Chapter 18 – 21st Birthday
Daniel Roberts is really a slimy piece of shit and I’m looking forward to cutting off his balls and mailing them to him one by one – assuming he’s got more than one.
He’s been trying to fuck up a deal that I’ve spent nearly a thousand man-hours on. But he’s underestimated me badly. And he’s using the wrong fucking bank. He’s using my bank. And Grant Wilson, the new business manager, has made some serious bucks and some very nice bonuses off the back of investing in GEH. So, it goes without saying that Wilson wants my business a lot more than Daniels’. I’m really going to enjoy making this call.
Five minutes later, the deal is done: Daniels Junior is fucked. Time to tell Ros the good news – so I call her up to my office.
“Good morning, Christian,” she says, raising her eyebrows. “Do I detect a smile, or did the world end and nobody told me?”
She’s the only one of my staff who I allow to speak to me like that. Maybe it’s because she reminds me of Elliot: they both hide their sharp intellect behind a façade of irreverent humor. It’s refreshing: everyone else at GEH avoids making eye contact with me. Except for Barney – he’s so fucking vacant, he doesn’t see what’s in front of him unless it’s a row of zeroes and ones. He’s fucking lethal just walking along a level surface. I might have to get the walls padded on the route from his office to mine.
“Ros, the Daniels problem is history. I found out that One Pacific was bankrolling the deal. I made a call to Wilson.”
“Damn, Christian! How did you find that out? I tried everyone I knew… every search engine I could think of!”
I realize that I’m smirking at her – but I can’t help it. I feel… what do I feel? It feels… okay, I guess.
“We should celebrate,” she says. “This is excellent news. It’ll give GEH a really broad, commercial base. Sky’s the limit, Christian. And all before you’re 21.”
“Not exactly, Ros.”
She frowns. “What do you mean?”
Fuck. I wish I hadn’t mentioned it now.
“Christian?” she prompts me.
Ah, fuck it.
“It’s my birthday.”
What – am I suddenly talking Mandarin?
“It’s my birthday, Ros. I’m 21. Today.”
She gapes at me. Not a good look.
“You’re telling me it’s your 21st birthday today, and you’ve come into work as normal?”
What else would I be doing?
“Jeez, Christian. Don’t you want to… I don’t know… go out and get drunk – legally? Party likes it’s 1999? Do something, oh, let’s see… something reckless? Something out of control? Twenty-one! That’s a big deal!”
I shrug. She’s just like them – my family. They’ve been on and on at me to do something to celebrate. But celebrating the day some crack whore gave birth to a fatherless bastard hardly seems like a reason to put out the flags. Why am I the only one who understands this?
Her face falls and she looks… sad.
Sad for me?
“Aren’t you going to do anything to celebrate?” she asks, in a pained voice.
“I’m having dinner with my family.”
“Yes, because family meals are so much fun,” she says, rolling her eyes.
Can’t argue with that evaluation.
“Aren’t you doing anything for yourself?” she continues.
As it happens, I am. “I have a flying lesson tomorrow.”
“But you’ve already got your glider’s license?”
“This is for a helicopter pilot’s license.”
She laughs out loud, although I don’t understand why.
“And then… what? A private helicopter? Your own private jet?”
Her jaw sags when she notes that nothing about her comment amuses me.
“Well, Christian, if anyone can do it, you can.” As she leaves my office, she calls over her shoulder, “And congrats on sorting out that Daniels creep.”
At noon, I’m working on the debt-equity structure and risk-balancing maximizer for my new company. The columns and swirls of figures make perfect sense to me, as easy as reading musical notes on a score. I do it quickly and I do it just once: it’s what I’m good at. No fucking complicated emotions to consider; no human dynamics – just black-and-white figures. Simple. I can’t hurt these numbers. I can’t affect them with my fucked upness. I can improve them, I can make them flow and sing. I can mend broken companies. It gives me a moment of clarity and calm.
And then, fucking Ros knocks on my door.
“Come on, Christian, we’re going out.”
I frown and glance at my calendar. We have no meeting scheduled.
She rolls her eyes. “To have lunch – and to celebrate your birthday.”
“For fuck’s sake, Ros! Do I look like I want to fucking celebrate my birthday?”
She laughs. She fucking laughs at me!
“Not especially, but give it a chance and you might shock yourself by having fun.”
I seriously fucking doubt that.
“Come on. I’ve booked us a table. Get your jacket.”
“No, I’m busy.”
“Bullshit, Christian. You just told me yourself you’ve nailed Daniels, so the pressure is off for now. Besides, I’ve called Gwen and she’s meeting us there. She’s been bugging me about seeing you again, and it would be rude to keep her waiting.”
Damn it. She’s found my weak spot – another fucking weak spot.
I roll down my sleeves, replace the cufflinks and slide my jacket on. Ros is smirking at me. It’s really fucking annoying.
She’s picked one of those trendy places with stripped wood floors, a row of stools around the central bar and several wooden tables – the kind of place I’d usually go some distance to avoid. Gwen is sitting by the window, studying the menu, a small frown of concentration creasing her forehead. I glance across at Ros and I see a look of adoration, of love on her face. Ros is a smart woman, and she knows how fucking lucky she is to have that connection with another human being. It’s rare: my parents have it and, perhaps, my mom’s parents, but I don’t know anyone else who does. I know I never will. I don’t resent Ros’s happiness – or Gwen’s. They’re good people: they deserve it.
Gwen looks up and sees us as we walk through the door.
“Christian! Happy Birthday!” she yells, at full volume.
Several people turn around to stare and Ros winces slightly, but Gwen’s exuberance almost makes me smile. She reminds me of Mia.
Gwen kisses me on the cheek but reserves her full-body tackle hug for Ros, thank fuck. It wouldn’t have been a great start to lunch if I’d had a meltdown over her touching me. Kind of puts a dampener on proceedings when one of the participants is frozen in fucking fear. Believe me, I know. I’ve been present at, or party to, every kind of excruciating social gaffe known to man – especially a fatally fucked up one.
One of the worst was when I was 14. Mom and dad were having their usual Christmas party for friends and neighbors, and the Grey kids were expected to hand around the mulled wine and make small talk with the adults. Mia was there being all cute and gappy-toothed, and Elliot was being all smooth and sort of flirting with mom’s colleagues which they all thought was hilarious. And then there was me: the ghost at the party. I tried, I really did. I wanted to please mom and dad, especially after a fucking awful week where I’d been sent home from school for fighting, again.
I’d been doing my best, doing the talking thing and trying to smile, when this woman from dad’s office who’d had too many drinks sort of lunged at me; she wanted to stroke my hair, for fuck’s sake, saying some shit about how much she liked the color. I stepped backwards and tripped over someone, then fell, sprawling across the sofa, and that ghastly fucking woman landed on top of me. I thought I was going to have a fucking heart attack. She was laughing, and ruffling my hair, and just wouldn’t let go and wouldn’t get off me – I felt like I was suffocating; the fear was unbearable. It was a real, physical pain. In the end, Elliot managed to pry her off and mom let me go to my room. It was about half-an-hour before my heart stopped trying to break out of my ribs. I’m surprised the whole fucking thing didn’t turn me into an agoraphobic, or even more of an anti-social bastard than I am now.
I remember Mia came up and sat with me. For someone who’s so loud and full-on, as a kid she was really great at calming me down. She just talked about some dumb stuff she’d been doing with that vile friend of hers, Lily, and being normal. It always helped: it still does. Sometimes.
“So, today’s the big day, Christian! How does it feel?” says Gwen, in an irritatingly cheery voice.
Why do people always ask me how it ‘feels’? How the fuck should I know?
“Fine, thank you, Gwen.”
She rolls her eyes. “So formal, Christian. I’m sure you can’t always be so staid; there must be a dark side to you as well.”
I suck in a sharp breath, then realize she’s teasing me. Of course.
Ros gives her a warning stare and Gwen blushes slightly.
“Let’s order,” Ros suggests, breaking the awkward silence.
I choose the Calabrian-style beef, Ros has duck and Gwen orders risotto.
Then we sit back and stare at each other.
Fuck, I hate these miserable, fucking social ‘occasions’.
One tactic that always works is to ask someone about themselves.
“So, Gwen, how’s the latest campaign going?”
Gwen’s a creative director at one of the top advertising agencies in Seattle. Ros has shown me some of her work: I can see why she’s so successful.
“Pretty damn good, Christian. We won the Hermès account. But I know you’re just trying to distract me. It’s your birthday – let’s talk about you. What have you got planned?”
“He’s having dinner with his parents,” says Ros, her tone too neutral.
“And then what?” says Gwen, leaning forward.
What’s the fucking interest?
“I’m having a flying lesson tomorrow. Helicopter.”
“Uh-huh, great. And?”
This is getting fucking irritating.
“Gwen,” says Ros in a warning voice.
Gwen looks up, surprised by Ros’s sharp tone.
“What? I’m just asking! Aren’t we being invited to the big party?”
I lean back in my chair.
“No. No party. Fucking waste of time.”
And finally Gwen gets it, and proceeds to take great interest in her seafood risotto.
Suddenly, I’m blinded by a light flashing in my face.
“What the fuck?”
I’m half on my feet, taking a defensive stance, just in time to see a man with a large camera scurrying out of the door.
“Jeez, Christian!” mutters Ros, holding a hand over her heart. “I think you just got papped.”
For fuck’s sake! Can this birthday be any more ‘fun’?
After that, I insist that we are moved to a table at the back of the restaurant. The manager apologizes at least a dozen times but I can tell that he’s secretly pleased – all he has to do now is to work out who the fuck I am. And if he finds out, maybe he could let me know, too.
I make a decision that private-member dining clubs are definitely worth checking out.
It amuses me that Gwen’s main concern is that neither she nor Ros were in the photograph, as the idiot’s camera was aimed solely at me.
“It’ll look like you’re having lunch by yourself, like a Johnny-no-friends,” she says, indignantly.
I shrug, because that’s pretty much the truth anyway. I’ve got my family, I’ve got my work colleagues, and I’ve got Elena. I’m not missing out on anything, am I?
I refuse a dessert and sit back drinking black coffee, whilst Gwen devours a Zabaglione and Ros finishes off with cheese and fruit.
But as soon as Ros disappears to the restroom, Gwen pins me with her bright gaze.
“I was hoping to get a chance to speak to you alone, Christian.”
Here it comes: ‘Ros works too late; Ros works at weekends; you work her too hard… I’m expecting it.
“I wanted to thank you.”
“Thank me? For what?”
“You look surprised, Christian, but the truth is Ros has been a different woman since she started working for you. Oh, you were probably expecting me to chew you out for the long hours! Well, that’s up to her – and she wouldn’t listen to me if I told her to slow down anyway. But the point is, she’s been so much happier since you took charge of SIC – well, GIC or GEH, whatever. She’d reached her limit in this town – she was thinking of leaving Seattle for good. New York, probably. Talk about a glass ceiling – it’s double-fucking-glazing for women like us. But you don’t care about that, do you?”
This is fucking excruciating. Why the hell does she want to tell me this personal stuff? This is why it’s a golden fucking rule never to mix business with… well, this isn’t fucking pleasure, that’s for sure.
“Ros does the job I pay her for, and she does it well. That’s all.”
Gwen leans back in her chair and gazes at me.
“It’s so easy to forget how young you are sometimes, Christian.”
What the fuck?
“Sorry. That sounded patronizing and I didn’t mean it to… Ros has worked a long time and got nowhere, and that Daniels guy was a total douche-bag: he never listened to any of her ideas and was always putting her down. Ros is tough, but that shit gets to you after a while. Now she can really get her teeth into her work. She’s happy – I have you to thank for that. So… thank you, Christian.”
Ros returns, thank fuck, and I’m saved from having to respond. I’m really fucking grateful that Ros isn’t into all that emotional shit – I wouldn’t be able to stand listening to that all day long.
As we leave the restaurant, I start feeling tense, wondering whether Gwen is going to step over more boundaries and try to… embrace me in some way. I keep my distance and I’m so relieved when she does the same. I haven’t said anything to Ros but I wonder if she’s mentioned my aversion to Gwen, because I kind of get that feeling. Gwen is definitely the type of woman who lunges like a linebacker.
Instead she just smiles and wishes me a happy birthday.
It’ll be a lot fucking happier if everyone would stop saying that.
As I walk back to the office with Ros, I can see her smiling at me out of the corner of my eye.
“What?” I say, briskly.
“Just wondering… you look like you’ve been ‘Gwened’. She really likes you: I can tell.”
What the fuck am I supposed to say to that?
“Make sure Daniels is totally out of the deal: I don’t want him coming back and haunting us like some fucking revenant.”
Ros smiles, but she just nods and doesn’t comment further.
I’m relieved when we’re back at the office and for a few hours I can focus again. But then Susan, my fucking useless PA knocks on the door.
“Um, do you need anything else, Mr Grey? Will it be ok if I go now?”
Same every fucking day. I would have thought she’d have died of boredom by now, saying the same thing, day in, day out. I know I would have.
“Yes, thank you, Susan.”
Oh, what now, for fuck’s sake?
“You know that check you gave for my church?”
I already said ‘yes’.
“Well, they were all real grateful and everything.”
She couldn’t get to the fucking point if she had a fucking map.
“Well, um, Ms Bailey just happened to mention that you were, um, celebrating your birthday… so, um, I went home at lunchtime and, um, I baked you a cake.”
She lays a chocolate sponge cake on the desk in front of me.
And the memories come flooding back.
Licking cake mix from a wooden spoon; the warm, wonderfully evocative smells of a cake baking; eating it warm from the oven. I remember. I remember… the cake being thrown on the floor; screaming, shouting, more screaming.
I stand up suddenly, needing to move, and realize that Susan is still waiting in front of me, and she looks terrified.
Control it, Grey. Fucking rein it in.
I breathe deeply and try to calm my spinning senses.
“Thank you, Susan. That was… thank you.”
She ducks out of the office, looking as if she’s just faced down a wild animal. Yeah, that’s about right: the thin veneer of civilization.
I sit down again, staring at the cake. It doesn’t make any sense.
I’m almost relieved when it’s time to get in my car and leave the office: that doesn’t happen very often. At the last moment, I take the fucking cake with me. I have no idea what I’m going to do with it.
Mia must have been watching for me, because she comes bouncing out of the house and throws herself at me.
“Christian! You’ve been so long! I thought for sure you’d be here like hours ago! We’ve got you presents and everything. Mom let me make you a cake. The frosting isn’t set yet, but you won’t mind that. It’s chocolate – your favorite.”
More fucking cake.
I still haven’t managed to get a word in, but that’s Mia.
I see mom hovering in the porch.
“Hello, darling. Happy birthday!”
“Damn it! I forgot to say ‘happy birthday’!” moans Mia.
“Language,” says mom, a warning clear in her voice.
“Oh, mom! Christian swears more than anyone ever – he won’t mind!”
“Hmm, well, I mind and you father will definitely mind.”
Mia scowls and pouts at the same time. It’s fucking funny.
Mom kisses me lightly on my cheek, respecting my personal space, and we walk into the house.
Dad comes out to shake my hand.
“Happy birthday, son. Twenty-one: doesn’t seem possible. Scrawny little thing you were when you first came here – seems like yesterday. And now look at you.”
“Yeah, but I can still kick his ass! Hey, bro! Big two-one, huh? Finally get drunk legally.”
There’s a moment’s silence as we all remember the many times I was drunk when I was a teenager.
Mom throws Elliot a glare but he just winks at her.
“Don’t worry, mom,” he says, “Christian is so square these days, you could use him for bookends.”
The thought pulses through my brain: they don’t know me; they don’t know me. If they did, they wouldn’t want me here, playing happy families with them.
And then I hear her voice.
I turn and see her.
“Thank you, Elena.”
She hands me a glass of champagne, which I take automatically, and she steers me through the living room and outside to the patio, while my family laugh and joke together, moving easily in each other’s company.
We stare out across the grass, breathing in the scent of summer roses.
I’ve always enjoyed this view from my parents’ house, out across the water. The first time I saw it, I thought it was a fairytale castle. Even now it feels like a place of peace. Sometimes I would lean out of my bedroom window and listen to Mia and Elliot teasing each other, mom and dad laughing, and even though I wasn’t part of that, it always felt like a safe place.
“You’ve done well, Christian,” says Elena, turning her head to gaze at me, a slight smile on her lips.
She looks beautiful tonight, dressed as always in her habitual black. It makes her platinum hair glow, emphasizing the redness of her lips. Just looking at her used to make me hard, which was awkward when I was a teenager, but now I simply see someone who helped me, someone who knows me better than anyone. I don’t desire her anymore – it’s a strange feeling; almost one of loss.
“And you look well. Being on top suits you.”
I know she’s trying to needle me, so I don’t bother with a reply.
“I’m sure this little family celebration here tonight is something you’ve been looking forward to.”
Her comment makes me frown. I don’t like to hear her criticizing my family. Although, she’s right, of course.
“Have you achieved everything you wanted to achieve?”
I stare at her in amazement. Is she fucking kidding me?
“I mean, your own apartment – fully paid for – Grace tells me; your own diverse business portfolio; master of your own destiny; answerable to no-one.”
I shrug. How do I explain? I’m good at one thing: mending broken companies. If I can make any positive difference in the world, it is by doing this. But driving me is the necessity of never being hungry again. I can’t explain this to anyone who hasn’t experienced it: I know, intellectually, rationally that starvation will never happen, but the fear pushes me on. I’m always running from it, and those spectres, those shadows, they are always chasing close behind. You can’t out-run your past, and believe me, I’ve fucking tried.
“I told you it would happen for you. All you needed was control and discipline. But then you always enjoyed both those things, didn’t you, Christian?”
I stare back at her, coldly. This is not the time and place for memory fucking lane.
“I have a proposition for you.”
My eyes narrow automatically and she laughs a silvery, chiming laugh.
“I wasn’t actually thinking of that sort of proposition! Although I’m flattered that you’d still consider it.”
No, I fucking wouldn’t.
“I’m looking for a business partner, Christian, and I thought of you. Esclava is doing well, but it needs to expand. I’ve seen a number of retail sites that I’m interested in.”
“I know fuck-all about the beauty business, Elena.”
“Don’t be tiresome, Christian. I do. And, as it turns out, I’m very good at it. Despite what others may have thought. You’d be a silent partner, of course, and I’d run things as I see fit.”
“So, you want money.”
“I want investment, Christian, as did you once, I seem to recall.”
“I’m not arguing that point, Elena. How much do you want?”
“Two million. For now.”
“Fine. Whatever. Call my lawyers on Monday and set up the appointment.”
She smiles, and touches my arm.
“I’m going to enjoy being in business with you, Christian. We were always a good team.”
I’m saved a reply when Mom calls us in to dinner, and we all take a seat around the dining table. Then dad stands up. Oh fuck! He’s going to make a speech.
“Unaccustomed as I am…”
Mia yawns and giggles, and Elliot makes noises like a deranged gibbon. Dad laughs.
“Seriously, twenty-one is a big deal, Christian. It’s been quite a year for you… you may not have made all the choices that we’d hoped for… but you’ve proved yourself over and over. We’re all very proud of you: I’m very proud of you, son. Happy birthday, Christian.”
They all raise their glasses in a toast and I feel so guilty. They have always loved me, always done their best for me, through all the fucked up years, and they’ve never walked away from me. Sitting here, seeing their faces glow with love, I feel so twisted inside. They’re celebrating the birthday of a man who doesn’t exist, because the person he’s described is not me.
“Hey, dad, don’t forget he’s Seattle’s ‘most eligible bachelor’. That’s a real achievement!” Elliot smirks at me and I’m relieved the mood has been broken, even if my brother is a five-star fucking ass.
“All my friends think you’re dreamy, Christian.” Mia rolls her eyes. “It’s so annoying. The new girl, Chloe, she said to me, ‘Oh, you must be Christian Grey’s sister,’ and I said, ‘no, Christian Grey is my brother’. Ugh. Don’t get any more famous – unless I can be in the newspaper, too.”
After the meal, which thankfully doesn’t focus on me for much longer, Mia drags me into the kitchen to look at her cake – my cake – the cake she’s made for me.
She explains how she used ground almonds rather than flour to give it extra texture and flavor, and how she used the best dark chocolate from Panama. I’m half-surprised she doesn’t tell me the names of the hens that laid the fucking eggs she used to make the cake. But I understand it, too. She wants to know everything about how to make the best cake she can – it’s the underlying principle of how I operate, too. It’s about attention to detail. And my dark heart is in awe, because my sister has done this for me.
“And you have to promise to play for me later, Christian,” she says. “I thought I’d see you loads when you came back to Seattle, but I don’t. You’re always working, it’s so boring. You should have more fun, Christian. You should take me shopping with you – there’s a new shop opened up that sells John Lobb shoes. You have to get some. They’re so cool. And you simply have to get your suits made by Gian DeCaro. Promise me, Christian!”
“You can be my personal shopper, Mia.”
She throws her arms around me and hugs me.
“You’re just the best brother, Christian.”
“Hey, what about me?” laughs Elliot, who’s wandered in to the kitchen to join us.
“You’re my other best brother,” replies Mia, her voice all muffled, as she presses her face into my shirt.
Then she lets me go and dances off, intent on the next mission now she’s got her own way.
“So, little bro, how you doing? Seriously? All this family shit getting to you yet?”
I shrug. “It’s ok.”
“Yeah, well, it can get a bit… intense. So, how’s about you and me hitting the town and painting it red? Or pink? Your choice of color. I’m kidding! Okay, hey, wait: mom said you’re doing your helicopter thing tomorrow, but how about we head out and catch us some steelheads after – we haven’t done that for a while. Take some food with us, a few beers… no phones. Take some time off. Whaddya say?”
Taking time off?
“Sure, Elliot. Sounds good.”
He looks surprised. “Really? You’ll come? Cool. Okay, can I drive your car?”
“Fuck off, Elliot.”
He laughs. “Okay, bro, but if you’re driving, I get to drink the beer. Deal?”
“What was Elena saying to you earlier?”
I frown at him. What did he hear?
“About seeing an attorney?”
“Just some business she wants me to help her with.”
“Oh. For a moment I thought… Well, that’s cool. Mom says she hasn’t seen her so much lately. Jeez, there was a time when she was here almost every day. You remember that?”
Do I fucking remember? It was part of Elena’s ‘training’: getting me used to being around her, but not being able to touch her; making sure I practiced how not to give us away. At least, that’s what she said. I did wonder if part of it was just a game to her. Yeah, I definitely remembered that.
I watched her from the top of the stairs. She was wearing a tight fitting cocktail dress that showed her figure, and, looking down, I could see the curve of her breasts. Just seeing her was a fucking turn on. She glanced up and I saw her lips lift in a smile. She knew I was there, watching, silent.
“Christian, Elena has arrived. Could you come and take her coat, please?”
Mom wants me to join in, be part of the family.
“And then, if you could help Elliot and Mia serve the canapés.”
I’ve dressed carefully today. Elena said she likes clothes to be simple and well cut. So I’m wearing black chinos and my favorite white linen shirt, with a narrow black tie. Mom said she thought it looked funereal, but I know Elena will like it.
I slid the coat off her shoulders, letting my fingers drift across her warm skin at the nape of her neck. I know this will please her. She’s spent a lot of time teaching me how and where to touch her.
When more people arrived and mom and dad were too busy to notice, I headed upstairs to the guest bedroom. Elena was waiting for me.
She closed the door behind me and locked it. The she wrapped her hand around my wrist and forced it behind my back so it was almost painful, and she kissed me hard, pressing herself into my body, feeling my arousal.
Then she made me turn around and slapped my ass – hard. We didn’t speak. We didn’t need to. Then she left.
“Yo, Christian! Earth calling Christian Grey! Where d’you go, man? So we cool about the fishing?”
“Yes, fine, Elliot. I’ll pick you up at 2pm.”
“What are you two plotting?” says Mom, walking over to us with a smile on her face.
“Just arranging a little fishing, mom. I didn’t even have to twist his arm: he just said ‘yes’. Go figure.”
“Don’t tease your brother, Elliot.”
“Jeez, mom, you’ve been saying the same things since I was six!”
“Yes, well, about time you started taking notice of me then, isn’t it?”
Elliot laughs and mom grins back at him.
When Elliot has wandered away, mom links her arm through mine.
“It’s been quite a year for you, Christian. The business is doing well, I understand?”
“Your father and I are really proud of you. I know he can be… well, you know your father, but we both love you very much, you do know that don’t you?”
It’s so hard for me to listen to this when I know I don’t deserve their love.
“Sure, mom. Don’t worry about it.”
“Oh, Christian, I do worry about you. That’s my job. But… I know you’re working hard to build up GEH, but there is more to life than work. And I’m a doctor! I just want you to be happy – that’s all that’s ever mattered to me.”
“Mom, work makes me… happy. It’s going well. You don’t have to worry about me. Not anymore.”
“Christian: just because you’re 21… or 31… or 41… it doesn’t mean I’ll ever stop worrying about you.”
I roll my eyes at her.
“Ok, mom. I get the message. “But at 51, I’m off the hook, right?”
“Oh, I very much doubt that. I’ll let you know. But I meant what I said: you need to make time for yourself and for your family. Work isn’t everything; being successful isn’t everything. Happiness is something that comes from within, Christian.”
Fuck, I know that. That’s why I’ll never have it – because all that’s within me is darkness.
The first time I saw my mom, she was dressed all in white. I realized later that it was because she was wearing a doctor’s white coat, but the scared little shit I was, I thought she was an angel. That feeling has never gone away. I’d do anything, anything for her. I’d do ‘happiness’ if I could, if I knew how.
“I’m doing ok, mom. And I’ve got a flying lesson tomorrow. Being in the sky, away from the earth and everything, it… helps.”
She raises a tentative hand to my cheek.
“My beautiful boy.”
It’s just a face.
“Now, come and play for us. Something cheerful – not your usual music, Christian. It is your birthday – a little cheer will go a long way.”
Not really my thing, but for my mom, of course I will. I wonder if I can get away with Voi Che Sapete. I play the opening bars and Mia gives me a look.
“Christian! Mom said cheerful. I mean, ‘What is this sorrow naught can dispel?’ Duh!”
I can’t help smiling at her. Ok, fucking cheerful coming up.
I choose Mozart’s Sonata in F Major – the third movement is a Rondo – that should be fucking cheerful enough. What is it Emperor Joseph II said about Mozart’s music, ‘too many notes’. That always makes me laugh.
Yeah, I’m a funny guy.
As I sit down at the piano, I get a text. Dad frowns and mom shakes her head. I glance at the message.
* Sir. I’m lonely. Can I come and play later? *
I text back.
* 2 hours *
Suddenly, my birthday is looking up – and the jolly German’s music doesn’t seem so fucking irritating.
I can see Elena watching me from the corner of the room, a slight smile on her face. I wonder if she’s had a hand in this. I wouldn’t put it past her to have gotten hold of Kirsten’s cellphone number.
I try to stare her out but she just carries on smiling at me. I try to school my face to impassive but she knows me too well to be fooled. Sometimes I really fucking hate that.
At 11pm, I take my leave. Mia has already been sent to bed, much to her irritation and everyone else’s amusement. Elena bowed out shortly after I got my message, and Elliot is leaving at the same time as me.
“Gotta blow, bro. Early meeting with a contractor. But we’ll hook up for the fishing thing. Laters.”
He thumps me on the shoulder and heads off down the drive, gravel spinning out behind his wheels.
Mom shakes her head. “It’s a good thing your brother works in construction, because he’s certainly taking his toll on her drive.”
“Bye, mom. Thanks for a great birthday.”
She hugs me gently and kisses me briefly.
“I hope you enjoyed it.”
“Call me soon, Christian. Don’t forget.”
“I won’t. Bye dad.”
We shake hands and I drive away. As I glance in the rearview mirror, I see they’re standing on the porch, still watching me.
Ahead of me I can see blue lights flashing. There’s been an accident and some poor bastard’s night has ended very badly. I can see a car lying on its back like a stranded turtle, three wheels pointing into the darkness.
Cars crawl past as people gawk at the sight, and an irritated traffic cop waves me past.
Life is short. Some lives are shorter than others. Another few years and I’ll have lived longer than the crack whore.
Some fucking life.
And if she’d lived? What would I have been?
As if I didn’t know.
The accident makes me late. I fucking hate being late.
As I drive past my building’s entrance to the underground garage, I see Kirsten parking her car. Fuck! Is that what she drives? What a piece of shit! It can’t be roadworthy – the only thing that’s holding it together is rust. No fucking way. I’ve seen one accident tonight – I’m not risking her life in that heap of junk.
It puts me in a foul fucking mood. I know what she should be driving: either the Audi A3 – although the steptronic gearbox is a bit jerky, but it has an excellent record on safety and reliability; option two is the Lexus CT200. Hmm, maybe not.
By the time she’s knocks on the apartment door, I’ve calmed down a little, and opened a bottle of chilled Sancerre.
When she enters, my suspicions about Elena’s involvement increase.
“This is for you, sir. Happy birthday.”
Another fucking birthday cake. Chocolate. This is fucking crazy!
“I’d like to know how you knew that it was my birthday, Kirsten, because I thought my family were the only ones who knew.”
Her lip trembles. “Have I done wrong, sir? Will you punish me?”
Oh, fucking yes.
She lowers her eyes and speaks in a quiet voice. “I didn’t mean anything by it, sir. Miss Christine told me. I suppose she knew from your application form. I guess she thought it would be… nice. I made it myself, sir.”
And I realize I’m being fucking rude keeping her standing on the threshold.
“Thank you, Kirsten. That was thoughtful. Please, come in.”
I slip her coat off her shoulders and lead her into the living room.
“A glass of Sancerre?”
“Thank you, sir.” She hesitates. “Will you try the cake, sir? It goes great with white wine. Chocolate cake goes great with anything.”
Her comment amuses me.
“Well, why not. But you’ll have to forgive me, Kirsten, I’ve had a large meal tonight so I’ll just have a taste. But I’d like you to have some. Please, sit down.”
I cut a slice of the cake. I’m touched that she’s made such an effort with it, no matter how clumsy and amateurish. Placing the slice on a plate, I pull a fork from the drawer and then carry them both over to the sofa.
“Have you eaten tonight, Kirsten?”
“Yes, sir. A healthy meal.”
“Good. Would you like some cake?”
“I’d like anything you can give me, sir.”
And the way she looks at me, both demure and wanton, really fucking turns me on.
I taste the cake: it’s not bad. She watches as I slide more cake onto the fork, and hold it out towards her. She opens her mouth and takes the cake, closing her eyes and eating slowly. Another piece follows, her eyes watching me, her moist mouth moving soundlessly.
She finishes the whole slice, as I feed her piece by piece. She has a small crumb by the side of her mouth. I wipe it with my finger, and she catches it in her mouth, sucking hard.
“Naughty girl,” I whisper, and she releases my finger instantly.
I take a sip of wine, and she does the same.
“I brought something else, sir.”
She reaches into her bag and pulls out a bottle of baby lotion and hands it to me.
What the fuck?
She sees my confusion.
“It’s pleasant to massage into the skin… after, sir. If you don’t mind. It’s soothing.”
And, for the first time, I understand that there is a gulf between what Elena has told me and how a Dom is expected to act. Christine was right when she said that Elena’s style was ‘intense’. So, baby lotion?
“That’s fine, Kirsten. I don’t mind at all. Put it in the guest room for later.”
She nods and gives a small smile.
“Has it been a long day, sir?”
I’m surprised by her question; it’s too… personal.
“Of the usual length, Kirsten.”
She looks down, knowing she’s overstepped her place.
“Wait for me in the guestroom, please.”
And she does.
I haven’t had time to prepare for this, but during the drive back from Bellevue, I’ve planned out what I wanted to do.
From the trunk under my bed, I retrieve a fringed, leather strap – a new addition to my collection, something between a belt and a cat, Scottish in origin, I believe – nipple clamps, leather cuffs and, just for today, I think I’ll use my tie as blindfold. I have a proper black-out blindfold, but I like the idea of using my tie. Something to think about at work.
I stand in the doorway of the guestroom, my ersatz playroom, and Kirsten’s hair tumbles down in soft curls. I take pleasure in braiding it, leaving a shining coil down her back.
“You have lovely skin, Kirsten,” I say, as I run my fingers over her shoulders.
I feel her shiver, and it’s not from cold.
“Stand up. I’m going to blindfold you: I want you to feel everything.”
I help her to her feet and slowly unknot my tie.
I fasten the tie over her eyes and lead her towards the bed. I notice the bottle of baby lotion is close to hand. A massage later? That has possibilities that I’m really fucking looking forward to investigating.
“Lie on the bed and raise your hands above your head.”
She lies back, her breathing accelerating, her body becoming aroused.
“Hands above your head.”
I lean over her to cuff her wrists and she moans softly.
She presses her lips together and tips her head backwards, her back arching. I run my left hand down the valley between her breasts and tease her nipples with my tongue and teeth. Then, one by one, I apply the clamps and watch as she bites back a moan.
I take a sip of wine and undress slowly, my cufflinks clattering onto the bedside table. Her lips part and she licks her lips. Kirsten is writhing with need which is a real fucking turn on. My cock is hard and that slow ache in my balls is beginning.
I kneel across her and let her feel my weight. I move up the bed so she can reach my cock with her mouth.
“I want you to suck me now.”
She smiles briefly before doing as I instruct.
Fuck, she’s good at that.
She runs her tongue around me and up and down, before taking me in her mouth. It feels warm and the pressure from her lips is fucking amazing. Then she bares her teeth, grazing my skin and it’s almost more than I can do to stop calling out.
But this is where the control comes in: and I am the fucking master of control.
She releases me immediately.
I run my tongue across her throat and between her breasts, leaving small bites on her flesh, working my way downwards. I want her to feel everything: my tongue, my teeth, my fingers, my cock.
I tug on the nipple clamps and she can’t restrain a moan. The sound makes me smile.
“Oh no, Kirsten, you’ve got to hold onto that, baby.”
She’s silent at once, but I’m going to see how much she can take before she has to let go.
And I move down, pushing her knees up to give me access to her hot, sweet thighs.
I work her with my mouth, pushing my tongue inside, and it takes less than ten seconds before she comes loudly. I’m almost disappointed, but my Kirsten is very responsive.
I flip her over, pushing her ass up so she’s leaning on her forearms, and reach for the hawse.
“How many you want with this, baby?” I ask, running the leather across her back. “Fifteen? Or twenty?”
“Fifteen, please, sir.”
Coming right up.
I massage her glorious ass with my left hand, then give her two, sharp blows with the strap. She whimpers and moans. I run my tongue between the cleft of her cheeks, massage her and then give her three more with the hawse.
“Count with me, Kirsten.”
“Five, sir!” she cries.
I alternate the range of sensations: kisses, bites, licking, massaging and the hawse. Her body starts to tremble and I’m so fucking hard.
“Fifteen… please, sir. I want you, sir!”
Oh fucking yes.
I move in slowly, feeling her sweet, soft flesh closing around me, hot and tight. Her body quivers, and I pull out slowly, then in again.
I let the speed increase as my body demands release, until I’m slamming into her, feeling the bed move beneath us, riding her hard.
She cries out loudly as I spill into her, and I release the clamps, causing her to cry out again.
Fuck, that felt good.
Quickly, I undo the cuffs from the head of the bed, but leave her wrists secured so she can’t touch me by mistake. She rolls onto her side and I curl my body around hers, draping one arm over her waist.
She takes my hand awkwardly and strokes my fingers.
“Thank you, sir,” she whispers.
“My pleasure, Kirsten.”
Your pleasure, at my pleasure.
And I wonder why anybody would want anything else: it’s the fucking perfect relationship, and we’ve both got what we want.
Not such a bad birthday after all. And we haven’t even gotten to the baby lotion yet. Good thing I don’t need much sleep.
Right: time to test Kirsten’s stamina.