I still remember the look on your face
Lit through the darkness at 1:58
The words that you whispered for just us to know
You told me you loved me so why did you go away, go away
I do recall now the smell of the rain
Fresh on the pavement, I ran off the plane
That July 9th the beat of your heart
It jumps through your shirt, I can still feel your arms
But now I’ll go sit on the floor wearing your clothes
All that I know is I don’t know
How to be something you miss
Never thought we’d have a last kiss
Never imagined we’d end like this
Your name, forever the name on my lips
TAYLOR SWIFT – LAST KISS LYRICS
Every shadow, every silhouette is his. She sees him everywhere and nowhere; the face that haunts her dreams. After she left him she walked home instead of catching the bus. It took her three hours to walk across town but she didn’t feel the ache in her blistered feet. Nothing overshadowed the pain that wrapped around her heart, squeezing the air out of her lungs. Ignoring her father’s inquiries as to her whereabouts she walked up the stairs to her room and lay down on the floor, struggling as the soundless sobs heaved through her body. The pain was so intense that twice she crawled to her bathroom and threw up. The third time there was nothing but a dry wretch left so she grabbed his sweater, the only thing she had of his, and hugged it to her body as she curled up on the floor.
Two nights before they had been alone in the boathouse, her lying in his arms as they kissed and touched. They never went beyond that, no matter how much she begged and for the first time she began to wonder if he had ever intended to sleep with her. She had believed him when he had whispered his love in the darkness of the wee small hours before they drifted off to sleep. But for a year they had not told anyone, not even their closest friends that they were dating because the risks always seemed too great. The only people who knew were a select bunch of fellow students that they hung around with on campus and the agency who had eyes and ears everywhere. So now she had no one to tell and she didn’t know how to go about missing him when so few people knew he existed for her.
In the weeks that followed she lost twenty pounds and her mother began to question her about eating disorders. She was so withdrawn that the agency dragged her in for a medical and counseling. The therapists got nothing from her, even though they knew what caused her such pain. After a month they threatened to withdraw her funding and she almost let them. Until the night that she decided to follow her beloved brother across town so that she could confide in him. That night challenged everything that she believed in. She was galvanized like never before to earn her way out of her circumstances. If the agency could get her away from the horror that she perceived her life to be, then she would work hard and move on. No man would ever let her down again.
Two weeks without Ethan is torture. More importantly, if I have to spend another hour shopping with my mother or Lily, I will go insane. Luckily with Ana away, Christian has made himself available for lunch which gives me an opportunity to start working on him. I don’t want to come straight out and tell him about the agency’s interest in him; in fact, we have been told by our supervisor that this is a last resort. My usefulness at the moment is to look for ways of gaining access to the GEH servers and to get some sort of surveillance into Escala. It irks me that I will spy on my own brother but then he is such a secretive bastard himself he will probably appreciate the irony.
The Mile High Club is not where I expected to be having lunch and while I love having any quality time with my fabulously successful and gorgeous brother, I am patently aware that I have lost the opportunity to plant more surveillance equipment in either his office or his penthouse.
“So, tell me more about Anastasia.” I peer at him over my glass of pinot with a carefully constructed expression of amusement and challenge. There’s a spark in his eye and his mouth quirks with the hint of a secret smile. Ah, dear one, you are so easy to read.
“She is special. Challenging but worth it, I suspect. Other than that I have nothing to say.”
“Mmm…very telling, so being good in bed is a given and she is very attractive…” He nearly spits out his wine at me. “What? What is love without a good fuck and judging by your smile she must be an extremely good…” His hand shoots out across the table and he presses his hand across my mouth to shut me up.
“Don’t talk about her that way,” he snarls. I pull back and giggle.
“Alright, truce. Tell me more about her.” I am not going to let him get off that easily. Partly because I am curious as his sister and partly because the more I know, the better it will be when it comes to dealing with Christian in this case. I don’t want Ana Steele being a liability.
“She’s smart, passionate, loyal. Of course, we haven’t known each other very long.” No you haven’t and for all you know she could be an axe murderer. She isn’t, I’ve already checked and knowing Christian, he already has a file on her. God, what I wouldn’t give to get my hands on some of those files of his. Somehow I have to get into the GEH servers, just to satisfy my own curiosity. The sooner, the better.
“I’m happy for you. You’re not eating very much?” A casual observation, but a significant one.
“No, I have a dinner tonight with Elena.” I’m not sure if he has missed the narrowing of my eyes. He has always been open with me about his friendship with Elena. However, the chasm opens up between us because of everything that is not said. For example, how tainted that relationship actually is and the fact she is my biological mother. For a man who has his finger on the pulse and can throw resources at buying information it is amazing how ignorant he is. But then I guess you have to know what you are looking for. If only both of my brothers knew…”You’re not listening. Still getting over the jet lag?”
“Yeah, something like that.” I desperately want to tell him about Ethan. Christian and I have always been so close and it kills me to have a secret like Ethan and not share. Looking back over the past few years, I guess it was me that was doing all the sharing. Now I know better. My brother has lived in a secret world for years with Elena firmly at the center. Just the thought of it makes me sick. Having a reputation for being vacuous helps me not to deal with any of it.
The next day Christian makes a last minute plan to fly to Georgia to see Ana and I am left twiddling my thumbs. Now that we’ve had a chance to see how things are on the ground, Ethan and I have agreed to take a split approach to cultivating contacts. He is working on Kate and Elliot on the basis that this will put him in proximity to his father’s resources and Kate’s relationship with Elliot might come in useful. I am to concentrate my efforts on Christian and my parents. I want to believe that none of them know anything about this case but my family does secrets better than any other and the circumstantial evidence doesn’t look good. Somewhere in here there should be someone calling conflict of interest on me but the agency doesn’t particularly care about ethics.
Our job is to focus on acquiring intelligence and my role in particular is to hack systems. I need to get into Escala and gain access to its surveillance systems. Few people have unlimited access here but of those who do Elena is the most significant. She has already been listed as a person of interest. I could simply pull the mother-daughter card but since she is one of the few people who know about my agency history – of course, she was told it was something else at the time but a smart person could smell a rat. Elena may be the Whore of Babylon but she is no dummy. When I finally track her down she is leaving her salon in the early afternoon.
“Elena.” I don’t want to get caught on the salon surveillance system so I stand a few feet back from the door. Her face lights up when she sees me, one of the few reasons why I haven’t cut her off completely.
“Mia, darling, welcome back.” Her arms are around me and it is an effort not to cringe. “I wondered when you would call me.”
“Yes, well, you know how things get. How have you been?” Her talons are digging into my arms and I would love to cut and run but I have a job to do. Being creeped out by my own mother is not part of the plan.
“Just fine. Come walk with me. I have am supposed to be meeting a client but I can blow her off for coffee with my favorite girl.”
I want to yell at her to cut the crap but that would be futile. Crap is her forte. Instead I watch as she pulls out her phone. Blackberry Torch2. We already know that these are the phones of choice for GEH execs and it stands to reason that Elena would also have one. I have all three of the 2011 models in my bag ready to go. After she sends her text we head to the nearest restaurant and order coffee. It takes seconds to excuse myself to the bathroom swapping out her phone from her bag and extricating the SIM. I have all of her data locked and loaded into my phone within minutes and am back at the table before she has a chance to notice the swap. I replace the phone in her bag with a carefully timed drop of my napkin.
I smile at her sweetly. “So did you miss me, mother?” Her eyes flicker for a moment, just a split second worth of disdain. She might have wanted to watch me grow up but being an actual mother instead of a benevolent aunt was never part of her game plan. If there is one thing that could piss her off the most I have just put it on the table between us. A calculated mistake on my part. I don’t need her animosity just yet.
“You know that we all missed you. Christian and your parents have kept me updated on your progress. Are you going to open a restaurant now that you are back in Seattle?” My turn to flicker. My parents might not have known about my distaste for cooking but Christian certainly did. He was more than a little surprised that I would stick it out. The real bitch was flying back into Paris from wherever I was in the world, whenever he decided he was going to pass through on business. Only twice did I ever have to claim a prior engagement that would take me out of town. I am sure that Christian would have let Elena know that becoming a world renowned chef was not going to be on the cards for me.
“I think we both know that would be pointless. How is Isaac?” This really is the same old game of cat and mouse. Isaac is important to her, but if it ever came down to a choice between he and Christian, poor Isaac would lose. Elena might play the game well, but she is not faithful in her heart, where it counts. Not even to me.
“Isaac is just fine. In fact I was hoping that you might join us for dinner tonight. He would love to see you I am sure.” Lies, all lies. Isaac is over the Grey family involvement in Elena’s life. He would love to cut us all off if he could. However, Elena calls the shots. Always has.
“I would love to mother but I have other plans tonight.” Like pulling out hangnails. I have what I came for which is a way of tracking Elena’s movements. Thank God for Christian’s predictability and control. Even of her.
We chat about Paris and shopping and other topics that hold no interest for me. Soon a couple of hours have gone by and she gets a call. While she steps away from the table to take the call I take out my own phone and trace it. The call is coming from a cell phone nearby. As I watch the GPS blips forming on the map I notice the other party is approaching Escala. Interesting.
She comes back to the table slightly flustered and upset but then the wall comes down and she carries on with the banal and inane conversation without a hint of emotion. Finally I extricate myself from her with a promise to do dinner soon and to see her at the Coping Together event next weekend. Back at the safe house, I track her back to her apartment which surprises me. I had half expected her to go to Escala. Running Elena’s data through my computer the name Leila Williams comes up as the person who contacted her last and the one who she sent a text to outside the salon. I am in the process of trying to track this girl down when her name comes up in a hospital database. Seems Leila just made a suicide attempt at Escala. Fuck! A quick call to the team and they immediately go by the hospital to intercept her. Although there is restricted access to her while she is on suicide watch her cell gets the agency’s special treatment. If Leila Williams can get into Escala then she might be of interest to us. Of course, if she is going to be of any use to us, we will have to keep her alive.
By evening I get the news that Christian has cut his trip short. I don’t know what Leila means to him but obviously cutting herself on his living room floor warrants his attention. It is always reassuring to know that my cold, calculating, megalomaniac brother has a humane side. He runs himself ragged trying to locate Leila meanwhile we know exactly where she is and it doesn’t look good.
I am early the next morning for a workout. I have to try to fit this in before Mom and Dad wake up which is not easy although Mom pulled a late shift last night so they will hopefully be out of it this morning. I run the lake pathway in the dark keeping out of sight as much as possible. The Mia my folks know is a yoga devotee who sleeps late and stays out and parties all night. Early morning, kick-your-ass Mia is likely to scare the shit out of them.
My sext phone beeps as I approach the boathouse which seems like perfect timing. My husband is thousands of miles away soaking up the sun while I tread water in Seattle waiting for something big to happen. The tension is starting to get to me. I run straight upstairs in the boathouse and call him.
“Hey, babe.” His voice immediately soothes me.
“Hey yourself, slacker.” I am pissed that we aren’t together.
“Oh, someone needs to cum badly huh?” He knows that I am not angry at him. Just frustrated as all hell.
“Yeah, what are you gonna do about it?” I am a little breathless from the run but the anticipation is adding to my state. Come on baby, give me what I need.
“I’m gonna guess that you’re in the boathouse. How about you strip out of that sweaty running gear… slowly, and I want a full description.” Now who is breathless Kavanagh?
“You wanna Skype?”
“Yeah, I need to see you.” His voice sounds sad. We quickly get ourselves organized and although we are operating with small screens it is enough to make it worthwhile.
“God baby, I miss you so much.” His eyes look tired.
“Ethan…” and like the idiot that I am the tears start.
“Don’t cry, princess. Please.” He sounds a bit desperate and I am acting like a stupid clingy wife. For fuck’s sake, get your act together Kavanagh.
“I’m okay. Just a bit emotional. I had coffee with Elena yesterday; I think it has put me in a mood.”
“Did you get what you needed from her?”
I nod my head. “Yeah, and a bit more. Besides, there is a rogue; Leila Williams, causing some issues for Christian. I wish I could just pick her up and get her out of the way. I don’t like the idea that the stupid bitch might come between Christian and Ana.”
“So why don’t you. We could hold her for a while without a warrant.”
I shake my head. “No, she is staying at Susannah Jacob’s apartment while Jacob’s is traveling.”
“Shit. Has she been anywhere near the factory?”
“There is no way to tell. We only started tracking her yesterday after I copied the data from Elena’s phone. The agency swept in while she was in the hospital. She cut herself at Escala and had to be picked up by paramedics.”
“Sounds like she won’t be in any condition to go to the factory. They won’t have her if she’s cutting.”
“On the bright side I have our new team member primed and prepped. First hint that Christian wants to extend his personal security team, which if I know my brother will be any day soon, then we’re good to go. Have you met with the Florida contact yet?”
“Yeah, but there isn’t much movement there yet either. Apparently there are some big projects coming up on the Eastern Seaboard in the next six months then they expect to see things heat up. Right now the traffic is quiet. Apparently Texas is reporting the same thing. We’re all flying in the dark right now.”
“How are Kate and Elliot?” While I am working a major case, I am also an interfering little sister first and foremost.
“God, they are going to drive me insane. I hate to speak ill of my sister but she is a screw up. Elliot is bending over backwards to be all Prince Charming and she just puts up emotional brick walls. The plus side which is also the downside for anyone sharing a house with them is that they fuck like bunnies.”
I laugh. “Hey, that’s my brother’s specialty area. I just hope that he doesn’t screw this up. Things could get ugly real fast if they have a fall out.”
“Yes, well I got to see more of Elliot’s specialty area last night than I ever want to again.”
“What do you mean? You didn’t walk in on them?” I am about to burst out laughing at the thought.
“No, that would have been preferable. No, I got to see the Manpower act last night with my sister taking center stage.” My older brother once had a secret life as a member of an exotic dance team. I know that he did this to make money to ensure he could cover up most of my other brother’s colossal fuck ups but he seems to have liked the gig enough to keep doing it for several years.
“Fuck, are the boys in Barbados?” One thing I know about Elliot is that the act isn’t a solo one and the boys are all members of his building crew who still, on occasion, will get together and do a charity strip. As philanthropy goes it is a lucrative and effective fundraiser. Not that any member of the family officially knows about any of this. I think Elliot would rather cut off his left testicle with a rusty spoon than have our parents find out. Part of me would love to see it but then watching my brother strip for money is just all kinds of wrong.
“Yep, all of them. And they took one of the local club’s by storm last night.”
“Was he any good?” I know that he will be. He’s always been a great a dancer, as has Christian. Elena made sure of that.
“How the fuck should I know? I’m a guy for Christ’s sake. Although judging by the reaction from the crowd they are all pretty ‘good’.” He sounds a little put out.
“Jealous, Kavanagh?” I happen to know that my husband can hold his own on the dance floor. I would dearly love for him to do an exotic dance for me but I imagine that in Ethan Kavanagh’s world that is never gonna happen.
“No, just slightly disturbed. You know once you see it you can’t un-see it. Enough about them. You look a little scantily clad, Mrs Kavanagh. I think I need to inspect your lack of clothing.” I can see that his eyes have darkened even through the dodgy screen and I wonder if he isn’t suffering from a little bit of residual libido from my brother’s sexploits last night. For the sake of matrimonial harmony and because I am just so fucking horny, I immediately slide my sports tank over my head and shift the phone so he can see most of my upper body.
“I don’t know what you mean. I still have on a perfectly serviceable pair of panties.” Propping the phone up on a shelf where he has a full view I turn my back, sliding my shorts down to reveal my thong. I’m fairly confident that the gasp is overseeing the globes of my ass in all their naked glory.
“Oh baby, that looks good enough to eat off. Can you feel my tongue on your ass?” As he says it I lick my finger and slide it over my ass cheek for him to see. “Show me your beautiful tits.”
I turn to face the camera and lift my naked breasts so that they are pushed together. Again I lick my finger and run it around my stiff peaks. Once more he gasps. “You like that baby? What have you got for me?”
He pans the camera down and then finds a location to rest it. I have a full view now of his stiff cock and he strokes the length of it before rubbing the pre-cum around the tip. I can feel my mouth watering and I run my tongue around my lips as I watch. His cock is so beautiful, thick and long with amazing ridges that I love to wrap my mouth around.
“Show me baby. Show me that beautiful wet pussy.” I shift onto the daybed adjusting the camera and then strip the lacy thong to one side. “Oh God your lips are glistening. Are you feeling a bit horny princess?”
“A bit is an understatement.” He laughs and then stops suddenly as I slide one finger inside my folds pumping myself twice before inserting another finger.
“God I miss your tight wet cunt baby.” Just the sound of the c word on his lips makes me frig my clit faster. I love it when my husband talks dirty to me.
“Do you want to see me fuck baby?”
“Yeah.” We’ve been at this for the past few days so we both come prepared. I have my dildo at the ready, hidden in a box under the day bed and I quickly plunge it inside myself while I continue to finger my clit. He is lubed up and pumping his cock hard and fast. Neither of us can talk now as we watch and climb together. I break first, screaming out as I come then I hear an almighty ‘fuck’ through the phone and watch as his semen spurts all over his tight abs. If I have to be away from him then this is the next best thing and I love watching him cum.
“You okay babe?” I’m gasping for air and he chuckles.
“Yeah, so much better. You know you are the most beautiful woman in the world right now, don’t you?” His words touch me and I have to fight not to cry again. “I love you, Mia.”
“I love you too, babe.”
The next few days things go very quiet and so finally, in an act of desperation, I decide to go tower storming. Fronting up to Escala on Tuesday evening I find that my brother has barely washed or showered for three days and is holed up in his office working every hour that God sends. Before I go in to see him I have a quick chat with Gail Jones, his housekeeper, who tells me that things have not been good for the past few days and that Miss Steele- Ana, has stopped visiting Escala. Gail, being the loyal employee that she is, doesn’t reveal any more.
Tentatively I knock on the study door. “Christian?” I slide the door open and see Christian huddled over some paperwork. He isn’t reading, the office is almost pitch black even though it is only late afternoon. As I cautiously approach his desk and turn on the lamp he lifts his head to reveal that he is unshaven and his eyes are bloodshot. “Honey, have you been drinking?” I glance nervously over at the cocktail cabinet on the far wall. I can’t see any evidence.
“No. What do you want Mia?” He sounds tired and pissed off but at least if he isn’t half cut then I won’t have to kick his ass. Drunk, sullen and angry Christian is a ghost from the past that I don’t particularly want to visit. It seems funny to think that in my 12 year old brain I thought if I didn’t learn a martial art as my mother insisted, then I wouldn’t be a threat to Christian and he would stop wanting to hurt people. I equated the skill of self-defence to an invitation for him to hurt me and I didn’t want him to do that and end up hating himself. I certainly didn’t want to end up hating him. Now of course, he thinks the skills he hones with Jean-Claude Bastile are all he needs. He has yet to see what a fully trained operative is capable of and I have no desire to show him when he so obviously is not on top of his game.
“Mom sent me to check on you. You haven’t been answering her calls.” Mom didn’t send me but she has been fruitlessly calling him. He glances up but doesn’t see a lie there. Meanwhile I am searching the room for the god given opportunity this is. I move over to the sideboard and pretend to examine the artwork. “Is this new?” Leaning in to touch the acrylic texture I surreptitiously press a camera into the frame so it is pointing at his desk. That’s one down.
“Tell Mom I’m fine. I just have a lot on.” He tries to go back to staring at the pile of papers in front of him. You’re not fooling anyone, Grey.
“And what should I tell Mom about Ana?” His head shoots up; his eyes unfocused for a moment turn suddenly hard.
“Don’t fucking tell her anything about Ana. Ana is over.” The wave of sadness that sweeps over his face is heart wrenching. I am almost tempted to run over and throw my arms around him but then he thumps his hands down on the desk and stands, shoving his seat sharply backwards until it hits the bookcase behind him. With one quick movement he sweeps the paperwork from his desk before slapping both hands on the desk top and hunching over. “She’s gone. She’s fucking gone.”
To my horror I see tears drip from his face straight down on the large desk pad, leaving angry wet stains. This is like watching a complete regression to the Christian of my childhood. The impotently angry young man who had no direction and no hope. I love my brother with all of my heart, even with all his faults but when he is like this he scares the shit out of me and as far as I know I am one of the few people who can reach him in this state. Like mother like daughter comes to mind in a moment of inappropriately timed irony. Perhaps I should call her. Or perhaps I should channel her.
“Stop. Stop feeling so fucking sorry for yourself.” My voice is harsh and I school my facial features as I know Elena would. Hard-nosed bitch is what is called for here. He needs to be dominated. At first there is a flash of anger in his eyes, a look that says he will defy me. Then there is a subtle shift and his eyes lower, his body goes perfectly still. I raise my upper body, reshaping my core and widen my feet to a more dominant stance, breathing deeply.
Silence hangs in the air between us. “You fucked up with her. A stupid mistake. She’s better than that. So are you. Wallowing in self-pity is not going to get her back.” He is very still, controlling his breathingas he soaks up my words. I am only guessing at what might have gone wrong but if I know Christian, he has been some sort of prick to Ana and she has called him on it. The problem with Christian right now is that this is unknown territory for him. He has connected with this girl. She has changed the game and he has no fucking idea how the rules work. Welcome to Relationships 101, Christian.
“If you want her back you are going to have to be proactive and resourceful. You are also going to have to apologize for your transgressions and mean it.” Rounding his desk I move to stand directly in front of him. I reach down to pick up the lamp and place it back on his desk. At least he didn’t break it.
“I am already being punished for my transgressions.” His voice is a murmur, his face screwed up in self-loathing. Not an attractive look.
“You stupid fuckwit. This is not punishment. This is self-induced wallowing. It is not a real punishment if you are administering it yourself.” Now I can see I am speaking a language that he understands. His head bows a little more, his hands unclench by his sides. I turn and walk towards the blinds taking my time to open them and let the last of the afternoon light in. And that’s two. “Be a man. Front up and let her deal out to you as she must. Then be prepared to walk away.”
“I don’t know if I can.” Turning suddenly, I attempt to stare him down.
“Stop fucking whimpering. It’s pathetic. If you want to do this then you don’t deserve her.” Right now my stomach is churning and the bile is rising in my throat as I slowly make my approach. How do they pull this shit? A bit of slap and tickle is all very well but I can’t imagine how people live in a 24/7 D/s relationship. I’m not sure I want this type of power over anyone, even for fun.
“But she won’t talk to me and Elena says….” Oh fuck, here goes nothing. Changing speed, I stalk over to the desk where he is standing, pick up a ruler and slap it down across his fingers as my hand slips up onto the shelf behind him. And that’s three. He barely flinches. Although it sickens me to do it, with each phrase I utter next I punctuate my words with more slaps. This is a language he understands. The problem with what comes next is that I am about to give him reason to suspect I know more than he wants me to.
“Enough! Get your head out of your ass and find a way to be heard. Put your considerable resources into making it happen. And I would advise you to stop taking Elena’s advice on this. She doesn’t play on a young woman’s playing field any more. I do. I’m telling you now, fucking fix it. Find a way.”
He eyes me with suspicion so I blank my look, trying not to give anything more away. Our eyes lock for a moment in challenge and then he frowns down at the desk again. “I don’t know what to do.”
Get a fucking clue for a start. “Your brother is in Barbados right now fucking her best friend. Why don’t you start there?”
“Watch your mouth Mia.” There’s my boy. Then he returns to his sulk. “Katherine Kavanagh hates me.” Oh boo fucking hoo.
“Well, there is your first mistake. I suggest you do something about turning that one around real fast.” He looks at me with barely concealed anger. “Who do you think we turn to when you guys fuck things up? You do not want to hand Kate that kind of ammunition.”
“But Ana signed a NDA. She won’t talk to Kate.”
“Jesus, you are naive aren’t you? You’re NDA won’t mean shit where girlfriends are concerned. Unless you have some colossal secrets, then what Kate doesn’t know already, she will guess the moment she sees Ana. Don’t ever cross the best friend.”
“When did you get to be such an expert?”
“Do you have any idea how many broken hearts Elliot has left all over Seattle? Who do you think they all come to when the shit hits the fan? Well, I have spent the past four years trying to avoid his shit and I’m not about to stand around wallowing with you in yours. Grow a pair and get your girl back or you are not the Christian Grey that I thought you were.”
With those words I storm out of Escala and race my VW sports all the way to Bellevue at top speed hoping like hell I don’t get caught and that I can calm my nerves before re-entering my parents’ house. I can’t help a little smile at the thought that as well as the cameras, I managed to plant a listening device on that lamp.