The Girl Upstairs Chapter One

Copyright © Grace Harper 2021

The right of Grace Harper to be identified as the author of this book has been asserted by the Copyrights, Designs and Patents Act 1988. Copying of this manuscript, in whole or in part, without the author and her publisher’s written permission, is strictly prohibited. All rights reserved

Chapter 1

Ellie

“Can I get a dirty martini?” I asked the barman when he got to my end of the bar.

“Of course,” he said in a thick Spanish accent. He nodded at me with an appreciative smile.

I wasn’t looking for any attention. I never wanted any attention, but I’d promised my best friend, after five days at a business conference in the city of Barcelona, I’d go out for a drink at least once.

The conference felt like business speed dating on the first day. Businesses would explain what they needed, and the audience would decide if they wanted to pitch. The company then needed to whittle it down to five to do a full pitch. On day two, I felt like I was on the X Factor—business style – as I sat cowering in the corner waiting to be called up. By day four, I was in the swing of it but had missed most businesses that wanted an app built for them that could be used on any mobile device. I’d wasted four days of being shy. I dressed in my favourite suit and walked into the conference like I owned the place.

On my first pitch, they selected me to run with their proposal. Four rounds of questioning and grilling, and they picked me.

I was proud of myself. It was a shame I was alone in my personal achievement of leaving my hometown for the first time. I had no one to share getting a potential deal that could launch my new business and keep a roof over my head.

So far, I’d reached the hotel bar.

I had a dress and heels on. That counted, surely?

When I promised myself, it was more of promising my best friend, Parker Brown, that I would come out of my hotel room at least once. Parker was the life and soul of any party. People naturally gravitated towards him. I’d rather stay in the corner or better still stay in my room. I was the loner of our friendship, and he more than made up for the both of us.

Parker had left our hometown shortly after he graduated from university and went to LA to find fame as a film director. I followed a safe path, stayed in my home town, and went into banking. But I preferred technology and sitting behind a laptop screen.

Needing parties and nightlife had bever appealed to me. I could live vicariously through Parker.

“Hey, is this seat taken?”

I glanced at the man standing next to me, looking exhausted in a handsome, scruffy way. His dark hair colour matched mine. Except the man’s hair was cut short, and mine fell halfway down my back. With one hand in his pocket and one hand flat on the seat, I check to see if he had a wedding ring. Never in my life had I done that.

“Please say yes, you’re looking at me like I might murder you. I promise you I won’t. I feel like I’ve lived seven days in one today, and I really want a cold beer. This is the only seat left in the bar.”

I hadn’t realised my scrutiny had lasted long enough for him to ask twice.

“Yes, it’s free,” I answered.

I crossed my legs on the high stool, and his eyes gravitated to the flash of skin at my ankle. I wore a bohemian pale green maxi dress with strappy heels—another choice of Parker’s. He always had better dress sense than me, even at school.

Clutching the edge of the bar, I craned my neck to look at his ankle. The hem of his suit trousers hid any hint of what his ankles looked like. I nodded my approval, taking a long, slow look at his navy brogues that matched his suit.

“I’m sorry,” he replied, laughing at the non-verbal point I was making. “I didn’t mean to check out your ankles. It’s just when you crossed your legs, it drew my attention to the flash of skin. I’m appalled at my behaviour. Please forgive me?”

His boyish grin and a dimple to die for had me forgiving him in less than a second.

“You’re forgiven. I shouldn’t have been so rude to pay back the rudeness.”

He leaned in, nudging my shoulder. “I liked it. It’s a change to have someone call me out on my Neanderthal shit.”

“You poor thing,” I said, lacing the words with as much sarcasm as I could muster. “Do women just fall at your feet usually?”

“Oh man, I’m digging an enormous hole, aren’t I? I’ve been in meetings all day hearing salespeople’s pitches. Each person taking me around their equipment, telling me how wonderful it is. Assistants falling over themselves to provide drink, food, anything that will make me say yes to them.”

“I see. Did you say yes to any of them?”

“Yes,” he said, signalling to the server behind the bar.

I sensed a but coming.

“Can I get you a refill?”

“Sure, it’s a dirty martini,” I replied.

“What makes it dirty?” He’d dropped his voice and looked me straight in the eye as he dragged the stool to sit under him. His upper body leaned forward in his attempt to move nearer.

“The olive,” I replied.

“I love the way you say dirty. It’s a mix between seductive and innocent. Like Marilyn Monroe. All breathy.”

I was stunned to silence while he ordered me another cocktail and him a bottle of beer.

To change the subject away from me, I said, “what equipment were you looking to buy?”

The guy turned on his high stool and faced me. “Why don’t we forget our days and chat about nothing in particular. You have this vibe that makes me want to find a comfy sofa and discuss the merits of the Star Wars films and debate if pies are better than cakes.”

A warm smile stretched my lips wide. I couldn’t help it and hadn’t noticed my hand in his agreeing to keep things neutral. Talking about cakes was right up my alley.

The back of his hand was warm, resting on my thigh. My fingers curled around his palm, and I squeezed once.

“Ok, but just to warn you, I’ve never seen Star Wars, and I will argue until the sun rises, cakes are better than pies.”

The guy’s mouth dropped open at my answer. Unsure if it was the movie confession or the cake declaration. I couldn’t help the grin and chuckle. He had me at ease within a few minutes, and I could have happily stayed with my hand in his all night.

“Well, we can explore that later,” he said, visibly making a mental note. “No names and no clues to what we do for a living or where. We can have a drink, maybe some food with no preconceptions.”

That deal suited me fine. Confessing that I’d never left my hometown in the thirty-two years, I’d been on this planet wasn’t something I’d want to say the first time I met someone. Telling this man I’d given up a perfectly well-paid job to start my own also felt foolish. This man made me want to give the best possible impression.

The bad part came a minute later when my heart dropped that after tonight, I’d never see him again. I already missed him.

I also lacked my sugar fix. I missed sugar with a home tuck shop and the best bakery in the UK, a five-minute walk from where I lived.

An hour later, we found a small sofa that looked out over the port of Barcelona. It had a matching long foot stool. We were outside on the veranda, with blankets over our legs, sharing a bowl of pumpkin seeds.

“Do you ever wonder if aliens are rolling their eyes at us?” he asked.

“Aliens have eyes?” I answered.

“Fair point,” he said with a smirk. “Do you believe that there are other species on other planets?”

“For sure, and they are probably sighing with our primitive ideas.”

“What would you do if you came face to face with an alien?”

“Assuming they look wildly different from anything on earth, I’d scream bloody murder. I’d be hoarse from the exceptionally long, loud scream that would escape my mouth. I’d probably dance on the spot for good measure.”

The man next to me let out a contagious belly laugh. Now that we’d had the alien discussion, I wanted to know his name, and he thought I was ridiculous. For the first time in my life, I was ok with a boy thinking I was foolish.

“I’d love to see that. I would laugh my head off and then run off screaming,” he said.

“You’d leave me with the alien?”

“Not a chance. I’d throw you over my shoulder like a firefighter and get the hell away.”

“Aww, that’s so sweet.”

Sitting down with this man meant we were roughly at the same level. He turned his head to face me, and I did the same. Inches apart, I felt the air shift. He pulled the blanket higher to cover our shoulders and tucked my hand in his.

“You bring it out in me. What can I say?” he whispered.

My eyes dropped to his mouth instinctively as he spoke so softly, ensuring I heard him correctly. He was moving forward, just his head, and I would have been kissed except for the interruption.

“Here’s your paella. You’re sharing, right?” the server said, carrying a tray laden with food and plates.

I cleared my throat and sat up straight. “Yep, that’s us. Sharing food.”

“Great,” he replied with a genial smile. He knew what was about to go down, but had to do his job. He mouthed the word sorry when my mystery guy looked away.

The server suggested he set up a sofa table between us, so we didn’t have to move. He produced a table with short legs that fit perfectly over our legs from behind where we were sitting. It was like breakfast in bed in the open air with a hundred people watching. I turned to my mystery date for the evening, and we both shrugged. Once the table was set up, the server placed the napkins, cutlery, and plates, followed by the steaming pan of paella between us.

“Enjoy,” the server said.

I lifted the large spoon in the pan, moving to his plate first. “I know we’ve said no names and no personal information, but I need to call you something.”

“I could give you a fake name,” he suggested, holding my gaze while he slowly took a forkful of food into his mouth. His lips pressed firmly on his cutlery, but it didn’t take away the plumpness. When I glanced at his eyes, they were filled with sparkle.

“What about drag names?” I said, pointing at him with my spoon.

He brought the fork from his mouth and placed it on his plate. “How does that work?”

“You take your grandmother’s first name, and the surname is the last sweet thing you ate.”

“That would make me Marilyn Pavlova. Call me Pav for short,” he answered with a grin. “What would you be called?”

“I would be Marjorie Nutella. That sounds stupid.” I took another mouthful of food, wondering if I should’ve chosen my other grandmother’s name, Sabrina. Her name sounded exotic for the time of the century she was born. “I’d like to switch to my other grandmother, Sabrina.”

“No, the first choice always stands, but more importantly, where did you get your hands on some Nutella?”

“At breakfast. They have these little pouches. I may have taken a few for mid-morning sustenance for the conference.”

“I must have missed those. Nutella is a firm favourite of mine.

“Me too,” I said.

“Is that why you’re here in Barcelona, for the conference?”

“Yeah, five days of business networking and freebie stationery.”

“I can’t believe you’ve been here for five days, and I meet you on the last night. I was at the conference, too. Mainly in meeting rooms, but I caught a few of the seminars.”

We fell silent until we finished our food, and the server came to clear everything away. Pav, as he kept reminding me to call him, regaled the worst pitch he’d heard earlier today that had him going straight to the bar when he arrived. I was in fits of giggles as he told the story of the man sweating like he was in the Sahara, while dropping everything he picked up.

“You probably intimidated him into a nervous wreck. I hate when I must go into pitches. I’d much prefer to say hire me or don’t hire me and leave it at that. I know my industry, but am useless in articulating it,” I said.

“I don’t think I’m intimidating. Do I intimidate you?” he asked.

“Not in the slightest, especially with a second name of Pavlova. I’d just be dreaming of eating dessert.”

Pav looked at me like I was dessert. He licked his lips and glanced at my mouth, his eyes darkening. I looked at his ring finger to see if there were any indentations. My experience of kissing or nearly kissing married men was zero. I knew practically everyone in my town and who was and wasn’t married. In the job I’d recently left, everyone was married.

No tan lines, and Pav had a suntan on his face and hands.

“What’s your favourite dessert?” he asked.

“A jam doughnut,” I said quickly to get my head away from wondering if he had any tan lines. “I eat way too many and can enter a sugar coma that has me taking three-hour naps, but it’s so worth it.”

“I’d never considered a doughnut as pudding before,” he remarked, tapping his forefinger against the dimple in his chin. “I think apple pie is the best pudding out there, hands down.”

“Pudding? How posh are you?”

“I thought pudding was working-class, not upper class,” he answered.

We’d snuggled further under the blanket, right up to our chins. The soft material covered us completely, and Pav looked to be close to six feet tall. We were almost nose to nose as we chatted. Very few people we out on the veranda, favouring the inside. A wind whipped around the port and along the hotel’s viewing platform, where we’d settled for the evening.

“I don’t think I’ve ever used the word pudding, and I come from a thoroughly working-class family,” I said.

“Do you want pudding now?”

“I don’t think I could eat another thing. I’m stuffed after that delicious paella.”

“It was fantastic. How about coffee?”

“Are you trying to get me to stay down here?”

“I might be,” Pav said, and inched a little closer. “I like your company, it’s like a soothing balm after an endless week, month and year.”

“You don’t need to put things in my mouth to get me to stay down here.”

Pav stared at me open-mouthed, and I’d realised what I’d said. I instinctively tried to make space between us, as I didn’t want him to think I was trying to seduce him. Flirting was not my forte.

At all.

“I didn’t mean it that way,” I said with my hands covering my face.

Pav tugged my fingers away and held one hand, pulling the fallen blanket back up. “I know. I was just teasing. I don’t want you to run away just yet. Come back over here.”

I’d moved an inch away when I’d got embarrassed, but I still shifted back, and now the whole of my left side was flush with his body. I didn’t need the blanket with the heat coming from him. We fell silent once more, and my head dropped to his shoulder. The sun had dropped below the horizon hours earlier, and we watched the pinpricks in the sky as the masts from the boats swayed in the stiff breeze.

We talked off and on while servers came out to ask us if we wanted anything else. After the third request, Pav paid our dinner bill, and they left us alone.

“I was serious before when I said I’m sad that I’ve only met you tonight. I’ve enjoyed sharing a meal with you and wish I didn’t have to leave in the morning,” he said.

“I’ve enjoyed tonight too. I promised my best friend I’d venture out at least once. All week I put it off, and as I can’t lie to save my life, I had to at least try once, or he would kick my ass for maintaining my hermit lifestyle.”

“Your best friend is a bloke?”

“Yeah, I know, odd, right? We met in junior school and lived in the same town growing up. We stayed friends when he went off to university, and I stayed local. I didn’t fancy exploring the country to get a degree. There are two perfectly great universities in the county. I saved a boatload of student debt, but then I was lucky. My parents are fabulous where his weren’t so great. He left as soon as he could. I still live in the same town I grew up in, albeit not with my parents. I have a small house that’s perfect for me.”

“That’s a lot of personal information for someone who agreed to keep things vague.”

I nudged his shoulder in reply. “I dare you to track me down based solely on that information.”

“True, it could be Bristol, Brighton, London, or Edinburgh. They have two Universities, don’t they?”

I shrugged in reply, not wanting to give away he’d got it right in the four cities he threw out there.

“So, you two never got together as a couple?”

“Nope, I don’t see him like that. He’s more of a brother than anything else. I’m an only child, and he filled the gap of a sibling.”

“Not even a near kiss?”

“What’s a near kiss?”

Half a bottle of wine, and I was feeling bold. Pav leaned forward, his lips so close. “I think we were here earlier when the server arrived. That was a near kiss.”

I couldn’t see his mouth we were so close. His hand moved over my stomach to curl around my waist. He pulled me closer to his side. The feeling of his hard body against my breasts was intoxicating—this perfect stranger.

“And what’s this?” I whispered, quieter this time.

The noise from the port silenced as the blood rushed around my head, making me deaf to everything. Pav’s eyes closed as he pressed his lips against mine. My eyelids closed as soon as we connected. He was softly kissing me, moving his arm further around my body, with his palm flat on my back. I curled my legs up to cuddle in against his body.

When he broke the kiss and leaned his head back a few inches, I matched his grin.

“That was a near kiss, moving into an actual,” he answered.

With our bodies squashed together and the blanket covering us, I felt like it cocooned me from the world. Pav silenced my busy mind and brought my body alive.

“It was a nice kiss,” I said.

“Nice?”

“Yeah, don’t you like nice kisses?”

“I prefer sexy, thrilling, arousing, and obscene.”

“Oh,” I replied.

Pav moved forward again, his eyes firmly on my mouth. I parted my lips, ready for one of his sexy, thrilling kisses, and hoped I’d be aroused, and we weren’t too obscene. Just as his mouth covered mine, he brought the blanket up over our heads. The first sweep of his tongue sent shock waves around my body. I needed to get closer and opened my mouth wider, matching his passion, clutching his shirt to bring him closer.

His moan drove me crazy wild with our kiss. How could this man I’d met hours before press all my arousal buttons with one kiss? His hand left my back and made its way up to my breast, squeezing hard. It was my turn to cry out. My boobs were so tender under his touch. My fingers reached his collar, and I scraped my nails at his nape. He broke the kiss immediately.

“You’re going to have me panting like a teenager if you keep doing that,” he whispered while he kissed my cheek.

Pav dropped the blanket, keeping it high at our shoulders.

“I think you fulfilled all four of your descriptions with a single kiss.”

“Your lips are the softest I’ve ever kissed,” he replied, stroking his thumb across my bottom lip. “I had to stop, else we’d be kicked out for indecency.”

I chuckled at his confession because the kiss was so hot, I wouldn’t have had the strength to stop his hands wherever they roamed.

“Excuse me,” a staff member said after he opened the glass door to our left. “We need to close up the outside area. We’re due to have a rainstorm.”

“Ok,” I replied. “We’ll come in now.”

Pav stood first, holding the blanket to his body, offering his hand to help me up. Once I was upright, I glanced at Pav, waiting for him to move.

“Are you going to let go of the blanket?” I asked him.

He was clutching it like a lifeline.

He looked at my breasts and then back at my face. I followed his gaze to my boobs and saw that my nipples were hard and erect, clear for anyone to see.

“I have that problem too, except mine is more pronounced.”

I laughed behind my hand. Pav’s face was contorted with embarrassment as he searched the veranda for help.

“Put your suit jacket on?” I suggested.

It was draped over the arm of the sofa where we’d been sitting.

As soon as he dropped the blanket, I looked at his crotch, and he was showing an impressive erection against the zip of his suit trousers.

“Stop looking with that heady gaze. It’s making it harder,” Pav said through gritted teeth while he smiled and nodded at someone behind me.

I had no clue what he was nodding to. This man was hard for me after one kiss, and that felt exhilarating. Added to that, he wasn’t ashamed to tell me or show me. I’d never met a man apart from Parker, who was open to talking about lust, love, and attraction.

I turned my back, picked up my handbag to allow Pav to sort himself out, and walked to the glass door the staff member held open for us. I scooted around him and stepped into the bar area. The crowds had thinned, and the noise levels were significantly lower than when I’d first entered. A glance at my watch said that I’d been with Pav for four hours, as it was just past midnight.

An arm circled my back, and I looked to my left to see Pav staring down at me. “Fancy a nightcap?”

“Not for me. I have to get up early for my flight home. I don’t want a hangover on a plane journey.”

“Good point. My train leaves early too. Which floor are you on?”

“The seventh, how about you?”

“The sixth. Let me walk you to your door?” he asked.

I nodded rather than answered with words, as all I could think of was hell yes.

We moved through the large bar area, weaving through the tables, and headed to the elevators opposite the reception desk. The silver mirrored doors highlighted how close we were standing. Pav’s arm wrapped around my shoulder, and my arm slung around his waist. It was as if we were a couple that had been together for years. I was a few inches shorter than Pav with my heels on, making it comfortable to cuddle close.

When the doors opened, it was empty, and we stepped in, turned around and resumed standing arm in arm. I was closest to the card swipe to allow the elevator to ascend to the correct floor. I dropped my card back into my handbag and waited a few seconds until the doors opened again. We walked in silence along the plush carpet until we reached my door. I pushed my card into the slot, and the door clicked open.

The air fizzled with anticipation. Pav’s eyes were back to staring at my mouth. “One more kiss for the road?” he asked.

I pulled him towards me by tugging his hand. I had one foot over the threshold, keeping my door open. If I was going to have another kiss like the last one, I didn’t want an audience. Stepping back one more step so that we were both over the threshold, I then lifted my chin.

“I don’t know if I can kiss you again,” Pav said.

“Why?”

“I’m worried if I kiss you again. I’ll want more. What if I want to walk you to your bed, strip you naked and kiss every inch of your body?”

“The thing about being an adult is that we can make our own choices. Are you in a relationship?”

I prayed that he said no.

“No, not for a while. And you?”

“Same. I’m free and single.”

“Are you asking me to spend the night with you?” Pav asked again.

I loved that he was checking I was okay with this.

Letting the hotel room door close, I waited for the room to fall into darkness. My handbag made a thump when it hit the floor.

“Please stay,” I whispered against his throat. “I want you to stay.”

A moment later, Pav’s fingers threaded through my hair at the back of my neck, his thumbs brushing my cheekbones at my temple. He was hesitating, pressing his body against mine until my back was flush with the wall. Kicking off my shoes meant I dropped three inches, and his mouth was too far away.

Pav must have thought this, too, because he wrapped an arm around my back and lifted me off the floor. When our faces met, he didn’t hesitate and kissed me hard and fast. It was brutal, the way we fought to take over the kiss. I flicked my tongue into his mouth, chasing his tongue, relishing the sensation of his firm lips sealing against mine.

I was panting, desperate to be connected with this man. We removed our own clothes at the door, frantically racing each other to get naked.

“Let’s take a shower together,” he said.

He took my hand as we entered the bathroom, but the lights weren’t on. I realised I hadn’t put the card in the slot in my haste to kiss the handsome man. The hotel room was in darkness, and I couldn’t see where I’d dropped the door card that activated the electricity in the room. Damn those clever people who help save the planet with unnecessary use of power. After a few moments and a soft chuckle from Pav, I found my bag under his suit jacket and put the card in its slot.

The room lit up like Blackpool illuminations, and the first thing I saw was Pav’s buff body. He was the opposite of me in every way. Lean, slim-hipped with broad shoulders. Pav looked strong, too, almost powerful in his relaxed posture. The guy looked like he had stamina in bucket loads. He didn’t notice my scrutiny as he was busy staring at my boobs.

“You look magnificent, Marj. I knew you would be as soon as I saw your nipples, hard and waiting to be sucked through your dress. Come here,” he said, holding out his hand.

I moved forward to meet him in the bathroom. I lucked out on my stay at the hotel and got an upgrade to a suite that included a massive bathroom.

Pav never let go of my hand as he turned the dials for the shower, testing the water temperature. In one fluid movement, he swooped me up into his arms like his bride and walked us under the giant shower head. Our mouths met again. Kissing Pav under the steady stream of water was heady and intoxicating. Our bodies collided and slid as we moulded together. Touching and caressing. His hands grabbed my bottom, kneading the flesh as he continued to kiss me. I concentrated on feeling his back muscles. They were like nothing I had ever touched before. Smooth to the touch, but hard and unyielding when I held on tight. Pav’s erection stood proudly between us. I wanted to touch him so badly, I slipped my hand under my breasts pressed against his chest. Wrapping my hand around his length, I sighed at the smooth feel of his cock. Pav moaned into my mouth as I slowly slipped my hand up and down him, squeezing and releasing as I felt him grow and become harder still. When I moved with more speed, he tipped his hips back and forth, adding more friction and pace to my hand job. When he came a few minutes later, the liquid shot up in between us and over my breasts.

“Holy fuck, that’s the most erotic vision I have ever seen,” he said, looking down at my voluptuous breasts. The water from the shower soon rinsed away any evidence.

“My turn,” he announced and dropped to his knees, not taking his eyes off mine for a second. He took the sponge from the shelf and my grapefruit smelling shower gel. Making a soapy lather that verged on decadent, he then smothered his hands with the suds.

Pav massaged one leg, from my ankle, up my calf and then up to my thighs, coating his hands with the soap when it ran off his hands. When he reached my bottom, Pav dug his fingers into my flesh, pressing all the right points that had me moaning at the pleasure he was providing. I had the same dedication applied to my other leg.

He sat back on his haunches, gazing up at me as the water washed away any remaining soap. Reaching out one finger, he traced the thin line of hair above my pussy and then kept going until he found my centre.

“Part your legs, honey,” he said.

As soon as I widened my stance, he pushed his fingers inside me. I had to use his strong, solid shoulders for support because the next move, his mouth covered my pussy, and his tongue found my weak spot. Circling and teasing, sucking, and licking me to an instant orgasm. I came way faster than he had done. I didn’t have time to warn him. I had used all my energy to stay standing. Pav’s chest was pressed against my knees and thighs, holding me in place as I shuddered my way through an explosive climax.

“That felt so good,” I said. “For me too,” he answered, pulling his fingers from inside me. “I want to feel you grip my cock like you did my fingers.”

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