We’re back at the fucking Heathman. Again. The boss is working on his laptop, barking orders into his Blackberry every few minutes and I’m left twiddling my thumbs and wondering whether to shoot myself just to alleviate the boredom.
In war, there are always some soldiers who snap: some shoot themselves in the foot or in the hand just to get sent back from the frontline. But I suspect if I shot off a toe or two, Grey would just tell me to hop more quickly and watch where I was bleeding.
And this is all because of a certain Miss Steele. It’s as if the boss can’t bear to be in a different city from her. He’s anxious and edgy in a way I’ve never seen before – it’s making me nervous.
I spend most of my time in the Heathman’s gym and read the daily security reports from Welch. Nothing new. Nothing interesting. Fuck! I mustn’t think like that; in this job dull is good.
The only bright point in the day is phoning Gail.
“Hey, baby, miss me?”
“Of course, Jason. I always do. How has your day been?”
“Oh, well, ok,” her voice sounds distracted.
“Nothing. I’m fine.”
“You don’t sound fine; you sound… weird.”
“Well, thank you, Jason! That’s good to know.”
“Come on, Gail, I don’t mean it like that. But something’s wrong; why won’t you tell me what it is?”
She doesn’t reply directly.
“Has Mr Grey seen Miss Steele?”
“Not today. Why?”
“Oh, I just wondered.”
“Jason, I’d rather talk to you face to face. But it’s nothing to worry about, I promise.”
“Now I’m really worried. Please, Gail, tell me, before I go crazy!”
She hesitates. “It’s just that this girl seems… different from the others. She’s much younger, isn’t she?”
“Yeah, she’s a student. What’s this about, Gail?”
“Nothing. I’m being silly. Tell me what you did today.”
I recognise that tone; whatever she isn’t telling me will have to wait. But then the phone buzzes irritatingly.
“Hang on, Gail, I’ve got another call coming in on my cell.”
I put her on hold and answer. It’s the boss.
“Taylor, I’m going out.”
“Do you need me to drive you, sir?”
“Could you tell me where you’re going, Mr Grey?”
He pauses then reluctantly answers. “I’m going to Miss Steele’s apartment; I’ll be gone a couple of hours.”
The line goes dead and I return to Gail.
“Is everything ok, Jason?”
“Yeah, that was the boss; he’s off to see Miss Steele.”
“Yup. Says he’ll be a couple of hours.”
“That’s odd, isn’t it, for him, I mean.”
“Gail, honey, odd has been one of my favorite words since I met him.”
She laughs lightly. “Very true. Phone me tomorrow?”
“Of course. Miss you, baby.”
“And you, Jason.”
“Enough to marry me?”
Oh well, it was worth a try. Again.
And now I feel even more fucking irritated; Grey is seeing his little student and I’m stuck in a fucking hotel two hundred miles away from the woman of my dreams. Some guys have all the fucking luck. Looks like I’ll need to spend some time in the gym again or I’ll be going to bed with a serious hard-on. Talking to Gail has that effect on me.
So I’m lifting weights and running on the damn machine with a load of fat, sweaty executives and keeping an eye on the boss, too. The R8 is low-jacked so I know where it is at any given time; and right now it’s outside a duplex about six miles away. I hope the boss isn’t going for one of his fuck-athons because I don’t fancy being on this damn machine all night, waiting for him to get back. Perhaps he’ll remember that Miss Steele has got work in the morning and it wouldn’t be fair to have her turn up bandy-legged.
But, shortly after 10pm, I see from the GPS on my phone that his car is heading back to the hotel. I towel off gratefully and make my way up to the top floor in time to see him enter his room, a relaxed look on his face. Bastard.
Tuesday is equally dull and equally long. It seems the boss has no plans to see the girl so we head out for a long run instead. It makes a change pounding the streets of Portland. Back in Seattle I think we’ve exhausted every possible route in every possible part of the city. At least this is new. And at least the weather is cool. I had one job in Florida where the guy I was guarding ran every day in 98% humidity. Fine for him, but I had my piece strapped to my side and had to cover up with a sweatshirt. I nearly fucking melted; it was like a summer in Afghan wearing full body armor. In short: it fucking sucked.
By Wednesday I’m so bored I’m thinking about shooting Grey myself. But then he quietly informs me that Miss Steele is having dinner with him at the Heathman and that he’s booked a private dining room. Oh, and I can have the evening off. Yeah, yeah. You fuck; I wander the streets of Portland.
Just before 7pm, I’m sitting quietly in one of the low armchairs in the foyer seating area. I’m not exactly hiding behind the potted palm but I want to see Miss Steele arrive. And I have to say she looks a knock-out, wearing a figure hugging dress and heels. Every guy in the room has their tongues hanging past their navels, but for once the boss doesn’t seem to notice. He’s looking at Miss Steele like she’s the last oasis in the desert.
But you should see the piece of crap she drives! An ancient Beetle that is older than she is. Jeez, I had a car like that when I was her age; real heavy on the steering and brakes like rocks. The boss won’t like that. I’m pretty certain he’ll want her to have an Audi A3 like the others. No sweat; I’m on first name terms with the sales team at the Audi dealership. Hell, they probably keep two or three in stock just for the boss.
So I sit and read the paper, take a beer and order a club sandwich and I’m just thinking about heading to the time accelerator (and if you’ve ever been in the military you’ll know that’s what we call our bedroll when we’re on a particularly boring tour), when the boss and Miss Steele head for the exit.
She looks flushed and unhappy and he looks… distracted. I guess his plans for the evening didn’t pan out after all. Bet that doesn’t happen too often. Yeah, my heart is fucking breaking. Seems like Miss Steele is more like her name suggests than I’d thought. Interesting. But he surprises me – and her – when he takes off his jacket and drapes it over her shoulders. It’s an intimate gesture and I feel like a voyeur. The boss waves the valet away, opens the car door and helps her in. She whispers something to him and he shakes his head. Then he watches as she drives off in a cloud of exhaust smoke, the noise loud over the muted chat in the foyer. He stands, simply watching. His face is expressionless but I know him well enough to tell that he’s upset about something. Probably the fact he’s going to be spending the night alone. And I know how lonely that feels.
Grey spots me and walks over, running his hands through his hair.
“Taylor, Miss Steele needs a new car. An A3. In red. Tomorrow.”
“Yes, sir. Anything else?”
“I have the graduation ceremony at USWV tomorrow at eleven thru one. I’ll need you to drive me – the usual.”
He wanders off looking… I don’t know… kinda sad.
I take the elevator to my room and even though it’s late, I want to hear Gail’s voice.
“Jason! Are you ok? It’s late.”
“Sorry, baby. Were you sleeping?”
“No, I was just getting ready for bed though.”
“Oh? What are you wearing?”
“Come on, I’m curious.”
“I’m wearing that lovely black underwear that you bought me from Victoria’s Secret…” I groan inwardly. “… and I’m wearing a white blouse and my navy blue pencil skirt.”
“Take off your skirt.”
“Do it for me, baby.”
I hear the smile in her voice. “Ok, Jason. I’m unzipping my skirt. I’m sliding it down my hips. It’s on the floor. Now I’m picking it up and folding it and putting it on the chair, like you’re supposed to do with your clothes!”
“Oh, baby, don’t ruin the moment. Undo your shirt: one button at a time.”
“Here’s the first button; now the second; now the third; my bra is showing through; now I’m undoing the cuffs; now I’m sliding my blouse over my shoulders. Now I’m just in my bra and panties. I’m going to tuck the phone in my panties so I can unhook my bra…”
Oh, fucking yeah!
Suddenly there’s a thud. “Oh, sorry, Jason, I dropped the phone. Allison is on the other line; I’ll have to go.”
Fucking Allison! I knew there was a reason I hated her sister. And I’ve got a rock solid erection. Sucking in a deep breath, I head back to the gym. On second thought, I’d better take the stairs. By the time I get to the basement, I should be back to normal. Oh, for fucks sake!
Thursday morning I’m booted and suited and standing ready to drive the boss. I know he hates doing this publicity shit but he seems more antsy than usual. I suspect little Miss Steele might have something to do with that.
Welch has had some intel of a possible student demonstration, because of Grey’s involvement with the farming division. We’re used to that shit but Welch has hooked me up with the campus security even though I’m not expecting anything I can’t handle.
As we approach I get confirmation that a small demonstration, some fifty students, is waiting at the VIP entrance. And the SUV is a nice car; I don’t want it covered in paint again.
“Sir, there’s a demo you might want to avoid; just the usual. I’m going to take you to the back entrance.”
He nods without replying. Jeez, he’s really distracted. Normally he swears blue and green when the students demonstrate against his involvement in the farming division.
I liaise with the campus security and they take us through a different entrance and around to the hall where the graduation is taking place.
The Chancellor is waiting for us, looking agitated and embarrassed; he’s worried his chief benefactor is going to fuck off back to Seattle, but Grey greets him coolly, seemingly unconcerned by certain fuckwitted elements of the student body.
I recognise the delectable ice queen, Miss Kate Kavanagh eyeing the boss with dislike. Wow, a woman who hasn’t fallen for the boss’s charms; that’s two – my Gail being the other. Oh, and Ros, but I’m not sure I’d count her, batting for the other team as she does.
Miss Steele’s friend makes an impressive speech. Not just a pretty face then. Maybe that’s why she doesn’t like the boss; she knows there’s something about him. I wonder if Miss Steele has told her about the boss’s special hobbies, even if she has signed an NDA. I frown at the thought: he doesn’t need that kind of trouble, if she decided to go public. I can’t really imagine her doing it, but it’s been one of my main worries since starting work for the boss. And really, it’s only a matter of time, isn’t it?
Then the boss stands up and makes his speech. Even though I’ve heard him make similar ones before, it still gets me. I know some of what he went through as a kid: I’ve seen the scars and occasionally I still hear him screaming at night. It’s a fucking chilling sound.
The students respond to his carefully choreographed speech as he knew they would. There’s enthusiastic applause and probably a lot of wet panties among the females, and possible some of the men. He throws a final look in the direction of Miss Steele and sits down. I know that look. Jeez, get a room.
When he leaves the stage he steps over to speak to Miss Kavanagh. She looks pissed about something but he’s insistent. She pouts and marches off, quickly returning with Miss Steele. The boss looks really pissed about something and he surprises the hell out of the Chancellor and three Vice Chancellors when he hauls Miss Steele off into a men’s locker room. I mean, I know I said get ‘get a room’, but it was a fucking metaphor, for crying out loud! Surely he’s not going to lay her on the locker room floor? He’s acting so weird, I wouldn’t put it past him; he’s never cared much about what people think of him, but come on!
I’m not the only one who’s relieved when they both reappear a few minutes later.
Miss Steele hurries away, looking red and flustered; I’m probably the only one who can tell that the boss is less than his usual calm, collected self.
He finally prises himself away from the university boffins.
“I’m going to have a fucking drink, Taylor. I’ll be about half an hour.”
I follow at a discreet distance and position myself by the entrance to the marquee. Everything looks calm, but I don’t like large crowds; things can get out of hand real damn quick.
I watch with interest as the boss is swept up by Miss Kavanagh and escorted towards her friend. She’s standing talking to a middle-aged man whom I recognise from the photo in her file as Miss Steele’s stepfather. There’s a tall blond guy with his arm around Miss Steele. This should be interesting.
I can recognise the look on the boss’s face; he seriously wants to kick the shit out of the blond guy. Instead he shakes hands with Miss Steele’s stepfather and stakes his claim on the girl. Smooth.
The blond guy drifts away with Miss Kavanagh and I notice the family resemblance. To my extreme fucking surprise, Grey and the Steele guy seem to be hitting it off. If I remember the file correctly, which of course I fucking do, Steele is ex-army. He’s certainly not intimidated by the boss. What makes me laugh my fucking ass off is that the boss is going all out to charm the pants off Steele senior – the second person in that family, it seems. Who’d have thought it: the boss meeting a girl’s dad. Which re-run of ‘The Waltons’ is this, for fucks sake?
And then a photographer sweeps in and gets a candid shot of the boss with Miss Steele. That’ll be in the gossip pages tomorrow. The boss won’t be pleased.
But then Miss Steele says something to him and the boss looks like he’s just glimpsed heaven. He closes his eyes and when he opens them I’m surprised the whole fucking tent doesn’t catch fire. It’s as if it’s just him and his girl, alone in the tent. I have to look away; he deserves some privacy.
The step-father returns and the boss barely seems aware of his surroundings. He takes the girl’s hand and kisses it lovingly. I have never seen him like this. And then it hits me: he’s in love.
Well, fuck me sideways!