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 29—And The Winner Is…
How the hell do I handle this? Christian barely has anyone that he wants to invite to the wedding and I’m trying to get him to put someone on the list. With the exception of the Scooby Gang and the few people that Dad may want to invite, our list may just barely reach 100 people. Yet, Grace wants to invite the whole of Seattle society and when I said that she couldn’t, she turned to Christian for reinforcement. This is our wedding, not hers! How could she do that? Is she going to undermine every decision I try to make? If this was anyone but Grace, I would cut them down at the knees—but this is his mother. What the hell am I supposed to do?
“Ladies, I need to speak with my fiancée for a moment. Please don’t leave, there is a lot that we need to discuss. Can you excuse us for a moment?” Christian holds his hand out to me. I must have an expression of utter bemusement on my face because he just stands there waiting for me. “Come on, Baby,” he coaxes. I take his hand and we leave a bewildered Grace and Tammy in the dining room.
“Talk to me,” he says as he closes the door to the study behind us.
“What do you want me to say?” I ask.
“I saw how you responded when Mom turned to me for backup,” he points out.
Tell him. If you don’t, it’s going to come up again somewhere, and it may not be this simple.
I sigh and spit it out.
“I would never do that to you, Christian. I would never, ever put you in that position–to ask you to take sides between me and your mother. I would never want you to do that to me with Ray, but I feel like that’s what she just did to me. She’s your mother, Christian. How do I tell her that?” I hear the tears in my voice.
“You don’t,” he says flatly, opens the door to his study and goes to the dining room.
“Tamara, please excuse this interruption. I need my mother. I promise that we won’t be long…”
“I can come back tomorrow,” I hear Tammy offer.
“No, please. Don’t leave. This won’t take long at all.” A few moments later, Christian and Grace come back into the study. This is exactly what I didn’t want… a showdown. I drop my face into my hands.
“Christian, please, don’t do this,” I beg.
“I’m sorry, Baby, but I have to,” he says. “Mom, can you please tell me who is getting married?” Grace looks at Christian bemused.
“My son,” she says, her voice laced with confusion.
“Okay, let me rephrase, Mom. Whose wedding is this?” She gets quiet and I think she finally gets it. I still haven’t made eye-contact with her.
“It’s your wedding,” she says, resigned.
“Your wedding meaning whom, Mom?” Christian presses. Please don’t upset her… please…
“It’s yours and Ana’s wedding,” she replies, sounding a bit agitated now.
“Good. I’m glad we’ve established that. I love you, Mom, very much. Know that will never change. Ana is going to be my wife. As far as I’m concerned, she already is. We are just having a ceremony to make it official. I will never, ever choose sides between you and my wife. Don’t ever put me in that position again. Do you understand, Mom?” He speaks firmly but with no malice.
“Yes, Christian,” Grace says a little too sharply for my taste. Christian picks up on it, too.
“Mom, no. If you feel hurt or upset right now, then I can’t help it, but that wasn’t my intention. However, I don’t feel guilty at all about telling you that you have to cut down your list because this is what we agreed on before you showed up tonight. I wasn’t taking Ana’s side against you. I was going with what we agreed. I will tell you this, though. If this wedding becomes a problem, I will take my fiancée and we will elope.”
I groan when I hear this. If he does that, everyone will be unhappy—including me. All of a sudden, I want to be anywhere but in this room. At this point, I’m willing to let Grace invite her 800 friends, including the mothers and the daughters, if it means that it will keep the peace.
“Please, just let her invite whoever she wants,” I say, wanting this conversation to end more than anything and trying to think of the biggest venues that we can find to accommodate this onslaught of people. Christian can afford it and I know that is what Grace is thinking. Why have a quaint little wedding with two or three hundred guests when you can have one with two or three thousand, right?
“No… she can’t,” Christian says, his voice going more and more into CEO mode, “and stop rubbing your forehead. It’s turning red.” He grabs my hands and holds them down. “Look at me.” I hold my head up and Grace gasps.
“Good God, Ana! What…?” Grace is at a loss for words and I’m almost afraid to know what my face looks like.
“It’s a nervous habit. She does it anytime she’s upset or nervous or frustrated—like my hair-pulling and Elliot’s neck rubbing—although I’ve never seen her quite this nervous before.” He looks me in the eye. “Are you okay?” I nod.
“I just want this to be over,” I say, trying to put my hand on my forehead again, only to be halted by Christian’s strong grip.
“Stop. You’re going to hurt yourself.” He guides me to his desk chair and I sit down. “I’ll be back. I’m going to get you something to drink.” I nod and he leaves. The room is deadly silent for a few moments before I hear his command from somewhere in the apartment, “Put your hands down, Anastasia.” I clasp my hands in my lap, not even realizing that they had gone to my forehead again.
A disagreement with Grace—this is the last person that I expected to be at odds with… ever!
“Anastasia, I… I didn’t mean to upset you, dear, it’s just that… well, I never thought that Christian would get married at all, let alone be the first to get married. I may have gotten carried away…” She sighs heavily. I can tell that she’s fighting to express herself.
“I don’t want this fighting. I just want to have a beautiful wedding with the man that I love. I don’t want to elope and I don’t want jealous women glaring at me as I walk down the aisle. I’m terrified that the press will find out and that my wedding will become a nationally televised event with paparazzi coming down the damn chimney!” I’m crying before I know it. Grace pulls me into her arms and is attempting to comfort me.
“My mother!” I bark, my face buried in my hands. “Did you know that my damn mother is talking to the press? I can’t even get a gag order against her! She’s spewing shit about me leaving her to live in poverty while I’m living in the lap of luxury. Hello Magazine has deemed us the Princess Daughter and the Pauper Mother, urging their readers to take sides. Do you have any idea what that could mean for me? For my reputation as a doctor? She’s spitting all these lies while I’m constantly saying that I can’t talk about it because it’s an open case. Who do you think they are believing right now?” I feel my heart breaking all over again and I want to curl into a ball and die.
“This Green Valley thing won’t leave me alone! I wish we had never dug it up! I have to relive this thing over and over and over again—for the deposition, on the witness stand, in my nightmares, every time one of those fucking dime-store reporters shoves a camera in my face!” I’m wailing now. I hear my own voice and the pain that I hear is breaking me more than the pain that I feel.
“Then I have to worry about this crackpot Edward David—my first love and my worst love! Good God, how could I have ever loved that psychopath? His case is set to start somewhere in June and so is my wedding. Isn’t that just wonderful? And they might let this crazy fucker off on an insanity plea! It wouldn’t be far from the truth… he is insane! A psych ward won’t cure his kind of crazy, though. He’s crazy on a cellular level and after four years, I thought this was over, but here he is again. Can a bitch catch a break? When will this ever end?”
I am shrieking from my soul now. I feel like I’m going to explode, like the pressure from all of this shit is going to crush me and destroy me, leaving my brains, bones, and entrails splattered all over the walls. However, I have one more displeasure to voice…
“AND WHERE THE FUCK IS ELENA FUCKING LINCOLN!?”
I’m weeping so hard that I am gasping for breath. The broken, worn, and battered beam that has held up my façade all of this time has snapped in two and I find myself in a huddled mess on the floor, mourning the loss of my sanity. Any second now, I feel like the men in the funny suits will run into this room and put me in one of those wonderful jackets where I get to hug myself for hours. I just want to rip my hair out and scream! Anybody would be at the edge of their wits just dealing with one of these things. I’m dealing with them all at the same damn time!
“What the hell?” I hear Christian’s surprised voice over my yowling. “Mom, what did you say?”
“It wasn’t me, Christian! I didn’t…” No. Christian, it’s not her fault. I grasp onto her in an effort to show her that I know this. Christian tries to move his mother, but she can’t get free.
“She won’t let got, Christian. It’s no use.”
Christian comes behind me and tries to lift me off the floor, but I am still clinging to Grace. She has to know that I don’t blame her and that this isn’t her fault. The dam just burst and I can’t control it. Even though my brain is forming cognitive thoughts, my mouth can’t seem to make it happen. I look up at her with pleading eyes.
“Make it… stop… make it… stop,” I beg her. The pain is excruciating. I can’t take all of this at once, I’m going to lose my mind. “Please… make i… it s-stop…” Her eyes narrow and she seems to understand what I am asking her. She nods and tells Christian that she will be back.
I curl into the smallest ball that I can. I know that I’m shrinking and I don’t care. This hurts so badly—this complete and utter lack of control. At this moment, this very moment, I briefly understand why people use drugs and alcohol to escape. I would hope that I would never become a drug addict or an alcoholic, but in this brief moment of insane grief, I understand. My mind goes to Stephen Morton and I wonder if something happened in his life that caused him to be such a miserable bastard and die an alcoholic. Did he have some kind of trauma in his life or did the drink just take him over and he tumbled into the bottomless pit that eventually cost his life—and why the fuck am I thinking about him now?
It’s official. I’ve completely lost my mind.
My muscles are starting to hurt from holding myself in this little ball, but I’m afraid that if I let go, I will unravel completely. My heart will go in one direction, my soul in another, my brain up to the ceiling… I don’t feel Christian’s touch and I only know that he’s still there behind me because I see his hands holding me and I hear his voice. I can’t make out what he’s saying, I just hear his voice. I am cracking the fuck up! I am literally going insane! All of this crazy shit has finally sent me over the cuckoo’s nest!
A few moments later, Grace is in front of me with rubber gloves and a hypodermic needle. I still can’t hear what she’s saying, but I’m assuming that there some magic potion in this funny little tube that will somehow make it all better. I nod frantically at her. Please, please, just give it to me. I can’t take this anymore—I feel like I’m dying! I don’t feel the needle prick, but the effects of whatever she gave me is immediate. My muscles relax, my head stops pounding, and I can breathe.
“Ana?” she says my name softly. “Can you hear me, Dear?” I look up at her and nod. “You’re going to be okay, but you will be very sleepy very soon. When you wake from your nap, you should feel much better, okay?” I nod again. I think I tell her “thank you,” I’m not sure. I just remember her smiling face as darkness surrounds me, enclosing me in comfort and silence.
I wake in our bed and it’s after nightfall now. Christian is lying next to me, fast asleep as well. I figure it must be the middle of the night since Christian is asleep, but we are both still fully dressed. I raise my head slowly, looking for after effects of whatever sedative or muscle relaxer Grace gave me. Nothing. My head is as clear as a bell. I still feel sorrowful, but not insane or out of control.
“Baby?” Christian’s concerned sleepy voice lets me know that my movement has awakened him. I look over at him, still lying on the bed with his arm around me.
“Hi,” I say softly. My throat is scratchy and I look for water. Christian sits up and hands me a glass that is on his nightstand.
“Here.” I take a few sips and my throat feels much better. “How do you feel?”
“Better,” I say, setting the glass on my nightstand. I stretch, still feeling the tightness of my muscles from earlier. I may need to soak them later. “Where’s Grace?”
“She went home. I told her that I will call her and let her know how you are doing. Needless to say, she will have her list of 100 people here tomorrow.” He adds that last part as a joke, but I don’t laugh. I certainly wasn’t trying to guilt her into cutting her list. I just want her to understand that I don’t want our wedding to be a Broadway production.
“Did she tell you what she gave me?” I ask, just in case I need to watch for side effects.
“A very light muscle relaxer and sedative. She says that you will be fine, but she still wants me to call her. You’ve only been asleep for a few hours.” I nod.
“Why don’t we just have the big wedding? She apparently wants everyone to see her son get married. I can certainly understand her enthusiasm even if I don’t agree with it,” I say.
Christian puts his hand on my cheek and turns me to face him. After examining me for a moment, he answers, “because that’s not what you want. Every bride wants one wedding day, and she wants it to be perfect. You get what you want on your day.”
Isn’t he just so perfect? I have to stop myself from jumping his bones right now.
“What happened to Tammy? Did I avoid humiliating myself completely?” I lament.
“Um… yes, but just barely. She heard the crying about your mother and made a hasty retreat. She missed the demand for Lincoln’s whereabouts.” I groan at his response. I know that horrid woman is up to something. She is not the type to go quietly into the night. If that were her intention, she would be in police custody right now. No, she’s planning something. I know it.
“What do you think she’s doing, Christian?” I ask. He looks at me, puzzled.
“What do you mean? I mean, I don’t think she’s doing anything and to be honest with you, I don’t care what she’s doing. I’m more concerned about Cholometes.” I frown.
“Well, I’m more concerned about She-Thing. She has been persistent as hell, never taking ‘no’ for an answer to the degree of risking bodily harm to prove to us that she wasn’t going anywhere. Now, suddenly, she’s gone. That woman is up to something, and while you’re keeping an eye on Brian, at lease we know where he is.” I get out of bed and go to the bathroom. I relieve myself and I am happy to see that there are no signs that I tried to tattoo my forehead with my bare hands. I wash my hands and go back to the bedroom. Christian is eying me with skepticism.
“Are you upset with me that I am more concerned about Colostomy than I am about the Pedophile?” he asks warily. I lean against the wall.
“No. I just don’t want you to take this lightly. You’re a shrewd businessman and you know that the quiet always comes before the storm. Unless there was some big theatrical production that takes her out of commission—like her being publicly swallowed up by a crack in the earth—her silence should make you nervous.” He rises from the bed and puts his arms around me.
“I will have our team look under every rock until we find her. Until then, I will beef up security to be sure that she doesn’t get to us, okay?” I look into his eyes to see if he’s just placating me. “Do you want another guy with you? Is Davenport enough? I can assign Lawrence as well if you like.” I shake my head.
“No, I think Chuck and I can handle it for now, but I’ll let you know if I change my mind,” I say. “Thank you for taking me seriously, Christian.” He kisses me on the nose.
“If you’re concerned, it’s very serious.” He takes my hand and leads me out of the bedroom. “Tamara made an appointment for us to see the Rainer Club and the castle in Lakewood tomorrow. She says that we can change it if we want, but if we decide that we want the castle, we have to act fast as it gets booked pretty quickly. Right now, our wedding weekend is free, but it most likely won’t be for long.” I nod.
“I guess we should go check it out as soon as possible. I’m fine with tomorrow if you are,” I tell him. He nods.
“The sooner we get the location locked down, the sooner we can decide exactly how many people we want. I don’t mind keeping it small, but Mom is no doubt seeing that Grand Lobby where the benefit was held and is thinking to herself ‘how many people can we fit in here?’” We both laugh. I look at the alarm clock. It’s just past 7pm.
“So, what do you want to do for the rest of the evening?” I ask.
“We should probably get something to eat,” he says, holding his hand out to me.
We talk some more about the wedding as we finish our dinner and decide that we want to cuddle by the fire. Christian calls Grace to let her know that I’m awake and feeling fine, and just as I am ending the call from thanking her for saving me during my nervous breakdown, Christian and Jason are having one of those silent conversations that they have with their eyes.
“What’s going on?” I ask them. Jason looks from me to Christian. Grey, if you keep anything from me…
“What’s up, Jason?” Christian asks.
“The landline has been disabled. I can’t see how it’s been done and I’ve already put in a call to the in-house maintenance and the phone company. Maintenance is checking things out as we speak but the phone company won’t even send anyone out until Monday,” Jason says.
“Why is this such a cause for concern?” I ask. “Everyone in the apartment has a cell phone.”
“The security system runs through the phone lines. The inner alarms, motion detectors, and silent door and window alarms all run on a separate power source. However, the panic buttons and police alerts all run through the landline. It could be some kind of unknown malfunction, but if it’s not, it’s someone who knows a lot about this apartment and how we run things in here.” I don’t like the sound of that.
“Are we safe here?” Christian asks.
“My money says spend the weekend elsewhere, Sir. If this is deliberate, we would all be sitting ducks if we lost the main power source. True, we have our cell phones, but this is a big place to maneuver in the dark.” Christian nods.
“When is the last time Ana’s apartment was swept?”
“Mid-week,” Jason replies. “If you plan on going there, I’d like to have some of the team sweep it again and then set up shop there if it’s okay.”
“Someone would have to sleep in Al’s room,” I comment.
“I’m sure he won’t mind under the circumstances,” Christian says, then turns to Jason. “Have it swept as soon as possible. We’re leaving within the hour.”
As promised, we are getting out of the RS7 in the parking garage of my condo about an hour later. Christian has packed a small duffel bag for himself and, hell, this is my apartment. I have plenty of clothes here. The elevator pings at the 29th floor and Christian insists on opening the door before me.
“You did say the apartment was swept, didn’t you?” I ask him. He shrugs.
“Better safe than sorry,” he says as he opens the door. We are greeted by Ben and Williams—I still don’t know his first name, but he’s never around me long enough for me to get to know him. Taylor is staying behind with some other security staff that I don’t know to make sure Escala is secure and Gail is spending the weekend with some of her friends. I offered for her to come to the condo with us, but with me and Christian and security sleeping here for a moment, there’s not going to be much room. So she opted to go elsewhere. Chuck will come in tomorrow and relieve Williams, who will come back on Monday and relieve Ben.
I immediately go to the kitchen to see if anything is salvageable since our last visit only to find that someone has been grocery shopping. The refrigerator is stocked. I turn and look at Christian.
“What’s all this?” I ask him.
“The security detail comes in twice a week, to sweep the place and to sit for a while—just so that it doesn’t look vacant or empty. They are instructed to keep the kitchen stocked for just in case you want to… stop by.” I know he’s referring to that time I came here after the fight with Heather and the day I officially fired Luc as my trainer. It made me think of Marlow. I close the refrigerator door.
“How’s Marlow been doing?” I ask him. “He doesn’t come to the center that often since you’ve been mentoring him.”
“I’d say that’s a good thing. Wouldn’t you?” Christian asks. I nod tentatively.
“He still needs help, Christian,” I warn. “He’s still very angry and has to deal with that anger so that it doesn’t fester inside of him and he doesn’t become his father. That happens, you know. It’s not going to go away because he has found something else to occupy his mind.” Christian nods.
“I’ll talk to him and remind him that he shouldn’t miss his sessions with you, okay?” he says a little begrudgingly. “He’s been working pretty hard on a couple of projects, Ana, one of them being the requirements for the schools that he wants to attend.” I sigh and slump my shoulders.
“I know,” I say, walking back to my room and looking blankly into the closet. Marlow was doing much better the last time that we talked. He was very focused on the project Christian had given him, and happy… happier than I have ever seen him. He’s nothing at all like the angry boy that I saw staring out of the window all those months ago. I would say at this point that he only needs what I call “maintenance meetings” to make sure that he’s not harboring any destructive feelings and to talk about how things are going in his life. Those are usually once a month or as needed, but the truth is…
“Butterfly?” Christian is by my side stroking my arm. “What’s wrong, Baby?”
I’m being silly. I know that I am, but the truth is…
“I miss him,” I say softly. “He’s a patient and I know I shouldn’t feel that way, but I do.”
Christian puts both hands on either of my arms and turns me to face him.
“He’s a friend, and you should feel that way.” He pulls me into his arms. “You’re a wonderful person, Anastasia Steele. He’s lucky to have you as a friend, and I can’t wait to make you my wife.” I look up at him.
“You told your mother that I already was your wife,” I say with a smirk. He snatches me hard against his body and I gasp. The air leaves my chest at once as he presses me against him, and shivers of desire, lust, and passion surge through me as he caresses the exposed skin of my back through my halter-dress, playing in the garden of my tattoo. He brushes his lips against mine as I feel my nipples harden against his chest and his erection begin to take form against my belly.
“I did say that, didn’t I?” he says in a deep, sensual voice before his lips close over mine.
The Rainier Club is a beautifully opulent manor right down the street from Escala. It’s very convenient it terms of distance, but almost too convenient for me in terms of the paparazzi. Nonetheless, it’s a lovely location and very worth the consideration. It’s a historical building situated on a hill right in the middle of downtown Seattle. On this sunny Sunday morning, it looks a little out-of-place against the sleek skyscrapers and high-rises that compose the Seattle skyline, yet there it sits—untouched by the city’s growth around it. In the midst of all of this metal and glass sits this brick mansion that has been there for 125 years.
I love that the Club can take care of all the catering and decorating needs if we choose, as well as provide the suites for before and after the wedding for whomever decides to stay. I’d like to do something similar to what we did for Maxine’s wedding, but with Allen being my man of honor, I don’t know how any of this will pan out. I haven’t even told him yet, but I’m sure that he won’t turn me down. Note to self—call Allen and tell him that he should be doing some of this footwork, I laugh to myself.
Christian, Tammy, and I walk through the large ballroom of the Rainier Club, admiring the floor-to-ceiling windows and the huge fireplace. Grace could easily fit 500 of her 1000 guests in this room, I think to myself. We look at pictures of prior weddings hosted in this space and it could very likely accommodate anything that we may have in mind.
What I don’t like about the Rainier Club is the location and ease of access. It sits right on the street, so unless we are willing to block off both the streets that encompass the building, we are not going to be able to keep people from blocking the entrance. I highly doubt that the city of Seattle will tolerate us blocking off two of their downtown city streets for our little wedding.
If I felt that the Rainier Club was too close, then Thornwood Castle was exactly the opposite. I had no idea what I was in for when I told Tammy that I wanted to see this Castle. We had to drive an hour down the I-5 to get there! I’m glad we opted for the Q7 or I would have been stiff as a board by the time we arrived! I fell asleep after the first 20 minutes of the drive, but I awoke just as we were exiting the freeway. A right turn at exit 123 off of the I-5 and we are entering Lakewood city limits.
Trees. Nothing but trees.
The little, two-lane, somewhat winding road goes for about a mile and if you blinked, you would miss the turn onto the road that takes you to the castle. Tammy drives up to a large intercom box and presses a button. After she speaks into the box, the two wrought iron gates in front of us swing open, granting us entry to a private drive with cobblestone cottages lining the road. The trees are massive and placed close together, forbidding the view from the outside world. The drive up this tiny road takes us around yet another curling road flanked by trees until you get to a clearing at the end…
…and there it is.
It’s beautiful. I haven’t even gone inside and I am utterly enchanted. Thornewood is an English Tudor Gothic castle with classic slanted roofs, multiple chimneys, and constructed with deep orangish-red bricks. Some of the building looks refurbished while other parts of it show significant age, adding to the charm and the historical nature of the castle. We travel down the long, circular drive to the large archway and meet Tammy at the front entrance. She is all smiles when she steps out of her bronze Volvo XC90.
“I think you guys are really going to love this place,” she beams. “Ana, I know that you were worried about ostentatious, but trust me—this place says class and sophistication, with historic English charm. You have the privacy that you need as there is only one way in and one way out, which you just saw. You can post your own security there and for an extra fee, the Castle will post security there as well. Presidents have stayed here in the past and, lets face it, this is Seattle’s own Prince Charming marrying his Snow White. It absolutely has to be in a castle.”
We walk to the outdoor brick foyer where large carved wooden doors open to reveal a smartly-dressed woman flashing a full 32-teeth smile.
“Hello, Mr. Grey, Ms. Steele. My name is Deanna Robinson. I am one of the innkeepers of Thornewood Castle. We are simply delighted that you are considering Thornewood for your wedding. Please, let me show you around.” Deanna guides us into the Great Hall and raves on and on about the 500-year-old staircase and oversized limestone fireplace. Thornewood is built from pieces of a dismantled castle brought over from England in the early 1900s and reconstructed here in the Pacific northwest by Chester Thorne as a present for his wife, whose name happens to have been Anna. The oak architecture and 15th century stained-glass windows are absolutely stunning.
The castle is huge and we didn’t get a chance to see the entire structure, but Deanne made sure that we saw the Grandville Suite, Presidential Suite, and Anna’s Bridal Suite—the three most exclusive and luxurious suites in the castle. I am extremely impressed with what I see, but Christian maintains his impassive face. We exit the castle to explore the grounds and I nearly faint when I see the sunken “Secret Garden.” This space is huge and breathtaking! Old, large wooden gates lead down a flora-trimmed brick walkway to a hidden oasis—emerald green, finely-manicured lawn that seems to go on and on and on flanked by beautiful wide stone staircases at either end. A reflection pool with a statue of a water bearer is right in the center, and walls covered withwisteria, purple clematis, climbing hydrangea, and pillar roses protect this hidden gem from prying eyes. Throughout the garden is an impressive array of statues, stairs, and pillars, and probably every flower that can be found in Washington state if not the country! There goes my thought of not having an outdoor wedding.
“Ana? Ana, are you still with us?” I hear Tammy’s voice pulling me back to the here and now. I turn to face her as if she is some sort of alien.
“Huh?” I say, a bit confused.
“I was giving you a little more history, but I don’t think you heard me,” Deanna says with a chuckle.
“Oh. Oh! I’m sorry,” I apologize. “I was just… um…” I’m mesmerized by the beauty of this place and I don’t want to show too much excitement in case Christian is totally against it. He will want to have his security in place wherever we have the wedding and have total control of who leaves and who stays. With only a few months until the wedding, I’m not sure he’ll be able to put that kind of lockdown on an historical castle!
“Baby?” He pulls me from my thoughts once more and I look up at him. His eyes narrow as he examines me. “This is it, isn’t it?” he says so that only I can hear. I say nothing. I only look at him, all deer-stuck-in-headlights and gaped-mouthed. I want to have my wedding here. Inside and out, this place is stunning and I would be happy with either setting, but nothing I have seen has compared to this place. This is definitely it. He nods and turns to Tammy and Deanna.
“Ms. McDaniels, Ms. Robinson, my fiancée is speechless. I think we have our location,” he says. I am trying not to leap into the reflection pool and dance with joy around the water-bearer.
Wedding party… shit! Wedding party!
“Christian, have you thought anymore about who is going to be in your wedding party?” I ask on our drive back to Seattle. We are heavy from a lovely late lunch provided by the Castle as we etched our date in stone and outlined our initial needs with them and we are now on our way back to my apartment.
“Nope. You stole Al from me, so I have Elliot, Jason, and Ethan.”
“Okay, and I’ll have Al, Val, Maxie… I really would like to ask Gail too… Damn, should I ask Mia, too? She’ll be hurt if I don’t.”
“Do you really want to ask Mia, or are you asking her to keep her from getting hurt?” Christian asks. I shrug.
“I think a little bit of both. She welcomed me from the first day that she met me, and she has been a wonderful sweetheart to me ever since—a little energetic, but a sweetheart nonetheless. So yes, I do want to ask her.”
“So now you have five and I have three,” Christian says.
“Okay, so ask James and Phil. I know they would love to stand up in our wedding,” Christian makes the contemplative face.
“You realize that means that Allen and Elliot will be leading the wedding party out of the church.”
“Why don’t we let Allen and James lead the wedding party out of the church? They are a couple after all,” I suggest. Christian cocks his head at me.
“Why does your man of honor and his escort get to lead the wedding party? Why can’t my best man and his companion do it?” Christian is half-kidding, but half-serious too. I sigh.
“I don’t really care who leads the party out of the church. You work that out. Have we decided on your groomsmen now?” I sound impatient, I know, but I have bigger fish to fry than who is leading whom out of the church.
“We’re going to have a gay couple in our wedding… together,” he says after a pause. “You don’t have a problem with that?”
“Not one little bit!” I say quickly. “Why? Do you?”
“No,” he says casually. “I actually kind of like the idea. It will throw the press for a loop when they get wind of the story,” he adds with a chuckle. I roll my eyes.
“Yeah, I guess it will,” I reply, trying to hide my smirk.
I’m tired when we get back to the condo. The drive to and from the castle took forever, and now I’m marinating a luxurious lunch in my belly and I could really use a nap. I go into my room and start removing my jewelry. I begin to put it on the nightstand when an eerie feeling hits me. I see something definitely out of place… definitely wrong. The moment I make the realization, I get a sickening feeling in my stomach.
“Christian?” I call to him. This is a catastrophe… a fucking catastrophe.
“What is…” He steps into my bedroom and I must look a fright because he looks like he is about to catch me from falling. “Baby, what is it? What’s wrong?”
I’m looking down. No… not wrong… very wrong… horribly, frightfully wrong.
“When is the last time Jason said someone swept this apartment?” I ask him, trying to remain calm.
“Before yesterday, mid-week. Why? What’s wrong?” His gaze follows mine and he can’t see what I see… or what I don’t see.
“My Beretta… it’s gone.”
She looks like she has seen a ghost when I walk into the room. What the fuck is she looking at? What’s going on?
“When is the last time Jason said someone swept this apartment?” Her voice has an almost eerie calm to it and I know that something is definitely wrong. I’m looking where she’s looking and I can only see an open drawer in the nightstand. There are a few papers there; nothing looks amiss. What’s the problem?
“Before yesterday, mid-week. Why? What’s wrong?” I need her to tell me what has her frozen to this spot, looking at this piece of furniture as if it might get up and run away.
“My Beretta…” she says before raising her eyes to me. “It’s gone.”
It takes me a moment to register what she said. Her Beretta is gone. Her Beretta is gone…
Oh, fuck! Her Beretta!
“I thought your guns were in the safe at Escala!” I bark before I know it.
“Not the Beretta! It stayed here—and this drawer is locked when I’m not here!” she barks back. I run my hands through my hair. Shit! She pulls out her iPhone and starts to dial.
“What are you doing?” I ask her.
“I’m calling the police.”
“No! Don’t! I don’t want to get them involved in this unless we have to,” I say trying to stop her.
“Christian!” she snaps at me, hard. “A firearm that is registered to me is missing. I don’t know how long it’s been missing, who has it, or where it is. It’s floating around the city of Seattle—fuck, the state of Washington somewhere—and someone could use it to commit a crime. I have to call the police and report it stolen. End of discussion!” Whoa! Yes Mistress. She’s right, though. I hadn’t thought about that. I nod reluctantly and while she dials 911, I dial Jason.
“Jason, was anything out-of-place in any way when you had the apartment swept on Wednesday?”
“Not that I was informed, Sir,” Jason replies, his voice wary.”
“Ana’s apartment has been compromised, too. I think we should come back to Escala.”
“No, Sir,” Jason interjects. “It’s a smaller space and easier to manage. Let front desk security know there is a possible breach and to keep their eyes open.”
“Front desk security? You mean the same company that allowed her car to get vandalized in June in the middle of the damn day and has now allowed someone to breach her apartment and steal her gun?” I bark. I’m ready to sell this piece of shit company if they keep hiring these incompetent assholes! The line is quiet for a little too long. “Jason!”
“Did I hear you correctly? They stole her gun?”
“Yes! They stole her gun!” I bark. He sighs heavily.
“Is anything else missing?”
“She hasn’t said so, and she only just realized that her gun was missing.”
“Does that mean that she wasn’t looking for it until now or it was there yesterday and now it’s gone?” What is he getting at?
“I don’t know, what’s the difference?”
“Well, the first one is that you guys were in the apartment… with security. Other than that, I need know if anything else is missing from the apartment.”
“I’ll ask her…” I turn to question Butterfly about the situation. She is still on the phone with the police making a report about her gun.
“Well, don’t you want to come and take fingerprints?” I hear her nearly wail into the phone. “What if someone commits a crime with my gun!? What if they kill someone!?”
“I’ll have to call you back, Jason. Ana is starting to panic.” I end the call and walk over to her. “Give me the phone, Baby.” She looks up at me and just hands me the phone. “Hello, to whom am I speaking?”
“This is Officer Robert Henry, who is this?”
Robert? Oh, fuck no… and two first names, too?
“This is Christian Grey.” The line is momentarily silent.
“Yeah… sure it is. What can I do for you, Mr. Grey?” he says, smugly.
“You can get me Detective Gerald Crab. Is he on duty today?”
“Why certainly, Mr. Grey. Let me get him for you,” the condescending asshole says on the other line and puts me on hold. A few minutes later, Gerald is on the phone. “Christian?”
“Gerald! Thank God! Someone with some competence! That idiot has Ana all upset and screaming into the phone. One of her guns has been stolen from her apartment.”
“Oh. He most likely told her that she had to come down and make a report,” Gerald says.
“Most likely, only there’s no sign of forced entry and my security team sweeps this apartment at least twice a week. None of them knows what happened and nothing else has been disturbed that we know of.” I look over at Butterfly and she shakes her head confirming my suspicions. “We think this might be big, Gerald. The phone lines have been disabled at my apartment meaning that our alarm systems have been compromised. That’s why we’re here at Ana’s. Now it looks like her apartment has been compromised as well. It’s bigger than a missing gun—even though that’s pretty big all by itself—and she’s afraid.”
“I’ll be there in about twenty. I’ll bring Officer Henry with me, too. I’m sure he’ll be just thrilled to meet you.” I can hear the mirth in Gerald’s voice.
“Oh, by all means. I would love to meet that asshole, too.” We end the call and I turn around to face a shaking Butterfly. I immediately envelop her in my arms. “I know this is scary, so I won’t just say that everything will be alright. I will say that I will do everything in my power to keep you safe and to find out who has your gun, okay?” She looks up at me, her eyes full of longing.
“Thank you, Christian. I love you. I know you will.” She lays her head on my chest and her vulnerability is palpable. I’m ready to put her in that little box again and keep her safe, but I know that butterflies are meant to be free. I kiss her hair and inhale her scent.
“I have no idea what to look for, but Jason wants to know if anything else is missing. So we should look around a bit,” I say. She nods. Davenport is behind me in moments.
“Sir, Jason says that the Beretta is missing?” he says, his voice etched with concern.
“Yes,” I say flatly, pointing to the open drawer in the nightstand.
“When did you notice it was missing… just now?” he asks. Butterfly nods.
“That drawer is normally locked…” she begins.
“I know,” he interrupts. I raise my eyebrow at him. “It’s one of our checkpoints, Sir. We were informed that the gun was on the premises, so we always checked to see if the drawer was locked. It was locked yesterday, Sir. Ben says he checked it himself.”
Fuck! Whoever did this knows that we’re here. They waited until we left and struck before we got back.
“We. Are not. Staying here,” I say with finality. “Call Jason. Tell him that the police are on their way to take a report and then we are leaving. He can give me suggestions about where to go or I will come up with something myself, but we are not staying here.” Davenport nods and leaves the room.
“Where will we go, Christian?” Butterfly asks, a bit forlorn. “Whoever they are, they got to Escala. Now they attack my condo. What is this about?” A million thoughts run through my head… Cholometes, an angry competitor, the Pedophile, a disgruntled ex-employee, fucking Mini-Morton, someone related to those Green Valley assholes… it could be anybody and we have no clue where to start.
A few minutes later, Gerald is standing in Butterfly’s living room with a very nervous Officer Henry. Although Gerald is wearing is signature two-piece suit—well-fitting with crisp white shirt and black tie—Henry is wearing the typical “flatfoot” uniform—light blue shirt with dark blue pants and outer jacket. He has enough courtesy to remove his hat when he steps into the apartment. I’m not sure if that’s because he’s scared shitless or if it’s because he is in the presence of a lady. Either way, the fucker removed his hat.
“Officer Henry, meet Christian Grey,” Gerald says. Henry swallows hard and clears his throat.
“Sir,” he says nervously with a humble nod. Yeah, motherfucker, it really is me.
“This is Anastasia Steele, his fiancée and the young woman who made the call,” Gerald continues. Henry turns to Butterfly and proffers his hand. She begrudgingly but politely accepts his handshake.
“Robert Henry, Ma’am. Nice to meet you.” Butterfly freezes and snatches her hand away from him, backing into me like a scared rabbit. He is surprised, but Gerald and I are not.
“She hasn’t had good luck with ‘Roberts,’” I say a little more harshly than I should have, “or with men with two first names.” He actually looks a little hurt.
“I’m sorry,” she says softly without making eye-contact with him. “I didn’t mean to offend you.” Don’t apologize to that asshole, Butterfly! He doesn’t deserve your kindness.
“None taken, Ma’am,” he says, kindly, smiling sweetly at my Butterfly. Hey—I’m still standing here, fucker!
Gerald discreetly elbows him and leans in to him. He speaks to Henry in a very low voice, teeth clenched and barely moving his lips.
“I know she’s hot, but this man will fry you. Get a grip!”
I laugh to myself. I never knew that Gerald was caught in the beauty that is Butterfly. He always handles himself so well. I have to say, I love how he’s handling Henry at the moment. Henry straightens his stance a bit while I envelop Butterfly in my arms for the umpteenth time today.
“Ana, when did you notice that the gun was missing?” Gerald asks.
“Right before I called it in. I just got a bad feeling and looked down at my drawer. It was slightly open. I normally check the moment I get into the apartment, but I was distracted yesterday with the whole ‘telephone’ thing at Escala and the wedding planning that I didn’t check this time. Chuck says they checked yesterday and the drawer was locked…”
“Chuck?” Gerald interrupted.
“Charles Davenport, my bodyguard. He says that Ben… Benjamin Lawrence, another member of the security team… checked it himself. It’s one of the checkpoints in the apartment because they know my gun is in there.” Gerald nods.
“Beretta… that’s not one of the guns you picked up after the kidnapping is it? You had a Glock and a…” Gerald is thinking hard trying to remember the other gun.
“Magnum,” I say, finishing his thought after several seconds.
“Yeah, a Magnum. Are those guns secure?”
“I still carry the Magnum. It’s in my purse. The Glock is in the safe back at home.” Huh?
“You carry the Magnum when we’re together?” I ask her, trying to hide my horror.
“Christian, I was kidnapped in broad daylight by two men who drugged me and were able to get me to an island and shackled to a bed before I even knew what was happening. I carry the Magnum at all times!” She hisses at me letting me know that this topic is not open for discussion. When it comes down to her guns, I try to stay out of it as much as I can. However, I must admit that I wish she wouldn’t carry that thing when we are together.
“Excuse me,” Henry interrupts. “You said that the Glock is in a safe at home. Forgive me, I thought this was home.” Polite as fuck now, aren’t you?
“No. This is my apartment, but this is home #2 now. Escala is where we live.” Oh, that is such music to my ears.
“Okay, we’re getting a bit of track here. May I have the details of the Beretta?” Gerald asks.
“It’s a 9mm Px4 Storm Type F Sub-Compact with a reversible magazine. It’s registered, so the serial number and ballistic information is already on file with you guys,” Butterfly says.
“That makes it easier. Good. Is anything else missing from the apartment?”
“We were just about to check that out when you arrived…”
We do another sweep of the apartment together with the police and our security and, from what Butterfly says, everything seems to be intact. She does note that she’s not going to notice anything small or seemingly insignificant missing until she notices that it’s missing—meaning she doesn’t know until she’s specifically looking for it.
Fingerprints on the drawer will most likely be of no use since numerous prints are on the drawer handle from the many people who checked the drawer to see if it was locked. However, Gerald calls forensics in to take fingerprints from the drawer and the front door anyway. I put a call into to Vansteen directly to have the tapes searched from today to see if anyone entered the apartment while we were gone. I wasn’t going to fight with those fuckers at the security desk today.
It was hours before the police finally left the condo. Butterfly is totally exhausted now and looks completely disheartened. She just had a fucking breakdown yesterday. Is another one on the horizon?
“Let me take care of you,” I say to her as I take her hand.
“I thought we weren’t staying here tonight,” she says.
“Nobody dare try anything with the police crawling all over this place today. We should be fine for one more night. Come. I want to take care of you.”
I wash her body and hair thoroughly in that heavenly rain-water shower that she has. She knows that this brings me comfort when I feel that there’s nothing more that I can do at the moment. I’ve always taken care of my submissives, but not like I take care of Butterfly. I cared for them—for their well-being and such—but I love Butterfly. Taking care of her is a necessary part of my existence. It’s one of the ways that I need her, and I know that she still needs me.
I dry her hair then lay her down, feasting on her juicy, luscious fruit and bringing her to two shivering orgasms. I kiss her all over while her second release wanes, then cradle her in my arms intent on going to sleep. Butterfly has other plans. She rolls over and hungrily kisses me. I’m trying to control myself, but she is ravenous, like I didn’t just make her come twice. She rolls over on top of me and works my pajama pants down with her feet. Dropping her hot little body down onto my begging shaft, she rides me, loves me, hard and slow until we both find earth-shattering release.
My first order of business when I get to Grey House on Monday morning is to order an internal audit on Vansteen Security. I need to know if the company is doing the same shabby job at all of their sites that they are doing at Butterfly’s condo. I make it known that this is high priority—and want a team in there, not just one auditor, and I want the results in no more than three weeks. The company is fairly small and with a team, it shouldn’t take longer than that.
I see that some of the shooting for the Faces segment will take place tomorrow. Unfortunately, GEH doesn’t own any filming studios—yet—so I have a meeting with McIntyre and with Saul Mitchell from Victory Studios at 10 this morning to wrap up the details and the sequence of the candidates. I will be the first to film my segment and I will bring Butterfly with me to film hers as well. Except for me, each person only has one line and it’s the same line for everyone. However, it’s still a big production to get them prepared for that one line and to get it recorded correctly. It’s my understanding that each person will most likely be recorded up to five times saying the same line to make sure that they get a good take. After that, the behind-the-scenes crew will come in and edit the segment together into the finished product.
Williams escorted me to the office while Davenport, as usual, took Butterfly to work. Jason is still at Escala trying to determine who or what compromised the phone system and if any other systems have been breached. This is very frustrating to me. We can’t go back to Escala and we can’t go back to the condo. I don’t want to stay in a fucking hotel but I don’t want to put any of our family at risk either. What the fuck do we do?
I must admit that I feel my control slipping a bit again. However, I’m a businessman, and a very successful one at that. I’ve played mind games with the best of them, even those who have attempted to play with me. I’ve never lost. Never. Even with Butterfly, I lost the battle at the community center, but I won the war in the end because I got the girl.
I got the girl.
I feel my control slipping… but I know how to get some of it back.
“Christian, you’re slipping. It’s been at least a week since I sent Ana those flowers,” he says, his cockiness apparent in his tone. I note that he calls me by my first name—his first power play. We’re not friends and no one calls me by my first name but family and the very few friends that I have now. I put that on the mental shelf for possible use later.
“And how did that work out for you, Cholometes?” I say calmly.
“You should know. She tells you everything, right?” he says. An attempt at a jab. He’s coming out swinging.
“Well, not everything,” I say with mirth. “Ladies do have their little secrets and she pulls hers out at just the right moments. Just last Friday, she came to my office and… oh, maybe I shouldn’t say anything. A gentleman doesn’t tell, but I will say this. I had no idea she could do that!” I speak wistfully, thinking about Ana edging me on the sofa in my office until I thought my eyes would pop out of my fucking head.
“I’m only too sure that she would love to hear about you talking about her sexual escapades like it’s locker-room conversation,” he nearly growls.
“Oh, by all means, give her a call and inform her. She finds agonizingly wonderful ways of making my pay for my transgressions. Valentine’s Day was a fucking doozy because I had a slip of the tongue at her friends bridal shower, and that was two weeks earlier. She let that shit marinate for two weeks and then unleashed hell on me!” This is working out better than I thought. Talking about our sex life is a little juvenile and not very gentlemanly and I have to be very careful what I actually reveal, but it does let this interloper know exactly where he stands… and exactly where I stand.
“You’re not fooling anybody. I fully know who wears the pants in that relationship and who wears the hot, sexy, mini-skirts and four-inch stilettos.” Is he serious? That was even more juvenile than the “locker-room” talk. Now I know what he meant and why he laughed when I called him “Colostomy.” He had me on the ropes that night and he knew it, but now the tables have turned.
“You know, you’re right. I’m usually the one—how should I put this delicately—in charge, but I love it when she takes control.” My voice drops on the last few words, just enough to give him the visual of that sexy mini-skirt and those four-inch stilettos dominating me. He was about to say something when Andrea’s voice floats over my intercom.
“Excuse me, Mr. Grey?”
“I’m sorry to disturb you, but Ana’s assistant left a message to remind you to call your mother about her guest list. She says that if you don’t get the list to calligrapher today, they won’t be able to do the save-the-date cards until next week.”
“Thank you, Andrea.” Her timing couldn’t have been more perfect. “Find out what she’s doing for lunch. I’ve composed my guest list as well and I want to compare it to hers before we send them to the calligrapher.”
I chuckle to myself before I get back to Cholometes. “Sorry about that—silly little wedding stuff. You were saying?”
“What exactly is the purpose of this conversation—for you to call me and embarrass Ana by making her sound like a wanton, sex-starved nymphomaniac?” Sex-starved? Hardly! Wanton nymphomaniac? Abso-fucking-lutely, but only for me. I laugh out loud at his terminology. You don’t know just how right you are, Colostomy.
“Honestly, I have no idea why I called you. I would beat my chest like an ape and tell you to stay away from my wife, but I already know that you won’t so I won’t bother,” I say, still maintaining the CEO calm.
“She’s not your wife yet, Grey.” Grey. He’s slipping.
“That’s just a formality. That woman is as good as down the aisle and you know it. That’s what that whole flower thing was about—’don’t forget about me, Ana,’” I say in a soft voice.
“And she won’t, I guarantee it,” he says confidently.
“That’s fine, Brian,” I resort to his first name now, strategically placed when the first big blow is about to take place. “If you’re okay with her thinking about you every now and again—some fond memory of some great thing that she did with you and her father—that’s fine by me. I won’t lose any sleep about you taking up some of her mental real estate because in the end, it’s my ring that she’s wearing, my name she’ll be called, my home that she comes back to, my bed she’s lying in, my arms that hold her, and my children she’ll be carrying. So no matter how much she thinks about you, she’ll be loving me.” The words flow out of my mouth like velvet and no doubt cut his ears like knives.
“So again, that bears to question, why are you calling me?” His voice is a low hiss now. This man is not a Dom. His power plays at their very best are weak and now he’s on the defensive. The only time that he had control over me was when he had Butterfly’s attention and when I was drunk. He hasn’t controlled this conversation from the moment that he called me Christian.
“Well, all things considered, I don’t think there is anything that I need to say to you… oh, except that I pulled your card and I know all about you.” Leave that open and just let him walk in.
“You’re the one that leaves breadcrumbs around, Grey, and you don’t know anything about me that I don’t allow you to know,” he taunts.
“No? Keep hope alive, Pet.” I play my first real power play. One of two things is going to happen, now:
One—he’s going to break out in a cold sweat wondering how I could possibly know or…
Two—he’s going to get unbelievably pissed that I dare treat him like a sub.
The line goes silent.
“What the fuck did you just call me?” he hisses. Okay, that could be one disguised as two.
“What’s the matter, Brian? Did I say something wrong?” I say, my voice a bit more firm.
“You know what the hell you said, Asshole!” he says.
“Ah, ah, ah—watch your temper. I might take it personally.” I employ a bite of the voice that has boardrooms quaking and subs shaking in their stilettos.
“You don’t talk to me like I’m one of your fucking toys!” he hisses. Bingo!
“What toys do you mean, Brian? My cars? My jet? My 10-million-dollar helicopter? My priceless grand piano? What toys are you referring to, because I don’t talk to those things.”
“You know what I mean, Grey!” He is really losing his cool now. I’ve got you, you little prick!
“No, unfortunately, I don’t know what you mean. You see, you’re too busy throwing innuendo at my wife to be a man and come to me and tell me what you mean.” My voice is still very calm as I break him down. “You tell me to my face that you want my woman, but then you sneak in the back door like a sniveling little thief and try to take her. All may be fair in love and war, Brian, but there are rules of engagement, and when you break the rules, all bets are off, Little One.” Another sub name… I know it and he knows it.
“Do not refer to me like I’m one of your fucking subs,” he says, his voice low and menacing.
“Subs?” I say, mocking innocence. “I don’t have subs. I have a fiancée. She wouldn’t put up with that shit.”
“I can destroy you, Grey,” he says calmly, attempting to gain control of the situation that he never had. “I can cost you your reputation and everything you have, including your wife!” He hisses the last word. Okay, Little Fish, time for the finishing move.
“You go right ahead.” I am in full-on CEO/Dom mode now. This motherfucker has played his highest trump, but he doesn’t know that I have the last trick. “You just remember something while you’re standing in the ring thinking you have omnipotent power in this situation. You are a fox about to go up against a dragon—an evil, wicked, vicious, fire-breathing, dragon. You have a crush on that woman. You are infatuated with her. You desire her. You may even be smitten with her. Me? I’m in love with her. I breathe her. She has infiltrated my body, mind, and soul in every way possible.
“I will relinquish my power, sell my last company, spend my last dime, use my last resource, and breathe my last breath making her happy. If she ever left me, I would follow her to the pits of hell to get her back. You know as well as I do that she is loyal to eternity, and right now, she’s loyal to me. I will endeavor for the rest of my life to be worthy of that loyalty, but anyone who tries to rob me of it would be better off going up against Satan himself.
“I will cut you down and everything that you hold dear if you cross me in business, but when it comes to the woman that I love, my reason for waking up in the morning, my heartbeat—I will leave you as a bloody, mangled carcass in the street… and I don’t care if you tell her I said so. I don’t do warnings, Cholometes, so take me very seriously. Do not play this game with me. You will. Lose!”
The line is quiet. I just wait. I want to know what this fucker has to say. There’s no comeback from that. We are playing the telephone version of stare. The line is quiet for several minutes and even though he’s not physically in the room, my eyes don’t flutter. I don’t even check the phone to see if he’s still there. I know that he is.
Finally, he blinks.
“I see that you’ve made your stance quite clear,” he says firmly.
“For your sake, let’s hope so,” I respond, not backing down for a moment.
“Goodbye, Mr. Grey,” he says with finality.
“Brian,” I say, before ending the call.
For those of you who may not know, an internal audit may or may not have to do with money. For the most part, it’s a lot like what Christian did with GEH when he returned from Anguilla. “Auditors” come in with a fine-toothed comb and see how the company is running—assessing organizational risks, analyzing controls, operations, compliance with laws and policies, etc. Although it is very personal that things keep happening to Ana, Christian is a businessman. If other locations are having the same issues that Ana’s condo is having, this company could cost him a lot of money in the end in lawsuits, restitutions, and compensations.
On the ropes—boxing term. When an opponent is being hit hard, he is usually leaning “on the ropes” either because a) he’s trying to keep from falling or b) he’s usually getting his head pounded in against the ropes and there’s nowhere for him to go. The referee usually has to end the fight after that.
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Love and Handcuffs!