Mending Dr. Steele: Chapter 16—Opening New Doors

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. I hope you—as a fellow fan—enjoy it, too.

Chapter 16—Opening New Doors

STEELE

Why is Christian here? It’s just the shooting range. He drove all the way from Grey House—from work—because I’m here?

“How long has he been here?” I ask Chuck.

“I don’t know. They were out there when I came out from washing my hands.”

“When did you call him?”

“I didn’t actually call him. I texted Jason to let him know our whereabouts before we left the apartment. I don’t know when he told Mr. Grey and I have no idea how long they’ve been sitting out there.” I look at my phone. There are no missed calls or texts from Christian. What did he think I was going to do out here? I shake my head and hand my gun and case to Chuck before walking out of the gun club. Christian emerges from the SUV the moment he sees me. He leans against the car and looks at me bemused. I stop in my tracks.

“What?” I ask. What’s wrong? What did I do now?

“I… just want to know that you’re okay,” he says tentatively. I sigh heavily and shake my head.

“Christian, why wouldn’t I be okay?” I ask softly.

“Because you haven’t been okay all week, Anastasia.” Oh shit, he’s frustrated. “You clean your gun more than you eat. I can’t sleep because you’re having these terrible nightmares. Now you’re at the shooting range and I’m not going to lie—I didn’t know what to think. You haven’t been to the shooting range since you and I have been together and coupled with the gun-cleaning, I didn’t know how to categorize this particular behavior.” He hasn’t raised his voice, but I can hear the tension. I don’t know what to say to him because, quite frankly, I don’t know how to categorize it either.

“I have an appointment… with a possible new therapist,” I tell him. He only stares at me for a moment. “Dr. Avery. My appointment is in twenty minutes.”

“This doctor is in Bellevue?” he asks, obviously calculating the time to get back to the city.

“Just outside of Seattle, on the other side of the bridge.” He looks down at his watch then walks over to me. He takes my hands and I flinch a bit. He looks at me then looks at my hands.

“Ana! What is this?” My hands are red. If I had known that I was going to be shooting for so long, I would have worn gloves. The recoil from a Glock is very powerful and, even with my strength, repeated fire over a few hours is not recommended without gloves.

“I’m strong, but the Glock is stronger. I’ll be okay,” I try to assure him. He examines my hands further.

“This is what happens when you shoot?”

“This is what happens when you shoot for several hours without gloves. Please don’t tell my father. He’ll have my ass because I know better than to do this.” Christian shakes his head and examines my hands again.

“Those are going to be some nasty bruises, Butterfly,” he laments. I smile at him.

“Don’t worry, Baby. It’s nothing that a little Arnica cream won’t cure,” I say clenching and flexing my sore hands.

“Why didn’t you stop?” he asks.

“I couldn’t feel it.” He opens my hands.

“You couldn’t feel this?” he asks in disbelief as I try not to flinch again. I shake my head.

“When the gun is in your hand, your hand is numb. It’s not until you release the weapon for an extended period of time that you realize that you’ve been firing the gun for too long. That’s why I should have been wearing gloves.” Christian looks over at Jason, who nods and then back at me. “I won’t do it again, I promise. I know this is all new for you and probably pretty scary. I won’t forget my gloves next time.” He runs his hand through his hair.

“Can I come with you next time? As much as I don’t want to admit it, it was fascinating to watch you clean that gun and I would like to see you in your element at least once.” I cock my head at him.

“Really?” I ask.

“Yes, really.” This elicits another smile from me.

“Okay. She’s gotten quite a workout, so she will need another cleaning, but she has to cool first and my hands are really going to be hurting tonight. How about I show you how to do it for me when I get back home?” Now he smiles.

“You’re going to teach me how to clean your beloved Glock?” he teases. I nod. He puts his hands on my hips and pulls me to him. “I think I would actually like that,” he says, seductively before placing a gentle, suggestive kiss on my lips. All of those cells that had been asleep all week awoke at once. “You’re going to be late for your appointment.” Shit! Dr. Avery! I forgot about him.

“You shouldn’t have distracted me. I’ll be home right after.”

“I’ll be waiting,” he says, his voice full of promise. He kisses me again, then releases me to walk my wobbly legs to the car. I toss Chuck my keys.

“My hands hurt. You drive.” He looks knowingly at me. “My hands do hurt!” I whine. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

“Mm-hmm,” he says as he opens the passenger door for me.

——————————————————————————————–

 

Dr. Avery is an extremely handsome, older, fair-skinned, African American gentleman with beautiful naturally kinky and wavy hair. He reminds me a bit of Marlow, except his eyes change from green to gray… gray, like Christian’s. This could be a problem.

“Ms. Wilson, I’m glad you could make it.” He greets me and extends his hand to me. I almost shake it and remember the bruising. I pull it back and reluctantly show him my hand.

“I can’t, I’m sorry.” He examines the bruising in my hand, which is starting to look worse than it did at the shooting range.

“What is this, Ms. Wilson?” he asks, almost accusingly. I know, it looks really bad, especially if you don’t know what it is.

“This is called ‘angry shooting.’ I own a Glock G19C and I went to the shooting range today. This is a few hours of shooting with no gloves—a very foolish thing to do. My hands are going to be raw in the morning.” He examines my hands the same way Christian did earlier. Why am I comparing this man to Christian so much?

“I have a first aid kit if you would like to use it,” he offers. I look over at Chuck and he nods.

“Thank you. Yes, please.” I gesture to Chuck. “This is Charles Davenport. He’s my bodyguard. Chuck, this is Dr. Lordis Avery.” He and Chuck shake hands.

“Well, I know your bodyguard’s name, but I don’t know your name,” Dr. Avery says. At that moment, his assistant gasps. I turn to face her and see the look of realization in her eyes. I point to her.

“She knows,” I say, impassively.

“Would someone like to tell me?” he says coolly. Amber points at me.

“AnaChris!” she says. My hand goes to my forehead.

“Ugh! Please never use that term again. I hate that term,” I lament.

“AnaChr… what is it? Who is she?” It’s actually refreshing to have someone who doesn’t know who I am… but not for long.

“This is Anastasia Steele,” she looks from me to Dr. Avery.

“Oh, okay. You answered the phone ‘Dr. Steele.'” I nod. “I’m sorry. I still don’t know what that means, though.”

“Are you kidding?” Amber exclaims like he just told her that there’s no Santa Claus. “AnaChr—” she stops mid-phrase. “Ana and Christian. This is Christian Grey’s girlfriend.” Dr. Avery’s eyes sparkle with realization.

“Ooooohh! Christian Grey! I understand the need for privacy now. You’ll have to forgive me. Sometimes people are just neurotic!” Oh great. He rushed the meeting because he thought I was neurotic.

“Is that why you rushed our meeting?” I ask, a bit put off.

“Well, I hate to hurt your feelings, but in a way, yes. I still don’t know who you are. I just know of Christian Grey. I don’t really keep up with the gossip columns. However, when Amber tells me that someone doesn’t sound right, I pay very close attention to what she says. The last time I didn’t listen to her, a young girl attempted suicide. I won’t take that chance again. Now you give an alias, Amber tells me you don’t sound quite right and you come in with raw hands. I think she was right on the money on this one. Amber, would you bring the first aid kit please?” Amber nods and goes off down the hall. “Would you like for Mr. Davenport to accompany us in our meeting?” I look over at Chuck. I don’t want him to be present while I talk to the good doctor, but I don’t want him too far away either. He reads my expression immediately.

“I’ll be right outside the door,” he says. I sigh and instantly relax.

“Okay,” I say, relief flooding my voice. Dr. Avery leads me into his office. The space is quaint with his desk facing a large archway window with wooden shutters on the bottom half and an orangy-brown leather couch with lots of pillows, a sitting area with two armchairs with pillows and a small round glass table between them, and a wrought iron glass top coffee table in the center of the room.

“Please, Dr. Steele, make yourself comfortable,” Dr. Avery gestures to the sofa. I sit down just as Amber brings the first aid kit and smiles politely before leaving. Dr. Avery sits next to me on the sofa and gestures for my hand. “Do you mind?” he asks.

“Um, no, please,” I give him my hand and he examines it again, making a “tsk, tsk” sound as he observes the rawness already setting in. “This is not going to be pretty, Dr. Steele,” he says as he begins to rummage through the first aid kit.

“Please, call me Ana,” I say, looking forlornly at my now aching and stinging hand. He pauses for a moment and then proceeds to treat my hand with some antibiotic ointment.

“Do you think we should be so familiar before we have gotten to know each other? You may decide that I am not the person suited for your treatment.” He gently massages my aching hand and I can’t help feeling the tenderness that I feel from Christian in his hands—not the affection, but the tenderness.

“Only people that I don’t like call me Dr. Steele because I insist on it. I only hear Anastasia when I have pissed someone off or upset them,” namely Christian, “and everyone else calls meAna with the except of my best friend who calls me Jewel.” Why did I feel the need to tell him that.

“And why is that?” he asks, his voice caressing my ears and comforting me.

“It’s a long story,” I tell him. “Maybe we’ll get into that if I decide that you are suitable for my treatment.” I smile.

“Touché.” What the hell? Why does he have so many of Christian’s mannerisms—and why is he so damn handsome? “I would like to know—if it’s not too personal—why you are so cautious about your bodyguard being outside the door?” I shrink a little at his question. “Your relief was palpable, Dr… Ana.” He puts a square sterile bandage over my raw palm and starts to wrap it with gauze.

“I… was kidnapped last year… by a psycho ex. I don’t go anywhere without Chuck now, or some other members of our staff.” He nods.

“I see Mr. Grey takes your safety quite seriously,” he says as he secures the bandage with medical tape.

“Yes, he does,” I say, a little more breathy than I intended. He moves on to my other hand.

“You’re right-handed.”

“Yes, I am,” I confirm as he examines my left palm.

“The damage to this hand is not nearly as bad.” He applies the medical cream to my hand and begins to massage it gently. It feels so good, I try not to moan. He doesn’t make eye contact with me. He is concentrating on making sure the medicine is absorbed in my hand. “You don’t need the bandage on this, but I’ll wrap it anyway to allow the cream to sink in, okay?”

“Okay,” I respond. It was truly breathy that time. He chuckles.

“That good, huh?” he asks, facetiously.

“It was really sore,” I say embarrassed. He smiles as he wraps my hand. Reading my thoughts, he says, “Don’t be embarrassed. My wife says I have magic hands.” His wife! Yes! Yes, this is good. He’s married. Put a reign on it, Steele.

“Well, you do, and I hope it doesn’t hurt for long because I’m feeling pretty stupid right now. Would you happen to have any naproxen or ibuprofen in that kit?” He looks up at me.

“Have you eaten yet?” Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! Stop acting so much like my man!

“No, I haven’t,” I confess. “I’ll wait until I get home.” I relax back on the sofa and take a cleansing breath. Dr. Avery replaces all of the items back into the first aid kit, then sits a safe distance from me on the sofa.

“So, Ana, tell me what brings you here today.” I sigh.

“I don’t really know where to start,” I say nervously. “I have quite a few emotional issues that need to be addressed and I don’t deal with them very well. I can help other people when they are in a bad situation, but I can’t seem to take my own advice. According to my boyfriend, I shrink and shut down every time an adverse situation presents itself…”

“According to your boyfriend? You don’t agree?” he asks. My shoulders drop.

“I agree. I should have said that he brought it to my attention,” I say begrudgingly. “I was raped and brutalized as a teenager, neglected and ignored, and it has caused me some problems later in life. Now add to that having been rejected and scorned as well as kidnapped by a psychopathic, obsessed ex and brutalized—again—by his accomplice, and you have one pretty screwed-up nutcase doctor on your hands.” I throw my hands up and smile.

“Wow! That’s… some summary you’ve done there,” Dr. Avery says, scratching the designer stubble on his face.

“Yeah, wait until we really dive into the nightmare that is my life,” I say with a smile, “assuming we both agree that this is doable.”

“Well, what brought you to me?” he asks.

“My former therapist quit with no notice. She is one of my closest friends and has been helping me for years, but felt that she could no longer help me with my growth because she couldn’t be objective anymore.”

“Do you agree?” he asks. I shrug.

“I don’t know if I agree or not. I knew that we weren’t moving forward in my therapy, but that didn’t necessarily mean that she needed to quit. We could have reviewed my treatment plan and taken a different route, maybe, I don’t know. I didn’t have a say in this decision. She just quit, so here I am.” He cocks his head to the side—another damn Christian move.

“You’re angry about that, aren’t you?” Dammit, I don’t want to say that.

“Yes, I am!” I blurt out. “I feel like she deserted me. She even promised to help me find another therapist and then she doesn’t call me all week. I’m planning her wedding for Christ’s sake…”

“You’re planning her wedding?” A look of near horror comes over Dr. Avery’s face. What’s the damn problem? “Ana, I don’t know how this didn’t happen sooner. There is no way that this doctor…”

“Maxie.”

“Okay, Maxie, there’s no way that Maxie could have helped you beyond being the kind ear and friend that she is. You are way too close. Honestly, you have to know that. With the intensity of the circumstances that you have been facing, there is absolutely no way that your friend would have been able to give you the tough love that I know and you know that you need to overcome these emotionally destructive thoughts and behaviors. You’re planning her wedding…”

“I’m the maid of honor,” I confess.

“Oh for the love of God!” He throws his hands up in the air. “Hell, Ana, I want to take your case just to see how far you’ve come since you started and how far you can go from here. Amber is concerned that you may not have made it sanely to the 21st. Knowing now that you are a doctor, I know that Monday is the worst possible day for you to have a standing appointment, and you come into my office for an impromptu session with friction burns from your gun because you were shooting for several hours without gloves—and you have already confessed that you know better. You are a ticking timebomb! I am itching to dig into this case, but I won’t take any crap from you, Doctor. I can see that you need help and I would like to see your records and go over some possible treatment options with you. What do you say?”

Oh, good hell, he sure takes the bull by the horns, doesn’t he? Well, I picked him off of the site and Dr. Baker recommended him, too. He’s the only one who was available and passed both of our screenings, and he just read me like a book and we haven’t even talked for 30 minutes yet. I guess I should give it a try, but…

“I want to ask you a couple of questions first, Dr. Avery,” I say.

“Ace.”

“Huh?”

“Call me Ace,” he says.

“Why Ace?”

“What’s short for Lordis?” he says, twisting his lips. Lord. Yeah, no. I nod.

“Okay, Ace. Why don’t you have a picture on your professional profile? The rest of us do.” He nods.

“It became a problem. I’m an attractive man and I know it. I’m not modest about that. Men avoided me because of the pretty face—it was either intimidating or they thought I was gay. Women flocked to me because of it, looking for a hookup instead of a therapist until they discovered that I was married. Others saw a black man and just kept scrolling. Look at that name—Lordis Avery. Did you expect to come in here and find a black man with a brown two-inch curly Afro?” Very good points.

“Okay. So why do you take on doctors when so many won’t? I haven’t been approached to treat another doctor, but I don’t even think I would.”

“And why is that?” he asks.

“I’m asking the questions, Doctor,” I say firmly, “but to answer your question, for the obvious reason—we’re the worst patients.” He nods.

“That’s the exact reason why I take them on. I like a challenge, and I love showing you arrogant elitists that you don’t have all the answers,” he replies.

“Elitists?” I gasp. “That’s a little harsh, don’t you think?”

“No, I don’t,” he answers calmly. “Doctors are stuck-up, condescending, know-it-alls, and shrinks are the worst. You seem pretty young to be a doctor, so I don’t know how long you’ve been practicing, but if it’s been more than two years and you have had any kind of diversity, you’ve had that one patient that went to several doctors and everybody misdiagnosed him simply because they refused to listen to him. Three sentences into his session, they already knew what was wrong with him when in all honesty, they didn’t have a damn clue.” I gasp and my mind immediately goes to Stoley. “Yeah, you’ve met him. Did yours live?” Whoa! Yeah, right to the point, huh, Ace?

“Yeah, he lived. He’s fine now,” I say.

“Well, then there’s hope for you yet, Dr. Steele. Mine died.” I gasp again at his revelation. “I was one of the arrogant assholes who misdiagnosed him. He was my Waterloo, and I swore never to let that happen again.” Ace sighs heavily and I know that this is something very hard for him to discuss. I couldn’t imagine what I would do if I lost one of my patients that way as I can only assume his patient must have killed himself. “He made me think that he was okay, but I should have known better when he gave me this.” He reaches into his shirt and pulls out a shark tooth attached to a leather necklace. “Harmless enough, right?”

I nod.

“Wrong. This is real.” Oh shit, a real shark tooth necklace? Those are illegal! Why is he wearing that? “It came from a Great White Shark in South Africa. It was one of the things that he wanted to do on his Bucket List, and he did.” This conversation is becoming difficult for him again. He drops the necklace back down in his shirt. “He told me that the damn thing was fossilized. He knows that I never would have accepted it otherwise. It was a gift to thank me for helping him ‘see the light’ as he put it. Three days after he ate his own gun, I got a letter telling me that the tooth was real—that he paid a lot of money to be able to rip the damn thing out himself. He knew that it would repulse me, but his last sentence in that letter stuck with me. It read, ‘There’s always blood in the water.'”

That statement has so many interpretations, I can even begin to analyze them all.

“Why do you still wear it? It clearly sickens you and it seems like you’re only punishing yourself. What purpose does it serve?” I ask. He smiles at me.

“It serves the very purpose of proving why you are here right now—to show that we are not omnipotent; to prove that we have to fall and bump our heads to realize that we are human and that we make mistakes; to remind me that we don’t know everything and that we have to be able to admit when we don’t; to prove that there is an answer to every question, but that you had better damn well listen thoroughly to the question before you start trying to provide an answer. That’s why I treat doctors, Ana. You give me hope—hope that we are not all arrogant bastards; that we can admit that we don’t know all the answers and that we need help. So I will never turn down a doctor looking for help.” Well, I’ve heard enough.

“Okay, so… what’s next?” I ask. He sighs.

“I need you to sign a release so that I can get your records from Maxie!” He does the finger quotes and sarcastically stresses Maxie’s name.

“Careful, Doctor, she is still my friend,” I warn.

“Which is why she is no longer your doctor,” he points out with a wink. “Fridays good for you?”

“Fridays are fine, earlier though, please… like 2 or 3.” He nods. He stands and reaches for my elbow.

“I’m assuming your hands still hurt,” he says when I don’t move immediately. I relax and allow him to help me up. “Let’s get some paperwork signed.”

I complete several forms and answer several questions about my life, family, and medical history before we finally emerge from the office into the lobby. Amber looks up at me as Chuck immediately rises from his chair.

“Oh hell,” he says under his breath, but not low enough.

“What?” I ask.

“The boss is going to shit bricks when he sees that,” he says pointing to my hands. I examine my bandages.

“Yeah, I know. It doesn’t help that they hurt like hell,” I lament. Ace just shakes his head.

“Baby, pencil Ana in for next Friday at two. You can remove the Monday appointment for now and keep that Friday slot available.” Baby? I look at Ace expecting. “Oh. Yes, Amber is my wife,” he says with a smile. I smile back.

“Which explains why you trust her implicitly.” I lean down to Amber’s desk. “Thank you, Amber.” She looks up at Ace who simply smiles.

“You’re welcome, Dr. Steele,” she replies.

“Ana,” I say, before leaving the office.

—————————————————————————-

GREY

I’ve showered and changed by the time Butterfly and Davenport get back to Escala. She looks a little miserable when she walks into the apartment. I guess we are in for another long night.

“How did it go?” I ask cautiously.

“Pretty good,” she says, her voice a little strained. Davenport is walking behind her carrying a small black attaché case. Butterfly points to me and Davenport hands me the case.

“What’s this?” I ask her.

“My Glock,” she says. Um… okay. “You said you would help me clean it.”

“Oh! Yeah! That’s right, okay. Should we do it now?”

“In a while,” she says. “I need to eat.” She goes past me and I see her rummaging in the cabinet for meds. That’s when I see it.

“Butterfly!” I walk over to her and take her bandaged hands in mine. I look up at her waiting for an explanation.

“I won’t lie. It’s pretty bad and it hurts a lot, but please don’t lecture me. I know it was a dumb thing to do,” she says softly. I put the case down to examine her hands and she bristles a bit. “That’s really sweet of you, Christian, but please pick that back up.” I frown.

“It’s right here at my feet, Ana,” I say bemused.

“I know, but I’m always nervous when it’s not in one of its usual places. I don’t want any chance that it will be left unattended,” she explains and I nod.

“I can understand that. I’ll take it up to your office, then.” She smiles.

“Thank you, Christian.” I go to her office and place the case in the safe until we have time to clean it later. When I come back to the kitchen, she is struggling with a carafe of orange juice, trying to pour it with her bandaged left hand and becoming a bit frustrated.

“Do you need some help?” I ask.

“Please?” she relents with a small smile. I pour her a glass of orange juice. “Thank you.”

“So, how did it go?” I ask. She nods.

“We’re going to give it a try. He seems like a good doctor. We’ll see what happens.” He? She takes a card out of her pocket and hands it to me.

“Lordis Avery. Lordis?” I’ve heard some strange names, but that’s the weirdest.

“Yeah, I’m going to have to ask him where that comes from,” she says, drinking more of her juice and flinching a bit in pain.

“Why are you giving me his card? You could have just told me his name.”

“Yes, I could’ve, but I figure that this should be a good amount of information to start your background check. He’s listed on Network Therapy and Dr. Baker could probably give you more information on him.” I raise my eyebrow.

“This was one of Dr. Baker’s suggestions?” I ask. She nods.

“One of only two doctors that passed both of our screenings,” she says.

“And why do you want me to do a background check on him?”

“Oh, I don’t care if you do a background check on him, but I know that you will anyway,” she smiles. Again, she knows me so well.

“Yes, I will,” I say, tapping the card on my fingers. “You should really take something for that,” I add, noting the discomfort in her hands.

“I know. I have to eat something, though. I thought I would at least put some orange juice on my stomach so that it wouldn’t bother me so much.” I walk over to the oven and pull out the dinner that Gail has made for us.

“Let’s get you fed, then,” I say, putting healthy servings of roast beef with potatoes and carrots in front of us. Butterfly licks her lips and I smile to myself knowing that she is hungry. I refill her orange juice and give her a fork only to realize her bandaged hands are pretty useless. So I take my time cutting her food and feeding us both.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t do this to myself on purpose, Christian. Honestly, I didn’t,” she says between bites.

“I know, Butterfly, but you often do things without thinking. You’ve been reacting on impulse quite a bit lately, and it’s beginning to cause problems in your life… and ours.” She drops her head. I put my hand under her chin and lift her head. “I haven’t been having sex with you because I knew that you have been having a hard time this week. You’ve been emotionally drained and you haven’t said much to me about it. While I appreciate that you haven’t shut down on me and I am aware that you have searched diligently for another psychiatrist, you are still holding a lot in—keeping quite a bit to yourself—and that’s not healthy either. Have you spoken to Maxine this week?” She shakes her head. “Are you angry with her?” She nods. “Are you angry with me?” She shakes her head. I can’t begin to express how relieved I am that she didn’t hesitate answering that question. “But you are angry?” She nods. “I know I’m not a shrink, but can you tell me why you’re angry?” She sighs and takes a drink of her orange juice.

“Can you give me the ibuprofen while we talk? My hands are killing me,” she says. I reach in the medicine box in the cupboard and find the ibuprofen. I put two pills in her mouth and she swallows them with orange juice. She takes another deep breath. “No one before you knew everything about me. You are the only one that knew absolutely everything—David, Cody, Green Valley, Carla and Stephen, the baby, everything—but besides you, Maxie knew the most, even more than Al. I wasn’t able to discuss the beating until I met you. Even before we were together—when I found out that someone was looking into my past—I was finally able to open up to Maxie about what happened because of you. No one knew before then, except for the people who did this to me.” She takes another swallow of her orange juice and drops her head.

“I feel like she deserted me, Christian. I feel like I poured my heart out to her and all of my secrets—maybe not all of your secrets, but all of mine—and when she felt like the heat was too much, she just left. I haven’t done anything for her wedding this week; I’ve let Marilyn handle it, because I wanted to see if she would at least call me with suggestions or even just to talk. Do you know when she called me? Today. It took her five days to call me, and all of those five days I’ve been battling bad dreams and trying not to take my frustrations out on other people. I have been making a conscious effort not to shut you out, not to be cold towards you…” and she’s right. She hasn’t shut me out and she hasn’t been cold towards me, but…

“You haven’t been completely open with me, Butterfly,” I tell her.

“I don’t know what to say, Christian,” she says, her voice squeaking. “I can’t even identify what I’m feeling right now. My logical mind is battling with my emotional mind and neither of them is winning.”

“Well, let’s start with what they are saying,” I say. She stares at me and I can’t read her eyes again. The only thing I can get from them is… confusion.

“You and Maxie had a conversation and after that conversation, Maxie dumped me. She literally dumped me. On Sunday, I felt like my therapist dumped me. By Thursday, I felt like my friend dumped me. Here I am trying to plan her wedding and she can’t even call and say ‘Hi, Bitch, have you found another doctor yet?'” Her hands are flailing in the air and I come to realize that I like emotional Ana much more than stoic Ana.

“On top of that, my psyche has somehow fallen the fuck apart because this fucker Harris has shown up again and I can’t get a good night’s sleep to save my life…”

“I know, neither can I.” Oh shit, did I say that out loud? I look over at a frowning, gaped-mouthed Butterfly and I realize that it’s time to let the cat out of the bag. I sigh heavily and take her injured hands in mine. “Sunday night, when you had your first nightmare about Harris, I stayed up with you all night. Your nightmares are… brutal, and I have to wake you the moment I know that you are having them. So I stay awake. Monday, I got to GEH and I was worthless. I was making mistakes and saying things that I shouldn’t have… I closed myself and my office, and I slept. I slept the whole day—I didn’t even eat. I had canceled three appointments that day and I had deals to save. So I worked at night when I was awake, when I could wake you from your nightmares.” My eyes drop when I say this part. “We weren’t really sleeping together. I worked while you rested. When you had your nightmares, I woke you, and I held you until you went back to sleep. I promised you and Mom that I wouldn’t go without sleep, so I had to sleep during the day. There wasn’t really time for sex.”

“Christian,” she says, squeezing my hands, then flinching, “why didn’t you tell me?”

“Honestly, you’re dealing with a lot and I see you trying to cope with it all. You still don’t cope with it very well, but I do see you trying. I found a way to deal with the worst of it and still help you. Now that you’ve found another therapist, I’m hoping that things will look better for you… and for us.” She squeezes my hand again, this time without flinching.

“They will. I promise that they will,” she says with sincerity. “I won’t be this weak, weepy mess for long. I can’t promise you that everything will change overnight, but I will do everything in my power to do better, to get better… okay?” I nod and feed her another forkful of her food.

“Okay.” I smile.

——————————————————————————

This gun is pretty fascinating, but it has me nervous as hell. We have dismantled it again and it lay in four parts on Butterfly’s desk. I swear I just saw her clean this thing, maybe two days ago, but the parts are full of dust and dirt. She guides me while I clean the bottom half of the gun with a nylon brush, cotton swabs and some cleaner. It is a meticulous process and luckily, I am a meticulous man. She even jokes about how she thinks her gun has never been cleaner. I finish cleaning the barrel, recoil spring, and slide and she instructs me while I oil the parts and reassemble the firearm. We test it by firing it—empty—in a safe direction, and I can’t help but admire my handiwork. I am startled from my thoughts when I feel her lips gently kiss my cheek and brush my hair from my face. I turn to look at her and her eyes are full of love. We don’t say anything for a moment. We just gaze at one another. She finally breaks her gaze and kisses me on the cheek again.

“Put the gun away and go wash your hands,” she says, softly. I nod and put her gun in the safe in her office and go to the guest bathroom and wash my hands. She opened up a bit tonight. That’s a good thing. She knew I would want to do a background check on this doctor, even though Dr. Baker recommended him. It’s a guy. Guys always seem to want my Butterfly. I’ll have to check him out. If he can help her, I’m all for it. I step out of the bathroom, not expecting her to still be in her office, but she is. I come back to my seat next to her and sit. She looks at me with those big, ocean blue eyes again.

“I love you so much,” she says, tears threatening her eyes. “I never want to hurt you or push you away. You are everything to me and I just want to get past all of the bullshit so that we can get on with our lives. I swear I don’t blame you for Maxie… I blame Maxie. Whatever was said, I know that she left that conversation and made a decision about my life without consulting me—much like she did when she got that court order. I don’t blame you for that. I know you tolerate so much from me. I know how volatile I can be, how unreasonable I can be, but please… please, don’t give up on me, Christian. I’m trying. I really am…” I put my hands on her cheeks and my thumbs over her lips to silence her.

“I don’t tolerate you, Butterfly. I love you. I know what you are going through because I see it with my own eyes. I won’t give up on you, but only if you remember that we are in this together. You don’t have to suffer alone. You never have to suffer alone, and I won’t do anything behind your back. I’ve learned my lesson with the Green Valley/kidnapping snafu. That was enough for me. I will be here for you, I promise. Even if you go completely batshit crazy and lose your fucking mind, I will still be here. Do you understand?” She closes her eyes and nods feverishly, tears falling down her cheeks.

“I feel broken, Christian,” she weeps. “Every time I think things are getting better, that I’m going better, I fall apart again. Something always happens to drag me back down and I can’t handle it. Now, Maxie just dumps me and I’m feeling abandoned by her on top of everything else. I don’t know how to deal with all of this. Everybody thinks because I’m a therapist that I’m supposed to be so well adjusted, but damn! How much can one person take?” Her shoulders shake with sobs.

“I understand, Butterfly. I know it’s not easy, but you are not alone and you need to remember that, okay? It’s so important that you remember that I am here for you and that we are on the same team. I will tell you everything that I said if it will help you understand why Maxie made her decision.” She shakes her head.

“It doesn’t matter what you said,” she says, wiping her tears with her T-shirt. “This was Maxie’s decision to make. Maybe she was right. Maybe she couldn’t help me and the best thing for her to do was quit. I mean, if she could just drop the ball like this and walk away, she certainly couldn’t really help me.” She takes in a shuddering breath.

“So where does this leave you two?” I ask. They have had a very long-term friendship and I would hate to see it end. If it does, that conversation that she and I had was all for nothing.

“I don’t know. I love her—that hasn’t changed—but that trust that I once felt for her, I think that’s gone. It’s not because she quit; I can partially understand why she quit. It’s because she left me hanging and because she didn’t allow me to have a say in the decision. She can let me plan her wedding, but not my treatment?” Butterfly shakes her head.

“Well, I hope you guys get this settled before the wedding. I know how much you are looking forward to it.” She nods, then looks up at me. She takes my face in her bandaged hands and kisses me softly, over and over again.

“I love you, Christian,” she whispers, her eyes closed and rubbing her nose against mine. “I thank God that you are in my life, that you love me. I don’t know what I would do without you… where I would be without you…” I feel her shiver and I wrap my arms around her and pull her into my lap.

“And you’ll never have to find out,” I breathe against her lips.

“Thank God,” she gasps as she captures my mouth with hers.

—————————————————————————————————

STEELE

We lose ourselves in each other the entire weekend. I had no time to think of Harris or Maxine or Pedo-Bitch, or any of the other fucked up shit that was going on in my life. I spent the weekend paying attention to my man and his needs. By Saturday morning, my hands were much better thanks the Arnica massages and Gail’s miracle tea requested by Christian and left behind when he gave her and Jason the weekend off. Ibuprofen eased the pain and I was able to cook for my man, prepare his bath, and brush and dry his hair even though I couldn’t wash it. He wore silk pajamas all weekend—very Hugh Hefner. I wore lingerie that he chose or nothing at all—and my aluminum collar.

My God, I loved it!

I was at his beck and call—his version of total power exchange. I didn’t have to call him “Sir” unless I chose to and I only spoke when given permission. I fixed his drinks, cooked his meals, fetched his phone and papers and anything else that he needed from me, sucked his cock on demand and kneeled quietly at his feet when he didn’t need me to do anything, my head lying on his lap while he stroked my hair. When he first suggested this, I thought he had lost his mind, but when he dressed me and put on the collar, I seemed to fall right into the role—allowing him to make the decisions and give the orders. I didn’t have to think or make any choices, and when he had no instructions for me, he quietly comforted me while I lay in his lap. At one point, I knelt at his feet for so long that I fell asleep in his lap. He punished me by blindfolding me and binding my hands behind me while he slowly fucked my mouth until he exploded down my throat.

I’ll take that punishment any day!

He kept me in white lingerie the whole time—a long transparent “cover” over sheer white thongs on Saturday and a very short halter stretch nightie with no back that nicely framed my tattoo and only covered the very tops of my ass cheeks. At one point, while I was making his lunch, he commanded me to grab the counter and fucked me fast and hard from behind. I loved having him take me. I loved him being in total control. It was what I needed. I was very sad when Sunday evening approached and we had to get dressed before Jason and Gail returned to the apartment.

“This weekend was outstanding, Ms. Steele. You were exquisite,” Christian purrs in my ear after we are both dressed.

“Thank you,” I answer, feeling shy. He slips his arms around my waist from behind.

“You are adorable,” he says, kissing my ear and my neck. I put my arms over his and sink into his warmth, his comfort, and his protection…

We’re back. Thank God, we’re back.

————————————————————————-

Maxie shows up at Escala on Monday afternoon to discuss her wedding plans and inform me that Ace had sent her a request for my medical records. She tries to further explain her behavior and her decision to me, but I don’t want to discuss this with her at all. I just let her off the hook and move on. I had spent the entire weekend healing from that particular hurt thanks to Christian and I no longer want to dwell in it.

If she feels that this was the appropriate plan of action—to dump me and leave me struggling with no assistance and no contact for five days—then she’s right. She’s not the therapist for me and I won’t speak with her about my issues or my treatment. In retrospect, she probably did me a favor. The logical me feels that way anyway. The emotional me feels like she’s a selfish bitch who can’t be trusted on that level anymore. I won’t cut her off, dwell on this, hold it over her head, or even treat her differently from this point on. However, I won’t discuss anything that has to do with my personal life in terms of my treatment with her ever again.

Mandy’s due date is in June, so I decide to get with her friends that I met at the wedding and plan a baby shower. Maxie’s shower is in a couple of weeks and her wedding is about a month away so that gives me plenty of time for Mandy’s shower afterwards. It will be much easier than either of these weddings.

In the midst of the wedding planning for Maxine and the baby shower planning for Mandy, I got word the following Tuesday morning that Stephen Morton had in fact passed away. She has a prearranged funeral set up for him so she left the message with the arrangements for this coming Friday. I can just see her now bragging to her quickly waning high-society friends that her daughter and my rich boyfriend may be coming to the funeral. I won’t let her know that I am coming and I will only go to the funeral home for a quick viewing and then to the cemetery to make sure that they put his ass in the ground.

As promised, Christian has the GEH jet ready for takeoff at Sea-Tec promptly on Thursday afternoon as the funeral is early in the morning on Friday… well, not early, but too damn early for a funeral. I had to reschedule my appointment with Ace back to our original appointment the following Monday. Wearing my jeans and a sweatshirt, I board the plane to travel to the place that I said I would never enter again.

At 6:42pm on Thursday, January 17, 2013, we land at McCarran Airport and I am instantly ill. I’m here. I’m really fucking here. I want to vomit—this dry, barren fucking land lay before me and I’m here again. I almost feel faint. Christian grasps my hand.

“If you’re not ready for this, I can have this bird back in the air before you even blink.” I blinked to be funny. “No fair,” he says with a smile.

“No. Let’s get this done.” I sigh heavily and descend the stairs back into hell.

I’m able to sneak into the funeral home to view his body only momentarily, which is all I really needed. The fucker is dead. Now, I will see him to the ground tomorrow and get on with my life.

There are a few paparazzi waiting at the Bellagio when we arrive. How the hell did they know we were coming? They take pictures and shout questions at me, but I choose not to answer this time. I don’t have anything prepared for them anyway. They will have to wait until I am ready or until I get the hell out of Nevada. As far as they know, I am in mourning after all—I’m here for a funeral.

In the entire time that I lived in Nevada, I had never been to the Bellagio Hotel. Hell, I had rarely even been to the Strip, come to think of it. Then again, I never really had a reason to go now, did I? The hotel screams opulence from the moment you step out of your vehicle. The roof to the entrance where the cars drive in for valet parking looks like a great hall, complete with elegant hanging light fixtures and skylight-type glass. After entering one of three revolving doors, we are in the lobby—a statement in pure luxury. The lobby is massive! In the middle of the ceiling is an artistic creation of transparent stained glass flowers bursting in every color of the rainbow. Beautiful, intricate designs grace the marble floor along with the largest luxury area rug I have ever seen. Columns and archways are everywhere you look and the place is utterly fabulous! If I had to come back to Vegas, I’m glad Christian picked this place to stay!

“You’ve never been to the Bellagio?” Christian asks breaking my stupor.

“Oh, yes. Dear old Mom and Stepdad brought me here often,” I answer flatly. He chuckles.

“I guess that was sort of a dumb question, huh?” he asks. I put my index finger and thumb together.

“Little bit,” I respond. He kisses me on the cheek.

“Look around, Baby. I’ll get us checked in.” He walks over to the front desk while I look around a bit more. Various shops are spread around—Hermes, Omega—but directly in front of me through more massive columns and archways is a beautiful indoor botanical flower garden. Ironically, it was set with giant colorful mushrooms and plastic flowers surrounded by ladybugs, bumblebees, snails, and butterflies—all sculpted out of real flowers. I take a seat on one of the marble benches and just let the colors and nature surround me for a while… a beautiful oasis in the middle of the desert. Why can’t I just stay here in this beautiful place instead of having to go out there in that barren land and face the evil, selfish people that I know are waiting for me there? My mind drifts to many places and thoughts as I sit in this room.

We’re in Vegas. We could get married here if we wanted and nobody would know. We could go back to Vegas as Mr. and Mrs. Grey and quietly sneak back into Escala. I wouldn’t even change my name yet, so as not to arouse suspicion. Who am I kidding? I’ve got so much damn baggage, Christian is probably waiting for me to settle my issues now since he’s doing so well with his. Just four months ago, he seemed like he was out of control with his emotions. They had him in a vise grip and he could not function when they took over. Then he started seeing Dr. Baker and, even though he got off to a really bumpy start, he has come a very, very long way. Even with my trip to El Nido, he handled his emotions very well. He discussed his issues with Dr. Baker and took me on a magical wild ride in the Playroom that night.

I had been missing my Dom and was glad to see him back. Even though initially he had frightened me, I knew that Christian would never hurt me—but have I frightened him now? Have my issues become too much for him such that he doesn’t want to marry me? I did clock out after I saw that video. Good God, I’m such a fucking basket-case. Who would want to marry me?

That copper-haired god that told your father that he would take care of you when he thought that you were asleep.
Maybe he was just saying that to pacify Daddy.
Be serious. You don’t believe that any more than I do.

She’s right. I don’t. I’m just ready to move forward and as long as all of this crap is hanging over my head, I feel like I keep moving backwards. Now I’m in this fucking state again, trying to draw strength from these damn flowers…

“Butterfly, are you okay?” His voice brings me back to the here and now. His beautiful, baritone voice…

“Tell me again why I’m here,” I say, looking up into his eyes and pleading for him to infuse me with his strength. He squats down in front of me and takes my hands in his.

“… To make sure that he’s dead and to turn in that video so that the bastards that tortured you can pay for what they did.” He squeezes my hands and I nod. “Come. Let’s get you to the room so you can relax and I can feed you.” He stands and pulls me to my feet leading me to the elevator.

We are in the penthouse suite which has a separate quarters for Taylor and Chuck. I am surprised to discover that there is an even more luxurious suite in the hotel than this one—several, in fact. However, the executive suites didn’t have enough bedrooms while the grand lakeview, presidential, and chairman suites didn’t have enough beds. I really don’t care. I want him to lead me tonight because I don’t want to think.

“What would you like to eat, Butterfly?” he asks as I stand in the middle of the living room.

“I don’t know,” I answer, staring out the window at the view. “You pick.” He’s quiet for a moment, then I feel him take my hand.

“Come with me,” he says softly and pulls me into the master suite. He leads me over to the bed and instructs me to sit. He removes my boots and my socks and gently rubs my feet. I take a deep breath and relax a bit. “Stay here,” he says before disappearing into the bathroom. I don’t move. I fold my hands in my lap and examine them like they are the most interesting thing that I’ve ever seen. I hear the bath running and moments later, my man returns.

“Stand up,” he beckons me and I rise to my feet. He pulls my sweater over my head and throws it on the bed. Meticulously, he undresses me—my sweatshirt, my turtleneck, my jeans, my bra, my underwear… He even takes my hair out of the herring-bone inside frenchbraid that I was wearing. He leads me to the bathroom and guides me into the luxurious bubble bath that is running for me there. It’s not citrus lemongrass but the bubbles feel like silk. He turns off the water and now I can hear jazz music coming from… wherever it’s coming from. It’s mellow-tone smooth jazz, not too slow and not too fast—drums, synthesizers, electric guitar… contemporary jazz.

“You relax and I’ll be right back,” he says as he turns off the water running in the bath, his voice like honey.

“Umm hmmm,” I purr as I close my eyes. This is heaven. My man is taking care of me; the music is soothing; I feel like all of my troubles are going to wash off of me into this wonderful scented bathwater and flow right down the drain, and for a moment, I forget it all. I forget all of the problems that are facing me and the issues hiding in my subconscious, my shattered hopes that I’ll ever be whole enough for Christian to ask me to marry him again… None of it matters right now in this moment while the water embraces me and the music takes me away.

I don’t know if I fell asleep or if the music transported me or even how long I’ve been in here, but when I come back to myself, my man is gently washing my hair. I purr again at the feeling of his fingers on my scalp. I want to tell him how wonderful that feels, but I don’t want to hear my own voice right now. He somehow rinses the soap from my hair without me having to move and I don’t question how he did it. I just enjoy it. He gently squeezes the excess water from my hair and wraps a towel loosely around my hair.

He comes around to the side of the tub and I see that he is only wearing his T-shirt and jeans now. He soaps a bath sponge and slowly starts to wash the exposed parts of my body—my arms, shoulders, chest, legs, feet…

“Lean forward, Baby,” he says softly. I lean forward and he gently cleans my back. He rinses the soap from my body by filling the bath sponge and squeezing the water all over me. He beckons me to stand, lathers a washcloth, and begins to wash my most intimate parts. It’s not sensual at all, although it could be. It’s delicate and caring and meticulous. He never looks into my eyes—or I into his—while he is doing this. He’s paying close attention to what he is doing, and I am paying close attention to him. He is taking his time, cleansing me, rinsing me, and when he’s done, he puts the washcloth on the side of the tub and now he looks into my eyes. They are full of gentle concern, care, and love but no worry. It seems like we stand there forever just looking at each other, saying nothing and everything with our eyes.

He stretches his hand out to me, still saying nothing. I take it and he helps me out of the tub and starts to dry my skin with a bath towel. Again, he doesn’t look into my eyes, but pays close attention to his task…

My arms, hands, and fingers…
My chest, stomach and back…
My legs and feet…
He saves my intimate places for last.

He wraps a warm terry cloth oversized bathrobe around me and leads me back to the bedroom. The jazz is still piping through the room from whatever magical place it is coming—still contemporary, but it has slowed now and is soothing and even more relaxing. I hear pianos in the mix with light drums and maybe some soft horns.

“Get comfortable. I’ll be right back.” He leaves the room and I climb on the bed. The towel falls off my head and I feel that my hair is nearly dry. I cross my legs on the bed and drop my head, damp strands of hair falling over my shoulders. Again, I have drifted off somewhere in my own thoughts because the next thing that I know, my man is gently brushing my hair off my face and it is somehow completely dry. I sigh heavily. He has seduced me into such a state of peace and comfort that I barely know what’s going on.

The bed is covered with a selection of food—sliced exotic fruit, chocolate-dipped strawberries, truffles, gourmet antipasto, and chilled shrimp, and two tall flutes of some bubbling beverage are on the nightstand… champagne, I think. My man begins to feed me off of every platter on the bed—the antipasto, the shrimp, the fruit. It’s divine. He hands me the champagne flute. It’s absolutely delicious. He takes the flute from me and continues to feed me the celestial foods from the platter, indulging in the flavor sensations himself as well until we are both thoroughly satisfied and full. He leaves truffles by the bed, but takes the rest out of the room after he hands me the refilled champagne flute.

I am thoroughly relaxed. I can’t think of what else he could do at this point to make me feel more content. Yet he still had something else in mind. He comes back to the room with two large candles and what looks like a bamboo bucket of some kind. He puts the candles on either side of the bed and lights them before turning off the lights. He takes my hand and I stand from the bed. He removes the duvet and leaves nothing but the sheets on the bed.

“Lie down,” he instructs me. I lie on my back and wait for instruction. I really don’t feel like sex tonight. It just doesn’t seem to fit right now, but if that’s what he wants then I will oblige willingly. He opens my robe and leaves it lying under me on the bed. “Take your arms out,” he says, and I obey. He removes his clothes except for his boxers.

“Relax, Baby,” he says, and I close my eyes. My body is his and he can do what he wants with it. I feel gentle, smooth hands start at my neck and float rhythmically over my body. They are oily, and he’s rubbing the warm oil into my skin. Oh yes, we’re in Vegas. The water here is very hard and it dries out your skin. He is replenishing the oils in my skin. He thinks of everything. I close my eyes again and allow him to care for me. Even when he oils my breast, he is careful and gentle… not sensual, but caring. When he has coated the front of my body, he instructs me to roll over. I lie on my stomach and he continues the procedure on the back of my body only this time, he takes his time on my back massaging away my concerns and worries. Just like that, I slip into comfort and rest and forget all of my problems.

——————————————————————————————-

A/N:

Ace speaks of the patient who died being his “Waterloo.” The Battle of Waterloo was Napoleon’s last battle that he lost which ended his reign as Emperor of the French in the early 19th century—1815 to be exact. Whenever someone refers to something as their “Waterloo,” they are either referring to a huge weakness, and ginormous underestimation, or a colossal defeat.

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Love and Handcuffs!
Lynn x

What Was The Name Of That Story Again (Out of the mouth of “Ana”)?

WARNING! THIS POST HAS A LOT OF PICTURES IN IT, SO YOU MAY NOT BE ABLE TO READ IT ON YOUR PHONE.

As the next chapter of our story will be posted here tomorrow, I wanted to address one of the biggest issues that I see is a concern of most of my beloved readers. I am still posting on that other site that shall not be mentioned, but they get the story a day later, and if I ever have time to do a bonus chapter, they won’t get it. So they will be a chapter behind. They will also not get the benefits of the extra posts (like this one) that I do over here on my blog as I plan to keep author’s notes over there to a minimum, but I am happy that I can talk to you all over here. 😉

The name of this post is “What was the name of that story again?” The reason why I had to ask that question is because I found myself defending Ana’s behavior and then simultaneously referring several readers to that response so that I didn’t have to keep defending it. At least over here, people’s concerns are voiced well and at the very worst, some readers may be bemused or frustrated with Ana’s behavior — which I totally get. You know that on that other site, the reviews are downright disrespectful and brutal of Ana’s behavior. I even deleted one review that said that my Ana should just do us all a favor and kill herself… and they wonder why I’m moving. Nonetheless, I did have one beloved reader over here — even in the midst of her frustration — remind me of something that even I had forgotten for a moment, and I wanted to share it with all of you.

Broken 02I really hope that in our reading, we remember that we are reading a story called MENDING Dr. Steele. The title in and of itself indicates that something is wrong with Dr. Steele. I don’t know about any of you, but any time that I had to mend from something, it was a tiresome, painful, worrisome process. I am miserable when I am not well, and I usually make everyone around me miserable — and that’s when it’s something physical. Imagine if it’s something emotional. If you’ve never had to deal with being emotionally broken, congratulations… Because it’s the worst feeling in the world. There is no peace. You just want the pain to stop. I had a guest reviewer named Hermoine say that Ana should just kill herself, and I really wanted to jump through the screen and choke her because of how inconsiderate she was to the character. I have known many people suffering from clinical depression and I have had my own experiences with it as well in the past. For someone to say something like that is a perfect example of how people with that illness are treated. The inability to deal with life’s woes has resulted in suicide, homicide, murder/suicide, mass shootings, just to name a few. I even addressed that issue here with Franklin Whitmore’s reaction to the turn his life had taken. Though Ana is not clinically depressed, she is struggling for all she is worth to deal with all of this shit that is coming at her. I think you would probably do best hearing this from Ana’s point of view, so I’ll let her speak now. I’m going to put myself in Ana’s shoes–and I want you to try to do that, too.

An Address From Dr. Steele:
First of all, thank you all for listening to me and for following this crazy journey that I am on. I don’t know if you’ll ever understand what I am feeling, but here goes anyway. A quick address for what happened at the wedding with Elena… most of the real women I know worth their salt would have killed that bitch a long time ago. I told her to stay the hell away from us with a threat of bodily harm and she even has a restraining order against her. Yet, she still doesn’t seem to get the picture. Then, I come out of my father’s wedding to find my boyfriend with lipstick all over his face? That’s enough to make me catch a case all by itself, but then I look over your shoulder to see the very woman that has been trying to make my life a living hell for the last six months smirking at me and wearing the same lipstick? The very least that I could do was go back to that wedding, have a few drinks, and dance my ass off. Call me to task later about who I’m dancing with (which by the way are all my family and friends except for “Colostomy” — and even he is a friend of the family), what someone says to me and my boyfriend, or me not being able to kiss him because all I’m trying to do right now is not ruin my father’s wedding. However, people seemed to want me to process it all, be okay with it, and act like everything is honky dory within the next hour or so and I’m sorry — that’s just not going to happen. My boyfriend let me know how he felt several hours later… even he didn’t take the chance of ruining my father’s wedding. I handled things the best way that I could without running out of that wedding and getting arrested. So how about you cut me some slack that I wasn’t the perfect little party girl with my boyfriend?

Broken 04Let’s move on to the shrinking and shutting down. Again, a defense mechanism. We all have them. Those are mine. Maybe not the best, no, which my boyfriend has brought to my attention. Hell, I didn’t even realize I was doing it, but I think I am more sensitive about being so vigorously confronted for it. Most women get quiet when they are upset. Some of us yell and scream, but most of us — when we are really pissed — we shut the fuck up. Forgive me if I exhibit that a little more than I should, but even when I was doing my best not to shut down on him during our talk after Maxie dumped me, I was still hearing “you’re holding something back; why are you mad at him; why are you blaming him?” No matter how many times I said, “I’m not mad at him and I’m not blaming him,” I was still hearing that. Understand that there are only a few reactions anyone can have to being angry:

1) You shut down…
2) You blow up…
3) You cry…
4) You kill somebody…
5) You kill yourself…
6) You act like nothing is wrong…
7) You try to deal with it…
8) You smile and everybody really thinks you’re crazy…

Since I’ve been talked about for doing 1 and 3, I’m trying not to do 2, 4, or 5, I can’t do 8, I tried to do 6 at the wedding, now I’m trying to do 7… and I still hear “you’re holding something back; why are you mad at him; why are you blaming him?” You do realize that puts me in a “no-win” situation, right? Oh, one more small piece of logic to chew on… For those of you who, no matter how many times I said that I wasn’t mad at him still thought that I was punishing Christian, is it so hard to see that even though he never told Maxie that she should stop being my therapist, she still could have gotten that idea from him… which means that it actually could have been his fault that she quit? I’m not saying “yea” or “nay” on that one, but it’s just something to think about.

Broken 06I sincerely apologize for not being so well adjusted that all of the crazy crap that has happened to me — which has been outlined every time someone thinks I “behave badly” — has caused me not to be as well-adjusted as people seem to think I should be because I am a grown woman and a mental health professional. The first person who can inform the human race how not to react badly or somewhat irrationally when something horrible happens to them is going to get the Nobel Peace Prize because you have just solved 90% of the world’s problems and all of the world’s wars. In the meantime, until I get that magic elixir or ever-so-coveted solution, I’m most likely going to have a less than stellar reaction to being angry, hurt, or upset.

I also ask that while you take this particular journey with me, that you refer to the description of the story that you have chosen to read which says, “After the Edward David situation, Ana struggles to find peace, happiness, and closure in her life.” I sincerely hope that you didn’t read that description expecting to find a different story. I have dealt with trauma, disappointment, abandonment, brutality, and some downright difficult things happen to me that would have driven a lesser woman to drugs and alcohol, promiscuity, a life of crime, or suicide. Yet, I went into mental health instead and people are still wondering why I’m not Mother Teresa. SMH…

Broken 03So from here on out, I’m going to continue to be the imperfect Dr. Steele, who is still struggling with these feelings of abandonment and trauma and trust and… etc, etc, etc… and we’ll see what happens to me in the end. However, if you can’t deal with the angst of that journey, you should probably stop reading now, because I still have a long way to go. Will it be all angst and heartache and trouble and drama? No, but there will be some angst, heartache, trouble, and drama. Will I continue to behave badly? Most likely — not all the time, but I’m most likely still going to behave badly. I’m still learning to deal with everything that has happened to me and I’m still working on it — just like he had to work on it. He was commended for working on his emotions and I’m being chastised! And for crying out loud, people sometimes PEE IN THE BED when they are having bad dreams… try not to judge me for shrinking in my sleep!

Thank you and I hope to see you soon…
Dr. A.R. Steele

Broken 05

 

Mending Dr. Steele: Chapter 15—Change Is Necessary

PLEASE REVIEW HERE, NOT THE OTHER SITE (or both if you like, but at least over here)…

THIS IS PART II OF PAGING DR STEELE. DO NOT READ THIS IF YOU HAVE NOT READ ALL 70 CHAPTERS OF PAGING DR STEELE OR YOU ARE ABOUT TO READ SEVERAL SPOILERS.  

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. I hope you—as a fellow fan—enjoy it, too.

Chapter 15—Change Is Necessary

STEELE

It’s Sunday morning and Maxie and I are tying up some loose ends on the final planning stages of some things for the bridal shower in a few weeks and I can tell that her mind is somewhere else.

“So I figure that we would just put the elephants out here on the patio. What do you think?” I say to her to see just how much she’s paying attention.

“It’s my shower, Steele, not a circus. I’m admittedly distracted, but not that distracted,” she says flatly without raising her head. “Point taken, but we need to talk.” I put my pen down and look at her questioning.

“What’s going on?” I ask her.

“I’m resigning as your therapist.” Okay, what brought this on?

“Why?” I ask. I had been thinking about talking to her about this since New Year’s Day and the conversation with Christian… Christian! What did he say to her?

“Are you doing this because of Christian? Did you two talk? What did he say? Why are you doing this now, Maxine?” I know that my questions are flying faster than she can answer them, but I can’t help it. I want some answers and I want them now. I don’t understand what this is all about.

“Yes, we did talk. He did say some things to me that made me think. He was completely correct in what he said, Ana. I’m too close. The lines are so blurred between us that I became very vicious and possessive in trying to protect you and in fact, I almost lost you. No one could say anything to me—I couldn’t see straight. What’s more is that I can’t effectively counsel you anymore because I love you too much. I know what you need to hear and I know what needs to be said, but that objectivity that we as professionals need to have with our patients is simply not there between you and me. You say what you say to me because I’m comfortable to you and I can give you advice… as a friend, but not as a doctor anymore. There’s so much that we skate around because we are friends and you can’t tell me those things.”

What did Christian tell her? Has he told her about our personal life? About his past? About what happened on New Year’s Day? What did he say? I know that he was going to talk to her about their relationship, but he had no right to say anything about my therapy without my permission.

“Why all of a sudden, Maxine?” I ask her again. I don’t want to ask her if Christian is making her do this as a condition of forgiveness, but I just don’t know what to think right now. This came out of nowhere, and Christian spoke to her just three days ago. What brought this on… really? “What did he say to you? What exactly did he say to you?”

“Christian and I have both decided that the content of that conversation should stay between us.” My eyes nearly jump out of my head, roll around on the floor and pop back in. Am I to understand that she and my boyfriend have talked about me and neither of them feels like I should know about it? As if she was reading my mind, she replies, “I know what you are thinking. The conversation that led to our disagreement happened when you were stunned. You were not privy to that conversation and for that reason, you didn’t need to be privy to this one. I know you may think differently because it was about you, but if you think about this logically and not emotionally, you will see that I’m right.”

“I don’t give a fuck about logic right now, Maxine. You and my boyfriend had a conversation about me and now not only will you not tell me what it involved, but you are also telling me that I have to find a new therapist—that I have to relive all of the horrible shit that I went through all back over again with another doctor because of some secret confab that you had with Christian!” I know that I am being a bit of a hypocrite because I was already considering my options and the next course of action for me. However, I am livid that she and Christian felt like they needed to make this decision for me! Maxine’s face changes and she looks a bit shocked.

“What exactly do you think the conversation involved?” Maxine says, folding her arms. She is frowning heavily and I know that we are both standing firm on what we are saying and feeling right now but hell, I need answers.

“I don’t know. That’s why I’m asking you. If you don’t give me anything, then you leave my imagination to fill in the blanks. Don’t you see that?” I try to reason with her, my voice passionate. She shakes her head.

“How have you two even dealt with each other? I don’t get it.” She is shaking her head, her expression completely bemused. “One minute, he’s this silent, immovable force that affects everything around him and the next minute, he’s a double-decker 18-wheeler rolling over everything in his path! Then there’s you…” she drops her head, shaking it ferociously as if to rid herself of some stray thought. What about me? She scratches her scalp with both hands, sending her hair into a frenzy.

“He didn’t say anything to me about not being your doctor anymore, because that’s how you’re making it sound—which is really making me believe that this is the right decision, because this conversation happened already. I can hear it in your tone.” Bullseye! Dammit! I can’t deny it because even though it wasn’t in great detail and no conclusions were reached, she’s right—this conversation did happen. “He did say some things that made me consider my behavior and our relationship… and he was right. I’m too close. I can’t be an affective doctor and a good friend to you at the same time. I have to give one of them up and I’m not willing to lose my friend because I love you too much, so I’m stepping down as your doctor.

“Maxine the ‘friend’ could have had the same feelings and suspicions that I had the day that you checked out and would not have shown up four days later with a court order. Maxine the ‘doctor’ knows that you couldn’t stay in that state indefinitely and no one in this apartment on that day was qualified to make that decision for you. Those two ladies got their heads together and said ‘fuck what everyone else thinks,’ and instead of trying to talk to Christian and Ray and explain to them what ‘we’ were feeling and why it would be best for you to possibly go to the hospital, we took matters into our own hands and went the fuck off the deep end!” Now she’s starting to sound like me and the Bitch. It’s a tad bit frightening.

“You really have to see why this is the best decision for all of us,” she continues. “I’m secretly very happy that you have advanced directives now, because I never want to be in that position where I would have to make that kind of decision for you ever again.” She drops her head and wipes away a single tear. I want to reach out and hug her, but I’m not sure she wants that right now. “Christian loves you very much. I’ve always known it, but it’s loud and clear now. He will move mountains for you, I’m certain of it, and I almost alienated him completely. I know that if I had, I would have lost you… lost us. I’m just not conducive for your growth and healing at this point, not as your doctor anyway. Can you understand that?” Her voice is cracking and I know this is hard for her.

“Yes,” I say softly, letting her off the hook. There’s no use in making her squirm anymore. I had been playing New Year’s Day over and over again in my head and the words that Christian said when I was afraid that he was breaking up with me:

Whenever something happens that you don’t like, you don’t even talk to me. You just shut down…

I know that I have had to deal with these new emotions—and I’ve been doing a damn good job—but Ana, maybe you need to consider seeing another shrink, because you’re not dealing with yours…

What I can’t tolerate is you holding back and shutting down when it’s most important…

You leave me out in the cold whenever it suits you…

There’s not a selfish bone in your body. That’s a cop-out and you know it, Doctor, but there’s a reason why you do this and you need to figure out what it is…

That shrinking thing—you’re running away. I don’t know what triggers that, but you’re running awayYou’re a grown woman and you’re still curling up into a ball when the world gets too scary…

He even compared me to a damn roly-poly… Fucker!

“So… what do we do, now?” I ask.

“We find you another doctor,” she says without lifting her head. “No one from CCFW, though. I don’t think they would see you anyway with your history with the center… and you don’t have to go over all of those painful memories again. I’m not going to pull a ‘Flynn’ and hold your records hostage. You may have to elaborate—we both know the drill—but my records are pretty thorough.” She wipes her eyes again.

“Okay,” I say softly. She stands and grabs her purse and coat.

“I think I’m going to call it a day, Ana,” she says, never raising her eyes to mine. “I’ll see what I can do about helping you find a new therapist next week. Are we done with everything for the shower?”

“Um… yeah, the big stuff. I can handle the rest,” I reply. She nods.

“I’ll see you later, Steele,” and she makes a quick getaway across the great room and out the door.

What do I do now? I’m afraid that I’ve really hurt my friend and now, I have no one to talk to until I find another therapist. I could talk to Christian, but not about this. I have a feeling he’s the very reason these events were set in motion. I didn’t even get a chance to make the decision on my own, to get used to the idea. It was made for me, and while I’m not angry with Christian, I’m not very happy right now. I pick up my iPhone and request my contact.

“What is it?”

“I have a problem and I don’t want to do the wrong thing,” I say to Chuck.

“Okay, I’m listening,” he says.

“I really need some time to myself right now, outside of the apartment, but the last time I went off alone to think I ended up handcuffed to a bed on an island for four days. Is there some kind of compromise that can suffice?”


So I find myself in the marketplace, wandering around with no particular purpose. Chuck is in close enough proximity to protect me, but exercising the covert surveillance that he did when he was first assigned to me.

Maxie was really hurt when she left the apartment, I know. My feelings are torn about this morning’s conversation. I wasn’t certain that I wanted to “fire” Maxie. I had planned on talking to her and seeing if there was something that we could do about the situation—maybe change our plan of action or introduce another doctor part-time or gradually. I’m not sure that I actually wanted to quit her cold-turkey, so to speak. Also, she was crying, so this was difficult for her, too. So what do I do? I don’t even know where to start looking for a new therapist and I hate that she was obviously in so much pain.

I watch the fishmongers hurl the halibut and salmon through the market for a while as my thoughts wander to the many events that brought me to this place. I have no idea how so many different events can occur to lead you to one place. I catch an unmistakable familiar glimpse off in the distance.

It couldn’t be… not here!

I wander in the direction of my revelation, past the fishmongers, flower peddlers, and fresh fruit, certain that Chuck is somewhere in close proximity and to my amazement, I was right! What the hell is she doing here?

“Well, well, well, fancy meeting you here,” I say, and she turns around quickly to face me.

“Ugh! To what do I owe this displeasure?” she asks, snarling. She’s wearing far too much makeup and her skin is not as tight as I am accustomed to seeing it. Your nip-tuck is showing, Mrs. Lincoln.

“Oh, I’m certain that you already know, Elena!” I spit. I have kept my distance from this woman, but her last attack was quite personal and intended to cause a rift between me and my man. A smug smile comes over her face.

“Did my man Christian finally come to his senses and dump your ass?” she jeers. I want to laugh at her, but I refrain, holding my angry face.

“I don’t know what your man Christian is doing, but certainly you must be speaking of another ‘Christian,’ because I and my man Christian are doing fine.” I fold my arms.

“Hmm, is that so?” she says, still smiling like the cat who caught the canary. “You know, there’s a little piece of paper somewhere that says that there should be 500 feet between us… or has your little brain forgotten that? I thought you were supposed to stay away from me.”

“No, actually, it’s you that are supposed to stay away from us, but you couldn’t do that on New Year’s Eve, could you?” I snap. She shrugs.

“What can I say? When my man tells me to come, I come,” she purrs. The double entendre doesn’t escape me, but she doesn’t know that I’m on to her yet. She thinks she has won this round, which she kind of did, but I won’t let her bask in that victory.

“Well, you must have stood your man up, because you spent New Year’s Eve accosting my man,” I hiss.

“I didn’t come to Christian. Christian came to me,” she says, mocking innocence. Does she know that she just contradicted her last statement? Is she really that mentally unglued? I frown at her, disappointed at her obvious confusion. One minute, you come to him and the next minute you didn’t come to him. Come on, Lincoln, you’re not even trying here!

“I can’t even begin to explain how ridiculous it was that you were hiding out in the men’s restroom hoping that Christian would come in there. I mean it’s pretty pathetic that the only hope and prayer that you had of seeing him—or for an ambush, I should say—is when he came to take a piss.”

“It worked, though, didn’t it?” she says with a full smile. “We had a wonderful, passionate, tender reunion in the restroom and he only left to see where you were. He was so hoping that you wouldn’t catch on, but when I peeked out and saw you… well, I just decided to leave because he had already given me what I wanted.” Oh, good Lord, she is beyond delusional. I think she makes this stuff up in her head and she honestly believes it. It must be the only way that she can sleep at night.

“What exactly is it that you wanted, to get rejected? Or arrested? You call getting slapped in the face ‘tender?’ Oh, wait, you like the rough stuff, don’t you? That is your idea of passion, isn’t it? With your screwed-up, twisted way of thinking—you know, molesting children and chasing men who obviously don’t want you—I completely understand why you could have misconstrued that.” Her face falls and now she knows that the cat is out of the bag. That’s right, Pedo-Bitch, it didn’t work! I didn’t run away screaming upon seeing you scarlet marking all over my man, although the thought of it still sickens me. The realization of the truth slowly flows over her face like a mask.

We talked, and you still didn’t win.

“You know,” she says, maliciously, “you’re just keeping my bed warm for me. When he gets tired of you—and he will get tired of you—I’ll be right here waiting. Then, he’ll be in his rightful place… with me!

“You are so delusional. I’m tired of even pondering how delusional you are. The saddest thing about the delusional is that they have no idea that they are delusional… and that’s what makes it so sad. There’s no hope for you. There’s nothing for you at the end of this journey but complete, pure, and bitter heartbreak. As a human being, that makes me feel a little sorry for you, but that’s neither here nor there,” I say waving off the subject. “Honestly, I just wanted to thank you. I still had one fatal flaw that could have very well cost me my relationship with the man that I love. He’s so sweet, kind, and considerate that he couldn’t tell me before.” She looks at me like I am talking about an alien, and to her, I am. She has never met sweet, kind and considerate Christian. He reserved that for me!

“However,” I continue, “your little stunt was the catalyst to the conversation that we needed to have to save our relationship. So while you thought you were throwing a monkey wrench into the cogs and sprockets that keep us going, your manipulative ways actually strengthened the love that my man and I have for each other. We talked… and it was painful, but necessary. After that, we made love until the sun came up. We made love so many times that we didn’t even have breakfast until sometime after 2pm. So I just wanted to say thank you. I appreciate the fact that your meddling has brought us closer together once again and you have no idea how important that is to me, so thank you very much.” I smile at her, imitating sincerity.

“How did it feel to look at his face and see my lipstick all over him?” she hisses, and now she’s pulling out her trump cards.

“Oh, he washed that off and I replaced it with mine,” I said without missing a beat. I won’t let her know that her lipstick on my man caused me to react the way that she had hoped. I left enough holes in that explanation for her to try to figure out what happened between the kiss and the end result—that being a night full of passionate lovemaking. “Each time you think you’re winning, it backfires on you. You’re losing everything—your money, your friends, your reputation, pretty soon your freedom—you should be doing something to make some kind of amends right now, and you’re still running around doing the same dumb, manipulative shit. You’re stuck in this fantasy that Christian is going to come back to you, and it’s never going to happen, because every night I curl up in bed and rest comfortably in the arms of your fantasy.” Her face falls again. This time I see the slightest tinge of hopelessness in her eyes. I shake my head.

“I love him, Elena,” I say to her. “I’m not going anywhere, no matter what you do. Give it up. Just give it up.” I stand there for a moment and wait for her quip to come back at me, but it doesn’t. I turn around and Chuck is standing right behind me.

“Does the boss have to know about this encounter?” he asks me. I smile at him… silly little man.

“You know as well as I do that he’s going to find out. Who do you think should tell him?” I look over my shoulder and Elena is still standing there, a bit stunned and from the looks of her, a lot broken. I pull out my iPhone and start talking as I walk back to the car with Chuck.

“Hey Baby, what are you doing…?”


GREY

Fuck! I knew I shouldn’t have come to the office today. If I had just stayed home with Ana… fuck! Davenport and Butterfly are on their way back to Escala from the Marketplace. I should fire his ass! One of his jobs is to keep that Bitch away from Butterfly! Shit, but who am I kidding? After New Year’s Eve, I knew this was going to happen. I’m just glad Davenport was there to prevent any serious melee in the public market.

She had a fight with Maxine? The last I heard, they were planning the wedding. What the hell happened? She almost sounded like she wanted to cry by the end of the call. That’s what the fuck I get for coming into work on a damn Sunday. I pack up the reports, projections, and contracts that I was reading and turn off my computer. Jason rises when I enter the outer office and, without a word, follows me to the elevator.

“Has something happened, Sir?” he asks during the drive. I have only said that word—Escala—since we left the office, so he has no idea why I’m brooding.

“Right now, I’m trying to decide if I am releasing two members of my staff,” I grumble.

“Do I want to ask which two?”

“Probably not, but I’ll tell you anyway—Davenport for letting that blonde bitch near my girlfriend, and you for not knowing before I did,” I hiss. Jason literally stops the car in the middle of the street. Angry drivers honk their horns and slam on their brakes, making hasty detours as Jason turns around to face me.

“Excuse me?” he says, bemused.

“Butterfly just had a showdown with that pedophile bitch in the Marketplace. That fucking Keystone cop that is guarding her should have been on the phone the moment they started talking, and Lincoln should be in cuffs right now.”

“Well, why isn’t she?” he asks, not affected by my rising anger.

“Apparently, Butterfly initiated contact.” Jason looks at me for a moment later, then turns around and continues the drive home. “You don’t seem as surprised and appalled by this.” Jason looks at me in the rear view mirror.

“Have you met that woman?” he asks coolly. “If she had something that she needed to say to that blonde bimbo, an act of God wouldn’t have stopped her. So you can fire me, and you can fire Chuck, but I’m going to tell you right now. This was all in Her Highness’s court. That’s why she called you… didn’t she?” he says with certainty. Smug asshole. “I started calling her that as a joke, but ask any of the staff… it fits! Nobody crosses the Queen. When it comes down to something that she wants to get done, you move the hell out of the way or get rolled over. We’ll cross you before we cross her.” What the hell?

“Jason, what the hell does that mean? Do I really need to hire new staff?” He shakes his head.

“When Chuck was present, has Ana ever been hurt?” he asks as we pull into Escala.

“No… but she’s been in a couple of sticky situations,” I admit.

“If you want to have to train somebody else to read her moods and know when to intervene and when not to intervene, then go ahead and fire Chuck, but know that he hasn’t let you down. He takes his orders from her, yes, but he knows how—and when—to handle her. So you should probably just let him do it. Let’s face it. After the stunt that sick bitch pulled on New Year’s Day, you had to know that Her Highness was going to have some words with her. If you didn’t, you don’t know her as well as you think you do.” I ponder his words during the elevator ride. I’m still fucking pissed. Let Ana have her words and then put that woman in cuffs! Get her the fuck out of our lives! How did this bitch ever get out on bail? Surely something she has done has been a bail violation. Hell, I made a police report against her!

“I thought we had a tail on Elena,” is all I can say when we reach the foyer.

“We did, but you ended it once she was arrested.”

“Should we put it back in place?”

“We can, but I think it would be a waste of manpower. What happened today was just a series of unfortunate events—or serendipitous, depending on how you look at it.” I frown at him as I walk into my study. What’s that supposed to mean? Reading my expression, he continues. “She’s on her last leg, clearly. The Elena Lincoln that know—” he shudders, “—wouldn’t be caught dead in the Marketplace. Yet, there she was, squeezing a plum or something and up walks Ana. Am I wrong about this?” I glare at him.

“Did Davenport call you?” I ask him. He knows the story too well.

“Did I knock on your office door and notify you of a ‘situation?'” Smug asshole. “I’ll have words with Chuck for not calling me. Most likely, she told him that she wanted to tell you herself, but you said it yourself. She’s going through a lot right now, and she has survived more than most people I know—including some combat soldiers. Just let her be, Sir. She’ll work things out.”

“I’m still stuck on why you would cross me before you cross her. You are employed by me, Jason,” I say. Jason and Gail have remained quite professional even after the wedding in Anguilla and the change in our relationship, but this seems like I may need to rethink some things if I don’t have any authority over my head of security.

“Maybe ‘cross’ was the wrong word, Sir,” he admits. “With Her Highness, it’s a little easier to negotiate. She knows that she needs to follow certain protocol so that we can keep her safe, but she’s flexible in what she will and won’t do where as you don’t bend. You are straight and narrow, you don’t stray from the plan, and that’s it. Because she is so flexible, when her back does go straight and her heels are dug in, you just have to watch her—be ready for anything. She’s not really unpredictable, but when she’s going to do something, you have to work around her or else she will be a security nightmare. That’s what I mean when I say ‘we don’t cross her.’ With you, we know what we can and can’t do. You completely understand all risks and all protocols. Highness—she’s still learning. For the most part, she’s still that free Ana Butterfly spirit that goes where she wants to go and does what she wants to do, and you just fall in behind her. A good bodyguard knows how to do that. Don’t you remember the iPhone incident?”

Oh boy, do I! That whole week turned out to be a nightmare for us all. Butterfly had just bought that phone and launched it into the bushes because I didn’t call her—right before she stormed down the street in her stocking feet. She didn’t speak to me for days and I ended up in the hospital. That was when we first got together and I was brooding over something completely unfounded and blaming Butterfly for something that she didn’t do… much like she did on New Year’s Eve. My, how the tables have turned.

“Like I said, Sir, she’ll be fine. We follow her closely and make sure that she doesn’t find trouble and trouble doesn’t find her. Do you understand or am I talking in circles?” I, of all people, know that you have to let Ana be Ana or you’ll get steamrolled in the process. I just hate that she was in the same place as and talking to Elena Lincoln. I hear the door close and I know that she is home. I look up at Jason, who takes his cue to leave and wait for Butterfly to come into my study.

She doesn’t.

I come out of the study and around the stairs looking for her and she is nowhere in plain sight. A little more exploring and I find her somewhere that I never saw her before… in all the time that she has lived in this apartment and we have been together.

She’s at the wet bar.

I walk over to the bar and see her nursing a tumbler of clear liquid. Her spirits of choice are usually white liquors while mine are dark. She prefers red wines while I prefer whites and champagnes. She cries adrenaline tears while I sit quietly and brood. She shrinks and shuts down while I fly off the handle. Ain’t we a pair?

I go behind the bar and pour myself a double shot of bourbon. Her head is down and she is studying her glass. Absolut. Or Patron. She takes another sip of her drink and puts it back on the bar. I sit across from her.

“Hey,” I say softly.

“Hey,” she replies, emotionless, her eyes never rising from her drink.

“Bad day?” I ask.

“A bit.”

“Do you want to talk about it?” She shrugs.

“There’s not much to say, really. Maxine quit as my therapist and I had it out in the Marketplace with the Pedophile.” She sips her drink again. Whoa! What? Maxine quit?

“Wait a minute! What happened with Maxine?” She sighs heavily.

“Apparently, she had some kind of ‘come to Jesus’ moment after your conversation and decided that she couldn’t help me anymore.” Her voice is very flat and matter-of-fact. There’s a powder keg under there.

“I swear I didn’t say anything like that to her, Butterfly. I didn’t even suggest it.” She takes another sip of her drink. Just little sips… can she even taste it?

“Okay.” That’s all she says.

“Okay?”

“Okay,” she repeats, still flat, never raising her head.

“Ana, look at me.” She slowly raises her head until her eyes meet mine. I can’t read her. I can always read her, and I can’t read her now. “Are you mad at me?” I ask.

“I’m not allowed to be mad at you,” she answers. What the fuck does that mean? “You didn’t do anything wrong, did you?” Her voice is still flat. She’s not angry; she’s not sad; she’s… nothing. Just… nothing.

“No, not that I know of,” I reply. “I told Maxine how I felt about how she treated me and that was all.” She nods.

“So, I can’t be mad at you.” She sips her drink again.

“Do you even really want that?” I ask, unable to figure out why she is sipping her drink like it’s the last few drops of water on the Mojave desert.

“I want to do shots and it’s Sunday afternoon and I have patients tomorrow. If I just taste it, then I won’t do shots.” She sips again. Oh, shit.

“Why do you want to do shots?” I ask cautiously. Her eyes change only subtly.

“I don’t have a therapist anymore, Christian,” she says coolly, her voice fluctuating only slightly. “I’ve got a ton of emotional issues that I thought I was working through and a few more that were recently brought to my attention, and my therapist just quit. I think that might be cause for a little drink.” Her words seem to cut a bit, but her voice is still as flat as asphalt. Now I want to do shots. I take a swallow of the bourbon.

“Is there anything that I can do?” I ask. She shakes her head and her eyes drop to her tumbler again.

“No, but thanks anyway.” She sips her drink again. If I weren’t so concerned right now, that would irritate me. Drink the damn drink! Do the shots! Sitting there wetting your lips is just… annoying!

“So… what now?” I ask. She sighs.

“I find a new therapist.” Her voice has only a hint of ire, but still, the calm in her is eerie. Now, I meet yet another “Ana.” I’ve not met this one before, except maybe when she was dead set to kill Elena in the kitchen. She was cold and calculating, vengeful and determined. This Ana sees stoic and impassive like she is trying to control her thoughts and actions.

“I need you to talk to me, Baby,” I say wrapping my hands around hers which are wrapped around her glass.

“What do you want me to say?” she asks, her eyes rising to mine again.

“I want to know what you’re feeling. I’m worried about you right now,” I confess. She sighs.

“It’s too much to tell you,” she says, softly.

“Try,” I encourage her as her eyes drop to her glass again.

“Confused. Angry. Worried. Sad. Betrayed. Lost. Anxious. Everything… and nothing.” I think I spy a tear about to fall out of her eye, but it is dry before it even falls.

“Okay. That’s a lot. Why confused?”

“Because I have to find a new therapist.”

“Why angry?”

“Because I have to find a new therapist.” Oh, for fuck’s sake, are we really playing this game? As if sensing my immediate frustration, she says, “I’m confused because I have no idea what happened to make Maxie think that she can’t help me anymore and now I have to find a new therapist. I’m angry because I didn’t even get a chance to discuss this with her. She just quit and now I have to find a new therapist. I’m worried because I have to relive all of the things that I have already confided in Maxine because I have to find a new therapist. I’m sad because she didn’t want to quit any more than I really wanted her to quit, but I still have to find a new therapist. I feel betrayed because this decision was made without my input or consent. I have no idea what was actually said to trigger this since you say that you never said anything to encourage it and she’s mum about a conversation that she had with my boyfriend. Nonetheless, when the conversation is over, I have to find a new therapist. I feel lost and anxious pretty much for the same reasons that I feel betrayed and worried. I feel everything and nothing because when it all comes together, I can’t make sense of it, but I’m not allowed to be pissed because who do you blame when no one takes responsibility for it—when the one person who was helping you for years says that she can no longer help you because she loves you too much? How can you possibly be angry with someone for that?”

She has said this whole speech and her voice has fluctuated very little if any at all. I know for certain that she feels very passionate about this, but she’s not letting any of it out. She pushes her drink away and tucks her hair behind her ear before clasping her hands together in front of her on the bar. Her head is down, but she is making a visible effort to get her back straight and I can see her bouncing or shaking on the bar stool. Even though I can’t see it, I imagine that it’s because she is bouncing her knee.

“It’s hard, Butterfly, but it’s not impossible. I had to do with Dr. Baker,” I say, trying to comfort her a bit. The statement doesn’t even help me feel better because the transition to Dr. Baker was very difficult for me at first—especially since I didn’t really trust anyone outside of Flynn and my family in the first place. She looks up at me again.

“There’s a difference, Christian. You got a chance to talk to Flynn. You asked him questions and you made that decision after you weighed everything. In my case, you made a suggestion and I had a moment to mull it over before I got torpedoed by Maxine.” Her head goes down. “I’m the patient here and I got dropped without even being part of the decision.” I feel like she partially blames me for this even though I said nothing to suggest to Maxine that she should drop Butterfly as a patient. I can’t say that I’m unhappy about it, but I still didn’t suggest it.

“Do you want to talk to Dr. Baker?” I ask. She shakes her head.

“That’s your shrink, that’s not mine. I talk to her about all things Christian, but I don’t talk to her about all things.” Her behavior is still scaring the shit out of me.

“What happened with Elena today?” Maybe this topic will open her up a little more, even if it’s not in a good way. She is clasping her hands and feverishly rubbing them with her thumbs.

“I saw her in the Marketplace and I just wanted to tell her to stop what she was trying to do. I’ve always told her how sick and twisted she was—which I reiterated—but I‘ve never simply told her that no matter what she does, I’m not going anywhere. For some reason, I think it sunk in today.” Still no emotion from her. Shit.

“Well, that’s good to know,” I say, reaching for her hands and stilling her thumbs. Her hands are actually red where she was rubbing them. I bring them up to my lips and kiss them gently. I bring my hand up to her face and gently stroke her cheek. “What can I do?” She sighs, but doesn’t look up at me.

“Nothing,” she says impassively. “I just have to work this out.”

“I don’t want you to go through this alone.” Please don’t shut me out again, Butterfly.

“I’m not,” she replies. “I know that you’re there for me. I just have to sit down and figure out my next move because I truly don’t know what it is right now. Maxie has always been there and now, she’s not…” Her voice cracks only slightly at the end of that statement and that is the first and only emotion I have heard from her voice the whole conversation. I quickly move around the bar, lift her off the bar stool and crush her in my arms. I don’t know what else to do.

“Don’t. Please,” she says softly. “I’m trying not to shut down or shrink, but I’m tired of crying and I’m not sure that I can hold it together.”

“Then don’t,” I say into her neck, still holding her firmly in my arms. Her body goes limp and even though I don’t hear the sounds, I feel her tears falling on my shoulder.

“I can’t fall apart, Christian. I have to figure out what to do.” That’s my strong Butterfly. Her voice is still steady, even though I feel her crying.

“And you will, but not right now… not at this moment,” I say holding her up with one arm and rubbing her back with the other hand. She’s so light even though I know her body is zero percent body fat, which means that she is actually heavier than most women her size since muscle weighs more than fat—so much the oxymoron, much like how fragile and yet strong she is right at this moment. She inhales a shuddering breath, but still refuses to release the anguish that I know she’s feeling.

“I’ll be here for you,” I whisper to her, spreading my hand protectively against her back and pressing her to me, “for whatever you need, I’ll be here.”

“I know,” she says in that controlled voice. “I… need to get a drink of water.” I don’t want to let her go, but I think she needs some space. It’s a big thing that she admitted to not wanting to shut down or shrink and I won’t push her any further than that. I kiss her hair and then her soft, tear-stained cheek before placing her gently on the floor. Before letting her go, I wipe her tears away with my free hand and force her to make eye-contact with me with those big, sad blue eyes. I kiss her slowly and gently on the lips three times and touch my forehead to hers.

“I love you,” I whisper, my eyes closed.

“I love you, too,” she says softly. I kiss her on the forehead and reluctantly release her. I watch her look down at the floor at the stiletto that slipped off, apparently while I held her suspended in my arms. She reaches down for the black leather shoe and examines it in her hand for several seconds—the moment of truth. After a while, she lifts her bare foot and slides into the stiletto. I breathe a sigh of relief as I watch her walk into the kitchen. That’s something…


“I know that I shouldn’t be talking about her like this, but I’m not really sure what to do right now,” I say into my blackberry several minutes later while sitting in my study. Butterfly has retired to her office upstairs and I am at a complete loss as to what I should do about her current condition.

Well, I’m glad that you called me instead of reacting badly over this,” Dr. Baker says into the phone. “You’re just going to have to let her work through this, and you have to be patient with her. You unloaded on her on New Years Day. Though it was justified and obviously a conversation that needed to happen, that’s playing in the back of her head right now. You suggest that she needs a new therapist and after your conversation with her therapist, she quits. You can see why she can believe that A led to B.”

“Yes, but I really didn’t say anything to Maxine to suggest that she stop being Ana’s therapist.”

Are you certain about that?” I replay the conversation over in my head.

“I’m certain. I didn’t say anything to her to even imply that she shouldn’t be Ana’s therapist. Nothing. I’m positive of that.”

Did Ana say anything to you to suggest that you did say something to that effect?”

“She kept saying that I talked to Maxine and then she quit, but in the next breath, she says that she’s not angry with me because I didn’t do anything wrong,” I clarify.

Yet, you still feel that she might be holding you responsible.”

“Yes, a bit,” I admit.

Maxine couldn’t have gotten that same vibe from you—that maybe it was time for Ana to seek counsel elsewhere?” Dammit.

“I know that I clearly felt that way, but not my words or even my demeanor suggested that, Dr. Baker. I am certain of that. I am certain that my feelings and my words were very centralized on how I felt because of what she did to me. I make a point not to make vague statements or implications that I don’t intend to make. That’s fatal in my line of business, so I don’t even practice it in my personal life. In the rare instances that I don’t know exactly what I’m trying to say, I make it clear that I am having a problem relaying my thoughts and feelings.” My mind wanders back to the disastrous misunderstanding between Jason and Gail and I in Anguilla as well as the awful incident that was Flynngate. I make it a point to be clear on all things after those fiascoes.

“If I throw a vague statement out there, there is a specific purpose for it. There were no vague statements in the conversation with Maxine. It was quite precise—brutal, but to the point. There were no—absolutely no—opportunities for misinterpretation.”

Well, Christian, all I can say right now is that you have to be there for her and let her work this out. I will email you a list of therapists that may be willing to take her on if you like, but clear it with her before you even suggest it. You don’t want her to feel like you have been planning this all along or like you are taking this decision out of her hands. I’m sure she’s already feeling quite powerless right now, which is most likely the reason for her impulsive behavior. Just keep an eye on her and don’t be afraid to call her out on unhealthy behavior. You seem to be very good at spotting it.” Ain’t that the damn truth. “Of course, you can understand how traumatic it is to have to switch to a new therapist…”

“Oh, God, yes. I felt like I was suffocating. If she felt anything like I felt, there has to be something I can do. I think she feels like she can’t talk to me…” and quite frankly, I’m tired of calling Allen every time there’s something wrong with my girlfriend.

You just have to be sure that she knows that she can. Don’t push it. Don’t force her. Just make sure that she knows that she can talk to you.” I sigh heavily.

“Thank you, Dr. Baker. I appreciate you talking this out with me.”

Don’t thank me until you’ve seen my bill,” she responds and we both chuckle before ending the call. I force myself to go over some reports and emails to get ready for some meetings that I have tomorrow, but I can’t concentrate. Butterfly has been in her office for a couple of hours and it’s getting late. Neither of us has had dinner and my growling stomach is the alarm that we should stop working and eat something. I check my email and there is the message from Dr. Baker concerning possible therapists for Butterfly as well as Welch’s background check on Cholometes. They will both have to wait right now. I need to check on Butterfly.

I stand quietly outside her open office door a bit taken aback by the sight that greets me. She has dismantled her Glock and is meticulously cleaning its parts. The loaded magazine lay harmlessly in a box off to the side and two parts of the gun are sitting on a heavy hand towel out of the way. Her lovely desk top looks more like a work bench with cleaners, oils, heavy-duty paper towels, hard nylon brushes, cotton swabs, and something that looks like gauze. I lean on the door frame and watch her for a while, spraying cleaner, scrubbing the slide, wiping it clean with the towels and the cotton swabs—the process is quite detailed and she is concentrating very hard on every single crevice. I’m sure that she has to as it could possibly cause injury to her if she doesn’t.

I watch her for several minutes, mesmerized by how she expertly assembles and disassembles each tool needed to properly clean the firearm. It looks like a pretty simple process, really, if a bit intricate. I’m just amazed that my little Butterfly can do this, and obviously so well. She continues to clean and expertly reassemble the gun. As she pulls back the slide and pulls the trigger on the empty gun, I cautiously make my presence known by tapping lightly on the door. The moment she looks up at me, I can tell that she has been crying some more, but she manages to smile slightly.

“Hey,” I say walking into her office. “We need to eat something.” She sighs heavily.

“I’m not really hungry, Christian,” she protests, putting her Glock back in the lock box next to the magazine.

“I thought the Glock stayed in the car,” I point out.

“I had to clean it,” she says. “I’ll put it back in my glove box tomorrow.”

“Have you eaten at all today, Butterfly?” She nods.

“Maxine and I had chicken skewers and rice pilaf for lunch.” Okay, that makes me feel better.

“Would you try just a little something for dinner—maybe a light salad?” She looks up at me ready to protest. I don’t know what my expression said, but all I could think is that I didn’t want her to go to sleep hungry. She nods dutifully and locks her guns away in the safe before following me to the kitchen.

Butterfly is lying in my arms after a silent dinner, if you can call it that. She made a green salad with no meat and only oil and vinegar for dressing and barely touched it. Now she is asleep in my arms—and shrinking—and I am at a total loss as to what I can do for her? Is it my fault that Maxine quit on her? If it is, I really didn’t mean to make her quit. Hell, I’m not a shrink. What the fuck do I know? Maybe just a change of treatment might have been a better plan. Now, she has quit and Butterfly is floundering with her feelings. I certainly didn’t intend for her therapy to be interrupted cold-turkey with no plan in place for continuing care. She needs it now more than ever, so that certainly wasn’t my intention. How do I approach her about helping her find a new shrink? She keeps telling me there’s nothing that I can do, so she certainly doesn’t believe that I can help her find a shrink.

I’m lying awake, not only because of my concerns for Butterfly, but also because I made the mistake of reading Cholometes’ background check right before I came to bed. Yes, he was Marines Special Forces, currently 37 years old, born on November 23. He was born in Albany, NY but raised in Tacoma. When he returned from active duty, he went to work for the government as a defense analyst, but he now works in IT for a manufacturing company here in Washington. He has no family to speak of as his mother died of cancer four years ago, his father died when he was a teenager and he has no brothers or sisters. He earns a modestly impressive income and lives within his means. He hasn’t had any long-term relationships and he has no children. He’s a loner—no attachments and able to move around freely.

He’s very sure of himself to be so unremarkable. I can’t help remembering that’s the same thing I thought about Butterfly when I read her background check only to discover that I was completely off the mark about how remarkable she really is. Something must be missing because he’s too damn confident. I know from being around Jason and most of my security team that this is an innate trait in many former members of the military, particularly the Marines, but there’s more to it with this guy. When it comes to people, my instincts are hardly ever wrong, and I’m not letting my guard down.

Just before I came to join Butterfly in bed, I get a text from an unknown number that simply reads “Still leaving breadcrumbs.” This guy is trying to scare me, but all he’s really doing is pissing me off. Bad idea, Colostomy.

I’m broken from my thoughts by whimpering. Butterfly? Why is she whimpering? What’s wrong.

“No…” she murmurs, her voice full of pain. Is she dreaming?

“Butterfly?” I try to gently rouse her from her sleep.

“No… please…” she says, shaking in her sleep, and now I notice that she’s sweating.

“Butterfly, wake up, Baby.” Before I can wake her, she lets out a soul-shaking scream that scares the shit out me and causes me to grab her and shake her from her sleep.

“Anastasia! Wake up!” I declare before I even know that I’m yelling at her. Her eyes bolt open, wide and frightened. She’s breathing heavily and clutching my arms, her hair sticking to her sweat-drenched face. I think it takes her a full minute to realize that her experience was just a dream during which time she just stares at me with tears and terror in her eyes. After that eternal minute, she falls limp on my chest and begins to wail. What the fuck was she dreaming? I pull her up onto my lap and allow her to shrink into me while she cries herself back into an exhausted and fitful sleep. I stay awake for the rest of the night, intent on keeping the Boogie Man away.


STEELE

Christian looked a wreck when I awoke on Monday morning. I vaguely remember having a dream about Harris standing over me laughing. He wasn’t touching me, but something was choking me and I couldn’t breathe. I knew he was doing it and I couldn’t stop him because I couldn’t reach him. I just kept choking and suffocating.

So when I try to call Christian and I can’t reach him, I call Jason, who tells me that Christian canceled all of his meetings today and closed himself in his office asking not to be disturbed. I really want to know what he was doing in there all day, but I won’t pressure him to tell me. I’ve got problems of my own. I have to find a new therapist. Without a reference of any kind, I might as well throw a dart at a map and just investigate wherever it lands. I decide to go onto the site where I am listed—Network Therapy—and see what suggestions they may have. I scroll through the pages and take some notes in between appointments on some of the possible candidates there. Some doctors refuse to take on other doctors as patients and that’s going to make it harder for me to find a therapist, I know, but I should at least try—especially since Harris is back.

I am so tired when I get back to Escala. I actually left my Audi at the office and asked Chuck to arrange to have someone go and get it as I was too damn tired to drive. Christian’s not home when I get there, so I just decide to rest my eyes on the sofa for a while.

It’s nearly 9pm when Christian wakes me by stroking my hair off my face. He looks like hell. What’s going on? I try to get him to tell me what happened and he just tells me that he had a long day. We both decide to take a bath before dinner, but both end up falling asleep in the bath. We were so tired that we just went straight to bed. This is the first time—besides the week that we didn’t speak after the Elliot misunderstanding—that I have known Christian to go to bed without eating dinner.

We muddle through the week in some sort of haze—Christian constantly checking on me while I’m plagued by nightmares of that asshole slapping me, choking me, chasing me in fucking cars while hideously and fiendishly laughing at me the whole time. I continue to plan Maxie and Phil’s wedding, but I haven’t heard from her all week, not even to help me find a new therapist like she promised. By Friday, I am so fucking fried that I don’t even get out of bed to go to work. My only appointment canceled two days earlier and I just asked Marilyn to run some errands for me. She was only too happy to get out of the office.

At about 10:00, I put on some jogging pants and a T-shirt and go up to my office to research some more therapists. Christian reluctantly gave me a list of therapists that Dr. Baker had given him and I scanned the list. I know he had to speak to her about the situation and I expected him to do as much. He’s certain that I blame him for Maxine quitting, and he’s partially right. I don’t know what he said to her, but something in their conversation caused her to feel like she couldn’t help me anymore. I’m pissed because I had no say in the situation, no control over my own damn destiny and treatment and I don’t even know how she came to the conclusion. I don’t know for sure that I would have fired her. I wanted to talk to her—explore some options, come to a decision together as to what would be the best course of action. Instead, I feel like she left me floundering without any assistance… because she loves me. Ironically, my phone rings at that moment. I look at the caller ID and it’s Maxie.

I let it ring.

There are two doctors that are both on my list and Dr. Baker’s list, one of which isn’t taking new patients. The other is a guy named Lordis Avery. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone named Lordis in my life. He has 10 years of experience and I really liked his bio. He specializes in treating issues of depression, life transitions, grief and loss, self-esteem, powerlessness, and mental turmoil… and he takes other doctors as patients. Thank the Lord! Now, let’s just hope that he’s not a pompous, chauvinistic, self-absorbed asshole.

Dr. Avery’s office, how may I help you?”

“Hi, I would like to make an appointment to see Dr. Avery. I’m a potential new patient and I am a doctor as well,” I tell the professional-sounding receptionist.

Very well. What is your name?”

“Um, this needs to be an anonymous appointment. I will be happy to provide identification when I get there, but my privacy is paramount. I understand if you can’t accommodate me…”

Actually, Ma’am, our office is accustomed to handling such requests. Would you like to put an alias on file so that I can reserve an appointment for you? I’m afraid the doctor doesn’t have anything available until the 21st.” That long? I guess I could wait… maybeif I don’t lose my mind by then.

“Well… okay, I guess I’ll take that,” I say reluctantly.

“Are you sure, Ma’am?” she says. She’s been well-trained. She knows that I need someone now.

“Yes, I’ll wait,” I say, trying to infuse more conviction into my voice. She pauses for a moment.

“Okay. What name would you like for your appointment time?” I take no time at all in thinking of an alias.

“Butterfly Wilson.” After a moment, she says,

“January 21st, 3:00pm?” I look at my calender and see that some afternoon appointments will have to be rescheduled, but I don’t care. I can’t afford to put this off.

“Yes, thank you.” I give her my phone number and my “Butterfly” email address and end the call. I’m sitting here with my hand on my forehead. The 21st—that’s 10 days away. Will I be completely bananas by then? Christian and I haven’t had sex all week and I’m having Harris nightmares. I lament over Maxie’s lack of communication with me and as soon as she calls, I don’t answer. I’m not eating well. I’m eating, but not well. I have Marilyn running the wedding errands that I should be doing as maid of honor and I think I’ve cleaned my gun about eight times in the last week! That all of a sudden gives me the urge to go to the shooting range. I change into a black T-shirt, jeans, and boots and, with Chuck in tow, drive to the Bellevue Gun Club.

One day, the big men will learn not to underestimate me. The staff is mostly new today and none of the regular guys that know me are working. So big burly Dan is quite surprised when he not only discovers that I am a platinum member, but also Chuck tells him, “First of all, she’s not my ‘little girlfriend;’ and second, I’m not the one here to shoot—she is.” Dan scoffs a bit which only means that this flabby fuck is who I will be picturing on my target, along with Harris and David and Lincoln. So when they finally get me set up with ammo, targets, goggles and headphones in one of the shooting stalls in bay 2, I rip the eyes and hearts out of several targets at 25 yards in quick succession, momentarily causing a silence to fall over the shooting range.

I have emptied two magazines and I am waiting for Chuck to finish loading the third for me, but it appears that he was watching the show instead of loading. I quickly load another magazine and pop it into My Boo while the carrier moves my target to the end of the range again. Harris and David take a head and mouthful of lead with the Pedo-Bitch gets it right in her silicon boobs and Flabby Dan takes a few in the nuts.

“Fuck, Ana, who pissed you off?” Chuck says as he hands me the magazine he has just filled. I look at him and shake my head, turning back to the new target and letting the bullets fly once more.

Chuck and I spend the rest of the afternoon at the gun range, me, dispelling the “little lady” syndrome that followed me into the bay—with all of the Neanderthals—and Chuck showing off his shooting skills by putting his initials in three of the 25-yard targets. Fucker. I feel the need to clean my gun again, but I know that this is some kind of obsessive compulsive reaction to the shit that’s going on in my life right now, so I put the unloaded gun in its case as required before leaving the shooting stall. Several of the other patrons stares at me as I leave. Yeah, yeah, yeah, quit staring and shoot your damn guns.

I have just finished washing the gunshot residue off of my hands when my phone rings. I dry my hands and look at my phone. It’s a Washington number and not unknown, so I risk answering it.

“Dr. Steele.”

“Is this Butterfly Wilson?” The voice catches me off guard. It’s smooth as silk—not as silky as Christian’s, but silky.

“Who is this?” I ask.

“This is Dr. Lordis Avery,” Silky Voice responds.

“Dr. Avery. Yes, this is she.” Why is he calling? Our appointment isn’t for another week and a half.

“My assistant seems to think that I should call you. She sounds a bit concerned about your phone call.”

“Oh?” I thought I had covered that need pretty well. Apparently, I didn’t.

“I have a bit of time now. Would you like to come in—or maybe I could meet you somewhere if you prefer?” Okay, I know why would like to move this along quickly, but why is he so eager to do it? Except for my answering the phone formally, he doesn’t really know who I am.

“You must really trust your assistant,” I say.

Implicitly,” he responds. “She has never steered me wrong. Are you available, Ms. Wilson?”

“Yes, I am, but I’m in Bellevue right now, I we should probably meet somewhere as it could be rather late when I get back to Seattle.”

“That’s okay. If you GPS my office, it’s just over the bridge. How long would that trip take you?” he asks.

“About twenty minutes?” I say.

“Okay, that’s fine. I’ll wait for you.” He seems pretty eager to meet me. There’s absolutely no reason to think he has an ulterior motive. He doesn’t even know who I really am.

“Um, okay then. I’m on my way now. My bodyguard will be with me as well. I hope that’s okay.” There is momentary silence.

“I will let Amber know to expect two of you, then,” he says finally. I’m sure that he doesn’t know what to think right now.

“Thank you, Dr. Avery. I’ll see you in twenty minutes, then,” I say before ending the call. I step out to see Chuck waiting for me and looking into the parking lot. “We are going to have a detour before we go back to Escala. I have a last minute appointment.”

“You may want to reschedule,” he says, pointing out to the parking lot. I look outside and parked next to my S7 is the ever ominous black Audi SUV.

What the…?


A/N:

PLEASE REVIEW HERE, NOT ON THE OTHER SITE (or both if you like, but at least over here)…

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Love and Handcuffs!
Lynn x

My Big Mistake

Every so often, I will share a little bit of myself so that people will understand why I do the things that I do. Most of you already know that I do a lot of research for the stories that I write. Some of it comes from the internet, some from trial and error, some from actual interviews and other peoples’ experience, and some from my own experience. I have had quite a few people repeatedly ask one particular question about my story and the main female character…

Why won’t she just tell him that she’s ready to get married?

So I thought I would answer that with a personal experience, but first with a few facts from the story.

Our main male character (I am refraining from using names on purpose) is going through a lot of changes of his own. She wants him to be completely ready before he proposes to her. If she tells him that she is ready now, he will no doubt drop what he’s doing and propose to her. She is certain that when he feels like he is ready, he will do it. No matter how much she may want it in her heart, she will not allow her feelings to dictate when he will propose to her.

Here’s why…

When I was a much younger and less wise woman, I was in love with a man who later became my first husband. We had been together for years and I couldn’t understand why he wouldn’t propose to me. It seemed the logical thing to do when he and I both claimed that we were in it for the long haul and neither of us were going anywhere. I told him that I wanted to get married and, to placate me, we set a date. The date came and went, resulting in the first time that I was jilted. I asked him what the problem was and why he had done that to me, and we set a second date… resulting in the second time that I was jilted.

This happened five more times — seven times in total. You would think that this was my cue that this was most likely not meant to be, but no, I couldn’t hear that or see what was right in front of my face. By the eighth time, he finally gave in and married me… because I was ready for it to happen.

This was the biggest mistake of my life. My daughter had already been born and was already carrying his name, so there was no need for me to marry this man. However, this is what I wanted and I made sure that he knew. By the time he did marry me, I think he did it just to placate me — again — and it turned out to be an utter disaster from beginning to end. We were married for five years. He was cheating on me before we were married, so I don’t know how many years he was actually cheating on me after we were married, but I definitely know about two years and we were separated for one year. So out of five years, we were unhappy and/or apart more time that we were happy.

NoMy main female character has my bit of wisdom in this one particular decision — do not force a man’s hand and try to make him do something before he is ready. Even though I write both characters and know that he will marry her in a second because he wants to, I have to write her point of view like she doesn’t know that… because she doesn’t. So, it’s very simple to say “why won’t she tell him? Make them get married already,” when you can see both points of view, but she can’t. She only sees her point of view, not his. She will not tell him that she is ready to marry now because he (and now, she as well) has some issues to deal with and she does not want to rush him into making a decision to placate her. She will not repeat my big mistake.

Love and handcuffs,
BG Holmes aka Bronze Goddess aka Lynn x

Mending Dr. Steele: Chapter 14—Tying Up Loose Ends

Yes, Ana was a real bitch in the last chapter… but people, when have I ever written anything without a method to my madness? There is always a reason for something I do. Every time there was some serious conflict, it was because something needed to come out. Keep reading…

PLEASE REVIEW HERE, NOT THE OTHER SITE (or both if you like, but at least over here)…

THIS IS PART II OF PAGING DR STEELE. DO NOT READ THIS IF YOU HAVE NOT READ ALL 70 CHAPTERS OF PAGING DR STEELE OR YOU ARE ABOUT TO READ SEVERAL SPOILERS.  

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. I hope you—as a fellow fan—enjoy it, too.

Chapter 14—Tying Up Loose Ends

STEELE

It is nearly 2:00am when we finally get back to the penthouse. James, Al, Valerie and Elliot are spending the night with us and we had to make sure that the other guests were all safely on their way home before we went upstairs. We thought that we would sit around for a little while before turning in but everybody is exhausted, so I show everyone to the guest rooms and get them settled in for the night, agreeing to meet for breakfast whenever we roll out of bed.

I go into our bedroom expecting to find Christian, but he’s not there. I know I saw him come into the apartment and I’m fairly certain that he hasn’t left. I look around the apartment—his study, my office, the piano—no Christian. I finally find him on the balcony… in the cold… nursing another drink. How many has he had tonight? I know I have had more than my share, but I also know that he has had more than me. I put my coat on and go out to the balcony with him. He doesn’t even acknowledge my presence until I speak.

“Hi.” He literally jumps at the sound of my voice.

“Hi.” He watches me as I walk over and sit down next to him on the chaise.

“Long night,” I say. He’s still looking at me.

“Yeah… it was.” He turns back to his drink.

“What were you and Brian talking about?” I ask.

“What do you think we were talking about?” he says with no malice, looking at me again.

“Me.”

“You’re right.” He looks away again. “He wanted me to know his hat was in the ring if I hurt you like David did.” He finishes the last of his drink.

“I know.” He looks at me again. “He told me the same thing, Christian.” He gazes at me for a long time.

“Do you think I would ever hurt you like that?” he asks, appalled.

“No,” I answer, but it sounds more like a question. I’m shivering.

“Come on, you’re cold. Let’s go inside.” He takes my hand and leads me into the apartment. We take off our coats and he fixes himself another drink. I want to say something about the amount that he is drinking tonight, but it’s a fight that I really don’t want to have. He turns on the fireplace and sits in on the sofa in front of it.

“I wanted to kill that guy,” he says. I look over at him. “The things he said to me, the way he was gawking at you… laying claim to you that way… Nobody has ever disrespected me in that way before, especially not where I live! I wanted to put a real hurting on his ass, but I didn’t, because of your father and because of you.” He takes a swallow of his drink. I would never want him to allow someone to disrespect him because of me. We had this conversation with the Scooby Gang Bang. We threw Lexia out of the wedding because of that and she’s “family.”

“Don’t do that again,” I say to him. He looks at me bemused. “Don’t allow anyone to disrespect you because of me, particularly not where you lay your head. I would never expect that of you and you don’t deserve it. If I had known that he was doing that to you, I would have thrown him out myself.” He turns back to his drink again.

“That’s good to know, but he said something to you. You didn’t expect him to say something to me?” He swirls the amber liquid around in his tumbler. “Anyway, it was right before he left. I guess he told me, huh?” He takes another swallow of his drink. There is silence for a long few moments before he says, “You can’t keep doing this, Anastasia.”

Anastasia? I frown, my face asking the question my lips couldn’t.

“You can’t keep shutting me down like this. I get that you are shocked and angry and even hurt that that woman’s lips touched mine, but you can’t keep treating me this way…” Treating him this way? Treating him what way? Again, my face must have asked the question.

“I have stood by you every single step of the way in every single thing that you have endured since we have been together—every single step—but whenever something happens that you don’t like, you don’t even talk to me. You just shut down. And this—this is just unacceptable. You know that I didn’t kiss that woman. You know it. Yet you treated me like the plague for the rest of the night. Even your little admirer noticed it, I’m sure.” He’s right, he did notice. “I know that I have had to deal with these new emotions—and I’ve been doing a damn good job—but Ana, maybe you need to consider seeing another shrink, because you’re not dealing with yours.”

I am dumbfounded. I can’t ask where this came from because I know, but do I really shut him out like that?

“Christian, I tell you everything,” I say, trying to defend myself.

“No you don’t!” His voice is a little louder than it should be, but he notices it and immediately calms himself. “You don’t tell me everything, and that’s okay. I can live with that. What I can’t tolerate is you holding back and shutting down when it’s most important. What I won’t tolerate is you blaming me for something that I didn’t do and punishing me for something that is not my fault.” Punishing him? I wasn’t…

“I wasn’t punishing you, Christian. I just didn’t know how to handle it. All I could see was that filthy woman with her hands on you… her mouth on you…” I visibly shudder at the thought.

“Then you should have talked to me!” He snaps. “Instead, you treated me like I was contagious all night. Do you have any idea how that made me feel? Then to have that asshole come sauntering over to me talking shit after I watched him kiss you. Should I reciprocate now, Ana? Should I treat you the way that you treated me?” He walks away from me over to the fireplace, still holding his drink. He is mad now, or maybe this was hiding all night… for months even… every time I shut him out. “I can’t do this anymore.”

Okay, I’m awake now! Can’t do what? He doesn’t want me anymore? Can’t do what? My heart clenches and I feel the air leaving my body. I want to faint. My knees literally get weak and I fall onto the sofa to keep from falling onto the floor.

Can’t do what?
Can’t do what?
Is he breaking up with me?
Did I really fuck up this time?

I won’t cry. I don’t deserve to cry. I hurt him, badly, and I don’t deserve to cry.

“I love you, Ana. I really do, but I won’t be your punching bag, not like this,” he says his back still to me. I am having an inner panic attack back here and the Bitch is on the floor kicking and screaming and throwing a massive temper tantrum. I remain silent. I don’t know what to say. If he’s breaking up with me, I have to let him have his say.

Does he think I want Brian? Is that it?
What am I going to do?
I feel like I’m dying.
I literally feel like I’m dying.

“If we are going to make this work, if we have any hope of a life together, you can’t do this to me.” Was that a flicker of light? Do I dare hope? “I don’t know what to tell you, but you can’t shut me out—especially not while I’m feeling every bit of pain that you feel, every bit of fear, and I’m going through all of your trials with you.” He still has his back to me, which is a good thing, because I am a shaking mess right now. I don’t know what to do—I haven’t a clue.

“Christian, I… I’m sorry, I…” my voice sounds like a mouse, but he doesn’t turn around. I believe he knows what he will see if he does and he just won’t. He’s right. I do shut him out. I don’t mean to, but I do it anyway. People, circumstances, things have disappointed me too much. So when I see that disappointment coming, I shut down. I don’t know how to deal with him when he does something that seriously displeases me—or if I have the perception that he has done something that seriously displeases me. The Elliot fiasco, when he returned from Green Valley, on the plane on the way home from Anguilla, Flynngate, and now the Pedo-Kiss—I shut him out every time when all he ever does is love me.

“I’m sorry,” I whisper. “I didn’t know that’s what I was doing.”

“Ana, how could you not know?” Now he turns around. His face is frozen and his eyes are cold. He is quite upset with me. He’s looking through me, not at me. This was the straw that broke the camel’s back. “You leave me out in the cold whenever it suits you. I’m not going to do it anymore, Ana. I’m just not.” He walks past me, glass in hand, and disappears down the hall.

I feel like my body is going to collapse in on itself. I’ve gone too far. I’ve really gone too far this time. I don’t want to cry. I want to scream.

Balcony?

No, too close.

Roof! Still close, but not as close.

I grab my coat and gloves and quietly leave the penthouse, taking the stairs to the roof. It’s bitter cold out here and I feel it down to my bones, but I’m sure that I was cold before I got here. I look out over the sleeping city of Seattle. It’s well into the night yet lights are still twinkling all over the city. I take in as deep a breath as the cold will allow me, reach down into my stomach, and let out a blood-curdling scream—long and loud—followed by the cries that I wouldn’t release down in the penthouse. Gut-wrenching, blubbering, snotty tears and cries that are so hard that they reverberate in your chest and make your throat hurt. I’m on my bare knees on the cold concrete of the roof and I can’t even feel it.

I hurt Christian. I really hurt Christian. And now I am hurting. I deserve to hurt, though. If he leaves me, if he breaks up with me, I deserve it.

… but oh God does it hurt.

I cry and cry and cry and cry, hoping to ease some of this pain that I feel, but relief never comes. How could I be so selfish? So stupid? What the fuck it wrong with me? He’s only the most handsome, caring, kind, sensual, loving, protective, considerate, generous man I’ve ever met—besides my father, minus the “sensual” part—and I manage to chase him away.

Every time I think I’m getting the tears under control, they just come back heavier. What if I’ve lost him? What if I’ve pushed him away forever? I swear, I’m joining a convent!

I continue to cry for the love that I may have lost when I see a handkerchief dangling in my face. I look up to see who’s holding it and I immediately know that’s not Christian’s hand.

It’s Jason.

I take the handkerchief from his hand and clean my face as much as I can.

“How did you know?” I ask him, both relieved and disappointed that it’s not Christian.

“It’s 3:00am, Ana. You set off silent alarms all over the place,” he says squatting down to me. “What did he do now?” I shake my head and take a shuddering breath.

“It wasn’t him. It was me,” I answer mournfully. “I fucked up.” Jason is clearly surprised but just holds his hand out to me.

“Can you please berate yourself inside and not out here on the roof on the cold concrete?” he says. I take his hand and he helps me off the ground. We go back inside, down the stairs, and back into the apartment. I fully expect Christian to be in the great room, pacing and running his hands through his hair.

He’s not.

Good God, I have truly fucked up.

Jason stands there looking at me awaiting my decision. I take off my coat and assure him that I won’t go wandering out in the cold again. When he goes back to the guest quarters, I stand in the middle of the great room, hoping that the answer to that burning question will come floating down to me…

Have I lost him?

I watch the hallway where he earlier disappeared, willing him to walk back out to tell me that he loves me and I am forgiven.

Nope—forget it, Kid.

The fire is still going. I take off my shoes and wrap myself in the faux fur throw. I am freezing down to my soul, so I curl up in the smallest ball that I can and try to warm myself, tucking the throw under and around me everywhere.

No more crying now, Dr. Steele. Tomorrow you will go and find yourself a nice, quiet convent. For now, I curl up on the sofa and, with violently shuddering breaths, I will myself to sleep.

When I open my eyes, I am disoriented. It’s still dark out and I couldn’t have slept more than an hour. I raise my head and realize that I must have been crying in my sleep because there are runny make-up stains on the white sofa. I run my hand over the stain and silently curse myself.

“The furniture cleaners can get that out.”

I nearly jump out of my skin! Christian is sitting on the sofa that is to the left of this one, technically above my head while I was sleeping. I sigh heavily and run my hand over the stain again. Yep, a nice, quiet convent…

“You are such a foolish woman.” Huh? Where did that come from. “I couldn’t stop loving you if I tried. Don’t you get that?” Um… I… um… Oh, forget it. My head feels like lead and I couldn’t form a coherent thought if I tried.

“I slapped her,” he says quietly. What? Who?

“Huh?”

“Elena. I slapped her. When she kissed me, I pushed her away and when she came back at me, I slapped her.” Oh, her—I had all but forgotten about her. I was wrapped up in the despair of hurting and losing the man that I love. He slapped Elena? Damn, really? I sit up on the sofa, my bones still cold.

“You did?” I say, and I can hear the awe in my own voice.

“Yes, I did,” he responds. He finally looks up at me. His face falls momentarily, but only momentarily. He’s drinking again, but it looks like orange juice this time. The shuddering breaths come unwelcome but I cried so hard that I have to expect them. “Why do you do this, Ana?” he asks, looking down at his glass.

“Because I’m a selfish asshole,” I say, more to myself than to him. Even with my head down, I can see his head snap up at me.

“You know that’s not true as much as I do,” he shoots. “There’s not a selfish bone in your body. That’s a cop-out and you know it, Doctor, but there’s a reason why you do this and you need to figure out what it is.” I raise my head to him and he’s glaring at me. He’s calling me on my bullshit and he refuses to let me hide behind excuses. I guess I’ve got some work to do if I don’t want to move into a convent. I wrap myself in the throw and lay my head on the back of the sofa, curling up again.

“Okay,” I say softly. What else can I say really?

“And that’s another thing,” he says, setting his drink on a coaster and moving over to the sofa next to me. He has one arm on the arm of the sofa and one arm along the back… but not around me. “You need to stop doing that, too.” Doing what? “That shrinking thing—you’re running away. I don’t know what triggers that, but you’re running away. You told me that you didn’t see Flynn helping me. Well, Ana, I don’t see Maxine helping you. You’re a grown woman and you’re still curling up into a ball when the world gets too scary. I know things get rough, I really do. I see it with my own eyes. I completely understand that there may be a need to sneak off into yourself once in a while, but Ana you do it entirely too much. I’m almost remiss to talk to you about anything contrary, because I’m afraid that at any second, you’re going to turn into a woodlouse!”

A woodlouse? What the fuck is a woodlouse!? I jerk my head back at him, clearly confused at what he is trying to say.

“A doodlebug?” he says. Nope, I’m still lost.

“A pill bug?” I got nothing.

“Roly-poly?” Ah! Okay, now I got it. Pretty appropriate—gross, but appropriate. I don’t know what to say to him. Who knew that a great psychologist with a waiting list a mile long was so fucked up herself? Then again, I am only human.

He’s sitting close to me now and I inhale his scent—his musky cologne mixed with his natural body odor and the smell of bourbon—stale and fresh—on his breath. I let the scents comfort me and help release the grip that I feel on my chest. He knows what I’m doing and he looks at me—his eyes questioning, hurting, loving, and bemused all at the same time. I can’t take it anymore. If he rejects me, I’ll accept that, but right now…

I crawl into his lap. He gasps as I bring my body close to his. I close my eyes and brush my lips against his. I’m still slightly inebriated, but the mixture of scents on him seems strangely comforting, almost forbidden, and erotically intoxicating.

He closes his eyes and allows me to brush my lips against his. His shoulders and chest rise and fall hard as he is trying to control his heavy open-mouthed breathing and I know he is lost in this simple contact… but he won’t touch me.

“Kiss me, Christian… please,” I breathe, praying that he won’t reject me like I have rejected him all night. He gently runs his tongue over my lips, then gently bites my bottom lip and sucks it into his mouth. I gasp. I have missed this—even if only for the last few hours. The emotional separation is worse than that physical, and I need him. I need him to know that I need him. He finally wraps his arms around my body, dips me, and kisses me with gentle, deep, sweet abandon so that I am certain that he would never kiss someone else like he kisses me. This kiss is intense and it rocks me to my very core as I grab handfuls of his hair and he dips me over his lap, holding me there and sensually sucking the very life out of me. His lips never leave mine, not even to breathe. I’m whimpering and moaning a lot because the kiss lasts so long that I nearly pass out.

“Christian!” I gasp when I he finally releases my mouth. He is still holding me up, suspended in his arms and in his love.

“I love you,” he breathes between kissing me on any part of my body that he can reach—my chest, my neck, shoulder, my arm… “Only you, Ana, only you. Please don’t ever doubt me again.”

“Christian… please… kiss me again.” One arm keeps me suspended while the other hand cups my face and he is kissing me again. His tongue is caressing mine, claiming my mouth, and making up for all of the kisses that he didn’t get tonight. We are kissing away all of the Brians and the Lexias and the Pedo-Bitches and the roly-polies of the night until there is nothing in our special place but us.

“Baby… you taste so good.” That’s it. I can’t take it anymore. I grab his hair and plunge his mouth into mine, kissing him with everything that I have.

“Make love to me, Christian. I need you… please…” I need that connection that only we make. He effortlessly lifts me from the sofa and carries me to our bedroom.


“I thought I had lost you.”

I awake to Christian’s voice talking to my sleeping body. I’m only semi-conscious after we made love more times than I can remember and I fell into an exhausted sleep just as the sky was turning purple-pink with the first sunrise of the new year.

“I thought you would never want to touch me again… or kiss me again…” I am lying on my stomach hugging my pillow and facing away from him. He is outlining the art on my back—something that normally sends me into an erotic frenzy, but there’s something different in his touch right now.

“Then your little admirer decides to tell me that he will be actively vying for your attention and that just set me off.” He continues to caress my back. I’m coming more into focus now as he continues to speak.

“I normally simply crush people who try to take what’s mine, but last night, I felt like you were slipping away… because of her. I was so angry and I couldn’t do a damn thing about it. It’s like he knew, and he came to rub salt in my wounds.” He did know, unfortunately. Nobody had to tell him; he just watched our interaction… and how I treated you.

“I can’t believe I let her get that close to me. I filed the police report, but the damage was already done. Allen and Elliot were right—I should have gotten backup before I went in there. Better yet, I should have called the police the moment I saw her. That woman is the devil. She is hell, evil, tragedy, and misfortune all rolled into one. I don’t know how I let her near me.” I roll over to face him as he is berating himself. “What were you thinking when I tried to kiss you?” he asks. I sigh.

“That all I could see was her lipstick, even after you washed it away. A while back, she made it a point to let me know that she had you first. That’s all that I could see, even though I knew deep down that she had probably orchestrated the whole thing, she marked you. She knew that’s how I would see it. She was counting on it and I fell right into it. I’m sorry,” I respond. He shakes his head.

“I’ll accept your apology for how you treated me—that was unnecessary and cruel—but don’t apologize for something that woman has done. She’s a wicked bitch and a master manipulator who loves to play mind games, and I wish they had kept her ass behind bars. You would think that she wouldn’t want to bring attention to herself, but she has gotten worse since the arrest!”

“She’s desperate,” I point out. “She’s losing everything and refusing to go down quietly. Is she capable of violence, Christian? I mean, serious violence?” He knows what I mean. I’m not talking about Domme whipping and caning. I mean homicidal-type violence, because she is very quickly becoming a woman scorned.

“I would say ‘no,’ not that I’ve seen anyway, but I don’t know. Until a few months ago, I thought she was my friend and look how that turned out.” He frowns deeply and starts to stroke my back some more. “I don’t usually drink that much. I never drink that much, not for a long time anyway.”

“I’m surprised you’re not hung over,” I respond. He chuckles a bit.

“Make no mistake, I paid for it. That vigorous workout helped to burn off some of the alcohol, but I’ve been awake for several hours suffering.”

“You were quite the sex machine this morning, even more so than I am accustomed to. Alcohol makes you quite amorous, Mr. Grey.” He leans down and plants a gentle kiss on my lips.

“I never want to feel that way again,” he whispers, “like you don’t want me. I love you too much and I can’t take it. I’ll admit it. I can put up with other fuckers wanting you, but I can’t put up with you not wanting me.” His eyes lock onto mine, searching and beseeching. I scoot over close to him, tangle my fingers in his hair, and pull his lips down to mine. I kiss him deeply and passionately, until he is moaning into my mouth. When I release him, his lips are slightly swollen and his eyes are hooded, dazed.

“I’m sorry,” I whisper. “I’ll do better, I promise.” He looks at me for a moment and then closes his eyes and nods.

“Okay,” he whispers. I bring his head down to lay on my breast and run my fingers through his hair. I run through the events of last night in my head. At least Daddy and Mandy didn’t see anything amiss—except for that bitch Lexia. My God! If I were lucky enough to have a sister, I sure wouldn’t be that shitty to her… at least I hope that I wouldn’t. If she were in cahoots with Carla, I probably wouldn’t speak to her at all. For all I know, I could have a little sister on the way. That would be so cool. I would spoil her rotten!

My ringing iPhone broke me from my thoughts. I try to move to answer it only to find that Christian has me in a death grip and has fallen asleep on my breast. He needs his rest, but I need to get up. Not only do I need to answer my phone, but I also have to pee.

I wiggle out of his grip and he looks at me with sleepy gray eyes. “Go back to sleep, Baby, I have to pee,” I say stroking his hair again. He nods and wraps his arms around a pillow, bunching it under his head. It only takes a few seconds and he’s softly snoring again. I pick up my iPhone and what I see makes me glad that I didn’t answer it.

It was Carla.

Speak of the fucking devil. I have no idea how she got my number. She has called several times in the last few months. The first time I answered her call, I felt like my ears were going to explode. I didn’t recognize the number, but the 702 area code had given me immediate flashbacks of Sullivan’s call. I never answered her calls again after that, but the masochist in me saved her number so that I know who it is when they call. I always listen to her messages because I want to be warned in some way if she is within close proximity of me at all! I decide that her message can wait until later.

A shower, a pair of yoga pants and an oversized U-Dub sweatshirt later, I am listening to Carla’s message. It appears that Stephen is very ill and is in the hospital now. He has been ill for quite some time, but wouldn’t go to the hospital and now he has slipped into a coma.

His liver is failing and he is dying.

He wanted to be put on the transplant list, but he’s an active alcoholic and they have rules and wah wah wah wah wah wah…

Stephen is dying and I guess she thinks that my rich boyfriend and I can stop it. I would never wish death on anyone—I’m not that cold—but I hate to say that I still don’t care. I hate saying it because someone is dying, and I don’t care. That’s cold. He was horrible to me and he never changed. He used my tragedy for personal gain and still treated me like a nobody, all the way up to the very last time that I saw him alive. I won’t miss him, but for reasons of my own, I will go to his funeral. I know she’ll inform me when he has passed away. She won’t miss the opportunity for that bit of attention.

From what she says, it won’t be long now.

It looks like I will be planning a trip to Green Valley soon. I might as well kill two birds with one stone and turn over that video to the proper authorities.

Val and I are supposed to make brunch for the guys while they watch Oregon and Stanford play in the Rose Bowl. When I leave our bedroom, the apartment is as quiet as a library. Time is ticking into the future, so I might as well get started on brunch. I made my cheesy ham and hash brown casserole in advance, so I put it in the oven to reheat. It’s just like the cheesy potatoes that Gail and I now have to make at least once a week for Jason and Christian, only it’s made with cubed hash brown potatoes and cubed ham, then topped with fresh Parmesan cheese. I slice some strawberries and put them in a bowl with blueberries for the Belgian waffles, which will be made last with the eggs Benedict. I start to fry an ample amount of link sausage by the time Valerie arises from her slumber. It’s nearly 1pm by now.

“Ana, why didn’t you wake me?” she asks. I shrug.

“I’ve been alone with my thoughts,” I tell her as she pulls her beignet dough from the refrigerator. “I’ve been getting more texts and calls from St. John about Melanie and I even got a call this morning from Carla.”

“Carla!?” she asks aghast. “What did she want—to wish you a Happy New Year?” She puts flour on the counter and starts to roll out portions of her dough.

“No, she called me to tell me that Stephen is dying.” Val stops rolling her dough.

“He’s dying?” she asks. I nod. “How do you feel about that?” She has started rolling her dough again.

“I don’t,” I reply flatly. “She wants Christian’s money to find him a liver. That’s the only reason that she can be calling me. Those people had absolutely no compassion or consideration for me when I lay in the hospital damn near dead. They can’t think I care about his ass!” I mean, I may feel some kind of inkling of a twinge for Carla… maybe. She did birth me after all—but Stephen? Nothing. Nothing but contempt and anger and hatred that I have been trying to overcome for years! Nope, no tears to be shed there.

“Is there anything that can be done for him?” Val asks as she fills a large pot with oil.

“Short of a black market liver? No. It’s pretty much a done deal for him. I’m pretty certain that his insides are all pickled anyway and his organs will soon go into complete failure, so…” I shrug again. Val goes back to her dough and starts cutting the beignets.

“Won’t you feel a little guilty just letting him die without trying to help him, Ana?” she questions. I pause for just a moment to ponder that.

“Nope.” I say as I continue with the sausage and then add pieces of Canadian bacon to another frying pan. She comes over to the stove with her dough.

“You really won’t, will you?” she asks as she puts the first beignets in the hot oil. I shake my head. “I can tell. You didn’t even bother with an explanation,” she adds. I sigh.

“Is there really anything to explain?” I ask.

“I guess not,” she says removing the first batch of beignets and setting them aside to drain while starting on another. Damn, those little things cook fast, but I never got the hang of them. That’s why I always ask Val to make them.

“I am going to the funeral,” I say as I remove the last of the sausage and concentrate on the Canadian bacon and poaching the eggs. Now, she’s shocked.

“What the hell for!?”

“To make sure that he’s dead. I don’t put anything pass Carla and Stephen Morton. This could be another one of their ploys to get money or get into my good graces—a scheme or a sad cry for sympathy, especially since they are most like under investigation for that $750,000.” I start another batch of Canadian bacon.

“And when you go to Green Valley and he’s really dead, then what?” Val asks.

“Then I will turn that video over to the Nevada Attorney General and come back home until and if they need me to testify.”

“And if you go to Green Valley and it’s all a hoax and he’s not dead?”

“Then I will turn that video over to the Nevada Attorney General and come back home until and if they need me to testify.” I repeat.

“Is it really that simple, Ana?”

“Yep.” I respond. “I’m not looking for any closure when it comes down to them. I just want to make sure that he’s dead… and I may have a few words for my mother.”

“Really? What would you have to say to her?” Val covers her beignets in cinnamon and confectioner’s sugar.

“I don’t know, Val. Stephen—I have nothing for him, but my mother… there’s something that I need to say to her. I just don’t know what it is, yet.”

Val and I finish brunch of eggs Benedict, maple sausage, cheesy ham and hash brown casserole, Belgian waffles with strawberries, blueberries and whipped cream, French beignets, fresh fruit salad, orange juice, coffee, and champagne. As we were finishing cooking, the zombie men rise from their various rooms—everyone, that is, except Christian.

“Well, just in time,” I say. “You gentlemen can set the table. I will go see what is keeping the master of the manor.” Various grumblings come from the men and I throw a death glare at them. “If you ever want me to cook another thing for you ever again in life, set the table.”

The men all scramble to the kitchen and Valerie jumps out of the way.

I open the door to the bedroom and Christian is just as I left him—hugging the pillow and snoring quietly. I climb on the bed and sit up next to him, running my hands through his hair again. His eyes flutter open and he looks up at me.

“Hey,” he says, his voice raspy.

“Hey,” I respond.

“What time is it?”

“Nearly 2:30.” He looks up at me.

“It can’t be,” he protests.

“It is.”

“Did I miss brunch?”

“No, we’re setting the table now, but all of the hungry men are out there, so you better hurry,” I warn.

“Tell those bastards that if they eat my food out of my house and don’t leave any for me…”

“I’ll tell them, now get up.” I brush his hair back and kiss his forehead before I climb out of the bed.

“I’m glad that sweatshirt is long,” he says. I turn around and look at him over my shoulder.

“Huh?” I say, bemused.

“I don’t have to worry about Allen and James, but you are wearing those damn yoga pants again and I would hate to have to bounce my brother out of here on his ass. So like I said, I’m glad that sweatshirt is long.” I twist my lips and wave him off.

“Get your ass out of bed, Grey,” I say while closing the door.


GREY

I am watching Anastasia interact with her friends and my brother and she is, as always, the social Butterfly. She is laughing and joyful, commanding the room with her explanation of her first meeting with Amanda’s sister, Lexia. Her legs are crossed and she’s sitting at one end of my dining table, the seat to her immediate right is empty. Her friends are laughing with her and if I didn’t know better, I would swear that James was hanging on her every word. I’m sure that my possessiveness is just getting the best of me since I am certain that he is more than smitten with Allen. If they get engaged before we do, there will be hell to pay.

“I have to say that I am very glad that Christian has forgiven us for our behavior,” Valerie begins. “That has to be one of the biggest faux pas any of us has ever engineered!” Butterfly takes a sip of her drink.

“Well, not all of you,” she says. “He’s having a harder time releasing what Maxine did. I’m torn on it. Part of me wants him to let it go so that we can all get back to normal. Maxine feels the tension every time she’s in the same room with him. Pretty soon, I think she’s going to limit their interactions. The other part of me completely understands how he feels. You guys wanted answers even though you all admit that you went about it the wrong way. Maxie was completely out of line. We’ve been going through a lot and I haven’t been making things any better with my tendency to shut down…”

“Do you forgive her, Jewel? You know, the people that we love feed off of what we feel.”

“I forgive her,” Butterfly says. “I love her, but that doesn’t expunge the fact that she was very wrong. I’m upset and hurt for how she treated Christian and livid for how she treated my father. I forgive the act, but the hurt is going to take a little longer to get over.” I read Butterfly’s face and I can see the turmoil playing in her head, no doubt reliving last night’s discussion between her and me. Hmm… Allen’s words from a moment ago play back in my head:

The people that we love feed off of what we feel.

She’s dealing with her own feelings for Maxine. She doesn’t need to deal with mine, too. It’s time that I handle that situation. I stroll out of the hallway and into the dining area.

“Did you start without me?” I ask acting affronted.

“I told you to get your ass out here, Grey. People are hungry!” she says as she stands and picks up a plate. “What would you like?”

“No, sit. You cooked. I’ll can feed myself.” I smile at her. Her look goes from confusion to a soft smile.

“Whatever you say, Mr. Grey,” she replies as she sinks sultrily back into her seat. I impulsively lick my lips.

“Oh, good Lord, could you two please stop eye-fucking each other over the food!” Allen exclaims, and the table breaks out in laughter.

Brunch went very smoothly. I am experiencing quite a few new things with Butterfly. New Years Day brunch is normally hosted at my parents’ house. Mom was only too happy to relent this time to allow the “young people” to have some time to themselves. Ethan and Mia agreed to stay with Grace and Carrick as I knew that we would not be able to get over there for brunch after hosting the wedding last night and then company thereafter, not to mention the impromptu hours of making love to Butterfly in the very early morning.

I’m rolling over thoughts of this guy Brian once everyone has left and I am in my study getting ready for work. I need more information on him. Hell, he has already looked into my background and has thrown down the gauntlet when it comes to my woman. Had I been sober last night, I might have decked him. However, I have to remember that I am a businessman and things must be handled in a more diplomatic manner—forceful, but diplomatic. I send an email to Welch that he will get in the morning.

To: Alexander Welch
Re: Breadcrumbs
Date: Tuesday, January 1, 2013, 20:18
From: Christian Grey

I had a competitor tell me at a social gathering last night that my team left “breadcrumbs” all over the place when they were doing what should have been a covert background check. This doesn’t please me at all since he is now aspiring to acquire one of my most prized possessions. Can you please be sure that this doesn’t happen again while you are doing a background check on Brian Cholometes of Montesano? You may face some roadblocks getting information on him. I have a feeling that he’s not a civilian.

Christian Grey, CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings, Inc.

I press send and start to review the assets of some of our Green Valley targets when my email pings.

To: Christian Grey
Re: Breadcrumbs?
Date: Tuesday, January 1, 2013, 20:25
From: Alexander Welch

Sir,
To which investigation are you referring?

Alexander Welch, Director of Corporate Security, Grey Enterprises Holdings, Inc.

I guess that little but of information might have been useful.

To: Alexander Welch
Re: Are you working?
Date: Tuesday, January 1, 2013, 20:33
From: Christian Grey

The background check on Anastasia. Cholometes is the one who told her that GEH was looking into her background. He was also able to run a background check on me. Put a lockdown on that if you can.

Christian Grey, CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings, Inc.

I didn’t expect him to respond. It’s nearly 9pm on New Years Day.

To: Christian Grey
Re: I’m Always Working, Sir
Date: Tuesday, January 1, 2013, 20:39
From: Alexander Welch

I see. I’ll look into it and get back to you ASAP. No, he can’t be a civilian. Getting information on Ms. Steele’s alias was like a top secret mission. Either he has friends in high places or he is in high places.

Alexander Welch, Director of Corporate Security, Grey Enterprises Holdings, Inc.

Great! Now I’ve got James Bond gunning to take my girl away from me. Not going to happen, Colostomy!

To: Alexander Welch
Re: The Higher They Are…
Date: Tuesday, January 1, 2013, 20:46
From: Christian Grey

The further they fall. You and I both know that no one is untouchable. Get me the information that I need on this guy. It is imperative and failure is not an option.

Christian Grey, CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings, Inc.

I may need some covert information that Welch can’t give me. As if a little birdie whispered in his ear, Jason comes into my office.

“All’s quiet, Sir. I’m about to retire.”

“Before you do, I need to pick your brain a bit.” I gesture to the seat in front of my desk and Jason takes a seat. “You were at the wedding. Ray’s best man, did you get a good look at him?” Jason frowns.

“About my age, ex-Marine?” he asks.

“How did you know that he was ex-Marines?”

“Besides the fact that he and Ray told me, he’s got Special Ops written all over him.” Jason says.

“What do you mean?” I ask.

“I can just spot those things. That’s what you pay me for. What’s this about?” I sigh.

“He’s got his sights set on Ana,” I say. “He has told me in no uncertain terms that he is waiting for me to trip and fall so that he can slide in and take my place. I’m not afraid to admit that I’m out of my comfort zone here. I don’t know how to protect myself from an attack from a Special Ops ex-Marine.” Jason frowns as me.

“What do you think he’s going to do?” he asks.

“I don’t know. Right now, he’s giving me the impression that he just watching and waiting, but he’s the person who led Ana to me as the one that was looking into her past. He told me at the party that my team left breadcrumbs that led him straight to me.” I run my hands through my hair.

“So… I would say that if he was going to do anything, he would do it through information,” Jason says. Shit, there’s a lot that you can do through information.

“Would you get with Barney and make sure that all of my firewalls and encryptions are secure—personal and professional? Ana’s too?” Jason nods.

“No problem, Sir. Any idea when you expect him to do something?”

“None whatsoever,” I lament.

“Why the extra electronic security precautions?” Her voice brings me out of my lament, but also puts me on alert. I look up and she is standing just inside my office with her hands on her hips… The no-nonsense stance.

“I’m preventing an electronic attack,” I say.

“My systems are not related or connected to yours, so why would you be concerned about my firewalls or encryptions?” Oh, boy. I guess I better come clean with this.

“I’m not feeling comfortable about Cholometes. Jason says he looks like Special Ops, most likely information systems. I know that he was the one that gave you the information concerning my background and my search for you. He looked me in the eyes last night and told me that Welch left breadcrumbs while investigating you and I know that Welch doesn’t leave breadcrumbs. He’s too careful. So this is someone who has the ability to dig in places that no one else has,” I say to Butterfly. Jason nods at me and leaves the study.

“Christian, I think you may be overreacting just a bit,” she cautions.

“How so?” I ask. “This man stood in my building at a party that I was hosting and boldly stated that he would willingly take one of the most important things to my heart away from me while I was looking if given the chance. I don’t know what tactics he may employ to strengthen his position. He threatened me to my face. I don’t think I’m overreacting at all.” Butterfly walks over to me and pushes her hand into my hair.

“You are if you think there’s anything that he can ever do to take me away from you,” she says softly. Oh, God, it’s so hard exercising patience with this woman. I want her to be mine forever, right now, but I know that timing is everything. I pull her down into my lap.

“I don’t want him to be able to do anything that could jeopardize what we have or our safety,” I tell her.

“He won’t, Christian. I’ve known Brian for a long time. I believe him as much as you do when he says that he will try to win me over if you screw up, make no mistake, but I truly think that’s as far as it goes. He’s watching you and waiting for his chance to come in and ‘save’ me… from you. As long as you don’t give him that chance, we’ll be fine, okay?” she says, looking into my eyes. I won’t argue with her that I think Cholometes’ hand reaches farther than she thinks it does and that I don’t trust him or his intentions when it comes to her, but I won’t argue about it right now.

“I will listen to what you say and I will heed your words, but I’m still going to keep my eye on him. I don’t trust him and I won’t let down as long as I know that he will take you away from me given the chance.” I tell her.

“Well, that’s a compromise. I can’t ask for more than that.” She kisses me gently on the cheek. That little gesture does something to me and I point at my cheek again. She kisses me gently in the same spot and smiles. “I need to talk to you.”

“Oh, this sounds like something that I don’t want to hear,” I sigh heavily.

“Well, I don’t know. I got a call from Carla today.”

“Carla?” The shock that registered on my face must have been monumental. “What the hell did she want? Did you actually talk to her?”

“No, I didn’t. It went to voice mail like it normally does. It appears that Stephen is dying.” I nod.

“Cirrhosis finally caught up with him?” I ask and she nods.

“It looks that way. He’s actually in a coma and they don’t expect him to wake up. He can’t get a transplant since he’s an alcoholic, so I’d say he’s pretty much a goner.” I look questioning at her.

“So, what now? Is there something you want me to do?” I ask.

“Be prepared to come with me to Green Valley once he’s dead.” I actually breathe a sigh of relief at those words. “What did you think I wanted?”

“I thought your big heart might have felt some sympathy for him and you were expecting me to do something to help him.” I admit.

“Yeah, view his body when he’s dead,” she replies flatly. “I think Carla had the same hope when she left the message.”

“Just curious… Why do you want to go to his funeral?”

“One of the many steps of closure that I need. I want to see his body, Christian. I am absolutely positive that things may have gone a lot differently if he had believed me over Whitshit’s money when I told him about the rape. If we had gotten the authorities involved—even if they didn’t believe me and I couldn’t press charges—I think things would be different.” She stood up and started to pace. “When Cody raped me, I just knew that he was accustomed to getting what he wanted. Nobody said ‘no’ to him, and if they did, Daddy just fixed it. I said ‘no,’ and I got raped, but I was sure that I wasn’t the only one. Even then, I was sure. Madison confirmed it for me…” My eyes get large.

“She told you? She knew?” I ask, horrified.

“I don’t think she knew at the time. I think she suspected, though. When I told her that her life was about to be over because of a rapist, she knew that I was telling the truth. I could see it in her eyes. I don’t know if I was the first or if I was the last or somewhere in the middle, but I wasn’t the only. If that bastard had listened to me, those who may have come before me may have spoken up once I went to the authorities. Those who may have come after me may not have suffered at his hand.”

“That’s a lot of ‘may have’s’ Baby,” I tell her. I have learned from all of my therapists that “what if’s” are a bad way to analyze things.

“You’re right, and I know this, but there’s one ‘may have’ that is not a ‘may have.’ I am certain that if my stepfather had believed me, stood by me, I wouldn’t have been beaten. Steps would have been taken so that he would have had to stay away from me. Ridicule I could have taken—I wouldn’t have cared, but I feel in my heart that Stephen’s lack of action only served to confirm for those bastards that I was lying which directly led to that beating. I feel like that asshole could have done something to save me and he didn’t. To top it all off, he took money to keep me quiet and a lot of it. So yes, I want to see his body. I want to make sure he’s dead. That will be part of my closure… and I want to turn this video over to the authorities.” Okay, now you’re speaking my language.

“Are you sure that you are ready for that?” I ask her. I don’t want her to slip into another catatonic state.

“I am more than ready, Christian. These bastards have gotten away with this long enough. The only reason why I’m not turning it in this very second is because I don’t want to have to travel to that God-forsaken place more than I have to.” I stand and take her hand.

“Just let me know when you’re ready go,” I tell her.

“As soon as I have funeral arrangements for that bastard, which I am sure won’t be too long,” she says. I grab her hand to stop her pacing. When she stops, I pull her back down into my lap and hold her there for a while. Life’s just too short to make bad decisions and hold on to grudges that can easily be buried.


 “Maxine Saunders speaking. How can I help you?” I’m sitting in my office looking out of the window on a rainy Thursday afternoon when I finally decide to call Maxine. I don’t really know what to say to her right now, but I think this conversation is long overdue.

“Maxine, it’s Christian. Is this a bad time?” The line is silent for a moment.

“Um… no. No, not at all. Is Ana okay?” she asks, her voice laced with concern.

“Yes, she’s fine,” except I think she should see another therapist since she keeps shutting down and shrinking, but that’s a different conversation. “I’m a little out of my depth here, but I think we should talk about… our relationship or… whatever it is.” I’m not usually one to trip over my tongue, but I’ll be the first to say that I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing. She sighs.

“Okay. Well, I know that you are hurt and upset and I recognize that, but I don’t know what else I can say. I’ve apologized profusely and I know that I was completely out of line in everything that I did that day, but I can’t say more than that. I don’t know what else to say, Christian. I want this to go away as much as you do, but I don’t know what else I can say to you.” I hear the sincerity in her voice and I’m trying to get past what I’m feeling.

“This is what I need you to understand,” I begin. “I don’t know how much Anastasia has told you about me, but I don’t trust easily. I had a really fucked-up life and a screwed-up childhood. I’m adopted, and I have the best parents that anyone could have hoped for, but I’ve encountered some real fucking nut-cases along the way. They did some real numbers on me before and after I became legal. I don’t have time or desire to review my chaotic life with you, but I will tell you that my experiences have made it difficult for me to trust people. I was basically a recluse when Ana and I met. All of my relationships fit into a specific pattern and I had no room or desire for outside friendships. People are too unpredictable and untrustworthy and I had no desire to have that in my life.”

“You know that’s not healthy, don’t you?” she says. Oh, no the fuck she didn’t…

“I’m not telling you this so that you can analyze me, Maxine. I’m telling you this so that you can understand our situation. I’ve been to every type of specialist known to man; I don’t need another one.” My voice is sharp when I make this point. Learn where to draw the line, Lady!

“I’m sorry, Christian. It’s the shrink in me. It’s what gets me into trouble. Please accept my apology,” she says.

“It’s good that you understand that, but you really need to stop apologizing and put a leash on that, Maxine. I’m certain that Ana would have never chosen between us if it had come to that, but you inability to separate the shrink from the woman is going to cause you a lot more problems than you think.” It’s surprising to me that she’s not a better shrink to Butterfly since she seems to be more shrink than woman half the time. I wonder how Phillip even deals with that.

“Getting back to my point, the only way for me to be able to get past what I’m feeling right now towards you is to tell you exactly what I’m feeling right now towards you. My question is, do you want to hear it?” I ask. The line is quiet again and I am certain that the wheels are turning. I can tell that Maxine is a “take no prisoners” type of person and she won’t take being berated, but she’s going to sit still for this one, or she can wash this relationship down the drain.

“I don’t know how to answer that, Christian,” she says, cautiously.

“Carefully,” I suggest. “Think of it this way. You came into my home and you made your feelings very clear without any consideration for mine. I’m trying to have consideration for yours right now.”

“Christian, I did not ignore your feelings…” she begins.

“No? You told me that you would make an enemy of me, Maxine. I’m pretty certain that you weren’t considering my feelings at that moment!” I’m getting angry because it seems like she’s still making excuses. I’m not going to try to make her listen to me. I’m only doing this because I was listening to Butterfly talk about burying old grudges.

“Yes,” she says softly, “yes, I did say that. Go ahead Christian, I’m ready to hear it.” She sounds defeated and I’m a little stunned! I don’t let that deter me, though.

“I let you in, Maxine. I don’t do that easily. When I let somebody in and they betray me, that’s huge. We may not have ever been the best of friends, but I take your relationship with my girl very seriously. For that reason, I let you in, and not only did you betray me, but you also threatened me. When you threaten me, demand that I make a decision or take a stance that you think I should take, that’s a fucking deal-breaker. I have ruined—and I mean ruined—people who have done things like that to me, people who were certain that they had the upper hand only to discover that you don’t fuck with Christian Grey. I can’t very well handle this situation that way, now can I?” I pause for a moment so that the statement can sink in.

“I am not hurt, Maxine. I am angry. In fact, I’m pissed. I’m pissed that you had the audacity to say the things you said and take the liberties that you took with me at all, much less in my own home. I am beyond livid that you felt like my feelings, concerns, and wishes had absolutely no impact whatever on what was going to happen to the woman that I love. Make no mistake—I can leave this conversation and never speak to you again and I wouldn’t bat an eye. It would be absolutely no sweat off my back, but you are important to Ana, and she’s important to me. She has advanced directives now, so you and I don’t ever have to be concerned about being in that particular situation again, but I plan on being with that woman for the rest of my life. That means that somewhere down the line, you and I are most likely not going to see eye-to-eye… again. You don’t have to agree with me, Maxine, but if you ever cross me again the way that you did while I helplessly stood by watching my girlfriend in a catatonic state, all bets are off and you will be the enemy. If you ever try to strong-arm or bully me again, I’m coming at you with both barrels and I don’t care who’s standing behind you.”

“Christian, I think that’s a little uncalled for,” she tries to scold me.

“Do you really? Because that’s how you made me feel. You made me feel like your word was law, no matter what I or Ray or anybody had to say. So you don’t think I should feel the need to protect myself against you now?”

No. Please. Let’s not do this,” she replies calmly. “I was way out of line, I know that I was. I didn’t know that it affected you this strongly.”

“I don’t see how you couldn’t know. You came back with a court order. It’s one thing to think that I hurt her… that I could hurt her. It’s something else entirely to get the law to come into my home and take her away from me, like she needed to be rescued. How could you not know?” Surely, she jests…

“Ugh!” she gasps in frustration. “This is so much bigger than I thought it was.”

“That’s because you only thought about how it affected you. I don’t know what blinded you, but Ray doesn’t have to see you nearly as much as I do, nor does he have any kind of acquaintance with you. So he doesn’t feel like I feel, but even he wouldn’t lose any sleep about not ever seeing you again after this situation. Do you understand at all how we are feeling? That’s his daughter, and you disparaged that relationship with that whole blood relative bullshit, but you basically made me feel like nobody—like nothing. Then you march out telling Gary to keep you posted like someone needed to keep an eye on me? Can you see why I might be just a tad bit perturbed?” I spit the last part at the phone.

“Yes,” she breathes into the phone. “Yes, I can.” She says nothing else. I don’t know if she’s crying or just tired of fighting, but she is completely silent now. I know that I couldn’t let this go without her knowing how she made me feel that day. This way, if she ever does this again, she will know that all bridges are burned with me and there is no turning back. I sigh heavily. I actually feel like a weight has been lifted off of my shoulders.

“I don’t want to have this conversation with you again, Maxine. I’ve told you how this made me feel, and I don’t like repeating myself. Most of all, I don’t want to repeat this situation. So, are we all clear on our feelings about this?” I ask. I have had my fill of this whole thing, quite frankly, and I am very ready for things to get back to normal.

“Quite clear. Does… Ana know we’re having this conversation?”

“No, she doesn’t, but you can feel free to tell her if you like.” I have nothing to hide and I meant every word that I said.

“No. I think… this is a conversation best left between the two of us.”

“As you wish,” I say noncommittal.

“I’ll talk to you soon?” she asks, her voice sounding hopeful.

“I’ll talk to you soon,” I confirm before ending the call.


A/N: 

Like I told you, everything I do has a purpose. Do you think Christian could have possibly had that conversation with Ana if she didn’t do something extremely shitty to him? Don’t expect her to wave the magic wand and she’s not shrinking or shutting down, but at least it has been thoroughly brought to her attention now. Also, I couldn’t take Christian through the proverbial wringer and not take Ana through it. There are some more hurdles to jump, but I am more than ready for bad-ass Ana to come back myself. We got a taste of her with Cody. I think I need to see her some more…

PLEASE REVIEW HERE, NOT ON THE OTHER SITE (or both if you like, but at least over here)…

Pictures of places, cars, fashion, etc. can be found at http://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/mending-dr-steele/

You can join my mailing list on the “Contact Me” page. Just indicate in the message that you would like to join the mailing list.

Feel free to review—it is greatly appreciated.

Love and Handcuffs!
Lynn x

Welcoming All Of My Newest Followers To The Blog

spread my wingsThe sky is calm
The stars are bright.
What’s better than to be in flight?
I’ll relax my mind
And be at ease….
And let this journey
Set me free
Set me free

I’ll Spread my wings
And fly away

To a place that I long for.
And my heart will be the pathway.
I’m searching for a love
That’s evermore…
(Troop–Spread My Wings)

You know, I had hoped… I had really hoped that people would want to follow me when I left that “other” site. I posted my little notices and sassy chapter and then I waited.

I didn’t have to wait long.

Holy shit on a stick, Man! It was insane! Utterly amazing! A lot of work, but amazing! It was so, so, so, so much more than I had hoped! Hundreds! Hundreds, I say! And they are still coming. I am more pleased than I can ever say. The outpouring of support was and still is astounding and I thank you all very much.

Now we’re over here in the new digs. I want to welcome you all to the Butterfly Saga and thank you from the bottom of my heart for following me. Go over there to your left and click those links to find stories and other stuff. “The Journey Of Miles” is the new backstory for the male character in the rewrite. This is like a free prologue into the new Book I, so make sure that you read all six parts and the discussions if you haven’t already. It’s graphic and sensitive, so get ready for it.

Most of you already know what “Paging Dr. Steele” and “Mending Dr. Steele” are. For those of you who don’t, make sure that you read “Paging Dr. Steele” first.

“BG’s World” is where you are going to hear about things going on in my life, publishing, and anything else that I feel is vital information, so make sure that you click that link from time to time.

I may get creative for no reason in particular. If that happens, I will have another link up there for that. It will be called something like “BG’s Other Talents.”

I have had sooooooooooooooooo many people ask me why—after being dubbed the Queen of Zing—would I “allow” trolls and haters to chase me away. Most of you were very understanding, but some people were (justifiably) confused as to why I would leave when I had been so verbal with the haters in the past while others just begged me to stay. The answer is simple—and hopefully, this will explain it all:

They are taking the fun away from it for me and they are messing with the way I create.

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You can ignore a lot, but after a while, you have to pay attention, whether you want to or not. I’m putting my heart and soul into a work—a product, a story—that takes up every single second of my free time, only to have someone come over to my corner of the Internet and talk shit. True, the site wasn’t mine (like this is my blog), but the area (story) is mine and they were free to leave. Yet, people went out of their way to say horrible things to me instead of just leaving if they hated the story…

How in the world are you going to come over on my porch to where I am talking and then tell me that I need to shut up because no one wants to hear what I have to say? There’s a simple solution to that—get the fuck off my porch! I just got tired of trying to tell people that you can’t just say anything to anybody and not expect them to retort. Then they threw my retorts up to my face:

You’re always cursing someone out.
You’re always zinging someone.

When you publish, you can’t talk to people like that!

Let’s get something straight. There’s not a critic in the world that is going to say to me some of the crazy shit they say to me on that site! They can be as brutal and horrific as their profession will allow and it still won’t be as bad as some of the stuff that has been said to me on a FREE SITE! I already know that when I publish, I have to adjust to my audience and my forum. For God’s sake, I’m not stupid, but I’m taking vicious, personal, horrendous verbal lashings that I’m not even being paid to take!

When you are being paid, you expect to take an insult or three or a thousand, but when you are on a free site doing free creative writing, you don’t expect to be shackled to the wall and verbally beaten with a horse whip. That shit is in the story—I don’t expect it to happen in real life!

This is what I was getting—people throwing horrible comments at me, I defend myself, and then people throwing even more horrible comments at me because I was defending myself. I was never going to get out of that hole—that vicious cycle that had me walking deeper and deeper into the dirt—so it’s just time to leave. I really don’t want to leave, because I have great followers and more and more followers come every day, and I fear that no matter how many people follow me, someone is going to be left behind. However, I’ve heard of suffering for my art, but this has become quite ridiculous!

Then there are the people who are like “Let it roll off of you; don’t let it get to you.” I truly know that you mean well, and I appreciate it—I really do. However, you must know that I have ignored many more comments than I have zinged… many, many more. Don’t get it twisted—when something “rolls off of you,” you still feel that roll. The lightest thing can roll off of you or brush your arm and you’ll turn your head to see what it was. After a while, the “rolling off” became like Chinese water torture…

drip… drip… drip… drip… drip… drip… drip… drip… drip… drip… drip… drip… drip… drip… drip… drip…

It doesn’t really bother you the first few drips or the first few minutes, but after a few hours, you want out of that shit. After a few days, you’re going insane. After a few weeks, you’re begging someone to kill you… that is, assuming you can still speak.

Try doing it for a year.

It’s just time. No more water torture for me.

So for those people who are begging me not to leave that other site, I really appreciate it…I really, really do, but I have to get the hell up out of there. Even though I curse a lot and write hot sex stories full of taboo acts and fornication, I am still very spiritual (notice, I didn’t say “religious”). There is a story in the Bible about Lot and his family and a place called Sodom and Gomorrah. God told Lot to leave Sodom and Gomorrah, and not to look back because the people were so corrupt that He was going to destroy it. Lot took his family and left. As they were fleeing through the hills, Lot’s wife looked back… and God turned her into a pillar of salt.

The moral of the story—leave a bad situation when of the signs tell you that it’s time to go, and don’t look back. Lot left Sodom and Gomorrah, and the only person that looked back is still standing on the hill today.jebel-usdum-lots-wife-pillar-of-salt

Love and handcuffs,
BG Holmes (Lynn aka Bronze Goddess)

PS—my ID will still be there, because I have other stories that I read. I may leave one chapter of each story so that people will know where to find me…I haven’t decided yet. But very soon, I will no longer be updating over there. Spread the word that I am spreading my wings. 😉

Mending Dr. Steele: Chapter 13—Happy New Year!

THIS IS PART II OF PAGING DR STEELE. DO NOT READ THIS IF YOU HAVE NOT READ ALL 70 CHAPTERS OF PAGING DR STEELE OR YOU ARE ABOUT TO READ SEVERAL SPOILERS. 

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. I hope you—as a fellow fan—enjoy it, too.

Chapter 13—Happy New Year!

GREY

Butterfly has really done an excellent job coordinating this wedding/party. The guests have all made their way across the lobby and over to the Cielo Club which has been decorated in white and silver for the wedding with just enough glitz for the New Years Eve party. There are seven tables set up including the bride and groom’s table and each table holds four to six people. The party has 35 guests with no hope of what Butterfly calls “do-drops” as you don’t get in if you are not on the guest list.

The walls of the club are draped in sheer white fabric that immediately softens the look of the room. The ambient lighting gives the feel of a full moon on a clear night. Dramatic curtains made of hundreds of silver chains separate the area where the ceremony will take place and a single chandelier hangs above illuminates the area almost like a spotlight. Iridescent crystal beads that compliment the deliberately mismatched crystal chandeliers are hung plentifully around the room.

The tables are draped in alternating silver or white linens and the chairs have white covers with silver sashes. The centerpieces are three-tiered silver serving trays or four-tier glass cake stands with various mismatched elegant silver and white ornaments and one or two other items thrown in like little painted birds or fruit.

Various buffet tables are set with jingle bell candle settings and intricate color-coordinated hors d’oeuvres and desserts in white and silver with various additions of chocolate. Silver beads are spread on various areas of the table and they almost look edible. I am assured by one of the catering staff that they are not.

The cake table has three or four large textured white bottles on each end that act as vases, containing small sprigs, leaves, and branches painted silver. Hmmmbranches. Butterfly told me about the super-nova that occurred when the decorator kept insisting on branches while she and Amanda feverishly told her that this idea was unacceptable. I can only assume that they must have compromised on these small ones as they do compliment the room quite nicely.

There are two cakes on the cake table flanking a pyramid of small white take-home boxes with festive silver decorations. One of the cakes is a small plain white cake with four alternating small and larger tiers while the second cake is a bit larger—brown and white, three-tiered, intricately decorated with flowers and a cake topper that is a miniature ice bucket full of ice and a bottle of champagne. The second tier has various New Years Eve fondue decorations on it while the bottom tier sports the words “Ride Together Forever.” This cake has “Ray” written all over it, much like the cases of Budweiser behind the bar.

It appears that under Butterfly’s instruction, nothing has been forgotten—and she did all of this while dealing with the Green Valley issues and Melanie’s revelation, her own breakdown and her impetuous friends, and planning Maxine’s wedding as well. God, I can’t wait to marry her!

The paparazzi has not caught on that there is a wedding at Escala this evening, so we will hopefully be able to get everyone in, partied up, and out before there is any discovery. Amanda and Ray have agreed to allow us to make a statement once they are off on their honeymoon. Usually if you give them what they want, they will leave you alone. Also, once the word gets out that there was a wedding at Escala—and the word will get out—we will definitely have to reveal who was wed or Ana and I will never get any peace.

“Okay, everyone, please take your seats. We are about to get started,” Butterfly announces. I take a seat at the closest table to the front, where Butterfly has placed us along with Elliot, Valerie, Allen and James. Once everyone has taken their seats, the silver chain curtains are opened and draped back by two staff members and Ray and Brian stand in front with the judge. Butterfly takes her seat next to me just as the DJ starts to play Percy Sledge, When A Man Loves A Woman and Amanda’s maid of honor, Sheila, makes her way to the front. As Amanda moves towards Ray, I watch his expression. It can only be described as pure joy. She is floating elegantly towards him delicately holding a bouquet of white peonies with painted white-gray leaves in front of her. The photographer discreetly captures pictures of her simple, elegant dress just before she makes her way to the front.

Butterfly grasps my hand as they gaze at one another while the song continues to play. I squeeze her hand as I can only imagine the many emotions that must be going through her at this point. It was all just a plan before this moment and now, her father is actually getting married. Tears flow down her face as she watches Amanda and Ray exchange traditional vows. I look over at Lexia who looks like she’s smelling something bad and then over at Brian who was gazing wistfully at Butterfly until he caught my glare. I need this guy out of here soon before I forget that this is supposed to be a joyous occasion.

I turn back to the ceremony just in time to see the judge pronounce them man and wife. Ray takes Amanda’s face in his hands and gives her the most reverential kiss that I have ever witnessed. I thought that their wedding was a bit nontraditional, but seeing this kiss let’s me know that he truly loves this woman. As the judge announces Mr. and Mrs. Raymond Steele, the DJ begins to play Smokey Robinson, Ooo Baby Baby. I thought that was an odd song since it’s so sad and talks about breaking up, but Butterfly told me that they chose this song because it is the song that they danced to on their first date. Sheila and Brian step back as Amanda and Ray immediately lead the first dance. She is gazing into his eyes and now her tears fall as she and Ray glide across the floor. The DJ announces for us to join in after the first verse is played. I take Butterfly’s hand and lead her to the dance floor.

“Are you okay, Baby?” I ask as she tries to wipe away her tears. She nods silently, but the tears keep falling. “Are those happy tears or sad tears?” Her body starts to shake and I know that she can’t answer. I assume that they are a combination of both and I pull her close to my body and sway with her, both to comfort her and to hide her from prying eyes and let her get it out. I spread my hands protectively over her back and press her against me, resting my head on hers. I’m relieved when the DJ immediately plays If This World Were Mine. It gives Butterfly a few more moments to compose herself. Somewhere in the middle of the song, she finally stops crying. I raise her head to mine and use my handkerchief to dry her tears.

“Better?” I ask softly. She nods.

“Better,” she responds weakly.

“It really was a beautiful ceremony, Butterfly. You really did a good job pulling everything together,” I commend her.

“I had a lot of help,” she says with a weak smile, pressing her cheek into my chest.

“They really do love each other.”

“I know.” She lets out one of those shuddering breaths and I gently rub her back.

“He’s moving to Kent. That’s so much closer than Montesano,” I say, trying to find something that will comfort her right now. She looks up at me.

“You’re such a wonderful man, Christian,” she says softly. I’m taken aback a bit by her compliment.

“Thank you,” I say bemused. “You make me better.”

“No, I think it was always there… You just may not have known it yet,” she responds. I gently stroke her cheek.

“Well, you are a remarkable woman,” I say and she snickers a bit.

“I’m not so special,” she replies.

“How can you say that? You’re everything special! You bring out the best in just about everyone you meet. You are quite extraordinary, Ms. Steele and don’t you forget it.” It’s important to me that she knows that I’m not just saying that. She looks at me with those bottomless, guileless, ocean-blue eyes.

“God, I love you so much,” she says just above a whisper. Her voice does something to me that makes me want to make love to her right here in the middle of the dance floor. I close my eyes and put my forehead on hers.

“Ana…” I breathe her name and I feel her melt against me as I hear the melody of a third song play, but I am barely coherent. I am intoxicated in Butterfly—in her love and her essence. I need to make her my wife and I need to do it soon. I know that it can’t be before February as the moment she gets a chance to take a breath, she will be knee-deep in planning Maxine and Philip’s wedding which is a much larger event than this one. I won’t put that pressure on her, but I can’t wait much longer and I need to get this ball rolling as soon as I can.

“I need to go and clean myself up, okay?” she says, pulling herself away from me and introducing the unwanted space between us.

“Okay, Butterfly,” I touch her cheek and kiss her lips softly. “I love you, too, Baby.” She smiles sweetly and walks to the door, not letting my hand go until the last moment. She turns around and blows a kiss to me while mouthing “right back.” I must be smiling like an idiot and Elliot does not let the opportunity pass to rib me mercilessly.

“Bro, give it a break. Your cheeks are going to crack,” he ribs. I look at my brother who has come up behind me.

“She’s the one, Man,” I tell him as I watch the door she just exited.

“You’re saying that like I don’t already know it,” Elliot says, taking a swallow of his gin and tonic. I put my hand in my pocket.

“No, Elliot. She’s the one. The one the one,” I say. His blue eyes are sharp now.

“You mean the vows, Bro?” he asks and I nod. “Are you sure you’re not just caught up in all of this wedding shit?” I shake my head.

“I’ve been feeling this way for a while… almost since the day that I met her.” I walk over to the bar. “Shot of bourbon,” I tell the bartender.

“Well, what are you waiting for, then?” he says. I sigh.

“We have so much going on, Elliot. There’s a lot that we have to settle before we can take that step.”

“Like what?” he asks incredulously.

“Well, I don’t know if you’ve noticed over the last 30 years, Big Brother, but I’ve got this little issue with my emotions. I’ve been seeing a therapist about it…”

“You mean Flynn? If that motherfucker hasn’t helped you after all this time…”

“No, I fired Flynn. We’re seeing someone else… together.”

“Well, it’s about damn time!” Elliot takes another swallow of his drink. “Man, he helped you for a little while with the real heavy shit, but after a while, nothing was happening. Progress just seemed to stop—and unlike the rest of the family, I knew about the women.” I glare at him. How could he have possibly known about the women!? “Keep your shirt on, Man. I didn’t know about the heavy stuff until you confessed at the house, but I never pegged you for a cross-dresser and I saw all of those clothes in your guest room. I never understood why your women didn’t sleep in the same room with you, but now it all makes sense.”

“Fuck, why didn’t you ever say anything?” I sneer.

“What was I supposed to say? ‘Yo, Christian, what’s up with you and these strange relationships?’ And who was I to say anything? I was engaged to Dragon Lady!” I involuntarily laugh at his statement.

“This is true.”

“So, Man. You’re always going to have some kind of emotional issue. It’s part of life. Why are you really waiting?” Ugh! Elliot has always known me better than anyone.

“We’ve got this thing with Green Valley that we need to put to rest. Ana is more emotionally fragile than I am right now. Then everybody is getting engaged and married around us. I don’t want her to think I am just jumping on the bandwagon.”

That’s the real reason,” he points at me. “You’re putting your and her life on hold because you don’t want her to think that you’re trying to ‘keep up with the Joneses.'” Ouch! That smarts.

“That’s only part of it,” I say honestly. “She really, really does have a lot on her plate right now, Elliot—a whole lot. I don’t want our engagement to be associated with this time in her life.”

“Have you ever thought that might be just what she needs—to be able to get on with her life and have something to look forward to, the light at the end of the tunnel so to speak?” No, I hadn’t even considered that.

“Elliot, I need to be very careful. I need to be sure that I’m not doing this selfishly and then justifying it with my perception of Ana’s needs. Do you get what I’m saying?” Elliot gazes at me.

“If you know that, then you’re definitely ready. The only way to know if Ana is ready is to ask her, and it’s got to be right.”

“I know. That’s why I don’t want to ask her in the midst of all of these weddings and engagements, and like I said—she is really, really fragile right now. I’m not just saying that. She is really fragile.” I am having immediate flashbacks of Butterfly weeping on the dance floor.

“Okay, so we know that you can’t ask her tomorrow, but we do know that it’s going to have to be soon. So… do you need some help?” Do I need help with women? No! Of course the fuck I don’t! Do I?

“What’s to know? Pick the right moment, pick a ring, and ask her to marry me, right?”

“Oh, yeah, you’ll need help. Knowing Ana, you’ll need a lot of it.”

Elliot and I sit at the bar talking until it’s nearly time for the late reception dinner. Ana is just walking back in and it seems like she had been gone forever.

“Baby, what took you so long. I was starting to get worried.” I kiss her on the cheek.

“I tried to clean myself up in the bathroom down here, but I needed a little more work. So I went back up to the apartment. I went to wash my face and the whole dress was a casualty.” She did a good job. She looks all fresh-faced and you wouldn’t even know that she had been weeping earlier in the evening. She has changed her dress and she is now wearing a taupe satin dress with spaghetti straps, a structured bodice and a plunging neckline… very plunging… not tacky, but sexy as hell. She’s still wearing the Louboutin Dos Noeud Back-Bow d’Orsay black leather peep-toe stilettos that she has been wearing all evening. If that Brian fucker was gawking at her before, he’s going to be absolutely spellbound now.

“I am not letting you out of my sight,” I say, grabbing her hand and pulling her quickly against me.

“Careful, Bro. Don’t mount her right here at the bar.” I completely forgot that he was standing there. Yeah, we need to join in the festivities.

When I lead Ana back to the center of the party, Ray and Amanda are accepting congratulations from several of the guests. Amanda looks a bit perturbed and her sister is standing nearby—that would explain it.

“Ana! Where do you go?” Amanda nearly runs to Ana when she is in view.

“I’m sorry!” Ana exclaims. “I turned into a weepy, blubbering mess and totally ruined my dress, so I had to go change.” She hugs Mandy. “Welcome to the family. You’re stuck with us now,” she says with a smile.

“I wouldn’t have it any other way.” Amanda returned smile is genuine and heartwarming.

“Hmm… had I known there would be wardrobe changes, I would have brought another outfit.” The voice is coming from Lexia, Amanda’s attention-hungry, overdressed, crabby-ass sister. Butterfly turns on her in an instant. In a very controlled voice, she says,

“That would have been very impressive considering that the dress that you’re wearing probably cost more than the bride’s, the maid of honor’s, and the daughter of the groom’s dresses combined. Did no one ever tell you that it’s bad form to try to show up the bride at her own wedding?” Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! Shut up Little Sister Person, it will only get worse from here.

“I was only wearing what I had in my closet!” she spits, trying to defend herself. Butterfly scoffs at her, cackling a couple of times.

“Lexia, I don’t know who you think you’re talking to, but I know who Peter Pilotto is and I’m sure that you were counting on that to some degree. I know that dress just got off the runway and you didn’t just have it in your closet. I know that you paid a pretty penny for the dress and a prettier penny to have it ready by New Years Eve. What I don’t know is why. This wasn’t a red carpet event. This is a small, intimate affair that is your sister’s wedding. What are you trying to prove?” I see Hamilton inching up to the gathering while Butterfly quietly calls Little Sister Person to task. Noticing that she is the center of attention in this tiny part of the gathering—and not in a good way—Little Sister Person shrinks a bit.

“I just wanted to look nice,” she says, resigned.

“Oh, that is such bullshit.” We are all surprised to see that voice coming from Amanda. “You wanted to steal my moment. You’ve been trying to steal it from the moment you arrived, and I know it. The only problem is that this isn’t your show. These people are my people—real people, not those country-club, stuck-up, blue-haired bats that you and Mom hang around. Mom didn’t care one bit to come to my wedding because she’s got you to give her a play-by-play and you’ve been making sideways comments the entire night. Simple though it may be, you are not going to ruin my wedding, so shut the hell up or fucking leave!” Whoa! You have upset the bride. You have officially broken wedding rule #1.

“I think you need to leave,” I say to Lexia. “You are clearly upsetting Amanda and I won’t have it in my home.” Hamilton reaches for Lexia’s arm.

“No! Look… I’m sorry. I’ll behave myself. I promise,” Lexia says softly, looking at me. I shake my head.

“Don’t tell me, tell her.” I point to Amanda. Yes, I’m going to make you grovel to your sister in front of all of these people in your Peter Pilotto original.

“Mandy, I’m sorry,” she says softly.

“You’re sorry for what?” Amanda asks. She wants her pound of flesh and she deserves it, plus some.

“I’m sorry for making terrible remarks and trying to ruin your wedding,” she says.

“And…?” Apparently, wasn’t good enough.

“For trying to get the attention on your day,” she adds.

“And…?” Keep going, Little Sister Person.

“I’m sorry, I don’t know what else to say.” She drops her head contritely, but Amanda is unfazed.

“Let me help you.” Amanda steps away from Ray to confront her sister. More guests are now looking in our direction to see what’s going on. “I’m sorry that I wore a $1500 designer dress to your wedding when you told me it was an intimate affair—I know who Peter Pilotto is, too!” Lexia’s eyes get large.

“I’m sorry about the dress,” she says, her voice sounding like a mouse.

“I’m sorry I insulted your husband before I even knew him!” Amanda continues. Ray’s interest is piqued now.

“Wha…?” he says, no doubt wanting to know what that exchange was all about.

“I’m sorry for insulting Ray,” Lexia says, more humiliated than before, but Amanda is not finished yet.

“I’m sorry for disrespecting Ana when she’s been nothing but kind, loving, and accepting of my sister. I’m sorry for insulting Sheila’s dress even though I knew it was what you wanted. I’m sorry for trying to make you feel bad about Mom when I knew that she wouldn’t come anyway. I’m sorry for being a little teacher’s-pet-Mommy’s-favorite-blabbermouth and going back and telling her everything that happened tonight. Most of all, I’m sorry for being a self-centered, treacherous bitch! I think that about covers it!” I think we are all stunned into silence. Tears are flowing down Lexia’s face. We all look from Amanda to Lexia to see what is going to happen next. To our surprise, Lexia nods.

“Yes,” she whispers. “I’m sorry for all of those things.”

“Good!” Amanda says. She has never once raised her voice, but her tone with her sister is still commanding. “You can stay then, but I swear Lexia, one more thing—one more thing—and I will bounce you and Peter out on your ass, and I do mean your ass! Is that clear?”

“Yes… it’s very clear,” Lexia says, duly chastised, before going back to her seat for dinner. Amanda looks from face to face of the stunned people standing around her.

“I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to act that way,” she apologizes.

“Don’t you dare apologize!” Butterfly scolds. “This is your party. You make the rules.”

“Here, here,” I chime in.

“She caused all that trouble in the small amount of time she’s been here?” Ray asks, throwing a murderous look over at Lexia who is sitting at the table still looking down.

“Well, most of it. She’s been a treacherous bitch since she could speak!” Amanda says. It breaks the ice somewhat and a few of us laugh.

“I can’t believe you two came from the same person,” Butterfly states.

“You haven’t met my mother. I’m the black sheep,” she says, shaking her head. “I’m not doing this anymore. I’m not trying to mend or build those relationships anymore. I’m 35 years old and they still treat me like shit.” A single tear falls from Amanda’s eye. Butterfly takes her hand.

“If it doesn’t fit, don’t force it. We’re your family now, okay?” She says softly. Amanda nods and breaks down just a bit. Butterfly takes her in her arms.

“Excuse me,” Ray says and walks over to Lexia, who slowly raises her head to look him. “She couldn’t tell you, but I can. I want you to leave. You upset my wife on her wedding day and I will not have that. Get your things and go.” Lexia gapes at Ray for a moment but he stares her down. Without a word, Lexia rises from her chair and quietly walks out of the club. As Ray makes his way over to his wife, I tell Butterfly, “I’ll be right back.” She nods at me and I follow Lexia out of the door.

I catch her just after she has retrieved her coat and Hamilton is escorting her from the premises. “Excuse, Ms. Herring or whatever your name is.” She turns around and is surprised to see me standing behind her.

“Yes?”

“One word of this—to anyone—and I will make your life a miserable fucking hell. Do you understand?” Her eyes are large and she clearly can’t believe that I said this to her. “You can nod if you can’t form words,” I spit. She is still dumbfounded. “Let me try to put this another way. That woman that you just embarrassed at her own wedding is married to the father of the woman that I love—the very center of my universe. So if you embarrass Amanda or Ray, then you cause pain to my girlfriend. If you cause pain to my girlfriend, I will rip out your soul. If you don’t believe me, try me… please. Is that any clearer for you?” I hiss.

“Y-yes, Mr. Grey. I-I won’t say anything,” she stammers.

“Good. Have a good night.” I watch as Hamilton escorts her from the building and as I turn to go back to the club, I see a petite frame in a black suit duck into the men’s room.

It couldn’t be…

I know that I shouldn’t do this without security present, but I don’t want to cause any more of a commotion than I have already seen at Ray and Amanda’s wedding. I go into the men’s room. The fact that no one is in here proves that my eyes didn’t deceive me. If there’s a urinal open, men don’t often use stalls. I lean against the counter and fold my arms.

“Are you going to stay in there all night?” I ask. A few moments pass and the stall opens. She comes out wearing a Tom Ford men’s suit and hat, but her red lipstick is still caked on as usual.

“You’re pretty smart and pretty stupid at the same time,” I tell her. “Men don’t use stalls unless utterly necessary, so you knew you wouldn’t be spotted in here—smart. Your ass never could follow directions which must be why you consistently keep putting yourself in this situation. Why are you here?”

“I need help, Christian,” she says.

“Yes, you do, but I can’t give it to you. So again I ask, why are you here?”

“The kind of help that I need, you can give it to me.” She sounds broken, more broken than I have ever heard before.

“I can’t—won’t—give you anything,” I tell her. “I don’t care what happens to you. I really don’t.”

“Christian, I love you so much,” she pleads. “I know that I went about things—everything—the wrong way. I would do anything to get you back. Anything!”

“You never had me! That’s what you don’t get. I thought I felt something for you once upon a time. I was wrong! Anything that we ever had, that we ever could have had, was a lie. Why can’t you get that through your head?”

“I can’t accept that I will never have you again! I won’t accept that you never loved me! You did, I know you did! You would do anything for me. Your whole life was to make me happy—to please me—until she came along. She poisoned you against me and I won’t let her get away with it. If it’s the last thing that I do, I swear that I won’t let her get away with it!” She is rambling like a maniac. This is truly one sick bitch.

“You are some special kind of crazy, do you know that?” I say calmly. “I’ve been in therapy my whole life and even though I refused to admit it before now, I always knew that the first part of solving your problems is admitting that you have problems. You can never admit it. You can never admit that you did anything wrong. For that, I feel sorry for you, but only because that means that you will never find redemption. I am so lucky I let you go, got you out of my life. God only knows where I would be if I had continued with you.” I turn to leave. I’m talking to the same wall that I’ve always been and I don’t expect it to change.

“Christian, please!” she wails like she’s in pain and it causes me to stop and turn around. “I don’t have much time left.” What the…?

“What do you mean you don’t have much time left?” What fresh new hell is she about to thrust upon me this time?

“I’ve lost everything. I don’t have any money left. I’ve been living with and off of my submissives. I only have a few subs left to contract as most of them have found other… agents. My remaining submissives are dropping like flies. After everything I have done for them, they all leave me when the money runs out!” I laugh at her statement.

“That’s the nature of the game, Elena! They are in it for the pain… and the prizes. What good is the pain without the prize?” Now she laughs at me.

“You are her sub and she’s not giving you prizes!” she spits at me.

She’s the prize.” I correct her. “She’s more than I have ever dreamed of. If I lost my entire fortune, as long as I had her, I would still be the wealthiest man alive!”

“You’re talking like an idiot!” she scoffs. I fold my arms again.

“Those are big words coming from a woman dressed in a man’s suit hiding in the men’s restroom,” I laugh. Her face falls.

“It’s the only way that I could possibly hope to see you. Please, Christian. Please forgive me. I didn’t know that I loved you so much until I lost you. Now I can’t function without you. I don’t know what to do. I’m sick and miserable and none of my subs are making me happy anymore. Please, Christian. I will be your sub, your slave, your lover. I will do anything you ask of me, please, Christian. I beg of you, please… please, take me back.”

Oh, this woman is truly delusional. Nothing that you say to her gets through to her. No amount of explaining reaches her. She just can’t hear you. Well, let’s try this…

“No.”

She glares at me like she can’t believe what I just said to her.

“No?” she screams. “No?” Wow… something finally got through. “How can you possibly not want me? We were amazing together, don’t you remember?” I get in her face.

“What I remember is that a few months ago, you tried to ruin everything that I had. Do you remember that?” I hiss. “Do you remember when you tried to ruin my relationship? My family? Me? That’s what I remember and that’s what I’ll always remember about you—that, and the fact that you molested me and countless other children and you tried to molest my brother. That is your only legacy in my mind!” I am glaring into her frightened eyes and before I know it, she throws her arms around my neck and presses her lips hard against mine.

What the fuck!?

I pry her arms from my neck and push her hard away from me until she slams against the wall. The shove doesn’t even phase her and she lunges for me again. Instinctively, I go into defense mode and slap the taste out of her mouth! She wails and falls over from the force of the hit, looking up at me while holding her face. I shake my head at her and leave her there on the restroom floor.

I walk directly to the front desk and tell the clerk to call the police. He is glaring at me.

“Is there something wrong with the instructions that I just gave you?” I bark at him.

“Um, no sir, but… Why am I calling the police?” I point to the men’s room.

“There is a woman in the men’s room. She is not a resident. I and my girlfriend have a standing protection order against her and I want to make a police report that she is here.”

“Um… okay, sir.” He picks up the phone. “Sir, do you know that you’re wearing lipstick?”

Lipstick? I touch my lips and sure enough, that bitch has left her blood red lipstick on my lips. I see the clerk looking over my shoulder and I look back to see Elena smirking and cleaning up her smudged lipstick from her lips. Sick bitch.

“Did you see her?” I ask the clerk.

“Yes, Sir, I did.”

“Well, call the police, please.” I pull my handkerchief out of my pocket to clean my face, but I realize that I am too late. Standing off to the side looking me square in my eye—lipstick and all—is Butterfly. I don’t know how long she’s been standing there, but I know she had to see Elena leave. I move to say something to her and she dashes back around the corner, no doubt headed back to the club before I get the chance to explain.

“Fuck!” I exclaim. I look at the fucker at the desk. Couldn’t he had told me this shit sooner? “Call. The fucking. Police.” I growl at him. His eyes grow large and he can’t dial fast enough.

I have just about completed giving my police report when Elliot and Allen come out to the lobby.

“What’s going on, Chris?” Allen says as he and Elliot make their way to the counter.

“Elena was here.” That’s all I say.

“Oh… and how did that work out?” Elliot says. I hold up my finger.

“Do you gentlemen need anything else from me?” I ask.

“No sir. You know this will just go on file since we weren’t able to catch her,” One of the officers tells me.

“Yes, I know, but I do want it on file.”

“Then I think we’re done, Sir,” he says, closing his notebook.

“Thank you, Gentlemen.” They nod and leave as I turn to Allen and Elliot.

“I saw her duck into the men’s room in a man’s suit and I didn’t know for sure if it was her. I made the mistake of following her in there.”

“Why didn’t you come and get one of us?” Allen asks.

“Because I wasn’t thinking. I just wanted her off the premises.” I run my hands through my hair. “We had words. She begged me to take her back. When I refused, she kissed me. I slapped her and left her on the men’s room floor. I came out here to make a report. She came out of the bathroom just in time for Butterfly to see her coming out of the bathroom and me standing here at the counter with her lipstick smeared all over my face!” I throw another glare at the desk clerk who was at first engrossed in our conversation and is now holding his head down out of sight.

Boy, do I miss Marc.

“Oooohh, that explains it,” Elliot says.

“Explains what?”

“Well, Butterfly has become quite the social butterfly. She’s dancing with everyone on every song and she has probably had two drinks since you have been out here. It’s nearly midnight and you have been gone for quite some time. When I asked where you were, her only response was ‘in the lobby.’ When I asked if you were okay, she said ‘I don’t know, why don’t you go check and see?’ Not knowing what to expect when I got here, I grabbed your hunky brother and here we are.”

Shit! Butterfly is mad. I run my hands through my hair again and we all walk back to the party. Sure enough, there she is on the dance floor with… Brian. The hairs on the back of my neck stand up and Elliot steps in front of me.

“Okay, settle down, Christian. She has been dancing with everyone, and they’re not bumping and grinding. It’s just a simple dance.” He’s right. It’s just a dance, but it’s a slow dance. They are not bumping and grinding, but they are close. I pay attention to the song playing as I watch my Butterfly dance with another man.

To all your friends you’re delirious,
So consumed in all your doom.
Trying hard to fill the emptiness.
The pieces gone, left the puzzle undone.
Is that the way it is?

My anger is slowly being replaced by sorrow as I watch them talking and friendly on the dance floor. This is a man that I know wants my woman, and right now, he has his hands on her—and I can’t do anything about it.

You are beautiful no matter what they say
Words can’t bring you down… oh no
You are beautiful in every single way
Yes, words can’t bring you down, oh, no
So don’t you bring me down today…

I used to like this song. Now, I’ll never listen to it again.

It seems like it takes forever for the song to end. I hurriedly make my way to the dance floor, and to Butterfly.

“Do you mind if I dance with my girlfriend?” I say to the fucker, trying hard to hold back my ire.

“Sure. Be my guest,” he says with a smirk as he kisses Butterfly’s hand and backs away. I take Butterfly in my arms but she puts some distance between us.

“You know that I didn’t kiss her,” is the first thing that I say. She looks up at me, a chill in her eye. I can tell that she has been drinking and her anger may even be multiplied by the alcohol. I try again. “You know that I didn’t kiss her,” I repeat. Her gaze softens fractionally.

“I know that you didn’t kiss her voluntarily. I just don’t like the fact that Elena got her lips on you at all,” she confesses.

“Then why are you so pissed at me?” I ask.

“I’m not pissed at you. I’m just pissed that she touched my man!” she spit. There is silence for a moment and then she asked, “What took you so long to get back?”

“I was making a police report,” I respond. She twists her lips.

“Oh. Okay.” We danced the rest of the song in silence and when I went to kiss her, she turned her cheek to me. My stomach actually lurched when my lips hit her cheek. I look down and her and she doesn’t raise her eyes to me. I’ll never listen to Just My Imagination again, either.

After the New Year’s toast, the fireworks, three more attempts to get Butterfly to kiss me and finally a mechanical kiss at midnight, and sending Ray and Amanda off for four days in the Poconos, I sit at the bar nursing another double of bourbon. Most of the people who were only related to Ray or Amanda are leaving now, and the Brian fucker decides to come over to let me know that he is leaving—after he conspicuously kisses my girl on the cheek. I’ll put him at about the same age as Amanda, maybe just a couple of years older—definitely nowhere near Ray’s age.

“It was quite the party, Christian. I thoroughly enjoyed myself,” he says.

“I’m sure you did,” I respond. No use in pleasantries. I know that you want my woman and I don’t like you. The only reason why I’m not ringing your neck or I haven’t bounced you out on your ass is because I know that she would be pissed… or even more pissed, I should say.

“I see. In that case, I just want you to know that if you fuck up, I’ll be right there to pick up the pieces and I won’t let her get a away this time.” I look up at him and he matches my glare.

“From what I can tell, you had your shot before I came along and she apparently didn’t want you.” I take another swallow of my drink.

“Well, we don’t know that because I didn’t try. She was getting over that psycho fucker who ended up kidnapping her… on your watch… but that’s another story. Nonetheless, I wanted to give her room to get over him and the minute that she did, you were there. I took my time, moved too slow, I admit it—but I won’t let it happen again. When I get my chance, I will have her and I won’t let her go.” I want to deck this fucker. What makes him think that he can say this shit to me where I live? I stand up and face him.

“You won’t get the chance because I don’t intend to let her go either, Mr. Colostomy.” Okay, I think I need to stop drinking. The alcohol is getting to me. He laughs.

“That’s very original. Did you think of that all by yourself? Do you know how many times I’ve heard that? That’s so juvenile, but that’s okay. Just lets me know about where you stand right now. Don’t slip, Grey… on second thought, please slip. I’ll be watching. Have a good night.” With that he was gone. There was no use in telling him that the alcohol made me fuck up his name. Colostomy was not a shot at him. It was just the murmurings of a slightly inebriated man. It didn’t matter, though. Both situations are equally humiliating. I’ll get the last laugh when Butterfly and I are married… if we get married…

Hell, she doesn’t even want to kiss me right now.


STEELE

“She’s clearly not happy to be here. Why did she come?” I ask Mandy after we have gotten her calm and sitting down, wrapped in Daddy’s arms.

“It’s this sadistic thing with her my mother. It’s been that way ever since I could remember. It was like emotional torment was a game to them. Now she just came to rub in my face that her dress was prettier than mine, her husband is younger than mine, she’s got more money than me… you name it. She’s just a wicked bitch!”

I keep the conversation going while I am watching the door, waiting for Christian. Several minutes go by and still no Christian. Hamilton has come back a long time ago stating that she had escorted Lexia out of the building but Christian was still in the lobby.

“I better go see what’s keeping my boyfriend. I’ll be right back.” I walk out of the club and across the marble floors towards the front desk. Just as I am nearing the front, I hear Christian’s raised voice. Oh good Lord, what happened now? I step around the wall that leads to the front desk and he is pointing behind him and simultaneously reaching in his inside pocket. I look in the direction that he’s pointing… and it’s her! The stank-ass, slutty, nasty, filthy, slimy, Pedo-Bitch She-Thing demon from hell! She’s coming from the men’s room of all places, wearing a man’s suit, smoothing her hair and her clothes, smiling and cleaning her smudged lipstick.

The men’s room? What the hell was she doing in the men’s room. At that moment, Christian—my boyfriend—turns around and his face is smudged with blood red lipstick. Fuck! They kissed! They fucking kissed! I don’t know how long I stood there stunned before I ducked back around the corner. I let the wall hold me up for a while.

They kissed.
He was wearing her lipstick.
They kissed.
You know that he didn’t kiss her.
I know what I saw! I saw the lipstick!
There’s no way in hell he would voluntarily kiss that woman and you know it!

I can’t listen to logic right now. My heart is in my throat and my father’s wedding is going on right now. What’s more is that he didn’t even come after me. I have to put him—this—out of my mind right now. I have to go and host my father’s wedding. I put on my happy face and go back to the party. I discovered that the happy face is much easier to maintain after a couple of margaritas and a shot of Patron.

I am dancing my troubles away with everyone who will dance with me. Gary has been my dance partner of old but I could monopolize all of his time since he’s with Marilyn now. So the guys all passed me around and we had a really great time. Once the slow music started playing, everyone went back to their dates and I was left with my thoughts. The DJ is playing Beautiful by Christina Aguilera and as soon as the tune begins, there is a hand in front of me. It’s not Christian’s.

“May I?” Brian asks. I shrug. Why not? He leads me to the dance floor and we start to dance.

“You look down. Are you okay?” Do I tell him that I’m pissed with Christian?

“Yes. It’s been a very emotional day,” I respond.

“So… Grey, huh?” I look up at him and I can’t read the look in his eyes. Then again, my instincts are a bit alcohol-blurred right now.

“Yep, Grey,” I respond.

“How did that happen?” he asks. “Is that why he was doing a background check on you?”

“I don’t think so,” I say.

“You never asked?”

“Well, yeah, I did ask, but since I had background information on him, too, we started fighting and then… we kissed.” I remember Christian using that as a shot against him earlier. I didn’t mean to bring it up again.

“Yeah, I heard,” Brian said, flatly. “So that’s how it began?”

“No… not really. We had another fight after that and then he crashed my date… well, it wasn’t really a date. I was trying to let an asshole down easy and that didn’t work out well. Then Christian showed up and sent over this really expensive bottle of wine and I was too tipsy to drive and… do you really want to hear this?”

“I guess I do. I want to know where I messed up,” he laments.

“Messed up?”

“How Grey was able to win you and I wasn’t,” he clarifies.

“Brian…” I don’t want to hurt him. He’s such a good guy, but there’s so much history there. “You’re Daddy’s friend.”

“But I’m not as old as your father. I’m nowhere near as old as your father.”

“I know that, but…” I sigh. “You know that Daddy wouldn’t like it.”

“Why not? He fell in love with a woman 13 years his junior. There’s not even that many years between you and me.” You can’t argue with that logic. I won’t tell him that I thought the same thing when Daddy introduced me to Mandy.

“That’s not what I’m talking about and you know it, and anyway, it’s a mute point now…”

“Is it?” Geez, I forgot I’m dealing with Brian here. I used to call him Special Forces Brian years ago. He can read anyone like a book. I gaze into his eyes. I don’t dare answer that question right now.

“Do you mind if I dance with my girlfriend?” I am snapped out of my thoughts by Christian’s voice. Oh, he’s finally decided to join us, has he?

“Sure. Be my guest,” Brian says. He leans down and pulls my hand to his lips, placing a gentle kiss on my knuckles and giving me a look that says he knows that something is going on. Christian puts his arms around me, but I immediately see Elena in his arms and take a step away from him.

“You know that I didn’t kiss her.”

Then why did it take you so damn long to tell me that? Why didn’t you come around the corner and say, “Butterfly, I didn’t kiss her?”

“You know that I didn’t kiss her,” he says again after I don’t respond.
You know that he didn’t kiss her.
I know that he didn’t kiss her, but I saw her lipstick on his lips—lips that I kiss. I can’t get that damn picture out of my head. I look up at him.

“I know that you didn’t kiss her voluntarily. I just don’t like the fact that Elena got her lips on you at all.” There. I said it. The stank-ass, slutty, nasty, filthy, slimy, Pedo-Bitch She-Thing demon from hell had her lips where only my lips are supposed to be, and the thought makes me physically ill!

“Then why are you so pissed at me?” He questions.

“I’m not pissed at you. I’m just pissed that she touched my man!” My man, the bitch touched my man… kissed my man… and then had the nerve to smile at me as she was leaving… and you didn’t come after me! “What took you so long to get back?”

“I was making a police report.” That kept you from taking one minute to come to me to tell me that you didn’t kiss that bitch? The police weren’t even here yet!

“Oh. Okay.” Fine. The thoughts are crashing through my head and mixing with the margaritas and Patron as I’m trying to make sense of all of this. If I hadn’t seen the lipstick, would he have bothered to tell me that she kissed him? Why didn’t he come after me? Was he ashamed? Guilty? Afraid? Her lipstick was all over his mouth. Did she put her tongue in his mouth? Oh, I think I’m going to vomit.

The song is over and Christian leans in to kiss me. Oh, God. If he kisses me, I’m going to vomit for sure. I can still see her lipstick on his lips. I turn my cheek to him and he freezes. Oh shit, wrong move, Steele. I can’t even look at him. He drops his arms and walks off the dance floor, completely dejected. I feel the tears coming and I dash to the restroom before they get a chance to fall.

Nice move, Butterfly!
What was I supposed to do? Let him kiss me and vomit in his mouth?
I don’t know what you were supposed to do, but you sure could have handled it better than that!
Oh, give me a fucking break. I’m doing the best that I can here. That bitch kissed him. I can’t get that out of my head.
Yeah, I know…
You know? Then why the hell are you beating me down about this?
Because I know that we’ll be miserable without him and I don’t want to admit that it grosses me out too.

And there you have it. I officially don’t know what to do.

I get back to the party and Christian has slipped back into the role of host. He is laughing and talking to people, but only I know that smile is not reaching his eyes. I can’t avoid him. The whole party will know something is wrong and Eagle Eye Brian is watching our every move. No doubt, he has analyzed that dance and is plotting his attack as we speak. I walk in and stand next to him. This I can manage.

Then he pulls me close to him.

“Better now?” he asks quietly. I nod noticing that people are looking at us. He smiles and tries to kiss me again. I instinctively turn my cheek to him again and he kisses it like that’s what we meant to do.

“Not better now,” he says in my ear and pulls his face away from mine. He holds me for a few moments longer and then announces “Does anyone want anything from the bar?”

“Another beer for me, thanks,” Daddy says.

“You got it, Ray. Anyone else?” When everyone else declines, Christian smiles at me and releases me then goes off to the bar. Good. I can sit down.

“Ana, what’s going on?” Val sits down next to me. I frown at her.

“What do you mean?”

“We’ve been friends for years, Ana. I know your release dancing when I see it. What’s up?” I sigh.

“It’s all the emotion that goes along with this damn wedding,” I lie. “I think I’ll be glad when they are off on their honeymoon.”

“Are you sure that’s all?” she presses, and I nod. Hey, I’m still in my stilettos. I haven’t completely lost my mind. “Well, what are you going to do when Maxie’s wedding comes? Hell, you’re in that one.” I laugh insincerely.

“Maxie is not marrying my dad,” I begin, “and I can only hope that she doesn’t have a psycho sister that comes and tries to ruin the wedding.” I drop my head on the table and Val starts to rub my back. A few moments later, I hear his voice again.

“Are you okay?” I look up and Christian is squatting next to me. I don’t know what to tell him.

“I’ll be fine. Too much party, I think,” I lie again.

“Do you want to go upstairs?”

“Not before Dad and Mandy leave.”

“Okay.” He leans in to kiss me again and I freeze. He must have felt it because he just kissed me on the cheek and walked away.

“What was that about?” Val asks. Oh shit.

“What?”

“You didn’t see it? Christian was coming one way and your dad’s best man was coming another way and they had a standoff for a moment.” Oh, God, tell me that didn’t just happen. This night is quickly going to hell. Where is midnight when you need it?

“Christian is pissing and Brian is trying to get in,” I answer honestly. I’m too damn tired to lie anymore.

“Oh, God. Does your dad know?”

“Nope, Dad is blissfully clueless” I say, sitting up in my chair.

“Well, don’t look now, but Pisser is on his way back.” Great.

“If you’re feeling up to it, I’d like for us to announce the honeymoon destination,” he says softly.

“Okay.” I take his hand and he helps me out of my seat. We quickly stand and announce that we are sending Daddy and Mandy on a four-day trip to a resort in the Pocono Mountains. My dad has always wanted to go and I thought this would be perfect. They could stay in and cuddle, go out and see the sights, go shopping, be tourists, and they are right outside of New York if they decide that they want to go there.

Of course, Christian goes to kiss me again, and I’m still not ready. I guess I never noticed how much we just kissed on a regular basis until I counted four attempts in the last hour. This time, he couldn’t hide the disappointment in his eyes from me, even though he hid it from everyone else.

At fifteen to midnight, we take our coats, glasses of champagne, and the little ice bucket timers that I got from Things Remembered and took the elevators up to the roof. We all set our timers and put them on the ground and at midnight, the roof was singing to the sound of thirty-four timers ringing in the New Year. We were all screaming “Happy New Year” and drinking our champagne.

And then there’s the kiss.

He looks down at me and I lift my lips to him—no pucker, no tongue, just lips in this kiss. He pulls back from me with sad, glassy, white-gray eyes.

“Happy New Year,” he says, his voice laced with despair.

“Happy New Year,” I whisper, and I know that he’s hurting now. He tolerated it all night, but now, at this moment, he’s hurting. He breaks his gaze from mine and watches the fireworks show from the Space Needle. It’s truly spectacular, but my heart is heavy. I feel like shit for how I’ve made Christian feel tonight, but I still don’t know what to do.

When we get back down to the party, we all warm up with spiced apple cider. Christian has disappeared again, and I think that it might be best to leave him be. It’s getting close to time for Dad and Mandy to leave when the DJ announces, “The groom has asked to have a dance with his girl.”

I think that’s very sweet—one more dance with his wife before they are off on their trip. He starts to play My Girl by The Temptations and I am immediately whisked down memory lane to all of the times Daddy and I danced to this song. I feel a tap on my shoulder. I look around and it’s my Daddy holding his hand out to me.

“I want to dance with my girl,” he says softly. My heart just melts. I launch myself into Daddy’s arms and weep as he spins me to the dance floor.

“I love you, Daddy,” I sob into his neck.

“I love you, too, Annie-Babe,” he says as he guides me along the floor. By the time he is done spinning and dipping me to our song, I feel a lot better and a little energized… until I see Christian standing off to the side with a sad smile, watching me dance with my father.

“He loves you, too, Annie. Don’t make him wait too long, okay?” What? Did Christian tell Daddy that I won’t kiss him? “You should tell him how you feel, that you’re ready to get married. He loves you very much.” I smile a relieved smile.

“Thank you, Daddy. Don’t worry about me, I’ll be fine, okay? You’ve got a new wife to take care of now and a baby on the way, and since you are closer, you’ll be seeing a lot more of me, now.”

“That’s sounds wonderful,” he says kissing me on the cheek. When the song ends, he kisses me again and goes over to Mandy.

“Thank you all for sharing our day with us. We will never forget it!” Mandy says as they wave and leave for their honeymoon. I start to say goodbye to our guests since it is after midnight and the bride and groom have left.

“So, he’s left you alone again, has he?” Damn it!

“You’re very perceptive. Have you been this perceptive all night?” I say, turning around to face Brian.

“Yes, I have,” he says with no mirth. “I could tell that you wanted to kill Lexia long before Mandy blew up at her. I could tell you were in terrible pain about something during the first dance although I didn’t know what. I could tell that something happened around 10:30 after the Sister from Hell was escorted out of here, that Grey was gone for about thirty minutes and that when he came back you were quite frosty to him and haven’t kissed him since. Even that little display on the roof didn’t fool me.” Damn, he is perceptive. “In fact…” he closes the space in between us, “… I’ve been perceptive ever since that last asshole broke your heart, and I’m going to be perceptive of this one, too.”

“He’s not an asshole, Brian,” I say softly.

“No? Then where is he?” I couldn’t answer that question.

“I love him… very much,” I say, not making eye-contact with Brian. I’m weak and emotionally fragile right now and I don’t want anything getting in the way of my judgment.

“I know you do, that’s why I’m not pressing you. I know that, more than anything, you are loyal even if someone doesn’t deserve your loyalty. I’m just saying that I slept this time and I missed my chance. I won’t do it again. If he hurts you, I’m going to step in and I’m going to be the Colonel Brandon to your Marianne Dashwood and chase all of the bad memories away.” Oh my God! Did he just make a reference to Sense and Sensibility? That was romantic as hell! Christian… Christian… Christian…

Brian bends down and kisses me softly and chastely on the cheek. “Until next time, Ana,” and he’s gone like a wind.

Thank God!

What the hell was that all about? I don’t even like Brian that way!
It’s the alcohol, Honey.
Oh yeah, I forgot about that.
It’s time to go upstairs.
You said a mouthful! Me and alcohol and public—without a chaperone—is definitely not a good mix!


A/N: So the only thing here that may need explaining is the Sense and Sensibility reference. Young Marianne Dashwood and the handsome John Willoughby fall in love. Just as he is about to propose to her (we think) he runs away to London with no explanation. All this time, Colonel Brandon – very well off and much older – is quite taken with Marianne but can only admire her from afar. Marianne and her sister later go to London with a family friend and Marianne sends several messages to John, which are ignored. She finally sees him at a party and is shunned by him as he appears to be there with a date. She leaves dejected and the next day receives a letter that he basically doesn’t want to see her again and that he is engaged. She falls into a deep depression and Colonel Brandon offers to escort her and her sister back home, as London holds no charm for them anymore. It should be noted that in another plot line, her sister is also suffering from a broken heart. Anyway, Brandon escorts Marianne and her sister back home, but they stop along the way to spend some time at the home of another woman who had been in London as well. The woman never stops talking for the whole ride and during the chatter, informs Marianne that Willoughby’s house can be seen from the top of their hill. Keep in mind that these are the rolling hills of late 18th-century England, so the top of the hill could have been two miles away. When no one was looking, Marianne takes off for the hill to stand nostalgically watching Willoughby’s house in the rain for God only knows how long. Colonel Brandon brings her back and she falls deathly ill. (This is the television version. In the book, she just falls ill because she is grieving and neglecting her health). As she gets well, Brandon is by her side the entire time, helping to nurse her and being her companion. She eventually falls in love with him and they get married, with Willoughby brokenhearted and watching from the shadows as he is still in love with Marianne. Not necessarily useless information, but hell, I just wanted to tell that little tale. You should read the book; it’s a classic and very good! 😉

If you are reading over here and on Fanfiction, I would prefer that you leave comments here from now on as I will be removing my work from Fanfiction.

Songs:
Percy Sledge – When A Man Loves A Woman
Smokey Robinson – Ooo Baby Baby
Luther Vandross and Cheryl Lynn – If This World Were Mine
Christina Aguilera – Beautiful
The Temptations – Just My Imagination
The 
Temptations – My Girl

Pictures of places, cars, fashion, etc. can be found at http://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/mending-dr-steele/

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Love and Handcuffs!
Lynn x