I knew something was up because he was all quiet in the morning. And by ‘morning’, I mean from eleven-forty-five, when Mitch had already been up for six hours and I had been watching him work the keys on his laptop from my blanket swaddle beside him.
“Your fingers are too big for the keys,” I commented as I watched him aggressively backspace another typo.
His face had twitched with a half smirk and then he’d leant down to press stubbled kisses on my cheek.
“Go back to sleep, baby,” he’d murmured against my ear, the low bass of his morning voice reverberating deep in my belly.
I stared up at him – up his tan forearms, and his thick biceps – and he looked down at me with that kind but confident assuredness that he radiates without even intending to. He moved one hand to my hair and let his fingers leash deeply, the warmth from his skin like heaven against me.
So I had gone back to sleep and then I woke an hour later to a brown paper bag and a takeout coffee cup on the bedside cabinet. I sat upright, snaffled the bag, and peeked inside.
As I ate my donut I read the note he’d penned on the label of the packaging. Just a simple Meet me in the office when you’re ready, followed by a little x. I smiled at the kiss, picturing the crease on his brow as he deliberated whether or not to add it, and then the hard set of his jaw as he slashed the two tiny lines. I wondered if he knew that such a small thing was actually such a big thing. That it proved that his affection for me is bigger than his tough-guy ego.
I flip through the clothes that I brought to Pine Hills and never wore, pulling up a cream skirt and affixing my cream jumper over the top of it. Then I pull on my boots and open the door.
To four feet of snow.
I look back over to the paper bag and the coffee cup on my bedside cabinet with a new level of surprise and appreciation. Jesus Christ. Mitch risked life and limb just to get me a breakfast donut.
I lock up and walk down the path that Mitch has cleared, my eyes locked on his truck and the huge pile of snow next to it. Whilst I was blackout exhausted from everything that we did last night, Mitch must have been shovelling for at least an hour to get the area of gravel road between the bungalows and the gate to the Nature Trail clear enough for him to drive on so that he could take a quick trip to town.
I swallow hard and divert my eyes. Good Lord. How much stamina does he have?
When I reach Mitch’s office the door is wide open, waiting for me, and Mitch is sat behind his desk, looking at his laptop on his right. He scribbles something down in a notebook with one hand and holds his cell to his ear with the other. He senses me before I even knock and he immediately stands, wrapping up his phone call and tossing it to his desk as he makes his way over to me. Just before he reaches me, his arms already out to grab and pull me against him, he pauses his movements, his eyes dropping to the hem of my skirt resting just below my hips. I think my thighs start to blush.
He rumbles quietly, “The hell’s that?”
“It’s a skirt,” I say, almost laughing, but then I cross my ankles, suddenly feeling immature.
He closes the space between us, his eyes still down on my thighs.
“It’s… it’s cute,” he rasps, two fingers tentatively lifting the hem.
Feeling shy I try to change the subject.
“Thank you for my donut,” I say to him, wrapping my arms tight around his neck.
His eyes finally meet mine and I’m dazzled by his irises.
“You’re welcome. You sleep okay last night?”
My cheeks turn pink and his pupils dial out.
“My sleep was a little interrupted,” I admit in a whisper, but I clutch him tighter so that he knows that I liked it. Because Mitch’s stamina is unmatched. Every time I roused slightly in the night Mitch would instantly wake up too, our eyes meeting in the darkness and then his body rolling on top of mine. Waiting for my approval and then rummaging for a condom, his free hand caressing firmly down my body, waking me up for what he was about to do.
“Next time I won’t start my work beside you. I should’ve come straight to the office. I should’ve let you sleep in for longer,” he murmurs, one hand dipping beneath the back of my skirt and sliding up over my ass. When his hand is full he squeezes my cheek tightly and grunts.
I shake my head and give him a reassuring smile. “I liked waking up next to you. It was sexy watching you work.”
He gives me a headshake of his own, but his ruddy cheeks belie his true feelings.
“Spreadsheets aren’t sexy, Harper.”
“They are when you’re doing them.”
He ducks his head to hide his smile.
I press myself against him and he lifts back up, eyeing me questioningly.
“Why did you want me to meet you here?” I ask.
He gestures behind him to his laptop and I watch his jaw harden, like he’s slightly unsure.
“Plane tickets,” he states. “To go to your movie. I was gonna book them but I need, uh, I need you to tell me what you want.”
“What do you mean?”
“What kind of ticket,” he clarifies.
I’m still not totally sure what he’s talking about.
He jerks his head in a let’s take a look gesture and then walks us around the desk until we’re at his chair. He pulls it out for me and nods for me to sit down. I take my seat and then look at the laptop screen when he pulls it in front of me.
“I got the departure date and the airport details but…” He pauses for a moment and I look at him behind me from over my shoulder. His eyes penetrate into mine and I feel a jolt of lightning in my belly. “I need to know if you’re staying, Harper. I need to know if you’re staying here or there.”
I blink at him, lost.
“Staying,” I repeat.
Realising that I’m not following he lays it all out, crystal clear.
“I need to know if I’m booking you a one-way ticket out of my life, Harper, or if you’re going to let me keep you. The ticket’s either going to be a one-way or a return, and I don’t know where your head’s at because we haven’t spoken about it. It’s… it’s your choice, Harper.”
So that’s what was on his mind this morning – the uncertainty about our future together.
I keep looking up at him, nervous to tell him what I want.
“Do you have a preference?” I ask him quietly, my fingers twiddling with the hem of my skirt.
His eyes track the movement for a brief moment and then they fly back to mine, his gaze so intense that I feel pinned against the seat.
“Yeah,” he murmurs. “I do. I know exactly where I want this to be heading. But it’s up to you, Harper. It’s up to you where we go from here.”
The weight of the responsibility combined with the heat in his eyes makes me arch and writhe on his seat with nervousness. He follows the motion and swipes his tongue over his lower lip.
“Tell me,” I demand simply, frowning up at him like a child.
He ducks down and kisses me, slipping his tongue inside my mouth and gently rubbing it against mine. I move my arms so that I can reach up to him but he pulls away before they get there.
“You know what I want,” he says quietly. “You know that I want you.”
I watch him warily for a few moments and then I spin back to the screen, intending to look at the flights he pulled up, but as I turn my eyes catch on something else on his desk. From behind me I know that he won’t be able to see exactly what I’m looking at so I study the page for a minute, heat climbing up my cheeks.
It’s a brochure from the jeweller’s in the town above Pine Hills. But it’s not open on a page for necklaces – it’s open on a page for rings.
He’s spending his free time browsing for engagement rings.
Butterflies flutter in my belly and I quickly look away, pretending that I didn’t see anything. But I did see. It shows me just how serious Mitch is and how sincere he’s being. It shows me that his intentions are long-term and as pure as they get. He isn’t reading from a script and telling me what I want to hear. In fact, he’s working behind the scenes and putting in overtime. I didn’t even ask him to buy our plane tickets – he simply remembered and decided to do it to save me the hassle.
I click on the ticket type and select the word ‘Return’.
Suddenly my chair is being pulled back like a reverse husky-sled and I squeal as Mitch spins it around before dropping to his knees. He pulls my thighs apart so that he can position himself between them. He wraps his hands around both sides of my behind and shoves me forward so that my heat knocks against him, and then he’s cupping my jaw and kissing me hard and firm.
I lock my arms around his neck and tangle my fingers in his hair, and he moans into my mouth, his hands kneading me eagerly. Warm contentment spreads deep in my belly, my body pulsing with pleasure because I’ve just pleased him.
“You’re staying with me?” he murmurs, his hands roaming to the front of my thighs and sliding up the fabric of my skirt. His fingers leash in the sides of my underwear and he grips at them so roughly I hear a tear.
“Yeah,” I whisper back. “I could stay in the bungalow for the weekdays and come to your place on the weekends–”
He shakes his head, his shoulders bunching with restraint as he stops himself from ripping my panties clean off. “You’re staying at mine, all week and all weekend. We’re gonna move your stuff into my room, and I’m gonna have you in my bed. You can do your writing remote, right?”
I nod. “Yeah, I can work from anywhere–”
“Good,” he grunts. “So if I need to travel to a site in a different county you can come with me.”
I blink fast with surprise. “Oh, well–”
I thought I knew what men were like. They like space and testosterone. Not too much oestrogen or they get kind of depressed. And lots of distance. Because distance makes the heart grow fonder, right?
But Mitch has me unravelling the theory. He leans back over to the desk and quickly works his fingers across the keyboard. In less than a minute he’s booked us two return flights to LA, completely unfazed by the crazy total sum for such a short trip. Then he clicks on a separate tab showing luxury private hotels in the area.
“I still have a place in LA,” I tell him, rubbing my thumb in gentle circles over his swollen shoulder muscles. “We don’t need to book a hotel.”
He glances up at me as if he’d forgotten about the fact that I still have a life that isn’t here, but he quickly recovers, simply nodding and then shutting his laptop down.
He stands to his feet and walks around the room, shutting the front door to the office to stop the icy stillness drifting in. Then he bolts the lock for another reason entirely.
I cross one leg over the other and lean back, suddenly drowsy with lust as he turns to face me. His body is a broad dark mass against the doorway. He walks slowly over to me and I uncross my legs, his eyes automatically dropping down, making his chest heave and still.
“Are you gonna keep your place?” he asks me without looking up.
I shrug. “For now, yes. It’s convenient for meetings and press things for when I’m down there. Plus, I already paid off my mortgage.”
That makes him look up, surprised and impressed. He’s probably working out how much money I’ve made in such a short space of time to be able to afford a property that’s classified as prime real estate in Los Angeles.
“I’m a big girl,” I murmur to him huskily.
I see a smile teasing the corners of his mouth, the creases in his cheeks dimpling with amusement.
“Yeah?” he asks, pulling me up from his seat once he reaches where I’m at, his handsome face towering a good foot above me.
I crane my neck to look at him and he wraps his hand gently around the side of my throat.
“Yes,” I whisper, not feeling like such a big girl anymore.
“Hmm,” he murmurs, smiling. “You look petite to me.”
I frown and he laughs out loud.
“Everyone looks petite to you,” I say obstinately.
He smiles again and rubs his nose against mine.
“I’m happy that you’re staying, Harper,” he says quietly. “I’m gonna show you how happy you make me.”
“O-okay,” I whisper as I cling to him, and my breathing hitches when he pushes me lightly against his desk, my ass hitting the edge and then his hands helping me up onto it.
He takes his stand between my thighs and looks down at me with his composed unwavering calm. The calm of a boss. The calm of a CEO. He’s not in his uniform seeing as he’s the only man now working on the site, but he’s never looked so full of authority.
I swallow slightly as he pushes my skirt up, my winter boots waggling nervously above the floor as he exposes my underwear.
“I feel like a naughty employee,” I admit on a whisper, as he presses his thumb gently against the centre of my cotton panties.
As soon as the words leave my mouth he’s scraping one hand down his jaw, his stubble making a rough scratching sound, and then he ducks his forehead to mine, pressing us together.
“I’m gonna put you on the books. I’m gonna put you on the books, just so that we can…” He swallows thickly and squeezes his eyes shut, a sordid fantasy that I’m the star of clearly taking place in his mind without an off switch. He grips his groin through his jeans and steels his jaw as he hardens.
“I can’t take your money,” I say quietly, wrapping my thighs around him tighter and massaging my palms over his pecs.
He breathes out a laugh, no smile on his face.
“You never heard the phrase ‘what’s mine is yours’?” he asks seriously. “Not only are you going to take my money, you’re going to take my last name.”
Then he’s shaking his head, pulling back a little as he tugs a hand roughly through his hair.
“Sorry – fuck, I’m sorry. That was too much, I know it was. We… we don’t need to talk about that kind of stuff yet. I’m getting too ahead of myself.”
He doesn’t seem to realise that I’m melting against him, my breathing getting laboured at how ready he is. To move me up here. To get me into his house. To make me his wife.
“Harper Coleson,” I whisper, my body pounding as I say the words out loud.
Mitch’s eyes burn into mine, his pupils blacking out his irises as we look at each other in silence.
“That… that sounds good,” he says, dipping down so that his mouth is only a millimetre away from mine. “It… it makes it sound like you’re mine.”
I smile a little but then shove gently at his chest. He grunts and presses me against him tighter.
“I don’t belong to you,” I whisper against his lips.
He smiles and whispers back, “Tell that to the diamonds I’m about to put around your neck.”
In the next second he’s pulling a long box from underneath the stacks of paperwork and my breath is catching in my throat when I see what he’s got. He holds it between us, his eyes on mine, and then gently clicks open the lid, exposing a delicate chain adorned with ten glittering diamonds.
My eyes fly up to his, my lips parted in shock, and the faceted refractions sparkle magically against his eyes.
“I couldn’t wait,” he says simply, as if he doesn’t have thousands of dollars worth of diamonds resting in his palm. “I headed to the town this morning and as soon as I saw it I knew it was yours. If you like it, that is,” he adds quickly. “We could, uh, probably do an exchange if you don’t.”
I blink up at him, too astounded to speak. I can only imagine what his accountant is going to think when they take a look at his upcoming bank statement.
Coffee. Donut. Diamond necklace.
“Mitchell, I love it. Of course I love it.” I look down at it and it twinkles innocently up at me. “It’s the most beautiful thing that I’ve ever seen.”
After a long stretch of silence I hear Mitch swallow thickly and then quietly murmur, “Yeah. It is.”
I look back up at him and find his eyes on mine.
“It’s too much,” I say to him, somehow keeping my voice level despite the heat swirling in my belly.
“It’s not enough,” he replies, not breaking our eye contact.
I try to stay strong, to keep my eyes burning into his as confidently as his are burning into mine, but after another ten seconds I look away, my breathing coming out in a hard wavering exhalation.
I see Mitch’s chest swell with victory and then his attention is briefly returned to the necklace. He unfastens it from its padding, the fine chain pouring like silk across his fingers, and then he jerks his chin at me as he places the box beside his laptop.
“Lift your hair up,” he commands.
“No,” I say defiantly.
He stares deeply into my eyes.
I lift my hair up.
He delicately presses the tiny claw clasp with the large pad of his thumb and then he holds the chain in front of my throat before twining it around the back of my neck, leaning over me slightly so that he can carefully get the fastening into the loop.
I wait nervously, my breathing growing laboured as I breathe in the heat of him, the top of his abdomen pressing gently against my head. When he finally clicks the necklace into place he moves his fingers to encase the back of my neck, exposed totally as I hold my hair up, and we stay like that for a moment, almost panting in the silence.
After a cautious beat I slowly allow my hair to cascade down, spilling over his hands and making him breathe in a deep inhalation. He leashes his fingers through it as I rub my hands around the sides of his abdomen.
“Let me look at you,” he says.
I keep my face pressed against his middle, blocking out the world so that I see nothing but him.
“No,” I murmur back.
He breathes a laugh above me. “I love how stubborn you are.”
“Really?” I ask quietly, my head still bowed down.
He gently releases a hand from my hair and moves it so that it can grasp one of my own. Then he trails it down his abs and I suck in a breath when I feel what he’s doing. He cups my hand over the crotch of his jeans and I squeeze my legs around his at the sensation of how hard he is.
“Really,” he rasps in confirmation.
I tilt my head back and look up at him, exposing my neck and the diamonds draped across my décolletage.
The hand compressing mine against his groin instinctively grips tighter, but then he moves both of his hands to the sides of my neck, caressing me adoringly with the warm pads of his thumbs.
“Perfect,” he murmurs captivated, his eyes soaking in the sight of his money wrapped around my throat. He takes it in for a while and I stay pliant, allowing him to peruse me. Then he lifts his eyes to mine and asks me, “You wanna have a look at it?”
I shake my head. “I’ll look at it later. There are other things that I’d rather be doing right now.”
His eyes darken.
“Are you gonna wear it for your premier?” he asks, his hands moving down to my thighs to lift them higher against his hips.
“Yes,” I whisper, butterflies in my belly.
He grunts and then leans down to kiss me, my arms wrapping around his neck and my body pressing desperately up against his. The second that my chest reaches his he’s ripping my top off my body, gripping and squeezing me everywhere.
“Good,” he murmurs as I push down his jeans, a gasp leaving my throat as his engorged length knocks against me. “You’re so good.”
He pushes my skirt back to uncover my underwear and he makes a low pleased sound before tearing into a condom.
Then he gets himself into position, lays me back against his desk, and he shows me just how good he thinks that I am.