Just before midnight I cautiously step through the elevator doors into the foyer. Nope, no-one around. I really don’t want to bump into the boss fucking on the floor, or anywhere else for that matter. There are some things the staff don’t need to see. If I hadn’t been so tired, I would have seriously considered walking up 30 stories of the fire escape just to avoid that particular scenario.
But the apartment is quiet. I’d really like to head for bed, well, Gail’s bed even though I know she’s not in it, but there’s something I need to do first.
Out on the roof, Charlie Tango is sulking quietly, her engines stilled for now. In the small flight room, Sandy ‘Bullshit’ McCoy, the stand-by pilot is dozing over ‘Soldier of Fortune’. Yeah, that would send me to sleep, too.
“Hey, Bull, how you doing, buddy?”
My voice makes him jump and he drops his magazine.
“Aw, shit, Taylor! What did you wake me for, man? I was dreaming about Britney Spears.”
“You really need to get a life, Bull.”
It’s a fair point. “Has Grey been in touch?”
“Nah. Not a sound. So what’s the sit-rep? Why am I on stand-by all night?”
“Need to know, Bull.”
“You’re full of shit, Taylor.”
Another fair point. “You’re being well paid.”
In this business we’ve all had mind-numbingly boring assignments. Waiting for the call that never happens has got to be one of the worst. I can sympathise with Bull but he’s being appropriately reimbursed for sleeping on the job.
It would probably be ok to stand him down if little Miss Steele hasn’t headed for the hills so far, but that’s not my call; and the boss is paying.
“You need a coffee or food or anything, Bull?”
“Naw, I’ve been looked after by the housekeeper, Gail, before she left for the evening. Boy, you never said she had such a great rack. Or maybe you didn’t notice, huh, Taylor! Losing your touch?”
He’ll fucking see if I’m losing my touch if he speaks about Gail like that again.
“Woah! Just saying, just saying, no need to lose it, Taylor!”
Wisely Bull raises his hands in a gesture of peace; I hadn’t realised mine were balled into fists.
“Sorry, man, I didn’t know you had anything going with the lady; just saying, that’s all.”
“Yeah, well try engaging your brain before you open your mouth next time, or you’ll be talking without your teeth.”
My natural good will to all men seems to have evaporated during this brief but irritating conversation with Bull. And now I’m kind of glad he’s pulled a boring all-nighter. Serve the fucker right.
Duty done and honor served, I head back down to the apartment.
Oh crap! It’s not quite as quiet as it was; the unmistakable sounds of orgasmic womankind are emanating from the boss’s bedroom. Too much information!
Even though I’ve never known him to take a woman into his bedroom before, I’m not that fucking curious; little Miss Steele is full of surprises.
I head to the staff quarters at the double.
With the door firmly closed behind me I relax slightly. There’s a note on the breakfast bar.
Hey handsome! Chicken mayo sub in the refrigerator and a coffee éclair. And if you’re not Jason Taylor, what are you doing in my kitchen?
It makes me smile but really I’m too tired to eat.
I undress quickly, throwing my clothes on the floor in a way that would make Gail frown, then I collapse into bed. The pillow on her side of the bed smells of her, so I hug it to me and hope I dream sweet dreams.
At some point in the early hours, I hear the piano. It surprises me: I thought things would be different, what with Miss Steele sleeping in the boss’s bedroom. But no, some things never change.
* * * *
I’m mildly surprised when I wake up. The light is brighter than expected. Fuck! It’s 8am! I’ve slept right through; I must have forgotten to set the alarm. Shit oh shit oh shit! I immediately check my Blackberry: I have to look twice to make sure there are no texts or missed calls from the boss. Nope. Nothing. Zilch. Nada. That’s just plain weird; I can only conclude the boss had a very good night.
As for me, I slept soundly, but I miss waking up to Gail’s sweet face. And frankly I miss wake up sex. The bed is a lonely planet without her.
Despite my sound sleep, I feel surly. Jeez, get a grip, Taylor – you do have a life without Gail. Yeah, I do, I’m just not sure if it’s one that’s worth having. I hate the weekends she’s away. And I haven’t seen Sophie for nearly six weeks. She’ll be forgetting what her old man looks like; seven is awful grown up these days.
So I’m Johnny no-mates, rattling around in the staff quarters like a bad smell, and the boss is having his end away with a co-ed. Yeah, yeah, and whoever said the world was a fair place, you sad fucker?
I shower and shave and chow my way through the chicken sub that Gail left for me. It’s a bit of a joke between us, you know, the whole ‘sub’ thing. And seeing as Gail has been good enough to leave it and isn’t here to say otherwise, I have the coffee éclair, too, and three sugars in my coffee.
I dress quickly and check my piece. I know, I know, it’s a Sunday, the Lord’s day and there haven’t been any high level threats against the boss for months, but the time you don’t have your weapon, is the time you end up really needing it. It just ain’t worth the risk. Then, feeling properly dressed, I call up to Sandy – I think I woke him up again because he’s damn bad-tempered. Like a generous host I tell him to come and eat something in the staff kitchen before he flies Charlie Tango back to Boeing. I’m really glad I ate the sub and éclair before I called him. Serve the ignorant bastard right.
I can hear someone moving in the main kitchen and seeing as the boss only knows his way to the refrigerator and microwave, I figure it must be Miss Steele.
It shocks the hell out of me when I see her because all she’s wearing is one of the boss’s shirts. And when I say ‘all’, believe me, I know what I’m talking about due to the evidence of a pair of 20:20 eyes and I’m as shocked as hell. Boy, those braids are cute. I’m glad she hasn’t seen me, I’d feel like a perv.
Officially I’m still on duty but with nothing to do I sit in my office, check out the CCTV whilst surfing the internet for cool stuff for seven year olds. Jeez! Thongs for seven year olds?! You’ve got to be kidding me? What sort of sick, twisted fuckers are there out there? Ok, I work for a sick, twisted fucker but that’s really not what I meant. Shouldn’t a seven year old look like a seven year old and not a Vegas hooker? Maybe I’ll stick to books for Princess Sophie.
I hear voices in the kitchen so I know the boss is awake. I was pretty surprised that Miss Steele was awake before him, but he’s been acting so weirdly since he met her that I’m beginning to realise all bets are off. I have a feeling my routine little world of fucked up boss with playroom pals is about to change. And maybe that’s no bad thing.
About 11.30am I’m bored witless and shitless. The boss and Miss Steele have disappeared back into his bedroom and I’ve had to play some music pretty loud to block out the noise: either he’s really good or she’s just easily pleased, but inside I’m begging them to keep it down! Trying to work here!
And then a car I recognise drives into the private underground garage. Fuck-a-loolah! Dr Trevelyan – his mother!
Oh, this is going to be interesting.
Feeling slightly nauseous at the coming confrontation, I wait by the elevator. It would almost be worth getting fired to not have to speak to the doc right now. What am I supposed to say: Sorry, but the son you thought was gay is actually having sex in his bedroom for the first time instead of his playroom, you know, the ones with the whips and chains. Oh, and it’s with a girl. Would you mind coming back later when she’s finished her orgasm?
Gail’s really missing all the fun.
The doors slide open and Dr Grace Trevelyan-Grey exits the elevator with a smile.
“Hello, Taylor. How are you? How’s your little girl?”
“Just fine, thank you, Mrs Grey.”
She smiles and sweeps past me while I stand like a fool with a broom up my ass.
“Is my son about?”
“Er, he’s still in bed, ma’am. Would you like to leave a message?”
“In bed? At this hour?”
She frowns and looks at her watch.
“Yes, ma’am, so if you’d like to leave a message with me I’ll be sure he gets it and…”
“But if he’s still in bed, then he must be ill. He’s never in bed at this time. Christian never sleeps in!”
She starts heading for his bedroom. Oh crap! She’s about to walk in on a sight no mother should have to see. I’m pretty certain it’ll be NC-17.
“Mrs Grey, please!”
She fixes me with a thousand yard stare that would terrify a platoon of marines. I really wish Gail were here – this is definitely a woman-to-woman moment.
“Taylor! You cannot keep me from my son.”
I am so fucked!
“Mrs Grey, he’s not alone.” And this is my last hope for keeping my job.
“What do you mean he’s not alone?”
Oh, for fucks sake! What do you think I fucking mean, woman?!
“He has someone with him.”
Oh, thank fuck! She finally gets it.
“I see. Thank you, Taylor. I think… I think I’ll go and sit down for a moment, if you don’t mind.”
No, I’m fucking ecstatic. By all that’s holy, will you just fucking leave!
But her voice has alerted the boss to her arrival and in double quick time he’s on his way to the main room. I head back to my office and leave them to it.
Thankfully my Blackberry buzzes, distracting me from the unfolding drama that is just another day at Grey’s apartment of amazement.
“Hi Taylor, it’s Ros.”
“Tell Christian to turn on his damn cell! I need to talk to him about a problem with the Darfur shipment. Why the hell isn’t he answering anyway?”
“He’s been busy.”
“With what?! Oh, never mind, need to know, I get it. Just tell him to fucking call me, will you?”
The phone goes dead. Yeah, bye to you, too.
I can hear the murmur and tenor of their voices in the room beyond, but not the words. I’m beyond surprised when Miss Steele’s soft lilt joins them. To my certain knowledge, the boss has never introduced a woman to his mother before. I bet the doc is fucking delighted to meet Miss Steele. Shocked, but delighted.
Abruptly I realise that Dr Trevelyan has finally taken the hint and is leaving. I jog out to the main room to escort her to the foyer.
“Thank you, Taylor.”
We walk to the elevator in silence; I’m not the chatty type. Dr G, on the other hand is stunned into conversation.
“Well, goodness, that was a surprise, Taylor. How long have Christian and Ana been seeing each other?”
“Not long, I believe, ma’am.”
“I’m sorry, I shouldn’t ask you things like that. It’s just …the surprise. Well, good day, Taylor.”
As soon as she’s gone I take my chance to give the boss Ros’s message.
In the main room the boss is scowling at little Miss Steele. I wonder what she’s done wrong – I sure know that expression and she looks like she’s about to make a run for it. Smart girl.
“Mr Grey, there’s an issue with the Darfur shipment.”
He nods. “Charlie Tango back at Boeing Field?”
I feel the girl’s eyes on me. I turn to look at her, “Miss Steele.”
She gives me a sweet, shy smile as I turn to leave. She really is a nice kid. I hope the boss looks after her.
Grey takes care of business while I go back to my office, leaving Miss Steele hovering uncertainly in the main room. She seems overwhelmed by her surroundings and a little scared of the boss. Poor kid. I hope she’s ok.
I realise that the boss is ready to leave.
“Yes, sir. Which car are you taking, sir?”
“Safe trip, Mr Grey, Miss Steele.”
She really is a sweet kid; I really hope he isn’t planning on introducing her to the dubious delights of his playroom, but I guess that’s too much to ask for. What is it my mom used to say: a leopard don’t change his spots.
* * * *
Jason is up in Portland with Mr Grey all week. The apartment is so quiet and empty without them. It makes it easy for me to do my work, but I miss them both.
I know Jason pretends not to be fond of Mr Grey, but he is, of course. And really, Mr Grey is a sweet man, easy to like and a good employer. He’s thoughtful and kind, a loving son, an attentive brother, and a hard worker. I don’t understand why he needs to have a playroom and why he needs to… do whatever it is that he does. I mean, it’s pretty obvious; I’ve been cleaning the playroom for over four years now. All those whips and canes and other… accessories. I just don’t understand the why. And some of those women, his ‘submissives’, they were nice girls. Well, I didn’t like Melissa very much but then again she didn’t last very long either. There was a time when I thought Leila might mean something more to him, but she left, just stopped coming one day, like they all do.
I know Mr Grey has a temper, Jason has mentioned it often enough, but he has never, not once, lost his temper with me. He’s always grateful for everything I do and eats everything I put in front of him. If all employers were like that, it would be very easy to do my job.
My sister, Allison, is very curious about him, who wouldn’t be? But I’ve signed my NDA and she understands I can’t talk about my work. She’s a lot more vocal about Jason, unfortunately. She hasn’t used the word but I know she just thinks I’m convenient for him. It’s been very uncomfortable the few times we’ve all got together. Jason is astute enough to see what she thinks of him, so he clams up around her: not that he’s the most talkative person ever. But I wish she could see him the way I do, warm and funny and loving. Allison thinks Jason is dangerous.
The staff kitchen looks like a bomb hit it. I sigh: Jason really isn’t the tidiest person. It’s a full-time job looking after him; thank goodness Mr Grey is methodical and tidy. It’s a joy working for someone who’s so organised; it really makes life so much easier as an employee.
I can’t help smiling when I see that Jason has worked his way through half the contents of the entire refrigerator. It’s a good thing he works out so much or I wouldn’t like to be responsible for his waistline.
It really is a wonderful thing for a woman in her forties to make love with a man like Jason. He has a really fabulous body at a time when most of my friends are bemoaning their husband’s beer bellies, double chins and, well, lack of appetite, shall I say. There isn’t a spare inch of fat on Jason, that’s for sure. And he’s a wonderful, thoughtful lover. And talk about stamina! I certainly don’t have any complaints in that department. I really am very lucky.
He’s asked me to marry him again. I won’t, of course. I don’t think he’s really serious. After all, he’s seven years younger than me and he might meet a woman that he wants to have a family with; brothers and sisters for Sophie. I won’t be the one to stop him from moving on when that happens.
But there’s another reason; the job he does. I’ve lost one husband and I couldn’t bear to lose a second. I know there are many other dangerous jobs out there but I hate, hate that Jason wears a gun every day and works in close protection. I couldn’t marry a man who wears a gun to work, I just couldn’t. The idea makes me shudder.
* * * *
After I’ve cleaned the staff kitchen I decide that today would be a good day to do laundry. That way Mr Grey will have fresh sheets to come back to and who doesn’t like the smell of laundry-fresh pillowcases?
But when I pull back the covers I’m stunned. There’s… blood on the sheets!
For a moment I’m stunned, then I remember that Jason said that Mr Grey was bringing a new girl to the apartment, but I had no idea that she’d be sleeping in his bed! I mean, I’m pleased, just a little surprised. Ok, a lot surprised! I’ve never understood why Mr Grey doesn’t sleep with his lady friends. I suspect he has issues about being touched, but still. Well, it seems that this Miss Steele is different. I suppose she must have had her period.
If Mr Grey has met someone he can have a proper relationship with – oh, that would be wonderful! I’d be so pleased for him. Jason said she was a real sweet, shy, innocent girl. Just 21 years old and…
Oh! Innocent? Oh no! How innocent? And at that moment I feel with some degree of certainty that I’m looking at the evidence of her lost virginity.
I pull the sheets from the bed and bundle them up quickly. I don’t know what to think about this, I really don’t. It’s none of your business, Gail. Pull yourself together, girl!
Oh, Mr Grey. What have you done?
For the rest of the day I’m in a quandary; I don’t know what to think and it’s hard to articulate why this concerns me so much. Obviously I don’t know for sure what’s happened; it’s just a gut instinct. This girl, so young, so shy, so innocent – these are the words that Jason has used about her twice now. Is Mr Grey really going to introduce her to… to his vices? I’ve been able to accept that his lady friends have chosen this lifestyle for whatever reasons (and I really don’t want to think about what those might be too closely), but to initiate a young girl into that… no, I find that reprehensible and impossible to accept.
And yet… it really is none of my business. Miss Steele may be young and inexperienced but she’s not a child and she’s not stupid; she’s an adult who must take responsibility for herself in life. But what if she were my daughter? How would I feel then? And that’s the crux of it: if I’d been blessed with a daughter, she could easily have been the same age as Miss Steele; and for all the goodness that I know is in Mr Grey’s heart, I wouldn’t want a child of mine initiated into his lifestyle. It’s too, too dark.
I wish Jason were here. I desperately want to talk to him about it but I don’t feel it’s a conversation I can have over the phone. What do I do now? What can I do? What should I do?
The questions pursue me unrelentingly through every trivial task of my day. Finally, exhausted by my own company and contemplating a full grown migraine, I conclude one thing: I must meet Miss Steele for myself, and then I will make up my own mind. My conscience demands it… and my heart quails at the prospect of what I’ll find…