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 9—Making Preparations
Oh my God, I’m damaged for life. That is just not a situation that I ever wanted to see. “For Christ’s sake, Dad. Get your hand out of her shirt! You’re on my sofa!” I already have the TMI of knowing that my dad is supposedly “some kind of wonderful” in bed. I don’t need the added damage of seeing his pre-game moves! For crying out loud, I’m already in therapy, People!
Christian is snickering next to me and I give him a swift elbow in the side.
“Ow! What?” he says, feigning innocence. “Maybe they got bored waiting for us. We were similarly distracted this morning, you know.”
“Yes, but not on the sofa!” I scold and turn my attention back to my naughty father and his girlfriend.
“Um… sorry, Annie,” was all he could say. I shake my head at them.
“Have you two horny teenagers had breakfast yet?” I ask, pulling a snickering Christian into the kitchen behind me. It’s a wonder that Gail didn’t walk out here and catch them. Then again, maybe she did…
“Um, yes… hours ago, in fact,” Dad says, slightly accusing. I look up at him.
“Don’t give me that tone, Father! I was in the privacy of my bedroom!” I say, shaking my finger at him. He put his hands up in surrender.
“I’m actually on my lunch break, Ana,” Mandy chimes in, walking towards the kitchen. “Ray told me that you were doing better and I wanted to see for myself.” She gives me a sincere hug.
“Thank you, Mandy. I’m much better,” I respond with a smile. “We’ve lost several days—we really need to get together and solidify the plans for New Year’s Eve.”
“I agree,” she says. “We only have 20 more days to make this happen, but I can’t right now. My time is up. Tomorrow after work? Say around 6?” she bargains.
“Perfect. We’ll get together then,” I concur. “There are only a few more things we need to handle.” She smiles then goes to my father and kisses him on the lips.
“See you tonight, Baby,” she says sweetly to him. He smiles as she leaves the apartment. I gaze at my dad.
“What?” he says in that same phony way Christian did a moment ago.
“Mm-hmm,” I say shaking my head.
“Marilyn came by earlier,” Dad chimes in changing the subject. She wanted to know whether or not she should cancel your appointments for today.” Cancel my appointments? Oh shit! It’s Tuesday. This whole incident has my inner calendar screwed up and I thought it was Saturday. “I told her that by the looks of things, you probably wouldn’t be in the office today.” I drop my head.
“I’m going to lose my patients if I keep canceling my damn appointments!” I say with dread.
“What are you talking about? Those people love you!” Christian exclaims. “And if they don’t, you have a waiting list of people a mile long eager to take their places.”
“Let’s not test that theory,” I say, knowing that I have plans for next week that may require that I take yet another day off.
“Well, anyway, Marilyn dropped off an envelope for you. She said it was something that you were looking for and told me to tell you that the rest were in your email,” Dad says to me. “She put the file in your office upstairs.”
“Thanks, Dad,” I say, rummaging through the refrigerator and pulling out some hors d’oeuvres and finger foods that Gail keeps prepared at my request. Mr. Grey likes to have full-course meals most often. I, on the other hand, like light foods and lots of them—especially during the daytime. He’s feeding a lot more mass than I am, but still… He eats like a horse, I don’t. Over lunch, I ask my dad if he and Mandy have talked about the wedding.
“I just want Mandy to be happy,” Dad says after finishing one of my favorite honey ham and turkey pinwheels. “I’ve had a wedding before—she hasn’t.”
“It’s still your wedding, too, Dad. Isn’t there anything that you would like to see?” I ask him. He smiles.
“Well, you know that I want to see fireworks,” he says smiling.
“Oh, there are plenty of fireworks between you and your fiancée!” I declare, taking a sip of my cranberry spritzer.
“No, I mean real fireworks.” Oh, star bursts and skyrockets.
“Well, that’s a no-brainer. The Space Needle is a mile away. We can watch the fireworks from the penthouse or the roof. Next.”
“I want beer. Real beer. Budweiser.” Christian’s face scrunches.
“Um, Ray… every time you drink Budvar, you’re drinking Budweiser. They’re made by the same company.” Christian says.
“Well, you can have as much Budvar as you like. I want my bottles to say ‘Budweiser.'” I smile at my dad.
“Budweiser it is, Dad,” I assure him. “What about music?”
“Whatever Mandy wants, but throw in some Motown.” That means we’ll need a DJ and not a band, or maybe some sort of compromise. I hope I can get one at such short notice. What am I saying? For the right price, I can get one. I’ll see what Mandy says.
“Anything else that you can think of?” Daddy sighs.
“I know you’re famous and all now, Annie, but please… no three-ring circus. I’d just as soon go to the courthouse and keep it quiet than to have my simple nuptials splashed all over the paper.” His eyes are pleading. I completely understand where he’s coming from. Christian and I have been the center of attention ever since we became an item. Everybody wants a piece of AnaChris—and did I mention that I utterlyhate that nickname? It sounds too much like “Antichrist.”
“We’ve already prepared for that, Daddy.” We have put on the wire that Christian and I are going out of town for the New Year’s Eve weekend. We have booked the jet to leave on the 28th to an undisclosed location, and we will have a decoy car leave for Sea-Tac that night to throw the dogs off the scent. Most of the preparations for my father’s wedding will be finalized that weekend while the press thinks we are out of town, and the jet will make a quick round trip with a couple of Christian’s GEH employees to make the whole thing look authentic. It will be back at the hanger on New Year’s Eve to take Dad and Mandy on a special trip that we have planned for them. “No monkeys, lions, tigers, or bears. I promise.” I say with a smile.
“Thank you, Annie. As long as my two girls are there, then it will be perfect.” He hugs me and I can’t help the lone tear that falls down my cheek. My Daddy is getting married. After that witch that I once knew as my mother tried to drain him of his youth, he is getting a chance to start over with Mandy—a new wife and a new family. That really makes me happy. “Why are you crying, Annie?” he asks concerned. Christian looks over at me, concern etched on his face as well.
“Because I love you and I’m happy for you and I’m honored that you are letting me do this for you.” I tell him with a smile. He hugs me again and I can’t help but think of how much I love my Daddy.
We continue our lunch talking about the plans for the New Year’s Eve party and for Christmas. As early afternoon sets in, Daddy prepares to leave so that he can take care of a few things before he meets Mandy this evening. He gives me a big hug and a kiss as he will be leaving to go back to Montesano in the very early morning. “I have a business to run,” he says, smiling sadly, “and I must get back to it.” I return his hug and kiss him on the cheek.
“Be safe, Dad. I’ll see you on Christmas Day.” He squeezes my hand before shaking Christian’s and leaves. Christian slides his arms around my waist and kisses my shoulder.
“I have a business to run, too,” he says, softly. “I haven’t been there for a few days. Will you be okay while I do some work?”
“Yes,” I sigh. “I’ve got a practice of my own to save.” I turn around and kiss him on the nose. “I’ll be upstairs.”
I had asked Marilyn to bring me all of Melanie’s records so that I could get as much information as I could on her past and her life since the incident. There wasn’t much to see. Unless she lied about what she told me—which I highly doubt—her life was pretty uneventful. From what I could see, she never spoke to her cousin after the attack. She went back to her corner of the world and never even stepped foot in Henderson again. I review my notes to see if she ever mentioned falling out with a cousin or a distant relative… she didn’t.
She set me up perfectly to lower the boom on me right at the precise moment that she knew I wouldn’t be able to use it against her. I don’t know much about the progression of cancer, but I know for sure that this woman truly has one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel. I find myself fighting with my morals and scruples to not wish that she would just die already. I’m fighting an inner battle between the desire for revenge and justice and the compassionate and empathetic person that I have purposely fought to become since my attack. I always knew that I couldn’t let the incident consume me and on many occasions, I was able to live my life like it never happened. Now, it’s hovering over me again begging for attention and closure, and I plan to get it this time. There’s nothing I can do about Melanie. Hell, there’s nothing that Ineed to do. She’s dying before 30 of a painful, debilitating disease. I don’t want to see her again, but I think Karma has done enough to her already.
I take some time to call my patients from the last few days to personally apologize to them for canceling my appointments with no notice. Christian was right—they do care about me very much. For the most part, they were very understanding and concerned about my health and well-being. A couple of them had impromptu sessions over the phone about things that had concerned them or accomplishments over the last week. It was the least that I could do after canceling on them.
Marilyn emailed me my messages—several from Melanie asking for one last visit. Yeah, when hell freezes over, Bitch. There’s one from Kate saying that she is finally stateside again and would like to get together for lunch one day when I’m free. Hmm… Kate. Katherine Kavanaugh… I’m not really sure how to handle that. Your ex-fiance and my brother’s boyfriend was briefly one of my patients and is now head over heels in love with one of my closest friends. How do we possibly have that conversation?
During my talk with Christian yesterday about the Green Valley mob, I have learned that most of them have literally scattered to the four winds. Two connections ended up here although, lucky for him, Everett Billings was telling the truth. From what we could see, he had nothing to do with the attack. Christian told me about how he had intimidated information out of him when he discovered that Everett worked for one of his subsidiaries. I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall for that conversation.
Most importantly, though, he told me about Carly Madison. When I discovered her whereabouts, I let him know that I would be making a trip to see her. He didn’t like that news at all.
“Why would you want to see her?” he asks. “What could she possibly say that you would want to hear?”
“It’s not what she has to say, Christian. It’s what I have to say. After everything that I know, I have something to say to her—and she’s going to stand still while I say it. Please don’t fight me on this. I’m going to go see her, and eventually I want to see Cody, too. I’m making arrangements to see Carly next week,” I say.
“Arrangements? What kind of arrangements?” he frowns.
“Information on how to get to that little town that she lives in and what day I plan on going.” He runs his hands through his hair.
“How long do you plan on being away?”
“Just the day. I doubt that there are any tourist attractions that I want to see there.” I comment. He runs his hands through his hair again. Poor Christian. I know that he would do everything in his power to keep me shielded away from all of this shit and these people, but he has to know that he can’t. Maxine is right—I haven’t dealt with this situation. I’ve coped with it all of these years, but I haven’t dealt with it. It’s time to face up to it, deal what blows that I can, and put it behind me. This magnificently beautiful piece of artwork on my back was one step towards that. Now, I need to continue the journey.
“I’ll have Jason make the arrangements for you. You’ll take the jet. You’ll rent a car while you’re there. You’ll take Davenport, Williams, and Lawrence with you.” Three? That’s ridiculous!
“I don’t need three bodyguards, Christian. She’s only one woman and she doesn’t even know that I’m coming! Chuck and I will be fine. I can handle Carly and I’m sure Chuck can handle anything else that arises. Unless we’re walking into ‘Deliverance,’ we’ll be fine.” He throws a glare at me.
“That’s just it! We don’t know if you’re walking into ‘Deliverance!’ I’m not taking any chances!” he nearly shouts. I can hear it. I have put my foot down and told him that I’m going no matter what, and he has lost control of the situation. I can tell he wants to put his foot down on this, too.
“I’m not stupid, Christian,” I say softly, reassuring. “If I or Chuck sees or thinks that we are walking into a bad situation, I won’t play Wonder Woman. I’ll turn around and leave. I promise.” His gaze softens slightly. “I want to make the trip next Thursday. I want to leave that morning and be back that evening. That gives you plenty of time to check things out and make whatever arrangements that need to be made for my safety, but I think three bodyguards are a bit much.” He examines me and I see the wheels of compromise turning in his head.
“Two. Davenport and Lawrence. That’s my final offer—and I don’t care if you’re walking into a church meeting. Take it or leave it or I’m going with you.” Oh, no. I can’t have him coming, too. Christian Grey in El Nido? There will be choppers flying overhead!
“Okay, two,” I relent. I see the disappointment on his face and I know it’s because I didn’t agree to him coming with me. “I have to do this on my own, Baby,” I continue. “I know that you can solve most of my issues with a wave of your magic Grey wand. I also know that you would do that in a heartbeat for me and I love you for that, but this is a beast that we know has to be killed in several steps and this is the first of many that I have to take alone.” His glare goes from intense to sad.
“I just don’t want anything to happen to you,” he says, his gaze pleading.
“I promise you that I’ll be careful. We will keep you updated from the moment that we land, and I’ll make a hasty retreat the second something looks dangerous.” I put my hand on his cheek. “Nothing is going to happen to me. I need you to trust me.” His whole body drops and I know that I have won him over… begrudgingly.
So now, I am reviewing the itinerary for next Thursday. I have already rescheduled my Thursday patients since none of them missed their appointments last week and won’t miss them this week. The GEH jet will take off from Sea-Tac at 6:00am on Thursday morning and land in San Jose, CA, at 8:01am. From there, Christian has arranged for a car—bulletproof and all—for us to drive from San Jose to a little town called El Nido two hours away. That doesn’t really make me happy. Two hours of plane travel and then two more hours of car travel—good grief! Either her ex was trying to hide her away somewhere or she was trying to hide because she is really in the middle of nowhere.
There is an airport in Merced which is 18 miles away from El Nido, but it’s harder for larger aircraft to fly into it. All of the arrangements that could be made involved landing at one of the larger airports and then flying a propeller plane into Merced. So they could fly the jet to LAX or San Jose, but then they would have to get the propeller plane which would be 1.5 hours from LAX but closer to San Jose. Oh, but wait—can’t get a car. Even though the car rental agencies at the airport in Merced are major corporations, these particular locations didn’t have cars available that met Mr. Grey’s standards. So much for flying into Merced.
Nonetheless, with all of the travel time, I am my two bodyguards will be in El Nido between the 10:00 and 11:00 AM. I will then have my little “chat” with the now named Carly Madison-Perry, and be back at the San Jose airport no later than 6:00pm to be back in Seattle and in bed with my man no later that 9:30 that evening. We left plenty of time just in case I had to locate the estranged Mrs. Madison-Perry somewhere in town.
I’m looking at a recent picture of her. She certainly looks older, but then again so do I. Over a decade has passed, after all. She’s still sporting her natural hair color, but she wears way too much make-up. She has two children—three years and 18 months old—and she is in the process of a pretty nasty divorce and custody battle as her husband left her about a year ago. I’d sure like to know the details of that split, but neither of them are in the public eye. Without an inside line, all we get to know is that they are splitting up and her estranged husband is living somewhere happily with another woman while the once very-privileged Carly Madison-Perry is now working for less than minimum wage as a waitress in a small restaurant.
I look up and realize that the time has gotten away from me and it is dark outside. A glance at my watch shows that it is 7:13pm! No wonder I’m so damn hungry! I turn off my laptop and the light in my office and descend the stairs to Christian’s study.
“Well, I guess there’s nothing we can do right now, but I want you to keep looking. Another admirer, I can handle—I mean, look at her—but Ana says this guy gives her the creeps and I seriously have to trust her instincts as well as my own.” He’s talking about Ginger Creepy Guy. What have they found—or not found—on him? “Okay. I’ll be in the office tomorrow. Have the projections on the Burma project ready for me then.” What’s going on in Burma? Christian ends the call and looks up at me. “Hey. How long have you been standing there?” Hmm…
“Long enough to know that you were on the phone with security and wondering what’s going on in Burma that requires their projections,” I say, folding my arms and leaning against the door frame. “Is everything okay?”
“Well, you are partially correct.” He spins his chair around to face me. “I was on the phone with two people—Welch and Ros. Welch isn’t finding anything tangible on Millfeld and that doesn’t make me happy. When it comes to my instincts about someone, where there’s no smoke, there’s backdraft. I don’t want this shit blowing up in our faces when it’s too late for us to realize something was going on.”
“So there’s nothing suspicious on him at all?” I ask. Christian shakes his head.
“All of his references check out. He’s been doing this kind of work for the last several years. He graduated high school in Tacoma and did a couple of years at community college. For all intent and purposes, he’s harmless.” Christian shrugs. I shake my head.
“Maybe that’s all it is, Christian,” I walk into the study and hoist myself up on his desk, crossing my legs. “I call him ‘Ginger Creepy Guy.’ Maybe he’s just creepy,” I say with an uncertain shrug. Christian shakes his head this time.
“It could be my killer instinct when it comes to you,” he says with a little mirth, “but I just want to be certain that this guy doesn’t pose any kind of threat. He’s working for my family after all.” He rises out of his chair and stands in front of me. “You look absolutely edible sitting on my desk in this dress,” he says while stroking my shoulders and my arms. I smile at him.
“Mmm, well, that grumble in your stomach is because we have both been working a little too long. It’s nearly 7:30 and we need sustenance, Mr. Grey.” He checks his watch.
“Hmm, so it is. Well, let’s go and get that meal, shall we?” He kisses me chastely on the lips before lifting me off of the desk and placing my feet on the floor. Taking my hand, he leads me out of his office to the kitchen in search of dinner.
Mandy and I meet up for dinner the next evening to bang out the major details for the wedding. I tell her what my dad has told me about his wishes and, ironically, both of them seem to feel the same way—they only want the other to be happy. Mandy has absolutely no problem with Budweiser and Motown as long as she can get a mix of pop, rock, and R&B from the last 15 years. This is going to be one eclectic reception!
Dad didn’t care one way or the other about the decorations, but Mandy is a Christmas soul. She didn’t want the place exploding with Santa hats and elf shoes, but she was very open to the whole “Silver Bells” concept. Our biggest problem was that every time we looked at décor ideas or talked to a planner or decorator for suggestions over the proceeding days, everybody wanted to stick huge bare branches in the décor! Up the aisle, near the makeshift altar, as centerpieces… no matter how we protested, they all declared that it is not a winter wedding without the branches. Granted, we know that bare trees are indicative of winter, but read my lips… WE DON’T WANT THE DAMN TREES!
We had to have everyone that we spoke to sign an NDA before we would even consider speaking to them. We settled on one decorator that assured us that she could do the job only to have said decorator, once again, try to shove trees down Mandy’s throat! I look over at Mandy who is repeatedly trying to tell this woman that trees are not on her agenda. Daisy Decorator over here can’t hear her! We are at the 11th hour now, with only a couple of weeks left before the wedding. We have been to several boutiques to try to find Mandy a party/wedding dress with no luck. By now, Mandy is starting to get very discouraged and stressed out and I have had enough!
Snotty little boutique owners who are telling us that it is impossible to get her a dress…
Snobby decorators who insist that we have to have trees when we don’t want them…
Elitist bakeries who can’t seem to get the flavor of the cake right…
I have had enough!
Yes, I know that this is short notice, but I now realize that we are going about this all wrong. Mandy has started to tear up and I reach in my purse and hand her a tissue.
“Come on, we’re leaving,” I say in the middle of one of the disastrous consultations. I grab Mandy’s hand and proceed to stand.
“But wait!” Daisy Decorator protests. “We only want what’s going to look best for the young lady. If you would just trust me and defer to my expertise…”
“No! Stop right there,” I say, effectively silencing “Miss Daisy.” “This beautiful young woman…” I begin, gesturing towards Mandy, “is about to get married. We only have a couple of weeks to make this happen, and yes, we want it to be as perfect as it can be on such short notice. Since we don’t have a lot of time, we are trying to get as close as possible to her vision. For that reason, you can imagine that she’s a little stressed. I may have failed to mention that this woman is about to become my stepmother, and she’s currently carrying my little brother or sister. Having said that, I’m sure that you can understand why I don’t want her stressed!” I bark and growl the last few words, causing Daisy to sink in her chair a bit.
“Please take note that I will not allow you to stress her out or try to shove something down her throat or force an idea upon her that she doesn’t want! I certainly will not allow you to bring her to tears as the only tears that I expect for her to be crying between now and her wedding day are happy tears! So allow me to make myself clear. She is going to tell you what she wants. You are going to tell her if you can do it. If you have any problem with that or you cannot fulfill her requests, we will leave and I’m sure that we will find someone somewhere who can do what we need and if not, we’ll do it ourselves! Is there anything unclear about what I just said?” I stand protectively in front of a still-seated Mandy whose tears have stopped flowing. My hands are on my hips and I am waiting for Daisy Decorator to answer my question.
“No ma’am,” she says softly, duly chastised. “You were perfectly clear. I’m sure that we can accommodate Ms. Herring’s wishes.” I hear Mandy breathe a huge sigh of relief behind me.
“I’m very glad to hear that,” I say, taking my seat again. I squeeze Mandy’s hand and look at her questioning. She smiles and nods, mouthing a “thank you” at me. I return her smile and turn back to “Miss Daisy” daring her to cross my soon-to-be-stepmother one more time. Just like I thought, we got the perfect decorations for the wedding/party.
With one crisis averted, I can now concentrate on the next crisis that requires my attention… confronting Carly Madison-Perry.
I think Thursday came much too soon for Mr. Christian Grey. Five days before Christmas and he is sulking around like the Grinch. He has seen Dr. Baker once already this week and has informed me that he will be seeing her again today. I almost canceled my trip, but I knew that it would be counterproductive on so many levels if I did.
“I’ll call you the moment that we land, okay?” I say, trying to placate him before I get out of the SUV.
“Okay,” he says, never looking up at my eyes, but studying my hands intensely as he gently strokes my fingers.
“Will you be okay?” I ask him. This is the first time that I’ve gone over state lines without him since we’ve been together. He’s gone without me, but never the other way around.
“I’ll be fine,” he says, still never making eye-contact with me. “You had better leave, or I won’t be able to let you go.” He kisses my hand gently several times. I open the door because I know that’s the best he can do right now. I slowly slide my hand from his.
“As soon as I land,” I say again. He nods.
“Be careful. I love you,” he says softly.
“I love you, too, Christian.” I close the door, a bit crestfallen because he didn’t kiss me and wouldn’t look at me. I turn and walk towards the jet. “Let’s get this shit over and done!” I snap at no one in particular.
As promised, I call Christian the moment that I land. He sounds more in control as we speak on the phone. I assume it’s because he’s at GEH—and he shows no signs of weakness at GEH. A black Cadillac Escalade with tinted windows is waiting for us when we arrive. During the two-hour drive to our destination, I finalize the menu with the caterer for Dad and Mandy’s wedding and approve the flowers and the cake. I send an email to Mandy that the dress she wanted is waiting for her final fitting at Kiko House of Couture. Kiko could make her something very dramatic, but Mandy chose simple and flowy…and easy to dance in. She could have bought a dress off the rack, but she wanted something special just for her. I so understand that.
We don’t have time for a bridal shower for Mandy since things are happening so quickly, but I can’t forget that I am not only Mandy’s planner/helper, but also Maxine’s maid of honor. I’m reviewing the designs for the invitations to Maxie’s bridal shower when Chuck tells me that we are approaching El Nido. I quickly review the designs on my iPad then forward it to Maxine for approval. She returned the mark-up for the wedding invitations, but that will have to wait.
Christian was right. I had no idea what I was walking into… or riding into. El Nido is not a city. It’s more like this little patch of land stuck in the middle of Merced County. It reminds me of the Island of Misfit Toys. The whole town is a little over three square miles, and there couldn’t be more than 200 or 300 people living there… and I thought Anguilla was small! It has a volunteer fire department and an elementary school but no high school. Was that a general store I just saw!? What is this, Little House On the Prairie!?
“Are you sure we’re in the right place?” I ask Chuck.
“Yes, we are, Ana. This is El Nido,” he responds. At first, we were passing beautiful green fields and sparsely placed houses with nice lawns sitting on huge plots of land.
Then I blinked.
Now the fields look barren, dusty, or dead with a house every now and again, not so well manicured. My ultimate shock came when the Escalade took a turn off of the main street into a mobile home park.
“Oh, you have got to be kidding me!” I say aloud. Chuck shakes his head. “You knew this all along, didn’t you?” I ask and he nods.
“I very rarely go into a situation without advance notice of what I’m walking into,” Chuck informs me.
“Well, why didn’t someone tell me?” I squeal. He looks at me in the rearview mirror.
“I thought you knew!” he states, more than a bit surprised. The area is clean, neat, and quiet. The Escalade stops in front of a dilapidated-looking mobile home. Most of the homes in the park range from “decently kept” to “pretty run down.” This was one of the pretty run down ones. Chuck puts the vehicle in “park” and he and Ben get out. Ben opens the door and I exit the car. Chuck stands next to me while I examine my surroundings. A few people have quietly come out onto their stoops or into their yards, no doubt to see who is visiting in the big, black truck. I point to the house, questioning and Chuck nods.
“No wonder Christian is shitting bricks,” I say to myself. I look over at Chuck. “Are you coming with me?”
“Mr. Grey told me not to let you out of my sight,” he confesses. I nod.
“I wouldn’t have it any other way.” I straighten my jacket and walk up to the stairs. This is one of the few mobile homes that has a porch.
“Let me, Ana,” Chuck says, and I step behind him. He hides me with ease as he knocks on the door and awaits a response. A few seconds later, the door creaks open.
“Yes?” That’s her voice. It hasn’t changed at all. Notwithstanding the fact that I heard it just a couple of weeks ago on that damn video, I never would have forgotten it from hearing on that fateful day over 11 years ago. Hatred and ire boil up in my system the moment the sound tortures my ears and I pull strength from the animosity I feel towards this human being… if you can call her that.
“Carly Madison-Perry?” Chuck asks.
“Yes. Who wants to know?” she replies. Chuck steps away and I come face-to-face with the cruel bitch that tortured me and turned my life upside down.
“Hello, Carly,” I greet her, my voice arctic cold. She examines me for several seconds before realization dawns.
“Anastasia Steele,” she responds, her voice laced with uncertainty, disbelief, and more than a little ire. “What brings you to these parts?”
“Oh, I’m sure you know,” I say. “I just wanted to see how the years have been treating you.” I conspicuously look around at the house and neighborhood. “How has life been treating you?” Not to be daunted, Carly folds her arms and leans against the frame of her door.
“Oh, don’t worry about me,” she says with a smirk. “I do well enough.” Either she’s delusional or clearly resigned to her fate. No husband, two kids, and living in a trailer park in a town that’s not large enough for a high school… talk about just deserts.
“So I see,” I say sarcastically, looking over the house again. “My, how the mighty have fallen,” I say under my breath but loud enough for her to hear.
“What do you want?” she spits. I have to admire the fact that she won’t take down, but that’s about to end. No use beating around the bush, right?
“What do you hear from your cousin these days? You know… Melanie?” I ask her. Her expression falls.
“What do you know about my cousin?” she asks me.
“Quite a bit,” I respond impassively. “I know that she lives in Seattle now and that she’s dying of cancer. I know that she went to a young psychologist for help in letting go of her demons so that she could die in peace. I know that she had a lot to confess to clear her heart, mind, and soul of her past demons. Is any of this ringing any bells with you, Madison?” She straightens her back and glares at me.
“What are you getting at, Homely?” She spit the nickname as if it was supposed to reduce me to the same squirming little girl that I was in high school.
“Oh my God, seriously?” I say, breaking out in uncontrollable laughter at her audacity right now. Her face falls almost immediately. I’ve heard of delusional but this is ridiculous. “Let’s review, shall we?” I’m never one to flaunt what I have, but this time, I’m flaunting! “I am standing here on your trailer park porch wearing an Alexander McQueen career suit, Christian Louboutin silk shoes, and Cartier jewelry. My haircut probably cost more than you make in a week. Right now, you couldn’t even afford my moisturizer. Despite what you did to me, I’m a natural beauty and I know it, and you have the nerve to call me ‘homely?'” Again, silence. “I wake up every day with a beautiful penthouse view of Puget Sound and Elliot Bay. You wake up every morning with a beautiful view of…” I look around at our surroundings, “…the trailer across the street. Be careful, Carly, because I’m not the same girl that you beat up in high school!”
“I don’t have to stand here and listen to this!” she spit trying to close the door.
“Oh, YES! You DO!” I yell before she can get the door closed. “You’re dying to know why I’m here, and you should be… dying, that is, but at the very least, dying to know.” That piqued her curiosity.
“What the fuck is this about? I don’t know what the fuck you want. My dad is dead and I can’t give you any money, so what the hell do you want from me?” I want blood, Bitch. I want to see you beg and plead and squirm just like I did, but in the absence of that, I’ll take what’s left of your miserable existence.
“Oh, so that’s the story that you’re going with these days? Daddy’s dead? Nice try, Princess.” My voice is dripping with cynicism and sarcasm.
“So now you’re going to disparage my father’s memory?” she says, horrified. Boy, she is playing this role to the fullest… or is this her way of coping with her exile? Has she really convinced herself that her father is dead so that she doesn’t have to face the fact that he’s letting her rot in her own vomit? Oh, this is even better than I thought.
“Daddy was really pleased with your actions that night, wasn’t he, Carly?” I ask impassively. “Police and the crime lab crawling all over his property trying to find out why this young girl was brutalized so badly on his ranch. You thought I would go away, didn’t you? For over 10 years, I did, but guess what? Now, I’m back, and I’m about to be your worse nightmare… a woman with money, resources, and a bone to pick with you!” She is trying not to show her fear, but I’ve got her on the ropes now.
“While you’re sitting on your low-horse, let me tell you what I know. I know that Daddy didn’t die—he cut you off. Once he put together what happened on his ranch and that you were the ringleader, he sent your ass off to school and then to college. Instead of taking that opportunity to do something with yourself, you partied away Daddy’s allowance and flunked out of college. So Daddy cut you off. That’s when you sent word back to your low-down, dirty, rapist boyfriend that you wanted to get married.” Her eyes narrow at my description of Cody, but I just keep going. I’m on a roll now. “Your problem was that his rich, entitled ass didn’t want to marry you, so you came up with a plan that you thought would ensure that he would… something about a little video that no one knew was floating around?”
Now, Carly has turned completely white—whiter than any white that I have ever seen before in my life. Yeah, Bitch, I know about the video. I’ve got the video.
“So, you decide to use your little bargaining chip and blackmail young Mr. Whitmore into marrying you. What you didn’t expect was for him to have some balls and call you on your shit. He pushed your hand in the worst way by running off right before your wedding and leaving you standing at the altar in what was supposed to be one of the most famous social events of the Valley… and it was, because everybody in the Valley got to see you get jilted.
“After that display of humiliation, the rapist contacted you and challenged you to go public with your information. Not only would it make you look like the ultimate woman scorned, but in addition, you were so busy trying to blackmail Whitshit that you completely forgot that you were in the video, too! And you were doing more than he was, and you would more easily be convicted for what you did to me than he would. He hit me, but you burned me. After I lay there unconscious, nearly dead, my baby dead, you kept going. You were the fucking ringleader and as much as you used that video to protect your ass, you knew that it could bury you just as well.”
She truly looks like she’s going to be sick. Yes, I survived—a living, breathing reminder of what you did that night. Looking in her eyes, I got my answer to one crucial question. Just like me, she lived that night over and over again, only she was constantly looking over her shoulder and waiting for someone to come and get her and make her pay for her crimes. Well, Mrs. Madison-Perry, that day has arrived.
“By now you realize I have the video,” I say, coolly, “and I just wanted you to know that I’m about to turn it over to the Nevada Attorney General. In case you haven’t already been informed, George Sullivan has been arrested for not performing the investigation properly and hiding evidence—which now, it’s only too clear to me why he did it, since his little brother Vincent is the kid wielding the first two branding irons.” The more points I bring to her attention, the more fear I see creeping up on her face. “I’m going to go to Nevada and identify every person on that video, so that if there is anything that can be done to you worthless sacks of shit—you inhuman balls of flesh—for what you did to me, it can be done!”
For some reason, that statement brought the color back to her face.
“So what do you think they’re going to do about it? It’s too late to do anything. The statute on beating your ass has surely run out,” she says in a cocky, self-assured manner.
“That’s where you’re wrong. You murdered my baby… Cody’s baby. There is no statute of limitations on murder!” I spit… and the color in her face is gone again.
“My father won’t let you do this to me. He’s a very powerful man in the Valley,” she says, still grasping at straws.
“Well, there’s two problems with that,” I say. “First, Daddums cut you off. I’m only too sure that he’s willing to let you take this fall on your own. Second, did I tell you that they are investigating Whitshit Sr.? Yeah, he’s had several shading dealings in his career, one of which involved bribing my parents into not investigating your little bonfire party that night. As a result, the AG is investigating the sources of many of the fortunes of Green Valley’s elite. Ten will get you 20 that when they are done turning over those rocks, they’ll find your Daddy!” She knows that I’m right, and since she has no other straws to grasp, she throws a personal shot.
“You always wanted to be me,” she seethes. “You couldn’t stand that I was popular and beautiful. Everybody loved me and they despised you. They were only too anxious and jumped at the chance to teach your poor, poser ass a lesson! You couldn’t be me, you couldn’t have what I had, so you seduced my boyfriend then tried to blackmail his family. When that didn’t work, you found out that you were pregnant with his baby and you were going to use that, but we beat you to the punch… literally,” she says with a devilish grin. Is she serious? Is she still acting like she has the upper hand in this situation? This has to be a joke!
“How foolish can you be?” I ask her incredulously. “What’s left of your very life is falling apart in your face and you want to take shots at me? Let me make something very clear—I never wanted to be you! You are wicked and nasty and evil and mean! You are dirty and rotten to your ever-hating core! Why would I ever want to be that person? I grew up, left that cesspool that you call ‘home,’ went back to my real home and became a doctor. I made wonderful friends and my own money and now, a billionaire is in love with me! I never needed to be you. I fantastically leaped over every accomplishment you could have ever hoped to achieve… and my best years are still ahead of me. Can you say the same? Where in your small little brain could you have possibly come to the conclusion that I wanted to be you? I never wanted to be you! I never needed to be you… but I bet right now, you want to be me!” Her stunned silence was answer enough, but there was one more blow that I had to deliver.
“You truly never believed Cody raped me,” I begin, my voice controlled. “He really had you believing that the hot poor girl seduced him, and honestly, right now, if I were you, I would take great joy in telling you that I seduced your boyfriend and as a result, I’m about to take the whole town down—but I’m not going to do that, because that’s not the truth. Right now, when I could tell you any story that I wanted and not give a fuck about how you felt about it, I’m going to tell you the truth. Cody. Raped. Me. He said he was going to give me a ride home, and when I got into his jeep, he took me to the desert and he raped me. I was a virgin, and I begged and screamed for him to stop, but he didn’t. He ripped my virginity from me, a gift that should have gone to someone that I loved. He stole it from me and then he lied to save his own ass. Nobody believed me, not even my own stepfather. On top of all of that, you reaped revenge on me because your boyfriend was a fucking rapist!” My eyes narrow as I tell the story and I can see that she is finally accepting it as truth.
“Did beating me up – an innocent victim in all of this – help you convince yourself that your perfect little world wasn’t falling apart? That your sick boyfriend wasn’t a fucking rapist victimizing a girl who wouldn’t readily fuck his arrogant, cocky ass?” Her mouth is moving but nothing is coming out.
“I would have gladly walked away from Green Valley,” I continue, “Turned my back on all of you self-absorbed fuckers and never looked back, but you assured that would not happen. That day when you left me with a permanent reminder that I lived among a bunch of cruel and heartless brats, you sealed your fate and that of everyone there that night. So you believe whatever the fuck you want to believe from this point forward, but rest comfortably in the knowledge that you almost killed me and did kill a helpless child to protect the lies of a rapist. While you’re at it, think about how many other girls that he’s done this to—that said that he forced sex on them and no one believed them, or maybe they were paid off like my parents were—because I know that I wasn’t the first and I most likely wasn’t the last.”
A look of realization comes over her face and I immediately know that I’m right about that statement. Not only am I right, but she personally knows of some others.
“Yeah, think about that. You sacrificed yourself, your life, and very soon your freedom for a rapist motherfucker that eventually let you rot in a trailer park in rural California. Let that settle in for a while.”
There’s nothing left here for me. I’ve done what I came to do. I roll my eyes at her, turn around and walk back to the car with Chuck right behind me. Ben ceremoniously opens the back door of the black Escalade that we rented for our one-day trip to El Nido, California. I step inside like the First Lady of the United States and let Ben close the door behind me. They walk to either side of the SUV in pure CIA fashion and get inside. I watch through the tinted windows as Carly and several of her neighbors observe the ceremony of the whole situation as I and my bodyguards leave the trailer park.
“How quickly can the jet be ready? I need to get the hell out of here right now!” I declare.
“The jet has been on standby the entire time. I will let them know that we will be ready the moment we arrive back at SJC,” Chuck assures me.
“Good.” I sink back comfortably in the leather seats and text Christian:
**It’s over. I’m on my way home, Baby. **
His response is almost immediate.
**Good. I can’t wait for you to be in my arms. I’ll see you when you get here. **
It’s nearly 6pm when I get back to Escala and I am so glad to be home. I napped and ate on the jet on the way, but there is nothing like being back here in the apartment. Confronting Carly took more out of me than I thought. I was very happy to look her in her eye and show her how we had so drastically switched social standings—although I don’t think I have ever been in the station in which she now finds herself. What was more satisfying—and draining—was confronting her about what she did to me; letting her know that her just rewards were right around the corner; and showing her that after all was said and done, she didn’t break me. I can put that chapter to rest for now and I will ask Christian to make arrangements for us to go to Nevada after the holidays to turn over the video and put this thing to rest.
I peel off my clothes and shoes and sink happily into a citrus-lemongrass bubble bath. I needed “old faithful” after the day I’ve had. I still can’t believe that Carly tried to one-up me after everything that has happened. She reminds me of the picture of the frog choking the stork as he is being swallowed. What they fail to tell you about this picture is that as admirable as the message may be—”don’t ever give up”—the frog’s face is buried in the back of the stork’s throat. So even though the stork can’t swallow the frog—yet—neither of them can breathe. I’m not too sure who would survive the longest without air, but one good “chomp” of that stork’s beak and that frog is history! This is one “stork” who can chew while I’m holding my breath.
Several minutes later, I step out of the bath and wrap a towel around my body. I walk into the bedroom to pick up my clothes, only they’re not there anymore. Hmm… did I put them away? Gail… it had to be Gail. I opt for a pair of yoga pants and one of Christian’s already-worn linen shirts. I need the comfort of my man and at nearly seven, he’s still not home. I walk into the kitchen to see what’s prepared and, upon finding nothing—and no Gail—I look for light food. I know that Christian will be home soon and I’m not really hungry, but he might be. I pull a salad out of the refrigerator and turn around only to almost drop the salad on the floor.
Christian is standing on the other side of the breakfast bar examining me. He has not said a word; he just stands there. His eyes are hooded and he looks almost menacing. What’s more disturbing is what he is wearing… a plain white T-shirt and his Playroom jeans.
Holy. Cow. Batman.
I blink and swallow hard. Where did he come from? Why is he standing there staring at me wearing his playroom jeans?
“Are you hungry?” he says, his voice a deep grumble that rocks my soul. If I was hungry, I’m not anymore.
“I… thought you might be.” I could barely get the words out of my mouth. He walks around the breakfast bar and takes the salad bowl from my hand.
“I’m famished,” he says, putting the salad bowl on the counter behind him, “but not for food.” I’m afraid…
“Are you… angry with me?” I can’t read his demeanor. I don’t know what I’m dealing with right now. He closes the space between us.
“Oh, no, Baby,” he says brushing his lips against mine. “Not at all, but I need you… and I want to play.” He kisses me gently. “Do you want to play?”
I am so nervous. I remember what he was like before I boarded the jet. I don’t know if his behavior was some sort of control mechanism or what, but I didn’t like it. Now, he’s creeping around the apartment and sneaking up on me without warning, wearing his playroom gear. No doubt, he’s the one who picked up my clothes from the bedroom floor. No, I don’t want to play. I’m afraid of who will be in the playroom with me.
“Christian…” I can hear the fear in my own voice. He puts his hand on my cheek and his forehead to mine, his other hand securing my hip.
“I won’t hurt you… or be cruel… I promise.” His Dom voice is there, but just above a whisper. This is my Dom… and my man. I have to trust him even though I am still afraid. I close my eyes and take the leap.
I take her hand and lead her up the stairs to the playroom. She gasps when she opens the door. There are candles on nearly every surface. She knows this is odd for the playroom, but tonight is very different. Yes, I must regain some of the control that I lost today when she went to El Nido without me, but we haven’t been in the playroom for months, and I don’t want this to be an experience where she won’t want to come in here again. I pull her inside the room and close the door behind her. I can feel her demeanor change, her breath quicken, and I’m not even touching her anymore.
“Take off your pants,” I command her. With her back to me, she pulls down her yoga pants and steps out of them.
“Turn around.” She turns to face me, her eyes to the ground. I step closer to her and begin to unbutton the linen shirt she has commandeered from my cleaning. When my task is complete, I brush the back of my fingers over the inside of her exposed breast. She gasps at my touch. Oh yes, Baby. This is going to be so much fun. I push the shirt off of her shoulder and it falls to the floor. She stands before me, naked and beautiful, and I can hardly contain myself—but I miss this. I miss the Dom and his submissive, and I need it tonight.
“Lie on the bed, face up.” She obediently walks over to the four poster bed. I have had it made with 1500 thread count Egyptian sheets—thick like canvas and smooth as satin. I hear Butterfly exhale at the feel of them. I want to try some things tonight, things that will cross her pleasure with her pain and require that she surrender herself to me and trust me completely. I need it. I tried to pretend that I didn’t, but I do. This will be an experiment for us both. I reach under the bed and pull out lengths of natural filament rope. It will chafe a bit, but I want to try it. Butterfly’s eyes widen when she sees it.
“I am your Dom,” I say to her frightened eyes. “Your pleasure and your pain belong to me. Do you trust me?” She takes a deep, calming breath and lets it out.
“Yes Sir,” she relents.
“Good.” With the first length of rope, I secure her right wrist to the frame of the bed, and then her left. She is laid out with her arms spread straight out in a “T.” I can tell that she is still afraid and she involuntarily whimpers a bit. I don’t like that she is afraid, but I am drunk with the fact that even in her fear she is choosing to trust me. I take a third length of rope and attach it to her knee. I pull her leg in almost a perfect L to her body and secure her right leg to the frame as well. I repeat the process with her left leg, but when I pull her legs almost to a split, she gasps in discomfort.
“Too far?” I ask softly. Tentatively, she nods. I adjust the rope and her position so that it is still firm but not painful, and she instantly relaxes. Next, I secure her ankles with the rope, effectively immobilizing her. I discreetly place a straight razor on the nightstand in case the need arises to quickly release her bonds. Then I step back and admire my handiwork.
She is bound to the bed, unable to move in any direction, her arms stretched out to either side of her and her legs spread wide, bearing that beautiful, wet flower to me. Her chest is rising and falling frantically as she tries to anticipate what I’m going to do to her. Oh yes, Baby. You will suffer exquisite limits tonight, and you will love it!
I walk to the top of the bed and splay her hair out over the sheets before plunging her into darkness with a blindfold. I lean down to her so that my breath is right in her ear.
“You will have a buffet of sensations tonight, Ms. Steele. I will push you to the limits of pleasure and take you over the edge many times. You only need one safeword…” She pauses for a moment. Her breathing heavy and erratic, but she knows the safeword that I am seeking.
“Ladybug,” she breathes just above a whisper. Good. She understands.
“Yes. Ladybug,” I whisper in her ear again before pulling the lobe into my mouth and biting gently. She gasps again.
“You may moan, Ms. Steele. You may make sounds, but you may not speak,” I warn. “Do you understand?”
“Yes Sir,” she says softly. I kiss her on her stomach and feel her body shiver.
“And… you may come.” Many times, I think to myself.
“Yes Sir,” she breathes.
A/N: A while back, I assumed that everyone knew what the pool game “Marco Polo” was and had one or two people come at me quite angrily because they didn’t know what it was. In light of that, here are some notes that I thought might have been obvious, but I won’t make that assumption again.
Ana and Christian reference walking into “Deliverance.” This is an old movie where city slickers go white water rafting in the back country and end up encountering some very dangerous and weird locals and have to run for their lives.
Ana references Christian looking like “The Grinch.” This is from a Dr. Seuss tale called “The Grinch Whole Stole Christmas.” You can Google it, but think Ebenezer Scrooge only green, hairy, grumpier, and hell bent on an entire town not being able to celebrate Christmas.
Ana also refers to El Nido reminding her of “The Island of Misfit Toys.” This is a part of the story “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.” When Rudolph is ridiculed about his nose and runs away from home, one of the places he visits is the Island of Misfit Toys. It’s just what it sounds like – the toys all have issues (i.e. a kite who is afraid of heights) so they all live on this island in exile, so to speak.
“Little House on the Prairie” was an American series about life in Walnut Grove for a family in the pioneering Midwest in the 19th century. Needless to say, there wasn’t a lot of land developed then so houses were acres if not miles apart and there was only one “general store” in town – Olsen’s Mercantile – thus Ana’s reference to the series while riding through El Nido.
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!