Mr. On Your Knees
by AC Arthur
Part of the The Corporation
Hotelier, Jared Desdune, is focused on planning Miami’s premier Juneteenth event when during vendor interviews, a blast from his past walks into his office. Desirae Kane is the distraction he doesn’t need in his career right now, but exactly what his heart might be craving.
Desi’s event design firm has been steadily growing in the past years but landing a high-profile celebration with a 5-Star hotel chain will open even more doors. If only she can resist the passion that’s still burning dangerously between her and the man who broke her heart.
Mr. On Your Knees
Part of the The Corporation
Mr. On Your Knees
First Week of May
Jared Desdune was seeing things. That was the only explanation for the pause in his words. Now, the heat that immediately soared through his body to rest at his growing erection had to be the result of working so much there had been no time for his periodic dates to appease his physical needs.
Yeah, that was it. Those two things made perfect sense because there was no way she was standing in the same room as him. Not after three years of her blocking him from her life. No fucking way at all.
“Good afternoon, Ms. Kane?” Mari, his director of events asked from where she sat to his right at the conference table.
“Please, call me Desirae, or—” the woman who had just walked spoke, but Jared cut her off.
“Desi,” he whispered as he blinked in confusion. It was his Desi.
She was dressed in a patterned skirt that hung just below her knees, a black blouse that fit snug over her ample breasts but had full sleeves and black heels. From where he sat, he’d only had a glimpse of her shoes as she’d approached the doorway, but he knew they were designer and skyscraper high the way they both preferred. Her hair was longer now, falling in loose curls past her shoulders, her skin that same glorious honey tone, those pouty lips painted a bold red.
His throat was suddenly dry, his heart thumping just a little faster than it had been a few moments before. He blinked just to make sure he wasn’t imagining this, that somehow those dreams he periodically had, weren’t bleeding into his daytime thoughts. That the woman he’d missed like crazy for the last three years wasn’t actually standing in the same room with him.
Sunlight poured in through the floor-to-ceiling windows behind where he sat at one end of the oval conference table. Combined with the stark white walls marred only by evenly placed framed abstract art pieces, pale gray carpet and the most uncomfortable—but sleekly designed—gray fabric chairs, the space felt airy and welcoming in a professional sort of way. This made it the best place to conduct interviews, to Jared’s manner of thinking. He hated nervous and tension-filled meetings and preferred when the candidates could come in, relax and get right to the business of selling themselves to him. It made his decision process a lot easier and, if the last six years since he’d been sitting in on interviews with the department heads were any indication, had yielded several great employees.
But in just a few seconds the air had been sucked out of this normally soothing space until it filled with a cloud of heat he knew would only rival the high humidity outside.
“Have a seat, Desi and we’ll get started,” Mari said.
Jared cleared his throat and dismissed the quizzical look he caught from Mari. He smoothed a hand down his tie and sat up straighter in the chair.
“Do I have her submission materials?” he asked after a few seconds because watching Desi walk from the door where she’d been standing to take a seat somewhere at the table to his left, wasn’t a good idea.
He knew her walk, had watched the gentle sway of her plump ass whether she’d been clothed, or his favorite, when she was naked, more times than he could count.
“On your tablet,” Mari said as she tapped her long peach painted nails on the white-topped table. “They were attachments to this morning’s email.”
The email he’d meant to read through during the lunch he’d hurriedly consumed at his desk over an hour ago. But there’d been a problem with the linen supplier they’d been using for almost ten years and a quick pivot to a new supplier had needed to be discussed and selected. That call had cut his normal ninety-minute lunch break down to thirty minutes which left him just enough time to eat the Italian cold cut with everything minus the onions—because the last thing he needed was onion-breath when he had an afternoon full of interviews—and answer a few text messages.
Gazing down at the small screen now he swallowed and bit back a groan.
Kane Design and Productions, owner Desirae J. Kane.
The company name was written in a classic block font, her name just beneath it to the right in a lavish hot pink script that was as bold as the woman who’d once owned his heart.
She’d done it, he thought as he continued to read her mission statement and gazed over the event photos that followed. On their second date, she’d told him that she was thinking about leaving the big event planning company she worked for and starting her own company where she could focus on creating the ultimate atmosphere for any occasion. She was a creative, with a bold imagination and an impeccable style. That night he’d been mesmerized, not only by how beautiful she was, but also by how intelligent and competent she’d sounded. He’d known at that moment that he was in trouble.
And now, when he lifted his gaze from that tablet to find her staring at him, he admitted to himself once again that he was doomed. He was never going to stop wanting her.
“There will be many events happening around the city this year,” he began because business needed to be the focus. At least for the moment. If he spent the rest of the day thinking about how good she still looked after all these years, so be it. For the moment, he had an interview to get through. “In the two years since Juneteenth has become a federal holiday, more public celebrations are being held. Most centered in Black communities, but some corporations are jumping on board with formal celebrations to show their support to their Black employees.”
He spoke in the firm and earnest tone he always used at business meetings. The tone that left no argument who was the decision maker in this scenario. To her credit and his continued admiration, Desi sat with her shoulders back, head turned in his direction, eyes locked on his. But not in the way that he’d been used to holding her gaze, not as they both had felt the heat bubbling between them to almost consuming proportions. No, today was different. Today was yet another dynamic between him and Desi that he’d have to learn to navigate.
“You’re correct,” she said when he paused. “Florida International University has their newly implemented scholarship competition show. It’s a weeklong competition and it’s the closest event taking place in Biscayne Bay. There are certainly more happening in and or around other communities, but it makes sense to discuss the ones closest to the hotel.”
So, she’d done her research. He wouldn’t have expected anything less from her. Why hadn’t he known she was applying for this job? Again, that was something he’d have to kick himself over later. How the hell he hadn’t figured that Mari’s idea to advertise for vendors via the city’s exclusive event planning network wouldn’t have caught Desi’s attention, he had no idea. This was Desi’s thing, her passion, it always had been.
“Tell me about their event,” he said propping an elbow on the arm of the chair and rubbing a finger over his beard.
She’d pulled her tablet from the large black tote that she’d clutched in one hand as she entered. Now, she glanced down briefly, her fingers gliding over the screen as she brought it to life. But she didn’t read from the screen once whatever she’d wanted to pull up appeared. Instead, she glanced at him again and replied to his request.
“As I said, it’s a weeklong event. It features FIU’s Nova Court of college students who personify leadership qualities, a passion for social justice and dedication to the community. So, this is mainly a school focused event which will have speeches and school spirit competitions, things like that.” She rested her hands on the table and he noticed the ring finger on the left hand was still bare. “I’m assuming your event will have a different focus. The ad for this position didn’t give a lot of details.”
“And yet you applied anyway. Why?” he asked. The ego-driven part of him wanted to assume that she would’ve immediately recalled that he worked here. That she may have possibly needed to see him as desperately as he’d craved seeing her.
If she hadn’t, if she’d done as she swore to him she would—forget his lying ass ever existed—she still would’ve been studious and detail-oriented enough to do some groundwork before arriving for this interview. She would’ve definitely looked up the hotel, its history as well as its current managerial staff because she would’ve wanted to know whom she might be working with.
The more reasonable part of him had known that Mari hadn’t put the name of the hotel or where this event was being held, beyond saying the Biscayne Bay area, in the ad. He knew this because he’d reviewed and approved the final version of the ad copy before it had been uploaded to the network. Mari and her assistant vetted each applicant and then scheduled interviews for him to make the final decision. Which all meant that Desi hadn’t known where she was coming for this interview until yesterday. Still enough time for her to remember, do her research and decide to attend.
“My company was listed as one of the top three Black-owned and operated event design firms in the state. We have had the privilege of working with HBCUs as well as a number of nonprofit organizations focused on the uplifting and rebuilding of our communities for the last two and a half years. We’re a small company with big, bold ideas that add that extra touch to any event.” She paused and looked away from him briefly. Then she glanced at Mari before returning her gaze to him. “I applied for this job because it mentioned a Juneteenth celebration that would seamlessly blend the contributions of Black creatives and a commemoration of Black excellence, both things that speak directly to my soul.”
Mari gave a slow nod and smile. “I’ve reviewed your portfolio, Desi and I’m very impressed. The gala for the Children With Disabilities Center was amazing. I remembered seeing highlights of it on the news a few months ago, so when I saw that you were the one who’d pulled off that fabulous Toy Story theme, I was excited to meet you.”
“Thank you,” Desi said, her face melting into a smile.
Air stalled in his lungs and for a moment he could only blink and stare because that smile, coupled with the sound of her voice had him wishing like hell he could turn back the hands of time. That he could go back three years and not make that one fatal mistake that had destroyed what he now knew was the best thing that had ever happened to him.
“I loved working with them,” Desi said. “My team and I just had a meeting with their planning committee last week. We’re coming up with ideas for next year’s event.”
“Oh, really? So, you work with them a lot?” Mari asked. “Is that an exclusive contract you have?”
Desi nodded. “Well, a few years ago my best friend had a beautiful baby girl named Emerson. She’s my godbaby and earlier this year, she was diagnosed with ASD. The center really helped Lauren and I learn more about the autism spectrum and how we can continue to help Emerson grow and thrive.” She cleared her throat as it started to sound thick with emotion.
Jared could only stare at her as she spoke. He knew Lauren. She’d just announced her pregnancy a couple of weeks before he and Desi broke up. To be honest, that announcement had been one of the things to start the ball rolling toward disaster in their relationship. Hearing Desi talk about that baby now with so much love and adoration in her voice had him gritting his teeth. Pissed at himself all over again for being such a damn fool.
“I’m glad to hear they’ve been helpful for your goddaughter. They’re a wonderful organization that The Carrington Hotels and Resorts donate to annually,” Mari said.
“Tell me about this event,” Jared said knowing full well his tone was harsh. He tried to tamp down on the guilt he felt over messing up with her. But the growing need to apologize, drop down on his knees and beg her forgiveness or just pull her into his arms and pray she wouldn’t punch him in the face for the effort, warred within him. “This one you did for the Dolphins.”
She swiped over her screen finding the same photo he’d been looking at and then nodded as she looked up at him again.
“Oh yes, this was a really fun event. I was contacted by the cheerleader coordinator who was also responsible for planning community outreach programs. She wanted to reach out to middle and high school-age girls and give them a day of self-care and mentoring.” Her eyes glittered with joy as she spoke and the irritation that had been building inside him eased.
“They were pretty set on Villa Toscana as the venue and even though I was only hired for event design, I suggested that girls from Overtown, Little Haiti, Liberty City and parts of Coconut Grove be selected to attend as well. They were picked up in luxury party buses and brought to the venue. We designed spaces for facials, mani-pedis, hair, lunch and lounging for the group mentoring portion of the day. The warm neutral color pallet was amazing amidst the ponds, waterfalls and foliage at the Villa.”
“It really was,” Mari said. “This looks fabulous.”
“Did the girls have a good time?” Jared asked. “Was there any follow-up with them after the event or was this just the organization’s one-time effort at reaching out to our youth?”
One of the main things that had drawn Jared to Desi was her eagerness to give back to their community, to pull as many Black girls and young women through the doors that she and others before her had worked so hard to kick open. Her dedication to their youth matched his and they’d spent countless hours dreaming up new ways that they could help.
“My team did a personal follow-up via a picnic in the park six months later,” she said. For a brief moment there was a look in her eyes, a familiar warmth and acknowledgement that they were on the same page. It passed quickly and she cleared her throat. “Two of the young ladies from Coconut Grove are actually interning with me this summer.”
Their gazes held then, for much longer than they probably should’ve and Mari spoke next.
“So, you’re interested in giving back to the community.” Mari nodded. She’d been sitting back in her chair, a slim stylus in one hand, her other in her lap as she watched Desi, and eventually Jared. “That’s good because this event is equal parts philanthropic and community engagement. I’m not sure if you’ve ever heard of the Mr. Black Organization,” Mari said.
“I have,” Desi interrupted. “It’s an all-male organization honoring Black culture, Black love and Black history. It was established in 1965 as a secret organization at the height of the civil rights movement to be a light of hope in Black communities across the nation. They went public in 1973 and have chapters in every major US city.” She turned her gaze back to Jared. “You’re in your second year of being Mr. Black Miami. Congratulations.”
His heart stopped and that urge to reach out and touch her threatened to consume him. She hadn’t forgotten he existed and to Jared, that meant there was still hope.