This week has been one of the longest weeks of my life, and that includes the winter tour I did in Afghan, up to my balls in mud in a shit-hole of a town called Now Zad.
The boss is in a vile mood. So what’s new, these days? It’s a good thing the hanging of employees has been banned, otherwise several members of staff who breathed out of turn would be dangling from the yardarm right now.
Everyone is walking on eggshells, waiting for the dams to burst and praying they’re not in the firing line when it happens. Do I fucking care that I’m mixing my metaphors? Not this week. Although the boss hasn’t actually fired anyone today – that I know of – it’s come close.
Olivia nearly got her marching orders when she dropped a cup of coffee on the boss’s Bauhaus table, her hands were shaking so much. Although with Olivia I can never tell if it’s nerves around the boss or the fact that she’s panting for him. Perhaps he should have chosen her as his new submissive; pity she’s a blonde.
But both Olivia and the table survive, thanks to Andrea saving the day with a handful of paper towels for the table and a bottle of valium for Olivia. Damn, that woman deserves a medal, although I think this week has aged her. Maybe she needs a holiday more. Olivia spent most of that day in the ladies room crying, poor bitch.
Ros just rolls with the punches: nothing seems to phase her. She is one tough woman. And Grey is smart enough not to yell at her. She’d probably lay him out cold if he tried.
By Thursday, I’m not the only member of staff praying for the weekend. But then Lydia, the receptionist, calls me down to accept a parcel from some serious security. I run it through the X-ray machine but it’s just some old books. Ok, very valuable old books, first editions I suspect. I wish Grey would tell me when he does shit like this: I nearly had a heart attack wondering if someone had sent him an incendiary device. It wouldn’t be the first time. That’s what his fucking security is for! Jesus wept.
At least the books seem to please him. He tells Andrea to hold all his calls and disappears into his office for the next hour. The peace is a welcome relief for all his staff. It doesn’t last, of course.
Next in the firing line is Sam from PR who had the bright idea of getting the boss to glad-hand the graduating students from WSUV. We’ll be up there next week as the ceremony is on Thursday. I wonder if the boss is planning on stalking one particular student. The smart money says ‘yes’.
I’m looking forward to the weekend like it’s the last life-raft on the Titanic. I’ve got plans with Gail, and they won’t involve going outdoors.
But it’s all change and leave is cancelled. Grey is on the move. Where to? Fucking Portland! Again! You’d think that place was Vegas, Mecca and the Bahamas all rolled into one.
I call Gail, feeling homicidal.
“What’s the matter, Jason?”
“Sorry, babe, the weekend is cancelled. The boss is flying up to Portland. Again. He needs clothes for the week, suits, shirts, the usual. If he survives that long,” I add darkly.
“Why? Is he ill?”
“No, but I might have to kill him for spoiling our plans.”
Gail laughs lightly. “I’m sure we can arrange a rain check, Jason.”
“I wish he’d just get himself a nice little sub and put us all out of our misery.”
“You don’t mean that.”
“I fucking do! Just cos he’s not getting laid, no-one else is allowed to?”
“Yeah, well. I’ll miss you.”
“I’ll miss you, too,” she says softly.
“Enough to marry me when we get back?” I ask hopefully.
“No! Bye, Jason.”
And I’m left holding the silent phone in my hand. I want to use it to beat the shit out of Grey and possibly even shove it where the sun don’t shine. But then again, he might like that. I really wish I hadn’t had that fucking thought.
He’s flying up to Portland with his brother this evening. At least I get to have a few hours to myself when I drive up, taking the SUV with me.
I listen to some tunes and just let the world drift by. It makes a nice change. Of course, the sad truth is, I’d be bored with a regular-Joe kind of job.
By the time I arrive, Grey has checked into the Heathman, the best suite, of course. But he’s organised good rooms for his brother and me, too. One thing I’ll say for him, he never books me in a budget room. I need to stay close, of course, so that’s one reason. But he’s not a tight wad, not like some rich fuckers I’ve worked for.
Maybe he’s feeling guilty about spoiling my weekend because he gives me the evening off. On second thought, belay that; the boss doesn’t do guilt. Besides, he’s having dinner and drinks with his brother; how much trouble can they get into in Portland’s top hotel?
I drag my sorry ass to a sports bar a couple of blocks from the Heathman and pretend to watch a ball game while I let my beer get warm. I’m not much of a drinker these days. Apart from anything else, I’m Grey’s driver, and I can’t afford to jeopardize my licence. Anyway, I sort of lost the taste after six dry months in Afghan.
I chew my way through a burger that could have been used to sole the shoes of Napoleon’s army on the long march out of Russia, missing Gail and her food, feeling bad-tempered and belligerent with being at Grey’s beck and call. I wish he’d sort himself out a beck-and-call girl so I’d get some free weekends again.
Just before midnight I’m heading to hang up my hat when my fucking Blackberry buzzes. I know who it’ll be without even looking at the caller ID.
“I’ve got a situation. Meet me at the back entrance of the Heathman in fifteen. Assistance with discreet entry required.”
“Back entrance in fifteen,” I confirm. What the fuck? What has the bastard done now?
The security at this place knows me, so I’m able to clear the rear exit and have got them to turn off the CCTV cameras for five minutes. They’re cool with that. And I’m not the only close protection officer who needs favors for discreet entry. We’ve all turned a blind-eye to the extra-curricular activities of our employers. Sometimes it really sucks.
But even I’m surprised when the boss turns up with little Miss Steele in the passenger seat of the SUV, drunk out of her sweet skull.
“It’s only alcohol, no drugs involved. I don’t think Miss Steele requires medical assistance, but have the details of a suitable medic on standby just in case,” he says, looking more worried than his tone of voice implies.
“Yes, sir.” What else can I say? I don’t like it. I just don’t fucking like it. At least he wants EMT on stand-by. That’s something.
I offer to help carry her, even though she doesn’t look like she’d weigh much, but he insists on carrying her himself. I get it: no-one else is allowed to touch the boss’s new toy.
I take him to the service elevator, and we ride up in awkward silence. Then I check the corridor is clear before opening the door to the penthouse.
I expect him to put her on the sofa but he surprises me by carrying her into his bedroom. Surely he’s not going to try and fuck her in that state? But he lays her down so gently, with a look of almost fear tinged with wonder, so that I’m struck dumb. Maybe Gail was right. Maybe he does care for her.
He dismisses me and I go back to my room, filled with misgiving. But just as I’m settling down again, that fucking Blackberry buzzes.
“Miss Steele’s clothes need to go to the laundry. Get her some new ones for the morning. Something blue.”
I go back to the penthouse and pick up a pair of vomit-covered jeans and socks. Oh, you’ve got to be kidding me! Did I mention this job sucks?
I shove the offending pile in a laundry bag and tell them I want the express service. Then I have the night manager arrange for a nearby department store to open at 7am. The name ‘Grey’ goes a long way, even in Portland.
Then just as I’m about to hit the sack, I get a text from the boss with Miss Steele’s vital statistics and shoe size – six, if you want to know. And he cancels the morning run: he’ll be in the gym; I’ll be guarding Miss Steele. Oh, sleep, take me now.
At six thirty I’m heading out to do clothes shopping for Miss Steele. I hope she fucking appreciates this. It’s easy enough picking out a blue shirt and jeans. I know the sales assistant is as curious as all get-out. She chooses a pair of black converse trainers in Miss Steele’s size and then escorts me to the lingerie department. Holy hell! I had no idea! I mean, the boss usually has a personal shopper for this kind of shit. Back in Seattle it wouldn’t be a problem, I’d just make a call and that would be that; but here – I’m on my own. Except for the tight-ass assistant.
I’m stunned by the range of styles, colours and …er …items. I have no fucking clue where to start. The sales assistant smirks when she sees the panic in my eyes.
“Perhaps I could help you with something?”
“Er… in blue,” I manage to choke out.
There’s some lacy stuff in midnight blue, but it looks too grown up for Miss Steele.
“Something in pale blue?”
She leads me to another part of the store. Yes, that’s more like it. Baby blue will suit her. I give the assistant the size and she sorts out a set. The panties are tiny – what’s the point of that? My throat closes up, trying very hard not to imagine it.
We’re on our way to the sales till, when I spy some really fancy stuff in black with satin trim. Now I really do want to imagine Gail in that. It’s fucking expensive, but she’s worth it. Just looking at it gives me a hard on. Yeah, definitely worth it.
“And this as well, sir?”
“Yes, but in a slightly larger size.”
Yeah, that’s right sweetheart. The look on her face is priceless. I can’t resist.
“For my wife. The other is for my girlfriend.”
She tries to hide her shock. You know, I’d really expected better acting in a classy joint like this.
“Of course, sir,” she mutters, her face an unattractive beetroot. Suck it up, baby. Maybe that’ll teach her to make me feel like a voyeur stalking through the women’s lingerie.
I text the boss to let him know I’m outside his room. He opens the door quietly.
“I’m heading down to the gym. Keep Miss Steele under close surveillance.”
“Yes, sir. Is she er… fully recovered?”
“Still sleeping like a baby.” He frowns. “Get some Advil sent up with some fresh orange juice. I’m going to the gym: I’ll only be gone about half an hour.”
“Yes, sir. Miss Steele’s clothes have gone to the laundry. I have her new clothes.”
“I’ll give them to her when I get back.”
Yeah, he doesn’t want her leaving when he’s not there. Why?
When Grey goes, I can’t help looking in the bedroom. I need to know Miss Steele is ok, as much as I can know.
She’s sleeping peacefully, her long hair fanned out behind her. She looks even younger like this – barely fucking legal. I can’t help breathing a sigh of relief when I see that she’s still wearing the shirt she arrived in last night. He hasn’t touched her, thank fuck.
And then it hits me: she’s spent the night in his bed, and even though I bet he didn’t sleep much, he slept with her. This is new. I’ve worked for Grey for nearly four years and I’ve never known him have a woman sleep in his bed. Maybe this one will be different – maybe Gail was right.
I close the door quietly and head back to the living area. She can’t leave without passing me. I hope she doesn’t wake up before the boss gets back – I so don’t want to have that conversation with her.
I’m surprised when Grey gets back from the gym so quickly; he must be really worried that she’d try to leave.
“Situation unchanged re: Miss Steele.” I’m grateful and relieved when he dismisses me from babysitting duties. But not from being Grey’s factotum: the Blackberry buzzes again half an hour later.
“I’m going to need Charlie Tango. From Portland at say twenty-thirty.”
“And return to Boeing airfield, sir?”
“No, standby at Escala … all night.”
Why the fuck does he want that?
“Yes, sir. Will you need Charlie Tango in the morning?”
“Yes, on call tomorrow morning. I’ll pilot from Portland to Seattle. Stand-by pilot from twenty-two-thirty.”
That was weird. Why does he need a stand-by pilot all night?
And the gray matter that passes for my brain creeps into gear. Because he’s taking little Miss Steele to Escala. And then she’ll see his playroom. And then she’ll want to get the fuck out of Dodge. He’s making sure that she can get home whenever she wants. That’s …decent. He’s being honest with her. And he didn’t fuck her last night. It’s clear he’s into her: more than I’ve seen him with any other woman, including Leila.
It’s probably a wise move to have Charlie Tango on stand-by. The girl will head for the hills once she’s seen the kind of relationship Grey wants with her. What sane person wouldn’t?
At 7.45pm, I drive Grey to a dismal hardware store, a flea on the backside of Portland, in a dead-end industrial estate. I thank god I hated my old man so much that I joined the marines, because otherwise I could have ended up working somewhere like this.
Grey is edgy, anxious and, if I didn’t know better, I’d say excited – maybe even nervous. Nervous?
She’s hovering at the entrance to the store, peering out, looking for the car. Her pretty face lights up when she sees him. Poor kid. Poor, poor kid. The boss isn’t a bad guy but this is wrong.
“I’ll open the door for Miss Steele,” he says quietly.
I watch them in my rear view mirror. They’re beaming at each other like a couple of teenagers on a first date. It’s weird to see the boss acting like this.
“Good evening, Miss Steele,” he says.
She smiles and nods politely, “Mr Grey.”
When she sees me watching her, she smiles shyly, “Hello, Taylor.”
“Good evening, Miss Steele.”
I nearly pass out when the boss holds her hand.
I try really hard not to listen to their conversation but I can’t help myself. I have never seen the boss hold a woman’s hand – not even his sister, or his mom. What the fuck is going on? When did the world stop turning, and why did nobody tell me?!
“How was work?” he says to her.
“Very long,” she whispers back.
Christ! The sexual tension in the car is making me feel like a wallflower. I get the feeling that if I weren’t here, Grey would leap on her there and then – or maybe the shy and not so retiring Miss Steele would make the first move. Right now, all bets are off. For fucks sake!
I slide further down into my seat and act deaf and dumb for the rest of the drive. I’d close my eyes, too, if it weren’t for the fact I’m driving. I can’t get to the helipad quickly enough.
Finally, I cut through the Saturday night traffic, and we’re there. I open the door for Miss Steele and the boss slides out behind her, as if he can’t bear to be more than touching distance away from her.
“Taylor,” he nods at me curtly.
I nod back and get back in the SUV.
Miss Steele – you are on your own.