“Don’t you dare answer that phone,” Grayson commanded, grabbing Alex’s hand that held her cell. “Let them leave a message like everyone else.”
They were at a rooftop restaurant overlooking the Nashville cityscape. It was late, but there was still quite a crowd there on a weekday. The air was cool but not cold. A little whiskey was enough to keep one warm from the inside.
“Ok,” Alex capitulated. “I won’t. But in the last message mother said father was sick.”
“And she was lying,” Grayson exclaimed. “You know she was. When has your father ever been so sick that you had to be home to take care of him?”
“A couple of times.”
“He was just playing.”
“How do you know that?”
“Because I know your parents. They are manipulative little bitches.”
“It’s the truth. You know that Alexa. I’m not telling you anything new.”
“I know. But they’re my parents, and I should be helping them not hurting them.”
“You aren’t hurting them. They don’t need your help. You know they are only trying to get you back in their clutches. Don’t buy it, Alexa. You’re stronger than that.”
“I feel so – bad.”
“That’s just years of conditioning. It’ll pass.”
“Soon as you do this shot with me!”
She giggled after swallowing the whiskey. Her head felt lightheaded. She had never drunk this much before always afraid to go home to her parents’ house drunk with her defenses down. It was pathetic how much armor she had to wear to go in to see her parents. She didn’t trust them and tried to keep them at arm’s length from her emotional life, but they would play the parent card. That got her every time. She was the daughter who should be obedient and respectful of them no matter how much it chaffed her to be under their thumb. This was her lot in life.
Then she had met Grayson in high school. He, like her, was bullied. They formed a lasting commitment to one another over name-calling and for Grayson, actual bruises, and contusions. They loved one another deeply as only two friends can.
He was thrilled that she was finally out of that house. She needed never to have been there at all. Whatever possessed the Whitfields to think that they could raise a child? They were Satan’s spawn themselves, as far as Grayson was concerned. They never laid a hand on Alexa but their words did a well enough job at keeping her beaten down.
“So how is that hunky boss of yours doing?” Grayson asked still sober even after one shot of whiskey. It would take more than that to take him down. He was driving tonight and needed to be sober. He was more than happy to oblige his best friend getting drunk for the first time in her life. She was proving to be a lightweight, however. One shot had her swaying precipitously.
“He wants me to call him Colton,” she said with a drunk smile on her face. “I kind of like calling him ‘sir.’ ”
Grayson laughed. “I think you might be able to if you go to bed with him.”
“What do you mean?”
“He strikes me as the Dominant type.”
“Which means?” Alex asked still perplexed.
“I keep forgetting how sheltered you are. He’s into giving orders when fucking. Likes to ‘discipline’ his lovers.”
“By spanking them probably among other things.”
Grayson laughed when he saw her eyes go wide at the thought of Colton Crawford spanking his lovers. Then he saw a glimmer of thoughtfulness pass over her face.
“Oh my God! You would be into that?” he exclaimed.
“I don’t know. I’ve never had sex let alone been fucked and spanked. It – it might be – nice.”
“Hell, I have got to get you laid sooner rather than later. Well, speak of the devil himself.”
Alex looked over her shoulder in the direction Grayson was staring. Colton and a “friend” had arrived at the restaurant. She watched the hostess seat them at a prime location to view the cityscape.
Watching Colton interact with the gorgeous woman made Alex jealous. Not that she had any right. He had told her that their relationship was strictly professional hence why she hadn’t known about him bringing his date for the night to this establishment. He had made his own arrangements.
“You don’t look happy to see him,” Grayson commented when she turned back a bit downcast. “Or is it that you don’t like seeing him with that twat.”
“Grayson!” she exclaimed. “That’s not nice.”
“But it’s the truth. That is all she is to him, a pussy.”
“I guess I don’t like seeing him treating women like you – said. He’s a great guy. He’s always involved in fundraising for one cause or another. Our clients love how he knows when to take control and when to back off of their careers. But he can’t seem to think of women as anything other than – fuck toys.”
“Did you just say ‘fuck toys?’ ” Grayson exclaimed.
Alex giggled and nodded her head drunkenly. “Can I have another shot?”
Grayson motioned for the waitress for another whiskey. He laughed at seeing this new side of Alexa he had never seen before, fun loving and open to new experiences. Before she was constantly terrified, her parents would find out about their lunches together and forbid her to continue doing so. It was a frightening prospect because she wouldn’t have complied with their wishes and she would have been in uncharted territory – out from under her parents’ thumb.
“Baby girl you are cut off after this,” Grayson told her handing her the shot glass from the waitress. “I think two is enough for your innocent, pure body.”
“Cheers!” she said and went bottoms up. “Wow, that went down much easier than the first one.”
Grayson chuckled shaking his head. “You are too sweet for words,” he told her.
“That’s what Colton said today.”
“He did? What exactly did he say?”
“He said the fact that I was very sweet was one of the reasons he hired me. He also said I was too sweet because I let him walk over me when I should be telling him ‘no.’ ”
“I like this guy more and more,” Grayson murmured underneath his breath. “That was nice of him to tell you.”
“Yeah. I told him you said I was sweet too.”
“Well, you are. Innocent and naïve too.”
“Just sheltered,” she pouted. “I am not so innocent as you think I am.”
“Yep! I think I might like being – spanked,” she whispered loudly. “And being told what to do.”
“Ahh, ok.” Grayson sounded chuckling again. “You think you might be a submissive to his Dominant?”
“Whose?” she asked confusion on her face.
“Colton!” he exclaimed.
“I can’t sleep with him!” she shouted causing a few people to turn their way.
“Ok, ok. Keep it down baby girl.”
“Sorry,” she whispered holding a hand up to her mouth before going off on a giggling rant.
Grayson just smiled enjoying her letting her guard down.
“Why can’t you sleep with him?” he finally asked when her laughter had died off. “He’s a man. You’re a woman.”
“But I look like a man,” she answered seriously although the slur in her words gave away her inebriated state. “And he only dates girly girls.”
“Sugar you are so far from looking like a man. You’ve got a shit ton of curves that any man would love to get his hands on. Those tits alone are a wet dream come true.”
“Grayson if you weren’t gay I would believe you.”
“Baby that body of yours would make even me think about sleeping with you.”
She shook her head and laughed. “No, it wouldn’t. You’re just saying that to make me feel good.”
“Ok, but you do call to the artist in me. I would love to paint you one day.”
He smiled. “We’ll see.”
“Anyway, Colton will never be attracted to someone as ugly and fat as me. I mean look at the woman he’s dating. She’s gorgeous. All legs and flat stomach.”
“She does have an impressive rack, but I’m pretty sure it’s fake.”
Alex shrugged. “That’s what he likes.”
“Incoming,” Grayson whispered looking to her right.
“He’s coming –”
“Colton?!” Alex declared jumping off the stool she was sitting in. Fortunately, Colton was able to keep her from falling flat on her face given how off her equilibrium was thanks to the shots of whiskey.
“Whoa!” he sounded, grabbing her by the upper arms to steady her. “Alex are you ok?”
Colton sliced his irritated eyes to Grayson. Grayson smiled brightly.
“I’m great!” Alex announced loudly and then wrapped her arms around her boss. “You’re a great man; you know that?”
Grayson chuckled when Colton looked trapped by his drunken assistant hugging him.
“Thank you, Alex,” Colton replied. “Uh, do you need to get home?”
“No she’s fine,” Grayson interjected. “She’s been cut off. As soon as I get some food into her, she’ll be okay. Isn’t that right Alexa?”
Alex pushed herself away from Colton and made her wobbly way over to her best friend to hug him.
“I love you, Grayson,” she told him sincerely. “You’re my BFF.”
“Hi,” Grayson managed to hold out his hand to Colton. “Grayson Benedict, Alexa’s BFF.”
“Hello, Colton Crawford. Is she ok? I have a car downstairs that can take her home.”
“That’s very gentlemanly of you, but she needs to eat something before she goes home. Otherwise, she won’t eat anything and pass out.”
“Alexa, Colton needs to talk to you,” Grayson said pulling her away from him. Reluctantly she let go of him and turned toward Colton. She wore a goofy grin on her face.
“Alexa?” Colton said confused. “Have I been calling you by the wrong name all these years?”
“No, no. I’m the only one that calls her Alexa. It makes her feel more – feminine. Alex is a guy’s name and well … she’ll have to tell you the rest of her story.”
“I already look like a guy,” she blurted out. “I don’t need to be named for one. But my parents wanted a boy and when they couldn’t get one, they got me instead and named me what they were going to call their boy. I hate my name.”
“Ok, well then I will try and remember to call you Alexa as well,” Colton said slightly taken aback by her brutal honesty about her parents. But then she broke into that smile again and he was hopelessly caught up in its beauty.
“Thanks,” she murmured and leaned back against Grayson, feeling more firmly anchored to reality when she was in physical contact with him.
“Well Alexa I must say seeing you like this is kind of refreshing,” Colton admitted honestly. “You’re usually so reserved and … efficient. It is good to see you have a silly side.”
She giggled and Colton smiled at hearing such a sweet sound.
“Well, I’ll let you get back to your date.”
“Oh no we aren’t dating,” Alexa said seriously. “I’m so out of Grayson’s league not to mention sex.”
“I’m gay,” Grayson explained shrugging his shoulder. “Although to have a taste of Alexa even a gay man might turn straight for a few minutes.”
Colton stared at him oddly. Alexa laughed at the thought of Grayson being straight. If he ever had been, they wouldn’t have been such good friends. She much preferred him gay.
“Well enjoy your – dinner,” Colton said. “I will see you in the office tomorrow morning.”
“Yes, sir!” Alexa said smartly. “I mean yes, Colton.”
He shook his head as he smiled at her. “Take care of her,” he said directly to Grayson a slight edge to his voice.
“I always do,” Grayson drawled.