Hey everyone! It’s my birthday!!!
A bunch of people asked if there was going to be a bonus this week, and my initial answer to that was no.
1. I’m not done with this week’s chapter yet.
2. It’s not a like…. happy, festive, fun chapter. There’s some drama on the horizon, and who wants an epic Christian Grey meltdown on Christmas?
That being said, you guys are so great to me every single week that I decided I really wanted to post something today– so I wrote a quick, non-spoilery outtake! This would take place between chapter 35 and 36 of TFSOF (but that doesn’t matter much).
Hope you enjoy it!!
This room is always warmer than the rest of the executive suite at GEH. It’s a small, rectangular space with no windows, three desks, and dozens of screens that hum and put off heat. My eyes flit between the images of the residence, Calliope’s daycare, different floors of GEH, the parking garage, and Escala. It’s quiet, which is a good change of pace, but days like these are extremely boring. It’s easy, when it’s like this, to let my mind wander to thoughts of my daughter or plans I want to make for the next weekend we’ll get to spend together… but it’s an urge I fight. I can’t afford to lose concentration. Not when I know what’s out there, lurking in wait. Not after I saw what our failures last time did to Anastasia. Thankfully, the perfect thing to make me refocus suddenly comes through my earpiece.
“Taylor, I’ve got an unexpected delivery for Ana,” Luke murmurs.
“Mrs. Grey,” I correct him with a grumble. “What is it?”
“I’ll go find out.” He’s quiet for a minute, and when I hear him speak again, it’s not to me. “Hey buddy, where you delivering from?”
“Oh, I’m just a courier, man.”
“Yeah, that’s the thing though… Anastasia Grey doesn’t take deliveries from just anyone, I’m going to need a name.”
“I don’t know, dude. I don’t take the orders. I just deliver them.”
There’s another pause before Luke starts again, this time in a more familiar tone. “Did Ana order something I don’t know about?”
“Not that I know of.” It takes a moment to place the female voice that responds– Abigail, Anastasia’s assistant—and that irritates me. Damn, what I wouldn’t give to put cameras in her office.
My teeth mash together as I pull up an email on the laptop in front of me and send it off while keeping my attention on the conversation Luke is having.
To: Christian Grey
Subject: GSP Video Surveillance
Date: August 15th 2012 10:27 AM
From: Jason Taylor
Any movement with Gallagher on getting cameras into Mrs. Grey’s office?
Head of Security, Grey Enterprises Holdings, Inc.
“So, are you gonna sign or….” The impatience in the courier’s voice is clear, even 2nd hand through Luke’s earpiece, and I automatically make a face as I anticipate Luke’s response.
“Why don’t you chill the fuck out, alright?” he says, making me shake my head. He’s always been the hot head on my team, but I’ll be damned if he isn’t the best. “What courier company do you work for?”
“You only take local orders?”
“No. We’ll only deliver locally but we’ll take orders from whoever calls.”
Luke sighs. “Alright, open the box, Abby.”
“Hey, I can’t let you do that until you sign!”
“Ok, first of all, you need to get it out of your head that you’re letting me do anything…” I can hear the package being sliced open behind Luke’s words, which is the only thing that keeps me from telling him to pull it back a bit. Well that, and Grey’s response.
To: Jason Taylor
Subject: RE: GSP Video Surveillance
Date: August 15th 2012 10:29 AM
From: Christian Grey
Gallagher won’t agree. We’re going to have to go through the building owner.
CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings, Inc.
I take a deep breath and start pulling up the records I have on Anastasia’s employer so I can get the contact information for GSP’s landlord, still focusing half my attention on Luke.
“Oh…” Abby says, shame coloring the one word I hear. “I uh… I think this might be from Kate.”
“What is it?” I ask.
There’s a shuffling noise, and Luke responds, “It’s just some candles and shit for her office.”
“So, will you sign now, please?” the courier asks.
“Sure,” Abby says, and the low scratching sound that must be her scrawling her signature on the order form is drowned out by Luke.
“Here, courtesy of Christian Grey.”
“Hey, thanks, man!” the courier says, and after some generic rustling sounds, it goes quiet on Luke’s side again.
“Sawyer, you need to stop being so combative with everyone.”
“Nah, it’s better when I’m scary.”
“I tipped him!”
“Okay, okay, okay…”
I let out a heavy sigh and dial the number for the landlord to Ana’s building. Then I have to coordinate another delivery to the house. When Grey goes into his R&D meeting, Andrea has to take the Lamborghini to the mechanic for an oil change, which means arranging transportation to get her back to GEH.
At three, I double check all of the Greys are exactly where they’re supposed to be and that my team is in place, then I make two laps through the building. The girls at Grey Publishing always have candy for me when I pop in to make sure they’re doing alright, and there’s a woman up in accounting who has a service dog that I stop and say hi to every time I pass. It helps keep my spirits high when I meander through the first floor lobby and stare at the torrential downpour bouncing off the pavement outside.
Grey likes the rain, but I fucking hate it. And it rains non-stop here from October to June. I think I should get a little reprieve in August—but this city can’t even give me that.
And, as if it wants to rub salt in my wounds, right then a giant thundercloud claps overhead, and the lights in the building go dark. I wait a few uneasy seconds for the back-up generators to kick on… until I remember that the entire power grid is currently being dismantled so it can be replaced with Endurance technology, and the backup generators were the first to go.
For most people, a power outage is an inconvenience. Possibly even exciting—something to break up the monotony of the day at least. For me, it’s a disaster. It means all of the surveillance systems are down, all of the electronic locks… everything.
I reach up for my earpiece as I start back for the security office, which will take me forever to get to since I’m now going to have to take the stairs up thirty-one fucking floors.
“Sawyer, our power is out. You?”
There’s a click that tells me he’d turned the microphone off on his earpiece, and when I hear Ana talking in the background, I know why. He’s always been very protective of his friendship with her, and sometimes it means shit like this. But the closeness between them has proved to be valuable over and over again in the past, so I don’t fight him on it anymore.
“Oh my god, look how cute this is!” Ana squeals.
“Yeah, us too. I’m sitting in her office,” Sawyer mumbles to me, probably so Ana won’t hear him.
“Good, stay there. James, you got eyes on Calliope?”
“No, there’s an external door alarm on the south side. Smith and I are going to check it out.”
“What the fuck do you mean you’re going to check it out? Who’s watching Calliope?” I’m met with silence that fills me with equal parts incredulity and dread, so after several seconds of no response, I fill the emptiness with a tirade of lectures and curse words. I’m more out of breath from yelling at my team than the seven flights of stairs I sprint up to get to Calliope’s daycare. Not only is James missing from his post, but so is the receptionist who is never supposed to leave this desk unmanned.
“I swear to fucking god…” I grumble, pulling open the door that no longer locks without power. It’s chaos inside. Shrieks and wails of tears sound from the room to the left, while excited giggles bubble up around me from the older kids. I wade through them all to get to the Caterpillar room and immediately start looking for Kensie, but she isn’t here. A hot rush of panic climbs up the back of my neck and my eyes fly wildly around the room, searching for the mop of familiar brown curls that belongs to Calliope.
She isn’t here.
There are only seven children in this room, and it takes me less than three seconds to critically evaluate each and every one of their faces. Not a single one of them is Calliope.
I go to the teacher across the room who is currently cuddling a screaming toddler, while trying to listen to the mindless ramblings of a little boy hovering nervously near her legs.
“Where’s Calliope?” I demand. She blinks up at me, completely frazzled.
“What do you mean? Isn’t she…” Her eyes move from mine and survey the room, widening with panic when she comes to the same realization I have. “Well she’s supposed to be right here…”
“I know where she’s supposed to be! I’m asking you where she is?”
“I-I—” Her eyes start anxiously searching again until she starts shaking her head with horrible regret. “Shit, I don’t know…”
“You don’t get to not know!”
“I’m sorry! We’re sort of having a situation here… Maybe you can’t tell, but I’m a little overwhelmed with crying babies who don’t understand why it’s suddenly dark.”
“So, the CEO’s daughter is the one you choose to ignore? WHERE IS CALLIOPE GREY?!”
“I don’t know, she has a nanny with her. Where’s Mackensie?”
“If I knew that, I wouldn’t be bothering with you.”
I turn on my heel and storm through the door, glancing over the faces of the other teachers and the sea of tiny people running wildly through the open floor space. Mackenzie isn’t here, and neither is Calliope.
“Calliope isn’t in the daycare,” I parrot to my team, my voice suddenly going low and monotone. Years of military training kicks in like the flip of a light switch, and all the noise around me fades into the background of my concentration. My senses sharpen, and I immediately start mentally clearing the space around me.
“Yeah, I know. Just hold on a second. I’ll be right back,” Luke says, jovially enough that I know he’s talking to Anastasia. There’s a high-pitched scrape, the sound of a chair, and I decide he’s probably leaving her office so he can talk to me without alarming her.
That’s a good call. No need to panic the Greys until I know for sure what’s going on. Especially not the quick-to-irrational-fury one who’s currently on the 31st floor, probably already furious that the power outage has interrupted his day.
There’s the soft sound of a door closing that matches perfectly with the door of the daycare closing behind me and Luke starts hissing angrily through his earpiece. “Taylor, I’m going to need you to repeat what you just fucking said because what I think you said is that you lost Anastasia’s child.”
My gut clenches uneasily at the brutal reality of what he just said, but I choose not to acknowledge it until I’m certain there’s truth to it. Mackensie is also missing after all, perhaps she just taken her on a walk… without a security escort, through the crowded city, during a rainstorm and power outage.
Okay, maybe that isn’t better.
“What was the breach, Smith?” I ask, refocusing on the avenues I have to track her down. “Please tell me we didn’t let someone get out of this building with that baby.”
“There’s nothing out here, just… wait—” His voice stalls, and then raises a few levels in pitch, as though he’s calling to someone far away. “What are you doing out here?”
The response is difficult to hear through the sound of the pouring rain bouncing off the metal roof that covers the courtyard off the back side of the building, but while I’m on high alert like this, I could’ve made out each of their words if they were standing under a thundering waterfall.
“You come through that door?”
“Are we… not supposed to? This is the only place we’re allowed to smoke…”
“You go through the east door. What do you think ‘emergency exit only’ means?!”
“Smith, Calliope!” I bark. “Focus.”
“Did anyone come through here with a baby?”
“No, it’s just me.”
I grind my teeth together. “When did you leave your post, James?”
“Five minutes ago?”
“Five minutes.” Does he realize what could have happened in five fucking minutes? “No one leaves anywhere without checking directly with me first, got it?”
“Sorry, sir… I wasn’t expecting the power outage.”
“I don’t want to hear apologies, I want Calliope found. All of you, start searching. Top to bottom, floor by floor. Harper, Wyatt… I want you out on the streets.”
“Are you seriously telling me we lost Calliope?” Luke growls. “What the fuck am I supposed to say to Ana?!”
“Nothing, I’ll find her.” I turn and bolt back into the stairwell, taking the steps two at a time. Praying that the power comes on by the time I make it back to the security office so that I’ll be able to review the footage, and that the feed didn’t cut off before Calliope was taken. It takes almost four minutes for me to get all the way to the top floor, and when I come through the door into the reception area, both Andrea and Olivia shoot concerned looks at me.
“Everything alright, Taylor?” Andrea asks. I can only offer her a half-hearted wave as I stride past her, moving purposefully to my office.
The power didn’t come on, so the monitors are still dark. Luke’s jaw is grinding impatiently in my ear and I have no idea what to say to him.
“I’ve got nothing.”
“Garage is clear.”
“There’s an officer parked up the street, he didn’t see anyone come tearing out of the garage, so it’s not likely we’re dealing with a getaway car.”
My gut sinks and I feel a hot flash of shame. We haven’t found her, so I’m going to have to tell Grey. And I know he’s going to pop the fuck off. I’ve seen him lose it over far less when something even threatened to get near Anastasia… I can’t imagine what he’s going to do when it comes to Calliope.
“I’ll go inform Grey,” I say, as though I’m informing them of death. Which, considering the situation, might be a reality since Grey is probably going to kill me.
“You sure?” Smith asks.
“Yeah. Sawyer, don’t tell Anastasia anything until Grey decides what he wants her to know. Everyone get back here and be ready for my orders.”
“How can I help?” Sawyer asks.
“Stay with Ana. Once the power comes on, you’re most useful to me behind a computer.”
“Sir, with all due respect, I disagree. I’m a better shot than either Wyatt or James, and I’m the best you have at hand to hand. If we’re dealing with an abductor, I think I’m the exact person to handle it.”
“No, if someone really did come for Calliope, Ana could also be a target. I need you with her, and I need you sharp.”
“I’m always sharp.”
And arrogant. Don’t forget arrogant.
“Yeah, I got it. Stay put.”
“Good.” With the same amount of courage that once carried me through battle in the past, I shuffle out of the office towards the double oak doors that stand between me and Mr. Grey. There’s a kind of pep-talk running through my mind, convincing me to keep going, but it doesn’t slow me down. With quick efficiency, I push through the doors and steel myself for the news I have to deliver.
Except, instead of the sharp, irritated look I usually expect when I interrupt his workday, I get soft eyes and a warm smile. All because of the tiny little beauty currently standing in his lap, held up by his hands. Her laughter echoes through the room like sweet music. Her soft brown girls bounce with the rhythm of her father’s knees.
“Ah, come in, Taylor. Did you resolve the camera situation for Ana’s office?” His good humor colors every word and I stand there speechless. Calliope makes a loud, happy sound, that catches his attention and makes his face light up. She reaches out and places her palm against his lips, and he kisses it several times before turning expectant eyes back on me.
“Uh… yes, sir. I was just coming to let you know that, uh, all of our surveillance is down because of the power outage.”
“I know, the door to her daycare just opened when I went down there to get her. And they’re so overwhelmed down there I sent Kensie down to the store for snacks to try and calm everyone down. Thankfully, Welch will have GEH transferred to the Endurance grid by Friday, and we won’t have to deal with this anymore.”
“Right. Well, I suppose I’ll just keep you updated then.”
“Sawyer is with Ana, right? A power outage seems like the exact scenario where Kate would call her and talk her into doing something stupid.”
“Yes, Sir. He’s in her office right now. She seems to be having a good day.”
The joy on his face somehow shines through brighter. “Good. If the cameras are down, we should get people down to all the entrances. I still want to know everyone coming in and out of this building.”
“Yes, sir. I’ve already got the team mobilized.”
“Good. Then you can leave us, Taylor.”
“Yes, sir.” I turn around, feeling my heart racing a mile a minute as relief seeps from every single one of my pores… until Grey calls my name again. “Yes, sir?”
He smiles again, and nods to his daughter. “Don’t you think she’s the most perfect thing you’ve ever seen?”
I chuckle. “Yes, sir. The most perfect.”
“Yeah, I think so too.” He turns to her, completely losing himself. “This is going to be your office one day, isn’t it? All of this is going to be yours…”
I turn and leave his office, letting out a long sigh before I reach up for my earpiece. “Grey has Calliope, everyone stand down.”
“Oh, thank god,” Luke exhales. “Well, if there’s no crisis I’m going back into Ana’s office, I’ll be on mute.”
“Fine. And, James?”
“You’re no longer assigned to daycare. Wait there until Kelley comes to relieve you, then report to my office immediately.”
I can hear him swallow his trepidation. “Yes, sir.”
As the sense of urgency that had consumed me only minutes ago dies away, I’m left feeling drained and tired. The weight of it lands heavily on my chair and I plop down in my seat and stare at the blank monitors around me. My head falls back against the headrest, and I take just a few minutes to let myself relax, but the power switches on and the room around me suddenly hums with life again. I glance up at the screens, once more searching through the images of GEH, the Grey’s home, and Escala for anything that’s gone amiss in the time that’s lapsed since my last check. Everything is quiet. Everything is the same.
And suddenly, I’m very grateful for my boring day.