I do not own Fifty Shades Trilogy, or the characters. They belong to E. L. James. I am only exercising my right to exploit, abuse, and mangle the characters to MY discretion in MY story in MY interpretation as a fan. If something that I say displeases you, please, just leave. If you don’t like this story or me, please don’t spoil this experience for everyone. Just go away. For the rest of you, the saga continues…
Chapter 39—Good News/Bad News
Dinner smells delicious when I get back to Escala after the seemingly never-ending day I had. He hasn’t been gone for 12 hours yet and I feel dysfunctional already. It’ll be a good exercise for me—to be accustomed to his having to go on business trips and learning to cope with his absence—but this is different. He’s in that place—the place I swore to never cross again, turn away from it and never look back. That place that nearly killed me physically and almost destroyed me mentally. He’s there among the very people that shook the foundation of my world.
He has most likely spoken to them by now, shook hands with them, smiled and conversed over drinks while they try to romance him for his business. No doubt, he’ll be having dinner with Senior Whitmore—probably at some fancy casino on The Strip; or worse yet, in Whitmore’s dining room while the little wifey serves them and acts as the perfect hostess. They may even try to thrust Amber down Christian’s throat, assuming she hasn’t already found her fortune attached to some other little rich boy’s pocket.
The whole scene makes me physically ill and I don’t know if I’ll even be able to stomach my dinner. I can’t be a hypocrite, though. I’ve threatened Christian with severe punishment if he doesn’t eat properly or causes himself harm like last week ever again, so I won’t foolishly skip a meal either.
I go to the guest room to find a sundress and slides for dinner. I hate changing in here. I feel so separated every time I come in here to get my clothes. Would Christian mind if I put just a few of my pieces in his closet? I mean, I won’t take over his space, but right now more than ever I feel the need to be close to him. I gather a few pieces, as much as I can carry, and take them to the bedroom that I share with Christian.
When I get to his closet, I discover that looks are quite deceiving. I commandeer what appears to be a corner of the closet. As I begin to arrange my clothing there, the corner is like a clown car—the more I hang there, the more space I seem to have. I decide to retrieve a few more pieces and bring them in here as well. By the time I’ve retrieved enough “pieces” to fill the space without crowding it, nearly all of the clothes Al brought for me have been transferred to Christian’s closet—minus my shoes and my lingerie. Let’s see if I can find some space for those things.
I was easily able to find spots here and there for the shoes Al brought over for me. However, I discover that all of Christian’s dresser and chest of drawer space is occupied. Hmmm… I guess undies and lingerie will have to stay in the guest room. After my little closet escapade, I realize that I only have 10 minutes before Maxie is supposed to be here. I quickly change my clothes and go back to the great room.
We enjoy a delicious beef stroganoff for dinner. I insist that Gail join us since Jason is away with Christian, which means that she would be eating alone. She assures me that it’ll get easier as time passes—being without your man for these necessary business trips—but that you never get completely used to it. Give me hope then snatch it back, why don’t you! She mentions that Jason informed her there was extra security with them on this trip. I asked if that was normal.
“You never know with Mr. Grey,” Gail says. “There’s really no such thing as normal with him. One day, he fine riding in one of his sports cars with an escort. The next day, he has four guards in an SUV.” We laugh. Yes, that’s my beloved Christian… always keep you guessing.
Gail excuses herself after dinner while Maxie and I enjoy a La Ricolma Tuscan Merlot near a fire in the great room.
“So… what’s going on, Steele?” Maxie begins as she sips her wine. I sigh.
“Well, as you know, Christian had to leave town for business. He left this morning and he’ll be back on Friday.” I sit my wine glass on a coaster on the coffee table and fold my hands.
“You’re having a hard time with the separation?” she asks, being more of a friend with that question than a therapist.
“Yes, I am, for a lot of reasons,” I put my hand on my forehead, “not the smallest of which is that I’m in love with him.” Maxie gasps.
“Ana! So soon?” Maxie leans in closer to me.
“I know, Maxie, but I’ve been in love before. I know what it feels like… this is better!” I say with certainty, looking into her eyes. She examines me for a moment.
“You are in love,” she says, softly. I nod.
“Yeah. It’s a little rough on me. These feelings that I didn’t expect to feel again… I mean, I didn’t dismiss them forever. You know, like, running around the house, stopping the clocks and wasting away in a wedding dress… but, I just wasn’t really expecting them.” I take another drink of my wine. “It knocks the wind out of you when it finally settles in that it’s true, that you love another person this way. You can’t wait to wake up in the morning or finish your workday so that you can see him again. You need their closeness to survive, to feel whole. And let’s not even discuss the sex…!”
“No, let’s!” Maxie encourages, laughing.
“No, let’s not!” I reinforce with a giggle. “Anyway, it’s not even about that.” I tuck my hair behind my ear. “He has affected me down to my soul, Maxie. He’s startling and frightening and still so vulnerable. He’s an oxymoron in and of himself.” How do explain that this magnificent man is both my obedient and adoring submissive as well as my powerful and superior Dominant? “I can’t see myself without him, Maxie. It’s not that ‘he’s so dreamy, I can’t live without him’ kind of thing… I really can’t see myself without him.” She examines me even more carefully.
“Is it unhealthy, Ana? Are you obsessed?” she asks. Am I? No, I can recognize obsession all the way down to the clinical definition. This is not obsession.
“No, I’m not obsessed, but I can say that I recognize the development of defining myself in terms of Christian… after two and a half weeks! I know it’s unhealthy, but it’s there. I know that I am still Dr. Anastasia Steele. I haven’t lost my identity, nor do I think I ever will, but…” I sigh and look at Maxie, defeated. “Maxie, he’s all I think about. I can barely function. I want to sell my condo and move in here with him and never leave. I love my condo… you know that… but if it meant that I could be with him every minute of every day, I’d sell it in a heartbeat!” I confess.
“Oh, Ana,” she says, mockingly, “falling apart at the seams for a man…” she teases.
“Oh, not just any man. Christian fucking Grey… the source of wet dreams for women of all ages across the greater Seattle area! And beyond! Hot, rich, worldly, brilliant, sex-on-a-stick Christian Grey!” I’m squirming in my damn seat just thinking about him.
“Settle down, killer. You’re going to combust any second!” Maxie says, handing me my wine glass and I finish it off.
“He only has to look at me and I’ll do anything he asks. His eyes are so powerful and haunting. Have you seen that man’s eyes?” I say, breathily.
“Yes, I’ve seen them. Have you seen that man’s ass?” she declares.
“Maxie!” I exclaim, slapping her quickly on the arm. “That’s my man you’re talking about and you have a boyfriend!”
“Ow! Cut it out! Look, I’m not dead. I’m just recognizing and appreciating some serious man meat here, okay? And I don’t know if you noticed, but… Phil’s not my boyfriend anymore.” My head snaps to Maxie and I look at her in horror. How could this have gotten past me? Two of my best friends break up and I don’t know? Where have I been?
“What?” I exclaim. “What the hell?” Those two are inseparable! How could this be! I want to cry! And now she’s smiling. Why the hell are you smiling? Maxie produces her left hand and shows me a Petite Trellis solitaire princess cut white gold engagement ring. I gasp long and loud, then scream as my hands fly to my chest.
“Maxine Elaine Saunders, how could you to do that to me!?” I yell, nearly in tears.
“I’m sorry!” she lies through her laughter.
“How did I not see this all night?” We’re yelling like we are not sitting directly in front of each other.
“I just put it on. I wanted to surprise you! I wanted you to be the first to know!” she squeals.
“Oh Maxie!” I crush her in an embrace. “It’s wonderful! I’m so happy for you! Don’t you ever scare me like that again!” I wail.
“Oh, Ana, please forgive me! I need you to be my maid of honor!”
“Of course, I will, you cow!” I say as we cackle with laughter-tears. I release her and take her hand in mine, examining her ring as I wipe my tears. “Oh, Max, it’s beauuuuutiful,” I say in a soft, singy voice.
“Thank you, Ana,” she says, wiping away her own tears. “We were sitting on the deck and he just took my hand and put the ring on my finger. When I looked up at him, he just said, ‘I’m not asking because I’m not taking no for an answer…’ as if I could possibly deny him anyway!”
“Oh, this is wonderful,” I say softly. “Who would have guessed that two of the Awesome Threesome would be getting married when we met a few years ago?” I say smiling.
“You know,” she says, looking down. “We often wondered if our relationship would affect our friendship. We were so afraid you would pull away from us…” Her voice cracks a bit.
“Are you kidding? I could never be without you guys. I was thrilled that the two of you got together. Now all is perfect with the world because I’m in love—seriously in love—and my best-couple-friends are getting married! I couldn’t be more pleased.” I look adoringly into the eyes of one of the two women that I consider a sister, and she returns my gaze with matching affection.
“I love you, Ana,” She says, tears forming in her eyes again. I squeeze her hands.
“I love you, too, Maxie.”
Once we’re able to compose ourselves, Maxie apologizes for hijacking the conversation and get us back on track with the necessary content at hand.
“So, I can see how this level of affection can be scary right now, but I really wouldn’t worry about it. As your doctor, I can tell you that it’s really normal for you to feel like this—especially right out of the gate, and most certainly after the nightmare that was Edward David. As your friend, I can tell you that that hot, powerful, sexy, whatever the rest of the words were that you used to describe him, hunk of man meat is madly in love with you. It’s written all over his face… a blind man could see it. So, have fun, Ana. Live a little. Hell,” she gestures to our surroundings, “live a lot!” I laugh at her last statement.
“I know, Maxie. The biggest reason that I needed to talk to you tonight is because of where Christian is right now.” I fall back into the sofa. “He’s in Nevada… more specifically, he’s in Green Valley.”
“Whoa… shit!” she responds. “What the hell is he doing in Green Valley?”
“Yeah, that’s the worst part. He’s meeting with Cody Whitmore’s fucking father.” I spit. Maxie gasps.
“What?” she screeches. “What in the blue hell…?”
“Apparently, he needs this special insurance that reimburses the company if he or one of the higher-level executives are kidnapped or if their employees or executives are kidnapped in volatile countries or something…” I try to explain.
“K&R,” she says. I frown deeply.
“Am I the only person that didn’t know what that was?” I snap.
“Probably not, but what does this have to do with Whitmore?” Maxie asks.
“Whitmore sells insurance. He’s very, very, very high up in one of the largest independent insurance firms in the Pacific time zone. That’s probably how he acquired GEH’s attention.”
“You don’t think it has anything to do with you, do you?” she asks. “Maybe Whitmore found out that you’re with Christian somehow. Some sort of shakedown maybe?” I shake my head.
“I don’t see how. Our relationship isn’t public. I mean, it’s not private, but it’s not like we’re in the news or anything. I don’t speak to anybody from Green Valley, not even my prior guardians. I spoke briefly to George, but he doesn’t know that I’m with Christian. Even so, what could they possibly hope to gain from Christian?” I shrug.
“Does Christian know this is the father of the guy that raped you?” she asks, horrified.
“No, I never told him. He would kill Cody with his bare hands, I just know it. I almost let the cat out of the bag on Monday, though. He told me where he was going and he mentioned Cody’s name and I went into some kind of subconscious conniption fit. It was horrible.”
“Oh, Ana,” she says, sympathetically.
“Yeah, it was awful. He was looking at me—so helpless—like he desperately wanted to erase all the bad in my life. I wanted to tell him so badly, so badly Maxie, but I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t risk him going after Cody and then I lose him.” I bury my face in my hands.
“But he does know about…” She trailed off and I knew what she was asking me.
“He knows,” I say, my voice muffled. “He’s knows the what just not the who. Do you remember when I told you that Edward had seen it, and I told him not to ask me about it and he didn’t…?
“But you secretly wanted him to ask because it would have meant that he cared.” She finishes my sentence. I nod and raise my face from my hands, involuntary tears starting to fall.
“Christian asked…” I squeak and Maxie smiles at me, taking my hands.
“He did?” she asks softly and I nod.
“Repeatedly. He begged. He wouldn’t let me hide.” I drop my head. “He kissed my brand when he thought I was asleep,” I say just above a whisper. “He stroked the scars and called me ‘Beautiful.’ He’s my Prince Charming,” I choke, wiping my tears.
“Wow,” she says in a dreamy voice. I sigh.
“And now, he’s fraternizing with the enemy—not just any enemy, the ultimate enemy. I should have told him…” I say, mentally kicking myself for not informing him who he was going into business with. “Of all the insurance companies he could have used… get a piece of the rock, the good hands people, the good neighbor folks, even the little fucking lizard! But no, he had to go to Daddy Whitmore—’we raise rapists’ Daddy Whitmore. I should have told him.” I bury my face in my hands again.
“Are you certain that he would have gone after Cody if you had told him about this?” Maxie asks.
“Yeah, I’d bet the ranch that he would have gone after him… or had someone else go after him,” I reply. She sighs.
“Ana, I’m never one to promote deception or cover-up of any kind. You know as well as I do that it always comes out in the end.” Don’t I know it. “But I have to say that I think you did the right thing this time by not telling him.” I look up at her, surprised. “You found out… what… two days before he was leaving? How could you possibly drop a bomb like that with your knowledge of how he would respond and expect to be able to do any kind of damage control in that small amount of time?” She sounds logical, but I don’t feel any better.
“I could have told him not to go, and he would have stayed,” I inform her. “But I’m sure that I couldn’t do that without telling him why. It’s such a mess. Every moment that he’s down there, I’m just sick to my stomach,” I say, determined not to have a repeat of Monday night and the amazing reappearing dinner.
“How did you justify letting him go?” she asks.
“By telling myself that I couldn’t run his life or his business and telling myself that it was for the best that he didn’t know about Cody,” I respond.
“Well, you’ve got that half right,” I say. “You can’t run his life or his business. He has to make those decisions and he’s been doing very well up until now. Unfortunately, you do have to tell him about Cody.” A look of horror must have spread across my face because she quickly adds, “You don’t have to tell him right now, especially not while he’s down there within arm’s reach of the bastard, but you are going to have to tell him eventually,” she says, putting her hand on my knee.
“Well, what do I do in the meantime, Maxie? I’m going crazy,” I beg.
“Well, in the meantime, you take comfort in knowing that you did the right thing for the immediate future. You should definitely stop worrying about it because there’s nothing you can do about it right now… not to mention that worrying is bad for your complexion. Finally, you help me get some ideas for my wedding because I don’t know where it’s going to be, when it’s going to be, what my color scheme will be, how many people will be there… all I know is that I love this man and want to marry him as soon as possible. And he has left it all up to me,” she says, more than a little flustered. I smile at one half of my best-couple-friends.
“Those sound like fabulous suggestions, Max,” I say grasping her hand on my knee.
I shower and change for bed, deciding on one of Christian’s T-shirts since he’s not here. I need as much of him near me as possible. I haven’t heard from him since he landed in Vegas. I hope those wolves haven’t killed him and dumped his body somewhere. I wouldn’t put it pass them. I’m sitting on the bed blankly looking at my laptop when my iPhone sings that I have a text.
It’s Christian. Thank God. The wolves haven’t disposed of him yet. I open my Skype and text him back.
Moments later, I get a friend request on Skype from CEO1920. I snicker to myself as I add him to my friends list, then almost immediately get a call from him. My hands tremble as I click the mouse to answer the call.
“Hello, Beautiful.” His voice soothes me immediately. He looks deliciously wonderful propped up bed in a T-shirt and pajama pants.
“I miss you,” I say before I can get anything else out of my mouth. He sighs.
“I miss you, too, Butterfly,” he says, somberly. “You’ve been crying,” he adds, after a pause. Shit, how can he tell? That was at least an hour ago.
“Oh, don’t pay me any attention,” I say with a nervous laugh. “Maxie came by for dinner and announced that she and Phil are engaged,” I say as a reason for my tears. It was almost true.
“Really?” he says, sounding just as pleased as I am.
“Yes. She played a terrible trick on me. She told me that she and Phil weren’t boyfriend and girlfriend anymore, and I flipped the hell out,” I add.
“You cried because you thought they broke up?” he asks, bemused.
“Noooo,” I said, rolling my eyes. “She showed me the ring, then I cried,” I answer. Christian shakes his head.
“Sappy girls,” he teases.
“Don’t tease me, I’m having a hard time here by myself,” I caution gently. His expression softens.
“I’m sorry, baby,” he says. I shrug.
“It’s okay. So, how are things going down there?” Do I really want to know? He shifts a bit on the bed.
“I’ve got a lot of information,” he says. “Waiting for more to be sent over by Welch. I don’t think I like this guy, Whitmore.” Oh, good Lord, that’s music to my ears.
“Do I even want to know why?” I actually should have thought that statement instead of saying it aloud.
“He’s a poser. His son is even worse,” he says, disdainfully.
“His son?” I ask. Did you meet that bastard? Please tell me you hated him.
“Cody,” Christian says after an uncomfortable pause.
“Are you okay, Christian?” I ask. He shakes his head as if to release a bad thought.
“Yeah, I’m fine. First impressions are quite important to me and the Whitmores were less than presentable in my book,” he responds.
“Did you meet any other members of his family?” Like Amber?
“No, just Junior and Senior Whitmore. If these two are any indication of the rest of their family, I don’t think I could stomach any more time with them.” He shakes his head.
“So, why not just cut your losses and come home?” Please?
“Because I still haven’t finished gathering information on the company. Granted, he’s not my first choice for someone that I would put out front to represent my business, but I always want my decision to be educated… even if I decide to say ‘no.'” And that’s why he’s the brilliant businessman.
“Okay, that makes sense to me.” He relaxes a little at my statement. You don’t have to explain your business choices to me, Christian. I just don’t want you anywhere near those snakes, that’s all.
“So, what brought Maxine by today?” he asks. I can tell he’s concerned.
“I asked her to come over. I was lonely,” I say honestly, well, mostly honestly.
“How was your day?”
“Long,” I admit. “I’ll be fine, Christian. I just have to get used to those times when I have to be without you,” I say trying to quell his obvious concern. Hopefully, I’ll never have to worry about you talking to the fucking Whitmores again. That’ll make it a whole lot easier!
“I thought our experience yesterday would have made the separation a little easier,” he says, seductively. I giggle.
“If anything, it made it worse,” I say, laying down on the bed. His breath catches a bit.
“I know what you mean,” he says, and I can see his hand moving a bit. I know what he’s doing.
“Let me see…” I say. He pulls the laptop back and adjusts the webcam so that I can see him stroking his erection over his pajama pants. Fuck, that’s hot. I bite my lip and my hand immediately goes to my nipple. I tease it gently over my shirt and gasp when a jolt of pleasure shoots straight to my core.
“Take off your shirt, baby,” he says, his voice deep and hungry. I slowly remove his T-shirt and I’m naked underneath. “Oh shit. You look so good.” He’s reaching into his pants now.
“Your turn,” I breathe as I continue to stimulate my nipples. He accommodates me by removing his T-shirt to reveal his sexy, muscular chest. I let one of my hands wander to my stomach, then tell him, “your bottoms, Mr. Grey.” My voice reveals the ache inside. He groans before he raises his hips to remove his pajama pants, releasing his erection into the webcam. I whimper involuntarily as he springs forth. My mouth actually waters for him. I immediately slide my hand down to my clitoris. I don’t think I can take one more second without satisfaction. I’m so hungry for his closeness and his touch, I could just burst.
“You’re a little anxious, aren’t you, baby?” he says, his voice a mixture of mirth and arousal as he fists his shaft.
“Very,” I breathe and I open my legs to reveal my hot, wet pussy to the webcam. “Talk to me,” I prompt him as I stroke my folds. He moans loudly and his dick seems to stand taller with each stroke. God, he looks so good.
“You’re so wet, baby,” he moans. “I can see you dripping for me. Stick your finger in it, baby. Spread that wetness around.” I do as I am told and plunge my finger into my hot core.
“Ah!” I gasp as I pull the wetness out and spread it around my core.
“Yes… yes… that’s it… massage that clit, baby,” he says, his voice labored and sexy. I feverishly stimulate my clitoris and my nipple as I watch his hand stroke mercilessly over his throbbing dick.
“Oooooo, you like that, baby?” I purr as I feel my release coming.
“Yes, baby,” he chokes, “I… like that a lot.”
“Show me,” I say, plunging my fingers into my pussy again. “Ah! Show me how much you like it.”
“Oh fuck!” he hisses as he quickens his stroke, keeping his eyes glued to the screen, his breath quickening.
“Tell me how it feels…” I mewl… any second now…
“Oh, baby… so good… it feels… so… good,” he croaks.
“Yes… yes, Baby… it feels… aaaaahhh!” I throw my head back as my orgasm takes over me. I am squirming wildly on the bed, pinching my nipple and riding out my release, unable to keep my eyes open. “Christian!” I croak.
“Look at me!” he growls, causing my eyes to fly open and my head to dart to the screen. He has moved closer to the computer and he is pulling ferociously at his dick. The sight causes another small wave of pleasure to flow through me—a mini-gasm, I like to call them… Delicious aftershocks that prolong the pleasure.
“Ah! Christian!” I whimper again, breathless.
“Gah! Ana… baby… fuck!” I love to watch him make himself come, or even watch me make him come. He has pushed himself back against the headboard and his seed squirts up and back down over his dick as he squeezes and holds it up to jerk out his release.
“Yes, baby, spread it for me. Spread it over your cock like I would,” I tell him. He spreads his cum up and down his dick and over the head, writhing with each stroke and grunting as I know the tenderness is almost too much to bear. “Oh, yes, baby, that looks so good.” I coo. Once he stops jerking and grunting, I know that he has worked out every bit of his release. His breathing is starting to slow and he begins to relax.
“Damn, Ana. Even from 1100 miles away, you still make me come hard as fuck!” he says between his calming breaths.
“Ditto, Mr. Grey,” I say, my body still tingling from its release. He raises his head and looks at me adoringly.
“I think we both may need a trip to the bathroom to clean ourselves up.” He smiles.
“I think you may be right,” I coo.
“Back in five?” He bargains.
“See you then…”
I was able to sleep okay through the night only because Christian stayed on Slype with me until I fell asleep. I wake this morning to a Skype picture waiting for me—a still of Christian holding a hand-written sign that says, “I love you, Butterfly.” Now I can make it through my day.
Today, I have an appointment with Melanie again, the one patient that I have for dignity therapy. Some days are better than others for her, and today seems to be one of her weaker days.
“So, why are we here today, Melanie? You seem like you’re so tired, we could have done this next week,” I say sympathetically.
“That’s the problem, Ana. I never know when there may not be a next week for me,” Melanie says, her breathing labored.
“Okay, I understand that. I’m not your doctor in that sense, but I’m sure that in this type of discomfort, rest will be better for you.” I try to reason with her.
“No offense, Ana, but I’m dying. I’ll rest when I’m dead,” she says, smiling weakly. I nod. It’s her decision if she wants to continue.
“So, where did we leave off last time?” I ask.
“No regrets. Number 7, marrying my first husband…”
Melanie and I laugh through her session this time. She discusses how marrying her first love seemed like a good idea at the time, but that they were too young and neither of them had done any living. They have a child who is now living with her father since Melanie is too sick to care for her anymore. It seems that every time she talks about her teenage years, she gets a feeling of remorse and regret—which is strange since the dignity therapy is primarily to help her release those feelings. Every time our session is over, I just want to run to Christian’s arms and hold him and thank him for being a part of my life. Unfortunately, he’s not here right now.
After lunch, I go over to Helping Hands headquarters to see the facility and meet with some of the families as scheduled. Of course, I see John there and resist the urge to call him a quack. He seems to work well with the families, though, so I guess he can’t be all bad. As Grace takes me around introducing me to various staff members and families, I keep getting a glimpse of a teenage boy who stares blankly out the window. Anger is emanating from this kid and everyone seems to avoid him, including the staff.
“What’s his story?” I ask Grace, pointing to him. Grace sighs.
“He’s a very angry young man. His father abused him, his mother, and his little sister. His mother ended up in the hospital—she nearly died. That’s when they finally decided to leave. He feels like he should have been able to protect her, but he couldn’t even protect himself. So now, he’s dealing with the fallout from abuse as well as the guilt from not being able to rescue the women in his family. Like I said, very angry young man,” she explains.
“No one’s trying to help him?” I ask.
“Everyone has tried to help him,” she exclaims. “He’s belligerent, uncooperative, and sometimes violent. We’ve found it best to just leave him alone while his mother and sister are able to get assistance.” I look at her bemused and she puts her hand on my shoulder. “I think sometimes the company is enough for him, even though he doesn’t say anything, but you can’t help someone who doesn’t want to be helped.” I look over at this very angry young man about to be unleashed on society one day.
“Do you mind if I try?” I ask. She eyes me suspiciously.
“He hasn’t struck anyone recently, Ana, but that’s not to say that he won’t strike you,” she warns. I laugh. Oh, trust me, Grace, he wants none of this.
“I’ll take my chances,” I say and she nods. I walk over to Little Mr. Angry and sit on the window-seat next to him.
“Hi,” I say. He turns to look at me and every angry and hurtful emotion imaginable is hiding behind his shocking green eyes.
“Who the fuck are you?” he says, coolly. Oh… okay. This is how you want to play it? Fine by me.
“I’m Ana. Who the fuck are you?” I respond flatly. There’s an emotion I didn’t see behind those green eyes… surprise.
“You work here, don’t you? You’re not allowed to speak to people that way,” he says, matter-of-factly.
“But you are?” I ask. He just stares at me. “You get what you give, buddy.” He turns his head and looks out the window again. “See anything interesting?” I ask. He turns to me again.
“Why don’t you just leave me the hell alone?” he snaps. I shrug.
“Fine. Fuck it.” I stand and proceed to leave.
“Are you supposed to do that?” I hear Little Mr. Angry ask from behind me.
“Do what?” I ask in the snottiest, high school voice I can muster.
“Walk away,” he says like he’s scolding me. I fold my arms
“You said ‘leave you alone,’ I was leaving you alone,” I reply, snapping my head on every word and glaring at him. He stares at me like I have two heads. “What?” I snap, the snotty high-schooler returns.
“Nothing! It’s just… everybody else tries to get me to talk.” He drops his head. I walk back over to the window seat.
“Well, it’s kind of clear that you don’t want to talk. I just want to know why you’re sitting here, looking out at… nothing.” I turn to the window and look for something to catch my eye. “Pretty fucking boring.” He looks over at me again.
“You’re strange,” he says. I turn and meet his eyes, not so angry anymore.
“I’m strange? Hey, I’m not the one sitting here looking out the window at nothing,” I throw back and roll my eyes. He snickers. Holy cow, we’re getting through.
“You must be new,” he says, turning back to viewing nothing out the window.
“Well, besides the fact that you obviously haven’t seen me before, why do you say that?” I ask.
“Because nobody here talks to me. They’re afraid I’m going to go all ragey and scratch their eyes out or something,” he says without looking back at me.
“I’m not worried about that,” I say, flatly.
“Why not?” he snaps, looking at me again. “What makes you so damn special?”
“Oh, because if you go all ragey on me, I’ll beat your little ass.” I say, doing the finger quotes around the word “ragey.”
“You will not!” he says, incredulously.
“Oh, yes, I will!” I retort, snapping my head again. “I train with a 6th degree black belt martial arts master and I have had him on the ground begging for mercy. I will beat. Your little. Ass!” I say definitely. He laughs aloud and the few people in the room fall silent. I turn around and look at them, afraid they are going to undo all the work I just did.
“What!?” I yell, irritated at the gawkers. They look at me surprised. I’ll apologize later. Right now, I’m on a mission. They go back to conversation or whatever they were doing.
“They’re not going to like you very much here.” I turn and look at him, my gaze dripping with sarcasm.
“And this should bother me because…?” I spit. “This ain’t my day job!” He laughs again.
“So, what are you doing here anyway?” he asks.
“Right now, trying to find out who the fuck you are,” I say glaring at him again. He pauses.
“Marlow. My name is Marlow,” he finally confesses.
“Well, I’d say ‘nice to meet you, Marlow,’ but it wasn’t that nice. So, what’s your deal? Who pissed in your Cheerios?” I ask.
“It’s just the way I am,” he says, looking out at nothing again. Okay…
“So, Marlow, do you prefer ‘black’ or ‘African American?'” His head snaps at me.
“What!?” he shoots.
“I’ve got a question for you, but before I ask, I need to know. Do you prefer ‘black’ or ‘African American?'” He looks at me like he completely doesn’t understand what I’m asking him. “It’s not rocket science, dude,” I shrug. “‘Black’ or ‘African American?'”
“Black,” he spits at me after a pause. “I prefer black. I ain’t no fucking African American. I was born here. I ain’t never been to Africa in my damn life.”
“Yeah, that’s been my experience with most black people.” He glares at me again. “Look, I don’t know where the fuck my people came from, so I have no idea what kind of hyphenated-American I would be!” I shoot.
“They wouldn’t hyphenate you. You’re white,” he says, a little disdainful.
“Yeah, but as far as I know, the only people that really come from here are the ‘na-tive‘ Americans,” I do the finger quotes again with the word “native” and deliberately split the syllables. “The rest of us landed on somebody’s shore, voluntarily or involuntarily.”
“So, what was the question?” he asks.
“Oh, yeah. I’ve never seen a black person with green eyes,” I say, leaning in like his eyes are the most interesting thing in the room—which right now, they are. “How does that happen?” He leans back a bit and takes a deep breath.
“My mom is white, and my dad is black. My mom has green eyes…” he says, his voice low. I stare in his eyes.
“You don’t like them,” I say, tilting my head.
“I don’t know,” he answers. “They cause me problems,” he says, still looking at me. I snap my head back.
“Problems?” How can your eye color cause you problems?
“Yeah.” He looks back out at nothing. “The kids at school used to say that I was trying to be white. They thought I was wearing contacts—like every other bitch in school wasn’t wearing them already. And then my dad…” He trails off. I wait for a moment before I ask, “What about him?” Marlow sighs.
“He used to beat me… because he was mad I got my mom’s eyes and not his… like that was my fucking fault!” he spits.
“Damn,” I say, shaking my head. “That’s fucked up.” I turn back to look at nothing with him.
“They teach you a class in this shit?” he says, turning to me.
“What shit?” I say, looking at him.
“Relating to somebody. Getting on their level,” he answers sarcastically. Oh shit, you got me. I shake my head.
“I don’t think you can teach something like that. Either you relate or you don’t. It is what it is,” I say with a shrug. I relate, because I could have very well been Marlow if I had decided to stay angry for what happened to me.
“It’s just that… every time they send somebody to talk to me, they send some fucking phony…”
“Okay, who are ‘they’ and why are they sending people?” I ask, mimicking confusion. He laughs again.
“You really are strange, Ana,” he says.
“Look who’s talking,” I reply. He smiles and rolls his eyes.
“I’m just tired of people trying to ‘fix’ me,” he says.
“Why? Are you broken?” I say with one raised eyebrow. He narrows his eyes. He can’t figure me out.
“They think I am!” he says, waving his hands and pointing at nobody. I catch a glimpse of Grace out of the corner of my eye standing just outside the door with another woman. Oh, forgive me, Grace.
“There you go with ‘they’ again. Who the fuck are ‘they?'” I say with my hands open, looking flustered. And he’s still trying to figure me out. “Do you think you’re broken?”
“No, I’m not broken!” he declares.
“Fine, so you’re not broken. What’s the damn problem?” I say, hands still open, flustered.
“I want people to treat me like a person, not a fucking charity case,” he yells.
“So why don’t you just say that?” I yell back, and now he’s shocked. “Is there something wrong with your mouth that you can’t tell people ‘I am a fucking person?'” I stare into his green eyes, now guileless and somewhat confused. I hold my hands out wide and stare. “Feel better now?” I snap. His whole body relaxes. I put my hands down.
“People will only treat you the way you allow them to treat you,” I say definitely. “‘They’ have been trying to help you, but ‘they’ can’t because they don’t know how. They don’t know what you need and apparently, they don’t know how to treat you. But Marlow, you can’t make them feel bad for trying to help you. We’ve all got a story, believe me, and none of us really wants to tell it. Hell, I wish I could bury mine forever and never fucking say it again.” I say, doing a patented Christian-Grey-fingers-in-my-hair gesture. “You don’t have to constantly tell your story to get past your story, but you do have to get past your story!” He drops his head at this statement.
“Maybe I can help you get past your story, get a little peace in your life, stop being so damn mad all the time. But I won’t shove anything down your throat. I don’t know what the hell ‘normal’ is,” air quotes again, “and if there a such thing as fixed and broken, then I’m somewhere in between!” I say making illustrative gestures with my hands.
“No, you’re strange.” He laughs.
“Whatever,” I say, leaning in to him. I put my arms on my knees and fold my hands in front between them. “I’m going to leave here tonight, go home, eat my dinner, watch some TV, and everything will be everything. I’ll help you if you want me to, and if you don’t, I’ll get up and carry my happy ass outta here. I won’t lose any sleep if you decide you want me to get the fuck out of your face. The choice is yours.” I sit there waiting for Marlow to make a decision.
“Lady, the minute I feel like you are trying to run some kind of game on me, I’m done,” he says.
“That is always your choice, Marlow. I just want to see you not be so damn pissed. Can we work on that?” He nods.
“Yeah, we can work on it. Will you be here next week?” he asks.
“I’ll be here next week.” I nod and proffer my hand to him. He shakes my hand just as Grace and the other woman enter the room. Marlow shoots up and puts his hands in the air.
“I wasn’t doing anything!” he nearly shouts. I stand up and turn to him smacking my lips.
“At ease, soldier,” I say sarcastically snapping my head again. He looks at me and then at Grace, then puts his hands in his pockets and drops his head. I notice he’s a lot taller than I thought, maybe about 5′ 8″ or so, but stress can make you look and feel very small.
“Ana, this is Marcia, Marlow’s mother,” Grace introduces the green-eyed brunette to me and I shake her hand.
“He’s right, he does have your eyes,” I say.
“It’s nice to meet you, Ana,” she says sweetly.
“Same here,” I respond. Marcia is about the same height as Marlow, with healing bruises on her face. Her last encounter must not have been that long ago.
“I see you’ve met my son,” she says, cautiously.
“Oh, yes, he’s just a bundle of joy and laughter,” I say, sarcastically looking at Marlow, who chuckles again.
“Yeah, and you’re short,” he says with mirth.
“Whatever. I’ll still kick your little ass,” I say, playfully punching his arm while he continues to laugh at me. “Next week? Same place?” I ask. He nods.
“Next week,” he says and he walks out with his mother. Grace watches them leave and turns to me once they have cleared the door.
“He hasn’t spoken to anyone in months! What did you do?” she asks in wonder. I shrug.
“You do whatever you have to do—within reason—to get through to them. He’s a very angry child, and none of that psycho-babble-mumbo-jumbo was going to work with him. He needs to be seen. He needs for people to see him, and that just hasn’t been happening.” She looks at me, her eyes still full of wonder.
“He doesn’t see me as a threat. I’m not shoving anything down his throat, I don’t have anything to sell, and the door is open for him to leave any time he wants,” I say to Grace. “It’s like you said, you can’t help someone who doesn’t want to be helped. They have to make the decisions. We can’t do it for them.” She shakes her head.
“You’ve been here, what, two hours? Maybe? Do you know how many people have tried to help that young man?” I shrug.
“I can imagine,” I reply.
“I was coming in here to investigate since one of the workers said the new girl yelled at her.” My hand flies to my mouth.
“Oh, my God! Please apologize for me, I’m so sorry! I had to get on his level and it required that I get a little brusque,” I squeak on the last word. “I didn’t mean to offend anybody,” I say shaking my head.
“I wouldn’t worry about it, dear,” she says. “If you can turn that one into a success story, everyone here will be eternally grateful.”
“Do you have prior files on him? I want to find out as much about him as I can, but I don’t want to push him to talk about anything that he doesn’t want to discuss,” I say. Grace nods and I follow her to her office.
I spend most of the day trying to weave together the information that I already have from Billings as well as the unspoken information I’ve gotten from Sullivan and the Whitmores. While sitting at the desk in the penthouse of the Bellagio, I’ve made a list of the people who are definitely responsible:
Cody Whitmore and his asshole father, Franklin
Kevin Van Dyke—identified by Billings
There are some strong possibles that need to be examined:
Carly Madison—Whitmore’s high school girlfriend
Mary Wiseman, Rhonda Yick, and Lana Milligan—most likely guilty by association; flunkies that hung around Madison.
Michael Underwood—Identified by Billings as “Michael and them guys”
Brian Moleham, Richard Swanson, William Wood, and Justin Roundy-“them guys”
Strong evidence points to Madison because although Whitmore claimed that Butterfly lied on him and that the sex was consensual, that would not instigate the need for him to brand her a whore… literally or figuratively. He may have assisted in pegging her as a liar, but not a whore. That particular label is personal and would have been granted by someone who felt particularly slighted by the situation—hence, the woman scorned.
If that’s the case, Madison would not have carried this out without her closest partners in crime—again, literally and figuratively. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that, among other possibilities, those partners would certainly have been Wiseman, Yick, and Milligan. Madison was photographed over 20 times in the 2001 yearbook—not even her year of graduation. Whomever else may have been in the shots with her, these three were always there.
I only have Billings’ information to follow Michael and his crew, but something still doesn’t sit well with me with Sullivan. I can’t figure where he would fit with this puzzle. There’s no payoff according to Welch, so we know that Whitmore didn’t get to him—unless he used some untraceable assets and nothing at all even points in that direction. I think it’s pretty safe to say that he wasn’t paid off. He was the cop at that time, so he certainly wasn’t one of the students that took part in the attack. There’s absolutely no evidence that he knew the Steeles/Mortons before any of this happened. So, what is he hiding? He has covered every track possible that could lead to that ranch or that night, and nobody questioned him. He clearly doesn’t want anybody to see the evidence. Why would a cop want evidence to be covered?
I look at the picture of my Butterfly again. The beautiful, fresh-faced, bright-eyed girl reminds me why I’m doing this. They stole her innocence and put her through hell when she should have been going on dates and to movies, picking a dress for the prom. No, she was working crazy hours at odd jobs, saving her pennies and planning an escape from her own personal hell. You would never know what she went through by looking at this beautiful picture. You would also never know that, quite possibly, anybody on this page could have taken part in her attack—a page full of shiny-eyed, pimply-faced teenagers. I look at the different expressions and make a game out of trying to figure out what they could be doing now.
Kevin Schau—he probably went to Hollywood and became a movie star.
Danielle Titus—probably the president of the PTA after punching out a couple of kids.
Robert Sol—oh, he is so gay.
I see one picture that has an air of familiarity and I have to do a double-take. Right there on the same page—as a matter of fact, right next to Butterfly… how did I not see that?
“No fucking way!” I exclaim aloud, causing Taylor to appear in the doorway from the bedroom on the other side of the penthouse.
“Sir?” he greets cautiously, but I’m feverishly opening the folders to access the background checks and information on the Green Valley suspects. I open a file and read carefully, and there it is. There’s no mistaking it. The resemblance is uncanny and it’s right there in black and white. I’m glad it only took me a day to see it and I don’t know if I would have ever made the connection if I hadn’t been staring at Butterfly.
“Fuck!” I exclaim again as I stand quickly from my seat, knocking the chair back onto the floor behind me. This discovery is completely infuriating me! I walk away from the desk, cursing and ready to kill someone with my bare hands. I pour myself a bourbon from the wet bar and immediately throw back the double-shot. Taylor approaches cautiously.
“Boss… what is it?” he says, his voice forceful. We cross a certain line when I go from “Sir” to “Boss.” The latter is more of a term of endearment… if you can call it that. When he needs to get my attention for something—or bring me back from the cliff—he calls me “Boss.”
I look over my shoulder at Taylor, trying to gather my thoughts to explain what I have just figured out. “Pick up the chair and have a seat, Taylor.” Bemused, he places the chair in front of my laptop and looks at me expecting. I come back to the desk and move the mouse. The picture that I was studying pops up. “In the yearbook, the kid next to Anastasia—hold it up to the screen.” It only takes a few moments for Taylor to see the resemblance.
“Ssssssssshit!” he hisses viciously, looking up at me.
“I’d bet my next acquisition that little fucker was at that bonfire,” I spit.
“I’d bet my pension that you’re right,” he confirms. I launch my glass at the nearest wall and it disintegrates into dust.
“She never had a chance for justice here, not a fucking chance! There was never a hope or a prayer that anybody would be brought to justice for this shit. Yet this asshole calls her anytime there’s a hit or an inquiry on her case. What the fuck is that about!?” I’m beyond all levels of livid that I have ever reached in my fucking life! I’m so pissed, you could fry an egg on my head right now.
“What do you want to do, boss?” Taylor asks, his anger levels evident in his voice as well. I’m so angry that I’m shaking.
“I have dinner with Crestwood in three hours. I’m going to the hotel fitness center for a while to try to curb my current need to kill someone!” I bark the last two words through my teeth. “Find that bastard. I want to know every fucking thing about him and I want to know what he knows. I want to know where he is tonight! If he’s dead, I will exhume his body, hold a fucking séance and question his goddamn ghost!” I say as I pick up the vase of flowers from a nearby table and launch it at the wall as well, the vase meeting the same fate as the bourbon glass, before I retreat to the bedroom in search of gym attire.
At 4:50pm, I am showered, changed, decked out in Paul Stuart gray and black lightweight tweed and Crockett & Jones black leather shoes, and seated in Jasmine facing the door and sipping on a cranberry spritzer prepared to Butterfly’s specifications. I’m early, because I hate being late. At five minutes to the hour, I watch as the hostess points a woman to my table. Cynthia Crestwood is in her mid-forties and very fit. Her hair is a very light brown with obvious natural blonde highlights. She’s very attractive and wears very little make-up. Her dress is modest and tasteful. I stand as she extends a well-manicured dainty hand to me.
“Mr. Grey? I’m Cynthia Crestwood.” I kiss her hand.
“A pleasure to meet you Mrs. Crestwood. Please have a seat. Would you like a drink?” I offer.
“A lemon breeze with mint, please,” she says to the server.
“Cubed or crushed ice, ma’am?” the server asks.
“Crushed, pleased.” The server nods and retreats to prepare her drink. “So, Mr. Grey, I’m anxious to hear about your organization. I will confess that I Googled you last night and I’m aware of your philanthropic endeavors. So, the fact I am being honored by this charitable organization supported by such a prestigious company is a bit of a surprise to me. I’ll admit that I’ve helped more than a few troubled children in my time, but none that I would think would gain any acclaim outside of my little community.”
“Well, this is nothing like the Nobel Peace Prize, granted,” I begin. “It’s something that we do that recognizes smaller contributions that would otherwise go unnoticed. You come highly recommended by one of our psychologists.” This has piqued her interest.
“All the way in Seattle?” She smiles. “Who is this psychologist?” Showtime.
“Her name is Anastasia Steele,” I answer casually, taking a sip of my spritzer.
“Really?” she says, her voice showing particular interest now. “How do you know Anastasia Steele?” I guess it’s time to let the cat out of the bag. After a pause, I answer,
“She’s my girlfriend.” Crestwood’s expression changes and she looks as if she will make a mad dash for the door any second, ready to run just like the rest of them and wanting to do anything in the world but talk to me right now.
“Before you clam up on me and run away, Helping Hands is a real organization. My mother Dr. Grace Trevelyan Grey is really the Chairperson—this is her baby. Anastasia really is a psychologist that works with the families there. She’s really quite remarkable with people in light of what has happened to her.”
A myriad of emotions cross Ms. Crestwood’s face. “That’s why you’re here, isn’t it?” she asks with conviction. I nod.
“Yes, ma’am, it is. No one was ever brought to justice for what happened to her. She doesn’t know that I’m here, but with my resources, I’m sure that I can bring her some kind of closure.” Ms. Crestwood is no doubt weighing the pros and cons of talking to me. Will she run like everyone else? Someone has got to be willing to give me some answers. I’m good, but I don’t think I’m going to just stumble on to too many more leads like the one that presented itself earlier this afternoon.
“Seattle? A psychologist, huh?” she asks.
“Yes. She has helped quite a few people through some pretty rough times. She even helped me and my family. I can tell you with all honesty that she has a profound effect on everyone that she meets,” I answer. She smiles and nods. The look on her face can only be described as pride.
We pause for a moment while the server brings her drink and we place our order for dinner. Once she leaves, Ms. Crestwood starts talking.
“That same year, Stephen got a large sum of money from one of the kids’ father—Whitmore. I’m pretty certain the culprit there was Cody. He’s always been a problem—spoiled, entitled little brat. And his girlfriend Carly was even worse. Her father owns horse ranches in the area…” That ties right in to what happened to Butterfly. Ms. Crestwood notices the change in my posture. “You know exactly what happened to her don’t you?” she asks.
“Yes,” I say, “I do.”
She sighs. “The only person that I can give you with any certainty is Cody. From talking to my brother-in-law and to Ana, he’s your prime suspect.” She has just told me that Cody is the one that raped Butterfly but she doesn’t want to say the words—and she doesn’t know that I already know this, but I’m glad to have someone confirm it. “His girlfriend was quite malicious. I would bet my retirement that she had something to do with Ana’s attack, if she wasn’t the ring-leader. From there, you want to focus on her ‘crew.’ They were the typical snobby, arrogant bunch that picked on the not-so-wealthy kids. I see it all the time.” She holds her head down and toys with her flatware.
Throughout dinner, she gives me several names as a starting place of who could have been involved. “I’m not 100% sure about this. I do know that if there was trouble in this area, these kids were usually involved. They’re notorious for stirring things up and getting away with it because their parents have money and could always buy them out of it, or Daddy knew someone that knew someone that knew someone that could fix it. I’m sure you’re aware of this sort of thing, Mr. Grey,” she says with some contempt.
“Yes, Mrs. Crestwood, I am aware of this sort of thing. The difference is that I always try to operate within the letter of the law,” I state flatly.
“Try?” she questions. I fold my hands on the table.
“The law hasn’t been very kind to Anastasia in this matter. I’m going to gather as much information as I can and I’m going to do my best to operate within the letter of the law. However, someone that I love has been grossly mistreated and badly hurt. Although she has overcome what occurred, I will spend every dime of my fortune if I have to in order to see every person involved in this incident pay for what happened to her,” I say sternly. She nods.
The server has cleared our dinner dishes and is now serving after-dinner coffee before Mrs. Crestwood starts to tell me about her brother-in-law.
“Stephen and I were never that close. I was married to his brother Justin. Justin was very good to me, but he died in 2000.” She takes another sip of her coffee. “The house is a family house—Justin and Stephen’s parents. I didn’t want to live there alone without my Justin. So, I took the money from his life insurance and, after I paid all of Justin’s medical bills and burial costs, I bought a condo in Las Vegas. That’s the address that Ana used to attend Chaparral.” She looks out of the window of the restaurant.
“I was very angry with Stephen for bringing her back here after everything that had happened to her, poor girl. I don’t know how she survived living in that city after that. I’m not sure how she avoided running into anyone that had attacked her. I got her lots of little odd jobs with my friends—babysitting, cleaning, running errands. Many times, I brought her back home—if you could call it that—at 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning… on school nights. I didn’t want her catching the bus that late and she was determined to do whatever she needed to do get away from those people.
“I knew there was money involved. Justin was the salt of the earth, God rest his soul, but Stephen is one of the most unscrupulous men I have ever met. He never did anything to me personally, but the way he treated Ana. And Carla—his wife, Ana’s mother—I don’t know, she just seemed… detached from the whole thing. If that had been my daughter, I would have been screaming from the mountaintops for justice, but not Carla. She was content to sit by and watch whatever was going to happen just… happen.” She sighs.
“Anyway, little Ana left the minute she graduated from high school… and I do mean the very minute that she graduated. She told me that she was leaving, but she never told me where she was going, and I haven’t seen her since. I haven’t talked to her folks since then either. I married my husband Larry a few years later and never looked back at that part of my ‘family.’ I’ve often wondered how little Ana fared.” She looks at me. “Looks like she’s doing pretty well,” she says before finishing her coffee.
After dabbing her lips with her napkin, Mrs. Crestwood says, “I’m not sure that there’s anything else that I can tell you, Mr. Grey. I think I’ve covered everything that I know about the situation. I know that you should probably talk to the officer that discovered Ana that night because if anybody is hiding anything, he would know what’s hiding. He would certainly be remiss to tell you, but he would know.”
“You’ve been more than helpful, Mrs. Crestwood. I do thank you very much for the information,” I say extending my hand to her. She shakes it before standing to leave. When I stand with her, she asks, “Where were you raised, Mr. Grey?”
“In Bellevue, a suburb outside of Seattle.” She nods.
“I’m sorry, I just don’t see a lot of chivalry anymore. It’s very refreshing—especially from one so young,” she says, with a matronly smile. I return her smile.
“Thank you, ma’am,” I say with a small nod. She takes a few steps, then turns around.
“When you get to a point where you can talk to her about this, will you please tell Anastasia I said ‘hello’ and that I think of her often?” she asks. I smile.
“I will,” I assure her. She returns my smile and leaves the restaurant.
Ana talks about running around the house, stopping clocks and wasting away in a wedding dress. This comes from a character in Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. Miss Havisham was jilted on her wedding day and basically stopped time, never left her mansion and never changed her clothes—a wedding dress and one shoe—because she was so heartbroken.
Ana broke into insurance company slogans in case that was confusing to anyone:
“Get a piece of the rock”—Prudential Insurance
“The good hands people”—Allstate Insurance
“The good neighbor folks”—State Farm Insurance
“Even the little fucking lizard”—the Geico gecko… they are mostly known for car insurance, so she was just being sarcastic here.
A lemon breeze is basically lemonade made like Ana’s spritzer—Lemon juice, simple syrup made with soda water (soda water and sugar) and mint leaves over cubed or crushed ice. You can use concentrated lemon juice or real lemons, whichever you prefer.
As always, pictures can be found on Pinterest including Maxie’s engagement ring at http://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/paging-dr-steele/
You can join my mailing list on the “Contact Me” page. Just click the link and it will lead you to a form to join the list.
Love and handcuffs,