I do not own Fifty Shades Trilogy or the characters. They belong to E. L. James. I am only exercising my right to exploit, abuse, and mangle the characters to MY discretion in MY story in MY interpretation as a fan. I hope you—as a fellow fan—enjoy it, too.
Chapter 12—Release the Tiger
I have to admit that I am glad I am seeing Luc today. Luc Klevna trained me in Krav Maga shortly after I moved to Seattle. It helped me to feel safe and gain some control over my fears. I still need to regain the control that I feel I have lost since Grey started digging into the painful recesses of my mind. In addition to that, he has lit a fire under the nymphomaniac that laid dormant for damn near four years and now I must exert some serious energy to keep her under control.
I’m feeling a grand myriad of emotions after the events of this week. First, there’s the need to live again—to break free from my Alabaster Box and explore life and love. Next, there’s the scared teenager that needs to be assured that the Boogie Man isn’t waiting under her bed to jump out gobble her up—that some nosey bastard just went poking around in dusty boxes that he should have left dusty, and there’s really no reason to be concerned for my safety. Finally, there’s this scalding, scorching desire that has been ignited by that same nosey bastard—that desire that has me literally oozing sex and wanton lust from every pore; the desire that has caused me to choose to wear a nearly nothing exercise outfit with only a small athletic back brace to cover my tramp stamp to a gym full of sweaty men on a Saturday morning.
The Sleeper has awakened!
Luc is none too happy with the “awakening,” so to speak.
“Fuck a duck! I haven’t seen you for a year and you come into my gym dressed like that!? I’m really going to fuck you up, Steele.”
“Well, hello to you, too, Luc. Great to see you, how have you been?” I snap.
“Don’t give me that shit, Steele! You were one of my best students, then you just decide to quit. Now you show up looking like you’re ready to work the pole!” What the fuck! Okay, granted, this red and black sports bra and matching exercise shorts may be a little skimpy, but hell—was the pole comment really necessary? I mean I’m not wearing sparkly body make-up and acrylic heels, for fuck’s sake. “And I just bet your technique sucks and your muscles are shit!” Oh, now he’s just being mean.
“Lighten up, Luc. I’ve kept my muscles toned with yoga.” Would have done better to slap him in the face.
“Yoga?” he says, condescendingly. “You’re kidding, right? You’re fucking kidding me? This is a fucking joke. You’re seriously going to stand there and try to impress me with yoga? Seriously?”
“No, I’m not!” He’s really getting under my skin here. What the hell is his problem? “Damn, what the hell is wrong with you, today? Whoever pissed in your Cheerios, it wasn’t me!”
“You might as well have to be coming in here talking about yoga!” Is he pissed or just trying to egg me on? “A whole damn year, Ana?”
“Okay. I’m here now. Can we please just get on with it?” I can’t believe I’m paying this fucker to abuse me. He folds his arms across his chest.
“Hit the punching bag and hit it hard—I want you well warmed up. I’ll see you in the exhibition room in twenty minutes.”
“The exhibition room?” I ask in horror. What the hell, man?
“You’ve got all your goods on display, so why not let them see it? And be ready, Steele, because I’m going to kick your ass!”
“Luc, have I ever told you that you’re a real bastard?” I say matter-of-factly.
“Save it for the mat, Steele.”
“Oh, Ana, we’re waiting for you.” Mo-ther-fucker! He is really going to rub this shit in deep. Hearing a name over the loud-speaker in this infamous establishment is announcement that somebody is about to be offered up for sacrifice in the exhibition room. Let me just describe this Room of Shame. Imagine yourself in a 30×30 box with four walls and a ceiling of two-way mirrors and a completely padded floor. The entire gym and even spectators walking by outside can see in, but you can’t see out. You just get to see yourself getting your ass kicked from every angle. People have left this room with fractures, stitches, black eyes, busted lips, and even unconscious. I have only been in this room once. I left on a stretcher.
That won’t be happening today.
I leave the punching bag and march my ass on over to the exhibition room. A few gentlemen have started to gather upon hearing the announcement, but most of the time, they wait until the drills are over so they can sit back and watch the ass whipping. Upon seeing my skimpy workout gear, I have a larger crowd than expected. Fucking vultures.
You asked for it.
You’re right. I wanted the attention. Let’s get this shit over with.
We run through about 20 more minutes of drills and then Luc instructs me (more like orders me) to put on my helmet and gloves and assume the position. I don’t even get a choice in the matter here. I have to strike, which means he’s on the defensive. He wants to make an example out of me and I’m about to get my ass kicked by a 6th Dan black belt in Krav Maga while a gaggle of hunky, beautiful, sweaty men watch. Oh, glee!
I know better than to come at him with everything because I would surely just end up hard on my ass, but I do at least try some basic take-down moves. He and I both know that this is grossly unfair and I really don’t know what Luc is trying to prove. It’s not like I competed professionally or anything like that. I was just learning self-defense so that I didn’t ever get attacked from behind again. True, I was pretty enthusiastic about it, but it still wasn’t my life’s blood. So why did he take it so fucking personally when I left? And if he didn’t want to train me now, all he had to do was turn me down. He didn’t even give me a chance to re-acclimate—he just took me straight to the exhibition room.
And nobody turns down the exhibition room.
I don’t know how much time had passed or how many times I had been hit, knocked down, had the wind blasted out of me, you name it. I go to the corner for a moment to catch my breath. My hands are on my knees and I am taking in huge gulps of air. “Had enough, Steele?” he calls from across the room. Asshole bastard. “Tired yet? How’s that yoga working out for you?” He’s taunting me, and I know that every open spot at every window is occupied by now, even though I can’t see it. I feel like I’m being humiliated in front of the whole of Seattle on a Saturday morning. I’m hurting, I’m mortified, and what’s more, I need to be fucked!
I stand up, pop my neck, roll my shoulders and face Luc. Fine, Klevna, you want to beat my ass, then beat my ass, but you are about to know that you’ve been in a fight.
“Oh, you‘re coming back for more?” He teases. I slowly walk over to him and catch him in a basic shoulder hold. As expected, he breaks the hold from above bringing me down into a 45-degree bend. When I come up out of the bend, he catches a right fist to the gut and a left palm to the chin. To add insult to injury, I do a 360 which ends with my right elbow in his neck. I don’t know if I surprise him or knock the fucking wind out of him, but he stumbles backward and catches himself just as he’s about to hit the glass. I’m standing there in home stance waiting for his next move.
“Have we released the tiger?” He teases, coming back over to me.
“You tell me,” I say, impassively.
He comes at me low and attacks my center of gravity. A swift, hard hit to my inner thigh and I am on my knees. Fuck, that hurt! I raise up with a fist to his groin. He knew it was coming and bends to avoid the hit, allowing me to clamp onto his neck, scramble to my feet and twist and flip him under my arms so that he’s on his back now. I have my forearm in his throat, holding him down. I feel water fall from my face and watch it fall onto his. He uses his leg strength to twist from under me and now the tables have turned again. I am flat on my back having been slammed—HARD—by a man at least twice my size. Shit! Shit! Shit! He is now straddling me, one hand on my forehead, the other on my chest. “What’s wrong, Ana?” He’s breathing heavily now. “Was that a tear I felt?” he taunts.
“No! SWEAT!” I bring my hands together on either side of his head and face—flat—as hard as I can, temporarily disorienting him and giving me enough time to scoot from underneath him. As soon as I stand, he chokes me with both hands from behind. I reach back with both hands, grab his thumbs and pull down. Using the momentum from the pull, I step back and my hand continues down into the groin strike I missed earlier. Now, while he’s bent in half, reeling from the pain that is no doubt resonating in his balls and the ringing that he probably still feels in his ears, I bring my elbow up to meet his face then spin in a 180 and finish it with a double hit—elbow to the chin and palm strike to the face, and now he’s down for sure.
I feel like it’s over once I see blood. So I start to walk pass him to the door. But, no, Mr. Klevna still seems to think he has a lesson to teach me. He grabs my foot as I pass and if my reflexes had been any slower, I would have face planted on the mat.
Fucking asshole shit head testosterone driven piece of shit! I’m mad now.
As fast as I go down, I catch myself on my palms and use my free leg to donkey-kick the fuck out of that bastard. Three times it takes to get him to let go of my damn leg. Attack me while my back is turned, huh? Okay…
He’s face down on the mat and I scramble on top of him. I sit on his back, put my right knee at the base of his neck and put all of my weight into it, my left leg bent with my left foot flat on the mat. I clasp my fingers around his face and pull back. He’s struggling to get me off of him, but I keep pulling. I only planned on doing this for a moment because I know he’s in a lot of pain, but something in me snaps. If I let him up, he’s going to hurt me. He wants to make an example of me and I don’t know why. I won’t let him hurt me again. I’ll keep him like this until he passes out if I have to, but I won’t let him hurt me again.
I cannot release him. If I release him, he’s going to attack me again. I won’t let him attack me again.
“Ana, matté, matté Ana!”
I can hear him calling for surrender; I can see him tapping the mat, but my hands can’t let go. He has to stop moving. When he stops moving, I’ll let him go. That way, I know he won’t attack me again.
Apparently, the other guys in the gym have other plans. I can hear them coming from behind me, telling me to release him, trying to lift me off his back.
“Let him go, lady, you’ll break his neck.”
“He’s going to pass out, lady. Let him go!”
“Release, lady! Release!”
I finally come back to myself to see three guys trying to coax me off Luc’s back. He’s breathing heavily and he has stopped fighting me now that someone has come to his rescue. I unclasp my fingers and release him. His face falls to the mat with a “thud.” I scramble off of him and back away while the other guys make sure he is still conscious. He shakes off the pain a bit, then turns to his side to look over his shoulder at me. He’s glaring at me with a mixture of emotions in his eyes, the most prevalent being confusion. I could have killed him… but he took me there. He should have just let me walk away. I can barely make out what people are saying to me, and I’m seeing red.
Let’s try this again.
I start to remove my helmet and walk to the other end of the room. I burst through the doors, launching my helmet somewhere to the right of me, cursing that asshole out in two different languages. I can see grown men in my peripheral jumping just a bit at the amazing flying helmet, but being very careful not to approach me or piss me off. I served my purpose. I exerted some energy. I regained some control. I gave the fuckers a show, and I beat up the schoolyard bully. Now it’s time to get the hell out of here!
I’ve landed Bastille on his ass twice to his three times and I need redemption. Just as I am about to execute a move, we are both brought to silence by the announcement that someone is about to be put through the paces.
“Oh, Ana, we’re waiting for you.”
Ana? Fuck, even at the gym I can’t escape that name. Now some poor wench is about to be publicly chastised in the exhibition room. I wonder what she did to piss Luc off?
“You want to go watch?” Claude offers.
“Yeah, but after this round. Let’s see if I can get my point back.” I assume the position again.
Claude and I finish our round in time to look up as see a cluster of people gathered around the exhibition room. A bunch of horny men gathering to see some piece of ass waving around in gym shorts, I think to myself. Hell, I’m doing the same thing. My attention is drawn to the fact that these men keep wincing and jumping, making comments about how much these hits must’ve hurt. I’m not really sure that I want to watch Luc beating up on some woman, but I’m drawn to the scene like a train wreck.
When I find a place near the window, I see this tiny frame bent over in the corner fighting for air. She looks fucking hot in those tiny ass shorts, showing just enough ass cheek to keep you interested. Her face is blocked by the helmet that she’s wearing, but when she turns around, you know the show is about to begin.
An unbelievable melee follows between the two of them. This woman is taking hits that would have immobilized most men. Shit, she’s strong as fuck. Luc says something about releasing a tiger, and every hit that connects with him after that is accompanied by what I can only characterize as a fucking battle cry. She is taking hit after hit and coming back on him like a machine. Groin cuts, flying elbows, chest hits, palm strikes, everything! I have never seen a woman fight like this. It looks like the fight is over and I take a moment to admire her tight abs being showcased by her skimpy little bra and shorts. She starts to pass Luc and the fucker grabs her leg and pulls her back.
I will never forget the next series of events as long as I live.
She lands effortlessly on her hands and, while using them to support her weight, repeatedly kicks the shit out of Luc with her free leg. When he is duly subdued, she scrambles on top of him with the speed and precision of a panther, locking him into some kind of submission hold that you only see in the WWE. He is fighting to get free from her, but to no avail.
“Ana!” He calls her name again. Now I’m focusing again. I can’t see under that helmet. Small brunette with a delectable body. It looks like her… but it can’t be her!
“Ana!” Is that Ana? Is that the exquisite, beautiful Dr. Anastasia Steele in there beating the hell out of one of Seattle’s most decorated martial arts trainers?
“Ana, matté, matté Ana!” He’s begging her for mercy, and she is transfixed. She’s not going to let him go. Good for her. That’ll teach him to brutalize my Ana and attack her from behind.
My Ana? What the fuck?
Everything from here seems to move in slow motion. I want that to be Ana—just so that I can look at her, gaze on her for a while. I’ll pretend that it is her… just for a moment. Pretend that look of determination on her face is actually a look of ecstasy right before she comes; that she is sweating from an afternoon of fucking and sucking and not from beating the shit out of a puffed up asshole. Somebody should probably go and help this guy… but it won’t be me. I guess some guys from the other end get the same idea and go in to coax “Ana” off the asshole’s back. She finally lets him go and that’s when I see them—the big, beautiful blue eyes, regarding her instructor with disdain and resentment before she starts traveling to the exit on my end of the exhibition room.
As she slams noisily out of the room, she removes her helmet and it goes flying randomly in some direction, and I can see her.
My Ana. My beautiful Ana.
She is storming back to the lockers and showers and I can’t help feeling anything but immense pride when I think of her bringing Luc to submission. Not only that, but I could swear I just heard her call him an asshole in French—that’s hot! I watch as Luc sits against the wall for a moment and gets his bearings a bit before he rises up and storms toward the doors himself. Oh no, Buddy. You won’t get the same chance again. Whatever the hell is going on in that pea brain of yours, you’re going to have to take it up with me. I step inside the exhibition room just as he is about to step out and cut him off at the doors.
“Now might be a good time to turn around and go the other way, Luc.”
“What are you talking about, Grey?” He’s clearly angry and impatient, chomping at the bit to confront Ana, no doubt.
“I think you’ve put that little lady through enough. I think she’s put you through quite a bit, too.”
“Don’t tell me how to train my students!” he snaps. Seriously?
“Oh, she’s a student? Because from where I was standing, it looks like you were being taught.”
“Fuck off, Grey!” He’s getting pissed. Seems like he’s the one that needs a bit of group therapy, not me. He goes to walk pass me and I stick my arm out to stop him.
“Leave. Her. Alone.” He tilts his head at me and looks at my arm blocking his way.
“You don’t want none of this, Grey,” he says through clenched teeth. I smirk at him.
“Those are pretty big words for a man who just got his ass beat by a girl.” He gasps a bit. He is seething and it just occurred to me that he may take his anger out on Ana. I get right in his face and grab his arm because I want him to know that I’m serious. “If you fuck with her like that again, you’re going to have to deal with me… and you don’t want none of this!” I growl. He stands there looking at me through narrowed eyes for a moment. We both know that neither of us will back down, but he’s not going to challenge me either… not after the whole “ass kicked by a girl” statement. He snatches his arm from my grasp and walks out of the exhibition room. I follow shortly behind him and go back to the ring with Claude.
“We don’t get many women in here,” Claude begins as I step back into the ring.
“And now I see why. What’s up with that guy?” I ask as I do a few stretches.
“I don’t know. I know the girl used to be a student of his a while back, but she stopped coming. I didn’t think It was that big a deal… they come and they go, you know.”
“Well, it must be a big thing for him because he was obviously pissed at her.” I know all about punishments, exerting control, and teaching a woman a lesson… and that’s what he was doing in that room. “What is he… MMA? Ultimate fighter?”
“Krav Maga… 6th Dan,” Claude says. I’m taken aback a bit.
“Sixth Dan? Are you fucking kidding me? Manhandling that woman like that?” My eyes are huge.
“Hey, what can I say? She knows what she signed up for.” Claude shrugs. I shake my head in disgust. She didn’t sign up for that.
Since when are you the defender of women, Grey? You have a secret red room where you beat little brown haired girls that look like the crack whore. Yeah, but they do sign up for that. Just over my shoulder I hear the Tiger preparing to attack… or defend, I should say.
“Get your fucking hands of me!” she shrieks.
I really should be in the sauna or the hot tub right now getting some relief for these muscles, but all I want to do is get out of here. I’ll even forgo the damn shower. I put my yoga pants and tank top on right over my sweaty workout clothes. I’ll take a bath when I get home… to MY apartment… in MY bathtub… with MY bubbles!
I have to pause for a moment because I feel the adrenaline tears coming and I can’t stop them. Hell if I’m going to let him or any of the other barbarians see me like this. I sit on the bench and let them flow. I know they are a physical response and not an emotional one, but it still makes me feel weak sometimes. It means that I can’t get truly mad and give someone the cursing out they may so richly deserve without turning into a blubbering idiot shortly thereafter. I don’t let them go on and on and on—first, because I’ll have a headache when it’s done and second, because I will not be one of those weepy girls who’s fucking crying all the damn time. When I feel like they’ve run their course enough, I wash my face and stand there a moment to get my bearings. I’ve calmed down a bit, but just a bit. I wouldn’t recommend anybody crossing me right now.
I walk out of the locker room and just as I am about to leave, I see him. Grey? Here? Well, hell, why not? It’s a gym. He’s standing in the ring talking to another one of the trainers. He’s wearing gym shorts and a tank top and he looks absolutely delicious. The muscle tone in his legs and arms is completely insane! I find myself staring a bit too long when a grim realization comes to me.
Was he here the whole time? Did he see that awful display in the exhibition room?
If he’s here now, most likely he did…
… and my humiliation is now complete. Thanks, Luc. I definitely have to get out of here now. I turn to leave and run face first into a wall of Luc.
“What the fuck was that, Ana?” I just shake my head and go to walk around him. When he grabs my arm to stop me, I turn around and push him with all the force I can muster.
“Get your fucking hands of me!” He almost lands on one of the weight benches, but catches himself just shy of it.
“You could have killed me in there! What the hell were you thinking?” he snaps.
“I was thinking that I needed this fucking bully to stay down so I can get the hell away from him! What the hell were you trying to prove in there? Who pissed you off so bad that you had to take it out on me? So what I haven’t been here in a year? What you did in there was completely uncalled for!” I realize that I am screaming and drawing attention to myself so I turn to leave again.
“I was pushing your limits, Ana,” he protests, his voice calming a bit. I turn around gaping at him.
“Pushing my limits? Bullshit! You were making a fucking spectacle of me, and I have no idea why. But, you know what? I don’t need to know.” I’m trying to leave again.
“You need to soak your muscles,” he says almost quietly. Now he’s concerned?
“I’ll soak them when I get home,” I snap.
“They’ll lock up by then,” he persists.
“I’ll take my chances!” I yell, still walking towards the door.
“I’ll see you next week,” he says, finally.
“No! You won’t!” I walk out and slam the door behind me… and you better hope I pay you for this session!
“You’ll never believe who was at the gym today,” I say to Taylor as I get into the SUV.
“Try me, sir.”
“You already know, don’t you?”
“It would have been nice if someone told me. What am I paying you guys for?” I ask, puzzled.
“Besides the fact that I saw her storm out twenty minutes before you came out, I didn’t get the intel until you were already in with Bastille. There was no security threat, so I didn’t think it was necessary to inform you immediately.”
“Yeah, yeah… you’re fired… again!”
“Yes, sir. Where to, Sir?”
I’m back at Escala trying to decide what I want to do with my Saturday night. I normally spend these evenings working—or working over a sub—which reminds me. I still have Greta Ellison on hold. I don’t know what it is, but something about this whole situation just doesn’t sit well with me. In my experience, when something looks too good to be true, it usually is. I need one more check before I make my decision about Ms. Ellison. I call Welch.
“Perform one more thorough check on Greta Ellison’s financials. I need you to pay attention to recurring debits and large transfers. See if she has any offshore accounts or assets. Let me know if you find anything, even if you think it’s nothing significant.”
“Am I looking for something specific, sir?”
“Anything that may lead me to her last few employers or contracts, what she has been doing in the immediate past.”
“Yes, sir.” I end the call. I can hardly believe it, but I don’t feel like working, and I hate the night club scene… except for last week, when I watched Ana dancing center stage in my latest merger. I wonder what she’s doing tonight?
“Sir?” As if in answer to my question, Taylor shows up with the latest report on Ms. Steele’s whereabouts. She went home right after the gym, followed by shopping a few hours later. The long distance surveillance pictures show bags from Victoria’s Secret. I wonder what little goodies you picked up from Vickie’s, Ms. Steele. I still haven’t figured out a way to smooth things over with her. I hope she didn’t interpret that kiss as my trying to influence her decision. Granted, I may have been trying to influence her… subconsciously, or… consciously… I don’t know, but I certainly wasn’t trying to affect her decision about the court order with that kiss. It could actually be a perfect icebreaker—if I had a good explanation for the kiss. Yes, Ms. Steele, I sincerely apologize for my behavior in the office yesterday. It was inappropriate and I won’t let it happen again… will I? Why did I kiss you…?
Because I had to touch you.
Because I dream about you almost every night.
Because in spite of everything I know to be true, I can’t stop thinking about you.
Because even though I know we could never be, I still want you.
And by the way, you looked hot as fuck in those gym shorts today.
And again… a bit too far, Grey.
I grab my jacket and the keys to the RS7. “Taylor!” He emerges from his study. “I’m going for a drive. I shouldn’t be too long.”
“Would you like me to come, sir?”
“No, it’s not necessary. I just need some air.”
I’m headed in no particular direction. I just have to find a way to get this woman off my mind. She haunts me day and night.
I go to a random nightclub, she’s there.
I go to the gym to work out, she’s there.
I’m at work celebrating this week’s fourth acquisition, she shows up.
The way that she decimated Luc in the exhibition room; the raw, carnal, savage expression on her face—I bet she’s a wildcat in bed. I can only think of purely sinful, sensual thoughts when I think of her. Not being able to have her is driving me out of my mind. For the first time in forever, I want a woman and I have no idea how to approach her… if I can approach her. The sun is setting on the Sound and all I can think is Ana… Ana… Ana…
Somehow, I find myself parked outside of her condo. I can’t go in… certainly not! She would definitely want to know how I know where she lives. You’ve got her background check, Grey. She knows that. Although this is true, my showing up would exacerbate that particular situation. I could tell her that I was just checking on her after the incident at the gym. Did she even know I was there? I was standing in the ring when she had that blowup with Luc. She couldn’t miss me. She was distracted, though, so she may not have seen me at all. I run my hands through my hair. Is this how normal people fret over a date?
I must’ve sat there for 30 or 40 more minutes when I see Ms. Steele come out the front door. Strange, no doubt her car is in the garage. She looks stunning standing there with a slight summer breeze blowing through her hair. Why is she coming out the front door? I soon get my answer when a black Jaguar pulls up and she gets inside. What’s this? A date? I feel a strange twinge in my chest as I follow Ms. Steele and the mystery driver to their destination.
A little while later, I find myself at the New Orleans Creole Restaurant in Pioneer Square. It’s a quaint little place in the historic district. I never would have known it was here. It’s very cozy and small inside, so I have to almost sit against a wall to avoid being seen while I observe Ana and her companion having dinner.
I draw a steaming hot bath the moment I get back to the apartment. I think I made it in time to avoid any real damage and locking of my muscles, but I’ll take some ibuprofen just in case. If I take it now, it will have made its way through my system by the time Al and I go to dinner later.
I’m back in the bathtub… thinking about Grey. Not a good combination. If I flick my clit one more time in the next 24 hours, it’s going to fall off! But the thought of him standing there in those gym shorts, hanging off his hips just so… and it’s amazing how my choice of song always seems to fit the mood perfectly. This afternoon, I am soaking to the soulful sounds on the extended jazz version of Smooth Operator by Sade.
Diamond life, lover boy.
We move in space with minimum waste and maximum joy.
City lights and business nights.
When you require streetcar desire for higher heights.
I’m not completely sure, but I always thought this song was talking about a gigolo. Christian Grey—a gigolo. I can see it. He has that jet set playboy philanderer look about him, but he’s never seen in public with a woman. I looked… no girls…
Oh, fuck! Is he gay?
Yeah, right. What do you think? You kissed him yesterday.
Oh yeah, there is that…
No place for beginners or sensitive hearts
When sentiment is left to chance.
No place to be ending but somewhere to start.
No need to ask.
He’s a smooth operator.
Smooth operator indeed. That man had me wet in the panties before I made it back home and coming on myself at the front door… and several times since then.
Coast to coast, LA to Chicago, western male.
Across the north and south, to Key Largo, love for sale.
Face to face, each classic case.
We shadow box and double cross,
Yet need the chase. A license to love, insurance to hold.
Melts all your memories, change into gold.
His eyes are like angels, his heart is cold.
Cold heart—Grey to a “T.” But what do I know of his heart? I just know that he is very self-important and it’s infuriating.
I’m too angry to masturbate. Crazy ass Luc trying to kill me and I can’t fucking sleep without thinking about Grey and those damn lips… And those hands… and that scent… and those eyes…
I let the jazz beat play while the hot water lulls the tension from my muscles. It’s definitely time for a trip to Victoria’s Secret. I need some new pieces because I certainly plan on getting fucked… soon!
“So, where are we going, Al?” I ask when I get into his Jag.
“We’re going to New Orleans, Chile,” he says in that over-exaggerated phony Southern drawl he loves to use.
“New Orleans? Aren’t we about 3000 miles out of the way?”
“So coy, Ms. Steele. No, I found a lovely little spot on First called the New Orleans. Fabulous food and live jazz and blues bands. I thought you might enjoy it after the day you’ve had.” He looks over at me.
“You thought right. Lead the way, my friend.”
When we get to the restaurant, I am glad that I chose the ensemble that I did. I’m wearing a simple Motel blue chiffon sleeveless tunic shirt dress with cream leggings and Faith Cadbury blue platform court shoes. We decide to eat at the bar in the lounge section of this little gem that Al has found. I was thinking that maybe we would go to a club tonight, but in true “Al” fashion, my best friend has read me like a book and chosen the perfect evening to help me unwind from the horrendous day that I’ve had. I decide on the Seafood Etoufee while Al has the Chicken Au Vin with red beans and rice.
“Al, you’ve been out with me for two Saturdays now. What’s going on with James?” I ask as I sip a Chateau Ste. Michelle Sauvignon Blanc. Al drops his head. Oh shit!
“We had a fight.” He sips his wine.
“Why? About what? And why didn’t you tell me?” I ask horrified.
“You already had so much on your plate, Jewel. I didn’t want to bother you with this.” Okay, so now I feel like the worst friend in the world. Al has never cared about anyone the way he cares about James. I know—I’ve been around him for 14 years. Now, they’ve had a fight and he felt he couldn’t tell me about it. I rub my forehead with my hand.
“Jewel….” he says in a scolding tone, noting my tell.
“Do you know how it makes me feel that you were having a problem and you couldn’t come to me because I was so busy with my own?” I rub his arm as a mask of shame slowly descends on his face. “What happened, Al?” Al is a very sensitive man and I see that he’s becoming emotional.
“His ex has moved back to town—some artsy guy that went away to Madrid or Italy or Tim-buk-fucking-tu to follow his craft. And now he’s back, and he’s asking to see James. So I told him that I didn’t want him to go.” Al tries to smile to hide the fact that he really wants to cry, but he wouldn’t cry in public if you paid him. I feel his pain, though. I put my hand on his cheek.
“Do you think this guy wants James back?” I say, softly.
“Well, of course he does. Look at him. He’s gorgeous, successful, he’s a master in bed… who wouldn’t want him?” He’s right about that. We’re batting for the same team and I wanted him for a moment.
“Al, have you told James how you feel about him? Does he know that you’re in love with him?” Al drops his head again.
“I don’t know how to tell him.” He shakes his head. “I’m new at this, remember?”
“How about you take him by the hand, you look him in the eye, and you tell him that you love him. Tell him that you are scared to death for him to see this guy and you’re afraid that this guy may take him away from you because you are in love with him.” He looks up through his eyelashes at me.
“That simple, huh?” he says as a single tear falls down his cheek. I wipe it away with my thumb and smile. I guess I was wrong about crying in public… this is big.
“What if it’s too late?” he says, mournfully.
“What do you mean?” I frown.
“He’s seeing him now.” My mouth falls open.
“Seeing him seeing him or just seeing him?” I ask cautiously.
“Just seeing him.” He sighs. “They’re having dinner. That’s why we fought.” He’s drinking more wine than usual and I decide that it’s probably a good idea that I don’t drink anymore since somebody is going to have to get us home.
“What did he say? Why did he decide to go to dinner with this guy… what’s his name?”
“Jose. Jose Rodriguez. They went to WSU together. They had a long-term relationship and then Jose’s photography took him overseas a few years ago and they broke up.”
“So why does he want to see him now? Why not just let it go? Do you think he wants Jose back?”
“I don’t know the answer to any of that, Jewel. I’m afraid that I’ve given my heart to someone who wasn’t ready to give their heart to me. You warned me…” He sniffles just a bit.
“Yes, I did warn you, but I think you may be wrong about James.” He looks up at me. “Whatever unfinished business he has with Jose, it’s going to be finished tonight. And if it’s not, then I’ll help you hide the body… because he had us both fooled.” I push my unfinished glass of wine over to Al. He smiles sadly and finishes off my wine.
As he holds his head down, clearly trying to hold it together, the band starts to play “The Way You Look Tonight.” I take my friend’s hand and pull him to a small open space on the floor. He lays his head on my shoulder and I stroke his hair while we dance, trying to comfort him knowing that it’s impossible right now.
Someday, when I’m awfully low,
When the world is cold,
I will feel a glow just thinking of you,
And the way you look tonight.
You’re lovely, with your smile so warm
And your cheeks so soft,
There is nothing for me but to love you,
And the way you look tonight.
Al buries his face in my shoulder. I pull his face back and hold it in my hands. “It’ll be okay.” I smile at him. He nods and buries his face back in my shoulder, wrapping his arms tight around me and trying so hard not to fall apart. I feel like we should probably just go back to my apartment and get lost in a bottle of tequila, but I don’t think he could bring himself to do anything right now but sway side to side like we’re doing. So I just hold my friend and let him sway.
With each word your tenderness grows,
Tearing my fears apart
And that laugh that wrinkles your nose,
Touches my foolish heart.
I’m soon very happy that we didn’t leave. I feel a gentle tap on my shoulder. I turn around and look up into the face of the gorgeous bronze god. I smile at him and raise Al’s head so that he can see the beautiful man that has come for him. He’s completely awestruck. I take James’ hand and kiss him on the cheek. Then I take my friend’s hand kiss him on the cheek while whispering in his ear, “I told you it’ll be okay.” I put his hand in James’ hand and go back to the bar. When I look back, my best friend and his boyfriend are holding each other, dancing like there’s no one else in the room.
She’s very comfortable with this guy. That’s the same guy that drove her car home on Monday night. I guess it’s safe to say that he wasn’t taking advantage of her on Monday night.
At least not unwillingly.
I sip on soda while I watch them talk and laugh easily, then the conversation appears to take a solemn turn. It’s like someone has died and she is consoling him. I can’t help but wonder what has happened in the conversation that has changed the mood so quickly. The way she’s touching him, so gently and so kind—I feel a pang of… what? Jealousy. Possessiveness? I just want her to touch me that way. Am I falling for this girl? Everything she does makes me want her.
She comes to my office to curse me out, and I want her.
She kicks the living shit out of a martial arts master, and I want her.
She’s cuddling some guy at the bar, and I want her.
I watch as she leads him to the dance floor… if you can call it that. It’s more like just a little space they chose to dance in. She’s definitely comforting him. She is so tender with him and he holds her very close to him, like she’s going to heal whatever ails him. Some guy walks up and taps her on the shoulder. It’s Flemings. What’s he doing here? Is there about to be trouble? Is he Ana’s boyfriend after all? I sit up a little in my seat waiting to see what he’s going to do.
Ana smiles widely. She’s obviously happy to see him. She’s kissing him on the cheek. I feel my fist ball a little tighter. Shit! He must be her boyfriend. There’s some kind of exchange between her and the first guy then she goes back to the bar.
What the…? Fuck me! The guys are dancing together! Fuck! Why didn’t I get that before?
An unbelievable feeling of relief flushes over me when I realize that these two want each other and neither of them want my Ana. I almost laugh out loud at my reaction to this whole thing. Thank fuck I’m not drinking anything alcoholic. This might have been one bad night, and all for nothing. I finish my soda just as I see something that makes me lose that warm and fuzzy feeling just as quickly as it came upon me.
Some guy is standing next to her at the bar just chatting her up. She’s not all giggly and girly with him, but she’s not sending him away either. They talk for a few minutes while Flemings and his boyfriend continue to spend some quality time together. After a while, he hands her a business card and walks away after placing a lingering kiss on her hand. She smiles coyly and drops the card in her purse. A little while later, Flemings and her friend come over to her and it looks like they’re all leaving.
Shit! They’re coming this way! She’s going to see me! There’s nowhere for me to fucking hide!
“How much has he had to drink, Ana?” James asks while Al is in the restroom.
“Enough to be coherent, but too much to drive.” James puts his hand on the back of his neck.
“Do you mind taking his car home tonight and we’ll pick it up tomorrow?” he asks.
“Not at all. You guys go ahead.” I want to tell him so badly that they need to talk, but I think he already knows.
“Thanks, Ana. You’re a really good friend to him.” He smiles.
“I told you… he’s my split apart. We’d be married right now… if it weren’t for that whole ‘gay’ thing.” He laughs aloud.
“Yeah, that could present a problem, couldn’t it?” I put my forefinger and thumb close together.
“Little bit!” I laugh.
“Hey, you guys are having too much fun without me,” Al announces as he comes back.
“I have a feeling that’s about to change.” I smile as I pat him on the back. “Give me your keys, Hon.” Al fishes out his keys.
“I’m sorry, Ana,” he says remorsefully.
“Are you kidding me? I had a great time having a great dinner with a great friend. I helped to heal his wounded heart and…” I reach into my purse for the business card, “… I got a number.”
“No shit?” Al’s eyes get wide.
“Yep. I’d say this was a pretty productive night and I should probably go home now while I’m still ahead!” We all have a hearty laugh.
“You ready, baby?” James says to Al. I think I actually see him blush. It’s the sweetest thing.
“Yes,” he says almost like a school girl and we head out. As we get to the door I turn around to retrieve Al’s keys.
“Did you valet, James?” I ask as we reach the night air.
“No, I’m right there.” He points to his CLS double-parked across the street.
“James, you’re lucky you didn’t get a ticket-or worse, towed!”
“It wouldn’t have mattered,” he says, looking lovingly at Al. “I had something important to do.” And again, I feel the slightest tinge of jealousy for my gay friend.
“Well, I’m going to take off and get my friend’s baby to a safe place,” I says, waving Al’s Jaguar keys. I lean in and kiss him on the cheek. “I love you bunches and bunches,” I whisper in his ear.
“I love you more,” he says, unshed tears in his eyes.
Shit, that was fucking close! I was sure she was going to look me dead in the eye! She turned around just in time or I would have been busted. When they clear the door, I leave money on the table and go to the front window to watch. They stand on the sidewalk exchanging pleasantries until Flemings and his boyfriend get in his CLS parked across the street. They wait there while the valet gets the Jaguar that Ana arrived in earlier with the first guy. She’s standing there looking like a vixen. Those heels must be six inches tall. She looks delicious in stilettos. The only time I ever saw her in anything but stilettos was today when she beat the shit out of Klevna… and those shorts made up for the stilettos. I love how her hair always seems to ride the wind in delicate brown waves. I lean against the wall and watch her get into the Jaguar and drive away.
I wish she were going home with me.
I step outside and give my ticket to the valet and wait for him to bring my car.
I look out over the sleeping city of Seattle. I’m at home now with no worry of driving, so I decide to have something a little stronger. I am hoping that the liquid going down my throat will numb the obvious unfamiliar aching in my chest. She has affected me. No matter how much I try to deny it, she has affected me. She has completely changed the routine of my nights because I lie in bed at night thinking of her. I have women falling at my feet—one woman in particular waiting for me to call her and just say the word—and I’m always thinking of her.
I look out over the sleeping city of Seattle. I’m at home now with no worry of driving, so I decide to have something a little stronger. I am hoping that the liquid going down my throat will numb the obvious familiar aching in my chest. He has affected me. No matter how much I try to deny it, he has affected me. He has completely changed the routine of my nights because I lie in bed at night thinking of him. I have men hitting on me—one man in particular waiting for me to call him and just say the word—and I’m always thinking of him.
Yes, you’re lovely, never, ever change
Keep that breathless charm
Won’t you please arrange it?
‘Cause I love you
Just the way you look tonight.
“The Sleeper has awakened.” Kyle MacLachlan, Dune (1984)
Smooth Operator by Sade
The Way You Look Tonight by Michael Buble or Frank Sinatra—whichever you prefer
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Love and Handcuffs!