Mending Heart

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Chapter 33

New York, New York

“From the first moment we touched, your arms felt like home.” – John Mark Green


Ethan P.O.V

McKenzie stirred next to me, the sheets rustling under her weight. I turned to look at her, and I couldn’t help the smile that tugged at the corners of my lips. She was fast asleep on her stomach, her face buried in the mountain of pillows she insisted on sleeping with. Her hair was a mess and sprawled out everywhere, soft snores escaped her lips, and a thin white sheet covered her naked body.

She was perfect, I though. Reaching over, I pulled the sheet higher over her body and she mumbled something in her sleep before turning to face the other way. I chuckled, shaking my head.

There was no one quite like her in this world.

Slipping up last night and telling her I love her was not something I planned on doing during this trip. I’m not stupid, I knew she was still in a vulnerable place and anything could set her back.

Anything like my big mouth, I shook my head.

It just... it slipped out. Before I realized the words coming out of my mouth, it was too late because she had already heard them. I was certain she was going to bolt after, but she managed to surprise me.

It started with sex, but it quickly became more than just lust. The more time I spent around her, the more I wanted to get to know her. It was easy to open up to her – and being around her just felt right. Love was the last thing on my mind when I first met her, but life had a funny way of working out that way. The things you least expect to happen, happen.

I was snapped out of my thoughts by the buzzing from my phone. Reaching over on the nightstand, I picked it up and saw my father’s name flash across the screen. I let out a deep sigh as I threw the covers off and walked into the bathroom, quietly closing the door behind me.

“Yeah, dad?” I answered, leaning against the sink.

“Your mother tells me you’re in New York.” His voice boomed on the other line.

“For a few days,” I replied.

“We should have lunch. Me, you and your mother.”

And there it was – the catch behind the phone call.

“As I’m sure mom told you,” I couldn’t help but roll my eyes. “I’m not here alone.”

There was a pause. “She might have mentioned you brought along a friend.”

I found myself counting to ten and taking a deep breath before answering. “What do you want dad?”

“Join me and your mother for lunch today.” He said, cluttering sounds in the background. “Bring your friend. Your mother won’t stop talking about her.”

“I’ll ask her.” I finally said, even though my mind was screaming at me to tell him no.

“The River Café at one.” He dismissed before hanging up.

I ran my hand down my face and pushed off the sink, reaching for the shower handle. Turning the water on, I let it run for a couple of minutes before stepping under the steaming hot water.

My father and I had a very complicated relationship. We’d never really seen eye to eye, and that caused a strain between us growing up. He’s had it in his head for the past twenty-some years that I was one day going to run Thomas and Cooper Consulting, even though that wasn’t something I ever expressed interest in. When I agreed to go to business school, it was more so to get him off my back than anything else.

But after Aisha died... I realized life was too short to be living like a frat boy. No one was happier than my father with my recent life changes after Aisha’s death. I finished off business school, got my MBA, and went to work for the company.

The rest, well – the rest is history.

I was happy in my current role. I had more than enough power within the company, without the stress of actually running it. And money wasn’t an issue because there was more than enough of that to go around. My father was still holding out on the hope that one day I would take over as CEO, and no matter how many times I told him that wasn’t going to happen, it seemed to always go over his head.

When I walked out of the bathroom after my shower, I found McKenzie still sound asleep. Glancing at my phone for the time, it was already half-past ten in the morning. I quickly got changed into a pair of black sweats and an old UPenn t-shirt before calling for room service.

After room service brought up breakfast, I poured some coffee into a mug, added two sugars and cream, and walked over to McKenzie’s side of the bed. I figured, it was safer to wake her up with coffee than without.

“McKenzie.” I softly said, stroking her cheek. A string of incoherent mumbles came out from under the pillow where she had buried her face. “It’s time to wake up babe.” I tried again, this time lifting the pillow and throwing it on the other side of the bed.

“Go away.” She groaned, covering her face with her hands. The action caused the sheet covering her to slip. My eyes inadvertently traveled down the valley of her breasts and towards her nipples standing rigid. My mind immediately drifted to the night before. Flashbacks of her on top with the clamps securely wrapped around her nipples and her breasts bouncing up and down, caused my dick to stir.

“I had coffee brought up.” I cleared my throat and shifted on the edge of the bed.

“Coffee?” She cracked one eye open and removed her hand from her face.

“Here.” I handed her the mug, carefully placing it in her hands so it wouldn’t spill. “It’s hot.”

“Shh.” McKenzie scooted up and leaned against the headboard. When it became clear she wasn’t going to talk to me until the coffee kicked in, I stood up and walked over to my laptop. There were about a dozen or so emails that needed my immediate attention, and the fourth quarter preliminary report needed a signature.

Whoever said the end of the year was a time to relax, clearly didn’t work in business and finance.

Bringing the laptop and my own coffee with me to bed, I propped myself against the headboard and got to typing. After about twenty minutes, McKenzie finally spoke up. “Now you may speak.”

“You’re mean in the morning, Cupcake.” I chuckled, leaning forward to kiss her but she quickly turned her face, and my lips connected with her cheek.

“Gross.” She scrunched up her nose. “I have morning breath.”

Rolling my eyes, I scowled at her. “You’re just being dramatic.”

“Um, no I’m not!” She huffed, placing her now empty coffee mug on the nightstand. “You woke up before me and got to brush your teeth.”

“McKenzie.” I pinned her with a glare. “I couldn’t give a shit about your morning breath. You’re gorgeous either way.”

She snorted, sitting up and letting the sheet fall off her body. My eyes quickly trailed after her as she made her way towards the bathroom. “Oh, I almost forgot,” I said just before she slammed the door shut. Peeking her head through the door frame, she stared at me expectantly.

“My parents invited us to lunch,” I said cautiously, scratching the back of my head nervously.

My father, McKenzie, and I all in the same room was a recipe for disaster.

Surprise flashed across her face as she blinked a couple of times. “Sure.” Her lips curved up in a gentle smile before she closed the bathroom door shut and I heard the water turn on.

Well – that was unexpected.

......

“It’s still not too late to back out.” I looked down at McKenzie just in time to see her roll her eyes.

“You know,” She looked up at me, her eyebrows arched. “I’m starting to think you have a problem with me meeting your parents.”

I glared at her, quickly thanking the doorman holding the restaurant door open for us. “Baby, that’s not it. That’s definitely not it. It’s just that my father can be a little intense at times.”

That was putting it mildly.

“Have you not met my mother?” She snorted, allowing me to take the lead as we checked our coats in and walked towards the hostess.

“Your mother is an angel in comparison.” I scoffed with a smile just as I spotted my parents at a table near the window, the New York City skyline standing out just past the water. As the hostess walked us over to the table, I felt McKenzie’s hand grip mine tighter.

“Mom, dad.” I greeted my parents, letting go of McKenzie’s hand and enveloping my mom in a hug.

“Oh, sweetheart!” She gushed, wrapping her arms tightly around me. “When you came back from London you promised you’d visit more often.”

“I know mom, I’m sorry.” I smiled softly, a pang of guilt settling in the pit of my stomach. Pulling back, she gave me a pointed look before focusing her attention on McKenzie. My father had been eyeing her curiously, before fixating his gaze on me. It took everything in me not to visibly roll my eyes.

“Ethan.” He nodded, shaking my hand.

“You must be McKenzie.” Meanwhile, my mom smiled brightly, taking McKenzie’s hands in hers and pulling her into a hug. “I’ve heard so much about you.”

“It’s nice to meet you, Mrs. Thomas.” She said, a blush slowly creeping its way onto her cheeks. As sadistic as it may be, I was going to enjoy telling her I told you so later.

My dad cleared his throat, his eyes moving back and forth between McKenzie and me. “Mom, dad this is McKenzie my...” I trailed off only to have McKenzie finish for me.

“Girlfriend.” She said, flashing my father a smile as she shook his hand. “It’s very nice to see you again Mr. Thomas.”

“Likewise, Ms. Anderson.” He smiled a polite smile, although I knew better. I could almost see the wheels turning in his head.

Afterward, we all took our seats and began looking through the menu as my mother started asking McKenzie a million questions. When the waiter came to ask if we wanted anything to drink, I was the first to speak up and ask for a whiskey on the rocks.

“Did you sign off on that quarterly report yet, Ethan?” My father asked, taking a sip of his red wine.

“Not yet.” I cleared my throat, swirling the amber liquid around the ice cubes in my glass. “Let’s not make this a working lunch dad.”

“So how did you and Ethan meet?” I heard my mom ask, and I turned just in time to see McKenzie nearly choke on her wine. Her eyes quickly flashed to mine, and she looked like a deer caught in the headlights.

We never actually discussed what we would tell people if they asked how we met. Somehow, I don’t think she wanted to go around telling people we met at a bar and spent the rest of the night fucking into the early morning.

“We met on my first day in Chicago. McKenzie was kind enough to badge me through security since I didn’t have my company ID yet.” I lied smoothly, feeling McKenzie visibly relax next to me.

“Tell me, darling,” My mom continued, her thick New York accent seeping through. “What is it like working with my son. Is he as much of a hardass as his father?”

“Natasha.” My father groaned, looking at her pleadingly.

“Hush.” She dismissed him, before returning her attention to McKenzie.

“He’s very hardworking and a great boss, Mrs. Thomas.” She smiled, and from the corner of my eye, I saw her trying to suppress her amusement.

The rest of lunch went by smoothly, that is until we got to dessert. Just as our waiter finished setting down a plate of handmade chocolates and confections, my father said, “I believe your sabbatical ends at the end of this month, Ms. Anderson.”

“It does.” McKenzie nodded slowly, shifting in her seat.

“Dad,” I warned, only to have him dismiss me.

“Are you planning on coming back to work, or will you be permanently leaving the company?” He pressed, his face giving away nothing.

“Caleb.” My mom hissed, not so discretely elbowing my father in the ribs. “You’ll have to forgive my husband, he doesn’t know when to shut up.”

“It’s okay Mrs. Thomas,” McKenzie said, before fixating her gaze on my father. “No, I’m not planning on going back. I’ve loved my time at Thomas and Cooper, and I’m grateful for all the opportunities provided to me, but it’s time for me to move on.”

I couldn’t help but smile as I felt an immense surge of pride towards her.

Don’t get me wrong, McKenzie was a great asset to the company and one of the hardest working people I’ve known throughout the years. I just don’t think she possessed the right personality to work in consulting. Consulting is a people business, and McKenzie was definitely not a people person. She was someone that had a close knit group of people she was friends with, and everyone else outside of that group was a thorn in her side.

That, and if I were in her place, I totally would have told my father to fuck off already. But that’s just me.

“And this decision has nothing to do with you sleeping with my son?” Dad continued, leaning back in his seat and crossing his arms over his chest. “I don’t know what it is you’re after Ms. Anderson – ”

“That’s enough,” I growled, taking out my wallet and throwing a couple of hundred-dollar bills on the table. Pushing my chair back, I stood up and turned towards my father. “Really dad? You couldn’t even go an hour without being a dick?”

“You will not sp –”

“Caleb.” Mom gritted, her tone deadly. Dad quickly shut his mouth, picking up his wine glass and downing the rest of it. One look at mom’s face and I knew he was about to get the yelling of a lifetime when they got home.

Serves him right, I thought. My mother may have been the nicest and sweetest person you will ever meet, but there was a side of her that came out every so often – mainly due to my father – that made even him cower in fear.

“Let’s go, McKenzie,” I said, pulling her chair back and taking her hand in mine. With one last glance in my parents’ direction, I said, “I’ll see you on the 20th mom.”

“Love you, honey.” She flashed me a smile before a glare returned and she stared daggers at my father who was looking anywhere but at her.

McKenzie was quiet as I ushered her through the restaurant and towards the coatroom to retrieve our jackets. Once outside, I mumbled, “I told you we should have skipped lunch and gone straight to the Holiday Market.”

“Your dad’s a dick.” That was all she said, keeping her gaze trained straight ahead.

“No, really?” I scoffed, my voice dripping with sarcasm. “What makes you say that?”

Her head turns, pinning with a glare. “And you paid for lunch. That wasn’t the deal.”

“This doesn’t count.” I rolled my eyes, hailing a cab.

.....

McKenzie and I spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around the different Christmas markets in the city and aweing over the holiday displays on 5th Avenue. Her face lit up with excitement as she marveled over all the decorations and lights.

She was like a kid on Christmas morning, and it was the most adorable thing I had ever seen.

We were waiting in line for the ice-skating rink in Bryant Park when I remembered something from earlier. “So we’ve upgraded to boyfriend – girlfriend, have we?” I teased, bending down and letting my head rest in the crook of her neck – my arms around her tightening.

It took every ounce of power I possessed earlier not to react to her referring to herself as my girlfriend. In my eyes, she was already more than that. But actually hearing her say it, made me grin like a high school teenager getting a girlfriend for the first time.

“Oh please,” She twisted around to look at me, biting back a smirk. “Don’t pretend like you’re not doing your happy dance right now.”

“Maybe.” I let my hands rest on her hips as my lips found hers.

If this was what loving her was like, I never wanted to lose it.

_____________________________________________

So, Ethan’s dad huh. What did you guys think about this chapter?

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