Chapter 2: The Invisible Man (text)
I wake up with a smile on my face. Hell, my whole body is smiling from the inside out. And in recognition of my good mood, I poke Gail in the back with an erection that makes the Empire State Building look like a toothpick – oh yes.
“Jason,” she says with her eyes still closed, “I’d have been quite happy with ‘Good morning’ as a wake-up call. Tea in bed is also traditional.”
I wrap my arms around her waist and pull her back towards my chest.
“No tea? No breakfast in bed? Jason!”
Oh no, baby! I’m going to make a meal of you!
Although I say it myself, it’s been a very satisfactory start to the day… and I didn’t have to wait till my birthday for a blowjob. My woman is singing to herself as she makes breakfast. Damn, I’m a lucky man.
And even though the boss has more money than the Federal Reserve and more snappy suits than an alligator in Savile Row, I’m not sure I’d call him ‘lucky’. But, if he plays his cards right, and manages not to fuck up again, he might just get lucky tonight. Or not.
The poor sucker (woah, did I mis-speak myself?)… the poor fucker has to get through a nine-hour work day first – and so do I.
The acquisition of SIP is going ahead. I’m not sure the boss has thought this through, how Miss Steele is going to react to him being her boss, or, technically, her boss’s boss’s boss. Experience of women in general, and Miss Steele in particular, tells me that’s going to be a case of light the blue touch paper, retreat to a safe distance, bury your head between your legs, and kiss your ass goodbye.
Like I said, I really don’t think he’s thought it through.
And I don’t know whether it’s his need to keep her in his life in one way or another, his need to protect her, or his desire to keep his pretty, shiny toy to himself that is driving him on this one. Yeah, yeah, it’s good business: and he’s one scary fucking Easter Bunny.
The drive to work is uneventful and despite the increased vigilance, there’s still no sign of the Williams woman. Her continuing ability to evade all attempts to find her makes me nervous. I’ve changed the route of our morning run every day, avoiding all the usual places and Andrea is guarding the boss’s diary and appointments more closely than Hillary Clinton’s underwear.
Other than that, it’s business as usual and he’s working on a deal to buy a shipyard in Taiwan that’s going to put the ‘sick’ in Min Keh-sik, and make the Boston Tea Party look like a Sunday school outing.
And here’s the thing: I’ve seen the boss blow off multi-million dollar deals because some instinct told him to walk; I’ve seen him lose more on stock market fluctuations than is in the entire Bank of Bolivia; I’ve seen him turn down two famous movie actresses, one of whom looked like she could fuck an entire football team bow-legged and make a contortionist blush, (and at least one famous actor, who isn’t so much in the closet as hiding in an entire fucking furniture store); I’ve seen him… well, you get the picture. But I’ve never seen him this jittery.
It’s 1730 and it’s time for him to pay or play. We’re on our way to collect one Anastasia Steele from her place of work (which will be the boss’s place of work as of Monday, not that the poor kid knows it yet). I really hope he doesn’t fuck it up. I can’t stand another week of playing hunt-the-sense-of-humor.
As I drive through the building traffic I can see him in the rear view mirror. I’ve seen that look before – just not on him. If he doesn’t get her to give him another chance, there won’t be much of him left to care. Saying the atmosphere is tense is like saying the Titanic had a small leak.
I pull up outside SIP and suddenly we’re at DEFCON 1 – nuclear war is imminent. The reason? The sleazoid Jack Hyde is seeing Ana to the door. The boss swears so badly my ears nearly melt. Yeah, a nice intimate chat with the woman he loves, coming right up.
I step out of the car to open the door for Miss Steele and Hyde’s eyes lock on mine. He’s trying to work out where he’s seen me before and then he realises I’m here for Miss Steele. He checks out the SUV and he looks like he’s just had to chew on duckweed and had his new toy taken off of him – which he has.
Suck it up, dickless.
I wait for Miss Steele to acknowledge me but her eyes are wide with what looks a lot like fear as she stares into the car. I wonder what the fuck she’s seen and half turn, my hand moving towards my gun. The boss is glaring at her – I mean, fucking glaring at her like he’s caught her French-kissing Sarah Palin. What is his fucking problem?
And then I get it: it’s clear that Miss Steele has lost a lot of weight during the last five days. Well, what the fuck did he expect? What the fuck does he want? Can’t he see that the poor kid is crazy about him (or does he need Spock to do a Vulcan mind-meld)?
I want to slam my head into the steering wheel and inhale the airbag when he says to her,
“When did you last eat?”
For fuck’s sake! He even managed to screw up ‘hello’!
Nope, I want to slam his head into the steering wheel until he sees stars, then kick his damn ass all the way to Boston and back.
But her response makes me smile, in a completely face-non-moving sort of way.
“Hello, Christian. Yes, it’s nice to see you, too.”
Does he take the hint? Does he sweep her into his arms and promise to shower her with petals and fuck her into rose-tinted oblivion with a chocolate dildo? That would be too poetic for Mr I’m-fifty-kinds-of-moron-with-a-broomstick-up-my-Harvard-educated-ass.
“I don’t want your smart mouth now. Answer me.”
She swallows and looks nervous. Hell, who wouldn’t, when the human equivalent of Old Faithful is getting ready to blow (and not in a good way).
“Um… I had a yogurt at lunchtime. Oh – and a banana.”
I start praying to Jesus, Mary and Joseph that he takes his foot out of his mouth before he swallows it.
“When did you last have a real meal?”
Nope. A two-foot case of indigestion. Next time I’ll try Jehovah: go for the big guns.
I start the engine and try to ignore the replay of the Bay of Pigs in the backseat. Yeah, right.
That prick Hyde is waving. Fucking moron is waving at tinted windows – what a douche canoe.
Although, the boss is giving him a run for his money.
Yeah, great. Find another way to piss off the love of your life. I could pass an opinion but frankly I’d rather just sit here and pass wind.
“Well, your last meal?”
Change the fucking topic, you ginger-haired Britney!
Finally she caves.
“Pasta alla vongole, last Friday.”
The boss has finally gotten his answer and for a moment it takes him right back to those broken pieces of a human being that I saw last Saturday when she walked out on him.
Has learning taken place yet, Grey? Because you’re in the last chance saloon and your saddle horse just died of loneliness in the one-horse town that you call a life.
He begs her to eat. Begging is good! Women love it when you beg.
“Oh, Gail! Give it to me, baby! Go tell it to the Marines, baby!”
“How are you?”
Thank fuck! Finally a proper question that might actually lead to one of those old fashioned things they used to call a conversation.
She looks at her hands then manages to speak. Her voice is so quiet I can barely hear her.
“If I told you I was fine, I’d be lying.”
She doesn’t look fine. Her pretty face is almost gaunt, her eyes haunted with memories that I wouldn’t want anywhere near my skull, and I’ve seen some fucking bad shit in my time.
“Me, too,” he says softly. “I miss you.”
I feel like fucking cheering and throwing tickertape and taking Gail backwards on a hostess trolley food cart. I’m so damn happy that he’s managed to express an emotion that is real for once.
Then he holds her hand.
She hesitates: it’s make or break. Jesus – I’m holding my fucking breath and I’m the damn driver. If we crash now, Gail would have my ass. Well, she’s had it several times already, but that’s a bedtime story that’s definitely NC-17.
“Ana, please. We need to talk.”
No! I’m screaming in my head! KISS HER! KISS HER! In a totally heterosexual way, of course.
Christ, if he doesn’t kiss her soon, I’m going to give him Gail’s copy of Ninety Days of Genivieve and tell him to read the chapter called ‘The Stallion’ AGAIN!
Finally, finally he pulls her onto his lap, kisses her hair and tells her he’s missed her. I begin to breathe again.
Who knew he could behave like a human being?
When I get to the helipad in the city, things are looking good for the boss, but he’s not out of the woods yet. He’s still got plenty of time to fuck it up.
I open the door for Miss Steele and she slides out, smiling this cute little shy smile that for some bizarre reason reminds me of Sophie.
“I should give you back your handkerchief.”
She’s just so damn sweet – at least she knows what she’s getting herself into with Grey. This time. She’s stronger than she looks – I just hope she’s strong enough to take all his crazy shit. I think she is.
“Keep it, Miss Steele, with my best wishes.”
Yeah, I’m smooth. Watch, learn, and take notes, Grey.
And she blushes. Damn, she’s cute.
The boss is eyeballing me but I ain’t sayin’ shit, no suh. He knows there’s no point in asking me. Silent as the grave, me.
“Nine?” he says.
I watch them as the boss leads Miss Steele into the building. They’re holding hands and the heat that’s coming off them is enough to solve New York’s power shortages. That’ll be one helluva elevator ride.
Stephan comes out of the lobby and gets in the passenger door.
“How you doing, T?”
“Yeah. And how’s the delicious and delightful Mrs Jones?”
“You’ll never know, Stephan, and if you mention her name again your fillings will be getting to know what daylight looks like.” Fucking fly-boy.
He reclines the seat and makes himself comfortable. Jeez, is he expecting sandwiches and light refreshments?
“So, what’s up with Grey? I hear he’s got a girlfriend. Is that right? Because I always thought he was a camp counsellor.”
“Is that what you heard? I thought you were speaking from experience, being a flight attendant.”
“Ah, fuck you, Taylor!”
“You’re not my type.”
“Seriously, is it true? About the girlfriend?”
“Why are you so interested?”
He shrugs. “He’s not a bad guy. I always kinda felt sorry for him, that’s all.”
No, the boss isn’t a bad guy, just a walking, talking, fucking disaster of a human being.
I don’t answer so he knows it’s time to change the subject. Stephan was out in Iraq in ’05 so we shoot the breeze about fond memories of sand flies and crotch rot.
When we get to Portland I drop him off at the helipad so he can pilot Charlie Tango back to Boeing Field.
“See ya, T. Don’t take any wooden nickels!”
“I don’t know but it’s been said, air force wings are made of lead.”
I pull away before he can answer, but my lip reading is pretty good. What rhymes with ‘duck stew’?
My BlackBerry rings and I hear the boss’s dulcet tones.
“We’re at Le Picotin. Southwest Third Avenue.”
What? I haven’t got time to hit the head? Jeez, I’ve just driven the best part of 180 miles. Guess I’ll have to stick it in a bottle.
Luckily, I drive past a MacDonalds and avail myself of the facilities. I’m lovin’ it.
I text the boss and wait outside this nice looking restaurant. Now I’ve got the location in the SatNav, I’m thinking intimate dinner a deux with the delectable Mrs Jones. I’m still working on the whole concept of her being Mrs Taylor, but I’m a patient man. And if a job’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well. And I do love doing Mrs Jones.
Shit! Mind on the job, Taylor! The boss wants to talk to me. What now?
But when he tells me that he needs some private time with Miss Steele, I get the picture. I’ve got to be the invisible man: deaf, dumb and blind but somehow able to steer the SUV with three of my five senses out of use. Yeah, and Minnie Mouse does it doggy-style with Pluto.
Fine. I’ll play Puccini. I choose La fanciulla del West for Miss Steele. Now that’s what you call a sense of humor.
I’ve got my ear buds in but the music is coming through the car’s sound system and not through my iPod. Too dangerous.I’ve got to be able to hear the car’s engine. And as for people who go jogging or cycling listening to music, that’s just damn crazy. Don’t they want to hear that eight-wheeler coming up behind them? Scary shit.
Grey has hired me to be his eyes and ears. He may have fooled Miss Steele but he knows that I know that he knows.
We go through the whole charade of me pretending I can’t hear him, all to give Miss Steele an illusion of privacy. There isn’t any, of course, and if she wants a part of Grey, she’ll have to get used to it. He has no secrets from me. Not really. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a real private guy, but when you’ve had verifiable threats on your life twice, and your bank account is bigger than Texas, well, you need people around you 24/7. I’m his people. Simple.
He’s got a determined expression on his face; I sure hope Miss Steele managed to have a glass of wine in that fancy schmancy restaurant. If not, there’s a bottle of Tequila Gold in the trunk. It’s a present for Gail’s brother-in-law. I chose it specially: Gail’s sister, Allison, hates tequila. I’m thoughtful like that.
Then Grey drags me back to the here and now in a way that is going to give me flashbacks for decades when he says,
“Do you want a regular vanilla relationship with no kinky fuckery at all?”
Jesus H Christ on a stick! Did he just say that? I nearly crashed the fucking car!
Miss Steele looks as shocked as I am and that’s saying something. And I wasn’t a virgin less than a month ago.
I really, really wish I couldn’t hear any more.
The kid blushes the color of his hair and gives it to him, but good.
“Fundamentally, Christian, it’s your joy in inflicting pain on me that’s difficult for me to handle.”
You tell him, kid!
I notice I’m getting a bit heavy-footed and ease up on the gas, slowing to a nice, leisurely 95mph. I’m not worried about getting busted: no cop likes to write up an ex-forces guy.
My attention is pulled back to the episode of Peyton Place going on in the back seat. The boss has completely caved. He’s agreed to no whips, canes or belts, no heavy shit at all, and – this is what rocks my socks – no rules! I mean, this guy loves his rules. He’s fucking heavy petting when it comes to his rules, Control-Freak-and-Weirdo extraordinaire. Completely caved. Given it up. Laid it on the floor. Fucking ridden over it in a Sherman tank. For her. A little co-ed from Montesano.
And you know what? This dumb-ass billionaire, who doesn’t have the sense of a seam squirrel when it comes to women, has done something smart in his oh-so lonely life. He’s taken a chance. On love.
That’s a warm and fuzzy feeling for a cold night. Fuck me.