More than want you, p.25
More Than Want You,
Part #1 of More Than Words series by Shayla Black
to tell the people around you to fuck off. You just behave like an absolute bastard until they do.”
“Hey! He came here first, behaving like the same ugly sphincter as always, bitching about Mom…and whatever the fuck else he rants about. After he laid into me about his shitty life and tried to make me feel as welcome on this planet as a turd, he decided he’d rather be with you. No idea why. Maybe he feels more comfortable with you since you two are so fucking much alike. But I didn’t send him your way.”
“Even if I believed you—or gave a shit—you can’t deny you’re trying to steal the Stowe business out from under me. I know you wheedled a chance to pitch to them.”
“I don’t deny it at all. George and Vivienne are going to list that house, like any other owner. I’m just giving them a presentation from the number one agent on the island so they can see what I plan to do for them. They deserve to hear more than one thought on how to sell their mother’s estate. That doesn’t make me a bad guy.”
Griff scoffs. “You tell yourself that lie if it helps you sleep at night. But I’m going to get this listing. I’m planning to make a major splash and it will blow everyone away, especially you. I’m going to crush you into the ground, big brother. Then I’ll be number one on the island, and you can go eat shit once and for all.”
Then three impersonal beeps tell me he hung up. Our first conversation in three years, and it’s as brief and ugly as the one that wedged the chasm between us.
I stare at the phone, numb. I wanted something different out of that. I’d hoped…
Like Keeley says, you can’t always get what you want when you want it.
“What did he say?” She climbs from bed and makes her way to my side, arms open. “That didn’t sound good.”
I don’t think about the fact that some would see me as weaker for needing her embrace now when I know it will make me stronger. “That Dad is cramping his style. Whatever. Griff apparently has a plan for the Stowe estate. He says he’s going to win and I’m going down in flames.”
“You know it’s talk. He feels threatened.”
“Yeah.” I nod. “I know. But…what if he’s right?”
“That he’s going to ‘win’? First, your careers aren’t really a race that ends unless one of you gets out of the business entirely. If he pulls ahead for a year…there’s always next year. You two push one another to make the other work harder. That’s not necessarily bad.”
No. In fact, that’s probably true. But… “What I mean is, what if he’s right about strategy? He’s going in big, like it’s the real estate equivalent of a Super Bowl halftime show. I don’t know if he’s got dancers and marching bands or what. But he sounds so…smug. Like he knows something I don’t.” I drop the phone on the mattress and begin to pace. “What if my simple strategy looks like I’ve been slacking in Loserville to the Stowes? Maybe I did this all wrong.”
“We talked about your pitch.” Her touch is so gentle and earnest.
“We did,” I concede as I plop my ass back on the bed.
I don’t want Keeley to think I don’t value her contribution or see her point of view. She opened up my eyes, gave me a whole new way to view this listing. Hell, my business and my life. But I can’t not wonder if the touchy-feely approach won’t work with these two syrup heirs who just want to unload a property. Maybe they don’t want to be understood; maybe they just want top dollar.
“Now you’re not sure it’s the right approach?”
I shake my head. Griff’s words scorch through my brain. My dad’s aren’t far behind. What if I’ve fucked up because I’m always going to be first loser in this family?
“No.” I look at her. “I’m worried and I don’t know what to do.”
“Is he done with his pitch?”
I shake my head. “Still working.”
Keeley is quiet for a long minute. She meanders to the kitchen and fetches a water bottle from the fridge. Absently, she unscrews the top and sips.
I have an idea…and I hate myself for it.
“What are you thinking?” I ask.
She shrugs. “He asked me to dinner tomorrow night.”
“I know.” At his place, where he could be alone with her and try to sweet-talk her into bed.
We’re both silent for a long time. I know we’re thinking the same thing.
I could ask her to finish the task I lured her in to start.
I cringe at the thought. My guts shrivel. It was easy to think about her spending time with Griff when I barely knew her. Now…everything is different.
But it’s also not. I’m still stuck in the same years-long feud with my own goddamn brother. My dad still thinks I’m a pansy-ass failure. I’m still struggling to feel good enough for both of them and searching for the life I want to have.
With a sigh, she settles beside me and takes my hand. “Tell me what you want me to do. I’ll do it.”
I know she will, even though she doesn’t have a hateful, spiteful, or mean bone in her body. She would do something that goes against her own moral code because I need the outcome only she can provide. Yeah, she hasn’t said that she loves me, but why would anyone do that for someone they aren’t emotionally devoted to? My heart does a little dance at the thought…until I realize she’s looking at me intently, waiting for an answer now.
Do I keep her here where Griff can’t touch her or ask her to finish this one critical task for me?
I chew the inside of my lip. I don’t want Keeley to think I don’t value her. After tonight, she knows everything is different, right? She must. I’m an emotional dolt, so if I feel our connection, a smart girl like her will totally know. We’re a unit. We’re in love. We have a future.
As soon as I can put the past and this stupid rivalry behind me once and for all.
I close my eyes. Hesitate. Once I open my mouth, it’s final. I can’t take it back.
But I don’t see another choice.
“Can you have dinner with him?” I croak. “You don’t have to do anything but be a smiling, slightly flirty friend.”
She gives me a vague smile as she stands suddenly. “Sure. I’ll make sure you get what you want most, Maxon.”
Her words give me pause. I don’t like the way she’s phrased them. They’re careful. They could have more than one meaning.
“I want you, too.” I assure her. “I need you to know that.”
But something about her demeanor still feels off. “You okay?”
Keeley breezes past me, strolling out to the lanai wearing nothing but my shirt. She situates herself at the rail, letting the breeze ruffle the cotton swinging around her thighs, and tosses me a gaze over her shoulder. “Of course. Maybe you’ll come over here and give me what I want most?”
For me to make love to her on the lanai.
Yeah, she loves me. She gets me. Everything is going to be great, if I can stop being paranoid.
I grab a condom from my nightstand drawer, then saunter up behind her. I cup her thigh, then lift my hand up to her bare pussy, urging her legs apart. As I kiss her neck, I shift my cock out of my boxers and roll down the condom. Keeley arches back to me, and I smile against her skin, breathing her in.
“You want to fuck out here but you don’t want anyone to know?”
“Yes.” The word is a whisper, uttered on a catch of her breath.
“You’re a screamer, sunshine. And I’m not going to go easy on you. You’ll have to figure out how to keep this our secret…”
Because I don’t give a crap what my neighbors think, I don’t pause even a second so she can decide how she’s going to manage that before I slam deep inside her. I’m so damn grateful and blessed that we’ll have the chance do this every night for the rest of our lives. We just have to get past the next forty-eight hours.
Despite that thought, something is bugging me. And when Keeley turns to me over her shoulder, lips pursed in silent pleading for mine, it’s crazy but I find myself wondering
My day drags on. Keeley texted me this morning to tell me that she got in touch with Griff, who invited her over at seven. No emojis. No hearts and kisses or LOLs. I frown. It’s possible she’s nervous. It’s also possible she’s pissed. But when I ask again if she’s all right, she sends back a vague Fine. I’m headed into an afternoon study group.
“You okay?” Britta comes up behind me with a gentle hand on my shoulder.
I just guiltily shove the phone in my pocket. I hate that she’s going to be angry with me. I hate that she’s probably going to quit. I search for something to say, some persuasion I can give her to make her understand that my decision to use Keeley to eliminate the competition is in no way a reflection of how I feel about her. Britta really is like a sister to me.
“I’m all right. Just a lot on my mind. Friday is coming up fast.”
“Yeah.” She blows out a breath. “My nervous stomach feels that. So does my mouse hand.”
As she shakes the appendage, I smile. “The graphics you’ve created are great so far. Thanks for making the phone calls to those nonprofit organizations you heard about.”
She nods. “I’m glad I remembered reading that article last night about how some of them keep their portfolios solid by buying real estate. I’m excited that United Way, Catholic Charities USA, and Goodwill all said they’d be willing to look more closely at the property next week.”
“I think it’s a strategy that could both keep the Stowes happy and make sure the place benefits others in the future.” At least I hope I’m not wrong. I don’t mention my doubts now.
It’s really too late to change direction. I have to hope Keeley comes through.
“Exactly. One of the organizations talked about using it for corporate retreats and donor gatherings, which isn’t my favorite but a necessary evil, I guess. Another charity talked about it as a recovery center for people dealing with depression and suicidal tendencies—that kind of stuff. I’ve only seen pictures, but I think this estate would be perfect.”
“Anyway, great job.”
She looks around the office and sees Rob ducking into the bathroom. “Did you decide what you’re going to do about Keeley and…”
“Griff?” My gut tightens.
She nods as if she’d rather not say his name. “Any thoughts?”
I hate to lie to her. I really do. But Keeley isn’t going to have sex with Griff. She probably won’t even kiss him again. Right?
“Nothing is final,” I finally mutter. “I’m just…”
I let that trail off so she can draw her own conclusion. I don’t want to hurt her—and part of that is not freaking her out unnecessarily.
She gives me a stiff nod. “How are things going between you two?”
I blink at Britta. I might be steering into a gray area about my business plan but no reason not to come clean here. “I’m in love with her. I realized that for sure last night when my dad suddenly appeared on my doorstep and infuriated the hell out of me.” I fill her in about my parents’ divorce and what a fuckbag my dad is. “Keeley was there to make sure I didn’t commit murder. Or fall apart. She’s really great. You guys will get along, I’m sure.”
As soon as she’s done “distracting” Griff. Then we just won’t talk about that. It will all end well, so what’s the point of hurting Britta?
“You, in love? She and I got off to a bad start, which was my fault, but I want to shake her hand.” She smiles softly. “Can you two come to dinner tonight?”
I nearly stumble on my tongue.
“She can’t. She’s got plans,” I say vaguely.
I’m uncomfortable that I’m lying like a motherfucker. I’m even aware that in the last twelve hours my morals have been…iffy. But I’m going to get business managed, then I’m going to be the most devoted husband for the rest of my life.
If Keeley will still have me.
“Why don’t I take you and Jamie to dinner somewhere? Coconut’s?”
“Sure.” She smiles. “Fish tacos sound great. Makaio had to hop over to Oahu for a meeting until Thursday, so it will just be the three of us.”
“Fantastic.” I’m relieved actually. He’s a decent guy and all…but I feel weird seeing her with someone other than my brother. Stupid, I know. But they just seemed so meant to be. “Did you…um, accept his proposal?”
“Not yet,” she says with a shake of her head. “Jamie slammed his finger in a door last night. He’s okay, but we had to make a trip to the ER. His finger needs a splint for the next two weeks, but you can’t tell a toddler to leave something like that alone, so we had to wait to see the orthopedic surgeon on call and get his advice. We got home late. So Makaio and I didn’t get to talk about anything before he left and I collapsed into bed.”
Then this dinner is perfect timing. I can spend time with Jamie and make sure Britta doesn’t find out where Keeley is tonight…while I talk her out of marrying a guy she doesn’t love.
Rob emerges from the bathroom, checking his long, floppy bang in the mirror one last time before he flips off the light. He frowns. “You two all right?”
“Fine.” Britta checks her watch. “Actually, if you’re happy with our progress on the presentation, I’m going to scoot out a few minutes early to pick Jamie up. I told his pediatrician that I’d swing by so she could look at his finger, too. She’ll probably set his entire hand and forearm in a cast until it heals.”
“Seven o’clock okay?”
“Perfect.” She shuts off her computer and retrieves her purse.
“I’ll pick you up.”
Seconds later, she dashes out of the office. Rob watches her go. The second the door swings shut behind her, he turns to me with an expectant stare.
I know what he wants. Goddamn, he’s always been a pushy bastard. I more than slightly resent his interference.
“Keeley is having dinner with Griff tonight. I lied to Britta and I feel like a heel. Back off.”
Suddenly, he’s all smiles as he claps me on the back. “I knew you’d come to your senses. You’re not the kind of man to put pussy before profit.”
I snap. I don’t know why. He’s made similar statements in the past, and his point of view made sense to me back then.
Now it just pisses me off.
Without any conscious decision, I find myself picking Rob up by his shirt and shoving him against the wall. “Shut the fuck up. Keeley is not just a pussy. She’s a woman. She’s smart. She has a big heart. And she deserves respect. You know, maybe you’re not married because you treat women like interchangeable whores.”
“What the hell is up your ass? ’Cause let me remind you, you’re no better, chief. I don’t know what kind of special magic this woman’s cunt has, but it’s addled your brain. You’re being an asshole. Get your hands off me.”
I let go—but I don’t step back. “I’m opening my eyes. I’m seeing the value of women as people and I feel like a prick that I didn’t do it sooner. But I had my old man as a role model, so it took me extra time to pull my head out of my ass. What’s your excuse for being a miserable misogynist?”
“Fuck you.” He pushes me away. “I respect women. I’m great with clients. I’ve never treated Britta as anything other than my peer and my equal.”
I actually can’t fault him there. He’s golden to clients. He’s been pleasant, kind, deferential, even fatherly at times with Britta. He’s helped her assemble a swing set for Jamie, rescued her when her car got a flat in the rain, and helped look after her when she sprained her ankle. I know he’s not in love with her or anything. To him, women are either Madonnas or whores, no in between.
That used to be me. I see that now. I feel like an asshole all over again.
I’m thankful once more that Keeley came into my life.
“See if you can extend that to the other women around you. You threatened to quit yesterday if I didn’t all but whore out my…” Gir
More Than Want You by Shayla Black / Romance & Love have rating 4.2 out of 5 / Based on42 votes