I could be discontent and chase the rainbows end
I might win much more but lose all that is mine
I could be a lot but I know I’m not
I’m content just with the riches that you bring
I might shoot to win and commit the sin
Of wanting more than I’ve already got
I could runaway but I’d rather stay
In the warmth of your smile lighting up my day
(the one that makes me say, heh)
‘Cause you’re the best thing that ever happened to me or my world
You’re the best thing that ever happened – so don’t go away
I might be a king and steal my peoples things
But I don’t go for that power crazy way
All that I could rule but I don’t check for fools
All that I need is to be left to live my way
(say listen what I say)
I could chase around for nothing to be found
But why look for something that is never there
I may get it wrong sometimes but I’ll come back in style
For I realise your love means more than anything
(the song you make me sing – yeah)
‘Cause you’re the best thing that ever happened to me or my world
You’re the best thing that ever happened – so don’t go away
You’re the Best Thing – The Style Council
Elliot holds the audience in the palm of his hand as he delivers fact after quip followed by inspirational idea. He is funny, passionate and intelligent, demonstrating a thorough knowledge based on history and good practice alongside the sparks of innovation that he has researched and developed himself. By the end of the presentation I can sense the attendees are eager to pick over his brain and he holds his own as he fields a barrage of questions from the audience. Some crusty old professor tries to trip him up on the finer details of his designs, using academic language from the ark. Elliot comes back at him without hesitation, explaining how the design of the struts counteracts the stress on the loading beams effectively demonstrating how the field of architectural engineering has moved on in practice. Although I have become his research assistant and a reader of his papers, I can only understand parts of what he is saying but the general agreement around me is that Elliot has shot Crusty down in flames.
Afterward he is invited to a lunch with the WSU Architecture Faculty who feel that they have some sort of claim on his time and his oeuvre. To my delight Elliot politely but firmly declines explaining that his sister-in-law has had an accident and we are anxious to be at the hospital as soon as possible. Although I am eternally grateful that he has resisted them, I am wondering if this refusal is going to cost us in the long run when two middle aged men approach me.
“Miss Kavanagh, another wonderful presentation. May I introduce Professor Damien Kuiper from the engineering faculty at Technical University Delft, Netherlands.” The man addressing me is Professor John Sharp from Southern California Institute of Architecture. He has been instrumental in assisting us with the academic papers that Elliot has been submitting for publication and although we have only met him face to face twice he is fast becoming a friend. At that moment Elliot extricates himself from an over-eager group of developers who have stalled him with more questions and requests for information, and wanders over to where we are standing.
“John good to see you.” Now that his presentation is over Elliot has relaxed into his charming and affable self. I couldn’t be more proud of him. He shakes John’s hand enthusiastically. “Thanks for coming along to the session.”
“I wouldn’t have missed it Elliot. And this is Damien Kuiper.” Elliot’s face lights up completely. Damien Kuiper has been a face at the end of the Skype calls but now they are meeting face to face and it is obvious that both men are extremely affected by this.
“Yes, of course, Damien, so nice to meet you in the flesh.” Damien, John and Elliot have been having some intensive conversations that have often turned into good natured debates so they know each other reasonably well if only at a distance. A look of consternation washes over Elliot’s face. “Look, I would love to catch up with you both but we are due at the hospital. Can we meet you tomorrow night for dinner?”
“Yes, of course. I hope it’s nothing serious.” The story hit the news rather quickly yesterday after talking with my father and Christian’s assistant Andrea. We worked on the press release together, keeping the details factually accurate and the hype out of it. It seemed better for everyone concerned if we were able to give the press what they needed rather than wait for the hacks to make something up.
“A family crisis that luckily seems to be about to have a happy outcome but I hope you’ll forgive us for wanting to join our family during the vigil. We have it on good authority that everyone will be home safely this evening. Tomorrow Kate and I would be happy to show you a little of Seattle’s hospitality.” The arrangements are quickly made and we depart making it to the hospital in record time. As we drive I think about the professional Elliot versus the private Elliot and smile at how well he switches between each persona.
This morning was a little crazy at the treehouse. We woke up early to discover a note left by Mia and Ethan on the table. At some point in the night they had decamped back to Bellevue which I know would have made Grace happy and Ethan uncomfortable. When we arrive at the waiting room around noon Carrick and Grace are sitting quietly, looking better than they were yesterday but still anxious and tired. Grace stands and walks straight into Elliot’s arms while I quickly greet Carrick with a kiss to the cheek. He ushers me to sit down next to him, a far cry from the mistrust that he may have had for me a few weeks ago.
“Any news?” Ana had only woken up last night and although the doctors were convinced that both she and the baby would make a full recovery we are all still anxious for an all clear.
“Yes, she’s being discharged this afternoon. They are just waiting on the most recent scan to come back.”
“Have you been here all morning?”
“No, I came in early then I had to be in court by 9am. Grace wanted to come and check progress for herself. Looks like we will be heading off soon. Grace is eager to get home to check on Mia. How did he go this morning?” Carrick keeps his voice low so that Elliot can’t hear. I have my reasons for keeping my plans secret from Elliot and Carrick agrees with me.
“Good. Really good. In fact, great. If we can keep up with the schedule and he can keep the momentum going on his research then it could all be through in the two year time frame that we set. John seems fairly confident.” I only know this from the massive grin and thumbs up that John gave me when he brought Damien over to meet me this morning. I had no idea the complexity of what we were trying to achieve but John has negotiated all of the finer details and I trust his knowledge of and enthusiasm for Elliot’s work.
Carrick’s hand goes to my knee giving a loving pat. “I can’t tell you again how grateful I am to you, Kate. It seems that I am saying that a lot lately. To you and Ana.” Yes, Carrick Grey may very well be an academic snob but he loves his family and he wants them to be recognized for their talents. I sense that he often feels that he failed them all as a father. Yet, I look at the man Elliot has become and I see that he couldn’t have arrived to where he is now without having taken on some of the best parts of Carrick and Grace. The only caveat that I set on this whole scheme when I first spoke to Carrick about it was that no one would put pressure on Elliot in the process. If he thought this was a high stakes game then he would crack. It doesn’t have to be that way.
“Just remember that if at any stage he decides that he isn’t enjoying the work any more then we have to let it go. The only time we have issues is when he is tired, bored or stressed. The two Johns are monitoring his progress in different ways and we have to trust that they will know if it is getting on top of him.” Carrick nods giving one more pat before he removes his hand. At least he seems to understand who is driving this bus.
At that moment Grace gets summoned by one of the nurses and Elliot walks over and joins us.
“What are you two whispering about?” He sits down on the other side of me and drapes an arm across the back of my chair. I lean back into his warmth and he absently strokes my shoulder.
“You. Your Dad was just asking how the seminar went this morning.” Elliot smiles. There is a sense of pride in a job well done. He deserves to feel good about the way he delivered to such a mixed audience. He and Carrick launch into a full discussion as I sit and listen. Carrick is incredibly proud of his boys, it filters through his eyes whenever they have these conversations and for all the tension of recent discoveries, Elliot still sparks under his father’s considered interest in his life and work. I remember that first family dinner that Ana and I attended when Carrick made sure that each of his children got a chance to shine in the conversation. I know things appear to be better with Mia now than they were then but somehow I think that she and Carrick still have a way to go.
After a little while Grace comes back to the waiting room looking more calm and relaxed. Carrick is up out of the seat quickly to draw her into his arms. Simultaneously, Elliot pulls me protectively into his shoulder. These Grey men certainly know how to make their women feel cherished.
Grace smiles. “Ana is fine and the baby’s heart is strong. Another hour or so and Dr Singh will sign the discharge papers. Kate, do you want to go and see her?. Just between you and me I think Christian is driving her a little crazy.” I laugh as I move to stand and then it dawns on me what I am about to do freezing me for a moment in my seat.
Elliot gives my hand a squeeze. As much as I am worried about Ana and dying to see for myself that she is alright, this is a moment I haven’t exactly mentally prepared myself for. Carrick gives me a hand up and Grace’s hand reaches over to touch my face.
“You’ll be fine sweetheart. We love you and you don’t have to stay longer than five minutes. Don’t do or say anything that is going to upset you.” Grace doesn’t know about my meltdown as far as I know but it seems that they both understand exactly how I will be feeling right now and they aren’t judging me for it.
“I…I can’t.” Elliot pulls me into an embrace as I choke out a sob. “I thought I could but I…”
“Shh, it’s alright, sweetheart.” I feel so petty and mean and these wonderful people are being so understanding. She is my best friend and I nearly lost her. That should trump any of the jealousy I might feel over her healthy pregnancy but somehow the emotion of the last two days is all too much.
“Kate, she doesn’t even have to know that you are here. Christian is keeping her pretty closely guarded. How about we go home and wait a couple of days?” Carrick is soothing me, running his hand through my hair as Elliot holds me. “You can decide if you want to tell her anything at all. She doesn’t have to know about the baby yet.”
But she is my best friend and she does need to know. The sooner the better but perhaps right now, while she is dealing with her own emotional shit storm, it might not be the time to unload all of this on her.
Late in the afternoon we are back at the treehouse sitting on the deck looking out at the Sound. The water is calm and a gentle breeze ruffles through Zeus’ fur. Once more he sits with his giant head in my lap as Elliot hands me my cup of tea. I wave at Jake and Karen down in the garden digging up weeds. The sound of Jen and TJ’s banter filters through from the kitchen as they prepare dinner.
“Kitten, I don’t think you should say anything to Ana yet. She’s been through a lot these last few days. I just don’t know what purpose it would serve.” His warm hand covers mine but his eye is on Jake who has wandered down towards the water.
“I know. I’m torn because of all of the secrets we have been keeping from each other. Ana and I have never been like this.” It hurts to think that we aren’t telling each other everything any more. I take a sip of my tea and Zeus raises his head to look at me. Elliot signals for him to go and he dutifully trots down to find Jake.
“Perhaps you need to think of it as keeping your private life private. Just because you’ve always been immersed in a world that thrived on gossip and and now your job is about uncovering information, doesn’t mean that you can’t find some sort of balance. Maybe it starts with Ana.”
I think about the carefully crafted press release and how Dad, Andrea and I worked together to create it. There was a lot that wasn’t said in it. Then I think about Christian’s NDA culture and how my initial reaction was that he had gagged Ana but now I see that it protects her and the thousands of people who work for him as much as it protects his interests.
“I think there’s a difference between privacy and honesty but somehow the timing doesn’t feel right. I’m not ready to tell her and she’s definitely not ready to hear. Besides, she hasn’t officially told me about the baby. We only know because of Christian putting his giant foot in it.”
“True. So you’ll wait until she tells you? That could be a couple of months away yet. Are you going to be okay with that? If it is eating away at you isn’t she going to be able to tell?” He’s right. How do I hide that sort of emotion from one of the few people who knows so me well?
“Somehow I will have to get her to tell me about the baby first and then she and I can really talk. I won’t betray Christian by telling her that I already know.” Elliot stops his cup midway to his mouth and stares at me open-mouthed. “What?” His mouth snaps shut and he sits back in his chair with a dopey grin before glancing at me again.
“I just never thought I would see the day when you decide to protect Christian.” His smile lights his face up from within. This means a lot to him. We both fall silent again, breathing in the fresh air off the ocean and enjoying a relative calm. Just as a plan starts to formulate in my head Elliot’s phone breaks into our reverie.
“Elliot. Speak to me.” I smile thinking how he hardly ever checks to see who it is. “Hey Coco. How are you feeling?”
His eyes dart to mine as he listens. “I don’t know. Don’t you think we should leave them…oh, oh…” Now he has my full attention. I mouth ‘what’ to him and he holds up a finger to halt me while he sits up and leans on his knees.
“Right. Well, in that case, yeah, we’ll be there soon.” Where? He cuts the connection, pocketing his phone and looks at me. “Seems that Christian’s security guy, Welch, has found some new information and Christian has called Dad. They’re heading to Escala soon but Mia thinks we should be there as well. You up for it?”
If this is about Hyde then I want to know. Within an hour we are on the road arriving at Escala in record time. The paps are still out on the street so we enter the parking building to find one of Christian’s security team there to greet us. He valet’s the car for us as we head upstairs.
Mia, Ethan and Ana are beavering away in the kitchen preparing food. Christian, Grace and Carrick are nowhere to be seen. When she sees me Mia comes bounding around the kitchen bench to give me a hug.
“Kate! God, it is good to see you.” I am wondering where the serious and circumspect Mia is from last night. Perhaps the meds are kicking in. Then she whispers,”They’re in the study. Hey Lelliot!” She leans in and gives him a big hug then when she pulls out with her back still to Ana she gives us a wink. So we are expected to play along with…?
I laugh. “You look a lot more with it today, Mia.” Her big grin doesn’t quite make it to her eyes. This is such an act and I wonder if there is something I am missing. “Hey Ethan.”
“Hi guys.” Ethan seems pretty tight-lipped and he is hovering around Ana and Mia like a mother hen. Guess the protectiveness doesn’t just apply to the Grey men.
“So what have we missed?” This earns him a WTF glare from Mia, Ethan and I. He shrugs and Ana seems oblivious as she passes a plate to Mia to put on the table. “Where’s Christian and the ‘rents?”
“Oh, they’ve sequestered themselves into Christian’s war room. Seems everyone is in the mood to carry out secret men’s business today.” She can’t quite filter the bitterness out of her voice as she glares at Ethan. Shit! Given the mood he was in last night I just hope that he hasn’t tried to confront Jack Hyde. He’ll be completely out of his depth if he does. Jack is pure evil. The only thing stopping me asking which way Ethan would like me to kick his butt is the thought that he wouldn’t have been able to get past the police guard on Jack’s room.
“Mia, how about you and Elliot sort out drinks for everyone. Ethan can you keep moving these plates over to the table. I am sure that the others will be finished soon.” Ana’s voice is a quiet authoritative calm against Mia’s bluster. Mia nods and drags Elliot over to the table to pour the champagne that has been set out there. Ethan loads up on plates and gingerly walks over to the overlarge table.
Right now I am pissed at Ethan so I use it to my advantage with Ana. She will be expecting my usual righteous indignation over her stunt, not the more introspective and considered approach that has become part of my MO since the miscarriage.
“What were you thinking, Ana?” I raise my voice slightly enough to make the other three look over at us.
“Kate, please. I’ve had the same lecture from everyone!” I try glaring at her but in the end I can’t keep up the pretense. I am just so grateful to have her safe and healthy. I wrap her in my arms.
“Jeez – sometimes you don’t have the brains you were born with, Steele,” I whisper against her cheek, unable to stop the tears completely. “I’ve been so worried about you.”
“Don’t cry. You’ll set me off.” We both step back trying to pull ourselves together. Now I put part of my plan into action.
“On a more positive note, we’ve set a date for our wedding. We thought next May? And of course I want you to be my matron of honor.” I sense Elliot staring at me across the room. He knows darn well that the wedding is much sooner than May. In fact, making the decision last week we have all but got the whole event mapped out for November, we just have to get James and Leana on board to help out. I look over at him and see the moment when Elliot realizes what I am doing. He grins and shakes his head. Meanwhile Ana is looking decidedly uncomfortable.
“Oh…Kate…Wow. Congratulations!” She looks a little sick and I can see her working out the dates. She will be as big as a house in May. No chance of being part of the wedding party.
“What is it?” I ask as innocently as I can. This is it. She is going to confess and I will need to be really happy for her. Shit, can I do this?
“Um…I’m just so happy for you. Some good news for a change.” She wraps her arms around me, pulling me into a hug and all I can do is stare dumbfounded at Elliot. She isn’t going to say a word. Damn!
Elliot watches us and then a smile creeps on to his face. What is he going to do? He walks over and passes me a glass of champagne as Ana and I pull apart again. Then he hands the other glass to Ana who looks like a deer in the headlights. Good move babe, I mentally high five him and he gives me a cheeky wink. At that moment Christian emerges from the study with his parents looking like he has been punched in the gut. Then his eyes widen as he sees the glass in Ana’s hand.
The hostile look he throws me could fix global warming. “Kate.” My name sounds like a curse on his lips. Well, there is a great fuck you, lady. Elliot looks ready to place himself in the firing line.
“Christian.” I am wondering what I thought I was protecting him from. I glare back. For fuck’s sake, Grey, why don’t you just trust me? He catches a look from Elliot then mumbles something about meds to Ana while Grace gives her the okay to have a small sip simultaneously dragging her back into the kitchen.
Elliot looks at me and shrugs. Well, that plan didn’t exactly work out but maybe in a couple of days Ana might feel compelled to say something, then she and I can have our heart to heart. I decide to drop it as I follow them out to the kitchen and Elliot distracts Christian with talk about the latest football game. Neither of them are that interested as they surreptitiously eye their women. Carrick seems to have caught on to the mood in the room is quietly laughing to himself and shaking his head. Ethan is quietly watching, but uncharacteristically surly.
After we have all eaten and settled back in the living room Christian shares the news that Welch has given him.
“It seems that Jack Hyde and I were very briefly in the same foster family in Detroit.” Well, this is a pin dropping silence. We all just stare at each other. Everyone except Christian who is looking a little green around the gills as his eyes focus pointedly on the photo in his hand. Ana is rubbing his back comforting him. Eventually he hands the photo to Elliot. Obviously Grace and Carrick have studied this carefully. Mia and Ethan look as if they are sharing some silent conversation. I just want to see that photo.
Eventually Elliot hands it to me. There is a little boy, obviously Christian but he looks less than the four years old that I know he would have been in this photo. He looks more like a two year old and my heart aches to think of how horrific his first few years must have been to have been so obviously malnourished. My mind immediately thinks of Mattie accompanied by that ever present ache to hold him in my arms. Elliot places a steadying hand on my shoulder. He’s feeling it too.
“I don’t remember much about that time. I guess I was too busy trying to shut down the months leading up to then.” Christian’s voice is quiet, deep in thought, blanched with pain. Much as I might want to know the gory details as a reporter, as his sister and friend I wish I could just make it all go away. Well, there’s an epiphanal moment for you. His sister. His friend. And I know that is what I want to be more than anything in this world, to the poor shattered man who loves my dear, dear friend more than his own life.
Back at the treehouse we prepare quietly to go to bed. Ethan and Mia have gone back to Bellevue again and the rest of our house guests are long ago settled for the night. I finish in the bathroom and head out to the bedroom where Elliot is reading, wearing his colored glasses. Since he has been working with John Flynn, Elliot has been overcoming many of the psychological blocks that he has had about reading. Including making use of the special glasses that allow him to see text in a more stable form. He doesn’t have to wear them all the time but they help when he is tired. For Elliot, much of his resistance has been around the stigma attached to dyslexia rather than his actual difficulties. Since he has unpacked a lot of this with Dr Flynn he is less resistant to reading and I notice that he studies more and more now that he is writing and presenting his work.
He smiles as I approach the bed with my hair brush, pushing aside his work and taking it from me. I sit down between his legs with my back to him and he begins the long soothing strokes.
“I love your hair.” You think holding it up to your face and sniffing it on a regular basis along with the endless kissing of the top of my head isn’t a dead giveaway?
“I know.” My hands go to his knees and stroke down his legs to his feet. I pick up right his foot and bring it to my lap as I begin massaging. “I love your feet. You have very sexy feet.”
“Sexy feet. Oh well, I guess I can live with that. Should I leave my shoes off more often?”
“No. I’d never get anything done. They are such a distraction.” He laughs.
“Do you think your little plan is going to work?”
“With Ana?” He leans in to kiss me on the cheek. I relax back into his arms. “I’d give her a week maybe and she will feel that she needs to confess. If not, I can always rope Mom in with a skinny dress design that she won’t have a hope of fitting or letting out. She’ll have to say something sooner or later.”
“Are you going to be okay?” A little shiver goes down my spine. That is always the million dollar question. “She’s my friend, my sister. I’ll cope. And our family is going to be there to help with that.”
He tips me to the side and lays me back in his arm slightly, stroking his hand down my face and neck before placing an open-mouth kiss on my throat. His hand continues down over my chest before brushing down the side of my breast.
“I love you, Kitten.” He lifts his head to look into my eyes and I love what I see in those blue depths. A sparkle, a light and love. Lots and lots of love.
“Ditto.” My hand palms the side of his face pulling him into my whisper before I press against his mouth, thrusting my tongue up to meet his. We make out for a few minutes, our mouths mingling, our hands wandering. There is time, plenty of time. His hand slides down between my legs gently stroking through the wet folds. It doesn’t take him long to have me peaking into gentle pulsing orgasms around his fingers.
After a while he brings me back upright. “Turn around baby.” He slides the sheets down, showing me that he has nothing on, just a smile and a big ass erection. “Come sit with me.”
I straddle his hips and slide down onto his long hard cock. A groan rumbles from the depths of his chest making me smile. I love his reaction to that moment when I sheath him. When he finally opens his eyes and looks at me I am undone. No one gets to see this side of him but me. The intensity is mind blowing as he draws me in.
Slowly, steadily I ride him, letting him feel every tender sensation of my vaginal walls gripping him. I focus all of my energy on tightening and pulling with my internal muscles, drawing his orgasm towards me. Throwing my head back, I close my eyes and focus on the sensations.
“Stop taking control, Kate.” He has one hand on my neck the other on my hip. “Look at me.” I resist a little more before he stills underneath me. “Look at me.” He growls and I do.
“We do this together. Not for each other but with each other.” Both hands are on my head now as he steadies me, ensuring that my eyes stay on his. Even when he leans in to kiss me his eyes don’t change focus. “Stay with me, baby. I want to see you come.”
As we start to move again, my body rocking against his with gentle waves that press my clit against his pubic bone. I feel the angle differently inside of me. I move a little, tilting my hips forward and his dick hits a sweet spot inside me. I gasp and he moans but our eyes stay focused. He sees the exquisite sensation register on my face every time he hits the spot and his concentration is incredible as he reads my body.
“Ah, fuck, that’s it baby. Feel that?” I nod, there are no words for this. It is driving me out of my mind. Once we find that point with more consistency he begins to speed up ramming himself against me until I think I will die before I come. Still our eyes remain focused. “Come on, babe, come with me. Come. With. Me.”
With three more deep, hard thrusts he carries us both over into a soul deep explosion that has us shuddering against each other. I can feel the warmth of fluids between us and I suspect that it is not all just him. His tongue is thrusting into my mouth as he nips and bites and sucks on my lips. His hands tumble through my hair, pulling and stroking, his long fingers massaging my scalp. We remain like this long after our bodies have stopped spasming beneath us. Just kissing deeply, thoroughly.
“Promise me you will stay with me.” His voice is a whisper in the dark as we hold each other, my body draped over his in the aftermath of making love.
“I already promised you forever.” I whisper back wondering why after such a bone shattering session of lovemaking that neither of us is sleeping.
“I just always feel like you are about to pull away. That you still get scared of what you feel for me and you want to run.” This is the most honest that he has been in a long time. We’ve both been through a lot emotionally. More than either of us ever expected but I can see that his focus has been so much on me and my state of mind that he must constantly be on edge wondering which way I am going to turn next. Another sign that I have so much growing up to do.
“Elliot, I’m not going anywhere. I am committed to building a life with you. Yes, I am still skittish about that but I am learning, I promise. I have always wanted a love like this but I’ve been afraid to reach out and grab it. Afraid to trust. You show me every day that I can trust you.”
“What, even Elliot Man-whore Grey?” I pull one of his few chest hairs at that one. “Ow. Evil woman. I suppose you’re collecting those for your voodoo dolls.” I pull another one.
“So are you saying that I need to worry about your man-whore past? Are you going to cheat on me?” His body stills for a moment and then he rolls me over and looks at me through the gloom.
“When I first saw you, ordering Jose and his friend around in that hotel suite, I can’t explain how much that sight took my breath away. It was like a sucker-punch in the gut. I knew, I just knew, okay? In a way that I have never ever felt with any other woman in my life. You, and only you, were going to be it for me. If you had turned me down I don’t know what would have become of me. I probably would have cheated on the next woman I dated simply because I couldn’t have you.”
“I feel that, babe. Even when other guys are flirting or trying to pick me up, I don’t have any trouble resisting. There is nothing to resist because you block out everyone else for me. You’re like this massive sun that I just have to orbit around and all I want to do is feel your warmth on me. Even when we’ve been at our worst, you draw me back in like I have nowhere else in the world to belong.”
“Massive, huh?” I feel his chuckle.
“Oh, huge.” His lips descend on mine gently.
“How huge?” He whispers.
“Ginormous. Bigger than a girl has a right to hope for.” I smile into his kiss.
“Ginormous. I like that.” I feel him harden against my leg.
“Me too.” I thrust against him.
Well, be careful what you wish for little girl.” He growls as his ginormous appendage slides into home.