The end of the week coincides with the end of the financial month. Grey has ditched his morning run for a session with his personal trainer.
I’ve heard of Claude Bastille: he’s very choosy who he takes on as a client. He’s not interested in soft executives who eat too much and drink too much and think they can stave off a stroke by raising their heart rate once a week. He and Grey are well matched: focussed to the point of fanaticism; hardcore. I watch for a while as they try to kick the shit out of each other then wander back to the CCTV room which has become my office. I’ve got some reading to do on some of Grey’s staff. There are 3,209 at Grey House alone, all with potentially close access to him. Welch’s firm have already done background checks, but I like to be thorough – my client’s life and my life could depend on it.
I’m surprised to see an envelope on the desk with my name on it in Grey’s handwriting. It makes me frown. He hasn’t said anything: if he’s going to fire me, surely he’d have the balls to tell me in person?
But when I open it two things fall out: a thick wad of paper that turns out to be a permanent contract; and a check for a ridiculously large amount of money. It’s far more than I’d agreed with Welch. I don’t get what’s going on. Is he paying me for several months in advance? Is it a mistake? That seems unlikely: Grey doesn’t do mistakes. I decide it must be a test: he wants to know if I’m honest and that I’ll point out the error to him. I’m slightly disappointed that he’d try such an obvious tactic. Normally clients test me by leaving out their fucking Rolexes.
I can see from the CCTV that Grey’s workout with Bastille has been concluded and he’s soon strolling through the foyer. I decide to wait until Gail has fed him before I ask him what’s the fucking story; I’ve figured out that he’s usually in a slightly better mood when he’s not hungry.
Thinking about Gail irritates me. I still haven’t asked her whether or not she’s married. We’ve talked some and I know she’s got a sister in Portland, but she hasn’t mentioned a husband. It occurs to me that I could just look her up in Grey’s files, but somehow that seems an invasion of her privacy. Oh for fuck’s sake! I’m Grey’s personal security – I’m supposed to know stuff like this! But even so, I can’t quite bring myself to do it. I’m getting fucking soft.
When Grey heads for his office I wait a moment then knock on his door.
“What?!” he snarls. So much for him being in a better mood after eating.
I show him the check. “I wanted to ask you about this, sir.”
“Well? What about it?”
“It’s more than we agreed.”
He frowns. “For your daughter’s pre-school.”
He turns back to his computer screen as if that’s obvious enough.
“Could you explain that, sir?”
He runs his hand through his hair in irritation, a gesture I’ve become familiar with over the last week.
“To pay for your daughter’s pre-school education, Taylor.”
He hands me a piece of paper.
“A list of the three best pre-schools in your ex-wife’s district. Choose whichever you think.”
And I’m lost for words.
“But… I haven’t signed the permanent contract… yet, sir.”
“Will you?” he frowns up at me.
“Yes, sir,” and I see an expression I can’t identify pass across his face.
“Thank you, Taylor.”
He turns back to the screen again. I’m being dismissed.
“Thank you for the school fees, sir.”
“Ok.” He doesn’t turn to look at me but carries on studying columns of minute figures.
I’m… surprised. It’s not just the money, although I really appreciate that, it’s the fact that he’s found out and printed a list of suitable schools.
I’m about to sign his permanent contract when I remember what Gail said about his weekend ‘guest’. I think I’ll hold off signing until I’ve met a certain Miss Saunders. I’m a cautious man.
Gail’s soft voice interrupts my dour thoughts. She’s not wearing her usual uniform of skirt and white blouse. She’s wearing blue jeans and a long-sleeved T-shirt – and she looks damn fine, the way the denim clings to her hips and…
“I’m off now, Jason,” she continues. “I’ve left some cold cuts in the fridge and a list of frozen dishes by the microwave if you want a hot meal. And there’s a list of places who’ll deliver take-out if the microwave proves too much of a challenge.” Her teasing smile takes the sting out of her words. “I’ll be back Sunday evening. You have my cell number?”
“Oh, sure, Gail. What about food for Mr Grey?”
“I think you’ll find that Miss Saunders will take care of anything he wants,” she says kindly. “I believe she’s expected about eight o’clock this evening.”
I’m impressed that there’s no hint of condescension in her voice. Whatever she thinks of what goes on in that playroom, it doesn’t affect the way she does or job, or the way she talks about her employer. Very professional, Gail.
“Ok, see you Sunday.”
She waves and leaves and I find the thought of rattling around the Penthouse alone, trying to avoid my employer and his guest, an unpalatable prospect. But I’m not paid to enjoy myself. So I pull Miss Saunders’ file. The first page is unremarkable except that I note she’s more than ten years older than Grey. This makes me frown: he likes older women? If he tries anything with Gail, I’ll fucking crucify the bastard. The second page is standard stuff: education (two degrees?), bank account details, employment record (museum curator?!), but when I read the rest of the file my jaw hits the fucking floor. It’s a formal agreement that sets out a list of sexual activities that I can’t even spell. Christ! People really enjoy all that? Either I’ve been watching the wrong porn films or I need to get out a bit more. Jesus wept. But at the same time I can see that it’s a formal agreement between two sane, consenting adults; although now I think about it, I’m reconsidering the definition of ‘sane’. I mean, what kind of person wants to be hurt?
But then again, there were guys in the Marines I knew who liked to push the limits of what their bodies would take physically, but the whole dom/submissive relationship is not something I’ve thought about before. I’ve certainly never met any women who would agree to do exactly what I tell them when I tell them. Although having been married for six years to the Bitch, I’m kinda wishing… actually, no, not even then.
No, I’ve just got to think of it as a business arrangement. And for someone like Grey, I guess it makes more sense than to just get a hooker off the street. Particularly with his specialist requirements. It’s still a lot to get my head round. I’m now really intrigued to meet Miss Wendy Alison Saunders.
My phone buzzes, interrupting my thoughts.
“Taylor, I want to leave in five minutes.”
And the phone goes dead. I get my ass into gear and haul it down to the garage.
Once we’re at Grey House, his PA, the lovely Andrea, gives me his schedule for the coming week. Jeez, could it get any more dull? Fundraisers, business dinners, a gala night at the opera. Ok, that might be his idea of a good time as he’s into that whole classical music shit, but I mean, come on! The guy’s 23! And the Saturday night is another fundraiser at his parents’ home in Bellevue. I groan to myself: I’ll need a week to prepare for another meeting with Miss Grey. Full body armour, perhaps? She looked like she might tackle me at any moment. Christ, are all the Greys that intense?
I sit at my desk and read some more personnel files. Then I check out the pre-schools that Grey recommended. They really do look amazing. I’ve no idea how to choose between them – the one where the kids are the happiest, I guess. I wonder when I’ll get the chance to check them out: if the money’s coming from my account, I’m sure not leaving it up to the Bitch to choose.
At six, I’m waiting in the garage for Grey. He seems more pissed than usual. I wonder whose head he’s bitten off today. I really hope that getting laid takes the edge off his temper – otherwise the guy’s gonna explode.
The only person at the office who stands up to him is his number two, Ros Bailey. They’ve been together from the start, from what I can work out, and he relies on her, as much as he relies on anyone. She’s pretty good at calming him down when no-one else dares go near him. Although Andrea must be tougher than she looks to have lasted nine months as his assistant; or just maybe she’s just damn good at her job.
His phone rings for the third time on the short journey back to Escala. I feel sorry for whoever’s calling.
“Mia. What do you want?”
Oh, the sister. We should have sent her against Saddam Hussein: it would all have been over much more quickly.
“No, you can’t … because I’m busy … oh, for fuck’s sake, Mia! Ok, tomorrow at two … what? No, you fucking can’t … No!”
He snaps off the phone but beneath the irritation I can see that he’s fond of his little sister. Maybe she reminds him of him. Jeez. Poor kid.
I’m wondering if he’s going to say anything to me about his ‘guest’. Perhaps he’s just assumed that Gail has told me everything I need to know. But as we exit the car in the garage he says,
“Miss Saunders will be here at 8pm, Taylor. I won’t need you again tonight but I’ll be going for my run at 6am as usual.”
So he’s going to screw all night and go running before dawn? Christ! The man is a fucking machine!
At 7.55pm the CCTV shows a blue Audi A3 pull into one of Grey’s parking bays in the garage. Miss Saunders is punctual. I can’t see her face clearly on camera but I note that she has long, brown hair. I thought Grey only liked blondes?
I get up and go to meet her in the foyer.
She walks out of the lift and stops when she sees me.
“Good evening, ma’am.”
“Oh! Hello! Who are you?”
“Taylor, ma’am. Mr Grey is expecting you.”
“I know,” she says smiling. She winks and walks past me.
I don’t get it. She seems so nice and normal.
Feeling slightly reassured, I head back to my quarters and eat the delicious turkey salad that Gail has left out for me. I try to watch a Seahawks game but I can’t concentrate. I know that I’m listening out for… well, I don’t know, screams, maybe. I know Grey’s playroom is soundproofed but I can’t help myself. It’s the same feeling I had when we knew an op was going down: waiting for the ‘go’ signal. Get a grip, Taylor – they’re consenting adults. It’s none of your fucking business!
I sprawl out on the couch for a bit longer and see if a couple of beers will help me chill. I miss Gail’s easy company. Yeah, and you still don’t know if she’s married, let alone interested in you, moron.
Feeling like a creep, I decide I’ve got to go read her file. I tell myself that I’m just doing my job, but I don’t believe myself. Plus, it’s something to do while I wait for my brain to turn off.
Whilst I’m sitting at my desk in the CCTV room, I get an email from the Bitch. She wants money, of course. This time to take herself and Sophie on a holiday to see her mom in Santa Barbara. I email her and tell her she’ll have the money first thing on Monday morning: it’s not like I don’t have it, after all. Jeez – she emails back to say ‘thanks’. That’s a first.
It’s 1am and my head is starting to feel fuzzy with tiredness. I’ve read another 124 personnel files from Grey House and I can’t concentrate anymore. I’m suddenly aware that Grey is standing behind me. I get up quickly.
“Why are you still working, Taylor?”
He’s wearing a pair of ripped jeans and has a faint sheen of sweat on his chest. Christ! The guy has been screwing for five hours? Talk about stamina! I mean, I know guys like to boast about that stuff but that’s all it is, boasting. At least he looks less pissed.
“Just about to head to my room, sir.”
He stares at me and he looks like he’s suppressing a smile. The bastard knows I’ve been waiting to see if anything has happened to Miss Saunders. He seems to read my mind.
“Miss Saunders has gone to bed,” he says calmly. “I’ll be working in my office for a while.”
He knows that I know what he’s been doing, and he doesn’t give a flying fuck.
This is one of the strangest jobs I’ve ever had… and I’ve been here less than a week. Shaking my head, I switch off the computer screen, take one last look at the CCTV monitors and head off.
When the alarm on my phone goes at 5.30am I’m tempted to hurl it through the window. Instead I drag on my sweats and running shoes, shave so quickly I nearly cut my throat, and am standing in the foyer at 5.59am.
Grey appears on time, as usual, and apart from the fact he’s unshaved, he looks like he’s had eight hours of blissful sleep in his mommy’s arms, when I know for a fact his bed is barely on first name terms with him.
I wonder if this morning’s run will be shorter than usual but no, the same punishing pace for six miles. He hasn’t booked his trainer for the weekend but frankly a five hour fuck makes even Bastille’s sessions look half-assed.
When we get back I’m surprised to see Miss Saunders in the kitchen but from Grey’s lack of interest, I guess it’s his usual routine, if you could say that anything about Grey’s routine is ‘usual’.
He stalks off to his bedroom without speaking to her and I’m left hanging in the main room like a bad smell.
I try to make a discreet exit but Miss Saunders skewers me with the bright, brown gaze.
“Good morning, ma’am,” I mutter, knowing that I’m blushing. How fucking unprofessional is that?
I skulk around in the staff quarters having a shower and eating a bowl of granola with honey until I think it’s safe to cross the main room back into my office without being spotted. There’s a knack to being invisible when you live with your employer: Grey is so unpredictable, it’s harder than usual for me to achieve.
I’m half way across the main room when I hear the door of the playroom bang shut. Again?! Un-fucking-believeable. There’s a note on my desk from him telling me to be available for driving duties at 1.30pm.
Three hours and 47 personnel files later, an alarm on one of the monitors indicates that the fire door on the second floor has been opened. I’m up the stairs two at a time with my gun in my hand but when I get there, there’s nothing to see; the door is firmly closed. I suspect it’s faulty wiring. I make a note to get an engineer in asap, and sheathe my weapon.
I turn when I hear soft footsteps behind me. Grey is carrying Miss Saunders. He’s wearing the same, ripped jeans that I saw last night. She’s wearing a white bathrobe and has her arms around his neck. It’s a strangely intimate moment and I feel like a voyeur. It’s so not what I expected, not having read about their strange relationship. Grey catches my eye but he doesn’t speak. He simply carries Miss Saunders to her room and lays her gently on her vast, white bed, steps out and closes the door behind him.
“Problem, Taylor?” he’s frowning at me.
“The monitor showed an alarm going off at this stairwell. But it’s secure: I think it’s faulty wiring – I’ll call an engineer.”
He nods and stalks off down the corridor. And I see again that he has more burn scars on his back. Poor fucked up bastard.