Gray sky. Check.
Rain on the window. Check.
Seattle in summer. Check.
Hot woman in my bed. Checkmate.
“Time to get up, Jason.”
I look up into those beautiful baby-blue eyes, and know that there isn’t anywhere else in the whole universe I’d rather be.
She raises one eyebrow and smiles at the tent I’m making under the sheets.
“When I said time to get up, I didn’t mean like that!”
“Yeah, well, I missed you, baby.”
“Jason, according to your version of events, you missed me so much that we had to make up for lost time… three times last night and once already this morning and…”
Gotta admire a woman who keeps score. Later.
Eventually, the future Mrs. Taylor kicks me out of bed. I have a meeting with the boss and Welch to get an update on security issues and the ongoing investigation into the Charlie Tango incident. But this afternoon is mine… mine and the future Mrs. Taylor’s. Grey and Ana are going to the doc’s for lunch and for the rest of the afternoon. I have plans with Gail for those few, precious hours. Horizontal plans. Maybe vertical, too. The best sort of plans are simple: clear aims and objectives, easy to execute, result guaranteed. Just call me daddy.
When I get the heads up from Frank – the hairy eyeball at the front desk – telling me that Welch is on the way up, I stick my head inside Grey’s study.
“Sir, Welch has arrived.”
“Send him straight in.”
He seems in a good mood – no twitching eyes, no drumming fingers, no ass tightly sealed like a walrus in winter. Yup, marriage seems to suit him. Well, Ana seems to suit him – but the fun hasn’t started yet.
I meet Welch at the elevator and he looks like he’s waiting for a salute. Dream on, buddy. You’re not my CO anymore. The only person I salute these days is Gail. Fuck, she looks hot when she wears my old dogtags and nothing else.
“How was the honeymoon, Taylor?”
Jeez, if anyone else asks me that I might have to take up meditation – either that or just beat the crap out of them. Decisions, decisions.
“The boss’s honeymoon – he’s back in one piece.”
“Fair enough. Was he happy with the safe room?”
I have to admit Welch’s team did an A1 job on the new safe room: steel door with strike-plate screws to resist battering; reinforced ceiling; generator and separate ventilation system; comms desk with CB radio, separate landline and cellular phone; CCTV into the apartment; firearms; flashlights; blankets; blow-up mattress; gasmasks; chemical pisser. Bastard even programmed my computer to let me know when the supply of bottled water and dried foods should be replaced each month. It would take a crack team at least four hours to break inside.
I really hope Grey doesn’t lose the key.
“Yeah, he was happy with it – as happy as he gets.”
Welch smiles. “I use the term loosely.”
“Go on in. I already got rid of the last body.”
“You’re a funny guy, Taylor.”
I know. I think I’m getting laughter lines.
So Welch updated us on the sitrep, which wasn’t so much. Security had been tightened again at Grey House and the off-site server location; extra bodies had been put on all the Greys, even Mia – no matter how hard she squealed. I pittied the poor bastard who was pulling that watch. Shit, she’d probably have him singing show tunes to ‘cheer him up’ or something. Kinda makes my buttocks clench. It’s a guy thing. In a completely masculine way, of course.
The boss even had somebody watching Ana’s father. The guy was ex-army but he’s been out for a while, and when you’re not looking over your shoulder 24/7, it’s easy to get sloppy. He has eyes on him around the clock. Even the Kavanagh woman’s father had been informed about possible security breeches and was acting accordingly.
That’s the thing about knowing a billionaire, suddenly you’re a target. Doesn’t matter how nice you are, or how good you are, or how innocent you are – all those dollar bills have another price.
I wondered how long the boss had debated putting eyes on the Rodriguez kid. I bet he wouldn’t mind seeing him taken out of the picture permanently. The kid put hands on Ana – not that the boss holds a grudge, but if José ever woke up one morning being fed his own testicles, well, don’t color me surprised. Nah, the boss isn’t vindictive like that.
Does the bear shit in the woods? Inquiring minds want to know.
There wasn’t a whole lot else for Welch to report. The partial thumbprint was giving twenty analysts major headaches. They’d narrowed it down to a couple of thousand potential suspects from the millions on the databases that had been accessed. The remainder would have to be done the hard way – eyeball searches. I hate that shit.
Barney was isolating the CCTV footage from Grey House in the two weeks prior to the arson event. He’d promised Welch to have the results later on that evening. Or, to be more exact, he’d said,
“Welch, dude! Stress less, man. It’ll be done – like stink on sh… um, yeah.”
Sometimes it was hard to believe the guy’s IQ was 161.
So Grey pedalled off to the doc’s and I had the afternoon off. Yeah, this afternoon I was going to get off. Nice.
It’s so wonderful having Jason home. The last three weeks were the longest we’ve been apart since we met. Mr. Grey doesn’t really take vacations. Occasionally he’s had a couple of nights at his cottage in Aspen, or an overnighter in New York. But, according to Jason, those have been working vacations. Even at Christmas. Poor man.
Thank goodness he found Ana. Or Ana found him. I’m still not quite sure which way round it was. Not that it matters – I’ve rarely seen two people so well suited.
She soothes him and I see the love pouring out of her and filling up that huge hole in his soul. Her love is endless and I think poor Mr. Grey needs a lifetime supply. Just seeing them together makes me smile. Although I thought Ana seemed a little off when she came back from Europe. She’s probably just tired. Even so, she said she’d do her own unpacking. I would have done it while they were out at Mr. and Mrs. Grey Senior’s. Instead, I have an afternoon with Jason.
I know he has something more physical in mind than just talking, but really, after last night and this morning, I could do with a bit of a break. Once you hit 40, one isn’t quite as flexible as one was. I think Jason forgets that sometimes.
God, I’m a lucky woman.
But we really need to talk.
I never thought I’d fall in love again. But Jason Taylor is everything any woman could want in a man. He’s kind and good and sweet, a wonderful and thoughtful lover, a beautiful father to his daughter, loyal to a fault, and a hardworker. And did I mention hot? Even Allison had to admit that. I spent quite a bit of time with my sister while Jason was away. And even though she never saw eye to eye with him, she agreed that he was a fine figure of a man.
“So, you’re really going to marry Jason, huh, sis?”
“Yes, I am. Now Mr. Grey’s wedding is over, we’ll have a little more time to plan.”
“Are you sure about this? I mean, you said yourself, you aren’t happy about the fact that he wears a gun like it’s part of his body, another leg or something.”
I look up and can’t help snorting at her comment. She rolls her eyes.
“Yes, yes, I know – he’s hung like a horse and walks on three legs six days out of seven.”
“Everybody needs a day off.”
“Not according to you.”
“Allison! I’m not discussing my love life with you!”
“No? Well, have another glass of tequila. God, this stuff is disgusting. I think it’s the bottle Jason gave to Bill. I found it in the garage.”
There’s a brief silence. I really wish my sister approved of Jason, but I’ve given up hoping for that.
“Look, Gail, I’m your sister and I love you. I just want you to be happy, but…”
“But me no buts, Allison – Jason is it for me. We love each other and we’re going to get married. No, I’m not happy that he carries a sidearm as part of his employment, but I’ve decided that life is too short to wait for perfection. Because in every other way, Jason is perfection.”
“He swears too much.”
“He thinks I’m a frigid bitch.”
“He has a really great ass.”
I can’t help laughing. “I know.”
“Well, I’ll support you, of course, Gail. I love you, honey.”
And that was how we left it.
When Mr. and Mrs. Grey leave for their lunch, Jason prowls into the staff quarters.
“Miss me, baby?”
He undresses me with his eyes and a devilish smile crosses his face.
And despite what I’d promised myself, we never did have that talk.
I’m not given to bad language, but there are times when Webster’s dictionary just don’t cut it.
Sawyer has informed me that an unsub is tailing the boss’s R8 – and Ana is driving. Worse still, the mark has got between the Greys and the two clowns formerly known as Ryan and Sawyer. Turns out Mrs. Grey’s idea of a joke was to leave her protection units for dust. What the hell was the boss thinking?! I mean, for fuck’s sake! The security level is Defcon fucking 1, and he lets an inexperienced driver behind the wheel of a V8 engine. Is he fucking insane?
Okay, wrong question – we all know Grey is challenged in the sanity department – just ask Dr. Flynn (who probably is seeing his own shrink after four years of treating Grey).
I patch in to Grey’s BlackBerry to hear the comms chatter.
“We’re right behind the unsub, Mr. Grey. He’s trying to catch up with you, sir. We’re going to try and come alongside, put ourselves between your car and the Dodge.”
Grey’s voice follows and I can hear the tension in every syllable.
“Good. Mrs. Grey is doing well. At this rate, provided the traffic remains light – and from what I can see it is – we’ll be off the bridge in a few minutes.”
Fuck! I should be there! This is my job – my job – to keep Ana safe. To keep the boss safe. But I’m not there, I’m here.
I consider the options. I could alert the cops, but Grey wouldn’t like that. Besides if there are any cruisers in the area, they’re bound to pick up two speeding cars. I could get to them in 14 minutes
Fourteen fucking minutes. Ana could be dead in 14 minutes: they could shoot out the tire – it’s the most vulnerable part of the R8. The doors have some reinforcement but it wouldn’t keep out an armor-piercing shell. And there’s no time to get an eye-in-the-sky.
I again consider taking the SUV and going to meet them, but I know that I’m needed here to coordinate. Sitting, like a fucking useless fool.
I tell Sawyer that he and Ryan are on their own for now. His reply is short, but not sweet.
Well, his mom is Welsh.
Sawyer’s voice is back with Grey.
“Mrs. Grey, head for I-5 and then south. We want to see if the Dodge follows you all the way.”
Of course it’s going to fucking follow them! Does Sawyer think an unregistered car is following Seattle’s number one billionaire by coincidence?
Sawyer must have sent his brain for drycleaning.
“He’s cleared the traffic and picked up speed,” says Sawyer.
No fucking kidding!
“He’s hit one hundred and ten, sir.”
Shit! I hope Ana can handle it. Think positive – her dad is ex-army. He taught her how to drive. She can handle herself – she always does.
“We’re taking the Stewart Street exit.”
Grey’s voice is brittle with anxiety. He’s holding it together for her, for his woman, for his wife.
“Head straight to Escala, sir.”
That’s my cue. I dial Frank.
“Emergency protocol one. Now.”
“Just do it, asshole!”
I slam the phone down.
That fucker is on his last goddamn warning.
I take the service elevator to the garage, open the doors, and prepare the steel shutters. Once Ana and Grey are inside, I can slam that shit closed, like a fucking portcullis. Except this one is made of steel and anyone who gets in the way is about to be sliced and diced.
My finger hovers over the button. And I wait.
Where the fuck are they?
“We’re stopped at the first light on Stewart,” snaps Sawyer.
Fucking loser! Ram the fucking car in front of you and get the fuck out!
“We’re hidden in the parking lot between Stewart and Boren,” says Grey.
No! That lot is a fucking dead end! Shit! Shit! Shit!
And I wait.
Then I hear Sawyer’s voice, relief flooding the airwaves.
“We’re passing Stewart and Boren now, sir. I see the lot. He’s gone straight past you, sir.”
There’s a brief click as the boss turns off his BlackBerry. What the…? Oh, you’ve got to be kidding me… Now is the best time for them to fuck? Ah, come on!
I suppose we’re just all grateful he didn’t leave the comms open. I have enough memories of hearing and seeing the boss fuck his subs. And there was that time when he first met Ana, and the doc was trying to get into Grey’s room… oh, hell, I really don’t want to remember that. Distraction – quick!
O say can you see by the dawn’s early light,
Oh, Christ, not the time I found him with that trapeze thing…
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming.
Or that time with the sub, the butt plug the size of Texas, and the business call from Taiwan.
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight…
“The unsub has slowed outside Escala. He’s casing the joint.”
Thank Christ. And there he is – the guy in the Dodge. Stupid fucker – I’ve got him on CCTV. Good profile shot. Yeah, we’ll analyze the shit out of that. Fucker is going down.
Ah shit, why didn’t I have to think of ‘going down’?
“Where’s Sawyer? And the Dodge? How come Sawyer’s not with you?”
Huh, that was quick.
Grey’s voice snaps out his not unreasonable questions.
Ryan responds calmly. “Sawyer’s sticking with her. We saw long hair.”
“Her? Stick with her?”
Her? That’s unexpected. It’s not the witch bitch from what I could see; I wonder if it could be the Williams woman.
Just in case, I speed dial her psych unit, but no, she’s not AWOL. Then who?
I hear the R8 before I see it. With the sitch under control, I see no need to panic Mrs. Grey anymore than she already is. I slink into the shadows, what the Marines call low profile. I lurk.
Ana and Grey exit their vehicle, and I nearly have a fucking heart attack when a silver Beamer pulls into the garage. But it’s the new asswipe from apartment sixteen. Long haired hippy fucker. Probably works in media, whatever the fuck that means. But he’s not a threat, except to his barber.
I’m only half surprised when Grey tosses Ana over his shoulder and makes a run for the playroom. Okay, well that last bit might have been a slight exaggeration as there was no shoulder-tossing involved, but it’s clear that the debrief on the fucking balls up that just happened is going to have to wait… while the balls are fucking up.
Ah hell. I need a new job.
Sawyer is back first.
“Jesus, T, that was some fucked up shit.”
“You don’t say, you dumbass grunt! You let an unsub get between you and Grey! If he doesn’t have your balls on a plate, I fucking will. Christ-amighty! We’ve got death threats coming out of our asses and you act like it’s a fucking church picnic? What is your fucking damage?!”
“No excuse, boss.”
That’s pretty much the standard answer anyone who’s served uses when they know they’ve fucked up big time. And he’s right – there is no excuse for that sorry, shabby, shitty op.
Five minutes later, Ryan completes the cock that is most definitely up.
“Lost him,” he grunts.
I shake my head, disbelievingly.
Ryan shrugs. “Fucker’s good.”
“Is that supposed to make me feel better? He’s ‘good’?”
Ryan looks pissed.
“Mrs. Grey should never have been driving. Grey should never have been driving. Hell, T, you told him yourself that he and Mrs. Grey should have a CP unit with them every fucking second of every fucking day – in the same fucking vehicle. Grey was the one who wanted ‘normal’.”
Ryan makes air quotes.
I look at him in disgust. “Because he trusted his team, you rank fucking amateur.”
I rub my hands over my eyes. I’m still jet-lagged.
“Go get Gail to fix you something to eat. We’ve got a lot of work to do and it’s going to be a long, fucking night – that’s if Grey doesn’t fire your sorry asses.”
But my cell phone rings first.
“Daddy! You’re back!”
“Hey, Princess! How’s my number one girl?”
There’s a long pause.
“Am I your number one girl, daddy?”
“Of course you are, pumpkin. Why would that change?”
“Mommy says you’re marrying your girlfriend.”
Lucy and her fucking loose lips!
“Well, that’s right, sweetheart, I am.”
“So, she’ll be your number one girl,” Sophie says sadly.
“No way, honey. You’ll always be my number one gal. Gail is my…” I hunt for the right words. “Gail is my number one woman.”
“She’s not my mommy.”
“I know that, baby. You have a mommy,” even if she is a fucking Class A Bitch with Brontysaurus breath. “Gail will be… like an auntie.”
I can hear sniffing on the line, then Lucy’s strident vocals pollute the air.
“Well done, Jason. You’ve only been back 30 seconds and you’ve made my daughter cry.”
“Our daughter, Lucy, and what the fuck were you doing telling her I’m marrying Gail?”
“Well, it’s true, isn’t it?”
“Yes! But I was going to tell her in person. You fucking knew that! Were you trying to mess it up for me?”
“Don’t put this on me, Jason, and stop swearing – you know I hate that.”
Is she serious?
“I’m coming over.”
“What? No. It’s too late.”
“Lucy, don’t you fucking fight me on this. I’m coming over now and I will see my daughter.”
And then I hang up.
Self-righteous, cold-titted, fish-faced mongrel hag.
Grey is surprisingly okay when I tell him I need to spend some time with my daughter. Maybe it’s a new found appreciation for family life – or the fact that he’s virtually comatose from a wide variety of… marital bliss.
“Take the time you need, Taylor.”
“Thank you, sir. I’ll be at Grey House by late morning on Monday.”
He nods and turns back to his computer. When he sees I’m still standing in front of him, he frowns.
“And Gail… Mrs. Jones… I’ve asked her to marry me.”
He looks bemused.
“She said yes.”
He frowns. “I hope that doesn’t mean she’s considering her resignation?”
“No, sir. Not unless you…”
“No, Taylor. Not at all. Mrs. Jones is a valued member of staff. I’d be happy for her to continue in her present position. And Mrs. Grey likes her.”
That’s a relief. I mean, I thought he’d be cool about it but the boss is nothing if unpredictable.
“Congratulations, Taylor. I’m…” Jeez, I hope he doesn’t say ‘happy’ for me – that will be the kiss of fucking death. “I’m pleased for you. Both of you. When do you plan on getting married?”
“We haven’t discussed that.” In the Fall, perhaps? Just before he and Mrs. Grey move into the new place.
He nods. “Fine. When you’ve decided what you want to do for your honeymoon, take the jet.”
What the fuck? ‘Take the jet’?!
I manage to stammer out a thank you. Damn it, that guy pisses me the fuck off! When did he start being so nice?
I’m halfway to see Princess Sophie when Welch calls me with the news.
“The driver of the unsub has been identified… it’s Jack Hyde.”