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 17—Here Come the Chickens!
I awake lying on my side and Christian is wrapped around me, completely and protectively. I am naked and he is still wearing his boxer briefs. His face is nestled in my hair and he is breathing rhythmically, peacefully. I don’t move. I enjoy the cocoon that I am in just a few moments longer. A few minutes later, the phone rings. Who would be calling the room now? Whoever it is, it causes the warm arm draped over my body to leave and reach for the receiver.
“Grey,” he answers groggily. “Thank you.” He replaces the receiver and rubs my arm, bringing his hand around and down to meet mine. “You’re awake,” he says, kissing my neck.
“Yes,” I confess.
“How long?” He pulls me close to him.
“Just a few minutes.” He kisses my neck again. “What time is it?”
“Eight o’clock.” I close my eyes again. Time to get this show on the road and face all of the issues that I came here to face. I feel a little stronger now… not as helpless and rudderless as I felt last night. I tangle my fingers into Christian’s.
“Thank you for being everything I need,” I say softly. There is a moment of silence before he says,
“Thank you for being everything I need,” and I know that he means it; that he’s not just saying it because I did. He pulls me closer to him—as if he could—and buries his nose in my neck. “You are everything to me. I hope you know that,” he says. I sigh. I doubted for just a moment yesterday… just a moment…
“I do, Christian. I know.” If I had any doubt, last night erased it. Last night confirmed that his heart belongs to me. The way that he took care of me, like he always does when I’m not at my best. This is my man and he loves me. I bring his hand up to my lips and kiss it reverentially. “I don’t think I could do this if you weren’t here with me.”
“Luckily, you don’t have to find out, Baby,” he says softly in my ear. I smile to myself. “Are you ready to get this done?” I nod.
“I’m ready. Let’s get this show on the road.”
I swear that there is only one funeral happening today because there is only the hearse parked at the funeral… and only one car, the family car. I watch the ceremony from afar, if you can call it that. The only person there is Carla. There’s nobody there to comfort her and nobody there to mourn Stephen. What did these people do? Did they alienate every good and kind person they ever knew? Did they know any good and kind people? What kind of existence did they have? How lonely must her life be that no one showed up at her husband’s funeral? How miserable must he have been that no one came to pay their respects?
“Do you want to go over there?” Christian asks.
“Not yet,” I respond. I watch for a little while longer. Carla sits there looking at the casket as if she expects Stephen to open it and rise out of it. A few times she looks over her shoulder, expecting someone to come, I’m sure… me? Her high-society friends that all looked down on her since we moved here? Who knows? I watch some more and the minister finally says something out of his little book and just like that, the service is over. No prompt and circumstance, just “Stephen was here and now he’s gone,” pretty much. The minister shakes Carla’s hand, then leaves. Carla stands there only for another moment before she touches his casket, then kisses it, then walks away.
That’s my cue.
I watch her walk to the family car and get in. The hearse has already left and the family car starts to drive away as I make my way over to Stephen’s casket. I am hardly dressed for a funeral. Then again, I’m not in mourning. I’m wearing a short blue chiffon dress with a matching tie-belt and jeweling around the round neckline. It’s covered by a more conservative fitted black wool coat that drapes down the front on the left side. My black peep-toe platforms and black clutch look more like I am going to dinner than across the cemetery to curse a dead man.
A few more steps and I am standing over Stephen’s polished mahogany casket. I feel nothing, absolutely nothing. There’s a dead man lying in this box in front of me and I feel nothing.
“So, you’re finally dead, huh?” I say to the box in front of me. “You’ve finally drunk so much that your liver gave out on you. I’ve heard that’s a very uncomfortable way to die. I’ve heard that it’s much like the suffering of a cancer patient—that they do what they can to make you comfortable, but for the most part, you are in a lot of pain. Carla said that by the time you were taken to the hospital, you were already in a coma. Did that mean that you suffered at home with no comfort measures, or that you drank yourself into a stupor to forget your pain until you just couldn’t stay conscious anymore? Did you drink $750,000 worth of alcohol? How’s that working out for you there, Stephen?
“I know that I’m not supposed to speak ill of the dead, but you know what? You were one rotten bastard. I’m so glad that I got to see just how rotten you really were before you died. Being dead only means that your life has run its course, and if you didn’t want people to speak ill of you at this time, then you should have done better when you were alive. I’m not one of those people who believes in reincarnation, Stephen. I believe you get one chance to get it right here on earth—one chance—and you screwed up. You pissed yours away so badly that no one even showed up at your funeral—nobody but your sorry ass wife and a stepdaughter that wanted to make sure that you were dead. Make no mistake, I hope that you are burning in hell. This is yet another chapter that I’m closing in my life, Mr. Morton, and I must say that I am very happy that I never have to see you again. Good riddance.”
Because I’m not completely made of stone, I pick up a handful of dirt and throw it over the casket, “Ashes to ashes… dust to dust.” I turn around to find my boyfriend and find him glaring hatefully at the widow Carla Morton… and she is glaring hatefully at me.
I knew it! I knew that even though Ana waited until this bitch was gone, somehow or another, she would orchestrate it so that they ran into each other—and here she comes, walking back to the site. The moment she saw us walking to the casket, that damn car stopped. I didn’t say anything to Butterfly because I didn’t want her to back down, but if this bitch starts anything with my Baby, I swear I’m going to push her down into that hole with her no good husband.
She gets back to the grave site and looks at me with contempt and I’m sure that I match her hatred. Go ahead. Do something. Do anything. Please! I am so ready to strike on this wretched human being that I can taste it! However, she hears Butterfly’s words and her contemptuous gaze shifts to Butterfly…
“You were one rotten bastard. I’m so glad that I got to see just how rotten you really were before you died.”
Mini-Morton’s mouth falls open at these words. She is truly horrified by what Butterfly is saying, and I am having a perverse thrill at her horror while still regarding her with heavy disdain.
“Ashes to ashes, dust to dust,” Butterfly says before turning around and coming face-to-face with her mother.
“Well! At least you had the conviction to pay last respects!” Mini-Morton hisses at Butterfly.
“I’m not paying last respects,” Butterfly says calmly. “I just wanted to make sure that the bastard was dead.” Mini-Morton gasps.
“How dare you!” she cries. “How dare you speak of him that way! He was my husband for Christ’s sake… and he’s dead!”
“And I could care less, because he was Satan to me!” Butterfly shoots back.
“Why did you come? Why did you come here at all?” Mini-Morton is screaming now.
“Like I said, I wanted to make sure that he was dead, and if you didn’t want to hear what I had to say to him, then you should have stayed in that car. I tried to spare your ass the indignity of hearing me curse your dead husband, but you couldn’t leave well enough alone. Tell me that you didn’t see that truck sitting there when you got into the car. You couldn’t take a hint that I didn’t want to see you. I never returned your call when you told me that he was dying. I never returned your call when you told me that he was dead, and the last words that I said to you was that I never wanted to see you again. Yet here you are, after I waited for you to leave, and you are surprised that I have no desire to see you—that I have no kind words for him?” Mini-Morton shakes her head.
“I hope that people are just as disrespectful to you when you die as you have been to my husband,” she shoots.
“You’ll never know because as evil as you are, I guarantee that you’ll die before me, and those arrangements will be left to me. I’m your only living relative that I know of. I know that my maternal grandmother is dead and I’ve never met any brothers or sisters of yours so I assume that you don’t have any. So when you die, they are going to come looking to notify me. When they come looking for me, I’m going to dress you up very pretty, put you in a really nice box, put your body in the ground and never look back! I will honor you as a person and a human being by giving you a proper burial in whatever city you are in, and then I am leaving you there.” Ana truly despises her mother for what happened to her. Mini-Morton looks like her head is going to explode. I unfortunately see where Butterfly gets that “bobble-head, jerking, shaking, seizure thing” that she does when she gets really angry.
“You are an ungrateful child!” Mini-Morton yells.
“No! I’m an angry woman! Foot-stomping, screaming, writhing, gun-toting and homicidally angry!” Butterfly screams and silences her immediately. “And you are a terrible mother. What were you—stuck in a box of deaf, dumb, blind, and stupid for 14 years? I needed you, you self-centered bitch! I called your name when that fucker raped me. I called your name when they tortured me. I called your name in the hospital. I even woke up as an adult calling your name in my nightmares and you were never there for me, not even in my fucking dreams!” Oh my God. Butterfly… I never knew all of this. Her hatred for this woman runs much deeper than I could ever imagine and for good reason.
“I was raped and beaten at the age of 15 and YOU. NEVER. HELD. ME. ONCE! That man in that casket made my life a living hell and you pretended not to see it. I found peace with Ray—and you and that monster took it away from me for a few fucking dollars, and you have the nerve to speak to me about being grateful!? For what? You have a lot of fucking nerve to even think you have the right to utter that word to me! Now get the fuck out of my way before I push you down that hole with your drunk ass dead husband… MOTHER!” Wow, great minds think alike. Just as I begin to take pride in our linked thinking, she swoons. In two steps, I am with her and catch her before she hits the ground, her clutch bouncing at her feet.
“Ana! Ana! Baby!” I can’t revive her. What happened? Why is she unconscious?
“Sir!” Jason’s voice is anxious. He and Davenport have joined us at the grave site. “What happened?
“I don’t know. She was very upset and she just dropped.”
“How upset?” Jason asks.
“Extremely… more upset than I have ever seen,” I tell him.
“It’s the adrenaline, Sir. We should leave,” he says. I nod.
“Get her purse for me.” I instruct him.
“Where is it?”
“It’s right the…” I gesture around Butterfly’s body in my arms to where I saw her purse fall and it’s not there anymore. I look around our feet with Butterfly still in my arms unconscious. “It was right there,” I say bemused still looking until my eyes fall upon a pair of black shoes that I follow up to Mini-Morton’s somewhat stunned face.
“You are a real piece of shit, you know that? Give us her fucking purse!” I demand immediately. Jason looks from me to her then narrows his eyes.
“I… I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she says weakly. That performance didn’t even convince the dead man in the casket. Davenport walks right up in her face.
“If you don’t give me her purse, I will strip search you and leave you naked here on the ground,” he growls at her without blinking. She gasps.
“You would really do that to a lady?” she asks, her eyes large.
“No, but I’ll do it to you!” Good one, Chuck! “You’ve got until I count to five. ONETWOTHREEFOURFIVE!” He says it all in one word and she is ripping her coat open quickly, allowing Butterfly’s clutch to fall out. Davenport literally pushes her out of the way and picks up Butterfly’s clutch. “There better not be anything missing,” he threatens. “If she tells me that a hairpin is missing out of here, I will walk back here to personally kick your ass!” Mini-Morton opens her coat again and holds it there.
“I didn’t take anything!” she declares loudly.
“No, except her whole damn purse!” Jason shoots. “Let’s get the hell out of here before I hit a female,” he mumbles. I glare at Mini-Morton.
“Don’t you ever try to contact her again,” I hiss. “Don’t call her, email her, write her a letter, leave her voice mails, or send smoke signals or carrier pigeons. I love this woman, and you’re fucking toxic. That means I have to keep you away from her so that she can heal. I swear to God, if you ever contact her or come near her again…” my teeth are clenched and I had no idea that my Dom voice was coming out until she displays another trait of my Butterfly.
She starts shrinking.
I just shake my head. “I hate you for what you’ve done to her. I hate you for what she had to overcome because of you and that bastard in that box. I will spend every dime that I have making your life fucking miserable if you ever come near her again. Stay the fuck away from us.”
“Christian…” Butterfly’s voice is weak and breathy and her eyes are still closed. I hold her close to me and adjust her so that her head is on my shoulder.
“I’ve got you, Baby,” I say to her as I carry her back to the SUV.
“Butterfly, are you sure you are up to this?” I ask as we are parked on Washington Avenue outside of the AG’s office.
“I’m scared to death, Christian, but I can’t turn back now. Please, let’s just go in.” She squeezes my hand. I so don’t want her to do this. It seems like she gets more and more fragile as the days go by and this is starting to be too much for her. She passed out at the cemetery for fuck’s sake. Jason convinced me that she’s okay, but I still think she should go to the hospital. Now we’re here about to rehash this whole experience again and I don’t know what to think right now.
“I don’t think you’re well enough, Baby. As much as I want you to make your statement and get this done, I’m afraid that you are going to stress yourself out too much. We’ve already decided to stay here another night. Why don’t you relax today? You’ve really had a rough day. Rest and come back and do this tomorrow…”
“No!” she interrupts me. “I don’t want to wait anymore. Do you really think I could rest with this hanging over my head another day? No, I have to get this done. I have to.” I still don’t want to do this right now, but I relent knowing that I’m not going to win this battle with Butterfly, nor do I want to have it right now. I get out of the SUV and come over to Butterfly’s side of the vehicle. I know that she is dreading this more than I am, so I won’t make this any harder for her than it has to be. I open the door and she steps out. I take her hand firmly in mine and we walk into the Las Vegas office of the Nevada Attorney General.
“Who would I need to speak to about a currently open case?” Butterfly asks the brunette behind the desk in suite 3900.
“Which case, ma’am?” the brunette asks efficiently.
“Officer George Sullivan of the Henderson Police Department.” The brunette sighs heavily.
“Another character witness?” she asks, typing into her computer. I was to slug her one…
“Hardly,” Butterfly says flatly. “I’m Anastasia Steele.” Oh, that got her attention. Her eyes grow large.
“You’re… who?” the brunette says, almost gasping.
“Anastasia Steele,” Butterfly repeats. The brunette blindly reaches for the phone and clumsily dials an extension.
“Herb, you want to come to the front desk… Trust me, Herb. You want to come to the front desk now.” She replaces the receiver. “Please, can I get you something to drink? Water? Coffee…?”
“No, thank you.” Butterfly actually holds her stomach at the thought and I know that she is very afraid. I squeeze her hand again. A gentleman comes around the corner and gazes at Butterfly a moment too long for my taste. He then looks at me, then at the brunette.
“What’s up, Jess?” he asks the brunette.
“Ma’am?” she gestures to the gentleman, “this is Herbert Larson, the gentleman in charge of the George Sullivan case. Herb, this woman introduced herself as Anastasia Steele.” Herb‘s eyes go large as his head shoots over to Butterfly.
“Ms. Steele, how do you do?” He extends his hand to Butterfly and she has to release mine to shake it.
“Mr. Larson,” she responds flatly while shaking his hand. Jason and Davenport hover ominously around the door as Larson no doubt is trying to analyze the three large men surrounding this one little woman. “This is Christian Grey, my boyfriend.” He extends his hand to me and I shake it.
“Mr. Grey,” he says obligingly.
“Mr. Larson,” I reciprocate.
“These gentlemen are our personal security—Jason Taylor and Charles Davenport,” she says more as a way of informing Larson who they were instead of introducing them. Larson nods at them.
“Ms. Steele, would you like to step into my office?” He turns to walk away and all four of us begin to walk behind him. “Um… I’m sorry but…”
“Where she goes, I go!” I say before he has the opportunity to say that we cannot accompany Butterfly to their little tête-à-tête.
“He’s right,” Butterfly reinforces. “I can’t do this without him.” Larson sighs.
“Very well, but your security has to stay here. I can guarantee your safety in this building.” I nod at Jason and Davenport and they take a seat in the waiting room. We walk back to Larson’s office and it is set up much like Dad’s study—large desk and two winged-back chairs. “I thought we could wait here for my colleague, but we will have to move the deposition to one of the recording rooms. I hope you don’t mind.” Recording room. That’s just a nice way of saying interrogation room.
“No. It’s fine. I just… really want to get this done.” Butterfly is being very strong. A few moments later, a woman walks into the room.
“This is Paige Dixon, my colleague. Paige, this is Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey.” Dixon pauses for a moment, then looks from Larson to Butterfly to me and back to Larson. He nods.
“Ms. Steele,” she extends her hand to Butterfly, “It’s good to meet you.” Butterfly shakes her hand.
“Thank you, Ms. Dixon, and you as well.” I notice that Butterfly has not broken into the “call me Ana” stage. She is clearly uncomfortable.
“Mr. Grey, Seattle’s wealthiest bachelor. You two have been quite the buzz here in the Valley since this case resurfaced.” I shake her hand.
“No offense, Ms. Dixon, but this case was quite the buzz 11 years ago when it happened, so I hope you will forgive my lack of enthusiasm,” Butterfly says with more than a little sarcasm.
“Forgive my candor, Ms. Steele, but why are you coming forward now?” What the fuck is wrong with this guy? Is he really fucking serious? “I mean, I know, of course, that this case is all about you and from what I’ve heard and seen in the crime scene photos, your experience was pretty horrific—and I want to be the first to apologize that the system failed you. I guess I’m just wondering why you didn’t come sooner and seek some justice on those bastards.”
“Well, thank you for your apology, but I didn’t come forward before because I didn’t have any proof… and now I do.” Butterfly reaches into her clutch and pulls out a flash drive containing the video. Dixon and Larson look at the flash drive.
“Is this the video?” Dixon says. I look at her aghast.
“You already have it?” I ask.
“Yes, but we haven’t looked at it, yet,” Larson says. They haven’t looked at it yet?
“Why the hell not!?” I shout.
“Mr. Grey! Your language!” Dixon scolds. Butterfly drops her head.
“I didn’t have to come, then,” she says softly.
“Yes, Ms. Steele, you did. We still need you. We need to depose you and you can tell us what we are seeing,” Dixon says.
“Only you haven’t seen it yet,” I hiss. Larson glares at me.
“This is a process, Mr. Grey,” Larson shoots. “The SIM card has to go through a chain of evidence. It has to be analyzed to be sure that it is authentic and then we can watch it. Since Ms. Steele has a copy, we can do a prescreening so to speak, even though we can’t use her copy as evidence… but how did you get a copy of the video, Ms. Steele?
“From a patient of mine,” Butterfly says heavily. “She sought me out for dignity therapy and then sprung this shit on me just as she was about to die.” Butterfly raises her head and looks at Dixon. “Sorry.”
“Ms. Steele, I’m not trying to offend you or anything, but have you had any work done?” Larson asks. This guy is pissing me off more and more. What’s the matter, fucker? Has Vegas tainted your ass so badly that you don’t know a natural beauty when you see it?
Butterfly frowns a bit, then says, “I have a tattoo on my back that incorporates the scars.”
“Do you mind if we take some pictures of your back? It will help us identify you as the person in those pictures.” Butterfly frowns hard.
“Why wouldn’t you believe I’m who I say I am?” she asks. “What purpose would it serve for me to come in here pretending to be the victim of this horrible act? I look almost the same as I did in my high school yearbook…”
“Yes, but you look nothing like this victim…” and now I see where he’s going. “Your skin is flawless. You’re very beautiful. You have no scars or cuts or permanent bruising except those on your back and you’ve had no work. I’m not the only person who is going to question if this is the same person in the pictures.” I can’t fault the man for that. I thought the same thing the first time that I saw those pictures. Butterfly sighs.
“He’s right, Butterfly. I thought the same thing when I saw the pictures,” I tell her. Larson glares at me.
“You’ve seen the pictures?” he asks me.
“Yes, I have,” I say matter-of-factly. “Because of who I am, I have to check out anybody who can possibly get close to me in any way… or anybody that I want to get close to.” I look over at Butterfly and back at Larson. “The attack came up in the process of a background check. So yes, I have seen the pictures of the attack and I also had a hard time believing that poor brutalized girl turned out to be this beautiful woman.” I squeeze Butterfly’s hand and she blushes a bit. Yeah, I know she’s beautiful, Asshole, and she’s mine.
“Well, I can assure you that’s me… and I’ve got the brands to prove it. I don’t care if you take a picture, but it has to be a female that takes the picture because of where it is placed… and I’m wearing a dress.” Butterfly says.
“We can arrange that,” Dixon says and makes a call from Larson’s desk.
“Everyone in this video except for two people can be identified from the 2001 Green Valley High School yearbook,” Butterfly informs them. “If you doubt anything that I say, you can compare the faces with the yearbook and identify them yourselves. I have watched this video repeatedly, and I can’t watch it again. I have made a list of the people in the video and at what times they show up. I can name them if you watch it.”
“I don’t know how useful that will be, Ms. Steele. If you are not watching the video, how will we know that you know what you are looking at?” Larson asks, skeptically but sympathetically.
“See for yourselves. Play the video. I can either read you the names or I can give you the list. It’s up to you.”
“It would be better if you read the list, Ms. Steele. That way, we can record it,” Larson says and Butterfly nods.
At this point we stand and go to a viewing room and where Dixon cues up the video. She and Larson sit on one side of a large wooden table while Butterfly and I sit on the other side. As they begin to watch the video, Butterfly tells them exactly where to stop. Without looking at the screen, she describes the scene they are seeing and tells them who is in the video. I am stunned that even in the scenes where the lighting was bad or nearly non-existent, she could still tell who was in each frame and exactly what was going on. She could even tell them who was hitting her and where, even though she squeezed my hands harder on those scenes. She had told me that they were all wearing masks when she first told me this story and at first, they were. However, as the “festivities” progressed, they all came out of their masks at some point making it easier to identify them. She went to far as to identify many of the people standing around the bonfire. She informed them about the two people that she didn’t know as well as her connection to Melanie Coleman, the videographer, and Melanie’s relationship to Carly Madison-Perry—the video’s Queenpin. By now, the photographer has joined us in the room. Butterfly was doing so well, and I was so proud…
… Until we got to the brands.
Butterfly knows exactly when we get to that point. When we hear the searing of her skin and her screaming voice, Dixon gasps audibly and covers her mouth at the sight. Butterfly starts to heave at the table. In an instant, she is on the floor at the garbage can vomiting violently. I fall down on my knees beside her.
“We need to stop!” I demand. “She can’t do this anymore!”
“No! No!” she gasps while holding onto my arm, her head still down in the garbage can. “I can’t do this again! Do it now, please. Finish it! Please!” I can see the sympathy on the faces of all of the people in the room.
“We can take a break, Ms. Steele…” Larson begins.
“No… please… please, let’s just get it done!” she chokes, weeping. He sighs.
“Who are we looking at here, Ms. Steele?” she squeezes her eyes shut.
“The first two brands…” Her testimony was interrupted by another round of violent regurgitation. When she catches her breath, “the first two brands… Vincent Sullivan. He was… in my biology class.” She’s out of breath now. “I never spoke to him… I just remember… the people… in my class.”
“We’ve already identified Carly Madison,” he says. “She was the third brand?” Butterfly nods feverishly.
“Yes… yes… she was the third.” Butterfly is sweating profusely.
“Ms. Steele, we need a current picture of the brand, but we can wait if you like.” She squeezes my hand tightly.
“Can he come with me?” she asks.
“I’m afraid not,” Larson replies, his voice full of sympathy.
“Baby…” I try again to discourage her.
“I have to, Christian! I’ve waited 11 years to tell this story—for someone to hear me and believe me and do something about it. I can’t stop now.” She’s nearly wheezing. I can’t stand it anymore.
“Listen,” I say to Larson, “what’s involved in taking these pictures? She just came from a funeral where she fainted from the stress. I’m just afraid that…” I think my eyes told them what I was feeling. The photographer walks over to us. She kneels and puts her hands on Butterfly’s back… in that place where only I touch her, on her brands. Butterfly knows the hands aren’t mine and immediately scrambles into my arms, still on the floor, her back to my front, glaring at the photographer. I clamp my arms tightly around her. I won’t let go until she tells me to let go.
“I’m sorry. Did I do something wrong?” she asks, noting Butterfly’s reaction.
“Her back… the brand… Nobody touches it without warning, but me,” I inform her. She nods, understanding.
“It will only be the two of us in there. I will only take a few pictures. The first, you will be fully dressed facing the camera to identify yourself. The rest, I will take pictures of your bare back—bra and panties—from a few angles, full back and up close of the brands…” Butterfly starts to straighten up a bit and I loosen my grip.
“I have a tattoo… a really large tattoo… to camouflage the brands the best that I could.”
“It won’t hide the burns,” she says softly. Butterfly nods.
“You’re right. It didn’t,” she chokes. She makes to stand and I help her from the floor. “I’ll be alright,” she whispers, squeezing my hand.
“Promise me that you’ll stop it it becomes too much,” I plead. She nods.
“I will,” she assures me and walks out with the photographer. I watch the door after she is gone. I want her to come back. I want to leave this God-forsaken place and take home and make love to her and hold her until she completely forgets about this place and all of its ghosts and nightmares. My Butterfly is a beautiful and wonderful person and she doesn’t deserve to keep reliving this nightmare over and over again.
“Mr. Grey?” My head snaps toward the voice of Dixon calling my name. “Can we get you something while you wait, Sir? Coffee or something?” Yes… You can bring her back.
“No, but thank you.” I drop my head and run my hand through my hair.
“How did you two meet?” Larson asks, making small talk I guess, but I’m not in the mood for small talk.
“I was being an asshole and she saved me from myself.” I look at the door again. She’s been through so much. “God, I hate it when she hurts.” I didn’t know I had verbalized that last part.
“When else was she hurt?” he asks. What does that have to do with this situation?
“She was kidnapped by her psycho ex and a disgruntled ex-employee of mine last June. It was national news. I’m surprised that you didn’t see it,” I say, turning to look at him.
“No,” he says flatly. “I can’t say that I did.” Dixon looks at him and frowns. She’s probably thinking the same thing that I am. What the fuck is his problem? I don’t like this guy’s attitude.
“Google it,” I say, turning my attention back to the door. My chest starts to hurt a bit and all of a sudden, I feel like I can’t breathe. I loosen my tie in hopes to relax a bit, but nothing is helping. What’s going on with me?
“You alright there, Grey?” Larson says. I throw a glare at him.
“I’m fine,” I hiss. I know he’s being an asshole and I just don’t want to talk to his ass anymore.
“You don’t look so good,” he says with a smirk.
“I didn’t know you cared,” I shoot, and it’s getting hotter and hotter in here.
“Mr. Grey!” The photographer comes back into the room. “Sir, I need you to come with me—please.” I sit up straight.
“What’s wrong with her?” I ask, trying not to panic.
“I think she just needs some help.” I jump up and run behind her, ignoring the protests of Larson. I’m sprinting down a long hallway to a room with some chairs against the wall and a screen. The photographer turns on the screen just as Larson walks into the room. The sight makes me gasp. She’s nearly naked, standing against the wall.
“Sir, I was hoping that you could help me,” the photographer says. I take off my tie and undo the first button of my shirt.
“Help you how? Can I go to her?”
“No, sir. She undressed now and I have to finish or start all over. Can you talk to her? She keeps saying that she needs a moment, but she hasn’t moved.”
“How?” I ask. She points to the intercom on the wall. “I told her to stop if it becomes too much.” I can hear my own voice cracking.
“I can appreciate that, Mr. Grey, but I only have a few more pictures to take and then she can leave. Our only other option is to start all over.” I sigh heavily, go over to the intercom, take another deep breath and push the button.
“Butterfly?” My voice portrays a conviction that escapes me right now. She raises her head instantly.
“Christian?” Her voice is hopeful. “Where are you?”
“I’m outside, Baby.” She drops her head.
“Christian, I… I can do it. I just need a moment,” she whimpers, her voice sounding like a broken child.
“Yes, Baby. Yes, you can. It’s almost over and then we can leave.” She nods, but she still doesn’t move.
“I want to take her home!” I shoot, nearly begging. The photographer sighs.
“You can, Mr. Grey, but if you do, it’s going to hurt the case,” the photographer says. I take another deep breath and go back to the intercom.
“Butterfly, you are my strong, beautiful girl. I know this is hard for you and I know that you can do it. You’re one of the strongest women that I know. You want to make these bastards pay. I’ll be right here and I’ll talk to you the whole time.” She shakes her head as if to shake off a bad thought.
“Okay. Tell her to come back,” she says, trying to control her voice.
“I’ll finish quickly. I’ll nod to you when it’s okay for you to come in.” She quickly goes around the corner then appears on the screen. Butterfly turns around and lets her take the pictures.
“That’s my girl,” I say into the intercom. “Good. You’re doing well, Butterfly.” I keep encouraging her until the photographer nods at the screen. I follow her steps around the corner to the only door in that hallway.
“Butterfly!” She launches herself into my arms and we slide to the floor.
“You did great, Baby,” I soothe, smoothing her hair and holding her close while she weeps in my arms. “You really did great.” She can’t catch her breath and she is nearly hyperventilating. I take off my suit jacket and wrap it around her tiny body, remembering that she has an audience watching the screen. She cries it out for a few minutes, then manages to pull herself together.
“I’m fine now, Christian,” she says, trying to control her shuddering breaths.
“What happened?” I ask her. She shrugs.
“I couldn’t breathe. It got hot and then it felt like something sucked all of the air out of the room.” Holy shit! That’s what I was feeling before Picture Lady came and got me. I dare not tell her—she might think I’m crazy.
“Let’s get you dressed, Baby. I am so ready to leave.” I locate her dress and remember the angle the camera was. Locating the eye in the sky, I block her body as much as I can and quickly replace my suit jacket with her blue dress. Once I have her sash tied, I put my suit jacket around her shoulders and lead her past the prying eyes in the “observation room” and back to the office where our coats are located. Larson is behind us in seconds.
“Ms. Steele, are you okay?” he asks. I look over my shoulder and glare at him, nearly growling. Butterfly tightens her grip around my waist in an effort to calm me.
“I’m fine. May I have some water, please?” Butterfly says, sitting down in the nearest seat.
“Of course,” Dixon says and pours a tall glass of water from a nearby carafe. Butterfly takes a mouthful and begins to rinse her mouth. I reach for the garbage can but Larson beats me to it. I glare at him for a moment, but soon turn my attention back to Butterfly. She rinses her mouth a couple of times and spits into the can, then drinks a generous amount of the water. Dixon hands her some tissues to clean her face. She looks completely spent. God, how I wish we could have avoided this whole ordeal.
“Are we done or do you need anything else from me?” she asks softly without lifting her head. I’m, once again, glaring at Larson.
“I think we’re done for now, Ms. Steele, but we may call on you again for more information in the future, okay?” Dixon’s voice is gentle and soothing and Butterfly nods her acknowledgement. Larson and I are caught in a game of stare and he’s the one that breaks.
“Is there a problem, Mr. Grey?” he says, his ire evident in his voice.
“I don’t know, Mr. Larson. Is there?” I respond with just as much spice. I feel Butterfly’s hand reach for mine and it calms me almost immediately. I turn to see her looking wearily at me and I give her hand a gentle squeeze.
“I’m feeling a bit of hostility from you, that’s all,” he says. What the hell is he playing at? Do I look coy to this motherfucker? Butterfly tries again to calm me. I look at her and nod. I won’t start trouble, but I won’t take down to this fucker either.
“Mr. Larson, I am a businessman—a shrewd one at that. I have amassed a very large fortune with nothing but a loan from a one-time friend and my knowledge and instincts. I didn’t make that fortune by playing games with little men with big egos. It’s really not worth my time or effort. Your business is with Anastasia and as you are the person overseeing her case, you will have no problem from me, but please know this. I will be standing by her side every single step of the way during this ordeal. There is not one moment while she is going through this that I won’t be here. No matter what happens, when you see her, you’ll see me. I and my jet are at her disposal at a moment’s notice. I only say that to let you know that my only concern in this room right now is Anastasia. So if you are feeling hostility emanating from me, it’s only because I radiate what I receive, and you get what you give… Mr. Larson.” I think this little speech caught him off guard. Dixon is looking back and forth between us and Butterfly still has her head down, still clutching my hand tightly.
“Uh-huh, so… you don’t plan to let her out of your sight is what you’re saying,” he says. I know what he’s trying to do, but I won’t bite.
“While she’s in this hell hole, you are absolutely correct,” I say with certainty.
“Ms. Steele, you approve of being controlled in this way?” Larson says. I knew the minute it came out of his mouth that it was the wrong thing to say. Butterfly’s eyes shoot up at him and he’s looking like he’s sitting in the catbird seat. Her eyes narrow at him and she’s says something that surprises both of us.
“I wouldn’t have it any other way. Is there some kind of problem with that?” she snaps. I look over at her and she’s glaring at Larson, who now straightens his tie while Dixon clears her throat.
“I really don’t think my colleague…”Dixon growls the word while throwing a dirty look at Larson, “… meant it that way, Ms. Steele. We know that this has been very trying for you and we don’t wish to cause you any more duress. Of course Mr. Grey can accompany you anytime you like. Mr. Grey, this office apologizes for the insinuation that was just made.”
“No offense, Ms. Dixon, but that was not an insinuation. It was blatant…” I begin.
“… And offensive!” Butterfly completes, turning her attention from Dixon back to Larson. “I recognize that you understand that this was a very traumatic experience, but make no mistake. I’m nobody’s weak little broken bird. Reliving this is not easy for me by any means, but I’m still able to wake up in the morning, stand on my own two feet, and take care of myself. Mr. Grey wants to protect me and I adore him for that, and I won’t stand by and allow you or anyone else to discredit him in any way for wanting to do that. If anything, I feel sorry for you that you have no one in your life because if you did, you would completely understand how he feels and why he does what he does. It would take forever for me to explain our connection to you, and I really shouldn’t have to. However, since you obviously can’t recognize two people who really love each other when they are sitting right in your face, take a good look.” Wow! Her speech was given with no malice, but it still cuts like a knife.
“Ms. Steele, I sincerely apologize. I horribly misspoke. I honestly didn’t mean to offend you…”
“… And you offend me further by ignoring the fact that you insulted the man that I love.” You’re not getting off that easily, Sport. Larson begrudgingly turns to me.
“Mr. Grey, my apologies to you as well. I was rude and my comments were out of line. I hope that you will ignore them.” Asshole.
“Accepted.” That’s all I can say to him. I turn to Butterfly. “Are you ready?”
“Yes!” Now, there’s malice in her voice as she stands and snatches her coat from the back of the chair and storms out of the room. I throw one last hateful look at Larson and as I sprint to catch Butterfly, I can hear Dixon’s voice:
“Herb, do you have to be a fucking asshole all of the time?”
I catch up with Butterfly as she steps out of the building with Davenport hot on her tail, Jason and I trailing behind. She’s moving fast and Davenport doesn’t dare stop her. I manage to catch her arm before she steps out into the parking lot. She’s not paying attention and I don’t want her playing chicken with some poor, unsuspecting semi-truck.
“Baby, stop.” I look in her eyes and she is fire-breathing mad. I put my hands on both sides of her face. “Breathe.”
“Breathe, Anastasia.” She takes a deep breath and lets it out. “Again.” She breathes again. “One more time.” She does it one more time and I feel her body relax with the last breath. She looks up at me with guileless blue eyes.
“Why does this have to be such an ordeal?” she says. “I don’t know why, but I expected it to be easier than this.” I put my arms around her and she squeezes me at my waist.
“Do you want to go home? I can have the jet ready in a couple of hours.” I can tell that the thought is tempting, but she shakes her head.
“That poor pilot of yours is always ready at a moment’s notice… like you said. Let him relax tonight. We’ll leave in the morning like we planned. I have one more stop I want to make anyway.” Where the hell does she want to go in Vegas?
“Ana? Oh my God, Ana?” She’s just as beautiful as she was then, only she seems a little shorter. It must be the fact that I am wearing stilettos now.
“Cynthia,” I greet her with a smile. She is standing on this side of a pair of glass doors that separate the back offices of the Clark County School District from the lobby. She walks over to me, a bit stunned.
“Oh my God. You’re so beautiful,” she says softly.
“Thank you, and the years haven’t changed you one bit. You’re just as stunning as I remember,” I reply. We embrace warmly.
“I knew… I mean… I hoped…” She can’t get a full sentence out and I can hear the tears in her voice.
“Auntie Cyn,” I say as I pull her to me, “I would never come back to this place without seeing you.” I pull her back so that I can look at the woman who helped to save me from the hell I lived in Green Valley. “I only regret that it took me so long to get in touch with you. Please forgive me.” She smiles at me.
“There is nothing to forgive, Sweetie. You had to put your own life together after this place tore you apart. I’m just so happy to see you. How long are you staying?”
“We’re leaving tomorrow,” I reply, “but please, have dinner with us. I would like to catch up and tell you everything that’s going on.”
“I would love to! Where should we meet?” She is bubbling over with excitement.
“I really want to try that restaurant in Caesar’s Palace… the Boy Savoy?” I say, trying to remember the name.
“The Guy Savoy, Baby,” Christian says from behind me, smirking a bit.
“Mr. Grey, how rude of me,” Cynthia shakes his hand. “I was so happy to see Ana, I completely forgot my manners. It’s good to see you again.”
“You as well, Mrs. Crestwood. Please call me Christian.” He returns her handshake and smile. “You are lovely as ever.”
“Thank you, Christian.” That’s so cute… she’s blushing! “Please call me Cynthia. I’m afraid I may not have the wardrobe for the Savoy.” I open my coat.
“I don’t plan on changing. If they don’t want our green money, we will go somewhere else. Seven o’clock okay?” I smile and she smiles back.
“I can’t wait. I will see you then.” She squeezes my hand again. “You really do look very beautiful, Ana. Until seven…”
The Guy Savoy is a really beautiful restaurant fashioned after the original in France. Christian had the foresight to make reservations when I told him that I wanted to go and the place is packed. Christian prides himself on being early, so we are there at 6:45. We have enough time to enjoy a cocktail before Cynthia arrives. When she walks in, it looks like she found something to wear—a simple yet stunning burgundy Maje Bodycon bordeaux pencil cocktail dress with a back zipper that runs the length of the dress, short-sleeved with a crew neck and sheer designs on the bodice.
“I hope this is okay,” she says as she approaches the table.
“Don’t be silly! You look beautiful,” I say. Christian and I stand as she approaches the table and I give her a warm hug again.
“Thank you two so much for inviting me. I’ve always wanted to try this place, too,” she giggles. The waiter takes her order for some kind of non-alcoholic lemony drink and she turns to me and takes my hand. “So, tell me everything. I’ve been watching the news. I had hoped I would get to see you.” I sigh heavily.
“Well, I didn’t really know when I planned on coming down here, but events sort of shaped the plan for me. Stephen died.” Cynthia’s eyes widen.
“What?” I nod. “How?”
“Cirrhosis of the liver.” She shakes her head. “Either he had already given up or he was in denial because according to Carla, he was in a coma the moment he was admitted to the hospital.”
“So you and Carla are speaking now,” she says, more of a statement than a question.
“No, she left messages on my voicemail.” Cynthia frowns.
“If you’re not speaking, how did she get your phone number?”
“I haven’t figured that part out yet. Unfortunately, it’s not that hard. I haven’t taken all of the steps that I should take to keep my number private. I will now with all of the publicity…”
Cynthia and I talk about everything—her husband Larry who is working late and couldn’t join us, David kidnapping me, Dad’s wedding, Stephen’s funeral, Carly Madison-Perry’s new address, the bits and pieces that Cynthia have been following. Christian is being such a good sport while we chat it up over dinner. I think he is as happy as I am that Cynthia and I reconnected. We have shut the restaurant down and Cynthia and I exchange numbers, vowing not to lose touch again.
It’s still early so Christian and I decide to wander the Forum Shops for a while before going back to the hotel. Caesar’s Palace is quite humongous, very extravagant, and one of the most beautiful hotels on the strip—so I’m told. I haven’t seen the entire strip, but from what I’ve seen, I tend to agree.
“I remember that someone owes me a $90 pair of panties,” I say seductively to Christian. His eyes immediately become dark and sensual.
“Only one pair?” he asks, his voice dripping with suggestion.
“I don’t know. Maybe we should get a few. Is there an Agent Provocateur in here?” I raise my eyebrow.
“I don’t know, but if there isn’t, I’ll build one.” He snatches me close to him and kisses me suggestively and passionately right in front of the Fountain of the Gods.
“Get a room!” some guy screams from off to our right somewhere. Christian breaks our kiss just in time to see what looks like a college kid with about three other college guys laughing it up.
“It’s Vegas, Fucker. Get a date!” Christian calls back to him, his baritone voice bouncing off of the marble walls and floors and resonating all across the “mall.” Laughter erupts from every angle and there is no more sound coming from the college kids. Christian takes my hand and we laugh, clicking down the halls of the Forum Shops in search of Agent Provocateur.
We are in the middle where all of the “big money” shops seem to be, but no Agent Provocateur. We start wandering a bit looking for a map of some sort when the glint of diamonds catches my eye, the glint that can only come from—you guessed it—Tiffany’s! The new collection is insane! Lacquer and onyx and aquamarine and diamonds—I just can’t take my eyes off of them. I am mesmerized by the sparkly! My eyes wander over all of the deliciousness that is Tiffany’s and then off to the left, I see the engagement rings. All shapes, sizes, and colors… yellow and blue and pink and white… princess cut and pear shaped and round and oval and square… Tiffany Grace, Tiffany Legacy, Tiffany Embrace, Tiffany Lucida… Ah, Tiffany… and once again, I am Holly Golightly.
“Do you see something you like?” His voice awakens me from Tiffany stupor. Did he see me staring at the engagement rings? How long was he standing there?
“All of it,” I respond wistfully. I sigh and turn back to the jewelry. “It wasn’t until I met you that I have even been able to consider having things like this. Remember the story about Breakfast At Tiffany’s? You bought me a tiara for Christ’s sake.” I smile fondly remembering coming back to the penthouse and finding the largest bouquet of every blue flower in the state along with the codes to the penthouse, an invitation to meet his family, and my diamond and platinum tiara—a perfect replica of Holly Golightly’s tiara in Breakfast At Tiffany’s.
“I remember,” he says, stepping behind me and putting his arms around my waist while leaning his chin on my shoulders. “I tried to find that Givenchy dress, but no one knows where it is, and those who know aren’t telling.” I turn around to face him.
“You tried to find the Givenchy dress?” He nods. “The original Givenchy dress?” He nods again. “You’re insane, Christian.” I giggle. “Someone bought that dress anonymously for nearly a million dollars at a Christie’s auction in 2006. Whoever they are, they are not giving that dress up.”
“I know,” he says, unmoved.
“A million dollars, Christian.” Still nothing. “For a dress!” Nope, nothing. I just shake my head. More money than sense. “Did you find AP?”
“I did.” I grab his hand.
“Just come on and buy me some expensive lingerie,” I say dragging him away from the Tiffany window with no idea of where I’m going.
Christian is spending an ungodly amount of money in the lingerie shop, the women all fawning over him like a piece of meat. I’ve become accustomed to it to some degree and at other times, it still bothers me. The fact that I got to parade around in front of him—and them—in the slinkiest pieces of fabric gave me such a perverse thrill. I know I look hot in lingerie. I have never had a negative body image. Even though I couldn’t try on any of the panties—not that I would—Christian sat there with the biggest hard-on I have ever seen as I wiggled my ass in front of him in corsets and teddies and garters, oh my! More than once, my poor boyfriend had to adjust his pants to hide the his huge erection—and more than once, those bitches got a look at it. That’s right, bitches, drool! He’s all mine.
This is one time I honestly think we bought one of everything. As the cashier is ringing up our items, Christian conspiciously pushes me against the counter, his hands planted firmly on my ass.
“I’m going to take you back to the hotel and fuck you until you can’t see straight,” he whispers in my ear.
“Promise?” I say softly, and the shock registers on his face.
“Definitely,” he growls.
“Are you going to mount her here on the counter?” the cashier says. She thinks she says it low enough not to be heard—she’s wrong. I know Christian wants to tear into her, but I have a better idea.
“Please don’t give him any ideas,” I say to her, never taking my eyes off Christian’s. I reach into his suit jacket and pull out the billfold that I know I will find there. “Black?” I ask. He nods. I pull out his American Express Black and place it behind me on the counter without turning around. The cashier pauses for a second then continues to ring us up. We have a 10-second shameless makeout session right there at her cash register before Christian finally pulls away from me.
“Oh, yes, I’m fucking you senseless,” he groans, grinding his erection into me.
“I look forward to it,” I whisper, so turned on that I can barely form a coherent thought. I hear the cashier say something and I think she’s giving Christian the total of our purchases. I’m still kissed-dazed and sex-hungry when she sighs heavily and says, “Did you hear me, Mr. Grey?”
Christian has finally had enough of her catty attitude and her obvious jealousy and begrudgingly tears his eyes away from me.
“You have my Black. Now ring it up before I make you void the sale.” His voice is crisp and his loss of patience is evident. As she cringes a bit and swipes his credit card, another lady comes over to the cash register.
“Is there a problem, Sir?” she asks, her voice accommodating.
“I really don’t know. I guess your sales associate here has a problem with the level of affection I’m showing to my beautiful girlfriend. Hell, I’m walking around Agent Provocateur draping her in sexy lingerie. Isn’t that why you sell this shit?” He’s a little crass with his explanation, but I completely understand what he’s saying. I’m trying on skimpy pieces of barely nothing and wiggling my ass in his face so that he can buy it. As a result, he has spent five digits—a number I didn’t expect to see, but hell, it’s AP—and not only does she not afford him the right to grope me a couple of times in the process, but she’s also acting like she’s smelling rotting eggs.
The second lady, who I am assuming is the manager looks at the total on the cash register and her eyes flicker. She then turns her eyes back to Christian and they flicker again.
“Um, I’ll need to see some ID,” the cashier says and the manager rolls her eyes, throws her hands up, and groans loudly.
“Oh my God! Tell me that you didn’t just ask Christian Grey for identification!” The cashier looks shell shocked, looks at the card and back at Christian. She knows that she has committed a huge malfeasance and she just freezes. “Move!” the manager growls at her and she scurries away. “You’ll be lucky if you get your commission.” She turns back to us. “I apologize Mr. Grey,” she says as she does something with the cash register and produces a receipt longer than my leg. She folds it neatly and puts it in an envelope, handing it to Christian with his Black Amex on top of it. “You can leave the bags here if you want to continue shopping and if not, we can help you get them out to your car.”
“Thank you, Ms…”
“Fletcher, Sir,” she speaks in a very professional manner.
“Ms. Fletcher, I will have my security bring our car around. Yes, we would appreciate some help carrying the bags to our car.” He has calmed down tremendously, now that he is being treated the way that he expects his Amex Black to be treated.
It’s about 11:30 when we get back to our room. I take off my shoes and sit on the edge of the bed. I take a moment to glance at my emails to see if anything of any importance has come in while I have been disconnected and there is nothing that requires my urgent attention. St. John has sent his daily texts and emails beseeching me to come and see Melanie one more time before she dies. I don’t owe her anything, I truly don’t. She could have said something a long time ago that could have helped me, that could have brought these people to justice. I don’t owe her anything.
Not a damn thing.
I look at my phone again and there is another voice mail… from Carla. How did this woman get my number? I think it’s on the voice mail at the office, or the answering service may have given it to her. Who knows?
“I never thought you could possibly be so cruel, Anastasia. You come to my husband’s funeral and insult him, then you insult me, and then you let your boyfriend and his goons bully and threaten me. I am still you mother. No matter what, I am still your mother! You can hate me until the day that you die, but it doesn’t change the fact that I brought you into this world and I gave you life! I nurtured you and cared for you until you could care for yourself and how do you repay me? By shutting me out and treating me like the enemy! I couldn’t even get sympathy from you on the day when I bury the man that I love. How could you be so heartless and cruel and hateful?
I am no longer trying to figure out what drug this woman smoked that has clouded her memory of all of the terrible shit that she did to me; of how she turned her back on me when I needed her the most and literally left me to die; of how she ripped the little piece of happiness that I had found from me when she snatched me away from my father twice—once when she married that asshole, and once when Daddy came to save me after the attack; of how she basically sold me like a cheap piece of meat and ignored me while that asshole that is rotting in the ground right now treated me like shit while she pretended not to notice; of how I can’t remember one time ever when she has been there for me… Ever!
I don’t care what happens to her anymore. I truly don’t care if she lives or dies. I have had enough. I pull up her number in my iPhone and choose the option “Block Caller.” She won’t know that I have blocked her. The phone will ring on her end, but never on mine. Her voice mails will go somewhere into the great beyond, and I never have to hear about her again until it’s time to give her a proper burial. I know it’s cold and a bit heartless, but I have to protect myself now… from all enemies, foreign and domestic. I have had enough of being the naive little girl that keeps getting kicked around and treated like nothing. No more of that for me, and anybody who thinks they can do that to me has another think coming!
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Love and Handcuffs!