The boss is in a vile temper. Again. Still. I suspect it’s to do with a certain little brown-haired student from WSUV.
Andrea told me in a hushed tone that he cancelled his meeting with Barney to spend more time alone with Miss Steele, then escorted her to the elevators after the interview. She really didn’t need to; I saw it all on CCTV. And I recognised the look on his face. He’s interested – in a way I’ve never seen before. I mean, I know that look: he gets it when he’s enthusiastic if someone’s telling him about a new work project, or agricultural development as the WSU farming division. It’s pretty rare, but I’ve also seen it when he’s going soaring or sailing. He’s excited.
And I have a bad feeling about this. If the boss is excited about a woman, it can only end one way. And Miss Anastasia Steele looks so young and shy and innocent.
He’s ordered a security check from Welch and you know what, there’s nothing to find. She’s not overdrawn at the bank; she doesn’t do drugs; she doesn’t seem to drink much; she hardly ever goes out; she has a part-time job in a hardware store, for fucks sake; and Welch can’t find any evidence of a boyfriend. Which is strange – the girl is pretty damn cute, even in badly-fitting thrift-store clothes.
In the meantime, the boss is working out like it’s the only thing stopping his brain from frying. He runs with me, trains with Claude, and works out in the basement gym.
Every night this week, he’s woken up screaming – and I’m so fucking tired of that maudlin shit he plays on his piano at 4am every day. I’m thinking of buying ear plugs – except that paid security is supposed to be eyes and ears 24/7. I’m seriously thinking about looking for a new job, and I would – if it weren’t for Gail.
She sees there’s something up with Grey but, despite what she knows about him, she thinks he’s decent. Is that the word? It’s partly true, I’ve seen the depth of his philanthropic projects, his lack of interest in publicity, how hard he works but… and it’s a big but, there’s something behind his eyes: a barely contained violence. Gail has never seen him come close to losing it – I have, and Krakatowa waiting to blow has nothing on him. And then, of course, there are the subs: one after another, beaten into submission. Only Leila walked away from him.
Weirdly enough, she was the one I would have said was going to stick around. Despite his coldness and aloofness with her, I could see that he cared for her, in his own stunted way. Sometimes she even made him smile: her liveliness, her mischievous nature. Or maybe it was the fucking awful paintings she did – and he agreed to hang them on his walls, in the white box he calls a home. I never did understand that! Leila pushed him further than any of the other girls: she put Beyoncé and Britney on his I-pod – no fucking taste – and he even let her play it – loud! He took her clothes shopping, which he’d never done with any of the other subs. Gail was convinced they’d end up as boyfriend-girlfriend. But it ended after six months – just like they all do. At least she was smart enough to walk away before he broke her.
And now this girl, Anastasia. She’s too young, too innocent – certainly not someone into his twisted lifestyle. I don’t like it.
“Jason, do you really think Mr Grey would hurt this girl?”
Gail is frowning at me. I know a way to bring a smile to her face. I try to wrap my arms around her waist and pull her into my lap but she laughs and steps away.
“Oh no, let’s try and have a conversation that doesn’t end up with me wondering where I’ve left my bra!”
“Those are my favourite sort of conversations, Mrs Jones.”
“I’ve noticed, Mr Taylor. But you’ll have to take a rain check: I’m cooking supper and Mr Grey will be back from the gym soon.”
She frowns as she says this. Jeez, she’s actually worried about him.
“No problem. I like to watch you cook, woman.”
She flicks a tea-towel at me. I manage to duck just in time.
“Good reflexes, Mr Taylor.”
“I can show you some better ones.”
“Jason! Do you ever stop?”
“Never, baby. Twenty-four/seven; that’s what I’m paid for. But if you agreed to marry me, I’d be all yours, 24/7.”
She sighs. “We’ve been over this. The answer is still ‘no’!”
“One day you’ll say ‘yes’, Gail.”
“If I did, you’d have a heart attack!”
“Yeah, but what a way to go.”
She shakes her head and sighs, an exasperated sound, but even though she’s got her back to me, I know she’s smiling.
Her question eats away at me: would Grey hurt the girl? Only if she agreed to his playroom rules. So, yes, I think he would hurt her, given the chance. After all, that’s his only way of having a relationship with a woman. Sick fucker. Whether this girl would agree to it, that’s something else entirely. I know that Grey is charismatic, I’ve seen him in action often enough; I’ve seen the way women respond to his looks – and I’ve seen him despise them for it. He’s not vain, although he likes to dress well, but that’s a uniform, part of the image, the Grey brand. So would a naïve, young-looking college girl from small town Washington fall for the handsome billionaire? You do the math.
If I don’t like the way things go, I’ll have to leave – with or without Gail. The thought makes me as sick as fuck.
So when he tells me we’re flying up to Portland on Saturday I’m not entirely surprised. The boss doesn’t do waiting: that he’s gone five days without taking further action is the only surprise.
Oh, and then he tells me to book two rental cars. I know when I’m not wanted… and I know where he’s going. To see the girl. Alone. Well, Miss Steele, you’ve over 21, so the choice is yours.
I book us into the Heathman suite that Andrea has arranged, then check on the details of the Farming Div. meeting he’s booked for later this afternoon, the ostensible reason for this visit. Or maybe that just makes it a tax deductable business expense.
When he returns he’s in a weird fucking mood: smiling to himself one minute, totally stressed the next, pacing about the suite, barking orders into his cell. It’s going to be one long, fucking weekend.
Gail has gone to her sister so she’s only nine miles away. I don’t know if I’ll get the chance to go visit; I’ve only met Allison twice in the last four years. She’s pretty nice, older than Gail, with four grown up kids. I’m not sure she approves of me, but why would she? Divorced, a kid, no home of my own, ex-services with the temperament to match. I still don’t know what Gail sees in me, but when I look into her sister’s eyes, I know exactly what Allison sees – and it ain’t so good.
It’s early evening and Grey has been on his laptop all afternoon. I wandered out and got myself a couple of paperbacks to read to pass the time. He wants to go for a run before dinner. I don’t mind; it’ll make a change to pound some different streets.
We’re just about to head out when his damn phone rings. Jeez, if I were him I’d sling the fucker out of the 30th story.
“Grey… Miss Steele. How nice to hear from you.”
Uh-oh. I know that smooth tone.
“I’m staying at the Heathman in Portland. Shall we say nine thirty tomorrow morning? …I look forward to it, Miss Steele.”
He looks up at me and he’s got that look: you see it on wildlife shows, when the lion is about to pounce on the little baby zebra who got separated from her mom.
“Photoshoot for the WSUV student paper,” he says.
Yeah, right. No ulterior motive at all.
The gym at the Heathman usually opens at 6am. But for the Christian Grey, access is no object and he’s in there working out from five. Then we go for the usual six mile run, except today he wants to go further. Yeah, the guy always wants more. Sometimes I think he was born wanting more. He’s got some serious energy to burn off: it would be so much easier if he found a contract sub to screw into next week. Being around him is like watching a kid take the black powder out of fireworks, just to see what happens when you light it all in one go.
At 8.45am I’m in the CCTV room with the hotel staff to watch the student journalists and Miss Steele arrive. I finally get to see Katherine Kavanagh, the one who was supposed to interview the boss last Monday. She’s hot! And I can see she wouldn’t take any shit from Grey – which means she’s not his type at all. Not like poor, sweet Miss Steele. But I reckon the boss has competition, if the looks the photographer throws her way is anything to go by. Yeah, girl, stick with him – I bet he doesn’t have floggers hanging on his bedroom wall, although you never know…
At 9.30am it’s show time. I follow Grey into the suite the kids have booked with the hotel. I stand in the corner, failing to blend with the wallpaper, but just as still.
“Miss Steele, we meet again.”
Yeah, the boss is doing a number on the poor girl, using every trick in the book. Just an extra micro-second for the handshake, a small squeeze of her fingers, looking directly at her, holding her gaze just a little longer than is normal.
She blushes and inside I feel so bad for her. She has no idea.
Miss Kavanagh, however, seems slightly repelled by the boss. Her smile is polite and professional and chilly. But she’s blonde, so she has nothing to worry about.
When Miss Steele introduces the photographer to Grey, you could freeze helium with his expression. If he looked at me that way, I’d be watching my back for a decade.
“Where would you like me?” says Grey. It sounds more like, Don’t fuck with my new toy.
For the next half an hour, Miss Kavanagh points and organises, telling everyone one what to do. It’s pretty fucking funny seeing the boss ordered around by a girl, especially when the assistant photographer blinds him with the portable lights. Yeah, I’m actually enjoying myself. And it occurs to me he must be really into Miss Steele to put up with this. It makes me curious: what is it about her? Grey’s subs have all been attractive, so what’s so special about this girl? Maybe it’s the fact that she is so young and innocent, I don’t know. But the boss sure as fuck can’t stop staring at her. She’s so shy, the poor kid only catches his eye twice, and blushes each time. It makes me hopeful: hopeful that he doesn’t have a chance with her after all. Surely a cute kid like that would run a mile from what Grey has to offer? Wouldn’t she?
Finally the photographer says he has enough pictures. I should fucking think so! I’ve never seen the boss sit still for so long or be so patient with a bunch of fucking amateurs.
He thanks them politely and then says, “Will you walk with me, Miss Steele?”
The poor kid looks utterly taken aback: she really doesn’t get it. She hasn’t worked out that we’re all here for her.
“I’ll call you, Taylor,” says Grey. He wants me out of here.
But I’m half way down the corridor, happy to mind my own business when he calls me back. He wants me to drive the three other students home so he can have coffee with Miss Steele. Coffee? Is he trying to arrange an interview of his own, with her? But Miss Steele has her own ideas, I’m glad to see. I’m not needed so I leave, wondering what will happen next, hoping Miss Steele isn’t dazzled into doing something she doesn’t want to.
An hour later Grey returns. I’ve never seen him looked so… unsure of himself. Did little Miss Steele turn him down already? It looks like it. Boy, that was quicker than I’d have expected. Smart girl.
But I actually feel kind of sorry for the boss. I wasn’t expecting that. He looks bewildered. He makes an appointment with Flynn for first thing Monday morning. And then, weirdly, he cancels it almost immediately.
Next thing I know, we’re packing up and heading back to Seattle.
I’m really fucking curious to hear what Gail makes of it all.
“So Mr Grey took her for coffee?”
“Like I said.”
“And when he came back, he was… upset?”
Was he? Is that that way to describe him?
“He was definitely rattled.”
Gail smiles. “He likes her.”
She rolls her eyes at me. “Jason! It’s obvious. He’s fallen for this girl, in a nice, normal way!”
I’m not so sure. But I don’t want to argue. I just want to take her in my arms and forget all about Grey and all about his fucked up, twisted world. We’re in his life, but Gail is my sanctuary, and right now, I just want to feel her soft, warm body; I want to come home.
“You look very stressed, Mr Taylor. I think I have something that could ease your tension.”
“I think you could be right, Mrs Jones.”
“Did I ever mention that you’re a bad influence, Mr Taylor?”
“I do hope so, Mrs Jones.”
And I willingly follow her into her bedroom.