I do not own Fifty Shades Trilogy, or the characters. They belong to E. L. James. I am only exercising my right to exploit, abuse, and mangle the characters to MY discretion in MY story in MY interpretation as a fan. If something that I say displeases you, please, just leave. If you don’t like this story or me, please don’t spoil this experience for everyone. Just go away. For the rest of you, the saga continues…
Chapter 08—The Showdown
Mother fucking snow bitches and goat fuckers from hell! This son-of-a-bitch is staring at me again! What the hell is he playing at? Does he plan on staring at me for the next ten damn sessions? I have let the inmates take over the asylum—the floor is open. They can do and say whatever tickles their fancy. However, that doesn’t include sitting there staring at me.
After about thirty-five minutes of this, I turn to make direct eye-contact with him. I’m not staring at him to make him stop staring at me—that’s a fight that I know I won’t win. I’m really trying to get into his head a bit. He has this little smirk on his face and a small part of me is dying to know what he’s thinking while another part of me is afraid that, in his head, I’m sitting here naked. That would be a tragedy on so many levels.
“Well, I think we should hear something from Mr. Grey,” a voice to the left of me purrs. I don’t even turn to see who it is. I’m assuming she’s one of his many fans and only suggested it because she saw us staring at each other. Another fan to my right chimes in, “Yes, yes, Mr. Grey. We haven’t heard anything from you since you’ve been here. We’d love to hear more about you,” she coos. I look over at her with half a smile, mentally asking her Good God, woman, can you be any more obvious? I actually write in my notes that two other participants attempt to engage Mr. Grey in a conversation in class. Imagine my surprise when I hear the voice of one Mr. Christian Grey say…
A lone, high-pitched laugh escapes my throat before I have a chance to stop it. I hold my head down, cover my mouth, and keep writing.
“Something you find amusing, Ms. Steele?” Holy cow, he spoke again, and directly to me this time. Wonder of wonders. What do I tell him—that he’s so damn arrogant it’s laughable? Nope, that won’t go over too well.
“No, Mr. Grey,” I say flatly. “As a matter of fact, I find the situation very uncomfortable. But then again, you already knew that.” I add sarcastically. The smirk on his lips transforms into a flat line. I. Have. Had. Enough. Of. This. Shit. I look at my watch. 4:42pm.
“Break until 5:00. Mr. Grey, may I see you in the hall, please?” I stand up, turn on my heels, and walk out the door without waiting for a response. I look at Mr. MIB.
“Tell your boss he’s got five minutes to meet me in the stairwell or he’s going to regret he ever met me at all!” I march to the stairwell and wait. I am fucking livid. Threatening him was probably not the best way to get him to come out here, but I meant every word that I said.
She did not just summarily order me to come and talk to her, and then have the nerve to send Taylor in here to retrieve me like I’m being summoned to the principal’s office. I have a good mind to leave her standing right there in the damn stairwell, which I do for approximately four minutes. Then my curiosity gets the better of me. I follow Taylor to the stairwell where I find a very agitated Anastasia Steele.
“You wanted to speak to me, Ms. Steele?” I ask snidely. She turns around with her hands on her hips. Fuck, I forgot how hot she is… even hotter when she’s mad.
“What the hell is going on in there? And don’t tell me you’re just trying to pay attention, because we both know that’s bullshit.” She’s seething.
“Ms. Steele! Language!” I state in a placating manner.
“Are you learning disabled? Mentally challenged?” she asks before I even got the words out of my mouth. “Because on top of having an apparent issue with staring, you can’t seem to grasp the concept, although you’ve been told repeatedly that my name is DOCTOR STEELE.” She’s screaming now. I’ve got this woman at the very end of her rope… exactly where I want her, as a matter of fact. I close the distance between us, just enough to make her feel uncomfortable. And there’s that electricity—the same electricity I felt when I stood behind her on the dance floor. Focus, Grey.
“You don’t want me here,” I say in my Dom voice, “and I don’t want to be here. We both know that there is one sure way to get rid of me.”
Did he just get taller or is it just my imagination? Is it getting hot in here? What the hell?
He’s trying to intimidate me! Motherfucking arrogant ass bastard is trying to break me down! You want it, Grey? You got it.
“You’re right. There is only one way.” I brush past him through the doors and back into the hallway. I call the elevator. Before it comes I open Ron’s door.
“Ron, my class will be back in session at 5:00. Please go in and tell them I’ll be another ten minutes.” I hear the elevator come behind me.
“Is everything okay, Ana?” Ron calls after me as I’m marching back to the elevator, whizzing past Christian Grey—1/2 inch from knocking him on his ass.
“Everything’s fine, Ron,” I say as the wind of my departure leaves Grey standing in the hallway a bit stunned.
When I get to the 10th floor, I go to my office and pull out Mr. Grey’s court report. I fill it out completely and leave it in a file on my desk. Then I walk back to the elevator to proceed with the second half of the class.
“How did it go, sir?” Taylor asks as I approach the door to 239. “Ms. Steele didn’t seem too pleased.”
“No, she didn’t,” I confirm, which is strange to me. I thought we agreed on what needed to be done just a moment ago. She still seems pissed. I guess I’ll go back in and wait to see what happens next.
You know that moment when you walk into a room and all the conversation stops, so you know that the conversation was about you? Yeah… that happened. So, I just look from face to face to face and respond, “Carry on.” I think I stun the sycophants, but they soon start jabbering away again. I take this time to go through a few of my emails. Some guy, Ron I suppose, comes in to tell us that Ms. Steele will be a few more minutes. Sure enough, a few minutes later, she’s strolling quickly into the room and silently takes her seat.
Once we are all seated, she states, “I would like to apologize to you all for my seeming lack of attention through these last two sessions. I can assure you that I have heard every word that has been said, but I have been a bit distracted because—in case no one noticed—Mr. Grey has been staring at me non-stop for the past two sessions.” She, along with the 19 other people in class, turn their gaze to me. “Up to this point,” she continues, “that’s three hours of nothing but staring at me while I’m trying to facilitate these meetings!” she spits. Taking a deep breath and resuming her address to the group, she says, “So, please forgive me for being distracted. If it appears that I’m not giving you my undivided attention, I sincerely apologize. I assure you that it won’t happen again. But you have to admit that it’s very hard to concentrate when someone is staring at you like they haven’t eaten in three days and you’re a steak sandwich!”
I think I gasp. How dare she imply to all of these people that this is sexual! Okay, she’s a hot little number, but… that’s not what this is about at all! Is it? “Ms. Steele…!” I bark.
“IF,” she interrupts me by yelling the word, “you expect me to respond to you at all, you will address me as DOCTOR Steele!” Her eyes are narrow and she is nearly growling. Fine!
“Dr. Steele, that was completely unnecessary!” I say through clenched teeth.
“Oh, on the contrary, it was completely necessary. I have addressed this issue with you twice to no avail. There are 19 other people in this group, and your behavior is affecting my ability to serve these 19 other people. If you don’t want or need my services, fine! Leave! But please, for the sake of the 20 other adults in this room, myself included, stop acting like a petulant 3-year-old at recess who just dropped his lollipop!” This haughty little…
“Dr. Steele…” My blood is boiling.
“I am done addressing this issue with you in front of the group. If you would like to talk about it further, you can see me in my office ½ hour after the group has ended. You know where it is.” Did she just dismiss me?
“What the…” I begin to protest.
“My. OFFICE. Mr. Grey!” she nearly shouts.
I think I’m stunned into silence. I continue to glare at her for the rest of the session, and this time it’s because I’m so pissed that I’m imagining her in every humiliating position in my playroom that I can possibly put her in, gagged and collared and silently begging me to let her come.
She’s true to her word. She pays close attention to every person who speaks, breaking eye-contact with them only to take notes in her little notebook. For the last 45 minutes of class, every set of eyes look at me at least once to see if I’m still staring… every set, that is, except for Ms. Steele.
When the session is over, she mingles only momentarily with a few of the participants before walking out of the room. I’m hot on her heels, but she goes into that guy Ron’s office before I can catch her. A few moments later, she walks out and calls the elevator, Ron walking behind her. They disappear inside shortly thereafter. I guess I’ll just have to wait my turn, but I fucking hate waiting.
I march off the elevator to Dr. Steele’s office, ready for the showdown of the century. Her door is closed and her shade is drawn. I knock. I can hear voices, but they’re clearly ignoring me. Fine. I’ll stand here for another 10 minutes—that will officially be ½ hour after the session.
Sure enough, nine minutes later, Ron comes strolling out the office, smiling at me! Were they fucking in there? I would’ve been.
“Dr. Steele.” I step inside without knocking.
“Mr. Grey. Have a seat.” I sit in the same chair I occupied during my last visit.
“Mr. Grey, I’m sending your documentation back to the court this week along with my participants from last group session.” Finally! I was just about to bring out the big guns in this little game we were playing, but I do so love to win.
“Thank you, Ms. Steele,” I say matter-of-factly as I rise and turn to leave. No use dealing with the false formalities anymore, right?
“Don’t you want to know what my report says?” I freeze. Report? What do I care? Just sign the damn thing. I turn to face her again.
“Quite frankly, I don’t give a fuck what the report says.”
“Oh, in this case, I’m sure you do,” she informs me.
“Ms. Steele, I’m sure I do not,” I say and I take a few steps to leave again. She starts to read.
“Mr. Grey is a classic example of narcissistic personality disorder. He shows ample signs of megalomania and severe egocentrism, making him extremely uncooperative and difficult to accommodate. Mr. Grey has not participated in any of the group sessions in any way except to antagonize the facilitator. I would even go so far as to say that Mr. Grey is so consumed with his own self-importance that there is absolutely nothing that I can do for him as he is convinced that my station is beneath him. Although he is a rich and powerful man, Mr. Grey has highly inflated delusions of grandeur in relation to his responsibility in the exercise as well as his treatment of others. His behavior can be characterized as disruptive on a good day and offensive on a bad day. It is my recommendation that Mr. Grey be required to repeat or resume therapy elsewhere, either in a more regulated and controlled group setting or one-on-one with a qualified psychiatric professional, preferably a male.” I throw the paper down on my desk as I look at his back, standing in my office doorway, frozen from trying to make his getaway. He rolls his shoulders, and then he turns around to face me. His eyes are blazing gray and he almost seems taller as he takes two steps back to my desk.
“You do realize,” he begins as he places his hands spread apart on my desk and leans on them with his fingers spread, “that I can ruin you in the greater Seattle area and most parts of the United States.” His voice is deep, almost menacing, as he delivers his caution. I fold my hands together and put them on my desk while sitting back in my chair.
“And now you’re threatening me… brilliant strategy, Mr. Grey. Absolutely brilliant.” I say, my eyes narrowed. I see Mr. MIB inching closer to the door and I have to wonder, looking at this man towering over my desk—exactly who is he trying to protect right now, Grey… or me?
“Oh, that’s not a threat, Ms. Steele. That’s just a statement of fact. Call it an extension of your education, if you will. You have no idea who you are fucking dealing with!” Now I have to admit I’m getting a little frightened. I push the panic button underneath my desk, but I’m determined to stand my ground.
“If that is the case, and you have the ability to squash me like a bug, do it now! What’s stopping you? Why are we even having this conversation?” I’m shaking now. I don’t know why. Is it rage? Fear? Adrenaline? Whatever it is, he’s feeding off of it. His face twists into an almost fiendish smirk.
“I was giving you a chance to reconsider, Ms. Steele,” he says, his voice dripping with contempt. I rise from my desk, unable to tolerate this self-absorbed, puffed up, conceited egomaniac for one moment longer.
“I think I should probably inform you,” I begin, my voice deepened and speaking each word through clenched teeth, “that in this current capacity, I am operating as an officer of the court. And there are stiff penalties involved in attempting to intimidate or unduly influence an officer of the court. If you’re uncertain about this, I’m sure you can ask your friend back there because I’m certain that he knows.” I point to Mr. MIB as I say this. To this, Mr. MIB looks over his shoulder and says softly, but strongly, “Sir?”
“Stand down, Taylor,” Grey says calmly, never taking his eyes off me. Taylor… so that’s his name.
“Now, since you have made it crystal clear that you can effectively end my career throughout the United States, I’m certain that qualifies as a threat. I don’t appreciate your tone, and quite frankly, I don’t like your attitude. On that note, I will ask you to please leave my office, MISTER Grey!” I spit with all the venom I could muster. I hadn’t noticed that security had shown up and are now standing inside the door with Taylor.
“Is there a problem, Dr. Steele?” I hear one of the guards say to announce their presence.
“No problem,” I answer without breaking gaze with Grey. “Mr. Grey was just leaving.” I’m playing his game of stare now ignoring the fact that although he’s leaning on my desk, he still towers over me even though I’m wearing my signature stilettos. He straightens and before he leaves, he promises, “This is not over.”
“Damn straight it’s not!” I snap back. Slightly taken aback, he turns on his heels and walks out of the room. Security goes to follow him, but Taylor holds his hand up to signal them to stay back. Taylor follows his boss down the hall and the community center security follows Taylor. I watch as they wait for the elevator and, when it comes, they all disappear inside.
I let out a breath I didn’t know that I was holding, only it comes out as several breaths and whimpers. Before I know it, I feel a wave of anxiety come over me and I can’t catch my breath. I’m taking air in but it doesn’t feel like I’m breathing. I can feel the tears on my cheeks and I am afraid… very afraid. It must have been adrenaline and now that Grey is gone, he has taken it all with him… and I’m scared shitless! I shakily reach for my blackberry.
“Jewel? What’s wrong, baby?” Allen is clearly concerned hearing my voice.
“A-Al, I’m still at t-the commun-ity cen-ter. Can you p-please come and g-get me?” I weep into to phone.
“Did one of those charity case fuckers do something to you, Jewel?” I can hear movement on the other end of the phone.
“N-no… yes… p-please, Al, just come and g-get me,” I whimper.
“Ten minutes, Jewel. Don’t you move!”
I’m face down on my desk still crying when a silky-smooth voice calls my name a few minutes after I hang up with Al.
I look up into the gorgeous brown eyes of the bronze god. “James?”
“Are you okay, sweetie?” He comes around the desk and puts his hand comfortingly on my back. It just makes me cry harder. “Come on, sweetheart. Let’s get you home.”
I try to gather my things and decide that there’s nothing that I want to take from here today—except that bastard’s court report. I put it in my nearly empty briefcase, which James quickly takes from me, grab my purse and leave without turning off the lights.
The moment I get outside, the fresh air hits me and it’s like a boulder smashing into me. My legs buckle from under me. I can feel myself slipping, but James is there like a knight in shining armor with his arm around my waist to keep me from going down. Al jumps out of the passenger seat of a navy-blue Mercedes and runs over to me when he sees me almost pass out om the stairs. “Jewel? Baby, what happened?”
“Please… please get me home…” I breathe. Al rummages through my purse (like only Al can) and locates my keys. James gently loads me into his Mercedes and proceeds to drive me home while Al follows in my car.
Fucking, self-righteous… I know she’s hiding something. I just know she is. I know there’s something hiding behind that self-important exterior that I can use to knock her the fuck off her high horse. We’re sitting good distance away in the black SUV watching the door to the community center. I don’t know what I plan to do when she comes out, but she was visibly shaken. Somehow, I am going to use that to my advantage. There are a few cars left in the lot and I know from the background check that the blue 300 is hers. My fists are clenched until my knuckles are white. If she reports that shit to that stuck-up asshole judge, I could lose my plea and end up serving time. I guess I should have thought this little cat-and-mouse game through a little more carefully.
“Sir?” Taylor breaks my train of thought.
“What is it, Taylor?” I snap.
“I was just trying to get an idea of the plan, sir.” I watch as a CLS pulls in front of us, about 100 feet or so, partially blocking my view of the door. Shit!
“Plan for what?” I ask, as I wonder why the well-dressed black man from the CLS would be going into a community center at this time of the evening.
“I’m not sure that Ms. Steele would be open to speaking to you at this time, so I was just wondering what the plan is.” I glare at his reflection in the rearview mirror. “So that I can be prepared… sir.” I sigh heavily and release my fists.
“I don’t know what the plan is, Taylor. Why don’t you give me some ideas?” I say sardonically. There’s silence in the car for a moment, and then, “Sir, she was right, you know.”
“Excuse me?” What was she right about, you soon-to-be-unemployed….?
“She was right… Dr. Steele… about acting in the capacity of a court officer—and about the penalties… sir. I just thought I would inform you, sir.” I run my hands through my hair.
“Thank you, Taylor. You’re a saint,” I spit.
I see a shadow at the door… and there she is. She doesn’t look well. She was well enough to tear me a new asshole not 30 minutes ago. What the fuck happened?
You happened, I can hear the voice in my head telling me. This is what you do to women, I say to myself. You exploit their weaknesses to your own benefit and then you leave them shattered… and you love it! But for some reason, watching Ms. Steele shattered and in the arm of the unknown man didn’t sit well with me.
Even with the sun setting in the Seattle sky, I can see that she’s been crying. Moments after they clear the door, she looks as if she’s about to faint. To my own bemusement, I have to stop myself from getting out of the car to rush to her side.
What the fuck…?
Someone jumps out of the waiting CLS and starts going through her purse. Is she being mugged? I almost can’t sit still waiting to see what is going on with Ana and these two mystery guys.
Ana? When did I start calling her Ana?
I get my answer when the first guy helps Ana into the passenger seat of the CLS while the second guy jumps into her 300 and they drive away. Still, with no plan in mind, I tell Taylor, “Follow them… not too close.”
An hour later, I’m sitting in front of Ana’s apartment building. This is a pretty affluent part of town—not as affluent as Escala, but affluent. Shit, how much does she make? The parking garage is secured, so we’re unable to follow them into the structure. She’s been home now for about 40 minutes and none of them have left the parking structure. I sure as hell can’t barge into her apartment, but I can’t help but wonder if these guys are up there taking advantage of her in some way. Well, if they do, she can’t file that report on me this week.
“Fucking asshole,” I chastise myself out loud.
“Sir?” Taylor asks.
“Nothing, ” I murmur.
Several minutes later, I see the CLS leave the parking structure, but only the black gentleman is inside. I make a note of the license plate and call Welch.
“Welch. Any luck on the Steele situation?” I ask, impatient for answers.
“I’m following a couple of leads, sir. I should have something more concrete for you by morning.” I run my hand through my hair.
“Good. Find out what you can on this plate.” I give him the plate number from the CLS. “I want to know everything, and keep working on those missing two years for Ms. Steele.” I hit the end button. Most people wouldn’t care too much about what some kid was doing between the ages of 15 and 17. But I’m not most people, and I know better than most that those years can be very significant in someone’s life.
“Sir?” Taylor knows me well.
“Really, you guys, I’m fine now. It was just an adrenaline crash, honestly.” I’ve changed into a pair of sweats and a tank top and I’m clutching a glass of cabernet, trying to convince James and Al that I’m okay—but more, trying to convince myself. I’m curled up on my couch wrapped in my chocolate brown microfiber Velura throw blanket, and its coziness reminds me how happy I am to be home.
“Oh, no, Jewel darling,” Al says, chopping or slicing something for dinner in my kitchen—I don’t know what. “You called me in a state, sweetheart. You have never called me in a state… well, just once, maybe… but that’s why I am not buying your bull about being ‘fine.'” I look over at James.
“Hey, don’t look at me. I can’t control him either.” He smiles wistfully as he sits back on my couch. “Not that I would ever want to.” He shyly drops his head. I tilt my head to the side waiting for him to look up at me. When he does, I raise my eyebrows knowingly and smile. He blushes a bit and I know he’s as smitten with Al as Al is with him. I sit up a bit.
“Thank you for coming to get me, James. It was very sweet of you.” I reach over and squeeze his hand. He squeezes mine back.
“No problem, Ana. What’s up with this guy Grey anyway? I mean, I know of him from some of the projects that his firm and our firm share, but nothing more. I’ve heard that he can be a real hard ass when it comes to business, but I’ve never met him myself… and I didn’t think he could be such an asshole.”
“Well, surprise—he can!” I take a sip of my cabernet. I get a chill just talking about this man. “I just don’t understand him. He’s got all this money and all this power and it seems like he’s sitting on top of the world—but he’s mad at it all the time!”
“Well, you know money doesn’t buy happiness, Ana,” James adds.
“Yeah, but in his case, I’m sure it can get you pretty damn close!” James laughs loudly. “I don’t know, James,” I say bewildered, “it’s something there… nobody could be that angry all the time for no reason.” I shake my head. “I just broke the ‘oath’ about six different ways. Please don’t repeat anything I just said.” James crosses his heart and raises his hand.
“I am a vault.” He smiles. “Besides, with the condition that I found you in today, I’d say the oath is a moot point right now. I do have one question, though.”
“The curiosity is killing me.” He leans in and I lean in to meet him. “Why does Al call you Jewel?”
“Oh, that.” I chuckle softly. “When I met Al, we were both kind of misfits. We didn’t mind it so much, but we were very aware of it. Even then, Al was very intuitive. I mean, we were only about 14 years old. I’ve known him since we were 12. Anyway, I was just about to move away with my mother and her new husband, and I was sick about leaving everything behind that I had come to know and love. True, I was a misfit, but I was a misfit in familiar surroundings with my best friend, and now I’m about to go somewhere to be an even bigger misfit!” I take a sip of my Cabernet.
“During one of my then infamous crying fits, I told Al that I was going to where the rich and famous play in Vegas where I would stick out like a lump of coal. Al scolded me and told me not to talk about myself like that; that in time, lumps of coal eventually turn into diamonds and that I was a real Jewel.” I swallow hard trying not to turn into a weepy idiot. “Ever since then, he’s called me Jewel.”
James sighs. “That’s one of the reasons I lo…” He trails off in his sentence. I look at him, then at Al who is still chopping away in the kitchen.
“You love him,” I finish the sentence. James nervously drops his head.
“I need you to be a vault, Ana,” he says nervously.
“Why?” I almost squeal, reaching over and squeezing his hand. He takes a deep breath.
“I haven’t felt like this in a long time… and I’m scared.” Oh, these poor little men. I guess they don’t really know what to do with feelings, no matter if they’re gay or straight.
“You guys really need to talk.” He looks up at me and I stress again, “Really!”
I think he gets the clue that I might know something, and he cautiously asks, “Ana… should I tell him that I love him?’
“Yes!” I whisper feverishly, my eyes momentarily as big as saucers.
How’s that for ironic? Shut off, single Ana is giving her best friend’s lover, relationship advice on how to declare his love. How terribly tragic and ironic. I reach over and squeeze his hand again.
“Really,” I say quietly, “and for tonight? Thank you… very much.” James squeezes my hand with both of his and leans in to me like he’s about to tell me a very important secret.
“You know I’m gay, right?” We both burst into hearty laughter. When it subsides a bit, I say with a bit of melancholy, “All of the good one are, James. All of the good ones are.”
I’m pouring myself a cup of black coffee. I fell asleep last night due to pure exhaustion, but I have to say that I didn’t get any rest at all. I have six patients that I have to see and I need to be at the King County Superior Court before 4:00 to turn in the reports on these participants. I look over at my briefcase as if it carries the Ebola virus. His report is in there. I just want to get rid of it… and get rid of him! He is insufferable!
I pop a bagel in the toaster and once it’s toasted, I smear it with cream cheese and jelly. I’m thinking about his report in my briefcase. I wonder if I should include that he threatened me? Twice, actually. It’s certainly something that the court should know. After all, he broke a man’s jaw while a cop was standing 10 feet away from him! Granted, this man was drunk and had rear-ended him at a stop light… or was it a stop sign? Nonetheless, where should the line be drawn on how you treat others? At what point does your behavior go from justified to abusive? I think about the report as I swallow the last of my bagel. I don’t know… I just want him to be someone else’s problem, not mine anymore.
“Al?” I call back to the spare room. Al stayed the night with me. I tried to convince James to stay as well, but he was adamant that he needed to get home as he was working on a proposal to retrofit some building downtown. Al wasn’t too happy to see him decline, but he had no intention of leaving me alone, especially since he was just going to go home alone anyway. “Al, we have to go if you want me to drop you off, dear.”
“Keep your panties on,” he says coming down the hallway and straightening his tie.
“Don’t you have some big case or some client who needs to pay off a judge or something?” I tease.
“As a matter of fact, I do, Jewel darling, but right now, it’s all in discovery.”
“Do you want me to toast you a bagel or something?” Sorry, Al. Only fast breakfasts for me. He grabs an apple and a banana out of my fruit bowl. “This will do me just fine.” And we’re out the door.
“I am so sorry I ruined your night with James,” I say to Al as we are pulling out of the parking garage.
“Don’t even worry your pretty little head about it, cupcake,” Al says, waving his hand at me, “I’ll take care of James later. Besides, if you think I was going to let a piece of ass—though it was a fine piece of ass—cause me to turn my back on my girl when she calls me in distress, you’ve got another think coming. And when James heard your voice over the phone, he had his keys and was at the door before I could even hang up!” He’s completely serious.
“Well, you guys have to let me do something to make it up to you.”
“Ooookay, cook us dinner.” I smack my lips.
“That doesn’t count and you know it! I’m always cooking you dinner.” Al laughs and puts his hand on my shoulder.
“You don’t owe me anything, Jewel,” he says softly. “You’re my best friend, and I wasn’t going to leave you.” I briefly look over at him and smile.
“Thank you, Al.” I say, fighting back my emotions. He gives my shoulder a squeeze and looks ahead.
After a pause, I say, “I need to pick your brain, Al.”
“Shoot.” I sigh heavily.
“What are my options with Grey?”
“What exactly do you mean?” he asks, bemused.
“Well, I want to turn in his report along with the ones from last session, but I’m not sure if I should add that he threatened me, because technically he didn’t threaten me; he threatened my career…”
“That’s still a threat, Ana. Why wouldn’t you put it in his report?”
“Well, this guy has told me that he can ruin me with a flick of his little finger, and I’m sure that he can. I’ve sat in three sessions with this guy and he sits there glaring at me the whole time. The only words he has ever said were to belittle me, demean me, or just make me shut up—oh, except for the time when he came to my office to ask me to sign his paperwork without him actually having to sit in on the sessions. I mean is there anything to stop him from really doing this to me? Do I just roll over and let him treat me this way just because he has become accustomed to treating everybody this way?”
“Well, Jewel, therein lies your problem.” Oh, shit. I’m not going to like this. “The judge is going to say that you haven’t spent enough time with him to know that he’s a lost cause. If this was one-on-one, it might be different. But this is a group—you have to split your time between several people. He could very well say that he’s shy and just doesn’t want to talk in front of other people.” I almost wail in sarcastic laughter.
“Oh, one thing this guy definitely is not and that’s shy, trust me! Five minutes alone with him and you would definitely know that. The biggest problem is that he can manipulate women so easily…” I trail off as I turn onto the street of Al’s office. He tilts his head at me.
“Are we speaking from experience, Jewel?” I sigh heavily.
“Yes… and no,” I say, rolling my eyes. “I mean, honestly, he’s gorgeous and he’s powerful, and his presence is very commanding. The women in the class are literally fighting over the seats next to him. If circumstances were different, I would go out with him in a heartbeat! Underneath everything, I can see this charm and this suave demeanor, but he uses these things—the whole package—to disarm you and bend you to his will. And when none of that works, he resorts to threats because he knows that he has the power to do what he says he’ll do.” I pull up in front of Al’s law firm. He opens the door to leave.
“You’re going to have to wait until after the sixth session before the court will let you turn in any kind of report on him, Jewel. Didn’t they tell you that?” Now I’m utterly horrified.
“No!” I gasp. At least three more sessions with this emotional tyrant? You’ve got to be kidding me. I can’t sit through three more sessions with this guy staring at me for two hours. “There has to be another way, Al.”
“You can have the community center assign someone else to the class, but I’m sure they would want to know why. And I don’t think you can tell them that Mr. Grey won’t play with the other kids during recess.” He flutters his eyelashes, teasing me. I rub my forehead with my hand.
“No, I wouldn’t do that,” I say, defeated. “He’s my responsibility. Besides, the only other licensed doctor on the premises is my supervisor, Ronald. And he has his hands way too full to deal with this. I’ll figure something out.” He leans over and kisses me on the cheek.
“I know you will, hon,” and then he’s out of the car walking to his office.
I’m sitting in my office after my third patient eating a tuna salad sandwich, pondering the Christian Grey situation. I almost feel like a kid who won’t eat her vegetables. I just don’t want to sit in the same room with this man for nine more sessions. I just don’t want to. While I’m having a mini-temper tantrum, my blackberry starts to buzz. I look at the phone and see an area code that I dread, but a number that I don’t recognize. As much as I fear who may be on the other line, I can’t afford not to answer it.
“Dr. Steele.” I say flatly.
“Ana?” I still don’t recognize the voice.
“Yes, who is this?”
“It’s George, Ana.” George? I don’t know a ‘George.’ The only ‘George’ I remember is….
“George Sullivan?” I ask almost incredulously. The last time I remember talking to George was… well, way back then.
“Yes. How are you, Dear?”
“I’m doing well, George. How are you?” I get up from my desk start to pace a bit.
“I’m okay, Ana. Dr. Steele, huh?”
“Yes, I’m a psychologist now.”
“A psychologist? Impressive. I’m glad to see things are going well for you.”
“How about you, George? How is life treating you?”
“Well, I married Elaine a few years back.”
“You don’t say? That’s really good news. I guess you couldn’t wait for me, huh?” I tease.
“Well, there is that little problem with the difference in our ages, Hon.” He laughs loudly. I can’t help but think about Dad and Mandy. Their ages are not much different than mine and George’s.
“Alas, I guess it wasn’t meant to be.” I say, feigning rejection as I walk over to the window. In an effort to avert him from asking about my love life, I add, “Still with the Henderson Police Department?”
He takes a deep breath and lets out a huge sigh. “Yeah, that’s kind of why I’m calling you, Ana.” Okay, this can’t be good. I quickly wrack my brain to see if I can figure out why George is calling me in an official capacity out of the blue. It can’t be about my selfish mother and her wretched husband. He knows I wouldn’t want to hear anything about them unless he was notifying me that I had to identify the bodies. If that were the case, he would have said so as soon as I answered the phone.
“What is it, George?” I’m trying to keep my voice from shaking.
“Well, you know I’ve been keeping an eye on your case, you know, from….”
“Yes, yes, I know.” I cut him off before he can elaborate.
“I got an alert today.” An alert… on what? Shit, man, don’t leave me hanging out here like this! “Someone is looking into information on Anastasia Lambert.”
I am frozen to the spot. I have just enough strength in my legs to slide down onto the window seat.
“Why?” I breathe, just above a whisper. “Who?”
“I don’t know, Ana. I’ve been trying to find out, but whoever it is, their clearance is way above mine.” My hand flies up to my mouth. I’m resisting the urge to scream. I close my eyes tightly to fight back the tears that are threatening to fall.
“Ana, have you… talked to any of them? Seen them…?” George questions.
“No,” I croak. “I haven’t seen any of them since… since then.” He sighs heavily.
“I’ll try to see if I can find out anything else for you, but you should know. With the level of clearance they’re dealing with, they’re going to find out everything. They should be able to connect the dots in no time if they haven’t already done it. I just thought you should know. I’m sorry, Anastasia.” He’s remorseful.
“No, George, please don’t apologize. There’s nothing you could do about this. I really appreciate your letting me know.” I put my hand on my forehead.
“I’ll let you know if I come across anything, okay?”
“Thank you, George,” I say softly.
“You’re welcome, Kiddo.” I can hear him smiling.
I thought I was done with this. I thought this was over.
I’m pacing now, one hand on my forehead and one on my hip. Who could want this information? Who could possibly want this information? Jesus, I worked so hard to bury this part of my life… and it’s coming back! Why? I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to handle this. I have to see Dad. I need help with this one. I speed dial Ray.
“Hi Ray.” I’m trying to hide my angst and not doing a very good job.
“What’s wrong, Annie?” Dammit!
“What time are you going back to Montesano?”
“Well, I’m having dinner with Mandy before I leave, so not until later.”
“I need a favor, Dad. Can I come by your hotel? I’m just a few minutes away.” I say, weakly.
“Sure, Annie. Is everything okay?”
“No,” I whimper. “I’ll see you in a few. ”
A/N: Any guesses on what turned up in the police report?
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Love and Handcuffs!