I do not own Fifty Shades Trilogy or the characters. They belong to E. L. James. I am only exercising my right to exploit, abuse, and mangle the characters to MY discretion in MY story in MY interpretation as a fan. I hope you—as a fellow fan—enjoy it, too.
Chapter 25—Hopin’ and Wishin’ and Thinkin’ and Prayin’
Why would they taint something as beautiful and joyous as my engagement with the shit that those fuckers did to me in Green Valley? These heartless, cruel, bastards… why? In related news my ass! How does my getting engaged have anything to do with these fuckers damn near killing me when I was a teenager? It took them two weeks after I returned from Green Valley to even get word in Seattle that I had identified the people who attacked me. Yet, it took two days for those assholes to link that story to my engagement—a story that broke just over 12 hours ago. I’m so angry, I can’t even think straight.
Christian puts his arms around me and pulls me in to his chest. I know that everyone thinks that I should be happy that these monsters are being arrested—and they’re right. I should be happy, but not today… any day but today…
I feel like I just can’t seem to catch a break. I make up my mind that I’m going to live life to the fullest, and things just keep happening to try to knock me down—David’s insanity plea might fly; Christian has to deal with the pictures from the Pedo-Bitch. I have taken everything on the chin—Green Valley, a new psychiatrist, crazy blonde bitches that want to kick my ass for no reason—and the shit just keeps on coming! How the fuck much more can one person take!?
“Ana… don’t cry…”
That is a voice that I don’t recognize. I look up to see who it is, and everyone is staring at… Selena! What the hell? Am I in an alternate universe? She’s been treating me like shit since Friday, and now… Ignoring everyone’s stares, she continues to speak.
“It’s a really shitty thing that happened to you. I had no idea… I…” She sighs heavily. “Don’t let those fuckers ruin your day. Have a glass of wine and some tiramisu and enjoy your day. Fuck ’em!”
I am stunned… again! Who is this woman and what has she done with the catty witch that has plagued the wedding for the last two days?
“I know, I know, I’ve been a bitch all weekend, but I…” she keeps cutting off her sentence and, as a psychologist, I know there’s something that she’s not saying. “This is different. Don’t let them ruin your day. Celebrate. The sons of bitches were arrested. This is a good thing. Consider it an engagement present.”
Good God, she is so right. What the fuck was I thinking? Get it together, Steele. This is what you wanted.
“Good grief, you’re right,” I say through my tears. “What the hell is wrong with me? This is definitely a reason to celebrate. Why the hell am I sitting here crying?”
“It’s your first reaction, Honey,” Maxie says. “I would have preferred that they didn’t announce it right next to the engagement as well, but we have to take it as it comes—accept the good with the bad and celebrate the triumphs… and this is a triumph, Ana. The timing is terrible, but it’s still a triumph.” I take a deep breath and nod. I really need to pull it together. I look over to Selena who is still looking at me.
“Thank you,” I say to her, sincerely. She smiles a half-smile and nods. Whoda thunk she’d be the one to pull me out of my funk… but there’s a story there.
We sort of get the brunch back on track, but we can’t avoid the elephant in the room. There are about eight people who have no idea what happened to me. I simply revealed that I was brutally beaten as a teenager to be made an example of by the rich kids. I was in a coma for three weeks and my unborn baby was killed. I left out the part about being raped and my crazy mother and her drunken, greedy husband, and tell them that I didn’t want to say anymore about it, and we left it at that. However, very shortly after I told my story, Selena excuses herself from the table to go to the ladies’ room. Maxie stood to follow her, but I gestured for Maxie to stay in her seat and went in search of Selena.
She was in the ladies’ room, arms folded, leaning against the sink when I came in. I didn’t even know how to approach her, so she put me out of my misery.
“We all have a story,” she says, “Some open case, unsolved mystery, or dirty little family secret.” She turns around to face the mirror and check her makeup. “The baby—a surprise?” I try not to glare at her.
“You could say that,” I answer, giving her nothing.
“Yeah, that’s usually the case. They can’t take no for an answer.” She looks at me in the mirror. I don’t know what to say. “I told you, we all have a story.”
Good grief, am I wearing mine on my forehead? “How could you possibly know?” She laughs nervously.
“I’m an excellent judge of people. I knew that Christian was going to ask you to marry him. It was written all over his face. I didn’t know when, but I knew that it was coming. There may have been some spite in my question, but I was genuine in asking, because I knew it was coming.”
“Okay, but… why be spiteful?” I ask. Her shoulders drop.
“People are drawn to you. I can see it. People like me hate people like you, until we find out that in many ways, we are the same person. We just went to different extremes.” She drops her head. “That man would kill for you. Gregory would kill for me. They’re protectors. They are inherently drawn to people like us, but for different reasons. Gregory wants to save me because I’m broken. Christian wants to save you because you mean the world to him. Anyone can see it. If he could keep dust from falling on you, he would.” I just stare at her.
“Why do you say that you’re broken?” I ask, the doctor in me coming out.
“Because I am, Dear. No doubt about it, no questions asks—I’m shattered with no hope of repair,” she laments. I frown.
“Did a professional bring you to this conclusion?” I ask, horrified. She laughs a disbelieving squeaky laugh. I would really like to know what quack led her to believe that she was irreparable. When my expression doesn’t change, her face falls.
“You don’t know, do you?” she asks. Know what, my head and apparently my expression screamed. “I am a professional,” she declares, “or was, I should say. I’m a failed psychologist.”
Oh good Lord! So she’s the quack that lead herself to believe that she was irreparable.
“No offense, but if you are a failed psychologist, don’t you think you should get a second opinion about your situation?” I ask.
“No second opinion necessary—I’m hopeless,” she answers, matter-of-factly.
“No one is hopeless, Selena…”
“I’m hopeless!” she interrupts me. “I can’t forgive, I can’t let go, and I can’t heal! The anger has festered in me and it’s taking over. I know that I’m a bitch and there’s nothing I can do about it. I have a wonderful man who loves me and I’m going to lose him because I can’t fix this. I don’t even know why Maxine is still my friend. I’ve tried everything, Ana, believe me. There’s just too much hate and anger inside of me. Every time I think I’m overcoming it, it just comes back.” She sighs heavily. “I know you’re a doctor, and from what I can see, you’re a really good person—but I know my faults. I know my issues, I know my shortcomings, and I know my downfalls… and some people just can’t be fixed.”
The sadness in her face is utterly heartbreaking. I refuse to believe that people can’t be fixed, but when you are faced with someone who has given up, you can’t force them to be hopeful again. I squeeze her hand and nod.
“If you ever need to talk…” the words trail off. She smiles sadly at me.
“I appreciate it, but I won’t.” She squeezes back and leaves the ladies room. I just sigh, check my not-so-puffy eyes again, and walk out. Christian is leaning against the wall across the hall from the restroom when I emerge.
“Are you okay?” he asks, approaching me slowly. I sigh.
“Yeah, I’m fine.” I look down the hall at Selena’s retreating form. “She’s not, though. She’s got some huge, ginormous Space-Needle-sized monsters under her bed. I don’t know how she copes from day-to-day.” She is so unhappy. I don’t think I could survive it.
“I bet you never expected words of wisdom to come from that direction, did you?”
“Not from what I’ve seen!” I say. “You never know somebody’s story.”
We are attempting to check out of the hotel and get back to our respective destinations when it is quite clear that there is no way that we are going to get past the paparazzi. Christian has called in more security in an attempt to get everyone out unscathed, but this is one time that the press will not be denied. They are at all exits and relentlessly harassing all guests as they leave in the off-chance that they might have been at the wedding last night. I am personally sick of this damn three-ring circus and I just want to go home and get ready for my workday tomorrow—and maybe pick out some colors for my own damn wedding!
Various members of the security team are in a pow-wow with Christian and the men from the Scooby Gang, discussing the best way to handle the situation. I feel like that day that we left the hospital after I was kidnapped. I’m surprised there are no “black and whites” outside trying to aid in our escape. God, I am so sick of this shit! I’m looking at the mob of paparazzi just outside to front door, and I am certain that there is no way in the world that we are going to get through them. They were clamoring for a statement about Green Valley at Maxie’s shower and now the news has broken that we are engaged. Christian may have the market cornered on avoiding the press, but in my small amount of time in the limelight, I have dealt with them quite well.
I close my gray cashmere floor-length maxi coat and put on my large sunglasses. Looking and feeling very “Jackie O,” I call out to Chuck once and proceed towards the door. I ignore Christian’s warning calls to me and stride purposefully out to meet the press. I understand that this cannot be done all of the time, but I refuse to be held hostage by these people—much less to impose that fate upon an entire hotel full of guests. Chuck barely catches up to me as I burst through the doors, plastering on my prettiest smile. A few moments later, Christian is behind us, but I have already turned on the charm.
“Now, you guys know how this goes. I can’t hear everyone talking all at once,” I announce sweetly.
“Is the rumor true, Ana? Are you engaged?” One reporter yells. I hold up my hand flashing my ring and the cameras go wild.
“What are the details of the ring?” Another reporter asks. Christian told me everything about my ring, but my mind is drawing a blank.
“Although Mr. Grey did tell me the details of my ring, I was a bit stunned as he was explaining it. So I am afraid that you will have to ask him,” I say shyly.
“Christian,” a female reporter oozes, of course a little too friendly, “tell us about the ring.” Christian looks like he would rather be anywhere but here right now and is obviously uncomfortable as he walks behind me and slides his arm around my waist.
“The ring is 3.2 total carats in a platinum setting,” he says flatly.
“…And who was the lucky jeweler?” she coos.
“Cartier and James Allen,” Christian replies. She looks confused.
“Which one?” she asks again.
“Both,” he says, a man of a few words—well, at least right now anyway. She still looks at him expecting, like she can’t fathom that two high-end and very particular jewelers might have worked on one piece. I put my left hand lovingly on Christian’s arm, purposely flashing the ring against his burgundy full-length wool coat causing a rash of camera flashes again.
“The ring is a collaboration,” I reply to her. “The band is… James Allen?” I look up at Christian questioning and he nods. I turn back to the reporter. “The stone is princess-cut from Cartier.” After a short, moment of silence, the dreaded topics follow.
“Ana, how do you feel about the arrests in Green Valley?” This came from a male reporter off to the right. I steady myself.
“I’m undecided right now,” I reply. “I feel partly vindicated and partly sad. I just don’t want to keep reliving the incident. It was a very traumatic time for me.”
“Is there anything that you can tell us about it?” someone else blurts out.
“Unfortunately, no. It’s once again an open case and I’m not allowed to discuss it.”
“What about your mother?” someone yells from the back and I freeze. I wasn’t ready for that question and my mind goes in several different directions. What do I say about Carla? None of this is about her—except the money. Since that is part of the case…
“I’m afraid that I can’t discuss her, either,” I respond.
“Why not?” Another reporter blurts out, this one is female.
“As I said, it’s an open case,” I try to divert the question.
“What does your mother have to do with the case?” She presses. I glare at her.
“I’m sorry. Is there something unclear about my saying that this is an open case and I can’t discuss it?”
“Okay, allow me to rephrase. Why aren’t you and your mother speaking?” Motherfuck! That bitch has been talking to the fucking press!
“Okay, allow me to rephrase. It has a lot to do with this open case that I can’t discuss,” I nearly hiss. She shrugs and smirks at me. She’s not backing down.
“I’m just trying to figure out how you can turn your back on your own mother. After all, you only get one mother and she seems to think that it has something to do with you now dating a billionaire. I know that I could never turn my back on my mother no matter how bad the situation,” she adds smugly. This. Fucking. Bitch! How fucking dare her even attempt to put herself in my shoes and she knows absolutely nothing about me! Noting the immediate tension in my body, Christian squeezes my hand.
“Ms…” Christian begins, waiting for the reporter to respond.
“Coffman, Mr. Grey. Hillary Coffman,” she says sweetly, apparently unaware that she is, no doubt, headed for gallows. Christian detests the press and he is about to address you directly. You should be afraid.
“Ms. Coffman, yes, I’ll remember that.” He pulls me closer to him. “You are obviously trying to elicit a reaction from my fiancée, but—lucky you—you have elicited a reaction from me.” His words are menacing and Ms. Coffman shrinks a bit as the crowd of reporters falls silent. “No doubt, you are at least loosely aware of the facts surrounding the case in Green Valley, yes?” He awaits her response.
“Yes, I am. I mean, who doesn’t know about this story?” She is trying to get some support from fellow reporters around her, but still doesn’t seem to understand that she is about to become the story as no sound follows her question other than the cold Seattle wind.
“Indeed,” Christian says. “Bearing that in mind, Ms. Steele has repeatedly told you that she cannot discuss the estrangement from her mother as it somehow relates to the case—she has made that abundantly clear, correct?” Ms. Coffman sighs as he points this out.
“Yes, but I was just…” He puts his hand up, silencing her.
“As we have established those two vital points and connected them, I must ask if you are completely stupid or just unreasonably arrogant that you don’t understand why this woman and her mother are not speaking. Even loosely knowing about this case, all the press ever says about it is ‘brutal beating’ and ‘murder.’ Repeatedly, that’s all you hear is ‘brutal beating’ and ‘murder.’ Without revealing anything about the case, if there is any relation whatsoever to this case and Ms. Steele’s mother, where is the confusion about their estrangement? Might I add that no matter what conclusions you draw from the facts or any conjecture about the details, if you can actually stand there and say that you can hold no ill will against your mother under similar circumstances, then either we are in the presence of the most recent candidate for sainthood or you are lying through your veneers. Since I see no representative present from the Vatican, I would say that sainthood is most likely out of the question!” Game. Point. Match.
I can’t help but smile at my fiancé as the cameras madly flash in Ms. Coffman’s direction. It looks like Christian has just landed his first sacrificial lamb. I squeeze his hand to bring him back to me as he is scowling at Ms. Coffman who is now trying to disappear into the crowd of reporters. He turns his eyes to me and his expression softens immediately. “Are you okay?” he says softly.
“I love you,” I whisper to him, and he smiles that full-on smile that I love so much. He pulls my hand to his lips and plants a gentle kiss on my fingers. I turn back to the reporter.
“Ms. Coffman, I’ll answer your question,” I say, standing up straighter, and the crowd silences again. “My mother was not a mother when I needed her. At one of the very worst moments of my life, she left me—as a broken child—to fend for myself. She has never looked out for my well-being, putting the safety of her own child in the back seat while pursuing her own self-interests. If you can endure what I have endured while your mother stood by and watched and come out of it unscathed, then my fiancé is right. You are a candidate for sainthood and I’ve never met one personally, but there’s a first time for everything. I, on the other hand, must be the most selfish child in the world, because I will be getting a restraining order and requesting a gag order against her until this case is over.”
“If I may, Ana?” One of the reporters up front, another female, asks. “Feel free to tell me to shut up—but your mother indicates that you ran away from home as a teenager and she didn’t know where you were until 11 years later when you were hospitalized after the kidnapping, at which time you shunned her when she tried to see you. She says that your boyfriend, his bodyguards, and your stepfather Raymond Steele, all prevented her from seeing you. Do you… care to elaborate?” She asks the question very cautiously. I understand her trepidation.
“What, did this woman have a press conference?” I ask, my voice squeaking.
“Actually, yes,” another reporter answers. My head whips around to Christian.
“How did we not know this!?” I ask him.
“It hasn’t made it to Seattle, yet,” the female reporter responds. Oh, yes… I forgot about the reporters’ “wire.” I rub my forehead.
“Butterfly?” Christian says softly. I put my hand up.
“I’m fine,” I respond before raising my head.
“Of course, Mrs. Morton left a lot out of that story and I can’t elaborate much until after the trial. When the facts come out, anyone who believes that woman is going to be horrendously embarrassed, so I will just say ‘proceed with caution.’ I did, in fact, leave home the moment that I graduated from high school and I was still a teenager since teenagers graduate from high school. I had no wish to look back at that place or her ever again in my life, so no, I hadn’t seen her in 11 years. Yes, she did show up at the hospital after I was kidnapped and I had no wish to see her then, either. At my request, my fiancé and our bodyguards made sure that she and the late Mr. Morton were escorted from the hospital without incident while my father…” I stress that word very hard, “Raymond Steele, escorted me back to my room.” I sigh heavily before continuing. “Pass the word that I will not answer anymore questions about my mother from this point on. My answer to any questions about the Mortons will be ‘no comment’ or ‘next question’ or I will ignore them completely, and Ms. Coffman, enjoy sainthood.”
I turn from the crowd of reporters effectively indicating that the ‘press conference’ is over. Christian and Chuck rush me to the waiting Audi while some reporters continue to shout questions at me. I turn around before I enter the car.
“I thank you all for your time. Unfortunately, you want to know more about Carla Morton than I am willing or able to share at this time. So, I and my fiancé are going home to begin our wedding plans. Have a good day.” I duck into the SUV and hold my head down until we have cleared the driveway of the hotel and are headed down Clarion Point towards Lakeview Drive. I release a huge sigh and cover my face with both of my hands. “Did everybody get out of the hotel?” I ask. I hear no sound, so I raise my head to see Jason nodding and Christian looking bemused.
“That’s what this was about?” he asks. I don’t respond. “You were creating a diversion.” I finally nod. “One of these days, you are going to realize that there are other solutions to problems besides throwing yourself to the wolves.” I look up at him.
“I wasn’t throwing myself to the wolves, Christian. This is never going to end, don’t you see that? It’s either Green Valley or our engagement or Elena or Edward David, and now it’s Carla—and this bitch is talking to the press now, like she’s a victim!” I drop my head. “Can I do that, Christian? Can I get a gag order and make her shut the fuck up?” He puts his hand on my back.
“I don’t know, Butterfly. Gag orders usually apply to things that specifically have to do with the case.”
“We don’t have a relationship because she watched me suffer while her and her drunken husband spent $750,000 that they received as hush money to keep me from talking about the beating. By talking about our lack of relationship, she’s talking about the case,” I point out.
“Butterfly, you are stretching the law to the very end of its limits and I’m not sure that a judge is going to be willing to stretch it with you,” he cautions. I’m beginning to regret that I opened this can of worms at all. Ironically, Friday’s session with Ace was mostly about Carla. It was very repetitive—I hate her, that is all. There was nothing else to discuss. There is no hope that I will ever forgive her, and though I am not completely hopeless like Selena feels that she is, that is a hurdle that I think I will never be able to clear nor to I have any desire to do so.
Although Ace thinks that I will not be able to fully heal until I forgive her, she is an open, seeping, highly infectious wound that has been left untended for 11 years. The shrink in me knows that it can’t heal unless I deal with it, but my anger at her callousness and betrayal runs too deep for me to even consider it. She’s not even remorseful for her role in my suffering. Her bastard, drunkard, selfish husband is dead and, at the risk of being alone for the rest of her life, she still feels no remorse. She still blames me, and now Christian and Daddy, for the state of our relationship, but she has yet to take any of the responsibility herself. Where could she possibly think that she has any place in my life?
“I want wedding books,” I say without raising my head.
“Huh?” Christian says. I know the request came out of nowhere, but I meant what I said weeks ago. I want to live—not exist, live. I feel like shit right now, and I can’t keep feeling this way so I want to start planning my wedding.
“Wedding books, I want wedding books. I want to decide on our colors before the day is out and I want to plan my wedding,” I say.
“Butterfly, we can hire a wedding planner to do all that. You’ve only just finished planning Maxine’s wedding…” My eyes shoot up at him and they feel as if they are burning.
“I want wedding books!” I announce and I sound like a petulant child even to myself. Dammit!
“Okay. We’ll get wedding books,” he relents, and I drop my head in my hands again.
“I want wedding books!” she declares loudly and she is glaring at me, her eyes are glassy and she is on the brink of tears and I realize that she needs something—immediately—to take her mind off all the bad shit that’s going on right now.
“Okay. We’ll get wedding books,” I say softly. She nods… I think… and then her face is in her hands. She breathes a strangled sob and I pull her as close to me as our seatbelts will allow.
“Don’t cry, Butterfly,” I soothe her.
“I’m not crying,” she says raising her face to mine. “I’m so tired of crying. I hate it. I can’t cry anymore.” Oh, my love, there are no tears coming out of your eyes, but you are crying. Your chest is heaving and you voice is breaking and squeaking. I gently stroke her hair and whisper in her ear.
“Let it out, Baby.” She shakes her head belligerently but doesn’t remove her hands from her face. I release her seatbelt and my own and pull her into my lap. Jason nods at me as he knows that I am never in a moving car without a seatbelt. I brush my lips gently against Butterfly’s cheek and I feel the tension slowly leave her body.
“Let it out,” I coax her again, pressing gentle kisses on her temple and her cheeks.
“No!” she wails, her voice muffled. I stroke my fingers through her hair, massaging her scalp while I wrap my other arm protectively around her. I’ve got you, Butterfly. It’s okay. I remove her hand from her face and gently kiss her palm. Her other hand drops to my chest and she looks into my eyes. She looks so pained and lost. I hate seeing her this way. I gently cup her cheek, my eyes silently begging…
Let it out, Baby… please…
My wordless urging has broken through her defenses and a deeply pained gasping sob escapes her chest. She clutches me around my neck tightly as her body is wracked with what appears to be painful sobs. She is shaking uncontrollably as she weeps and I hold her close, trying to protect her from all the monsters that were released at that impromptu press conference. I almost want to call Avery as I know this situation will get worse before it gets better.
There will be speculation about our engagement and Butterfly’s intention, even though we have made it abundantly clear that this is the real deal. We don’t know when any of the trials that we are supposed to attend will be coming up, with the exception of David’s trial, which is supposed to start in June—the same month that we have opted to marry. The Pedophile’s case is about to burst wide open and we have heard nothing from her since Butterfly bumped into her in the Marketplace sometime last month. I want to believe that she finally gets it and has given up, but I know better. We have the whole “Faces of Abuse” idea to work out and now, with the main defendants of the Green Valley case in custody, that situation is going to pick up speed as well.
Butterfly definitely needs a distraction, and the wedding books are sounding better and better.
What should have been about a 20-minute drive took more like 45 minutes as Jason was driving extremely carefully to appease me as well as allowing Butterfly to get her cry out. After a while, she was finally able to calm down and we made our way to Barnes & Noble downtown. I’m determined to make this fun for her and not clinical and businesslike. I dare not agree with her when she declares that she knows that she looks a fright after crying for long. I simply release her to go to the ladies room to wash her face and reapply her makeup.
I have Jason ask where the wedding section is as I don’t want to be ogled or mobbed today, not that there is ever a good time for that sort of thing. The store is enormous, and the wedding section is more daunting than I could even imagine. There are books and magazines and bags and planners and… I wouldn’t even know where to start. I am horrendously out of my element here. I thought we would just hire someone to take care of the details. I should have known that Butterfly would want to be hands-on with planning our day after spending the last several months planning the weddings of her father and of one of her dearest friends.
I walk over to the newsstand and pick up one of the many wedding magazines there. As I stand there mindlessly thumbing through it, I realize that I might as well be reading the encyclopedia on the mating habits of slugs with the amount of knowledge that I have about what is in front of me.
“I’m getting married,” I say into the air, knowing that Jason is close-by.
“Yes, Sir,” he replies from behind me.
“This is going to be a circus,” I lament.
“Maybe, maybe not,” Jason says. “Her Highness is a very sensible woman. Maybe it won’t be as much fanfare as you think.” I feel her before I see her. She is floating towards me, fresh-faced like she hadn’t been crying her eyes out in the car not 10 minutes ago.
“Better?” I ask.
“A little,” she responds. “What are you looking at?” She turns her attention to the magazine in my hands.
“Nothing really, it’s more looking at me,” I say, and that breaks the tension a bit. She sighs heavily.
“Well, we have to get our ‘save the date’ cards out immediately, but we can’t do that until we pick our colors and decide who we are inviting and where the wedding and the reception are going to be.” I shrug.
“I have no idea,” I look at her expecting.
“This has to be a collaboration, Christian. I don’t want to do this alone. This is our wedding—it has to be part of both of us.”
“Okay, well let’s start by saying that whatever groomsmen that I choose will not be wearing those goofy suits that I saw in Maxine and Phil’s wedding. They will be wearing formal black tuxedos. Their accessories can be whatever color we choose, but even though they kind of worked out, those tuxedos were hideous. Whoever can’t afford a Brioni or a Caraceni or an Armani, I will buy them one myself!” I declare. Butterfly releases a heartfelt laugh and it does wonders for my soul.
“Deal!” she says, still chuckling as she takes a magazine from the shelf. “Colors.”
I groan. I have no idea what colors we should have at our wedding. I’m a dark colors kind of guy, but when it comes to weddings, I know that black and black are not an option.
“I don’t know, Butterfly. You choose the colors,” I say. She shakes her head.
“Both of us, Christian. I will not be pairing eggshell with canary yellow and you tell me later that it was a bad idea… not that I ever would,” she says with a shudder.
“Okay, well, when I think weddings, I think white…”
“No white! That can’t be one of the colors. It’s going to be somewhere anyway just like black. Think bigger, more creative, Mr. CEO,” she scolds gently. Back to square one…
“What if I want a color and you want a color and our colors completely clash?” She sighs.
“Then we pick other colors. Let’s do this. Besides white and black—and eggshell and canary yellow…” she shudders again, “we will both just call out the first colors that come to mind and work from there.” I nod.
“Okay, on the count of three… one… two… three…”
“Silver,” I declare.
“Blue,” Butterfly indicates. We both contemplate the colors.
“Not shiny silver,” I specify.
“Not baby blue or Tiffany,” she clarifies.
“Matte silver? Satiny and elegant?” I add trepidatiously.
“Royal blue? Deep and regal?” she questions just as cautiously. We each wait for the other’s reaction and a small smile grows on her face.
“Wow, that was easy,” she says incredulously.
“Yeah,” I reply, surprised. “It’s not going to all be like that, though, is it?” She shakes her head.
“Don’t count on it, Grey. During the course of the planning, we are going to call this wedding off at least once,” she announces. I almost laugh.
“Don’t count on it, Steele,” I warn. She shrugs.
“We’ll see,” she says as she grabs more magazines and books than her arms can carry. I gesture to Jason who gets one of those little hand baskets, but she has soon filled two of those as well.
“How many people do you want to invite?” she asks as she is filling her third basket. Jason has opted to just take the baskets to the counter and bring them back empty for Butterfly to fill again.
“I don’t know. I guess I should ask my parents. I don’t have many friends besides the ones that you have introduced me to, you know… and Flynn.” Ugh, should I bring that up now? She freezes and looks up at me.
“Yes, I suppose he is your friend,” she relents and continues to pull items from shelves. She thumbs through one book and puts it back on the shelf. That’s the first one that she has put back on the shelf since we’ve been in the store. “It’s going to be a very busy few months,” she says, quickly changing the subject. “We’ve got to get this planning done and we have so many other things going on in our lives. We have to make sure that we make time for ourselves, not just sex, Christian. Real time for you and me to do anything or nothing, or we will certainly get lost in everything that’s going on.”
“Okay, should we decide now what time will definitely be set aside for us, that is in addition to whatever time that we stumble upon,” I suggest.
“That’s a good idea. One weekday and one weekend day?” she says. I shrug.
“The weekday could be a little hard. You know how things go at GEH. Can we do the weekend day definitely and the weekday tentatively?” She nods.
“Fair enough. Sunday seems to have worked out well for both of us lately.”
“I agree. Why don’t we make our tentative day Wednesday?” She nods again.
“That’s a good idea, the beginning and the middle of the week…”
Walking through Barnes & Noble, we managed to get a schedule together for the next three weeks, plan a couple of meetings with our families to discuss wedding plans, warn Ray that Carla had spoken to the press and to prepare himself for the fallout, touch bases with Allen about upcoming legal dates and the feasibility of getting a gag order against Mini-Morton, get tagged at Barnes & Noble on the unofficial “AnaChris” Facebook page three times, and decide that we wanted a local royal blue and silver wedding with a yet-to-be-numbered amount of guests. We leave the store with only a few paps flashing pictures.
Getting into Escala is a different story.
The paparazzi have the front of the building blocked and we aren’t even able to get into the parking garage.
“Oh, this is ridiculous!” Butterfly says. “We shouldn’t have to go through this everywhere we go. Do they really take this much joy in someone else’s calamity?”
“We were just spotted at the bookstore shopping for wedding books, Baby,” I remind her. She sighs.
“Nonetheless… can we get into our own home, please?” she whines. Davenport gets out of the car along with Lawrence from the other SUV.
“You are blocking private property. Get the fuck out of the way before you are all arrested! Anybody within the sound of my voice that doesn’t move and let these people into their homes will not be able to get within 1000 feet of ‘AnaChris’ after today!” Davenport yells.
“You can’t do that!” I hear one guy yell. Davenport takes a picture of him with his phone.
“Wanna try me?” he challenges. Not willing to take the chance of being eliminated from the hope of getting the money shot, the sea of reporters parts and let us in.
“Thank you for your cooperation,” I hear Davenport say sarcastically before getting back into the car. Like I said, he’s worth his weight in gold.
“Wow, Chuck. Impressive!” Butterfly says as Jason parks the car.
“Thank you, Your Highness,” he winks at her and I am never going to be comfortable with their level of familiarity.
We are sitting at the dining table eating what’s left of the finger food that we had prepared for the first meeting of our families. However, we chose to do it over Google hangouts instead since it was murder for me and Butterfly to get into Escala. We didn’t want to subject our family to that debacle. We discussed the possible guest list and venues for the wedding as well as security risks and the fact that the paparazzi will be an ever-present force in our lives for the next few months. They will be trying to get tidbits on the trial and the wedding, so we can all look forward to very little peace in the near future.
Butterfly is typing away at her laptop and marking things down in this planner binder-portfolio that she bought and I am scrolling through this site that she directed me to. It’s all Greek to me, but I wanted her to explain something to me.
“Butterfly, what exactly is this?” I ask. She types a little more into her laptop before taking the seat next to me and looking at my screen.
“What is what?” she asks expecting.
“All this,” I gesture to the screen.
“All of this?” she asks and I nod. “Um, this is the packet that goes out with the invitations. Some people send this out separately…” She’s explaining the contents of the packet to me when her smell hits my nose and sends a shock straight to Greystone. Fuck! It’s almost too much to bear.
I really want to know what she is talking about, so I try to pay attention to what she is saying. I close the space between us and put my arm around the back of her chair and lean in while she explains about RSVP’s and registries and save-the-date cards.
“What exactly would we need to register for, Butterfly?” I ask, trying not to betray the intense longing inside of me. I think I failed as I hear her sharp intake of air next to me.
“Um…” she breathes heavily and collects herself, “we would actually go into the various locations and pick things that we think we might want… like our… first China patterns…” she says, trying to ignore my breath on her shoulders. She smells divine. She feels divine. I push her hair away from her shoulder and kiss her neck and then her earlobe.
“It’s Sunday,” she says wistfully, closing her eyes.
“Our day,” I breathe against her flawless skin. Well, it’s night now.
“Not always sex, Christian,” she says, her chest rising and falling heavily.
“No, not always,” I kiss her cheek softly as I caress her back through her shirt. “But how can I possibly be in the room with you and not want to touch you?” My words ignite something in her and she turns to face me, her eyes filled with lust… or love… or longing… something. I feel like my chest is going to collapse just looking at her. Good grief!
She grabs my face and her lips crash into mine, hungrily and salaciously kissing me. It is everything that I can do not to rip her clothes off right here and now and take her in the middle of the dining table.
Apparently, she had a similar idea.
Without removing her lips from mine, she has stood from her chair and is wiggling out of her panties. She straddles my lap and feverishly—but effectively—loosens my belt, unzips my fly, and releases Greystone from his prison in my pants. Damn, she’s fast. I don’t even have time to protest as she lifts her skirt and positions herself over my erection. She slides slowly down onto me and I gasp at how tight and wet she is! Hell, what is this? She moans a high-pitched, almost painful cry and I look at her, concerned.
“Baby?” I squeeze out from the pleasure I feel in my loins and the aching I feel in my chest. Oh, Lord, this is so intense.
“You feel… so good…” she breathes. I can tell that she is fighting as much as I am to control the moment, what she’s feeling, but I can’t. It’s too much and I feel it everywhere… everywhere! I wrap my arms around the beautiful woman and let her love me, rocking my hips into her and she descends upon me, passionate moans escaping her lips with each grind.
“Ooooooohhh,” she moans again, her cry an almost mournful weep. Her hands are on my shoulders, steadying her as she rides me before she moves her hands to my hair and holds me in place while she brings her lips to mine again.
“Yes!” she breathes as she possesses me, loves me deeply and heavily. “We fit… we fit perfectly,” she nearly hisses, and a tear falls from her cheek to mine. Yes, Baby, we fit so perfectly. I groan from my chest and resist the urge to hold her tight and slam myself deeply into her to feel her surround me completely. As if she read my thoughts, she drops down onto me hard and deep and just stays there for a moment. I groan loudly in ecstasy as she repeats the motion, pulling my head back so that I am looking up at her, my lips slack and barely pulling in air.
“Mine,” she whispers as her tongue and lips explore my neck, her tears still falling onto me. I feel my release building inside me as she controls this moment between us.
“Love me…” I whisper, and she grinds hard and deliberately into me. “Aah!” I cry out at the friction and the pleasure. God, what she does to me, I couldn’t control it if I wanted to. “Love me, please,” I whisper again, wanting her to consume me, to take complete advantage of me and make my body sing from the inside out. My words once again spur her on and she grinds into me again. I am panting now and I feel like my body is going to explode. I close my eyes and feel her—her luscious body moving in my arms, her thighs rubbing against mine and the unwelcome barrier of my pants between us, her hips grinding into me as her core extracts delicious torment and pleasure from my throbbing member.
“Baby…” she moans as I feel her start to tighten around me. She is moving purposefully on top of me and I am making no effort to hold back the pleasure that I feel, both physically and emotionally. It’s taking me over, consuming me as she loves me, giving as much as she is taking. She has me in her spell and I can barely breathe, hardly think, and definitely cannot move. I am hers, all hers…
“Oh God, Ana,” I groan. My chest is heavy and it feels like it will cave in with all the emotion that I am feeling right now. I am connected to her in my soul and it aches, mourning that we are not one person and that at some point our bodies must separate. “I love you,” I groan into her neck. “I love you so much.”
At that moment, she sobs deeply as her body erupts in a powerful orgasm. She freezes around me as she weeps out her release, one arm wrapped around my back while the other hand buried in my hair. I grind into her a few more times as my own climax begins, burning and searing through me and binding me to her.
“Oooohohoho my God…” I groan, my eyes closed tightly and focusing on the part of me buried deep inside of her and pulsating wildly and relentlessly as I hold her close to me and she breathes out her sobs. I am breathless as I hold her to me and bury my face in her neck.
“Ana… my love…” I breathe, “I am lost without you. You are everything to me.” I will her to feel what I feel at this moment. I brush my lips against her shoulder and try to transfuse my strength into her. I would die for her… I would honestly die for her…
“Christian… hold me. Please, don’t ever leave me. Don’t ever let me go,” she says, softly. “I will love you forever.”
Her words are a symphony to my war-torn spirit. She makes me whole. I couldn’t survive without her now that she is part of my life… part of me.
“Never, my love,” I cradle her body as she cradles mine. “Never.”
“Anakins, I love you, but this is Christian Grey’s wedding—billionaire bachelor Christian Grey that no one thought would ever settle down. Women all over the country—maybe even the world—will be vicariously walking down the aisle to your man on your wedding day. This event can be nothing less than absolutely spectacular.” Oh, hell. I see that look in her eyes and I’ve seen it many times. Mia is about to go batshit crazy. We are all sitting around the dining table—in person this time—on a rainy Monday night, talking about just how spectacular we actually want this wedding to be. The entire family is here—both sides, including Valerie and Ethan as part of the extended family so to speak, and of course, Ray and Amanda.
“Mia, you are in charge of decorating and that’s it, and I will tell you what I want,” Butterfly says with finality. “Other than that, I will hire a wedding planner and I will tell them what I want. They will give me what I want and anyone who doesn’t give me what I want will be fired. I want this to be a classy, elegant, sophisticated party of the century, and we have to pull it off in approximately four months. For that reason, we will not have unicorns and trained dragons flying over mine and billionaire bachelor Christian Grey’s wedding. Part of me is thinking ‘destination wedding,’ but I don’t want anything cliché. There will be no getting married on the beach, although I am not adverse to a tropical climate. We won’t be getting married on a cruise… way too cliché. We also won’t be doing anything strange like skydiving and of course, Buckingham Palace is out of the question! Do you kind of get the idea that I am very particular about what I want?”
“Um, yeah…” Mia says, quite taken aback.
“Do you also get the idea that I am likely to turn into Bridezilla and your worst nightmare if you don’t give me what I want or if anyone tries to shove something down my throat that I don’t like?” I add.
“I can attest to that,” Amanda says while rubbing her baby bump. I recall Butterfly telling me about the whole “Daisy Decorator” incident and those damn branches at Ray and Amanda’s reception.
“So, is a destination wedding a real possibility?” Ray asks, skeptically. Butterfly shrugs.
“I had considered it, but with the research that I have done so far, it just seems like it would be too much trouble. Most of the locations want you to have some kind of residency in order to have a civil ceremony which you must have before you can have a religious ceremony and only a civil ceremony is recognized in the area or province or whatever. Then there is the suggestion that you have the civil ceremony in your home country before you have the formal ceremony in the destination location, and I think that’s just a waste of time. If you’re going to have the civil ceremony in your own country, just have the whole damn thing in your own country,” she says, throwing her hands up.
“Okay, so… why are we still considering a destination wedding?” Elliot asks.
“I just didn’t want to throw the idea out completely. I wanted to know what comments or suggestions that you guys might have,” she responds.
“Well, destination weddings can be quite expensive and time-consuming,” Mom interjects. I just look at my mother. Seriously, Mom?
“Mom, I’m sure we can afford whatever destination Ana decides that she wants,” I tell her.
“But can everyone else afford it?” Mom continues. “Are you willing to foot the bill for whatever number of guests that you all are willing to bring to this destination? How convenient will it be for them to get travel arrangements in such a short period of time? Will everyone be able to get the time off of their jobs? Does everyone have their passports in order? How many people will you have to end up eliminating from the guest list and maybe even the wedding party for one or more of these reasons or because they just don’t feel like dealing with the hassle?” God, I hate it when my mom is so damn logical, and so damn right. Butterfly twists her lips for a moment, then looks down into her trusty little planner and draws a dark line through something there.
“Well, destination wedding is out. So, what kind of venues do Seattle offer? I really liked the Marion Oliver McCaw Hall where the Adopt-A-Family Affair was held…” she moves on without missing a beat. I, along with a few others in the group are a bit taken aback.
“Are you sure you’re okay with scrapping the idea of a destination wedding, Butterfly?” I ask her. She nods, noncommittal.
“I told you, I just wanted to get suggestions and comments before I killed the idea completely. Let’s face it, that is way too much damn hassle to pull off in four months. I’m not the girl who dreamed of this day every night of my life when I was a kid, but I do want it to be nice… and hassle-free.” She smiles a cute smile and continues with the conversation. Wow, this may end up being a lot easier than I even imagined, especially since Hurricane Mia will not be in charge.
“Have you decided who your wedding planner will be yet?” Valerie asks. “Cassie Hamilton owes me a favor and you know that she’s nearly impossible to get.”
“Oooo, can you get us an appointment with her this week… preferably Thursday?” Butterfly says. Cassie Hamilton—that name rings a bell… oh, fuck!
“Um… Butterfly, I would prefer that we use someone other than Ms. Hamilton,” I say as discreetly as possible.
“Why?” she says, frowning.
“Well, she’s a past acquaintance,” I respond. The light still hasn’t come on yet.
“You know her?” Butterfly asks. I sigh.
“Biblically,” I say flatly. Just like that, her face falls and the disappointment is evident.
“Val, scratch Cassie Hamilton,” she says.
“Why? She’s one of the most sought-after planners in Seattle. She would be itching to plan your wedding,” Valerie protests.
“Then, we will pursue one of the other most sought-after planners in Seattle. Hamilton is out.”
“Is there something I missed here? Why in the world wouldn’t you want Cassie Hamilton to help plan your wedding? She’s like the best of the best…”
“Valerie! Scratch. Cassie. Hamilton.” She lets Valerie know that the decision is final in no uncertain terms. After a few moments of silence, Valerie seems to finally get the point.
“Okay. Scratch Cassie Hamilton,” she says, her voice somewhat meek. The mood in the dining room has changed significantly and no one seems to have anything to say anymore. Once again, my past is causing problems with my present.
“How about I refresh everyone’s drink?” My mother offers, which is strange since we are in my home.
“I’ll help you, Grace,” Valerie says, and she and my mother make a quick getaway to the kitchen. Butterfly starts to rub her forehead and excuses herself to the restroom. Amanda and Mia insist on following her to make sure that she’s okay.
“Boy, you can really clear a room, can’t you, Bro?” Elliot says to me. I glare at him.
“Excuse me?” I snap.
“No offense, Christian,” Ray begins, “but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that you and Cassie Whatever-Her-Name-Is have some kind of history. Annie dropped that idea as quickly as Val put it in her head.”
“Okay, but how did I clear the room? I wasn’t the one who kept insisting that we use the woman,” I defend.
“Oh, you’ve got a lot to learn, Kid,” Ray says with a knowing chuckle. I shake my head. I have to go and make sure that Butterfly is okay. I stand up from the table.
“Give her a moment, Christian. She’ll be fine. May I have a word?” Dad asks. Oh, this night is exhausting me already. What could he possibly want to talk to me about?”
“Sure, Dad. Please excuse us, Gentlemen,” I say as my father and I head to my study.
“I didn’t want to bring this up tonight, but since we have a break in the planning, now is as good a time as any,” Carrick says as I close the door.
“What is it?” I ask.
“The police are looking for Lincoln. With all the pictures, they are certain that she has molested at least 10 young men in the last seven years. The problem is that she has completely dropped off the radar. They have no idea where she is,” he informs me. Damn. Right now, I can’t remember if I told Welch to keep watching her or to stop watching her since there seemed to be no need anymore. Now, it seems like we stopped since she has effectively gone into hiding.
“Nothing on her credit cards? Bank statements?” I ask.
“She has no money, Christian. If someone is helping her, we have no idea who it is.” Not knowing where that woman is makes my stomach turn and gives the sickening feeling of impending doom.
“Well, I guess we can’t do anything at this point but wait. Maybe she has left the state or the country and we’ll never hear from her again,” I respond.
“One can only hope…”
It’s not the end of the world. It’s just a little uncomfortable, that’s all. Fuck! I can’t get one of the most coveted wedding planners in the whole goddamn state because Mr. Pussy Parter fucked her! Shit!
Stop it! Stop it, Steele! You’re being unreasonable. You put this whole “Pussy Parter” thing to rest last week with the paddle, so you can’t keep bringing it up… not even to yourself. Besides, you have no idea how many women are in the lifestyle. No one would think you were in the lifestyle, even though it is only you and Christian.
“Fuck,” I say to myself as I lean on the sink in our en suite. Will I have to screen every woman I ever meet for fear that she may have had sexual relations with my soon-to-be husband? What if it’s a patient? I can’t very well ask “Excuse me, I know this might sound odd, but did you possibly sleep with my man in the past? Oh, forget about that silly NDA; this will be just between us girls.” Good grief!
“Ana, are you okay?” Mandy’s voice wafts through the doorway.
“Yes, I’m fine,” I say, weakly, not even convincing myself. “Give me just a moment.” I look at myself in the mirror, wave my hand and open the door. There stand Mia and Mandy with questioning eyes.
“Do I really have to spell it out for you guys?” I ask, a bit forlorn.
“No… not really,” Mia answers, “It was the big elephant in the room.”
“Pink elephant with big black, white, and purple spots,” Mandy adds. After a pause, I can’t help but laugh.
“Uuugh!” I say, falling on the bed. “How do I plan this wedding without possibly running into someone my fiancé slept with? I mean, I didn’t ask for a list of his sexual partners, so I have no idea what women he slept with. I can’t ask for a background check for every woman that I ever speak to… it’s insane!”
“Well, no, but you do have to accept the fact that you could run into someone that he slept with before. It’s a fact of life. Are you going to cut off the female gender because some of them were possibly intimate with your husband at one time? How will you possibly know?” Mandy points out.
“Cassie Hamilton… her work is fantastic. It would have been outstanding,” Mia says wistfully. Mandy is right. I can’t hide my head in a hole because my fiancé was sexually active before we met. We are, however, talking about an ex-sub, not just an ex.
“You’re right, Mandy. I can’t ceremoniously shut down every possibility because my fiancé had a relationship with them in the past, but do I really want this woman planning my wedding?” I ask.
“That’s completely up to you. If you can move past this, and she’s a professional, I say why not? If you have the slightest bad feeling about it, leave it alone. There are plenty of wedding planners in the state.” My stepmom is really smart.
“I’m going to have Val set up the appointment.”
“I would rather you didn’t.” Christian is standing in the doorway very conspicuously. How did I not see him standing there?
“Christian, I can’t run from this. I’m going to run into women that you’ve been with before. It’s the nature of the beast. I can’t tuck tail and hide every time that happens. She’s very good at what she does and I would like to meet with her. If she’s still stuck in the past, then I’ll leave. It’s that simple.” Christian sighs.
“I don’t want my past marring my future,” he says sitting on the bed next to me and ignoring the other two women in the room.
“It won’t,” I say. “She has nothing on me. I’m wearing the diamond. I’m planning the wedding. If she’s a good girl, she can participate. If not, then I’ll find someone else.”
“Can’t we just skip right to that last part?” Christian laments. I take his hand.
“Baby, there will be so much room for speculation if I didn’t at least try to get her. So try I shall.” I kiss him on the lips. “Don’t worry. It’ll be fine, I promise.” He groans loudly.
“Okay,” he relents, “but I’m not going with you. You meet with her and if it works out, then we’ll meet with her together. If it doesn’t, I don’t have to be involved at all.”
“Agreed,” I smile. We all go back into the dining room where the rest of the family is waiting for us.
“Val, make that appointment with Cassie Hamilton. I want to see what she’s got.” I’m sure that double entendre did not slip past Christian.
A/N: Little Ms. Tiger is meeting one of the subs. What do you think will happen? Catfight? Pissing contest? Nothing at all? Let me know.
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