Taylor’s Point of view:
Taylor whistled through his teeth, utterly stunned. Of all the things he was expecting to hear, this was the very last. It wasn’t that he was surprised that Christian had gone to such lengths to wreak his special brand of justice, but rather that his employer had not trusted him with this piece of information. Not only was it insanely irresponsible but highly unusual to boot.
He understood, more than most, Christian’s need to put Jose in his place. He was a jealous man himself and fuck knew if someone were to hurt Gail – in any way – he’d have no problems rearranging the fucker’s face even if he had to do the dirty work himself. He was just about to express his grievance when something else occurred to him, something about his boss’ demeanour as he dealt this little security blow made him bite his rather stern tongue. The man was ashamed he realised with a second shock, the unusual sentiment completely out of place in his cool boss’ standard emotional armour of poise and impassiveness.
He wondered briefly what he was ashamed about. Was it the fact that he hired some thug to do his bidding or that he used the violence he found so abhorrent. With Christian you just never knew. Taylor would be the first to admit that in spite of being a smart man himself, keeping up with the guy was virtually impossible, but if he was to hazard a guess he’d bet that – in this instance – it had everything to do with keeping the information hidden. He knew that his boss had to know that if he’d spoken up sooner their investigation would have looked a whole lot different. In fact, now that he thought about it, it rocketed Jose to the top spot on their suspect list. Taylor could never wrap his mind around Jose’s involvement, not at the level they had experienced, but something like this could certainly be enough to push him over the cliff he was already precariously balanced on.
Shit! He thought as new possibilities cut through his mind like hungry sharks through the deep waters of the black ocean. With David dead there was no way to tell who was responsible for what and together with the loose ends that still dangled, taunting him, the notion that they were being chased by two perps was beginning to seem more and more likely.
If it had been any other client he’d have tendered his resignation in two beats of a heart, but for some reason the rare emotional display made it impossible to judge the negligent act from an employee’s point of view. No, he looked to this as he would a friend, a good, close friend that had done something stupid, and now came to him for help. He couldn’t, wouldn’t turn his back on a friend. Despite the professional contract standing between them he had never come across a fairer, more generous man, a man he trusted implicitly and admired exceedingly. He just hoped he could trust his instincts, that this had been a once-off rash, emotionally fuelled decision that had no bearing on Christian’s customary sharp witted choices.
Hell, as far as Taylor was concerned Christian should be running the fucking country never mind the company he’d singlehandedly sent into the stratosphere of success. So he swallowed his angry words, and set his mind to damage control, “Sir how sure are you that this event isn’t traceable back to you?”
Christian regarded him for a long moment, reading him carefully, “I am absolutely positive, and before you ask I can assure you that I’ve not withheld anything else from you, before or since. Ever. This was…” Taylor watched as Christian’s Adam’s apple bobbed down on an agitated swallow, a long fingered hand raking through his perpetually dishevelled hair, “I was in a dark place,” he confided, his tone starkly sober.
Taylor thought Christian was done, and more than a little relieved to hear that the black mark didn’t have to taint the rest of their dealings, but he heard him take a steeling breath before turning that piercing grey gaze back to him. It pinned him and instantly he sensed another confession was coming his way. “On some level I didn’t want it to be Jose, and I’m afraid that it’s clouded my judgement in this situation. Ana is struggling with so much guilt, I was – still am actually,” he issued a mirthless laugh, one that went with a now glassy stare, “terrified that it would be too much for her to handle. That she wouldn’t be able to deal with this on top of everything else. If she bolted again…” he shook his head, returning to a place in his head where he only knew hurt.
Taylor copped the change in Christian’s eyes. It was dramatic and horribly reminiscent. It was the one he saw on the day she left. Like something was torn from them, then replaced with a poor copy of the original. Even though he was a man and supposedly immune to such things he’d give anything not to see that look again. That day his own soul had bled for Christian, the man was in so many pieces. He might not share his employer’s particular tastes in the bedroom but he’d have no qualms about tying Anastasia to a bedpost or something if she ever so much as thought about bailing again. Damn, he thought dismayed, this was a bigger crap fest than he first assumed, and then berated himself firmly. Making assumptions was exactly how you got into a fuck-up like this.
“Sir, just for the sake of clarity and if I have your permission to speak freely,” he waited for a nod from Christian before he continued, “the implications of this are far reaching. This would have changed our whole approach. I’m prepared to take the lead on this one but you need to relinquish the control of it entirely to me. No second guessing, no interfering. I’m sure I don’t have to remind you what is at stake, and we sure as shit can’t afford to make another mistake like this.” He gave Christian a pointed glare, just to reiterate the seriousness of this unfamiliar lapse in his otherwise impeccable record.
“Yes,” Christian answered and from his expression Taylor could tell that he had taken his words on board, and was ready to make the changes needed to see this through. “I understand. You have my full backing and cooperation. Anything you need. I’m too close to this Taylor.” The admission was quiet and low and helluva’ unexpected. It was yet another reason Taylor respected him as much as he did any of his solid army buddies. It took a big man to search himself for flaws and then have the guts to fix them, especially if said person was a control freak that gave all controlling bastards a bad name.
“Thank you sir, I’ll take it from here.” Taylor looked at his clasped hands as they lay on his desk, pondering if he should go for broke and just put it all out there. If ever there was a time it was now he figured. “Sir, one more thing if I may?” He held up a lone finger as he watched his boss’ reaction.
Christian looked up, weary but listening. Taylor decided to take it as a good sign and ploughed on, speaking way out of turn, but he was careful with the choice of his words. “Sir I don’t think you should shield Mrs Grey from this latest development. Her cooperation is vital. If she perceives the threat, especially one related to your son, she’ll be much easier to manage. I’m not saying dump it all in one foul swoop, you might want to feed her bits over time but tell her enough to get her on side.”
Christian’s lips thinned, clearly not enamoured by the idea but Taylor knew that he was more than bright enough to see sense. “Okay,” he breathed. “I’ll talk to her tomorrow.”
If Taylor was prone to showing emotion he‘d let out a sigh of relief but instead he straightened in his chair, easily switching back to the larger issue at hand. “Can we do a quick recap sir? I want to get our men on this ASAP.”
Christian sat back, seemingly relieved that the deep shit was over. “Shoot,” he ordered in a way that somehow underlined his inclination to do what needs to be done.
“Our first port of call should be to restart our timeline. Let’s see if we can separate events. If any of the incidents can be attributed to someone other than David because the way I see it, we’re staring down the barrel of two perps right now.”
“Agreed. It’s clear that the sniper incident and the flowers are connected. Looking at it now the hunting rifle might not have been a decoy like we first thought. It may very well have been the only weapon the perp had access too.”
Taylor watched Christian as he practically jumped from his chair, his agitation levels spiking again. “Fuck!” he spat, his anger directed solely at himself. “I should have paid more attention when Ana brought that up, but David was so damn convenient. I hate second guessing myself but I really screwed up. And she was right about another thing too; I can’t simply will shit to be true no matter how much I want it to be. I need to get my fucking head on straight, I just….” This time both hands tracked a path through his hair as he paced a trench in front of the desk.
Suddenly Christian stopped, again drilling Taylor with that slate stare that now had an edge of desperation to it, “I just wanted to believe that they were safe.”
Taylor knew this routine. He had never known anyone who could be so hard on himself. Christian would beat himself up, muttering about his own incompetence before finding some brilliant solution that saved the day all round. It was ironic that this berating process he went through was the very thing that made him so good at what he did. But Taylor also knew when it was time to take over, and that time was now. It was pointless rehashing it. The last thing he wanted was his boss wallowing in knee deep self-loathing that held him fast like quicksand. Rather he needed him sharp and focussed. Hopefully the baby making would keep him distracted enough to bar him from dwelling on his very uncommon oversight.
“Sir, I can’t sanction your decision but I’ll be damned if I say I didn’t understand it. I hate to point out the obvious but you’re human. Being driven by fear is as instinctive as you can get, and considering the history between you and Mrs Grey…” He let his words trail with a small shrug, knowing that Christian would get the picture anyway.
Christian stared at him for long minutes before he spoke again, “You’re right,” he said, and with that sat back down, composed.
Taylor opened a file that he had stashed nearby, running his trained eye over the information to reacquaint himself with the facts. “The Dom/sub contract and the photo that was leaked to the blog were not in the file your pal lifted from David’s hideout, and without that information, what he did have on your lifestyle was pretty thin. I think it’s safe to say that this also was not his doing otherwise it would have been with the rest of the info.”
Christian nodded, tapping his lips with a finger in thought, “The shooting smacks of Jose though I’m still not convinced that he’s capable of something that drastic even if he knew about the beating. The leaks however points to Lincoln, apart from Ana I don’t see how Jose would have gotten wind of my lifestyle. And in the light of my recent oversight I’m not willing to exclude anything.”
“Understood,” Taylor acknowledged. “We’ll start by following up on the lead from the Bellagio again, whoever sent the flowers must have gotten the tip-off about the wedding from the hotel. I’ll put eyes on Mr Lincoln and Mr Rodriguez, but as far as I know he’s still on location.”
Christian stood up. Without prompt the two men’s gazes met, sharing a look that conveyed both trust and a renewed determination. “Thank you Jason,” Christian said, a flicker of vulnerability perceptible for a scant second before he strode out, leaving Taylor to the tactical strategies that now crowded his mind. Sleeping was going to be damn near impossible with this shit brewing in his head.
If the grim cast of his full mouth and the tense bearing of his shoulders wasn’t enough to clue me in on his dark mood then the depth of annoyance in his eyes did. Straightening against the headboard I watch his determined gate, his strides lengthening with desperation to reach me. Throwing off the covers I scramble from the bed, making myself available to give him the comfort he so obviously needs.
My feet barely touch the ground before he captures me in a crushing embrace, his arms like steel as they lock around me, his frantic heart hammering between us. I feel him burying his face in my neck – inhaling, the swell of his chest pushing us even closer. Taking his lead I wrap my legs around his hips as my hands slip into the soft strands of his hair.
I hold him with the same resignation, eager to prove my willingness even as the first trickling of fear stirs in my belly – unwholesome and unwelcome. “Christian, what’s the matter?” I rasp, breathless from the tight vice of his grip. He replies by simply re-clamping a splayed hand to my back, his fingers digging into my flesh with such force that I feel the slight tremble of them against me.
Everything inside me is screaming for answers, but for now he needs my body more than my words. Banking my questions I surrender to his needs, safe in the knowledge that with my submission the answers will come. Sensing my acceptance he leans over the bed to place me in the centre of it. His heat leaves my body just for the second it takes him to flip off the bedside light, but it gives me enough time to catch the despair marring the usual brilliant grey of his gaze before we’re plunged into darkness. A despair he’s hiding I realize, and also running away from as he settles between my legs, roughly pushing the edge of my short silk slip out of his determined way.
At the barrier of my panties he grunts his annoyance, ripping it away with an impatient tug. I gasp, the burn of the chafing friction quickly forgotten when his raring tongue makes contact with my sensitive sex. I buck into his hot mouth, the shock of sensation sending a sizzling jolt down my legs. Making use of my brief jerk from the bed he spears both hands beneath my ass, grabbing the backs of my thighs. A second later I feel his thumbs applying a firm pressure as they rest just at the edge of my opening.
My breath hitches at his ferocious pace, his tongue insistent, lapping fast and strong as it seeks out that perfect melting spot. There’s no hint of my teasing lover, no slow controlled burn that he takes care not to fan too quickly. No, between my legs I have a fully dressed demon intent on making me come in small fractions of the usual time he would allow.
My hands fist in his hair, restless with my need. As always my body is a slave to him, his long wet licks controlling me just as a stern command in his voice would, and if the ardent lashings of his tongue are anything to go by he’s urging me to follow him blindly down the path of his assaulting seduction. And I do, as he sucks my clitoris into his mouth on the final crest before the wave breaks. With a loud creed ripped from my lips my contracting muscles sends my torso arcing into his face. Fast and hard, I shudder with the violence of my wrenched release.
His ministrations slow, his languid tongue licking in long strokes as I flop back onto the covers. Reaching down I cup his jaw to pull him up to me, my lips grateful and ready for his kiss but he resists, shaking his head between my thighs. “Again,” he rasps as he shifts, evidently readjusting himself for round two as his tongue presses into my entrance.
“I can’t. Too soon,” I pant, my head lolling about as I draw short, shattered breaths. Christian ignores me, with his forearm over my lower abdomen he pins me to the bed to stop me from wriggling away while the fingers of his free hand goes to work between my sodden folds, wringing that overstimulated bundle of nerves with a gentle rub.
One moment I’m squirming, trying to get away from his jolting touch, the next I’m chasing another orgasm with a renewed, single minded focus. He knows just how to get me there, those clever fingers going round and round, teasing, never coming close enough to that swollen bud as it pluses, now aching for his touch.
The shallow penetration of his tongue is sinfully arousing, taunting as it circles just inside me, gathering the wet flow of my desire. He groans; the sound vibrating against my flesh. I gasp a jagged aahhh as my hips gyrate in a tiny motion to snag his fingers just the right way. With my hands clawing at the sheets in frustration I whimper, feeling deprived of that one precise touch that will send me flying.
The muscles in my legs tense, straining harder with every second he denies me, my whole body quivering from the instinctual pursuit. “Please Christian,” I plead; the sound of my breathless sob muffled by the raging torrent of my blood.
He withdraws his tongue to speak, instantly making me regret that I spoke, “Tell me what you want baby.”
I’m beyond caring, my inhibitions stolen along with my sanity, “Touch me! Please, make me come!” Mercifully the husky words torn from my raw throat does the trick. Christian stabs his firm tongue into me, forceful and as deep as he can go. I moan in pleasure, my body rushing right to the edge of reason, poised for my shattering fall.
The final nudge I so desperately need comes from his hand. The heel of it presses into my pubic bone, the pressure intensifying the ripples as they start. The rapid glide of his fingers, aided by the copious cream I’ve gushed, run over my explosive bundle, stunning my senses in quickening throes of toe curling sensation. I issue a long, loud curse as the pleasure quakes through me, Christian slowing down only enough to make it last.
When I find myself I’m in Christian’s arms, his clothed front to my naked, sweat slicked back. I’m replete, liquefied, my body exhausted and still quivering from the exertion. He kisses my neck, a possessive arm curled around me, anchoring me to his comforting form. “We have to talk baby. Were you planning on going into the office tomorrow?”
Through my orgasm induced daze I don’t notice the urgent undercurrent of his quiet request, but I do feel the hard swell of his straining erection pressing against my behind. I fling a limp arm backward in an attempt to stroke him, “What about you Mr Grey?” I mumble drowsily, almost giggling at the improbable thought of round three for me. I can barely keep my eyes open.
“Tomorrow,” he promises cryptically in my ear while he moves my wandering arm back to my front. “Say we can talk in the morning and you can go to sleep.”
“Mm-hmm,” I agree, a niggling worry just bleeding into my mind before sleep yanks my consciousness away.
Tuesday morning I wake with a start, disorientated in a tangle of sheets, and not surprisingly, alone. The first hit of adrenaline jolts me upright as the pieces of the night before comes together. I remember Christian’s mood, the mind-blowing but very out-of-character attack on my body, his request to talk, and strangest of all; not giving in to his obvious arousal.
Panic lashes like a whip over my grated nerves, the residual concerns over recent events is obviously closer to the surface than I realised. My low self-esteem has me so conditioned that I immediately comb through the course of yesterday to find a reason for his rejection. Coming up empty does nothing to loosen the tight knot that’s twisted my stomach despite my inner goddess pointing out that he bestowed on me two earth shattering orgasms.
I pull on a pair of yoga pants with a matching tee, not wanting to face him in a flimsy dressing gown if he’s mad. Tentatively I leave our bedroom, my scattered emotions fleetingly touching on a vague thought – could there be another reason behind the wicked application of his sexpertise, one that went beyond the obvious gratification it brought me? I’m forced to dismiss the notion when we round the corner in the passage at the same time, almost bumping into each other.
I get no morning smile but instantly he bands his arm around me for support. Looking up I find his troubled gaze, the sight of it has my heart plummeting into my shoes. I can’t help the shock widening my eyes when his expression alone is enough to convey that something is very, very wrong. Before his clouded stare cuts away I catch a glimpse of the contrition they hold, the usual bright grey dull with it. My breath jams in my throat as my blood turns cold with dread.
“We have to talk,” he says, his voice strangely devoid of any telling sentiment.
I nod numbly, blinking back the tears that have no business spilling. “Chris?” I ask with an unsteady, broken croak.
Christian places a hand in the small of my back, the light pressure steering me back the way I came. “He’s had breakfast, he’s fine. Gail is with him.”
He ushers me into our bedroom before turning to lock the door behind him. Meekly I follow him to the sitting area where he takes a seat on the sofa. With a quick tug of my hand he pulls me towards him, “Come,” he commands as he leans back against the armrest. Still skittish I take up the seat between his legs, my back to his front. Without wasting any time he secures me with both arms as they cross over my chest to hold me in place.
My inner goddess is smiling serenely, taking the full body contact as a positive sign, but my subconscious is arguing that the embrace is more like a prison. I, on the other hand, feel way too uncertain to make a call either way.
I jump in his arms when he starts to speak, his measured baritone low and even beside my ear, “I want to tell you something. You’re not going to like it, but I need you to make me a promise first.”
I’ve no idea what he’s about to share, how on earth can I promise anything without knowing what I’m getting myself into. “Christian, I don’t know…”
Abruptly he cuts me off, “Just agree dammit!” he insists; his arms becoming a crushing weight as they clutch me closer.
It’s disconcerting that I can’t see his face. The way he’s positioned me keeps me from gleaning even the smallest clue from his expression. Nor is the situation conducive to slaking the slowly building fear that’s currently eating away at my faculties. “Okay,” I breathe, notwithstanding having my thoughts trapped in a loop of wild speculations, not one of them a desirable notion.
“Promise me you won’t run,” he grits at my acquiescence, the edge of his desperation unmistakable, hitting me in the gut like a punch.
Oh no! Oh fuck! I baulk at the possible implications, the cold grip of fear, at least in my mind, only a sentence away from becoming full-blown horror. “I promise I won’t run,” I relent, the whispered words falling from my paper dry mouth.
He relaxes his grasp as the tension leaves his arms, “Thank you,” he says simply before taking a bolstering breath. I’m grateful when he starts straight away, “When you asked the detective about the flowers last night it got me thinking. Both Taylor and I agree that there’s a strong possibility that David wasn’t the only perp plotting against me.”
As if my body wasn’t tense enough my muscles stiffen further, the shock like a jolt to my system, “You think he had someone working with him?”
“No. We believe that there’s a second suspect completely unrelated to David. Your observation about the flowers was very insightful, and it’s led me to believe that I’ve made some serious errors in judgement where this case is concerned. I’ve been so caught up in holding on to you, so desperate to keep you and Chris safe that when the neatly tied-up package of David presented itself I was overeager to accept it as fact without looking too deeply into our unanswered questions. Questions like the one you raised with the detective.”
Even though the idea of another maniac on the loose should scare the crap out of me my mind snags on the part where his fear of losing me is impairing his discernment. It hits my guilt button, bringing out my insecurities in the worst possible way. The shame always comes with terrible feelings of worthlessness that I seem powerless to stem. Because of our threat and the fear that went along with it Dr Flynn and my sessions has mostly been about controlling that fear, but now I wish we had spent the time exploring the tools to help me to cope with the things that previously wrenched me away from happiness.
“I agree with you that it’s unlikely that David would have gone to the effort to send you the flowers, we also know that the flowers are related to the botched sniper shot and that the shooter wasn’t a professional hit man. We feel that this points to Jose but the other loose end, the Dom/sub contract and the playroom photo that was leaked to the blog seems to have Lincoln’s stamp all over it. Needless to say that security will be back in full force and I’ll be insisting on your cooperation.”
“Yes, of course,” I say with an absentminded frown, once again only truly hearing the mention of Jose. I was so relieved when he was not involved because I dreaded the guilt that would have come from that. “But…” I stammer, “But I recall Taylor saying that Jose was an unlikely suspect. He said that he didn’t believe that Jose had enough motivation to go as far as attempted murder.”
I hear Christian sucking in a sharp breath before exhaling slowly, “Yes, we’ve had a development on that front.” Again his arms tighten around me, as if to brace me against the news. “When I found out that Jose left you a month before Chris’ birth I lost it.” He pauses, leaving me to listen to my heavy beating heart. “Please understand Ana I missed you so badly. I was so desperate to be with you, the thought of him leaving you, and that with his “child” on the way…” I feel him shaking his head in disbelief just as fresh waves of shame crash over me.
Suddenly I know what’s coming. I had my suspicions when it happened though I’ve never asked Christian outright. My thoughts start to race, only taking a moment to catch-up to his confession before it dawns on me: if Jose knows that Christian beat him up, he might very well want revenge.
“I hired someone to teach him a lesson. I had someone beat him up.”
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