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Unbuttoning the ceo, p.18

Unbuttoning the CEO, page 18

 part  #1 of  The Suits Undone Series

 

Unbuttoning the CEO
 


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Ms. Cantrell’s face softened. “We have a friend in common.”

  Gracie struggled to keep the surprise out of her voice. “We do?”

  “Yes. Ethan Hill.”

  Gracie peered at Ms. Cantrell, noticing only then the humor in the woman’s eyes. “How do you know Ethan?”

  “We met a few years ago at a charity event. I took a liking to him instantly. Easy on the eyes, wouldn’t you say?”

  It was official. Gracie had been transported to an alternate universe. “Yes.”

  “I spoke with him this morning, after seeing today’s ad in the paper. I imagine Ethan expected I’d see it. He’s a methodical man, and I’m a nosy old coot. I asked him why he didn’t arrange for Media Best to make a donation. Can you guess what he said?”

  Gracie shook her head in the negative.

  Ms. Cantrell smiled. “He said you’d turn it down. And he said he wasn’t meant to be your knight in shining armor anyway.”

  The ice around Gracie’s heart melted when she realized the implication of Ms. Cantrell’s words. He’d understood how important it was for her to rescue LTN on her own terms. Understood, too, that although she wouldn’t turn down a good word based on LTN’s merits, she didn’t want a handout, either, particularly given their previous sexual relationship. All those times they’d discussed her professional goals, he’d listened.

  “For the record, your application for support was approved a week ago, before I knew about your connection to Ethan. Today’s interview was a formality,” Ms. Cantrell said. With a sheepish smile, she explained, “More than anything, I’m a sucker for a good love story.”

  Gracie’s heart pounded. Love. That’s exactly what it was. Distilled to its essence, what Gracie felt for Ethan was love. And he loved her, too. The lengths to which he’d gone to help LTN at the expense of his privacy certainly showed that. Gracie stood, causing her purse to drop to the floor. “Thank you so much, but I have to go.” She rushed to pick up her purse and a few of its contents that had scattered on the floor.

  “Yes, I imagine you have unfinished business with Mr. Hill.”

  Gracie smiled as she rose, and then she shook Ms. Cantrell’s hand. “Thank you. Thank you so much.”

  Before Gracie flew through the door, Ms. Cantrell stopped her. “Ms. Ramirez, one more thing.”

  “Yes?”

  “You might be his.”

  “His?”

  “His knight in shining armor. Given what he wrote in the paper, that’s the conclusion I came to. Not that my opinion matters, of course.”

  Gracie knew differently. Ethan didn’t need to be saved. He just needed someone who would stand by him. For a lifetime.

  Could she be that person? She’d sure as hell try. But to succeed, she’d need help.

  CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO

  Ethan stared at his computer screen, but the numbers and symbols made no sense to him. His brain refused to focus on the task at hand.

  For years, he’d assumed his restless spirit masked his disenchantment with the state of his career. Not enough success. Too much success. But now that he’d secured the right place for himself within the company, dissatisfaction still coursed through him.

  He wanted to commit to something he loved and do it well. And as usual, his thoughts strayed to Gracie. He wanted to love her and do it well. But Gracie refused to forgive him, and he couldn’t blame her. Maybe he’d been too hasty in rejecting her offer of a casual affair. Maybe it was better to have some of Gracie than none. But he dismissed that thought as quickly as it had come to him. He knew himself. He didn’t deal in half measures. He wanted her to be his woman. Only his.

  Mark rushed through his door and slammed it behind him. “Take the job back, please.”

  Ethan laughed, taking in Mark’s harried expression and his mussed hair. “Job’s got you pulling your hair out already?”

  Mark paced his office. “You should have warned me. And why the hell are you on a different floor? I’m going to need your advice, man. Twenty times a day, if not more. You should be on the tenth floor with me.”

  Ethan stretched. Mark required handling. A lot of handling. “You’ll be fine. And I’m here. What’s going on?”

  Mark hit the back of his head on Ethan’s door. “Sign this. Decide this. Go to this. Crap. I had no idea you did so much shit while I was crunching numbers.”

  “You’ll get used to it. This position was made for you.”

  “You owe me.”

  “I do?”

  “Yeah. Imagine if I’d turned down the position. You would have had to remain CEO while we searched on the outside.”

  Ethan’s bullshit detector emitted a quick succession of pings. Not true at all. If he hadn’t stepped down before placing that ad in the Post, the board would have made the decision for him. Still, Mark was angling for a favor, and Ethan chose to play along. “What do you need?”

  “I need to go to Happy Hour. Join me.”

  It was the last thing Ethan wanted to do, but Mark had always been there for him. Joining him for a quick beer at the bar on the corner was the least Ethan could do. “Sure, I’ll meet you in the lobby in ten minutes.”

  * * *

  Ethan and Mark sat at the bar of Citizen Jane, a favorite among the executives and lawyers who worked near Connecticut Avenue.

  Ethan faced the bar and nursed a beer. Mark faced the room, whiskey in hand.

  The dark colors and hazy lighting matched Ethan’s mood. But the place was too noisy, filled with people who didn’t seem to have a care in the world. Ethan envied them.

  Ethan glanced at Mark, who dodged and ducked in an effort to spot any newcomers who entered through the bar’s revolving door. “Looking for someone, Mark?”

  Mark spun around. “No. I’m good. Just tired.”

  Ethan dropped his head. “I know the feeling. It’ll get better. You have a team that wants you to succeed, myself included.”

  Mark didn’t respond.

  What was the point of this whole outing? Ethan took a swig of his beer and placed the bottle on the counter. He dug in his pocket for his wallet so he could tip the bartender.

  “I’m going to head home,” he said, wincing at the bar’s garish décor. As a nod to the season, the establishment had strewn tacky tinsel and paper icicles everywhere. The haphazard holiday decorations mocked him at every turn. Merry Christmas, and a Bah Humbug to you, too.

  How was he going to get through the holiday season? Without Gracie. Ethan took a deep breath and the scent of lilacs wafted over him. He whipped his head up, and his heart banged against his chest. Gracie. There she sat, on the stool that Mark had occupied, looking edible in a tight black skirt with a slit up its front. Her crossed legs flashed patches of her luscious thighs.

  “Hi,” she said with a half smile.

  Ethan struggled to assemble a coherent thought. He forced his lips to move. “Hi.”

  “My name’s Graciela Ramirez. What’s yours?”

  “Nicholas Ethan Hill. But I go by Ethan.”

  “It’s nice to meet you, Ethan. Do you work around here?”

  He dropped back, taking in her relaxed posture and the waves of hair that framed her face. God, he hoped this meant she was willing to give him a second chance. “Yeah, I work around the corner.”

  “Doing what?” she asked.

  “Head of software development.”

  “Sounds important.”

  He shrugged. “It pays the bills. I’m busy, but I have time to get home to cook dinner.”

  “You like cooking, do you?”

  His eyes bored into hers, willing her to understand the implication of his words. “I’m not much of a cook, but I’m willing to learn.”

  Her smile widened. “I’m new in town. Transferred from New York. I run a community service organization just off Columbia Road.”

  “Do you plan to stay in the city?” he asked.

  “I do. I could use some help getting my bearings, though. D.C. is a difficult city to navigate. Woul
d you be willing to help me?”

  “I’d do anything for you.”

  Her nonchalance slipped, and she bit her lip. When she leaned into him, Ethan fought the instinct to grab her hand and shuttle her through the crowd. He needed her. Now. But he would follow her lead. This time, he’d do it her way, or not at all. Luckily for him, the urgency in her voice matched the urgency of his thoughts.

  “Are you willing to take me home?” she asked.

  “I’m not that kind of guy, but I’d make an exception for you.”

  Gracie laughed. “Here’s a different question.” She hesitated. He waited, tortured by the uncertainty of their future. She raised her shoulders and exhaled. “Are you willing to love me?”

  Ethan’s heart thumped in his chest. Relief flooded through him, like a blast of cold air against his skin on a sweltering day. It was the easiest question he’d had to answer in his thirty-two years. “I already do. Question is, can you do the same?”

  She reached over and traced her fingers across his jaw. His body responded to the intimacy of her touch, knowing exactly whose fingers pressed against his face. In that moment, everyone at the bar disappeared. He turned his head and kissed her fingers. Her brown eyes fluttered closed. After several seconds, she opened them, gifting him with a clear and steady gaze. “I’m sure I can.”

  Ethan couldn’t bear to continue this conversation in a crowded bar. “Let me take you home. We’ll talk.”

  She rose as he did. “We’ll talk tomorrow. Tonight, let’s get reacquainted.”

  Ethan dropped his forehead to hers. Images of what they’d do to each other nearly propelled him to drop to his knees in the middle of the bar. He needed to get her home.

  But first he needed reinforcements. “We’ll have to stop at the store on the way to my place.”

  She hurried by his side as they made their way to the revolving door. “What do you need?”

  He pressed his body close to hers as they circled out the door. “Coffee. Lots of coffee. And condoms. Lots of condoms.”

  She raised her hand to hail a cab. “Spending the weekend in bed, are we?”

  “Yeah. In bed. On the couch. On the floor. In the shower. On the kitchen counter. You get the picture.”

  When the cab stopped at the curb, she opened the door and shoved him in. “We’ll need whipped cream, too.”

  * * *

  Ethan stored the canister of whipped cream in his fridge and turned to Gracie. “Think one canister’s enough?”

  She smiled and grabbed his hands, pulling him in the direction of his bedroom. “No worries. I’m sure we’ll have plenty of cream tonight.”

  He stilled and burst out laughing. What the hell had gotten into her? “Did you just . . . Was that a cum joke, Gracie?”

  She turned around and stuck out her tongue. “Ewww. You’re right. Sometimes I have no filter.”

  They reached his bedroom door, the perfect place to make his point. “I don’t want you to have a filter. Not with me. Not here. Not anywhere.”

  “I like the idea of that. You’ll be the only one to know how dirty my thoughts can get.”

  Gracie. In his bedroom. With dirty thoughts. Have mercy on him, indeed.

  She entered his room and fell back against the bed. He joined her within seconds, and once their bodies connected, their movements matched the pace of a thrill ride. Fast breaths. Heated skin. Frantic hands.

  As for his hands, they traveled everywhere, bunching her clothes to reveal the supple skin underneath. Not long after, she sat up and without pretense or coyness discarded her blouse and bra. If she intended to break him, he predicted tonight she would meet her goal.

  When he reached out to toy with her nipples, she fell back against the mattress, giving him freedom to roam. He caressed her nipples, alternating between featherlight touches and gentle pressure. In response, she lifted one thigh and dug her toes into the mattress, the arch of her foot revealing the tension she desperately needed to release. He took that as his cue to slip his hands between her legs. His intentions clear, she dropped her other thigh against the mattress, opening herself to him.

  After readjusting himself to free his hands, he slid a finger under her thong and moved the fabric back and forth against her clit. She let out a soft moan, the sound causing his dick to stiffen as though it were responding to her command.

  Gracie raised her torso and placed her elbows on the bed. Her glazed expression nearly undid him. She wanted to see what he was doing to her, and that was so fucking sexy to him.

  When she bit her lip, looking too composed for his liking, he slipped a finger inside her and massaged her slick walls.

  Her head fell back on a long groan. “Oh, God. Yes. Keep doing that.”

  He wanted her shaking with need, but she wasn’t quite there. He moved down the bed, pressed a kiss against her inner thigh, and tapped his finger against her center. “Can I lick you there?”

  She released a breathy moan before she answered. “For future reference, that kind of question is totally unnecessary.”

  Her smile, genuine and open, did exactly what it had always done to him: make him greedy for more. He wanted her happy, because she’d done the same for him. “I’ll make a note of that.” He rose to his knees. “Lift up.”

  She dug the toes of her feet into the mattress and raised her butt. He removed her skirt and thong with a few quick tugs and settled between her legs. “Are you wet enough for me, baby?”

  “Not sure. Why don’t you investigate?”

  He waggled his eyebrows as he lifted her legs over his shoulders. “Roger that. I’m going in.”

  Her legs shook, likely from laughter, but his attention was drawn to the apex of her thighs. He pressed tender kisses against her mound as he stroked her flat belly, and her stomach quivered under his touch.

  “Gracie, you’re so pretty here. Wet and swollen, and it’s driving me insane.” He wasn’t exaggerating. His cock tingled in anticipation of entering that slick heat, so much so that he rubbed his cock against the mattress to mimic what he’d soon be doing to her. He couldn’t be bothered to be embarrassed by it, not when the magnificent woman on his bed was the catalyst.

  She threaded her hands through the hair at the nape of his neck and pushed her mound closer to his mouth. “Ethan, please.”

  Fuck. This was what he wanted. What he needed to see. Gracie beside herself with want.

  He took a long lick up her slit and fastened his mouth on her swollen clit. She jerked and cried out at the initial contact, but her moans quieted as she undulated her hips in a rhythm to match his flicks of her clit. The nub swelled against his tongue, and he moaned his appreciation.

  He had to see her face. Knew she’d look impossibly beautiful in that moment. And sure enough, she did. But her glazed eyes and slack jaw didn’t last long.

  Clearly not appreciating the interruption, she grimaced and pounded her fist against the mattress. “Don’t stop, damn you.”

  He knew better than to do anything but comply, so he lowered his head and returned his attention to her clit. If he could, he’d wring out every ounce of pleasure possible from her oncoming orgasm, so he slid two fingers into her sex, in hopes of finding her G-spot.

  She released a guttural cry, a sound that filled him with satisfaction. Maybe he hadn’t hit the jackpot on his first try, but she’d reached another level, and that made him want to pound his chest.

  He kept a relentless pace, stirred to action by the sounds she made. Her cries grew louder, until a soft suck of her nub caused her to buck against his mouth. “Oh, yes, Ethan. I’m coming. Please. Don’t. Stop.”

  Stopping was the farthest thing from his mind. But when her thighs clamped the sides of his head, he knew pleasure would soon become pain, so he lifted his head and stared at her flushed face.

  Her breathing slowed, and she blinked her eyes open.

  His heart squeezed at the sight. “Hi.”

  “Hello, down there.”

  “I need
to be inside you right now.”

  “Come on up,” she said as she pulled him toward her chest.

  He reached over, ripped open the condom box, and sheathed himself in record time. Then he rose on his forearms and guided his cock into her. Staring down at her, he took in everything: her full lips, her smoky eyes, and her dark hair fanned against the pillow. He’d never tire of the view. “Gracie.”

  She reached up and squeezed his shoulders, the fortunate effect of which was to press her breasts together. “Ethan.”

  Her voice trembled, and his heart nearly stopped. “Say that again, Gracie.”

  “Ethan.”

  Everything was exactly as it should have been. The knowledge that he wasn’t holding anything back from her freed him. Gave him license to lose himself in her totally. He thrust into her, moving with an intensity that matched the need in her voice. Each time he slipped out and pushed back in, she rose to meet him, matching his thrusts with a roll of her hips.

  He wouldn’t last long. Nor had he expected to. He covered her mouth with his, and lowered his body against hers. His muscles ached from the tension of being on the brink of orgasm. And when the orgasm finally slammed into him, he curled his toes into the mattress and ground his body against her to ride out the wave. Her hands caressed his back, soothing him as he recovered and his vision cleared.

  He pressed his face into her neck and breathed in her sweet scent. “I love you so damn much, Gracie.”

  “I love you, too, Nicholas Ethan Hill.”

  He wanted to worship her. Today. Tomorrow. Forever. He marveled at the chance she’d given him. And he made a vow to spend the rest of his days making sure she’d never regret it.

  About the Author

  Mia Sosa was born and raised in New York. She attended the University of Pennsylvania, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in communications and met her own romantic hero, her husband. She once dreamed of being a professional singer, but then she discovered she would have to perform on stage to realize that dream and decided to take the law school admissions test instead. A graduate of Yale Law School, Mia practiced First Amendment and media law in the nation's capital for ten years before returning to her creative roots. Now, she spends most of her days writing contemporary romances about smart women and the complicated men who love them. Okay, let’s be real here: She wears PJs all day and watches more reality television than a network television censor—all in the name of research, of course. Mia lives in Maryland with her husband and two daughters and will forever be on the hunt for the perfect karaoke bar.

 
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