You gave me this, made me give
Your silver grin still sticking it in
You have soul machine, soul machine
The longest kiss, peeling furniture days
Drift madly to you, pollute my heart drain
You have broken at me, broken me
All your mental armour drags me down
Nothing hurts like your mouth, mouth, mouth
Your loaded smiles, pretty just desserts
Wish it all for you so much it never hurts
You have soul machine, stolen me
All your mental armour drags me down
We can’t breathe when you come around
All your mental armour drags me down
Nothing hurts like your mouth, mouth, mouth,
Your mouth, mouth, mouth (x2)
We’ve been missing long before
Never found our way home
We’ve been missing long before
We will find our way
You gave me this, made me give
You have soul machine, broken free
The Steele-Grey organizing committee has taken over the living room yet again so I take myself off to meet up with Christian and Ethan for a drink. Zeus sits placidly at my side at an outdoor table as we wait for the guys to arrive. Ethan rocks up first, looking distracted. Mia’s doing, I bet. That and the fact that I know Christian makes him nervous. But Miss Mia has taken over as event coordinator for this little shindig of Ana and Christian’s so Ethan has been banished from the apartment as well. Not that he is spending much time there. I don’t want to speculate on the dude sleeping with my sister but I am wondering if and where this is taking place as she has been living at Bellevue since she returned from Paris a few weeks ago. I can’t imagine that Mom and Dad would be too happy with her having her new boyfriend over. He leans over to greet Zeus before perching himself on a stool beside me.
“Hey, Lelliot, how’s it hanging?” What the fuck? He is not even my brother-in-law yet, in fact I still haven’t proposed to his sister and he is already using the fucking family nick name.
“Slightly to the left and down to my knee. You?” Come on man, tell me where you’ve been. Ethan hasn’t set foot in the apartment he shares with me and Kate since Monday. That’s three days.
“Yeah, good, all good. I just dropped Mom off at the apartment with a boat load of wedding dresses for Ana to try. For a low key wedding this thing is getting bigger than fucking Ben Hur.” A waitress wanders over at that moment and gives us the big come on before finally taking our drinks order. There was a time when being eye-fucked by pretty girls like her would have been a welcome part of my day but since Kate came into my life it just pisses me off. Move it girl, a man could die of thirst here. This place does a good range of international lagers and we order a round of Speights gold medal that arrives just as Christian does.
As usual, Christian has his security detail in tow and I have to resist calling Jason over to the table to join us. I don’t know why Christian feels the need to keep his staff at arms length. His attitude sucks when it comes to key personnel who have already proved time and again that they are capable and loyal. I am guessing that the likelihood of getting up close and personal with Jason Taylor has taken a big fucking nose dive since the Leila Williams incident. Jason gives an imperceptible nod and I turn back to Christian.
I stand, holding out my hand which he grips, before coming in for a bro hug totally taking me by surprise. Since Ana arrived in his life a whole lot of physical and emotional barriers have been falling between Christian and the rest of the family. Including him finally coming out to the treehouse for a jam session in my home studio last Saturday. He wanted to record a song for Ana, and man, the dude can really sing. I always knew he was a fucking hot shot pianist but he’s got a voice like Buble and Sinatra combined. Fucking awesome. At least he seems to have forgiven me for my little outburst last week.
The planets just didn’t seem to want to align for me last week. In fact, they were on a fucking collision course that had me and anyone I came in contact with spinning. Kate has been distant since we lost the baby. Pulling away from me more and more over the last three weeks. Christian is asking me to do the impossible by making me work with my ex, Gia on the designs and plans for his house renovation. Linc Lincoln and his morbidly evil ex-wife Elena seem to be conspiring to bring me and Christian down by employing the dubious skills of Jack Hyde. To top is all off I walk into a dinner conversation last Tuesday night with my parents that completely blew my fucking world apart. The only good outcome from that night was making love to Kate again but ever since we have been going through the motions. The sex is still great but the rest of the time she is on remote control, blaming work and the wedding for being tired and distant. If she was going to get exhausted from planning anyone’s wedding it should have been ours but now we will have to wait until Christian and Ana get through their three ringed circus.
The day after the train wreck that was dinner with my folks, I booked in an afternoon squash game with Christian. Big mistake. In the past Christian has been such an aggressive fucker that I would have to nurse bruises for a week. This time my anger took over as I worked off the tension from the past few weeks. Every hit of the ball had me visualizing the fuckers who were making my life hell.
First serve went to me since Christian has won so many of our previous battles and he assumes I need the handicap. I smack a straight drive into the wall imagining that Gia, the man eating bitch, is standing there and ace the serve.
“1-0.” Christian glances back at me for a moment, an inscrutable look on his face, before straightening up and swapping to the other side of the court. He crouches down preparing for the next serve as I visualize Jack Fucking Hyde and all his sick fucking games. This time I let Christian get a couple of returns in before I slam a boast into the corner making it ricochet off the side wall and hitting him in the shoulder.
“2-0.” Christian rubs his shoulder and then applies himself to winning the serve and next point off me.
Two points later the serve is mine again. The next three points are easy. One for my father for being a lying unfaithful prick as I lay in a drop shot that has Christian diving pointlessly to the floor. He ends his fall in a dive roll and glares at me as I give him a hand up. Next point, another high velocity boast, is for my mother for covering Dad’s lying, cheating ass all these years. I can feel Christian boring holes in the back of my head as I walk back to the serving line. Finally a point for my baby sister for keeping secrets from me, another nice little drop shot that Christian isn’t quite fast enough to scoop up. When Linc Lincoln’s ugly mug pops into my head I lose it and fire a serve straight into the back of Christian’s head.
“3-5. Your serve.” I shrug as he glares at me and walk forward to prepare for his serve.
Christian takes his time setting up for the serve and with his usual power and skill takes the next four points off me by dominating the T. This just serves to piss me off completely and I execute the perfect corkscrew to win the serve back.
“Score is 5-7. Serve is yours.” Christian smirks and I ankle tap him on his way past me.
“Sorry bro.” I smile back at him. Prick. I even up the scores with another boast that fairly chases around the walls completely eluding Christian’s attempts to track it followed by another drop shot. That was for Linc and the noose he seems intent on tightening around my neck.
“You’ve improved.” Christian’s barely contained hostility infiltrates his icy tone. Fuck off, Christian!
“Nah, bro. You’re just playing like a pussy.” My shoulder slams into his as I head back to serve.
“Jesus, Elliot. What the fuck has crawled up your ass?” TJ and his brother and their ill-conceived sexual antics pop into my head. Those same ones that have resulted in blackmail and an endless stream of photographs being leaked to my future father-in-law, media boss, Sam Kavanagh. Luckily they chose the wrong person to bring down the Grey family, especially when his baby girl fell in love with me. I sweep the ball up and get ready to serve without answering Christian.
“7 all.” We enter into a ten minute rally as we throw our bodies around the court in a frenzy of shots. It finally ends with me firing a back wall boast at a point where Christian has been running around so much he can hardly tell which way on the court he is facing. The exhaustion and shock on his face is priceless and I laugh as I slump down, hands on knees trying to catch my breath. That point was for Stella who suggested reviving the aerial routine that has brought Kate to Linc’s attention.
“8-7.” Maneuvering myself back into serving position I immediately launch an impossible lob that Christian has no chance of getting to. Taking a moment to retie my shoelace I am aware of him stalking toward me. I look up at his intimidating stance over me. Deliberately taking my time I rise up and face off with him. At first it looks like he isn’t going to say anything. Then his voice, cold and menacing spits out.
“What the fuck was that?” He expects me to cower. Not this time, not any more.
“A point to me, fuckwit.” I chest bump him pushing him backwards across the court. More shock filters through his glare than I have ever seen and I mentally give myself a high five. Expecting him to move into position so I can take another point off him I am surprised when he is still standing directly in front of me as I prepare to serve. It only takes a moment for the look on his face to piss me off completely. It is Christian and his piss poor timing and fucked up history that has had me covering or bailing out his ass almost every day for the past 12 years. I pull back my racket and serve a volley straight into his balls taking him to his knees with a grunt.
“Jesus Christ.” Rolling on his back he grips the family jewels and for a moment I feel a little guilty for doing this to Ana. On the other hand it might be time for Christian to receive the kind of pain I know he likes to dish out in his kink room. I face away from him and practice volley shots on the wall. Eventually he gets back on his feet and regains his equilibrium. “I don’t know what the fuck is wrong with you but let’s get this over with.”
I back hand the ball across the court to him to serve. His whole game is off now and I quickly win the serve back. The fire has gone out of the battle and I quickly take another point off him.
“9-7.” Fatigue sneaks into his voice which is almost unheard of for Christian. I easily take the next point off him and I get ready to serve for the game. My serve is quick and clean, not enough to take an easy point but Christian doesn’t throw himself behind his return volley and I quickly put the shot away with another corkscrew. “Game. You wanna go again?”
Shaking his head he walks over to pick the ball up and we begin a period of warm down shots.
“Are you going to tell me what’s wrong?” Not looking at me he gently swats the ball at the wall and I return it.
“Nope.” What am I going to say? I know you are kinky prick who has had a string of submissives through your kinky fuck room. I know that one of them tried to kill your fiancee. I know that you were on a path to self destruction as a teenager before an older woman decided to molest a horny and fucked up boy and engage him in a sick relationship that set the tone for the rest of his fucking life.
Sensing my resolve, Christian walks through the glass door to the seating area outside the court and retrieves his bag. Once he has gone I let fly with the ball and pound it and myself around the court for another ten minutes. These last few shots are for Elena Bitchface Lincoln, the whoring cow who not only dragged Christian into the BDSM lifestyle but who fucked me, my brother and my father. A fucking trifecta of Grey men! And by giving her up for adoption, fucked over my sister. When I am almost to the point of throwing up, my breathing heavy and labored, my skin and clothes dripping with sweat, I stop and face the glass wall. Christian is still standing there looking at me open mouthed. I wipe my arm across my face before walking out the door and pick up my gym bag, not stopping to acknowledge his questioning look.
We didn’t talk about it then and we don’t talk about it now. Instead I threw myself into work and dragged myself through each day hoping like hell that Jack or Linc would do something that would allow me to beat the living shit out of them. Kate was treating me like I didn’t exist except for sex so I figured a battery operated toy would get her through the years I would likely spend in jail, if she bothered to wait for me at all. On the weekend I would go back out to the treehouse and she would once again make an excuse as to why she couldn’t come with me. Last weekend it was something about catching up on work and another meeting of the Grey coven where I am pretty sure they all get together and stick needles into wax effigies of the Grey men. Well, maybe not Ana … yet.
Last weekend she at least had the good grace to meet me at my parents house in Bellevue for a family brunch and what a fucking picnic that turned out to be. We were all doing our best to give off the impression of happy families and loving couples when Mia spotted a news story on Christian and Ana. Well, you could hardly call it news, it was that bitchy gossip columnist Felicity Ferret spreading innuendo as usual and speculating on the details of Christian and Ana’s prenup agreement. Christian is adamant there won’t be a prenup and Dad, being a cautious prick thinks he needs one. I can’t work up the energy to give a fuck about it either way. Ana won’t take his money, I at least know that about her now although I thought she could have been a gold digger when I first met her. Dad wants what is best for Christian, to protect him and I can’t help thinking that its a little too late for that. Where the fuck were you Dad when Christian needed you the most? Too busy sitting on your fucking high horse playing the tough love game. Who was there? Me, that’s who. Me and Jason and Gail to the fucking rescue yet again while Mom and Dad threw money at fucking therapists who wouldn’t know their elbow from their ear and had no idea the kind of shit Christian was getting himself into as a fucked up fifteen year old.
I sat and watched the family dynamics that I hadn’t noticed as clearly until now. My mother and father plastering on their benevolent happy family faces. My brother being the holier-than-though control freak jumping on every little misdemeanor that Ana might inadvertently commit. Kate, pretending she is happy and in love and quietly breaking apart inside as she slips away from me yet again. My little sister Mia, flitting from conversation to conversation, like a fucking bored ADHD magpie and barely tolerating Dad being in the same room with her. Why didn’t I see any of this before? Because you didn’t fucking want to. You believed if you kept it light, kept them all laughing at you and at themselves that the cracks wouldn’t show. Well it didn’t fucking work did it?
Kate was tired. She and I were out the night before at some swanky club opening. On top of spending all Saturday at the office, she had to cover the opening for work and if I wanted to see her I had to be her handbag for the night. We danced, we pretended we were having fun and we both drank way too much on the Kavanagh Media tab so this happy little discussion is grating on our last nerves as we fight to disguise the hangovers. As the discussion unfolds and voices escalate she starts to look a little green. I guess the guilty look is because she doesn’t want to cut and run on Ana while my father stands there and all but accuses her of fleecing his son. Much in all as I like Ana, this is none of my business so I have no compunction about getting up and leaving so they can hash out the details. It doesn’t surprise me when Ana tells Kate later that Christian stood his ground and there won’t be a prenup.
“I think Mia is planning something over the top for the Hen night.” We’re on our third round and Ethan is desperately trying to keep a flow of conversation sensing the tension in the air. Well, I am on my third, I have no idea where they are up to. Christian’s head shoots up and he glares daggers at Ethan. Here we go.
“Hen night? Over my fucking dead body.” Taking ‘controlling prick’ to a whole new level, yet again.
“What? Did you think either of you were going to get off without some of the traditional trappings? Don’t be so fucking naive.” His attitude shits me. “Wait till you see what Ethan and I have planned for you, bro.”
Both sets of eyes train themselves on me. Fucked if I know what we have planned but now the prick has offered up a challenge. Ethan has a thousand questions and doubts flicking through his eyes that I don’t acknowledge. Jason cocks his head at me, knowing that I haven’t run any of these fictional plans past him. Holding Ethan’s stare I am willing him to come on board. Eventually he does.
“Aahh … yeah…you better be ready for it.” He chokes the words out before draining the last of his bottle and signaling to the waitress for another round. Need something stronger my friend? I know I do.
“No, no hen’s night, no buck’s night.” He thumps his bottle down on the table to emphasize his message. The approaching waitress jumps back as he does so, sensing the hostility and I smile past him at her.
“Don’t worry, sweetheart, his bark is worse than his bite. Bring those drinks over here, I’m parched.” Christian raises an eyebrow as Ethan jumps to help her load and unload her tray. I keep my grin plastered on for her benefit. “And can you summon up some tequila shots too, babe?” She smiles at me as she leans over to place the bottle in front of me, giving me an eyeful of cleavage and half a nipple popping out of her bra before straightening up and walking away. My eyes follow the sway of her hips without much interest.
“Flirting with the help again, bro. I thought Kate had cured you of that.” I scowl at him.
“Fuck off, Christian. You could try to be nice to your staff every now and then. It might stop you from coming off like an arrogant prick.” I glance over at Jason as I say this and Christian takes my meaning. Ethan hides behind his bottle, I guess hoping the ground will swallow him up.
“My staff are paid very well for their services. They don’t need me to be their friend.”
“Yeah, take that one to the grave, mate. We’ll all remember that when there is no one left standing at your side as the shit comes down.”
“What the fuck is that meant to mean?”
“Nothing. Fucking, nothing.” I turn my attention to emptying the contents of my bottle and signal the little hovering hottie for another one. She places six shots of tequila down in front of us and another round of beers having already preempted my needs. I like that in a woman. Once more she hovers her ample bosom in front of me and through my slightly drunken haze I am almost tempted. Almost. Instead I pick up two shots, one after the other, and throw them back before picking up my beer.
“Hey, you better slow down, man.” Ethan grips my wrist and I throw his hand aside knocking over bottles and glasses as we go. Jason steps forward quickly and Christian leaps out off his stool to face off with me. Zeus leaps forward and lets out a menacing growl and Jason has him around the collar quickly stopping him from ripping Christian’s throat out.
“Hey, Zeus, calm down buddy.” Jason is whispering into my dog’s ear and Christian frowns looking from the dog to Jason to me. My hand signals to Zeus and he stands down, allowing Jason to squat beside him and calm his nerves. Ethan is now wiping beer off his pants with the over enthusiastic assistance of little Miss Hottie and her handy towel. Grabbing the lead I step away from the table. We have attracted a fair amount of attention and a manager is on his way over to us.
“I’ve got him, Jase, thanks.” Ethan and Jason look at each other, seemingly have a private conversation and then the shock hits me as I realize what I have just done. Christian has gone from gobsmacked to seriously pissed in a heart beat. Fuck! I am sick of fucking secrets and lies and pretense. But this is Jason’s job I am putting at risk and he’s my friend. He doesn’t deserve Christian’s ire when he finds out the truth. “See, it wouldn’t kill you to be on first name basis with your staff since all of your family are.” Hopefully, this will answer his unasked questions.
“Sir, if you can’t keep your dog under control I am going to have to ask you to leave.” Pompous little prick. I try staring the manager down but he is one of those little officious cunts with short man’s disease and a love of clipboards. The kind who didn’t get to eat his lunch in school. Fortunately for him he is backed up by a couple of brawny bouncers. My bleary eyes try to focus on them and they send a message that I am not drunk enough to ignore.
“We were just leaving.” Jason has resumed his position, ten feet behind Christian and slightly to the left at all times like a good little lap dog. I can’t read his expression through the reflective lenses of his sunglasses but he looks pretty fucking grim. “Catch you clowns laters.”
“Elliot, wait up, I’ll come with.” Ethan is in the process of throwing some cash on the table when Christian puts his hand out to stop him. He looks pretty miffed but he puts his wallet back in his pocket and trots over to me. Christian is glowering at us as we walk away and quite frankly I couldn’t give a shit.
“Jesus, are you alright man. I mean, Christian is a scary motherfucker but you just…well, none of that seemed like you at all. Do you need to talk?” I know he means well, I know he wants to become some kind of psychologist but what is this? Fucking amateur therapist night?
“I’m fine, Ethan. Just got a lot on my plate right now and I guess I just didn’t feel like dealing…” To his credit he shuts the fuck up and we walk home in silence. When we get back to the apartment the sun has finally gone down but the coven is still in full swing. Much and all as I would like to go in and break up the party I haven’t got it in me right now to face down all of those women. Nor do I want to explain to Kate why I am half cut this early in the evening. “You wanna head out to the treehouse for the night?”
Ethan peers up at the now lit windows of the apartment where the silhouettes of females trying on dresses are clearly etched. “Yeah, I think I do. I’ll just go up and give Mom the keys to the car. You coming up?”
“Nah, I’ll wait here. Tell Kate…just tell her where we will be.” She won’t fucking notice anyway except that I won’t be here to service her needs. Shit, she’s got a hand, she can do it herself. With that happy image I realize that I am more drunk than I thought. When Ethan comes down I throw him the keys. “Since you’re wearing most of your drinks, you better drive.”