More than want you, p.9
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       More Than Want You, p.9
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         Part #1 of More Than Words series by Shayla Black

  all I can do not to drag her into my lap to see if I can work off those Daisy Dukes and get her in a compromising position. Maybe with her legs straddling my chair and her bobbing on my cock?

  “I’m listening.” Or I’m trying. My eager dick is making it really tough to hear.

  She clasps her hands in her lap and blows out a breath as if she’s come to a major decision and is simply working up the nerve to tell me. “I’m willing to take you up on your offer if it still stands.”

  “What?” I can’t have heard that right. Hadn’t she all but lectured me that my horrible, unscrupulous plan was an affront to her golden moral compass? “What made you change your mind?”

  While it would be most logical, everything inside me hopes she’s not merely here for the money.

  “A lot of meditation. I’m a big believer that things happen for a reason. When we first met, I admit I hoped you were the soul mate I’m meant to share my life with. But clearly that’s not the case. So I asked myself why our paths crossed. The only answer that made sense is that I’m meant to help you see you’re a bigger man than this—call it whatever you want—scheme. Maybe I’m supposed to show you that your plan won’t work and that you should just talk to your brother.”

  I stare at her, trying to absorb everything she’s said. But it’s like pops and buzzers. Nothing makes much sense. “So…after listening to terrible music and closing your eyes to focus on your breathing, you came to the conclusion your soul wasn’t born for mine”—I scoff. Who dreams this shit up?—“And that your cosmic purpose is to make me hate my backstabbing brother less?”

  She shakes her head. I can tell that, despite herself, she’s amused. “That’s not exactly how I would characterize it. What I meant was, I think my purpose in your life is to help you resolve the issues with your brother.”

  Before I can do something stupid, like question her sanity—because she obviously really believes this—I plaster on a smile. “So what’s my purpose in your life?”

  Keeley won’t have a comeback for this. Watch. She’s obviously thought about what she knows, what I don’t, and all the reasons I’m a dumb ass. Or… “Is this about the money? You want me to finance your future?”

  The cynic in me is sure of that, but the rest would rather not hear that I’m right.

  “Of course not. I told you I wouldn’t accept the money. I meant it.” She shrugs. “I think I’m meant to expand my understanding of business so I can succeed with my B and B in the future.” She raises a brow at me. “Then again, maybe you’re in my life merely to teach me patience.”

  I can’t tell if she’s kidding until she sticks her little pink tongue out at me.

  I don’t want to, but I find myself laughing. “Maybe. So you’re actually agreeing to help me distract Griff?”

  She nods but holds up a finger. “With conditions.”

  Of course. I sit back in my chair and cross my arms over my chest. If she’s ever negotiated a deal in her life, I’ll be shocked. I, however, have been doing this for damn near a decade. “Lay them on me.”

  “I’m not sleeping with Griff for you, not even if I’m failing. I’ll be friends. I’ll flirt. I’ll lead him on, even. But I won’t go to bed with your brother unless it’s something I want.”

  I’m good with that. I intend to make sure Keeley never wants to sleep with my brother. Ever. I don’t think I could stand it. “Agreed.”

  “Good.” She nods as if that little win has given her the courage to give me her next condition. “At a time and place of my choosing, you and your brother will sit down, face to face, and have a conversation of no less than one hour.”

  I lean in, brace my arms on the desk, and I laugh. “How are you going to make him agree to that, sunshine? Griff hasn’t talked to anyone from his former life except Harlow in three years. There’s no way you’ll force him into the same room with me.”

  “If I can’t, that’s on me.” She shrugs. “But if I’m able to persuade him to listen to reason, you have to sit down and talk. Agreed?”

  It’ll never happen. “Sure.”

  “Great. While I’m doing your dirty work, you’ll be mentoring me on how I can succeed with my business plan. You’ll teach me how to buy the property, how to find reputable contractors, how to advertise on the Internet, and whatever else I need to know. We’ll be exchanging…services. As such, we should mutually agree that we’re working together so we won’t be sleeping together.”

  She’s better at negotiating than I thought, but I only have one answer to that. “No.”

  “No to what? You won’t help me?”

  “I’ll teach you anything you want to know, sunshine. I’ll write up your bid. I’ll hand-walk your paperwork. I’ll do whatever I can to help you open the inn of your dreams. I will never agree to not having sex with you.”

  Keeley frowns at me. I see her reddish-brown brows draw together and a little vertical line work in between. “Fine. Because I won’t agree to have sex with you. So unless you’re going to force me…”

  I sit back, cursing under my breath. I won’t, and she’s probably ninety-nine percent sure of that, so she’ll take the tiny gamble. “Tell you what? I won’t stop trying to seduce you. Of course, you’re always free to say no. I’ll never push you to do something you don’t want…but I won’t give up trying to get you back into bed.”

  “Why? Because you like an easy lay?”

  “Damn it, that is not how I see you. I won’t stop because I want you.”

  “Whatever. Don’t touch me when I haven’t consented, and we’ll be just fine.”

  “All right.”

  It will be my mission in life to make her burn for me. In fact, I wonder if I can bend her in the next twenty-four hours. How can I stack the deck in my favor? Then I realize I have an ace up my sleeve. “Learning to distract Griff is a full-time job. If you’re going to do that, you need to give up everything but school.”

  “Then I can’t afford my rent. Are you going to pay it?”

  “No. You’re going to move in with me. I’ve got a spare room.”

  “I can’t break my lease.”

  I smile. “You can’t. But I can.” It’s been a while since I’ve looked through a lease for a loophole, but I’m sure I can find one. I scoot closer, move in for the kill. “Think of this as a money-saving opportunity. Free rent. Free food. Free clothes. Free business advice.”

  Keeley hesitates. “For how long?”

  “A month.” That covers the three weeks before the Stowe heirs lift their nose from their business, plus another one to make sure the job is good and done. “After that, I’ll help you find a place and negotiate a better rental agreement if you want. You’re going to come out ahead.”

  “You’re only offering me this option because you want to have sex with me again.”

  I choose my words carefully. “And because I want to divert my brother’s attention away from this mega listing. Until today, those two desires have been mutually exclusive. You’re giving me a way to have my cake and eat it, too. I’m merely agreeing.”

  “I don’t want to live with you, even in a separate bedroom.”

  I could tell her that’s the deal. Take it or leave it. The words are on the tip of my tongue. But I swallow them. “The ocean in your backyard every day. Meditating to the sound of the waves. I’ll even clear a space on the lanai for your yoga.”

  She bites her lip. I’ve tempted her. I tamp down a smile.

  “That’s ruthless.”

  “That’s what I’m good at. Yes or no?”

  Her lids slide shut. Her blue eyes are so readable, so being closed off from her is a disadvantage. But if I had to guess, she’s really considering my proposal. “I have a couple of events scheduled I can’t miss. I have two tests next week. I have to study.”

  Not a problem. “I have to work. You’ll prep for your exams while I’m chained to my desk. When I come home, you’re mine.”

  I’m really hoping we spend most of
our time horizontal.

  “Since you work a lot, that should be fine. I also committed to teach a yoga class at a senior center near my place every Sunday at nine a.m. It only takes an hour. That’s a hundred bucks I could use.”

  “I’ll pay you for your time.”

  “I can’t let them down. I’ve been doing this for months. They really look forward to it. So do I.”

  What kind of curmudgeon would I be if I took exercising and socializing away from some old folks? I’m an asshole…but not that much of an asshole. “All right. An hour once a week.”

  “Next Wednesday night, I’m supposed to see my friend Cami. She’s a hairdresser. We trade out. She does my hair, and I help her with guided meditation.”

  I shake my head. “You won’t be needing her, so she’ll have to find someone else to guide her thoughts into nothingness.”

  “But my roots.” She points to the top of her head. “My hair doesn’t grow in pink, you know.”

  “It won’t be pink for long. Griff has a type. It’s very specific. Even if you only flirt with him, you have to turn his head. That color will not do it. The lovely ladies at the Ritz-Carlton spa will transform you under my direction into my brother’s wet dream. Since that’s the reason for this venture, that point is nonnegotiable.”

  Keeley doesn’t like it. I can tell she’s absolutely pissed off. But I’m right. I know exactly what Griff wants, and I’m going to dangle the most beautiful, charming, big-hearted woman in his face…then make sure he can’t have her. Screwing Griff out of the Stowe deal will be sweet. But screwing him out of the woman he’s dying to have will be every bit as delicious. And if I can be screwing her myself, that will be the sublime cherry on top.

  “You’re paying to put my hair back exactly the way I’m wearing it now at the end of a month.”

  “Done.” I like it pink, actually. It’s darker than an Easter egg, lighter than a raspberry. It suits her. If we haven’t boinked our brains out and gotten tired of one another after four weeks, then I’m good with this style.

  Hell, as much as I want her now, I’m not sure I’d care if she went bald.

  “One more thing. I called Gus this morning. He’s doing some remodeling at the bar, expanding the stage. He says the gigs have gone over well. He’d like to have me back on the nineteenth next month.”

  Two days before the end of our bargain. I weigh carefully my mission versus how much I enjoy hearing her sing. “I’ll compromise with you. A week prior, we’ll look at our progress. If I think it’s sufficient, you can go. If not, you cancel. That gives him a week to find a replacement.”

  “You’re pushing me,” she warns.

  “Look, in different ways, we each hold parts of the other’s future in our hands. You’re helping me with now, and I’ll teach you how to succeed later. I’ve given where I know I can, but I want evenings dedicated to me.” To us. “We have a lot to accomplish and not much time to do it. I drive a hard bargain because that’s who I am. For the next month, I think you know you should worry more about keeping me happy and worry less about Gus. If, to your point, you won’t be making your living off your vocal cords, all you’ll have at that crappy sports bar is a good time.” And, sunshine, I’ll give you a better one. “If you want to make your living as an innkeeper, I’m your man.”

  She sighs. “I feel as if I’ve conceded a lot to you.”

  “I’ve compromised, too.” But I know I have Keeley mostly where I want her. I just have to not screw up my good thing.

  She gives me a wry smile. “You trying to convince me of that doesn’t actually make it true.” When she shakes her head as if she’s questioning her sanity, I know I’ve won. “All right. You’ve got a deal. When do we start?”

  “Now. I’ll take you back to your apartment. While you pack up, I’ll make some arrangements. Text me your class schedule. I’ll do my best to be back at the condo by seven every night. You’re mine until midnight. No interruptions. I’ll see how many hours I can cut out of my weekends.” I sit back in my massive chair, feeling a supremely satisfied smile streak across my face.

  I’m going to do this so right Griff will never know what hit him.

  CHAPTER SIX

  By the time we reach my condo, it’s nearly nine. Keeley looks pale and a little shell-shocked. Everything has moved fast tonight for a couple of reasons. I didn’t want to give her too much time to rethink our deal…and I’m impatient to get her back onto my turf, into my bed.

  We wait for the bellman to bring up her belongings. Thank god she rented the apartment furnished, so we only have to move her personal items. That frees up my hands. I can’t not touch her, so I tangle fingers with Keeley, pressing our palms together.

  She wriggles away from me. “Don’t. This is a business relationship now.”

  I could argue that it doesn’t have to be, but now isn’t the time to pick that fight. Later. When she’s comfortable and happy, when she’s feeling less overwhelmed.

  “All right. It’s late. I’ll call for dinner. There’s a menu in the kitchen near the microwave. It’s propped against the wall.”

  Keeley picks up the well-loved page and scans it with a wrinkle of her nose. “You clearly eat someone else’s food too often. So much sodium and fat and preservatives. Um…I’ll cook. Do you have any staples in your pantry and fridge?”

  “Booze. Popcorn. Maybe a can of soup. I don’t cook here.” In fact, I’m wondering if, other than an occasional egg or sandwich, I’ve ever made a meal in my own kitchen.

  “Oh, my gosh. You’re such a man.”

  The way she rolls her eyes tells me that’s not a good thing.

  “Hey, I get by.”

  “Clogging your arteries every day, sure.” Suddenly, she points at me, determination all over her pixie features. “I’m going to addict you to good-for-you food in the next month. You’re going to crave meals that didn’t come out of a damn freezer. And I intend to make sure you can feed yourself properly after I’m gone.”

  “As long as I get five hours of your time every day, why not?”

  I have to eat. Sure, I could be healthier. Since I turned thirty a few years back, I notice that weight creeps up if I don’t maintain my strict gym habits. I’m sure less crappy food would make it easier to stay healthy. And I’ll get to spend more time with Keeley.

  After she prowls through my kitchen, she turns to me with a shake of her head. “It’s empty.”

  “I’m not—”

  “Here that much. You’ve told me. As far as dinner goes, that’s going to change.”

  For tonight, we call room service. While we wait, she moves into the spare bedroom. I linger in the doorway, try to talk to her. I attempt to be charming. I really want to remind her that half of my big bed is empty. I wonder if she would buy my argument that we could help the environment if we only needed to wash one set of sheets each week?

  “How have you been the last few days?” I venture that line of questioning to see where the conversation goes.

  “Perplexed,” she says honestly.

  I understand what she means. “Me, too. I didn’t get a chance to tell you the other night, but you sang great.”

  “Thanks.”

  That’s all she has to say? Since she simply continues to pluck garments from her suitcase and hang them in the closet, I guess so.

  I search for another conversation starter. “So you’ll just call your other jobs in the morning and quit?”

  “Yes.”

  And? “If they require two-week’s notice, you can’t give it to them.”

  “Understood.” She sounds a bit down about that.

  I want to comfort Keeley, but she has an invisible force field around her that warns me to keep out. Instead, I promise her something more practical. “Since you’ll be out of work, the offer of a hundred grand is still there. Just say the word.”

  She gives me a noncommittal hum. I’m back at proverbial square one. If I touch her…well, I saw what happened to Hulk Moron
s balls the night we met. I promised I wouldn’t lay a hand on her against her will. Actually, I didn’t think she’d have much will to resist me. But I suspect this woman is far more stubborn than I gave her credit for. What if we spend the whole month without sex?

 
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