Mending Dr. Steele: Chapter 20—NOT A Victim of Circumstance… Anymore

PLEASE DO NOT USE THE DIRECTIONAL BUTTONS BELOW (PREVIOUS OR NEXT) TO GET TO PAST OR NEW CHAPTERS UNTIL YOU GET TO BOOK III. I WAS WRITING BOOK II ON THIS SITE WHILE SIMULTANEOUSLY EDITING BOOK I FROM FANFICTION. AS A RESULT, THE CHAPTERS WERE NOT UPLOADED IN ORDER UNTIL BOOK III.

If you are coming over from Fanfiction and have already read “Paging Dr. Steele,” please know that this version of the story has been updated and many events and names have been changed. You may want to start over from the beginning. 

A guest on the other site asked why I insist that people join my mailing list when you can just Google the story and find me. Guess what? You couldn’t do that before–my blog had no Google presence to make it to the search engines! Thanks to the traffic from–ehem–my MAILING LIST, now I have a Google presence, so as Christian Grey says, now you can Google me. I still want people to join my mailing list because I’m going to be sending stuff to people that may or may not make it to my blog, especially when I start publishing. So please, if you haven’t joined the list yet–you just Googled me to get here (yippee!) or was referred by a friend–please click on the link on the “Contact me” page to the left and get added.

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 20—NOT A Victim of Circumstance… Anymore

GREY

Jason is standing over Johnson and I make my way to the counter.

“Where is she?” I asks the waitress behind the counter.

“Where is who?” she asks, truly bemused.

“African American, curly hair…”

“Angie?”

“Bring me Angie.”

“Angie! Somebody out her to see you!” Angie comes timidly from the back.

“I ain’t got nothing to say to you, Mister.” She is quite frightened, as well she should be.

“You don’t have to say anything to me, but I hope you’re satisfied. You called that man because that boy was here. That man has a restraining order against him which he just broke because not only did he come within 500 feet of that young man, but he just injured him. The police are on their way and they will most likely want to know how he knew where to find that young man!” It’s a terrible bluff and scare tactic, but it appears to be working.

“You can’t prove that I called him,” she says, her voice shaking.

“I don’t have to prove it—you’re shaking like a leaf. I’ll let the police deal with you.” As I’m walking away, I hear someone ask, “You called him?” I have a feeling this is not the last that Angie is going to hear of this matter. I know that she hasn’t broken the law in any way by calling this bastard, but hopefully this incident will at least give her something to think about.

I sit at the table with Marlow who is sitting in front of a massive sandwich and not eating a bite. After what happened to him, I won’t press him to eat it. I wave at the first waitress I spoke to behind the counter.

“Can you please wrap this up so that we can take it with us?” I ask her.

“Sure thing.” She looks sympathetically at Marlow before taking his left over sandwich away to wrap it up. Marlow is rubbing his arm where his father squeezed it.

“We’ll get you some ibuprofen for the ache,” I say. He nods, looking at the table. “What are you thinking, Son?”

“I want to know why he hates me so much,” he says loud enough for his father to hear. “I don’t do drugs, I get good grades, I’m not a bad kid. I do everything that he tells me to do. Most of my friends don’t even know who their fathers are… and I’m jealous of them, because at least they’re not getting beat up all the time!” he barks, his eyes filled with tears. I look down at Johnson who only seems to have disdain in his eyes as he glares at Marlow.

“Some people are just broken, Son,” I say to Marlow but still looking at his father as the police arrive. “He needs help, and until he gets it, he’s going to always be as hateful as he is right now.” I turn back and look at Marlow. “Never let your guard down when it comes down to him… never.”

Yes, Sir!” Marlow hisses, still rubbing his sore arm. The police walk in and examine the man on the ground with the bloody nose and the bodyguard guard standing over him.

“He assaulted me!” is the first thing that came out of Johnson’s mouth.

“Is that true,” the first officer asked.

“Well, I don’t know. Angie, is that true?” I ask the loose-lipped waitress that alerted Johnson of Marlow’s whereabouts. She looks from me to police, and then her shoulders fall.

“No,” she says, her voice full of defeat, “he wasn’t assaulted. He grabbed the boy by the arm and that man hit him to get him to let go.” The officer frowned.

“Why am I having a hard time believing her?” the officer asked pointing at Angie.

“I would, too,” I say, and he turns his sour face at me. “She’s just deflated because she contacted this man and alerted him that this young man was here having lunch with me. I’m assuming that she was unaware that there is a standing protection order against him saying that he must stay 500 feet away from that young man.” The officer’s eyes rise.

“Were you aware of the protection order, Sir?” the second officer asks.

“No!” he lies. “No one told me anything about a protection order!”

“Oh?” I say to Johnson. “You mean when they released you from jail for breaking his mother’s eye socket, they didn’t tell you that there was a permanent protection order in place against you?” I ask, mocking surprise. The first officer just shakes his head.

“Stand up, please,” he says to Johnson, more as an order than a request. Johnson gets to his feet and is cuffed by the first officer. The second one comes over to me.

“Sir, until we can straighten this out, I’m going to have to restrain you as well.” I obediently stand and put my hands behind my back. Boy, Hammerstein would get a kick out of this!

“No!” Marlow is out of his seat now. “What he’s telling you is right! That’s my dad. He beat my mom and they put him in jail. We left and my mom got a protection order against him. Mr. Grey asked him three times to stop squeezing my arm and he wouldn’t stop.” Marlow is undoing his tie and unbuttoning the first two buttons of his dress shirt as he is saying this, then subsequently pulls it over his head. “Look!”

The once red bruise has started to turn a little purple. It looks really bad. “Anybody in here can tell you—anybody can! If Mr. Grey hadn’t stopped him, he would have dragged me out of here and God only knows what would have happened to me!” Marlow is nearly screaming now and I sincerely want him to calm down. “You can’t put Mr. Grey in cuffs for trying to protect me! You can’t do that!” The second officer looks at Marlow and then around the diner.

“Can anybody else vouch for this kid’s story?” A few people nodded though not all of the patrons of the establishment, but none of them know that I’ve already seen my saving grace.

“That can,” I say, gesturing to the eye in the sky. They both look up at the camera as does Johnson.

“Shit!” he says once he realizes that he has been caught on camera. The officers simultaneously turn to Johnson.

“Something you want to say?” The first officer asks. Johnson is sweating just a bit.

“I… I wasn’t trying to hurt him. I was only trying to talk to him!” he defends.

“You call this trying to talk!?” Marlow shrieks thrusting his arm out in front of him. “This is your idea of trying to talk!?” Marlow lunges at his father but Jason catches him around the waist just in time. “Why do you hate me so much? What have I ever done to you? I didn’t ask to be here! I didn’t ask for Mom’s eyes!” He’s struggling the entire time to get away, but Jason has a good hold on him as he continues shrieking at his father. “If you hated us so much, why didn’t you just leave? Why did you stick around? Why do you keep begging us to come back? You beat us until we leave and then you beg us to come back so you can beat us some more! What’s wrong with you? If you hate us so much, why don’t you just leave us alone?”

Angry tears are burning down Marlow’s cheeks as he struggles uselessly to free himself from Jason’s grasp. I think we’re all a little stunned by the scene that is unfolding before us. All of his repressed anger is coming out on his father at this moment in this public diner and no one is trying to stop him. My arms fall to my sides as I am shocked at the barrage of insults and accusations flying out of this young man’s mouth towards his father. He berates this man for—hell, I don’t know how long, until he is a useless mound hanging in Jason’s arms, exhausted and sobbing.

“Get him out of here. Take him to the car,” I instruct Jason who all but carries a sobbing Marlow out of the diner. I turn to the officers. “What do you need me to do?” I ask them. If they still want to cuff me after that display they’re insane, but hell, I can’t do anything about that.

“Sir, do you still maintain that this man assaulted you?” the first officer asks Johnson. He dropped his head halfway through Marlow’s tirade and hasn’t raised it since. He just silently shakes his head. I put my suit jacket back on and pull a business card from the card case in my inside pocket.

“That young man is Marlow Whitehead. This is Damon Johnson, his father. His mother is Marcia Whitehead and she has the PPO to keep him away from her and the kids. I only got parts of the story as Marlow was telling me when Mr. Johnson walked in.” I tell them.

“How do you know this family?” The second officer asks.

“My girlfriend is his therapist and I’m mentoring him. We were just sitting here eating when all of this happened. I work in the business world so I bought Marlow some clothes so that he can be presentable when he is at my office. His father is not pleased with that, though I don’t know how…” I have a sinking feeling in my stomach. “How did you know that I was buying things for Marlow? You’re not supposed to be near them.” He still doesn’t raise his head. Shit, is he stalking them? Does he already know where they are staying now? Where is Marlow’s mother? A million thoughts roll through my head and I was ready to beat this bastard until he gives me answers. I hand my business card to the officer. “Is there anything else that you need from me?” I ask.

The officer looks at my card then does a double take. “Christian Grey,” he says in disbelief. I nod. Johnson’s head flies up. “Christian Grey as in Grey Enterprises Christian Grey?” the officer repeats.

“Yes?” I say a little annoyed. How many “Christian Greys” are there in Seattle?

“Well, okay. We probably won’t need you unless Mr. Johnson protests the charges that will be filed against him, but we’ll be in touch if we do, Sir,” the officer says. “The fact that he violated a standing protection order is enough to take him in.”

“Can I leave now? I really want to get Marlow home to his mother,” I say.

“Yes, of course.” That’s my cue. I retrieve the wrapped sandwich for Marlow and leave the diner.

————————————————————————————————-

STEELE

I have managed to secure Club Cielo again for Maxie’s bridal shower. They were only too happy to appear in the social section of the newspaper as the club that hosted AnaChris and the private wedding of my father and Mandy, even though it was a relatively small column and it was after the fact. This time, I didn’t dare employ an outside decorator. Mia, Val, Gail, and I did the decorating ourselves, all in Maxie’s colors of baby blue and champagne.

The one thing that I discovered while we were trying to find our decorations is that a lot of people can’t seem to tell the difference between baby blue and Tiffany blue. Tiffany is a lot more turquoise that baby blue. However, items labeled “baby blue” still appeared Tiffany blue to me. Maxie still thought the colors were close enough—on some occasions—so we ended up with a baby blue, Tiffany blue, and champagne bridal shower.

Nonetheless, the decorations were still quite beautiful. Blue and champagne balloons float in various areas while streamers in the same color are tastefully draped from the ceiling over tables and the bar combined with blue round paper lanterns. Individually wrapped and labeled blue macaroons are placed at each setting to welcome each invited guest. We decorated half glasses with rounded bottoms with intense blue glitter, added a ribbon and a candle and voilà! You have a dainty little centerpiece.

The dessert table is insane—cake, candies, cookies, more macaroons, and cupcakes, cupcakes, cupcakes! The dinner menu was chosen by Maxie and consists of an avocado, papaya, and watercrest salad followed by chicken cordon bleu, herbed basmati rice, and crisp green beans. For the “libations” part of our soirée, we have opted for two modest Riesling wines—the locally grown Château Ste Michelle Eroica for dinner and Dr Heidemanns Bernkastel Auslese of German origin for dessert. We also have blue sparkling cider in champagne glasses for those who opt for something non-alcoholic as well as blue martinis for those who wish to have something a little stronger.

Christian is having the guys up to the penthouse for drinks. All of the pre-Christmas drama seems to have all but disappeared completely. We actually hosted our first F&L of 2013 this past weekend and it was fantastic. The Scooby Gang is back in full force… plus one! I couldn’t be happier.

Even Christian and Maxie’s relationship has weathered the proverbial storm and come out a bit stronger than before. That’s a huge surprise since I look at Maxie slightly differently these days. Christian is quite active in helping with the final planning and setup of the reception. Maxie and Phil have even made changes to long-standing plans at Christian’s suggestion. Christian and Elliot are even taking charge of Phil’s bachelor party. It’s like they are new best friends. I wouldn’t have thought he would have been interested in planning their nuptials, but he actually seems excited about the event.

The wedding in on February 16—two days after Valentine’s Day and 15 days away. The girls and I have just finished decorating the club when Christian and Elliot decide to make an appearance. Christian looks a little worn.

“Nice. Very nice,” he says, looking around the club. For some reason, I get the feeling that he’s teasing me. “Tiffany?”

“You tell me,” I say jabbing him in the ribs. “You practically stole my job planing the reception. You know what the colors are.”

“Yeah, but I was too late to get in the wedding, so now some loser will be escorting you out of the church and into the reception.” He pulls me roughly into his arms.

“Does it matter since it will be you who will be escorting me home?” I smile seductively.

“Not one little bit,” he says, leaning in and kissing me on my neck. “As long as he doesn’t try to put the moves on my girl.”

“It wouldn’t work anyway. I’m all yours, heart and soul, Mr. Grey.” His expression suddenly becomes serious.

“I’m going to hold you to that, Ms. Steele,” he says softly, and I see uncertainty in his eyes.

“Christian… what’s wrong?” He normally has his impassive face locked on and I have to guess what’s going on, but these past few weeks his emotions and thoughts are written all over his face—except in those rare moments when I see him running his business. Then, it’s poker face as usual.

“Nothing, Butterfly. Being around a jittery groom is just getting to me, that’s all. I never thought I would be glad to see someone else’s—anyone’s wedding day come.”

“Oh, come on, it can’t be that bad,” I say. He shakes his head.

“It’s a tad bit taxing—the planning, the anticipation, hoping everything goes smoothly…” I’m quite surprised.

“Christian, I never pegged you for the hopeless romantic. You surprise me more and more every day! However, you wouldn’t be having these concerns if you had allowed me to plan my friends’ reception as I had intended.” I flutter my eyelashes at him and kiss him on the cheek.

“I’m going to surprise you,” he says. “Everyone is going to have a fantastic time and it will be the talk of the town—’Maxie and Phil’s fabulous wedding reception, were you there? No? Then you missed the event of a lifetime!” He mimics gossiping girls—hand waves and all—eliciting a giggle from me.

“Bro, is there something you want to tell me?” Elliot asks, doing Christian’s little wave.

“No, you simple fuck,” Christian says, “and even if I were gay, I have still divided and conquered more pussy than you.” What the…?

“Okay! Okay! TMI!” I announce, waving my hands in the air and leaving the room. For fucks sake, Grey, what woman wants to hear that her boyfriend was once Seattle’s greatest pussy-parter? Geez! Way to make your girl feel shitty. I’m going to make him pay for that statement.

I’m walking to the other end of the club when Val runs face first into me. “Oh, good. I was just coming to get you. You need to come here and see this.” She pulls me over to the side of the bar area. What the hell is wrong now? We’ve got everything decorated the way that we wanted. What could possibly be the problem?

Gail is sitting on a bar stool drinking a soda and gazing at the television screen above the bar. There were installed for someone’s Super Bowl party this Sunday. Mia has disappeared and the three of us are staring at a commercial.

“You rushed me in here to see a computer-generated polar bear commercial?” I ask bemused.

“No. It’s coming up next. You better sit.” Val informs me. Oh shit, what’s about to happen? Another commercial plays about pizza in the office and I try not to get perturbed as a wait for whatever bomb is about to drop. Why doesn’t she just tell me? A few moments later, I realize why she didn’t.

KING5 has learned that Seattle billionaire Christian Grey has a link to a suicide in downtown Las Vegas on Christmas Day. Franklin Whitmore, a Nevada insurance executive, was found hanging in the Placid Motel last Christmas. Grey’s girlfriend, Anastasia Steele—one half of the now-trending “AnaChris”—was in Nevada last month attending her step-father’s funeral. Sources say that she paid a visit to the Nevada attorney general’s office in Las Vegas. The Nevada AG is currently investigating a brutal attack on Ms. Steele in 2001, in which Whitmore was implicated for possible witness tampering and obstruction among other charges.

Another turn of events in the case involves Henderson Detective George Sullivan. Sullivan is currently incarcerated and awaiting trial for obstruction and other charges related to the case. It appears that two videos concerning the night of the attack on Ms. Steele have surfaced that will prove to be quite damning to Sullivan’s defense.

This is a video of Melanie Coleman recorded last month in her Kent, WA home. In the video, Coleman confesses to filming the incident involving the torture and beating of Seattle psychologist Anastasia Steele which resulted in the death of her unborn child.

There’s no reason for me to lie about this or keep it a secret any longer. I am dying and I don’t have much time left. I was afraid for my life which is why I never came forth sooner. That’s no excuse, I know, but there is absolutely no reason to keep this a secret any more.”

Melanie’s voice is labored and her breathing sounds like she’s going to fall over and die any second. She submitted the video and a confession. This had to be recorded weeks—if not days—before she died.

Although Ms. Coleman submitted the original video of the incident which is now in analysis to verify its authenticity, Investigator Herbert Larson says that Ms. Steele has also submitted a copy of the video in question to the Nevada State Attorney General’s office, identifying all but two participants in the assault and murder. Due to its graphic nature, KING5 has chosen not to air the video.

We are taking this case very seriously. It is a tragedy and a huge blemish on the justice system when one of our own fails to uphold the law in any case, but especially in a case where one child was brutally assaulted and beaten and another unborn child was murdered. We are very close to establishing the validity of the first video. Once that is complete, this case is pretty open and shut and we will begin making arrests of the other perpetrators identified on the video.”

Coleman has since passed away from Stage IV Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, making her video a deathbed confession, which is taken very seriously by police. It is believed that people feel they are going to meet their Maker, so their confessions just before death are done to purge their souls of hidden secrets and sins before they go to the afterlife. Coupled with the video submitted by Ms. Steele, Ms. Coleman’s confession could very well be the nail in Sullivan’s proverbial coffin as well as many other people in the Henderson community.

The now Mr. Sullivan, who has been discharged from the Henderson Police Department, was previously a 17-year veteran on the force but has now forfeited his tenure and benefits in light of the charges against him. Mr. Sullivan remains in protective custody at the Clark County Jail for fear that his safety will definitely be in danger if he is intermingled with prison population.

Sullivan maintains that he performed his job duties to the best of his abilities. However, sources say that Sullivan had the motive for hiding the evidence as his little brother, Vincent Sullivan, appears to have been among the attackers that evening.

Well, I guess Val couldn’t very well deliver that message to me, now could she? I turn to walk away from the screen and, as always, bump into the wall of man that is Christian Grey. Of course he would be standing behind me during this announcement. He gently strokes my arms.

“Are you okay?” he asks. I shrug.

“Yeah. They’re not saying anything I didn’t already know, except that Melanie submitted the confession.”

“The only difference now is that it’s here. The story is in Seattle, and of course they always want to make it about me and not you. Either way, paps are going to be on alert again. They’re probably already outside, and we have a wedding shower happening here in about an hour.” Shit! I forgot about that.

“Have someone out there to guide guests to the garage. They can come in through the elevator. The garage is private property, so the paps can’t come in there.” I say. Christian nods and gets on the phone, most likely to Jason. I fold my arms and sigh. This is what I signed up for… let the mayhem begin.

“Are you sure you’re okay, Steele?” Val asks, putting her arm around me. I nod.

“Yes. I’m fine, really. I’m more concerned about the paparazzi blocking Maxine’s bridal shower than I am about that,” I say gesturing to the television. “I’m going upstairs to change. Who’s coming with me?”

“I am,” Mia appears, wiping her hands on her clothes.

“Me, too,” Val says. “I just need to freshen up a bit.”

“Gail?” I ask.

“I’ll stay here in case any guests show up early,” she says. “Maxine will be coming to the penthouse, right?”

“Yep,” I say, heading for the door. “We’ll be right back…”

Every time I hear something or see something or do something involving Green Valley, I feel the need to wash… profusely! After a nice, hot shower, and shaving all of my necessary parts, I go to the closet to find something to wear. I should have done this sooner. Now I have to think fast. I choose my Paper Dolls mirrored lace cream and black dress with a plain pair of black Louboutin peeptoe stilettos. I style my hair in a simple Eva Longoria French roll and decide on a plain pair of diamond studs. Christian comes into the bedroom and nearly falls onto the bed, releasing a heavy sigh just as I am applying my lip gloss.

“Christian, what happened today?” I say turning around to face him. He raises his head and frowns.

“You know me a bit too well, Ms. Steele,” he grumbles.

“Yes, I do. Besides the fact that you are not being very subtle, I’ve known that something was wrong from the moment you walked into the club. Now, what is it—something with Grey House?” He shakes his head, looking down again.

“I wanted to wait until after the shower to tell you. I didn’t want to ruin your night.” Okay, now I’m scared.

“It has to do with me?” I ask, my voice squeaking on the last word. Shit, I don’t need any more bad news.

“Well, not directly, but yes. Marlow and I were having a late lunch at a diner and we had a major run-in with a guy named Johnson,” he says. Johnson. That’s a common name. What does that have to do with me? He looks at me waiting for me to connect the dots. In a quick mental review, I go over the facts. He and Marlow were having lunch. Some guy named Johnson shows up. I still don’t see—oh, fuck! Marlow! Johnson!

Damon Johnson!?” I nearly scream. Christian nods. “Fuck! Fuck! Where’s Marlow?” Now I am screaming. Christian jumps up and grabs my arms.

“Calm down, Baby. That’s why I didn’t want to tell you. Marlow is fine. His arm may be bruised a bit the next time you see him but he’s fine,” Christian tries to assure me.

“Bruised? Why? What did that asshole do to him?” I want to find this fucker and rip him limb from limb! I am so damn angry that I’m shaking!

“Tiger, settle down!” Christian says firmly. “If you don’t, I’m never going to be able to be truthful with you again because I’ll be afraid that you’ll react like this.” I take a few deep breaths and glare at him.

“What. Happened?” I say through clenched teeth. He takes a deep breath and lets it out.

“He came into the diner where we were having lunch. Apparently, he has hotlines all over the city. Whenever one of his PPO’s run out, he comes looking for his family. One of his hotlines tipped him off that we were at the diner and he came in trying to take Marlow with him. I subdued him and Jason kept him… safe… until the police got there,” he says. I feel my body relax a bit.

“So he’s back in police custody then,” I ask, but it’s more of a statement than a question.

“For now, yes, although I don’t know for how long. I did let him know that I would kill him if he came near Marlow and his family again without getting some help and that they will have covert surveillance with instructions to take his ass down on sight.”

“You’re actually putting surveillance on them, Christian? All of them?” I ask and he nods.

“I want to try to get Marlow into one of the college prep schools—maybe SeaPrep or Clearwater. He wants to go to college and he’s really smart. I think he would have an excellent chance of getting into a good college, but he has to go to a better high school.” Oh no, you’re not getting off that easily.

“Don’t change the subject, Grey!” I say. “I want to know if you are serious about surveillance for Marlow’s family. That guy is volatile, unpredictable, and unstable. I don’t know what would have happened to Marlow if you hadn’t been there.” I shudder at the thought.

“Well, I’ll see if I can find out how long he’ll be locked up and yes, I do plan on having surveillance for the whole family. They won’t know it, except for Marlow, I think. He’s being seen a lot with me and I think he may need close personal protection anyway. I’ll have to talk to Jason about it and see what he says about how we should handle it. How do you think Marcia will feel about all of this?” he asks.

“About the surveillance?”I ask, sitting on the bed next to him.

“Yes, and the schooling… I’m accustomed to telling people ‘do this’ and they do it or ‘take that’ and they take it. I’m not sure how I would feel if someone wanted to mentor my son and give him all of the things that I can’t.”

“Well, you have to remember that you and Marcia are two different people,” I tell him. “Marcia has spent many years in a violent relationship with an oppressive man who often took his frustrations with his shortcomings as a husband and father out on her and Marlow. No doubt, it feels great to step out on her own and finally be away from him, but she is having a hard time of it. I would say that she wouldn’t have a problem with you affording Marlow every opportunity to grow, except for the fact that Maggie may be overlooked in this process.”

“Yes, I had considered that. I’m not really sure what to do about that. Maggie is much younger and would certainly benefit from attending a private school early on, but I’m not trying to traumatize her. I know that she is most likely aware of what is going on with her family, but maybe not so exposed as Marlow. Ignorance may be bliss when it comes to Maggie. If we make her change schools, her bliss may be broken.” He falls back on the bed. “Shit, this is fucked up.” I lie next to him and run my hands through his hair.

“You are a wonderful man, Christian Grey. I am certain that you will find a way to work this all out. Would you like for me to talk to Marcia and see how she feels about all of this?” He raises his head.

“Would you mind? I know that you have a better rapport with her, so she certainly might take this better coming from you.” I nod.

“I’ll talk to her next week. I’m most likely going to be tired after this shower. I’ve got a lot planned and I want everyone to have fun.” He pulls me into his lap.

“I’m proud of you, Butterfly. A lesser woman would have just let this whole thing go after Maxie quit on you, but you stuck with it making sure that she got everything that she wanted. I know that your sessions with Dr. Avery are a little rough. Is that getting any easier?”

Well, first, Maxie is my friend and I love her very much. I hate what she did and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to confide in her that way again, but I still love her—that hasn’t changed and I don’t think it ever will. Second, the session are going… better. We’re addressing some of my deep-seated issues and he’s helping me explore more conducive ways to respond to stress and fear. It’s a slow process, but I really think he’s going to help me.” Christian grunts. “What is it, Christian?”

“He’s a good-looking guy,” Christian says.

“Yes… and he’s married and I’m taken,” I state. He looks up at me with searching gray eyes.

“I’m trying to deal with my jealousy, but it’s hard,” he says, sitting up. “It was a big thing for me to step back and not have a conniption while you spilled your intimate secrets to a handsome, distinguished, older man.” I sit in his lap and kiss his cheek.

“You’re the only handsome, distinguished, older man that I want. You’re the only one for me, Christian. Don’t let anyone make you think differently.”

“Promise?” he asks, he eyes clearly longing. I kiss my promise ring, then his key, and then his lips.

“Always. Only you, Christian, only you.” He slides his arms around me and holds me close to him, burying his face in my neck.

“You mean so much to me,” he breathes, and I feel uncertainty coming from him. I thrust my hands in his hair.

“I love you with everything, Christian. If I ever gave you reason to doubt that, please forgive me. I am yours only and always,” I beseech him. I don’t know why he feels like I would go anywhere else, want anyone else, but whatever the reason the only thing important to me right now is making sure that this man knows that he is my life and my love. He’s holding me so close and so tight that I am sure I will have his handprints in my skin.

“I want to make love to you so badly right now,” he whispers.

“Not now, my love, but later. There are people waiting for us, okay?” I say softly, brushing my lips against his.

“I’m going to hold you to that,” he says, his voice oozing promise and seduction.

“I certainly hope so,” I breathe.

*-*

The paparazzi never cease to amaze me. The story is now all over Seattle—Washington, maybe—about how I was beaten as a child and lost my baby, and these bastards are huddled outside of Escala trying to get a comment. Notwithstanding the fact that I can’t talk about it because it is now an open case all back over again, but why would I want to say anything about it on the air on the sidewalk in front of Escala? What is wrong with these fucking people?

Sure enough, we had to escort the guests into the garage and then have them escorted to the club to avoid being mobbed by the paps. I was utterly humiliated, but Maxie seemed to take it all in stride. Sometimes, I don’t mind the publicity. Other times, I hate it. However, today is about Maxie.

I have taken time to catch up with so many people from CCFW, including the bitch from adolescent care who never liked me and always thought that she could snatch Phil away from Maxie if given the chance. I so didn’t understand why Maxie invited her to any of the festivities, but I discovered that it had something to do with wanting her to be front and center and seeing that Phil is taken, once and for all. I miss working for CCFW. I’ve helped a lot of people in my own practice, but I still don’t feel like I’ve helped as many people as I helped at CCFW. I truly miss that lot, and I was very happy to catch up with them at Maxie’s shower.

After about 40 minutes of mingling and catching up over drinks and hors d’oeuvres, we sit down and start the shower games. We played a game called “toilet paper bride” where three teams got to dress Maxie up as a bride using toilet paper while she was blindfolded. We took pictures and she chose the winner from the pictures. The winning team received gift certificates to Miana’s for a spa day. It was really fun to see how creative these ladies could get with toilet paper. Not surprisingly, Adolescent Care Bitch sat this one out.

We play “quick-fire questions” where the guests fired questioned at Maxie and she had to answer them in five seconds or less. That became lots of fun when the questions got naughty. We discovered that Maxie has a birthmark of some kind of bird on her ass. She and Phil once spent five days fucking and sleeping and had it not been for the ice-cream in the freezer, they would have starved. They actually have a safeword for sex. I almost choked on that one. It doesn’t have the exact same meaning, but when one of them is definitely not in the mood for sex, they use the safeword. She didn’t tell us what it was, but the fact that they have one blows my mind.

Maxie starts to open her gifts as we play the “timer” game. This is one of the prize games where we set a timer and the person whose gift she is opening when the buzzer goes off gets a prize. Maxie got everything from wine to bath baskets to fun journals, sex journals, lingerie, a stamp with her married name on it, kitchenware, his-and-her robes, personalized items of all shapes and sizes, and gifts certificates to various stores. I thought that the blue sheer panties that say “The Mrs” were quite funny. The timer went off when she was opening Mia’s gift of luxury champagne flutes for the wedding night. However, Mia politely declined the gift because she felt she should be disqualified since she helped to plan the shower and passed it to the person whose gift was opened before her. It was a ladies charm bracelet with a bell on it as the first charm.

We had a wonderful time during dinner. We had eaten so many desserts and hors d’oeuvres that I am completely surprised that we had any room for dinner. The drinks were flowing, the food was outstanding, and the company was fantastic. Little did I know, it would get to be more fantastic before the evening was over.

“So, Ana, when will we be hearing wedding bells for you?” Sylvia asks. She’s one of the doctors from CCFW. I try not to appear uncomfortable when she asks the question, but to be honest, I’d like to know that, too.

“In due time, Sylvia, in due time. I’ve only just completed my dad’s wedding and now Maxie’s. My plate is a bit too full at the moment to be thinking of my own trek down the aisle,” I lie. The truth is that I think about it almost every day. Mrs. Anastasia Grey. I adore the sound of that.

“Well, don’t wait too long, Honey. With the way he looks at you and the pictures of you guys in the news, I’m only too sure you won’t be too far behind Maxine.” She winks at me and I smile. A girl can hope, right?

We all sit around the bar and the community sitting area again and decide to play another game since we all have a bit of alcohol in our system and have lightened up a little more. This time, we play a game called “Who knows the groom?” This should be kind of easy since Phil has been doing document services for CCFW for years and everyone in the room knows him well. What we didn’t realize is that Adolescent Care Bitch has stalker tendencies. She yelled out the answers to the first nine questions before anyone else had the chance to answer, including the question “boxers or briefs.” Maxie glared at her when she answered that question, so I politely told her that she couldn’t answer any more questions as we are all quite aware that she knows everything there is to know about Phil. Hell, she probably knows his damn birth weight. The party took a turn when the question was asked about Maxie and Phil’s first kiss.

“May 14th.” All heads turn to the sound of the male voice coming from the doorway to find Phil gazing at Maxine. “You were wearing a green dress with gold sandals and I watched you walk to the food truck in the parking lot.” He starts to walk slowly towards her and the room falls into total silence. “I remember thinking that you had the best legs that I had ever seen as I watched that dress brush up against your thighs.”

Oh shit, is it getting hot in here?

I look over at Maxie and her lips are parted as she gazes at Phil in a stupor. “I walked up behind you as you were paying for your turkey wrap and you turned around and bumped right into me.” He continues, standing right in her face now, looking down at her seductively. The rest of the guys are all standing inside of the door watching Mr. Guest at work. “I put my arms around you, and all I knew was that I wanted to kiss you.” He slid his arms around her waist slowly and I could feel Christian touching me, watching me, even though he was on the other side of the room. “I didn’t care if you slapped me or never spoke to me again. I had to kiss you… just… once…” He puts his hand on her cheek and gives her the most sensual kiss I have ever seen in my life… well, at least that I didn’t receive anyway.

After about five seconds, the room erupts in thunderous applause and cheers—and that was the women! Everyone except of Adolescent Care Bitch, anyway. She sat silently in the circle, brooding and no doubt sick to her stomach that it wasn’t her locking lips with Phil right now. But good God, Phil, talk about a Christian Grey move. Holy. Cow. Batman! That was hot!

A few moments later, I feel a kiss grace my neck and I turn around. “What are you guys doing here?” I ask him.

“The game is over and the beers are gone. We thought we crash your party for doggie bags,” Christian says pulling me into his arms. To be honest, I’m glad they did. All of the fun stuff is about over and there is a boatload of food that will just go to waste if no one eats it, so why not feed it to the hungry men? The bridal shower turned into a Friday night party with drinks still flowing, music playing, and people laughing, dancing, and having a good time. We had only booked the club for a few hours, so we ended up moving the party back up to the penthouse. The caterers were kind enough to bring the food up and everyone else grabbed whatever they could—decorations, presents, even trash. We had the club clean—as promised—in less than 20 minutes before going up to the penthouse to party the night away.

*-*

I am so proud of Christian. A year ago, no one could breach his palace in the sky, but last night he hosted one of the biggest parties this apartment has ever seen—for my friend’s bridal shower. We were both exhausted after it was over and, after a hot quickie, fell into a coma-like sleep.

I am more than a bit hung over and the sun is not being nice to me at all. Christian is not in bed next to me and I don’t bother trying to figure out where he is. I put the pillow over my head and moan as my head is pounding relentlessly.

“Wake up, Butterfly.” Oh, good Lord, is the sun even higher in the sky? What time is it?

“Nooooo… lemme alooooone…” I moan from under my pillow. Why do I have to wake up? There’s nothing to do today.

“Come on, Butterfly. You can’t sleep the whole day away. I let you sleep for longer than I should have now wake up.” I roll over looking at him.

“Why do I have to wake up?” I protest. “I don’t have anywhere to be. What’s the problem with me staying in bed all day if I want to?”

“Because it’s late, you haven’t eaten, and I’m lonely. Now get up.” He slaps my thighs hard and leaves the room. Ow! Fuck! What the fuck, Man?

I get out of bed and go to the shower. Oh my God, what did I drink? Wine, champagne, those damn blue martinis… shoot me now. I wash my hair and brush my teeth and I only feel marginally better after my shower. I blow-dry my hair and walk back into our bedroom where two ibuprofen and a cranberry spritzer await me. I gladly take the ibuprofen and almost drink all of the cranberry spritzer. I turn around to find Christian standing behind me.

“You might want to hurry. The Whiteheads are here.” My eyes get large.

“Marlow? Is something wrong? Are they okay?” I fire questions at him one after another.

“Everything is fine. It was a last-minute decision. Marlow was coming anyway to help me with some things and I just wanted to see him to gauge his state of mind. I asked him to bring the rest of his family so that we can discuss his plans for the future and, in light of yesterday’s incident and my desire to give them surveillance, I thought it would be a good idea to have you present,” he says.

“Way to prepare me, Grey!” I hiss at him. “I thought you were going to let me talk to Marcia next week.” He shrugs.

“I know. I’m sorry. I should have done better. Please don’t be mad at me. You know how I am. I wave my hand and things happen. I’m still trying to understand that doesn’t happen in everybody’s world,” he says apologetically. I sigh.

“Bring me some orange juice and crack a raw egg in it. Blend it thoroughly. I’ll get dressed.” I go into the closet and don’t even wait for his reaction. I grab a pair of soft pink skinny jeans with a boyfriend cuff with a pink tank top and a white off-the-shoulder blouse. I am brushing my hair when Christian comes back in with my orange juice. I down the whole glass before the egg gets a chance to separate. That’s when I realize how hungry I am. I finally take a moment to look at the alarm clock. Shit! It’s nearly one in the afternoon. I can’t be too angry with him for demanding that I get up. I dab a little lip gloss on and go greet our guests.

“Hello everybody,” I say cheerfully as I enter the great room. Marlow and Marcia stand while Maggie waves from her seat.

“Ana, hi,” Marcia says as I embrace her. “This place is really something!” she gestures around the room. I smile.

“I could say ‘thank you’ but he actually decorated it. I just moved in and now I enjoy the pretty!” We laugh and I look over at Marlow. “Hey.” He smiles weakly.

“Hey.”

“How are you doing?” I probe.

“Okay, I guess.” He shrugs.

“How’s your arm?” He looks down at his arm, covered by a long-sleeved sweatshirt.

“It looks pretty bad—hurts some, but it’s okay.”

“Does Maggie know?” I whisper to him and Marcia.

“Some of it,” Marcia answers. “She knows that he father is out of jail,” well, not anymore, “and that we have to watch out for him and why, but she doesn’t know that he hurt Marlow again.” I sigh and shake my head. That asshole.

“Well, I just realized how hungry I am. Anybody else?”

Thirty minutes later, I have prepared fast patty melts on rye with grilled onions, swiss cheese, and steak sauce and baked french fries for lunch. We are all sitting around the dining table with lunch, snacks, drinks, and fruit as Christian lays out his plans for the family, asking how they feel about the changes and requesting Marcia permission to proceed.

“I appreciate everything that you want to do for us, Christian, but there’s no way I could possibly pay you back for all of this,” Marcia protests.

“I don’t expect to be reimbursed for any of this,” he says, “except that Marlow and Maggie will have to keep their grades up in school and college, and that Marlow will have to agree to work for Grey Enterprises for a specified period of time after he completes his education.”

“Okay, but why? Why my little family?” she asks. Christian sighs.

“Without going into too much detail, I had it rough as a kid, too, and someone looked out for me. I don’t know if you know this, but I’m adopted. Things could have been a lot different for me. While I can’t save every struggling family, Ana took a liking to your family and to Marlow… and he came to see her at one of the worst times of her life, to make sure that she was okay. He was even ready to challenge me had I been the one that did that to her. I won’t forget that. He has strong character and a brilliant mind. Even though I realize my actions are philanthropic, they are not completely selfless. I see a real diamond in the rough here. I would like to be able to reap some of the benefits of what he could become while hopefully assisting him to fulfill his greatest potential.”

“Okay, then, so why Maggie?” Marcia is inherently mistrusting, much like Flynn but for good reason this time. A kind face reeled her in, gave her two children, and then terrorized them constantly.

“I don’t want her to feel left out. I don’t want her to be left out. I just don’t want her to be shell-shocked either, which is why I am of course asking what you think is best for her, for them.” Marcia looks from Christian to me and back to Christian.

“I’ve moved them around so much. I think Maggie should at least finish out the school year where she is because she’s so young. If you plan on moving Marlow, it should be soon. That school is doing nothing for him and he fits in nowhere. I don’t know about the bodyguards, though…”

“Marcia,” I interject, “it would be covert surveillance. You wouldn’t even know that they are there. They are only there to protect you from Damon. You already know that he can find you anywhere and he clearly hasn’t changed. Please… for you own safety, for the kids, please…” She still looks skeptical.

“They wouldn’t bother me?” she asks.

“Only if you need them or if you wanted them to help you,” Christian responds.

“And how would they know to help me?”

“They’re highly trained professionals. Believe me, they’ll know,” he reinforces.

“But he hurt my boy yesterday, and nobody stopped him…”

“I stopped him,” Christian says. “I should have moved faster, but I didn’t know who he was and I didn’t know that there was a restraining order against him. By noon Monday, I will know everything there is to know about him and he certainly won’t be back out of jail by then since he violated the PPO. I promise you that he won’t hurt you or your children again if you agree to have protection.” She is still pondering the idea. Maggie is a little confused by the whole conversation, but Marcia looks to Marlow for guidance.

“Do it, Mom,” he says. “I don’t want to ever have to see him again… ever. He won’t bother us this way.” She nods.

“And what about this school thing?” she asks him. “Fancy prep school? Do you think you can do it?”

“I really want to go, Mom. I can take getting ragged if that happens. It happens where I am all the time, but I really hate it there. Nobody there ever goes to college. They always end up unemployed or living back with their momma—no offense—and I just want more than that. I know I can do it, Mom. Please?” Who can say “no” to that face?

“Okay, Christian. We’ll try this, but if ours lives get turned upside down, I’m pulling the plug on this whole thing,” Marcia relents. I silently breathe a sigh of relief.

“That’s all I can ask,” Christian replies and Marlow smiles the biggest smile I seen from him all day.

“Thanks, Mom. You won’t regret it.” He’s very excited about the new course his life is going to take and clearly relieved about not having to see his father again.

“Well, now that that’s settled, Marlow, will you please help me clear these dishes?” I ask.

“Sure thing, Ana.”

Marlow and I are in the kitchen, clearing the dishes and putting them into the dishwasher when I take the opportunity to feel him out about what happened yesterday.

“So, Damon found you yesterday,” I begin. He shakes his head.

“You’re not very creative, Ana. ‘Marlow, will you help me clear the dishes?'” he says mimicking my voice.

“Okay, so I’m not creative. So start talking.” I lean against the sink. “What’s up? What did you feel when you saw him?” He sighs and leans against the counter, folding his arms.

“Scared. Mad. He’s like… everywhere! How does a guy like that make so many friends?” he hisses.

“I don’t know. People like him prey on others in many ways. You never know what he has told them. He is most likely making Marcia out to be the villain, you know, which is why it is a good thing that she agreed to the security. He will still have people everywhere keeping tabs on you guys and he will try again to get close to you guys. I think I want you to take some self-defense classes. How do you feel about that?” I ask.

“Hell, that would be great!” he exclaims.

“You wouldn’t have a problem hitting your own father if he attacked you?” He glares at me.

“Are you serious? With all of the hits that I took at his hand, I think I’ve got some catching up to do!” He says as he rubs his sore arm. I point at it.

“Can I see it?” I ask him.

“Are you sure you want to?” he says. “It looks pretty bad.”

“Yes, I want to see it.” He pauses, then takes his arm out of his sleeve. It is literally black and blue… and purple—a huge bruise where I can vaguely see the shape of Damon’s hand but it is more of a large contusion now.

“That fucking bastard!” I say before I think about my words. “I ought to kick his fucking coward ass!” Marlow glares at him.

“Whoa! Back up, Ana,” Marlow warns. “He’s way bigger than you and besides, Mr. Grey kicked his ass anyway.”

“Size doesn’t mean a thing. I can still kick his ass.” Marlow’s face fills with worry as he pulls down his shirt sleeve.

“Ana, please, don’t go after him. I don’t want to see you in the hospital again… please…”

“The only reason I was in the hospital is because I was attacked from behind and drugged… and that asshole hit me while I was handcuffed!” Marlow’s is horrified. I don’t remember if I shared that information with him or not, but it is clearly too much for him to hear. I need to put this fire out, now. “Don’t worry, Marlow. I won’t go after your father. I will leave that to the professionals, but I can’t guarantee that I will be on my best behavior if I ever run into his ass!” I say pointing in his face. Marlow’s eyes are large and he swallows hard.

“They handcuffed… and beat you, Ana?” he says softly. My shoulders fall. I never should have told him that. He is so protective of the women in his life and now, he feels that way towards me, too. I sigh.

“Yes, Marlow. Harris beat me while I was handcuffed—but he’s dead now, okay? He took five bullets in return for what he did to me, so you don’t have to worry. I have my bodyguard now, and my guns—both of which I didn’t have with me when I was abducted, so it won’t happen again, okay?” He drops his head and nods. I see a tear fall from his eye and I walk over to him. “Talk to me, Marlow.”

“Why do guys do that?” he asks, his voice just over a whisper. “Beat on women and kids—why don’t they pick on somebody their own size?”

“Because they are weak and it makes them feel strong,” I reply.

“My dad’s not weak. He’s as strong as a bull,” Marlow protests.

“But he’s weak here,” I put my hands on his chest, “and he’s weak here.” I put my hand on his temple. “He has physical strength, but he’s weak in his heart, his mind, and his soul. Promise me that you will never let that happen to you.”

He nods. “I promise.”

“You will take care of Marcia and Maggie, get good grades, never do drugs or turn to crime, and I will always be here for you whenever you need me. We will always be friends, right?”

He nods again. “Yes, ma’am,” he says his voice cracking.

“Good, and if you feel like you can’t talk to me or your mother about something, promise me that you will talk to Christian… okay?” He laughs a bit and I can only imagine some of the conversations that he has had with Christian.

“Yes, ma’am, I will.”

“Good, now give me a hug.” He bends his tall body down and embraces me. The moment his head hits my shoulder, he begins to weep bitterly. All of his anguish picks this moment to release. He has been so angry, so tormented for months, and even though he has opened up more and more to me and his mom, I think he was never really able to let his guard down until now. Christian told me that he really let loose on Damon in the deli yesterday and I really think he needed that. Even though he didn’t get the answers that he needed, he was able to let his father know what was inside him. He was stewing in hatred and he had to let it out. Now, it’s time to let it go, but that will be a much harder, much longer road for him.

He cried for several minutes and I just let him get it out. I heard someone come into the kitchen a little while ago and I think it may have been Christian, but he wisely left us alone. Marlow cried himself into exhaustion and I led him to the sink to wash his face. I fixed him a cranberry spritzer and told him that everything was going to be okay, now.

“Ana… I never blamed Mom for any of this,” he began. “I know that she was going through a bad time and trying to figure out what to do, but… I was going through a bad time too, and… nobody was there for me. I never had anybody to… well, thanks, Ana.” He drops his head again. I put my hand on his shoulder.

“Anytime,” I say with a smile.

*-*

I watch the door after Marlow and his family leave. Christian steps cautiously over to me, eyeing me curiously.

“Butterfly?” he says trepidatiously.

“What have you found out about Damon Johnson?” I say, impassively. I feel the energy change in the room. I know you’re checking him out, Grey. What have you found?

“He’s still in jail for violating the protection order, not sure how long he’ll be there. His background check hasn’t come back yet, but I’m pretty sure that it won’t say much except that he’s an asshole. I’ve seen his kind before.”

“You swear to me… swear to me that he will never get within 10 feet of that young man again.” The conviction in my voice startles even me. My eyes shoot up to him. “Swear it, Christian!” He steps back from me.

“I swear it. If I have anything to do with it, he will never see or touch Marlow again,” he vows. I try to nod, but my body seems to not be cooperating. Before I know it, Christian has me cocooned in his arms and I am weeping. “Please, Baby, please don’t cry. I hate it when you cry.”

“It’s not fair!” I wail. “He’s a good kid! He’s a really good kid! It’s not fair!”

“I know, Butterfly. We’ll take care of them now, okay? I promise you, Johnson won’t be able to hurt them again.”

“Thank you, Christian,” I say, clinging to his neck. “Thank you so much. You’re such a good man.”

“I have a good woman,” he says, kissing me on my cheek as I continue to weep. Some people are just so damned evil and I just don’t get it. Carly Madison-Perry, Robert Harris, the Mortons, the Whitmores, Elena Lincoln—how do you live being so damned evil inside? Not just bad, evil! I don’t even understand how you survive surrounded by so much blackness. I’m so glad that there is redemption for some people—like Melanie… and Christian… and even Kate—but still a bit forlorn that there seem to be no hope for the Damon Johnsons and Edward Davids of the world.

Dear Lord, whatever happens in my life, I will never allow myself to fall into that sort of darkness. I will fight tooth and nail to always see the light at the end of the tunnel, to always find the good in a bad situation, and to never lose hope no matter how hopeless a situation may seem. I survived Green Valley, Edward David, and Robert Harris. I’m ready to live—really live. I’m ready to enjoy my life and my love and my friends. This man holding me has shown me what real love is, and I’m going to bask in it every day of my life.

Ace told me that we make our own bed in life, that we can’t control all of the circumstances that come our way, but we can control how we react to them and what we do with them. At the end of the day, it’s our attitude, actions, and interpretations that make all the difference—not those of others or of people around us… ours! That young man has showed me through his pain that I truly need to make every day count… and that’s what I plan to do.

———————————————————————————————

A/N: 

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

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Feel free to review—it is greatly appreciated.

Love and Handcuffs!
Lynn x

Timing–It’s All In The Timing (Out of the mouth of Christian)

So… anybody who is on my Facebook page knows that Christian and Ana were having a disagreement in my head the other day about the contents of a future chapter that hasn’t even been written yet. It wasn’t even the chapter that they had a problem with… it was the idea of the chapter. Ana thought the motivation should be one thing and Christian respectfully disagreed. However, while they were respectfully disagreeing about the motivation—the motivation… geez—I couldn’t write the damn chapter. I finally gave up and told them to carry their asses to sleep—which we did—but unfortunately, I lost the idea for the chapter.

Having said that, it’s important for you to know that these people are very alive and well and living in my head on a regular basis! They talk, they fight, they fuck, they have ideas, and I get the front row seat to it most of the time. So if you didn’t think I was crazy before, welcome to my world… I’m completely certifiable!

So now, Christian is standing here with his hands in his pocket—much like he’s doing up there—telling me that he has something he wants to say. Now, I’m a little warm with him right now, because if he had just shut the hell up and let me get the chapter on paper… or docx… or voice memo… we could have argued about motivation later. Patrick-Swayze-image-patrick-swayze-36319883-1500-1029However, being the arrogant, dominant, I-don’t-give-a-fuck-I-want-what-I-want-and-I-want-it-now CEO that he is, he reminded me that I have allowed Butterfly to say her piece and he wants to say his now (heavy sigh—he’s being a pain in the ass). He has informed me that if I don’t give him his say that he will keep me awake like Patrick Swayze did to Whoopie Goldberg in “Ghost” singing “Henry the Eighth I Am.” Bastard.

So, as if Ana’s oration wasn’t enough, here’s Christian’s…

CG: Gee, thanks. That was such a warm introduction.
Me: Don’t give me shit, Grey. You cost me a chapter and I’m angry about it.
CG: Excuse me, I wasn’t alone in that disagreement!
Me: No, you weren’t, but Ana’s not in my face trying to get me to “insert her point of view here” when I should be editing tomorrow’s chapter.
CG: That’s because she already said her piece!
Me: Keep it up, okay? I’ll get wine drunk and won’t type a word, and you can go scream “Henry the Eighth” from the top of Mt. Charleston!
CG: (folding his arms) You sure can be a pissy little thing, can’t you?
Me: (reaching for my wine glass and heading for the Sangria)
CG: Fuck, fine, okay. Let’s get on with it.

An address from Christian Grey (happy now?):

Yes, I am hopelessly in love with her.
Yes, I am shamelessly obsessed with her.
Yes, I desperately want to marry her…
But I have learned some valuable lessons in the 30 years that I have been on this earth, the most valuable being that there are three key factors involved in making a big decision:

Location…
Method…
And most importantly, timing.

I didn’t become a multibillionaire by jumping the gun, and I’m not about to start now.

Things are finally falling into place for me and Butterfly. We still have some hurdles to jump, but I am more certain than ever that we will come overcome all of these adversities with flying colors! She is an exceptional, brave, magnificent woman and she deserves nothing but the best.

When I choose a gift for her, it is often custom-made—intricate details, the best materials, lots of thought… and presented at the right moment.

When I make that beautiful body sing, I take my time—savor her flavor, her smell, every crease and dimple in her skin. That process can’t be hurried.

The perfect grapes are crushed to make the world’s finest wines. The nectar is then aged from several months to several years in quality barrels—preferably super-fine grain French oak—to produce that je ne sais quoi that distinguishes a $2000 vintage from a $50 bottle. When I made my move on this precious flower, I presented her with a bottle of her favorite wine, aged in the French oak and waiting for her. Though I never got a chance to sample it, I know that it wrapped her taste buds in luxurious flavor and slid down her throat like a liquid orgasm.

Location—one of the most exclusive restaurants in Seattle, though I must admit that I didn’t pick it.
Method—her favorite wine, an exquisite vintage, delivered by the owner of the establishment while I sat a short distance away, looking out of the window over the Sound as if the gesture were an afterthought and not the entire purpose of my evening.
Timing—right when the asshole pissed her off (did I mention that the bottle he picked was less than $100); and once she left him sitting at the table holding his balls in his hand along with his pride, I swoop in and escort her and her car safely back to her apartment, where we subsequently had hot sex all night.

Timing… it’s all about the timing. I could have picked a lesser vintage of Cabernet. We could have been at a different restaurant. But the timing couldn’t have been more perfect.

When he showed up at her apartment, I waited to hear the context of the conversation instead of charging into the apartment to save the day. Right at that moment when I heard her make it clear that she didn’t want him there, I made my presence known prompting her to catapult herself into my arms at that very moment. A few seconds earlier and she may have just stood there enraged, staring at him. A few seconds later and she may have run out of the room crying, leaving me to handle the psychopathic, delusional asshole.

Neither of those happened.

I walked in just as she was having the biggest part of her adrenaline breakdown. When she heard me re-enforce that it was time for him to leave, she launched herself at me in pure relief. He left that day with the image in his head of the woman that he wanted in my arms clinging to me and tearfully ordering him to leave her home. That outcome couldn’t have been more perfect.

Timing… it’s all about the timing.

When I am tormenting that body, I know just when to stop my lick, my stroke, my ministrations so that her orgasm builds, then wanes, then builds, then wanes, then builds until she explodes in maddening pleasure becoming a limp, whimpering, sexy ball of flesh in my hands.

Timing… it’s all about the timing.

When it’s time to make a move, I move. Very few opportunities—business or personal—slip through my fingers. I am not perfect, and every so often something gets by me. Shit happens. However, in most situations, I am proudly the predator and most often the victor.

I make boardrooms quiver and executives sweat while I wait until the last possible moment to reveal if I am going to be the White Knight or the hostile bidder. By that time, there is nothing they can do but accept their fate or go into bankruptcy.

I have made many women wonder if they would be that special someone—never by deception, but by perfecting my skills as an artist. Yes, artist. What I do to a woman’s body—in pleasure and in pain—can only be described as art… magic, if you will. I’m not modest. I know what I want, and I know what I have to do to get what I want. I am monogamous. If I wanted a sub to be faithful, I had to treat her right and make her body quiver like a tuning fork.

That’s not timing… that’s skill. However, skill is often based on timing.

Sometimes, timing needs a little help—the right people at the right places, the right information, the right tools. But believe me, none of these things are any good if your timing is off.

Timing is everything… it’s all about the timing.

And when it’s time, I’m going to put a ring on it. So don’t rush me… I fucking hate being rushed.

Christian Grey
CEO, Grey Enterprise Holdings, Inc

Paging Dr. Steele: Chapter 40: Drawing to a Close

This is a work or creativity. As such, you may see words, concepts, scenes, actions, behaviors, pictures, implements, and people that may or may not be socially acceptable and/or offensive. If you are sensitive to adverse and alternative subject matter of any kind, please do not proceed, because I guarantee you’ll find it here. You have been warned. Read at your own risk.

I do not own Fifty Shades Trilogy, or the characters. They belong to E. L. James. I am only exercising my right to exploit, abuse, and mangle the characters to MY discretion in MY story in MY interpretation as a fan. If something that I say displeases you, please, just leave. If you don’t like this story or me, please don’t spoil this experience for everyone. Just go away. For the rest of you, the saga continues…

Chapter 40—Drawing to a Close

GREY

Mrs. Crestwood didn’t tell me much of anything that I didn’t already know—except that I didn’t know that Butterfly had depended on her so much during those last two years, and I can truly see that Mrs. Crestwood cared about her. This wasn’t just a favor to “family;” she was genuinely concerned about Butterfly. I’ll be happy when the time comes that I can tell Butterfly about this trip. I think it would do Mrs. Crestwood some good to see how well Butterfly is really doing.

Williams has taken Taylor and me to a little bar on the east side of Vegas called Dylans. It’s nothing spectacular or even seedy. It’s just one of those neighborhood, side street bars and gambling halls that the locals frequent to unwind. There’s one particular local here that has my interest this evening… Stephen Morton. He’s a fair distance from home tonight. In fact, he’s closer to Mrs. Crestwood’s neck of the woods. I’m wondering if Whitmore may have tipped him off that someone is snooping around. He would certainly want to get his money’s worth… and my little trip to the bank will insure that I get mine.

Once again, Taylor’s positioned at the end of the bar and I’ve taken a seat closer to Morton.

“What’ll ya have, friend?” The bartender asks.

“I’ll have what he’s having.” I say pointing to Morton. The bartender looks over to Morton, who looks at me suspiciously, “and I’ll buy him a refill.” After an expectant pause, Morton murmurs, “Gin and tonic.” As the bartender goes to fill our drinks, Morton asked, “Do I know you?”

“I don’t know,” I reply, “Do you? Christian Grey.” Morton turns back to his drink.

“Can’t says I do,” he says, bottoming out his glass. “So, to what do I owe the pleasure of your company? I’m sure you want something. Not accustomed to seeing expensive suits wander into this place.”

Stephen Morton is a shell of a man. I can’t really gauge his height, but whatever it is, he’s shortened further by the stance of a man who appears to be carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders. His skin is that clammy gray color that comes from too much alcohol and not enough nourishment. He looks like he slept in his clothes—they’re wrinkled but not dirty. He has the stale smell of alcohol that has saturated his body and now seeps through his pores. I can tell that he’s harmless enough, he’s just not there anymore. He’s one of those people who just floats in and out of a day with no particular purpose. The bartender brings our drinks to us and I send him away with a $50 bill.

“You look like you could use a meal,” I say. He raises his head slowly after swigging his gin and tonic.

“What’s it to you?” he asks, his voice clear and concise. He appears to have just crossed over into the Land of the Drunks in that his appearance and language has not completely deteriorated, but he clearly doesn’t care anymore.

“Nothing really,” I say, sipping on the grotesquely watered-down drink made with obscenely cheap gin. Yeah, I won’t be finishing this. “But we have a mutual acquaintance in common… a few in fact.” He turns on his bar stool.

“I’m friends with someone who’s friends with you?” he asks, incredulously.

“I didn’t say friend, I said acquaintance,” I say, turning to face him. “Before I tell you that, I’d like to know something. What do you hear of your stepdaughter these days?” Morton’s head jerks back quickly.

“My stepdaughter!?” he asks. “I haven’t seen her for years! It’s a shame she doesn’t even call her own mother,” he adds. I wonder why that is, Asshole?

“Why do you think she wouldn’t want to speak to her mother? Could it have anything to do with the incident at the bonfire?” I ask casually. His eyes narrow.

“What do you know about that?” He asks coldly.

“Everybody knows about it. Young girl horribly beaten at a bonfire… no suspects. That’s no secret,” I continue.

“Yeah, but that happened 10 years ago. Why are you so curious about it now? What are you, a reporter? Looking for a story?”

“No, I’m no reporter.” I entwine my fingers on the bar. “But I am looking for information.”

“For what?” he asks.

“I want to know exactly what happened to Anastasia. I can’t for the life of me figure out why something so vile happened in an affluent community and you were all willing to sweep it under the rug—particularly you and her mother.” I say the last word with more disdain than I intended. He looks at me and back at his drink.

“All I know is that Carla called me to the hospital telling me that the girl was there, and she wasn’t waking up. She didn’t wake up for a few weeks. She didn’t finish that school year either.” He swigs his drink again. I gesture to Taylor, who comes over and occupies the stool on the other side of me.

“I’m sure you know more than that,” I say to Morton and Taylor pulls a ream of bills out of his jacket and puts it on the counter in front of me. Morton eyes the bills and then looks at me.

“Who are you?” he asks.

“I told you. I’m Christian Gray.”

“What is this to you?” he presses.

“That’s of no consequence. What’s important here is that I want to know every single little thing you know about this situation, including how it involves Cody Whitmore.” Now, Morton sits up straight and has that Green-Valley-ready-to-run look on his face.

“I don’t know nothing about Cody Whitmore,” he says quickly, like the phase is a rehearsed answer to the question; practiced, ingrained, and perfected over 11 years—name, rank, serial number, and I don’t know nothing about Cody Whitmore.

“Oh, yes, you do,” I say calmly. “I have a record of $750,000 that guarantees that you do. You want to try again?”

“Look!” he says, leaning in to me and looking over his shoulders to see if anyone can hear him. “If you know about that money, then you know damn well that I can’t say shit. Nobody has asked me anything about that shit in 10 years. So, tell Whitmore that his fucking secret is safe with me!” he spits. I didn’t think I could dislike this man any more than I already do. I was wrong.

“Morton, I already know your kind,” I sneer. “You’d sell your soul for a dollar and you sold your stepdaughter for three quarters of a mil—part of which I’m told was supposed to have been her college fund. Now, she’s buried in student loan debt because you, what, drank away her future? I don’t work for that phony, fake, small-time, fucking poser Whitmore. When I’m done with that asshole, he won’t know what hit him, and if you’re afraid of him then you should be fucking terrified of me!”

I’m glaring in his eyes and he’s completely devoid of arrogance or haughtiness of any kind. I only see uncertainty and fear.

“I’m making two lists of people to take with me when I leave Vegas. Which list will you be on?” I say, picking up the stack of bills and slamming them down on the bar in front of him.

Morton looks from the bills to me a few times, then begrudgingly asks, “What do you want to know?”

“Where to begin? Ah, how about your first meeting with Whitmore, when Anastasia told you that little shit raped her. Let’s start there,” I growl. He swallows.

“Well, we went to Whitmore’s and confronted him and the boy. The kid swore he didn’t rape her… that they went to the desert and had sex and that she was trying to blackmail him or something. I was suspicious at first, but then, Whitmore starts talking about how his kid was an honor student and on the football team, well-known around school. While we were talking, the kid’s girlfriend shows up—gorgeous little blonde thing that shouldn’t have been in high school! It’s illegal the way these girls look—like grown women! And their mothers don’t have the good sense to make them put on some damn clothes!” Well, that’s new—an asshole with some morals.

“Anyway, one look at that Carly girl and I thought there’s no way this kid would have raped Ann. Rich, good-looking, popular kid with a hot little girlfriend is taking this poor little dusty nobody to the desert to rape her? Come on, man…” He finishes his drink and gestures for another. My blood is boiling.

“So, you took the word of some stranger over your stepdaughter because he had money and a hotter girlfriend? Did you expect the lecherous little dick to wave his hands and openly admit to it?” Is this guy for real? He suddenly turns to glare at me.

“I’m not going to let you sit here and put me in judgment for this shit. I’ll tell you what I know, but you’re not going to cut me down for my decisions. Whether they were right or wrong, you don’t get to judge me, and I don’t give a fuck who you are, Mr. Grey!”

You have to admire the man—he’s got a pair. I respect his chutzpah, but that’s all I respect about this guy.

“By any chance, did you take a look at Anastasia when you left that day? Did you pay any attention to her behavior after that day?” I ask, coldly. He shrugs.

“I was pissed that she was trying to pull me into this—whatever game she was playing with Whitmore. I wasn’t paying any attention to her. She was always kind of a quiet kid, but if you’re asking if I noticed a broken little girl that turned into a recluse because she had been raped and nobody believed her, no! I didn’t notice that!” He’s very sarcastic, spitting the words at me as he knew exactly where I was going.

“Listen, you sarcastic worthless piece of shit. I already have enough information to ruin the lives of a whole lot of Green Valley’s good citizens, including you. My only reason for speaking to you today is to try to understand the mechanics of this situation because I already have my primary targets! To say that I’m losing my patience with you would be a lie. My patience for you was gone before I even took a seat. I want to try to fill in some blanks, but I don’t fucking need to sit here and listen to your shitty ass attitude because you don’t want anybody drawing conclusions about your feeding a young girl to the dogs! Contrary to how you feel I should judge this situation Mr. Morton, I do hold you responsible for what happened to Anastasia. Now, are you going to talk to me with some manners and behave like a good little boy, or do I take my wads of cash and go?”

Almost on cue, Taylor takes out another ream of bills and places it in front of me on the bar. Morton reaches for the first ream that I placed in front of him.

“Touch those bills before I tell you that this transaction is concluded and my bodyguard here will break your fucking arm… assuming that the one at the door doesn’t shoot you first.” His hand freezes midair and he turns to see Lawrence sitting at a table near the door watching him.

“Are you mafia or something?” he asks, his voice unsure. Are you kidding me?

“Why would I tell you that?” I spit. “Are you a slimy little man that marries divorcees then effectively sells their daughters’ virginity to young violent rich pricks with hot girlfriends?”

His shoulders deflate at this statement. Fuck the kid gloves; this asshole is getting on my nerves. I just want to see if he can fill in any blanks for me. As I can see that he’s duly chastised, I continue with my questioning.

“How soon after your meeting with Whitmore was Anastasia attacked?” I ask through my teeth. He pauses to think.

“I don’t know… a couple of weeks, maybe. Not too long,” he answers.

“And let me guess—you had your head stuck so far up your ass that you never thought the two could have been connected,” I sneer.

“I was sure that they were connected. That’s how I got the money from Whitmore,” he says. What the fuck!? It’s very hard to maintain the CEO impassive face right now.

“Elaborate,” I say, placing the second set of bills in front of him. He licks his lips and bottoms out his drink, gesturing for another one. Good Lord, his liver must be pickled.

“When Carla called and told me that Ann was in the hospital and she had been beaten, my mind went immediately to Whitmore. I went to the hospital and saw her beaten all to hell and I was scared, okay? I didn’t know if she was going to die or wake up and start talking or what the hell was going to happen. The doctors told us that she had lost her baby. I didn’t even know that she was pregnant. Something changed in Carla that day. She sat there by Ann’s bed for three days not saying anything. On the fourth day, she left the hospital and only came back a few more times to check on her before Ann woke up.”

So basically, Ana woke up all beat to hell in a hospital, alone. No doubt, she thought they blamed her for what happened to her and she still feels that way. No doubt, they did blame her for what happened.

“When she woke up, she didn’t remember anything that happened. She didn’t even remember being pregnant.” That’s because she didn’t know, you asshole. “Once she was released from the hospital, Raymond came and got her. He said he would take care of her if Carla allowed him. They went off to Washington somewhere and that’s when I approached Whitmore.”

He approached Whitmore? All this time, I thought it was the other way around.

“I told him how much of a coincidence it was that my daughter had been beaten so badly on the Madison Ranch weeks after she accused his honor-roll son of raping her.” The Madison Ranch! Carly fucking Madison!

“How do you know it was the Madison Ranch?” I ask coolly.

“You hear things. It was the Madison Ranch,” he says. The alcohol seems to be getting to him a bit. He’s starting to sound a little maudlin. I better get everything out of him that I can before he’s a useless mound on the bar.

“Madison, as in Carly Madison—Cody’s hot little blonde girlfriend?” I ask. He nods, still looking into his drink.

“I brought that to his attention, that it all seemed so strange that nobody had any information about what happened to her, but the cops found her on the Madison Ranch a couple of weeks after she accused his son of rape. I mentioned that they did a rape kit because of the violence of the act and that even though it came back that she had not been raped that night that they kept the embryo and could run DNA if Ann were to give them a suspect.”

“They had to know that meant nothing. That just means that Cody got her pregnant—it didn’t mean that he had anything to do with her attack,” I point out.

“Apparently, they didn’t know that—or they were too frightened or too nervous to think about that. All this stuff put together gives the police probable cause…” Except the police had their own reasons for not pursuing the matter. “… That was enough to take to Whitmore. I originally went for answers. Ann was gone, and Carla had changed. People were looking at us like some circus side show. Yeah, the community was shaken since everybody claimed not to know what happened. But hell, I had to go outside of the city just to buy a bar of soap! It was fucking ridiculous.”

I guess not as ridiculous as a young girl being beaten nearly to death and never seeing justice.

“What happens next?” I keep my voice flat. Morton is still throwing back gin and tonics like water.

“Whitmore tells me that he needs some time to talk to his kid and find out how true this shit could be. I thought I had lost my meal ticket. About a month later, he comes to me telling me that we had a deal, but I had to get Ann back to Nevada so that we could be sure that she wouldn’t talk. Carla and I had a terrible fight about that. She didn’t want Ann to come back. She wanted her to stay in Washington with Ray so that they both could have some kind of normal life,” he says.

“Ray and Ana?” I ask.

Carla and Ann,” he corrects me. “She talked about how young she was when she had Ann and how it basically ruined her whole life and now that Ann was gone and Carla was still somewhat of a young woman, she could have a life now. Carla was being accepted into some of the social circles before this shit happened with Ann, and she was fighting to get back what little standing that she had with the snobs of Green Valley. Ann had picked up where she left off in Montesano, so according to Carla it was working out for everybody… except for me, that is.” He’s taking another swallow of his drink and I’m getting sicker and sicker listening to this man.

“What finally convinced Carla to bring Ana back here?” I ask.

“The money… and the fact that I wouldn’t let up on it. We showed up at Ray’s and told Ann that it was time to go home. That was the fight from hell. Although Ray had given Ann his name, he never adopted her, and he wasn’t on her birth certificate, so he didn’t have any legal rights. Just like I couldn’t force Ann to come to Nevada, Ray didn’t have any rights to fight for her to stay in Washington. Ann begrudgingly came back to Nevada and she was an unbearable little shit from the moment she got there.”

“Fuck! Wouldn’t you be?” I spit before I could stop myself. “Just consider this just for a second. You’re a young girl and you’ve been raped, and nobody believes you. Two or three weeks after you’ve been raped, you’re brutally beaten by unknown assailants in the community in which you live. You manage to escape the community only to have the people that should be protecting you come and get you from your safe haven and bring you back to hell! How would you feel, Mr. Morton? Erase that whole money thing you’ve got going on and the fact that you had to go to Walmart in Sunrise Manor instead of Green Valley and consider for a moment how that young girl must have felt. Think for one second—just for one fucking second—that she may have been telling you the truth about what happened to her! That she was the undeserving victim of a violent crime twice in one month and you sold her like a piece of cattle!”

“I know that she was telling the truth.” He has the nerve to have a little shame in his voice… and again, I’m shocked.

“How did you know?” I spit.

“He was too willing to pay me off. He was too willing to shut me up. He would have given me anything that I asked for, I knew it. I asked for 750 and he agreed immediately. I did plan on giving some to Ann, but she acted so fucked up when she got back…” He trails off.

“That you decided to punish her further,” I finish, steam coming off my forehead. He doesn’t respond.

“I probably could have gotten some money from that Madison kid, too, but I didn’t want to press my luck,” he mutters.

“What happened after she came back here?” I spit, seething.

“Nothing. She went to school in Vegas. She got a job. She was never home. Her mother and I rarely saw her and when we did, she was aloof on good days and a terror on bad ones. Carla stopped dealing with her completely.” Neither of you would have had to deal with her if you had left her in peace in Montesano with Ray.

“Any idea why nobody was ever arrested or even questioned about this?” I ask.

“I don’t know. Maybe somebody paid off the cops, too. That one cop kept coming around asking if Ann remembered anything, but she didn’t.”

“Oh, she did. She remembered everything,” I say. A look of pure horror comes over his face. “She remembers being attacked from behind, thrown into the trunk of a car, dragged naked to a bonfire, and being brutally beaten and burned with no idea as to why this was happening to her! As I listened to this atrocity—this complete and utter travesty of justice—I can’t believe that something like this could happen in 21st century America! This has the look and smell of the brutal lynchings of the 50’s and 60’s. I can’t believe something this monstrous could still be happening in my lifetime! If I hadn’t seen it unfold with my own eyes, I would believe this was the conspiracy theory of a sick mind running around with a tin-foil hat! I hope you got your money’s worth!” I say, pushing the bills into his face and standing to leave.

“This is not my fault!” he defends, and I walk pass him. “I didn’t rape her, and I certainly didn’t tell her to go swinging her ass around some young kid! These young girls are out here being prick teases and then want to scream rape when they’re expected to deliver!”

I realize this is probably the alcohol talking… or maybe he’s just being an asshole again. Unfortunately for him, my fist can’t tell the difference when it makes a clean connection with his face, sending him sailing out of the barstool and landing on the sticky saloon floor. I stand over him as he is lying on his back holding his jaw.

“Now you get to know the importance of who I am. I’m in love with Anastasia. I hope that one day in the future, she’ll consent to be my wife, and spend the rest of her life with me. I plan to bring down every single person involved in her attack. I plan to have Whitmore and his snide little rapist son begging me to release my clutches from them, which by the way, I won’t. I haven’t decided what you deserve yet. I do know this… that little comment just cost you one.” I take one of the stacks of bills from the bar and throw it over my shoulder to Taylor without looking. I have absolutely no doubt that he caught it.

“You fucking asshole!” Morton shoots, trying to get off the floor.

“Do you want it to cost you both?” I say glaring at him. Morton purses his lips so tightly that it almost looks painful. “My regards to your wife!” I sneer as Taylor, Lawrence and I leave the bar.


DAVID

I just about have my plan in place, but I hate having to depend on this asshole Bob. I’m still not sure if I really trust him, but so far, he’s come through with everything that I need so I don’t have much of a choice. As long as I keep syphoning money to him, I can buy his help and loyalty, but I don’t doubt for a second that he would sell me out to the highest bidder—even Grey if Bob wasn’t so pissed with him.

I’m ready to get things moving. I’m normally a patient man, but I’m not sure that I can be without my Rosie for one more minute.

“We have a development,” Bob says coming into the house.

“What?”

“Grey is out of town until Friday night. If we want to move on this, we probably want to do it before he gets back. Not much he can do from a distance, but it’s going to be all hell when he gets back.” I couldn’t care less about that fucking Rich Boy as long as I can get to my Rosie, but Bob’s right—it’ll be easier if he’s not around to influence her in any way.

“Friday, then, before Grey gets back. You’ll take care of her guard,” I confirm.

“Friday it is, then,” he nods. One more day, Rosie. Just one more day.


STEELE

Christian and I were both completely exhausted when he Skyped me last night. Not only had we both had terribly trying days, but it was after 11:00 when he finally got a chance to call me. I know that he bought a beautiful new desk and filing cabinet for the library for me and I was pleasantly surprised when I got back to Escala this evening. It was wonderful not to have to use the small table that I had commandeered for my laptops and files—and I had somewhere to put important documents. He’s such a wonderful man. He doesn’t make room for me in his life—he makes sure that there is room for me in his life, which is completely different. I told him about my visit to Helping Hands and my breakthrough with Marlow. He informed me about tracking down one of Whitmore’s shady business deals that’s making him more and more certain that he won’t be doing business with Whitmore.

Thank fuck for that!

I ask Christian when he’ll be home tomorrow and he informs me that it’s looking more like late afternoon or early evening than tomorrow night as he had originally planned. That makes me happy as my soul is aching for him. Even though we’re both too tired for Cyberplay, he still stays on Skype with me until I fall asleep.

Friday, I’m refreshed and ready to face my day, thrilled beyond thrilled that my man will be home this afternoon. I see my regular Friday patients and I’m sitting at my desk when my iPhone rings. It’s Ray.

“Hey, Dad. How are you?” I answer the phone. Maybe he’s coming down for the weekend again. I’m wondering if I should introduce him to Christian. Is he ready for that? Hell, he introduced me to Mandy.

Hey, Annie. You got a minute?” Oh hell, please don’t ask me if you can marry Mandy. I’m all for happily ever after but give me a chance to absorb the whole Dad’s got a girlfriend thing before we start hearing wedding bells.

“Sure. What’s up?” I brace myself.

What do you hear about Green Valley these days?” Green Valley!? What the hell!?

“Absolutely nothing!” I spit, Whitmore’s name bubbling up in the back of my throat like bile. Why in the hell is Green Valley rearing its head at me right now? “Why do you ask me that? What do you hear about Green Valley these days?”

Well, I got a call from Carla this morning.” I gasp.

“What the fuck does C… I’m sorry, Dad. What does Carla want?” I spit. Why the hell is this woman calling my father?

I was wondering the same thing. She called me trying to find out if I had someone down there looking into that incident that happened to you all those years ago. I have no clue what she’s talking about. She told me that there’s some suit down there asking questions about your attack. You know how I hate talking to that woman.”

“Dad, I need you to tell me exactly what you’re talking about because right now I’m a little clueless.” Somebody is digging into Green Valley again? What the hell? Why can’t this nightmare just fucking die already?

Some guy cornered Carla’s husband in a bar. She said the guy roughed him up to get information out of him about your attack. I don’t know how true that is since Stephen is heavy on the bottle these days, but Carla says he came back bruised and beaten talking about some guy named Grey digging into the… situation.” 

Christian.

“What the hell? What do you mean? I know that he went down there, and I know that he was talking to Whitmore…” And then the light bulb goes off. The last time someone was asking questions in Green Valley, Christian was doing a background check and where is Christian now—in Nevada!

Who is this guy and why is he in Nevada? And who is Whitmore?” Ray has gone many years without any answers to these questions. Now I think the chickens are coming home to roost.

I sink back in my chair and tell my father everything about Green Valley—the rape, Stephen’s unsuccessful confrontation of the Whitmores, what I remembered about the beating. Ray falls deathly silent listening to me tell the horrifying tale that was the last two years of my childhood. I inform him that Christian was the one that initiated the background check that scared me half to death, and why he did it. I think I knock the wind out of him when I tell him that Christian and I are now dating.

You’re dating again? I think that’s wonderful.”

“Thanks, Dad.” I respond, less than enthusiastic.

What’s wrong, Annie?” Ray presses. I sigh.

“He lied to me, Dad. He told me that he was going to see Whitmore about K&R Insurance. He knew the whole time why he was going down there to talk to that snake, and he lied to me.” Some Mistress I am! I can’t get him to tell me the truth about something so vital… we’re just playing games here. Of course, I didn’t ask him about this in Domme mode… it might have turned out differently—but that’s beside the point. “I asked him not to pursue this… and he said that he wouldn’t. Now he’s down there stirring this pot all over again.” I put my hand on my forehead. This shit will never just die, will it?

He must care about you a lot to single-handedly try to find out what happened to you,” Ray points out.

“Dad, you don’t understand. The cornerstone of our relationship is trust. It’s extremely important.” More important than even you know, Ray. “If we can’t trust each other, we simply can’t continue.” I’m fighting back the tears that are threatening my eyelids. “I have to be able to trust that he’s truthful with me and he needs that same guarantee from me.” I sigh. “I gotta go, Dad.”

Annie, before you make any rash decisions, just hear him out, okay? I don’t know this guy, but if he’s willing to take on a town to find out what happened to my daughter, then he’s okay in my book.”

“I will, Dad. I love you.”

I love you, too, Annie.” I hang up the phone and resist the urge to scream. I snatch my purse and phone and breeze out the door, telling Marilyn that our day is over. Chuck is nearly running, trying to keep up with me. I get to elevator and punch the floor before he can catch me. I’m not trying to get away from him, I just need to get the hell out of here. He must be wearing Mercury’s winged shoes because he’s on the ground floor before the elevator gets there.

“Ana?” he questions, but I just run past him and out the door to my car. He’s hot on my tail in the Audi as I break several traffic laws to get to my apartment. I’m damn near out of my car before it stops moving to get to the elevator. I stop Chuck before he gets in.

“I need to be alone. You don’t have to leave, but right now, I need to be alone.” I say, fighting back angry tears.

“Let me ride up with you and I’ll stand outside. Is that okay?” he bargains. I nod.

We ride up the elevator in silence and I dash to my apartment once the doors open, slamming and locking the door behind me. He can’t be down there doing this… he can’t be. After the whole ordeal we had last week… he couldn’t possibly betray my trust this way. I feel like my chest is going to cave in on me. There must be some mistake. Someone is mistaken—that’s what it is. If Christian had gone to Green Valley, George would have called me. I’ll call George. He’ll know what this is about.

My heart sinks when I get George on the phone and he doesn’t want to talk to me.

“Why would I want to talk to you when you sent your dogs after me after all of this?” George says.

“I have no idea what’s going on, George. I just got a call from my dad. What’s happening?” I yell. After a pause,

“You really don’t know, do you?” George asks incredulously.

“No, I don’t! Every time something happens, you call me. Why didn’t you call me this time?” I bark.

“Because he threatened me! He told me that if I called you that there would be problems for me. So, whoever you tell him that you heard this from, you didn’t hear it from me. Are we clear?”

“You got it, but you have to tell me what’s going on.”

George proceeds to tell me that Christian is down in Green Valley questioning anybody and everybody that he can get his hands on to find out what happened with my attack. I can’t believe what I’m hearing since I asked him not to pursue this matter.

“He said he wouldn’t do it,” I say, my voice squeaking. “I told him not to dig this up. I told him to leave this alone!”

“Well, you need to call him off,” George says. “He’s making a lot of people nervous and angry down here.” What the hell? He must’ve forgotten to whom he’s speaking!

“Well, they should be nervous!” I exclaim. “They beat me, and they burned me. And you may not know this, but one of them raped me—and that’s why I was beaten and burned!”

“Well, why didn’t you say any of this!?” George exclaims, horrified and something in me snaps.

“Because I told one person—one person, my stepfather—that I got raped and look what happened to me. What happens if I tried to take him to court? My word against his… a poor girl who happens to live in a nice Green Valley house against a Whitmore. I can’t even imagine what would have happened to me if I had identified anybody from the mob that tortured me, not that I really could since the fucking cowards all wore masks and only one of them spoke to me. Oh, they could all beat the shit out of me, but none of them could fucking say shit to me.

“But now the tables have turned—and those pompous, self-absorbed, entitled, rich little brats are now dealing with someone who has just as much money and power as they do if not more. This man owns more companies than they have vacation houses. Now, they’re shaking in their boots because they’re dealing with one of the most powerful men in America now trying to get to the bottom of who attacked me 11 years ago.”

“Well, you’re going to have to do something, Ana, because he’s getting pretty close.” I fall silent for a moment. What the hell does he mean by that?

“Getting pretty close?” I ask. “Close to what, George?” George remains silent.

“George, close to what?”

Still silence on the line. And then it hit me. Mother fucking demons and bitches from hell! George knows something.

“George, what do you know?”

“Ana, I don’t know anything,” he says, flatly.

“Don’t give me that, George!” I spit, my voice shaking. “If you didn’t know anything, you wouldn’t have said that he’s getting close. You’ve kept in touch with me all these years…”

And the other shoe drops. He kept in touch with me to see if I was doing anything on the case, to see if I had gotten any closer to finding out who attacked me. He always needed to know what I knew; and when anyone went digging into my past, he knew that I would do anything in my power to stop them to keep the Lambert/Steele saga under wraps. He knew that I didn’t want that to be public knowledge. So even though the law says that I had to be notified of any developments in the case, I didn’t have to be notified personally. George has a personal stake in this. All this time, I thought he was doing this for me—but he’s not. There’s something else. I feel so fucking betrayed!

“George, I think you better give me any information that you have, because if you don’t, I’m going to set the full fury of Christian Grey loose on Green Valley. And if you think feathers have been ruffled now, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet, Buddy!” There’s a long pause.

“Don’t think about it too long, George, because I’m out of patience!” I snap.

George sighs heavily before telling me, “Vince was out past curfew the night that you were attacked, and Mom called me at the station. I hated chasing that little bugger down, but I had to find him so that Mom could get some sleep. He knew that we had installed the tracking system in his car in case of theft or car trouble, and the idiot still took his own car.”

“What does your little brother have to do with me?” I say, impatient and confused. George sighs again.

“When I located Vince’s car, he was at a bonfire. When I went to the bonfire, everybody scattered like roaches, so I couldn’t see who all was present… but I knew my brother’s car was there. I don’t know all the details, but when everybody left, Vince’s car was still there. I really believe that he thought he was at a harmless bonfire and he took off somewhere to get laid or something. I don’t know if he was there when everything was going down—he swears that he wasn’t there, and he had nothing to do with it… I had to protect my little brother, Ana…”

Am I hearing what I think I’m hearing!?

“Wait! Wait! Wait a minute!” I yell. I feel cold, pure, undiluted horror rise from my stomach, into my chest, and begin to take over my thought processes. I have to fight to form my words as my brain-to-mouth functions seem to be failing. “Are you telling me that the same bonfire where you found your brother’s car is the same bonfire where they were mutilating my body?” George is silent for a moment.

“Yes,” he says, solemnly. “I had to know if any information would lead to my brother. He swore that he had nothing to do with it, Ana, but if I pursued anybody, I would have had to pursue Vincent, too.”

I’m feeling a little dizzy hearing this story. I fall onto the sofa simply because my legs can’t hold me up anymore.

“You know who did this to me, don’t you, George?” I say with as much conviction as I could muster. He pauses… he’s stalling again.

“I’m not 100% sure, Ana…”

“Don’t fucking play with me, George!” I snap. My wits are at their complete end and I can’t take many more secrets at this point.

“I recognized some of the cars there, Ana. I can’t say for sure who all was there—but I knew some of the cars. But just like Vince claims that he had nothing to do with it, they could claim that they were just in the area, too. I know Vince, Ana. He’s not that kid and he’s not that man.”

“But you know who was there. And you know that some of the people that were there were that kid…” George has fallen silent again. “… and you just let them go?” Still no answer. “You found me! You saw what they did to me! You know the whole story. How could you just let them go?” I say, my voice quivering.

“I tried, Ana,” he says, desperation in his voice. “I tried to pursue them the best that I could, but somebody knew that Vincent was there. Every time I tried to investigate a lead, I got a threat against Vincent. Ever since my father died, my mother made me swear to protect him… I had to protect him Ana… I had to…” His voice trails off.

Was the entire world against me? I was the victim. I was the one that was raped, beaten, and burned. Was everybody against me? Did I have no one in my corner? Not my parents? The school? The community? The owner of the ranch where I was tortured? Not even the fucking police? Would the doctors there have even bothered to try to save my life if they hadn’t been bound by the Hippocratic oath? This can’t be real. This absolutely, positively can’t be real. Who did I piss off in a past life to deserve this kind of treatment? At 15, no less?

“I could’ve died, George. I could’ve died out there. Did you see what they did to my back? Those weren’t just burns, George. Those were brands! I still have the letters on my back!”

There’s a sharp intake of air on the other end of the line. Apparently, George never knew that the burns were actually a word.

“Ana… I…” Yeah, I would be at a loss for words, too, you bastard.

“You let an entire community of brutal bullies get away with damn-near killing me—with murdering an unborn child—to protect your brother, and you’re not even certain that he didn’t have anything to do with it. Are you proud of that, Officer Sullivan?” I spit the last two words at him. I know he can’t respond to me. What can he say to that?

“I was raped, Officer Sullivan,” I remind him, my voice flat. I hear an almost inaudible groan on the other end. Yeah, I know. I didn’t tell anybody but dear-old-pretend-Dad, and look where that got me.

“I was raped by the son of one of Green Valley’s upstanding well-off citizens. And when I told my stepfather and we went to confront my accuser, he denied it. He said it was consensual. He told his girlfriend that I lied on him, and she told her friends, and they told their friends, and the next thing I know, I’m being dragged naked from the trunk of a car to be beaten and burned by hooded strangers.

“The only reason I was able to connect the two incidents is because one—only one—of my attackers spoke to me and told me why this was happening to me… and I recognized her voice. They spit on me; they laughed at me; they urinated on me. I remember every slap, every kick, and every punch. Thank God I only remember one burn, because I passed out from the pain—and woke up in the hospital three-weeks later. The doctors told me that I had been attacked and that I had lost my rapist’s baby—a baby I didn’t even know I was carrying. I tried to get away, and even my parents couldn’t afford me that luxury.

“I’ve had so many nightmares about that night that right now, here in the state of Washington, I hold a license to carry a concealed weapon and I own three firearms. I’m wondering where in the world these people are and if I’ll ever have to see them again—not that I saw any of them the first time, but they would sure as hell know who I was when they saw me.” The tears are falling freely down my face as I spit the words at him.

“Now you know the full extent of my nightmare, but I’m so glad that you were able to sleep soundly at night knowing that you protected your brother from such a horrible fate. Goodbye, Officer Sullivan, and good luck with Christian Grey.” I end the call. I stand up from the sofa, walk to my room, bury my face in my pillow, and scream until I have no voice.


GREY

It’s about 11:00am on Friday morning and I’m only too ready to get the fuck out of Nevada. My bags are packed, and I’m checking out of the Bellagio. I can’t wait to be back in my Butterfly’s arms. With all the shit that I’ve learned being down here and all the new leads I now must follow, I don’t know how these people have been able to live with themselves. I would be just as outraged by this action had it not been the woman that I love. How could this happen? The entire community conspired against her and she never found justice. Well, that shit ends now. I’ll take her to dinner tonight at Rover’s and tell her everything. It’s not going to be easy, but I don’t want to keep any more secrets from her, and I want her to know that we can now bring these bastards to justice.

We’re on our way to McCarran when I realize that I’ve settled affairs with everyone except one person in particular. All the parties involved that have met me pretty much know where they stand—except for one person.

“Taylor, contact Sean and McCarran and let him know we will be slightly delayed. Williams, we’re making a detour…”

Security at this place sucks and if this ever happened at GEH, I would fire an entire department full of people. But I strut right into the work area of Daddy’s Little Boy, and my determined stride along with the two CIA-looking gentlemen assured that we had the attention of everyone in the office.

“I know who you are, and I know what you did. I’m going to make you pay for it. And not Mommy, Daddy, the Governor, or the fucking President is going to be able to save your ass,” I say glaring down at him in his seat.

“I’m sure I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Cody Whitmore responds, not making eye contact with me.

“I’m sure you do!” I bark. “Or after all these years have you finally convinced yourself that it was consensual? Have you rewritten the story to make yourself believe that she wanted it? Did Daddy’s little payoff make you think rape would go away? Did the fact that you and a mob of hooded cowards have been able to frighten her into silence for a couple of years make you think that you would never have to face this again? She was 15, you sick fuck—15! And you and a heartless bunch of animals beat her damn near to death because she didn’t want to fuck you!”

I can hear various people mention Ana’s name. Yeah, the story is still alive and well in Green Valley. The Golden Boy here has finally been forced to see the levity of his actions. I can see the fear in his eyes and hear it in his voice when he speaks.

“You got it all wrong, man. Girls say ‘no’ all the time when they really mean ‘yes.’ You know that…” he protests.

Oh no the fuck he’s not trying to convince me that Ana wanted him to screw her in the back of his jeep and dump her in the middle of the desert after he has clearly admitted that she said, “no.” I try very hard to swallow the bile that’s rising in the back of my throat seasoned with the flavor of sheer contempt for this man as I stare coldly into his eyes and say:

“Go back into the recesses of that sick, twisted, fucked up mind of yours—back to that place where you won’t let anybody else go and you’re afraid to go yourself—and recall that fateful day that’s about to change the rest of your miserable fucking life. Recall that day that you have no doubt recalled hundreds of times between then and now. Look at her face. Look at it good. Observe her carefully—observe her screaming and crying and most likely begging you to stop while you forcibly ripped her virginity from her and try to tell me that she wanted it. Go ahead… try!” I growl that last word at him and I’m willing the words to come out of his mouth as I would like nothing more than to kill him… right here… right now.

The office has fallen completely silent… even the phones have stopped ringing. Whitmore has turned a sick shade of greenish-gray as I glare at him and wait for him to speak.

“The only good thing that came from this whole ordeal is that she lost your baby in the process.” His face goes from gray to flaxen white with this news. “Oh, you didn’t know. Yeah, she was pregnant. And thank God that she doesn’t have to spend the rest of her life raising a reminder of your sick ass, but what’s more is that I can sleep a little better at night knowing that your ass hasn’t procreated!” At that moment, I feel a hand on my shoulder. Without turning around, I say, “Since I haven’t laid my hands on this man, this had better be my bodyguard with his hand on my shoulder, because if it’s not, you’re about to have a bevy of attorneys on your ass.”

The hand quickly moves from my shoulder as simultaneously I hear Taylor’s voice say, “It’s not me, Sir.” I turn around to look into the familiar face of one Officer George Sullivan.

“Sullivan! You have got to be kidding me! They sent you?” I say with disgust.

“Mr. Grey, this is private property. You’ll have to leave,” he says, flatly.

“Are you the only cop in Green Valley? Is that why this whole thing has been swept under the rug all these years? Is that why the police department has failed to do their job and has allowed a group of teenage murderers to roam the street? Is that why Anastasia was made to suffer the physical and emotional pain and humiliation all these years? All to protect one person? All to protect Vincent?” I shoot. Sullivan is now turning the greenish-gray shade I previously witnessed on Whitmore’s face. “Oh, yes. I know all about it. You didn’t think I’d find out?”

“Mr. Grey, you need to leave,” he repeats, his voice shaking, and now I step to him.

“That’s fine. I have everything that I need now. And I’ve already warned you, I’ll pick this little piece of shit town apart until I get to every single person who is responsible for what happened to Ana—including your little brother.” I spit. I throw a look back at a sickly-looking Cody Whitmore and then make an announcement to the office.

“Congratulations, citizens of Green Valley. Your little city is about to be the most popular place on the map…” I look from Whitmore to Sullivan, “… again!” With that, Taylor, Lawrence, and I walk out of the office.

Las Vegas is a beautiful city full of color and lights. People come from all over the world to visit the Oasis in the Desert—Sin City—What happens in Vegas… you know the rest. Money is spent, and drinks are flowing, good food and gambling. There’s something for every taste in Vegas… and yet, I can imagine that the people that live there must be pretty miserable. Yes, it’s an oasis in the desert, but it’s just that… a desert! A barren land with barren people who muddle about in their barren lives. The only thing I found pleasant about Las Vegas… was leaving.

When we landed at McCarran Airport in Nevada two days ago, I couldn’t help but notice the view and wonder how it was possible for people to live there. All I saw was brown… dirt and sand. Gray buildings, no life. There were tall buildings off in the distance, but there seemed to be nothing vibrant anywhere. Nothing but desert…

Landing at SeaTac this beautiful early afternoon, I’m greeted with Puget Sound and the wonderful Pacific Ocean. Rows of coastal houses and businesses on beautiful green grassy hills surrounded by trees in full bloom. Here was a scene that spoke life when you saw it… and I’ve never been so happy to be home.

It’s about 2:30 Seattle time when we land, and I immediately take out my Blackberry and call Butterfly. Her phone rings, then go to voicemail. It’s odd for her to have Friday afternoon appointments and that’s the only time that she doesn’t answer her phone. Maybe she’s doing something with Grace at Helping Hands. I send her a text so that she’ll see it as soon as she’s free.

**Back home in Seattle. Can’t wait to hold you in my arms. Love you. **

Lawrence and Williams are putting our bags in the SUV when Taylor comes to my side. “Sir, I think there may be a problem.”

“A problem with what?” I ask, my eyebrows furrowed.

“Ms. Steele. I got a text from Chuck that just says, ‘something is wrong with Her Highness.'”

“Well, did you ask him what was wrong?” I bark. What the fuck is going on?

“Yes, but he doesn’t know. And this text is time stamped at 12:18… while we were in the air,” he responds.

“Shit,” I say, scrambling to get into the SUV. That’s why she’s not answering her phone. I pull out my blackberry to check my texts. Nothing. “What else did he say?” Taylor is scrolling through his texts.

“She left the office very upset and went back to her apartment…”

Her apartment?” I ask.

“Yes, sir, her apartment. She told Chuck to wait outside, but she went inside alone and locked her door. I’m waiting to see what else he says.”

“Williams, get us to Ms. Steele’s apartment. Quickly please.” What the hell has happened now?

“Wait!” Taylor exclaims, and Williams pauses. “She’s back at Escala. Still very upset, but Chuck doesn’t know why.” I run my hands through my hair.

“Get me home. Now!” I order, and Williams proceeds towards Escala. She was fine when I talked to her last night. What the hell happened? “Did Chuck say that anybody came to see her at the office?”

“No, sir, but I didn’t ask. I’ll ask him now.” I don’t want to alarm anyone trying to find out what’s wrong with Butterfly, but it is taking everything in me not to call every one of her friends and find out if someone has spoken to her today. “No unusual visitors, sir. She had two appointments this morning and was staying in the office to do some work. Suddenly, she got up and left. Chuck had to run to keep up with her and ran several red lights following her to the apartment. So, we’ll probably be getting some traffic tickets.”

“I don’t give a fuck about traffic tickets. I’m trying to find out what’s wrong with Ana.” The ride from SeaTac to Escala is only 20 minutes, but I swear it’s taking hours.

**Butterfly, please answer me. **

I’m racking my brain to figure out what’s wrong. If someone were hurt, she would have told Davenport. She wanted to be alone in her own apartment, and she locked him out. She’s upset about something, but nobody knows what it is, and from her behavior, she’s really upset.

“Sir… could she know?” Taylor asks.

“Know what?” I ask, bemused.

“Where we’ve been?” Could she?

“Who would have told her?” I ask. No one that we spoke to knew how to get in touch with her except…

“Sullivan?” Taylor suggests. It’s a possibility, but why would he tell her? He has more to lose by telling her than he would by keeping it a secret.

“That man was scared shitless. There’s no way he would have told her,” I say. Taylor shrugs.

“Maybe not, but I have a feeling that she knows,” he says, solemnly. I tell him to ask Davenport if there is any indication that Butterfly knows the details of our trip. Taylor confirms that there is no indication, but that doesn’t mean that she doesn’t know.

After the longest ride in the world, I burst from the backseat of the Audi SUV and sprint to the elevator, leaving my security staff behind. When I walk into the apartment, Gail greets me like everything is just fine.

“Well, hello, Mr. Gr… Mr. Grey are you okay?” she asks, obviously taking in my demeanor.

“Where is she?” I ask. Gail frowns.

“Who?” she asks bemused.

“Anastasia!” I bark.

“She’s here!?” Gail exclaims. I sigh heavily. I call Taylor who’s still in the parking garage waiting for the elevator. “I thought you said she was here!” I snap into the phone.

“She is. Her car is here, sir,” he says, calmly. I end the call and go through the apartment. This is a lot of space, but not that much, and I can’t find her—the bedroom, the library, my study, the playroom. I check the guest room and panic immediately when I see that most of her clothes are gone. Taylor is bringing in my bags when I come back out to the great room.

“Gail, did Ms. Steele take her things back to her apartment?” I ask, almost timidly. Taylor freezes in his spot.

“No, sir, she moved what she could fit to your closet on Wednesday,” she replies. I breathe a huge sigh and go to my closet to confirm that Butterfly’s clothes are still there.

Good. She hasn’t left me… but where is she?

“Sir?” Taylor’s voice interrupts my thoughts. “She’s on the balcony.” I quickly run to the balcony to see her standing there looking out over the city of Seattle, facing away from me, her arms folded. When I open the sliding door, she doesn’t move.

“Butterfly?” I say, stepping out onto the balcony.

“Hello Christian,” she says, her voice thick with tears. “How was your trip?”


A/N: Among his many titles Mercury was the Roman god of communication (the Greek is Hermes… and OMG here she goes with that damn mythology again!) He was also messenger to the gods, so he wore magical winged shoes that gave him super-godly speed.

You don’t want to miss Pinterest this time… that’s all I’m saying. http://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/paging-dr-steele/

You can join my mailing list on the “Contact Me” page. Just click the link and it will lead you to a form to join the list.

~~love and handcuffs

 

Paging Dr. Steele: Chapter 39: Good News/Bad News

This is a work or creativity. As such, you may see words, concepts, scenes, actions, behaviors, pictures, implements, and people that may or may not be socially acceptable and/or offensive. If you are sensitive to adverse and alternative subject matter of any kind, please do not proceed, because I guarantee you’ll find it here. You have been warned. Read at your own risk.

I do not own Fifty Shades Trilogy, or the characters. They belong to E. L. James. I am only exercising my right to exploit, abuse, and mangle the characters to MY discretion in MY story in MY interpretation as a fan. If something that I say displeases you, please, just leave. If you don’t like this story or me, please don’t spoil this experience for everyone. Just go away. For the rest of you, the saga continues…

Chapter 39—Good News/Bad News

STEELE

Dinner smells delicious when I get back to Escala after the seemingly never-ending day I had. He hasn’t been gone for 12 hours yet and I feel dysfunctional already. It’ll be a good exercise for me—to be accustomed to his having to go on business trips and learning to cope with his absence—but this is different. He’s in that place—the place I swore to never cross again, turn away from it and never look back. That place that nearly killed me physically and almost destroyed me mentally. He’s there among the very people that shook the foundation of my world.

He has most likely spoken to them by now, shook hands with them, smiled and conversed over drinks while they try to romance him for his business. No doubt, he’ll be having dinner with Senior Whitmore—probably at some fancy casino on The Strip; or worse yet, in Whitmore’s dining room while the little wifey serves them and acts as the perfect hostess. They may even try to thrust Amber down Christian’s throat, assuming she hasn’t already found her fortune attached to some other little rich boy’s pocket.

The whole scene makes me physically ill and I don’t know if I’ll even be able to stomach my dinner. I can’t be a hypocrite, though. I’ve threatened Christian with severe punishment if he doesn’t eat properly or causes himself harm like last week ever again, so I won’t foolishly skip a meal either.

I go to the guest room to find a sundress and slides for dinner. I hate changing in here. I feel so separated every time I come in here to get my clothes. Would Christian mind if I put just a few of my pieces in his closet? I mean, I won’t take over his space, but right now more than ever I feel the need to be close to him. I gather a few pieces, as much as I can carry, and take them to the bedroom that I share with Christian.

When I get to his closet, I discover that looks are quite deceiving. I commandeer what appears to be a corner of the closet. As I begin to arrange my clothing there, the corner is like a clown car—the more I hang there, the more space I seem to have. I decide to retrieve a few more pieces and bring them in here as well. By the time I’ve retrieved enough “pieces” to fill the space without crowding it, nearly all of the clothes Al brought for me have been transferred to Christian’s closet—minus my shoes and my lingerie. Let’s see if I can find some space for those things.

I was easily able to find spots here and there for the shoes Al brought over for me. However, I discover that all of Christian’s dresser and chest of drawer space is occupied. Hmmm… I guess undies and lingerie will have to stay in the guest room. After my little closet escapade, I realize that I only have 10 minutes before Maxie is supposed to be here. I quickly change my clothes and go back to the great room.

We enjoy a delicious beef stroganoff for dinner. I insist that Gail join us since Jason is away with Christian, which means that she would be eating alone. She assures me that it’ll get easier as time passes—being without your man for these necessary business trips—but that you never get completely used to it. Give me hope then snatch it back, why don’t you! She mentions that Jason informed her there was extra security with them on this trip. I asked if that was normal.

“You never know with Mr. Grey,” Gail says. “There’s really no such thing as normal with him. One day, he fine riding in one of his sports cars with an escort. The next day, he has four guards in an SUV.” We laugh. Yes, that’s my beloved Christian… always keep you guessing.

Gail excuses herself after dinner while Maxie and I enjoy a La Ricolma Tuscan Merlot near a fire in the great room.

“So… what’s going on, Steele?” Maxie begins as she sips her wine. I sigh.

“Well, as you know, Christian had to leave town for business. He left this morning and he’ll be back on Friday.” I sit my wine glass on a coaster on the coffee table and fold my hands.

“You’re having a hard time with the separation?” she asks, being more of a friend with that question than a therapist.

“Yes, I am, for a lot of reasons,” I put my hand on my forehead, “not the smallest of which is that I’m in love with him.” Maxie gasps.

“Ana! So soon?” Maxie leans in closer to me.

“I know, Maxie, but I’ve been in love before. I know what it feels like… this is better!” I say with certainty, looking into her eyes. She examines me for a moment.

“You are in love,” she says, softly. I nod.

“Yeah. It’s a little rough on me. These feelings that I didn’t expect to feel again… I mean, I didn’t dismiss them forever. You know, like, running around the house, stopping the clocks and wasting away in a wedding dress… but, I just wasn’t really expecting them.” I take another drink of my wine. “It knocks the wind out of you when it finally settles in that it’s true, that you love another person this way. You can’t wait to wake up in the morning or finish your workday so that you can see him again. You need their closeness to survive, to feel whole. And let’s not even discuss the sex…!”

“No, let’s!” Maxie encourages, laughing.

“No, let’s not!” I reinforce with a giggle. “Anyway, it’s not even about that.” I tuck my hair behind my ear. “He has affected me down to my soul, Maxie. He’s startling and frightening and still so vulnerable. He’s an oxymoron in and of himself.” How do explain that this magnificent man is both my obedient and adoring submissive as well as my powerful and superior Dominant? “I can’t see myself without him, Maxie. It’s not that ‘he’s so dreamy, I can’t live without him’ kind of thing… I really can’t see myself without him.” She examines me even more carefully.

“Is it unhealthy, Ana? Are you obsessed?” she asks. Am I? No, I can recognize obsession all the way down to the clinical definition. This is not obsession.

“No, I’m not obsessed, but I can say that I recognize the development of defining myself in terms of Christianafter two and a half weeks! I know it’s unhealthy, but it’s there. I know that I’m still Dr. Anastasia Steele. I haven’t lost my identity, nor do I think I ever will, but…” I sigh and look at Maxie, defeated. “Maxie, he’s all I think about. I can barely function. I want to sell my condo and move in here with him and never leave. I love my condo… you know that… but if it meant that I could be with him every minute of every day, I’d sell it in a heartbeat!” I confess.

“Oh, Ana,” she says, mockingly, “falling apart at the seams for a man…” she teases.

“Oh, not just any man. Christian fucking Grey… the source of wet dreams for women of all ages across the greater Seattle area! And beyond! Hot, rich, worldly, brilliant, sex-on-a-stick Christian Grey!” I’m squirming in my damn seat just thinking about him.

“Settle down, killer. You’re going to combust any second!” Maxie says, handing me my wine glass and I finish it off.

“He only has to look at me and I’ll do anything he asks. His eyes are so powerful and haunting. Have you seen that man’s eyes?” I say, breathily.

“Yes, I’ve seen them. Have you seen that man’s ass?” she declares.

“Maxie!” I exclaim, slapping her quickly on the arm. “That’s my man you’re talking about and you have a boyfriend!”

“Ow! Cut it out! Look, I’m not dead. I’m just recognizing and appreciating some serious man meat here, okay? And I don’t know if you noticed, but… Phil’s not my boyfriend anymore.” My head snaps to Maxie and I look at her in horror. How could this have gotten past me? Two of my best friends break up and I don’t know? Where have I been?

“What?” I exclaim. “What the hell?” Those two are inseparable! How could this be! I want to cry! And now she’s smiling. Why the hell are you smiling? Maxie produces her left hand and shows me a Petite Trellis solitaire princess cut white gold engagement ring. I gasp long and loud, then scream as my hands fly to my chest.

“Maxine Elaine Saunders, how could you to do that to me!?” I yell, nearly in tears.

“I’m sorry!” she lies through her laughter.

“How did I not see this all night?” We’re yelling like we are not sitting directly in front of each other.

“I just put it on. I wanted to surprise you! I wanted you to be the first to know!” she squeals.

“Oh Maxie!” I crush her in an embrace. “It’s wonderful! I’m so happy for you! Don’t you ever scare me like that again!” I wail.

“Oh, Ana, please forgive me! I need you to be my maid of honor!”

“Of course, I will, you cow!” I say as we cackle with laughter-tears. I release her and take her hand in mine, examining her ring as I wipe my tears. “Oh, Max, it’s beauuuuutiful,” I say in a soft, singy voice.

“Thank you, Ana,” she says, wiping away her own tears. “We were sitting on the deck and he just took my hand and put the ring on my finger. When I looked up at him, he just said, ‘I’m not asking because I’m not taking no for an answer…’ as if I could possibly deny him anyway!”

“Oh, this is wonderful,” I say softly. “Who would have guessed that two of the Awesome Threesome would be getting married when we met a few years ago?” I say smiling.

“You know,” she says, looking down. “We often wondered if our relationship would affect our friendship. We were so afraid you would pull away from us…” Her voice cracks a bit.

“Are you kidding? I could never be without you guys. I was thrilled that the two of you got together. Now all is perfect with the world because I’m in love—seriously in love—and my best-couple-friends are getting married! I couldn’t be more pleased.” I look adoringly into the eyes of one of the two women that I consider a sister, and she returns my gaze with matching affection.

“I love you, Ana,” She says, tears forming in her eyes again. I squeeze her hands.

“I love you, too, Maxie.”

Once we’re able to compose ourselves, Maxie apologizes for hijacking the conversation and get us back on track with the necessary content at hand.

“So, I can see how this level of affection can be scary right now, but I really wouldn’t worry about it. As your doctor, I can tell you that it’s really normal for you to feel like this—especially right out of the gate, and most certainly after the nightmare that was Edward David. As your friend, I can tell you that that hot, powerful, sexy, whatever the rest of the words were that you used to describe him, hunk of man meat is madly in love with you. It’s written all over his face… a blind man could see it. So, have fun, Ana. Live a little. Hell,” she gestures to our surroundings, “live a lot!” I laugh at her last statement.

“I know, Maxie. The biggest reason that I needed to talk to you tonight is because of where Christian is right now.” I fall back into the sofa. “He’s in Nevada… more specifically, he’s in Green Valley.”

“Whoa… shit!” she responds. “What the hell is he doing in Green Valley?”

“Yeah, that’s the worst part. He’s meeting with Cody Whitmore’s fucking father.” I spit. Maxie gasps.

“What?” she screeches. “What in the blue hell…?”

“Apparently, he needs this special insurance that reimburses the company if he or one of the higher-level executives are kidnapped or if their employees or executives are kidnapped in volatile countries or something…” I try to explain.

“K&R,” she says. I frown deeply.

“Am I the only person that didn’t know what that was?” I snap.

“Probably not, but what does this have to do with Whitmore?” Maxie asks.

“Whitmore sells insurance. He’s very, very, very high up in one of the largest independent insurance firms in the Pacific time zone. That’s probably how he acquired GEH’s attention.”

“You don’t think it has anything to do with you, do you?” she asks. “Maybe Whitmore found out that you’re with Christian somehow. Some sort of shakedown maybe?” I shake my head.

“I don’t see how. Our relationship isn’t public. I mean, it’s not private, but it’s not like we’re in the news or anything. I don’t speak to anybody from Green Valley, not even my prior guardians. I spoke briefly to George, but he doesn’t know that I’m with Christian. Even so, what could they possibly hope to gain from Christian?” I shrug.

“Does Christian know this is the father of the guy that raped you?” she asks, horrified.

“No, I never told him. He would kill Cody with his bare hands, I just know it. I almost let the cat out of the bag on Monday, though. He told me where he was going and he mentioned Cody’s name and I went into some kind of subconscious conniption fit. It was horrible.”

“Oh, Ana,” she says, sympathetically.

“Yeah, it was awful. He was looking at me—so helpless—like he desperately wanted to erase all the bad in my life. I wanted to tell him so badly, so badly Maxie, but I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t risk him going after Cody and then I lose him.” I bury my face in my hands.

“But he does know about…” She trailed off and I knew what she was asking me.

“He knows,” I say, my voice muffled. “He’s knows the what just not the who. Do you remember when I told you that Edward had seen it, and I told him not to ask me about it and he didn’t…?

“But you secretly wanted him to ask because it would have meant that he cared.” She finishes my sentence. I nod and raise my face from my hands, involuntary tears starting to fall.

“Christian asked…” I squeak and Maxie smiles at me, taking my hands.

“He did?” she asks softly and I nod.

“Repeatedly. He begged. He wouldn’t let me hide.” I drop my head. “He kissed my brand when he thought I was asleep,” I say just above a whisper. “He stroked the scars and called me ‘Beautiful.’ He’s my Prince Charming,” I choke, wiping my tears.

“Wow,” she says in a dreamy voice. I sigh.

“And now, he’s fraternizing with the enemy—not just any enemy, the ultimate enemy. I should have told him…” I say, mentally kicking myself for not informing him who he was going into business with. “Of all the insurance companies he could have used… get a piece of the rock, the good hands people, the good neighbor folks, even the little fucking lizard! But no, he had to go to Daddy Whitmore—’we raise rapists’ Daddy Whitmore. I should have told him.” I bury my face in my hands again.

“Are you certain that he would have gone after Cody if you had told him about this?” Maxie asks.

“Yeah, I’d bet the ranch that he would have gone after him… or had someone else go after him,” I reply. She sighs.

“Ana, I’m never one to promote deception or cover-up of any kind. You know as well as I do that it always comes out in the end.” Don’t I know it. “But I have to say that I think you did the right thing this time by not telling him.” I look up at her, surprised. “You found out… whattwo days before he was leaving? How could you possibly drop a bomb like that with your knowledge of how he would respond and expect to be able to do any kind of damage control in that small amount of time?” She sounds logical, but I don’t feel any better.

“I could have told him not to go, and he would have stayed,” I inform her. “But I’m sure that I couldn’t do that without telling him why. It’s such a mess. Every moment that he’s down there, I’m just sick to my stomach,” I say, determined not to have a repeat of Monday night and the amazing reappearing dinner.

“How did you justify letting him go?” she asks.

“By telling myself that I couldn’t run his life or his business and telling myself that it was for the best that he didn’t know about Cody,” I respond.

“Well, you’ve got that half right,” I say. “You can’t run his life or his business. He has to make those decisions and he’s been doing very well up until now. Unfortunately, you do have to tell him about Cody.” A look of horror must have spread across my face because she quickly adds, “You don’t have to tell him right now, especially not while he’s down there within arm’s reach of the bastard, but you are going to have to tell him eventually,” she says, putting her hand on my knee.

“Well, what do I do in the meantime, Maxie? I’m going crazy,” I beg.

“Well, in the meantime, you take comfort in knowing that you did the right thing for the immediate future. You should definitely stop worrying about it because there’s nothing you can do about it right now… not to mention that worrying is bad for your complexion. Finally, you help me get some ideas for my wedding because I don’t know where it’s going to be, when it’s going to be, what my color scheme will be, how many people will be there… all I know is that I love this man and want to marry him as soon as possible. And he has left it all up to me,” she says, more than a little flustered. I smile at one half of my best-couple-friends.

“Those sound like fabulous suggestions, Max,” I say grasping her hand on my knee.

*-*

I shower and change for bed, deciding on one of Christian’s T-shirts since he’s not here. I need as much of him near me as possible. I haven’t heard from him since he landed in Vegas. I hope those wolves haven’t killed him and dumped his body somewhere. I wouldn’t put it pass them. I’m sitting on the bed blankly looking at my laptop when my iPhone sings that I have a text.

**Skype? **

It’s Christian. Thank God. The wolves haven’t disposed of him yet. I open my Skype and text him back.

**Doctorlady206 **

Moments later, I get a friend request on Skype from CEO1920. I snicker to myself as I add him to my friends list, then almost immediately get a call from him. My hands tremble as I click the mouse to answer the call.

“Hello, Beautiful.” His voice soothes me immediately. He looks deliciously wonderful propped up bed in a T-shirt and pajama pants.

“I miss you,” I say before I can get anything else out of my mouth. He sighs.

“I miss you, too, Butterfly,” he says, somberly. “You’ve been crying,” he adds, after a pause. Shit, how can he tell? That was at least an hour ago.

“Oh, don’t pay me any attention,” I say with a nervous laugh. “Maxie came by for dinner and announced that she and Phil are engaged,” I say as a reason for my tears. It was almost true.

“Really?” he says, sounding just as pleased as I am.

“Yes. She played a terrible trick on me. She told me that she and Phil weren’t boyfriend and girlfriend anymore, and I flipped the hell out,” I add.

“You cried because you thought they broke up?” he asks, bemused.

“Noooo,” I said, rolling my eyes. “She showed me the ring, then I cried,” I answer. Christian shakes his head.

“Sappy girls,” he teases.

“Don’t tease me, I’m having a hard time here by myself,” I caution gently. His expression softens.

“I’m sorry, baby,” he says. I shrug.

“It’s okay. So, how are things going down there?” Do I really want to know? He shifts a bit on the bed.

“I’ve got a lot of information,” he says. “Waiting for more to be sent over by Welch. I don’t think I like this guy, Whitmore.” Oh, good Lord, that’s music to my ears.

“Do I even want to know why?” I actually should have thought that statement instead of saying it aloud.

“He’s a poser. His son is even worse,” he says, disdainfully.

“His son?” I ask. Did you meet that bastard? Please tell me you hated him.

“Cody,” Christian says after an uncomfortable pause.

“Are you okay, Christian?” I ask. He shakes his head as if to release a bad thought.

“Yeah, I’m fine. First impressions are quite important to me and the Whitmores were less than presentable in my book,” he responds.

“Did you meet any other members of his family?” Like Amber?

“No, just Junior and Senior Whitmore. If these two are any indication of the rest of their family, I don’t think I could stomach any more time with them.” He shakes his head.

“So, why not just cut your losses and come home?” Please?

“Because I still haven’t finished gathering information on the company. Granted, he’s not my first choice for someone that I would put out front to represent my business, but I always want my decision to be educated… even if I decide to say ‘no.'” And that’s why he’s the brilliant businessman.

“Okay, that makes sense to me.” He relaxes a little at my statement. You don’t have to explain your business choices to me, Christian. I just don’t want you anywhere near those snakes, that’s all.

“So, what brought Maxine by today?” he asks. I can tell he’s concerned.

“I asked her to come over. I was lonely,” I say honestly, well, mostly honestly.

“How was your day?”

“Long,” I admit. “I’ll be fine, Christian. I just have to get used to those times when I have to be without you,” I say trying to quell his obvious concern. Hopefully, I’ll never have to worry about you talking to the fucking Whitmores again. That’ll make it a whole lot easier!

“I thought our experience yesterday would have made the separation a little easier,” he says, seductively. I giggle.

“If anything, it made it worse,” I say, laying down on the bed. His breath catches a bit.

“I know what you mean,” he says, and I can see his hand moving a bit. I know what he’s doing.

“Let me see…” I say. He pulls the laptop back and adjusts the webcam so that I can see him stroking his erection over his pajama pants. Fuck, that’s hot. I bite my lip and my hand immediately goes to my nipple. I tease it gently over my shirt and gasp when a jolt of pleasure shoots straight to my core.

“Take off your shirt, baby,” he says, his voice deep and hungry. I slowly remove his T-shirt and I’m naked underneath. “Oh shit. You look so good.” He’s reaching into his pants now.

“Your turn,” I breathe as I continue to stimulate my nipples. He accommodates me by removing his T-shirt to reveal his sexy, muscular chest. I let one of my hands wander to my stomach, then tell him, “your bottoms, Mr. Grey.” My voice reveals the ache inside. He groans before he raises his hips to remove his pajama pants, releasing his erection into the webcam. I whimper involuntarily as he springs forth. My mouth actually waters for him. I immediately slide my hand down to my clitoris. I don’t think I can take one more second without satisfaction. I’m so hungry for his closeness and his touch, I could just burst.

“You’re a little anxious, aren’t you, baby?” he says, his voice a mixture of mirth and arousal as he fists his shaft.

“Very,” I breathe and I open my legs to reveal my hot, wet pussy to the webcam. “Talk to me,” I prompt him as I stroke my folds. He moans loudly and his dick seems to stand taller with each stroke. God, he looks so good.

“You’re so wet, baby,” he moans. “I can see you dripping for me. Stick your finger in it, baby. Spread that wetness around.” I do as I’m told and plunge my finger into my hot core.

“Ah!” I gasp as I pull the wetness out and spread it around my core.

“Yes… yesthat’s it… massage that clit, baby,” he says, his voice labored and sexy. I feverishly stimulate my clitoris and my nipple as I watch his hand stroke mercilessly over his throbbing dick.

“Oooooo, you like that, baby?” I purr as I feel my release coming.

“Yes, baby,” he chokes, “I… like that a lot.”

“Show me,” I say, plunging my fingers into my pussy again. “Ah! Show me how much you like it.”

“Oh fuck!” he hisses as he quickens his stroke, keeping his eyes glued to the screen, his breath quickening.

“Tell me how it feels…” I mewl… any second now…

“Oh, baby… so good… it feels… sogood,” he croaks.

“Yes… yes, Baby… it feels… aaaaahhh!” I throw my head back as my orgasm takes over me. I’m squirming wildly on the bed, pinching my nipple and riding out my release, unable to keep my eyes open. “Christian!” I croak.

“Look at me!” he growls, causing my eyes to fly open and my head to dart to the screen. He has moved closer to the computer and he is pulling ferociously at his dick. The sight causes another small wave of pleasure to flow through me—a mini-gasm, I like to call them… Delicious aftershocks that prolong the pleasure.

“Ah! Christian!” I whimper again, breathless.

“Gah! Ana… baby… fuck!” I love to watch him make himself come, or even watch me make him come. He has pushed himself back against the headboard and his seed squirts up and back down over his dick as he squeezes and holds it up to jerk out his release.

“Yes, baby, spread it for me. Spread it over your cock like I would,” I tell him. He spreads his cum up and down his dick and over the head, writhing with each stroke and grunting as I know the tenderness is almost too much to bear. “Oh, yes, baby, that looks so good.” I coo. Once he stops jerking and grunting, I know that he has worked out every bit of his release. His breathing is starting to slow and he begins to relax.

“Damn, Ana. Even from 1100 miles away, you still make me come hard as fuck!” he says between his calming breaths.

“Ditto, Mr. Grey,” I say, my body still tingling from its release. He raises his head and looks at me adoringly.

“I think we both may need a trip to the bathroom to clean ourselves up.” He smiles.

“I think you may be right,” I coo.

“Back in five?” He bargains.

“See you then…”

I was able to sleep okay through the night only because Christian stayed on Slype with me until I fell asleep. I wake this morning to a Skype picture waiting for me—a still of Christian holding a hand-written sign that says, “I love you, Butterfly.” Now I can make it through my day.

Today, I have an appointment with Melanie again, the one patient that I have for dignity therapy. Some days are better than others for her, and today seems to be one of her weaker days.

“So, why are we here today, Melanie? You seem like you’re so tired, we could have done this next week,” I say sympathetically.

“That’s the problem, Ana. I never know when there may not be a next week for me,” Melanie says, her breathing labored.

“Okay, I understand that. I’m not your doctor in that sense, but I’m sure that in this type of discomfort, rest will be better for you.” I try to reason with her.

“No offense, Ana, but I’m dying. I’ll rest when I’m dead,” she says, smiling weakly. I nod. It’s her decision if she wants to continue.

“So, where did we leave off last time?” I ask.

“No regrets. Number 7, marrying my first husband…”

Melanie and I laugh through her session this time. She discusses how marrying her first love seemed like a good idea at the time, but that they were too young and neither of them had done any living. They have a child who is now living with her father since Melanie is too sick to care for her anymore. It seems that every time she talks about her teenage years, she gets a feeling of remorse and regret—which is strange since the dignity therapy is primarily to help her release those feelings. Every time our session is over, I just want to run to Christian’s arms and hold him and thank him for being a part of my life. Unfortunately, he’s not here right now.

After lunch, I go over to Helping Hands headquarters to see the facility and meet with some of the families as scheduled. Of course, I see John there and resist the urge to call him a quack. He seems to work well with the families, though, so I guess he can’t be all bad. As Grace takes me around introducing me to various staff members and families, I keep getting a glimpse of a teenage boy who stares blankly out the window. Anger is emanating from this kid and everyone seems to avoid him, including the staff.

“What’s his story?” I ask Grace, pointing to him. Grace sighs.

“He’s a very angry young man. His father abused him, his mother, and his little sister. His mother ended up in the hospital—she nearly died. That’s when they finally decided to leave. He feels like he should have been able to protect her, but he couldn’t even protect himself. So now, he’s dealing with the fallout from abuse as well as the guilt from not being able to rescue the women in his family. Like I said, very angry young man,” she explains.

“No one’s trying to help him?” I ask.

Everyone has tried to help him,” she exclaims. “He’s belligerent, uncooperative, and sometimes violent. We’ve found it best to just leave him alone while his mother and sister are able to get assistance.” I look at her bemused and she puts her hand on my shoulder. “I think sometimes the company is enough for him, even though he doesn’t say anything, but you can’t help someone who doesn’t want to be helped.” I look over at this very angry young man about to be unleashed on society one day.

“Do you mind if I try?” I ask. She eyes me suspiciously.

“He hasn’t struck anyone recently, Ana, but that’s not to say that he won’t strike you,” she warns. I laugh. Oh, trust me, Grace, he wants none of this.

“I’ll take my chances,” I say and she nods. I walk over to Little Mr. Angry and sit on the window-seat next to him.

“Hi,” I say. He turns to look at me and every angry and hurtful emotion imaginable is hiding behind his shocking green eyes.

“Who the fuck are you?” he says, coolly. Oh… okay. This is how you want to play it? Fine by me.

“I’m Ana. Who the fuck are you?” I respond flatly. There’s an emotion I didn’t see behind those green eyes… surprise.

“You work here, don’t you? You’re not allowed to speak to people that way,” he says, matter-of-factly.

“But you are?” I ask. He just stares at me. “You get what you give, buddy.” He turns his head and looks out the window again. “See anything interesting?” I ask. He turns to me again.

“Why don’t you just leave me the hell alone?” he snaps. I shrug.

“Fine. Fuck it.” I stand and proceed to leave.

“Are you supposed to do that?” I hear Little Mr. Angry ask from behind me.

“Do what?” I ask in the snottiest, high school voice I can muster.

“Walk away,” he says like he’s scolding me. I fold my arms

“You said ‘leave you alone,’ I was leaving you alone,” I reply, snapping my head on every word and glaring at him. He stares at me like I have two heads. “What?” I snap, the snotty high-schooler returns.

“Nothing! It’s just… everybody else tries to get me to talk.” He drops his head. I walk back over to the window seat.

“Well, it’s kind of clear that you don’t want to talk. I just want to know why you’re sitting here, looking out at… nothing.” I turn to the window and look for something to catch my eye. “Pretty fucking boring.” He looks over at me again.

“You’re strange,” he says. I turn and meet his eyes, not so angry anymore.

I’m strange? Hey, I’m not the one sitting here looking out the window at nothing,” I throw back and roll my eyes. He snickers. Holy cow, we’re getting through.

“You must be new,” he says, turning back to viewing nothing out the window.

“Well, besides the fact that you obviously haven’t seen me before, why do you say that?” I ask.

“Because nobody here talks to me. They’re afraid I’m going to go all ragey and scratch their eyes out or something,” he says without looking back at me.

“I’m not worried about that,” I say, flatly.

“Why not?” he snaps, looking at me again. “What makes you so damn special?”

“Oh, because if you go all ragey on me, I’ll beat your little ass.” I say, doing the finger quotes around the word “ragey.”

“You will not!” he says, incredulously.

“Oh, yes, I will!” I retort, snapping my head again. “I train with a 6th degree black belt martial arts master and I have had him on the ground begging for mercy. I will beat. Your little. Ass!” I say definitely. He laughs aloud and the few people in the room fall silent. I turn around and look at them, afraid they are going to undo all the work I just did.

“What!?” I yell, irritated at the gawkers. They look at me surprised. I’ll apologize later. Right now, I’m on a mission. They go back to conversation or whatever they were doing.

“They’re not going to like you very much here.” I turn and look at him, my gaze dripping with sarcasm.

“And this should bother me because…?” I spit. “This ain’t my day job!” He laughs again.

“So, what are you doing here anyway?” he asks.

“Right now, trying to find out who the fuck you are,” I say glaring at him again. He pauses.

“Marlow. My name is Marlow,” he finally confesses.

“Well, I’d say ‘nice to meet you, Marlow,’ but it wasn’t that nice. So, what’s your deal? Who pissed in your Cheerios?” I ask.

“It’s just the way I am,” he says, looking out at nothing again. Okay…

“So, Marlow, do you prefer ‘black’ or ‘African American?'” His head snaps at me.

“What!?” he shoots.

“I’ve got a question for you, but before I ask, I need to know. Do you prefer ‘black’ or ‘African American?'” He looks at me like he completely doesn’t understand what I’m asking him. “It’s not rocket science, dude,” I shrug. “‘Black’ or ‘African American?'”

“Black,” he spits at me after a pause. “I prefer black. I ain’t no fucking African American. I was born here. I ain’t never been to Africa in my damn life.”

“Yeah, that’s been my experience with most black people.” He glares at me again. “Look, I don’t know where the fuck my people came from, so I have no idea what kind of hyphenated-American I would be!” I shoot.

“They wouldn’t hyphenate you. You’re white,” he says, a little disdainful.

“Yeah, but as far as I know, the only people that really come from here are the ‘na-tive‘ Americans,” I do the finger quotes again with the word “native” and deliberately split the syllables. “The rest of us landed on somebody’s shore, voluntarily or involuntarily.”

“So, what was the question?” he asks.

“Oh, yeah. I’ve never seen a black person with green eyes,” I say, leaning in like his eyes are the most interesting thing in the room—which right now, they are. “How does that happen?” He leans back a bit and takes a deep breath.

“My mom is white, and my dad is black. My mom has green eyes…” he says, his voice low. I stare in his eyes.

“You don’t like them,” I say, tilting my head.

“I don’t know,” he answers. “They cause me problems,” he says, still looking at me. I snap my head back.

“Problems?” How can your eye color cause you problems?

“Yeah.” He looks back out at nothing. “The kids at school used to say that I was trying to be white. They thought I was wearing contacts—like every other bitch in school wasn’t wearing them already. And then my dad…” He trails off. I wait for a moment before I ask, “What about him?” Marlow sighs.

“He used to beat me… because he was mad I got my mom’s eyes and not his… like that was my fucking fault!” he spits.

“Damn,” I say, shaking my head. “That’s fucked up.” I turn back to look at nothing with him.

“They teach you a class in this shit?” he says, turning to me.

“What shit?” I say, looking at him.

“Relating to somebody. Getting on their level,” he answers sarcastically. Oh shit, you got me. I shake my head.

“I don’t think you can teach something like that. Either you relate or you don’t. It is what it is,” I say with a shrug. I relate, because I could have very well been Marlow if I had decided to stay angry for what happened to me.

“It’s just that… every time they send somebody to talk to me, they send some fucking phony…”

“Okay, who are ‘they’ and why are they sending people?” I ask, mimicking confusion. He laughs again.

“You really are strange, Ana,” he says.

“Look who’s talking,” I reply. He smiles and rolls his eyes.

“I’m just tired of people trying to ‘fix’ me,” he says.

“Why? Are you broken?” I say with one raised eyebrow. He narrows his eyes. He can’t figure me out.

“They think I am!” he says, waving his hands and pointing at nobody. I catch a glimpse of Grace out of the corner of my eye standing just outside the door with another woman. Oh, forgive me, Grace.

“There you go with ‘they’ again. Who the fuck are ‘they?'” I say with my hands open, looking flustered. And he’s still trying to figure me out. “Do you think you’re broken?”

“No, I’m not broken!” he declares.

“Fine, so you’re not broken. What’s the damn problem?” I say, hands still open, flustered.

“I want people to treat me like a person, not a fucking charity case,” he yells.

“So why don’t you just say that?” I yell back, and now he’s shocked. “Is there something wrong with your mouth that you can’t tell people ‘I’m a fucking person?'” I stare into his green eyes, now guileless and somewhat confused. I hold my hands out wide and stare. “Feel better now?” I snap. His whole body relaxes. I put my hands down.

“People will only treat you the way you allow them to treat you,” I say definitely. “‘They’ have been trying to help you, but ‘they’ can’t because they don’t know how. They don’t know what you need and apparently, they don’t know how to treat you. But Marlow, you can’t make them feel bad for trying to help you. We’ve all got a story, believe me, and none of us really wants to tell it. Hell, I wish I could bury mine forever and never fucking say it again.” I say, doing a patented Christian-Grey-fingers-in-my-hair gesture. “You don’t have to constantly tell your story to get past your story, but you do have to get past your story!” He drops his head at this statement.

“Maybe I can help you get past your story, get a little peace in your life, stop being so damn mad all the time. But I won’t shove anything down your throat. I don’t know what the hell ‘normal’ is,” air quotes again, “and if there a such thing as fixed and broken, then I’m somewhere in between!” I say making illustrative gestures with my hands.

“No, you’re strange.” He laughs.

“Whatever,” I say, leaning in to him. I put my arms on my knees and fold my hands in front between them. “I’m going to leave here tonight, go home, eat my dinner, watch some TV, and everything will be everything. I’ll help you if you want me to, and if you don’t, I’ll get up and carry my happy ass outta here. I won’t lose any sleep if you decide you want me to get the fuck out of your face. The choice is yours.” I sit there waiting for Marlow to make a decision.

“Lady, the minute I feel like you are trying to run some kind of game on me, I’m done,” he says.

“That is always your choice, Marlow. I just want to see you not be so damn pissed. Can we work on that?” He nods.

“Yeah, we can work on it. Will you be here next week?” he asks.

“I’ll be here next week.” I nod and proffer my hand to him. He shakes my hand just as Grace and the other woman enter the room. Marlow shoots up and puts his hands in the air.

“I wasn’t doing anything!” he nearly shouts. I stand up and turn to him smacking my lips.

“At ease, soldier,” I say sarcastically snapping my head again. He looks at me and then at Grace, then puts his hands in his pockets and drops his head. I notice he’s a lot taller than I thought, maybe about 5′ 8″ or so, but stress can make you look and feel very small.

“Ana, this is Marcia, Marlow’s mother,” Grace introduces the green-eyed brunette to me and I shake her hand.

“He’s right, he does have your eyes,” I say.

“It’s nice to meet you, Ana,” she says sweetly.

“Same here,” I respond. Marcia is about the same height as Marlow, with healing bruises on her face. Her last encounter must not have been that long ago.

“I see you’ve met my son,” she says, cautiously.

“Oh, yes, he’s just a bundle of joy and laughter,” I say, sarcastically looking at Marlow, who chuckles again.

“Yeah, and you’re short,” he says with mirth.

“Whatever. I’ll still kick your little ass,” I say, playfully punching his arm while he continues to laugh at me. “Next week? Same place?” I ask. He nods.

“Next week,” he says and he walks out with his mother. Grace watches them leave and turns to me once they have cleared the door.

“He hasn’t spoken to anyone in months! What did you do?” she asks in wonder. I shrug.

“You do whatever you have to do—within reason—to get through to them. He’s a very angry child, and none of that psycho-babble-mumbo-jumbo was going to work with him. He needs to be seen. He needs for people to see him, and that just hasn’t been happening.” She looks at me, her eyes still full of wonder.

“He doesn’t see me as a threat. I’m not shoving anything down his throat, I don’t have anything to sell, and the door is open for him to leave any time he wants,” I say to Grace. “It’s like you said, you can’t help someone who doesn’t want to be helped. They have to make the decisions. We can’t do it for them.” She shakes her head.

“You’ve been here, what, two hours? Maybe? Do you know how many people have tried to help that young man?” I shrug.

“I can imagine,” I reply.

“I was coming in here to investigate since one of the workers said the new girl yelled at her.” My hand flies to my mouth.

“Oh, my God! Please apologize for me, I’m so sorry! I had to get on his level and it required that I get a little brusque,” I squeak on the last word. “I didn’t mean to offend anybody,” I say shaking my head.

“I wouldn’t worry about it, dear,” she says. “If you can turn that one into a success story, everyone here will be eternally grateful.”

“Do you have prior files on him? I want to find out as much about him as I can, but I don’t want to push him to talk about anything that he doesn’t want to discuss,” I say. Grace nods and I follow her to her office.


GREY

I spend most of the day trying to weave together the information that I already have from Billings as well as the unspoken information I’ve gotten from Sullivan and the Whitmores. While sitting at the desk in the penthouse of the Bellagio, I’ve made a list of the people who are definitely responsible:

Cody Whitmore and his asshole father, Franklin
Kevin Van Dyke—identified by Billings

There are some strong possibles that need to be examined:

Carly Madison—Whitmore’s high school girlfriend
Mary Wiseman, Rhonda Yick, and Lana Milligan—most likely guilty by association; flunkies that hung around Madison.
Michael Underwood—Identified by Billings as “Michael and them guys”
Brian Moleham, Richard Swanson, William Wood, and Justin Roundy-“them guys”

Strong evidence points to Madison because although Whitmore claimed that Butterfly lied on him and that the sex was consensual, that would not instigate the need for him to brand her a whore… literally or figuratively. He may have assisted in pegging her as a liar, but not a whore. That particular label is personal and would have been granted by someone who felt particularly slighted by the situation—hence, the woman scorned.

If that’s the case, Madison would not have carried this out without her closest partners in crime—again, literally and figuratively. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that, among other possibilities, those partners would certainly have been Wiseman, Yick, and Milligan. Madison was photographed over 20 times in the 2001 yearbook—not even her year of graduation. Whomever else may have been in the shots with her, these three were always there.

I only have Billings’ information to follow Michael and his crew, but something still doesn’t sit well with me with Sullivan. I can’t figure where he would fit with this puzzle. There’s no payoff according to Welch, so we know that Whitmore didn’t get to him—unless he used some untraceable assets and nothing at all even points in that direction. I think it’s pretty safe to say that he wasn’t paid off. He was the cop at that time, so he certainly wasn’t one of the students that took part in the attack. There’s absolutely no evidence that he knew the Steeles/Mortons before any of this happened. So, what is he hiding? He has covered every track possible that could lead to that ranch or that night, and nobody questioned him. He clearly doesn’t want anybody to see the evidence. Why would a cop want evidence to be covered?

I look at the picture of my Butterfly again. The beautiful, fresh-faced, bright-eyed girl reminds me why I’m doing this. They stole her innocence and put her through hell when she should have been going on dates and to movies, picking a dress for the prom. No, she was working crazy hours at odd jobs, saving her pennies and planning an escape from her own personal hell. You would never know what she went through by looking at this beautiful picture. You would also never know that, quite possibly, anybody on this page could have taken part in her attack—a page full of shiny-eyed, pimply-faced teenagers. I look at the different expressions and make a game out of trying to figure out what they could be doing now.

Kevin Schau—he probably went to Hollywood and became a movie star.
Danielle Titus—probably the president of the PTA after punching out a couple of kids.
Robert Sol—oh, he is so gay.

I see one picture that has an air of familiarity and I have to do a double-take. Right there on the same page—as a matter of fact, right next to Butterfly… how did I not see that?

“No fucking way!” I exclaim aloud, causing Taylor to appear in the doorway from the bedroom on the other side of the penthouse.

“Sir?” he greets cautiously, but I’m feverishly opening the folders to access the background checks and information on the Green Valley suspects. I open a file and read carefully, and there it is. There’s no mistaking it. The resemblance is uncanny and it’s right there in black and white. I’m glad it only took me a day to see it and I don’t know if I would have ever made the connection if I hadn’t been staring at Butterfly.

“Fuck!” I exclaim again as I stand quickly from my seat, knocking the chair back onto the floor behind me. This discovery is completely infuriating me! I walk away from the desk, cursing and ready to kill someone with my bare hands. I pour myself a bourbon from the wet bar and immediately throw back the double-shot. Taylor approaches cautiously.

“Boss… what is it?” he says, his voice forceful. We cross a certain line when I go from “Sir” to “Boss.” The latter is more of a term of endearment… if you can call it that. When he needs to get my attention for something—or bring me back from the cliff—he calls me “Boss.”

I look over my shoulder at Taylor, trying to gather my thoughts to explain what I have just figured out. “Pick up the chair and have a seat, Taylor.” Bemused, he places the chair in front of my laptop and looks at me expecting. I come back to the desk and move the mouse. The picture that I was studying pops up. “In the yearbook, the kid next to Anastasia—hold it up to the screen.” It only takes a few moments for Taylor to see the resemblance.

“Ssssssssshit!” he hisses viciously, looking up at me.

“I’d bet my next acquisition that little fucker was at that bonfire,” I spit.

“I’d bet my pension that you’re right,” he confirms. I launch my glass at the nearest wall and it disintegrates into dust.

“She never had a chance for justice here, not a fucking chance! There was never a hope or a prayer that anybody would be brought to justice for this shit. Yet this asshole calls her anytime there’s a hit or an inquiry on her case. What the fuck is that about!?” I’m beyond all levels of livid that I have ever reached in my fucking life! I’m so pissed, you could fry an egg on my head right now.

“What do you want to do, boss?” Taylor asks, his anger levels evident in his voice as well. I’m so angry that I’m shaking.

“I have dinner with Crestwood in three hours. I’m going to the hotel fitness center for a while to try to curb my current need to kill someone!” I bark the last two words through my teeth. “Find that bastard. I want to know every fucking thing about him and I want to know what he knows. I want to know where he is tonight! If he’s dead, I will exhume his body, hold a fucking séance and question his goddamn ghost!” I say as I pick up the vase of flowers from a nearby table and launch it at the wall as well, the vase meeting the same fate as the bourbon glass, before I retreat to the bedroom in search of gym attire.

At 4:50pm, I’m showered, changed, decked out in Paul Stuart gray and black lightweight tweed and Crockett & Jones black leather shoes, and seated in Jasmine facing the door and sipping on a cranberry spritzer prepared to Butterfly’s specifications. I’m early, because I hate being late. At five minutes to the hour, I watch as the hostess points a woman to my table. Cynthia Crestwood is in her mid-forties and very fit. Her hair is a very light brown with obvious natural blonde highlights. She’s very attractive and wears very little make-up. Her dress is modest and tasteful. I stand as she extends a well-manicured dainty hand to me.

“Mr. Grey? I’m Cynthia Crestwood.” I kiss her hand.

“A pleasure to meet you Mrs. Crestwood. Please have a seat. Would you like a drink?” I offer.

“A lemon breeze with mint, please,” she says to the server.

“Cubed or crushed ice, ma’am?” the server asks.

“Crushed, pleased.” The server nods and retreats to prepare her drink. “So, Mr. Grey, I’m anxious to hear about your organization. I will confess that I Googled you last night and I’m aware of your philanthropic endeavors. So, the fact I’m being honored by this charitable organization supported by such a prestigious company is a bit of a surprise to me. I’ll admit that I’ve helped more than a few troubled children in my time, but none that I would think would gain any acclaim outside of my little community.”

“Well, this is nothing like the Nobel Peace Prize, granted,” I begin. “It’s something that we do that recognizes smaller contributions that would otherwise go unnoticed. You come highly recommended by one of our psychiatrists.” This has piqued her interest.

“All the way in Seattle?” She smiles. “Who is this psychiatrist?” Showtime.

“Her name is Anastasia Steele,” I answer casually, taking a sip of my spritzer.

“Really?” she says, her voice showing particular interest now. “How do you know Anastasia Steele?” I guess it’s time to let the cat out of the bag. After a pause, I answer,

“She’s my girlfriend.” Crestwood’s expression changes and she looks as if she will make a mad dash for the door any second, ready to run just like the rest of them and wanting to do anything in the world but talk to me right now.

“Before you clam up on me and run away, Helping Hands is a real organization. My mother Dr. Grace Trevelyan Grey is really the director—this is her baby. Anastasia really is a psychiatrist that works with the families there. She’s really quite remarkable with people in light of what has happened to her.”

A myriad of emotions cross Ms. Crestwood’s face. “That’s why you’re here, isn’t it?” she asks with conviction. I nod.

“Yes, ma’am, it is. No one was ever brought to justice for what happened to her. She doesn’t know that I’m here, but with my resources, I’m sure that I can bring her some kind of closure.” Ms. Crestwood is no doubt weighing the pros and cons of talking to me. Will she run like everyone else? Someone has got to be willing to give me some answers. I’m good, but I don’t think I’m going to just stumble on to too many more leads like the one that presented itself earlier this afternoon.

“Seattle? A psychiatrist, huh?” she asks.

“Yes. She has helped quite a few people through some pretty rough times. She even helped me and my family. I can tell you with all honesty that she has a profound effect on everyone that she meets,” I answer. She smiles and nods. The look on her face can only be described as pride.

We pause for a moment while the server brings her drink and we place our order for dinner. Once she leaves, Ms. Crestwood starts talking.

“That same year, Stephen got a large sum of money from one of the kids’ father—Whitmore. I’m pretty certain the culprit there was Cody. He’s always been a problem—spoiled, entitled little brat. And his girlfriend Carly was even worse. Her father owns horse ranches in the area…” That ties right in to what happened to Butterfly. Ms. Crestwood notices the change in my posture. “You know exactly what happened to her don’t you?” she asks.

“Yes,” I say, “I do.”

She sighs. “The only person that I can give you with any certainty is Cody. From talking to my brother-in-law and to Ana, he’s your prime suspect.” She has just told me that Cody is the one that raped Butterfly but she doesn’t want to say the words—and she doesn’t know that I already know this, but I’m glad to have someone confirm it. “His girlfriend was quite malicious. I would bet my retirement that she had something to do with Ana’s attack, if she wasn’t the ring-leader. From there, you want to focus on her ‘crew.’ They were the typical snobby, arrogant bunch that picked on the not-so-wealthy kids. I see it all the time.” She holds her head down and toys with her flatware.

Throughout dinner, she gives me several names as a starting place of who could have been involved. “I’m not 100% sure about this. I do know that if there was trouble in this area, these kids were usually involved. They’re notorious for stirring things up and getting away with it because their parents have money and could always buy them out of it, or Daddy knew someone that knew someone that knew someone that could fix it. I’m sure you’re aware of this sort of thing, Mr. Grey,” she says with some contempt.

“Yes, Mrs. Crestwood, I’m aware of this sort of thing. The difference is that I always try to operate within the letter of the law,” I state flatly.

“Try?” she questions. I fold my hands on the table.

“The law hasn’t been very kind to Anastasia in this matter. I’m going to gather as much information as I can and I’m going to do my best to operate within the letter of the law. However, someone that I love has been grossly mistreated and badly hurt. Although she has overcome what occurred, I will spend every dime of my fortune if I have to in order to see every person involved in this incident pay for what happened to her,” I say sternly. She nods.

The server has cleared our dinner dishes and is now serving after-dinner coffee before Mrs. Crestwood starts to tell me about her brother-in-law.

“Stephen and I were never that close. I was married to his brother Justin. Justin was very good to me, but he died in 2000.” She takes another sip of her coffee. “The house is a family house—Justin and Stephen’s parents. I didn’t want to live there alone without my Justin. So, I took the money from his life insurance and, after I paid all of Justin’s medical bills and burial costs, I bought a condo in Las Vegas. That’s the address that Ana used to attend Chaparral.” She looks out of the window of the restaurant.

“I was very angry with Stephen for bringing her back here after everything that had happened to her, poor girl. I don’t know how she survived living in that city after that. I’m not sure how she avoided running into anyone that had attacked her. I got her lots of little odd jobs with my friends—babysitting, cleaning, running errands. Many times, I brought her back home—if you could call it that—at 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning… on school nights. I didn’t want her catching the bus that late and she was determined to do whatever she needed to do get away from those people.

“I knew there was money involved. Justin was the salt of the earth, God rest his soul, but Stephen is one of the most unscrupulous men I have ever met. He never did anything to me personally, but the way he treated Ana. And Carla—his wife, Ana’s mother—I don’t know, she just seemed… detached from the whole thing. If that had been my daughter, I would have been screaming from the mountaintops for justice, but not Carla. She was content to sit by and watch whatever was going to happen just… happen.” She sighs.

“Anyway, little Ana left the minute she graduated from high school… and I do mean the very minute that she graduated. She told me that she was leaving, but she never told me where she was going, and I haven’t seen her since. I haven’t talked to her folks since then either. I married my husband Larry a few years later and never looked back at that part of my ‘family.’ I’ve often wondered how little Ana fared.” She looks at me. “Looks like she’s doing pretty well,” she says before finishing her coffee.

After dabbing her lips with her napkin, Mrs. Crestwood says, “I’m not sure that there’s anything else that I can tell you, Mr. Grey. I think I’ve covered everything that I know about the situation. I know that you should probably talk to the officer that discovered Ana that night because if anybody is hiding anything, he would know what’s hiding. He would certainly be remiss to tell you, but he would know.”

“You’ve been more than helpful, Mrs. Crestwood. I do thank you very much for the information,” I say extending my hand to her. She shakes it before standing to leave. When I stand with her, she asks, “Where were you raised, Mr. Grey?”

“In Bellevue, a suburb outside of Seattle.” She nods.

“I’m sorry, I just don’t see a lot of chivalry anymore. It’s very refreshing—especially from one so young,” she says, with a matronly smile. I return her smile.

“Thank you, ma’am,” I say with a small nod. She takes a few steps, then turns around.

“When you get to a point where you can talk to her about this, will you please tell Anastasia I said ‘hello’ and that I think of her often?” she asks. I smile.

“I will,” I assure her. She returns my smile and leaves the restaurant.


A/N:

Ana talks about running around the house, stopping clocks and wasting away in a wedding dress. This comes from a character in Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. Miss Havisham was jilted on her wedding day and basically stopped time, never left her mansion and never changed her clothes—a wedding dress and one shoe—because she was so heartbroken.

Ana broke into insurance company slogans in case that was confusing to anyone:
“Get a piece of the rock”—Prudential Insurance
“The good hands people”—Allstate Insurance
“The good neighbor folks”—State Farm Insurance
“Even the little fucking lizard”—the Geico gecko… they are mostly known for car insurance, so she was just being sarcastic here.

A lemon breeze is basically lemonade made like Ana’s spritzer—Lemon juice, simple syrup made with soda water (soda water and sugar) and mint leaves over cubed or crushed ice. You can use concentrated lemon juice or real lemons, whichever you prefer.

As always, pictures can be found on Pinterest including Maxie’s engagement ring at http://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/paging-dr-steele/

You can join my mailing list on the “Contact Me” page. Just click the link and it will lead you to a form to join the list.

~~love and handcuffs

Paging Dr. Steele: Chapter 38: A Tangled Web

This is a work or creativity. As such, you may see words, concepts, scenes, actions, behaviors, pictures, implements, and people that may or may not be socially acceptable and/or offensive. If you are sensitive to adverse and alternative subject matter of any kind, please do not proceed, because I guarantee you’ll find it here. You have been warned. Read at your own risk.

I do not own Fifty Shades Trilogy, or the characters. They belong to E. L. James. I am only exercising my right to exploit, abuse, and mangle the characters to MY discretion in MY story in MY interpretation as a fan. If something that I say displeases you, please, just leave. If you don’t like this story or me, please don’t spoil this experience for everyone. Just go away. For the rest of you, the saga continues…

Chapter 38—A Tangled Web

DAVID

“Keep your head down, damn it!” he snaps at me. Well, shit, we’ve been driving forever. I need to move around.

“Look, I don’t mean to sound like one of your crazy children or nephews or whatever, but are we fucking there yet?” I spit.

“If we were there, you wouldn’t have to stay down. I know these assholes. I used to be one of them. We have to be careful and make sure they didn’t follow us. Now shut the hell up or I’ll turn around!”

“Don’t talk to me like a child, motherfucker. I don’t dig that shit, and if you want to turn around, be my fucking guest!” Granted, I want to pull this off, but I’m not kissing this guy’s ass for shit.

“Just stay the fuck down until I’m sure that the coast is clear, okay?” he says finally.

I already regret teaming up with this guy, if that’s what you want to call it. He approached me on Monday outside of the apartment and invited me to coffee. He looked a little different than I remembered, but if this is supposed to be a disguise or something, it sucks. His hair is longer and a different color, but I could still tell immediately that it was him.

So, what’s your fascination with this chick? I mean, yeah, she’s hot and makes a little money and everything, but you got it bad—and I know your background story. You haven’t fucked her in years. So, what’s the deal, man?” Bob had asked sitting across from me.

We sat in some dinky little coffee joint a few miles away from Rosie’s apartment.

What does it matter? I love her and I want her and I’m going to get her. End of story.” I stirred my coffee. For all I know, Rich Boy could have sent him to befriend me and find out my plan. Well, I don’t have one, but I don’t care what Rich Boy knows. Rosie will be mine again. I will definitely see to that.

So, what do you plan to do—just keep stalking her while Grey fucks her brains out and hopes that she just gets tired of all the sex, money, and expensive gifts?” Bob retorted. “Planning to just wait her out, are you?”

I just need to get her alone,” I responded. “Every time I try to talk to her, we get into a fight. I just need to remind her of what we had together. Once I do that, I know I can make her mine again.”

When have you seen her alone?” he asked. “She’s never alone. Someone is always with her.”

Well, something’s up because she’s back at her apartment tonight and she hasn’t been there since last week. I wonder if they broke up?” I said, hopeful.

No, they didn’t break up. Chuck was there when we left.” He took a swallow of his coffee. “Look, all you’re trying to do is get her alone? She hates you, man. I watched her pull a gun in your face, and you still want to get her alone?”

Look, I’m telling you that’s not my Rosie…” I began.

“Rosie?” he sneered. “Who the fuck is Rosie?

Ana. I call her Rosie.” He laughed at me.

Whatever floats your boat, man,” he said drinking some more of his coffee. I continue.

I just need to get her away from all of this shit… even if I can just get her to myself for a few days, just a few days… away from the fucking security and her faggot friend and that rich prick Grey. I just need her to myself for a little while. I know that if I have her to myself for a little while, I can win her back.” We were so happy when we first got together. She was playful and funny, and I knew everything to do to her bite-sized little body to make her scream. Grey can’t be doing her like I did. I touched that kitty in ways nobody else knew how. I just have to remind her of those days—not the shit that came later, those days. “I know this woman like the back of my hand. If I can get her away from all of these fuckers whispering in her ear, I know I can win her back.”

So, that’s your plan… get her away from everybody so that you can turn on the charm?”

Yeah, that’s what I was hoping, but I can’t see it happening because, like you said—she’s never alone,” I answered defeated.

Well, I know these guys and they’re good. They’re not going to turn their back on her for one minute. What’s more, they’re not going to turn their back on you,” he informs me. “If you approach her, they’re going to be on your ass like white on rice before you breathe the same air she does. If what you need is alone time, you have to be able to get near her.”

And where do you come in, because this get-up that you’re in ain’t fooling nobody.”

It’s fooling somebody. Nobody’s tailing me, whereas if you look out of the window and to your right about 20 feet, you will see your latest tail.” Smug ass bastard. “You need to shake your tail—for lack of a better phrase—and once you do that, you can more than likely move a little more freely.”

So, what do you suggest?” I asked sarcastically.

We get you away from your surveillance, get you a disguise, and wait for your chance to get close to Rosie.” He said her name with pure disdain.

What’s in it for you?” I asked suspiciously.

Well, first of all, you may not want me to call her a bitch, but the bitch cost me my job. Second, Little Dick Grey has arranged it so that I can’t find another job in the state of fucking Washington, so I have to relocate to someplace where this fucker isn’t so damn powerful. Anything that I can do to trip him or her up—make their lives a little miserable—runs well with my blood. And third, like I said, I know your story. You got money, and you’re going to pay me.”

Why would I do that?” I spit.

Because I need money to get the hell out of town and start the fuck over. Without it, I have to stay here and maybe get a job at a fast food restaurant. That’s where you come in. I know how his security works, what they’ll be looking for, and how to shake them. That’s what you need. Without me, you can go back outside, pick up your binoculars and have fun with your 1001-foot stolen glances.” He glared at me.

How much are we talking and what exactly can you do for me?” I asked.

Oh, you are going to pay pretty, and pretty frequently, but if you want your magic moment with your precious Princess Perfect, then it’ll be worth it. Quite frankly, I don’t know what the fuck she’s working with in that deadly twat of hers, but whatever it is, it’s going to stay a thousand fucking feet away from my dick,” he spit.

Shut the fuck up, Asshole. You don’t even know her!” I shot.

I know that she’s got a restraining order against you and pulled a gun in your face and you’re still gagging for her ass. And Grey? I hadn’t worked for him for that long, but I know he’s a very powerful man. He makes grown ass men piss their pants on a regular basis. That man has the kind of money that can turn rain into sunshine—but one sniff of Princess Perfect, and he turned into a pussy. She’s got two grown ass men panting after her ass like sappy, stupid little lovesick puppies. Do you know how much money that man spends to keep you away from her? You have somebody tailing you 24 hours a day. They get paid well, including benefits, paid vacations, and hazard pay. They are strapped with the latest equipment and endless expense accounts and all drive late model Audis—and there are at least three or four of them on you every day, seven days a week. Man, they know when you take a shit—all for a piece of pussy. Like I said, whatever she’s got going on in that twat should be listed as hazardous material!” I sat up straight.

I won’t deny that I probably need your services, but you obviously need my money. So, I’m going to listen to what you have to offer and then I’ll decide if I’m going to hire you. But you need to understand something. You can feel whatever the hell you want, but you are going to stop talking about her in that fucked up way around me since—if I do choose to employ you—I assume I’m going to be paying you a pretty fucking penny to get me close enough to Princess Perfect and her toxic pussy to get her back. And you will watch how you talk to me since I’m the one that’s bankrolling this shit. Otherwise, I’ll go back to my binoculars, and you can go back to McDonald’s. Capiche… Bob?” I spit his name with as much disdain as he did Rosie’s. He glared at me for a moment and then said,

Deal… Ed.”

Now we’re traveling by car to some remote location after a long ass ferry ride and 45 minutes later, I’m still crouched down in this fucking back seat. I’ve dyed my hair blonde, I’m wearing blue contacts and a phony blonde beard. Bob wouldn’t tell me where we were going to keep from telling anybody else before we left. Who the fuck would I tell? I’m paying this man a small fortune to help me get Rosie alone. Why would I tell somebody my plan so that they can follow me or trip me up? It turns out that Bob knows a guy who knows a guy who has a place on Vashon Island. It’s completely untraceable to Bob or me and is the perfect place to hide out and decide my next move. Maybe Grey’s goons will think I’m dead in that apartment and leave me the hell alone.

“Alright, the coast is clear. We weren’t tailed.” Bob says and I’m finally able to sit up.

“Damn, I’ll be glad when we can get the hell out of this car. I’m stiff as hell from not being able to move on that damn ferry.”

“Quit your whining. We’re almost there now,” he says. I look around and all I see is grass and fields and a cluster of trees every now and again. This is perfect. They’ll never find me out here. Now how will I get Rosie here?

“So, what’s the latest we hear on Grey?” I ask, stretching as much as I can in the back seat of the borrowed Ford Taurus.

“He got out of the hospital yesterday. I couldn’t find out what was wrong with the guy, but it couldn’t be too serious for just an overnight stay,” he replies. There was nothing wrong with that prick. Rosie wouldn’t speak to him so he faked an illness to get her to come running back to him. Oldest trick in the book.

I had continued to watch Rosie for a couple of days after I met with Bob to see what, if anything, was happening with her. Grey never showed up Monday night. He showed up on Tuesday night but didn’t stay long from what I could tell. Even though his goon stuck close, he didn’t show up for the rest of the week and Rosie didn’t go to his place either. Bob confirmed that they were having some kind of fight. I can’t help but wonder where he’s getting his information if he doesn’t work for Grey anymore. That’s why I have to keep my eye on this guy. I don’t really know whose side he’s on, but I haven’t done anything illegal, so they can’t pin anything on me.

I was hoping I would be able to use this opportunity to get close to Rosie, but before I had the chance to make my move, she was running to that asshole’s side again and the next thing I knew, she’s at Seattle General sitting lovingly by his bedside. Well played, Prick, but I will have the last laugh in this little game.

Bob turns down another road that seems to go on forever and then another road lined by trees that—you guess it—seems to go on forever. It could just be me… I feel like I’ve been in this damn car forever! Finally, we get to a clearing and a nice-sized bungalow and a farmhouse on lots and lots of land. This is so much more perfect than I could have imagined. “Welcome to Vashon Island,” Bob says as he pulls the car to a stop. I’m only too happy to get out and stretch my legs. It’s very peaceful out here. Maybe Rosie and I can buy some land out here once we get things all straightened out.

We walk to the bungalow and it’s a little neglected inside, but no worse for wear. “The fridge is stocked thanks to you, and we get the basic cable channels out here. No use paying for premium cable if nobody lives here.” He throws his keys on the coffee table. “You should get reception to your cell if you need it. This is an island, but the Municipal Airport ain’t that far from here. There’s no such things as in town around these parts. There’s one little street that runs the length of the island where you can get just the basics if you need them. Everything is pretty much spread out here and there. If you want to go to town, get on the Fauntleroy ferry and head back to Seattle,” he instructs. I nod my head.

“This will work just fine.” I sit down and stretch out on the sofa. “So, I have a few ideas. We need to work out our next plan of action.”

“Fine by me. No offense, but I don’t want to be around you more than is utterly necessary. So, if it’s all the same to you, let’s get this plan in motion so I can get paid and get the hell out of here and leave you with Princess Perfect.” I throw a threatening glare at him. “Hey, I didn’t call her a bitch. If you don’t want me to call her a bitch, I’m calling her Princess Perfect. Get over it!” I shrug. He’s right, he didn’t call her a bitch. I don’t really like when he calls her Rosie—especially the way he says that name. So, I guess I just have to be content with that sarcastic Princess Perfect shit.

“Fine. So, obviously, the first thing we need to do is get her away from Pencil Dick. He’s with her whenever she leaves either apartment, and he either stays at her office or somewhere nearby when she’s at work.” I say.

“Man, how do you know this? Don’t you own a company or something? When do you find time to follow her around?” Bob asks.

“I don’t have as much money as Grey but, like him, I don’t need to be present every second for my company to run,” I respond. “How do you know everything you know if you don’t still work for Grey?”

“I have my ways and you’re just going to have to trust me, now aren’t you? Oh, and just so you know, they probably know that you were watching her up until at least Friday,” he says.

“Yeah, I know. You think you’re telling me something when you say that they’re watching me, but I’ve known all along, all the way back from when you were watching me. And for the record, Rosie didn’t get you fired. You and those damn prostitutes got you fired. All I had to do was sit still and wait for you to get a blowjob before I took off.” I walk into the kitchen to find something to eat.


GREY

“Sir, Manchester indicates that Mr. David hasn’t left his apartment for four days.” Taylor says to me as we’re getting ready to leave for SeaTac. I frown.

“Not that I care about the fucker at all, but are you sure?” I ask. What the hell did he do—decide to end his suffering and kill himself in there?

“There’s been no movement, sir. He was still watching her through Friday morning, but keeping legal distance. Since Friday evening when I brought her here, his car is parked at his apartment and hasn’t left since. Manchester hasn’t seen him coming or going.” Maybe the fucker doesn’t want to cross her while she’s here. She hasn’t been back to her apartment since I got back from the hospital.

“Thanks, Taylor. How much time before we leave?”

“Thirty minutes, sir,” he responds. I nod and he leaves the study.

Well, I’m about to set off on a fact-finding expedition about what happened to my Butterfly during those fateful teenage years that left her scarred for life. I feel completely bonded to her now—after yesterday. If I could propose to her without scaring her the hell away, I would do it in a heartbeat, then marry her before she had a chance to change her mind. That woman is mine, forever. She’s stuck with me and I plan to never let her go. It’s early and I know that she’s still asleep, but I need to wake her so that I can tell her that we’ll be leaving soon.

I lay next to her stroking her hair and watching her sleep. She’s breathtakingly beautiful, even more so when she sleeps. I love her so much it feels like my heart will burst open sometimes. I bring my forehead down to hers and inhale deeply, trying to hold her scent in my nostrils to tide me over for the next few days. I softly sing to her sleeping form:

All my bags are packed, I’m ready to go.
I’m standing here outside your door.
I hate to wake you up to say goodbye.
But the dawn is breakin’ it’s early morn
The taxi’s waitin’ he’s blowin’ his horn
Already I’m so lonesome I could die.

She surprises me by joining in the next verse with me, her eyes still closed:

So, kiss me and smile for me
Tell me that you’ll wait for me
Hold me like you’ll never let me go.
Cause I’m leavin’ on a jet plane
Don’t know when I’ll be back again
Oh baby, I hate to go.

She opens her beautiful blue eyes and smiles at me. “Hi,” she says, softly.

“Hi,” I respond. “I didn’t know you were awake.”

“I heard you singing. I know it must be close to time for you to leave.” I pull her face to mine and kiss her gently,

“It is. I have a few minutes.”

“Leaving on a jet plane, huh?” she says with a chuckle.

“A private jet plane,” I say, rubbing my nose on hers.

“Oooo, fancy.” She giggles.

“Oh, I love that,” I say taking a deep breath.

“What, baby?”

“Hearing you giggle,” I respond.

“Then I’ll do it more often,” she says in a sweet voice. “You would never catch a taxi,” she adds.

“And I’m not standing outside your door, either,” I point out.

“And you do know when you’ll be back again,” she breathes.

“Yes, I do,” I say as I pull her to me and kiss her passionately. “I love you, Anastasia.”

“I adore you, Christian,” she whispers as she thrusts her hand in my hair and we’re lost in our kiss again.

*-*

We land at McCarran around 9:00am. I want to talk to this cop, George Sullivan, this morning as soon as possible. Lawrence was able to secure an SUV with bulletproof glass as requested and we proceed to the Bellagio.

Once my bags are brought to the room, I open my blackberry to see if there’s any news since this morning. Still no movement from David. No news should be good news, but this bastard makes me nervous. Butterfly has agreed to stay at Escala while I’m gone in light of this new information, which makes me feel so much better. I can’t stand worrying about her while I’m gone. I left instructions for another man to be put on her, discreetly, while I’m not there so that I can concentrate on the task at hand. I call her to let her know that I’ve landed safely and that my meetings should start in about an hour and should run almost back to back straight through until Friday, but I promise to call her in the evening to say Goodnight. Her voice is still full of hesitation and I know that she hates me being here. I assure her that I’ll be home soon and send her all my love.

An hour later, Taylor and I arrive at the Henderson Police Department. Officer George Sullivan is a distinguished-looking gentleman, early 40’s at the most. After I introduce myself, he invites me into his office and offers me a cup of coffee.

“So, how can I be of assistance to you, Mr. Grey?” He’s very friendly, initially at least. I soon learn that this is about to change.

“Officer Sullivan, I’m very interested in a cold case from your jurisdiction. It’s about 11 years old now. A young girl named Anastasia Steele. I understand that you were the officer that responded to the attack.” And the room instantly gets chilly.

“May I ask what your interest is in this case, Mr. Grey?” he says with a frown.

“I’m going to be honest with you, officer. I’m one of the wealthiest men in America and I’m in love with Ana. I want to know what happened to her.” He shifts uncomfortably in his seat.

“I don’t know how much I can really help you…” he says.

“Any small bit of information you can release will be helpful,” I say. “I understand that you were the first officer on the scene of the attack as well as the leading officer in the investigation. Can you tell me why no one was ever arrested?”

“Well, all of that was in my report, sir. We had no suspects and Ana couldn’t identify anyone,” he responds

“Well, what about the Ranch? Ranch hands, the owner. You can’t just walk onto someone’s property that I know of, acquire brands, brutalize someone, disfigure them, and nobody knows or sees anything.” This guy can’t be that dumb.

“The brands that were used on Ana were either homemade or personalized, like barbecue brands, so they weren’t registered,” he explains. “You can order them online.” Well, that would explain a few things. The burns are brutal, but small compared to an animal brand.

“I’ve read the report, Officer Sullivan, and there was no indication how you were drawn to the scene. Did someone call it in?” I question.

“No, sir. Officers often check the sites of bonfires, particularly with high school kids to make sure that there’s no underage drinking occurring.” Hmmm…

“That seems a little strange, Officer Sullivan. I mean, I know that occurs with desert bonfires—or so I’ve been told—but on private property? That’s like crashing someone’s backyard barbeque,” I say. Sullivan doesn’t have a ready answer for me, so I continue questioning. “Did you have a reason to believe that there may be a problem with this particular bonfire that you felt it necessary to investigate?”

“It’s like I said, Mr. Grey, officers often check the sites of bonfires…”

“… To prevent underage drinking. Yes, you said that. And just how bad of a problem is it to find underage drinking at a bonfire on private property in Green Valley? I mean, is this something that happens regularly? Occasionally? Not very often?” He eyes me suspiciously and I can tell that he is being purposely evasive.

“I’d say not very often,” he says hesitantly and I nod.

“So, what made this particular bonfire suspicious to you?” I ask. He thinks for a moment, then answers, “I heard a girl screaming.” Oh, did you now?

“I’m sorry, Officer Sullivan, that’s not in your report. Your report only says that when you arrived on the scene, several school age children ran away.” Sullivan shifts nervously.

“I’m not completely sure. It was quite some time ago, Mr. Grey,” he responds.

“Well, let me help you.” I produce a copy of the report from the inside pocket of my suit coat. “You reported, ‘there were several school age children surrounding the victim. When I arrived, they dropped her and ran away. Upon closer investigation, I discovered that she was unconscious and unresponsive.'”

“May I see that?” I give him the copy of the police report and he pretends to look it over, then he puts it in a drawer in his desk. “Like I said, Mr. Grey, it’s been quite a while.” What the fuck?

“May I have my document back?” I ask.

“I think I’ll keep it, to try to refresh my memory of the event.” Smarmy ass bastard. Does he think he’s dealing with Amateur Night here?

“That’s fine,” I say undaunted. “You might want to pull it back out then.” I pull out my blackberry and open the file on the network that has the police report and keep reading. “Again, you’ve crashed this bonfire and children all ran away. There’s no indication in your report of the name of the ranch.”

“I’m sure that there is, Mr. Grey,” He says smugly. I scroll through the report on my blackberry.

“Nope, there’s not. Please, feel free to check your copy. I’ll wait.” I sit back in my chair. He doesn’t bother to check his copy because he knows that it’s not there. Did this guy really think I was going to come in here unprepared? I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt before I got here. It never really occurred to me that the investigating officer would be part of the cover-up. Now I have to handle this differently.

“We never really did bonfires where I come from. It seems like it would be like a beach party. Kids laughing, talking, drinking maybe…” I begin.

“Yes, that’s what a bonfire would be like,” he says.

“Music, dancing. Maybe some sneaking off to the barn…” I say with a smirk.

“Yes, all of those things,” he confirms.

“Yeah, I remember those days,” I lie. “We did little campfires at the beach,” I say, pulling on Elliot’s memories and stories to help me out. “I remember my battery died and I had to call my parents to come and get me. They always use my car for the music.” Sullivan has relaxed a little bit—wrong move George.

“They’re smarter here,” he says. “They all keep battery cables in case a battery dies.” I nod.

“I wish I had thought of that. It would have saved me getting grounded a lot. Oh well…” I shrug. “So, from your own description, no one called you, you just saw a bonfire on private property which you decided to investigate. You heard a young girl screaming over a thrashing crowd of violent teenage girls and boys and music no doubt blaring from cars that must have been left behind since you said that the children all ran away. There’s no address of the ranch, no indication that you’ve spoken to the property owners, no license plates taken from the cars that were left behind, not a drop of DNA from a girl who was brutally beaten and almost killed, and no questioning of any witnesses whatsoever. Did I about sum it up correctly, Officer Sullivan?”

Sullivan is watching the entire story fall apart in front of him and now, I’m seeing the lie.

“Have there been any developments on the case since it occurred?” I ask.

“No, except for the fact that someone was looking into Anastasia a few weeks back,” He answers flatly. Surprise! Nice to meet ya!

“That somebody was me because I was trying to find out why the woman I love had two years missing out of her life.” Now, he gets the thrust of my inquiry. “Being in the public eye like I am, you can’t be too careful about who you come in contact with. Being an important man, I have to make sure that nobody’s ghost is going to come back to bite me, but it looks like they’re coming back to bite Anastasia.” The color leaves Sullivan’s face and he’s becoming more than a little nervous. “I’m going to find out who did this to her. I have unlimited resources and I’m going to throw them all into finding out who’s responsible for what happened to the woman that I love. And when I do, anyone involved in this attack is going to pay dearly for what they did one way or another.”

Sullivan squares his shoulders, straightens his back, and glares at me.

“Are you threatening me, Mr. Grey?” he says, his tone menacing. Now we’re getting somewhere.

“I don’t know, Officer Sullivan, am I?” I ask. “I’m threatening anybody who had something to do with the attack on Anastasia Steele. Did you have something to do with the attack on Anastasia? It was my understanding that you were her savior. Are you now telling me that you had something to do with her attack?” By the look on his face, I can tell that he now knows that he has not only stepped in it, but he has also tripped, fallen, and is now swimming in it!

“No, I did not,” he answers, almost sneering.

“Why, then, would you feel that I was threatening you if you had nothing to do with Anastasia’s attack?” Sullivan falls silent and I know now that I need to quickly look into this guy. I tilt my head to the side, narrow my eyes and examine him. “At least I’m sure I don’t have to worry about you telling Anastasia about this little visit.”

“What makes you so sure?” he spits.

“Well, for one thing, I’m sure you don’t want her to know just how badly you botched this up. A preschooler could have done a better job investigating this assault and murder than you did.” He straightens at my description of the crime. Yeah, jackass, assault and murder—or did you conveniently forget that a fetus was killed during this attack? “Make no mistake, Officer Sullivan. I am not a preschooler, and I will find out what happened—no matter how many police reports you hide or roadblocks that you think you can put in front of me. If you’re a good boy, and leave my girlfriend out of this until I’m ready to bring her into it, you may be able to hold on to your job for a little while.”

“What makes you think my job would be in jeopardy?” Does he really have to ask that question!? Who hires these people?

“Call Anastasia and we’ll find out for sure.” I stand. “I’ll be in touch.” I say before I leave his office. I walk out of the police station and call Welch.

“Welch, I need an immediate background check on George Sullivan. He’s the investigating officer on Ana’s case. I need relatives, friends, financials for the last 11 years, properties that he owned in the Henderson area at that time. Whatever you can get your hands on quickly. He’s hiding something and I need to know what it is before I leave Henderson—preferably today.”

“Yes, sir.” I end the call with Welch.

That little meeting takes me just about into lunchtime. I’m about to track down something to eat when I’m informed that Cody Whitmore is temporarily stationary in a public place. Since I have no specific time to meet him, now would be a good time to confront this particular demon.

Cody’s tail discovered that he has women in three cities. Today’s woman is in Summerlin. Since he technically doesn’t work, he has decided to go see Girl #2. Lawrence informs me that he has finished his midday tryst with the tramp and will most likely check in at Daddy’s office after a drink at one of his favorite afternoon spots, a place called JC Wooloughans. It takes us nearly 30 minutes to get to this little Irish pub inside of a Summerlin resort.

I was sure that we were going to miss him since it took so long for us to get there, but apparently, Girl #1… or 3… or a candidate for #4… waits tables at this establishment. He’s seated in the corner chatting her up. I sit in the center of the bar and instruct Taylor to sit at the far end, where we can both keep an eye on him. I order soda water and lime and watch while he chugs two more beers eyeing the girl’s ass at every opportunity. Did this guy drive? Has he been drinking this steadily since he arrived?

I can look at him and tell from his stance and posture that he’s a cocky son-of-a-bitch. I know this, because I’m a cocky son-of-a-bitch. He stands and makes his way to the restroom. I look over at Taylor, who nods that he’s on alert for whatever may happen. Whitmore comes back out of the bathroom and proceeds back towards his comfy corner.

“Whitmore,” I call out, loud and sharp enough to be heard without shouting. He stops and looks over his shoulder.

“Who wants to know?” he shoots.

“Temper, temper,” I begin turning around to face him. I examine the man standing in front of me. He has the look about him of someone who works hard to try to impress you. “I’m sure Dear Old Dad has already told you to expect me,” I say, sipping my soda water. He laughs in my face.

“So, you’re Grey?” he asks casually. “Yes, Dad did tell me that you were coming to town.”

“Ooo, my reputation precedes me. That makes me very happy. So, tell me, Cody, why would you be concerned about my visit?” I ask.

“Oh, I’m not. I could fucking care less,” he snaps.

“So why did your Dad warn you of my arrival, that is, since you’re so unconcerned?” I ask, flatly. He takes out his phone and hits a number.

“Because you’re harassing my entire family, and I really don’t think you know who you’re dealing with.” Oh, you have got to be kidding me. These people still haven’t looked me up? Talk about being delusional about your own power. “Dad, yeah, he’s here… no, he’s standing right here in front of me…” He hands me the phone. “My father would like to speak to you… Christian.” Oh, little boy, you are playing with fire. I take his phone.

“Grey.”

“Do you plan on harassing my wife next, Grey?” Whitmore spits.

“If she can give me the answers that I’m looking for, yes, I will,” I say, impassively. I hear his breath catch on the other end of the phone. Wrong move, Jack-off…

“I thought it was understood that all future dealings would be directly with me!” he spits.

“You thought wrong!” I growl, looking at the man who raped my Butterfly while I prepare to eviscerate his father. His eyes narrowed and he swallowed hard as he tries to decipher our conversation. “I’m going to get the information that I came for, Whitmore. And if that requires that I interrogate your whole fucking family, then that’s what I’ll do.”

Whitmore laughs loudly in my ear. “You’re a cocky bastard, aren’t you, Grey?” he snaps in my ear.

“I can afford to be,” I respond.

“You know I can have you run out of town, right?” Whitmore threatens.

“You and what army?” I retort. And the line is quiet. “Since you seem to have run out of witty repartee, let’s get to the point. You know why I’m here and you suggested that we meet. I’m a busy man and my time is valuable—I don’t like it wasted,” I spit. It’s now or never, Asshole. I don’t need you. I’m sure that I’m face-to-face with the fucker that I want, but I’ll take the opportunity to strike a little fear in the town of fucking Green Valley.

“I’ll be at the M this evening after 8. That’ll be the only time you can meet with me,” he says like he has to squeeze me in.

“Works fine for me—I have plans for the rest of my stay.” I hang up on him and turn my attention back to Cody. If I could get away with it, I would rip him apart right here on the spot with my bare hands and drop his mangled body in the middle of the desert—leave him to the vultures, the snakes and the desert vermin. He still has the nerve to stand there looking at me with this superior glare. My work here is done.

“I’ll tell you what. You can wipe that cocky ass smirk off your face, because if I find out that you are who I think you are, I’m going to have your nuts platinum-plated and give them to my girl as a Christmas gift.” I drop his phone into my unfinished glass of soda water before I signal to Taylor that we are leaving. “Roll that around in your head for a while, Asshole.” Taylor and I leave him standing there with a not-so-smug look on his face.


STEELE

Four hours. He’s only been gone for four hours and I’m sick to my stomach. Why oh why did it have to be Whitmore? Anybody but fucking Whitmore. I look out of my window at Grey House. He’s not there today.

“I miss you, baby,” I say aloud. “I wish I had told you not to go.” I go to my desk and speed dial Maxie from my iPhone.

“Hey Max… Are you busy for dinner tonight?… Can you meet me at Christian’s? I need a session… No, everything’s fine, but there has been a development and I need to talk it out… Thanks, Maxie. I know it’s short notice and I really appreciate it. Would you prefer anything in particular?… Okay, well, I’ll be out of here by five so I should be back at Escala at about 5:30. Shall we say six?… You are a life saver, Maxie. Thank you. I’ll see you then.” I hang up and call Gail.

“Hi Gail, my friend Maxie is joining me for dinner and… Yes, she is one of the Fabulous Five.” I laugh. “Would it be too much trouble if… Oh, Gail, thank you… No, she said nothing special, so whatever you were already planning should be fine… 6:00?… Thank you, Gail, I would be lost without you.” I end the call.

I love Christian. I love him so much. I don’t question my feelings for him, or the fact that we’ve only been together for such a short time. I’ve never felt this way in my life for anyone… evernot even Edward. And as much as I hate him now, I did love Edward once—truly love him—but not like this. Christian is my heartbeat, my pulse, my love song… my reason to wake up in the morning.

Oh, I got it bad…

I scrub my hands over my face and get ready for my next patient.


GREY

“Hello, may I speak to Cynthia Crestwood, please?” I meant to call Mrs. Crestwood yesterday from the office, but I got caught up in a little thing called TPE and all things Green Valley completely slipped my mind.

“This is Mrs. Crestwood. How can I help you?”

“Mrs. Crestwood, this is Christian Grey. I’m calling on behalf of an organization in Washington called Helping Hands. Our organization offers assistance to battered women and abused children who have recently left or are trying to leave abusive situations. Recently, your name was submitted to receive recognition for your assistance to children in the community. We actually sent you a letter requesting a conference with you, and my assistant tried to contact you last week, but we received no response. We were going to send another notification to you. However, I happen to be in the Las Vegas area on a business matter and was hoping I could possibly meet with you. Is that a possibility, Mrs. Crestwood?” I’ve rehearsed that speech several times to make sure I got it right the first time. I can fill in the blanks as needed from here on out.

“Oh, how nice!” she exclaims, sincerely. “What’s the name of your organization again?”

Helping Hands of Seattle, Ma’am. Families come to us from all over the country, having somehow or another made their way to the City of Goodwill.” I laugh to break the ice and it works like a charm.

“Well, Mr. Grey, um, what do I need to do?” she asks.

“I would love to discuss this further with you, Mrs. Crestwood. Would you possibly be available to discuss it over dinner tomorrow night? I will be leaving on Friday and I’m staying at the Bellagio. We can meet at one of the restaurants here if you like or at any one you choose.” Yes, the Bellagio, one of the more upscale hotels on the Las Vegas strip. Of course, that would pique her interest—not because she’s superficial, but because let’s face it… certain hotels on the strip mean money. The Bellagio is one of those hotels.

“Oh, no, Mr. Grey. The Bellagio is fine.” Of course, it is. “Where shall we meet?”

“How about the Jasmine? Five o’clock? Reservations under Grey,” I say sweetly.

“That would be perfect. I look forward to seeing you then.”

“The pleasure is mine, Mrs. Crestwood.” Thank God that went off without a hitch. I completely forgot to call the woman. That could have been a disaster!

In the rush to meet catch young Whitmore, I fail to eat lunch. I can see Butterfly shaking her finger at me and then I shiver remembering my punishments from yesterday. Though the sexual deprivation was agony, the spanking and flogging were superb discipline and the ultimate release was cosmic. Though I would never let on to anyone, my butt cheeks are still tender from the crop, my thigh throbs where she scratched me, and I still have stripes to admire on my abdomen and legs. I smile as I rub my thigh, then promptly cease before causing myself the worse boner in the world and no hope of Butterfly to release it. I enjoyed her so much. I have no fond memories of subbing except that I knew I would eventually fuck… maybe… until last night…

That beautiful petite Goddess wrapped in a red and black corset and nonexistent lace panties and those insanely high black stilettos… and the collar… standing next to me, legs spread apart and whacking me with that riding crop. I actually jump as I anticipate the blows I’ve already taken… and he’s up.

Down, Boy. We’ll Skype her later.

Now I have to get something to eat or I’m likely to relive my punishments from yesterday. As tempting as the riding crop and flogger were, I’m in no hurry to test my limits on her expertly executed orgasm deprivation. Also, I just don’t want to disobey my Mistress.

“Taylor, have room service deliver an early dinner immediately!”

“Yes, sir.”

My Butterfly has rewritten my history. Twice. I no longer relate being a submissive to that horrible woman. I now relate it to my sexy, sensual, and irresistible Mistress. And I look forward to subbing for her.

Also, I don’t feel the need to eat because of my prior food issues anymore—or because I was left alone with a dead crack whore for four days unable to find food—or because I spent so many days hungry and hurting and only wishing the pain would end. Now, I must eat because I foolishly harmed myself and my body for five days and I almost died… and this would have hurt my Mistress immensely. I’m not allowed to hurt my Mistress. I don’t desire to hurt my Mistress. So, to that end, I’m not allowed to cause myself harm ever again and must remember to eat and take care of myself… for myself… and my Mistress.

The M Casino and resort is an impressive establishment that opened in Vegas in 2009. Although it is on Las Vegas Blvd, it’s not on the part of the street that is known as The Strip. It’s about 10 miles south of The Strip—and just as far from the Bellagio. Where The Strip—the Bellagio, Mandalay Bay, Caesar’s Palace—would all be geared towards the spending tourist, the M is more geared towards attracting lucrative locals… at least that’s the impression I got of it.

Taylor and Lawrence are on high alert and conspicuously wired. I don’t want this fucker to think for one second that he is playing with small-time business here, or that I don’t have back-up. Sure enough, this asshole is in the high-rollers room, surrounded by call girls and three trying-to-look-like-tough-guys bulky security guards. This is so fucking cliché—it’s like one of those badly-written gangster movies.

I know his type. He’s been watching the door all night, waiting for an unfamiliar face to enter—and here I am. So now, he’s going to play like he doesn’t see me—as if I’m going to crawl to him like some lackey. Okay, Whitmore. Let’s see how this works out for you.

I position myself in that stance that Taylor knows well—feet apart, hands clasped in front of me, staring at this asshole who is laughing loudly and grabbing on the ass of some scantily clad cheap slut. Taylor and Lawrence both take the CIA stance behind me…

And I stare…

It only took three minutes. What a pussy! My Butterfly outstared you the first day I met her.

“Grey! That must be you. Come in. Grab a girl. Make yourself comfortable. Can we get you gentlemen a drink?” he says, gesturing to a cocktail waitress like he’s hosting a party.

“No thanks, Whitmore. I only drink socially, and this is not a social call and as for the girls, well,” I look around at the desperate tarts offering themselves like hors d’oeuvres and praying that they will be the chosen one, “I have a woman, so I have no use for girls.” Whitmore laughs loudly.

“You can’t be talking about that lying bitch Anastasia Steele?” he barks. I move to close the space between us in three quick strides. His bulky security men leap into action to subdue me. One is quickly taken down by Taylor, who is now pointing a firearm at the guy’s head who lies prostrate on the floor. The second managed to get to me right before I got to Whitmore. The hand he intended to make contact with my jaw is now crunched in my fist. I bend it back swiftly until I hear bones cracking and the man screams in pain while I hold him there. The third doesn’t bother to move at all as Lawrence already has his firearm drawn and trained on him.

“Mr. Whitmore,” I say, leaning in inches from his face, still holding his bodyguard’s broken hand, “I should inform you that I’m a bit sensitive about how you speak about my woman. So, you may want to think twice about calling her a liar and a bitch.” I say through clenched teeth. He shows no overt signs of fear or cowering, but I can see the sweat on his forehead in this very cool casino. I release his bodyguard who is now clutching his hand in pain. “When you’re done posturing for your friends, I’m staying at the Bellagio.” I pull out a wad of hundred-dollar bills and throw it at the bodyguard with the broken hand.

“You should get that checked out,” I say before leaving the high-rollers room.

As Taylor, Lawrence and I make our way back to the front of the hotel, Williams brings the SUV around. Just as I’m about to get in, Whitmore comes out of the front door with his two uninjured tough guys.

“Grey!” Oh, it appears that he has grown a new set of balls! I step back out of the SUV. Taylor and Lawrence are back at my side, hands already on their firearms.

“What the hell was that? You broke that man’s hand… for what? For protecting me from a stranger who comes into the hotel and threatens me?” he shouts.

“How did I threaten you, Mr. Whitmore?” I say with disdain, assuming the stance once again. I wait patiently for an answer that I know I’m never going to get, then I step to him again without dropping my hands so that the poor little insurance executive doesn’t feel threatened. I’ve always known that I was a tall man. I just never understood why the rest of the world seems so damn short. Now here I am again standing nose-to-eye with and looking down at yet another small man—in stature and manhood—that wants to prove that his balls are bigger than mine.

“We don’t need to meet, Whitmore. We already have, and I already know what I need to know about you. You’re a grimy little dirty, sorry excuse of a man who likes to throw money at his problems and hope that they go away. I know that tactic, Whitmore. I invented it! And when I throw money at problems, I throw the kind of money at the right people to make sure that they never show up again.” I close the space between us. In my peripheral, I can see his guards jump to attention again, but they don’t make a move in my direction.

“You told me that I didn’t know who I was dealing with, but it’s painfully obvious that you don’t know who you’re dealing with, Whitmore. You are grotesquely out of your league, and too arrogant and ignorant to even know it. You should have done some more research on me before you attempted to throw your ‘weight’ around. If you had, you would have known that I’m one of the wealthiest men in America—and I mean Bill Gates kind of wealthy not Oprah Winfrey kind of wealthy. So, if you really want to talk about being a power player, you better remember that in the Deep Blue Sea, you’re a guppy and I’m a shark. You don’t want to fuck with me.

“I’m going to find out what happened to Anastasia Steele, and when I do, the people involved are going to pay for what they’ve done—one way or another. And by all means, if you want to come at me, please do. You go right ahead. You know where to find me.”

This little man still doesn’t seem to get the picture and still wants to try to jockey for position. To the passerby or a casual observer, Whitmore is calm and collected and could possibly be dominating this conversation—that is, if he didn’t have Goliath standing in his face looking down on him while he’s trying to and failing be David. However, I’m not the casual observer. Those beads of sweat are still present on his forehead. His ears are red, but his face is pale. His fingers twitch slightly and his breath is short. His pupils are constricted and keep darting from my left to my right eye, trying but failing to read my thoughts. His fear and uncertainty are so thick, I can smell them. He’s clearly shaken. If this was any worthy competition, I’d have him on the ropes.

When you’re accustomed to being the Big Man On Campus and the real Head Man In Charge shows up, you don’t know what to do with yourself. You don’t become second-in-command; you become the last man on the totem-pole. This is proven every time your boss’s boss shows up at your job. There’s someone else in top seat and your boss is immediately turned into a gopher. In this case, Whitmore has been turned into a mouse and is still fighting to scurry back to the top of the pyramid.

“As you can see, Grey, I’m a very powerful man in this city.” Whitmore says, his voice shaking just a bit at his one last attempt at a power play.

“No, Whitmore, I can’t see that… but it really doesn’t matter to me. You may very well be powerful in this city, but I’m a very powerful man in this country!” I spit. “I have hands in pots that you can’t even imagine. My reach goes further than your little brain can even conjure. I can make it so that you would wake up in the morning and have nothing left to your name but those cheap leather shoes that you’re wearing right now.”

“I beg your pardon!” Whitmore snaps. “These are Bexleys!” Oh, you have got to be kidding me. I shake my head at him. Even one of his bodyguards behind him has a slight reaction that I register as embarrassed dismay. I’m truly wasting my time here.

“And the fact that you felt the need to tell me that right at this moment goes to show just how small your little mind really is.” I say with pure contempt and disdain. I stand up straight as I no longer want to stoop down to this little man—figuratively or literally. “Let’s go. We’re done here,” I say backing away from a shocked Whitmore and getting into the SUV once again. As we pull away from the M Resort, all doubt has been erased that Cody is the man that raped my Butterfly and that his weaselly father paid off her family to hide it. I have my primary targets. Now I have to find the rest of the offenders.

It’s about 9:30 when we get back to the Bellagio. We are stopped at the desk when the clerk informs us that there was a package left for me. Taylor and I look knowingly at each other. I wasn’t expecting anything to be delivered—and Whitmore knows where I’m staying. Noticing the look on my face, the clerk says. “We can scan the package for you if you like, Mr. Grey. It’s not something that we normally do, but I’m sure that we can make an exception.” I nod curtly at him and he disappears for a moment. After a few minutes, the clerk returns with the package.

“It’s clear, Mr. Grey. It’s a book,” he says, placing the package on the counter.

“A book?” I ask, bemused.

“Yes, sir,” he responds. Taylor takes the liberty to open the package. A knowing look comes over his face. Without removing the contents, he says, “You’re expecting this, sir.” I nod at him and hand two $100 bills to the desk clerk thanking him for his services before retiring to my room for the night. I have a lot to consider. The day was very productive in terms of getting information and I now have yet another suspect to examine—George Sullivan. All this time, he was considered one of the few good guys. He’s hiding something and I know he is. Could he be sleeping with the devil, or just dancing with danger?

“Grey,” I say as I answer my buzzing blackberry.

“Did you get the package, sir?” Welch asks

“Yes, I did. Next time, let us know to expect it so that we don’t have to scan it for explosives. I am in the lion’s den down here, you know. Now I may have made a potential enemy out of a cop,” I inform him.

“I’m sorry, sir. I was calling to tell you that I have uploaded that cop’s preliminary background check to the network. Nothing really stands out about him, but I’m checking to see if there is anything deeper that we may have missed. So far, he just looks like your everyday, average citizen… no payoffs or huge influxes of cash, no undisclosed assets, nothing remarkable or out of the ordinary whatsoever.”

“Remember, we thought that about Anastasia, too…” I remind him.

“Duly noted,” he responds.

“Besides, that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t have anything to hide. He could just be scared shitless of Whitmore, who clearly has a puffed-up, delusional, high impression of the power that he wields over people since he apparently has quite the reach in Henderson… though I haven’t seen it yet.”

Oh, one of those,” Welch says, knowingly.

“In the worst way,” I respond. “Inform legal to prepare for a possible lawsuit from one of his bodyguards.”

Sir?” Welch inquires.

“I broke his hand.” He chuckles a bit in the phone.

“That’s actually a direct hazard of his employment, sir. He may not have grounds to sue you,” he says.

“Well, I threw more cash at him than he probably makes in a month, so he may not have the balls to sue me, but tell legal to be prepared anyway.”

“Yes, sir.” I end the call and open the envelope that Welch has forwarded to me. The 2001 Green Valley High School yearbook. I can see that there are several pages bookmarked, but honestly, I just want to see one right now. I turn to the appendix of names in the back and, as expected, there is only one page number next to her name. I go to the page in the sophomore section of the yearbook and find her near the end of the page… in the S’s…

My Butterfly.

Huge, blue unassuming orbs too big for her face. Her teenage skin is remarkably flawless, unmarred by make-up or the embarrassing pubescent acne I see in some of the other pictures. Her smile is innocent, unblemished, and a little sad—reflecting the loneliness of a naturally beautiful outcast. Her hair is pulled back into a ridiculously long ponytail with perfect bangs shaping her beautiful eyes. This picture was obviously taken before the attack, and I feel a little strange for the desire that I feel for this teenage girl that stares back at me. I take comfort in knowing that it is only because this is the younger version of my darling Butterfly—the woman who holds my heart and fate in her hands—but I can clearly see how her beauty could drive someone to untamed desire. Rape, no—but desire, absolutely.

I now have the burning need to touch her and be with her, but for right now, I have to be satisfied with Skype.


A/N: The goodbye song was “Leaving On a Jet Plane by John Denver (or Peter, Paul, and Mary depending on your preference). Very, very, very old song.

Be sure to check out the fashion on my Pinterest page at http://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/paging-dr-steele/

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~~love and handcuffs