Chapter 21: Dinner at Bellevue


Porsche Boxster, a rear mid-engine, rear-wheel...

Porsche Boxster, a rear mid-engine, rear-wheel (RMR) drive sports car (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

I told that girl that my prospects were good

 

And she said, “Baby, it’s understood

 

Working for peanuts is all very fine

 

But I can show you a better time”

 

Baby, you can drive my car

 

Yes, I’m gonna be a star

 

Baby, you can drive my car

 

And maybe I’ll love you

 

-Drive My Car – The Beatles

 


 

Nervousness is flowing off Kate in waves when I arrive back at her place that afternoon so I immediately take her out to distract her from the night ahead. We head out to the market to buy wine and a few groceries that Mom has asked us to pick up. Walking around holding her hand feels pretty damn good, especially when I can lift it to my mouth for soft kiss every now and then. I love women, I love everything about them and I love being physically close to them. Kate just raises the bar on my pleasure. Being close and physical with her is both electric and addictive.

 

Unlike most guys I know, I actually enjoy browsing; shopping for clothes, music, food, furniture… I don’t think I’m particularly vain or metro but I like nice things and I like to look good but I think I also like the thrill of the bargain hunt and being able to take control of my choices. Window shopping seems to take on a whole new life with Kate at my side. We argue over everything; prices, aesthetics, economics, fair trade. She revs me up and pisses me off like no other person I know and I wonder if I will ever remember what my life was like before I met her.

 

That first day at the Heathman was nuts. If anyone had asked me if I believed in love at first sight I would have laughed. Romance has always been a means to an end. A mutually satisfying end, but the key word was always ‘end’. Women came and went, I knew what they wanted to hear and I could talk my way into pretty much any girl’s bed. I never took it seriously and for the most part neither did they.

 

Kate hit me like a Mack truck and from the moment I set eyes on her I knew I wasn’t remotely prepared to love and leave her. Yeah, she is sexy as all hell so what red-blooded man wouldn’t want to get into her pants but that wasn’t the first thing I noticed about her. In fact it wasn’t so much what I noticed about her but what I felt in me. Possessive. So I don’t know about love at first sight but I now whole-heartedly believe in ‘mine’ at first sight.

 

Then when she threw down that challenge. The one where there would be no ‘us’, well, that was red rag to a bull. A very horny bull by that stage. There was no way she was not going to be with me, no way that there wasn’t going to be an ‘us’. It is not the thrill of the chase, or her attempt at unavailability. I have had that from other women and it leaves me cold. It was like she knew me, saw past all the shit and the posturing to the man and then went straight past taking me on at my own game to someone I just knew I couldn’t live without. From that point on it has been about biding my time and convincing her. I am still convincing her, one family member at a time.

 

“I need to buy some flowers for your mother. I don’t suppose you know what colors she likes?” Her body language says that she doesn’t really expect an answer as she inspects the flower stall.

 

“The amethyst and cream calla lilies,” I reply pointing to a tall fresh bouquet. Kate looks at me in shock. “What? She’s my mother, I know what she likes.”

 

Smiling, she makes the purchase quickly. “They just happen to be my favourite too.” Her eyes are sparkling jade looking up at me. Why did I know that about you?

 

Back at her apartment we have lots of time to make love before getting ready to go out. I put a great deal of time and effort into her pleasure hoping it will take the edge off her nerves. Unfortunately it always seems to leave me wanting more.

 

“You wanna take my car?” She is standing in the kitchen watching me load up the shopping bags from the refrigerator. Demurely dressed in floral print skirt, black tank and cardigan with sexy patent red peep toe heels that show off the shape of her beautiful legs, she gives off the fresh-faced girl next door vibe. Very sexy girl next door.

 

“Wouldn’t you prefer me to drive tonight? You may want to have a couple of drinks.” I am sure that she will need something to relax.

 

“What, you not man enough to drive me car, Grey? I suppose she might be more than you can handle.” Very funny, Miss K. The thought of driving her sports car appeals.

 

“Oh, I think I’ve got what it takes. A little finesse and a firm hand.” She giggles and it is so fucking sexy.

 

“Don’t underestimate her, Mr Grey. She’s a woman after all. Probably more than you have ever had to cope with.” Kate prowls towards me trying to fain innocence.

 

“We’re not talking about your car any more, are we?” I ask all wide-eyed, like I have no idea what she is talking about. She shakes her head and laughs.

 

“Come on, stud. Let’s see if you can make her purr.”

 

“Have no doubts about my ability on that count, Miss Kavanagh.” Picking up the bags we head down to the car park.

 

The Mercedes sports is a sweet little motor that suits Kate to a tee. Sleek, racy, classy and expensive but she makes you feel pretty hot when you’re cruising along inside her. I love it and can’t resist singing Drive My Car all the way up the Interstate to my parents house just to piss her off. She takes it good-naturedly but the tension returns to her body as we get closer to Bellevue.

 

We sweep into the driveway around 7pm to see my mom smiling at us as she waits on the doorstep with Dad standing behind her. A doubtful look sweeps across Kate’s face as I gather up the bags and flowers and shepherd her up to the door.

 

“Don’t be nervous baby, they are going to love you.” I just hope that she likes them. Looking far from relaxed, she plasters a big fake grin on her face as she walks up the steps to meet them, her hand wrapped around my arm in a death grip. WTF?

 

“Mom, Dad, this is Kate Kavanagh. Kate, my mom, Grace Trevelyan-Grey and my dad, Carrick Grey.” Uncharacteristically, my mom throws formality out the door by pulling Kate into a hug. I stifle a grin. My dad looks at me and raises a bemused eyebrow.

 

“Kate it is so lovely to meet you. Thank you for coming along tonight at such short notice.” Mom is smiling at us with such warmth and I can see it take effect. Kate finally seems to relax.

 

“Thank you so much for inviting me, Dr Trevelyan-Grey.” Now her smile is more genuine. More the girl I love. “These are for you.” She hands Mom the flowers.

 

“Oh Kate, they are beautiful, thank you. Please, call us Grace and Carrick. Come in, let’s get you some champagne.” Mom might be gushing effusively but it has had the effect of drawing Kate in and relaxing her. There is genuine emotion. Poor Mom, she probably thought she would never see us with serious girlfriends, never mind where my mind is heading. As far as Kate is concerned I’m picking out schools for the kids already. Christian and Ana are going to be a bigger deal since Mom has never seen him with a female let alone a real life girlfriend. I know he is going to be pretty damn tense when he arrives. I imagine Kate and Christian having one of their tense, snarky standoffs. Fucking great. Christian better fucking chill tonight otherwise I might have to kick his ass.

 

We follow them inside and I keep a reassuring hand in the small of Kate’s back. If her nerves kick in again I want to be close. I watch her taking in the house with its wide sweeping staircase and large chandeliers and mirrors. The exquisite artworks around the walls and the decor are pretty much Bellevue tasteful classic. It is what I grew up with but nothing like my place. Of course, Kate hasn’t seen my house yet but I plan on changing that later. A little frown plays across her face.

 

“What’s the matter?” I ask in a low voice. Too much, too soon? She has me worried with all the things she doesn’t say.

 

“Nothing,” she mutters, “I’ll tell you later.” I try to shrug it off as I head out to the kitchen. Dad hands us glasses of champagne once I have dumped the bags on the bench in front of Gretchen, the housekeeper. Raising my glass to Kate doesn’t eliminate the doubt writ large in her eyes. Fuck, she’s got me anxious and I don’t do anxious.

 

Just then Mia comes bounding down the staircase, “Lelliot!” It comes out like a girlie squeal as she throws her arms around my neck and without taking a breath turns and throws her arms around Kate. “You must be Kate. Gosh you’re beautiful.” Fuck, slow down Mia. Kate’s face is priceless as Mia grabs my glass of champagne and skulls it down with a giggle. “Thanks Lelliot!” She grins then grabs Kate’s hand and drags her through to the lounge. Kate looks back over her shoulder and mouths, ‘Lelliot’? All I can do is shake my head and laugh as we all follow them through the door.

 

“I’ll tell you later.” I murmur following in the wake of hurricane Mia.

 

Kate and I settle onto a couch together, our bodies drawn to each other like magnets. Mia perches on the arm of the couch next to me holding her glass out to Dad for a refill. Mom is still standing looking at us with a big grin as Dad does the honors. I can never be in the same space with Kate without needing to touch her in some way so I throw an arm behind her shoulder so I can play with her hair, her neck, her ear. Yeah, you’re like a fucking horny teenager, Grey.

 

“So Elliot tells us you are both going on a holiday to Barbados next week. How does your family feel about him imposing himself on you?” Jesus, thanks Dad. Dad tops up Kate’s glass with a serious look. He’s doing that assessing the enemy thing that he does. The same one Christian brings into every business negotiation. The intent stare is unsettling. What’s up your ass, old man?

 

“No one expects the Spanish Inquisition.” Kate mumbles quietly, as she places her glass on the coffee table in front of her and I have to stop myself from bursting out with laughter at the reference. Mia giggles next to us. Yet, another thing we have in common? She looks up at my Dad with a smile.

 

“My family are thrilled that Elliot is coming along. My mother had this trip booked a couple of months ago. An opportunity for my brother and I to take a well-earned break before I start my internship and he starts grad school.” Kate replies smoothly. She recognizes ‘the look’ too but doesn’t let Dad throw her even though I can feel her body tense up. Randomly, I realize it reminds me of the look every ex gets as they size up the woman currently on my arm at functions. I know a few of them who might get a little pissed that I am off the market. Man, I can’t wait to go public with Kate.

 

“Oh, what is he going to study?” Mom asks. At least I can rely on Mom to be genuinely interested. She doesn’t seem to see Kate as any sort of threat. She does, however, throw a slightly pissy look at Dad. Good.

 

“Psychology, if he can get accepted into the Masters program.” Christian will have a fucking field day with that one. Once more I am struck by all things we don’t talk about. Like her brother, Ethan. Thank God I have two weeks in paradise with her to catch up on family histories.

 

“So he is not going into the family business, then?” Dad asks and I almost choke. Shit, how does Dad know what Kate’s family does? “I have met your father before Kate. I specialize in media law and my firm represents one of Kavanagh Media’s major competitors.” Fuck, of course Dad would know Sam Kavanagh. And then I see it, he really thinks Kate is dangerous. My Dad might be open-minded but he has had to defend enough media personalities from their own stupid slanderous and ill-informed outbursts over the years. They may be his bread and butter but he doesn’t trust journalists as far as he can throw them. I wonder how much of a conflict of interest it will be for him to have Kate as a daughter in law one day.

 

I just wonder what he would think about the conversation I have had with Sam about his daughter. My mind goes back to that night and the phone call I got just as I was pulling up outside Kate’s apartment in Portland.

 


 

I stare at the number expecting it to be Kate but it is a number I don’t know. I throw the truck into park and answer it.

 

“Elliot. Speak to me.” My usual clients and suppliers are used to this greeting so I don’t tend to adjust for my private line.

 

“Elliot Grey?” A stern male voice, older perhaps. Who the fuck is this?

 

“This is he.” I reply.

 

“Sam Kavanagh. I believe you are seeing my daughter.” How the hell does he know this and how did he get this number?

 

“Yes sir although I believe that this might be a conversation you should be having with her.” Not that I care about this obvious invasion of my privacy but I sure as hell care about hers.

 

“Don’t get lippy with me young man. I am talking to you and I can tell you right now that I don’t particularly approve of her seeing someone like you.” Define someone like me, you prick. He sounds pretty pissed off but then so am I. You don’t scare me Sam Kavanagh.

 

“Right at this moment I don’t particularly care about your approval, Sam.” Now I am deliberately goading him. Sir to Sam in one quick sentence. “Kate’s approval is all I need right now. But tell me Sam what is it that you don’t approve of in particular?” The fact that I have a reputation or the fact that I am going to spend the rest of the night screwing your daughter every which way.

 

“You have a track record that is neither smart nor healthy. Kate is a lot more sensitive than she will ever let on and she doesn’t need to be used and abused by the likes of you. I do not want my daughter notched up on your bedpost and then left with a broken heart. She is better than that.” I know she is. God I know she is.

 

“Look, Mr Kavanagh. I appreciate that you want to protect her but Kate is a big girl. She is capable of making up her own mind about me. I think you need to give her that opportunity. If she ever says she doesn’t want me I will bow out gracefully but right now that doesn’t look likely, sir.” He cares about her and that makes him okay in my book. I want him to know that I care too.

 

“Grey, I am not happy about this and I will do everything in my power to change Kate’s mind before it is too late. I don’t want her hurt by you or tainted by whatever secrets you or your brother are hiding.” Shit! What does he know about Christian? Fuck. This man has just become very dangerous to two of the most important people in my life. Back off old man.

 

“I am sure that I don’t know what you are talking about. My brother has an impeccable reputation in both his business and personal life. He is a smart businessman and a big hearted philanthropist. I don’t know what secrets you are referring to but I think you are speculating and you better have some damn good proof before you take on the Grey brothers.” I am shaking. Fuck, how does he know any of this and what the hell am I going to tell Christian? My past is one thing but Christian, shit he doesn’t even know that I know. I would talk to Elena but that bitch is a large part of the problem. Shit, is it her? If it is I will… what, shut her up? Right now I feel totally impotent and I don’t want Kate to get caught up in this. He has to be guessing. There is no way that this could get out. Christian has always been so careful and the only way that I know about it was purely accidental.

 

“Just take this as a warning from a very concerned father. I will do anything to protect my daughter and I don’t want her caught up in any of your shit.”
“Understand this sir. Kate is my top priority right now and if I thought there was any shit for her to get caught up in I would be keeping a very wide berth. Now I suggest you back off and let her make her own decisions about me and my family.” I cut him off and throw my head and hands down on the steering wheel in frustration.

 


 

I can see that Dad’s association with Sam Kavanagh is news to everyone in the room except Kate. This revelation seems to have an interesting effect on her. Suddenly she seems less nervous while my nerves have ratcheted up a couple of notches. I have tried hard to sweep the threat of Sam Kavanagh under the mat but now it just might come back to bite me. What really scares me is the look on Kate’s face, her eyes have gone hard and cold in the same way that Christian looks when he is in his hard-nosed take no prisoners business mogul mode. Suddenly I have this deadly reminder that Kate is her father’s daughter and she just might be catching the scent of a story.

 

Fuck!

 

“No, my brother has diverse interests but media has never really been one of them.” She flashes that tough-as-nails Kate K smile at my Dad who stares back impassively. So much for everybody having a big love fest. We obviously have a long way to go before trust develops here which makes this trip to Barbados even more important for any future happiness. I have to win over Sam Kavanagh which sounds like it will be as likely as the Mariners making a World Series final. Still I need Kate to see that she can be a part of this family but like any family, we need loyalty and she is going to have to learn to guard our secrets not expose them. Now I am really freaked about how much she already knows because of me. Not so much that I think she will write about it but because I suddenly know that she will always wonder if our relationship is a vehicle to gag her. So much for my happily ever fucking after.

 

“Well, I for one am very jealous that you are dragging Elliot off to Barbados. It is probably one of the few places in the world I haven’t been to.” Mia pipes up. While I don’t think she is completely oblivious to all the subtle undercurrents in the room, she masks it by doing bubbly and enthusiastic better than anyone I know. I am so thankful that she is trying to diffuse this situation. “So a family holiday, where are you staying?”

 

Kate launches into a detailed description of the villa her Mom booked while Dad and I share a silent conversation. His look says ‘reign her in, Elliot’ while mine says, ‘back off Dad, I’ve go this under control’ but neither of us is convinced. Thankfully, Ana and Christian choose that moment to arrive and Mia has trotted off to get them wine. As I watch them, I see what Kate has been talking about. How much Ana defers to Christian, as if she is unsure what to do. She is conversational but careful with her words. It is unsettling to watch.

 

Christian holds her hand constantly but never moves any closer. Unfortunately for him this has the opposite effect on me as I give Ana a big welcome hug that sets him on edge. For some reason, any chance to annoy Christian appeals to me. Kate smiles her approval of my actions at Christian as if she is throwing down a gauntlet and for a moment I feel sorry for him. While I like to goad him I also know there is a point that I can’t go past and that might have been three seconds of this hug ago.

 

The fact that we are brothers means there are similarities as well differences. We are both more like Dad than either of us would like to admit sometimes. Dad has given us a solid, ethical core even if it might seem to the world that Christian is a prick and I am a frivolous man-whore. It makes us stubbornly defensive of family. I hope that Ana and Kate can see that about us. I give Christian a reassuring pat on the shoulder that he grimly acknowledges. Unless we are engaged in full hand to hand combat that is as close to physical contact that the Grey boys get. The last time he tried to take me on was back in Portland a few days ago.

 


 

We head out to the car, Christian is whistling and tossing his keys in the air. He is driving the R8 which always seems a little ostentatious to me but it suits him. Even though we both have to fold our tall frames into the seats we do so with uncommon grace and flexibility. You could put this down to our martial arts training as kids but I figure it might have as much to do with our adult lifestyles.

 

“So bro. Are you going to tell all?” I look over at him and his face is closed down as usual.

 

“I don’t kiss and tell, Elliot, you know that.” He doesn’t look happy but he seldom does these days. I worry about it and I try to make him laugh at himself more often but I know why he feels so closed off. When you have a shitload of crap to deal with from your childhood and a lifestyle that has to remain in the dark then surliness and secrecy kind of goes with the territory. I want him to be happy and I wonder for the hundredth time in the last 24 hours if Ana isn’t going to be part of that happiness.

 

We are driving back to the hotel to pick up our gear and then, I guess from what I overheard, that Christian is going to give Ana the full blown chopper experience and fly her back to Seattle for dinner. Over the top but that is his style. Only I have other plans that don’t involve leaving Portland just yet and Christian doesn’t need to know about those.

 

“So you hit it off with Katherine Kavanagh.” Christian says. “Thanks for taking care of her for me. I definitely owe you one for taking that particular hit.”
This just pisses me off. “No problem bro, any time.” I mutter through clenched teeth. I want to call him a prick but then that would be giving away too much.

 

There is a lull in the conversation and I can almost hear his brain working away. He pulls into the car park at the Heathman and turns off the ignition. Instead of getting out of the car he turns to me.

 

“Elliot. I don’t particularly care for Kate Kavanagh and I think you can tell that she doesn’t care much for me. Be that as it may, she is Ana’s best friend and I don’t want you to hurt her. So don’t play this up any further.” This is seriously going to end in a fight so I get out of the car in an effort to make him shut the fuck up. He climbs out his side and just has to continue.”Make the break clean so that she doesn’t get too invested in you. I don’t want Ana blaming me for Kate’s broken heart.”

 

“Hold up there, hoss.” I stalk around to his side of the car to face him down. He might be taller and faster than me but I am bigger than him. Keep this up and I not only will I knock you into the middle of next week but I will kick your sorry ass on Thursday. “For a start who says I am going to break her heart? We enjoyed each others company and we may continue to see each other. That is none of your business and I am not going to temper my relationship by trying to keep Ana happy. That is your job, but if you’re not up to it…”

 

And then I see it. His fist swings back and goes to hit me. I block him and grip his fist hard. Shit, he’s strong but luckily I am stronger.

 

“Back off Christian. You’re not the only one who is going through something life changing here.” I see his eyes widen first with surprise and then with a little bit of fear. Yeah, I know how you feel. This is big and important and likely to completely undo both of us. The tension goes out of his body and he steps back.

 

“I still want to beat the shit out of you right now.” He mumbles.

 

“Yeah, back at ya bro.” I reply. The Grey boys both have it bad. Only thing is that I am not sure how long it will take for Christian to recognize what is actually happening here. Part of me wants to spell it out to him using me and Kate as an example but another part knows it would be better to step back and let him discover it in his own time. I just wonder how Ana is going to take all of Christian. I figure if she hasn’t run screaming in the first month then there might be a chance. Of course, I can’t tell Kate any of this, can I? Not because I don’t trust her as a person but there is so much at stake here and she is a journalist at heart. Plus I never want Christian to know that I know. That is not a conversation two brothers should ever have.

 


 

Mom calls us to dinner and the conversation turns once more to vacations. This is the first that Ana has heard about me going away with Kate and I give her a big grin to cover the fact that I am patently aware how fast we are moving. She mentions going to visit her Mom in Georgia and I see Christian is surprised and somewhat pissed at the news. Good on you, Ana. She obviously hasn’t rushed to sign his contract and this will be getting to him, I am sure.

 

Dinner seems to be an exercise in restraint for them both. There is a lot of whispering and some obvious movement under the table that we are all trying to ignore until I see a look of shock brush quickly over Christian’s face. Fuck, she is saying no. Her face is so easy to read and I silently applaud her while raising Kate’s hand to my mouth in front of everyone and kissing it. I get this overwhelming urge to feed her and I laugh to myself as I imagine what reaction that might get from across the table.

 

Kate leans across the table to Ana. “What are you two whispering about?”

 

“Just about my trip to Georgia,” she replies. Kate gets that hard smile across her face. Whatever it is, don’t do it Kate? And then she does it.

 

“How was Jose when you went to the bar with him on Friday?” She asks innocently taking a sip of wine. Alarm bells go off in my head as I grip her thigh hard under the table. Ana’s mouth hangs open and Christian just glares. Priceless. Kate’s eyes widen into a questioning gaze back at her. Christian looks like he wants to spank Ana. I feel a brief moment of angst as I take that thought to its logical conclusion. Shit, will he really hurt her? I study his face but he reveals nothing. Fuck. There is some quick discussion between them and I overhear the words ‘palm-twitchingly mad’ and my fingers pinch into Kate’s skin. Leaning over I whisper in her ear.

 

“Stop it Kate or I will take you upstairs and spank you, too.” My hand is still firm on her thigh and I rub it up towards her apex just stopping short before pulling away. I am so fucking mad at her. If anyone is going to taunt Christian it should be me, not my girlfriend. I lift my hand to my mouth and catch a whiff of Kate’s musky scent that stops me short. Fuck, she is wet, and I only just touched her. Or is it because I threatened to spank her? I take a quick glance and see her heated blush.

 

In spite of how tense Ana and Christian are the conversation throughout the rest of the meal is relaxed and easy. We talk about their new apartment, sports, Paris and my family are doing what they do best. Enjoying each others company. Well maybe not Christian, he just looks desperate to get Ana somewhere alone. I know how he feels.

 

In an effort to distract I tease Mia about her time in Paris. It seems that it wasn’t all that she hoped but there is a collective choke from the four of us when she refers to her cooking tutor as a domineering tyrant who cracks the whip in the kitchen. We all recover before the others notice but it is close. Mia continues regaling us with stories blissfully unaware and at one stage she and Christian lapse into a conversation in fluent French that stops us all until they realize they have done it and we all burst into laughter. Soon the conversation turns to my latest project which I know is just Dad making sure that he has a proper conversation with each one of us. That is one thing he does really well giving his time and attention to each of us equally.

 

The latest developments in eco-friendly building get me carried away and I am vaguely aware that I am probably boring the shit out of everyone with the research in this area, except Dad and Christian. Although I notice that Kate asks the most insanely intelligent questions I have ever heard but I am holding my own because of Christian’s interest in and funding of this research. He has always made sure that I could stay on top of developments by talking me through the research papers. He has never made me feel like shit for things I couldn’t make sense of and the confidence he has instilled in me over the past few years means that I don’t need him to translate it all for me as much as I used to when I first started my company. It’s another side of him that he doesn’t show the world.

 

I glance at Kate who looks a little more relaxed with Dad and Christian as we continue our debate. The discussion gets heated but I can see that Kate has a similar streak as Dad in that they both like to play devil’s advocate. Mom, Mia and Ana are hardly bystanders as the discussion progresses and I can’t help but think this sudden doubling of strong, intelligent, passionate and committed women in my family is going make the Greys a force to be reckoned with and the Grey men very nervous. God help us all. Suddenly I am hoping that whatever doubts she may have about my family, my playboy past or Christian’s lifestyle pale into insignificance now that she can see what we are really like.

 

When she scores a point against Dad that has him acknowledging a grudging respect for her tenacity and intelligence, I grin at her trying hard to communicate a promise in my eyes. I love you, I want this with you, forever. There is a moment when I can see she gets it and I just hope it is enough.
We are still talking solar panels when Ana and Christian decide to disappear through the backyard. I lean towards Kate with a whisper.

 

“Damn, little brother is stealing my moves again. I wanted to take you out to the boathouse.” Her eyes are shining and she blushes. Instead, we rise and go to help clean the kitchen. The laughter and warmth continues as we all tease Mia some more about Paris. Christian and Ana have been gone for a while and I notice that Mia is getting tired.

 

“Perhaps we should go and let Mia get some more sleep.” Kate says reading my mind and when she looks up at me I am anxious to get her home. She smiles and nods with unspoken promise in her eyes. I just wish that she wouldn’t hold back what she is feeling. The warning from her father hangs like a shadow over us and once again I hope that this night with my family has eased her doubts.

 

“Mom, Dad, I think we better head off.” Mia is yawning and I wrap an arm around her shoulder. “I think baby needs her bed.” I give her a kiss on the top of her head. Kate gives me a look of approval.

 

“Oh, darling, you have to say good bye to Christian. After all you won’t see him for two weeks now if you are going away the day after tomorrow. Carrick go out and get them will you darling?” Mom looks out the kitchen window toward the boathouse and Kate and I both tense up as we realize what Dad might encounter. Before we can do anything Mia pipes up.

 

“I’ll go, I need some fresh air to clear my head,” she chirps and she is out the door before we can do anything. At least Mia will make a lot of noise on approach which might warn them to tidy themselves up. It is not that I think Mom and Dad don’t suspect that they are making out but I am pretty sure they don’t need or want to know about any of the kinky stuff. Moving the party to the front door seems like the best way to avoid a scene. We are at the front door saying our thank yous and goodbyes when they walk through the house towards us. Mom wraps me in a big hug while Dad kisses Kate on the cheek. It seems that whatever tension there was between them before has all but gone now.

 

“Take care of each other young ones and give us a call to let us know you are okay.” We nod agreement and head out to her car. I toss the keys up in the air as we pass Christian’s SUV and deliberately miss my catch so that I have to stop by the driver door. Jason is inside. We pause for a moment by the open window while I pretend to pick the keys up off the ground.

 

“Jason.”

 

He nods without looking at me. “Elliot.”

 

“Has she seen the playroom?” Kate looks quizzical but keeps her mouth shut.

 

“Yep.” Jason is taciturn. I blow out a long breath of air.

 

“And she is still here, huh? Take care of her Jason. She’s special.” My words have surprised Kate but not as much as Jason’s.

 

“Yeah, I think she is.” Then we resume our walk to her car. We climb in and she lets me drive again. Just as well since, as predicted, she has had a couple of glasses of wine.

 

“What was that about?” She asks. “What is the playroom?”

 

“You don’t want to know.” I turn onto the main road and keep my eyes focused ahead of us hoping that she will let the subject drop. Instead she lets everything drop. Complete silence as she looks at me and waits. And waits. And waits.

 

“Kate, don’t.” I keep my voice quiet. I know that she will have done some research, delved into the world of BDSM online and gained some information that was probably both disturbing and quite frankly, hot. I know that was my reaction when I started to look into it. Not that I would want to chain or suspend anyone from the ceiling or cane them for that matter. But some of the toys, the softer kink, that holds a lot of attraction. Especially after tying Kate to the bed last night. Fuck, yeah, I would do that again in a heartbeat.

 

“If you won’t tell me then I will tell you what I am imagining.” She says quietly. “A room with a bed, perhaps some other furniture but not much. Some props around the room, perhaps cuffs, chains, ropes and equipment that they are attached to that would allow someone to be restrained, even spreadeagled or suspended.” I gasp but my eyes remain focused on the road ahead. “Then there would be the smaller toys, vibrators, plugs, eggs, beads. And of course whips, crops, canes perhaps.” My mouth must be hanging open.

 

“Shit Kate, you have certainly done your research?” She has all but described the playroom. How the hell does she know all of this?

 

“Keep your knickers on, Grey. Thorough research goes with the territory if you want to do investigative journalism. However, your reaction confirms just how fucked up and kinky Christian’s playroom actually is and I can’t believe that virginal Ana has started her first sexual relationship with someone so … dangerous.” Now she is angry. I know she believes that Ana deserves love and romance for a first relationship not this kinky fucked up sub/dom thing. Right now, I can read Kate like a book. I can tell that she is pissed at Christian for pulling Ana into this, pissed at Ana for agreeing to it and pissed at me for thinking that everything will be alright.

 

“Kate, he is not a dangerous person, not to her. Yes, it is not the usual sort of relationship and perhaps Ana may decide it is not for her but Jason and Gail are keeping a close eye on her.”

 

“And what, Elliot. Are they going to storm into his playroom and extract her, naked, at the first sound of a scream? How will they judge when things are going to far? And who the hell will stop him from breaking her heart.” She is yelling at me now so I pull off the side of the road. There are tears in her eyes and I am pissed at everyone as I consider just how fucked up this all is. I wish that Christian wasn’t like this. I wish he had some sort of handle on normal but he doesn’t, he never has. I just wish that Kate could see what I see. Christian is really falling for Ana in a way I never believed possible. Jason’s reaction says everything to me. No one would know better than he does how fucked up Christian has been these last few years and how much Ana is reaching him on some level. I don’t want Ana to get hurt but I really believe that she is strong enough to drag him into some kind of sane relationship. One where he might allow himself, for the first time ever, to be loved. My concern right now is how to calm Kate down.

 

“Kate, she has the control in this. Ana has the power in the relationship which you would know from your research. The sub can always say no. There are safewords, contracts… he might be calling the plays but she has the choice whether to execute them or not.” I am looking at her intently, trying to reason with her. “Please, Katie, you are going to have to trust both of them. They know what they are doing.”

 

She leans into my arms and cries. I hate it when she cries. “I don’t know what to do to keep my friend safe and I am scared that from what I have seen of Ana so far, Christian is going to hurt her heart, even if he doesn’t hurt her body.” She sobs. “Jesus, you saw what they were like tonight. He controls her and she can’t do a thing without his judgement. He wanted to punish her, he all but said it. When is enough, enough for him? This is not fucking normal!”

 

“I know baby, but even if they were having a straightforward relationship there is no guarantee that either of them won’t get hurt. You just have to be there for her.” She nods without looking up or pulling away. “Somehow we have to let her make the decision to stay or go. I just know somehow this is different and you are going to have to trust me that I know Christian well enough to know this. She has as much, if not more power over him right now. I don’t know how to convince you but I just know that if she leaves him, she is likely to break him too.”

 

We are both quiet for a while, me stroking her back while she gently cries. Eventually I feel a shift in her body as she pulls herself together. I pass her one more tissue as the tears begin to dry up.

 

“Did you really want to spank me?” She mutters into my shirt.

 

“Baby, you make so mad sometimes. It’s like you have this insane urge to set off fireworks in the middle of a crowd just to see who will jump and who will run.” I laugh. “The only thing that stops me is that I have a feeling you would like it and want more. As a punishment it seems a bit pointless.” She freezes for a moment and then all the tension floods out of her body as if she has made some mammoth decision. It is as if she has been worried about something all night and somehow I have just said the one thing that will calm her nerves and for the life of me I can’t think what it could have been.

 

“Does that mean that you won’t spank me?” She asks in a teasing voice. Her scent is filling up the car as she squirms a little on her seat.

 

I smile, “I never said that. This talk of spanking is turning you on, isn’t it?” I tip her chin up with my fingers so I can look in her eyes. She is fighting her embarrassment as she nods. Jesus, Kate! I am rock hard just thinking about it.

 

“Well, I don’t know about doing half the stuff that I suspect Christian is into but if you want to play then I am all for it. I have already tied you up. We will just have to work out our soft limits together, huh?” We smile at each other before sharing a chaste kiss. With that promise I start the car up and pull out onto the road again. She drifts off as we head back towards the interstate. Now, there is just one more thing that we have to take care of tonight, Miss K.

 

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