Their Protector: An MC Outlaw Halloween Romance, page 115
My heart pounded, as I allowed myself to believe my own words. Perhaps this was all a complete set up against Hanson. But I couldn’t allow myself to believe what I wanted to believe. I had to remain objective and professional— advocate for my client instead of getting caught up in his web of drama.
Damn myself for sleeping with him!
“So, you don’t think I should extend his suspension?” he asked.
I shook my head. “Let him carry on with his public services like we’d planned, and let him play in the meantime. If he’s on the field, his actions off the field will be noticed that much more.”
“That’s what I’m worried about,” Thompson said.
“I understand your concern. But he is trying. And this incident was out of his control. Yes, we don’t know exactly what he said and he probably should have just stuck to the team gym for working out because he knows how important this time period is in terms of public image and avoiding any kind of drama at all, but we can’t exactly expect to keep him locked up 24/7. And that girl got exactly what she wanted. It sounded a lot like she was setting him up.”
I was going to force myself to believe that. The video had been posted less than four hours after I’d left his place. It was a slap in the face to think that he wanted any of this to happen, that he would have taken her home.
Coach Thompson rubbed his palms on his knees.
“Okay, Miss Townsend,” he said, finally. “I’ll let him play. But if any of this goes wrong, I’m not just going to blame him.”
“Of course not,” I said, getting up. “I’m his PR Manager. You hired me to do a job, and if I’m not doing it, I’m equally to blame for his actions.”
I didn’t like saying the words, but they were the truth. Thompson shook my hand, and I left the office. When I’d come to the coach, he had been so angry, it had taken me half the morning just to calm him down. At least, Hanson wasn’t off the field. Not yet. If he kept it up, I couldn’t promise that would be the case for much longer.
Chapter 25 – Lacey
I walked to my car, feeling drained. It wasn’t even noon yet, and I was exhausted. That was partly because I had stayed up until the early hours of the morning, having sex. It was also partly because I’d had to fight the whole morning to restore the dignity of a man I didn’t feel exactly deserved it.
And to think, I’d slept with him. Not once, but twice . The first time had been because he’d been hot as hell in that damn tux and he’d just donated so much money to the hospital. There was something about selflessness that just turned a woman on. I wasn’t sure what it was. The second time had been my fault.
I’d been so drunk, I’d only been able to think of two things, sex and Hanson. I had gone to him and put the two together. And it had been a bad idea. It had meant nothing to him.
Of course, it didn’t mean anything to me, either, I quickly reminded myself. I didn’t care about Hanson and what he might feel for me. My own ego was a little bruised that he’d been able to get over our night together so quickly, but that was it.
I didn’t care what he did and with whom, when he wasn’t with me. I didn’t care.
I didn’t care, I didn’t care, I didn’t care. Maybe if I repeated it enough times to myself, it would be true.
I stopped in my parking space and made my way to my office. I’d just sat down behind my desk when Conrad knocked on my door.
“How did it go?” he asked.
“It worked,” I said. “Your call was just in time.”
He nodded. “It’s a pleasure. You just let me know if you need my help again to do your job.” He winked at me.
I shook my head, but I couldn’t help smiling.
“God, what a morning,” I said, leaning back in my chair.
“He’s a handful,” Conrad said. He wasn’t even asking. It was a statement.
“You have no idea,” I said. “If any other guy does what he’s doing, it would just be written off as a guy thing. Some men are like that, and women accept or reject them, and nothing comes of it. But he’s so damn famous, everything he does has repercussions.”
“It’s good for the good stuff, but when it goes bad, I get it.”
I nodded and glanced up at Conrad.
“You should be glad you don’t have clients like mine,” I said. “Yours always seem so timid.”
Conrad chuckled. “We can swap.”
I shook my head. That sounded like a good idea. I wasn’t in the mood for Hanson’s shit anymore, but I had to deal with it.
“I have to get back to work,” Conrad said. “My boring clients await.”
He left my office. I rubbed my hands down my face, not caring that I was wearing makeup. My back hurt from standing on my heels too long. My neck ached. It was where I kept all my tension. And I hadn’t eaten at all.
The phone rang, and I picked up.
“Townsend,” I said.
“Hello, Lacey.” At least he wasn’t calling me “beautiful.”
“You’re phoning me on the office line?” I asked.
“I was worried you might not answer if I called your cell,” he said.
Right. That would have been a possibility. I wasn’t in the mood to speak to him.
“You’re my client,” I said. “I’m not going to ignore your calls.”
“But you might not want to speak to me, either way.”
I didn’t respond to that. It was true. Just because I had to didn’t mean I wanted to.
The problem with sleeping with my client was that I couldn’t just recover from it in peace and forget what I’d done. I had to see them and speak to them all the time. It was one of the reasons why sleeping with Hanson had been such a big mistake.
That, and the fact that he was a first-class asshole.
“What do you need?” I asked.
I’d wanted to be rude about it, but I kept myself in check.
“I wanted to thank you for talking to Coach. He was really pissed at me, and you smoothed it over.”
I sighed. “It wasn’t easy. You need to keep yourself in check. I don’t think you realize how easy it will be for him to get rid of you again.”
“I know, I know. I was thinking, let’s go out for a drink or two. I want to thank you properly for what you’ve done. What you’ve been doing. For me. Right now, I still have a career thanks to you.”
I didn’t hesitate before I answered him. “I don’t think that’s a good idea, Hanson.”
“Because I’m not going to take that risk and be seen in a public place with you if it’s not for business.”
He sighed. “Are you sure? It’s just to say thank you.”
“I’m sure. Others might not interpret it that way.”
He didn’t fight with me. Instead, he politely ended the call and hung up. I was relieved. I wasn’t in the mood for a fight.
When I finally got home, my feet were aching, and my head felt like it was filled with cotton wool. It had been a long day. I walked to the bathroom and opened the taps, running myself a bath. I rarely took a bath. It took too much time and I was always so busy. But I needed to relax.
I poured bath salts into the water, and the steam smelled like lavender and rose right away. I was just about to strip down when a knock sounded at my door.
I sighed and turned off the taps before walking to the door. When I opened it, Hanson stood on my doorstep with a bottle of wine.
“No limousine?” I asked sarcastically.
“Don’t be like that,” he said. His voice was gentle.
“You’re right. I’m sorry.” My tone had been unnecessary. “What are you doing here?”
“You don’t want to be in public with me. I get that. So, I brought the drink and my thanks to you .”
He held up the bottle of wine. I glanced at it. It was an expensive bottle, a Chateau de la Tour.
I shook my head. “I’m sorry, Hanson. Not tonight, okay? I just want to be alone.”
I walked to the bathroom and stripped off my clothes. When I sank into the hot water, my body finally relaxed, and the tension slipped out of my shoulders bit by bit.
It had been sweet of Hanson to come around to the house. He had taken what I’d said about not being seen together in public seriously. It was another act of selflessness. He had it in there, somewhere. And it was nice that someone cared.
No. I wouldn’t think like that. I didn’t care what he did, and he didn’t care about anything other than getting some ass. I was just stressed and my guard was down. I didn’t need a man.
Yes, we had slept together, but it had just been about sex. That was what it would always be about with me.
I had made myself a promise, and I would stick to it.
No strings. No attachments. Only sex.
So why was it so hard to stick to those rules with Hanson Bell?
Chapter 26 – Hanson
The Regent Cocktail Club was one of the best hotel bars in the world, and it was just the kind of place I wanted to go to for a combination of celebration and relaxation. It was Saturday night and the bar was full. All the beige suede seats at the marble bar were filled, and the bartenders in their vests and bronze ties had their hands full staying ahead of the cocktail orders.
Sometimes they had live jazz bands playing but tonight was just a regular night. Dark brown leather booths were arranged back to back to make individual spaces for the patrons.
Brian and I sat in one of the leather booths, sipping our usual expensive whiskey.
“This is just what the doctor ordered,” I said, looking around.
“What are you talking about?” Brian asked. “You’re always going out. I doubt you needed some serious R&R time.”
I shrugged. “I mean the relaxed vibe. I’m not in the mood for a party.”
Brian raised his eyebrows at me. “Are you feeling sick?” he asked, grinning.
I shook my head, chuckling. “I’m not that bad, Brian.”
“Bullshit,” he said. “You’re always out at the club, trying to pull women. If your night doesn’t end in a good fuck, it doesn’t count.”
I shook my head again. Maybe that was true, or used to be true. But it wasn’t how I felt tonight. I just wanted to spend some time out with my friend.
“The game was good,” I said.
“Topic change. Don’t think I don’t see that.” Brian sipped his drink. “It was okay. We didn’t play very well, but we won. That’s all that counts. By some miracle, we haven’t dropped in the rankings, despite your absence.”
I shrugged. “A miracle for sure,” I said and grinned.
“Cocky bastard,” Brian said. “You’re back now, eh?”
I nodded. “Fucking finally. It felt like a hell of a lot longer than just six games. Which, by the way, is bullshit. I didn’t deserve that much for what happened. It was a first offense. Two games would have been enough.”
Brian shrugged. “I think it’s because of everything else you do, too.”
I glanced at him. “Yeah, Mr. Perfect. Thanks for that.”
Brian shook his head. “That’s not how I meant it. You know I’m grateful.”
I waved my hand to cut him off. I didn’t want to talk about it. “Next round is on you,” I said.
We sipped together in silence, and some women came into the bar. They were okay. They didn’t take my breath away. None of them were as classy and as elegant as they could be. Like Lacey.
God, I was an idiot. I didn’t fall for women. Especially not ones that told me what to do.
“What’s wrong?” Brian asked.
I looked at him. “Who says something’s wrong?”
“Well, we’ve been here,” he glanced at his watch, “for almost an hour, and you haven’t found a woman you want to take home yet. That’s very un-Hanson-like of you.”
I shrugged. “I’m just not in the mood, tonight.”
Brian made a face.
“Now I know something’s wrong. Are you trying to keep it on the straight and narrow because of the game?”
I shrugged and finished the last of my drink. I put the glass down and someone picked it up in no time at all.
“How are things with that PR Manager of yours?” Brian asked.
“Good, I think,” I said.
Better than good, if you counted sex and ignored the times she’d rejected me.
“She’s taking me to Jackson Memorial. They want to see me after the donation, for something like a photo session with the kids.”
“That’s good,” Brian said. “Stuff like that really wins the public over.”
“I didn’t think I needed to win anything, other than my games.”
Brian shook his head and waved at a waiter to come to us.
“You need to win the hearts of your fans, sometimes,” Brian said. “And with your reputation, you can do with some love from the fans.”
I nodded. I guessed that was true.
“I don’t know what to make of Lacey, though,” I said.
Brian ordered two more whiskeys and the waiter disappeared.
“What do you mean?” he asked.
“We’ve had sex. Twice.”
Brian whistled through his teeth. “I knew you wouldn’t be able to keep your hands off her.”
I shook my head. “I get that. I have a reputation. Whatever. But the second time was all her, man. She showed up at my place wasted and took what she wanted. I’m not complaining or anything. On the contrary. Fuck, she was good. I just don’t know what to make of it.”
“Since when do you need to make anything of what you’re doing with a woman?” Brian asked. “It sounds a lot like you like this one.”
I snorted. “Don’t be ridiculous. You know I don’t do it like that. It’s just another woman. She’s just acting differently than I expected.”
“What, she hasn’t slapped you yet?” Brian laughed at his own joke. The waiter arrived with our drinks, and I took mine, sucking down half of it in one go.
I shook my head. “I’m serious,” I said. “It’s confusing when they’re not asking me to call them and being clingy. She’s fucking me and walking away like it was nothing. I don’t get it. She’s doing what I usually do.”
Brian laughed, shaking his head. “If I didn’t know you any better, I would have said you were falling in love.”
“Yeah, right,” I said, shaking my head. There was no way I was falling in love with Lacey. Yes, she was good in bed, and she was good at her job. And her way of making me feel like she didn’t care if I wanted her or not just made me want her more. But that didn’t mean I was falling for her. Right?
It wasn’t like that. I wasn’t like that.
Two women approached us. The one had a camera around her neck, and her friend introduced them as Chanel and Tanya. Tanya was a photographer, visiting Miami to write a travel blog about the nightlife. It sounded interesting, but I eyed the camera. I didn’t like having my photo taken.
Chanel was very flirty. I had the feeling she knew who we were, but neither of them rubbed it in our faces. I appreciated that. I didn’t want to be reminded of my fame. It made me feel like it was the only reason they were with us. Which was the case, anyway, and it never bothered me before.
What the hell was going on with me?
“So, what do you do for fun?” Chanel asked, putting her hand on my thigh.
I looked down at her hand. Her nails were long, slim, and blood red. Everything about her was manicured and maintained. I would have taken her home in a flash before, but now, I wasn’t feeling it.
“I like to spend my time alone,” I said, gently removing her hand.
She pouted a little, getting the idea that I wasn’t interested. Brian watched me with a poker face, but I knew what he was thinking. If I wasn’t falling for Lacey, why wasn’t I taking what I
I didn’t want it. It didn’t matter why. That was enough.
Tanya snapped a picture or two of the bar. I was in them. Lacey was going to kill me. She didn’t even want me working out at an unapproved gym, so I could only imagine what she would have to say about this.
“Will you stop that?” I asked. “Get that camera out of my face.”
“Aww, come on,” Chanel said. “Don’t be such a wet blanket, Hanson.”
I hadn’t told them my name. It was more than obvious now that they knew who we were. Chanel tried once or twice more before she took the hint and moved to Brian’s side of the booth. He didn’t respond to her advances any better than I had. I ordered more whiskey. Tanya ordered shots for the four of us. Tequila.
There was no harm in drinking. Brian had his arm around Chanel, and we downed shots and whiskey like it was going out of style. It was a bad mix, but I didn’t care. I wanted to get drunk. I wanted to be numb, to forget, to stop fretting over women and what was going on in my head.
It worked, too. The alcohol took over, and I felt light and airy.
“Hanson,” Brian whispered loudly, leaning over. “You about ready to get out of here?”
He jabbed a thumb at Chanel, who probably heard everything we said.
I nodded my head. “Or do you want to go home with them? Have them both.”
Tanya smiled from behind her camera.
“The only place I want to go is to the men’s room,” Brian said. “Then we can get out of here.”
Chanel and Tanya both smiled at him. When he walked away, they moved together and gossiped about him and wondered why he didn’t want to go home with them.
“What about you?” Chanel asked me.
“What about me?”
“Don’t you want to come with us? Have some fun? I promise we can show you a good time.” She moved toward me and put her hand back on my leg. I shook my head. “I’m sure I can persuade you.”