Gail takes my breath away.
She’s funny and clever and has the most fantastic ass of any woman I’ve ever known. And believe me, since she asked me if I was ever going to ask her out, I’ve made the most of her lapse in judgement.
“Jason, can I ask you something?”
“Sure, Gail, what is it?”
“Are you ever going to ask me out?”
I think back to that night. She didn’t have to ask me twice. The only thing that had been holding me back was my concern that she could lose her job. Most employers prefer to think of their staff as celibate, inanimate household appliances. I didn’t know Grey’s view, but if Gail didn’t care, well, I didn’t need a fucking written invitation.
There she sat, looking right into me, seeing everything with those beautiful blue eyes, so warm and trusting. Her gaze was magnetic, pulling me in. My hand reached across the table and I stroked her cheek. Her eyelids fluttered and she leaned into my hand, sighing softly.
The distance across the table was too far. I stood up and walked round to her side, drawn to her.
She put her soft, cool hands in mine and I pulled her upwards.
She smiled and I felt the breath leave my body. So beautiful. So fucking beautiful.
Gently, she wrapped her arms around my neck and pulled my face towards her. Her lips touched mine and desire pulsed through me. I couldn’t hold back any longer, god help me. I wanted her, every inch of her. Badly.
She pulled away from me, gasping for breath, my vehemence taking her by surprise. Then she smiled and without speaking, she took my hand and led me into her bedroom.
A thousand images collide in my memory: her skin, her scent, her softness, her warmth, the tenderness of her touch, her passion scorching through me. Over and over again our bodies meeting and combining, the loneliness erased in sweat and kisses and heat. Fucking fireworks! Nothing cool, calm and collected about a passionate woman taking what she wants.
We’ve slept maybe an hour when the alarm on my wristwatch goes off.
“Fuck! Fucking alarm!”
I sit up dazed and slightly disoriented. Then I see Gail smiling up at me, her blonde hair all mussed like cotton candy, a bright halo around her.
“Good morning! You’re very eloquent, Jason!”
She’s laughing, teasing me, and I’m so fucking happy I’ve got this ridiculous schoolboy grin plastered across my face.
I swoop back down to kiss her and for the briefest of moments the connection is there again. Then she puts her hand against my chest and pushes gently.
“I am up.”
She laughs. “You have work. Go! Time for Mr Grey’s morning run!”
I groan. After last night’s work-out with Gail, the last thing I feel like is a six mile sprint with the boss.
She pushes me again. “I’ll have breakfast waiting for you when you get back.”
“God, you’re a fantastic woman. Where have you been all my life?”
“Jason, you’ve already had me. Flattery won’t get you any further.”
I shrug. “Sure about that?”
She laughs again, then reaches onto the floor and throws my pants at me.
“Go! Don’t forget your pants!”
“The words every man wants to hear.”
But now I hustle. I scoop up the rest of my clothes and do a nude sprint across our lounge to my own room, taking a chance that Grey isn’t going to come looking for me just yet. I pull on my sweats and running shoes and head out.
Grey is waiting in the foyer. He looks pissed. Guess I must be a second late. I think he’s going to chew my ass out but then he raises his eyebrows and looks like he’s hiding a smile. What’s his problem?
But when I get in the elevator I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirrored walls. I look like hell. My buzz cut is sticking out on one side. I have no idea how that happened; because I sure didn’t spend that much time sleeping on it last night, but basically I look like shit. I may as well hang a sign around my neck saying ‘Well fucked’. I wonder if he’s going to say something.
But nope, no comments. That changes when we get outside, instead of the usual, the bastard goes faster than his normal pace! He fucking motors around one of our longer circuits and when I catch a glimpse of his face, I can see he’s smirking at me. He knows! I don’t usually have trouble keeping up with a client on a run. I’m used to fat fuckers who wheeze their way round a one kilometer track. Grey’s killing me! And he’s enjoying it. Twisted fucker.
By the time we get back Escala my legs feel like lead and my eyeballs are about ready to pop out of my head and dribble down my face. But he still hasn’t said anything about Gail. Will he? I get the feeling he’s made his point.
He heads off to shower leaving me standing in the foyer. Whatever he’s going to do, I can’t change what happened, and I don’t want to. No way. Not for a twisted fucker like Grey.
Gail is in the kitchen. She looks damn fine in her neat uniform of white shirt and black skirt, her hair still damp.
I can’t help myself. I walk up and wrap my arms around her waist while she’s cooking and nuzzle her neck.
“Hi honey, I’m home,” I say softly.
She laughs. “Well, go shower and I’ll get you some breakfast. Now! Or I’ll end up burning this.” God, I love her ordering me about!
By the time I climb out of the shower, the kitchen is empty. She must be serving Grey. Suddenly I’m anxious that he doesn’t say something to her when I’m not there to defend her. If he fucking starts on her, I’ll fucking kill him!
I’m half way up the corridor when Gail returns. She stares at the expression on my face.
“What’s the matter, Jason? You look…”
“Did Grey say anything to you?”
“About what?” she looks genuinely puzzled but I’m relieved.
“I just… I got the impression this morning that he knows.”
She blushes. “Oh! How?”
“I guess… I looked rougher than usual this morning,” I remind her.
She smiles. “Yes, you weren’t not your usual debonair self.”
“Debonair? I don’t think anyone has ever called me that before.”
“Really? I think you look very fine in your suit. But this morning…” she laughs, “not quite as suave as usual.”
“Suave and debonair? I could get used to these compliments, Mrs Jones.”
“You might have to, Mr Taylor!” Then she frowns. “Mr Grey didn’t say anything to me: he seemed exactly the same as usual. Oh, he did ask me to tell you that he’s going to Bellevue tonight for supper with his parents.”
“Don’t you like the Greys?”
“Yeah, they’re fine. It’s just… Mia.”
She laughs. “Mr Taylor! Are you telling me that an ex-Marine with your years of experience in close protection can’t handle one 18 year old girl?”
“Yeah, that’s about the size of it.”
“You want me to come and protect you?”
“Would you, Mrs Jones?”
“Why certainly, Mr Taylor. If you’re scared.”
The day drags. I’m not usually needed while the boss is at Grey HQ, so I head to the CCTV room and doze with my eyes open, my head propped up on my hand. The rest of the security staff leave me alone: most are ex-services, and they know the look of someone who’s been awake all night. They just assume it’s to do with Grey, certainly not the delectable Gail. And they aren’t going to know. Some things are just private.
By 7pm most of the staff have left, just a few ass-kissers who want to impress the boss with their work ethic. They’d have to work 24/7 to put in longer hours than him. And there are few female employees hovering in reception hoping that he’ll notice them. Dream on, ladies, it ain’t gonna happen. Not now he’s got his new sub. She’ll be coming over this weekend, I guess.
The thought sours my mood. Gail will be away while the boss breaks in the new one, Leila. Maybe I’ll be able to get away and see Sophie if Grey isn’t planning on leaving the apartment during one of his marathon fuckeroos.
But first I’ve got to get through an evening at the Greys or, more specifically, spend the evening avoiding Mia Grey’s attentions. I ponder the idea of camouflage but figure the boss might ask questions if I turn up to drive him with boot black smeared across my face.
He’s quiet on the drive over to Bellevue. Suits me, although a little conversation would help me stay awake.
I pull up at the Grey’s mansion. It’s beautiful and serene and again I wonder how someone so fucked up could have come out of a place like this. Maybe there are some memories that no number of happy years can entirely erase. I should know: one tour of Iraq, two in Afghan. But I wasn’t a kid – and I wasn’t alone.
Mrs Grey is waiting, her face lighting up when I open the boss’s door and he steps out of the car.
“Happy birthday, Christian, darling!” she says, kissing him carefully on the cheek. “And congratulations on your helicopter pilot’s licence.”
Yeah, the boss got his licence last week. And the obscenely rich bastard has bought himself a Eurocopter equipped for night flying. Fuck. He’s better resourced than my old Unit.
“Mother,” he smiles briefly.
His birthday? He didn’t say anything. But then again, why would he? Although some people I’ve worked for expect the staff to give them a fucking parade every time something happens in their insular little worlds. Not Grey.
“Taylor, you can park the car around the side. There’ll be a meal for you in the kitchen…or or you may prefer to sleep in the car?”
His face is impassive but I can tell he’s amused, referring, no doubt, to the pile of shit who escorted him on his run this morning. Bastard.
I get back in the car just as Mia Grey gallops into view. I catch sight of her disappointed face in the car’s wing mirrors. I have a feeling I’ll be seeing more of her later.
Security at the Grey mansion obviously isn’t a priority. There are multiple possible entry points, not least from the waterside. If the boss is going to spend much time here, there’ll need to be changes. In fact, I’m going to recommend that Welch speaks to him about upgrading security for his whole family. If someone wanted to make a quick buck, his family would be a softer target than Grey himself, living in his isolated Escala fortress.
After checking out the perimeter, I wander into the kitchen. The cook introduces herself as Nora. She’s a friendly looking woman in her fifties and has produced a fine meal of poached salmon. Objectively, I’d say not quite up to Gail’s standards, but pretty good.
I’m just about to head back to the car when Mia Grey dances in. Nora is serving in the dining room, and Miss Grey’s eyes light up when she sees she’s caught me alone.
“Hi Taylor! Christian said you’d be sleeping in the car, but here you are. Are you waiting for me?”
I need to nip this in the bud… before my nerve fails.
“Miss Grey, you’re going to get me fired and I like being employed – and having all my limbs attached.”
“Oh! Don’t worry about Christian! You’re so cute when you’re serious! What’s your first name? Christian won’t tell me. Have you got a girlfriend? Oh, you’re the strong, silent type, aren’t you? I think you and Christian are well suited.”
Suddenly she blushes.
“Oh! I don’t mean like that! Not that there’s anything wrong with that.”
Crap! What did I miss? Now she thinks I’m the boss’s bum-buddy? How’d she get from flirting with me to that?
Thankfully Nora returns before I manage to connect my brain to the parts that speak. Nora casts a stern and disapproving eye at me but smiles warmly at Miss Grey. Fucking typical – some women always think men are the bad guys!
I make my excuses and leave, while Mia pouts prettily. She’s going to give some guy a stroke one day – and it might be me.
I manage to get an hour’s shut-eye in the SUV with the seat right back before the boss leaves the house. His elder brother Elliot is with him and I can see from the way he’s eyeing me, Miss Grey has apprised him of her latest theory. For fuck’s sake! Now I’m the boss’s beard? But at least it’ll keep little Miss Grey off my ass. Oh crap, unfortunate expression, given the circumstances. I just want to get the hell out of here.
We drive back to Escala in silence. I wonder whether I should wish the boss a happy birthday but I’m so fucked off with his family I can’t summon up the enthusiasm. I think back to how I spent my 24th birthday: off my face with the rest of my platoon. Grey doesn’t seem to have any friends. In fact, despite his vast wealth, he’s not a happy guy – just fucking miserable in luxury. The only time I’ve seen him really smile is when he’s sailing or flying. And when he’s not doing that, he’s working. Or fucking. The thought reminds me that Miss Leila Williams will be here at the weekend.
I drive into the garage and Grey is straight into the elevator and away. I do a quick re-con but I recognise all the vehicles: no strangers in here tonight.
It’s after midnight so I assume that Gail has already gone to bed. She’s left a light on in the staff kitchen for me – with a glass of milk and a plate of cookies. God, I love this woman! Under the cookies, there’s a note. She’s written one word: ‘Tired?’