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.
I sit at my desk in my office wondering how Ana slept last night.
You shunned her all day and then left her hanging last night and she doesn’t know why. How the hell do you think she slept last night, Asshole? About as well as you did, I would guess.
I just don’t know what to say to her. I’ve never been at a loss for words with a woman, but I can’t take it if she tells me that she wants my brother… or worse yet, if she tells me that she doesn’t and I don’t believe her. I couldn’t stand it if she lied to me.
But you’re lying about this whole Green Valley thing. So, it’s okay if you lie, but not her. Is that the thrust?
This is different, though. I’m trying to find the people who hurt her. And I’m not lying, I’m just not telling her what I’m doing.
A lie is a lie and you are lying! You told her you would let it go. How’s that working for you?
Such an asshole, Grey.
Another knock at the door and Taylor is in my office. “Sir, Davenport just called. He says that he can’t locate Ms. Steele.” I sit up in my chair.
“What?” I say incredulously.
“He gets no answer when he tries to call her and no answer when he knocks on her door.”
“Has he checked to see if she is already in her office? She may have had an early appointment and she doesn’t answer her phone when she is in appointments,” I point out.
“He’s there now, Sir. She has a 9:00 that her assistant, Marilyn has canceled because Ms. Steele is usually in the office at least an hour before her first appointment.” I look at my watch. It’s 8:30 now. Ana is very serious about her patients. I pull out my blackberry and call her. It goes straight to voice mail.
“This is Anastasia Steele. Please leave me a message.” I hang up. I still wouldn’t know what to say to her. Dammit, now is when I need a fucking key to her apartment.
What the hell am I going to tell him? Fuck what I’m going to tell him! He needs to get over there and see if she’s okay. I dial Allen’s number.
“This is Allen Forsythe,” he answers.
“Allen, it’s Christian.”
“Chris! To what do I owe this honor?” he asks cheerfully.
He told me not to hurt her.
“You still have the key to Anastasia’s apartment, don’t you?” I ask.
“Of course, I do. What are we doing now, 100 Alexander McQueen dresses?” He laughs.
“Um, no. I need you to go over there and see if she’s okay.” I say, trying to hide my shame. Allen falls silent.
“What happened?” His tone has gone from cheerful to serious.
“I’ll tell you later, but right now, please go see if she’s okay. I called her and her phone is going straight to voicemail. Davenport has knocked, but there’s no answer and her receptionist is canceling appointments as we speak,” I say. “I’m worried, Al,” I add. I don’t think I’ve ever called him Al.
“Did you guys break up?” he asks.
“No! Of course, not!” I almost shout. “We just… slept in different places last night.” He sighs.
“I’ll go see,” he says. I sigh.
“Thank you, Al. Davenport will meet you there.”
“Fine,” he says. “One of us will let you know what’s going on… and then one of you will tell me what’s going on.” I pause. Is it really any of your damn business what’s going on? I think to myself. “I hear that pause, I’m a lawyer. You’re pulling me from my workday to go to my best friend’s house to see if she’s lying dead in a bathroom! One of you is going to tell me what’s going on!” he spits in a totally attorney’s tone. I need to hire this guy!
“Understood,” I relent before he ends the call. I’m not moving from this spot until someone tells me that Butterfly is okay.
“Jewel? Jewel, wake up baby.”
“Mmmmm…” I groan. My. Head. Is. Banging. “Do you have to yell?”
“I’m not yelling, Honey. You’re hung over.” Allen’s voice sounds like it’s coming from a bullhorn… and Kenny G is still playing that damn soprano sax. Fucking Kenny G!
“Turn that shit off!” I protest. Al swiftly locates the iPod and puts me out of my musical misery.
“Wine drunk, Jewel? On a Monday night? And you didn’t call me?” Al scolds.
“It was a long day. I just wanted to be alone.”
“Mm-hmm, I bet,” he says, walking over to the counter and retrieving the nearly empty wine bottle. “Well, at least you left me a drink,” he says.
“Um…” I ponder how many times I remember a bottle coming up empty. “I think that’s the third bottle,” I say without lifting my head.
“The third bottle?” he exclaims a little too loudly. “You’re fucking insane, you know that?”
“The first one was nearly empty,” I protest.
“And now this one is nearly empty, so that makes two bottles… all by yourself!”
“Yeah… yeah…” I surrender.
“So, what’s going on, Jewel?” he says, sitting on the sofa next to where I spent the night, stroking my head.
“My boyfriend’s being an asshole,” I respond miserably.
“Well, that asshole pulled me out of my job to come over here and make sure that you weren’t dead.” I look up at him.
“Why didn’t he come himself?” I spit.
“Well, first, I don’t know. I told him one of you two lovebirds were going to tell me what’s going on once I determined that you had not fallen victim to a serial killer.”
“Ooh, how did he take that?” I ask.
“I don’t give a damn how he took it!” Al snaps. Something tells me that I wish I had been a fly on the wall for that conversation.
“What’s second?” I croak.
“What’s second? You said, first you don’t know. What’s second?”
“Oh! Does he have a key?” Oh… yeah, that would present a problem, wouldn’t it?
“No, I was going to get one made yesterday… before he turned into an asshole.”
“Well, you have to give me a moment because I have to call the asshole and tell him that you’re not dead,” Al says.
“I just texted Jason, Mr. Forsythe. He knows,” the voice above me bellows.
“Hi, Chuck,” I say without raising my head.
“Hi, Ana,” he responds.
“Jewel, where is your damn phone?”
“It’s in my purse,” I complain. “What time is it?”
“It’s 9:22, babe,” Al answers.
“Shit!” I sit up quickly and suffer from one of the worse cases of vertigo I’ve ever had. “I had a 9:00 appointment. I have to call Marilyn.”
“I’m here, too,” Marilyn says from somewhere over there…
“Marilyn, hi. Sorry, Hon. Did you cancel my 9…?”
“Yes, and your 10 and I’m about to cancel your 11…” she begins.
“No, don’t cancel anymore!” I say holding my head. “All I need is a hot shower and a couple of Advil. Al, help me please.” I reach to Al who helps me off the sofa and into my bedroom. “Unzip me and get me some Advil and orange juice.”
“You might want to take the tie off, too, hon,” he says pointing to Christian’s burgundy tie. Ah, the drunken wanderings of a woman scorned. I wonder if I drunk dialed him? The world may never know…
“I can’t get this thing off,” I say, trying to maneuver this crazy intricate sailor’s knot. Al isn’t having much more luck.
“Who tied this thing!?” he laughs.
“I don’t know! I don’t even know how it got here!” I say. “Never mind, get the Advil.” I walk out into the living room. “Chuck, can you get this thing off me?” I walk over to Chuck, who is fumbling with something in his pocket and show him my predicament.
“Wha… how… what is… how did this happen?” Chuck gasps loudly. Did these people forget I’m hung over?
“I don’t know! Just get it off me!” I snap.
“I don’t think I can, Ana,” he says, examining the knots.
“Well, can’t you just pull if over my head or something?” I’m desperate.
“Not unless we want to choke you to death,” Al says, handing me the Advil and some orange juice. I swallow the pills and a lot of the juice.
“I’ll just wear something that matches it, then,” I say, trying to find a solution.
“You can’t wear that to work!” Al declares. “It looks like Japanese bondage! And how are you going to take a shower?” Fuck, I forgot about that.
“What do I do?” I whine.
“Cut it,” Chuck suggests.
“Are you crazy? I’m not cutting his tie! This damn thing probably costs more than I make in a week!” I protest.
“Well, we have to do something, because I don’t know how you did this, but it’s all tangled in your hair and everything,” Al says… and now I start to panic.
“Oh, God. Please don’t cut my hair. Please don’t cut my hair,” I beg.
“Well then, we have to cut the tie, Ana,” Al says.
“And I have to cancel your 11:00 because we’re coming up on 10 and you’re not going to make it,” Marilyn says, pulling out her phone.
“No, don’t cancel the 11. I can make it!” I say.
“You can’t even get out of the tie!” Marilyn announces. Cow.
“Fine! But don’t cancel anymore after that and I mean it!” I snap. Marilyn goes into the hallway to make the call. I finally confess.
“There has to be another way to do this. I can’t cut his tie, guys. He’s going to think I did it on purpose. He’s already pissed at me and I don’t even know why.” I drop my head.
“Wait a minute. You guys slept in separate places last night. He’s pissed at you?” Al asks.
“Yes,” I answer.
“And you don’t know why?” he adds.
“No fucking clue,” I announce. Marilyn comes back in.
“Well, how do you know he’s pissed at you?”
“Well, I texted him at lunch yesterday and he didn’t respond. It doesn’t matter where he is, he always responds. Yesterday I heard his voicemail for the first time in my life. I left him a message, he didn’t call me back. The first communication that I got from him for the whole day was him telling me that he wasn’t coming last night… and that was a text. You tell me… is he pissed?” I say sarcastically.
“Shit! Well, what happened yesterday?” Al inquires further.
“Nothing! I didn’t see him the whole day!” I exclaim. “Oh, wait! He came to the office.”
“Well, what happened at the office?”
“I don’t know! Marilyn?” I turn to Marilyn, who looks at Chuck. “Why are you looking at Chuck?” Chuck stares back at her impassively. “Marilyn!?” I’m getting a little desperate. “Did something happen and I don’t know?” I demand. Marilyn finally speaks.
“No, Ana, nothing happened. It’s just like I told you…” she says.
“Well, tell me again.” I need to know every detail. There may have been something I missed. She tells me every little thing that happened, including her becoming a dribbling fool over my boyfriend. I can’t blame her—he’s gorgeous.
“That’s the exact same thing you told me yesterday. Why are you gawking at Chuck?” I throw my hands up exasperated.
“Well, maybe he’s upset about the flowers,” Al suggests.
“It can’t be the flowers,” I say.
“Why not?” he asks.
“He can’t be that upset over flowers. It’s not possible. All he has to do is ask me. This man hasn’t spoken to me in more than 24 hours. And he only texted me last night to tell me that he was going home.” I’m getting kind of choked up thinking about not touching him for 24 hours. It must be this damn tie. “It can’t be the flowers,” I squeak.
“Well, who sent the flowers?” Chuck asks.
“Kate,” I spit.
“Kate who? Who the fuck is Kate?” Chuck says.
“Katherine Kavanaugh, Elliot’s ex-fiancée.”
“Who the fuck is Elliot?” Al asks.
“Christian’s brother. He was at my office yesterday. As a matter of fact, he showed up right after the flowers did… or right before, I don’t know. He wanted to know who they were from, too, because we all thought they were from Christian… except for that moment when Marilyn thought they were from Edward. Elliot was just as shocked as I was,” I say.
“Maybe he thought they were from Ed,” Marilyn suggests. “I did tell him that I didn’t know who they were from.”
“I’m telling you, it’s not the flowers. He knows that if they were from Edward, I would have pitched them like they were infected – beautiful vase and all.”
“Well, why was Elliot at your office?” Al asks.
“I can’t tell you,” I respond.
“I’m your best friend. You can’t tell me why Christian’s brother was at your office?”
“No. I can’t tell you,” I respond again. Get a clue guys, come on.
“What if I guess?” Al says.
“I still can’t tell you.” Oh, you smart men can’t be this dense.
“Why can’t you tell me why Christian’s brother was at your office?” Al says, almost demanding.
“Why can’t I tell you why anybody is at my office?” I respond, just as demanding.
And then I wait. And realization dawns.
“Oooooh!” Al yells. I’m shaking my head.
“Allen, you graduated high school at 16. You went through college, grad school, and law school in six years and you passed the bar on your first try. How did you not figure that out sooner?” I ask.
“No offense, Jewel, but this is your riddle,” he says in that stating-the-obvious way that he always does. I hate him sometimes.
“Fucking motherfucking bitches from hell—how am I going to get this tie off?” I feel the unwanted tears demanding to be released. I swear I hear a voice from nowhere say, “Cut the damn tie!” I look around and ask, “What was that?”
“That was me! Cut the damn tie!” Chuck says. Fuck!
“Fine! Get the damn scissors and get me out of this damn tie!” I wail as I go back to my bedroom. Once I clear the door, I snatch off my Vesper midi-dress, almost ripping the poor thing. I’m standing there in my underwear when Al enters with my scissors. He gives me a handkerchief and I realize that I am crying… again. Fuck! He gently slips the scissor under the tie and cuts it on both sides while I sit here blubbering like an idiot. The front part falls right off, but the back has to be expertly untangled from my hair. I think it takes about twenty minutes and I cry the whole time.
“Do you feel better, now, Jewel?” Al asks.
“No, because not knowing is terrible… it’s the worst,” I answer, between my sniffles.
“You get in the shower, Babe. I’ll find you something to wear.” He kisses me on my forehead. I walk into my en suite and turn on my rainwater shower. I just stand there for a while, letting the tears mingle with the water. This is the first hurt cry that I’ve cried in a long time. Most of the time, it’s those damn adrenaline tears, which fucking wring me out. Now, I just want to know what the hell is going on and why he’s shutting me down.
Our first lover’s quarrel and I’m not even allowed to participate.
I consider what to do with my wretched face today. Do I do full-on war paint and run the risk of it streaking today, or do I let my patients see me blotchy, ashy, and tear-stained? I’m fucking miserable. I remember standing in the shower many times crying over Edward and swearing that I would never let another man reduce me to that… and here I am again. I must have stood there longer than I thought because Al knocks on the door to retrieve me.
“Marilyn is threatening to cancel your 12:00 if you don’t get your ass out here.”
“Okay, I’m coming,” I say, my voice sounding feeble even to myself. I quickly run some soap through my hair and over my body and step out of the comfort of my shower once I’ve rinsed myself. My bedroom is empty when I step inside. Al has laid clothes out for me all the way down to my underwear: Victoria’s Secret Very Sexy red and embroidered lace push-up bra and matching panties, thigh-high stockings with elastic—no garter needed, Noemie black and red elastic, knitted check dress, and Louboutin Highness platform red sole stilettos with a conspicuous dragon tattoo… not a pair of shoes I would wear before 5, but when have I ever followed those rules?
“May I enter?” Al asks after a knock once I’m dressed.
“Yes,” I say sitting at my vanity, feeling useless and wondering what to do with my hair. As if reading my mind, Al comes over and dries my hair a little more, pulling it back into a pumped-up messy ponytail chignon and bang. After flawlessly applying my make-up and making me look a little more human, he reaches for my Rosie three red butterflies headband. Butterflies…
“I don’t want to wear that today,” I say flatly.
“Why not? It’s beautiful and it matches your dress perfectly.” He put the headband on and he’s right. It’s gorgeous. I just don’t want to look at butterflies all day. Oh, well, I just won’t look in the mirror unless I have to.
“You know what I always say, Jewel. When you feel like a dollar…”
“… Look like a million,” I finish his sentence dryly.
“Now, it was your idea to go to work, so you better perk up a bit,” he says. I know he’s right. “Here.” He puts my charger in my purse. “Your phone’s dead.”
“I have a charger in my car,” I protest.
“That’s great, but you’re not driving.” I gawk at him. “Don’t argue with me. Your bagel is toasted, spread, and ready. Your coffee is in a non-spill cup, and Davenport is taking you to work,” he says sternly. “I have to get back to the office. I’ve already missed half a day. Chuck has full permission to bend you over and spank your ass if you don’t behave.”
“Oooo, Christian won’t like that!” I exclaim.
“Well, he ain’t here, is he?” Al says, pronouncing every word. “Out! You’re barely going to make your noon appointment.”
They were right. They were all right. I should have stayed my ass at home. I can barely sit through my 12:00 patient who can tell immediately that something’s not right with me. We power through her session, bless her heart, and at 1:00 I feel like curling up in a mound on the floor. I deliberately leave my phone out at Marilyn’s desk to recharge so that it doesn’t distract me if it rings—or doesn’t ring.
“Thank you for being patient with me today, Shelby. I’m feeling a bit under-the-weather,” I say to my patient as she’s leaving. “Next week’s session is on the house, okay?”
“Thank you, Ana. And don’t worry. I’ve had a few bad days myself.” She winks. “I’ll see you next Tuesday.” She waves as she leaves and I watch her disappear into the elevator. I stand there for a moment with one hand on my hip. It’s lunchtime. I just ate a bagel a little over an hour ago and I’m not really hungry. I could go to GEH and demand that Christian tell me what’s wrong, but the thought of suffering face-to-face rejection is even worse than text and voicemail rejection. I look at my iPhone charging on Marilyn’s desk, the screen black. I know there’s been no activity, I don’t even have to ask. I put my free hand on my forehead.
“Ana?” Marilyn breaks the silence. I don’t know how long I have been standing there. I look over at her.
“Cancel everybody,” I say, before walking back into my office.
Nothing to drink in here... except that $5000 bottle of Cognac that I refuse to open. One day… but not today. It’s all for the best, anyway. You would think I would have learned my lesson from the wine. Oh, well…
I go over to the window and stare at Grey House. He’s there, sitting on top of the world, looking down on everybody—including me. I wish I knew what was going on, but I don’t. He won’t even talk to me… and I won’t live like this. I’ve given him an opportunity to tell me what’s wrong and he won’t. So, I’m going to leave him to it. I love him, but I can’t let him do this to me. I can’t let him pull me apart. I stare at Grey House for several more minutes. My heart aches when I turn away from the window, pick up my purse and leave.
I turn on my iPhone on the way down the elevator with Chuck. As we walk outside, I stand at the door for a moment willing the summer Seattle air to refresh me a bit. No luck. I’m watching my phone boot up and I look down the street and notice a black SUV parked several feet away.
Is that Christian?
Of course, it’s not Christian! He has nothing to say to me. Every black SUV in Seattle doesn’t belong to Christian Grey. I turn my attention back to my phone and somehow, I trip over my own feet in the middle of the street. I go tumbling onto the concrete. Hell!
“Ana! Are you okay?” Chuck scrambles to help me up.
“Yes, just clumsy as hell!” I say gathering everything that fell out of my purse. When I get to my feet, I check my home screen… no missed calls, no voice mails, no text messages. I release a battle cry as I angrily launch the phone off into parts unknown. I hear it land somewhere as I reach down and snatch the blasted dragon stilettos off my feet.
“Ana! For fuck’s sake, your phone!” Chuck says as he goes in search of the mangled thing. I hope it’s broken into a million pieces!
“Leave it!” I scream before I can register that I am screaming. “Nobody’s calling me anyway! Take me home!” I demand as I march barefoot across the parking lot to Chuck’s car.
**The butterfly is secure. She’s in her apartment. Looks like she had a rough night. Update in a few minutes. **
Taylor let me read the text instead of telling me what it said. It’s about 9:15. I still have time to get to Noticon by 10. Hell, they don’t know that I’m coming. I can get there whatever time I want.
“You all call her the butterfly?” I say to Taylor as we enter the parking garage at Grey House.
“Old habits die hard, sir. It’s easier to have code names,” he responds.
“What’s mine?” I ask.
“The boss,” he replies.
“Not very original,” I remark.
“We didn’t need to be original. Before now, we only needed one code name,” he remarks. Good point.
We’re on the road to Noticon when Taylor’s phone rings.
“Davenport, sir,” he says.
“Put him on speaker.” Taylor docks the phone and answers it.
“Chuck, you’re on speaker and the boss is in the car,” Taylor announces.
“Sir.” His disembodied voice greeted me through the car speakers.
“Davenport,” I respond.
“It looks like she had a bit too much wine and fell asleep. Mr. Forsythe is trying to help her get ready for work, now.” If it was anybody but Al, I’d be on my way over there.
“Very well. She’s okay otherwise?” I ask.
“I think so… hold on, Sir…” I hear some shuffling and the sound is a bit muffled now. “Chuck, can you get this thing off me?” It’s Butterfly’s voice and she sounds quite flustered.
“Wha… how… what is… how did this happen?” I hear Davenport say. What the hell is going on?
“I don’t know! Just get it off me!” Butterfly demands. I don’t know what happened, but from the next few exchanges, it appears that Butterfly has somehow gotten herself tied up in something. They are trying to figure out how to free her from it when Al mentions something about Japanese bondage.
“What the hell…?” What is she in and how did she get there? Unwelcome thoughts of my brother and my girlfriend in her bedroom enter my head. I know I’m being ridiculous. I better be. Now I hear Ana begging them not to cut her hair. My mind travels back to the hair cloak the first time that she dominated me.
Fuck! Please don’t cut her hair!
She’s talking to a woman about appointments now. That must be Marilyn. I hear a door close and then Butterfly’s voice again. “There has to be another way to do this. I can’t cut his tie, guys. He’s going to think I did it on purpose. He’s already pissed at me and I don’t even know why.” She sounds so defeated. Tie… she’s talking about me. She’s stuck in my tie! How did she get stuck in my tie? How is she stuck in my tie?
“Wait a minute. You guys slept in separate places last night. He’s pissed at you?” Allen’s voice.
“And you don’t know why?” Allen again.
“No fucking clue.” Butterfly says and I hear a door close again.
“Well, how do you know he’s pissed at you?” Allen asks again. Butterfly explains our lack of communication yesterday that brought her to her conclusion. They’re now reviewing everything that happened yesterday. I’m now realizing that I have a rare chance not afforded to many boyfriends. I get to hear the secret conversation of my girlfriend on a matter that could make or break us. Davenport must have dropped his phone in his pocket when Butterfly came in asking for help. Marilyn is hesitant to reveal our conversation yesterday and Butterfly keeps asking her why she’s looking at Chuck. Marilyn must know that I am listening in Davenport’s pocket, but no one wants to tell Butterfly. She finally relents, and they recap the conversation. Now they’re talking about the flowers.
“Well, who sent the flowers?” Davenport asks. Good job, Davenport.
“Kate.” Kate!? Oh, come on, why would Kate be sending you flowers? Is that the best you could come up with on short notice?
“Kate who? Who the fuck is Kate?” Davenport says. Yeah, wait until you hear this sorry excuse.
“Katherine Kavanaugh, Elliot’s ex-fiancée.”
“Who the fuck is Elliot?” Allen inquires
“Christian’s brother. He was at my office yesterday.” Now we’re getting down to it. “As a matter of fact, he showed up right after the flowers did… or right before, I don’t know. He wanted to know who they were from, too, because we all thought they were from Christian… except for that moment when Marilyn thought they were from Edward. Elliot was just as shocked as I was.”
“Maybe he thought they were from Ed. I did tell him that I didn’t know who they were from.” That’s Marilyn.
“I’m telling you, it’s not the flowers. He knows that if they were from Edward, I would have pitched them like they were infected.” Allen asks her repeatedly why Elliot was at her office and she repeatedly replies that she can’t tell him. The last time he asks her, he’s about as flustered as I am with the situation. Butterfly seems to say something that answers the question for him, but not for me.
“Why can’t I tell you why anybody is at my office?” She’s almost screaming. After a pause, Al declares “Oooooh!” What!? Somebody tell me!
“Allen, you graduated high school at 16. You went through college, grad school, and law school in six years and you passed the bar on your first try. How did you not figure that out sooner?” Butterfly says.
“No offense, Jewel, but this is your riddle.”
“Fucking mother fucking bitches from hell—how am I going to get this tie off?” She screams and it sounds like she about to cry. Over a tie? Of course, not over the tie, Asshole. Oh, this tie is getting on my fucking nerves.
“Cut the damn tie!” I yell, momentarily forgetting that I’m not part of this conversation.
“What was that?” Butterfly asks. Shit! She heard me!
“That was me! Cut the damn tie!” Davenport barks. Good save, Davenport.
“Give him a raise.” I say to Taylor who nods curtly. That man has been worth his weight in gold ever since I assigned him to Butterfly.
“Fine!” I swear she’s crying now. “Get the damn scissors and get me out of this damn tie!” I hear her tortured voice leaving the room. A few moments later, Davenport is back on the line.
“Did you hear, Sir?” he says.
“Yes, but I still don’t know what’s going on!” I bark.
“Your brother is seeing Dr. Steele, sir.” Is he stating the obvious just to piss me off?
“I gathered that much,” I growl through my teeth.
“No, sir, you don’t understand. Your brother is seeing Dr. Steele… not Ana.” What is he talking about? And why does he keep repeating it?
“Am I missing something here?” Davenport takes the phone away from his mouth and sighs. Fucking bastard. Taylor pulls over and turns around in the seat to look at me.
“Your brother just broke off his engagement,” Taylor says. “He’s talking to a doctor.” He sits there waiting for the light to come on. Ana’s words are playing back in my head.
“I can’t tell you.”
“No. I can’t tell you.”
“I still can’t tell you.”
“Why can’t I tell you why anybody is at my office?”
“Oh fuck, you’ve got to be kidding me.” It never occurred to me once that Elliot might be seeing her in an official capacity. Not once. I’ve treated her like shit for nearly an entire day, and all because my brother needed someone to talk to and his bitchy ex-girlfriend sent a remarkable woman flowers and that remarkable woman happens to be my Butterfly. I run my hands through my hair, repeatedly kicking myself.
“I think he’s got it now, Chuck,” Taylor says as he pulled out into traffic.
“Thank God!” he exclaims. “I have to get off of here. I don’t know when she’s going to come bouncing back out of that room again…” Just then his phone shuffles again. I can tell that I’m back in his pocket.
“Mr. Grey is now down one beautiful burgundy Anderson Sheppard tie.” Allen announces. Anderson Sheppard… that’s the “shrine” in her bedroom. It probably hurt her more than it hurt me. In fact, I’m sure it did.
“How is she doing?” Marilyn asks.
“Not good,” Allen replies. “She cried the whole time I was trying to get her out of this thing. She’s in the shower now. She’ll make her 12:00. Marilyn, make sure her phone is in her purse. We can’t call it—it’s dead. I’ll bring her charger out with me. I’m going to go find her something to wear.” I few moments later Davenport comes back to the line.
“Sir,” is all he says.
“Drive her to work,” I say. “Stay there with her. Make sure she eats something. I’ll be at her place later.” I feel like such a shit.
“Yes, sir,” Davenport says before he ends the call.
We arrive at Noticom Mobile Communications shortly after I hang up from Davenport. I’m feeling three different kinds of shitty for what I did to Butterfly and I am so ready to have someone’s head on a platter to make up for it. Once I enter, I’m immediately approached by the Executive Administrator Nolan Burns. He’s so petrified and surprised by my visit, I could ask him for a kidney right now and he would give me one. I got an impromptu tour of the facilities to strike fear in the hearts of the management staff and employees. I make sure that my arrival is not covert so that the news travels through the company that the boss’s boss’s boss’s boss’s boss is in the building. It spreads like wildfire.
I am sitting in the borrowed office of the Executive Administrator of Noticon when Mr. Billings arrives. He sees me sitting behind the desk of the man that he calls “the Big Boss” while Burns stands meekly to the side of me.
“Thank you, Mr. Burns. That will be all. I’ll summon you when we’re done,” I say dismissively as if I were talking to my receptionist. Burns is clearly dismayed for being dismissed from his own office and is finding it hard to make his feet move towards the door. No doubt he wants to know why I want to talk to one of his department heads without him being present. Since the command still seems to be stalled between his brain and his feet, I throw the patented CEO glare at him as he looks from me to Billings, desperately hoping to find the answers to his questions on one of our faces. Catching my glare, he quietly excuses himself and scurries out of the office, leaving the door open—no doubt to enable him to stand close by so that he can eavesdrop on the conversation.
“Taylor, are we clean?” I ask, referring to listening devices that may be planted in the office.
“Yes, sir. We’ve been swept. All clear. You might want to disconnect that though, just in case,” he says, pointing to the intercom to the receptionist’s desk.
“Good. Take it with you.”
“Yes, sir.” Taylor disconnects the intercom speaker and takes it with him out to the small reception area. He places it conspicuously on the receptionist’s desk and signals me that Burns is standing next to the door.
“Mr. Burns, do you need something?” I say commanding and impatient.
“Um, uh, no, sir,” he says, slithering into view. Another stuttering idiot. I love to have people under my control, but I sure wish a few of them would grow a pair.
“Then I’m certain that there’s someone or something somewhere in this building that can use your expertise right now. Why don’t you go down to sales and find out why the numbers dropped in April?” His face goes pale.
“Um, yes, sir! Right away, Mr. Grey.” He scampers away to parts unknown, not that I care. Taylor closes the door and I know he’s standing on the other side.
“The numbers dropped in April, Mr. Grey? Is that why I’m here?” Billings asks.
“I have no idea if the numbers dropped in April, but he’ll be busy enough finding out to stay out of my way,” I say curtly.
“What can I do for you, sir?” he says nervously. I fold my hands on the desk and examine this man—not much younger than me, but still very intimidated.
“I’m going to ask you some questions and I’m hoping that you are going to answer them truthfully.” He swallows hard.
“Why would I answer them any other way, Mr. Grey?” he says, his nerves showing through his sweat.
“Because they’re personal questions.” His eyebrows furrow.
“I respectfully reserve the right not to answer any personal question that doesn’t pertain to my job performance at Noticom, sir,” he says sternly.
“And I reserve the right to hold that against you,” I say just as sternly. He swallows again. “You attended the University of Washington for your bachelor’s degree, did you not?”
“Yes, sir,” he answers nervously.
“In 2006, you had a roommate named Edward David, is that correct?” He pauses, I can tell he’s thinking about it. Then the light of realization dawns on his face.
“Yes, I did… how did you know that?”
“I’m a very important man, Mr. Billings, and I’ve made more than a few enemies in my line of work. If I wasn’t so good about what I do and so accurate about privacy and security and covering my ass, I would have been just a memory a long time ago—in more ways than one. This is why I make it my business to know everything that there is to know about anyone that comes to work for me. In addition to the non-disclosure agreement that you signed when you came to work for me, you also signed a consent form for a background check in your pre-employment package.”
“Yes, but I thought that was to check for criminal records and things like that,” he says bemused.
“We’re very thorough, Mr. Billings. Like I said, I have to cover my ass. Now, one of your acquaintances from college has given me cause for concern. Mr. David… what can you tell me about him?” I say flatly.
“Again, sir, with all due respect, I’ve worked for your company for five years now and this has never come up,” he protests. I’m forced to show my hand as I’m quickly losing patience with this guy.
“I know what happened in Green Valley in 2001. I know that a young girl was brutally beaten and burned and her name was Anastasia Steele. And I know that you know this too, because you are the same age as Anastasia, you’ve lived in Green Valley for most of your life until you came here to college, and you graduated from Green Valley High even though Anastasia did not. I completely plan to get to the bottom of what happened to Anastasia Steele. And you need to know that I have the power and the resources such that when I do get to the bottom of this, heads will roll and somebody is going to pay. What I want to know is when I get to the bottom of this, am I going to find you there?” He turns white and rises out of his chair.
“I think I shouldn’t continue this conversation without representation, sir,” he says, his voice shaking. I stand up as well and look down at this little man. Then again, most men seem little to me.
“You go and you find representation, Mr. Billings, and while you’re doing that, I’m going to put you on the list of people that probably had something to do with what happened to Anastasia… oh, I hope you’ve enjoyed your employment here,” I say glaring at him.
“You can’t fire me for this. This is something that happened before I even came to work for you... before I even came to Seattle! I have no criminal record and I had nothing to do with this!” he shoots.
“Mr. Billings, you underestimate me. I can fire you for any reason I want. I can fire you because I don’t like that tie you’re wearing! And I can make sure that you don’t work in the state of Washington ever again. If you have nothing to hide, why do you need representation? Know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am going to get to the bottom of what happened to this girl. Either you’re with me, or you’re against me. Make your choice… now!” CEO stare—23 seconds and he’s sitting back in the chair.
“What do you know and how do you know it? Be thorough because I’m going to follow every lead you give me and if I find out that you lied or left anything out, you have just become my enemy.” Billings loosens his tie and the first button of his shirt.
“The whole town was in an uproar about what happened. People didn’t know if their kids were next or if their kids were involved. Curfew in Green Valley was like 9:00 for over a year. Bonfires became illegal for a while… it was crazy. If you wanted to have any fun that year and part of the next year, you had to leave Green Valley and go to Vegas or Boulder City or Sunrise Manor or… anywhere besides Green Valley. So, I’m at this bonfire on Boulder Hwy with some guys and some girls and my friend Kevin gets a few too many drinks in him. Nobody outside of Green Valley knew what had happened as far as I knew. I mean, you know how stories make the news, but they only stay there for so long. Well, this story had run its course everywhere except in Green Valley.
“So, Kevin starts yammering about the girl who was ‘punished’ last year for running her mouth. It turns out that one of the guys on one of the teams—football, basketball, soccer, I don’t know, somebody with some real pull—had some fun with one of the girls…”
“Had some fun?” I say, with disdain. “Is that what they call it?”
“Well, yeah. He took her to the desert and they had sex. Apparently, the girl was after some money or something—at least that’s what they said—and she told the guy’s father that the kid raped her. It didn’t go over well to say the least. Everybody knew that the girl was Anastasia Steele. Her pictures were all over the news. They really did a number on her. They could barely identify who she was to tell her parents.
“Well, like I said, Kevin got to running his mouth and said that he was one of the kids at the bonfire. He says it was about 50 of them there, but not all of them participated. Some kids even left when they saw what was going on. The way he explained it, it was like a really brutal old-time hazing ritual, only this time there was an audience. They wanted to teach her a lesson, but they almost killed her.”
“Your friend, Kevin… what’s his last name?” Billings goes pale.
“Mr. Grey, I left Green Valley because I wanted to get away from this. I don’t want to make an enemy out of you, sir, but if I start dropping names, I might as well leave Washington, too.” I sit back in my chair. This reaches pretty far, and this guy is afraid.
“Then why did you tell Edward David what happened to Anastasia Steele?” I say, playing a long shot.
“Because I recognized her. I couldn’t believe that, of all the places she could go, she ended up here.” Bingo! David did know! Now I’m sure that he profiled her. Talk about killing two birds with one stone.
“She’s from here! Montesano, to be exact. She grew up here. Green Valley wasn’t her home. It was her prison, her punishment,” I spit. “Have you kept in touch with Edward David?” He shakes his head.
“We kept in contact for a little while. He got with Anastasia and I didn’t see much more of him after that. When we graduated and he opened his company, I tried to get a job there, but he acted like he didn’t know me. So, I moved on.”
“How much did you tell him about Anastasia?” I inquire.
“I don’t know. Probably everything that I knew. We were having drinks in a dorm party and she came walking by in tight jeans and a tank top. You know how guys talk.” Since when did someone’s rape and torture become beer-drinking conversation!?
“You knew about the brand?” I ask.
“Well, as far as I know, no one had ever seen it, but I know what it’s supposed to say,” he responds.
“And you told David?”
“Most likely,” he says. “It was a long time ago. I most likely told him everything I could remember.” I lean in to Billings.
“I give you my word that I’ll use whatever information that you give me to track down the people that did this to Anastasia, but your name will never come up.” He looks at me skeptically. “My word, Mr. Billings. Anastasia is my girlfriend now, and I really want to find who did this to her.” Billings face loses more of its color. “I’m going to find who did this to her. Will you help me?” I watch the various emotions cross his face, then he starts talking.
“The kid that she had sex with in the desert was one of the Whitmore boys, I don’t know which one. Their dad is still really big down there. Rumor has it that he paid for Anastasia’s college to keep them quiet.” He may have intended to, but she didn’t see a dime of that money.
“Kevin… what’s his last name?”
“Van Dyke,” he says.
“Did he participate or watch?” I ask. He sighed.
“He said he participated.” Kevin Van Dyke. And one of the Whitmore boys. Unless Landon is a really good actor, Cody is most likely the one that I want.
“Did he give you any more names?” I press
“Michael and them guys…” He stops, realizing that I had no idea who Michael and “them guys” are. He runs down the list of Michael and his cronies, struggling to remember some of the names and pointing out that he’s not sure if these people were really present since he wasn’t there. You saved your ass, Mr. Billings, because I would have killed you with my bare hands had I discovered that you were one of the assholes that hurt my Butterfly. I make a list of various boys and girls—now men and women—who were rumored to have been at the bonfire.
“Is there anything else that you can tell me at all, Mr. Billings?”
“No, sir, I’ve told you everything that I know, Mr. Grey,” he responds.
“Good.” I reach into my jacket. “When I start turning over rocks, bugs are going to start crawling out.” I hand him my business card. “If anybody from Green Valley contacts you, particularly if they threaten you, you need to let me know—even if it seems harmless.” He looks at my card like he just hit the lottery. I think he knows that someone from Green Valley is going to contact him.
“Thank you, Mr. Grey,” he says.
“No, thank you, Ms. Billings.” I proffer my hand and he takes it. “Burns is going to be drilling you to find out what we discussed. I trust you’ll keep this information confidential?”
“I will, sir,” he says.
“Tell him that I threatened your job if you reveal the content of our conversation… which I am. Also, tell him that I specifically said that if he wants to know, he can feel free to ask me. Being one of my executive administrators, he knows how to reach me. Let me know if he gives you any undo trouble,” I add.
“Yes, sir, Mr. Grey. Thank you again, sir.” He leaves the office, no doubt feeling a bit more secure than when he came in. I open the door and look at Burns’ receptionist.
“Page your boss to his office,” I say before beckoning Taylor inside. I send off an email to Welch with the list of names that Billings gave me. He’s going to have his hands full gathering this information. I also tell him to put a tail on Stephen Morton and Cody Whitmore. I need a little intel on those two before I get to Nevada.
“This situation is huge in Green Valley,” I say to Taylor.
“Really?” he asks, his eyebrows furrowed.
“Very. The situation was much more serious than we thought. Anytime I try to talk to anybody about it, the first thing that they want to do is run. They don’t try to evade the topic or pretend like they don’t know anything about it, they just want to run. They want to get away from it as quickly as possible. That guy was ready to leave Washington. So, it must have really been something that really shook the community because even now, 11 years later, people just want to run. Of course, it was serious—a young girl was raped, beaten, and burned,” I point out.
“It’s either extreme fear or a huge conspiracy,” Taylor says.
“It’s a little bit of both,” I say. “What’s more serious is that I don’t know the number of people involved in it. It was the crème de la crème of Green Valley—several of their children were involved. The mob was probably 20 to 30 people. The bonfire was closer to 50. This hunt may never end. Once I start digging and the bugs start running, more and more names are going to surface. I may never catch everyone.”
“I don’t envy your position, sir.”
“Don’t worry about me,” I say flatly. “Worry about them.”
A few moments later, Burns sticks his head in the door. “You wanted to see me, sir? I’ve been searching ever since I left and I can’t find where the numbers were down in April, Mr. Grey.”
“That’s why I paged you. I gave you flawed information and I know where it came from, so you can stop looking now.” A powdered-up way of telling him that I lied.
“Oh, I’m glad that you were able to locate the problem, sir.” I was the problem, Asshole.
“Yes, I did, and I have Billings working on a special project for me,” I say to the sniveling little man.
“Oh?” he says, waiting for information. “Is there anything I can do to assist, sir?”
“Yes, there is.” He perks up immediately. “You can leave him alone and let him do it.” His shoulders fall slightly. “Can I trust that you won’t pester or harass Mr. Billings into revealing his work for me?”
“Yes, sir,” he says, deflated.
“Since you and Billings are the only two people that are aware of this project, I will assume that any difficulty that he faces that he wasn’t facing before today—talks of corporate spying, office politics, demotions, unapproved department changes, harassment… anything—will be a direct result of your actions. Do I make myself clear?” He now realizes that I’m removing any power that he has over Mr. Billings, except normal disciplinary action, and even that will be limited.
“Yes, sir. Completely clear,” he says, tugging at his tie.
“Good.” I stand and leave his office without a word.
“I want you to find another code name for Anastasia,” I say to Taylor as we are parked down the street from her office. “I’m the only one allowed to call her ‘Butterfly.'”
“Yes, sir,” he says flatly. We received word from Davenport when we were just about at Grey House that Butterfly is having a bad day and will no doubt be leaving soon. Sure enough, we sit there for about twenty minutes before she and Davenport come out of the building. She stops for a moment and takes a deep breath, but doesn’t seem satisfied with the results.
She turns and looks directly at us and I’m certain that she knows it’s me, but she turns back to her phone with no light of recognition in her face whatsoever. Suddenly, she’s on the ground, like she stumbled on some invisible stone or obstacle in the street. I almost jump out of the car, but Davenport helps her to her feet and they collect her belongings from the ground. She then looks at her phone and throws it somewhere in the bushes by the office building. Oh boy, she’s really coming apart at the seams. However, nothing drives that point home more than what she does next.
She takes off her stilettos.
She’s walking in her bare feet. This woman can do anything in stilettos… anything. I have seen her cook, clean, work, run, fight, fuck, shop, drive and dance in stilettos and now she’s taking them off! She’s a mess. Great job, Grey. Fucking great job!
Davenport is in the bushes searching for her phone and she fiercely screams at him to leave it there before executing a military-style about-face and storming down the street in the other direction. Davenport turns around to us, shrugs and shakes his head, then follows Ana down the street to wherever he is parked. She looks like a little girl angrily walking next to her father.
I wait until I see the car pull away before I go to the bushes and locate her iPhone. A few scratches, but none worse for wear. I call Barney on the way back to the SUV.
“Barney, how long will it take you to break a password on an iPhone and put tracking software on it?” I ask.
“Twenty minutes tops,” Barney says.
“I’ll be there in ten.”
Just when I end the call with Barney, another call comes is from a 702 area code.
“Grey. Frank Whitmore.” Ah, the chief asshole. Most likely, he got the number from his son Landon who apparently has become accustomed to Daddy cleaning up his messes even as an adult.
“And why are you calling me?” I ask flatly.
“I’ll ask the questions here, Grey!” he snaps. Oh, this fucker doesn’t know who he’s dealing with! “Why are you calling my children asking questions about Anastasia Steele?” he spits.
“I think you know why I am asking questions about Anastasia Steele. Why don’t you tell me?” I growl back at him. Arrogant pompous asshole.
“I don’t think you know who you’re dealing with.” Is this fucker really trying to threaten me?
“Well, I’ll be there next week and maybe I can see for myself who I’m dealing with!” I shoot.
“You might want to do some research on me first, Grey,” he cautions.
“I already have, Whitmore, and all I found was a small-time insurance executive who has paid off an even smaller-time stepfather for his stepdaughter’s silence and now thinks his balls are big enough to get in the ring with the big boys. Feel free to correct me anytime,” I spit.
After a long silence, he says, “Why don’t we meet?”
“Balls in your court.” I reply.
“When are you scheduled to arrive? I’ll have a car waiting for you when your flight lands.” I laugh to myself. Motherfucker, I can out-strut you in my sleep.
“No need,” I respond. “I’ll arrive in my private jet and my security always handles my ground transportation. I’ll inform you when I’ll be arriving and we can make arrangements to meet at that time.” Cocky little bastard—chew on that for a while.
“I’ll see you next week, Grey,” he snaps. I end the call.
When I get to Butterfly’s apartment, Davenport is in the parking lot.
“What are you doing down here?” I ask.
“She told me to stay away from her, sir. She wants to be left alone, but I won’t leave her without her phone.” I hold up her phone, and Davenport nods.
“How is she?” I ask.
“She’s shifting between maudlin and very angry, sir,” he responds. I nod, take a deep breath, and go inside.
When I get to her apartment, there is a note on her door. It’s addressed to Al.
I’m not dead. My phone is temporarily out of commission. I’m in the exercise room.
I sigh again. Yeah, she’s pissed. She just saw Luc yesterday and now she’s in the exercise room again. I take the elevator down to sublevel B, then follow the battle cries I remember hearing that day in the gym when she subdued Luc. She’s the only one in the room. If anyone else was here when she got here, no doubt, she scared them away. She’s giving that heavy bag a beating so bad that it would cry if it could. Her technique is obscene—body blows, back kicks, elbow strikes—she’s working this thing over. I don’t know how long she’s been down here, but she works this thing for about another 45 minutes before her blows become brutal, angry and careless. I watch for a few more minutes and I see it coming… on her second to last blow.
She’s about to hit the wall.
I slowly start walking into the room towards her and it happens. She hit that bag with the ferocity and strength of ten men—and the wall hit… big time! She is bent over unable to breathe and I think she may be crying, but this college grad seems to have forgotten about velocity and inertia. The bag is coming back, and she’s right in the line of fire.
As my reflexes take over, I run to her and grab her just in time to avoid the impact of 80 to 100 pounds of angry leather, vinyl, foam, and water. I twist my body so that I take the impact of falling on the floor and she falls on top of me. I’m sure that I knock the wind out of her when I snatch her and we fall, but she recovers quickly and proceeds to beat the hell out of me!
For a moment, I’m stunned! My back and side are hurting from the fall, and I’m covering my face and my head so that she doesn’t hurt me while wondering why the fuck she’s bludgeoning me. Then I realize that she probably doesn’t know who I am, and she’s landing some hard ass hits. I’m trying to restrain her, but those little hands are like flying fucking missiles!
“Baby, it’s me! It’s me!” But she can’t hear me. She’s on autopilot. She’s crying and swinging and kicking and she’s not going to stop. So much for the fucking wall!
I have to take a few hits to the face so that I can work my way behind her. I get her into a bear hug and subdue her between my body and the floor without hurting her.
“It’s me, Ana. It’s me!” I keep saying as she’s flailing and crying. “Ana, calm down, it’s Christian!” At the sound of my name, her body falls limp and she’s wailing… I mean wailing like someone died. I roll over on my back and take her with me holding her in my arms—her back to my front. She just lays there, crying and trying to catch her breath while I stroke and kiss her hair. Damn! Taylor is going to have to check me for injuries!
She finally catches her breath enough to speak. “Why did you do that?” she asks.
“Because you’ve been beating the hell out of that thing for quite some time and it was about to hit you back,” I say matter-of-factly.
“How long have been standing there?” she says finally drying her eyes.
“About an hour,” I respond.
“Why are you here?” she says, standing up and stepping back from me. Okay, not happy to see me, huh?
“Because I need to apologize,” I reply, getting to my feet.
“For what?” she says, coldly. She wants her pound of flesh.
“For being an asshole,” I say. She looks at me for a few moments and takes off her gloves, tucking them under her arm.
“I’m not ready to hear it,” she says, impassively. She picks up her towel from a nearby machine. “Come back another time.” She walks out of the room without looking back at me.
A/N: Hit the wall—”Hitting the wall” (aka bonk) is a term that’s normally used for runners or cyclers. In certain endurance exercises, the body’s glycogen stores are depleted, and the athlete suffers very sudden fatigue and, in most severe cases, can’t move without assistance. So, when a runner is running and they instantly lose all of their strength, it looks like they literally ran into a wall and dropped, hence the term “hit the wall.”
Ana’s work outfit is on Pinterest at http://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/paging-dr-steele/
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