Love Meets You part 2

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16.

* Mason *

The beautiful woman on Mason’s left offered him a bright smile as their group ordered another round of expensive cognac. Peter gave him a discreet thumbs-up as he continued to laugh and converse with two men on his side of the table. SENSES was good to go, and they were celebrating with major investors. Mason threw back the last of his drink, avoiding Samantha’s flirty gaze. His phone chimed, a welcomed interruption from the awkwardness.

Clover: Hi. This is Clover, but you know this because when the phone showed up at Aurora’s she said you bought it for me. I need to see you if you have time.

Mason’s heart kicked in excitement, and he wanted to fly out the door to find her. She left the hospital months ago and not once had she reached out to him. What changed? He licked his lips, a nervous tingle settling over his fingers as he contemplated a response.

“You look like you’ve seen a ghost,” Samantha leaned forward, her tits close to spilling out of the low-cut dress she had on, “You built an amazing product. Why don’t we head back to my hotel and order a bottle of champagne?”

He avoided her blatant flirting by focusing on his cell. He had slept with her once, a year ago after such a meeting, but there was no place for casual sex in his life anymore. “I’m sorry, but something just came up. Have a wonderful evening.”

Mason stood, nodding at the others, shaking a few hands. Peter’s eyes narrowed questioningly but quickly took over entertaining Samantha. Outside of the swanky downtown club, he handed over his ticket to the valet and messaged Clover while waiting.

Mason: Hey. What’s up?

Clover: Are you busy?

Mason: Not at all. Where are you?

Clover: My apartment. Can you come over?

He frowned. When did she move out of Aurora’s? He texted he was on his way and drove south. Was she ready to tell him she hated him? He ran a hand through his hair, tugged his tie, trying not to freak out.

He lost himself in work so he wouldn’t dwell on her, but everything came flooding back. Dash no longer fed him daily reports since Bentley vanished, but the police were actively searching for the other men who kidnapped the women. He still hadn’t gone through the folder containing Clover’s ordeal in that house. It was up to her to recount her story if she ever forgave him.

He struggled to compose himself before knocking on Clover’s door. He couldn’t help but smile once she opened it. She wore white jeans that hugged those delicious curves and a dark green blouse, showcasing her full breast. Her wild red hair fell just short of her shoulders, shorter than he’d ever seen on her, but it highlighted her heart-shaped features. Damn, the urge to scoop her into his arms was strong.

“Hi,” she sounded shy, stepping aside so he could enter.

“Hi,” he parroted, standing inside the small, homey apartment with the woman that owned his heart.

She cleared her throat, a slight smirk tilting her lips, “Fancy suit, Mr. Thistle. Are you sure you weren’t busy tonight?”

He chuckled, following her to the couch where he had kissed every part of her lush body once. It was hard to remain so casual when she was finally this close. Her subtle scent of vanilla wrapped around him as they sat side by side.

“You look good,” shit, his voice came out too husky, “I mean, you’re so beautiful… fuck…”

She let out a shaky laugh, “I know, right? I didn’t think it would be this weird. Well, it has to be a little awkward or it wouldn’t be my life. Thank you, Mason. Relax.”

He licked his lips, twisting, so they faced each other, “Okay so… I-I gave you space to settle. I wanted to see you but figured you’d reach out when ready. Do you blame me?”

“Aurora said as much,” her jade eyes searched him. He noticed the lack of openness they once carried. “I am mad, but it’s not all directed towards you. At first, I thought you knew about Bentley’s crimes, but you didn’t, did you?”

“No, he tried telling me about his app, but I shut him down each time,” Raw guilt turned his stomach again. “I missed you, sweetheart. Every hour of every day.”

Spilling his truth should have felt awesome, but his words were weak. Not enough. Even though she healed physically, he had no idea how to mend her otherwise. To smooth the jagged pieces of her once trusting heart.

“I miss you too,” she sighed, then leaned forward anxiously, “I had a reason for calling you over. I have to decide if I wish to go into witness protection.”

Feeling like someone punched him in the gut, he sharply exhaled, “Because Bentley and the others are still at large?”

“That, and I met dangerous criminals. They plan to end the protective detail. I have to give an answer soon.”

Unable to sit with this news, he jumped to his feet. Hiring security wasn’t an issue. He’d appoint a dozen men to watch her if needed, but she held all the cards. Clover remained quiet as he freaked out, her steady presence as soothing as he remembered. Fuck it.

He knelt in front of her, running his hands over her jean-clad legs, “You can’t leave. I’ve been patient, but I need you.”

Her eyes filled with unshed tears, “Why?”

“What do you mean why? Don’t you remember how great we were together before that sick sack of shit took you? I do. Move into my penthouse. There are doormen and biometric security. It’s an option,” he rambled, and she shook her head like he wasn’t making sense. “What do you need Clover? Name it. How can I earn your trust again?”

She pushed him backward, but he caught himself before falling on his ass. She stood over him, fists clenched at her sides, “I never asked you for anything, but thank you, Mason. Thank you for finding me in the hospital and thank you for ensuring I had a place to come home to. And thanks for…” she trailed off as tears streamed down her cheeks and her body trembled.

He wrapped her in his arms where she belonged as deep sobs came from her chest. Dammit, he screwed up their whole reunion. He waited too long, and she now regarded his aide as an unpaid debt. How could he repair their relationship without tearing new holes?

“I realized something when I couldn’t find you, sweetheart,” he pulled back to peer into her stormy green orbs, “I’m in love with you, Clover. I can’t apologize enough for introducing that psychopath into your life. Please…” Forgive me for keeping secrets. He was shit at explaining himself, hoping she understood his awkward unease.

She sniffled, “I don’t want to leave.”

“Then stay. I’ll be here and so will Aurora.”

Clover closed her eyelids briefly before giving him a cute smirk that went straight to his groin, “You really love me?”

Words were failing his cause, so he chose action instead. He tightened his hold around her waist, kissing her. His protective instincts surfaced, inhaling her delicious scent. He wanted to hide her away from all the bad shit in the world.

“Mason,” she moaned, and he plunged his tongue inside her sweet mouth, relishing the way she said his name.

There was something about Clover that made him forget time, making it easy to lose himself in her. She melted into his embrace, which he took advantage of by laying her down on the couch, aligning himself against her core. She giggled when he sucked on her neck. He loved marking her porcelain skin, and she thrust her hips upward in response to his tickling scruff.

“I’m so sorry,” he rasped against her throat, “I’ve missed you so much. Kissing you, touching you, laughing at your smart ass.”

“I’m scared, Mason.”

He propped himself up on his elbows, “I won’t let anyone hurt you again. What do you want, Clover? I’ll hire a team of bad-ass fuckers to have your back if that’s what it takes.”

She snorted, making him smile, “Bad-ass fuckers, huh?”

He ran a heavy palm over the front of her top, groaning when her nipples pebbled from his fondling, “What will it take for you to feel safe? Just say the word, and I’ll make it happen.”

This woman had him promising to lasso the moon, like George Bailey from It’s a Wonderful Life, and she hadn’t a scheming bone in her body. Women threw themselves at him constantly because of his wealth, but not once had she taken an interest in his affluence. His attraction for the scrappy redhead with a messy history would shock most circles, but fuck them.

Her expression turned crestfallen, and their lustful moment crumbled. He rose into a sitting position, propping her up to rest against his chest. They needed to talk, and his hard-on could wait until he got home. Cradling her soft body filled him with tranquility. He kissed the crown of her head, running a hand up and down her back.

“I need a job,” she muttered, “Are you hiring at the company?”

He sighed, “Probably. You’d like my new secretary. She doesn’t take my shit.”

She laughed, gazing thoughtfully at him, “You were a kind boss. A kinder boyfriend. I wondered what you saw in me.”

His jaw locked, remembering how Bentley teased him until he gave in to his desire for Clover. One taste of happiness twisted him into a greedy bastard. He egotistically assumed she deserved better, and in return, he kept her at arm’s length. No more.

“Honestly? I’ve always been into you, but thought, here’s a good girl who’ll never fall for an asshole like me. Each time you let me between these sexy as fuck legs, I was waiting for you to realize you deserve more. Right now, I’m just glad you’re sitting next to me.”

“Who knew you were such a romantic?” she rolled her eyes then gave him a light kiss on his chin, “Can we start fresh Mason? Go slow. There’s a lot of shit I’m still sorting out. I’ve cut therapy to once a week but…”

“Anything you want,” he quickly said, plucking her up to straddle his thighs, so they faced each other, “I’ll take you on dates, walk you to the door. Listen to you point out plastics.”

She placed her slender fingers on his neck, playing with the short hair there, causing chills to travel down his spine. Fuck, he couldn’t help but pull her closer to the hardness straining against his zipper. He attacked her lips again, her breathy giggles driving him nuts. He would do anything as long as she agreed to be his.

“Oh yes,” she huffed playfully, “The plastics. How is Adley?”

He sneered at the mention of that bitch, “Fired. Tell me about your plans.” Hopefully, it ended with her in his bed. Soon. She turned him on so much, it pained him to sit still.

She bit her lip, making him lose focus, “It’s my first night back here.”

“Is that right?” he cupped her ass, “I wanted to put in a surveillance system, but your building manager kicked me out. She really looks out for the people living here.”

Clover snuggled into his chest. He let out a deep sigh, tension bleeding out of his body. Trailing his lips against her smiling cheeks, he soaked in the feel of her as if they had never been apart these months. He felt like a sappy jerk, splaying his hands across her waist, holding her so tight she joked she needed to breathe.

His phone chimed, breaking the spell. She slid off of his lap with a small smirk, saying something about getting a drink as he fished his cell out of his jacket.

Peter: What the hell, man? Why’d you run out?

Mason: Clover. I’ll make it up to you.

Peter: That’s great! No issues here. Good luck.

Mason needed all the luck in the city to remain in Clover’s arms as she reentered the room, appearing tired and fragile. He ruffled his already messy hair, wondering if he should invite himself to spend the night. He hated the fact she had no security.

“It’s late,” she cleared her throat, “I’m sure you have to be in the office early.”

“I can stay,” he stood, going to where she shifted on her feet.

“That’s okay, there’s nothing to stay for.”

“Isn’t there?” he growled, disliking her closed-off expression.

She narrowed her jade eyes, “An officer watches from the parking lot. I’m perfectly safe. They said… I need space. I’ll call you.”

He swallowed hard, wanting to grab her and make her agree to be his, “Well… Hey, let’s go on a date tomorrow. That’s starting slow, right?”

His confusion grew when she avoided his gaze. After an awkward beat, she opened the front door. A dismissal if he ever saw one, “I’ll think about it. I haven’t ventured out much except for therapy. Aurora dragged me to the hairdressers last week.”

“It’s a nice cut. You’re beautiful.”

She seemed embarrassed by his compliments, “Thank you.”

“We can do anything you want, sweetheart,” he dropped his voice, so she’d hear the sincerity of his words, “We still have a lot to discuss. Can I kiss you?”

She blanched, clutching the doorknob until her knuckles turned white, “Don’t ask me that! I’m sorry Mason, you have to go.”

And suddenly he was outside with the door slammed in his face. What the hell just happened? Something he’d said set her off. Fuck, talk about complicated. Now he played the waiting game with her again. Didn’t she believe him when he declared his love? He had spilled his guts like a fucking teenager yet; she kicked him out.

Patience, he reminded himself.

He needed to know what Bentley did to her, although fear held him back from asking. His fury burned bright for that asshole. Why hadn’t they arrested him already?

He caught sight of a lone man in a dark sedan as he walked to his car. No fucking way was he letting the FBI hide Clover. He was a selfish bastard. He had the means to protect her, and he would at the first sign of trouble.

Glancing up one last time at Clover’s apartment, he shook off the dejected feeling she left him with. He didn’t deserve her forgiveness, but fuck if he would let that stop him from pursuing her.

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