Thank you , Thank you, Thank you, for the response to skeevy, evil, Elena getting what she deserved, and don't get too excited about this update, I just tacked a paragraph on the end, but it will give you an idea where we're headed. I'm working on the new chapter as fast as I can, but I write in layers, and am new to this, so it'll take a minute or two. Again, thanks for the feedback.
Following my sisters into the salon, I tuck myself against the wall beside some tall, leafy, exotic looking plant and search for Elena Lincoln. Knowing she isn't the young sophisticate behind the chrome and glass reception desk. I scan quickly over the open space. It's not easy, the whole place is reflective, mirrors with black silk screening in an Asian design cover the walls, the stations are glass and chrome. All the seating is white leather. Of course, this makes Allie easy to spot, she's like a jewel on white velvet. Reflected in all the mirrors, there's at least fifty Allies sipping on mimosas and flipping through fashion magazines. Engaging the staff with warm smiles and a slew of sincere compliments. She's perfect.
Then my eyes wander back to the reception desk and I see her, walking towards us from the back. Cool blond elegance in tasteful head to toe black; her face a perfectly composed mask of professional courtesy as she approaches the desk. I know the instant she sees Christy, her eyes widening with shock, the mask slipping for the merest second, and an emotion flickers across her face, so fast I can't quite name it, by the time she gets to the counter, that mask is firmly back in place.
"Mara, you have a phone call in the back. I'll take over." She dismisses the younger woman coolly. Phone call, my ass. That was a rehearsed moment if ever there was one.
"Welcome to Salon', I'm the owner Elena Lincoln,.." she trails off her eyes locking onto Christy, one eyebrow slightly raised, picked that up from Grey, no doubt. Damn, she's smooth.
"Yes, hi, I have an appointment for 11:00,.." Christy began
"Yes of course Andrea called,..." Cutting her off, the woman paused, looking down at her book, but not before I saw that look again,...and this time I got it - relief. The woman is relieved because she thinks the man she used to fuck is cheating on his wife. What a skeevy bitch!
"Andrea?" Christy pipes up sounding confused, "who's Andrea?" Man, my sister is a right skilled liar. I file that knowledge away for later.
The skeevy bitch looks up and gives Christy a smile, a sickening, secret, condescending, little smile, "Mr. Grey's assistant dear. Christian's a very busy man."
Blecchhe! The woman is just sickening. Once again, I reaffirm my belief that when it comes to women, really smart men can be idiots..
"Shit, my opinion of Grey just got shot to shit. I mean,... Shit!" I jump a little at Lena's voice in my ear. I was so focused on skeevy bitch, I hadn't noticed her approach, "What the fuck did he see in her?"
I smile, never taking my eyes from skeevy, "What was it you said that time about Gavin and 'super- slut barbie bitch?'"
"Uh...that was a busy night, sis."
Goddess, what an understatement. And suddenly, memory flashes, the cold night air on my skin, the smell of mountain laurel, and closing my eyes briefly, I see the clean white brilliance of the full moon. Suppressing a small shudder I force my eyes open and myself back to the present. This is no time for my insane brain to wander. I glance at Lena, she's got her eyes locked on skeevy, and there's no mistaking the disgust in them.
I lean towards her slightly and clear my throat, "I believe your exact words were, 'He's a man. She's hot. He was at a disadvantage from the get go."
"I said that?" I see one dark brow go up, but her eyes never move from skeevy.
"Damn, I'm philosophical."
"Oh yeah," my eyes once more locked onto our cool, blonde, bitch target, "you're practically Plato, albeit a leather clad..."
"Brazilian what?" Christy's shout interrupts my meandering words.
I watch Elena blink at her, the composed mask slipping, a bit, "A bikini wax, dear. And there's no need to shout." the sweetness is gone, but the condescending tone has doubled.
Christy square's her shoulders, "Look, Ms. Lincoln - salon owner, or whoever you are, I'm not here to be waxed in any fashion. My sisters and I are here for mani-pedi's. We have an appointment for 11:00. Maybe, if you'd bothered to get my name instead of assuming you know what you're doing - which you obviously don't,...and don't tell me there's no need to shout, you're not the one who's about to have hot wax poured on her girlie parts. I'll damn well shout if I want to. Oh, and just so you know, - that condescending, fake nice crap is insulting. I'm not your dear. You don't know me. But hey, I guess you have to call me something right, since you didn't get my name. It's Christy, by the way, but that's Miss McGovern to you, cause I don't know you, and what I've seen so far, I just plain don't like. Now, if it's not too much trouble my sisters and I would like to get our nails done."
"Holy Fuck!" Lena whispers beside me. I glance over at her briefly to see her staring at Christy in wide-eyed shock,...just like me. In the mirrors, all fifty Allies are frozen, mimosas hallway to their lips, wide eyes blinking and mouths hanging open. The place has gone so quiet, you could have heard the snip-snip of scissors, but not a soul was snipping. Everyone in the place had gone still as a statue. It reminded me of that game we played as kids. It was all I could do to keep from shouting "green-light."
"Shit, where's Christy been hiding that temper?" I whisper to Lena. She shrugs me.
Then another voice joins the fray, calm and smooth, but I can hear the underlying smile.
"I believe Andrea called and made an appointment for me, Elena," Ana stepped up to the reception desk, cool as a cucumber, her friend the reporter at her side, "but I'm not sure where the Brazilian came from, I'm just here with my friend to get a manicure. We're having a girls day."
Skeevy bitch's eyes go wide as saucer's, then every bit of color drains from her face, causing the deep red lips to stand out harshly, her mouth opening and closing like a guppy. That smooth professional mask crumbling, her eyes flicking from one face to another, but then she takes a deep breath, and she's rallying. Pulling that mask of cool blonde politeness back in place. Shit! I can already see Grey's smug face delivering the ultimate, "I told you so". But Ana, in a move of pure genius, places one hand on her swollen belly. Elena's eyes flick down, and,...Goddess be damned!...
"Bing-fucking-go!" Lena whispers beside me. "Shit, you see that."
"Fucking bitch, hates her."
She sure did. Those eyes, for that split second, had been filled with loathing. Clean, simple, pure, hate.
This woman is capable of just about anything. I hear Ana's indrawn breath, and realize she's seen it too. Instinctively, as one, Lena and I move forward, flanking her; my fingers are tucked in my sleeve and running along the ivory hilt of my dagger, and I know Lena's ready to pull one of the half dozen weapons she has on her at any given time. Are we over-reacting? Probably, but hate is unpredictable. I wasn't taking chances. I turn to Kate, to get her to cover Ana's back, but she's already there, one hand resting comfortingly on Ana's shoulder, staring at Elena Lincoln with murder in her eyes. I glance back at Lincoln, of all of us, her eyes have frozen on Kate. So she's not an idiot. We McGovern's are dangerous, sure, but Kate's gone feral. If skeevy bitch even points one flaming red nail in Ana's direction, Kate'll knock us all out of her way, leap over that Gucci-gucci reception desk, rip skeevy's perfectly toned arms off, and beat her sorry, scheming, soulless ass to death with them.
There's a single chime of the door opening and Elena looks up, "Christian?" And that quick, she's pulling the facade together. The cool mask in place and something else, she seems to swell, grow in height, then, "What is the meaning of this?" she demands her voice harsh, and then I get it. She was the Domme
"I think I just threw up in my mouth." Lena whispered.
Man she's quick today.
Christian doesn't even acknowledge her. He just gathers Ana to his side and looks at me, "Well?"
"She hates her, and she knows something." I inform him quietly, never taking my eyes off cool, blonde, bitch.
She gasps and her eyes cut to me, "Who are you?" still in that commanding voice.
I smile slowly, "I would say the nightmare you won't wake from, but I think that title belongs to Grey. S o I guess that makes me just a chick here to enjoy the show."
"Ditto." Lena smirks beside me.
"Oh, hell yes." Kate mutters
"We should have brought popcorn." Christy quips..
But Grey has other ideas, he takes Ana slightly to the side, and pulls her close, whispering to her. Ana closes her eyes and nods. He wraps her in his arms, one hand resting on her swollen belly, as he brushes a kiss across her temple, and there's no doubt, he's holding the most precious thing in the universe. The moment was so full of aching tenderness, it was painfully beautiful. It's obvious to anyone watching, Grey's heart doesn't beat in his own chest. Ana holds it in hers. I shoot a glance at skeevy bitch She looks like she's chewing nails, her eyes swimming with loathing and bitterness she's too frazzled to hide.
"Bing-fucking-go." I whisper.
"Taylor," My eyes move back over to Grey as he steps slightly away from Ana, "Take Ana out of here. Elena, come." and without another word he stalks though the salon.
Kate puts her arm around Ana and with Taylor in the lead and Sawyer bringing up the rear, they exit the salon. I shoot Christy a significant look. She nods, and follows them out. Christy's a vet, but like she says we're animals, and I feel better with her staying close to Ana. Gavin, hangs back, giving Lena and I a quelling look, "Don't,...
"Yeah, yeah, yeah," Lena cuts him off, "No killing. Got it, fine." but after Gavin turns his back, under her breath, "I'll just make her wish she was dead."
Skeevy bitch gets what's coming to her...still Mckenna
"Christian I don't understand. What's going on?" Elena, manages to speak around her delicate sniffles, dabbing at her eyes with a tissue. Sneaky bitch.
We're in the break-room/laundry facility. It's funny, no matter how swanky a place is, break rooms are pretty much the same, drink and snack machine, old table and mismatched chairs, coffee maker, microwave, and that smell, a hybrid of Fritos, coffee, and burnt popcorn.
"Lincoln's alive." Grey states quietly, from his position leaning against the snack machine. I've never seen him like this, not raging, not cold, nothing. He's completely self-contained, I can't get a damn thing off him.
He's at his most dangerous.
"What?" Skeevy, dabs at her eyes delicately with a tissue.
I make out Lena's soft snort of disgust beside me. We're standing by the closed-door. I need to be here to read Elena, but I don't want to disturb the dynamic. This is why they have all those see through mirrors on cop shows. Lena just couldn't be detered. Grey is completely focused on skeevy.
"You're ex-husband is alive, and is trying to kill Ana."
The bitch went white as a sheet, "That's impossible."
She's good, but I'm a freak of nature, "That shock is not authentic." I speak the words as quietly as I can, but Grey hears me. I get his tiny nod, apparently so does Elena. "Who are these women? You can't believe ,...I would never be part of someone harming your wife and child."
"Didn't mind helping him out when it was just Ana though did you?" Lena, just can't help herself. I kick her in the shin, "Ow, hey,..."
"Lena makes an excellent point." Grey states in that dead even tone, "You discussed Jack Hyde with Lincoln didn't you Elena. That's how he knew."
"No, no Christian,..."
In a flash of movement Grey was in front of her, "DON'T!" the one brutal word exploded from him, his hands slamming down on the table in front of her; cracking through the room like a gunshot, his entire body vibrating with rage, "Lie. to. me."
"Shit." Lena muttered, "I don't think even Gavin could top that."
I watch Grey warily, he's on a dangerous edge.I know because I've walked it. "Grey?" I whisper, he looks up at me, and I see it – rolling, smoldering, dark - "Black Blood Rage" that's what McGoverns called it, but under it, the gut wrenching pain of betrayal.
Shit, he'd cared about this woman, believed her a friend, and in a split second I make a decision I hope I don't live to regret, "It wasn't deliberate Grey, she's not that vindictive, but she does know something."
Grey's eyes narrow on me, but he'll see nothing but candor in my eyes. Finally, he breathes deep, and nods slightly, straightening; and the rage settles, still there, but only simmering. That careful control of his back in place. He moves away from Elena and crosses his arms over his chest, his intense gaze on her, "Tell me."
"I'm sorry, Christian." Skeevy looks up at him with pleading, tear filled eyes. Damn, she's good. "I should have told you. He was so full of venom for you,... and I told him about Jack Hyde to warn him off. I advised him to move on, that you would destroy him."
I opened my mouth to tell Grey there was more, but he was already there.
"What else?" He demanded.
Sighing Elena ran shaking hands through her hair, "Six months ago he called, and gave me instructions, told me that if I didn't do as he said he'd expose me. I couldn't turn to you, it was after,...well,..."
"What did he want Elena?"
"I opened a numbered account in the Cayman's, in my name but signed it over to him. I just thought he was embezzling from the company, and I knew you were taking it over and going to take it apart anyway. I never heard from him again, and with the fire, it didn't seem important any more."
"I see." Grey turned to me, quirking that one brow.
"She's telling the truth. It fits."
He nods and turns back to her, his face that implacable mask, his voice, barren and cold, "Welch is going to contact you. You will do whatever he asks. Give him whatever he needs. Do you understand?"
"Yes, yes Christian of course. I can't believe Art would do this."
"Really?" I find that hard to believe, Elena. He nearly beat you to death. He bailed out Jack Hyde, knowing what he would do to Ana. This is just like him." Then without another word, Grey turns, and strides to the door.
"Christian," Elena calls after him, her voice rough with tears, "Please don't leave this way, I'm so sorry,..."
He pauses, I see him close his eyes briefly, his lips a thin grim line, but then he's walking away through the door, and back out into the salon.
The skeevy bitch's mouth falls open at his cold dismissal, shocked motionless, then she jumps up, high heels clicking as she attempts to follow him from the room. Only problem is, Lena and I are blocking her.
Her eyes narrow, and all that teary shit just dries right up. "Move." A harsh command.
I throw my head back and laugh out loud. She's using that Domme shit. Yeah, like that's gonna work. She blinks at me and goes a little whiter. I've been told my laugh can turn evil, kind of Crue'lla De'Ville-ish, but right now that works just fine, "Oh, I don't think so." I whittle my laughter down to a maniacal chuckle, and take a step forward, forcing her back, then over my shoulder, "Lena."
"Door. Got it." Lena shuts the door, and I hear the lock click.
"We need to talk." I nod towards one of the mismatched seats, "There are some things you need to understand.
Skeevy tries again,"Get. out. of. my. way." she spits out each word stacatto.
"Yeah, Mac, get out of her way." I can hear the smirk in Lena's voice, it's downright gleeful. She really is a bloodthirsty thing.
I trhow her a look, "Calm down, Lena." turning back, I look Skeevy dead in the eye. "I'm not standing here to block you. I'm standing here to keep my sister from breaking something."
Confusion flashes across skeevy's face,"What?"
Lena snorts, then throws out her one word answer,"You."
Skeevy promptly sits in the mismatched chair. Good. She's teachable.
"Now the thing is Ana's a relative, a member of our family." I inform her, watching her face carefully. It's vital skeevy gets what I'm telling her, "She's blood, and we've decided you're a threat to her safety and happiness. You need to convince us otherwise."
"That's ridiculous." She waves a hand dismissively.
Not getting it.
"Nope, I'm right. I'm always right,"
"She is." Lena affirms.
"I think you set this whole thing up." I inform her mater of factly, "I think you fed your ex's hatred of Grey and made sure he knew how much Ana meant to him. He gets rid of Ana and the child and you get a broken Christian. Pretty much a win win for you."
Skeevy's eyes widen with horror, "How dare you,...You know nothing about me. I would never,... I want nothing more than Christian's happiness."
"First of all I know you plenty, better than you do. You want to delude yourself into thinking you're not filled with hatred - fine, but you can't hide it from me. I see the evil - squatting in you like a toad. And Second, all that "I just want his happiness" is a crock of crap. You want nothing more than your happiness, and a happy, whole Christian doesn't need you, does he. In fact, I'm thinking given enough time, he'll figure you out, and that's what you fear most of all. So before he can, you've got to cripple him - again.
Skeevy's wide eyes flick from me to Lena and back again,"You're crazy."
Nope, definitely not getting it.
"Possibly," I acknowledge, with a slight nod, "but my sanity isn't your concern. Now, I'm not going to tell Grey any of this, because I think at one time he really cared about you, and like I said,eventually, he'll figure it out on his own. Hell, he's already half-way there, but you need to listen to what I'm about to say very carefully, say,...as if your life depended on it.
"'Cause it does." Lena adds.
"Is that a threat?"
My "Yes, absolutely." is drowned out by Lena's, "Damn straight."
Skeevy goes a shade whiter.
Now we're getting somewhere.
"You will give Welch everything he asks for and anything else you can think of. You will help them catch the monster you created, then you forget they exist. Ana, Christian, their baby, any and all future children, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, uncles, aunts, nieces, nephews, and second cousins; hell, the guy who mows the lawn - they are dead to you. You've never heard of them. If Ana's name so much as passes those evil, scheming lips, have no doubt, we'll bathe in your blood."
Skeevy stands on surprisingly steady legs. Gotta hand it to her she's holding up better than most. Probably, all that Domme training.
"You can't stand there and threaten me."
"Oh, I assure you we can. Just like if we were of a mind to, we could kill you without leaving a mark on your body, and walk away clean in under thirty seconds."
"Ten." Lena tosses out.
I throw her an 'over my shoulder' look, "Brag much?"
She 'left shoulder shrugs' me, "Just sayin.'"
"Fine. ten then," I turn back to skeevy, still on her feet, "But I don't think Grey would want that, and he's sort of family too, so you get to live."
"For now." Lena adds. Skeevy sits back down, and goes a shade whiter, now with a tinge of gray.
"Now, I need to know if you believe us, or if we need to do something to convince you."
"Like break something." Lena suggests.
"Or cut something off." I add.
"No, that won't be necessary." Elena meets my eyes squarely, her voice, though raspy, has only the slightest tremor. Damn, she really is a cool one. Mainly because she's still not quite getting it, but it will have to do. We can always reinforce it later. It'll give Lena something to look forward to.
"Good." I give her a satisfied nod, "Well I'm glad we had this little talk."
"Yeah, it's been swell." Lena smirks.
Just then there's a knock on the door, and Allie's husky whisper, "Mac? Lena?"
Lena opens the door, and Allie pokes her head in, "I don't know if you need it, but I've got a way we can get rid of the bo..." her beautiful blue eyes go wide and blink as she takes in Elena. "She's not dead."
I shake my head, "No, we're letting her live for now."
"Oh." Allie blinks a couple more times, "Well, if you say so. Honestly, she does run a nice salon." A hand appears through the door, waving ruby-red nails at us, "My manicure is flawless."
I turn back to Elena, "Another point in your,..." My words break off at the sight of her face. She's gone from white to green, her eyes wide with terror. Ahh, now she gets it. Slapping her hand over her mouth, she jumps up, clickety-clacks over to the sink, and begins wretching spectacularly.
"I think our work here is done." spinning on my heel, I lead my sisters from the break-room and back through the salon
"Nice touch, Allie." Lena whispers behind me.
"Thanks" Allie's voice is full of prim, feminine, satisfaction, "I was listening at the door."
We got as far as the Gucci-gucci reception desk when Aretha Franklin started belting out "Rescue Me," from my back pocket, Allie's purse, and Lena's leather jacket. While my brain was still processing, Lena was flying out the salon door, her"Shit! Fuck! Dammit to Hell!"still echoing off the mirrored walls. By the time I hit the door, she was halfway to the coffee shop, her body low and fluid, weaving down the street like a dry autumn wind. In only a split second I was after her. My "Holy shit," trailing somewhere behind me with Allie's Oh dear Goddess, Christy!" But that split second is what gave Lena her razor's edge. It's the difference between success and failure, life and death, and Dear Goddess I hoped it would be enough.