Chapter 8: Welcome to the Masquerade


Venice shop window (Spring 2002). Photo by Pet...

Venice shop window (Spring 2002). Photo by Peter Rimar. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Break it down ’til there’s nothing but a mere fraction

Out of the fire, rise from the ashe

Reject your doubt and release the passion

Let’s get on it, believe if you want it

Step into the realm where the real ones flaunt it

Come back, rewind, another time on it

Reach out, take that but now step on it

I’m not one to scare the masses

But there’s somethings that melt the plastic

Try and dig down deeper if you can

I’m not afraid, I’m not ashamed

I’m not to blame, welcome to the masquerade

I’m not ashamed, I’m not afraid

I’m not okay, welcome to the masquerade

Welcome to the masquerade

THOUSAND FOOT KRUTCHWELCOME TO THE MASQUERADE

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This waiter gig is one of the most tiring things I have ever done. I am sure that junior is probably adding to my fatigue but on top of that, being on my feet all night, not speaking unless spoken to and the constant back and forth from the kitchens to the tables has left my body feeling tired and listless. From the moment that the first guests arrive we are worked off our feet. Standing on this side of all this power is interesting and unsettling. When faces are hidden by masks and the help is all but invisible it is amazing how much the fear is bubbling below the surface of all that bravado. Fear of being really unmasked, fear of failure. It makes me wonder about secrets and self confidence as flip-sides of the same coin. Oh, the dirt I could get by playing this role of fly on the wall. Hopefully, my own masquerade will net some results when it comes to finding out about the threats to the Greys.

My responsibilities have centered around the Grey family table but as yet I haven’t overheard any thing particularly useful from their conversation. What does interest me the way that Christian and Ana are together and the family’s reaction to them. Christian is so protective and even if he doesn’t let Ana touch him, which I don’t fully understand, he is always touching her in a series of maneuvers that I recognize from Elliot’s repertoire. The other family members are trying very hard not to show any emotion but there is something akin to doting amazement in their body language. I would love to talk to Mia and drill down to what she is thinking and feeling right now. As far as I can tell, her date is barely getting any of her attention tonight. She is completely focused on Christian and Ana. For her part, Ana looks really uncomfortable throughout most of the dinner, right up until she gets back from the bathroom with Mia. Now she is a little more relaxed but still a bit flushed. I hope that the food isn’t disagreeing with her. Maybe she is drinking too much.

Elliot arrives in the tent just as the auction starts and we watch with interest as Ana spends a cool $24k of what I assume is Christian’s money on a week in Aspen. Ana looks absolutely beautiful tonight in a silver-gray dress that I have never seen before. If that email is correct and Christian is buying her clothes and dictating what she wears then he is doing an incredible job and I am tempted to get him to take over as my stylist. The guy has exquisite taste and I wonder if he isn’t still just a little bit gay. No straight man should be able to pair that dress with those shoes. Ana’s hair has been cut in a layered style that I have never seen on her before, she is wearing tasteful Cartier drop earrings and I wonder once more about Mr Control-Freak and if I can have the name of her hairdresser.

My feet are aching so much as I go to clear the plates at the end of the auction. Not feeling the pinch half as much as Christian’s wallet after that ridiculously high bid in the first dance auction. One hundred thousand dollars! Who bids that much money on a single dance? That isn’t to say that Ana isn’t worth every penny but there must have been a collective shrinkage of testicles in the room when every other man registered what they would have to bid to up the value of their respective partners. Hard fucking act to follow, Christian.

Elliot’s parents have had huge grins on their faces all evening as they watch Ana and Christian. I guess they are confirming everything that Elliot has been trying to convince me of in the past two weeks. This is different and they are all over the moon at the prospect of having Ana in the family. A little green envy fairy lands on my shoulder and whispers uncharitable words in my ear. I hope they are as enthusiastic about me especially with junior on the way. That is assuming that Elliot and I stay together. Oh, Kavanagh, who the hell do you think you’re kidding? All you are doing is delaying the inevitable. He knows it, you know it. Why are you fighting him so hard? Because I am watching as carefully constructed facades start to crumble around me and I am terrified that we won’t make it. Like the power couple over there, she is a CEO of a major finance company, he is a best selling author and I know already that he is screwing his assistant because I caught them not half an hour ago in a utility room. Then there is the wife of the television soap director who has been indulging in the ultimate cliche of powder in the powder room. She has already thrown herself unsuccessfully at one of the waiters. And there are at least three rather nervous looking powersuits who seem to be trying to get an audience with Christian with no luck. The facades are definitely cracking.

Ana and Christian disappear after the auction and I go back to clearing tables as the band sets up. I am not really focused due to exhaustion and I don’t so much see as hear the two female voices near me. I slow down my work so I can hover once I hear who they are talking about.

“Christian is certainly making a spectacle of himself tonight, Elena.” I glance to my right and notice bitch-features sitting there in that ridiculous coverall get up. Skank. Then I notice who she is sitting with and my heart sinks as I recognize the other peroxide blonde, Gia Matteo, wearing a black and silver number that plunges to a deep v in both the front and the back. She has obviously used double sided tape to keep herself in and I find myself praying for some sort of wardrobe malfunction. Skank squared. This stupid white suit makes me feel more frumpy than I have ever felt in my life and I am grateful for the mask and the eternally held notion that being the help makes me invisible. Wallpaper it is!

“I am sure he thinks he is in love.”

“And you don’t agree?” Skank 2 takes a sip of wine and licks her lips. I can tell she is all but making herself available to any man who might happen to be watching them from across the room. Nobody is looking. Double skank.

“Christian is incapable of love.” Bullshit, bitch. I may not like Christian’s lifestyle choice much but even I can see that he is besotted with Ana. I resist the temptation to trip and spill this half empty glass of Riebke Shiraz over the bitch.

“Yes, well, you are an expert in what Christian Grey is capable of.” Ooh. What is it with these women?

“I am actually. Eventually he will tire of her. Then you will be able to make your move.” What? First she has Elliot and now she wants Christian. Her skankiness knows no end!

“Oh, I don’t know. I think making my move might force his hand.” A smarmy little smile creeps across her face that I could slap into the middle of next month let alone next week! Maybe the wind will change and freeze that ugliness on you, Skank. Stop thinking bitter thoughts, Kate, it must be bad for the baby.

“Gia, don’t under-estimate him. Christian Grey will not be backed into a corner. If you want to play with him you will have to wait your turn.” Over my fucking dead body. “And you will have to be smarter than you were with Elliot. If you want either one of them they need to be controlled. Ana doesn’t have what it takes to keep Christian in line but I think Kate Kavanagh might be able to succeed where you failed.” Too right, bitch, but not for the reasons you think.

“Yes, well, Kate Kavanagh might have Elliot’s interest right now but he doesn’t do faithful. I should know, I have been the other woman in several attempts on his heart. He always comes back to me. The thought of having both of the Grey’s at once has a lot of appeal. I am sure I could get them to share and then I could give you something else to add to your portfolio.” Holy, skanky ho bi-atch. Unable to hold back at this point,I turn to them quickly up-ending the tray at their feet. The massive crash of glass causes a splash of wine which to my delight manages to fall mostly on Gia who leaps up shrieking.

“Oh, you stupid little witch. Look what you’ve done.” A couple of other servers rush over to help her and she slaps them away grabbing at napkins and stalking off to the ladies room muttering something about getting me fired. Meanwhile Elena leans back in her seat and smirks before finishing her wine and following after Gia at a more sedate pace.

I am down on my knees trying to pick up the larger pieces of glass when I see a black suit join me. Carrick leans over to pick up the silver tray and helps me silently. Another server has brought out a dustpan and broom to sweep up the rest of the glass and another has a bucket and mop. It has never really occurred to me what a well-oiled machine staff at a function like this would need to be. No one says much except to support each other. If I was worried about my job I might be crying right now but I can’t summon up any tears when inside I am celebrating my success.

“Are you going to tell me what you and my son are up to Miss Kavanagh?” My body freezes and I keep my eyes on the ground in front of me. Shit. Carrick knows that we are here? How many of the others have recognized us? As if reading my mind he says, “Don’t worry, I don’t think anyone else has recognized you so at the moment you’re secret is safe but not for much longer if you want to keep making these little scenes.”

“I’m sorry.” Standing up I stretch a bit having been frozen in an awkward position for a while. “I didn’t mean to ruin your guests’ evening.”

“On the contrary, Kate, I think that is exactly what you intended to do. And given whose night you ruined I am not sure I am that concerned. What I am concerned about is why Elliot is running around the property like a mad man and why you are posing as a servant when you should be here as part of my family, just as Ana is.” He looks at me with a genuine fatherly smile. “Should I be worried about this?”

“We…I….I think you need to talk to Elliot but can it wait until tomorrow? If you come to his house I am sure we will be able to explain everything.” Please don’t blow our cover.

“Kate, I take it that this is something to do with the information leaks to your father. If it is any consolation your father called me to let me know that you were on your way back to Seattle for tonight. He thought it might be useful if I knew, just in case anything went wrong so I was actually looking out for you both.”

Oh! Thanks for the heads up, Dad. “Hopefully if I don’t let my temper get my better of me again then nothing will go wrong. We are only after information.”

“So you got angry because of something that they were saying about Ana?”

“Ah, no. It was what they were saying about Christian.” And Elliot. Carrick gives me a surprised look. Yeah I never thought I would hear those words out of my mouth either but Christian is my best friend’s boyfriend and my future brother-in-law. No one gets to dis him but his closest family and friends.

“Thank you Kate. Let me know if there is anything that you need and tell that son of mine that I will talk to him tomorrow.”

“Yes, sir. Thank you.” I turn from him and walk quickly through to the kitchen trying to catch my breath. After all of this I have no idea what we might have found out except to confirm what I have always known, Gia Matteo and Elena Lincoln are both skanky bitches. You wouldn’t need a PhD to work that out. I just hope that Elliot or Jason have had a little more success. Jen races over to meet me at the door.

“Kate, are you okay?”

“Yeah, I just poured a really expensive Shiraz all over Gia’s very cheap and nasty dress.”

“What a waste of good wine.” We both giggle and she takes me through to the bathroom to try to soak off the small splashes of red on my white pants. When we come out we run straight into both Jason and Elliot.

“Kate, where were you?” Elliot looks a little frantic which is kind of sweet.

“Calm down, cowboy. I’m fine. I had a little run in with your ex. We had a disagreement over the vintage of the red.”

“My what? What do you mean?”

“Oh she came at me with both guns blazing and then there was broken glass and red stuff everywhere.” The look of horror on his face is priceless and Jen and I get a fit of the giggles again. Even Jason smirks but Elliot looks about ready to lose his mind. I really shouldn’t tease but it’s so easy.

“Shit, Kate, are you insane? Fuck, you promised that you would stay out trouble.” I should have seen this coming. His arm goes around my shoulder and his other hand is placed protectively over my stomach. My good mood immediately stops as I look from Jen to Jason who are both looking at us wide eyed. Fuck. Could you telegraph this any louder?

“You’re pregnant? Shit Kate. You’ve been on your feet all night. And that witch might have done something to you.” Jen is building up to a full scale rant and any moment someone from the family is likely to walk past this doorway.

“Elliot, you fuckwit. You let her come here tonight? Jesus.” Jason has turned to get in Elliot’s face and for a moment I think he is going to punch him he looks so angry. Jen is glaring at me.

Almost in unison we both reply. “She’s/I’m pregnant. Not sick!” Which only serves to make us all crack up laughing. The way that Elliot is on the same page with me about this but still managing to want to be protective just pulls at my heart strings even more. I could imagine Christian wanting to lock Ana up. Elliot supports me. We can’t take our eyes off each other as we both feel the connection. I adore this man not because he is sexy as all hell or because he is beautiful but because he sees me, really sees me.

“Seriously, man. You have to get her home. She’s exhausted.” Jason gives me a smile and reaches out to tip my chin up. He’s right. I am exhausted but I put that down to the past couple of weeks and the travel back from Barbados. “You need to take care of your family.”

“Yes, I am going to let the boss know that we are leaving.” Jen moves off to sign us out.

“Listen, Jason, no one knows and we would rather keep it that way for a while longer. It’s too soon to say anything so just…”

“Enough said, man. Just get her home. I’ll take care of things here. We lost our best leads tonight so let’s just call it a night, huh.”

“Sure. Come on, babe. Jason, we will need to find some time to sit down and debrief tonight.” I look from one to the other, wondering what they have found out.

“I’ll try to get away for a couple of hours tomorrow but frankly Christian is likely to have us all on lock down if he thinks Leila is armed. We need to find her fast.”

“Let me know. I am going to have to deal with whatever is on this SD-card. I will send you the files once I have had a look at them.” SD-card? What? What the hell did I miss?

Jen comes out just then and hustles us out to the car. Elliot climbs into the back and I am asleep on his shoulder before we have made it onto the highway. He carries me into the house and up to our room. Before I can even really stir he has me changed and spooning within minutes and rather than analyse the evening we both slip into a deep sleep. An hour or so later his phone is ringing and we both bolt upright in bed.

“Jason, I’ve put you on speaker. What’s up?”

“Hey guys, I hope I didn’t wake you. We had a break in tonight. Seems that Leila got into the apartment. She trashed Ana’s car.”

“Shit, did you catch her.” Elliot’s arm has gone around my shoulder and he pulls me protectively into his body as if the threat could be outside our door.

“No. She’s like a fucking ghost.” Jason sounds understandably exhausted and pissed off.

“Is Ana okay?” I am almost too afraid to ask. She’s a strong person but I have no idea how she will react to this kind of blatant attack. For the first time in this whole Leila thing I am really afraid for Ana’s safety.

“Yeah, Kate, I sent her and Christian off to a hotel for the night. They are using my credit card so they won’t be able to be traced. I’ve got a couple of guys stationed with them that even Christian doesn’t know about. They will keep an eye on them until I can get things under control here. Please try not to worry too much. You have to look after that baby.”

His concern almost makes me cry and I snuggle into Elliot who leans down and kisses my hair.

“Thank you Jason. Thank you for looking after her for me.” I think I really am on the verge of tears now.

“Kate, it’s my job, but I really care about her. Don’t worry, they are my top priority right now.”

“Jason, keep us informed. I will talk to you in the morning. And buddy?”

“Yeah.”

“Be careful.”

“Sure thing, Elliot, laterz.”

10 thoughts on “Chapter 8: Welcome to the Masquerade

  1. kaz says:

    Loved it ! Checked my e mails this morning, saw , chapter 8… I was like a kid at christmas.. Good job I am on my own at work today.. Another gripping chapter.. I knew Carrick would know, but felt sure something would go wrong. . Can’t wait too many days for next one.. no pressure ! LOL

    Like

  2. 1klkelly says:

    What a nice surprise to get this chapter so early! Nicely done. I’m loving how you are tying it together. ~Masquerade ~ ;-o

    Like

  3. Atterbury ( Liz) says:

    This is such a treat to your readers! Thank you for your hard work, this plot and insight into characters we never knew as well, that we love even more! Your Jason is awesome, love his connection to K & E . L

    Like

  4. Kaz says:

    I for one am pleased you can!t keep chapters back. Could do with more in one go….. Loving Elliott and Kate characters and their growth…. Taylor is becoming so much more interesting too. Thanks again.

    Like

  5. Kaz says:

    Like your style !

    Like

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