Twenty-nine pearls in your kiss, a singing smile,
Coffee smell and lilac skin, your flame in me.
Twenty-nine pearls in your kiss, a singing smile,
Coffee smell and lilac skin, your flame in me.
I’m only here for this moment.
I know everybody here wants you.
I know every body here thinks he needs you
I’ll be waiting right here just to show you
How our love will blow it all away.
The night before the wedding Christian and I go out for a quiet catch up drink, mostly to avoid the craziness that is going on amongst the womenfolk. For once it is just me and him, no security, which is highly unusual but in a good way. I really like my brother, I like the man he has become. It doesn’t stop him from being a prize dick.
“I suppose we will be doing this for you soon.” There is a question behind the statement. One that I have been grappling with for a while.
“I’m surprised you would even bring it up. You don’t even like Kate.” She told me very little about her meeting with Christian except to say that they had agreed to disagree. I am pretty sure a lot more went down in that meeting but I don’t press her. It irks me that Kate and Christian might not ever get along. I think it pisses Ana off too.
“It isn’t my place to like her. She’s your girlfriend. You’re the one who has to live with her.” The smirk on his face deserves to be smacked. I secretly have stared thinking of this as Christian’s ‘punch me’ face.
“I don’t want to have to explain to Ana why you are turning up to your wedding with a black eye. If you can explain to me why you don’t like her without making me want to hit you, then go ahead, otherwise I suggest we change the topic.” I drain my glass and order another round. We’re at the Mile High Club tonight so the chances of having my drink spiked is a significantly reduced. I don’t want a repeat of the last time.
“I don’t dislike her. She just sees too much. I feel like she knows more about me than she ever lets on.” Oh, little brother, if only you knew.
“She would never betray you, you know.”
“Maybe not, but she is capable of holding up a mirror and I don’t think I want anyone to do that. I’ve been haunted by enough shit in my life.” He is opening a door for me and God help me I consider walking through it but it is the night before his wedding. I can’t bring myself to do it. It must show on my face. “Are you going to tell me what’s wrong?”
“Nothing, man. It’s just this thing with Linc hanging over my head…”
“But Dad has got that sewn up from the legal side and besides we’ve successfully diverted his attention.”
“I know, and it feels good to think that it might be over. It’s just that Kate and I have been in this massive holding pattern on our relationship and I want it to be over.”
I don’t know whether he deliberately misinterprets me. “What, you’re going to end it with her?”
“What? No! Jesus, you’d like that wouldn’t you?” He studies my face for a moment, obviously weighing his words. Yeah, be careful what you say next dude. I can still smack your ass before tomorrow.
“I really wouldn’t want that. She gets you in a way that no one else ever has. I’ve never see you so…together. But I know you’re holding out on me. Something has been off and I am sure it is more than Linc’s threats.” Shit, do I tell him about the baby? No, Kate wouldn’t want that. The air feels thick with secrets again.
“I can’t really say more than that except we are stronger now than ever.”
“You really love her?” I nod my head. Never a doubt in my mind. “Then why don’t you just bite the bullet. Marry her.”
It all sounds so simple. Now that we are moving past the wedding and Dad has the legal team working on the Linc problem, my biggest preoccupation is how to propose to Kate. It seems that we have been dancing around this for such a long time and for the most part I already feel that our future has already begun. But I know that she deserves more than that. I just can’t get past the kids issue.
“I want to ask her. I will ask her. It’s just that she has said she doesn’t want to have a baby.”
“Not in so many words but she just can’t seem to see a time when she will ever be ready.”
“I’m with her on that one. We’re all too young for kids. There’s plenty of time to change her mind. Besides, how do you know you can have kids?”
I think about this for a moment. “I dunno. I guess if the choice was taken out of our hands then I would still want to be with her.” He tilts his head to the side and smiles at me. I’ve just answered my own question.
“Don’t do it before we get back, huh? Ana will want to be here for her.”
There is a whole world of crazy going on around us at the moment. The contracts are flowing in, to the point where we could be busy through to the end of 2014. Four new crews have now been employed full time on the strength of the publicity generated by the magazine spread. Many of these projects won’t start until next year by the time the plans are drawn up and permits obtained but the iron clad contracts that have been put in place have guaranteed us the type of cash flow that we haven’t had before.
Part of the appeal for the private projects seems to be in obtaining an Elliot Grey design which is about to cause me some headaches. While I am happy doing the conceptual work, I still require a registered architect or draftsman to get my drawings through the permit stage. With some reluctance I set up meetings with Gia the week after the wedding.
“Elliot, thank you for calling me, I was disappointed at the way we left things.” Honeyed tones drip from her mouth, but there isn’t a lot of substance in anything she has to say, leaving me wondering what I ever saw in her besides a great rack and a pretty smile. And the more she speaks the more I realize, no, that was pretty much all I ever saw in her. She is a good technician and she has always been prepared to do whatever I wanted her to. Now that I have Kate I wonder how long this professional relationship can be sustained. However, she agrees to sign off on the designs once they are drawn up which makes life easy for now.
“Are you going to the Sports Foundation dinner tonight?” She is packing her briefcase with the design briefs I have given her to check.
“Yes, I’m meant to be meeting Kate for drinks beforehand.” Gia’s face screws up into an ugly grimace for a fraction of a second. Looks like she won’t be getting over the last run in they had any time soon.
“She isn’t doing your reputation any good you know. You used to be so much fun. Now you’re like an old married man. It’s kind of disgusting.” There is a snarl to her voice. Very ugly, Gia. Why did I never notice this about you before?
“My mother will be pleased to hear that. You know things change Gia, people move on. Kate is my future.”
“I give you six months tops.” Vicious.
“And you’re basing this on?” I don’t want to know but she seems to need to vent and I am prepared to let her for old times sake but if she steps across the line then there will be no going back.
“I just never pegged you as someone who would ever want to give up the limelight. Playboy has always been your thing. As for Kate, well, she had her own reputation around town. You know her friends refer to her as the girl most likely to give a guy head in a public place.” Some friends! And as far as I can remember giving head in a public place is about the only thing she hasn’t done. Must rectify that. I must be smiling because Gia’s eyes have gone wide and her bottom lip has hit the ground.
“I really don’t ever want to hear you talk about my girlfriend that way ever again. I meant it when I said we would be through professionally if you ever upset her again.” I can see the moment when she starts to backtrack. She is considering the financial implications of the arrangement now that we are getting all this publicity.
“I’m sorry. Truce? ” With a glare I freeze her in the moment before giving just the slightest nod and turning back to the paperwork on my desk. “And for the record it was Elena Lincoln who said that about her.”
This catches my attention. I didn’t think Gia knew Elena that well. “When were you talking to Elena about Kate?” She has the good grace to look guilty.
“I’m sorry. Elena has been in my ear a lot recently. I guess she wants to know what is going on in your life. She told me about the falling out with your mother.”
“Exactly what did she tell you about that?” Gia looks a little nervous as she realizes that she has probably said too much.
“Nothing really. She implied that it was Christian’s wife’s fault.” That would be understating it. Nice to see Elena twisting it in her favor. Not that I would expect anything less.
“Elena brought it on herself. It had very little to do with Ana.” A blatant mistruth but if it came to choosing my new sister over the bitch troll’s version of the truth then it is a no brainer. “You need to stay away from Elena. She is bitter and angry which is a dangerous combination. I wouldn’t believe anything she has to say.”
Gia simply nods with a look that at least says that she is thinking about what I am saying. I may not want a personal relationship with Gia and I might be angry at her over the argument with Kate but I don’t think she deserves to get burnt by Elena’s desire for revenge.
I arrive at the bar earlier than expected and order drinks while I wait for Kate to turn up. Eventually she walks in wearing a short black cocktail dress, her hair flowing in natural curls around her shoulders is swept off her face on one side by a grey pearl comb that matches the necklace she is wearing. She has barely a hint of lipstick on her lips but her eyes are dark and dramatic. What really draws my attention are the sheer black stockings on her long legs, which if I know my Kate are being held up by a lacy garter belt; and then there are the killer heels. Every guy looks at her as she walks through the room and more than a few seem to be adjusting themselves. I know I should be jealous, and if any of them approached her I would probably punch them but I just feel this huge surge of pride when her smile lights up her eyes as she sees me.
Without allowing me to stand up from the bar stool she walks straight into my arms and plants a soft wet kiss on my lips as she presses her body against mine. This nets the requisite instant response so I am going to have to hold her here for a moment while I talk my cock into calming down.
“Hey sailor, buy a girl a drink?” I reach over to the bar and hand her the cosmopolitan I have already ordered for her. She smells fantastic and I inhale at her neck while she takes a sip of her drink.
“You are so fucking sexy, you know that don’t you?” I keep my voice low but I hear a snigger from the barman as he wipes a glass a few feet away from us. “Are you sure we have to go to this thing tonight? I could just take you home and show you all sorts of athletic moves on the living room floor.”
She laughs. “No, I really do have to meet Flick tonight.” This has become our code for Felicity Ferret events and I know this is her work but I am really tempted to talk to Sam about shifting her to another news team. She might not want to pull strings but I am not above planting the seed if I can. I just think about how she has worked with Anabel and her team on the Casey-Grey articles and it seems like such a waste. She is so much better than Felicity fucking Ferret.
Arriving at the dinner is like walking into a fucking horror movie. Seated at our table are Mia and Ethan, Elena, her partner Isaac and Gia. Another woman named Susie arrives just as we are sitting there and is warmly greeted by Elena. She is a carbon copy of Ana. Kate squeezes my knee under the table and I know that she is thinking the same thing that I am, Susie could easily be one of Christian’s ex-subs. I am just thankful that with Christian and Ana away on honeymoon, Mom and Dad have decided to give tonight a miss.
Elena appears almost contrite and embarrassed at being seated with us which is an unusual look on her. Kate keeps up a steady stream of conversation with Mia and Ethan. Gia and Isaac are chatting about a symphony concert that they are both attending in the next week. Susie excuses herself to go and talk to someone across the room which just leaves me and Elena.
“How is your mother?” Her voice is quiet, it seems that she doesn’t want Isaac and Gia to listen in to our conversation.
“She is fine. Loving her growing family and exhausted after the wedding but really, very happy. Thanks for asking.” Elena’s eyes harden for a moment at my words but then I see that her whole body stiffens, poised for flight. Something else in the room has upset her. I follow her eyes and, as if our night can’t get any worse, see Linc settling into a seat on the other side of the room. Then Elena continues speaking without faltering.
“That is good to hear. I am very glad. If you will excuse me, there is someone I need to see.” She stands up to leave the table and I can’t help reaching out and stopping her by grabbing her hand.
“Elena, why are you having anything to do with Linc?” I just don’t get how she can go running over to see the man who put her in hospital and so obviously frightens her. I look at Mia who frowns. She shakes her head, warning me not to try to stop her.
A shiver passes through her body. “It is none of your business if I talk to my ex-husband. Excuse me.” She stalks off across the room and Isaac tracks her movement with his eyes.
“Fuck. What the hell is he doing here?” My sentiments exactly although, we come to so many of these things, it is inevitable that we would run into Linc again. We can’t avoid him forever. As we watch Elena approaches the table. She stops a few feet away from him but in his sight line but then doesn’t move any closer as if she is waiting for something. When he looks up she bows her head and looks at the floor. I feel Isaac’s sharp intake of breath. He is seriously pissed at this behavior. By this stage Gia and Kate are also looking at them.
“I wish she wouldn’t do that.” Isaac mutters before picking up his glass of wine and emptying it.
“Isaac!” Mia tries to shut him up but it seems he has already had too much to drink.
“How long has this been going on?” I don’t expect him to answer me but I have to ask. If Elena is back in league with Linc then it would be good to know how long and how deep.
“Since Christian’s birthday party. Linc has been trying to talk to her for months but then after that night she disappeared for a couple of days. Next thing I know she is seeing him at Orpheus at least a couple of times a week.”
“You followed her?” He nods grimly. I feel for the guy, there is nothing worse than having to sneak around after your own lover. “Why don’t you just put a stop to it? Tell her to choose, you or him.”
This really upsets him and he refuses to look up. “I can’t tell Elena to do anything. Don’t you get it?” He gives a subtle pull on his shirt collar and I get just the slightest glimpse of leather around his neck underneath. Hell, what a mess.
“But if you are hers, then what is she to Linc?” The look he gives is almost a petulant pout but he looks really upset. Gia’s hand closes over his in support. We really shouldn’t be having this conversation out here in public but Issac doesn’t seem to care who hears.
“Isaac, you have to stop talking about this now. You know she wouldn’t like it.” Mia is desperate to shut this down. I’m kicking myself that I hadn’t known how much she might want to protect Elena’s privacy.
“I don’t know. I love her and I think somewhere in all of this she feels something like love for me but she has always been a switch and this thing with Linc is too big. I’ve been with her for nearly four years now and she is faithful to me, until he calls, then she takes to disappearing for nights on end. I have tried confronting her, threatening her but it does no good. She won’t talk about it, says it is none of my business. Since the fall out with your Mom and Christian she has started seeing him more and more. He has some sort of sick hold on her and he pulls the strings whenever he damn well feels like it.”
Mia glares at Isaac before she and Ethan excuse themselves and circulate through the room. As we watch Susie approaches Linc’s table with two young women. Elena acknowledges them with a slight nod of her head before the young women sit at the table with the group of men. This seems to be some sort of cue and Linc stands escorting Elena away from the table ushering her to a far wall. From where we are sitting we can see when they disappear through the balcony doors and out onto a terrace garden. Luckily we are the only table in the room that has this view because I don’t think anyone else in the room would be able to ignore what happens next.
They talk for a moment and then Elena starts to get more agitated throwing her hands about and gesturing into the room. Suddenly Linc slaps her across the face and Isaac jumps out of his seat. Immediately she shuts down her body language, dropping her hands to her sides and her chin to her chest. Her breathing is heavy as Linc stands over her. He turns and reenters the room without another word and Elena holds her position for at least another five or ten minutes. Isaac hasn’t moved beyond the table. He seems to be waiting for something. Finally Elena raises her head and shoulders then moves back through the room to our table. We all throw ourselves into an animated conversation as if we haven’t noticed a thing. She says very little when she sits down. It takes only minutes for her to announce to Isaac that they are leaving.
After they leave I pull Kate on to the dance floor so we can talk. My sex kitten is understandably tense and nervous so I hold her close.
“You okay baby?”
“Not really, you?” I shake my head but we keep moving holding each other close. As we dance Linc gets up and leaves the room.
“What do you think is going on with them?”
“I have no idea. I would guess she is subbing for him but it seems so sick. She always looks so terrified of him.”
Glancing back at Linc’s table and we notice that the party is heating up. They are getting louder and more unruly. Mia and Ethan dance past us getting between us and them, effectively blocking out the action from us. I don’t think I want to see a bunch of businessmen getting out of control anyway. I am more interested in getting Kate home now that Elena has left. I dance her toward the door and she doesn’t resist me.
“I need to get you out of here.” She smiles up at me. “What is going on in your head Kitten?”
“You need to get me out of here? Or out of this dress?” It never fails to amaze me that with all this mystery in the air she still has the presence of mind to tease me.
“Both. Tonight I want you naked and all to myself in a comfortable bed. As hot as you can get me in the middle of this dance floor, I’m not budging on this one. I want to go home.” Gia might have offered up the great blow job challenge but not tonight. Kate looks up at me with laughter in her eyes then lifts her head for a kiss.
“And my work?”
“Fuck the ferret.”
“You just might get your wish Mr Grey. Did I mention that Anabel has requested my transfer? Jeannie is livid but it looks like it might go through.”
“Why the hell didn’t you tell me? Babe, that’s fantastic.” I pick her up and swing her around me in a wide circle. Her giggle gets me right in the groin. “You are happy about this?”
“Ecstatic. I can’t wait to get off the Flick circuit and start to do something I can be proud of.”
“Well, I am proud of you baby, no matter what. Now, please, can we get the hell out of here? I really want to give you a celebratory fuck.” Once more she giggles then leans in and whispers in my ear.
“I love you, Elliot Grey and a celebratory fuck sounds perfect.”
A/N: Sorry this has taken so long. I am not completely happy but it at least puts in all the relevant details. Promise lemons in the next one. Check out the Prologue for Mia at my blog. All reviews gratefully received.