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Still (Grip Book 2)

By:Kennedy Ryan

STILL (Grip Book 2)
Kennedy Ryan

Part I


"An artist's duty, as far as I'm concerned,

is to reflect the times."

 –  Nina Simone, Musician & Activist

1


Bristol



"Your client appears to be late."

I glance from the pasty face across the table to my phone, noting the  time. This guy could use some of our LA sun before he goes back to New  York, though it is summer there, too. Maybe he just doesn't get out  much.

"A little late," I tell Kevin, the rep from Barrow Publishing. "But he'll be here."

"Our team's excited about the possibility of working with Grip." Kevin  gestures with his fork wrapped in angel hair pasta. "He'll be great for  our urban imprint."

"Your urban imprint?" My own fork is halfway to my mouth, but I place it  back down in the bowl of my half-eaten salad. "Why would you think  that?"

"Well, he is a hip-hop artist." Kevin shrugs and chews his pasta. "Seems like the reasonable placement."

"He's also the guy whose debut album went double platinum and who sold  out the largest venues across three continents while headlining his  first world tour." I challenge him with one lifted brow. "You don't get  numbers like that reaching a niche demographic. Grip has proven global  appeal and would be best placed with your flagship imprint."

"We'll see." Skepticism colors Kevin's otherwise pale face.

"Oh, I know, because I won't settle for anything less." I spear a  cucumber with my fork and him with a glance sharpened to a fine point.  "Charisma knew that when she approached me with this offer."

My friend Charisma and I went to high school together and were roommates  at Columbia. She's now a powerful editor at a huge publishing company. I  would much prefer lunch with her instead of this junior editor, but her  schedule didn't allow for that.

My phone dings with a text on the table.

"Excuse me." I grab the phone to check the incoming text.

Grip: Hey babe. Sorry. About to get on the road.

Me: ETA?

Grip: Huh? Is that dyslexic for eat? LOL

Despite my irritation that I have to spend more time alone with this sun-deprived dickhead, my lips twitch.

Me: Estimated time of arrival, smartass.

Grip: Like 10, but if you send me a tit pic, I might be able to shave a couple min off.

I shake my head and lose the battle with my lips, surrendering a wide  grin. I try to ignore dickhead's eyes on the tits in question. This guy  is a bit of a lecher; I'll have to ask Charisma what she was thinking  sending him.

Me: Not funny. Get here so we can be done with this.

Grip: I'm coming, but you know I come faster when you show me your tits.

I walked right into that one. I don't bother responding, instead setting  the phone down and turning my attention back to Kevin the lecher.

"That was Grip." I wait for his eyes to lift from nipple level. "He got held up at his previous appointment, but he's en route."

"It's fine." His slick smile lubricates the space between us, leaving a  greasy film in the air. "Gives us a little more time alone."

"Do we need more time alone?" I take a sip of my mineral water. "For what?"

"So I can persuade you to have dinner with me."

Is this guy for real? I glance into the eyes behind his square glasses.  Everything about him screams metrosexual, pretty much the polar opposite  of Grip. I guess I'm self-absorbed enough to assume everyone knows Grip  and I are together. We were outed in the worst possible way just after  he and Qwest broke up-via a surveillance video leak and Black Twitter  feud-but we've managed to keep a pretty low profile ever since.  Apparently, Kevin missed that bit of juicy gossip.

"I think we should stick to business," I offer with a wry smile.

"But what about pleasure?" He reaches across the table to rub the back of my hand.

"Pleasure?" I snatch my hand back. "Kevin, you wouldn't know where to start pleasing me."

He looks nonplussed, but it's the truth. Some women have trouble  admitting they love sex; I'm not one of them. I love it, but I'm a woman  of discriminating tastes and hard-to-please nethers. Fortunately, my  voracious appetite extends to exactly one man who's figured it all out,  and he's probably . . . oh, less than ten minutes out.

Maybe I should have sent that tit pic after all.

"I just meant I'm only in LA for another day, and haven't seen much of  the city," Kevin says. "I know you and Charisma are friends, so I  thought maybe you could show me around before I go back to New York."         

     



 

Maybe I misjudged him.

Except his eyes are x-raying through my blouse again.

"Kevin, eyes up."

"Sorry." The lust in his eyes practically fogs up his glasses. "What?"

This is so not the way to get Grip on board with the book deal Charisma and I

have been brainstorming. I'm killing Charm next time I see her-not that  I'll see her any time soon. Barrow has her anchored to the East Coast,  and Prodigy has me anchored to the West.

"Kevin, there's something you should know. Grip and I-"

"Sorry I'm late." The voice rolls over me like syrup, thick and sweet and sticking to my skin.

I glance over my shoulder, meeting the eyes I wake up to every morning,  the color of chocolate flecked with caramel. Grip's slow smile is that  extravagant curve of full lips that has stuttered my breath since the  day I met him. Even if he weren't handsome, he would draw attention,  reaching beyond sexuality, though sexual energy seeps from this man's  pores. It's something more fundamental than sex appeal. Whatever it is,  it's raw and compelling and in his very bones. I've never been able to  completely put my finger on it, but wouldn't mind spending the next  fifty years or so figuring it out.

"Grip, right?" Kevin stands and reaches past me to shake Grip's hand. "Kevin."

"Hey." Grip glances from me to Kevin, accepting his outstretched hand. "Like I said, sorry I'm late."

"Oh, no. It's fine." Kevin offers what is probably supposed to be a  roguish grin, but comes off slightly creepy. "Gave me a little alone  time with your manager here."

Oh, please spare me this.

Grip cocks his head and narrows his eyes a centimeter. "Alone time?"

"Grip, I was just about to tell Kevin that-"

"Ah ah ah." Grip silences me with a gesture, his eyes still locked on  Kevin. "Let the man talk, Bris. And what did you use all this time alone  for, Kevin?"

"I was persuading this beautiful lady to have dinner with me." Kevin  seats himself, dipping his head toward the empty seat awaiting Grip at  the table.

"Oh." Grip sits, nodding and setting his motorcycle helmet on the floor. "And how was that working out for you?"

"Between you and me"-Kevin slants me a knowing grin-"I think I was getting somewhere."

"Uh, Kevin, you really should-" I try again.

"Was he, Bris?" Grip cuts in over me, crossing his arms-vibrantly inked  and roped with muscle-over his chest. His white shirt reads HABITUAL  LINE STEPPER; no telling what that means. "Getting somewhere, I mean?"

Though well disguised, humor percolates behind his polite inquiry. Grip  is possessive, but he knows this guy would never be anything but a joke.

"No, I told him we should keep things strictly business." I turn my  attention from Grip to Kevin. "And I was just about to say I have a  boyfriend."

"I'm sure he'd understand." Kevin flashes a conspiratorial wink Grip's way.

"I'm sure he wouldn't." A vein of steel runs through Grip's good-natured  response. "He doesn't like her having dinner with other guys."

"What he doesn't know won't hurt him, eh?" Kevin leans forward slightly to elbow Grip's arm.

"Might get you hurt, though," Grip says, elbowing Kevin back with a little more force. "Eh?"

"Ow." Kevin rubs his arm, frowning at the spot Grip poked roughly.

This has gone on long enough. Every word out of Kevin's mouth imperils this book deal.

"Kevin, Grip is my boyfriend," I tell him, annoyed and tired of stretching this out.

Kevin's poor jaw nearly unhinges.

"Grip is your boyfriend?" Behind the designer spectacles, his eyes widen and dart between Grip and me.

Grip links our fingers on the table.

"As fuck would have it, yup." Grip raises our hands to his lips, kissing  my fingers, but keeps his eyes trained on Kevin. "Is this your strategy  for signing new authors? Hitting on their girlfriends? 'Cause I gotta  tell ya, it's kinda brilliant."

I can't help it-I snort. My inelegant laugh draws Grip's dark eyes and  wicked grin, fanning heat low in my belly that slides even farther  south. I went years barely being intimate with anything that wasn't  battery operated, and now I can't go two hours without wanting to be  horizontally naked with this guy.

Though we did do it vertically in the shower this morning. I squirm in  my seat remembering the slice of steamy heaven we had before the sun was  all the way up. The sooner we get this over with, the sooner I can get  back to the office and then home for more of that, whichever home we  choose tonight. At some point, I guess I'll sell my place, or Grip will  sell his? We'll live together, but will we get engaged first? Married?  He did tell my mother he would marry me one day.         

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