I’m gonna pick up the pieces,
And build a Lego house
If things go wrong we can knock it down
My three words have two meanings,
There’s one thing on my mind
It’s all for you
And it’s dark in a cold December,
but I’ve got you to keep me warm
If you’re broken I will mend you
and I’ll keep you sheltered from the storm that’s raging on now
I’m out of touch, I’m out of love
I’ll pick you up when you’re getting down
And out of all these things I’ve done
I think I love you better now
I’m out of sight, I’m out of mind
I’ll do it all for you in time
And out of all these things
I’ve done I think I love you better now
ED SHEERAN – HOUSE
“Listen carefully, you need to call off that fucking team of media hacks that keep attacking me in the papers.”
“My team of media hacks…I’m not sure what you’re talking about, Linc.” I make sure I keep saying his name so that Elliot will crawl out of his self-induced funk and notice that we have a situation here. Finally he looks at me showing me that he has heard. As quietly as I can I switch my cell to speaker phone so Elliot can hear.
“I’ve had the feds here crawling over my building since 7 this morning. Are you going to tell me that you have had nothing to do with that? No fucking two-bit whore is going to fuck with my business.” I honestly have no idea what he is talking about but a part of me is doing a celebratory cha cha as I listen to him heavy breathing down the phone. Disgusting!
“Have you got something to hide, Linc? Surely not. As to my involvement in your little investigation, well a two bit whore probably wouldn’t be smart enough to cause you any problem now would she?” I shouldn’t enjoy this so much. “I don’t know who would hate you enough to bring you that kind of attention.”
“Tell your father or whichever one of you Kavanaghs that has the feds in their back pocket, to call off their dogs. Otherwise I am going to release those tapes.”
“Now, you are just talking crazy talk, Linc. Kavanagh Media may be a major player but even we don’t have those sorts of connections. As to releasing those tapes I am not sure you will. I believe that if the feds haven’t found anything on you then the local police will probably arrest you for obstruction of justice or withholding evidence or perhaps even just being a public nuisance.” I am bluffing like mad here but I hope that Carrick is going to be able to get the police to press one of these charges.
“You little bitch. You owe me information on that deal.” I can almost see his red puffy skin and glowing bulbous eyes glaring at me through the phone line. It makes me smile.
“Oh, Linc, darling. I owe you nothing. You never did get that did you?”
“I’ll tell Felicity Ferret that you are a stripper in a sex club.” The urge to break into hysterical laughter is almost overwhelming.
“Exotic dancer, thanks very much. And you can try to tell the Ferret but I have a feeling you won’t get very far. Just call it an educated guess. Now if that’s all you have to say, then I guess this conversation is over.” I click the phone and collapse on a chair. Holy fuck! Ethan is kneeling down in front of me.
“Babe, are you okay?” Apart from not quite being able to take a full breath?
“Yeah.” I stare at the phone. OMG!
“You were amazing!” Refocusing on his face I can see the pride. “Wow. You just told Linc to go fuck himself. It was incredible.”
“Oh, shit. I think I am going to be sick.” I put my head down between my legs trying desperately to breathe. In and out, and in and out.
I feel rather than see Elliot get up and then he is on the phone. Who the hell is he calling now?
“Dad, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have…no, Dad, I was being unfair. But listen Linc just called. He’s been investigated by the FBI and he is blaming Kate or Kavanagh Media for blowing the whistle…yeah, I will. I just wanted you to know. She’s fine. Yes, I know. Okay, talk to you tomorrow.”
“What did he say?” It seems that something like a normal pulse has returned and my oxygen levels have settled.
“He thinks I should talk to Christian, before the wedding. And he thinks I should marry you.” This makes me smile. Yeah, well we’re all on the same page there.
The wedding is in less than two weeks which kind of has my head spinning because I am sure there are a thousand things I am meant to be doing for Ana but haven’t. My guilt leads me to catching up with her for drinks after work the next day. Elliot has gone out to the treehouse to have dinner with Jason and Gail so Ana comes to the apartment for pizza and wine. Although this is a last opportunity for her to pick up her stuff, having her here feels like old times.
“Ana, I really want to apologize.” After half a bottle of red the edge is off and I feel like I can bring up topics we have both avoided for the past few weeks.
“What for?” Her confusion is genuine but that is Ana all over. She doesn’t carry grudges.
“Oh, pretty much everything. I haven’t exactly been a stellar example of a best friend and my performance as maid of honor to date kind of sucks.” I pick up a piece of pizza and take a big bite. This kind of girls’ night in brings out the pig in me so it is disconcerting to see Ana curled up on the couch in her designer jeans picking at her plate while oozing supermodel.
“God Kate, give yourself a break. We’ve both found these amazing guys and started our careers. It seems so unbelievable that we are in this situation together. How are things with Elliot by the way? You guys seem pretty serious.” How are things with us? This last month or so has been a roller coaster of emotion. And serious doesn’t even begin to describe our relationship.
“We’re good.” I don’t really want to say too much more. Nothing would make sense and the bits that do would only bring down her happy bride vibe. For once in my life I am putting another’s needs before my own which is disconcerting in a nice way.
“Kate this is not like you. Where is the running commentary on how amazing he is in bed?” I laugh and throw a cushion at her that she fends easily with a giggle.
“Hey, you won’t reveal any of your secrets why should I reveal mine?” There is that Ana introspective smile, the one that says I’ve got a secret I’m not telling. “Can I apologize again about the email?”
Her head snaps up. “Don’t even think about it. Christian and I have moved so far past that whole thing and as you know, that wasn’t the worst thing that happened that night.” No, no it wasn’t the worst thing by far, nor was the news about Elena being a pedo. I wait for the tears that always threaten steeling myself against the pain. John Flynn is right. It does get a little easier every day. A little more manageable with time. We are both quietly thinking about that night.
“On a scale of 1 to 10, how kinky is he?” I am desperate to change the subject and although I am fully expecting Ana to tell me to fuck off this seems to be as safe a topic as any. She sips her wine and looks at me.
“I would say about 15.” A giggle from her sets me off and it feels so good. “But you have to know that I like his kinky fuckery. Most of it anyway.”
I almost spit my wine out. “Jesus Ana. Kinky fuckery! I love it. So are we talking major scene playing or just some power play?” Her look tells me that she is both impressed and appalled that I would know any of this. “Shit, did you think after reading that email I wouldn’t do some research. You should know me better than that?”
“Okay, okay. But you know I can’t talk about this. It is private and we really would like to keep it that way. I mean, how would you like it if I asked you all the gory details of your sexual relationship with Elliot.”
“I would tell you, you know that if you asked I would tell you everything.” She tilts her head to one side giving me a disbelieving look. “Well, you would have to ask the right questions.” I smirk.
“Okay, let me see. Questions where you can only say yes or no. That way we aren’t actually saying anything.”
“Oh, you are so on girl. What have you got?” I would love to think that my previously BC (Before Christian) friend would be too innocent to ask anything really juicy so her first question has my jaw dropping.
“Is he hung?” Fuck Ana. Alright.
“Yes! With a capital Y.” I grin at her. “Knowing that you have nothing to compare him to I won’t ask that question so… can he perform more than once a night?”
“That would be a multiple yes. Has he ever restrained you during sex?”
“Held me still, yes, tied me up, yes.” Then my thoughts go the room at Escala. “Cuffed me, yes.” Ana raises an eyebrow, obviously surprised. She hadn’t expected that and I can see her relax a little. “I will qualify this by saying yes to my own question and this is a double barrel one. Has ever spanked you and did you like it?”
Now her shock is comical as her mouth opens and closes. She looks like she might want to resist answering me. “Yes and no. Mostly yes.”
She is peaking my curiosity now. “So there have been times when things have got out of hand?” This is everything that I have been afraid of since Elliot told me about Christian.
“Don’t jump to conclusions Kate. He is very experienced at this but I have my limits. We’re still learning. Most of the time, I like it.” I’m still not convinced that someone who has been out of control in his life before isn’t going to turn on her at some point.
“Okay, okay. Forgetting ‘equipment’. Do you use toys?”
Another little smile plays across her lips. “Oh, yes.” I try to hide my smile but we both burst out laughing at our own little memories. “Swallowing?”
“Absolutely, yes! My favorite dessert treat.” At this point I am not sure you could wipe the grin off our faces.
“Or breakfast, or lunch….”
“Ana! You horny bitch!” Another cushion gets launched. God I have missed this girl. “Okay, this time we have to state where but no other details okay. Where besides the bed have you done it.” Her eyes light up.
“Boring, come on girl you can do better.”
“Um…pool table. And it’s your turn.”
“Oh God, remind me never to play pool at your place. His office desk.”
“Shit, he has a boat? How did I not know this? Okay, swimming pool.” She lifts her hand to mime a yawn. “While my parents were having breakfast at the outdoor table.”
“And he did.” I put my smug face on.
“Alright,I’ve got this one – piano.”
“Tres acrobatic of you Miss Steele, but inevitably I will conquer. Hotel service corridor.” Her eyebrows raise. “Last night.”
“Oh, babe, you are the queen of kink. I bow to your supremacy.” She reaches over and high fives me.
“Serious question and the last one, I promise.” She turns her body to face me. “Ana, are you sure?”
Her gaze is direct, her smile genuine. “Yes. I am so sure. Yes.” I move over to her side of the couch and wrap my arms around her. I am so genuinely happy for my best friend and in spite of my initial reservations about Christian I know that she is making the right decision.
“I’m so happy for you Ana. I’m so glad you did that interview instead of me.”
“Me, too, Kate. Thank you.”
“Fuck, we still have the bachelor and bachelorette parties to get through. I haven’t even really thought about it.” By the look on her face I am guessing that neither has she.
“Look given everything that has been going on and Christian’s need for security I am wondering if we shouldn’t for get the whole party thing. We don’t need to do that.”
“You mean he won’t let you out of his sight for a night on the town with the girls?” Somehow it seems a little odd but I think I might be on the same page with Christian on this one. If Jack and Linc are making threats and the Ana has had the whole ex-sub nightmare as well, then I am not sure if we could really guarantee anyone’s safety. Then a thought pops into my head.
“What if we did something combined. Hired a venue and had both parties on the same night with all the requisite security?”
She thinks about this for a moment. “I guess that could work. Did you have anything in mind?”
“Yes, actually but it would have to be a surprise for Christian. Would I be able to talk to your security guy? Taylor? Run the idea past him first and then get back to you?” I hope that my poker face is good tonight. Ana must never know about our relationship with Taylor or that he is at this moment out at the treehouse with Elliot.
“Sure, I guess. I’ll text you his number. If Taylor thinks the security aspects are okay then I guess we’re in.”
Then another idea comes into my head. “How would you like to give your man a little treat that night? A real surprise.”
“I hope I won’t regret this but yeah, sure.” Oh, sweet trusting Ana. You should know better than to hand control of anything like this to me. For the next half hour I outline my plan to her which surprisingly she agrees to but only if we can convince Mia to take part as well. That will be easy.
The next afternoon I decide to surprise Elliot by going out to the treehouse after work. Last night we were apart, although we talked for over an hour on the phone and I have made a decision that I need to start making the treehouse my home. I just haven’t told Elliot that yet. As I pull up the driveway I am surprised to see two vans outside the house and a group of people moving in and out of the front door. A very agitated Jen is keeping an eye on the traffic but she looks seriously pissed.
“Hey Jen, what’s going on? Where’s Elliot?”
“Hi Kate. He hasn’t arrived home yet. I don’t expect him for another hour but I am so glad that you’re here.” She might be glad but she hasn’t smiled yet. What the fuck is going on?
“Should I ask?” She looks a little nervous suddenly.
“The bi-atch is here.” WTF? “Yeah, I came in from the boat and she was already here with this whole crew of people. She said that she had already run in past Elliot but he never said anything about it to me before he left. I’ve called him but his phone went to voicemail so all I could do was leave a message.”
Gia fucking Mateo, what the hell is she doing in my house? Yeah, I know, I haven’t really been playing happy homemaker here for a while but life is busy. Without saying anything more to Jen I storm into the house.
As I enter the main living room I see a small production team standing around while Gia reclines on the sofa, her long legs crossed and swept to one side, not a hair out of place. I thank God that I have come from another charity lunch and have a little more than the average office uniform on. If I am going to tear this tart to shreds then I want to look my best. The interviewer is sitting on a chair opposite her while a photographer sweeps around them taking photos.
“So the design for this particular room came to me from my study of Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. While I didn’t want the ornamentation of Gaudi’s original design I did want to emulate the natural elements in the construction of the forest canopy style columns and ceilings. I think it is one of the best and most original examples of my work.”
“Your what?” If I wasn’t already pissed to see the trollop lounging around my living room I am seriously going to gut her for claiming Elliot’s design. “You lying cow. None of this is your idea, the design for this house has all come from Elliot.” I look at the journalist. “That would be Elliot Grey, the owner of this house. How can you sit there and claim his work as your own? All you did was put your signature on the plans so he could get the requisite approvals.”
I am in full flight and the whole crew has frozen in place looking at us as we challenge each other across the room. She doesn’t even have the decency to look contrite, instead her eyes are glacial as she tries to stare me down. Two can play that game.
“Did she tell you that this is how she operates? That she claims other’s work as her own?”
“Kate you have no idea what you are talking about. Elliot gave me approval to use the house at any time to promote my work. We did this together.”
“So does he know you are here now?” This time there is a slight flush. Gotcha you bitch! “This is MY house. I live here with Elliot and you do not have MY permission to be here. I would suggest that you get your sorry ass out of here before I plant my stiletto in it.”
Then I turn to the journalist and realize that I know her and her assistant. “You guys are from EcoWarriors aren’t you? I recognize you from the internship program.” My focus is on the assistant who nods.
“Yes, it’s Kate isn’t it? I’m Marie and this is my supervisor Anabel.”
“Nice to meet you Kate although if I had known that Miss Mateo didn’t have your full permission to be here I would never have brought the crew in. I apologize for invading your privacy like this.” Instantly I like both of these women.
“I am happy for you to run a story about the house at any time Anabel. It is a unique piece of design. But the real designer is my partner, Elliot Grey. Miss Matteo didn’t even do the drawings for the building. You see Elliot is not a registered architect so he needed Miss Mateo to sign off on the drawings to get the building permits through. Isn’t that right Gia?”
Finally she looks like she might back down. “Yes.” Her voice is very quiet and I can see how embarrassed she is. I almost feel sorry for her.
“Anabel, if you would like to contact me I would be happy for you to run a story on the house but I think you should talk with Elliot about his design. He is the one who can talk about it with some authority. Gia, I suggest that you give me back the key you have to my house. I can’t stop the business relationship you have with Elliot, nor do I want to, but if you try to come here unannounced ever again I will call the police and have you arrested for trespassing. And if you try to maintain any relationship with Elliot beyond a professional one I will destroy both your professional and private reputation. Do you understand me?”
At that moment I hear footsteps behind me. “What the hell is going on?”
Elliot moves into the room looking like thunder. I don’t think I have ever seen him so angry.
“It’s okay babe. Gia was just leaving and Anabel is here with her team from EcoWarrior to discuss the possibility of doing a feature on the house.”
“Elliot, are you going to let her order me around?” Gia looks a little pathetic and desperate. Elliot says nothing but he looks at me and gives me a signal that I am in control here.
“Miss Mateo, the key please.” Gia hesitates for a moment looking at Elliot.
“You heard her Gia. Give her the key.” Elliot is fuming and Gia visibly blanches at the tone of his voice.
“But Elliot…” He cuts her off.
“Gia, this our home. Mine and Kate’s. If she doesn’t want you here then neither do I. Any previous arrangement we had no longer stands and if you ever upset Kate again I will take my business elsewhere.”
Finally she crosses to the table and picks up her bag. Rummaging for the key she thumps it down into my outstretched palm before storming out of the house.
For the next two hours I watch and direct as Elliot turns on the charm, completely enamoring Anabel and Marie with his enthusiasm for the treehouse. They get an all access tour of the different wings and levels with the photographer and his team going completely nuts taking shots of the various elements and sight lines. Some of the shots they show me before they leave are amazing.
“So you have a completely separate guest wing. How many rooms are in the family wing of the house?”
“There is a main bedroom that has a turret studio office above it and then there are five bedrooms all with ensuites and a family retreat/study.”
“Six bedrooms, babe.” I correct him. He smiles and leads up into the master bedroom and I can’t believe what I am seeing. The whole room has fundamentally changed decor to something very similar to my bedroom at the apartment. The bed and furniture have been replaced and then I notice a sliding door on the wall that had been hidden before by the old furniture. I look at him for an answer and he just shrugs.
“Through here is the ensuite and then through this door is a dressing room and walk in robe. This is Kate’s space that I have created especially for her and mine is the old walk in on the other side.” My mouth drops open as I walk in and see a space that has been outfitted with closets and drawers, shelves and mirrors with waist-height chest of drawers in the center.
“When did you do this?” I don’t understand. I have been out to the treehouse and I never noticed any of this.
“I was keeping it all hidden from you until I could finish the space. Your mother came over and helped me with dressing the room yesterday, including bringing you a complete wardrobe of clothes so that you don’t have to transport everything between here and the apartment. I couldn’t have done it without her. Oh and Mia and Ana helped out too.”
“So there was no dinner with Gail and Jason?” He shakes his head looking very uncertain. I can’t stop staring at it. It looks like a boutique shop and it is all for me. This beautiful, wonderful man has done all of this for me and I think I am about to cry. I look at Anabel and Marie and they already have tears in their eyes.
“Babe, is it okay? Do you like it? Cos if it isn’t right we can fix it, I can get the guys….” I don’t let him finish his sentence, throwing myself into his arms and wrapping my legs around his waist. I hear the photographer snap a shot and I really couldn’t give a shit. I plant kisses all over his face and his lips enthusiastically.
“I love it. I love it so much. And I love you. You have no idea. This is perfect. You are perfect.”
They leave me in the new bedroom to enjoy the fruits of Elliot’s labor while they finish the tour and I meet them downstairs on the deck for drinks. Elliot continues to explain how the garden recycles water through the giant columns in the house and around the garden.
“Again, this is based on designs that Gaudi created over a century ago in Park Guell. Karen and I went to Barcelona to look at the parks and the architecture so that we could borrow ideas. She has even made the furniture and mosaics in the garden in a similar way, paying attention to natural forms, patterns in nature and using recycled materials. We just kept the color palette more neutral than Gaudi. And if you look back up at the building you can see that above and below the turrets are the same vents and picture windows that you see in the Batillo Apartments.”
How did I not know any of this? Suddenly I have this overwhelming urge to go to Barcelona to see the originals. My darling man is brilliant and it makes me more angry at Gia for trying to claim what is clearly Elliot’s stunning tribute design.
“Kate, Elliot, this place is amazing and I know our readers are going to be blown away by your attention to detail especially in the eco-features. Can we come back and do a feature on the garden?”
“Absolutely but we will need to have Karen here to talk about it. She is the landscape architect.”
“Anabel, under the circumstances, I would like editorial approval of that story before it goes to print.” She looks a little unsure.
“Kate I am not sure my boss would be happy with that but I will try.”
“Don’t worry about that. I will handle your boss.” For once I am going to pull some strings with my father. There is no way that I want anything other than an honest representation of Elliot’s work going to press. This isn’t for me, it’s for him.