This is a work of creativity. As such, you may see words, concepts, scenes, actions, behaviors, pictures, implements, and people that may or may not be socially acceptable and/or offensive. If you are sensitive to adverse and alternative subject matter of any kind, please do not proceed, because I guarantee you’ll find it here. You have been warned. Read at your own risk.
I do not own Fifty Shades Trilogy, or the characters. They belong to E. L. James. I am only exercising my right to exploit, abuse, and mangle the characters to MY discretion in MY story in MY interpretation as a fan. If something that I say displeases you, please, just leave. If you don’t like this story or me, please don’t spoil this experience for everyone. Just go away. For the rest of you, the saga continues…
Chapter 47—Come Let Us Reason Together
“I don’t know how much she can do to him. I mean, he’s in jail now, but…” I run my hands through my hair.
“But what?” Allen asks.
“Gerald just told her that David entered a ‘not guilty’ plea on a count of first degree kidnapping… and that he has claimed temporary insanity and mental distress.”
“Excuse me!?” Allen looks appalled.
“He’s claiming that it was all Harris’ idea and he was forced into it.” Allen nearly cracks right there in front of me. I’m wondering what the hell is so damn funny.
“Who the hell is his defense attorney?” he asks.
“I have no idea. Why?”
“I can’t even begin to tell you how difficult it is to prove a mental distress plea. For that plea to float, Harris would have had to have a bomb strapped to Edward’s body at all times and had Edward’s dick in a mini-guillotine. This man admitted to stalking her for weeks before he kidnapped her even though there was a protection order against him. He vandalized her car. She has text messages that he sent to her, calling her names and threatening her. He knew that he was under surveillance, so he changed his appearance and had someone smuggle him out of his apartment so that he couldn’t be followed. All of that shows premeditation. He handcuffed the woman to a bed naked, for Christ’s sakes. He’s not insane, he’s obsessed… and unfortunately for him, that’s not an appropriate legal defense. Jewel can rest comfortably in the knowledge that whoever this lawyer is, he’s going to take the double dicker for a boatload of money.”
Money. Her plan somehow involves money because she wants David’s financials, which Welch was able to get updated information for me. I hate to think how she might react if the information was too old for her purposes.
“I want to take her away, Allen. There are beautiful villas on the beach in Anguilla and I really think she would like it there. It’s private and secluded—she would be able to relax and enjoy the tropical weather, drink, swim, and unwind. I think it’s exactly what she needs right now. What do you think?”
“It’s a fabulous idea, but I think you better run it by Jewel,” he responds.
“Of course, I’ll run it by her. I can’t just hijack her.” I run my hands through my hair. “I was asking how you think she’d respond to it?”
“Well, it’s hard to tell right now, Chris,” he responds. “Maybe you should have her talk to Maxie first.” Maxie? What the fuck does Maxie have to do with this?
“I don’t think she wants to talk to anyone right now,” I say.
“Oh, she’ll talk to Maxie,” he responds. What the fuck?
“Okay, so why would she talk to Maxine but ceremoniously dismiss me?” I snap, trying and failing to hide my ire. Allen tilts his head at me conspicuously and then a light goes off in his eyes.
“You don’t know, do you?” he asks. I frown.
“We’re all friends, but Maxie is her therapist. She had started seeing Maxie when she finished her internship at CCFW, but then she stopped. A few weeks ago, she started seeing her again.” Oh shit… a few weeks ago, when I initiated that background check. How did I not know Maxine was her therapist? That explains why she had to see her the first night I went to Green Valley.
“Yeah, in that case, I think Maxine is needed very quickly. Any likelihood we could get her over here tonight?” I ask.
“Again, I think you better talk to Jewel first. She might not like being ambushed,” he warned. “Speaking of which…” He hands me Butterfly’s passport. I had him procure it from her apartment. I want to get her to Anguilla as soon as possible and there is a lot to do… the first of which is to talk to Butterfly.
“Do you want to talk to her?” I ask. He looks at her still standing motionless on the balcony.
“Nope, Chris. I think I’ll leave that to you.” He pats me on the arm. “Good luck but call me if you need me.”
“I will.” He nods and leaves. I pick up the land line and call back to the servants’ quarters.
“Yes Mr. Grey?” Gail answers.
“Gail, would you make one of your special teabags for Ana? It’s difficult for her to sleep on the side of her face with the worst bruising, so it’s not going down.”
“Yes, sir, Mr. Grey. If you look in the sandwich compartment in the refrigerator, there is a zipper bag in there with assorted sizes of the tea in it. Use one of the larger ones for her cheek.”
“I’ll need more, like a four- or five-day supply. I want to take her out of town.”
“Will do, sir. I’ll get on it this evening if that’s okay with you,” she answers.
“That would be perfect, Gail. Thank you.” I hang up the phone and retrieve the tea bag. Taylor approaches me in the kitchen.
“No better, sir?” he asks, pointing to Butterfly.
“I haven’t tried yet. I’m a little afraid. She hasn’t moved from that spot for hours.” I reply.
“Yes, I know.”
“Listen. I need you to check the surveillance for last Wednesday night—mainly the great room and the dining room. Maxine Saunders came to visit Ana that night. Please remove the footage of their conversation. It turns out that Maxine is her therapist and I want to assure that her sessions are private if she chooses to have them here.” I instruct Taylor.
“I got it covered, sir.”
“And contact Ms. Acton for me. Let her know that I need a full beach and tropical evening wardrobe including hiking and riding gear for Ana for at least 10 days. I want to take her away if she’ll let me. Let Ms. Acton know that we’ll be going to Anguilla and I will need those things ready for travel tomorrow afternoon. So, nothing that requires alterations. I bought a few things for her for this week, so she already has Ana’s sizes,” I further instruct him.
“Yes, sir. I’ll take care of it,” he says. “Anything else, Boss?” I sigh.
“Wish me luck…” I say, then proceed to the balcony door with extreme caution.
She still doesn’t move when I open the balcony door. I clear my throat and walk behind her.
“Yes, Christian,” she says, softly.
“I brought another tea satchel for your cheek.” She moves very quickly, slamming her body into mine—holding me around my waist and pressing her cheek against my chest. The force of her embrace nearly knocks me back into the balcony door. I gasp at the contact, then wrap my arms around her tiny body. I only want her to be happy. I want to chase all the shadows away…
“A few months…” she begins, without looking at me. “After what he did to me, he could only get a few months.” I kiss her hair.
“Ana, if he ever comes near you again, I swear I’ll kill him myself,” and I mean it. She looks up into my eyes and she knows that I mean it.
“I need to sit,” she says. I’m sure you do! You’ve been standing here for hours! I sit on the double chaise and she sits next to me. I take her hand in mine. It’s so tiny… I almost feel like I’m going to crush it. We both look at our hands and she starts talking.
“Ray called me.” She sighs. “He, um… he said that Carla had called him trying to find out who he sent to Nevada asking about what happened to me. Well, Ray loves Carla about as much as you would love a stone in your shoe, so he ended that call quickly—and then he called me. I was clueless as to what he was talking about until he kept saying ‘this suit’…”
“This suit?” I ask bemused.
“Yes. He kept saying there’s ‘this suit’ asking questions, and that’s when I knew that it was you.” She wipes a tear from her face. “I called George because he always called me when something like this came up… he hadn’t called me in years. He called when I relocated to Seattle and he never told me how he got my number. Then he called me again when you initiated the background check. But no other time… not once.” She wipes away another tear and curls her legs underneath her. “It wasn’t hard to figure out that it was you. I called George and he didn’t even want to speak to me. He thought that I had sent you down there. He was scared shitless. That’s when I twisted his arm and found out why… found out that while he was pretending to be my friend all this time, he was just protecting Vincent. I thought he was my friend, and he wasn’t! He was one of them the whole time!” She starts to weep again, no doubt feeling the betrayal of the last person in Green Valley that she trusted… because he was the law, and surely the law was on her side, right?
I pull her to me and cuddle her into my chest. I just want her to stop crying, stop feeling this way. I thought about the times that I felt betrayed, hurt, or lost and no one held me. No one could hold me… I wouldn’t let them get close enough. I kiss her head again and stroke her hair, and she continues to talk through her tears.
“I left because of everything! The thought of you down there with those bastards made me ill, but finding out what you were doing down there hurt me so badly… because I want to forget about it, because I didn’t want you in that part of my life, because I hate those people, because you lied to me… all of it. I didn’t have a chance to prepare myself and I couldn’t believe that you would lie to me. I’ve shared more with you than I have shared with any one person in my life except for maybe Al, and I feel like even though you think you were using it to help me, you actually used it against me.” I stiffen and gasp at her words, pulling her back to look into her eyes.
“Butterfly, how could you possibly feel that way?” I ask, my voice betraying my horror.
“You took all of the information that I gave you and you used it to get more information. When you needed to confirm that information, you gave it back to me—in a lie—and waited for me to react. I was tortured the day that you mentioned that man’s name to me. My monsters were coming back to me all back over again, for the second time in less than a month! And when I fell apart, you knew that you had your guy,” she said, her eyes filling with tears again.
Oh my God, she’s right. That’s exactly what I did. What’s worse, I did it on purpose. I was so concerned about getting to the bottom of the situation… about getting answers. I was so consumed with how she would feel once I got the answers for her that I didn’t consider how my methods would affect her. To me, it was all means to justify an end. And now, at the end of a catastrophe, she’s fighting to hold herself together, and I’m part of the reason that she nearly fell apart.
I can only assume that a myriad of emotions must be running across my face because she’s staring at me. I can vaguely see her face as the Boulder of Realization attached to the Pendulum of Truth swings from its highest height and slams right into my stomach…
I am a fucking asshole!
“Ooooohhhh noooooo…” I groan, almost inaudibly as I drop my head and cover my face in utter shame. How could I do this? How could I just stoically forge ahead on this quest so focused on the destination that I gave no thought to how the journey would affect her? Fuck punishment for not eating… I should be punished now. This has to be one of the most selfish things I have ever done in my life—notwithstanding my reasons or intentions—and I don’t understand why I didn’t see it before now. If hindsight is 20/20, I was blind as a damn bat last week. Butterfly reaches up to touch my hair.
“It’s okay, Christian…” she begins softly. I push her hand from my hair, shaking my head. I don’t deserve any comfort from this situation.
“No. No. No… it’s not okay. It’s not okay. I can say that ‘I’m sorry,’ but it’s not okay. This is not okay,” I say, repeatedly shaking my head.
“No, Christian. It’s not okay,” she says. I know it’s not. I know… “But I forgive you.” I raise my head in shock.
“Why?” I ask, impassively. I can’t see how she can forgive me for deliberately hurting her and going against her wishes just to get answers. What if I had come back empty-handed? Then there would have been no means to justify any ends. She reaches for my hair again and just as I’m about to swat her hand away, she catches my arm.
“Stop it!” she commands, still grasping my wrist. I’m sort of in shock by this tiny little being holding my arm with the force of ten men. “First of all, you are my man, and I’ll touch your hair anytime I damn well please!”
“Second, I forgive you because I love you, it’s my choice, and…” she’s starting to choke on her words, “… and… and because you saved me from the bad guys.” She wails as she burst into tears again. I snatch her into my arms and my lap, clinging to her tiny frame. She has lost too much weight these past few days and I just want her to be happy again. I have no idea how much she has cried through all of this, but I know that I’ve seen her cry more in the last two days than I have in the entire time that I’ve known her.
“Please, Baby, please tell me what to do,” I beg. I can’t stand to see her hurting anymore.
“Just… hold me… please…” she whimpers, through her tears. I clutch her tighter, one arm around her waist, my hand splayed across her back and one arm under her arm, my hand protectively holding the back of her neck and head.
“I love you, Ana. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I love you with everything I am… with everything I have. I’ll never let you go…” I swear, and her arms tighten around my neck.
“I love you, too, Christian. You’re the only thing that kept me going, that kept me alive. You’re the reason I didn’t give up. I’ll never leave you… ever,” she squeaks. I don’t want to squeeze her any tighter for fear that I may hurt her, so I simply sink into her—close my eyes and absorb this moment… breathe her in, feel her soul clinging to mine. For once in my entire, wretched, awful, miserable life, sitting here holding this broken woman, my heart is full, and my soul is light. I feel whole and healed… like I had never been broken; like all the shadows that haunted me when my eyes were closed had been chased away, and in their places… butterflies.
I scoot back on the chaise and lie down with Butterfly in my arms. I had almost forgotten the tea satchel that Gail made. She slides into the crook in my arm, partially on her side and partially on her back, both of her hands resting on my chest. I knew that she would lay on my chest with the bruised cheek exposed. I place the tea satchel on her bruised cheek and gently hold it there stroking her hair with my free hand. Neither of us say a word, we just lay there in the afternoon sun, letting a summer breeze brush over us.
I open my eyes and I have no idea how much time has passed. The summer sun heads towards the horizon which means that it’s most likely around 6 or 7 pm. I look down at my Butterfly, sleeping peacefully in my arms. I won’t disturb her. We have nowhere to be tomorrow morning as I plan to spend time with my Baby and get our trip planned out. So, if she can’t sleep later, we’ll stay up all night watching old movies, talking, or making love. I look at her dainty little hands, carelessly lying on my chest. My eyes immediately go to her left hand—and the lack of a ring there. I love her. I want to spend my life with her. I want to marry her and have children with her—but I know that it’s too soon to ask. I don’t want to scare her away… but I do want to put a ring on that finger.
A promise ring, maybe? Is that too corny? It’s either that or an engagement ring… so I guess it’ll be a promise ring… and I know just the ring…
“You look like the cat who caught the canary.” A soft, beautiful voice rises from my chest. I look down to see sleepy sapphire blue eyes. I didn’t know she was awake.
“Only if you’re the canary,” I say, kissing her hair.
“How long have we been out here?” she asks, stretching her arms and legs.
“I don’t know. I would guess a few hours maybe.”
“Mmmm. I’m hungry,” she purrs. Good. I want you to gain the weight you’ve lost. Almost on cue, Gail comes to the balcony.
“Mr. Grey, dinner will be ready in 15 minutes,” she says.
“Perfect. Where do you want to eat, Baby?” I ask. Noting the table on the far end of the balcony, she asks, “Can we eat out here? It’s a beautiful evening.” I smile.
“We can eat wherever you like,” I respond, pulling her close to me again. Taylor now appears over Gail’s shoulder.
“Dr. Grey is here, sir.” Yes. Mom needs to check Ana’s bruises and change the bandages on her wrists.
“Thank you, Taylor. We’ll be there in a moment. Gail, Butterfly wants to eat out here,” I say.
“Yes, sir,” they say in unison and smile a little secret smile at each other. Sometimes, I forget they’re a couple until moments like this. I stretch my arms and back and we sit up.
“Come, Beautiful. Let’s go and greet my mother.” I rise from the chaise and reach for Ana’s hand. She puts her hand in mine and we walk inside to see Grace.
“Ana, Dear, you look fantastic!” Grace says. Don’t overdo it, Mom. “What have you been doing? You haven’t been using too much ice, have you? You don’t want to damage the skin on your face.” I take a closer look at Butterfly’s cheek… and Mom’s right. The big black and blue bruise has gone way down, now.
“No, Gail has this special tea that reduces bruising quickly. It has sage and ginger… and allspice in it, I think,” Butterfly says.
“Heeey!” Gail calls from the kitchen. “Don’t be in there giving away my secret recipe!” she scolds.
“Those are just the things I could smell!” Butterfly calls back and laughs. Mom laughs too, then examines Butterfly’s face more closely.
“Well, keep it up and that bruising will be completely gone by the weekend.” She smiles. “Now. Why don’t we sit on the sofa and let’s take a look at your wrists?” Butterfly nods and follows Grace to the great room. I go back and close the balcony door, kind of wandering aimlessly to give her some privacy.
“Christian?” Butterfly calls to me. When I turn to her, she says, “Come with me, please.” I’m by her side in a moment. I know that she hasn’t seen the bruising on her wrist yet and she knows that I haven’t either. We sit next to each other and Mom begins to remove one of the bandages. Butterfly takes a deep breath to prepare herself for the worst. When Mom removes the bandage, we’re both surprised that they don’t look that bad at all—still kind of red, but not raw.
“Very good,” Grace says. “You won’t be needing the bandages anymore. Fresh air will actually help them heal better. Take this cream and put it on your wrist three times a day. It’ll help to minimize the scarring and accelerate the healing process. If you want to wear a bracelet or a watch, wrap them up again so that they don’t get irritated. I’ll leave some extra bandages for you.”
“Thank you, Grace. I’m so sorry that you had to come all this way for this silly little thing,” Butterfly says.
“Not silly at all, dear. I’m glad to be able to see for myself that you’re doing okay… and looking very well, I might add.” Butterfly blushes… and I saw it—unobscured by massive bruising.
“I’m going to go freshen up before dinner.” Butterfly says before kissing me gently. “Thank you again, Grace.”
“No problem at all, dear.” She kisses Butterfly on her cheek, causing her to blush again before heading back to our bedroom. I watch her as she walks away… and forget my mother is in the room.
“Christian.” She brings me back and I snap my head around like the kid with his hand in the cookie jar. “You’re quite smitten, aren’t you?” Yikes. I run my hands through my hair. I’ve never talked to my mother about anything like this. Hell, I’ve never talked to anyone about anything like this… except Flynn… and the Pedophile, sort of.
“I love her, Mom,” I say, nervously. I don’t know how to have this conversation.
“You love her,” my mother says like she’s testing out the words. “No, I think it’s more than that, son. I think you’re in love with her.”
“Well, yes, that’s what I said,” I say.
“No, you said you love her. This is different. You love me, and your sister Mia, and your father, and your crazy brother, Elliot. I love you. I’m in love with Cary… and you, my son, are in love with Ana,” she says. When she puts it that way, she’s absolutely right. I am so in love with Ana.
“I want to marry her, Mom.” My mother’s eyes get large. I roll my eyes. “Not tomorrow. I’m just saying that when that time comes, I want it to be Ana.”
“Well!” Mom exclaims. “She certainly has had a profound effect on you. Are you sure about this?”
“I’ve never been more certain of anything before in my life.” I look over my shoulder to make sure that she’s not coming out of the room. “I want to buy her a ring, Mom… a promise ring. Do you think that’s too much? I don’t want to scare her away.”
“I think a promise ring would be perfect actually, Son. It solidifies your commitment to her without backing her into a permanent decision about her future before she’s ready. I think it’s a fantastic idea.” Her eyes are sparkling like I said I was giving the ring to her. I sigh.
“I want to take her out of town for a while. Have her relax and be pampered. Give her a chance to decompress. She’s not doing very well. She’s very angry and she cries all the time. I know it’s going to take a while for her to work through what happened. I just want to help her without crowding the fuck out of… oh! I’m sorry, Mom.” She smiles a crooked smile.
“It’s okay, Son. I’m just glad that you feel that you can talk to me about these things,” she says.
“Me, too, although I know that there’s going to be some Flynn time in my future.” I run my fingers through my hair again.
“You’ll be fine,” she says while rising to her feet. I stand with her and she kisses me on the cheek. “You both will,” she adds with a smile. “Give Ana my love.”
“I will,” I say before she leaves. I duck into my study, close the door, and dial Cartier.
“Thank you for calling Cartier. This is Marvin. How can I assist you today?”
“Hello, Marvin. This is Christian Grey.”
“Mr. Grey!” His voice perks up immediately. Yeah, I know you’re seeing dollar signs. “It’s nice to hear from you again so soon. I hope those pieces were to your lady-friend’s liking.”
“Oh, yes, they worked out very well. Thank you. I’m calling about that last piece that we spoke about. I’m wondering how soon you can have that piece ready for me,” I say.
“I can have it ready for you tomorrow afternoon if you like. Is that soon enough?” Marvin asks.
“That’s perfect. I plan on taking her out of town on Friday and I would like to have it ready to travel by then.”
“That won’t be a problem, Mr. Grey. Would you like it delivered or would you like to pick it up?” It’s good to have such a reputation with a jeweler that they’ll deliver exquisite pieces of jewelry to you.
“Delivered, please. Escala. You have the address.”
“Yes, I do. Shall we say, 4:00?” Marvin asks.
“Yes, that will do nicely. Please have the courier only deliver to Taylor or myself. It’s a surprise.”
“Absolutely, Mr. Grey. I’ll phone you when the courier is on his way.”
“Thank you, Marvin,” I say before ending the call. I emerge from my study and Butterfly still hasn’t come from the bedroom yet. I go in and find her attempting to apply make-up to her swollen face and lips.
“Butterfly! What are you doing?” I ask. She’s going to irritate her bruises!
“I… just wanted to see if I could cover them… but I can’t because it hurts too much,” she says, sounding defeated. I shake my head and get some baby oil and a cotton ball.
“Close your eyes.” She closes her eyes and I slowly and gently remove the goop that she has put on her face trying to cover the bruises. When I have removed all the makeup, I toss the used cotton balls in the trash, then gently kiss her eyes, her cheeks, her neck, and her lips, rubbing my nose against hers as I cradle her face in my hands.
“I love you, Anastasia,” I whisper, my eyes still closed. “I will love you always.”
“I love you, too, Christian.” I open my eyes and she’s looking at me—big, beautiful, blue eyes. I move behind her, my arms around her waist, until we’re both looking at the mirror.
“This is the woman that I love, and the face that I love. I will love this face until the bruises heal. And when the bruises heal, I will love that face, too. But until that day, I will love this face. I will always think this face is beautiful… at the dawn of day, in the middle of the night, flawless and pale, or wearing the remarkable bruises of a survivor… I will always love this face. Do you understand me, Anastasia?” She’s frozen, looking at my eyes in the mirror. “Anastasia, did you hear what I said?” She nods, quickly, almost like a child… wide-eyed. “Then look at you, not me.” Her eyes slowly shift to her own reflection.
“You are my beautiful Butterfly. And no matter what face you wear, as long as those eyes are looking back at me, you will always be my beautiful Butterfly. Always. Do you understand me, My Love?” I say, almost begging. She releases a breath that she’s holding and closes her eyes.
“Yes,” she whispers. “Yes, I understand.”
“Thank you.” I sigh as I drop my head on her shoulder. I wish she knew how much I love and adore her. She would never doubt her beauty again. I guess I’ll just have to keep showing her.
We talked about nothing and everything through dinner but avoided the heavy topics. Christian has decided to let Ros run the business for a while so that he can spend some time with me. I’ve decided to call my patients from here tomorrow to see how they’re faring without me and make sure no one has had any major emergencies in my absence. When he uncorks my favorite Cabernet, I decide that it’s time to approach the elephants in the room.
“So… David,” I say.
“Before… we approach that topic, I’d like to ask you something,” he interrupts.
“I asked Allen to bring your passport by today and make sure that it was in order. I’d like to take you away for a little while,” he says timidly. Hmmm, take me away where? And for how long? As if he could read my mind, he says, “I’d like to take you to a villa in Anguilla. It’s secluded and private and you don’t have to see people unless you want to. It has a private pool or if you prefer the ocean, it’s right on the beach. We can stay for four days or 10 days—whatever you want. We would leave Friday… if you want…” he says.
“Where is Anguilla?” I ask.
“In the Caribbean. It’s a small island… British territory. Only 17 miles long from end to end.” Private, secluded, and I don’t have to see people unless I want to.
“It sounds wonderful, Christian,” I say, breathily, dreaming of working on my tan in the Caribbean sun.
“Is that a ‘yes?'” he asks with a smile.
“That’s a hell yes!” I exclaim.
“Oh, we’re going to have a wonderful time. I think it’ll be just what we need!” he says like a kid at Christmas.
“I’ll need to go back to my condo… I have to pack,” I say. He makes a little face. “What?”
“I… ordered a wardrobe for you. I thought that if you decided that you didn’t want to go, well then you’d just have some more nice summer clothes to wear.” He shrugs. I shake my head.
“You do realize that you spoil me terribly?” I ask.
“Are you complaining?”
“Not. One. Bit,” I say matter-of-factly, and we laugh together. “But I might get used to it.” He reaches across the table and takes my hand.
“I certainly hope so,” he says, looking longingly at me.
“You certainly know how to sweep a lady off her feet,” I say softly.
“Only one lady,” he replies, placing an open-mouthed kiss on my hand. I take a deep breath and let it out, trying to control my arousal.
“Okay,” I say, taking another breath. “We really have some serious things to talk about.”
“Okay,” he says, taking a swallow of his wine and I take a swallow of mine. “David.”
“Yes, David… and Green Valley,” I say, clearly surprising him.
“And Green Valley?” he asks.
“Yes, and Green Valley. I meant it when I said that I want satisfaction. I’m not going to be a victim anymore, I can’t take it. I can’t live like this. I want to be able to sleep at night knowing that the people who have hurt me will pay for what they have done… that includes the Mortons,” I say, impassively and I mean business!
“Alright. I agree,” he says.
“So, what’s the word on David’s net worth?”
“With his company, his assets, savings, investments, and condo, I would put him easily worth about $6 million. I don’t know if he has any offshore accounts. We’re checking into that now. He doesn’t own any vacation houses or any additional property that we could find—just his Belltown condo and the building downtown where his web design business is housed. Do I get to know why now?”
“Yes. I’m suing him for false imprisonment.” He does a double-take.
“You can do that?” he asks.
“Yes, I can. He doesn’t have to be convicted of kidnapping me because false imprisonment is a civil suit. I want to sue him for two-thirds of his net worth. I can’t sue him for more than he’s worth because I wouldn’t get it. But suing him for this much is enough to freeze his assets so that he can’t start disposing of them. He can’t even use his money for his trumped-up defense!” I state with disdain.
“If you win, he could file for bankruptcy protection,” Christian says.
“He could, but he would still have to pay me… and I want his business.”
“What are you going to do with his business?” he exclaims.
“Well, you’re going to be my business consultant, so you’re going to tell me what to do with it,” I say, matter-of-factly. He sits back in his chair.
“You’re serious about this,” he says.
“Yes, I am.”
“That’s cutthroat, Ana,” he states.
“Yes, it is.” He licks his lips.
“That’s fucking hot!” he says, his voice full of lust. My nipples immediately stand at attention.
“Oh God, Christian, please,” I say, instantly flushed. “We still have so much to talk about.” I’m fanning myself, now.
“Okay, Baby. I’ll behave… for now.” He refills both our glasses. “So, you’re going to have Allen take care of this for you?”
“Yep. I think he’d love it. I just need to have updated financials and I can move forward.”
“Well, once Welch double-checks on offshore accounts which should be sometime tomorrow, you’ll have all the info that you need.” He sips his wine again. “How did you come to two-thirds of his net worth?”
“Well, I have to have monetary damages, and I do. I have lost wages and hospital bills—not to mention the very expensive helicopter that had to fly me to the mainland because I was so desperately dehydrated.”
“Ana, I can cover all of that… and I own the helicopter,” he protests.
“We’ll talk about that later. We’ll work something out that we can both live with,” I say. He frowns.
“Ana. I’m not charging you for using my helicopter,” he says.
“Yes, you are. You’re a businessman, Christian. You must know that this is all part of the lawsuit. I show that I have monetary damages, I can sue for punitive damages. That’s where I’m going to hit him. And I’m not destitute, Christian. I can pay my own bills,” I scold. He sighs.
“Let’s make a deal. If the bills become a hardship, then I’ll pay them. I’ll bill you for the helicopter… but I pay that bill.” They’re not going to be a hardship—one night’s hospital stay and emergency services. At it’s very worst, we’re looking at five to ten grand. The big money comes with the chopper transport, and he’s just going to give me a bill for that. I also have time lost from work and since I’m a therapist with a full load of clients, that’s really going to take a bite out of David’s pocket.
“Okay, you have a deal,” I say. He sighs, relieved.
“AND as my girlfriend, I reserve the right to gift you money whenever I choose.” Oh, good grief, Grey! I should have known he was going to find a way to get around our deal.
He needs to take care of you. Let him. He needs this.
I shake my head.
“Okay,” I relent.
“Okay?” he repeats.
“Okay… you sneaky bastard!”
“What?” he asks, badly feigning innocence.
“You know that I know what the hell you’re doing. But it’s okay for now,” I say. “Anyway, once I add the punitive damages, I can ask for a tidy sum. And quite frankly, I don’t think there is a sum on earth that can be tidy enough for what these bastards put me through. So yes, I want to attach enough of his assets to require that he relinquish his business, but not so much so that the judge throws it out of court.” Christian nods.
“Why not three-fourths?” he asks.
“Because at two-thirds he’s still technically functional and the case won’t be thrown out of court. I could honestly probably take him for everything… but I want to win. I want his company and I want his investments liquidated. He can keep his piece of shit condo and his piece of shit car. And exactly how much did he pay Harris to do this shit?”
“I can tell you, but you can’t use it in court,” he says.
“I know,” I respond. “How much?”
“Fifty thousand. You said that there was supposed to be more money changing hands. I don’t know how much that was supposed to be since it never happened.”
“That greedy bastard!” I exclaim. “He could have taken that money and hit the damn road, but no… he’s following a psychopath around trying to get more money. He stole my credit cards and if he did hit them over two days, he didn’t get more than $5,000 total. And now his ass is dead… dead trying to get a dollar… Stupid fuck,” I say, shaking my head.
“Okay, so you’ve got your plan for David. When do you put this into motion?”
“Tomorrow,” I answer. “I’ll have Allen meet me here for lunch and we’ll get the ball rolling… assuming that he’s not in court.”
“Good. Then I can harass him some more about coming to work for me,” Christian says.
“I thought that was a done deal,” I say. He shrugs.
“We haven’t discussed anything, so I don’t know. Can you think of anything that would make him hesitate?”
“Well, he’s built a client base over a few years. He wouldn’t want to lose that, so he surely wouldn’t agree to exclusivity.”
“Okay, I can understand that,” Christian says.
“He’s pretty autonomous—not accustomed to answering to a boss,” I continue.
“Well, he would only have to answer to me when it comes to GEH matters. The problem is that I would expect him to be at my beck and call.”
“That could be a problem,” I warn.
“You don’t think that several zeros could solve that problem?” he asks. I shrug.
“That’s where you have to ask Al,” I say.
“Okay… so, we’re getting a little sidetracked. What else do we need to discuss?” he asks.
“Green Valley,” I say. His shoulders fall.
“Oh, yeah, Green Valley,” he says, not raising his eyes.
“We’ve already had the scolding part. We need to compare notes now.” His head jerks up at me.
“Compare notes?” he asks, bemused.
“That’s what I said. You tell me what you know. I’ll tell you what I know, and we get a plan of action from there,” I answer. He just stares at me. “What?” I ask again, perturbed.
“Can I fuck you now?” he growls. Oh, shit. That went straight to my core. I square my shoulders.
“Later. Where do we start?” He groans and pushes his chair closer to me.
“I will fuck you,” he warns sensually.
“I know. Now… Green Valley,” I say, trying to hold my ground.
Christian tells me all about Whitmore’s posing stunt and the bodyguard on the floor with broken fingers… and now I definitely want to fuck him, but I manage to maintain composure. He discovered before Sullivan told me that Vincent has something to do with what happened to me—whether he participated, watched, or was just in the vicinity, his car was there and that prevented the police from doing a thorough investigation. Christian will be reporting the matter to the Nevada State Attorney General to have them investigate the protocol followed in the case. Even a mall cop would be able to tell that this case was poorly handled. Once the Attorney General and Internal Affairs gets a hold of this information, Sullivan will be out on his ass if not brought up on criminal charges.
From there, anonymous tips will befall the Attorney General’s office concerning the money that changed hands from the Whitmores to the Mortons that year that will hopefully prompt an investigation into the financials of the two families. Although this proves nothing on a criminal scale, the investigation into Whitmore’s accounts and the necessity for him to explain the transfer will certainly make local news—maybe even national news after what just happened to me. True, they can say that the money was for anything at all, but the coincidence and the timing are enough to start the vicious circle of the rumor mill swirling. Whatever standing dear old Mom hasn’t lost in having to become a nurse assistant in the snobby community will be shot to hell, and Whitmore will be lucky if he can sell insurance to an ant.
“Now what about Cody?” I ask, repulsed.
“Young Mr. Whitmore’s prospects are all lined up in Daddy. If Daddy is ruined, he’s ruined, too,” Christian says. It’s not enough for me. He wouldn’t suffer enough as far as I’m concerned.
“There has to be more,” I say. “I… I don’t know… I just… there just has to be more.”
“Oh, there’s a whole lot more… but nothing legal,” Christian says, staring at me. I don’t blink. Do I want to cross that line? I don’t know. What he did to me—what they did to me—certainly wasn’t legal! An innocent baby died in the process. True, I didn’t want the baby, but I wouldn’t have necessarily aborted it. Hell, I didn’t even have the option to give the baby a chance!
“Let me think about it,” I say. “Someone needs to be an example, then the roaches will come out of the woodwork turning on each other and trying to save themselves.”
“I’m behind you, Baby, whatever you want to do,” he says.
“That’s the problem, though, Christian,” I say. “You’ve found lots of information. No doubt, it’s information that you wouldn’t have been able to find had you not gone to Green Valley. But now, anything shady that happens can lead right back to you.” He chuckles deeply.
“Don’t you worry about that, Baby. Nothing will ever point back to me. Whatever I do, I don’t work with amateurs.” Now that’s a little scary.
“Christian, have you ever had anybody killed?” I ask. He glares at me.
“No, Anastasia!” he snaps, then softens. “Frightened, but not killed.” I breathe a sigh of relief. Although I would truly kill David right now on sight, I just can’t wrap my mind around my beautiful Christian taking someone’s life. How backwards is that?
“What else did you find out?” I ask him.
“That the incident took place at Madison Ranch,” he says, watching me closely. I slam my hand on the table.
“I knew it! I fucking knew it!” I say, angrily. He waits for me to speak. “Carly Madison—Cody’s little pet! She’s the only one who talked to me. She called me a lying bitch and let me know that they were going to punish me. She slapped me before they beat the hell out of me. I couldn’t see her face, but I recognized her voice. I knew she was there… so that meant that Cody was there, not that I had any doubt!” I put my hands on my forehead and shake my head. I still remember every single detail of this ordeal… at least while I was conscious.
“This may sound stupid, but I really thought he liked me,” I say softly. “I felt lucky and special when I got into his jeep. We were riding down Eastern and the sun was in my face and the wind in my hair. It was February—still just a little nippy outside, but very springtime in Nevada. He said he was taking me home.” Christian gently tucks a stray hair behind my ear and brushes my cheek.
“I begged him to stop. I screamed, and I cried, and I begged him to stop… and when he was done, I was bleeding and crying in his back seat. He got mad and kicked me out of his jeep… in the middle of the desert. I could barely walk. It hurt so bad.” I can’t seem to find anymore tears. I’m just so angry now, so tired of being victimized. “I walked to the road and caught the bus home. I told Carla and Stephen what happened the moment that I hit the door. Carla made Stephen take me to the Whitmores to confront Cody…”
“I know this part,” he interrupts me.
“You do?” I ask, slightly horrified, but not really surprised.
“Yeah,” he says. “Morton told me. He told me why he didn’t believe you, too.” I laughed.
“Do you know that while we were driving home, he called me a ‘fast ass little girl?’ He told me that I should learn to stay out of the boys faces because none of them really wanted me when they had all of these ‘hot, rich girls to choose from.’ He told me that I was the one who was stupid because I ‘gave it up’ to a rich kid hoping that he would fall for me and when he didn’t, I accused him of rape. I had nothing else to say to Stephen Morton from that day on.
“But then I went to school the next day and that’s when the real fun started. They booby-trapped my locker, spread shit in my seat, threw things at me when I walked down the hall. I tried to tell the principal, but he was just like Stephen. He didn’t want to go up against the rich kids. That lasted for a few weeks… and then they beat me,” I say it so nonchalantly that it even surprises me. “When I awoke, there was nobody in the room. Not a doctor, not a nurse, not my parents… nobody. I didn’t know where I was. I didn’t know what had happened. I was just in this room, alone, and in excruciating pain… and nobody was there with me.” I drop my head again and Christian takes my hand tightly in his.
“I cried every night. I cried because the nightmares wouldn’t go away, because I couldn’t understand why my mother didn’t love me, why Stephen believed them over me… I kept thinking they were coming to get me. I kept thinking they would come to my hospital room and beat me in the bed. But you know what? They didn’t come. In fact, no one came. No teachers, no parents, no classmates, no one. Carla only showed up twice, Stephen only once. I wouldn’t even talk; there was nothing to say. I sat there looking out the window… day after day after day. Then one day, I opened my eyes… and Daddy was there. He told me that he was here to take me home and he wasn’t leaving without me. Ray stayed in that room for days, and every time I opened my eyes, there he was… watching me or sleeping with his head on my bed or watching sports on television. And when it was time for me to leave, Daddy took me home.
“When I escaped from that hell and I went to my dad, I immediately found Al, and all was right with the world again. I was starting over where everybody knew me and I was with my best friend and I. Was. Happy… and then they came and brought me back… brought me back to hell. I would have gladly kept quiet if they had just let me stay with Ray… but they brought me back… so that they could watch me suffer.” I look up at Christian. “There has to be more, Christian. I don’t know how much more, but there has to be more.” He nods at me.
“There will be more, Baby. I promise you that,” he says, sternly, and I nod.
I confirm for him that Wiseman, Yick, and Mulligan would have most likely taken part in the bonfire activities along with Vesta Evans and Simone Pallister. He mentions some names that I don’t recognize, but of course, that doesn’t mean that they had nothing to do with it. I also give him the names of Cody’s flunkies who were most certainly likely to have attended—Randall Marshall, Timothy Leahman, Joseph Kulp, and Blaine Nelson. I’m shocked when he tells me that he already knew about Everest Billings.
“Does he have something to do with the incident?” I ask.
“He says that he doesn’t, but of course they all would say that. His story is typical of someone on the outside looking in. I can read people pretty well. I read Sullivan in the first five minutes of our conversation. I knew he was dirty. Then the asshole took my police report and put it in his desk… like that was my only copy. Amateurs,” he says waving his hand in disgust. “Ana, these people are truly nothing. I’m not just saying that. If Whitmore is supposed to be the Big Man on Campus in this outfit, these people are very small-time. They’re deluded by their own power because they’re living in a fishbowl. But once the Big World confronts them, they’re small potatoes… very small,” he says.
“Then I know that me and my Big Fish are going to take care of things,” I say. He smiles devilishly at me.
“Damn straight,” he growls.
“I want to be kept in the loop. I want to know about everything,” I say.
“I’ll tell you everything, except… I reserve the right to withhold details if you’ll need plausible deniability.” Oh, I don’t like the sound of that, but since we haven’t decided on the levels of “more” yet…
“I agree for now, reserving the right for information later, depending on the situation, severity, and necessity,” I stipulate.
“Damn! You should come and work for me, too,” he says, and I chuckle.
“Agreed?” I ask.
“Agreed,” he replies.
“So, did you know that Sullivan’s little brother was involved in some way?” I ask. Christian sighs heavily.
“I figured it out while I was there,” he says.
“You told me,” he says. Now, I’m confused.
“I told you? How did I tell you? I didn’t even know myself until Friday,” I say. He stands and takes my hand.
“Come with me.” He leads me to his study and I sit in one of the chairs facing him. He reaches into a desk drawer and pulls out, of all things, a Green Valley High School yearbook from 2001! Get the fuck outta here! Who keeps these things? Is there nothing this man can’t get?
“Page 65,” he says. There’s actually a marker on the page. I open it to the S’s… and look into the face of my 15-year-old self… over 11 years ago. I giggle a bit.
“I look so goofy,” I say. I’m smiling, not a full-on sitting-on-top-of-the-world smile, but smiling… like a kid whose biggest worry is the math test on Friday. I remember that they took yearbook pictures at the very beginning of the year. They used those pictures for your yearly school ID. This picture was well before all the hell broke loose.
“I still don’t understand how I told you something,” I say.
“Well, while I’m gazing longingly at my beautiful girl at 15, my eyes started wandering over the page a bit. Look who’s next to you.” Sure as shit, there’s Vincent.
“But that could have been any Sullivan, Christian. How did you put it together?” I ask.
“He looks just like his brother,” Christian says as he types on his computer a bit.
“Really?” I don’t remember what George looks like per se but… My thoughts are interrupted when Christian turns the flat screen around and shows me a current picture of George. I look from Vincent to George and realize that Vincent could be a younger George and George could be an older Vincent.
“Holy. Cow. Batman,” I say. “Yeah, that resemblance is uncanny. He told me about his little brother when he came to the hospital to take my report. I often wondered why he kept saying Vince’s name. Now I know it was because he wanted to know if I had seen him at the bonfire.” I put the yearbook on the desk and fall silent.
“Butterfly?” Christian catches my attention, concerned.
“I want to see my pictures,” I say.
“What pictures?” he asks, bemused. “You mean…” He hesitates.
“I want to see the pictures of me… after the beating.” He falls back in his chair.
“Ana… are you sure?” he asks, his voice soft and uncertain. I nod without raising my head.
“Yes, I’m sure,” I respond. He sighs heavily and reaches into his desk drawer again and pulls out a manila envelope. He walks around to the front of the desk where I’m sitting and leans on the edge bending one leg slightly up on the side of the desk.
“I normally keep these at the office, but I took them with me to Nevada. Quite the coincidence that you would want to see them today,” he says, hesitant to give me the envelope.
“Maybe not a coincidence. Everything happens for a reason,” I say. He sighs again and gives me the envelope. I open it slowly, like a death sentence.
If you’re afraid to look at them, why did you ask to see them?
Because I need motivation. I need to see what he saw… what drove him to lie to me and manipulate me… so that he could protect me.
Well, then, hurry up and open the damn envelope and get it over and done.
I open the envelope and remove the pictures. I’m at first stunned into silence by what I see. I remember them beating me, mercilessly. I can hear them shouting and laughing, like it was a game. I smell the boys’ urine… I taste it in my mouth. I feel them spitting on me and kicking me… in my stomach… in my face. I gasp and sob for a moment as I relive the terror. Christian is on his knees in front of me in an instant, trying to take the pictures away, but I protest.
“No. No,” I say, looking at the second picture. It’s brutal. My body speaks of savagery, cruelty, and immeasurable violence. The young girl in these pictures looks nothing like the pale teenager in that yearbook… or the woman that looked back at me from the mirror last week… or even the woman who looks back at me today. This poor girl is nearly dead—black and blue and purple all over, her hair matted with blood and other bodily fluids… not one centimeter of her flawless pale white skin is visible anywhere. I nearly ask Christian if he’s sure that these are my pictures until I see the third photo… the picture of the burns.
“Oh!” I gasp and whimper as the pictures fall from my hands, which subsequently fly up to my chest and my mouth as I’m gasping for air. Christian has wrapped me in his arms and he’s holding me close to him as I’m panting through my tears. I clutch him around his shoulders and neck, driving my hands into his hair and pulling him close to me.
“I’m sorry. I’m sorry,” I say between breaths.
“Baby…?” he begins.
“I understand now. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have gotten angry…” I pant.
“No, I’m sorry. I should have talked to you…” he protests. The Bitch was right. To be so smart, I can really be stupid sometimes.
“Thank you, Christian. Thank you,” I say, still panting and trying to pull him into me.
“For what, baby?” he asks.
“For loving me… for making me feel beautiful… for calling me Butterfly. I swear, I won’t complain about these bruises, not one more second.” With these words, he pulls me out of the chair and cradles me in his arms on the floor.
“Oh, God, Ana, you are beautiful, and you’re so easy to love. Everyone loves you… but you chose me. My beautiful Butterfly, you chose me…” he says, rocking me gently, his voice cracking. I stay there, cradled in his arms as he crushes me to him. This little bruising that I see today is nothing compared to the bruising of that poor girl in those pictures… and that poor girl was me. I have no idea how she survived… how I survived… but I did. So, these little bumps are meaningless, but those pictures were the driving force behind Christian’s actions. I understand now… I completely understand now.
“You can’t keep anything from me, baby,” I say softly. “We’re a team now… remember?” He nods, his face buried in my neck.
“I remember,” he says, his muffled voice thick with emotion.
“Good,” I say, pushing my tears back so that I can sit up and look into his beautiful gray eyes—beautiful, longing gray eyes… oh, Christian.
I take his face in my hands and stroke his cheek with my thumbs. We’re both on our knees facing each other as I caress his face. His eyes never leave mine as he gazes at me with what I can only describe as wonder. His eyes droop and his hands rise and rest gently on my hips as I lean in, pulling his face to me to place tender kisses on his lips. His breath hitches as I kiss him, then brush his lips with mine.
“Open,” he whispers, and I part my lips to share the special kiss we’ve used over the past two days. My heart is so full, and I fight not to launch myself at him, to completely lose myself in him. I can feel my body trembling with the force of the emotion that I feel for him. I’ve never felt this way before in my life… for anyone… ever. I want to spend my life with this man. Should I tell him? Is it too soon? He’ll surely think I’m crazy. Hell, I think I’m crazy!
Just enjoy it, Ana. You know that he loves you. You know that he’ll do anything for you. Relax in the moment. Let it take its own course. The time will come when it won’t seem so crazy. But for right now, just love him back.
That, I can do.
A/N: So now Ana and Christian are on the same page with Green Valley. I hope I answered a few lingering questions with Ana and Christian’s talk. I know that there are still some more out there. Feel free to ask and I will try to answer without spoilers! What do you think should happen to the inhabitants of this “little pond” and their “Big Man on Campus?”
Next chapter, our couple “wrap up some loose ends” and get ready for a wonderful trip to the islands!
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