There was a comment on the last chapter where someone tried to scold me for having Christian out Burt to his father. Christian didn’t out Burt. Nollie said in the previous chapter that Burt outed himself several times to his father. Freeman just refused to accept it. Christian was just twisting the knife, just like he was with Nollie. Don’t be so quick to throw something at me before you even get your information correct.
You should always get your facts straight before you try to check someone. Always!
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. If something that I say displeases you, please, just leave. If you don’t like this story or me, please don’t spoil this experience for everyone. Just go away. For the rest of you, the saga continues…
Chapter 11—The Unsinkable Greys
Nolanda and her husband took my private jet and two of my security staff along with one of her husband’s bodyguards back to Detroit with them last night to see about her mother and her brother. My staff will report back to me, but I have asked Nolanda—and she has agreed—to please keep me posted as I now have charges pending against her father as well. She called Butterfly first thing this morning in hysterical tears over the condition of her brother. She informs us that nothing could have prepared her for what she saw and that her mother told her that they didn’t want her to know, since Nell suspected that she had eloped and was probably still on her honeymoon.
This did nothing to make her feel better about the situation.
She begged her mother to let her take Burt back to California with her and Leo so that Nolanda can nurse him back to health and Nell can focus on filing for the divorce. Nell reluctantly agreed and Burt is all for leaving, indicating that he would notify the court of his new address so that he can return to testify against his father in the battery case and leave immediately. Nell took a little more convincing, saying that she needed to tie up the necessary loose ends before she leaves Michigan.
“I asked her honestly, if she plans on going back to him,” Nolanda says over the speaker phone while my wife and I are having breakfast in our bedroom.
“What did she say?” Butterfly asks.
“She said, ‘No’ and that she just doesn’t want to leave yet. She has an appointment with Melody West on Monday and needs to know the best course of action so she doesn’t fuck up.” I frown.
“Melody West… why do I know that name?”
“Probably because she was in Forbes late last year—youngest female attorney to ever be listed as one of Greater Detroit’s legal power players. She’s a shark… cutthroat and merciless. Whoever my father gets in the courtroom with her, she’s going to chew them up, spit them out, and leave them for dead. My father’s going to be lucky if he’s left with his pension, which he won’t be.”
“Have you seen your father?” I ask.
“No,” she says.
“Do you intend to see your father?” I press.
“No,” she replies, “even more now than ever, I think he’s the devil and I need to get my family away from him as quickly as possible. We’re just waiting for the doctor to give Burtie the okay to fly and whatever drugs he’ll need until we get him set up with a doctor and a plastic surgeon in Cali.”
“A plastic surgeon?” Butterfly says. “He’ll need that?”
“He might,” Nolanda says. “It looks really bad and we’ll have to see. I just want to get him out of here. Whatever he needs, we’ll pay for it. That’ll really piss my father off, but at this point, I really don’t care about him. I’m just concerned about my brother and my mother and their safety.”
“Do you think Nell is in danger?” I ask.
“I don’t know,” she admits. “I wouldn’t have thought Burtie was in danger, but look what happened.”
“We can hire her a bodyguard until she leaves,” I offer.
“Thank you, Christian. You’ve done so much already that I couldn’t dream of asking for more, but you’re right about one thing. Leo and I will hire a bodyguard for Mom until she comes to California with us. I won’t leave until I know someone’s in place to protect her. My father is off his rocker, even more so than usual to put his hands on Burtie.
“I’m telling you guys, Burtie was an ideal child. I don’t just call him Golden Boy out of spite. I’ve never seen Burtie get punished… ever, but he never stepped wrong. He’s the perfect example of what total love and encouragement can do for a child. He was encouraged to do whatever he wanted to do and be what he wanted to be and he was constantly rewarded for his achievements. He really was and is the Golden Boy. So, when I tell you that there was absolutely no reason whatsoever for my father to put his hands on Burtie, I mean that from the bottom of my heart.
“Burtie is perfect. My mother will tell you that he was never a moment’s trouble and I can attest to that. He’s every parents’ dream—he’s smart, driven, focused. He now has his Master’s in Applied Science and Engineering. Leo can’t wait until he’s back to health so he can give Burtie a job with his company. His only flaw in my father’s eyes would be that he’s gay, and my father wouldn’t accept that, so he’s probably still in denial on that one, but that wasn’t why he hit him.”
“I told him before we ended the call,” I confess. Nolanda pauses.
“All the more reason for me to get him out of here,” Nolanda says. There’s a conversation on the other end and I hear her tell someone that I spilled the beans.
“He knows,” I hear another female voice say. “Everybody knows. I just want you guys out of here as soon as possible. He’s unstable and I’m going to have to get this battle underway. It’s only going to get worse from here.”
“Serves him right,” Nolanda says. “I hope he gets just what he deserves. I’m getting you a bodyguard, Mom.”
“I don’t need a bodyguard,” she says. “I can handle your father. He won’t hit me.”
“I bet Burtie was saying the same thing right before he woke up in the hospital,” Nolanda retorts, matter-of-factly. There’s silence for a while before she speaks again. “I won’t sleep until you have protection.” Now, she sounds like me.
“Okay, Nollie,” I hear her say. “Whatever you think is best. I won’t fight it. I… wouldn’t have thought he would have done this to Burtie, either.”
Butterfly comes to Grey House with me, just to make an appearance. We go over a few things, and I still can’t help the lingering thoughts of my grandfather and the ache in my heart that appear continuously and sporadically throughout the day. My beautiful guardian is here to watch over me and can tell the moment my mood takes a downturn, even for a second.
“Tell me about this one,” she says, pointing to one of the smaller mergers GEH is considering when she sees my mood take a nose dive. She pulls a chair around my desk so that she’s sitting beside me. I play her game and start to explain the fundamentals of the deal—a small telecommunications company that will most likely be absorbed into our technology division under the original guise of a merger. It’s friendly, but will eventually become a takeover and I explain how that will happen. Her eyes shine with understanding and I find myself explaining more and more what’s going to happen once the deal is complete as well as other companies that may follow suit. We’re deep in our conversation when my phone buzzes, indicating a that I need an update from Barney on possible breaches.
“Come with me,” I say, standing from my desk and taking her hand. “I need to check on something.” She has a questioning look on her face but follows me to the elevator and I press the button to take us to Barney’s realm.
“Where are we?” she asks when we exit the elevator.
“After the severity of that last breach, we’ve taken extra precautions to protect our mainframe. Very few people have access to this floor. You’re one of them.” She nods.
“Okay,” she says as she quietly follows me to the IT area. Barney is somewhat surprised to see me, or maybe he’s surprised to see Butterfly. Either way, he’s surprised.
“Sir,” he says, straightening when we walk into his area. “I didn’t expect you. Come in. Mrs. Grey,” he says with a nod. Butterfly nods back.
“Barney, it’s good to see you again.” She leans in to him. “And call me Ana when nobody’s around.” She winks and he smiles. Stop flirting with the staff, love.
“I was trying to get an update on that assignment I gave you,” I say.
“No update,” he says. “It’s complete. I was going to come and see you this afternoon. We’re clean, sir, clean as a whistle.”
“We’re clean?” I ask. He nods.
“There’s nothing, sir. Nothing else at all. I had James double-check everything I concluded and I double-checked, too. We’ve been clean since the unspeakable breach.” I nod.
“Has Alex been made aware of this?” I ask. He nods.
“Alex got the transcripts from the case to go over that woman’s testimony—where you were saying that she knew things she shouldn’t have known? Everything she said, mentioned, alluded to, whatever, in that case occurred before the red-headed carrier pigeon was shot out of the sky. We’ve all come to the same conclusion that he was her informant—either directly or indirectly—and if there was a third party involved, it had to be the brunette from the condo. We’ve got lines on all your past…” He looks over at Butterfly.
“Companions,” she says, after a pause. He clears his throat.
“Yes… companions,” he confirms. “Alex will have a report for you, but nothing indicates that they have any information or could have been feeding anything to her. Some of them were still… employed by her, but only until she was arrested the first time and then they jumped ship when the money ran dry. The ones that stuck around were the ones that still had… assignments and were required to give her a cut. That’s how she survived for a while between arrests. Once she was caught and denied bail, her well ran dry. Like I said, Alex can give you details and I’m sure they’re looking more closely into the dealings of one or two of them, but not because we think they have any dealings with information breaches or GEH at all.”
“But something somebody found is giving us cause for concern,” I say.
“Again, Alex could tell you more accurately than I could.”
“Then why isn’t he here?” I demand.
“I didn’t know that you were coming down here, sir, so I’m sure that he didn’t either.” I sigh and nod.
“Fine, I’ll go up there now, unless there’s something else that you need to tell me.” Barney shakes his head.
“Nope, you’re all caught up,” he says. I grab Butterfly’s hand and head down the hall. She follows quietly until we get to the elevator.
“Why don’t you go see Alex alone?” she says as I push the button to call the elevator. “I don’t think I need to be present for this meeting.” I examine her closely.
“You know I have nothing to hide from you,” I tell her.
“Yes,” she says with a nod, “and because of that, you also have nothing to prove to me. Go and see what Alex has to say and if there’s anything pertinent that I need to know, you’ll tell me.” I examine her again and deduce that she would just rather not be introduced to my past all at one time. I pull her into my arms and into the elevator as it closes. A short make-out session ensues with soft kissing and gentle tasting of one another.
“Where will you be?” I ask her.
“I want to go down to quality control,” she says. “Something you mentioned about that telecommunications company didn’t jive well with the report you showed me on their quality results. I just want to see how we measure based on how the company measures their standards right now.” I raise my eyebrows.
“Very well, Mrs. Grey. His name is Rollins… the head of quality control. Lunch in my office?” she smiles.
“I’ll see you then.”
Butterfly was right to avoid meeting with Alex with me. I find myself following the horrific parade of my past before my eyes.
They were all beautiful women—gorgeous, in fact. I had a knack for attracting some of the most beautiful women in the world, women who shared my interests and wanted the same thing I wanted…
An intense BDSM relationship in complete secrecy and a hard, hot fuck every weekend… maybe two or three hard, hot fucks.
Some of them wanted more. Then, they suddenly weren’t the most beautiful women in the world. They became snarling monsters hell-bent or taming me or destroying me. That’s what I saw. That’s why I could never give them more. I always thought that it might have been fear—fear of attachment, to be precise. But now, I know that’s not what it was. Although each one of these women are physically striking, achingly beautiful, to me they each look like death and destruction, the end of life as I knew it. That’s why I couldn’t be with them. If they loved me, they would eventually hurt me, or leave me, or take everything I own… somehow become a woman scorned and destroy my empire, something. But no matter what, loving any one of these women would have been the death of me. I knew it then and I know it now. No wonder some of them lost their fucking minds when they found out that I fell in love with Butterfly.
Inoa Kekaula… my first contracted submissive after Elena and training. She was beautiful, a Samoan girl—exotic and shapely, and I was soon to find out not what I wanted at all. That contract ended very quickly.
Raquel Zorita… spicy, young, and Latin, and sexy as fuck! We lasted for quite some time. She was a bit psycho, a pain whore, and she could take whatever I dished out. I fucking loved it. She was perfect and I would have kept that contract forever, but it turned out that I became routine to her and she wanted to move on. Who would have thought I would have found someone more sadistic than I was… besides the psychopath who trained me, that is?
Arianna Wells… typical contract, but wanted more after the trial period. She only lasted the three months.
Summer Austin… not necessarily a pain whore, but she could take a good flogging and a hard anal. She lasted for quite some time, too. I can’t quite remember why we parted ways.
Ericka Lawson… she was about the closest to a relationship I ever came. She lasted for years and then one day, she just broke the contract. She admitted that she was falling in love with me and knew that she couldn’t have me, so she just went away quietly. I was a little remiss to see her go. She was everything I wanted in a submissive… everything, but there was no way in hell that I could give her any more than the Saturday beating and fucking, besides the material things, of course. She admitted that it wasn’t enough for her, but that she couldn’t be around me anymore. She would only fall harder. She was a true professional.
Charity Robinson, Priscilla Barnett, Tabitha Morgan, Sarah Bradley… all your standard submissives. Charity and Priscilla wanted more, but didn’t really care if they got it from me or not. They just wanted a more relationship. When I couldn’t give it to them, they ended the contract and went in search of more permanent Doms. Tabitha was reckless. I ended our contract because she wouldn’t abide by my rules of taking care of herself. Sarah just outlived her contract. I got bored.
Natasha Gaines… tall, German, not a natural brunette I found out when she missed a waxing and the drapes didn’t match the carpeting. I couldn’t get past it. Blondes are a deal-breaker.
Shawn Gibson… the sub that showed up at Amanda and Ray’s baby shower. She wanted more, too—again, not necessarily from me, but she wanted a 24/7 D/s relationship and I didn’t. I was just fill-in until she found what she wanted. I didn’t appreciate the fact that she was unfaithful to me, looking for a full-time Dominant while still under contract with me. The Dom that eventually followed me got a real earful when I found out that he was playing with her on my contract. He ended up being banned from the exclusive parties and if I understand correctly, Shawn ultimately chose and married someone else.
Cassie Hamilton… Cassie fucking Hamilton, the bitch that tried to out me with my wife—then, fiancée. Her big mouth was the very reason that I ended our contract. She was beautiful and a great submissive, but she was too cocky, and I’m the only cocky motherfucker in a D/s relationship. So, that was a definite no-go.
Miriana Rucker, Lena Jakes, Naomi Adams, and Greta Ellison… my last four submissives or in Greta’s case, submissive wannabes, and all four landed in the “Almost Doesn’t Count” in some way or another. This was the time when Elena started to get sloppy—when she had that Francesca bitch in my company, feeding her information. These women were all duds… either too clingy, disobedient, or untrustworthy, all of them.
So, where are they now? That’s the million-dollar question.
Inoa is free agent. She currently has a Dom and could give a fuck less about me and my wife.
Raquel became a Domme about a year after our contract ended. That’s what she should have been in the first place. Even then, she had the ability to bring a man to his knees—if he allowed her. Of course, I wouldn’t. She’s found her calling, though.
Adrianna is happily married, along with Charity, Priscilla, and Shawn, of course.
Summer, Sarah, and Miriana all still worked for Elena until she was arrested for attempted murder. Now, they are all free agents, still doing interim contracts or looking for Doms—none of them causes for concern.
Tabitha, Lena, and Naomi… or I should say Vernetta… are all dead. Tabitha died of breast cancer. Lena was drinking and driving and drove her car into a brick wall and Naomi… yeah, she tried to kill my wife.
Cassie Hamilton is still stuck in obscurity, trying to piece her life back together, but still staying as far away from me as she can.
So, the two that are causing Alex and Jason concern are Ericka Lawson and Natasha Gaines. These two fell off the grid a while back—Ericka several years ago and Natasha several months ago. Jason swears that he told me, but for the life of me, I don’t remember. I’ve told him and Alex to concentrate their efforts on finding these women. In the meantime, Alex has managed to secure a time to meet Ms. Ellison, but not a place. She’ll meet with me tomorrow evening, but I need to secure the locale. Before I dare meet with this cunt, I need to talk to Butterfly.
I find Mr. Rollins in the back of the Research and Development department. Since his department is on another floor and I literally had to search for him, I’m curious as to why he’s in this area. I’ll get around to squeezing the answer out of him in comfortable conversation.
“What are we working on?” I ask as I approach a table with him and two other gentlemen. They’re mulling over the plans for some electronic piece of something, and I’m hoping it’s the transistor from the merger that Christian was talking to me about earlier. They all do a double-take when I approach the table and await a response.
“Mrs. Grey, hello,” Mr. Rollins says, more than a small bit surprised. “Are you lost?” I try not to glare at him.
“Why? Do I look lost?” I say, effectively hiding my ire.
“No ma’am, I just… wouldn’t know why you would be down here in R&D,” he says, attempting and failing to clean up his statement. Dear Lord, I’m trying not to bring the Tiger Lady out.
“I see,” I say, folding my arms. “In that case, wouldn’t you think ‘How can I help you’ or ‘What can I do for you’ might be a better greeting than ‘Are you lost?’” He straightens his tie and clears his throat.
“I apologize, Mrs. Grey,” he says. “What can I help you with?”
“I’m actually looking for you,” I say, the other two gentlemen still eyeing my like Winkin’ and Blinkin’. “I’m curious of what you think about the XRC90 transmitter from Waymark Industries.”
“In what terms?” he asks.
“Well, do you think it’s feasible breakthrough technology or is it just another transmitter?” I clarify. He rubs his chin, pondering.
“I think it has potential,” he says… and nothing else.
“Be more specific, please,” I press. He raises his eyebrows.
“Uh, in what way?” He’s acting like I’m taking up his time. What the hell? Just answer my question.
“In what way can this product be profitable for GEH in a manner that would mean that we would acquire more than just another electronics division?” I ask, trying not to get irritated with this man. “My husband can buy a building, hire some people, throw in some equipment, and have his own additional electronics division built from scratch for much less than it would cost to acquire Waymark Industries. Is this mini-miracle creation going to solidify GEH’s position as a techo-leader or is this just another pretty toy with lots of lights and buttons that’s going to cost us a lot of money? If this is the next big thing, how did you come to that conclusion?”
This fucker almost rolls his eyes at me, and he doesn’t think I caught it.
“There’s no such thing as a fix-all when it comes to technology, Mrs. Grey,” he says with an undertone of impatience. “These decisions are very intricate…” and as soon as he goes into a spiel of completely unnecessary garbage in an attempt to avoid the question, I put my hand up to silence him.
“Mr. Rollins, have you ever heard of a product called Vip?” I ask, folding my arms again. He furrows his brow.
“No, I can’t say that I have,” he answers curiously. I nod.
“Well, I can almost guarantee you that Mr. Grey has,” I tell him. “He’s a fan of old movies. He used to watch them with his mother all the time. Vip is an imaginary product—well, not-so-imaginary—from a movie in the 60’s called Lover Come Back. In short terms, an ad exec was forced to come up with a product that he mistakenly advertised, even though the product didn’t exist. By the end of the movie, his genius scientist created Vip, a delicious, harmless-looking candy that several people consumed by the handfuls. What the scientist didn’t reveal was that each piece of candy had the alcoholic potency of a triple martini.”
The two men from R&D are looking at each other and back at Mr. Rollins with puzzled mirth while I continue my story.
“Needless to say, Vip caused all kinds of mayhem in adult hands, so there was no telling what kind of hell would have ensued in a child’s hand. Several bad decisions were made and ultimately, high-level individuals from the alcohol industry bargained to have the menacing candy shelved for an extreme amount of money. So, even though the ad exec and the scientist made out like bandits, Vip was basically useless.
“By today’s standards, a product that volatile wouldn’t have even made it into advertising. Of course, the entire comedy of the story was that the commercial wasn’t supposed to air in the first place. The product was accidentally hyped before it was even created or tested. It’s guinea pigs turned out to be a bunch of stuffy executives from the ad council who all ended up making bad decisions under its influence. With today’s technologies, certain precautions are in place to prevent that kind of thing—such as Research and Development,” I say gesturing to the two gentlemen who remain unintroduced, “Marketing, who would test supply and demand patterns, and quality control…” I now gesture toward Rollins.
“The findings don’t jar, and I think you may agree with me since the three of you were examining the schematics for the XRC90 when I walked in.” I take an educated guess on the plans they were reading and, when no objections are raised, I know I’m correct.
“Yes, there are some inconsistencies,” Rollins says. “And yes, we are reviewing the plans to see if we can locate those inconsistencies.”
“Good, then it appears that we’re on the same page,” I declare. “As quality control, you would be the first to pinpoint if the technology is what it claims to be. A new set of tests would be the perfect gauge of that information.” His brow furrows deeply.
“Why would we perform a whole new set of tests?” Rollins asks. “We have the results on the technology’s accuracy. I hardly see the use in doing this all over again.”
“Because the benchmarks used to measure the performance and effectiveness of the transmitter were a bit skewed to begin with—or at least, it appears that way to the naked eye—the evaluation of statistically significant variations may have produced misleading results. I can’t tell on first glance if this is an honest mistake made in haste or a deliberate act to make underdeveloped and flawed technology appear more attractive to potential buyers. You see something askew and you can’t pinpoint it. Neither can I, that’s why I’m here. Hopefully I don’t need to remind you of the bullet we dodged that was the fiasco of Fairlane, LLC last year.”
I now have the undivided attention of all three men. I stamp down that initial “little lady” feeling and await a response.
“I see what you’re getting at,” Mr. Rollins says, “but what do you suggest we do? We’ve reviewed the data collected about the technology as well as the findings on the market testing.”
“Whose findings?” I ask. “Waymark? They’re trying to make a deal. Have you done any of your own hypothesis testing? Did you pay attention to the product’s statistical graph? That thing is skewed way to the high right and nobody found this strange for a company that appears to be failing? This company should be releasing news flashes; stock should be on the rise; this company should be on the exact opposite end of the spectrum with an up-and-coming breakthrough technology like this one is being promoted to be, and everybody’s just waving their hands around going ‘look what we found?’
“You’re in the perfect place with the perfect people to run tests that were not handed to you by Waymark and evaluate fresh statistical data to come up with a p-value that has a level of marginal significance that represents the true probability of the results occurring that we found on that graph. You’ll either prove or disprove those findings and either way, that information is invaluable.” I point to the blueprint of the transmitter we’re speaking of. “You have the plans there. There’s nothing to stop you from building one and trying to reproduce the great results Waymark claims to have had… or are you waiting for the product to come to you so that you can pull it apart and tinker with it to see what makes it tick?”
The look of awe on their faces as I break down the quality control process is priceless, but not as priceless as the nervousness that replaces those looks when I realize that I’ve hit the nail on the head. Oh, fuck, this will never work. I lean on the table and hold my head down.
“Gentlemen,” I say after releasing a long, exasperated sigh. “Mr. Grey has to keep his eye on a lot of tiny details related to the bottom line. In order for this company to stay afloat and be as successful at it has been in the past decade, he depends heavily on your professional expertise in situations like this. None of us can afford to play guessing games with a technology that stands to make or break the value of a company that he intends to purchase. I don’t need to tell you how detrimental this situation really is and I can assure you that there will be no happy endings like the one in the movie if the XRC90 transmitter turns out to be Vip.”
The two members of R&D—whom I still don’t know—start whispering and nodding to one another while Rollins rubs the back of his head as if trying to find a way to explain to me why he still can’t do the testing. Fine, let’s try this a different way.
“You’re to begin immediate construction of the XRC90 transmitter,” I’ll tell him. “Make ten of them exactly to schematic. That shouldn’t take long with GEH’s information technology and production capabilities. Once they’re complete, begin immediate hypothesis testing—a different variable on each prototype. We won’t commence our own market research until we get the statistical data from the new testing.” I wait.
“Mrs. Grey, that could take quite some time,” Mr. Rollins protests. I frown.
“You were going to perform some kind of testing on this thing before you allowed Mr. Grey to purchase this company, weren’t you?” My arms are folded again.
“Well, yes… once we received the prototype from Waymark,” he replies haughtily.
“And how long have you been waiting?” I ask. They look at one another, but no one comes up with a solid answer. Too long… I gesture to the schematic. “Why would you wait for the prototype to come from the company when you have the plans here to build one yourself?” I inquire. I’m beginning to lose my patience. “I realize that a lot of what goes on in your department is way over my head, but this is not rocket science. Build the prototype and test it. This way, we have hands-on results to hand to the executive team when it’s time to negotiate terms.” He sighs.
“I’ll do what I can, Mrs. Grey,” he replies. My teeth grind in my mouth.
“That’s not a suggestion, Mr. Rollins,” I say firmly. His eyes pierce at me through his glasses.
“Have you run this by Mr. Grey at all?” he says it in a tone that sounds more like “Have you asked your father?”
Now… I’m mad.
I take a page from Christian Grey’s book of Don’t Fuck With Me and change my stance—feet shoulder length apart, hands clasped in front of me, head cocked slightly to the side, my blue gaze piercing and trained on his ass. I wait for a moment for the pose to sink it. It has the desired effect on all three men.
“I’m fifty percent owner of this company,” I say, my voice firm and low. “So, you tell me, Mr. Rollins… do I need permission?” Once again, he tries and fails hide his discomfort.
“I’m… I wasn’t…” he stammers.
“I’m not interested,” I cut him off. “Start immediate production of the prototypes. The sooner they’re complete, the sooner the testing can begin. Any questions?” He clears his throat. He seems more perturbed than nervous now.
“No, ma’am,” he says pointedly. I take note of his ire, then ignore it before turning to the two members of R&D. “Who are you?” They straighten immediately and introduce themselves.
“I’m Nathan Burgess, ma’am,” the first says.
“And I’m Paul Hammock, Mrs. Grey,” the second says. I nod before turning back to Rollins.
“Mr. Rollins,” I say garnering his attention, “I’m going to assume that you’re so fantastic at your job and that you spend countless hours perfecting your skill and tweaking your department.” He sees the sarcasm in that statement before I even get to the punchline. “To that end, I assume that’s reason you have such deplorable social skills.” I hiss. His brown eyes pierce at me as I continue.
“Not only was your initial greeting to me inexcusably condescending, but you must clearly be unaware that if someone comes into your presence—especially one of your bosses—and you are speaking to two other people, you assume that he or she doesn’t know these people and you properly introduce them. It’s Etiquette 101… even more so in business!” I allow my glare to linger on him before turning to the other two gentlemen.
“Mr. Burgess, Mr. Hammock.” I give a tight nod before leaving the area.
I stop at the restroom and take a few moments to stamp down my anger at the idiot in quality control and to touch up my lipstick before I meet my husband back in his office for lunch. I’m pleased to see chicken kabobs and bruschetta from my favorite deli, but not so pleased to see my husband.
“You look a fright,” I say when I enter his office and close the door behind me.
“Let’s just say that the trip down Memory Lane wasn’t all that fun,” he says, running his hands through his hair. “I was a really fucked-up motherfucker.” I walk over to his desk and sit in his lap.
“But you aren’t anymore,” I say, stroking his hair.
“Only because of you,” he says, brushing his lips against my cheek and slipping his arms around my waist.
“And you,” I breathe. “You had to want it, Christian. How many of those women wanted the same thing I did, but you didn’t want it with them?” He kisses me deeply until I feel butterflies in my stomach.
“You know you saved me… don’t you?” he says, breathless, his forehead against mine. I nod.
“You saved me, too,” I breathe, my eyes closed, inhaling his essence. His lips close over mine as his tongue requests entry. I part my lips and his tongue slides leisurely through my mouth, his hand gently caressing my cheek and chin. His touch sends instant sparks through my body and I suddenly can’t remember the last time we made love… was it Friday? Saturday? Christian and I rarely ever go an entire week without having sex at least once unless something is ghastly wrong.
I guess losing Pops would definitely fall into the “ghastly wrong” category.
I melt into his touch and his kiss, wanting so badly for him to make love to me. We’ve done it before in this office, but for some reason, I’m feeling that today won’t be the day for that. I cross my legs under the guise of getting comfortable in his lap, but more so that the burning wetness in my crotch doesn’t seep through my pants. Our lips part with a soft “smack” and my husband gazes down at me with love and reverence, still caressing my cheek. I try to match his gaze, but know that I inject a small amount of lust into mine.
“Are you hungry?” he asked softly. Ravenous! Not necessarily for food, but I know what he means.
“I could definitely eat,” I say softly. He pecks me gently on the lips, then helps me stand from his lap. We go over to the small dining table that he has in his office and he serves me up chicken kabobs with pita bread and hummus and delicious bruschetta with cranberry spritzers that he makes themselves.
“So, how did your visit to quality go?” he asks. Should I tell him that Rollins was a real asshole? I don’t think so. I’d like to think I can handle some things without him always having to come to my rescue.
“It was pretty routine,” I say with a shrug, downplaying the disastrous meeting as much as I can. “He was in R&D and they were already looking at the schematics when I got there.” That’s part was true.
“So, he agreed with you that there may be inconsistencies?” Christian asks, taking a mouthful of chicken and vegetables.
“He did notice some discrepancies, yes,” I respond. “It should be as simple as just running a few tests of our own and comparing the results.” I don’t include that the fucker gave me a hard time and I had to basically order him to run the tests.
“That’s good,” he says, after swallowing his food. “You’re quite the asset, Mrs. Grey. I only barely discussed that merger with you and you pinpointed a potential problem in no time flat. I may have to bring you to the office more often.” He smiles impishly.
“It’s just the analytical eye,” I protest mirthfully. “I don’t want to change careers any time soon, Mr. Grey. Besides, we both know that we would never get any work done if I was here all day.” He reaches across the table strokes my hand with his fingertip. Fuck! It’s making me hot all over again.
“This is true,” he says, his voice low and sensual. “My sleeping quarters back there is almost finished. It should be about another week.” My core tightens at the thought of fucking him right before one of his department head meetings.
“Hmmm, we could get up to some real mischief in there,” I say, suggestively wagging my eyebrows.
“Yes… we could,” he says, matching my suggestive glance. I sigh heavily and know that I have to detour this conversation or there’s going to be a wet spot in this chair.
“So,” I say, loading my fork with more chicken and vegetables, “without going into too much detail, tell me the results of your meeting with Alex.” He sighs heavily.
“I may have to give you more detail than you expected,” he says. “We’ve identified the person who entered your apartment and stole your gun as Greta Ellison.”
Greta Ellison. I’m trying to place the name, but I don’t remember it. She had to be someone from his past, but I’m supposed to know who she is… Then, it hits me. Greta Ellison was that bitch that served herself up to Christian right in the middle of the Marketplace with her tits spilling out of her goddamn blouse like two puppies about to escape from a leash! She was so unbelievably disrespectful that I wanted to claw her eyes out right there in the Public Market for everyone to see. Women have ogled him before with no regard for me, but she was blatantly discourteous—coming on to my man while I was standing right there. I never forgot that.
And there goes my appetite.
“I see,” I reply. “And has she been arrested?” I ask.
“No,” he says, after a pause. “We can’t have her arrested because we can’t directly place her in the apartment, just at the apartment complex, but process of elimination and following the tapes lets us know that she definitely got the key from someone who aided her entry and escape…”
He spends the next few minutes explaining to me how he and his team deduced that this sub-bitch-wannabe entered the condos in disguise and left as her slutty little self, thereby drawing little attention to herself as the person who broke into my apartment. We had all been so focused on my apartment throughout the course of the investigation that we didn’t focus on the complex or parking garage until after the fact. Even so, one person arrived, but a different person left. And only a trained eye would have thought to put together the situation with the cars.
“So, she was Elena’s little helper then,” I say, anger building up inside me almost faster than I can tame it. I take a long swallow of my cranberry spritzer to try to abate the adrenaline rush.
“Yes,” he says. “We think she knows a lot more than we thought, and we’re certain that she was Elena’s puppet throughout all of this.” I sigh heavily. The adrenaline is starting to win.
“So, what now?” I hiss. “The bitch just gets away with stealing my gun—a blatant crime and an accessory—because we can’t prove that she was in my apartment?” My fists clench on the table and the angry tears start to fall unbidden down my cheek.
“Butterfly,” Christian’s hand envelops my fist. “Please, don’t cry. She won’t get away with this. Don’t be upset…”
“I’m not upset I’m pissed!” I say all in one breath. “It’s the adrenaline. So, tell me… what now?” I nearly demand. He pauses again.
“She’s agreed to meet with me.” I raise incredulous eyes to his.
“What?” I nearly bark. “Why the fuck would you want to see her?” I wail.
“To confront her!” he says, forcefully. “You should want to confront her, too. You were wronged by her, too.”
“I want to do a whole fucking lot more than confront that bitch!” I seethe.
“You’ll get your chance,” he replies. “You’re coming with me.”
The red I was seeing moments ago slowly dies to the a blue-green kind of angry haze, like fire at the base of the flame. I’m still pissed, but not as much as I try to process the words that just came from his mouth.
“I’m going with you…” It’s a statement, not a question. He nods.
“There’s no fucking way I’d meet that woman alone, but she has to think I am. I need some information and I need to make a point.”
“Where’s the meeting?” I ask. “What could possibly be a convenient place to meet this bitch? Escala?” He ponders the thought, I can tell.
“No,” he says, “Way too intimate and too many opportunities to fuck up.”
“Where, then… a restaurant?” I suggest, tears still falling down my cheeks.
“Too public. The paps would have a field day with that one even if you are there.”
“A bar? A club?” I keep suggesting. He shakes his head again.
“Better, but still too out in the open. Cell phone cameras and such…”
“A BDSM club,” I say finally. His eyebrows rise.
“Yes,” he says, after a pause. “A semi-private club… they still protect your privacy, but I wouldn’t want to bring that riff-raff to any of the exclusive clubs where I retain membership.” I frown.
“You still have membership at the exclusive clubs?” He shrugs.
“It never goes away with some of the clubs,” he says. “You become known in certain circles and it just follows you.” I nod. I’m not 100% comfortable with this concept, but I can’t let it bother me right now.
“Please stop crying,” he says as he rises out of his seat. I had forgotten that I was still crying. It’s a physical response, not an emotional one, and until my blood pressure comes down, the tears are going to continue to fall.
“I’m pissed off, that’s all,” I protest as he tugs my hand to pull me out of the seat. “There’s nothing wrong,”
“There is,” he says, pulling my body against his. “You’re feeling like this and you’re crying. You can’t tell me there’s nothing wrong with you when I see you crying.”
“You know me, Christian,” I say, my voice deflating and he gently kisses each eyelid. “I’ll be fine. I just need to calm down.”
“Mm-hmm,” he says as he cups my face and gently kisses my temples, my cheeks, my earlobes and neck…
“Christian,” I protest weakly as I start to feel the fire rise in my core again.
“Hmm?” he says as his lips continue to caress my skin. He’s not doing anything overtly sexual. It’s just his mouth on me, making me want him like it always does. I swallow hard as my body becomes putty in his hands. His mouth finally travels around to mine and he sensually molds his lips to my lips. I’m going to combust.
“My favorite part is also my least favorite part,” he says before kissing me again. “Your lips are always so soft and kissable when you’ve been crying… but you have to cry for them to be that soft.” He kisses me again, oh so gently. “I’d rather you not…”
“I’d rather not,” I breathe as he continues to taste my lips and I savor his tasting. God, this man does such things to me—emotional things, sexual things… There’s nothing in the world I wouldn’t do for him… except give him up. “Kiss me again.”
His lips mold to mine again and his hands travel to my back, pressing me hard against him even though his lips and tongue are a gentle massage. I moan into his mouth and he rewards me with a moan of his own. He breaks the kiss and hovers his mouth just above mine, our lips breaths apart.
“I met her the same time that I met you,” he says, his voice thick with longing. “She didn’t stand a chance.”
He brings his lips down to mine again, molding and tasting, and I push my fingers into his hair. He groans and I can see him in my mind’s eye clearing his desk so that we can fuck. I want him so badly, I could just scream…
“Mr. Grey?” Andrea’s voice floats through the room after a short beep from the phone. Christian groans his displeasure.
“Yes?” he calls into the air, between kissing me.
“You and Mr. Fineman have the meeting with Bernhardt in conference room three in fifteen, and some of the department heads are hoping to catch a moment if you have it this afternoon.” Christian continues molding his lips to mine, but breaks only momentarily to answer his assistant.
“Fine. I’ll need you or Luma for the meeting and pencil in whoever is trying to see me right after. Fifteen minutes each.”
“Yes, sir.” His lips are back on mine before the intercom dies.
“You’re irresistible,” he breathes when our lips part again. “You’ll drive a man insane. I’m damn-near out of my mind as we speak.” His hand slides up my body and possessively slides around the side of my neck as he kisses me again.
“You must know that you have the same effect on women… on me…” I whisper against his lips. “Look at the lengths they go through to get you when they never even had you… but you’re mine!” I breathe possessively.
“Damn straight!” His kiss isn’t gentle this time. It’s searing and bruising and I swear I nearly come from its intensity.
“Go run your empire, Mr. Grey,” I say, my legs wobbly as he holds me against him.
“You didn’t finish your lunch,” he protests softly.
“I’ll be fine,” I say. “My stomach is nervous, as you can imagine. If I get hungry, I’ll get a snack. Otherwise, I’ll see you at dinner, my love.” He kisses me gently again.
“Go shopping,” he says. “Get something forbidden, provocative for tomorrow night. I want you hot and delicious and making every man jealous of me when we walk into that club tomorrow night. I want that spiteful bitch to have no fucking doubt that she’s got nothing on you. Vamp hair, vamp lips… I want you fucking delectable tomorrow, and I want you to feel it and know it. Do you understand?”
“Completely,” I respond. It’s time to visit the fetish shop.
“You’ll be meeting Ms. Ellison at Jagged tomorrow night, sir,” Jason tells me when I’ve completed the meeting with Lorenz and Bernhardt. Good. I hope Butterfly finds something tantalizing and dangerous to wear tomorrow. I know she wanted to fuck at lunch time. She crossed her legs several times and it could smell her arousal even if I had been in another room. I’m not so sure that it was a good idea to send her out into the world that way, not because I think she’d find satisfaction elsewhere, but because if I could smell her, I know some other horny bastard can as well.
I want her primal tomorrow, though, so I intend to make her wait. That’s going to be hard for me as I want her as much as she wants me. I don’t want her to be afraid to pick something particular risqué to wear. I don’t want her to be safe—I want her to be decadent.
After meeting with three of the department heads about projects they have on the table or input on procedures, my last meeting is with Rollins from quality control. I remember Butterfly telling me that she instructed him to test the XRC90 transmitter earlier this morning. I’m certain the tests can’t be complete already.
“Thank you for seeing me on such short notice, Mr. Grey,” Rollins says as he strolls into the room. I hadn’t noticed how short he was before now. That could also be because he’s usually sitting when we meet and I rarely meet with him one-on-one.
“Your meeting, Mr. Rollins,” I say as I take the seat behind my desk.
“Yes, sir, it’s about the XRC90 transmitter…” I know that. Get to the point. “An idea is on the table to replicate the transmitter in our factory and conduct a separate set of hypothesis testing on the product.”
And…? I’m waiting for the point here.
“I just want to know how you feel about it, Mr. Grey.” How I feel about it? What the fuck does he mean how I feel about it? I frown, showing my confusion.
“I don’t get where you’re going with this,” I say, folding my arms.
“It’s just that… there’s a dollar value involved in replicating the technology before we have the actual prototype in hand from the original manufacturer, not to mention the man-hours involved in the duplicate testing.”
I still don’t see where he’s going with this. Butterfly told him to build the prototypes and do the testing. Now, he’s standing here in my office asking me if he should build the prototypes, which means he hasn’t even gotten started on it yet. Why the fuck is he in my office instead of building the goddamn prototypes? This entire deal is hinging on whether these things do what they say they can do or not.
“Where did this idea come from?” I ask. “How was this course of action brought to your attention?” I already know; I just want his sneaky, sniveling ass to tell me.
“Well, Mrs. Grey suggested that we rebuild the prototype and rerun all the hypothesis testing already performed by Waymark Industries. You know that they have an open book/open door policy. We can review any of their documentation and procedures. They have no reason to hide anything from us.” Yeah, just like Fairlane had no reason to hide anything. My blood turns cold
“Did Mrs. Grey say why she wanted you to build the prototype and run the tests?” I ask, impassively.
“She said that the graph of the test findings showed that the product performed extremely well in test markets and in quality control testing and wanted to rerun the tests to confirm or disprove the results.” He chuckles and I see absolutely nothing funny. “She compared the transmitter to something called Vip,” he says with mirth. Yeah, Rock Hudson, Doris Day, disastrous alcohol candy. I look down at my laptop and the graph Butterfly saw when I was describing the merger/acquisition and the XRC90 transmitter. She’s right. That graph portrays a product that could save the company, which means a merger would actually be against their interest. I saw the graph, but I have other analysts to determine the profitability of the products. I’m focused on the profitability of the company as a whole.
There’s some kind of hidden meaning here and Butterfly picked up on it. She acted promptly on it and asked for more data—as the analysts would have ultimately done when they got to this part of the project—and this fucker is up here asking me questions and wasting time instead of doing what my wife and business partner instructed him to do. Mommy told you to do something, so you go ask Daddy if you really have to do it…
Oh, fuck. That’s exactly what he’s doing. Fucking hell. Nothing she said got through to these fuckers. My actions must be swift and sure.
“Mr. Rollins, do you know that Mrs. Grey graduated with a minor in business finance?” I say without raising my eyes to him.
“Uh… no, sir, I didn’t,” he says, uncertain. I nod.
“You can go now.” I can almost hear his frown in the room.
“Well, what should I do, Mr. Grey?” he asks. I laugh inwardly as I raise my eyes to his.
“That’s a good question, Mr. Rollins,” I say, and nothing else. He stands there for about ten more seconds before he finally realizes that the meeting is over. I wait for a minute or two before I call out to Andrea.
“Send an emergency appointment to each department head and assistant department head that we will be having a meeting at…” I look at my watch. “… Four thirty this afternoon. Attendance is mandatory, even if they’ve already left the building. If they’re not in the Cayman Islands somewhere or laid up in the hospital, I expect them to be at this meeting. Call Mrs. Grey. Tell her that it’s imperative that she be present as well. The meeting will be downstairs on the twelfth floor in the Baldor Conference Room, if it’s available.”
“Yes, sir,” she says without pausing. I end the call.
“My apologies for my rudeness, everyone.” Butterfly says. “I didn’t know there was a meeting today.” She breezes into the conference room ten minutes late for the meeting looking flawless in a House of Fraser blue-gray three-pocket, two-button Corsivo men’s suit. That body makes that suit look illegal and no man anywhere would dare try to make it look as good as she does with plain black pumps and a dress shirt with two buttons open… and that’s not what she was wearing when she left three hours ago.
“There wasn’t,” I say, rising from my seat along with every other man who wasn’t already standing. Her hair is straight now, two, when earlier, it was curly. We’ll have to discuss that later.
“Please, sit,” I say, gesturing to the chair next to me. She sits and I remain standing and get right down to business.
“In recent months, I’ve learned to temper a bit of fairness with my iron fist. I’m sure some you have seen it, even if you don’t admit it.” There are various murmurings around the room. “My wife can be quite ruthless when she needs to, I’ve seen it, but I’m sure that she’s going to feel that this is one of those moments where I’m not being fair.” I don’t even turn my gaze to Butterfly. I know her gaze is upon me, wondering what the hell I’m talking about. I’m about to prove a point. GEH is about to have its first sacrificial lamb.
“Rollins, stand up.” Rollins slowly makes his way to his feet, his gaze uncertain. “You’re fired.”
There are gasps around the room and everyone sits as still as statues, eyes either on me or on Rollins.
“S… sir?” he says uncertainly, like he knows that he couldn’t have heard what he just heard.
“Yes, you heard me correctly. You’re fired.” I turn my gaze down to my wife, who is staring directly at me gaped mouth. “Dr. Grey, is there something you would like to say?”
Her brow furrowed, her mouth open, her eyes relaying nothing but sheer horror, she has several false starts before she finally delivers an uncertain, “No.”
“You’re half-owner of this company. If you have certain feelings or opinions, you have a right to express them,” I urge her. Her gaze swivels from Rollins to me a few times, her expression screaming what the hell just happened. Say it, Butterfly. It won’t make an impact if you don’t tell them.
“I just…” She gestures to Rollins. “I don’t mean to undermine your authority, Mr. Grey, not that I could,” she proceeds cautiously, “but you know that I asked Mr. Rollins to perform some additional quality control testing in one of the technologies we stand to acquire in the Waymark deal. I felt the test were necessary based on our earlier discussion about the condition of the company and its possible profitability. I felt that additional testing would reinforce or dispel the original findings, thereby delivering more succinct and usable findings to improve the end-result. If there was a problem with this theory or testing, that’s my fault, Christian, not his.”
And there it is. Thank you, Butterfly.
“There’s no problem with the testing, Dr. Grey,” I say and her brow furrows again. “He never implemented it. He never even started production of the prototype.” To her bewildered expression, I say, “Rollins came to me this afternoon questioning your instructions.”
“This afternoon…” she repeated as if testing the phrase.
“Yes, this afternoon, after you left.” I turn to Rollins. “I would venture to say that even after our little meeting, you still haven’t approved production, have you?”
“I… um…” he stutters.
“That’s a yes or no question,” I inform him.
“No… sir, I haven’t… but…”
“I parted ways with Dr. Grey this morning at 11:30,” I interrupt him. “She was back in my office for lunch around 12:10. She told me that she was going to see you. Did she?” He swallows hard.
“Yes, sir, she did,” he croaks.
“During that time, she asked you to test the XRC90 transmitter for possible discrepancies in the results. Correct?”
“Yes, sir,” he admits.
“I wasn’t present for that meeting. How receptive was Mr. Rollins to your request, Dr. Grey?”
Butterfly is still shell-shocked, but recovered quickly and answers, “He was a bit resistant.” I frown.
“Resistant?” She didn’t tell me this. “Resistant in what way?” She opens her mouth to speak, but Rollins begins to speak before she does.
“Mrs. … Dr. Grey came to R&D just as Nathan, Paul, and I were examining the schematics for the transmitter. It was then than she asked if we were going to build a prototype…” He trails off when he realizes that both Butterfly and I are both glaring at him like death. Trying to dig a bigger hole there, Rollins? I turn back to my wife.
“Resistant in what way?” I repeat my question.
“I did locate him in R&D. I asked questions about the findings from Waymark Industries. I pointed out that the results were skewed high-right, which isn’t indicative of a failing company. Even if they were failing, the results indicate that they have a miracle technology that can save the company. I told him to make ten prototypes and repeat the testing to see if he could reproduce the results. His response was the equivalent of ‘I’ll think about it…’”
I jerk back when she tells me this. Surely, she was mistaken.
“He didn’t say that, did he?” I ask, appalled. “Maybe you misunderstood?” I question further.
“Well, his exact response was ‘I’ll see what I can do,’” she informs me, to my horror. “When I informed him that this was not a request, he proceeded to ask if I had gotten your permission…”
“Dr. Grey, I didn’t… I asked if you had spoken to Mr. Grey. I only wanted to know if he was aware of the requ… instructions. It’s not the same thing…”
“It is the same thing,” I correct him firmly. You might try to pull that bullshit on somebody else but it’s not going to work on me, and it apparently didn’t work on my wife. He’s silent again and I turn back to Butterfly. “Anything else?”
“Except for the fact that he was unendingly condescending to me and never bothered to introduce me to Mr. Burgess or Mr. Hammock even though all three of them were present when I walked into the room.” Are you fucking kidding me? I pinch the bridge of my nose.
“Condescending?” I ask. “To one of the owners of the company?” She sighs.
“When I asked what they were looking at, his greeting was ‘Are you lost?’ Every time I asked a question about the transmitter or the findings, he gave me clipped answers like I didn’t know what I was talking about. I’ve already mentioned that even though he was the only one in the room who knew who I was, he didn’t bother introducing me to the other two gentlemen in the area. A moment ago was the only time he called me Dr. Grey all day. I didn’t bother correcting him. I pointed out the same thing that you did—that I’m fifty-percent owner of this company. I thought we had an understanding by the time I left the floor, but apparently I was mistaken, as he still felt like I need Daddy’s permission to make a decision.”
She’s getting pissed now, but she was already pissed because she didn’t direct him to call her Dr. Grey. Now I’m wondering if this is the reason that she went over the edge so easily at lunchtime… because she was upset. I’m beginning to take this bastard’s behavior a bit personally.
“Oh,” she adds, “and contrary to the connotation, I didn’t make any requests of Research and Development—only Quality Control.” I shake my head. I know why she clarified that.
“May I ask why you didn’t bring any of this to my attention at lunch?” I ask in front of the department heads. She raises her hands in a mock shrug.
“I thought it was all taken care of—that Mr. Rollins understood his marching orders and was going to proceed as he was told.” She turns to Rollins. “Obviously, I was wrong.” I shake my head and turn my gaze to Rollins.
“How much experience do you have in business finance, Mr. Rollins?” I ask. He shakes his head.
“I-I know cost analysis, sir…” he begins.
“That’s enough to answer this question, I think,” I interrupt him. “In your professional opinion, which one is more costly to a particular outcome—double-spent man-hours or wasted time?” He shakes his head again.
“Both are detrimental to a company, Mr. Grey,” he says bemused.
“That’s not what I asked you. I asked which is more costly?” I repeat.
“I’d need to have that question in context in order to answer properly,” he says. I nod. That’s fair.
“Mr. Henton,” I direct my question to the Production department head, “has the production floor ever had to go into overtime to meet a deadline?”
“Um, yes, sir,” he says cautiously.
“In your opinion, would it have been more beneficial to the cause or the company for you to accept defeat and stop production of whatever item you were producing, thereby saving the money on production because the man-hours weren’t being used?” Henton frowns.
“Well, no… sir. I think that would have been counterproductive.”
“Can you tell me why you feel that way?” I ask.
“Well, if we didn’t finish the product and get it shipped to the customer on time, it would have caused all kinds of problems. We wouldn’t have gotten the product on the shelves. We would have broken a promise to one of our customers to deliver product. We may have lost the contract… all kinds of things.”
“So, in your opinion, was it more beneficial and cost effective to the company and the cause to use the double man-hours than it would have been to do nothing?” I pose the question to him.
“Well, yes, sir. That seems obvious,” he replies.
“Apparently, not so obvious,” I say, turning back to Rollins. “At noon at the very latest, my wife—a major owner of this company—told you to start production on the XRC90 transmitter so that you could test it and see if Waymark’s results were reliable. All other points aside—logical or illogical—that was four and a half hours ago that she gave you that command. You puttered around doing God only knows what for more than two hours waiting to meet with me about marching orders that you already had. Then you puttered around for two more hours after you met with me and still did nothing. You wasted four and a half hours, during which time, you didn’t get one prototype made. No trial and error, no ‘Can we do it,’ no molds, no nothing. You stand there now, looking surprised because you spent the afternoon with your head up your ass instead of following instructions.
“My wife and I said the same thing—don’t try to use us against each other. In case that somehow was unclear, that also means don’t use one of us to try to veto the command of the other. Isn’t that what you meant?” I ask my wife.
“It certainly is,” she says finitely.
“And tell me, how would you feel if you went back to Rollins for an update and he told you that I had nixed your request?” She twists her lips only slightly and I nod. “The same way that I would feel if one of my department heads told me that you put the kibosh on one of my direct orders.” I turn to address the department heads in the room. “This is the consequence for trying to pit me against my wife and business partner. This is a team—all of us, we are a team! I know first-hand that if one of us is weak, one of us is compromised, we are all compromised!” I harden, recalling Dodd’s betrayal and the subsequent hacker situation.
“We must trust each other. We must trust each other’s judgments, and professional disagreements or differences of opinions must be handled in a diplomatic and businesslike manner, not by sneaking behind one another’s backs and trying to get a consensus, whatever that consensus may be. Mob mentalities, faction behavior and clique-like office politics only serve to divide the whole, to weaken the team and I won’t have it. Each of us needs to trust the other to carry out necessary requirements to keep the company solvent and profitable as a whole or tomorrow, we won’t have jobs. There will be no mutiny or hostile takeovers inside my company or I will bury you, and treacherous activities among the department heads is where it starts. We have to trust each other implicitly…” I turn to Rollins. “… And you are not trustworthy.”
I let the words float around the room for a bit.
“You can sign the separation papers currently being prepared by human resources indicating that you’ll go away quietly and take three months’ severance pay and benefits and your accrued vacation payout, or you can sue me for wrongful termination. I’ll give that money to my fantastic team of lawyers instead and let them wipe the courtroom floor with your face, after which you’ll be required to pay my legal fees. Manchester will take you to pack your belongings and you will speak to no one on your way out. Remember that you have an NDA that I will enforce to the fullest extent of the law and it extends to libel, slander, and any type of espionage. Oh, and while you ponder your decision, remember… don’t fuck with me. You know how I operate!” He frowns deeply then turns a hateful gaze at my wife. Before I can speak to defend her, she defends herself.
“Don’t fuck with me, either,” she responds to his hateful gaze. “I can take down a man twice your size and I carry a Glock.”
All the color leaves his face. She actually scared him.
“That may have been too much information,” I say quietly to her.
“I didn’t think so,” she responds, fearless as usual.
“Mr. Welch?” I say. Alex nods to Manchester, who proceeds to walk out with Rollins. With a few taps in his phone, he begins to deactivate Rollins’ clearances. I turn back to the room.
A/N: Pictures of places, cars, fashion, etc., can be found at https://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/raising-grey/
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