monique told Claude, while Ruby and I were up there talking to him, and now Ruby is comforting Claude because he misses Erin and was hoping she hadn’t quit. So I decided to come tell you, as I thought you might need some comforting as well.”
Well, that was unexpected. There is a lot to unpack in that sentence. First off, Katie knows a lot more about Erin and me than I thought she did and secondly, Erin quit?
Asher interjects with, “More importantly, Katie. How did you know?”
I’m not sure if he’s just perplexed and curious, or if he’s wondering the same thing I am—who else knows? Does Ron know? Am I in trouble?
“I know everything,” Katie says. “I learn it all in the books I’m always reading.”
We look at her, not sure whether she’s serious or joking.
“And from some life experience,” she shrugs. “You boys aren’t as smart as you think. It’s obvious when both of you are deeply in love.”
Neither one of us speaks for long enough that Katie takes it as an indication that she’s to leave. “Well, it’s been—”
“Did Erin tell Monique why she quit?”
I mean, I know she was upset about spending the night in my office, but upset enough to leave without even talking to me? Upset enough to quit?
Katie lets out a long sigh before saying anything. “Unfortunately, I don’t really know everything. I didn’t ask and Monique didn’t offer up that information, if she has it.”
That’s disappointing. I need to get answers, find out why—
“However, I decided to check the drawer of her receptionist desk, and it turns out she left a letter for you.”
Katie pulls out a white envelope with my name on it. She walks over and hands it to me. Leave it to Katie to leave the best part for last.
Erin must have come back at some point and left the letter in the drawer, knowing that her good friends she’s always talking to up front would go through it and get it to me. And that’s exactly what Katie had done.
“Is that it?” Asher’s anger has for sure gone down. He seems mainly curious now. Probably wants answers just like I do, but for different reasons.
“Yeah, I guess. The ball’s in your court now, Jim.”
She once again makes to leave, but turns around before exiting. “Listen, Jim. I don’t know how you feel about this girl, but she’s become a friend of mine, and I’ve been through some of this myself, so I’m going to give you some advice right now, and please don’t interrupt me.”
I nod, trying not to think of the audacity of taking advice from her. But she’s right— she’s been through it, and she probably knows more than I do. I still feel shell shocked at even figuring out I’m capable of love.
“From where I stand, you have two options,” she says. “You can leave Erin alone. She’s left quietly without any fuss and the firm can move forward with no blemishes to its name. Because I need you to know something. I like you. You’re not a bad guy, but since my husband, and Madilyn’s, and Ruby’s, are all tied up in this with you, if you do something to put us at risk, your ass is on the curb. People have families to feed around here.”
I know she’s right, in her own gruff, blunt way. Business or love? Love? Do I… love Erin? Or am I starting to fall in love with her?
“However, if you’re serious about Erin, I say go for it. I find the whole business or love debate redundant. It’s easy to have both if you’re willing to work for it.”
Woah. I feel like she just read my mind. She really might just know everything.
“And with that, I’ll leave you two. Make the right decision.”
She’s out the door just as quickly as she’d arrived. Damn that Katie, so full of wisdom for her young age.
“That crazy Katie. No wonder Madilyn likes her so much.”
Asher shakes his head. He’s clearly just as amazed as I am.
“I think you’re right. I feel smarter and wiser after that.”
Asher looks away from the door and turns to me.
“It’s pretty much what I had said, first,” he says, always one to want full credit. “But seriously. Before we make any rash moves, you need to take care of your problem.”
He’s right. I have to deal with Erin fir
“Just tread carefully. This could go so many different ways. Please take my advice this time? And Katie’s, for that matter?”
“I will. I promise. I don’t want to lose Erin.”
His eyes crinkles in surprise, probably taking me seriously for the first time in this conversation.
“Okay, good luck. Welcome to the club, buddy.”
“Of men who never thought they’d fall in love, then proceeded to do just that.”
I smile, half thinking he was going to say, “Sugar Daddy Central.”
Asher pats my arm and leaves my office. He closes the door behind him, leaving me alone with my thoughts. I sit back down and begin to formulate a plan. But first things first, I need to find Erin. I know I can’t just show up at her house, not after everything she’s told me about her parents. But then how?
I turn the letter in my hands. It’s thin. It dawns on me that I’m afraid to open it. Unopened, there are endless possibilities for what Erin’s note could contain. Given the circumstances, it’s probably bad news, but a man can hope. I take the plunge and open it up. There’s a single piece of paper inside with not much written on it. I take a deep breath and read it.
Dear Mr. Reed,
Sorry, I’ve left with such short notice, but I took some time to reevaluate my recent choices and realized I couldn’t work with you anymore. This doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy our time together. I’m just too conflicted. Please take care of yourself.
My heart drops. The letter is so formal. Why does she keep doing this? I know she had to make it look innocuous, not knowing who might find it or read it, but still, it fucking hurts.
I need to ask her and maybe if I know why she’s so scared, I can convince her to stay with me. I think really hard and remember that she told me she likes to run every morning. During our late night chat, she described her usual route. Hopefully, she’s still doing it.
The next morning, I wait for Erin along the route of her run. It does feel a little creepy standing by for her. I see her turn the corner and get up from the bench I’d been sitting on. She doesn’t immediately notice me. I watch as she comes down the road.
She looks absolutely beautiful. Her eyes finally reach me and her pace slows. She takes a quick look around before her eyes settle on me again. I think she’s processing the fact that I’m here. She slowly jogs over to me, but still keeps a decent distance between us.
“What are you doing here?”
I’d prepared some words, but it all seems futile now. Erin isn’t someone I planned for and I can’t treat her like I do everything else in my life.
“I wanted to know why you left without saying goodbye.”
She looks a little uncomfortable, grabbing her arm and curling into her body a little. I want to hold her but I know now is not the time. Like Asher said, I need to be careful.
“I couldn’t say goodbye to your face. I was afraid that if… that if I spoke to you, I wouldn’t be able to leave and I needed to leave…”
“Come to dinner with me.”
I can see she’s not ready to completely open up yet. I need to put her at ease.
“I don’t know…”
“Come to dinner with me.”
I say it more forcibly now, knowing that she likes when I take charge. I know I can convince her if she gives me the chance. It’s already been established that she likes me— perhaps even loves me— but there is something holding her back. I have an idea of what it is, but I need confirmation.
I hear her mumble something, but I can’t quite make it out.
“What was that?”
A yes, perhaps?
“I said I’d go to dinner with you…” Her tone doesn’t betray much emotion, but she smiles and I take it as a good sign. “Just let me know where and I can meet you there. Okay?”
I let out a sound of agreement and lightly grab the hand she has resting on her upper arm. I entangle my fingers in hers.
“I’ve missed you.”
“I’ve missed you, too.” I try and bring her in for a hug. She uses her other hand to stop me by placing it on my chest. “Wait! I’m all sweaty…”
She says this with a laugh and I can see her walls breaking down.
“I don’t mind.”
She drops her hand and lets me hug her. She looks up at me, her mouth slightly open. I really want to kiss her right now, but I don’t want to frighten her away again.
I move my face slowly towards hers, testing the waters. She doesn’t shirk away, so I place a soft kiss against her lips. Her mouth opens for mine immediately and she moves her tongue with mine.
It’s a kiss full of longing, but it’s also full of uncertainty. Neither one of us knows how this will turn out and I think we’re both a little scared. We break the kiss and I place my forehead against hers.
“I’ll see you tonight, then?
I tell her where and when to meet me and then she removes her body from mine. I watch as she runs back home and I’m left to wonder if she’ll be there. I still don’t have her number which I believe is by Erin’s design. I can only trust she’ll come to dinner. Trust and hope.
I’m sitting at the restaurant, fingers crossed that Erin will be here soon. I arrived a little early to situate myself and try to calm myself down. A lot is riding on this night to go well for me. I’m going to mess it up. I finally see Erin being led to the table by the hostess. She’s dressed in a gorgeous dress. The shape of her body is on display, vastly different from what she usually wears. I’m already turned on. She takes her seat and the hostess leaves us alone.
“This place is really fancy.”
I did choose a fairly high-scale place. I guess I was trying to impress her. Look at me, making grand gestures.
“Do you like it?”
Was the gesture too grand? I can’t help but wonder. I may’ve gone overboard…
“I’ll have to try the food first, then I’ll know.”
She offers me a smirk and soon the waiter comes over to take our order. Erin gets the lamb and I go for my usual steak. As we sit and wait for our food, I sip on the wine I ordered. I notice Erin hasn’t tried it yet.
“Are you going to try the wine?”
She runs her finger along the rim of the glance, but doesn’t pick it up. She leans in and whispers,
“I’m not old enough to drink…”
Oh, right… Our massive age difference.
“I distinctly remember you taking a few sips of beer the first night I met you.”
“Oh, don’t remind me.”
The laughter drips out of her and I know that tonight will end up going well. We talk for a few more minutes before our meals arrive. It’s a nonconsequential conversation. I’m not ready to delve into the heavier stuff just yet.
Our food arrives and we both dig in. We eat in silence for a bit, enjoying the food, when Erin suddenly stops.
“Is this just a dinner?”
I hope not. I’d like tonight to be the official start of us. Us as a couple, a unit. Us together. But I don’t know how to say that, having never said it to anyone before.
“Would you like it to be more?” I ask.
Erin goes quiet. She looks down at her lap.
“Yes. I think so.”
I let out a sigh of relief. All this time I’d been worried that maybe she really didn’t want to see me ever again. Even when she showed up to dinner, a small voice in my head said she came out of pity, that she wouldn’t keep up the façade for this long.
Neither of us has finished our meals. Once the conversation took a turn, it seemed we’d both lost our appetites. Or maybe we gained an appetite for something else. I pay the check and we go to stand outside. I know neither one of us wants the night to end, but we’re not sure how to proceed.
“I know.” It had been her idea to come in separate cars. Avoid any potential problems. “We could leave your car here and I can drive you back after…”
“After we’re done at your place?”
She looks at me from under her lashes and I say, “Yes. My place.”
She follows me to my car and we both get in. I don’t immediately start it, instead I place my hand on her knee. I hear her take a deep breath and then she places a hand on top of mine. She guides my hand up her leg, pushing up the hem of her dress. I watch her face as she watches our hands. She’s concentrating on her leg. Our hands move to her inner thigh and she brushes them over her panties.
“Wait,” I command.
She stops moving and looks at me.
“I want to watch you.”
I can tell she doesn’t know what I mean, so I switch the positioning of our hands, so mine is on top of hers. This time I guide, so that she’s pleasuring herself. I remove my hand and tell her, “Push your panties aside and stick your finger in.” She does what I say. “Another one.”
She’s massaging her pussy with two fingers and I feel myself getting harder. Her back is arched against the seat and her breathing has gotten deeper. I stop speaking and become transfixed by her movements.
“What should I do next?”
I snap out of my speechlessness and realize she wants more direction. I’m getting a thrill watching her do what I say. I didn’t expect for the night to go this way, but I think I know what I want to happen next.
“I want you to give yourself your first orgasm of the night.”
I plan on being a bigger part of the next ones, but for now I want to watch. She doesn’t say anything. Instead, she spreads her legs wider, placing the foot by the door against the dashboard, and moves her hands faster.
I place my hand on her knee again and give her a squeeze. She turns her face, so her cheek is against the seat.
She closes her eyes and bites her lip. As she climaxes, her body shudders. She rubs her cheek against the seat and when she finally stills, I move my hand from her knee over to her face. There’s a thin sheen of sweat. I stroke her cheek with my finger.