In the end I can’t stand the silence. They disappear into the boss’s playroom and I wander around the staff quarters. I don’t know what I’m expecting: maybe for Miss Steele to run out screaming. In the end it’s me who has to leave – the tension is more than flesh and blood can stand. I mean my flesh and blood.
I wander around Denny Regrade which I guess I have to call Belltown now. That’s realtors for you. It doesn’t make Nitelite, the scuzzy sports bar I head, to any more upmarket or any cleaner. Gail hates me going into joints like this. For some reason she thinks I’ll end up in a brawl. I’m not being arrogant, well maybe a bit, but anyone who starts a fight with me ain’t going to go the distance. Anyway, I’d have to consider that getting into a fight in the first place as a failing on my part. In my job you’ve got to be able to tell which people are all mouth and which are the real danger. And I’m fucking good at my job.
I’d really like to just sit at the bar, watch a Mariners’ game and shoot the breeze with a cold beer in my hand. But I’m on duty tonight, so I stick to coffee.
There are probably a dozen coffee bars within two clicks of a camel’s fart that serve better coffee than this place. In fact the coffee is so bad I think a badger must have washed its ass in it. It’s un-fucking-drinkable.
It certainly doesn’t improve my mood as I wonder what it would be like to work for a regular boss and have a regular life. The truth is I know I’m not the kind of guy who’d be happy dragging his weary carcass to an office every day, nine to five. I think that’s why Gail’s sister Allison doesn’t like me: she thinks I’m not capable of being a regular guy with a regular life and, she reasons, no good for her sister. What makes me pissed is that she could be right.
Sometimes life with Grey gives me a fucking migraine, but it’s never boring. Ok, on rare occasions it’s fucking tedious, but generally I get a buzz out of it. There’s nearly always some low level threat to look out for. These days Welch has got the intel so tightly sewn up, we’re pretty much ahead of the game. But that doesn’t mean it’s time to get complacent. A guy who’s a billionaire makes enemies and lots of them. But it’s not just that: I mean, look at the way little Miss Steele has screwed up all our lives. Not that she means to, but she’s leading the boss around by his dick and everyone who works for him have to line up and play follow-the-fucking-leader.
At least Gail will be home tonight: definitely something to look forward to.
Shortly after 6pm I head back to Escala to get the sit-rep (or situation report as I had to explain to Gail). I’ve got time for a quick shower and shave and I’m standing to attention, well, sitting on my ass in an office easy-chair, checking out the CCTV from the last couple of hours. There’s nothing to report.
I feel someone looking at me and turn to see Grey standing at the entrance to the office.
“I’d like to leave at 7.30pm, Taylor. It won’t be a late night; Miss Steele will need to be taken home after we’ve had dinner at my parents.”
He pulls a face and I don’t know whether it’s because dinner with his folks is on the menu or because Miss Steele won’t be staying the night. Jeez, he’s got it bad.
He wanders away like he doesn’t know what to do with himself without his new playmate and I’m guessing that Miss Steele’s stamina isn’t up to scratch. If I know the boss, which I do, he’ll be signing her up for four sixty-minute sessions with a personal trainer as well as fucking her senseless on a semi-regular basis. Maybe she should just enlist in the Marines: it would be easier for her.
Half an hour later I hear the sound of Dean Martin echoing out from the main room and I know he’s in a good mood again. Jeez, the guy changes his mood more often than Joan Rivers changes her face. The easy-listening combo is usually his music of choice when he’s feeling mellow. Gail likes Dean Martin and Rosemary Clooney but I’m more of a Frank man, myself. Although you can’t beat a bit of Elvis, in his pre-Vegas days, of course.
I hear the sound of ‘Witchcraft’ drifting through the speakers. I’m already in place waiting to leave so I glimpse the boss sweeping Miss Steele into a dance. I’m not much of a dancer: swaying to the music whilst making out with my girl is more my thing. Gail likes to dance – she says it’s the only area where I disappoint. I know she’s just joking but that comment stings. So I’m sensitive: who knew?
He leans down to kiss her and whispers something that makes her smile.
It’s a strange job being someone’s personal staff: the things we see and hear – but then we have to pretend we’re deaf, dumb and blind. At least the boss doesn’t expect me to act like a half-wit, too. Some employers can’t stand having staff with brains.
He looks up and nods at me. That’s my signal to go bring the SUV round front. Before I can climb out to open the door for them, the boss saves me the trouble. He makes sure Miss Steele is strapped in. I bet he enjoys that, kinky fucker.
At first everything seems fine but then the boss’s expression changes and when I look into the rear view mirror, I can see him staring out through the window, frowning. The girl looks nervous, biting her lip and glancing at him every few seconds. Poor kid: she looks like she’s about to be questioned by the FBI and he’s completely ignoring her.
I really wish he’d asked me to play some music, but I can’t interrupt all the brooding that’s going on back there.
In the end the uncomfortable silence gets too much for the girl and she asks him where he learned to dance. He stares at her for a moment then says,
“Do you really want to know? Mrs Robinson was fond of dancing.”
For a moment I can’t think who they’re talking about: then it hits me. Mrs Robinson is Elena Lincoln. Good name for the bitch. Seems I was right about the extent of her relationship with the boss. I’ve always suspected but now I know for sure. I saw him dancing with her in the apartment once. Yeah, this all makes sense and Miss Steele knows about her. I’ve really underestimated this Steele girl: she’s got the boss dancing to her tune, so to speak. If he’s telling her his secrets, it must be serious, like Gail said. And, let’s face it: he’s got some big fucking secrets to hide.
The boss looks like he wished he’d kept his mouth shut. That Sinatra song had it right: he’s bewitched alright. He’s got it bad. I don’t know why it bothers me. Maybe because he’s unpredictable enough; add love-sick into the game and the guy might just blow. Fucking Krakatowa, like I said. Or maybe, and this is top fucking secret, maybe it’s because I feel protective of this girl. No: that’s baloney. It’s just a fucking job. And there are other jobs out there if this one goes ass up.
The girl is staring out the window and I’d say her thoughts aren’t happy ones. The boss whispers something to her that makes her turn, and then he picks up her hand and kisses it. It’s a real sweet gesture. Jeez, he’ll be watching Julia Roberts films next and that English fag with the floppy hair – the one who got busted for being blown by a hooker: does all those sappy romances. Gail likes those sorts of films: it’s her one flaw. But hell, they make her horny, too, so I’m not going to complain.
Ok, it seemed like the boss was being romantic but then he starts going on about cable ties and the girl turns beet red.
I’ve known a fair few women in my time and I have to say, none of them were turned on by having the words ‘cable tie’ whispered in their ear. Women are weird like that.
A few minutes before 8pm I cruise into the driveway of Grey Sr. They’ve improved the security since I first started working for the boss, but it’s still an easy place to scope if you know what you’re doing.
He asks her, “Are you ready for this?” but I’d say that of the two he is the more nervous. I guess coming out as straight to your folks when they’ve assumed your gay must be pretty hard, or just fucking funny, depending on your point of view.
Then he says something to her that makes her blush again. I’m really glad I don’t know what he said.
They head in and I take the car round to the back – the usual routine. Even from that distance I can hear Miss Mia Grey shrieking like a drunken Marine on pay night. That woman is loud.
I head for the kitchen and speed-eat my way through chorizo and scallops. It’s good, but not as good as Gail’s.
I think I’ve been pretty damn fast, although not nearly fast enough. I’ve got my back to the wall, but it’s not looking good because…
“Hi, Taylor!” says Miss Mia Grey, in the gentle tones of a trucker from Tacoma.
She walks towards me and I make a rapid assessment of the possible exits; I don’t rule out digging a tunnel through the kitchen floor. Her eyes are all big and sad and then she lays her hand on my arm and I get ready to take evasive action.
“I’m really sorry,” she says.
She’s looking at me like my dog just died.
“I know this must be hard for you. I just hope you know that… whatever happens… we’ll always be grateful for the way you looked after my brother. I’m sure Christian really cares about you… in his own way.”
What the fuck?!
“I’ll give you a moment…”
What the fuck?!
Then she pats me on the arm again and walks out, glancing back at me as if to check I’m not slitting my wrists. I’m left sitting with my jaw on the floor.
What the fuck?!
Did she…? Did I…? Was that…? Is she…? WHAT THE FUCK?! I am NOT the boss’s fucking BOYFRIEND! NO FUCKING WAY!!
Then Gretchen, the Grey family’s helper, enters the kitchen. She’s got a face like a bulldog chewing on a wasp.
“You cannot be serious! He likes her! That mousey little thing? Christian deserves better than her!” She glances at me. “Sorry, Jason. I know you really liked him, too.”
Ok, so I’m not the only one who isn’t taking this well – and I’ve had enough of this shit!
“Gretchen: you can screw the whole Mariners’ team for all I care. I AM NOT GRAY – I mean GAY! I’m not gay! Ok? Geddit?! Straight as a fucking ruler.”
Then her face goes all soft and sweet.
“It’s ok, Jason. No-one cares these days.”
Now I’m not usually a quick tempered person; I’m more of a sort of slow-burn kinda guy, but it’s been a really trying fucking day.
“Listen, lady! Do you want me to fuck you over the kitchen table just to make a point?!”
She gets a real gleam in her eye and a speculative look on her face. That’s it: I’m outta here.
I storm back to the car, trying really fucking hard not to look like I’m having an aneurysm. I sit in the car silently fuming. I need some music to calm me down.
The Bridge is playing ‘Candle in the Wind’ and Seventies on Seven is playing an ABBA compilation.
“I am not a friend of Dorothy!” I yell at the radio.
Yeah, you could say I’m just a little irate!
I know what would soothe me: some serious Gail-time.
A scream rings through the night air and I’m out of the car, reaching for my gun when I see the boss striding through the yard with Miss Steele slung over his shoulder. It takes a second before the adrenalin burns itself out and I head back to the car feeling like I’ve just had a herd of elephants run over my ass.
Jeez. I really need to get another job.
Twenty minutes later I get a text from the boss to bring the car round front.
Miss Steele’s ballsy friend is leaving with Grey’s brother and they’ve got get-a-room painted all over them. The boss and Miss Steele are being nauseatingly lovey-dovey. Oh hell.
I open the door for Miss Steele, wearing my hear-no-evil, see-no-evil face.
The boss looks relaxed. So he should – he’s a walking, talking, fucking machine.
“Well, it seems my family likes you, too,” he says to her.
She looks confused.
“I think that you felt trapped into bringing me to meet your parents.”
And for once I’m not the only one who looks like he hasn’t brought all his sandwiches to the picnic.
The boss is pretty damn surprised – and I can see why. The girl has no clue how into her he is.
Which, I guess, is not unreasonable because, let’s face it, the boss’s idea of wooing a woman involves getting her to sign an NDA, fucking her into next week, while she’s tied to a bed with cable ties. That’s got to be more that a bit fucking confusing, right?
“Don’t worry about Taylor. Talk to me,” he says.
No, please don’t worry about me: your chauffeur has his eyes closed.
“Yes. I thought that. And another thing, I only mentioned Georgia because Kate was talking about Barbados. I haven’t made up my mind.”
“Do you want to go and see your mother?”
Of course she does! She’s dating the King of Pain!
“Can I come with you?”
Fuuuuck! I nearly crash the car. Just swerving around that possum, boss.
“Um… I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
“I was hoping for a break from all this… intensity to try and think things through.”
“I’m too intense?”
No shit, Sherlock!
I’m amazed and more than a little relieved to hear Miss Steele laughing. Yeah, she laughs at him. That’ll please Gail.
But suddenly the conversation darkens again and I’ve really got to feel for the boss. He’s put himself out there for this girls and it sounds like she’s having second thoughts. Grey certainly thinks so.
“Talk to me, Anastasia. I don’t want to lose you. This last week…”
And I know what he wants to say, but he can’t manage to get the words out. She’s rocked his world and he doesn’t know how to stop himself from falling.
Sorry, buddy. There’s no parachute for that journey. Trust me, I know.
She looks down and for one awful minute I think she’s going to tell him that it’s over. But I’m wrong. Again.
“I still want more,” she whispers.
And I know in that moment that Gail is right. She loves him not the things he can give her. In those few words she’s telling him she wants more of his heart, more of his love – more of him. The question is: can he give that to her?
There’s a long silence and she’s not the only one waiting to see how this plays out.
“For you, Anastasia, I will try.”
And then she climbs into his lap and kisses him. I stare straight ahead at the road and I suddenly realize I’ve been holding my breath, too.
For fucks sake – it’s just a job, Taylor!
But then he tells her to think about it while she’s away and not to sign his contract yet. Maybe there is hope for the twisted fucker.
And guess what he says next; the words every woman longs to hear,
“You really should wear your seatbelt.”
What an asshole!
I shake my head. Nope. No hope for him.
Thanks to Amy for all the Seattleisms!