“Oh, Taylor! I’m going to ride you until you pop like warm champagne!”
I look up into Gail’s warm, blue eyes, my hands reaching up to touch her full, round, beautiful breasts.
We move together like we were made for each other and I know I’m close, so close…
A persistent ringing noise intrudes on the moment.
What the fuck? My fucking alarm has gone off.
And I wake up. Alone. And… oh what? Sticky. A fucking wet dream? I don’t believe this! What am I, 14 for fuck’s sake?
I fight my way out of the knotted sheets and sit on the edge of the bed, calming my wild thoughts and ragged breathing.
Just a dream. But a damn fine dream. Jeez. I haven’t had a dream like that since… I’ve never had a dream like that. I blame Grey and all the kinky shit that goes down, no pun intended, in this fucking apartment.
I stagger to my feet and into the shower, washing away the dream, the stickiness, the nascent confusion. This is not me. This is not how I behave. I am not so fucking stupid as to screw the staff. I will not lose Gail her job. No matter how much I might want her. Stop this now, Taylor. Get a fucking grip.
I trail back into my room feeling slightly depressed. The bed is a mess and, oh god, just a fucking mess.
I dress quickly in my sweats and running shoes, then pull the sheets off and bundle them up to take to the utility room.
“Oh, good morning, Jason. Did you sleep well?”
Yeah, too fucking well.
“Fine, thank you, Gail.”
“You really don’t have to do that, you know,” she says, pointing to the sheets. “Let me take those from you.”
“No, that’s fine, I can manage,” I say slightly too emphatically.
Her face falls. “Really, it’s no trouble. It’s nice to have someone to look after as well as Mr Grey.”
I don’t know what to say to that. Nobody has looked after me since… well, my mom, I guess. The Bitch certainly didn’t. But maybe I’m not being fair – we were both so young and I was away saving the world on behalf of the US Marines. I realise I haven’t replied to Gail and she’s still watching me looking slightly hurt.
“Old habits, Gail,” I mutter, slinging the sheets into the washing machine and slamming the door.
She smiles at me. “I understand. But, please, let me do that in future. You have enough on your plate with Mr Grey.”
Her gentle reminder makes me look at my watch. Shit! 5.59am – and the bastard doesn’t do waiting.
“Thanks, Gail!” I call over my shoulder as I jog out to the main room.
I hear her laughing voice behind me. “You’re welcome!”
Grey is leaving his bedroom when I reach the foyer. Just made it. He gives me a curious look.
“Everything ok, Taylor?” Shit, the guy really doesn’t miss anything.
He nods, looking distracted. We ride the elevator to the ground floor in our usual silence. Then he says,
“I’ve changed the schedule for this morning. I’ll be seeing Dr Flynn at 8.30am. His address details are on your desk.”
I wonder if he’s ill. He looks ok, maybe just a bit more distracted than usual.
He powers along at his usual rate for six miles, ignoring the glances he gets from other joggers, especially those of the female persuasion. I suspect he knows he’s a good looking bastard but he doesn’t give a shit. I’ve certainly never seen him use the fact of this advantage on anyone – not even gorgeous Gail. And he’d better not start.
At 8.15am we’re in the car and off to see the doc. I’m taken aback when I realise that Dr Flynn isn’t a physician but a shrink. I don’t know what to make of this: it can only mean that Grey knows he has problems and is trying to deal with them. And for a moment I try to imagine what it must be like to have untold wealth, and responsibility for over 30,000 employees at the age of 23, to have a nightmarish start in life, and to have the claws of a woman like Mrs L digging into your sorry carcass. But my imagination isn’t that good: I have no fucking idea what all that shit must feel like.
So I just wait, thank Christ that I’m an ordinary Joe, and go over the rest of his schedule for the week. I’d really like to get an afternoon off so I can go and check out these kindergartens for Sophie and spend some quality time with my number one gal. I’ll wait and see what sort of mood he’s in when the head shrinker has finished with him.
He’s in there for an hour and a half but he seems calm when he comes out. So on the way to the office, I risk asking.
“I was wondering if I could take the afternoon off. I’d be back by 7pm to drive you to the fundraiser at the Fairmont.”
He frowns. Oh well, it was worth asking.
“Fucking fundraiser. Yes, of course, Taylor. Take the Audi, if you like. Ask Mrs Jones to send my tux to the office and I’ll go straight from there.”
“Thank you, sir.”
Once again the bastard has me on the back foot: Take the Audi.
I fucking love driving this car. It’s high up so there’s good all round vision and it’s got every safety feature under the sun. But best of all, the bespoke sound system that Grey’s had put in is fantastic. It’s like having the musicians in the car with you.
I flick through his CDs: it’s an eclectic mix including all the Rat Pack, Alicia Keys, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Springsteen, Puccini, Chopin, and some early medieval music that I’ve never heard of. I put on Californication and turn it up LOUD.
I’ve texted the Bitch to let her know I’m coming. We try to keep communication to the minimum. But first I’ve got to check out these schools. I have no idea what I’m looking for; I’m just gonna trust my instincts when I get there. And I’m really looking forward to doing this dad shit.
The first school is fucking awful: full of tiny kids who should be getting dirty and eating worms but instead wearing uniforms and sitting in rows, rote-learning the state capitals. They’re three, for fuck’s sake. The Principal is a real tight-ass, too, so I give him my best thousand yard stare until the prick is fucking quaking in his slip-on shoes.
The next two are much more to my taste: easy going, friendly, with happy-looking kids and great facilities. The last one perhaps has the edge as they seem to do lots of day camps and outdoors stuff. Not sure how Princess Sophie will feel about all that, but it sure appeals to her old man. Still, I can always play nice and let the Bitch decide. It’ll go easier if she gets some choice in the matter. I’ll just tell her that the new boss will pay for one or the other.
When Sophie sees me she half stumbles, half waddles up the drive yelling, “Daddy! Daddy!”
It’s a bittersweet moment, seeing my gorgeous girl and also knowing that I’m just a peripheral part of my daughter’s life.
I kneel down and she throws her chubby arms around my neck and I bury my face in her soft, curly hair. I can’t get enough of that amazing baby scent.
“Hey, baby girl! I think you grew again. Got a kiss for your daddy?”
She plants a loud, wet kiss on my cheek then wrinkles her button nose.
“Ugh! Prickles, daddy!” and she rubs one finger cautiously over the faint stubble that’s grown since this morning.
I look up and the Bitch is watching me.
“Lucy. How are you?”
She sighs. “Still the great conversationalist, Jason.”
I scowl, but bite back the hundred come-backs that spring to mind: not in front of Sophie.
I tell her about the schools I’ve seen. Naturally she’s pissed that her choice is restricted to just these two.
“And what if I want to decide a completely different school is the best place to send my daughter?”
Sophie is playing in the backyard – some complicated game with a set of plastic ponies.
“Our daughter. And you can choose – either of those two schools; whichever you prefer.”
“What if I don’t like either of them?”
“It’s not about what you like, it’s what’s about best for Sophie – and those are the best.”
“Look, Lucy. They’re good schools. Just go and have a look.”
“You’re trying to bully me into doing what you want, as always, Jason.”
“For fuck’s sake, Lucy, will you just go and fucking look at them!”
“Don’t swear at me, Jason. We’re not married now.”
“They seem like great schools. Just go and look.” I decide to try a more conciliatory tone: “Please.”
There’s a pause.
“How’s your new job?” she says at last.
“Fine. How’s your mother?”
“Do we have anything else to say to each other?”
I walk into the garden and kiss my princess. She’s in the middle of her game so she waves me away imperiously. She’s so like her mother. But I fucking love her anyway.
The fundraiser at the Fairmont is so fucking tedious I’m in danger of falling asleep with my eyes open. I mean, the job I do, I’ve been to a lot of these high-faluting, dull-as-ditchwater speaker marathons: lots of rich folk, flashing their cash. All worthy causes, but all so fucking tedious. From what Andrea tells me, Grey attends two or three of these things a month. I don’t know how Grey stands it. I don’t know how I’ll stand it.
There are about 250 guests in total and about half a dozen have security. Like me, they hover at the back, eyes flicking about the room for anything out of the ordinary that could signal danger. I recognise one of them: James Rayment, English guy, ex-SAS, hard as fucking nails. He nods at me and I nod back. We don’t speak.
I’m starting to be able to read Grey’s body language and I can tell he’s bored witless. He hides it well but I can see that he’s holding his body rigid and then every few minutes he forgets and starts fidgeting; then he realises, and his spine stiffens, trying to hold it all together. I reckon the present speaker has about three minutes before Grey is out of there.
I start counting. At three minutes and 45 seconds Grey looks over at me and gives a subtle nod. Yeah, I’m good.
He slides away from the table, whispers something to the bald guy on his left and strides away from the table. The speaker falters in her delivery as her eyes follow him from the podium, but Grey is a man on a mission: he wants out of there.
I’m about to join him at the exit when Rayment tilts his head, sending me a subtle message. He taps his earpiece gently and softly lays three fingers on the sleeve of his jacket. I frown and nod back. He raises one eyebrow as if asking me a question, and looks towards the exit. He’s asking me if I need assistance. Probably not: I give a small shake of my head and he indicates that he understands. But now I’m on the alert.
Rayment has told me that there are civvys outside, unarmed, but out for some mayhem. This is probably the low level situation that Welch warned me about when I took this job. Rayment’s also offering back up and he’s let me know that he has eyes and ears outside this room, so I’m cool that whatever is coming our way is under control, as much as it can be.
Grey is about to exit the room but he glances over to me. I narrow my eyes slightly and shake my head. He looks pissed but he waits for me to reach him.
“What is it, Taylor?”
“Three men in the foyer: possible interception in mind. We should leave via the fire exit, sir.”
Grey glances over to the nearest fire exit: but one of the guests has sprawled out asleep in his chair. If we go that way, we’ll have to wake him up.
Grey shakes his head and starts to open the main door.
“If I could go first, sir.”
He frowns but allows me to exit in front of him. I see them straight away and I’m surprised that hotel security hasn’t already moved them on – useless fucking amateurs.
Two are sitting pretending to read newspapers and the third one is leaning against a pillar, trying – and failing – to look nonchalant.
Casually I check my weapon. I don’t want to pull it unnecessarily: Grey has made his feelings on guns abundantly clear, but if it means doing my job, I don’t give a flying fuck what he thinks – and he knows that.
I don’t have to tell Grey which men are of concern: he can read the situation as well as I can. But then two more men enter the foyer and the odds aren’t as favorable. I glance at Grey: he’s not going to panic, in fact he looks like he’s enjoying himself. Shit! I really hope he isn’t going to start anything.
When they see Grey, four of the men start chanting.
“Bigger cages! Longer chains!”
“Eat the rich!”
“Power to the people!”
“A spectre is haunting the world!”
Grey rolls his eyes. “Oh, for fuck’s sake, could they be any less original?”
I’m amused: four men are yelling in his face and he’s irritated by their lack of originality. Does anything phase this guy? I note that a reporter camped out in the foyer has woken up and is snapping photos. I’ll deal with him later.
The hotel security are moving at a sluggish pace, converging on the four chanting men. The parking valet is standing open-mouthed with his finger up his ass instead of fetching our car: fucking idiot.
The fifth man, the size of a linebacker, has my antenna twitching: he’s clearly the one in charge. He’s got something concealed in his hand and it could be a weapon.
But one of the fucking hotel security barges between me and Grey and I see the fifth man make his move.
I shove the guard out of my way as the fifth man raise his hand.
“Christian!” I yell at the top of my voice as I hurdle the falling guard.
Grey swivels, sees the danger, drops to his hands and one knee, the other leg lashing round behind him and sweeping the legs out from under his attacker. The man falls heavily, dropping his weapon. Grey kicks it away, rolls the man onto his front and pulls his gun hand behind his back, using his foot to lever the man’s arm into a brutal arm lock, still keeping his own hands free. He flicks his eyes around, looking for danger, but the hotel security have contained the other four men.
From the corner of my eye I see Rayment and two other pros exiting the auditorium, guns drawn.
Grey lets one of the other security guards pull up the man on the floor, who’s swearing green and blue. I retrieve the fallen weapon: a can of red paint.
Rayment strolls on over to me.
“Yeah, thanks for the heads up, Rayment.”
Fucking limeys. I never have any idea what they’re talking about.
“Your guvnor? Eyebrows he sorted that gobshite. Fat knacker!”
I shake my head and see that Rayment is smiling. I look at Grey, wondering if I still have a job – I shouldn’t have let the hotel security get between us. He’s glaring at the photographer who’s just scored the pictures of a life time: Christian Grey manhandling an anti-capitalist protestor in one of Seattle’s top hotels.
I walk towards the photographer and he’s snapping pictures the whole time, backing away from me.
“You can’t touch me! I’m just doing my job, man!”
I ignore him. He’s doing his job? Yeah, well, I’m fucking doing mine!
I pull the camera out of his hands and scroll through all the photos he’s taken. The guy’s pretty good: he’s caught the whole thing, including the look of fierce enjoyment on Grey’s face as he floors the fucker. I delete every image and, just for good measures, take out the memory card, bend it between my fingers, then give it back to him, completely mangled. He knows he’s just lost the best part of twenty grand by losing those pictures.
He starts bleating about the Fifth Amendment and Freedom of the Press but I don’t give a shit. I’m in a filthy fucking temper.
Grey, on the other hand, looks like he’s enjoying himself.
“I’ll get the car, sir,” I say, throwing an evil look at the parking valet who’s still acting like a waxwork.
“Ok, Taylor,” Grey says affably.
The hotel manager comes running up. The fat bastard is pale, his eyes wide with apprehension: it’ll be his job if Christian Grey makes a complaint.
“I’m so sorry, Mr Grey. We never… I can’t believe… I’ll be speaking to our security… such a shock… not at the Fairmont, never before… my apologies, sir… I…”
Grey waves him off with an amused look on his face.
“A memorable fundraiser, Mr Dalton,” he says dryly then walks away, leaving the manager tugging at his tie, his face sweaty with fear.
The valet has finally turned up with the car. He drops the keys into my hand and dodges out of the way before I can say anything to him – or worse. Wisely, he doesn’t wait for a tip.
Grey slides into the car, I lock the doors and we’re away, dodging the rest of the fucking photographers who are grouped outside and braying like a drove of fucking donkeys.
As we drive away, I catch his eye in the rear view mirror.
“Thank your friend for me, Taylor. Premium tickets to the next Mariner’s game, maybe?”
“Thank you, sir,” I mutter.
He looks amused but he doesn’t speak again.
I guess it makes a change from mergers and acquisitions.