The original characters are the property of E.L. James. I’m just having a lil’ fun. No copyright infringement intended.
Chapter 10 | First Impressions
“She has a new BlackBerry and new cellphone number. Here sir.”
I immediately search my pockets for my phone. “I have to call her. I have to reach her. She’s going to think I don’t love her anymore. I know Ana’s insecurities. I know what she’s thinking because I get the same way when it comes to her.”
I find my phone and call her. As I put the phone to my ear, I see Taylor looking at me with his eyes wide open, but I don’t have time for whatever he’s thinking about, my baby needs me.
Ring…Ring…Ring…Ring…”Hello, this is Ana, I am not available at this time, but if you leave a message I will return your call at my earliest convenience. Beep.
“Ana…Baby…where are you? I talked to Taylor and he told me about your BlackBerry and laptop. Baby, please have Sawyer take you back to Escala and call me from my office. Don’t use an unsecured line. I figure you didn’t try to call from your office or your home telephone, which is good Baby. Please call me again. I miss you and I love you Baby…always. Bye” then her voicemail cuts off the call.
I’m getting more and more nervous as I think over how elaborate this scheme is. If this is Elena, who in the fuck has she paired up with to put this all in motion? Is she that fucking brilliant? She is a fucking glorified hairdresser for fuck sake.
I look up at Taylor, what the fuck is he still gawking at? “WHAT?” I bark. I shouldn’t take this out on Taylor. He had no way of knowing. I’m sure Ana didn’t tell Sawyer. She probably confided in Miss Kavanaugh though. The Heavenly Father and all the Apostles know Miss Kavanaugh hates my fucking guts.
I sit down and put my head in my hands. “Sir?’ I look up at Taylor with every bit of stress, fear and longing that I feel showing on my face. “She has not forgotten you. She loves you as well.”
“Sir, we all thought you were moving on when the stories of you and the young lady…”
“Ella. Her name is Ella Brown. She’s originally from Melbourne. She came to Townsville on vacation and to find an internship. Her family then moved here as well.” I tell Taylor in a monotone voice.
If he thought I was moving on, then I know Anastasia thought the same thing. Two emotions I understand more than any others are anger and jealousy.
I shake my head at the irony of the situation. I left Seattle so she could “get her thoughts and feelings straight” and what do I do? I end up muddying the water even more. I close my eyes, groan and shake my head again.
Stop it Grey. You have done nothing wrong here.
“Sir?” Taylor again? I forgot he was sitting there.
“Yes Taylor.” I say flatly.
ENOUGH OF THAT SHIT!
“Taylor, just speak dammit!”
He straightens up in his chair, clears his throat and says, “We were all mistaken, sir. In the past, during times of stress, various young ladies, resembling Miss Brown, have entered and exited your life in rapid succession. I have had Welch monitoring you…”
I slowly raise my head in shock. He’s had me under surveillance? “How long?” I manage to whisper.
“Since you told me you fired Reynolds and sent him back to Seattle. It is my duty to protect you Mr. Grey, whether you want me to or not. I notified Welch and called in a few favors to have you monitored. Yes sir, you are still being monitored. Once we sort out your security here, we can see about releasing the current detail.” He sighs and sits back in his seat, no doubt waiting for me to explode.
However, because of the various arguments we’ve had, Ella has taught me better. This time I’m able to think fast enough and say to myself, “You have power over your mind, not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength” before I speak to Taylor again.
“Taylor, I appreciate that you take your job seriously and I admire your stealth, but I’m fine. Like I said, no one knows me here and if they do, they do not give a flying fuck about me. I’m not the only wealthy individual under the moon and I won’t be the last. If you want to put security alarms inside the house to detect burglars,” I look him directly in the eyes, “then fine. Please be sure the proper authorities will be alerted if need be, otherwise, I do not need nor do I want to be monitored or assigned Close Personal Protection. If I’m in Seattle, that will be a different story, but here it is not necessary.”
“I’m not firing you or Ryan or Sawyer because Seattle is different. There are people and places associated with me that need to be kept secure, but I don’t need that kind of protection. You and Welch have vetted the security personnel at Grey House Townsville and you’re more than welcome to have a surprise inspection of their functioning. As far as I’m concerned, if you’re willing to take on the responsibility, you’re the Head of all GEH Security, but I can’t stress to you enough, I…do…not…need…protection.” There, was that calm enough? I think it was.
Yepper boy, you done good.
It now is Taylor’s turn to be speechless. I want to laugh and take a picture of him. The definition of stoicism has been blown out of the water. I have to smile.
Once he collects his thoughts he says, “Well, sir, I appreciate the responsibility and of course I am up to the task. I will go over to the new office tomorrow and take a look around to make sure things are up to GEH Standards. I recommend Barney do the same for the IT Department.”
I nod my head. “I can’t agree with you enough Taylor. I’ll leave all of that for you and Barney to arrange. All I ask is that you keep me up to date.”
“Mr. Grey? Christian? You are not returning to Seattle are you?” He actually has a note of sadness in his voice. I shrug my shoulders. Taylor nods his head and goes to the kitchen for another lager.
You have to make a decision sooner or later Grey. You know that right? What about Anastasia? Are you going to bring her here? What about your family, your mom? It would break her heart. She likes to see you at least once per week and because of how obstinate YOU are, she gives you a pass with once per month and regular telephone calls. So…what…?
Why do you want to stay here Grey? What’s so special about this place, besides the obvious?
What do you mean, “the obvious”?
Not what you think, unless that’s the reason. “The obvious” being the sand, the sun, the beauty of the seas almost everywhere you look and the newness of it all, that’s what I mean? Why, what do YOU mean?
“Why no Pet. I thought you were finished with…her.” I groan at the sound of her voice. If I thought being cussed out by my father on a continual basis was bad, this is like chewing hot glass. Taylor gives me a questioning look and raises an eyebrow when he hears me groan.
I mouth ‘Bitch Troll’ and both of his eyebrows fly up. He nods and puts up two fingers in a peace sign and mouths ‘two minutes’. I nod and go back to the ‘call’.
“…wonderful to see you have found a new one. She is quite pretty. You really do have a standard type don’t you?” Cackling bitch. “I could not see her body, but I would assume since she turned your head that her figure is divine. Is she into the scene? What is her name? Would you like me to do some checking into her…”I watch Taylor throughout Elena’s monologue.
All GEH BlackBerrys, including mine, are equipped with mSpy. While Taylor is the only one with security clearance to monitor my calls he rarely does so. I won’t say he has never monitored my calls because there have been a few instances where I asked him to listen to and record my conversation. This is one of those times.
I do not bother to answer any of her questions I simply ask my own. “What do you want Mrs. Lincoln? I told you verbally and by text message to leave me alone. I gifted you the salon chain for the sole purpose of severing all ties with you, so what the fuck do you want?”
The line goes quiet for a few seconds then I hear the venom in her voice as she hisses, “How dare you speak to me that way. I taught you everything you needed to know in order to succeed. I made you the man you are today. If it were not for me you…”
SHUT THIS BITCH DOWN AGAIN GREY…PRONTO!!!
“ELENA ENOUGH!” I shout so loud the windows in the living room vibrate. “Once and for all, the ONLY thing you did was fuck me, beat me and convince me it was exactly what I needed if I was going to succeed in life. You did not GIVE me the brains to make not one fucking business decision. Do you know the legal structure of an acquisition? What is a Triangular Merger? What are the five most common ways to value a business? What are the fundamental differences between a merger and an acquisition?” Nothing but silence fills the telephone line.
“That is what the fuck I thought! When you understand the principles of business and/or M&A THEN you can talk to me about what you gave, taught and made me. I returned the seed money you stole from your now ex-husband and as I stated earlier I GIFTED to you not SOLD to you OR out from under you, as I should have, the salon chain. Now, what the fuck do you want?” I am panting for breath at this point. I know for a fact my face is fire engine red. My hands are trembling and I feel a sharp pain in both of my temples.
Calm down Grey. Blowing a blood vessel isn’t going to accomplish anything. Be very careful what you say to the old cow. We both know we need open lines of communication with this bitch to figure out what the fuck she did to Steele’s phone and laptop. Please always remember and do not ever forget, “keep your friends close and THIS ABOMINABLE enemy closer.”
I disagree wholeheartedly with your thinking and I really don’t give a fuck. However, I do know that ‘You have power over your mind, not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength’ is definitely needed here.
I take a couple of deep breaths then continue, “Mrs. Lincoln, I ask again. Is there an express purpose for your call?” I’ve relaxed the tension in my shoulders and calmed my voice without going all the way to dad’s “deadly whisper”, but the throbbing in my head is still present.
“Pet,” every fucking time she calls me that my skin crawls, “I am only concerned for your wellbeing. I have not heard from you since before you left the United States and even then you were so harsh towards me it was very disconcerting. I can only attribute such attitude and behavior to your being overwhelmed with that Anastasia person. Otherwise, you would never have treated me that way.”
Wanna bet bitch. HA!
“I was hoping your travels would calm you and give you a better perspective on where your loyalties lie.” I have GOT to get off of this phone.
“Mrs. Lincoln, I have a meeting to attend” and with that, I end the call.
I fall into the chair behind me, drop my head back and close my eyes. I can honestly say, for the first time in my life I feel utterly defeated. I am never going to get rid of that woman am I?
Yes, WE’LL get rid of that battle-ax. It may not happen as quickly as we’d like, but it WILL happen.
How? When? How fucking much longer? She’s worse than…than…actually, I cannot think of anything worse than her. God, please get that ewe out of my life, for good. I do not care how you do it, just please do it please. I’m begging you.
God doesn’t work that way and you know it. Reason, season, lifetime. She came into your life for a reason during the wrong season. She won’t last for a lifetime. Believe me. She will not last. Now, come on. We have a fundraising committee meeting to attend or have you forgotten?
Oh fuck me. That’s tonight isn’t it? “FUCK!”
Oopsey…hee, hee, hee. Someone forgot he wasn’t alone.
“Fucker.” I look over at a confused Taylor and say, “Sorry. I forgot I wasn’t alone. I have a fundraising committee meeting to attend this evening so I’ll be gone for a couple of hours. Taylor, you and Mrs. Jones make yourselves at home and I’ll see you both later.”
Since when did Taylor start rolling his eyes, let alone rolling them at me? “Is there a problem Mr. Taylor?”
“Yes sir there is. Security or the lack thereof.” Oh my God does this man ever quit? And they say I’m hardheaded.
“Taylor, N…O…means…say it with me…”
“No”, we say in unison.
“Good boy. Now, I’ll see you later and if you have me followed I’ll dock your pay.”
Ha, ha…that one got him.
I smile and head to the car.
“Hello Love, the meeting is this way.” I follow Ella to the meeting room. The Brown Family is spearheading an event designed to raise funds for Townsville Communities for Children. It’s along the same lines as my mom’s organization, Coping Together. I’m not necessarily interested in participating in the planning but I have no problem attending the event and no problem with making a donation.
I tried to get out of going to the steering committee meeting by telling Ella I had work to do, but she was quite insistent. Seems her grandfather and grandmother began working with the group in 2005, now it is a family legacy.
What does her family legacy have to do with us?
Just play the fuck along. It’s this or listen to Taylor ramble on about ‘security or the lack thereof’. Which do you prefer?
Well, when you put it like that…
Exactly. Now shut up and listen.
“…Children are the life blood of the world, Love. Yes we all need help, even adults, but children are the most vulnerable and most easily neglected members of us all. If you don’t reach out and help a child in time, it becomes much harder to help them as an adult.”
She’s got a point there.
Although Ella made the concept sound as basic as ‘one plus one’, it struck a chord for me. Elena reached me when I was a vulnerable child. She took advantage of my weaknesses and ensnared me physically and mentally, so much so it has been almost impossible for anyone to get close to me now that I’m an adult.
Needless to say, here I am. Ella’s brothers, Eran and Emerson are the chairman and co-chairman for this year’s event. Their theme is a beach party, plain and simple. Being the newcomer to the area I’m not going to try and tell anyone what to do.
You don’t really do fundraising anyway, right? Your specialty is check writing.
It raises the funds doesn’t it?
I thought so, now shut the fuck up and listen, you may learn something asshole.
Takes one Grey.
That’s gotten really old, ya know. You need a new comeback.
No, you need to respond to the question…ha, ha, ha…so much for your ability to multitask.
Sure enough, everyone at the table is looking at me expectantly, “Pardon me, what was the question?” I’m snapped out of my trance and can’t hide my embarrassment.
Ella smiles, “Mr. Grey,” Love she mouths, “are you in favor of a beach party for this year’s fundraising event?
Yea, nay or do you abstain?” Then she winks, I thought at me, but the man beside me elbows me in the ribs and winks as well.
“Yea.” I have a questioning sound in my voice, but I gather that’s what she wanted me to say.
Eran says, “Good, this year’s event will be a beach party. Thank you all for coming to this meeting and please feel free to volunteer for any or ALL of the committees on the list that is being passed around.” Again the man to my left elbows me, but this time Ella shakes her head at him then he gets up and walks away.
That fucker was asking for an ass whipping, you know?
Time to get the fuck out of here Grey, before we get ambushed into something.
I am on my way out the door when Ella calls from across the room, “Mr. GREY! Not so fast.” Shit. I stop dead in my tracks and turn around slowly.
When I turn I’m faced with the four Brown heirs. Ella steps forward as her brothers stand behind her, ramrod straight, shoulder-to-shoulder with their hands clasped behind their backs. They have a ‘we dare you to fuck with her’ look on their faces. I’m amused, as well as impressed.
Mia would be in Heaven if she could get you and Elliott to heel like that…hee, hee, hee.
“Yes Miss Brown. How may I help you?” I say with a smile.
She turns to her brothers and tells them, “Back off fellas. He’s a friend not a foe.” The men relax their shoulders and now cross their hands in front of themselves. Ella’s not impressed at that stance so she shouts, “Dammit BOYS I told you to stand down. Do I have to show my ENTIRE ass to make you understand?”
I am shocked by her reaction to them but they’re not. “Sorry Ellie.” One of the men says with a sad puppy dog look on his face. The other two men nod then bow their heads. I cover my smile with my hand before I end up in trouble too.
“No, I was going to introduce you to my brothers, however, this bunch of assholes” she motions behind her, “don’t even resemble them so let me thank you for attending our meeting and hope you participate in the execution of our event as well.” Then she turns and sticks her tongue out at the three men before turning back to me to say, “Come on Love, let them stand there and stare.” Ella takes my hand and leads me out the door.
I take a quick look behind us to see three men arguing with each other, throwing their hands in the air and shaking their heads in exhaustion.
Oh this is too much.
As I walk Lil Miss Dynamite to her car I hear her mumbling, “…fucking assholes…all those bitches they’ve brought home…actually was a whore…gold-diggers…I can’t have a friend…bastards.”
WHOA she is pissed to the gills dude. Watch out.
“Ella, are you ok?” That was all I said, but apparently that was all it took.
“Those fucking asses have brought all sorts of bitches into OUR lives over the years. From a whore, and I mean walk the street and fuck for pay whore, to three different gold-diggers who had their pregnant roommates take the pregnancy tests for them and brought those witches’ sonograms to our home for my GRANDFATHER to see then there are the various, random, plain old, everyday mean bitches. I’ve had to politely meet them all and give them the benefit of the doubt until they proved themselves otherwise, which they ALWAYS fucking have.” She puffing and panting at this point.
“All I wanted to do was introduce them to a friend and they act as though they’re guarding the Prime Minister. HOW FUCKING DARE THEY! Not once have I brought home some straggling fucker and tried to say he was a romantic interest. This time I didn’t even bring you home. HOW FUCKING DARE THEY!” Once she is winded she leans against her car.
“I never had any friends in high school or even in college. Is this how friends usually behave?” I am being half serious and have humorous.
Ella looks up at me with soften eyes and says, “When a friend introduces you to people who don’t know you and have no reason to dislike you it is.”
I return her smile, take her hand and say “Thank you.”
Knock…Knock…that can only be Taylor.
“Come in Taylor.” I don’t look up from my work. “Mr. Grey, I completed my inspection of the facility. I found a few weaknesses in the Reception and cafeteria areas, but nothing major. Welch and I will have the personnel updated and resolve the issue before end of business tomorrow.”
That got my attention. I raise my head and ask, “Anything specific I should know Taylor?” What the fuck kind of trouble can there be in the cafeteria?
“The former receptionist signed for a few deliveries without checking the carriers identification and basically the same situation in the cafeteria. The department manager accepted a provision without checking the courier’s credentials. I will be meeting with all security personnel later today to review GEH Security Protocol, Policies and Procedures. Tomorrow I would like to meet with the department heads for the same review. That is why I am here.”
He loves this shit. It’s GEH’s beginning all over again. He feels it too I know he does. He gets to put his foot in security detail’s asses and to torment department heads all day. It’s a wet dream for Taylor. I look him straight in the eyes and do not blink when I ask, “Feels good don’t it?” He gives me a small smirk and a quick nod of his head.
“Any word from Welch?” He gives a small shake of his head and leaves. I sigh. This is fucking ridiculous. A computer virus I can see, even something that will mess up emails I can just about believe that, but a cellphone? A BlackBerry? Really? What the fuck?
I run my hand through my hair and stop…I haven’t done that since I’ve been here. Seattle is no good for me. I was so relaxed I didn’t even realize it. Taylor and security, the Bitch Troll period and the prospect of something affecting my relationship with Ana, this shit is too much. I shake my head and go back to my spreadsheets.
Buzz…Buzz…I catch my BlackBerry before it gets to the third ring. “Grey!”
Short and loud as usual huh?
“CHRISTIAN!” Oh my God.
“ANA!? Baby is it really you? Where are you Baby? Taylor told me everything. Did you get my message? I miss you so much.” I know she can hear the smile and relief in my voice as I fire off questions to her.
“I miss you too Christian.” She sounds so sad it makes my heart hurt.
After a long pause she asks, “Who is the woman Christian? Is she your submissive?” I gasp.
What the fuck?
I can’t help but get angry. “Do you think that little of me Anastasia? Is it impossible for me to go without sex or a submissive? Is that what you are worried about, whether or not I got some ass since we have been apart? Well no. She is not my submissive and as hard as it may be for you to believe, I have not had any since the last time we were together. Can YOU say the same?” Where the fuck does she get off?
I haven’t talked with her in weeks and the only thing she has to say is ‘I miss you’ and ‘who are you fucking’? I am at an absolute loss. It’s not like I haven’t had AMPLE opportunity to get a decent fuck and there are BDSM clubs all over the world. For some reason it seems to be the craze.
“What do you expect me to think Christian?” With that bitchy tone, I don’t give a fuck what she thinks or how she feels right this second.
“Miss Steele, was there a reason for your call other than to accuse me of being a man-whore? For God sake Anastasia, I was monogamous with my subs, which I had no emotional connection to at all. How the fuck could I cheat on you? Why would you think I’d ever cheat on you?” I hear her gasp.
I think she knows she fucked up…again.
I have to remember ‘You have power over your mind, not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength’. One of these days I hope to meet Mr. Brown. I take a deep cleansing breath then ask, “Ana, are you going to come see me? Do you want to see me?”
“I apologize Christian. I do not for one second think you are a man-whore. You have never given me reason to think that way, I was just jealous. Yes, I want to see you Christian.” I think I can hear tears in her voice. Oh please Baby, do not cry.
“I can have the jet ready by late tomorrow afternoon. Tell Roach…” She stops me in my tracks.
“Oh no Christian. I have to wait until Friday after work.” She says it just like I asked her to go to the movies on a weekday and she needs to wait until the weekend.
“Alright Ana,” I sigh, “I’ll let Stephen know. He needs to prepare the jet and himself for the flight.” It is not as easy as she might think. Stephen is a professional, but he has his limits too and I have to respect them. “I cannot wait to see you.” I feel at ease again.
“Neither can I. Bye Christian.”
“Gail, as usual that was the best meal I’ve ever had.” It’s fucking great to come home to more than cold cereal and a take out menu.
You really need to learn how to cook something. While Gail is here ask her for some lessons: you know, how to boil water or make toast.
OOO! If you get REAL good, she can show you how to make a grilled cheese sandwich. That’d be yummy, huh Grey?
If it would shut you up, I would let you starve.
Bullshit, you’d feel bad. Get it?
“Thank you Mr. Grey. I didn’t make dessert but if you like there’s ice cream in the freezer.”
“When did we get ice cream Gail?” I don’t remember buying any.
“Oh, I picked it up when I went shopping. It is nothing special, just plain old vanilla, but I can dress it up if you like.”
OH HELL NO! I LOVE YOU GAIL!
I smile and shake my head. “No Gail, not tonight. Thank you though.”
Never thought you would say no to vanilla again did you Grey? WOO HOO! This is too much.
Are you finished? We have that damn committee meeting and to get to the bottom of this fucking phone thing.
Ahem…cough…yeah I am ready now.
I turn to him at the dining room table and ask, “Ok Taylor, what do you and Welch know about this phone mess? And for the record, this shit better be good because I still can’t believe it.” If Taylor and Gail hadn’t showed up when they did…I can’t imagine where Ana and I’d be now.
Well, it’s not like you forgot about her. She colors every little step you take. The only reason you’ve been able to keep your shit to yourself is because Steele isn’t here. It has only ever been her, you know?
Yes I know that, but does she? I understand her being jealous, like I said I get the same way when it comes to her. I’m not so stupid not to admit that, but her coming all this way after all this time simply because she thinks I’ve been unfaithful…really? That’s not like Ana at all.
No, because you are destined to repeat all of this shit again at some point. However, you’re more are important to her dude. If she did not want you at all, she would’ve chalked it up to a loss and moved on in Seattle.
She is a kid in the most literal sense. Your little bookworm, remember? Her inhibitions are in control now. Her same ‘ole same ‘ole comfort zone is in control now. She has to see the writing on the wall and make her own decision, not listen to the decisions of those around her. Those who see you in the suit with the shitty “motherfucker I’ll bite you” look on your pretty little face…hee, hee, hee.
As shitty as you can be, you can grow up and you can change. She’s missing out on your change. The change she initiated. When she gets here, start over. And if she pitches a bitch about something, find out why there’s a problem. She’s away from everything here. There are no outside influences. She has to see you and nothing else, just like it should be.
You two aren’t going to agree on everything and that’s wonderful. You should be friends as well as lovers and a true friend tells you like it is and pulls your ass back when you’ve gone too far. When you can’t see the forest for the trees your friend tells you to open your eyes and look the fuck out. She needs to do that with a few aspects of her life. Just like you have to do it with yours and pay attention when she points out how much of a prick you’re being. While you are one hell of a motherfucker, you aren’t perfect dude.
“…ahem, Mr. Grey? Are you with us?”
“Huh? I apologize Taylor. No, I didn’t hear a word you said. I drifted off. I’ve been doing that a lot since I got here.”
Taylor smiles at me and says, “as long as it doesn’t affect business, then it’s not a bad thing. Back to the matter at hand, Barney traced the virus to a plain old computer hacker…”
“…there are tips and videos online that give detailed instructions on how to hack into even a secure Wired Equivalent Privacy network. When Barney asked for Miss Steele’s computer to be set up the vendor used a Wi-Fi Protected Access II, which although it is highly secure it is not infallible.” My head is spinning. He sounds just like Barney. Taylor is speaking slower than Barney does, but I’m still lost.
“So the basics are there was a breach in the Wi-Fi network for her computer and the virus was planted, is that what you are getting at?”
“But we’re still at ground zero. Who the fuck would bother? Even if it was Elena, who the fuck did she find to do all of this shit for her? This is fucking ridiculous and I have a meeting to attend. I’ll be back. If you’re still awake, I need to know who did this. That’s all I care about right this second. Who fucking broke into her computer? Who texted her the ‘tainted’ pictures? Who!” I can see how easy it is to get her cellphone number and text her, that I get. A computer virus, I get that too, but BOTH of them and with such attention to detail. Come the fuck on. Elena ain’t THAT smart.”
No, but there’s no telling what one, or more, of her submissive’s can do.
The days events must all show on my face when I walk into the conference room because Ella looks and me and frowns. She gets the same little “v” between her eyebrows when she frowns. She does not get a chance to speak with me before Eran calls the meeting to order.
“Good evening ladies and gentlemen. I call this meeting to order. Our purpose of gathering tonight is to verify the commitments you have each made toward our event and find out the status of your progress. So, without further ado we will hear from the Media and Communications Committee. Since Emerson is one of the Steering Committee Chairmen he kindly handed that task off to Ella. Ella, tell us about your progress.”
And so the night precedes, Audio/Visual, Budget/Finance, Communications, Decorations, Logistics…”Ahem, Mr. Grey? You were in charge of Security were you not?”
What the fuck now? Oh yeah, this committee shit. “Yes, yes that is correct. My Head of Security vetted one hundred perspective candidates. He and his second are in the process of narrowing that down to seventy-five personnel. Will that be enough?” They have a pretty large stretch of beach open for this thing and are expecting a grand turnout so I wonder if they’ll actually need more. I told Taylor to vet five hundred just in case.
“Actually, if you could extend your search and actually hire a full one hundred guards we would appreciate it. Although this event is an advance pay event, we want to be prepared for possible uninvited guests as well.” I nod and send Taylor and Welch both a text advising what Mr. Brown requested.
He raises an eyebrow at me so I tell him, “I am conveying your message.”
“Why, thank you.” Fucker. I did not volunteer for this shit I got drafted. I will write a fucking check and call it a day. I see Ella shaking her head at me from across the table. I sigh and nod at her brother.
He continues on with the various committee chairmen then, thankfully, this shit is over. “Thank you for all of your effort. We should be ready for final updates next week. Meeting adjourned.” Can I retreat now?
Groan. Not again. They left us alone for the last few meetings. What the fuck do they want now?
“Hello Mr. Grey. I am Eran Brown and this is my brother Emerson. We wanted to properly introduce ourselves. It seems you have become rather close to our little sister and we felt as though we should engage you in a direct conversation.”
“Yes Mr. Grey. If you have a few moments we would like to speak with you.” Emerson looks like he wants to crack his knuckles as he narrows his eyes at me.
“Sure thing fellas. Let’s ‘talk’.” I haven’t had a good ‘ole fashioned street fight in a few years, but it’s like riding a bike, you know. These two are tall, but not quite as tall as me. Neither guy looks like he works out and if so, they need to work harder. You can see the family resemblance. They each have the curly dark auburn hair, crystal blue almond-shaped eyes and a square jaw line.
“So Grey”, I guess Eran is the voice here, “you have been spending quite a bit of time with our sister. What exactly is going on?” The snarl on his face is unmistakable. They remind me of Elliott and myself when it comes to Mia.
Before I can answer, Emerson chimes in, “FYI Grey, we know about you. Anastasia Steele, isn’t that your fiancée’s name? Where is she? You’ve been here a long time. Why hasn’t anyone seen her?”
Then it is back to Eran, “We did some checking into you Grey and we didn’t like what we saw. You’re bad news and we don’t want our sister involved with the likes of you.”
Now Emerson, “So what is it Grey? Why are you nosing around our sister?” What the fuck, is this a tennis match?
There is a millisecond pause in the ping-pong interrogation, I open my mouth to respond when I hear from somewhere behind me…”DO…NOT…SAY…ONE…WORD!” She didn’t yell. It wasn’t necessary. Although she enunciated each word almost too quietly, her intended audience heard her clearly.
“Oh shit.” The two of them moan simultaneously.
Well fuck me upside-down. She has them by the short hairs…again. I love this chick.
Slowly, painfully so, for her brothers, Ella strides over to where we’re standing. You can hear the calculated clicks of her Manolo Blahnik’s on concrete the floor. I manage not to smile, but the inside of my cheek is killing me from how hard I have to bite down on it.
Stitches may very well be in order after this plays out, but it’s so fucking worth it to see this woman in action.
She stands between us all, coming no higher than the middle of my chest. Then she hisses, “I told you once, stay out of my affairs. This man is my friend. Just because you two don’t know how to keep your peckers in your pants doesn’t mean I don’t know how to keep my legs and mouth closed”
“He has been a friend to me and that…is…all.” She growls. “If I see or hear of this type of behavior again from either of you, I will show up on YOUR doorstep Ere, or in the hall of YOUR apartment building Em in my ninja gear and you know what’ll happen.”
The two fuckers eyebrows jump up to their foreheads and beads of sweat start to form.
OH MY FUCKING GOD! She’s the fucking TRUTH! Grey, stay away from her, do you understand me? Don’t piss this broad off AT ALL!
“And tell Ev exactly what the fuck I said so there’s no mistake. If you paraphrase or half-ass on my statement, you’ll regret it.” Then she turns to me, smiles and winks before saying, “Have a good evening Love”, as she prances away like nothing ever happened.
It goes without saying that the Brown brothers are speechless. They each nod at me then quickly walk away.
As I let out the breath I didn’t realize I was holding I hear snickers coming from the doorway beside me. One of the older ladies on the committee shakes her head and advises me “You really don’t want to cross Ella. She is a wonderful girl and a beautiful young lady, but she takes no shit from anyone especially her brothers. She’s as harmless as a lamb until you push the wrong button…then lookout.” She raises an eyebrow at the last two words.
We walk out of the building and the woman, I can’t recall her name, continues “After Ella’s mother passed away, her brothers became quite protective of her, to the point where they didn’t want her to go to college.”
“Ella got permission from her grandfather to break family tradition and go to Hawaii Pacific rather than Melbourne just to be away from her brothers. Since no one goes against the patriarch of the Brown family, Ella went to school in the United States and the rest is history.” I thank my fellow committee member for the information and proceed, carefully, to my car, which is exactly where Ella is standing.
“Hello Love. I do apologize for my brazen display of ignorance. Those goons can bring out the worst in me sometimes. I don’t follow my own advice when it comes to them.”
Split personality? This is what Steele keeps telling you about. We need to keep an eye on her.
“No apologies necessary, just don’t do that shit to me and we will be fine.” She crosses her heart.
“I have two questions.” I’m almost too afraid of the answers.
“Sure, what are they Love?” She flips her hand as if whatever I have to say is of no consequence to her.
“What is your ninja gear and what WILL happen?” She holds her forehead for a minute then turns fire engine red before clearing her throat.
“Well, my ninja gear is a black hoodie, black yoga pants and black sneakers; Chucks usually. My weapon of choice is a black aluminum bat, Louisville Slugger works well.” She looks me straight in the eye as if she’s daring me to say something.
When I just stand there, she continues. “As part of my research and dissertation in Hawaii, I was given the opportunity to travel by submarine to various locations and collect algae, sea water and even marine life samples. Deep sea diving is something to behold.”
“Anyway, one of the professors was a retired mariner who spent time on submarines. He reminded me of my grandfather. As I worked, he told me about “submarine safety” so to speak. He was aware of instances where angry sailors would wait in a doorway for a shipmate to walk thorough and sucker punch them. If the vessel was on the surface, they would simply fling the body overboard at night, into the pitch black sea.” A shiver runs, quickly, down my spine.
YEP! It’s official. DON’T FUCK WITH THIS BITCH! Neither Lincoln nor Kavanaugh would stand a chance.
“When I got home, Emerson stuck his nose in my business. One night, he was walking through the hall of the family home and I was waiting in a doorway. When he came through I kicked him in his knee. Once he was down I punched him as hard as I could in the face, jaw, nose, eyes it didn’t matter as long as it was his head. Hurt the hell out of my hands. Whenever my brothers start to crowd me, I remind them what I’m capable of and they back off.”
“I’ve had to polish my MMA technique and I use a bat instead of my hands when I am really pissed off. An aluminum bat is a touch easier to clean and does not leave splinters like a wooden bat will. I can hold my own against them and others when need be.” She gives a strong nod of her head for emphasis.
“Well Miss Brown, it’s good to know you are on my side.” Let’s keep it that way.
“Let’s keep it that way Love. Would you care for coffee, it’s still early.” We got out of that meeting sooner than we thought we would.
“Sure, the usual place?” I ask.
“Yep. See you in a bit?” Then with a little wink and a wave, she is gone.
We meet at the coffeehouse where it all started. Hard to believe I thought she was meek and timid just because of her stature. This woman is larger than life and she’s helped me sort through my thoughts and feelings about work, family and my personal life. She may be a Marine Biologist, but she has Flynn beat by a mile.
“Here you go Love. Now, when is Anastasia going to be here?” I choke on my coffee.
“What makes you think she’s coming here? I mean she is. She will leave the US on Friday evening. How did you know she was coming here?”
“The last time we spoke, you told me how much you love and miss her. You told me you felt a hole in your heart and you didn’t know what to do to fill it. You looked so sad Love. What did I tell you? What do I always tell you when is comes to your ‘one true’?”
“If am hers she will find me…” She nods encouragingly.
“And…” She probes; motioning for me to continue.
“If she is mine I will let her.” It’s almost like I am afraid to think of this phrase. I must ask her where she found it.
“Did you call her or vice versa?”
“She called me, but she had been trying to reach me for some time and wasn’t able to get through. Apparently there was some ‘interference’.” I say with gritted teeth, thinking about the Bitch Troll and her latest stunt.
“That would be the Bitch Troll you were mumbling about earlier this evening correct?” She speaks before sipping her coffee.
“I never said that!” Did I? I was a little out of it during the meeting, but I didn’t say anything to anyone, did I?
“Good grief Charlie Brown. I read your lips. You were cursing a mile a minute. You need to either cover your mouth or let that kind of shit go until you are in a more private setting Love.” I’m not accustomed to people watching me. I’m usually the one who does the observing. It’s starting to get creepy.
“Christian? I haven’t been entirely honest with you. I want to apologize in advance, but we have come to a juncture where I feel like I can help you. In order to do that, I have to level with you first. Ok Love?”
“O…k…” Now I am scared. What the fuck does she know?
“Relax Love. I know about your beginnings, adoption, adolescent and adult academics, the history of GEH and…about…Elena Lincoln.” My eyes are the size of saucers. How the fuck did she find that out? Who has she told? What’s she trying to do, blackmail me? I thought we were friends, I thought I could trust her. DAMMIT I’m a STUPID fucker for trusting ANYONE, especially a woman named ‘Ella’, all of this flies through my mind at the speed of light. It takes me a moment to hear Ella again.
“Relax Love. I may be young, but I’m not dumb. I’ve lived some and I’ve learned a lot during my brief stay on this Earth. I can’t be prejudice against anyone who’s done nothing wrong. I also know the Cinderella story of you and Anastasia. It’s so fucking adorable I can’t believe it.” She giggles and there is a twinkle in her eyes. But I’m not at ease with this conversation yet.
“How?” I whisper. I’m in utter disbelief. I thought I was so fucking careful. Here this little slip of a girl has found out my work, educational and personal…VERY personal information like it was no problem.
Who does HER research?
“…Breathe Love, breathe. I told you the first day we spoke you were the talk of the town. You were, still are matter of fact. We Brown’s have a lot of pull in Australia and around the world. Finding out about a new neighbor is very easy. Once I had your name, I Googled you to get your photo and general information. My grandfather’s private investigation team took it from there. Since it was my explicit request, the documents were sealed and went directly from the investigators to me. There were no duplicates.” I am glad she’s taken measures to keep the information she found under wraps, but I still don’t like the fact she could get it in the first place.
“I have a photographic memory. I simply read everything twice then burned the original documents. My grandfather’s only stipulation when I make these requests” the question is clear on my face, “yes, I’ve done this before, is that any incriminating information be turned over to him immediately.”
“Based on the information I had about you I was able to approach our conversations accordingly. In short, you’ve been ‘shrinked’ Mr. Grey. Like I said, I apologize for not being upfront with you. I hope my invasion of your privacy doesn’t affect our friendship.” She bows her head and pulls on the edges of her dark grey pencil skirt. I’m still speechless. She did what you told me not to do.
I guess now you know how it feels.
I guess so.
“Wow Ella. I mean…did I scare you that much or…”
Her head jerks up immediately. “No” she shakes her head vigorously, “not at all Love, quite the contrary. You’re an intriguing individual. Like I said that first day. I could see the pain in your eyes. I’ve seen that pain when my father remembers my mother and when my grandfather remembers my grandmother.” They’re the two most important men in her life. Now she looks sad. I take her hand and give it a reassuring squeeze. I like hearing about her family. I mean I genuinely care. It’s not about getting the 411 on the Browns. I almost feel like they’re my family too.
“My brothers either don’t see, don’t understand or don’t care, but I do. My grandfather and father mean the world to me. I can feel their pain and I always want to help them through it. I saw that in you and I felt the same way.” She looks up at me straining not to let her tears fall.
“I can still see your troubled soul Love. I can still feel your broken heart. The difference is your one true is still alive. You still have time to be with her. I hope our time together has given you some things to think about, some tools to help you grow and I hope a friend you know you can turn to. You said you didn’t have any friends in high school or college, well I believe we have made up for that. At least I hope so.” She pats my hand as I stare at her in awe.
This little girl has done nothing but be kind to me. Taken my mind off my troubles by talking to me about the weather, songs on the radio, her father and her grandfather. She has passed on the knowledge and lessons learned in her life to me like no one ever has. She asks my opinion and debates her point of view. Sometimes, even when she’s wrong, she plays devil’s advocate and won’t let an issue go. No money exchanged. No price tag involved. No romantic interlude inferred.
“You are a fantastic woman Ella Brown. You’re going to make some man very happy one day.” She smiles and bows her head again.
I put my index finger under her chin and raise her crystal blue eyes to meet my grey ones, “Remember, you have a fourth brother to protect you.” She nods and smiles.
“Well, on with my news.” Huh, there is more?
Mood swing alert!
I must have the ever-present quizzical look on my face because she says, “Yes there is more. The ‘interference’, do you know someone named Isaac?” She doesn’t give a last name so I shake my head a few times then…
The light bulb comes on. “Elena’s submissive?” The bastard. I knew his nose was wide open for that bitch.
“Yes. Apparently he is rather proficient with a computer. He’s the hacker you’re looking for.” She says matter-of-factly as she resumes sipping her now almost cold coffee.
“How the hell did you kno…” She cuts me off.
“Love, I am a Brown. We know lots of things. I told you we were a sneaky bunch.” She looks like a small child with a big secret. A secret I need to hear.
“Come.” I hold out my hand to her.
She hesitantly looks at me asking “Whereto?”
“My place. Taylor needs to hear this first hand.” She mouths ‘oh’ then takes my hand and we go out to the cars.