Authors: Cristina Grenier
Tags: #bwwm interracial romance
When she’d thought of quitting one of her jobs before, she’d always assumed that there would be some triumphant feeling to go along with it. Some feeling of accomplishment or something. Right then she just felt tired and irritated.
And hungry, she added when her stomach growled.
It was past lunch time, and her breakfast hadn’t been large, but the thought of going into the kitchen where Dorian might be telling Anita about what had just happened had her stomach in knots.
Instead she went back into her bedroom to put on a bra and a hoodie and grab her keys. It was clearly time for her to get off these grounds for a while.
Andrea stayed away for the rest of the day. She’d completely forgotten about agreeing to go to dinner with Ben, and when he texted her to ask where she was, she swore under her breath and told him she was at the library.
Ten minutes later, he was walking in and looking at her with that older brother look. “What happened?”
“Who said something happened?” Andrea replied.
“Well, you’re here instead of at the manor, and Dorian’s been in a mood since I got back. I can only imagine that the two are related.”
“He’s an idiot,” she said shortly.
Ben arched an eyebrow. “He really isn’t. What happened?”
She sighed and told him about their argument in a soft voice, explaining why she’d been so upset, and telling him the things she’d said to Dorian. Rehashing it made it sound stupid, and she made a face, closing the magazine she’d been looking at with a sigh.
“I should probably apologize.”
“So should he,” Ben replied. “But come on. We’ll worry about that later. For now, I just got my first paycheck from Dorian, and I’m taking you out for sushi.”
Chapter 7: Reconcile
“Haven’t we taught you anything?” Anita sighed, looking at him over the rim of her cup. “You have to think before you speak.”
Dorian could always tell when she was disappointed in him. Her accent got thicker, and her dark eyes glinted with the words she’d probably have said if she didn’t work for him. For this part, he clutched his cup, savoring the feeling of the hot ceramic against his skin.
Anita had taken one look at his face and then sat him down at the kitchen table, putting the kettle on and then proceeding to make him a cup of tea just the way he liked it. She’d sat with him and waited, and eventually the whole story had come pouring out. Sometimes Dorian was worried about the fact that he was a grown man who spent his time going to his cook for advice, but he’d barely ever had a mother, and Anita was as close as a mother figure as it got for him.
So he’d told her everything and sat there while she’d scolded him for his bad behavior.
It hurt, but he knew that she was right. His words and attitude had been terrible, but the thought of Andrea working either of those kinds of jobs had made him upset. She deserved better than that.
When Anita reached across the table and smacked his arm, Dorian realized he’d said that out loud. “Stop running your mouth,” she said. “Some of us, we don’t get to decide where we end up. Whether
think she deserves better or not, there might not have been any other options.”
He thought back to what she had yelled at him about her mother and having to care for her, and quickly put it together that Anita was right, which just made him feel worse.
“We worked so hard,” Anita said, shaking her head. “Your father was a great man, but he let you get spoiled. He never made sure you understood that the people who worked for you were
“I understood that quite well on my own,” Dorian argued.
“Hush. I know that. But you don’t understand why they did the things they did. Why the people who serve you coffee or food do the things they do. If you were my son, I would have made you get a job. Appreciating those less fortunate than you is an important lesson.”
Dorian frowned and peered into the steaming liquid of his Earl Grey. “I don’t want to think of her as less fortunate than me.”
Anita tutted. “That’s not your decision to make, I’m afraid,” she said. “The majority of the
is less fortunate than you. That’s just how things work.”
“So how am I supposed to fix this?” It was all well and good for her to tell him how many different ways he’d messed up, but how was he supposed to make it better if he didn’t know how?
There was a reason that he didn’t really date, aside from the fact that people bored him and usually only saw him as a walking, talking bank account. If they could just leave money out of it…
“God, I’m stupid,” he said, and Anita smiled at him.
“Had an idea?”
“More like a revelation.”
She made a gesture that was clearly an invitation to tell her what he’d figured out.
“We’re just people,” Dorian said, and heaved a sigh. “Money doesn’t have to enter into it.”
“True. Also I’d add that Andrea is an adult and you have no hold on her, so she can do whatever she wants. If she wants to stand on street corners and advertising sex, there’s not much you can do about it.”
Dorian blanched at the mental image. Both because he didn’t want to think about her doing something like that, and because. Well. He’d
prostitutes before. And Andrea had legs that were made for tiny leather skirts and fishnets, heels that would boost her height and highlight her calves and make her arse look… He cleared his throat, much to Anita’s apparent amusement.
“Stop laughing at me,” he said crossly.
“I wouldn’t dream of it, sir,” she replied with a smile that was much too sweet. “You like her, and that means you have to accept that she’s a person who can do what she wants. Maybe she hasn’t realized she can have more than she does now. Maybe she
have more than she does now. But it’s none of your business.”
“Yes, yes. I know. I suppose groveling is in order. If she ever comes back.” He’d gone to her door not even an hour after their argument, intending to apologize for his lack of manners at the very least, but there hadn’t been any reply to his knocks, and he had enough sense not to try to force the issue by entering uninvited to see if she was there.
A quick check of the garage had shown that her car was missing, so he’d let that go. Ben had come back at some point, and they’d had a brief conversation that left Ben suspicious and Dorian worried.
Another reminder that pissing off Andrea’s brother, who was the head of his security, was a bad idea.
Anita retired to her room after their conversation, leaving Dorian sitting in the kitchen alone. He’d thought to wait for Andrea and Ben to come back, but ultimately decided to clear out. It was his house, but more than anything he wanted them both to be comfortable there. He and Andrea could resolve things in the morning.
Of course, his assertion that they could fix it in the morning had been contingent upon Andrea being there in the morning. Ben had just laughed when Dorian asked him if she was up yet around nine in the morning.
“Oh, she’s been up and out of here for hours. She hardly ever sleeps past seven these days, and her shift at Hollybrook started at eight. She’ll be home around five.” He gave Dorian and arch look. “I’m assuming you have some things you want to say to her?” His voice was as mild and pleasant as always, but there was no denying the undercurrent of ‘don’t you dare hurt my sister’.
“Ah, yes,” Dorian replied. “I wanted to apologize to her for how I acted yesterday.”
“Good,” Ben said with a grin. “And in the meantime, I was thinking we could do a round of interviews today. I’ve already met with all these people, and I’ve chosen the ones I like, but you have to be comfortable with them, too.”
Dorian agreed that was for the best, and managed to forget about his fight with Andrea while they talked to the people Ben had picked. He had to focus on them, wanting to make sure that what had happened with his last team wasn’t going to be a problem. It quickly became clear that Ben had listened to everything he said when he’d been talking about what kind of team he wanted because each candidate was very well chosen.
They stepped out of the sitting room some hours later, after the last one had left, and Dorian felt hopeful.
“So I was thinking we give them the rest of the week to get their stuff in order and then this weekend we’ll go out somewhere. Give them a test run.”
Dorian nodded. “I’d like that. How are you planning to divide them up?”
“There’s five of them right now, and we can decide if that’s too few later. I have some other candidates wait listed if it is. Three in the guard house and two living here, with me. You get a panic button that you need to carry around whenever you’re somewhere alone. That includes in the bathroom or anywhere else in the house. Or on the grounds. Something happens, you press it, and the signal will go to every guard you have. Whoever’s closest will intercept it. I’ve been talking with Carlos about making the grounds more secure, and we’ve set up more cameras along the gates, and I think the dog idea is awesome. A buddy of mine trains dogs for guard work, so I had a word with him. Maybe this weekend we can go pick out some.”
“That all sounds marvelous,” Dorian replied. “Thank you. You’ve done amazing work, Ben.”
Ben shrugged, but looked pleased. “It’s my job. And to be honest being able to build this whole thing from the ground up has been kind of a dream come true.” He glanced over Dorian’s shoulder towards the door and smiled. “Hey, Drea.”
Dorian’s eyes widened, and he tried not to whirl around to see her, wanting to keep his composure.
“Hey, Ben,” she said. “Dorian. Sounds like you’re getting your money’s worth from my brother.”
Now he did turn. “A good bodyguard is invaluable,” he said. “And your brother is just that.”
She quirked a smile. “Yeah. Well. I should…” she gestured towards the stairs and turned to leave.
“Wait,” Dorian said quickly. “Er...please. Please, I… I’d like to speak with you. If that’s alright.”
Andrea chewed on her lip for a bit and then glanced at Ben.
“Oh. Right. I should go make sure the guard house is ready. Dorian, Carlos has your button. I think we should test it out starting today,” Ben said, and with one significant glance at his sister, he left them alone.
“You wanted to say something to me?” Andrea asked, voice cool.
“Yes. I wanted to apologize,” Dorian responded. “My behavior yesterday was beastly, and you were completely right in everything you said. I had no right to speak to you like that or to meddle in your business, and I am deeply sorry that I was so rude to you. I hope you can forgive me.” He lowered his head a bit, in contrition and also so he wouldn’t have to watch her face.
So he was surprised when she giggled a bit at him.
“Your apologies sound like they should be written on fancy stationery,” she said. “British people, honestly.” Andrea sighed. “It’s okay. I mean. You weren’t
wrong. It’s possible that I could get a better job. I have an Associate’s Degree in marketing, and one day I want to go back to school. It’s just. I’m still getting used to this. It’s going to take me some time to figure it all out.”
Dorian nodded. “That makes sense. I suppose I just… I admire you, Andrea, and I didn’t want to see you sell yourself short. But that didn’t give me the right to treat you as I did, and I’m sorry.”
For a moment, she said nothing, and Dorian wondered if he was even going about this in the right way. His words were genuine, and anyone who knew him would know that, but the problem was, of course, that Andrea didn’t really know him.
But apparently he needn’t have worried because she smiled at him easily and nodded. “You're forgiven. I figured most of it was you not knowing how to talk to people who aren’t in your tax bracket. And that’s fine. I guess you’ll just have to learn, won’t you?”
There was promise in her tone, and Dorian found he couldn’t help himself. No one else was in the entry way, and while this was probably not going to do anything to make her think that he wasn’t a bloke with no manners to his name, he couldn’t resist. Slowly, giving her enough time to guess his intentions and tell him to stop or push him away if she wanted, he closed the distance between them. His fingers slipped under her chin, tipping her face up to his.
“May I?” Dorian whispered, because he could still be a gentleman even when he was desperate to kiss her.
She swallowed hard and then nodded, eyes wide.
And that was all the permission he needed before he was pulling her closer and fitting his mouth over hers.
It took them a moment to figure out how everything worked with them, as all kisses usually went. They had to find the right angle for lips and noses, find a rhythm and determine how slow, how quick, when to push, when to bite.
But once they found it, oh. Oh, it was glorious, and Dorian’s hands slid to the small of Andrea’s back and then to her waist, pulling her closer until there was no space between them. All of those carefully rationalized reasons why they shouldn’t be doing this flew out of his head, and all he could focus on was how warm she was against him, and how much he enjoyed having her taste in his mouth.