I know I can’t expect Jason to be home for at least another hour but even so I can’t help listening out for the sound of the elevator, his footsteps in the hall.
Ever since that horrible incident with Leila, I haven’t liked being in the apartment by myself and I certainly don’t want to go to sleep with the place so empty. It’s not like me to be anxious: I know it upsets Jason and I’m trying hard not to show it around him. He feels so bad that she got in, and that it all happened while he was away.
They still haven’t found her, despite Mr Grey’s vast resources and the combined expertise of Jason and Mr Welch’s team. I wouldn’t say I was close to Leila when she used to come to Escala, but she was a sweet girl: bright and curious. Not hard and brittle like some of the others. Perhaps that’s why she lasted longer than most of them – in some ways she was like Miss Steele. But only in some ways. Jason thought she was manipulative and completely obsessed with Mr Grey. I guess he was right after all. I hope he doesn’t remember the bet we took on that… or maybe I do.
I was so glad when Mr Grey found a normal girlfriend: he was so different with her. He was just… happy. There’s no other word for it, except maybe ‘in love’. He introduced her to his family for a start and I had hopes for more – much more. I really want tonight to work out – for both of them. It would be awful if he went back to that cold, emotionless, stunted way of life. And, ugh, that Lincoln woman. I do not understand why Mr Grey is friends with her. She really is unpleasant and I know for a fact that she was somehow involved in recruiting Mr Grey’s submissives. Do you know what she called her chain of beauty salons? Esclava. Sounds pretty, doesn’t it? But if you’d bothered to look up what it means, you’d know that it’s Spanish for ‘female slave’. Oh, yes, she’s got a sense of humor: a very twisted, unpleasant sense of humor. Horrible, vile woman.
If Mr Grey went back to his old ways, I don’t think I could take it – I don’t think Jason could either. He’s terribly fond of Miss Steele, although he won’t admit that either.
But there was something so special about Anastasia: she brought Mr Grey to life and when she left… well, it was awful. Just terrible to see him so broken. But… she’s given him a second chance. Jason was just as pleased as I was when he heard that they were heading down to Portland together to some art exhibition. He pretended not to be, of course, but that’s men for you – always thinking that they have to hide their emotions. Not that Jason can fool me.
I understand his reasons for wanting to stay as detached and unemotional as possible when it comes to Mr Grey. Jason says that close protection workers need to maintain some distance to keep their edge. He says that getting too close to the client affects his professional judgement. Well, that ship has sailed, in my opinion: he can pretend all he likes that this is just another job, but I know better. He uses humor as a way of deflecting the truth from what he’s really thinking and my goodness, his language is something else! It’s nothing I haven’t heard before but I’m just glad he manages to restrain himself in front of Sophie. Mostly. But when he’s with me, in bed, I see the real Jason: he’s stripped bare, and I don’t just mean of clothes, although that by itself is a delicious image. What I mean is: he doesn’t hide who he is deep down. I love the way he gives me all of himself. I know he keeps work things hidden from me, things that he’ll think will upset me, but he never hides himself, who he is. I always know exactly where I am with Jason.
And he still wants to marry me. I’m sure he thinks that one day he’ll just wear me down and I’ll give in, but we have things to resolve between us. But we’re getting closer, I think.
Finally, I hear the sounds I’ve been longing to hear.
I look up from the sofa and across the room Jason is smiling at me.
He looks tired. Well, that’s hardly surprising; he’s driven nearly 350 miles tonight and he was up early as usual.
“Are you hungry, darling? Can I get you something to eat?”
He shakes his head.
“Not really. I wouldn’t mind a beer. Maybe a sandwich?”
I can’t help smiling: ‘not really’ means ‘yes, but I don’t want to look like I’m demanding you leap up and bring me food’.
“Oh, well, it’s a good thing I made this chicken salad sandwich for you then, isn’t it?”
“God, I love you, Mrs Jones! I’m a damn lucky man.”
“Yes, you are. And don’t you forget it. But tell me, how did it go with Mr Grey and Miss Steele?”
He smiles and my anxiety slips a few notches.
“Well, it was touch and go. If there was anyone who was more likely to screw it up than the boss… but she’s going to give him another chance.”
I can’t help sighing with relief.
“Thank goodness for that! Did you leave him at Miss Steele’s apartment?”
“Nope: we dropped her off and came back here – I guess he wants to, I don’t know, take it slow. But he gave her back the laptop and cell phone, and he’s seeing her tomorrow. I’ll take her car back then. Although I don’t think he’s mentioned that bit to her yet.”
“Yes, she was always rather unhappy with his super generous gifts.”
“Yeah, I don’t want to be around when he mentions the car. If I am, I’ll just yell ‘incoming’ and hit the deck.”
“Jason! What aren’t you telling me?”
“Huh? Nothing, it’s just she’s having drinks after work with her boss – that Jack Hyde character I told you about. Cold-eyed fucking bastard.”
“I bet Mr Grey didn’t like that!”
“You could say that. I thought he was going to rip the guy’s throat out when he saw him with Ana when I picked her up from work. I’d have had to have stopped him – and I know how much you hate washing blood out of my suits.”
“How very magnanimous of you.”
“Oh, baby! I love it when you use long words. It makes me horny.”
Hmm, I’ll have to add that to the list of things that makes Jason horny: it’s quite a long list.
“Well, you know what they say, darling: cunnilingus is a real tongue twister.”
* * * *
For the first time in several nights, six nights, to be exact, I’m not woken up by the boss playing that fucking maudlin shit on the piano.
Even so, I can’t sleep. Gail is lying beside me looking so damn beautiful that I want to reach out and touch her just to make sure she’s real. But I don’t want to wake her so I just lie on my side staring at her.
Eventually I decide to go and make myself a coffee even though it’s still an hour before dawn. There’s something nagging at me; some thought at the back of my brain that won’t shake free – something I’ve forgotten. It’s bugging the fuck out of me. How did Leila Williams get back into the apartment? It’s as if the answer is there, if I can just pull it out of my memory.
So I head to my office and review the security footage again.
What is it? What the fuck have I missed?
Jeez, I’m getting as OCD as the boss. I’ll be counting the number of times I say ‘fuck’ in a day next. His fifty shades of fucked up must be rubbing off on me. One. Next thing you know I’ll be firing champagne fucking corks from my ass. Two. Ok, I don’t actually have proof that the boss has done that, but I’ve seen his playroom. It features regularly in my nightmares, along with the Olympic female wrestling team and a set of anal plugs (extra large). That’s a fucking horror story waiting to happen. Three. And if I start thinking that listening to music from La Traviata is going to cheer me up, I’ll know it’s time to volunteer for that frontal lobotomy after all. I wonder if the boss’s medical insurance will cover it?
The truth is I’ve got all that shit from last night running through my head. All the boss’s horror stories from his fucked up childhood. Four. FUCK! FUCK! FUCK! Five. Six. Seven. I’d guessed at most of it – it’s hard not to when the evidence is all over his body and I’ve heard those screams in the night too many times – but hearing him tell someone other than his shrink, that was hard to hear. I can’t understand how someone could do that fucked up shit to a kid. Eight. If anyone touched Sophie like that, I’d kill them. I’d hunt them down and tear their fucking eyeballs out – and I’d enjoy it. Nine. FUCK! Enough with the fucking counting or I’ll have to take my socks off! Ten. Oh, wait… Eleven.
I can’t say this dark shit to Gail, she’d totally freak out. She already thinks I’m a few shingles short of a roof. Maybe that’s why she won’t marry me. And, what’s really scary, maybe this is why I can work for the boss: I know what it’s like to have experienced horror. Show me a man – or woman – who’s done tours in the Middle East that hasn’t. You lock that shit away from normal humans. I used to think that the old me died over there… then I met Gail. But the boss – that fucked up shit happened to him when he was a kid. You don’t ever get over that: you can get on with your life, but you don’t ever get over it.
Miss Steele is taking on one fucking challenge with Grey. I’ve seen the way women look at him. Hell, I’ve seen the way some men look at him. I’ve had women coming up to me giving me their cell numbers, hoping that I’ll pass on the information to the boss (and I’m not saying I’m an egotistical guy, but that’s gonna hurt). One even embroidered her number on her panties. I couldn’t bring myself to give them to the boss… It took me a while to explain that one to Gail. But the make-up sex later was worth it. I had nail marks down my back that even made the boss look twice. Maybe it was just professional interest but I swear he nearly cracked a smile. Yup, gotta lotta tiger in my woman.
The CCTV footage reveals nothing new. Another two hours of looking at the black-and-white tapes I feel like I’ve pulled my brain out through my nostrils and reinserted through my eyeballs. It’s a bit like watching re-runs of Dora the Explorer with Sophie. I think the Ancient Egyptians used to do something like that – the weird brain shit, not Dora the Explorer. Yeah, well, no wonder it took them so long to invent the wheel.
I’m pondering on the weirdness that is my life when I hear a noise behind me and spin round, reaching for a gun I’m not wearing. Fuck! My heart rate is going fast enough to make a speed-freak dizzy.
“Anything to report, Taylor?”
I’m going to have put a bell round his neck if he’s going to start creeping around like that.
See that? Not a word wasted. That’s what I call guy talk.
I head back into the staff quarters and pull on sweats and sneakers.
You know one of the things I love about Gail? She irons my sweat pants. I know it’s dumb and pointless and completely unnecessary and, let’s face it, if you ever meet a guy who irons his sweats he probably also has curtains that coordinate with his throw cushions, but I love it that Gail cares enough to do it for me. I think I love it because it’s pointless: it’s my gal looking after me. Not like The Bitch: her idea of looking after me was making sure that my best friend’s bed stayed warm while I was in Afghan.
Gail is just waking up; it’s a beautiful sight. It makes me want to muss her hair even more and remind her why she called me Marco Polo last night.
But I don’t have time. Fuck, that sucks. And I’m a poet and didn’t know it: yup, I’m just your all round Renaissance guy.
Soon, I’m pounding the streets of Seattle, hyper-aware that my Korth is keeping my ribs warm. I know the boss doesn’t approve, not that I give a shit, but I know that Gail hates it, too. And that I do care about. But asking me to leave it behind, especially while the Williams woman is on the loose, would be like asking me to take on Mia Grey without body armor.
My sunny personality takes a dive when I remember I’ll be seeing Mia the Diva on Saturday – with fireworks. I wonder if the Grey’s have a foxhole in the garden.
Just bury me now.