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Can’t We Just Be Happy | Chapter 10 First Impressions

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

GREY

“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.

“Permission…”

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?

Ring…Ring…Ring…

“ANASTASIA?”

“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?

Well…

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?

I concur.

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.”

“Laters baby.”


“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.”

REALLY?

“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…”

“O…k…”

“…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?”

“Yes sir.”

“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.

True.


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.

Prick.

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?

“Grey!”

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!

YES SIR!

“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.

Can’t We Just Be Happy | Chapter 9 Temper Tantrum

The original characters are the property of E.L. James.  I’m just having a lil’ fun.  No copyright infringement intended.

Chapter 9 | Temper Tantrum

GREY

“Hello sir.  You have no security in this residence whatsoever.  It was not difficult to cross the threshold without notice.  Welch and I are in the process of remedying that situation.  Mrs. Jones is shopping as we speak.  She said water, wine, milk and Fruit Loops were not a balance diet and no way for a college student, let alone a grown man, to live.  I told her you most likely dined out.  She is very, and I do mean very, upset with you.  After reminding her how things were when she joined us at Escala she seemed slightly mollified.”  This must be “Shock the Shit Out of Me-ville” because once again I’m standing around with no fucking clue about what’s going on in front of me.

“Mr. Grey, may I speak freely?”  All I can do is nod my head, although I do manage to close my fucking mouth this time.  “There are a great many people who are concerned about you.”  He actually has a worried look on his face.  I haven’t given anyone reason to be alarmed, have I?

Not as far as I’m concerned, I mean, you contacted all of the staff, they knew their jobs were secure since Escala and Grey House Seattle both needed to be maintained so I don’t see the big deal either.

“Taylor, I’m not following you.  Why is anyone concerned?  All positions were maintained, no one has been put out of a job, except Reynolds and that was for a valid.  Security hasn’t been necessary here.  As for the house, you and Mrs. Jones vetted several qualified applicants.  I just have to make a final decision.”

“While I appreciate your loyalty, I don’t understand your visit and I use the term loosely.  I won’t get pissy this time, but don’t ever break into my house, wherever it is, again.  Do you understand?”  That’s a fucking hard limit dammit.

He nods then goes on to give me the update on all things Seattle.  All of this “catching up” makes me feel like the weight of my world is on my shoulders again, in spades.

When he finally reaches the topic of Anastasia, I have to shut him down.  “PAUSE!  Taylor I appreciate the information, but I left all of this to you and Welch.  As for Miss Steele, she knows my telephone number and she knows the extent of the situation.  There is nothing more for us to discuss about her.”  And that’s final.

However, in true Jason Taylor fashion he keeps going.  I swear he’s like my mother.  “Mr. Grey, permission to speak freely sir?”  Oh shit.

“Taylor, just say whatever it is you have to say.  I have a sneaking suspicion I’m in for an earful no matter what.”  Since I heard Gail come in I yell, “Mrs. Jones, please join us.”  Once she seats herself I lay down the ground rules for this conversation.  “Neither of you have to ask for permission speak freely.  When the talk gets to be too deep for me, the safeword is red.  Get it?”

“Got it.” They say in unison and Gail nods her head for emphasis.

“Good, go on.  Spill.”  I sigh, sit back and resign myself to my fate.

Gail starts off, “Miss Steele came to Escala in tears.  She said she tried to contact you on several occasions, but your phone always went straight to voicemail and then cut her off so that she couldn’t leave a message.  She didn’t know if you were hurt, ill or if you simply were no longer speaking to her.”

“I was nervous because I hadn’t heard from you directly since you left for Taiwan.  I knew at first you weren’t thrilled about having to go overseas.  Jason and I…I mean Mr. Taylor…” we just said this was a heart to heart talk so all formalities are out of the window.

“Gail, if I may call you by your first name”, she nods her head and I continue, “we established this is a ‘Come to Jesus’ meeting so other than what’s common courtesy and respect, formalities aren’t necessary.  Ok?”  She nods in agreement then continues her story.

“When Jason and I got back from our vacation, you were nowhere to be seen.  You called Jason and told him about Reynolds and when your call was done, Jason went ballistic and I began to worry.”  She tries to blink away her tears, but ends up having to dab her eyes to stop them from flowing down her cheeks.  Jason puts a comforting arm around her shoulder and she steadies her breathing enough to go on.

“Your parents, brother and sister called several times before you contacted them.  Afterwards, your father began speaking with Jason on a regular basis.  Ros only had information pertaining to GEH and I have no interest in that”, she is beginning to feel more comfortable with this conversation, she is speaking about her own feelings.

I know you’re not shrinking someone?

Besides business, what other field do I know?  Degree or not, my crazy ass can tell you about psychology and psychiatry for that matter.

Listen up…

“…finally, Ana came to Escala.  She told me about your few chats before you left for Taiwan and since you’ve been overseas.  Jason told me about your move here and…well…I couldn’t stay away any longer.  I understand your separation of personal and professional relationships and I respect that.  Mr. Grey, I’ve been worried about you and how you were dealing with your separation from Miss Steele.  Whether it’s my place or not, I still worry.  All I can do is not tell you.”  See what you did?  You made a grown woman who has absolutely no biological or romantic involvement with you worry like hell.

What is today’s date?  I have to mark this one off on the calendar as “Astound Grey Day”.  What have these people been thinking about?  Fuck.  I went to work.  I always go to work.  I work constantly and no one gives it a second thought, but let me step off US soil and all of a sudden emotions run high.

I’m totally out of my comfort zone.  I look to Jason and mouth the word ‘red’ so that he can take care of Gail.  I let her know she’s welcome to stay or she can finish the interview process for the applicants she approved, the choice is hers.  “Gail, Jason, please don’t be offended.  I didn’t expect either of you to pick up and relocate to parts unknown at a moments notice.  I thought it was best to undertake this endeavor alone.”

“I sent you and Taylor on vacation because you deserve that and so much more for putting up with me and my shit on a continual basis.  My actions may be unconventional, but they come from a good place.”  She nods again then goes to the kitchen.

At this point I decide to ask, “Gail, do you want to stay here?”  Her expression softens but the tears are still flowing down her cheeks.

“Mr. Grey, I have no problem remaining here with you.  However, my home is with Jason, I’m certain you know that.  If Jason is prepared to move to this lovely area then I am as well.  My sister is a big girl.  She’ll be fine without me tagging along on the weekends”, with that she gives me a little wink and turns to work on dinner.

“Taylor, we can continue this discussion here or in my study, which ever you choose.  However, I’ve been in these running shorts and t-shirt so long they are dry and I need to take a shower.”  I’m not really prepared for all of this talking.  I wanted to sit around and eat my leftovers before delving into the facts and figures Ros faxed over to me earlier today.

Jason laughs at me and says, “Actually I would like a tour or to wander around a bit.  Go take your shower and we can pick up where we left off after we eat. “

“Ok Taylor, make yourself at home.  I suggest you take your belongings to the third floor.  It’s a replica of your living area at Escala.  If not, there are guest rooms on the second floor that are available to you.  The elevator is on the left of the foyer.  My room is here on the first floor.”  He nods and we part ways.


I turn on the shower to as hot as I can stand it and let the steam fill the room.  As the water falls over me I think about Ana.  She’s been trying to contact me?  Why haven’t I received her calls?  I haven’t missed calls from Ros or Andrea or the staff at the new office.  I don’t remember seeing any missed calls on my phone and the few texts I have were from Ros.  I don’t really talk with anyone else.  Why didn’t Ana send me an email?  My address hasn’t changed.  This is strange.

Once I’m out of the shower, dried off and dressed I head out toward the kitchen.  Mrs. Jones stops in her tracks, blinks a few times and stares at me with her mouth wide open then turns to look at Jason who seems equally taken aback.

“What?  What did I miss?”  I don’t understand the looks I am getting.

“Well…um…Mr. Grey, it is just…I am used to seeing you in your white linen shirt and black jeans.  This is a change for you.”  Am I correct?  Is she blushing?

I’ve dressed like this since I arrived in Townsville.  The new setting seemed to warrant a lot of changes for me.  My attire was one of those things.  I no longer don my linen shirt and jeans.  Various color athletic fit t-shirts or a wife-beater with plan blue jeans, for out in public, or my bare chest and shorts for around the house.  Since I have house guests, I thought the bare chest and shorts weren’t appropriate.

House guests huh?  These good people have walked in on you fucking a woman’s mouth in the kitchen, heard women counting out lashes and calling you ‘Sir’ and ‘Master’, if you saw fit.  Mrs. Jones in particular has cleaned come stains from various inanimate objects throughout Escala and NOW you get bashful.  REALLY GREY?  Get fucking real.

No one asked you so fuck off.

Fucking off ‘Sir’…hee, hee,hee

“Just a small change Gail, nothing to worry about.  I’m still the same overbearing, pompous, jackass I’ve always been, but I’m trying to get a grip on that too.”  I shrug my shoulders.  Taylor, thankfully, clears his throat then actually glares at Gail.  Apparently she likes what she sees.  Now it is my turn to hide a smile.

“Oh yes, dinner.  Cesar Salad with Red Wine Vinaigrette, broiled steak, medium-well and baked potato Mr. Grey?”  She seems a little flustered.  This is too much fun.

I was going to flash her my mega-watt smile, but I won’t do that to Taylor.  I’d be pissed if someone did that to me so I think better of it, “That is wonderful Gail, it’ll be good to eat real food again.”

I sit down to a Gail Jones masterpiece.  The best meal I’ve had since I left for Taiwan.  I think about everything I left behind and what I have achieved since being away from Seattle.  Part of me is happy I left and part of me does miss home.

All of this must be written on my face because Gail says, “We all miss you Mr. Grey and I’m not just saying that.  You have no idea how we feel about you because of the ‘Separation of Church and State’.  It’s hard to get close to you, but once we do you prove to be a wonderful person.”  She pats my hand and leaves Taylor and I to talk.

I look at Taylor for a clue of what Gail’s statement was about, but all he tells me is “She is right.”  I nod my head even though I do not truly understand all the fuss.

Finally I ask Taylor, “Do you want to finish our exchange here or in my office?”

“Where ever you feel most comfortable sir.”  I smile at the word ‘comfortable’.  Comfort has never really mattered to me, business was business and personal was off limits.  Things have definitely changed.

“Here is fine then.”  I take our plates to the sink, rinse them and put them in the dishwasher.  When I turn around, Jason has an all out, full-blown smile on his face.

“I know, I know, I don’t have anyone to clean up after me so I went back to basics.  The kitchen came with the place.  Since the world knows I can’t cook it could easily have been another bedroom as far as I’m concerned.  I can run the dishwasher, do my laundry and pick up after myself like a good little boy.  My mommy would be proud.”  At that statement, the smile falls from his face.

In horror I immediately ask, “Is something wrong with my mother?  Please tell me she is alright.”  I’ll be on the first thing heading stateside if she’s not well.

I talk with my dad more regularly now, but he’s always in his office in the city so he can blow up at me without fear of my mother walking in on him.  My ears start to bleed every time I see his number on the Caller ID.  The only thing he does anymore is chew me out.  It’s the ‘Harvard Drop-out’ scene over and over and over again.

“Mrs. Grey is fine sir.  She misses you, that is all.”  I let out a sigh of relief and nod my head.

“Would you like a lager?”  Taylor nods so I grab a couple Townsville Bitters hen lead the way to the living room that over looks Rowes Bay.

“What else is going on Taylor?  I’ve spoken with you, my father, Ros and various people here using the same cellphone with no problems.  Not to mention my email address has not changed so what’s the issue with Anastasia trying to contact me?”

“We believe someone has tampered with Miss Steele’s phone and computer.”  WHAT?!

The look on my face must say it all.

“She received a text and an email containing photos of you and a young woman.  The text was sent from an unidentified number, while the email was from a generic marketing company that sends out random announcements and coupons.  Barney says her email address could have been sold to any number of marketers simply from making an online purchase.  He gave her cellphone and laptop a once over and found spyware that could monitor her online movements and a zombie virus, which can be used to perform malicious tasks under remote direction, including but not limited to denial of service attacks.  Her emails were not reaching you due to the virus’ effects on her computer.”

“She is able to access her email from her BlackBerry as well.  Since BlackBerry maintains there is no such thing as a BB virus Barney is still looking at the phone.  During his research, Barney found articles to the contrary where the phone’s calling ability was affected in part or in full.  For now, we are working with the premise that both hardware items were attacked and prevented her from contacting you.”

There is only one person on Earth who would bother to keep Ana and I apart.  Taylor simply nods his head before we say in unison, “Elena Lincoln.”

STEELE

C’mon, c’om…Ring, Ring, Ring, Ring… “Grey.  Leave a message.” Beep.  Buzzz…

WHAT THE FUCK!  How the hell am I supposed to communicate with him if my calls keep going to voicemail?  And why the fuck can’t I leave a damn message?  What the fuck is he playing at?

Ring…Ring…Ring…”Hello…Chri…”

“Hey Steele, Mia and I are going to the Zig Zag for a few drinks. wanna join us?”  I guess alls well in the land of Katherine Kavanaugh

“Kate, I have a throbbing headache and booze is not going to help me.  You two enjoy yourselves.”

She sighs, “Steele, you cannot mope over…” OH NO!  NOT THIS TIME!

“KATE STOP!  Stop right there.  I CAN mope and I WILL mope.  The last time I looked in the mirror you were not there.  I appreciate you wanting to look out for me and wanting me to be happy, but I AM NOT HAPPY!  Do you understand that Kate?  No amount of Hagen Das, Chinese take-out, pizza or booze is going to make me happy.”

“All I am trying to do is…”  She has the nerve to sound defensive.

“Kate, I miss Christian.  I want to be with Christian.”

“I do not see what it is about him.  How can you stand him Steele?  He is so contro…”  REALLY?

“You mean like you are?”  I hear her gasp.

“Yeah Kate.  Where are you going to sleep tonight?  Where is Elliott?  When is the last time you spoke with him, huh Kate?”  Silence.

“That is what I thought.  Christian is not here to defend himself against you and your tirade.  And for the record, what the fuck has he done to cause you to hate him?  Huh?  What is that all about?”  Silence.

“I am waiting.”  Still nothing.

Let’s test the waters, shall we?

Be my guest.

“Kate, did I tell you Christian bought SIP and shortly afterward I was made editor?”  I cannot remember if I told her all about it or not.  That is an abridged version of the whole mess, but it is the salient information.

Another gasp, “How dare he try to buy you?”  Huh?  “What, does he think you can’t do it on your own?  Why does he want to keep you under his thumb Ana?  This is what I mean, why does he want to control your every move?”

“Do you think I should turn it down, move on to another publisher?”  Be careful Kavanaugh.

“Has his interference hurt your reputation there?”  The ‘R’ word,  “I know you are a hard worker Ana and your reputation means everything to you.  Has he damaged that with this asinine stunt?”

I grit my teeth and say, “Well, at the last staff meeting the other editors were looking at me funny, but no one came out and said anything.”  I know for a fact a few of them wanted to.  Even Roach seemed disappointed that my HR scores were high enough to allow me to stay.

“If it were me, I’d leave Steele.  I mean, I’m sure your boss would give you a good recommendation for wherever you decided to go, but you know we both worked so hard it’s a shame he couldn’t leave well enough alone so you could make it on your own.”

“You mean like you did Kate?”  Silence.

“Kate…Kate are you still there?  Do you mean like your getting an internship at your father’s company?”  Crickets.

“That is what I thought.  Kavanaugh, lets put it like this.  I love you, think the world of you, but this is my life not yours.  You have your man and I am going to have mine.  A friend will listen when I need them to, hand me a tissue when I need it or buy me a box of the damn things when I run out, but a friend is not going to tear down my confidence or self-est…”

“ANA!  I ‘ve NEVER done that to you.  How could you think that?  This is what I mean.  That self-righteous, salacious, asshole is fucking with your head.  You don’t even know who your true friend is.”  NOW DO YOU FUCKING BELIEVE ME?

“Kate, I have to go.”  I disconnect the call.

Well?

I know.  You are right about her.  I never thought of Kate as a jealous person, but then…you learn something new everyday huh?

Yepper.


First he says he loves me then I see him with some other woman, what is the damn deal?

WHOA…WHOA…WHOA!  Down Steele…down girl.

WHAT!

First of all you need an attitude change.  Second of all the man is F…I…N…E…FINE, no one can blame a woman for looking or even DROOLING at him.  You’re the one who gets her tights in a twist when that happens.  Third, YOU told the man “yes” THEN you turned around and told the man to “wait” and you practically bit his head off each time he tried to address the situation.  So WHO THE FUCK is being unreasonable here?  Wait for it…wait for it…BUZZ times up.  Still don’t know the answer?  Here, let me help…YOU!  YOU ARE BEING UNREASONABLE, CHILDISH and now you have the nerve be JEALOUS?

I told you and told you and I told you again to stop being an ass.  I told you to make sure you had your priorities straight and what did you do Miss High and Mighty?  You first sent the man around Seattle to attend any and all obligatory events stag, then you let him go to Taiwan, stag and as article after article came out you did and/or said nothing to him.  What the fuck gives you the right to utter a sound now?

Do you need assistance recalling the conversation, here let me help you:

NO!  I do not need to go back in time I was there.  I remember scripture and verse what I said to Christian and what he said to me.

Good.  There’s a reminder you do need to hear.

What the fuck could that be?

“…I want to prepare you for what the world takes seriously.  I do not want this to affect your time away from me.  I do not want you to question my love or fidelity to you no matter what the situation between us.  My heart is always in your hands baby.  I love you.”

This is not about money.  This is not about your feelings for him or his feelings for you.  This is about your insecurities and you misguided sense of independence.  What does his love have to do with your independence?

Uh…well…

Wrong answer.  He doesn’t care about what anyone else thinks.  He cares about and loves you Steele, that’s it, that’s all there is to it.  You can’t ask him for anymore.  You can’t hold your insecurities against him anymore than he can hold his insecurities against you.  You projected your fear about a situation no one can control on the man you claim to love.

Does the world take you seriously yet?

I do not know.  I mean, I go to work everyday and I carry my share of the load, so I guess I am taken seriously.

I understand you’ve shown yourself to be a dependable worker, but that’s not what I asked you.  I asked you if ‘the world’ takes you seriously yet?

HOW THE FUCK DO I KNOW?  I have not taken a before and after poll.

How do you intend to gauge the world’s view of Anastasia Rose Steele then?

I did not think about it that way.

WHAT?  WHAT WAS THAT?  I DIDN’T CATCH THAT LAST SENTENCE.  REPEAT THAT!

I SAID…I DID NOT TAKE INTO ACCOUNT HOW TO GAGUE WORLD OPINION OF ME!  DAMMIT!

Anastasia, what world are you even talking about?  Do you know?

I want my co-workers to take me seriously, I want my boss to take me seriously, if I get ahead in my field I want every little step to be MY win not a hand-off because someone knows Christian is part of my life.

So what world are you talking about?

ARE YOU STUPID OR SOMETHING?  I JUST TOLD YOU WHAT WORLD!  MY CO-WORKERS, KATE, JOSE, MY DAD, MY MOM!  I WANT THEM TO TAKE ME SERIOUSLY!

Where are your co-workers right now?  Where are Kate, Jose, your dad and mom right now?

I have no idea and at this very second I do not give a fuck.

Why don’t you know where they are?

I am no one’s babysitter.  My co-workers have lives of their own.  Kate is at the Zig Zag with Mia.  Jose and my mom are each somewhere in the world, I do not know where exactly.  My dad is at home in Montesano.  What does this have to do with my being taken seriously?

It has everything to do with it.  Your co-workers have lives of their own.  They’re not thinking about you sweetie.  They know you come to work on time and fulfill your assigned tasks.  Kate had her own shit-soup to sip on.  She doesn’t even work in your field, has no idea what you do for a living unless you tell her and between you, me and the lamp-post does she even give a fuck?  I think not.  What has she done to deserve to have that kind of power in your life?  Please explain that to me.

Kate graduated from college then proceeded to “inherit” an internship in her father’s company.  You see she doesn’t mind what anyone has to say about that?  Does she care what you have to say about it?  No, because that’s Kate and she knows you’d never judge her.  How does she know that?  You never have.  Why do you feel the need for her to accept you as anything other than her friend?

I wish you would see Kate for what she is.  You went to school together and she bullied you the entire time.  Her nasty attitude finally brought some good into your life that’s all.  She needs to worry about her own man before she looses him and has no one but herself to blame.  Although I’m sure she’ll come up with a way to pin it on Christian.

Your relationship with Grey is no more her business than her relationship with Elliott is yours.  The two of you have got to grow the fuck up.

Jose, well…Jose has wanted to fuck you for ages.  How you do or don’t feel about him is of no consequence.  How Jose feels has remained the same whether you reciprocated those feelings or not.  Is Grey a jealous ass?  Yes.  Does he have a valid reason to dislike Jose Rodriguez?  Yes, I believe so.  Do you have the right to expect Grey to simply forget what he saw that night outside of the bar?  No, I don’t believe you have the right to expect that from him.  You had difficulty watching him handle Leah when she had you at gunpoint and you still manage to harp on it by questioning his feelings for you.  How do you think that makes him feel?  Why is it you can walk away scot-free and Grey is left holding some kind of blame or is ‘guilty of crossing some imaginary line?  Why is he always the bad guy’?

I don’t know what else to tell you except you need to get your priorities straight.  Seeing him in a picture with another woman isn’t reason enough to contact him.  Think about it and I mean really think.  Let’s go to sleep, I’m tired and we have to be at work early tomorrow.  I’d hate for ‘the world’ to see you slipping.

Fuck you.

HA!  Is that the best you’ve got?  Grey deserves better than the way you’ve treated him and you know it.  You can lie to someone, but not to yourself.  Now, good night John Boy


As we go into SIP I ask Sawyer, “Have you heard from Christian?”  Sawyer looks at me as if I asked him to explain the meaning of life.

“No Miss Steele”, he shakes his head for emphasis, “I am assigned to protect you.  I have no knowledge of Mr. Grey’s whereabouts.”  We step to the far side of the Reception area so Claire is out of earshot.  I remember Christian saying Sawyer was head of security while Taylor was away, so he must know something. “Aren’t you currently head of security?”

His eyes widen and I raise an eyebrow.  He did not think I knew this little tidbit of information.  See caught you.  At least I thought I had until he tells me, “I was head of security while Mr. Taylor was on vacation, but he returned a while ago.  Anyway, I never spoke with Mr. Grey.  I spoke with Reynolds once or twice before Mr. Grey fired him and…” I did not let him finish.

“Mr. Grey fired Reynolds?”  I hiss as quietly as I can.  I do not remember being told this.  I remember Christian took him along to Taiwan because Taylor was on vacation and Ryan was assigned to Grey House and Escala.  What the fuck is going on here?

“Sawyer, I need to get to my office, but you and I need to have a heart to heart about what has been going on.  I am being left out of the loop.”

Ahem…

Not now.

Yes now…RIGHT NOW!

What the fuck do you want?

What the fuck makes you think you’re entitled to know about security for Grey?  Thought as long as you were free to roam about wherever you choose all was right in ‘the world’?

Ok, look.  I am going to tell you just like I told Kate.  I miss Christian.  I want to be with Christian.  I guess that means I am going to have to grow a set and fight with him tooth and nail when I feel like he is overstepping some imaginary line.  Until I get the opportunity to speak with him then I want to know WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON!  Do I make myself clear?

WOO HOO…OH SHIT!  CRYSTAL!

What the fuck is so funny?

You are.  Keep in mind, anything worth having is worth fighting for.  SWAK!  No, get to work.

Sawyer takes a deep breath before telling me, “Miss Steele, with all due respect, the actions of Mr. Grey’s security detail are none of your concern.  I am not privy to that level of information therefore I do not make inquiries about it.  I know Taylor is back from his vacation.  He is the formal Head of Security.  I recommend you speak with him concerning Mr. Grey.”  The look on his face is stern.  I nod, turn and proceed to my office.

Before I walk away I tell Sawyer, “Then speak with Taylor is what I will do.  Thank you Sawyer.”

After work is finally over, I practically sprint to the front door.  “Sawyer, I need you to take me to Escala.  I need to speak with Taylor.”

“Miss Steele, Mr. Taylor is probably still at Grey House right now.  I can call him and we can make an appointment for you to…”

“AN APPOINTMENT!  WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT ABOUT?  Let me tell you something Mr. Sawyer, Christian may not be in the United States, but until he tells me in his own voice to fuck off, not you, not Taylor not Kate, NO ONE is going to stop me from communicating with or seeing Christian Trevelyn-Grey.  Do you fucking understand me?!”  I have been pissed all day and his statement was the last straw.  I am tired of this shit.

Everyone, and I do mean everyone, in the lobby stopped to listen to my none-too-quite episode, but you know what?  I…do…not…care.  I take a step back allowing Sawyer to lead the way to the door so we can get this horse and pony show underway.

Sawyer is silent all the way to Escala.  I do not know if he calls to warn Taylor that I am on my way or not.  If I were Sawyer, I would.  I want answers.  What the fuck is going on?  Who the fuck is the bimbo?  Why can’t I get in touch with Christian?

You know you are being a…

YOU SHUT THE FUCK UP TOO!  I have had enough of your mouth.  I was wrong to think anyone’s opinion mattered other than my own and Christian’s.  OK?  I WAS WRONG!

I have told Christian so many times that I love him and I will never leave him.  This is the second time I have broken that promise.  He deserves better than for me to be wishy-washy about our relationship.  Not just for general human respect, but because he has had enough shit go on in his life.  Now, I am adding to that.

Why now?  How much did the woman in the photo affect my decision?  I would be lying if I said this has nothing to do with her.  I know how handsome, caring and fun Christian is.  I know any woman in her RIGHT MIND would be a fool to walk away from a man who loves her.  Let alone one who is willing to put up with my brand of bullshit.

From what I can tell of the photograph, she looks like me and he looked star struck.  He is mine.  He will always be mine.  He said so himself before he left, “…Quite the contrary my love.  I want to prepare you for what the world takes seriously.  I do not want this to affect your time away from me.  I do not want you to question my love or fidelity to you no matter what the situation between us.  My heart is always in your hands baby.  I love you.”

We pull into the garage at Escala and I barely wait for the car to stop moving before I jump out and race to the elevator, with Sawyer on my heels.  I punch in the code but nothing happens.  Oh shit.

I look up at Sawyer and he tells me, “The codes were changed because Reynolds is no longer part of the Security Team; it had nothing to do with you Miss Steele.  We cannot risk him bearing a grudge against Mr. Grey and getting back into the apartment.  The access codes here and at Grey House have been changed.”  I nod my head as we enter the elevator.  It makes sense.  I cannot see Reynolds bearing a grudge, but…STOP IT!  It’s not your decision to make.  Isn’t that what you tell Grey all of the time?  Well this is about his home and his responsibilities to Gail, Taylor, Ryan and Sawyer as well.  They live here even if you and he don’t, so BUTT OUT!

I stand corrected.

We enter the Great Room and no one is there.  I walk over to the breakfast bar and see Gail looking through the cupboards with her back to me.  “Hi Gail.”

I tried not to startle her but it did not work.  “AH!”  She puts her hand to her chest and tries to catch her breath.  “Hello Miss Steele.  Oh, my…I wasn’t expecting anyone.  How are you dear?”  Once her breathing calms down her eyes soften.  She looks at me like I am her long lost child.  She comes around the breakfast bar and gives me a good, hard hug.

I manage not to cry and when we break apart I ask, “Have you or Taylor heard from Christian?  Do you know how he is or where he is?  I have been trying to reach him, but he is not taking my calls and my emails keep bouncing back to me.”  I take a deep breath then continue, “He has someone else doesn’t he?”

Gail takes me in her arms and rocks me side to side.  “Oh dear, I don’t know Ana, but when Jason gets home we’ll get him to tell us everything he knows; alright?”  I nod my head without leaving her embrace.  “You go and lie down and I’ll make you some tea and put together something for you to eat, ok?”  Again I nod my head.  “Good.  I’ll bring you your tea in a few moments.”

I slowly walk to Christian’s bedroom.  It is perfect.  Just as it always is when we get home from work.  I go into his closet and see where all of my clothes are gone.  I took them with me when I told him I needed space.  What confuses me is, all of his clothes are still in his closet.  He did not take anything with him?  The first thing that catches my eye is his grey tie; our favorite tie.

As I reach for it Gail appears behind me and clears her throat.  “He didn’t take anything with him.  He usually has a wardrobe available, but then he typically only goes as far as New York.  I imagine he purchased what he needed when he reached Asia.  These things will be here for when he returns.  I am making chicken potpie; it’ll take a little while to bake.  You freshen up and rest.  I’ll call you when it’s done.  I placed a cup of water and a Twining’s, English Breakfast Tea bag on the table beside the bed.”  She pats my shoulder then quietly leaves the room.

I cannot lie down here.  It feels wrong to be here when Christian is not.  I can smell his scent throughout the room and I see the picture of him and that woman in my minds eye.  What am I going to do?


“Taylor what does this mean?  How can a cellphone get a virus and how can any of that stop me from getting in touch with Christian?”  I am confused and frustrated at all of this technology mumbo-jumbo.

“Miss Steele, I am telling you what Barney found when he remoted into your computer and the results of his overview of your phone.  Here, take this BlackBerry.  It is brand new with a different phone number, which is here.  I recommend you only give it to your parents until we can resolve this issue.  Do you have a landline at home?”

I look at him puzzled.  Doesn’t everyone have a home phone?  “Yes, but we do not really use it.”

“Good, do not use it until I give you clearance to do so.”  Huh?

“Taylor is this all really necessary?”  I mean come on dude.

I do not know what I said, but whatever it was, I pissed him off because he glares directly into my eyes and asks, “Miss Steele, do you want to see him again?”

He has got you there.  I nod without saying a word.

“That is what I thought.  Follow my instructions to the letter.  Gail and I are going to Australia.  I will update him on what is going on here.  Please keep Sawyer close to you.  If you like, you are more than welcome to stay here at Escala.”  I shake my head no, that is too much to ask, besides, I cannot stand to be here without Christian.

“That will not be necessary Taylor, but if I change my mind, would it be alright to come back?”

“Of course it is alright, anytime, no matter what.  Now if you will excuse me, I have things I need to do.”  He gives me a quick nod and a pat on my shoulder before going into his office.

I look at Gail who asks, “Ana, are you certain you don’t want to stay tonight?  You’re already here.  I’m sure Jason and I won’t be leaving immediately.  How about it?”  I know she worries about me and I miss her terribly, but I just can’t.

“Thank you, but no Gail.  I really can’t stay here without Christian.  You both travel safe.”  I give Gail a final hug before we say goodbye.


“Good night John Boy” closing dialogue from the television series The Waltons (1972-1981)

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