Their Protector: An MC Outlaw Halloween Romance, page 109
I pulled a notepad closer and started scribbling down bullet points about the kind of person Hanson was showing himself to be to the public, and what we could do to fix it. By the end of the day, I had an idea in mind. Hanson wasn’t going to like it, but he would have to choose. Either his career would suffer even more, or he would play my game by my rules.
The women had to go. He had to clean up his act and show that he could be without random hookups, if that was what it came down to. He needed to demonstrate dedication and commitment, not only to football and his team, but to himself, as well.
I leaned back in my chair again and swiveled back and forth, my elbows on the armrests and my fingers interlinked. I thought about Luke.
He had been a good guy. Any other woman would have been thrilled by someone who was that committed. I just wasn’t like other women. I didn’t want commitment. I wanted fun. I wanted no-strings-attached sex. I wanted to be my own woman, without having to make changes for a man. It wasn’t a lot to ask, was it?
Luke had thought so. He had gotten hurt because he had invested himself emotionally in me. I had warned him not to.
I hadn’t gotten hurt by telling him goodbye. Would I miss him? Yes, there were sides to him that I enjoyed spending time with. But I could do without those things if it meant maintaining my own independence.
The moment you committed yourself to someone else and let them in, you sacrificed a part of yourself. The more you did together, like build a life and a family, the more you lost of yourself. Until eventually, there was so little left that you were only half of who you used to be. And then, when something went wrong and you lost the person you put everything into, you couldn’t stand by yourself anymore.
I had seen it too many times. It had happened to too many people around me.
I refused to let that happen to me. I was happy alone. And if I had to break a couple of hearts to stay that way, so be it.
I just didn’t do it out in the open for everyone to see, the way Hanson Bell did it. I understood what it meant, though, and I knew how to help him.
It was how I had figured out how to help myself. It was just a matter of keeping parts of myself hidden until no one else was looking. When they were, I’d bring my other sides to the forefront.
Hanson Bell was about to get special treatment. I wasn’t just going to show him what to do as a PR Manager. I was going to teach him my own tricks of the trade.
And I was determined not to allow myself to become distracted again by thoughts of him fucking me. Sure, I would let him tie me up to the goalpost and take me publicly in front of a football stadium of cheering fans if it was what he wanted— if he weren’t my client.
But since he was, he was off limits. I had to let go of those dirty thoughts. Starting right then and there. No more thoughts about his tongue circling my nipple and then creeping slowly down to my wet pussy. Those thoughts were done, completely, I promised myself, right before I allowed myself to indulge in them a little more, just last one last time.
Chapter 9 – Hanson
On Friday, I drove to the address Lacey Townsend had messaged me and parked in front of the building. When I announced myself at reception, the woman behind the desk blushed. She knew who I was.
I flashed a brilliant smile at her. She fumbled on the computer, pressing backspace a lot more than she should on the keyboard, before she finally told me I could go up.
I rode the elevator to the third floor and followed the directions to Lacey’s office.
The door was open, and she wasn’t in her office when I arrived. I walked in and waited for her. The office was neat and tidy. It looked like a place where work was the main concern, but she had added a few personal touches.
I walked around her desk, glancing at her things. She had photos of her and another woman on the desk, a plant beneath the window, and ornaments along the top shelf of her bookcase.
I didn’t see photos of a man anywhere. It didn’t look like she had anyone she was serious about.
That was always a good sign.
Yeah, I knew I wasn’t supposed to be interested in the person hired to fix my image. But how could a guy help it— with a woman as smoking hot and ambitious as Lacey?
“Mr. Bell,” she said, as she walked through the door of her office, and I nearly jumped. Catching myself, I cleared my throat in what I hoped was a casual gesture. “You’re early.”
I nodded, walking back to the side of her desk I was supposed to be on. I looked her up and down. She wore black pants and a white blouse that offset her dark hair very well. Her eyes were sharp and bright.
When she walked, she moved her hips from side to side. Her breasts were on the larger side, and her blouse traced her figure perfectly. A small amount of cleavage was poking out again. I couldn’t help but think she had done that just for my benefit.
She cleared her throat this time, and I looked at her eyes again. She didn’t look flustered that I’d been staring. She wasn’t blushing.
What was it with this woman? She seemed unimpressed by my advances. Other women would be eating out of my hand right now.
It made me want her more. What was it they said about forbidden fruit? It didn’t fall far from the tree of desire? It made your mouth water even more because you knew it was the juiciest kind?
I was mixing my metaphors. But Lacey seemed to have that kind of effect on me. My mind was spinning and I wasn’t able to stop it.
“Take a seat, Mr. Bell,” she said.
“Hanson, please,” I said.
“Hanson,” she said and nodded.
I liked the way my name sounded in her mouth. I could imagine her on her back, naked, her eyes closed and her lips mumbling, or screaming, my name.
“Let’s get down to business,” she said.
“What did you have in mind?”
I had an idea of what business I would like to get down to, with her.
She glanced at me. I couldn’t tell what she was thinking. Did she even like what she saw?
She must have worked with a lot of famous people, but I didn’t rely on my fame. I was skilled in other areas, and I got what I wanted, when I wanted it.
“Have I mentioned how good you look today?” I asked when she didn’t answer me.
“Look, Mr. Bell… Hanson. Let’s be honest with each other. You’re not the kind of person that wants to go as far as a conversation with a woman. I’m not here to do anything else than talk. We’re going to have to find middle ground if we’re going to work together.”
I smiled. “So, a little bit of both?”
She didn’t look impressed.
“Don’t,” she said. “Women fall at your feet. I understand that’s what you’re used to. I want you to see me as an equal, a business partner, if you will. Someone who will give you what you need, not what you want.”
I shrugged. “And if those things are one and the same?”
“What you need is to salvage your reputation. What you want is to get into my pants. I think we both know which one we’re going to prioritize here.”
“Are you always this cold?”
She looked at me, and her eyes were the color of the sky, so bright I felt like I could see for miles.
“I’m good at my job,” she said. It wasn’t an answer. “Speaking of which, we’re going to start off your rehabilitation with a bang.”
I grinned again. A bang . She shook her head, realizing what she’d done.
“Seriously,” she said. “You’re like a teenager.”
“What did you have in mind?” I asked her again.
She didn’t respond. Again. She was complicated. She just wasn’t turned on by me or by my approach. She was a challenge. That made me want her even more, because, like I said, I happened to like challenges.
“What are you doing this weekend?” I asked.
“I’m going out with you,” she said.
I blinked at her. “What?”
“We are attending a charity event tomorrow evening. They’re taking donations for a new children’s wing at Jackson Memorial Hospital.”
I rolled my eyes. It wasn’t what I’d had in mind when she’d said she would go out with me. Of course, she was messing with me. Hot, unavailable, and apparently, full of shit. This was exactly the kind of woman I wanted to pursue.
I shook my head. “I’ve got something planned already tomorrow.”
“Cancel it. This is important.”
“Can’t we do it another Saturday?”
“Sure,” she said. “I’ll call them and ask them to move the entire charity for your convenience.”
I realized she was being sarcastic with me.
“Funny,” I said.
She looked up at me, her face still as closed off as before. I didn’t know what to think of her or how to judge her reactions. She looked completely uninterested. It made me want to try harder and harder to get her to crack and get something out of her.
A couple of orgasms would be a great start.
“It’s a formal event. Black tie. I expect you to wear a suit. We should meet up a little earlier to discuss your approach. So be ready by six.”
I shook my head. “You didn’t once ask if I want to attend this event.”
She looked up at me. Her eyes were piercing on the surface but underneath they looked deep enough to drown in.
“You’re right. I didn’t,” she finally said. “But did your team ask if you wanted to be suspended for a DUI? Did you ask all those women in the tabloids with you if they wanted to be dragged down with you in your spiral of embarrassment?”
I gaped at her, speechless for once in my life.
“Looks like we’re on the same page, then,” she said.
She wasn’t fucking around. Lacey Townsend had been serious when she’d said, “let’s get down to business.”
“Just so you know,” I told her. “That DUI charge? It was bogus.”
“That’s what they all say,” she said.
“I’m serious.” I looked at her, pleading with her to listen. Finally she stared back, ready for my explanation. “I never even drive myself. I have a chauffeur. I was just in the limo. I was sleeping.”
“Well, Florida has a law that says if the keys are in your hand or even near you, then that satisfies the intent element,” she said, with the knowledgeable air of someone who had plenty of clients who had had DUIs before.
“Exactly,” I told her. “So, that’s the issue. I shouldn’t have gotten a DUI. But it wasn’t as bad at it sounds.”
She shrugged, unimpressed.
“When it comes down to it, it doesn’t really matter,” she says. “It makes no difference to the public how you got the DUI, because they don’t pay attention to the details. They just care that you got one. And now, they care what you’re going to do about it.”
She was a tough cookie. What was I going to do about it? I had no clue. I had just been planning to live my life but apparently she and Coach Thompson had other plans for me.
“What am I doing here?” I asked.
“You’re here because you need your image cleaned up if you want people to see you differently. Right now, you’re the party guy, the guy who gets the girls and the booze. Not the wins.”
I frowned. “I get wins.”
She shook her head. “But that’s not what you’re famous for. You can’t tell me you like the way you’re being portrayed in the media.”
I shrugged. “I don’t really care.”
Lacey nodded. “I can see that. Maybe it’s time you start caring. Your career is dependent on your image. It’s already gotten you in trouble.”
I shook my head. “What got me in trouble is an unfortunate car crash.”
“You’re right. It was an unfortunate crash. But you know what they’re saying about that. That it was just a matter of time before something like that happened. That you were heading in that direction for a long time. That you celebrated your survival from that crash with two more women.”
I just blinked at her. It was true. They did say those things about me. But that didn’t change how women saw me or how well I played football.
“If I’m going to give up who I am for the sake of other people, there will be nothing left.”
Lacey nodded. “I understand. But I’m not trying to change you. I’m just going to ask you to change what you show the rest of the world.”
I narrowed my eyes at her. “So, I don’t have to give up alcohol or women?”
She looked at me long enough without answering that I got the idea. I was going to have to change, wasn’t I?
“For a while, you might want to watch what you’re doing.”
I rolled my eyes. “What if I don’t want to?”
I realized how childish it sounded. She’d already called me a teenager once. But I didn’t want to do what she told me. I didn’t want to watch what I was doing. I wasn’t used to it. And I didn’t want to have to start.
“Look, Hanson, let’s be honest with each other. You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. No one is holding a gun to your head and telling you that you must change. But if you don’t, you’re out of a job. All your hard work would have been for nothing. You can’t have your cake and eat it, too.”
I shook my head. “I never really understood that saying.”
A voice in the back of my head told me maybe that was because I’d always gotten what I wanted. Fuck. She was already messing with my mind.
Lacey shook her head. “I’ve been hired to do my job. I’m not going to stop doing it until I’m told to let it go by my boss. So, until then, you’re stuck with me, and we’re going to go through the motions to get you socially acceptable.”
I didn’t like being told what to do, but I didn’t see another way out. I nodded.
“I’ll see you on Saturday at six,” she said. “Don’t be late.”
I didn’t know what to say. She was a battle axe. An interesting, stubborn, sexy-as-hell battle axe. Her office phone rang, and she picked up the receiver, pressing her hand over the mouth-piece.
“Can you find your way out?” she asked.
I nodded. She pressed the phone against her ear. I’d been dismissed.
I, Hanson Bell, the man that women never rejected, had just literally been told to see myself out. This woman was more of a challenge than any I had ever met before. And, probably because of that very fact, I found myself wanting her even more.
Chapter 10 – Hanson
When I left Lacey’s office, I was irritated. I usually walked away from a woman feeling on top of things. Sometimes literally. Instead, she had taken me for a ride. And not in the fun way.
I got into my car and drove to the training facility. I was meeting up with Brian for a workout. I wanted to show Coach I was as dedicated and committed as I had said I would be. I also needed to work out some of my frustration.
“What’s gotten you so worked up?” Brian asked when I was on my fifth set of twenty on the weights.
“Nothing,” I said.
“That doesn’t look like nothing,” Brian said. He was on his second set of bicep curls.
“It’s that PR Manager,” I said. “Lacey. I met with her just before I came here. She really rubs me the wrong way.”
What I meant was that I wanted to rub her the right way, but she wouldn't let me. I wasn't about to admit that to Brian, though. I'd just get some (probably well deserved) lecture about keeping my eye on the prize.
I put the weights on the stand and sat up, searching for my water bottle. When I found it, I squirted water all over my face before drinking the rest of it.
“Is she a pain?” Brian asked.
I nodded. “An enormous pain. But God, it makes me want her.”
Shit . I'd let it slip out. Brian was like a brother to me and I could never hold anything back from him.
I shot him a glare. I knew I'd regret mentioning anything about Lacey to him.
“It’s not my attraction to her that’s the problem,” I said. “She doesn’t seem to be attracted to me. At all.”
Brian shook his head, smiling. “Imagine, Hanson Bell has met his match.”
“Shut up,” I said, putting my bottle down and walking to the treadmill.
“What about her makes you care so much?” Brian asked. “I’m sure you can just find someone else.”
I nodded. “Of course. But I don’t want someone else. I want her.”
“Because you can’t have her?”
“No. Because she’s hot. God, you should see this woman. She’s got it all. The body, the face, the mind. Too bad she’s just all about business.”
Brian shook his head, letting his weights drop for a breather.
“Maybe you should just play with the women who want to, you know? It would probably work out for the best that way anyway. If you slept with your PR Manager, the one who's trying to clean up your image, that would just be ironic.”
“What it will be,” I said, pushing up the speed on the treadmill, “is an achievement. And I’m all about success.”
Brian shook his head without answering. I pushed the treadmill faster and faster. I wanted Lacey Townsend. I wanted to fuck her. The fact that she didn’t want me just made it that much worse. I didn’t just want her. I wanted her to want me, too. That was the challenge.
I always got what I wanted, and this time would be no different.
Chapter 11 – Lacey
I woke up at sunrise on Saturday morning and went for a jog. It was the best stress release I knew of, and the morning was fresh and crisp. On weekends, no one was out at this time, and I had the road to myself. My feet beat out a tattoo on the road, and the rhythm was soothing.