Apologies for not updating earlier, but I have been away overseas. I am jumping to where you all find out what has been happening (happened actually) with Phoebe, and why she wasn't eager to return to Seattle permanently.
I smile politely as I walk through the usual media gathering. I have never understood why any would want to take my picture. My parents managed to prevent the media from taking my picture, Ted's and my cousin Ava's, until the age of eighteen. I commenced attending these events occasionally once I turned sixteen but I would enter with my parents, then they would return outside so the press can get their photo. That was the deal. It meant less exposure for us Grey kids without us having to be hidden away, but not our parents.
"Phoebe, you look beautiful. Surely you are not alone? You have been in Seattle for a month now. Surely a thousand suitable suitors must be eager to be by your side" My grandfather greets me kissing my cheek.
"Thank you, Grandpa. You look rather debonair, as usual. I hope you will be able to save a dance for me."
"I will try, but I will have to ask my girlfriend." I giggle as he winks at me. "Alone?" I sigh silently to myself. I can't avoid my grandfather's question.
"I haven't bought a date." I want to roll my eyes as my grandfather frowns slightly.
"Cary, let Phoebe be. Besides she won't be alone for long tonight looking as gorgeous as she is." I turn to my side and there dressed in the most elegant emerald dress is my grandmother. I worship her. She is the symbol of elegance, compassion, and wisdom.
"Good evening Grandma," I greet hugging her tight. Being close to my grandmother has been one of the joys of moving back to Seattle.
"Your Uncle Elliot is going to have fun teasing your father all night over how much attention you are going to get. It should be a fun evening." My grandparents have long since given up trying to prevent my father and uncle from mocking each other, understanding that it is all part of their close friendship.
"I am not seeking attention." I look down at my dress. It is tight fitting from my bodice to past my hips then flaring out. Maybe it is a little too tight. I should have worn something else.
"Phoebe go and have fun. That's an order from your old grandfather."
"I will try," I smile but silently groan. I walk straight in and grab a glass of champagne. I scan the tented ballroom. There are many familiar faces. It's an impressive mix of who's who of Seattle and others from various other states. I have no patience for small talk tonight. I haven't since I returned.
"Phoebe." I almost drop my drink when I hear the familiar voice. A voice I didn't think I would hear again. One I haven't wanted to either.
"I am so happy to see you again. I heard you were back in Seattle."
"I am shocked to see you again. You have never attended this ball before." I reply dryly. There are other words I could say, but my well-ingrained manners prevent me from doing so. At least not in this social setting.
"I attended with you once when we were together."
"You never attended at a time where we weren't together then!"
"My boss took medical leave. I have been the acting manager of the hotel for over six months. We donate a few nights in one of our newly renovated suites."
"That is very generous of you. Have a good evening James." Content that I have been as cordial as possible, I turn to walk away. This is one reunion I don't want to prolong.
"Phoebe, wait. We still need to talk. We never discussed what happened."
"There is no need." I spot my brother and walk straight towards him. I doubt James will follow me if I am with a family member. I greet Ted's date, Hope Withers. A corporate banker though looks more like a Miss America contestant. They are both talking a guy I recognize immediately. At least I do not mind seeing him.
"Miles, it's good to see you again."
"Same. You look great. Hong Kong seems to have agreed with you."
"That is very kind of you to say. I managed to achieve a lot of professional goals."
"Good. ..Great... Are you here with anyone this evening?" There is an element of hope of in his voice. Miles is a rather nice man, but I am just not interested.
"I am with my family." I wonder if that is enough of a hint that I am declining any offers.
"If you are free, I would love a dance this evening, maybe this time, your father won't be so scary." Miles and Ted laugh, but I don't have it in me to join them. Instead, I smile politely.
"What happened last time?" Hope enquires. Ted stares at me, but when I don't answer his date's question, he takes it upon himself to do so.
"It was Phoebes first "Coping Together' ball. She was sixteen and beyond excited. Phoebe and Miles here had a dance. It was the first time my little sister danced with a boy in front of the family. Our father is a somewhat protective of Phoebe and was practically pulling all his hair out. I did think he developed a bald patch later that evening, when he caught these two behind the tent, having their first kiss." Trust Ted to remember each fact. I close my eyes embarrassed. Why the hell did he have to bring up to the fact that we had our first kiss? Dad was unnecessarily furious! He scared Miles into staying away from me, and grabbed my hand leading me back inside the tent; to the table, our family was sitting at and basically, put me in a time out. I wasn't to leave the table without him, my mother or security, and needed permission to do so. It led to a disagreement between my parents. Mom though dad overreacted and he just kept arguing I was far too young to be kissing a boy. Our father didn't bat an eyelid when Ted had your first kiss. He even gave Ted condoms for his first sexual experience at the age of sixteen. When I turned sixteen, my father tried to overturn the no dating until sixteen rule, to no dating until you were eighteen.
"Miles I think you are pretty safe tonight. A dance will be fun. As soon as the dance floor is open to all the guests, come and find me." This is the least I can do considering Ted did just embarrass him in front of Hope.
"Thank you. I still intend on bidding on you on the first dance." I smile slightly, but don't respond. I have no intention of being in the first dance auction. Instead, I will make a donation and make myself scarce at this time. I excuse myself once I sight Ava. Far out my cousin is the epitome of gorgeous. I wasn't surprised when she got married first. Someone was always going to pick her up before she got away.
"Excellent, you're wearing the dress we bought together. Tonight Phoebe you are going to hook up. There are a lot of gorgeous and eligible guys around this evening. Take your pick, lawyer, doctor, banker, architect, entrepreneur and a thousand other options?"
"None of the above," I reply hurriedly. "Hi, Daniel. How on earth do you ever keep your sanity married to my cousin and best friend?" I smirk teasing Ava.
"The many positives outweigh the few negatives." Ava scrunches her face up at me, before looking up and kissing her husband. "Here, I got you your sparkling water with lime."
"Thank you. The only negative of being pregnant is not able to have a drink." I look down at Ava's increasingly round stomach. How on earth she manages to look even more gorgeous pregnant is beyond me.
"It won't be forever." I remind her.
"Yes, it will. I intend on breastfeeding this baby and once they reach the age of one, are going to try for our second child." Ava announces. Daniel is glowing. They are going to be wonderful parents.
"Then there is our third and maybe forth" Daniel adds.
"I better start shopping for baby clothes for you two then! I was wondering what gift to buy. Is there anything Aunt Kate, grandma and my mother haven't bought yet?"
"You could buy a christening outfit." Oh, I didn't expect that suggestions. I raise my eyes brows surprised.
"Sure. Okay. I never thought of that." In my mind, I was thinking baby clothes, toys, rockers; that sort of thing.
"Daniel and I thought you might want to buy the christening outfit since we were hoping you would be the baby's godmother." I place my hand on my heart, moved by their offer.
"So Phoebe, do you want the job?" Daniel asks, smiling.
"Yes. Please." I kiss my cousin and her husband. "I am going to spoil this child horribly. Do you know what you are having yet?"
"No, we want to be surprised."
"Then I will have to limit myself to buying neutral colors and every single toy that they stock at Toys R us. Just promise me that I at least get to go with my godchild to Disneyworld for their first trip, or better still I get to take him or her."
"Phoebe, you're getting overly emotional," Ava observes now regarding me cautiously.
"I am just so happy for you both. That is all." I recompose myself. I start to prepare myself for her inquisition when she does a complete three sixty, remembering something.
"Oh, damn my placenta brain. I forgot to be mad at you." I tilt my head at my cousin humored. "Don't act cute; you know how bad I am at names right now. Why didn't you tell me... umm.. What's his name?"
" Bryan." Daniel answers.
"Oh yes, that is him. Phoebe, you should have told me he was going to be here? I just saw him and couldn't remember his name." I look at them in disbelief.
"Bryan. Bryan Walsh? As in my second in charge in Hong Kong? That Bryan?" For a moment I wonder if my cousin's pregnancy fuelled forgetfulness has filtered to her husband.
"Yes. Also known as your second best friend and I emphasize second."
"Of course... I didn't know Bryan was here. Are you sure it was him?"
"I am pregnant, not brainless. Yes, it was Bryan! I saw him only a few minutes ago at the bar."
"If you two will excuse me then," I reply softly.
"Wouldn't dream of keeping you." Ava gives me her 'go get him' look. She knows about how I kissed Bryan in Hong Kong. Ava seems to think there is more to it regardless of how many times I tell her there isn't. I can't blame her as she doesn't know the whole story. I wish I could tell her, but considering the circumstances it isn't' right.
I look around the bar area, but it's extremely busy. I enter the foray of the crowd and at the end of the bar, talking to a couple of other men is Bryan. He sees me, orders a couple of drinks and excuses himself from the crowd.
"Miss Grey, gin and tonic with lime as you like it."
"Thank you. What are you doing here?"
"I have come to give you my monthly report on the progress of the Hong Kong office, as per my new job description."
"That is very diligent of you, Mr. Walsh, though I had expected a written report to be emailed."
"Also I was invited to tonight's festivities. Grey Enterprise invites the heads of all their main subsidiary offices to this event. The head of the London, New York, and Tokyo offices are also here."
"I wasn't aware."
"So how has Seattle been?"
"Fine. Busy. I have been spending a lot of time in the office."
"Any issues?" I know that Bryan is referring to and it isn't work related.
"Okay. Good. So want to sit down, and I can update you on the office chitchat?" I can't help but grin. Gossip has never been my thing, especially at Grey House, but at the close-knit Hong Kong office it was kind of everyone's hobby. Bryan would keep me up to date.
"So is Josie still pretending not to be dating Zhang Wei?" I relax immediately, drinking my gin and tonic. Bryan is animated as he entertains me about the happenings of the office and our friends. I had just finished my second drink when Bryan and I are interrupted by the master of ceremonies.
"Ladies and gentlemen, please take your seats."
"Better go to our tables. I will see you around the ballroom."
"Around. Cheers Bryan, for making me relax."
"Anytime. Besides, what are second best friends for?" Bryan comments overconfidently. "Ava mentioned that to me today." I nod and stand kissing his cheek.
"Is this the reason you don't want to talk to me?" I turn in response to the familiar voice. Bryan instinctively steps in front of me. I scoff. I can fight my own battles.
"And you would be?" Bryan questions.
"James Kenson. I am Phoebe Grey's boyfriend," I scoff at his reference. That's a bold and incorrect statement!
"I know who and what you are. I would refrain from referring to Phoebe, your girlfriend. She is your ex... very ex."
"And who the fucks are you?" James cusses. It's obvious he has had a couple of drinks.
"I am the person telling you to go away." The MC gets on the speaker and the last remaining people standing quickly head off to their seats.
"Phoebe we can later!" James states before walking towards his table. Thank gosh he hasn't had so much to drink that he can't walk straight.
"Why is he here?" Bryan is furious.
"His hotel made a donation to the silent auction. That gives them an automatic invitation. He is currently the acting manager. I didn't know he would be in attendance."
"Maybe I should bid on his kind donation. We go stay the night there, make sure that he knows where there and make out we are having a naughty, raunchy evening... though of course we can have one of our order room service, drink bourbon and watch movies until the next day sessions." I laugh out loud at Bryan suggestion.
"Okay.. yes... let's do that; however some of these auction items go for some pretty high sums. You bid, and I will pay"
"No, that wouldn't be chivalrous of me."
"Don't give that mumbo-jumbo. If it's such as issue, we can split the cost, but then stop if it goes for more than five thousand" I. know that Bryan can afford more, but he is already burden by knowing the truth of what kept me away from Seattle. He doesn't need to lose money on me also.
"Hey, I just got a promotion and pay rise a month ago. I can afford it... Your dad is staring at us. You better go, and I have to find my table. Go now!"
"You've become rather bossy since you became the head of the HK office."
"I learned to be so from my former boss. She was highly skilled at giving orders."
# # # #
The ball goes like clockwork. Bryan did end up winning the night at James's Hotel. It went for forty thousand. There was no way he was going to lose when James decided he was going to bid on it himself. It is hard to remain impassive as their pissing competition played out in front of hundreds of people.
"Phoebe and Bryan, are you two coming to watch the fireworks?" Ava asks. Bryan joined me, Ava and Daniel for coffee during the last hour of the ball. We have been sitting and enjoying each other's company.
"Yes, I just need o grab my bag." I want to leave straight after the fireworks.
"Ava and I will grab a good spot for us four."
"I think your cousin and her husband believe that we are together." Bryan grins.
"More like they wish" I exclaim. "Bryan do mind getting me a sparkling water while I grab my bag and tell my parents and grandparents that I am leaving straight after the fireworks. I am thirsty."
I fail to find my family, and when I hear first fireworks explode, I know it's because they are down by the water. I will just text them when I leave. I turn around to meet up with Bryan when I receive another unwelcome encounter. James.
"Phoebe, I have been trying to talk to you all night. Now, will you finally speak to me, or agree at least to seeing me tomorrow."
"No. My answer won't change."
"Oh come on Phoebe. I am sick of this. Stop being so stubborn!"
"James I am asking you politely to leave."
"Or what you will have security escort me out?" James is callous in his response. He has drunk more during the evening.
"Yes she will after I have had my piece." before I know it, Bryan has thrown his right fist into James' face, and they're both on the floor. Both are throwing their fists in each other's direction.
"Stop it," I yell at them both, hoping against hope that they will both listen. The firework show behind us is so loud that they don't hear me or choose not to. None of the guests are aware that another set of fireworks are happening behind them. I needn't have worried about them hurting each other any further as security quickly descends and pulls them apart. Never have I been as happy for our security detail as I am right now.
My father quickly arrives followed soon after by Mom. He scans the scene and then looks at me with raised eyebrows. My dad glances at Taylor and it as if they are communicating without talking. He father gestures for me to walk into the house, where both Bryan and James are already being escorted.
"Who wants to go first and explain what was happening?" No one responds. "Walsh I have never even seen you hurt a fly before, but outside you were throwing your fist at Kenson here."
"Mr. Grey it was him who attacked me first. You can review all the CTV and security footage to determine this if you like. I am considering pressing charges." Sawyer enters the room and whispers to my father. He apparently saw the altercation from the beginning. It must have been him who altered Taylor and my father.
"There is no need. Walsh, since you instigated this act would you like to explain yourself?"
"It had to be done. James has been a continual source of annoyance to Phoebe. She has told him enough times to stay away." Bryan explains.
"What else is there to this story?" Bryan looks at me, but I shake my head. No, I can't. I don't want to tell them.
"Phoebe, what is it?" My father's probes.
"Nothing. It's nothing."
"You're lying. Phoebe what is wrong." My mother asks softly taking my hand. "Your hands are cold."
"Mom and dad, can security just escort James out. I will have Richman take Bryan back to his hotel before I go home. It's getting late."
"No. Not until we get to the bottom of this. Kenson I don't appreciate my daughter being harassed and bothered, especially continuously."
" I just want to talk to Phoebe. I have been trying to do so ever since she broke up with me before she left for Hong Kong. We need to speak, we still do. You running away to the other side of the planet didn't eliminate the fact we lost us..."
"No" I shout not letting James say it. I close my eyes in horror. This isn't the way I want my parents to find out the truth. My mother looks worried, while my father narrows his eyes and his lips thin. He is putting the pieces together. At least the few pieces that have to been offered up.
"When I went to collect you from Hong Kong it was evident that something was causing you to stay away from home. I won't be left in the dark on this matter. I don't care how old you are. Either I am told the truth right now, the whole truth, or I will instruct security to commence investigations."
"Dad, we can discuss this tomorrow?" I request. Just give me a little more time.
"No Phoebe, tonight" My mother mandates. She knows that I am stalling.
"Mom and dad no. "
"I am going to go. I won't press charges against Walsh, though I should" James states standing up, Bryan immediately pounces and pins him to the wall. Curiously security doesn't intervene. My father signaling to them to stand back though remain on alert
"You sorry son of a bitch. Weaseling your way out of here, trying to save your skin."
"Let him go, Bryan. James just like I told you over two years ago I have no desire to see you ever again." I restate, hopeful it's the last time I have to utter those or any other words to him.
"For what it's worth Phoebe I am sorry. I screwed up and never meant to hurt you. I often wonder if things would have been different if... that last day I saw you."
"We will never know." James looks at me and then walks out, though I have to convince my father and Taylor.
"Phoebe, you need to talk to us." My mother coaxes me.
"Especially since it seems that you have spoken to Bryan." My father declares rather displeased.
"Dad, did you tell your parents everything in your twenties or did you talk to Uncle Elliot or someone else?" I question.
"We are talking about you, not me. If you don't tell us, then I am going to have Walsh explain what happened."
"No, I am not ready and Bryan I refuse to allow you to talk to my parents about this!" I dictate.
Phoebe for the love of god, I won't be in the dark." My dad is trying not to become angry, but his emotions are taking too much of a toll on him. "I swear that I will pursue this. I will investigate whatever happened two years ago. I will question everyone in your life at the time and now if need be."
"Phoebe, tell them. You will never get over it if you don't let it go." Bryan is begging. Even when he was trying to get me to stand up to my father, he never begged. It's not him.
"The reason I didn't want to leave Hong Kong. The reason why I volunteered and subsequently negotiated to go in the first place" I murmur, though loud enough so my parents can hear. I sit down on the familiar leather couch in my grandparent's living room. Over the years many pieces of furniture have been replaced and changed, but this couch has always remained. I need its familiarity and the fact that it reminds me of such happy memories.
"Phoebe, you need to talk. You have our complete attention." My father's voice is strained. He doesn't cope well with being kept in the dark.
"I couldn't tell you before. Dad, you would have killed him, as would have Ted. Maybe even Taylor. I don't know, but your reactions would have been horrible. I should have listened previously but I was far too headstrong... stubborn.. stupid.. the list is endless."
"Phoebe you can tell us." My mother attempts to comfort and encourage me to finally talk.
"I am sorry mom that I didn't tell you. I should have.. " I state asking for her forgiveness. I sigh and take several deep breaths. It's time to tell my truth.
Two years ago.
Ros, Ted, my father and I have been practically pulling out our hair for the past three hours trying to ensure that the acquisition and future modifications of the manufacturing plants in Asia don't crumble. The key thing is that from Seattle it's just damn hard to put out the spot fires and negotiate with the appropriate authorities. Our subsidiary office isn't equipped or manned sufficiently.
"We are going to have to travel to Hong Kong a hell of a lot more at this rate." I nod in agreement. We could put one of our core people in there, but it might not be enough. These people like to deal with someone high up in the company.
"Travel? More like move there." Ted states rolling his eyes and then looking at me. My brother has that glow in his eye. "Hey dad, I propose that we send Phoebe, say for a couple of years. That way we can ensure these deals will go ahead and it will end her current relationship. Two birds with one stone." Ted looks at me and grins. My family, especially my father don't seem to click with my current boyfriend, James Kenson, even though I have been seeing him for about a year. Dad has never been fond of any boyfriend I have had, but he dislikes this one more. I use to think it was probably as he is aware that I am sleeping with him. James background check comes back clean, he treats me well, and we have fun together. He is suitably employed as an assistant manager at one of the finest hotels in Seattle and likely to take over when his superior retires. My family's disposition towards James doesn't bother, well not that much. I figure they will come around eventually. My mother has, kind of, and at least my family is always cordial to them.
"Ted is right... About someone moving to Hong Kong, but sorry little Grey that is all " I smirk at Ros's nickname for my brother. It is something that started when he was little when he used to come to Grey house, and it has stuck. "We need a major player in the Hong Kong office until we get it all rolling. It's going to take time, but professionally it will be a jump start. Maybe give someone the upper hand when the current CEO decides to retire." Ros glances at me, none too discreetly either. I don't know how much she means this. Personally, I think Ros just likes to ruffle Ted's feathers. I don't want to take my brother's place as heir apparent to Grey enterprise. He was born first, and it's his right. Though I know, I could give him a run for his money.
"Interesting suggestion Theodore, though sending Phoebe away for so long isn't, even though the side effect of the end of her relationship would be." Oh come on, surely my relationships shouldn't be discussed here.
I scowl at my brother. Did he have to bring this up? I am ready to fight fire with fire, and he knows it. He opens his mouth to talk, stopping me. "Dad, I shouldn't have said anything. It's my fault and to be honest, Phoebe and Kenson relationship isn't that serious." Serious? I wonder if my brother knows the meaning of that word.
"Besides that, Ros is right. We need someone with some talent and can be trusted, placed in the Hong Kong office."
"There is Bryan Walsh. He has worked for Grey Enterprise for several years now in various offices, and he is capable, though he will need mentoring." I suggest.
"I agree he is a capable guy though I don't know if we can mentor him sufficiently from afar." Ted comment.
"So Ted, are you offering relocate temporarily? Preparation to be the next CEO... "
"I didn't say that" There is no way that my brother is going to want to leave Seattle any more than myself.
"I am calling it a day. We can all spend the weekend thinking this over. I am eager to leave early." The three of us grin. It's half past two and dad loves to leave the office early on a Friday. Mom has recently decreased her workload to four days a week taking Friday off. My father is eager to start the weekend to be with mom. Their love and lust for each other are endearing.
Ted quickly leaves our fathers office, as he has a teleconference. I grab my notepad and commence walking out with Ros, only to stop when my dad calls out to me.
"Phoebe, can you wait a minute?" I turn around in time to witness my father smirking like a teenager on his phone. I shake my head ever so slightly.
"How is Mom?" Dad raises his eyebrows at my query. "Come on dad; I know whatever you were reading was from mom. You never get that look in your eyes unless it is her."
"Your mom is well. Enjoying her day off and waiting for me to get home." Dad grins. TMI. Time to take this conversation in a different direction.
"Dad, I have to ask. How did you finally convince mom to step away one day a week from Grey publishing?" It is no secret that dad has wanted mom to retire though is yet to mention utter the 'R' word about himself.
"We compromised actually. I wanted Ana to retire, then when that failed I suggested she work two or three days a week instead which almost got me kicked out of our bedroom. Eventually, your mother agreed to work only four days a week."
"I am very convincing, but that isn't what I wanted to talk about. What Ros said about the future CEO, she is right. It's not written in stone that Ted will take over."
"However, it's more than probable. Ted is deserving of the post. He has wanted and worked towards since he could walk and talk practically.
"I want you to take a prominent role is coordinating the Hong Kong projects. It's going to be difficult due to distance, but it's an important role. I won't know how it's going to play out until we have solved the issues at hand. You already have some skills in speaking Cantonese and Mandarin Chinese, and that tends to go a long way.
"Thanks for the vote of confidence. I happily accept the role."
"Good. Come and have dinner with your mom and I tonight say at seven?" While I know he and mom want to have me over, I suspect me dad is leading me to a different conversation.
"I can't tonight but thank you."
"Are you seeing James this evening?"
"Yes," My dad's lips form a tight line. I know he wants more information than that.
"Possibly... it all depends on what time he gets off work. He has been busy at the hotel lately." I don't mention that James has canceled a couple of our dates recently. We all get busy.
"So how serious is this thing between you two?" I am careful to prevent an apparent change in my demeanor.
"That would be an arbitrary measurement. "
"One meaning you don't care if I see him or not, ten regarding long term; wedding dress, children, a house over a city apartment, that sort of thing."
"Somewhere between two and seven." I look at my father impassively.
"Intriguing range," Dad remarks irritated. "Dinner. You, James, your mom, and I. You name the place."
"Dad... I don't... "I want to throw my hands up. I don't know what to say.
"I know you don't like James."
"I have never said that"
"Not to me, true, but I suspect you have said so to mom, Uncle Elliot, Aunt Kate, Aunt Mia, Ted, Grandma, Grandpa and so on. Besides father, you don't need to say anything, your expression and telltale signs give away your feelings." My dad's lips form a tight narrow line.
"Phoebe I don't think I will ever like anyone you ever date. Dinner. Name the place."
"I don't know."
"Fine, I will choose the place. We can go to the mile high club at seven tomorrow night."
"I will have to check with James if not this weekend then next might be good. "
"Make it this weekend. Let me or your mother know..."
"Will do." My dad narrows his eyes at me since my voice isn't convincing.
"I will have your mom call you." I want to roll my eyes but stop myself. Dad is playing the mom card. It always gets to me. I won't say no to her, and he knows it.
"Bye, dad. Have a good evening." I kiss my father goodbye and follow him out heading straight to my office. I double check my schedule. There is nothing on my schedule, and there is nothing on my list of things to do that can't wait.
"Laura I am heading out. I have a private meeting to attend. I am on my phone. Email or ring me if anything urgent comes up. Anything else can wait till Monday."
"Good afternoon Miss Grey. Mr. Kenson is in his office. I told him that you had phoned after him. He said for you to go straight on in." I nod and smile thankfully at James's assistant Amanda. Usually, I make a little chit chat with her, but I am far too eager to see him. James is sitting back on his overlarge leather chair, on a conference call to London, I believe, as I enter. He smirks as I approach him. I undo the first three buttons of my white blouse, and I sit on his lap while James continues with his work call. He places soft and silent kisses on my lips and holds up his hand indicating that he needs 'five more minutes.' I move to stand up, giving him space, but he stops me, keeping me in place.
I sit and listen to James discuss developments, statistics, and new ventures. The hospitality industry is one that I am not personally interested in, but my boyfriend's enthusiasm is contagious. Likewise, he has no natural curiosity in the world of mergers and acquisitions but listens attentively and takes an interest when I discuss work with him.
After five minutes are up and the call doesn't seem ready to end, I start to tease James. I run my index finger along his cheek and jaw line, undoing a couple of his shirt buttons and then the buckle on his belt.
"Phoebe..." he calls out far too loud.
"James, what was that?" One of the other voices on the teleconference asks. I raise my eyes brows and place my finger on my lips.
"Nothing... it was just .. umm.. one of my staff." I raise my eyebrows and smirk. Nice save, but you're not out of the woods just yet. "Clayton, where are you at with plans for the renovations of the suites in London? I am eager to see them before we commence the early stages of our renovations."
I don't take my eyes of James as I undo the button and zip of his pants, then fish out his manhood. His eyes become dark as I take him in my mouth. Slowly but effectively teasing him and feeling him grow. James struggles to talk but manages to end the conference call quickly. Just as he stops, so do I. His frustration and needs are apparent. See how you have made me feel when you cancel our dates?
"As always Mr. Kenson, it has been a pleasure seeing you. I can tell that you are extremely busy. I will leave you to get back to your work."
"Oh no, you don't Miss Grey. There is no way that you are going to stop after all your teasing and when I can't get caught. Time to finish what you have started." I run my tongue over my top lip and oblige his request.
After James redoes his top pant button and belt, I straddle him, as he kisses me passionately. "So what do I owe this pleasant visit?"
"Pleasant?" I repeat his descriptive word. I would have called it more than pleasant personally. "Very pleasant." I raise my eyebrows, less than impressed. "Erotic. Incredible. Gratifying. And mischievous."
"You were looking stressed on your work call, so I thought I would ease your tension. Isn't that what girlfriends do?"
"True, you were effective, though I would hate to think what would happen if I reciprocated at Grey House. Considering your father's lukewarm attitude to me, I would end up taking my last breaths."
"No, my father isn't that drastic. He would more or less have you knocked out, and then you would wake up in some desert or third world nation with just the clothes on your back and no identification." I reply seriously though smile once I finish.
"Nice to know that Christian Grey would spare my life."
"My dad doesn't dislike you. In fact, he invited us to have dinner with him and mom tomorrow evening. They want to take us to the Mile High club at seven o'clock, though I told him I would have to check with you."
"That gives us just over twenty-four hours to be alone and in bed. That should give me enough stress relief to be able to spend an evening with my sexy girlfriend's parents. Whose place do you want to go to, yours or mine?"
"Let's go to your place. I love that Italian restaurant close to your apartment, and I can have Richman pick us up some food."
# # # #
"I need to go for a little while," I mutter running my fingers over James' chest. I desperately want to remain in bed with his but I can't.
"What? We haven't even woken the morning up." I giggle when James rolls over, pinning me down. "I thought we would be in bed until this evening when we met your parents for dinner and I try to show, again, that I am the perfect partner for you, then likely fail."
"I know, but I got a message from my doctor late yesterday saying that she can see me today. She has had to cancel a couple of appointments as her patients have fallen into labor. She is making up her appointments today."
"Then I suggest you cancel also. Stay here in bed with me. I didn't get enough of you last night."
"We did everything humanly possibly."
"Let's be sure and repeat everything. See if there was anything we missed out."
"I can't. I need to see her to change my contraceptive. I want to start having a shot, instead of taking the pill. It's so much easier!" I explain.
"See the doctor next week." James commences kissing my neck, making his way down to my breast.
"No James I can't, or else my doctor will be postponing other patient's appointments to deliver our child in nine months."
"It's a risk I can take." I shake my head and manage to get up. James is frowning. "I am going to have a shower. After my appointment, I need to go to my apartment and grab something to wear tonight, some makeup and shoes. Mom has been telling me that I have been burning the candle at both ends lately, so I ought to look decent. I will be back just after midday."
"Midday? That four hours." James declares frustrated.
"My doctor's office is on the other side of town, and then I have to go back to my pace and back here to yours."
"So you're going to leave me here with this." James signals to his erection. I shrug.
"I will be back. I can deal with that later."
# # # #
"Are you sure?" I squeak. I never expected this. Damn, I didn't even come to see my doctor for this purpose. I only took the test since its standard before having a shot.
"Yes. Two lines indicate pregnancy. We can do another test if you wish." I manage to nod and don't breathe until the next test shows the same result. I don't breathe and practically convulse.
"We should see how far along you are." I take slow and calming breaths in an attempt to keep myself from falling into shock as I follow my doctor's instructions and lie on the bed next to the ultrasound machine. I look at the screen as a thousand emotions hit me.
I am clutching the ultrasound picture of our baby in the white envelope. I am not sure how James is going to take this news. I don't even know how I feel though I am slowly getting over my shock. A baby. Our baby. It will change aspects of our lives, though we have resources. We can hire a babysitter or a nanny, but not a full time live in one. I wouldn't like it. I can take maternity leave and return to work after awhile. Gosh, it might be enough to make my mother give up work. Hang on James, and I don't even live together, though we spend every night together, Alternating between our apartments. Maybe we should move in together, officially. I shake my head at myself; we will work it out. My head is spinning. It isn't until I arrive back at James place that it occurs to me that I didn't even go home. I came straight back. I unlock the door to his apartment, expecting him to be answering emails or still pouting that I left. Damn, I wonder what he is going to say. James did say that he would take the risk of me falling pregnant to skip my appointment; however, that was in humor, with a big dose of sexual need.
I grab a glass of water and head off to seek James out. He might be in the shower. I enter his room, and that is when I see it. I stand there mortified until one of them notices me. I don't know why I didn't just turn around, but at the back of my mind, I wondered if somehow I had been wrong. My eyes were deceiving me.
"Oh my God, Phoebe!" James screams.
"I ... need ...to go." I manage to say finally.
"No, wait. Phoebe.. hold on!" I start to walk out quickly, but James catches up to me. "Please don't go. She doesn't mean anything. I made a mistake. She is leaving right now."
"That's one big mistake. You were both in your bed together." I feel sick. I doubt he even changed the sheets from when we were together, only a few hours earlier.
"She is just a sideline. She doesn't mean anything to me. It over."
"That's repulsive. Goodbye James." I scowl. I am so angry. I feel a desperate urge to get as far away from James. I hide the white envelope. I will tell him later. Not now. James doesn't deserve to know about our baby right now.
I double check that I look decent enough for dinner with my parents. They damn well can read me like a children's book, so I need to put on my best face. I would have canceled, but they would just make them quiz me more that they are already like to when I turn up alone. I don't want to tell them. Later, but not tonight. I will probably end up drinking tea with my mother tomorrow and telling her everything. To distract my father, I have worn my red dress that is a touch short, though in his eyes is far too short. That should divert his curiosity of James's absence and direct it to how inappropriate my dress is.
At the restaurant, I am greeted by the maître d, who welcomes me in a far too familiar manner and informs me that my parents have already arrived. I quickly check myself, in the glass like wall. I pat my stomach and whisper, 'Okay baby Grey, time to have dinner with your grandparents.'
"Good evening mom and dad. Gosh, I am hungry, have you two ordered anything?" I kiss both my parents quickly and take my seat, focussing on the menu.
"Just drinks, would you like a glass of red?" Shit alcohol. I can't drink.
"No thank you. I have an early morning workout with my personal trainer, and I don't want to take the risk that I would be groggy." I breathe out, relieved that I came up with a plausible excuse. Our waiter approaches me. "I will just have a sparkling water with lime, and we won't be joined by anyone else, so you can clear this extra setting thank you." My parents remain silent until the waiter has completed their task and leaves.
"James wasn't available?" Mom queries.
"No, and he won't be anymore."
"Oh," my mother replies. My father remains silent, but I can see his mind churning.
"James and I, we weren't that serious. It was rather casual, some fun, but there was no future in it. Our relationship just came to a natural end. That's all. Dad I was going to tell you yesterday when you asked about how serious James and I were, that I was ending it but you backed me into a corner, and I felt like I had to justify my relationship. Mom, I promise you I am fine. If I wasn't then I would have canceled dinner... talking about dinner I am hungry".
# # # #
The next day I woke up and the gravity of yesterday events hit me. I am pregnant with my ex-boyfriend that I caught sleeping with some other girl. I wonder if I have even have tell James that he is going to be a father. Morally I do, though right now I need some time away from him. I want to spend all day in bed and sleep, but my stomach churns forcing me out of bed. I don't know if it's morning sickness, or physiological because I now know I am pregnant.
I begrudgingly get up, get dressed into a sports top and running pants. I was planning on going for a run, but I don't feel up to it. I feel a little light headed and nauseous. Exercise has always helped clear my head and make me feel better, so I decide to go for a walk while I drink my tea. When I reach the front of the apartment building, I see him. James. I ignore him and just continue to walk.
"Phoebe, wait. Talk to me."
"I don't want to right now, and I don't have the time. I need to go for a run." I lie, but he has lied worse. Far worse.
"Don't ... please talk to me. I tried to get up to your building, but security stopped me."
"Good to know that they are doing their job correctly then. My father will be satisfied."
"Please Phoebe I don't want to make a scene, but I need to talk to you. Just this once. If you are still adamant that you want nothing to do with me, then I will leave."
"Fine, come up to my apartment" I would rather just send him away, but there is the issue of this baby.
"You have two minutes." I declare once we are in my apartment, pointing to the clock.
"Phoebe, I screwed up."
"Technically you were getting screwed." I clarify.
"I know how it all looked. Nothing I can say will take that away, but it's over between her and me. It was that one time. She was an old flame from before we started to date."
"So you expect me to believe that a woman who you have had no contact with for at last a year, suddenly just popped up, in the few hours that I happened to need to go out to my doctor's appointment?" It's so ridiculous that I want to laugh.
"Yes.. no...yes." I laugh. Not because I am humored but due of the ridiculousness of this all. "Phoebe, I don't want to lose you."
"Too late. You already have"
"I love you. I hate the fact that I may never get to see you again." James's voice is full of remorse.
"I wish that was possible now," I mutter. Shit, I shouldn't have said anything, at least not right now. I need to learn to keep my mouth shut.
"What do you mean?"
"No time like the present I guess." I sigh heavily. "At my doctor's appointment yesterday I found out I am pregnant. You are the only one that I have been with. It's yours. Don't worry I don't need your help. You can choose to be in this child's life if you wish or not. We can have our lawyers organize something official in regards visitation, or you can opt to give up your parental rights."
"Correction, I am pregnant. You are the father, but stating we're pregnant implies we are still together. That is no longer the case."
"What the fuck?" I call out.
"Marry me. Phoebe, I love you. Marry me. We can get married quickly or wait till the baby is born. We can be a family. You will have no reason not to trust me. I promise you."
"James I think that ship has sunk, with you sinking yourself into whoever that girl was."
"No, Phoebe. No."
"James I am going for a run. You have two choices. The first of which is that you walk out of here with whatever dignity you still have or I have Richman throw you out. That option will be documented and analyzed you my family's security team. Trust me; you don't want to go there." I hate that I have threatened to use my family's weight, but I don't have the energy to argue this matter in depth.
James wisely walks out. I walk several steps behind him. I tell Richman to go and enjoy his day off. I only intend on walking, maybe run if James is watching to keep up the facade, then return home. I will probably do some work, read and watch a movie. I don't need a security detail. Besides, I have my cell phone with me and my ever so hidden tracer pin so I can be tracked if the need arises. This is protocol when I don't have my CPO with me. Only my parents have twenty-four hours close protection. I suspect my dad has someone watching me on the days Richman isn't with me, but they are discreet. I commence a slow jog, knowing James is watching. I don't want it to look like I have lied. There is enough of that going on.
"Phoebe. Wait! Let me talk!" James calls out. I decide to pretend I can't hear him and pick up the pace. The bastard keeps running and of course, is faster than me. "I can keep running if that is what you want."
"I don't care if you jump in Lake Washington and swim all the way out to the Pacific Ocean."
"Phoebe you look pale." I don't have to look at my reflection to know that James is telling the truth. I don't feel well. "Is the baby okay? Are you all right?"
"We will be when you let us be. Go away. I will have my lawyers contact you." I growl continuing to run.
I grimace and pick up the pace, running faster and faster, hoping to distance myself. But it doesn't work. I don't know if it was because I was unwell, or pushed myself too much, but I lose my footing. I feel a sharp, almost crippling cramp in my stomach, falling to the ground and twist my ankle but it's a pain in my stomach that is having the worst effect. I scream out, louder than I ever have.
"Phoebe we need to get you to a hospital or at least a doctor."James helps me to a park bench. I am in so much pain. I can't reject his help. He attempts to comfort me, by putting his arm around me, but I push him away.
"Don't touch me again." I pull out my cell phone from the zipper pocket area of my yoga pants and call Richman. He speeds towards me. I should have refused, but the pain was so bad, that I didn't argue with James coming in the car with me. I demand that Richman not report this into Taylor until I have seen a doctor. It might be something mild. Of course, he doesn't know I am pregnant. He wasn't with me at my appointment.
"What's worse, the pain in your stomach or your ankle," James whispers quietly
"They are both bad." I refuse to tell him the truth.
I am rushed into the emergency department. My foot is wrapped to keep it still and thankfully doesn't appear anything serious. Nothing that keeping off my foot raised and iced for a few days shouldn't fix. The attending doctor orders an immediate ultrasound. But I already knew the results. I had begun to bleed. The doctor leaves me with James.
"Phoebe, I am so sorry. If I had known that this could have happened, I wouldn't have kept running trying to get you to talk to me. I am so sorry baby."
"Don't call me that." It's not just James fault. I wasn't feeling well. I knew how I was feeling. I should have stopped. We are both at fault.
"You need to leave. I never want to see you again. There is no reason for us to see or communicate with each other now."
"Phoebe.." James suddenly stops talking when we hear the distinctive voices of Christian and Ana Grey.
"How did your parents now you are here?" I shrug. Richman? Maybe the trackers on my phone or pin? Any other possible security allocated to me? Or maybe my Dad has a satellite in orbit that monitors me? Maybe all of the above. I don't know.
"Phoebe, are you okay? Do you need something?" My mother asks. My dad comes over and kisses me, though his attention becomes preoccupied wondering why James, that man I told my parents I had broken up with, is present in my emergency department room.
"Yes mom I am perfectly fine, and I don't need anything, except maybe enough ice to last me three days. I just sprained my ankle running. Luckily, James was in the area and saw me. He helped me out until Richman arrived and accompanied me. Thank you for your help James." This is all my parents need to learn at the moment. If they heard anything else, then it will be James who needs medical attention and my father would need a lawyer after being arrested for assault, possibly murder.
"I am glad that I could help," Josh mutters weakly. He is going to break. I need to end this little scene.
"Actually mom and dad there are a couple of things I need. Could you two kindly get me coffee and something to eat? Once I am released can you both drive me home? I may need some help getting up to my apartment. I would ask Richman, but technically it's his day off."
"Okay, but I want us to talk to your doctor. Maybe you should come home to the sound for a few days."
"I feel like a Latte, and something sweet."
"Have you eaten any breakfast or lunch?" My father investigates.
"I have only had a cup of tea" My dad's lips form a hard line, and I know he wants to scold me. He would if the scene was any different.
"Phoebe we will go to the cafe across the street and get you a bagel along with your selected choices." Mom guides dad out of the emergency, leaving James and me alone.
"You didn't tell them about the baby." James looks at me puzzled.
"If I had, then you would no longer be breathing, and on that point, I need to talk to my doctor." James dutifully finds him. I instruct the doctor that no information is to be shared about my miscarriage with my parents or anyone else. He can discuss my ankle until he is blue in the face but that is it. The doctor agrees. I am in my mid-twenties and have full control of what medical information is released and not.
"Phoebe I want us to start again, we can start from the beginning, or we could even move in together and reset our relationship that way. You will know everything I do, go and see. I just want you back. Maybe when you are ready, we can try again for another baby." I instantly start to shake my head. I can't believe he would even suggest such a thigh gesture after what has happened in the last couple of days.
"Not even when hell freezes over!" I did have some other explicit words that I was going to use but cease when my parents walk in, with Taylor holding a couple of boxes.
"How much food did you think I wanted to eat?"
"We haven't eaten lunch either, so thought we would join you. James, we bought you a bagel. The least we could do since you were on hand to help Phoebe." I stare at James. I want him to know that he is not welcome.
"Thank you, Mr. and Mrs. Grey, but I have to go. I had a lot planned today and need to get back to my list of things to do. Goodbye, Phoebe. I hope you recover quickly." He steps towards me. I know he wants to kiss me goodbye, but he wisely reconsiders.
"Goodbye James." He nods sadly and leaves. I busy myself eating the bagel. I don't have much of an appetite but eat for the sake of the scene.
"So can we interrupt that you and James back together?"
"Not a chance."
I spent the next couple of days at the sound since I was struggling to get around but then returned to my apartment, where emotion took over. I felt so guilty. I had pushed myself too far. I had contributed to the loss of my unborn baby. I avoided all of James attempts to contact and see me, which were annoying to no end. Eventually, I had security visit him. Sawyer did a special favor for me. I couldn't ask Taylor; we would feel too obligated to tell my dad. I am not sure exactly what Sawyer did, but it worked. But the hardest part was the 'what if' that I had to deal with. What if I hadn't lost the baby; which room would be theirs? What color would I have painted the room or would I have a mural or a border? Would it have been a girl or a boy? What would I have named the baby? What would he or she looked like? How would I have managed to leave the baby every day to go to work or would I have taken it to work each day with me with a babysitter? These were the first few 'what ifs' that came to mind after only an hour alone. Soon everything around me made me think about the baby I lost.
This is why I wanted to leave Seattle. I need to refocus and get over the loss of my baby. I never even let myself get to a serious relationship again, which is why I ended up with a friend with benefits in Hong Kong.
For the first time, tears run down my face. I never let myself cry before. I tried just to be strong. Keep moving on. My mom, who has been holding my hand the whole time, holds me a little tighter.
Sawyer enters, announcing that several of my parent's friends are leaving as the ball is over. I tell my mom to go and convince her that I am fine. I promise that will either talk to her later tonight or tomorrow.
"Walsh, would you please excuse us. I wish to speak to my daughter alone" Bryan looks over to me, and I nod. He walks out but looks back. I think Bryan might be regretting trying to convince me to tell me parents what happened.
I sigh as silently as I can and wait for my father's reaction. He is looking away, out of the vast window of my grandparent's elegant main room. I can't predict what he will say or do. I need to steer this conversation.
"Dad. I know.. "
"Why didn't you tell us? Have we been bad parents?" I don't have a good answer anymore.
"No. You are your mom have been incredible parents. I was wrong. I should have told you. I was worried that you would have killed James. I was to blame also. I pushed myself too hard when I wasn't well."
"James Kenson cheated on you, and he was the driving force of you hurting yourself."
"It's history now."
"I want to hurt him... kill him." There is a real dark tone to my father's voice. I have never heard it before. It sends a shiver up my spine.
"You can't" My dad is still looking away from me, staring out the window of my grandparents home.
"If I had known I would never have allowed you to go to Hong Kong."
"I needed to go. It was good therapy for me." Dad then turns and looks at me. His expression is mixed and emotions a hive of confusion.
"Phoebe I need you to promise me that you will never shut your mother or me out."
"I wasn't deliberately shutting you out. In some weird way, I was protecting you both. Dad, no offense, but your temper is not always known to be in check." My dad grins, obviously humored. Though this lighter mood is short-lived, and he becomes solemn. He strolls towards me. His steps spaced out evenly. Dad stops in front of me and wraps his arms around me and kisses my forehead.
"I love you, Phoebe."
"Love you too dad."
"The question that still needs to be answered is, do you still need the therapy of being away from home?"
"Less so now."
"Then I think it's time for you to move on."
"I don't know what you mean."
"Yes, you do. Reflect on that guy William you saw in Hong Kong. I am going to go and help your mother. Come over tomorrow for dinner. You are still too skinny. I will have Gail make you your favorite spaghetti bolognese."
I walk back out to the ball where everything is wrapping up. I join my brother who is aware that something just went down and promised to tell him everything later. I hold my mother's hand and smile at her. I feel lighter. "Mom I don't know if it helps, but I am sorry," I whisper again into her ear.
"I know. I am sorry that you went through that alone."
"Can we go out tomorrow, for one of our old coffee and tea dates?"
"I have been waiting for you to ask me."
"Good. I have to go."
"There is somewhere I need to be." Mom looks at me curiously. "Ask dad. I will tell you tomorrow." I kiss her goodbye and in a swift pace seek out the one person I am looking for.
"Miss Phoebe, do you need some help?" I turn to my side and find Taylor. I shrug. "I think this note will help." I take it from him and read it.
I hope the truth sets you free. Don't hate me. I am leaving in the morning; the latest report on the progress of our ventures in HK is in your email account.
"Come, Phoebe, I will drive you."
I knock on the hotel door and my breathing hitches. What if... no, I can't think like that. The door opens, and there he stands. The top buttons of his shirt are undone, his bow tie discarded with his dinner jacket. I grin at his bare feet.
"Phoebe, what are you doing here?"
"There's something I needed to do. A favor to be repaid." Bryan tilts his head to the side, not following me. I move ever so slightly closer and press my lips against his. Chastely at first, to see if he will respond. Bryan and I both stop breathing. Only after a second he places his hands on me and kisses me, passionately. I respond. I feel like I am walking on cloud nine.
"I can't believe you are kissing me like that just hours before I fly back to the other side of the world" I blush at Bryan's statement.
"I can Skype you. Fly over and see you even. I can even call you into the office here. Wow, that sounds so inappropriate."
"It does, but I accept your conditions."
"Have a safe flight, Mr. Walsh." I kiss him one more time and then leave. While I want to spend the night with him, I need to take this one step at a time.