Hope you all enjoyed ‘Taylor and the Thanksgiving Turkey Massacre’. Now, back to our regular programming.
The boss is back. I’ve been watching his approach on the computer. Well, watching the positioning of his car’s lo-jack.
“Sawyer, Grey’s back.”
“Okay, T, I’ll go cover the garage.”
It’s been good having Luke here over the last few days. I can trust him: he knows what he’s doing and I know he’s got my back. Although it’s been weird having him sharing the staff quarters with me and Gail – and he’s eaten all the fucking marbled almond Roca cookies. But it made me realize something: Escala is my home. I’ve gotten so used to thinking of this as a job, I hadn’t even noticed the change. Or maybe it’s not so much Escala as the fact Gail is here: Gail is my home.
On the other hand, maybe it’s just all the damn joy that Grey has been radiating since Ana came into his life. Now he knows what he’d be missing if she left. And if Gail left… I really don’t want to fucking think about that, but I have to. I have to remember that this is a job… and if I keep fucking up, I’m going to get fired. And then I remind myself I was going to resign anyway – I let the Williams bitch get into Grey’s home. Not just once, but over and over. Which proves my fucking point: I’ve gone soft. I’ve let things slip. Fuck, if anything had happened to Gail or to Ana… No, that’s not right: something did happen to both of them. And they’ll both be having nightmares for months. On my fucking watch.
At least Williams can’t get back into Escala: I’m certain of that. Unless, of course Grey invited her, and that so isn’t going to happen. Right now, he’d like to string her up by her… um… in a totally non-sexual way, I mean.
I have to resign. But will Gail come with me?
I head for the elevator and stand by, ready to meet Grey and Ana. The doors slide open and I’m treated to the really private spectacle of them kissing as if the end of the world has just been announced.
I step back, out of their eye-line, although I’m pretty certain Ana spotted me.
I still can’t get used to seeing the boss lose control like that. I’ve seen him radiating red-hot fury to the point where Barney considered wearing a fire-blanket to meetings, but there was always something almost calculated about it, like he knew exactly what effect this had on his staff. And he didn’t do it very often – he didn’t need to. His icy-cold anger was more terrifying; that shark-like ability to hone in on anyone’s weakness. Not me, of course, because up until this last week I’d never fucked up so badly.
The only other time Grey lets any emotion show is when he’s playing that damn piano, that gloomy, fucking, throat-slitting misery music… and when he’s asleep: no man can out-run those demons.
“Good evening, Taylor.”
“Mr Grey, Miss Steele.”
And then Ana beams at me. “I was Mrs. Taylor yesterday.”
I can feel my cheeks get hot. Wow! Is that what a blush feels like? I haven’t blushed in four years.
“That has a nice ring to it, Miss Steele.”
“I thought so, too,” she replies, still smiling happily.
I see the boss’s fingers tighten on her with a death grip. He looks as if he’d like to rip my arms off and use them to beat me over the head. It’s a pretty mild reaction for him – especially where Ana is concerned.
“If you two have quite finished. I’d like a debriefing,” he spits out.
Yeah, very fucking smooth. Not.
Ana cringes and she mouths ‘Sorry’ at me before Grey marches her off to her dungeon, um, bedroom.
“I’ll be with you shortly,” snarls Grey. What he really means is ‘you’re so fucking fired’.
I’m almost surprised he doesn’t piss on the walls to mark his territory. Maybe that will come later. But if he tries to piss on my shoes, I’m outta here.
“I just want a word with Miss Steele.”
I look at her with some sympathy. Looks like she’ll get the riot act read to her before me. Still, at least it will show her what she’s signed up for. But no matter what Grey thinks, she’s the one on top in this relationship.
I go and wait in the office. Sawyer is still patrolling; I can see him on the CCTV cameras. He’s checking out the cars belonging to other Escala residents. Thorough.
Grey strides into the office, still looking pissed. Yeah? Well, you’re not the only one, buddy, so don’t fucking push me.
I fold my arms across my chest and wait for his tirade. But it doesn’t come; instead he stares at me appraisingly.
“Report, Taylor,” he says, almost mildly.
Jeez. Did they fuck already?
“All the locks and access codes have been changed; we’ve completed a fingertip search of the apartment, garage and public areas of Escala; I personally checked Miss Steele’s apartment and CCTV of the surrounding streets. We’ve found nothing, sir, but Williams won’t be getting in here again.”
He nods, looking distracted.
“Miss Steele’s clothes and belongings have been moved to your room, sir. I’ve retained Sawyer’s services 24/7 on a week-by-week basis; Ryan and Reynolds are on-call via Welch.”
“Has Mrs. Jones returned from her sister’s?”
“Yes, sir, but she’s out at the moment. Sawyer’s checking out the other residents’ vehicles in the garage. Sir, it’s definitely a weak-spot: any one of them could buzz in a delivery, whether or not it’s legit. But as you know, the penthouse floor is coded and I’ve had alarms placed on all access panels.” Including the fucking fire-escape.
I shrug. And unless you bubble-wrap Ana, that’s as good as it gets.
He runs his hands through his hair and I know he’s still worried. Yup, join the club.
“Thank you, Taylor.”
And he walks out.
What? Is that it? No getting fired? No rampant jealousy? No yelling until my ears melt? The boss is getting soft.
I kinda miss the old days.
I go back to studying the surveillance cameras. Sawyer is using the under-vehicle search mirror. I’m not saying the Williams woman is capable of planting a car bomb, but I’m not taking the fucking chance either.
I’m surprised when I hear the boss’s voice behind me again.
“Hi, Taylor. I’m just giving Anastasia the tour.”
I nod politely but right now I’m intent on something a little bit illegal, so I don’t respond. At this precise moment, Sawyer is fixing GPS trackers to all the Escala residents’ cars. I want to know where the fuck everyone who lives in this building is, day and night. I want to know every fucking time someone enters the garage who isn’t in a registered vehicle. Yeah, I know: infringement of civil liberties and all that, but if keeps Ana and the boss safe, then I don’t give a rat’s ass. So sue me. But definitely not something I’ll be telling Grey.
Monday passes peacefully, at least for me. I take the boss to work and leave him in Grey House, reiterating my instructions to the security staff that no fucker – other than the boss – is to get into his office, or even onto his floor. That’s pretty fucking clear but it’s worth saying again. I’ll tattoo it on their fucking foreheads if I have to. And then give them mirrors.
Back at Escala, it’s time to take Ana to work. She’s obviously still concerned about her ‘Mrs. Taylor’ comment, but you know what? That girl has done me a favor. And this is why…
* * * *
I was still checking surveillance footage when Gail got back from meeting her friend Janice.
“Jason, haven’t you eaten yet?”
“No, baby. Thought I’d wait for you. And I’ve been going over the CCTV tapes with Luke.”
“Well, you should both eat. Where is he?”
“Finishing off in the garage. He’ll be up soon.”
“I take it Mr Grey and Miss Steele are back. How did she enjoy sailing?”
“Took to it like a duck to water, Mac said. I think that’s what he said. Although he could have been saying something about Doctor Watson… it’s kinda hard to tell.”
She laughs lightly, then looks serious.
“And was Ana okay, after everything that happened?”
I sighed. “I guess, but you know what she’s like – holds it all inside; it’s real hard to tell what she’s thinking. A bit like you, baby. But she said she liked being checked in at the Olympia as ‘Mrs. Taylor’.”
“Oh, did she indeed?!”
And there it was: a note of jealousy. I have never, never given Gail the slightest reason to feel jealous. I’ve not hidden anything from her: she knows I went a bit crazy when Lucy and I got divorced. Got drunk a lot. Slept with a lot of women – some of them I didn’t even know their names. I didn’t want to pretend with her. But she also knows I haven’t even looked at another woman since I met her – and I don’t want to.
“You… you like Ana, don’t you?” she said, quietly. “Well, I’m not surprised; she’s very pretty and sweet… and young…”
But I couldn’t listen to anymore.
“Gail, don’t. Please, baby. Yes, I like Ana. But not that way. I think of her in the same way I think of Sophie – I just want her to be okay; and I want the boss to not fuck it up with her. But you’re my woman, babe. Hell, I’d make you Mrs. Taylor in a shot – you know that. There’s no-one else I want, Gail. I love you, for fuck’s sake.”
Yeah, I know. I’m smooth.
“I… I’ll think about it, Jason.”
“Fuck! You will?”
“Yes, just thinking, though, okay?”
“Very okay, baby.”
* * * *
So the next day when I took Ana to work, I was surprised when she apologized to me.
“I’m sorry about yesterday and my inappropriate remarks. I hope I didn’t get you into trouble.”
I frown and look at her in the rearview mirror, and then I realize what she’s getting at. The boss must have told her off for talking to me like that. Which is pretty fucking funny when you think about it.
I try to reassure her.
“Miss Steele, I’m rarely in trouble.”
“I’m glad to hear it, Taylor,” she says sweetly, but actually she looks kinda pissed.
And throughout the day the boss’s blood pressure is tested several times. It sounds like Ana wants to go on some conference that involves an overnighter with her sleazeball boss. But I’m with Grey on this one: over my dead fucking body.
The tension in the car is on a level with the Camp David talks, except I don’t think they ever resolved those with sex, although maybe when Clinton was there… and Kennedy. And I wonder if they had problems with the elevators.
I could have walked up from the basement in the time it takes the boss and Ana to get to the Penthouse using the express elevator.
Get a fucking room!
Oh, yeah, the boss has a fucking room. A room for fucking. Jeez, is there any room he hasn’t fucked in? And suddenly I really, really don’t want to know if he’s ever used the staff quarters while I’ve been away. I don’t think so, I mean… that would just be so wrong.
Yeah, and the boss is such a straight up sorta guy. Oh fuck. I need therapy. It’s a good thing I’ve got Flynn’s number on speed dial.
And then I wonder if Flynn ever feels like he needs therapy. Maybe there’s a sort of twisted hierarchy of fucked up shrinks. And if you’ve got the most fucked up patients you get a gong – or a free weekend in the Betty Ford Clinic. Jeez, I wonder what Flynn would win? Or maybe they get sent to isolation clinics when they go crazy – a sort of Anthrax Island for shrinks. I wonder how many of the boss’s doctors are there already.
And just as the evening seems to descend into a pleasant and unusual tranquility, I see the shark-eyed queen succubus drive into the garage.
Sawyer gives me the heads up.
“T, a Mrs. Lincoln wants to see Mr. Grey. She doesn’t have an appointment.”
I can hear the harpy’s voice in the background and she so isn’t getting the new Penthouse access code.
“I’ll key her in, Luke. Send her up.”
The boss is really not going to like this.
I hate doing this to him. He’s got his arms wrapped around Ana, and I can see that she’s soothing him or reassuring him about something and then they kiss.
I feel like such a fucking creep. I clear my throat and the boss’s head snaps up. He looks pissed. Hell, I’d look pissed if I got interrupted like that. But it’s the price he pays for being rich, for needing someone like me. Yeah, I totally get that.
“Mrs. Lincoln is on her way up, sir.”
All I can do is shrug. Your shit, boss. Over to you.
“Well, this should be interesting,” he mutters.
Ana looks really pissed. The boss is right: this is going to be interesting.
“Good evening, Taylor.”
“This way, Mrs. Lincoln.”
“Always so formal, Taylor.”
Yeah, because I’d rather French kiss a bullfrog than spend time with you, lady.
And I really enjoy, really fucking enjoy seeing the shock on the reptile’s face when she sees Ana staring back at her defiantly.
That’s my girl!
And I leave them to it, because no matter how much I care for Ana, I’m not her father. If I was, I’d be fucking proud of her.
I head back to the office and Sawyer buzzes up.
“T, Miss Steele’s Saab has been delivered. Pretty nice ride. I’ll get the GPS set up for it.”
“Good one, Luke. Thanks.”
The Lincoln bitch stays for about half an hour before I have the extreme pleasure of escorting her out. Via the elevator. Although, kicking her bony ass off the balcony would be more rewarding. She’s probably gone home to stir her cauldron.
When the boss wanders into his office, he looks tired and pissed. And yet, he just doesn’t get that the Lincoln troll preys on his negative feelings. He always looks irritated when he’s seen her: for a smart guy, he can be pretty fucking dumb. But I’ve seen a change in him since Ana arrived. Whether he knows it or not, he has less patience for the hag. She senses it, which is why she’s clinging on with every shiny talon she has.
“Sir, Miss Steele’s Saab has arrived. Sawyer is fixing the lo-jack now.”
“Some good fucking news at last,” he mutters. “Thank you, Taylor.”
As the boss heads to his study, I decide I’ve looked at as many monitors as I can stand. I pull my tie free and go to find Gail.
“Has that woman gone?” she says, tightly.
“Yeah, got back on her broomstick and disappeared in a cloud of sulfur.”
“It wouldn’t surprise me in the least, Jason. I keep thinking she’ll turn you into a frog.”
“Wouldn’t matter if she did, baby, I’d just have to kiss you to get turned back.”
“Hmm, well, it is true I kissed a lot of frogs before I met you, Jason.”
“A lot?” That fucking pisses me off.
She just smiles. “Coq au vin?”
Fuck, I love it when she talks French.
At some point in the night, I wake up. I feel Gail moving restlessly next to me.
“He’s playing his piano. Poor Mr. Grey. It’s that woman. She always upsets him when she comes here.”
“Don’t worry about it, baby. I don’t think it’ll be for much longer.”
She turns and stares up at me, her fingers tracing over the bristles on my cheek.
“What makes you say that?”
“Because sooner or later the boss will have to choose: her or Ana. And he’ll choose Ana.”
“I hope you’re right, Jason. I really do.”
I’m not worried because I know that deep down the boss has already chosen; he just doesn’t know it yet. And I’ve chosen Gail; and I really fucking hope she knows it.
Tuesday starts like an ordinary day.
I’m driving; Sawyer’s riding shotgun; Grey’s in the back learning that he’s perpetually in second place when it comes to morning banter with Ana. And she manages to get in a sly little dig about Sawyer ‘spying’ on her. Good thing she doesn’t know about the surveillance we’ve got in the ladies’ bathroom at SIP. Kidding.
And the day starts really well because I hear the boss tell Ana that the bitch is “in the past”. I feel like fucking cheering, but that would be unprofessional. And really uncool. And Sawyer would have a coronary.
I drop off Sawyer and Ana, and take the boss to Grey House. I do all the usual checks and catch up with Welch. Still no sign of the Williams woman. She seems to have gone to ground: she hasn’t bought a plane or train ticket; she hasn’t used her credit card or an ATM machine. Someone is shielding her. And that worries me. A lot.
I do another sweep of Ana’s apartment. It kinda bugs me that she doesn’t know I’m doing it. If she thought about it, she’d probably realize that’s what was going on, but a lot of this stuff she just doesn’t want to know. I get that: it’s a world she never thought would be part of her life. It’s not part of most people’s lives – just the rich, fucked up ones.
At 5.45pm I have the car out front waiting for Grey. There are hearts breaking wide open all over Grey House as the word spreads that the boss is off the market. A lot of the women – and a few of the men – are devastated to hear that he has a real-live girlfriend. Andrea told me that we’d have to get in a grief counselor. I think she was joking, but I’m not sure. Olivia hasn’t been seen since the word went out. ‘Allergies’ is the official reason.
At 6pm we’re outside SIP. Sawyer’s already left to collect some clean clothes from his own apartment and check his mail. He’ll be living at Escala for the next few weeks. I’ve already warned him off Gail, in a completely professional way. “Put an eyeball out of place and I’ll fucking use it for a billiard ball.” You know, a reasonable, measured approach.
The boss is grinning like a fool. And so’s Ana. God, it’s good to see. Makes me want to do my happy dance – which looks a lot like me standing still. But it’s the thought that counts.
I drive to Ana’s apartment and listen in while he talks to Ros about a problem with the Philippines shipment.
I open the door for Ana and she skips out to go check that her friend Ethan is ok. I’m slightly amazed that the boss is letting her be alone with another guy, even for a few seconds. Maybe there is hope for the twisted bastard yet.
Funny word ‘hope’. It’s so small and insignificant-looking, but it’s not. Hope keeps a man alive. And I’m talking from experience.
I sit back in the car, half-listening to Grey’s involved conversation. I glance over towards the door of Ana’s apartment building, but there’s no sign of her.
Grey snaps off his cellphone and starts to look irritated.
We see him at the same time: the Kavanagh kid comes strolling up the street, carrying a heavy travel bag, and spinning a set of keys on his finger. Ana’s keys.
My heart freezes as realization floods through me. Someone let Ana into the apartment. And I know. I know.
I leap out of the car at the same time as Grey. The Kavanagh kid looks up and starts to take a defensive stance; then he recognizes Grey and looks confused.
I snatch Ana’s keys out of his hands and draw my gun.
“Wait here!” I snarl at him – at them.
The boss has gone white but he’s already running up the stairs.
I follow quickly, taking them two at a time.
“Get behind me, sir,” I say, urgently
But he doesn’t listen. He grabs the keys from me and pulls the door open.
And we see her.
With a gun.
Pointed at Ana.
Grey holds out his hand, telling me silently to keep back. Ana’s face is surprisingly calm; I think she’s in shock. But the boss is only just reining it in; he looks like he could tear Leila apart with his bare hands. Only the fact that Ana is unhurt is keeping him together.
We all stare at each other; I’m less than a heartbeat from using my gun. If Leila makes a move, I’ll take her down. If she touches one hair on Ana’s head, I’ll take her down. If she even looks in Ana’s direction, I’ll take her down.
I hear the boss whisper, “Kneel” and the bitch drops to her knees.
No, that’s not right: I can’t call her that. She looks so fucking broken. She’s too thin; her eyes are unnaturally flat and expressionless. I’ve seen that look before – it’s when a person’s mind has seen too much and it stops functioning. It closes down to protect them. I realize that only part of Leila is there.
She drops the gun and the boss strides over to pick it up, grimacing with disgust. Ana looks sick and horrified. She’s staring at Christian and Leila together. It’s something she should never have seen: the boss with one of his submissives. Will this be the thing that breaks her?
“Anastasia, go with Taylor.”
I holster my weapon and walk towards Ana, my arms held out, as if trying to calm a wild animal.
“Ethan,” she murmurs, her pupils black, dilated with fear.
God, she’s strong. So fucking brave. Even now, her thoughts turn to her friend’s safety.
“Downstairs.” She stares at Grey, as if she can’t understand his words. “Anastasia,” he says again, his voice begging her to go. “For the love of God, Anastasia, will you do as you’re told for once in your life and go!”
But she can’t. The poor kid is frozen with horror and sympathy and fear and love. It’s so fucking obvious. To me, at least. The boss is getting desperate. “Taylor, take Miss Steele downstairs. Now.”
“Why?” Her voice is barely audible.
“Go!” he snarls at her. “Back to the apartment. I need to be alone with Leila.”
And then I see it. A little spark in Leila’s eyes: it’s hope.
Ana shouldn’t be here; she shouldn’t see this. “Miss Steele.” She doesn’t respond. “Ana!”
I hold my hand out to her, but she can’t move. She’s still staring at Grey and Leila – at them – together.
I scoop Ana into my arms and take her from the room. She lies limply in my arms, her face stiff with horror.
“It’s okay, Ana. It’s okay,” I murmur, quietly.
A soft whimper escapes her.
As soon as I reach the ground floor the Kavanagh kid is all over her.
“Jesus, Ana! What the fuck is going on?”
I set her on her feet and she throws her arms around his neck, relieved to see he’s unharmed.
My heart goes out to this amazing child-woman. She’s so strong, so brave, so fucking incredible.
Kavanagh is glaring at me like I’m some kind of murderer.
“Who is this guy?”
“Oh, sorry!” she gasps. “This is Taylor. He works with Christian. Taylor, this is Ethan, my roommate’s brother.”
We nod at each other, the tension still radiating through the lobby. Ana explains the situation to him then turns her big, blue eyes on me.
“Was the apartment checked?”
She wipes a tear and my heart cracks.
What can I say to her? I’ve failed her utterly. I’ve failed Grey. And what do I do – pass her a fucking handkerchief to wipe her tears. It seems like the only thing I can ever do for her is to wipe her tears away.
“I’m so sorry, Ana. She does seem to have an uncanny ability to evade us.”
How fucking pathetic is that? It’s as helpful as telling her that I drank half a pint of vodka before my SATs – with a similar fucking result. I fucked up.
“Ethan and I will go for a quick drink and then head back to Escala,” she says quietly, regaining control of herself with astonishing speed.
But the boss really won’t like that.
Especially after all this shit.
“Mr. Grey wanted you to go back to the apartment,” I remind her gently.
“Well, we know where Leila is now,” she says bitterly, and I feel ashamed and disgusted with myself knowing that I left her to deal with the crazy woman. I’m fucking security. How ‘secure’ has Ana been?
“Tell Christian we’ll see him later.”
I try to speak, to tell her how sorry I am again; to beg her to stay where I can keep an eye on her, but no sound comes out.
Her look is judgment enough. I’ve failed. Failed her.
And she leaves.
I head back upstairs, filled with loathing and anger for Grey, whose fucked up life has brought Ana into danger, but more for myself.
I hear the sounds of bathwater running and Grey is speaking quietly and calmly.
“You’re not well, Leila, but I’m going to take care of you. I’ll do everything to help you get better, okay.”
She doesn’t speak but I can hear her humming to herself. She has her arms wrapped around her knees and she’s staring into space.
“Can you hear me, Leila?”
Grey’s eyes are wide and worried. He sees me and looks slightly relieved.
He doesn’t need to know that she’s gone with Kavanagh. Not yet.
“Call Flynn. Get him here.”
I walk into the kitchen and pull out my cellphone.
“Edna, it’s Jason Taylor. Can you tell Dr Flynn that we’ve found Leila Williams?”
“How is she?”
“Not good. She’ll need hospitalization. I’m no doctor, but she looks pretty spaced out.”
“I’ll tell him, Mr Taylor.”
I give her the address and she promises that Flynn will be here within the hour.
I phone Gail, giving her an update. She’s shocked. Of course she’s fucking shocked.
“Look, Ana is coming back with a friend – brother of her roommate. She was… just look after her until we get home, okay, baby?”
“Of course I will. Oh, Jason, it’s so… are you alright?”
“I’m fine, baby. I gotta go. But I’ll be home soon.”
Reluctantly, I head back into the main room.
The boss is coaxing Leila into the bathroom. Even from across the room I can see that she’s filthy. Her hair is lank and greasy and her clothes look as if she’s been sleeping on the streets. Maybe that’s why we couldn’t find her.
When she doesn’t respond, the boss picks her up in his arms. His gesture is almost loving, although I can see the tension on his face. And I remember a time when Leila was the one who was full of hope: laughing and playful. Really fucking nosy, too, but not bad. Not cruel – not like the Lincoln bitch.
And I keep seeing more casualties from the train-wreck that is the boss’s life. Leila is the latest casualty and I hope, I really fucking hope, that Ana is strong enough to survive.
He sets Leila on her feet and undresses her slowly, talking to her the whole time. I feel like a voyeur but I stay for two reasons: in case she becomes violent; and to protect the boss from any accusation she might decide to make at a later date. Because, let’s face it, undressing her like this, he’s leaving himself open in a pretty fucking perilous way. If this whole thing ever got to court, Grey wouldn’t have a leg to stand on – he’d be ruined. He’d face jail time. The facts are: he had a deviant sexual relationship with a woman who then threatens his girlfriend with a weapon; Leila is found naked and distressed and totally unable to distinguish fact from fantasy. What jury in the world wouldn’t find him guilty of molestation at the very least?
His gesture is caring, but he is risking fucking everything – and he doesn’t even see it. His instinct is to take care of her. He was her Dom – he owes it to her. But how many people would really understand that?
And it all goes back to Elena fucking Lincoln. She got him into this fucked up lifestyle. But Grey is the one who’s paid the price. And paid. And paid.
Christ, I hope Flynn gets here soon.
He lowers her into the tub and begins to wash her hair. Carefully, he pours cups of warm water over her head and rubs in some shampoo. Ana’s shampoo. It seems so fucking wrong.
All the time he’s talking to her, about her painting, about music, about the songs she likes.
She murmurs wordlessly and I’m not even sure if she hears him.
Suddenly she says, “What day is it?”
“It’s Tuesday, Leila,” he says, quietly.
“Why is it Tuesday? What day is it?”
“But why? Why is it Tuesday?”
“It’s going to be okay, Leila. I’ll take care of you.”
“Take care. Take care. Take care. What day is it?”
“Hmm. Mmm. Mmm.”
Grey looks at me helplessly.
“Flynn’s on his way, sir,” I repeat, uselessly.
He nods and continues washing her.
“Can you get her some clothes?” he says, in a whisper. “Ana’s room is on the right.”
It chills me to think that Leila will be wearing Ana’s clothes, but having gone this far, what the fuck does it matter now?
I feel so fucking rancid going through Ana’s closet, like some creepy stalker. I pull out some clothes and hope they’re not Ana’s favorites. That would be a sacrilege. I’m sorry, Ana. So fucking sorry.
I help the boss to dress Leila. It reminds me of dressing Sophie when she was a little girl, trying to stuff arms and legs into holes that all seem to be in the wrong places.
But Leila isn’t a little girl: she’s a full grown woman. A broken woman.
The front door buzzes. The boss jumps and I nearly fucking shoot myself; but Leila doesn’t even react. She’s somewhere else, completely detached from her mind, and I can’t help wondering if she’ll ever find her way back.
I open the door for Flynn. He has a woman with him in pale blue scrubs.
“Hello, Jason. This is Nurse Wroska.”
We shake hands briefly.
“They’re on the first floor.”
“How is she?”
I shrug. “Coping.”
“Shocked. She’s with a friend.”
We walk in and the boss is carrying Leila to the couch.
Flynn smiles in a friendly way.
“Hello, Leila. I’m John. I’m a friend of Christian’s. I’m going to help you.”
“Mmm. Mmm. Mmm. What day is it?”
“Tuesday: and a new day for you, Leila. Do you like Tuesdays?”
“Mmm. Tuesday? Is it Friday yet? I see him on a Friday. I see Master on a Friday.”
Flynn and the boss exchange a glance. Grey looks tortured. So he fucking should be.
“Leila, I’m going to give you something that will make you feel a bit sleepy. It’ll help you to sleep.”
“Mmm. Mmm. Is it Friday?”
Flynn takes a syringe out of his bag and slides it into her arm.
And suddenly she turns her eyes to the boss and smiles. “I love you,” she says. “My Dark Angel.”
Grey looks utterly shocked.
We’re all relieved when the drugs start to work and her eyes close. She’s still smiling.
“I’ll carry her,” says the boss in a choked voice.
He wraps hers in a blanket and picks her up carefully, lovingly, then carries her out to the waiting ambulance which is really a large cruiser with heavily-tinted windows. The boss still cares about being discreet. Or maybe that’s Flynn.
Flynn and the nurse climb in with them and I follow in the SUV.
I wonder where Ana is.
God, Ana, I’m so sorry.
The hospital is a quiet nightmare. Sorry… the treatment facility. Wide, green lawns stretch up towards a white building. It’s not a state-run place for crazies – it’s the best that money can buy. Of course. You can be fucked up in comfort. Even the staff act like they’re on Thorazine. Calm. All calm. Too fucking calm.
The hairs on the back of my neck prickle uncomfortably and I can’t wait to get the fuck out. From the look on his face, Grey feels the same. I wonder if he ever got sent to a place like this when he was a kid. Drugs to make your sleep; drugs to make you wake up; drugs to make you forget. It’s chilling what can happen to people. You can lose your job, lose your home, lose every fucking thing and you’re still you. But if you lose your mind… what’s left?
Flynn lays a reassuring hand on the boss’s shoulder.
“You should go now, Christian. I’ll make sure Leila settles in. She’ll get the help she needs here. There’s nothing more you can do.”
“No, I’ll stay, John. She seems… calmer… when I’m here.”
“Christian, right now Leila is medicated and she’s sleeping. She’ll be watched and assessed. She’s exhausted. Let her sleep and I’ll come back and see her in the morning. And I strongly, strongly suggest that you don’t try to see her. Let me talk to her first.”
“No, I should stay. I’ll…”
“Christian, this isn’t where you belong. Ana will need you now.”
The boss’s eyes go wide with shock and he runs his hands through his hair.
He turns to look at me.
“She said she was going for a drink and then back to Escala, sir.”
He looks relieved and picks up his cellphone.
“Sir, she left her purse and cell in the car. We should go back now, sir.”
“Yes. Fuck, yes!” He looks utterly bewildered, then fights to pull himself together. “Thank you, Taylor. John, call me tomorrow?”
“Of course, Christian. You’ve done everything you can for her. We’ll speak soon.”
The boss gets in the car and I drive fucking fast all the way back to Escala.
But when we get there, Gail is waiting anxiously in the entrance hall.
“Where’s Miss Steele?” says Grey, searching about him, his eyes desperate.
“I’m sorry, Mr Grey. She hasn’t come home yet.”
Oh no. Ana! Where the fuck are you?