Mending Dr. Steele: Chapter 27—Bad News

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 fanfic in MY interpretation as a fan. I hope you—as a fellow fan—enjoy it, too.

Chapter 27—Bad News

STEELE

“Please, Anastasia. Take a seat.” Her inner office is the exact opposite of her lobby. Tan mostly with various browns, creams, and taupes spread about. Her accolades are blown up almost to life-sized color and plastered over her walls—Seattle Times, The Stranger, Beaconhill News, Kent Report and even the Island Guardian have all sung her praises, to name a few. If she wasn’t such a skank-ass whore tramp out to seduce my fiancé, we could plan a fantastic wedding together. I know that I should have just left when I realized what was going on, but I just can’t admit defeat that way. I know that she’s going to show her cards, and actually, I want her to.

“I hear good things about you, Cassie,” I say, taking a seat in front of her desk.

“Oh?” she says, raising her eyebrows.

“Of course,” I bait her further, knowing what she is hoping. “My soon-to-be… sister-in-law follows all of your work. I think her words were ‘fantastic’ and ‘outstanding.'” She’s good, but she’s not that good, I think to myself as I watch her balloon visibly deflate before me. No, Bitch, Christian doesn’t talk about you.

“Well, it’s good to know that my reputation precedes me,” she says in a voice that makes it clear that she is not speaking of her professional reputation. Nice try, Cassie.

“I have to ask your forgiveness in advance as I don’t know much about you at all,” I lie sweetly, and watch yet another deflation in her eyes. “My friend Valerie set this up for me and when Mia—my sister-in-law—heard your name, she insisted that I take the meeting, so here I am. I’d like to show you some of my ideas,” I say, pretending that there is still hope that she will be assisting with the wedding. “I’m afraid that I haven’t gotten very far as we have only just gotten engaged this weekend.” I lay out my portfolio, knowing that it’s a complete mess, but not really caring at this point.

“My, you have been a busy little thing, haven’t you?” she says, her tone condescending. I narrow my eyes at her while she continues to look at my portfolio. “Royal blue and silver… for a June wedding?” she almost sneers as she looks at me.

“Yes,” I try not to snap at her. Noting my tone, she looks up at me.

“I’m sorry,” she lies, “it’s just that silver as a wedding color is a bit… gauche!” She waves her hand nonchalantly as she insults our color scheme.

“Hmm… well, I’m sure that’s not the word that you meant to use, but I’ll be sure to let Christian know that you feel that way. Silver was his choice,” I respond. Her head jerks up.

“His choice?” she gasps. “Well, no, that’s not what I meant. What I meant to say was…”

“I know what you meant to say, Cassie.” It’s time to end this charade. “I can tell by the fact that you walked right past me in the lobby, that you’re trying to find out how much I know about you, and that you’re wearing barely enough material in a way that should get you a ticket for indecent exposure–it’s quite clear exactly what you mean. I know that my fiancé is attractive and that women want him, but this is ridiculous!” I hiss. She has the nerve to look shocked.

“What are you talking about?” she gasps, feigning injury.

“Oh, please. Save it, okay? Are you honestly trying to tell me that you show up for work every Thursday looking like you’re ready to be bent over the desk and fucked?” I stand up and walk over to one of her many newspaper articles. “That looks like a wedding planner,” I say, pointing to a picture where she is wearing a dark-colored shift dress. “And that!” I point to another picture where she is wearing a block color career dress. “And that!” I continue, pointing to yet another one where she dons a two piece pants suit. “This is a dog in heat!” I gesture to her obviously inappropriate office attire. “This is your office, and if you want to pretend like this is what you wear everyday, then so be it. I really couldn’t care less, but don’t insult my intelligence or your own by trying to play innocent. Hell, you’re not even wearing any underwear!” Her shocked expression leaves her face and she folds her hands.

“Christian proposed to you,” she jeers. “He certainly has changed his standards.”

“You bet your sweet ass he changed his standards. He raised them,” I retort, taking a seat again. She is unshaken.

“I’d love to see how he handles you,” she continues. “You don’t seem like his type at all.” Oh, she’s moving into dangerous territory.

“Really?” I say, feigning interest. “What would you know about his type?” I add. Did you not notice how similar we are–physically, that is. She smiles as if she has one up on me.

“I’m certain of his type. After all, women dream about him… about allowing him to take over their bodies. Do you think you’re the first one with hopes of snagging Christian Grey?” Hopes? Is she on crack? I am beyond hopes—I’m planning our wedding!

“No, I don’t think I’m the first one. I’m not that naïve.” Catch my double meaning, bitch. “However, the number of delusional women that I manage to encounter never ceases to amaze me.” That shakes her foundation a bit. I can do this all afternoon, Cassie.

“I think you should be more concerned about your own delusions, Anastasia,” she purrs again. “It takes a special type of woman to capture and hold a man like Christian Grey. Any little tart can entice a man, even make him think he’s in love, but Christian Grey is one of a kind. He’s brilliant, charming, handsome, dominant…” she pauses after that last word. You just fucked up, Ms. Hamilton. I cross my legs and clasp my hands together on my lap.

“Hmm, a special type of woman… and apparently, you weren’t that woman, were you?” I reply coldly and her expression falls. “Be careful, Cassie. You are dangerously close to violating your NDA,” I say with a smirk. The color momentarily leaves her face, but she recovers quickly.

“So you know,” she says confidently.

“Yes, Ms. Hamilton, I know. You see, I was trying to give you the professional benefit of the doubt even though I knew who you were, but you have shown me that you are unable to be a professional. You just let your pussy cheat you out of quite possibly the biggest commission you would ever see in your life. As you have wasted quite enough of my valuable time, I think it’s time I wish you good day.” I stand to leave.

“What’s wrong? Afraid of a little competition, Ms. Steele?” Oh, she must be kidding. I turn around smiling the biggest smile my face can manage.

“Oh, Ms. Hamilton, there is no competition, here,” I say, sweetly. “You had him, and he dismissed you. I have him now. What’s more, I’ve got the ring,” I say, waving a finely manicured hand at her decked with my engagement ring on my ring finger and my Cartier Love ring on my middle finger. She snarls at me.

“I can have him again anytime,” she hisses. I fold my arms.

“So why don’t you have him now? You clearly want him, it’s written all over your…” I look her up and down, “…tits and ass. However…” I open my hands and gesture around the office. “He’s not here, is he?”

“That’s only because he doesn’t know that you’re here,” she says sitting back in her seat. I put my hands on my hips.

“Think about what you just said,” I say waiting for her reaction. She raises an eyebrow at me like she has no clue what I’m talking about. I walk over to her and lean on her desk, my hands spread on either side of me. “This is Christian Grey we’re talking about,” I purr. “I don’t walk, breathe, or come without his knowledge–but you already know that.” She squirms in her seat, no doubt recalling her days as his sub. Her skin is flushed.

“Careful, Ms. Steele. You’re about to violate your NDA.” Oh my God, she doesn’t know! I laugh hysterically.

“See, that’s your problem. You can’t seem to tell the difference between you and me! You were a pet while I’m a fiancée! I never signed an NDA. I never had to.” Now, I have shaken that cocky demeanor that she has held throughout our meeting. She thought I was a sub turned wifey, but I never was a contracted sub.

“You had to audition… apply for your ‘relationship.'” I continue calmly. “He just walked in and saw me and all of you little toys became a thing of the past. Eight months later, I’m planning my trek down the aisle to become Mrs. Grey and you have the audacity to tell me that you can still have him? You think so, huh? Is that what you keep telling yourself—holding out for the day that he’ll come back looking for you only to be confronted with his fiancée? How does it feel to literally be caught with your panties down and your pride in your hands? You say that you can have him? Well, then, go ahead and try. Be my guest, because if he wants you, then I certainly don’t want him. So by all means, go for it. Don’t let a little thing like me and my 3-carat-engagement ring stop you. Take your best shot any day of the week.”

“You seem very sure of yourself,” she says, smugly. I laugh.

“No, I’m very sure of Christian. He has given me no reason whatsoever to doubt his loyalty to me, so you and your antics and threats don’t bother me one bit. I can’t blame you, though, Cassie. He’s a wonderful man. He’s the total package in every way—rich, handsome, considerate, a phenomenal lover… You probably tear your hair out at night wonder what you did to make him send you away. Many of you tried to land him—to be that one—and you failed, so I completely understand why you feel the way that you feel right now. I don’t have time or desire to run around the city of Seattle trying to find out how many of you are pining away for Christian. I’m not in competition with any of you because read my lips—I’ve got the man.

“You were referred to me through a mutual friend and I’ve seen your work. It’s really beautiful. The only reason why I hadn’t contacted you before now was because the two people whose weddings I was planning before couldn’t afford you… but I can. Mine and Christian’s relationship is built on total honesty. So the moment that he heard your name, he immediately told me who you were and refused to come to this meeting. Had you not been a wedding planner at a time when I needed a wedding planned and we didn’t share a mutual friend, I still wouldn’t know who you were today.

“Whatever competition you see is all in your head. My man never mentioned you and I had no idea who you were to him before Monday. Now I see that you never had any intention on helping me plan my wedding—foolish little optimist that I am. You wanted to size me up and hopefully get close to Christian again. Well, I hope I met your expectations. Now if you’ll excuse me, I really need to go because I need to find another wedding planner and spend an exorbitant amount of money on what is sure to be the event of the decade.” I turn to leave, but turn back with one last warning for her. “Don’t forget your NDA again! Have a good day, Ms. Hamilton.” I walk towards the door.

“You’re not all that, Honey. Any of us could…” Any of who, Bitch—the Fallen Subs?

“Your NDA, Ms. Hamilton!” I bark, cutting her off and apparently startling her to silence. I walk to the door again. “Have a good day,” I hiss without turning around. This game is over. Convince yourself that you can have him if you want, but if I see you within 50 feet of my man, they will be scraping your ass off the concrete. So much for giving people the benefit of the doubt. I walk the few steps to Val’s car with Chuck behind me.

“Wow, that was fast. How did it go?” she asks.

“It was a disaster. She still wants Christian and made it clear to me that she could get him back any time that she wanted him. I pulled a ‘Pretty Woman’ and left.” I shrug.

“Reminded her how much money she was throwing away?” Val asks.

“Exactly. She was still talking shit as I was leaving the office. It’s a good thing that I didn’t cancel that appointment with Tamara McDaniels.” Val laughs.

“Cassie is going to hate that. T-Mac is her biggest competitor,” Val points out.

“Well, she should have thought of that before she put her Manolo Blahniks in her mouth!” I say as we head back to Escala.

*-*

T-Mac, as Val calls her, agreed to meet with me this evening back at the penthouse. I’ll admit that I hadn’t seen any of her work before, but I was completely blown away with her portfolio and her ideas! I don’t know how she could possibly be considered second in comparison to Desperate Cassie. Her work is exquisite. She had ideas that she built off of my ideas before I even had the chance to say anything. We had hammered down extensive plans in the small amount of time that we met that evening. I knew that my unconventional request may cause a problem.

“I’m not going to have a maid of honor,” I tell her. Her eyes widen.

“You what?” she nearly gasps. “What do you mean you’re not going to have a maid of honor?”

“I’m going to have a man of honor. My best friend, Al—I won’t have it any other way. We have to make it work.” She looks at me like I have lost my mind.

“Is Christian going to have a best girl?” she asks perplexed and I can’t help but laugh.

“I doubt it,” I chuckle. She scratches behind her ear and types something into her laptop.

“A best man and a man of honor… We’ll find a way to make it work. They wouldn’t happen to be gay would they?”

“Al is. I think Christian’s brother is going to be the best man, and he is very straight.” She shakes her head again.

“We’ll make it work.”

We talk well into the evening with her shooting down ideas of mine that simply will not work and me shooting down ideas of hers that I simply will not have. She suggested changing our invitations but I had become attached to them since Christian actually picked them out. She happened to agree with Hamilton that darker blues were more winter colors and silver was mostly reserved for parties and other celebrations and not for weddings. That pill was easier to swallow the way that she explained it. However, I diverted to her motto of “We’ll make it work,” and stood my ground on the colors.

We still haven’t worked out the guest list, but we know that one way or another there will be at least 100 people at this wedding and if Mia and Grace have their way, it will be upwards of 500 people there. Not a chance in hell! However, I do have to allow for the fact that there could very well be 200-300 people in attendance. Since I don’t want to leave my wedding to the chance of the weather, we have to look at larger venues for the wedding and reception. Christian still has not confirmed if he was open to a church wedding, so we leave options open for the Rainer Club, Seattle First Baptist Church, Seattle Unity Church, and the Marion Oliver McCaw Hall where the Adopt-A-Family affair was held. That site—though ideal in my eyes—presents a larger problem with the two-story glass walls and no protection from outside prying eyes. Tammy insists that we can pull of our wedding there if we want, but I’m not so sure. We will have to see how that works out.

I put in a call to Grace to have a preliminary guest list to me by Saturday and she sounds like she’s choking on the other line.

“Saturday?” she exclaims. “There’s no way I’ll have a guest list ready by Saturday.”

“Well, you will have to, Grace, because we have four months to get this party started and I have to get save-the-date cards sent out by next week. My wedding planner has hired someone to address them for me, but it will take all week to get them addressed and mailed out. Keep your initial list down to 100 people because you know that you will have some add-ons by the time this is all over.”

“Oh, Ana, seriously… 100 people? You’ll have that many people at the rehearsal dinner!” Is she kidding? She’s kidding, right?

“No, Grace, we won’t. We will only have the wedding party and necessary family friends at the rehearsal dinner. This will not be a three-ring circus. We are going to be taking offers from local and national publications as to which one will get the exclusive rights to the story. That’s how the world will see our wedding. We will not be inviting half of Seattle and parts of the United States to our wedding.”

“But, Ana…” she whines and I cut her off.

“I have to put my foot down, here, Grace. It’s not going to happen. If I don’t keep control over this event, it’s going to turn into a ridiculous Hollywood production and I won’t have it—not for our wedding day. Everything that happens will have to go through me and Christian directly, and right now, I need your list by Saturday.” She sighs.

“I’ll be open to add more people later?” she asks.

“Within reason and only with prior approval, and if Christian looks at your list and says that someone can’t come, then they can’t come—so choose wisely,” I warn.

“Well, there goes his cousin Marshall,” she says.

Just as I was hanging up from Grace and wrapping things up with Tammy, Christian and Taylor walk in the front door. He looks totally worn. Tammy and I meet him at the door just as I am showing her out.

“Tammy, this is my fiancé Christian Grey. Christian, this is Tamara McDaniels, our wedding planner.” He raises an eyebrow at me and proffers his hand to Tammy.

“Ms. McDaniels, it’s a pleasure to meet you,” he says with a small smile. She accepts his hand.

“Mr. Grey, the pleasure is mine. I’m very happy to be planning yours and Ana’s wedding. I promise you that it will be a classy event. Thank you for the opportunity,” she says pleasantly. “It’s late, and I’ll be going now. Remember, Ana, guest list by Saturday and we will have to narrow down venues in two weeks. It’s going to be hell trying to get something with only four months to work with, but we’ll make it happen.”

“I have no doubt,” I say as we walk to the door. “I’ll talk to you tomorrow,” I say as I hug her before closing the door behind her. I turn around to face a totally worn-out Christian. He actually looks like he’s aged a bit.

“I take it that Cassie Hamilton was a ‘no?'” he says, his voice laced with exhaustion.

“Cassie Hamilton was a hell ‘no!'” I reply. “The bitch was damn near naked when I showed up, walked right past me because she was looking for you, and almost violated her NDA.” Christian was loosening his tie but freezes in the spot.

“Excuse me?” he says, turning around to face me.

“I didn’t stutter, Christian. That bitch made it a point to tell me that I could not handle you because it takes a special type of woman to be with you. Her words were, ‘Many women have dreamed of being controlled by Christian Grey,’ and she made a point of telling me that you were charming, handsome, and dominant—right before she told me that she could have you anytime she wanted.”

“In a pig’s eye!” he says. “So, Ms. Hamilton has loose lips, huh? I’ll take care of that!”

“You’ll do no such thing!” I snap. “That woman wants nothing more than for you to come running to her… no matter what the circumstances.”

“Oh, I’m not going to come in contact with or have any communication with her. Second to Naomi, she was the shortest contract I’ve ever had and it seems that she is still exercising the bad judgment that got her terminated,” he responded. I know that I’m going to regret this.

“What do you mean by that?” I ask. He examines me, then completely removes his tie.

“You don’t need those details in your head, Butterfly, but I will tell you this—1 ½ months. That’s how long she lasted. She started contacting my old subs, pumping them for information or egging them on about being my current. She never overtly did anything to break her NDA, but she skated so close that I terminated our contract. That was a little over two years ago and she’s still doing the same shit.”

“The tangled web unravels,” I say under my breath as I start the gather the swatches of material and different pieces of wedding paraphernalia from the sofas and floor.

“What was that?”

“Nothing. Why do you look like you’ve been through hell today?” I ask, diverting the conversation.

“That would be because I’ve been through hell today, now what did you say?” I straighten up and look at him.

“I said ‘nothing.’ What I said before that was an internal observation that I didn’t mean to vocalize and I’m not going to expound on it. Now do you want to talk about your day or no?” His eyes become piercing and he squares his shoulders a bit.

“What the fuck is wrong with you? I asked you not to go and see that woman and this is exactly why!” he snaps.

“You didn’t tell me that this woman was going to gun for me, Christian, and you had an inkling that this would happen based on the fact that your relationship ended so sourly!” I accuse. Oh, that was the wrong thing to say.

“Oh, now this is my fault? I’m not going to give you a play-by-play of the relationships I’ve had with my ex-subs, Anastasia. Besides, I told you not to go. That should have been enough!” he barks.

“Oh, yes, of course! Heaven forbid that anyone defy the word of the great Christian Grey!” I hiss. His frown deepens and he looks horrified.

“Where the fuck did that come from? You had a meeting with one of my ex-subs and you didn’t expect that to go badly?” he retorts, his voice high and incredulous. We are getting absolutely nowhere, and this discussion is getting more and more heated with no hope of resolution.

“You know what? It’s not a good idea for us to argue about who’s wrong or right in this situation right now,” I say, turning around and continuing to gather my wedding information.

“You’re right, it’s not!” he nearly growls before marching in that pissed-off CEO way to his study and slamming the door behind him.

Just fucking great.

I won’t even bother trying to analyze what just happened. He did tell me not to go, but he should have warned me about this certifiable bitch. I’m not an unreasonable woman. I could have gone my whole life not having the experience that I had with Cassie Hamilton this afternoon. If he had given me some hint of what I was walking into, I definitely would have ‘walked’ in the other direction and gone straight to Tammy!

I thought you said you weren’t going to analyze what happened…
Shut the fuck up—I’m a shrink.

I continue putting my belongings into the bags and binders that I have for each task. The woman had her melons on display for Christ’s sake, the way that slinky material was cupping her breast and the way that it slid across her naked ass—she was screaming “Take me, take me now!”

You should have left the moment you saw that. You knew it was only going to be downhill from there.
That may be true, but you know as well as I do that when she sashayed her ass back in that room, she threw down the gauntlet.
You didn’t necessarily have to pick it up though.
Seriously? I mean, seriously?
Um… yeah… well, there is that, but still…

I finish gathering my things and take them up to the old subs’ room where I have the rest of the things spread out. Suddenly, I hate being in this room. She was here. They were all here. I have done so well not to ponder on the thought of the women that Christian slept with before me… in this bed, in the playroom, in the showers around the apartment. My skin starts to crawl. I gather my things together and quickly move them down the hall to the spare bedroom. I have accumulated so much stuff that it takes two more trips—not including my laptop. I feel like I’m suffocating the last time I go into that room.

I gather my laptop and rush out of the room, slamming the door behind me like the monsters are going to follow me out if I don’t. I lean against the door and take a few deep breaths to chase away the psychological beasts and walk down the hall to the guest room.

This room is much more comfortable than the sub room. The king sized bed is made with a multicolored duvet and the walls are a soft tan. The room is very understated with just one nightstand and a dresser with a lamp. This works for me. No bad memories in here to chase me out… I hope.

I spread my stuff out again and try to organize the mess that I’ve made hurriedly moving my things from the subs’ room. I think I’m going to need some corkboards or bulletin boards and dry erase boards. I start to separate things as much as I can. I skip dinner and work well into the night.

Wedding dress ideas…
Which shade of silver…?
Too many choices for wedding favors…
I decided against that venue altogether so it’s completely out of the running.
Those bridesmaids dresses are horrendous—what was I thinking?
Water…definitely near some water…
Hmm, balloons… no, definitely no balloons. This is a wedding, not a birthday party…
Ooo, now that dress is stunning! The girls will love to wear those…
Ascots!? Fuck, no!
Old, new, borrowed… shit, what the hell can I borrow?


GREY

I knew it! I knew it was a bad idea for her to meet Cassie. I should have forbidden her to go! You better fucking believe that shit won’t happen again. The next time there is any possibility of her coming within 100 feet of one of my ex-subs, I’m nipping that shit in the bud… quickly! Fucking Cassie Hamilton, I’ll send a message to that bitch.

“Yes, Sir?” he answers on the first ring.

“Welch, find out who holds the reins on Cassie Hamilton—her business, her living situation, her finances. See if she has another Dom. You know where to look,” I say, throwing my suit jacket and tie in a nearby chair.

“Yes, Sir.” I end the call take a bottle of water from the bar. I’ve reached for the bourbon a little too much these days and it’s time to slow that down. I sit down and open my email. I don’t even want to think about this shit anymore.

To: Christian Grey

Subject: Final Arrangements

Date: February 28, 2013 19:29

From: Elva McIntyre

It was a hell of a day, but we’ve got everyone in place now. We are only waiting for one secondary background check to come back and two of the original candidates got the ix-nay from Alex. One was a budding young actress looking for some camera time and the other just didn’t seem to sit well with him. You might want to ask him why. I would also like to know how an actress found out about the segment when we have kept things quiet all of this time. Anyway, we now have 25 lined up with 5 alternatives—not including you and Anastasia—and shooting will begin next week. They will come to the studio anonymously and will only be allowed inside during their specific time slots. We will start on Tuesday and hope to have it all wrapped up by the end of the week. Here is the list again, although I know that you have already seen it. I’ll see you tomorrow.

Elva McIntyre, CCO, Grey Enterprises Holdings, Inc.

I peruse the list and see the names of the two people that got the ax at the end of the list. Nothing looks strange to me, but I’ll ask Welch about it later. I’ve already got him working on the Cassie Hamilton situation.

Today was a real monster of a day. Although I was tucked away in another room, I personally took part in selecting each of the participants in the Faces of Abuse PSA. I had no idea it would come together so quickly, but once we put the word out to the right people, it was pretty much like shooting crabs in a barrel. Key people actually came to us asking to be part of the project, and we only had to fill in the blanks… and the diversity! Good God, abuse truly doesn’t discriminate.

The story that is most heavily weighing on me is that of Débora Arias. Débora’s mother moved here before Débora was born, married an American businessman and started a family. Débora fell in love with an American as well, Richard Parker. Although they didn’t marry, they did have two children together and were living in Tacoma. According to Débora’s mother Luma, one day Richard just snapped. He and Débora were going out one night and he felt what she was wearing was too revealing. No one knows what happened after that, but Débora is now in the hospital—beaten beyond recognition and on life support—and Richard is nowhere to be found.

Luma is taking care of Débora and Richard’s two small children now and is unable to make ends meet. She can’t find any childcare that is affordable and has missed several days of work while her daughter has been hospitalized. Her job is threatening to fire her now and Débora’s condition is deteriorating, meaning that Luma may now have two small children that she must raise…

…all because some asshole didn’t like the length of his girlfriend’s skirt.

I can’t save them all, but I can save one.

I couldn’t do anything to save Luma’s job. Unfortunately, she is a personal assistant for another personal assistant for a downtown executive. If you’re not there, you can’t work… and we need our personal assistants. However, at this time, she needs to be able to sort her family. Her husband passed away five years ago from prostate cancer. Besides any family that she may have in Brazil, Débora and her two girls are the only family she has left in the States. I’ve arranged for Débora to get the best care at the hospital. After all, these may be her last days. I was late coming home because I actually went to the hospital after everyone left GEH to see for myself just how bad off she really was and, to my dismay, the prognosis was just as poor and Luma said.

Beaten to death at 24… that could have been my Butterfly at 15.

I sat with Luma at the hospital, who was surprised to see me there. I told her Butterfly’s story—not all of the details, but the story nonetheless. It’s a matter of public record anyway. I told her how Butterfly was in a coma for three weeks with no one there to encourage her or talk to her. I comforted her and let her know how good it was that she was there to hold Débora’s hand and watch over her during this time. I thought about Butterfly the entire time.

Débora’s two girls were asleep on the sofa in the hospital room—head to head. They looked like two little angels, no doubt somewhat oblivious to what is about to happen. I asked Luma if they had eaten, and she indicated that she had given the girls some snacks and granola bars so that they would not be hungry, but never indicated that she had eaten anything. I had Jason bring dinner to the hospital so that they could all have a proper meal. Tomorrow, when the girls are in school, I will bring Luma back to GEH to discuss with her how I can help her during this time. She should not be worrying about money or a job while her daughter is dying.

No doubt, by the time I had gotten home, not only was I not in the mood for what hit me, but I wasn’t even prepared! Ana was in a foul mood and blaming me for the horrible meeting that she had with Cassie. I told her not to go—how is this my fault? She’s buried in wedding shit and talking to a woman I later learned is our wedding planner Tamara, and I’m thinking everything is okay. I assumed that the meeting with Cassie didn’t go well, but apparently it was a fucking disaster. According to Ana, Cassie was served up and ready for action, and when the afternoon didn’t go as she planned, she let loose on Ana—which is somehow my fault. Never again… never a-fucking-gain…

I have to admit that I was very productive for it to have been so late in the evening and I had already put in a full day’s work as well as emotional overtime at the hospital. I read hundreds of emails, nearly clearing out my inbox—nearly being the operative word. My inbox is never cleared. I approved R&D on four new projects and testing on eight. I reviewed the information on at least three—maybe four—new mergers, approved one for the go-ahead, two for further investigation, and shot one down. I’ve made several lists of things that I need Andrea to sort out for me in terms of scheduling, some background checks that I want done, intel on some other things that may have slipped through the cracks, and some other miscellaneous items.

My mind wanders aimlessly to the Pedophile. We still haven’t heard anything from her lately. She has the impending trial though there’s no official date yet and the heat is definitely on now that the latest pictures were found in her library. All those children… so many young boys she has gotten her claws into and no one knows exactly how many or who they all are. She’s most likely in hiding somewhere, but she can’t hide forever. She is such an evil bitch and she will surely rot in jail for a long time before she rots in hell.

My neck and back are starting to get stiff and I realize that I am absolutely famished. I stand up and stretch, and looking at my watch, I realize that it’s 3am. What time was it when I got home? Seven? Eight? I haven’t heard a peep all evening. I don’t know if it was because Ana never moved, or because I was concentrating on what I was doing. I wander out to the kitchen. The apartment is dark except for the lights over the breakfast bar. I open the refrigerator and remove the turkey, a tomato, lettuce, mayonnaise, sliced cheddar cheese. I take the whole wheat bread from the bread box and begin to assemble my sandwich.

I used to do this a lot before Butterfly came along. During my nighttime wanderings, I would get hungry and make a sandwich, so Gail knew to always keep fresh bread and sliced turkey around. It’s been a while since I made one of my midnight runs, so I’m surprised we still have this stuff in here. Then again, Butterfly eats light most of the time. She can eat a lot, but she still eats light food mostly. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her eat fried chicken or pizza. If I ever see her with a fast food burger, I think I would pass out! I finish making my sandwich and put the ingredients away. After pouring myself a glass of milk, I dig into the sandwich. Good God, I’m starving. Will this be enough? It will have to do. It’s too late—or early—for a full-course meal.

The sandwich is gone in moments, and I steal a few cookies from the counter and take my milk with me to the bedroom. Butterfly is not here… again. This time, I don’t panic, although I am a little angry. Why the fuck is she sleeping in the subs’ room? Is she trying to make a fucking point? My first inclination is to leave her ass there and let her sulk, but my anger gets the best of me. I find myself storming up the stairs to the subs’ room. When I throw the door open, and there is nothing but eerie silence. The bed is perfectly made and there is no sign of the papers, material, books, and even Butterfly’s laptop that littered the bed earlier in the week.

Now, I’m starting to panic.

Did she take this worse than I thought? I don’t want fucking Cassie Hamilton! Shit, when I had her, I dumped her—what the fuck is this all about?

I slam the door to the subs’ room and trek down the hall to her office. It’s no surprise that she’s not there either. I am becoming more and more pissed as the seconds pass. This is really childish behavior and I am sick of it. That’s when I notice that there is light shining from underneath the door of the guest room.

There she is!

I throw the door open, warm and ready for a full-on showdown. I am cooled immediately by the sight before me. There on the guest room bed is Butterfly—her array of wedding confusion sprawled all over the multicolored duvet; her laptop on the pillow, the screen black from timing out and going into sleep mode. Her hand is lying on a binder, still clutching a beautiful custom-made metal and wooden butterfly pen that she got for herself not too long ago. She is still wearing her glasses and is curled up in the only space on the duvet that is not covered with pieces of her current task… fast asleep.

I nearly melt in a mound of mush right there on the floor standing in the doorway. I love her dearly, but she can be so damn trying sometimes. I sigh heavily and roll my eyes I enter the room. Originally intent on moving her to our bed, I think better of it again. She may still be angry with me as I must admit that I am not wholly pleased with her right now, I don’t want to break her rest just to possibly spawn another argument. I take the blanket that I know is in the closet in this room and throw it over her, kiss her on her forehead, and quietly leave the room without disturbing her.

I shower quickly and climb into our bed. It’s unusually cold. I grab another blanket and climb back into bed only to discover that it’s still not any warmer. Maybe I should have let the shower wait until morning. That’s when I realize that the chill is not coming from the temperature. It’s coming from the fact that there’s no one lying next to me. The one that keeps my bed and heart warm at night is upstairs asleep in the guest room. I still don’t know if she did that on purpose. I only know that I wish she hadn’t.

I find sleep just as I see the sun peeking over the horizon.

*-*

I hear her creeping quietly around the room. I imagine that she is getting dressed and gathering her things for the day, still angry no doubt. I lay still and listen to her movements, my eyes closed so as not to alert her that I am awake. It only takes her a few moments to gather her things and then there is a moment of silence. What is she doing now?

Seconds later, I feel her—her breath on my face followed by a quick and gentle kiss on my lips. I moan inwardly and a tiny bit audibly, but just enough for her to still think that I am asleep. I want to grab her and drag her into the bed with me and make love to her until we forget about last night, but if that were what she wanted, she would be in bed with me now. She was careful not to wake me, so I will leave it be for now.

I open my eyes once I am sure that she has left the room. I will not fight with Butterfly about my ex-subs. Not that I’m bragging, but there were too many of them. I’m going to make an example of Cassie and then I’m going to pass the word of what is going to happen to them if they cross my wife again… I mean, soon-to-be wife.

I honestly did enough work last night to be able to take the day off, but I told Luma Arias to meet me in my office at 10am. So I get dressed in a pair of slacks and a white turtleneck. I don’t even feel like being too formal today. I don’t know what it will hold, so I might as well be comfortable. Luma is already in the lobby when I arrive at the office.

“Ms. Arias, I’m glad that you could make it,” I greet her with a handshake as I enter the lobby.

“Mr. Grey, thank you. I’m sorry I’m so early, but I had to drop the girls off at school and it’s far away from my house, so I just got on the bus here instead of going back home,” she explains.

“No apologies necessary. Have you had breakfast already?” I ask, knowing that she hasn’t.

“Well…” She is hesitant to answer.

“Jason, could you please send breakfast up to my office?” I instruct him and he nods. I lead her to the express elevator.

“So, Ms. Arias, tell me—candidly, please—what would make your life easier during this difficult time?” I ask when we get to my office. She frowns and starts to cry immediately.

“I’m afraid, Mr. Grey,” she says. My turn to frown, now.

“Afraid of what?” I ask her.

“Richard. He called last night. He says he wants his girls.” The children. This sick fuck has basically killed their mother and now he wants the children.

“They’re at school. Can’t he take the from school?” I ask concerned.

“No. The staff has been informed that the police are looking for him. They won’t let the children go with him. There is a restraining order to keep him away from the girls.”

“What are you afraid of?” I question.

“The girls don’t know the whole story. They don’t know that their daddy hurt their mommy. They don’t know that mommy’s dying. They don’t know that they could be in danger if Daddy gets to them. They might go with him willingly when my back is turned. He might come back and hurt me trying to get to them. He might even hurt them…” I am hearing the Damon Johnson story all over again. What is it with these weak-minded men that have to brutalize their women as a show of strength? That’s not strength—that’s a complete and utter lack of control.

Didn’t you do the same thing, Grey—beat little brown-haired girls to show your strength? No… that was different. Yes, it helped me regain control, but each of those women were willing participants. It was a give-and-take. I never touched anyone in anger or against their will, and I certainly never landed anyone in the fucking hospital. So, no, it most certainly was not the same thing.

“How did he contact you?” I ask her.

“I don’t know. The number was unknown. With so many people needing to know what’s going on with the girls—social services, the school, the police—I just answered the phone, and it was him. I called the police immediately, but because he used something that they called a ‘burner,’ there was nothing that they could do to track him. I was terrified leaving the house this morning.” I run my hands through my hair. This fucker has this poor woman afraid to breathe. She jumps suddenly, startled by something. She fishes into her purse and pulls out her cell.

“Hello?” All of the color leaves her face. Is it him? Is it that fucker. “I… I… I’m on my way.” A single tear falls as she ends the call.

“I… have to go to the hospital, Mr. Grey,” she says in a faint voice. “It’s Débora… it won’t be long now.” She cannot raise her head. I call Jason.

“Bring the car around. We need to get to the hospital right now,” I say before ending the call. “It’s Christian, and I’m going with you,” I say to Luma. She raises her head and examines me with tear-filled, painful, light-brown eyes.

“Luma,” she says, barely above a whisper.

*-*

I stand silently in the corner by the door while Luma holds her daughter’s hand. She speaks to her in Portuguese, so I cannot make out what she is saying. At a certain point, she pulls out a rosary and begins to pray. We have been here for most of the day and the children will be out of school in a little over an hour. She doesn’t want to leave her daughter’s side, but it will be inevitable in a moment. She has to pick up the children.

Seconds after I mentally make that realization, Débora’s machines start beeping. Luma goes pale. “Débora?” she squeaks. “Débora? Bebê ?” Her pain is palpable. The doctors and nurses burst into the room and I go over to Luma.

“Luma?” I say, reaching for her arms. She won’t let go. “Luma, we have to let the doctors work…”

“It’s no use,” she says, her voice heavy with grief as she releases Débora’s hand. “She’s already gone. Her spirit has left. There is nothing but her body,” she cries as she turns to me and buries her face in my chest, weeping. I freeze.

She’s touching me. She’s touching my chest.

I can’t freak out. I won’t. I’ll be okay. I breathe in and out deeply and think of Butterfly. Don’t freak out. Don’t freak out.

Once the machines begin to beep steadily, I try to lead Luma out of the room knowing that the defibrillators and different things that are about to happen to try to bring Débora back will not be a pleasant sight. As soon as the machine is rolled in, Luma reacts.

“Oh, God,” she says as they start to shock her daughter before I am able to get her out of the room. I don’t know if they have forgotten that we are standing there, but they continuously charge and shock, hoping to get a response. I don’t know how many times they tried to bring her back and just as they are preparing to send the jolts of electricity through her again, I hear Luma’s voice.

“No!” she declares in a voice louder than I have ever heard and everyone stops. “Let her rest,” she says, her voice more contained. “She’s gone now. She is no longer with us. Let her rest.” The nurses and interns all look at the doctor, who nods and turns off the wailing machine announcing that Débora has indeed left us.

“We’ll give you a few moments, Mrs. Arias,” the doctor says as he clears the room. I hold Luma close to me and allow her to grieve—no panic going through me, no freaking out, just comforting a mother who just watch her daughter die, who now has the responsibility of raising her two young grandchildren, who is afraid for her life and the lives of her grandchildren because of the man who took the life of her only child.

Without looking at me, she sits in the seat next to her daughter again. She takes her hand and strokes it gently, speaking to her in Portuguese like she did in the moments before Débora died. Her rosary still in her hand, she stands and places Débora’s hand on her stomach. She leans over and kisses her daughter’s warm body one last time before her crossing her body and turning to me.

“I must get the children, now. If it is not too much trouble…”

“No trouble at all, Luma,” I say as I gently tuck her hand into my arm and lead her from the room.

We arrive at the children’s school just as the bell rings for dismissal. When Luma gets out to get the children, I apprise Jason of the situation and the need to have protection on Luma and the children. Before I finish my last sentence, Jason has leapt from the SUV and is charging in the direction that Luma just walked. I’m out of the car and behind him in moments, but not enough time before he has some guy pinned against a chain link fence.

“What the hell are you doing? Get your hands me, you crazy asshole!” the guy protests. It only takes me a moment to analyze the situation. Luma’s face is completely drained of color and the children are confused and yelling for “Daddy.” This is Richard.

“You sick fuck! I know exactly who you are. I should kill you right here!” Jason growls at the vermin. I quickly go over to Luma.

“Who the hell are you? What is this about?” Richard’s eyes reflect a combination of anger and fear. Yeah, not so strong when you’re dealing with a man, now, are you?

“Luma, get the girls to the car, quickly. Lock the doors,” I say to her with urgency. I watch as she hurriedly put the girls in the SUV, then turn around to face Jason.

“Jason, there are many children around, including his. I need you to settle down just a bit,” I speak in a calming voice, noticing that all activity around us has stopped as all eyes are on the spectacle that is unfolding in the front of the school. Jason is like an angry bear and I know he will tear this guy apart on command. It takes a few moments before he releases Richards coat but still won’t let him pass.

“Don’t you fucking move or I’ll break your neck with my bare hands and I don’t care who’s watching!” Jason warns loud enough for only the three of us to hear.

“That won’t be necessary, Jason. He won’t go anywhere, will you, Richard?” Richard’s head snaps over to me and we glare at one another. Noting my stance and demeanor without even looking at me, Jason hisses, “Oh, no, Sir. You won’t dirty your hands with him. This one is all mine!” His voice that concerns me.

Please Mr. Wife Beater, don’t piss him off any further.

“What is this about? Where are you taking my children?”

“Far, far away from you,” I say calmly. “There’s a protection order against you for those kids and their grandmother. You won’t be able to get near them without being arrested.”

“You can’t keep me from my girls,” he says, almost pleading. “I would never hurt my girls. I love my girls!” I raise my eyebrow.

“Oh, and did you love their mother, too?” I ask, still controlling my voice. His pupils constrict and he starts to sweat.

“This was all just a big misunderstanding. Just let me talk to Deb and I’m sure we could straighten this whole thing out,” he says, his voice shaken. I nod.

“I sure you could. There’s a lot of people who would like to talk to Deb and straighten this whole thing out,” I say, deliberately leaving out the key piece of information.

“Look, I don’t know what I’ve done to upset you gentlemen, but I just want to see Deb and my girls, that’s all.”

“I’ll just bet you would like to see Deb, wouldn’t you?” Jason hisses again. I watch as the schoolyard slowly clears, parents hurriedly taking their children to waiting cars or scurrying down the street away from the spectacle. Richard apparently sees his saving grace slipping away. I am hoping beyond hope that someone had the wherewithal to call the police, but I’m not 100% certain. If no one shows up in the next five minutes or so, this could get really ugly. I have a strange sense of calm about me with this encounter, nothing like the time we encountered Marlow’s father in the deli. I can only assume it’s because Jason is absolutely full of rage and I have to keep him calm.

“Okay, I know I’ll be looking at doing some time for losing my temper with Deb. I’m okay with that. Just please let me see my girls,” he pleads.

“Losing your temper? You call this losing your temper? Have you seen what you did to that girl?” I ask him horrified. Calm is gone! I couldn’t even distinguish a face on that poor creature that was laying in that hospital bed. Her death was cruel and unnecessary and he calls that losing his fucking temper? Maybe I should just let Jason lose his temper all over you! Instead, I have a better idea.

“Oh, that’s right. You don’t know yet.” I get right in his ear. “Débora Arias died about an hour ago from the injuries she sustained at your hands,” I tell him calmly. He gasps and his shoulders fall, the grief of the man who has lost the woman that he loves. Yeah, you probably should have thought about that before you beat her to death, Sport! “Yeah, thanks to you, a mother now has to bury her only daughter, and your children will now be raised without their mother and their father, because you’re not going up for battery, Asshole. You’re going up for murder!”

He wants to run. I see it in his eyes. He gives Jason a push that really doesn’t budge him and tries to escape. Jason grabs Richard by the neck with his left hand—not even his dominant hand—and slams him against the fence again.

“Are you trying to tempt the hands of fate?” Jason says, eerily calm and staring into Richard’s eyes while he is gasping for breath and turning red. “Didn’t I look you in your beady little eye and tell you that I will kill you?” Richard starts to squirm and gag.

“Jason? Calm.”

“I am calm, Sir,” he says coolly.

“Release, Jason. Please.” Don’t poke the lion, I think to myself. Jason releases Richard’s neck and he is gasping for air and holding his neck.

Now, the schoolyard is empty. There’s no one out here but Jason, Richard, and me. A decision has to be made. We can’t just stand here and I can’t, in good conscience, just let this man walk away. Like a beacon in the night, Seattle’s finest shows drives up behind the SUV. Thank God!

Ironically, it’s the same cop that came to the deli. I laugh out loud, literally laugh out loud. I put my hands up.

“Well, at least you know who I am,” I say, my laughter a little nervous. The officer stops and proceeds towards us again.

“Mr. Grey… what’s going on here?” he says.

“Pretty much the same thing, but on a larger scale. I didn’t put my hands on him this time, though,” I respond. “This is Richard Parker. He beat his girlfriend and the mother of his children to death. She died in the hospital about an hour ago. Her mother and I are working together on a project and she explained the situation to me. While we were meeting in my office, Mrs. Arias got the call that her daughter was breathing her last breaths. We went to the hospital and sat with Débora until she passed away. Mrs. Arias still hasn’t had time to grieve her daughter’s death because she immediately had to leave the hospital to collect the girls. I don’t know if anything transpired between Mrs. Arias and Mr. Parker because I had no sooner explained to him what happened when Mr. Parker encountered Mrs. Arias. My bodyguard was out of the car before I could stop him.”

I finally take a moment to look over at Richard and he is weeping bitterly. I don’t even know what to say to this guy. I don’t doubt that he didn’t intend to kill her, but the bottom line is he killed her!

“Oh my God,” he moans as he slides to the ground. “Oh my God, she’s dead… she’s dead. I did this… oh my God…” None of us really know what to do right now. “I’m sorry,” he weeps into his hands. “I’m so, so sorry…”

To our surprise, Luma is out of the car and gently pushing Jason to the side. She looks at the man weeping in a bundle at her feet. She stoops down and touches his shoulder. He looks up at her, and shame and anguish fill his eyes as he sees the pity in hers. He drops his head and weeps from his soul, his cries almost make me want to cry for him. Even Jason is forced to step back and reconsider at this spectacle.

“What happened, Richie?” Luma asks.

“I don’t know, MaMah!” he wails. “I don’t know! I’m a monster! I’m a horrible, horrible monster and I don’t deserve to live!” Not many people will disagree with you right now, but I am surprised at Luma’s compassion for the man who took her daughter’s life.

“Why, Richie? Why did you do this?”

“I snapped. I don’t even remember what happened. I saw the dress and I snapped. MaMah! She’s gone. I want to die! She’s gone! My girls. Oh, my girls! Take care of my girls, MaMah!”

“I will take care of the girls, and I forgive you, Richie.” His eyes shoot up as her, the whites so red that I can’t see his true eye color at all.

“How!?” he asks, horrified. “How? I killed this beautiful creature… with my own hands! I’m an evil, horrible creature! I don’t deserve to live! How can you forgive me, MaMah? How!?” he is screaming.

“Because it was not Richie who killed my anjinho. I know this now, but you must pay for the deed, Richie. She is gone, and you must pay for the deed. Do you understand?” she says comforting.

“Yes, MaMah,” he says, heartbroken. “I understand. I’m sorry, MaMah. I’m so sorry. Tell my girls that I am sorry and that I love them. Please take care of my girls, MaMah.” His sadness is palpable. Either he’s a very good actor, or he really didn’t mean to do this. Either way, it’s off to the hoosegow with him.

“You will tell them yourselves—when you are ready,” she says softly, comforting. “They will not forget you, Richie. You are their father.” He shakes his head.

“I’m a monster,” he mumbles. “I love you, MaMah.”

“I know, Richie. Go with these men now,” she instructs him and he nods. He rises from the ground and never raises his head. I walks over to the police and offers no resistance.

“Officer, can you wait for just one moment?” I say as they flank Richie. The officer nods and I turn to Luma. “Go to the car. Don’t let the children see this.” She nods and goes to the SUV. When she has the girls in her arms and shielding them from the events, I nod to the police and they cuff the docile Mr. Parker who still hasn’t raised his head.

“Mr. Grey… please… my girls…” he says, beseeching.

“They’ll be fine,” I assure him.

“I’m not a bad person, Mr. Grey. I did a horrible thing and I don’t know how I did it, but I’m not a bad person… at least… I wasn’t.” I still don’t know what to say to him so I remain silent as they put in him the police car. I walk over to the SUV and sit in front with Jason. We leave before the police pull off.

*-*

“What do you mean gone? I thought you said that Mommy was sleeping,” young Mariah asks. She is the oldest of the two children at six and four-year-old Celida just listens, not knowing what to make of the situation.

“I mean that… she is gone to the preparation and she will be waiting for us when it is our time,” Luma tries to explain.

“You said Grampa was gone to the preparation,” Mariah presses.

“Yes, he is, and now he and Débora are together.”

“Well then, want to go to the preparation!” Marian exclaims, tears in her eyes. This is heartbreaking.

“Me, too!” Celida says, taking a cue from her big sister. Luma sighs heavily.

“I know, my darlings, but it is not our time. When our work here on earth is done, then we will all go to the preparation if we live a good clean life, and pray, and do not forget mass and communion, and then we will all go to Heaven together—but we must wait until it is our time. It is a hard thing to wait when someone that we love goes to the preparation before we do, but this is one of the things that make you strong.” She pulls the girls into her arms. “You will miss her, and you will want to cry. I will miss her too, so I need you to help me be strong, and I will help you. It’s okay to cry and to be sad, but don’t be sad for too long because your MaMah would not like that.”

The tears begin to fall from Mariah’s eyes. “She’s not coming back, is she?” she says sadly. Luma purses her lips and shakes her head.

“No, Mariah, she’s not coming back.” Mariah gets a look of determined hatred in her eyes.

“I hate the preparation! It took my MaMah away!” she cries before breaking down in sobs, Celida following behind her.

“No, no, little ones. Do not say that. The preparation did not take your MaMah away. Your MaMah was hurt and very sick. She was suffering and unhappy. It was time for her pain and suffering to end, so she began her new journey since her journey here on Earth had ended. The Holy Virgin will make sure that she is safe and happy until we get to meet her again.” Mariah looks up at her grandmother with unassuming eyes.

“She will?” she asks. Luma nods.

“Yes, she will. It is our job now to live lives that your MaMah will be proud of. We may not be able to hear her, but she can see us and we want her to be pleased.” Mariah nods sadly.

“I will miss you, MaMah,” she says sweetly.

“Me, too,” Celida chimes in. I notice that she follows behind her sister’s lead. They will need each other more than ever during this time.

“That’s good girls.” She kisses them on their forehead. “We will do this together, yes?”

“Yes, Nana,” Mariah says with a smile.

“Yes, Nana,” Celida follows her lead.

“Very good. Now go and get your coats. We need to be going now.” They nod to her as Mariah takes her little sister’s hand and leads her to the lobby just outside my office where Andrea is patiently waiting. It’s nearly 6pm and we have all had a perfectly horrendous day.

“Luma, I am arranging for a car to be delivered to your home tomorrow. It’s nothing fancy, I didn’t think you would want anything really flashy, but it’s very reliable. It will be in your name and already registered and it will help you get the children to school.” She nods. I think she is beyond arguing with me, so I press on. “Did Débora have any advance funeral arrangements?”

“I have no idea. Only Richie would know that,” she says sadly. She’s still calling him Richie.

“Choose a funeral home and I will cover the cost of the arrangements.” She nods again. “Do you really forgive him, Luma?” I ask and she looks up at me.

“Yes, I do, Christian,” she says without pausing.

“How? Why?” I am so puzzled. I could never forgive something like this and how she could is beyond my comprehension. She smiles at me.

“God says that I must. I will not forget the pain that he has caused me and the girls. It will take a long time for that to heal, but I forgive the action. He will be judged. It is not my place,” she says to me. I still don’t agree with it, but in essence, I understand.

“You’re a remarkable woman, Luma,” I say to her. “So, I suppose you won’t be wanting to do the ‘Faces of Abuse’ segment now.”

“Oh, absolutely,” she says, surprising me. “It’s more important now than ever, don’t you see? I forgive his abusive action, but that action still took my daughter away. Even though I never saw any signs of it, I don’t know if this was the first time that this has happened before. I only have one requirement.”

“Anything,” I tell her.

“I planned on using a beautiful picture of my anjinho, but I do not want to use it now. I want to use this one.” She scrolls through her phone, chooses a picture and hands it to me. It is an absolutely horrific picture of Débora lying in the hospital bed on life support.”

“Are you sure, Luma? I mean, it sure drives the point home but… are you certain?”

“Absolutely positive, Christian. I want to save other mothers from the anguish that I am feeling now. There may not have been anything that could have been done to save my daughter, but someone who is being beaten constantly can be saved before it gets to that.” I look at the picture again then back at her. I send the picture to McIntyre with instructions and copy the picture to my phone.

“Then it will be so,” I say as she walks to the door and out to the lobby. “Andrea, are you still looking for another assistant?” I ask.

“Yes Sir,” she says.

“Anything promising?”

“I have a couple of prospects, but nothing concrete yet.” I look over at Luma.

“Would you mind giving Mrs. Arias a try?” I look over at Luma who is gaped-mouth. “That is, if you want to,” I say to Luma.

“Yes! Yes Sir, absolutely!” she beams like all of her problems have been solved. Andrea shrugs.

“Sure. No problem. When would you like to start?” she says.

“Well,” I interrupt, “would part-time be okay for the first week or so as a trial basis? Mrs. Arias unfortunately has some immediate family issues to attend to. I still want her to get full salary, though. These things can’t be avoided.”

“Whatever you say, Sir,” Andrea nods. “Would you like to come in on Monday, say around 10:00? We can get you started, show you around, make it a short day—four hours?” Luma nods.

“Certainly! Yes! Thank you! Thank you both so much.” That’s one less thing to worry about.

“Jason, call up to Welch. Let him know that Mrs. Arias will be needing an employee’s access badge on Monday, and have Lawrence see her and her granddaughters safely home,” I tell him.

“Yes, Sir,” he says dialing his phone.

After Luma leaves I dismiss Andrea for the evening and go back to my office. I sit in my office chair and let the weight of the day sink down into the leather. I put my elbow on the desk and cover my eyes with my hands, rubbing them in an attempt to wipe away the events of the day. I hear my door open and immediately address Jason without lifting my head.

“I watched someone die today,” I say, still rubbing my eyes and imagining the image of the poor girl lying in bed, her life slowly slipping away.

“You did?” That’s not Jason. My head shoots up immediately as I do recognize the voice.

It’s her.


A/N:

Pretty Woman—Google or YouTube the scene where Julia Roberts asks the shop girl if she works on commission and then says “Big mistake… big… huge… I have to go shopping now.”

anjinho—angel
bebe–baby

Pictures of places, cars, fashion, etc. can be found at http://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/mending-dr-steele/

You can join my mailing list on the “Contact Me” page. Just click the link and it will lead you to a form to join the list.

Feel free to review—it is greatly appreciated.

Love and Handcuffs!
Lynn x

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70 thoughts on “Mending Dr. Steele: Chapter 27—Bad News

  1. Jackie says:

    Definitely my favorite FSOG story. Your writing has such depth. I’ll be sorry when the story ends.

    • crazy4bam says:

      I would have to agree with you, Jackie. It is my most favorite FSOG story. To the Goddess….your writing is amazing and heartfelt. I’ll be sorry also to see this story end. I do have to say your original story is one I am greatly looking forward too.

  2. Gia says:

    OMG Lynn, thank you. I have been checking my e-mail all day for your next chapter… It is nearly 11 at night in Greece and i have been waiting for almost twelve hours to read this chapter.I can not wait to read the discussion will have Anna with the ex submissive of Christian… Good night from Athens… Kisses…

  3. Ginger says:

    Geez, I need a drink after this tangled web of words. Not sure what I’m feeling for Ana right now. I get why she went to meet with Cassie; but after the way last chapter ended – there was no way this was going to be pretty. I feel bad for her, cuz Cassie is definitely missing some screws, but I don’t see this as Christian’s fault. What more was there to say she was a sub dang it?
    Luma’s story shook me. That pill was hard to swallow as it’s so real. I wanted to hate Richard and I was, then when he fell apart and asked her for forgiveness and she gave it so readily, I found I couldn’t. All I could feel was sorry for him. And an incredible amount of respect for a woman whose life was getting ready to change and didn’t have any reservations about anything. That amount of faith or strength was unreal.
    Thank you for the unexpected hero.

    • Thank you. There’s a billion unsung and unexpected heroes out there, Ginger. Sad but true.

    • Rushmr says:

      You basically stated and summed up my thoughts completely Ginger with your comment…I couldn’t have stated it better myself. This story brings out so many emotions in me, that you would think these characters were real…lol! I’m hoping Ana cut Christian some slack going forward, he has a lot on his shoulders as of late. Actually, they both do, but Ana should understand that there was nothing more Christian could have done other than forbidden her from meeting with Cassie…that alone would have been another can worms to deal with.

  4. HawkAngel says:

    very exhausting day for Mr Grey indeed… amazing work!

  5. Amanda says:

    Wow. The chapter started off the way I thought it would with Ana giving Cassie a piece of her mind. Then the rest had me in tears. Its so sad that happens to women all over the country. I thought Christian handled the situation beautifully. Especially when she had her head on his chest and not freaking out. I hope Ana is the one that was at his door as I think he really needs her now without realizing it. Especially with the way things were between the two the night before. Hope you have a good week.

  6. rachel says:

    Good chapter

  7. CJ says:

    There are times I like to believe the stories of abuse are just stories, unfortunately the real world is filled with abuse. Rape and abuse are the least prosecuted crimes, hell in England the figures have actually gone down

  8. Emma says:

    That was a heartbreaking chapter but a lovely ending, he needed her. Well done Lynn x x x x

  9. seralynsmom says:

    What can I truly say about this chapter? Magnificent heartbreaking and I wanna slap Ana and that hoe upside the head!!

    Lets start with Ana shall we? Her reaction when Christian got home was the jealousy coming out plain and simple. What more did he really need to say than the fact the woman was an exsub (that fact alone should have told Ana what she was going to be facing ) and that he didn’t want her to go. He tried to spare her but deep down we all know she was curious more than anything else. She could have went to Tammy and left it at that. But she chose to confront a woman who knows Christian sexually. I really think she just wanted to see what those who came before her were like. All she had to go on was the pedophile. Now she knows. She could have also just walked away the moment she saw what that hoe was doing but she chose to confront her. That’s all on her none of that’s on Christian. Then he walks in looking like death warmed over and instead of saying that they could discuss it later she let her anger get the best of her and made him feel like shit. I’m mad at Ana right now so I hope that’s her coming to apologize and discuss this with him.

    Now for Christian he’s gotta realize that he can’t always step in and protect her from the world. She’s a big girl and there’s always going to be the chance she runs into another ex. There’s going to be more bitter ones and there will also be ones happy for him and Ana. That wish him well and are happy with their own lives. He needs to just stand beside her and hold her hand through life.

    Luma is an amazing woman!! I cried so bad and then she forgives him and you’ve got me bawling like a baby that dropped its ice cream!!! I’m wondering if there isn’t something medically wrong with Richard? I know brain rumors can cause a sudden personality change. And that sounds like that might be what happened. He went from kind loving man to a killer. And his remorse makes me think he really didn’t plan on hurting her. Granted advisers never plan on hitting someone they just do it. But it sounds to me as if he’s never been abusive till the moment he killed her. And those poor little girls. So young to have to understand what happened. I knew Christian would do what he did though. That’s just who he is! And he thought he was no good and heartless? Dummy!! Lol

    I have a suggestion if you will I sent you a PM on fanfiction but don’t know if you got it. I’m reading PDS again and I got to the part where she sings him “the healing song” and I actually listened to it this time (I’m going slower looking at the Pinterest page as I’m reading and listening to some of the songs) and I think it’s absolutely perfect for the story and would love to see that as their first dance song!!! Just a thought!! Sorry this was so long but you know you did great when ppl have something to say!! Don’t let anyone tell you this story is bad or stupid or anything cause they’d be wrong!! Us fans will get together and recreate that scene in that movie Where The Heart Is when Natalie Portman is telling the other woman about the pics depicting the bridesmaids jumping up and down on the waitress that was the grooms ex!!! Lol

    • All I can say about Christian AND Ana’s behavior and reactions is that chapter 28 is already written and I hope that you won’t be disappointed. 😉

      Richard’s story is not quite over yet, though he won’t have a storyline, just a bit.

      I won’t be spoiling anything by saying that it was decided the moment that Ana first sang the song to Christian in chapter 17 or 18 (??) of PDS that they would dance to it at their wedding.

      • seralynsmom says:

        I could never be disappointed I can for a surety tell you that!!! Your story is the first I’ve reread (and probably the only until you take it down for publishing!! How’s that going by the way?) and I’ll be one of the first (the first if I have anything to say about it!! Lol) to have it in my hands whether its in book form on on my kindle when you publish it!! I love it as Christian and Ana but I can’t wait to see all the new (and hopefully same as well) twists and turns you take us when it becomes Miles’s story!!

        I’m glad you’ll be giving us a little more on Richard. I want to hate him but his reaction to her death makes me unable to. I think I can understand why Luma forgave him.

        And YAY!! To the song!! Lol. It was really a great song!!

  10. nesh says:

    wow you are soo talented and your chapters dont disappoint i will cry when this story end….much love

  11. Zoe says:

    lol Butterfly was kind of an ass with the whole Cassie situation. She should have known better, but she has her flaws and we all still love her :P. I cant wait to find out what Christian does to “send her a message” uhm, wow that whole Luma situation was so heartbreaking 😦 wow 😦

    And what the heck is happening with the psychopath with two first names???

    xZoe

  12. hun says:

    O MY GOD! That was just sooo sad. 😥 How can anyone do this to a human being?!?!??? Its really great that CG helps them even though this isnt a matter of his concern. He sure has a big heart.
    Is Ana visiting him at the office? Or someone unexpected? I am really curious right now 🙂 Well I think we will just have to wait until next week. 😉
    LG hun

  13. please do a bonus chapter if you can this one was so good and sad but cant wait to see who enter his office was it Ana or Elena

  14. nedbella says:

    How sad. But My God Luma is so strong. I wasn’t expecting Richard to react like that. Maybe it was a first time he’d hit her. Either way, what he did was wrong and using her daughter’s hospital photo for the PSA is clever. But BLOODY HELL! how did Elena get into his office. I hope Christian calls the cops on her. I’m sure he will be pissed at the lack of security and it allowing her to enter the building, let alone his office. This two little girls broke my heart when they were told about their mother, especially how you wrote the youngest one copying her sister. You wrote that amazingly. As with anything you write, it’s with such respect to the characters. The meeting with Cassie was more volatile than I thought it would be. I didn’t expect Cassie to be so brazen when talking about Christian. Her NDA obviously means nothing to her. Christian will correct that and I can’t wait to see what he does. Excellent chapter.

  15. michelle b says:

    wow that was a powerful chapter didn’t see that coming after Ana’s little tiff and she brought this on herself she should have listened to Christian also that is Ana in his office how could Cassie get past security

  16. leoedi0306 says:

    Great chapter! I’m crying.

  17. Dun dun duuuuuun!!!! I am on pins and needles here. Please release me soon. xox

  18. Another amazing chapter, very heart breaking, im a mom so that part with the little girls understanding that there mommy was gone, i had tears running down my face! thats the kind of reading i like! n its how you know your doing a good job people getting emotional etc..but anyways, amazing I LOVE YOUR STORY!!! like everyone else HUGE fan and dont want it to come to an end when you do end it..Looking FORWARD to Saturday i have a feeling who it is, but i still cant wait to read it!!! CANT WAIT TIL SEE HIS MSG TO CASSIE EITHER!

  19. Cbride says:

    Great chapter,thanks.
    Ana is just being difficult, what did she expected with that meeting?
    i think she just was looking for a fight with Cassie and then Christiran.
    Cant wait to know how Christian will kick the skank aka Cassie’s ass.

  20. Annette says:

    My heart breaks for Luma and her granddaughters. Very emotional chapter. Glad Ana stood her ground with Cassie. I can only imagine how Christian will take Ms. Hamilton down. Can’t wait for next weeks update. Best Christian and Ana story out there.

  21. gmbizette says:

    I sure hope that was Ana at the door and not Cassie! Definitely a wild ride!

  22. HM17 says:

    oh Ana. I feel like she’s still comparing herself to Christian’s exes. I hope that it was Ana at his office but I wouldn’t mind having any surprises. Feel bad for Luma. Stay strong Luma!

    I’m sorry but I can’t help it. Does the Richard Parker in your story happen to be Spiderman’s father who disappeared years ago? And now he’s apparently an abuser to women? Lol JK. Couldn’t help it, I just had a spiderman movie marathon before reading this. Great story!

  23. darla says:

    Emotional chapter.

  24. GoddessofMyOwnWorld says:

    I cried and cried until, my cousin was like WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU!!! So sad and I hope christian and ana work this thing out…..
    Thank You Mrs.Goddess for blessing us with ur brilliance

  25. valentinesgenie says:

    That was truly sad from the argument with Ana and Christian to the young mom dying that was so sad but with that said good work as always see you next week.

  26. madkatlady says:

    Another beautifully written chapter and so heart wrenching, the way in way you convey the characters emotions is truly amazing. You are such a talented writer.

    I am surprised that Ana expected professionalism from Cassie… I think Ana was being a little to optimistic there for that kind of interaction with Cassie. She really should of known better, unless she was looking for a fight with Cassie or just trying to rub Cassie’s nose in the dirt about the fact the she got the man and Cassie didn’t. Ana needs to put on her big girls panties back on and face the fact that it wasn’t anyone’s fault but her own with what happened. Yes, it is not nice meeting an ex, but she did seek her out, when deep down she knew how it would turn out. There really is no other way that there could of been any other outcome. Move forward and pass it Ana, its the past and over and done with, just don’t go there again, as you really don’t need to prove anything to any of those skanks.

    Christian just can’t help himself sometimes when it comes to someone being severely abused, love that he was so thoughtful and helpful to Luma, it was so sad to read about what happened to her daughter. I hope that he is realising that he is not evil or a bad person, just a lot misguided by the wrong person who he trusted at the time. I am eager to see what he intends to do to Cassie. As caring as he is becoming to people that really need help, he is still him when it comes to someone that dares to crosses him or someone he loves. Wondering what he has planned for Cassie and I hope that it doesn’t come back to bite him in the arse if she is becomes vengeful about being scorned.

    Left it with a cliffy again! I am guessing it is the Bitch Troll that just walked through the door, if so OMG some heads will roll.

    Eager as always for more, hoping that you will give us a bonus chapter next week. Until then take care.

    • I’m trying to remember if I left next chapter on a cliffie too. If I did I think I will to have to change it, because I left you guys with two cliffies!!!I really didn’t mean to do that LOL! But I think you’ll love the next chapter anyway.

  27. adrie says:

    Is it Elena at the end? Can’t wait for the next update… too little of Ana and Christian in this one, but it’s still great.

  28. Donna Murray-Hill says:

    wow another amazing chapter, i was in tears but great chapter and left on a cliff hanger is it ana that walked into his office, i hope so and that they can work through things, think ana is comparing herself to the ex-subs of christian and she should tell him, on tender hooks for next chapter, loved it all xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

  29. Another great chapter!!! Cassie, Cassie, Cassie poor girl seems delusional that she would still have a chance with Christian. Christian and Ana’s fight was a no win stitution. Both were wrong in different ways and so far neither has admitted it yet. Once Ana knows what Christian has been doing the last two days she will better understand his mood.
    The whole storyline with Debra had me in tears. I had to shop reading several times just to wipe my eyes. It horrible that things like that happen ALL THE TIME around us. Abuse doesn’t discriminate and it affects many people. I’m a shame more people who can help, don’t.
    I hope at the end it’s NOT Cassie at the door. I look forward to reading the next update.

  30. Oh my. I don’t think I’ve read a story in a long time that has broken my heart and given me joy like this chapter. I feel for this poor woman and think its great that christian was able to help her the way he is. Like he said you can’t save them all.

  31. Wow, that chapter was an emotional rollercoaster. Your writing is outstanding as usual.

  32. rjbriggs says:

    Absoulty brilliant can’t wait for the next bronze o’clock loved every bit if this you are a fantastic writer also the pretty woman reference was great one of my fav films till the next time much love and happy writing

  33. Angie Gaumer says:

    Heartbreaking, touching, brilliant. Much love to you!

  34. JasmineDragon22 says:

    You made me cry. Beautiful chapter.

  35. Momalu says:

    Of course I’m no doctor, but it seems to me that Ana is behaving like someone suffering with PTSD. She’s on this emotional roller coaster, barely having enough time to process her feelings. She’s been planning and hosting high profile showers and weddings with Mandy and Maxie and coping with quick deadlines and emotionally draining drama. All these events had people and circumstances wreaking havoc, e.g. Mandy’s sister, Selena and Brian, not to mention Carla and Elena. Add to that Melanie’s death, the video and deposition, the public disclosure of her Green Valley nightmare and the upcoming trial of her kidnapping psychotic ex boyfriend. And let’s not forget the kidnapping and abuse suffered at Harris’ and Edward’s hands. In the middle of it all, her therapist dumped her forcing her to find a new one. And now she’s attempting to plan her own wedding to Seattle’s most famous billionaire, which is a feat in and of itself, much less with all this insane baggage. It’s crippling. Her emotions are close to the cuff and she is on the edge. So this thing with Cassie has knocked her off kilter. I’m surprised she’s not tucked away in a rubber room somewhere drooling baby babble!

    Christian is very plugged into the “Faces of Abuse” project and that’s wonderful. What he’s done for Luma and her family is beautiful. They needed a hero and he truly stepped up. It’s been exhausting and I think he’s emotionally wiped out. I hope he finds the energy to plug into Ana’s needs with the compassion and understanding she needs, so she finds her way.

    It would be nice if it were Ana who unexpectedly stepped into his office, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it were Elena or Cassie. This story has one of the most intricate and compelling plotlines on ff. It’s simply outstanding!!

    • God, I love you, Woman! If some of the narrow-minded idiots that say dumb shit about my story could see that this is what Ana is going through nine times out of 10, maybe they wouldn’t say so much stupid shit! PTSD–I don’t know, could be, but you described her issues down to a “T”!

  36. Pinky223 says:

    Aw amazing as usually ! Loved it 😊
    I was out of town just finished the last 3 chap, It’s was brilliant
    Can’t get enough…moreeee please ☺️

  37. cindav says:

    loved anas inner monologue, and running from the monsters.

    but of course i was crying while reading the rest..

  38. Michelle says:

    While I understand Ana’s need to show Cassie up, she should’ve listened to Christian. He had a good reason for her not to go. That whole thing went just as badly as I thought, and now they started fighting again. The rest of the chapter had me in tears. I wonder who “her” is. I’m hoping Ana, but you left it open to be just about anyone.

  39. angalarte says:

    I totally agree with momula, Ana is acting like she has ptsd, and I’m not surprised!! & ur story is d best out there, I sooo look forward to sat mornings.
    It’s got to be cassie, Elena is a wanted woman, she wouldn’t risk her freedom!!

  40. I LOVE the Pretty Woman reference-awesome line! I mean seriously, did Cassie honestly think Christian would show up by himself??? That girl is delusional. I’m sure Taylor will pay her a surprise visit and “warn” her about her NDA and the repercussions for violating it. And I sincerely hope that Ana apologizes to Christian. He really did nothing wrong, he told her not to go, but Ana is stubborn (one of her many endearing qualities). She can’t keep holding Christian’s past against him, and to me, that’s exactly what she did with Cassie. I hope she talks to her new therapist about this. She can’t keep getting mad and going off at Christian for something that is beyond his control. He’s already dealing with some seriously shitty things, esp the Arias family. What a tragic situation for all involved. I am assuming (and hoping) the “her” at the end of the chapter is Ana. Guess we’ll find out soon enough 🙂

  41. The whole Cassie meeting was a huge mistake and Ana should have listened to Christian. Cassie is beyond a slut! Did Ana think they would be friends? Cassie literally did not “see” Ana. And thought she could at this point take Christian away from Ana! That is delusional.
    Ana should really live in her own apartment until they wed and then move into another house that belongs only to them. Staying at Escala most of the time and using the subs room to lay out her wedding plans is not cool. If it was only one ex-girlfriend — but 15 subs screwing Christian in every room in the house — yuk. Move out until after the wedding. (I am old fashioned.) Ana suffering from PTSD is a likely idea. Hmmmm.
    The remainder of the chapter with Luma, Debora and girls was hard to read only because of the pain I felt for all parties. Luma is a saint to forgive Richard so quickly. One reader was on the money in suggesting a brain malady since he did not recall the severity of the crime. Is it the plan to make Richard part of the abuse campaign?
    Many readers believe it is Cassie or Elena slipping into Grey House to surprise Christian. I think it is Ana.
    Lynn, another superb chapter. So well written. Each chapter as fresh as the previous one. You rock.
    Carol

  42. VRB Mariposa (Vanessa) says:

    Yet another wonderful chapter Lynn, but boy that Ana spitfire that she is. I don’t think that she had any intention on using Cassie. She wanted to flaunt that fact that “he” chose her. CG is dealing with some pretty heavy stuff and she is walking around like a spoilt brat pouting and complaining that he should have told her what to expect. Really Ana. Any women, sub or not would have put on the show that Cassie did to try and turn his head. The “Luma” part of the chapter was amazingly written, so many emotions evoked here… but mostly anger for the women who live with this type of abuse everyday and end up like Debora. At least Richard was remorseful, most of these abusers even after seeing the result of the abuse blame the victim.

    This was some heavy stuff, how about some lightheartedness next. 😀

  43. Teresa says:

    Where I come from we believe in trolls, selkies, etc. I think I like our monsters better than the real ones!

  44. Christian618 says:

    Well Ana you do have some apologizing to do today. Christian did give you fair warning not to peruse Cassie Hamilton but ur stubborn self did not listen. I assume their will be a lot more disagreements between Ana and Christian regarding the wedding before the actual wedding. I don’t know how Christian can function sometimes because this lil experience was horrific. I hope that was Ana at the end of the chapter and not Cassie Hamilton coming straight off her broom because Christian will devour her in a heartbeat. And if it’s not Cassie and it’s Ana ease bronze goddess don’t keep us out of the loop and tell us what Christian does to punish her. I was also wondering about the red headed caterer from grace’s party are we wver going to find out what his story is? Nice chapter bronze goddess I hope the next one has lots and lots and lots of make up sex!!!!

  45. Shannon says:

    OMG i know you didnt just do that to me, my heart is sitting in my throat and you just leave me hanging like that. WHHHHHYYYYY!!!! please can the next chapter come before i die.

  46. jjgoldmann says:

    Another incredible chapter. Luma is one hell of a role model for those girls.

  47. poor poor Christian. He has such a good Heart.

  48. Chanty says:

    What a heartbroken chapter. However I am very pleased with the fact that Christian is going to help this woman and her grandaughters. I do hope it will go all right with the job. Christian is a good man with a very big heart.

  49. It’s hard to express myself at the minute if I’m being honest, your A/N regarding your charecters in the last chapter disturbed me somewhat, and I’m at a loss as to what to say….As I have already stated before I wish I had the ability to express myself with the written word, but,that is not a talent I possess,but I will try to do just that though here.
    I will never write a scathing review as such, I may assassinate your charecters if they piss me off,but never you as a writer, I simply think that it is wrong to do so but mostly pointless to do so as well. For all reasonably intelligent adults, we are more than aware that, Ana & Christian along with all other characters in a fictious story are exactly that, fictitious, or not real/ made up……..so what is the point in berating someone’s make believe characters in a way which highlights us as unable to tell the difference between fantasy and reality., there is none!, however, I do now ask the question……why ask for reviews at all if you now have requested us as readers not to critique your chrecters character, or how quickly or slowly the story seems to be progressing,or comment on the level of angst romance,humour,drama, etc in your story either? What do you want us to say in our reviews?
    I’m not trying to be personally critical here, but unless you are only wanting us readers to shower you with praise,which as the writer of this fantastic story….you most certainly deserve, what else is left for us, I thought a story, chapter , movie, TV,” REVIEW” ,is where “people” critique what they have read, seen or heard? As in they share how they are thinking or feeling about what they have read seen or heard?, a review I didn’t think is only meant to be where your fans go to praise only.
    I don’t mean to sound bitchy or overly critical on this, but, I’m being honest,and I am a little miffed i suppose. This is a fantastic story but,I can’t see myself reviewing in the future if you are of the opinion that you get to dictate how and what I say about your story in such a way. Sorry

    • I don’t dictate what people say. I’ve only asked that they don’t ATTACK my characters. They can disagree and voice their opinions and be displeased all they want, but if your intention is to ATTACK the characters, then no, I don’t condone that. If you feel that means I am dictating what is said, then I’m really very sorry that you feel that way, but no–I don’t want readers to attack my characters (Ana’s a whiny bitch! Christian’s an asshole! Ana’s a drama queen!) and I’m not going to change that.

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