Twelve O’clock the next day saw Scott and me in a meeting with the hotel’s investors, explaining the break in situation on our Tuscany site. Almost all of them had huffed and puffed their response, yet offered very little with regards to a solution. Craig Sharp, Rosalie’s father, was the only one to remain relatively positive and attempted to appease the other men present.
“At least it was their equipment and not the companies,” he smiled, sparking a reaction in the form of muffled agreement.
John–who shared a love/ hate relationship with Craig–was having none of it.
“We’re losing four days because of this. An amount like that is the difference between smooth sailing and a delayed launch.”
“Precisely right,” imputed Scott, speaking with confidence. “But there is very little we can actually do about it. If the opening date needs pushed back, so be it.”
This gained another round of murmurs only this time, they seemed far less aggressive. John met my gaze and silently questioned whether or not I had anything to add. I didn’t. For the life of me, I couldn’t bring myself to speak and blamed last night’s lack of sleep for it. My eyes were unbearably heavy and my head– which was in a constant state of hurting– proceeded to throb every time someone spoke. Before, Scott had sneaked me two paracetamols from underneath the table, though the things had yet to kick in.
“I can answer any questions you gentlemen may have,” continued Scott, stopping short when the sound of a commotion outside gained out attention.
He shot me an anxious glance and just as we both stood up, the meeting room door swung open, revealing Spencer in a state of dominance.
People’s need to avoid direct contact was prominent throughout, yet I, myself couldn’t pull focus away. Rough around the edges, my man’s jaw was unshaven and likely had been in that condition for days. He wore simple jeans and a jumper but looked marvellous in his need to keep things casual. His expression was serious and hard, remaining exactly like that whilst those present began filtering out.
“Shit,” muttered Scott, finally snapping me out of my trance.
“I told Rosalie about your mum last night,” he revealed. “She’s told him.”
I was unable to respond, for the door finally closed, plunging us all into a moment of silence.
“Jessica won’t be in work next week. Expect her back on the fourth,” stated Spencer, eyes locked firmly on mine.
His gaze was amazingly accurate and full of concern.
“I’ll give you two a moment alone,” suggested Scott, offering me his apologies by mouthing a quick ‘sorry’.
Behind him, the door came to a close and within seconds, Spencer begged for my presence.
“Come here, sweetheart.”
I ran to him with open arms and took it upon myself to nuzzle his neck, instantly sobbing. I was unable to hold it in any longer. Losing Mum felt like a deep bruise manifesting internally. My insides were empty and only now was I noticing it. Scared, I broke down on Spencer and refused my rationality the attention it required. Before, I was adamant in my need to prevent him from finding out, yet I couldn’t now bring myself to care about the repercussions. Having him here made everything right. In his arms was where I belonged.
“You should’ve told me, Jessica. I should’ve been there for you.”
“I’m sorry,” I cried, sounding nothing short of a mess. “I didn’t want you finding out and risking our plan.”
“The plan can go and fuck itself as far as I’m concerned. You are what’s important. Not some stupid conditions set out by some lawyer who hates me,” he seethed, remaining gentle in his need to scold me.
He pulled me closer to his brilliant form and proceeded to caress my back in loving motions. Huge hands encased my cheeks and encouraged me to look up where I found delectable lips awaiting my assistance. Each one parted as I moved my head, closing the gap on our separation. The moment I tasted him, everything around me slotted into place. Never again would I leave this man. I had been stupid to suggest doing so in the first place. It didn’t matter that my judgement was being clouded by his arrival. I couldn’t be without him.
“Clive is driving us to yours so you can pick up some clothes,” he informed, keeping his lips firmly pressed to mine. “Then he’ll drive us back to Maidenhead. You’re staying with me for a week.”
“Okay,” I replied, unable to do much else.
I appreciated his ability to take control and enjoyed the feeling of being looked after. He always did know how to make a situation better. Being Spencer’s girlfriend not only meant I was safe but owned and in my opinion, there was no greater achievement. He captured my heart completely and I knew I had done the same for him. We were a team and part of being a team meant helping the other out in difficult times. I may not have wanted it but Spencer had a right to know. As much as I wanted to help him, I had to respect his need to help me. Our support to each other was what made us so strong. We were indestructible. We were passionate. But most of all, we were determined.
In the car, Spencer slyly positioned me onto his lap and tucked my head under his chin where I was to stay for the remainder of the journey. Carefully, he stroked my hair and murmured hushed words of, “I love you”, each gentle caress sending me off to sleep. I woke up some time later to the sights of the countryside and instantly relaxed, knowing we were close.
“Hmm?” he answered, still feeding wisps of my hair through his fingers.
“I fell asleep.”
He flashed me a smile. “That you did.”
I quickly sat up but didn’t attempt to move from his lap. If a police officer were to suddenly drive on by, we’d no doubt be pulled over and fined for not wearing a seatbelt. But I didn’t care. Being close to Spencer was my main priority and I was far too comfortable to deny it.
“Leila has been asking after you.”
“Has she?” I couldn’t deny my smile’s arrival.
“She misses you.”
“What did you tell her?”
The thought of her thinking I walked away had me feeling sick to the stomach. That little girl meant the world to me and her opinion mattered deeply.
“I told her you’ve been busy. I couldn’t bring myself to tell her about the break up.”
I sunk lower into his embrace, feeling for his heart beneath his shirt.
“I never should’ve suggested it. I’ve been miserable without you,” I admitted, noticing his immediate smirk.
“Same. It seems I’m incapable without you.”
I matched his amusement and waited patiently for Clive to bring the car to a smooth stop. Seeing Spencer’s home again made me feel safe. Everything down to his well-groomed garden and smoking chimney filled me with so much contentment and I couldn’t wait to be inside.
“Are you going to move or do I have to carry you?” he asked, nudging my arm teasingly.
Needing no other encouragement, I slid from the car and was shocked to be forced into a hug. Clive, as huge as he was, encased my entire body with his own, half cuddling/ half squeezing me to death.
“I can’t imagine losing my mum now, let alone at your age,” he stated, rubbing each of my shoulders. “I’m terribly sorry.”
Spencer emerged from behind us, allowing me a moment with his driver.
“Take the rest of the day off,” he instructed, pulling my overnight bag onto his shoulder. “Jess and I won’t be going anywhere for the evening.”
“Okay,” replied Clive, finally setting me free. “I’m a phone call away if anything changes.”
I watched as the pair quietly conversed and took note of the way Spencer stood. Oozing confidence, you wouldn’t suspect he was currently battling his ex-wife for child custody rights. He held himself in such a way that would make anyone think he had things under control. He was a good actor. Trained to hide his every emotion. But he couldn’t fool me. I knew him like the back of my hand and could tell the weight of everything was slowly bringing him down. Perhaps my absence hadn’t helped in that but I was back now and going nowhere.
“I’ll be seeing you tomorrow then.”
Before I could work out what either of them were talking about, my phone’s message alert went off, demanding my attention. I pulled the device from my handbag and noticed a string of messages I had apparently missed.
SAM: Are you staying here tonight?
ROSALIE: I’m so sorry, Jessica. I had to tell him. I hope you can forgive me. Text me if you need anything. I’m here for you. ALWAYS. xx
ROSALIE: I love you xx
DAD: Work okay?
EE: Get unlimited broadband for…OH, FUCK OFF!
I quickly set about replying to each one, offering Sam a simply ‘no’, Dad a ‘yes’ and Rosalie a ’You’re forgiven. I love you too”. I then deleted the one from EE and as I did, Spencer returned to my side, offering my lips a loving kiss.
“Let’s get you fed, bellissima.”
I wasn’t particularly hungry but it felt wrong to deny him. I was aware I needed to eat and knew he wouldn’t rest until I did. This was what he was good at. Looking after me was his main purpose and I was a fool to think he’d settle for anything less than satisfactory. In a way, I’d missed this the most. Spencer required control in his daily life and in many ways, I was symbolic of that. Not only did that make me his submissive, it made me his burden. If I wasn’t around, he felt out of control and as a result, completely lost. However, when I was in his company, he flourished. Taking charge was in his nature, yet he also required reassurance without realising it. I looked after Spencer just as much as he looked after me and that was what made our relationship so worthwhile. We relied on each other for a lot of things and as long as we promised to always provide for each other, we’d never want for anything. For years, I was cynical about love and prided myself on never needing it. With Mum the way she was and Charlotte dead, I couldn’t afford to let my heart love another person who had the potential to leave me. Looking back, it was sad that my mind had come to that conclusion. Love could be heart wrenching but it also had the means to be all consuming and an essential part of one’s life. Loving Spencer was never part of my plan and proved quite the inconvenience at first. I never denied it, nor did I try and stop myself from falling further. I simply let it happen because doing so felt fantastic. He made me feel free in a world where I felt trapped by my past. He opened me up to new possibilities and made me discover a part of myself I didn’t even know existed. The submissive in me. I was by no means perfect and still had a lot to learn but that didn’t excuse the fact that I was made for this lifestyle. When I was his little mouse, I felt a sense of belonging and for a woman used to floating through life without any substantial purpose other than work and family, that was monumental. I was finally becoming a version of myself that I loved. Spencer didn’t make me a better person. He made me want to be a better person and that was the real definition of love. Not only did I love him and his beautiful daughter, I loved myself and to me, that was the greatest gift of all.