Mending Dr. Steele: Chapter 35—Hold or Fold

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 35—Hold or Fold

GREY

Six hundred people are employed by Vansteen Security, approximately. Of that 600 people, 200 are administrative and office staff and 400 are security staff and supervisors. They facilitate an average of 25 clients depending on need. Out of those 25 clients, 17 have had serious complaints in the past year—some of them repeatedly, and some of them are still pending. When a client complains, the ex-director placates the complaint by whatever means—like replacing the windshield and detailing the car of the resident whose car was vandalized during business hours when the security staff should have been watching the parking lot. The guards on site are switched out with different guards—not better guards, just different ones. This game of musical guards has been going on for longer than the audit can even track. Training and screening are inadequate. There is little to no disciplinary action for breaking rules, failure to perform job duties, insubordination, or the multiple complaints that have been lodged by Vansteen’s clients. It’s amazing to me that this company and I haven’t been sued yet.

After examining the results of the internal audit, I’m afraid that restructuring Vansteen Security and retraining all the staff would be too costly an undertaking and not worth keeping the company in tact. Walker did everything in his power to convince me to the contrary and I had to admire his vigilance and loyalty to the employees, but it’s just not happening. I decide that at the end of the month, Vansteen will close. I will send representatives to the 25 clients that Vansteen now has and offer the services of one of my more reliable security companies with a free month of service for the inconvenience. The guards that reapplied for their jobs can be merged into the existing companies only if they were not some of the “musical chairs” guards in the complaints. In addition, they will unfortunately lose their seniority and come in as entry-level employees and be retrained to perform their job duties as they should be performed. The administrative staff may be in line for new jobs if there is nowhere for them to go in the company. I send an email to HR to prepare severance packages for those who will not be able to be placed somewhere else in the company. I hate to do this, but I have to send the message to the other companies that playtime is over and the boss is back in town.

Allen put together a core research group to review my finding on the miscellaneous subsidiaries like I asked, leaving me more time to focus on the weak spots that I have identified. He took the day off and a few hours tomorrow to do his Man of Honor duties with Butterfly. They’re meeting dressmakers today as Butterfly has been informed that she has to choose a design by the end of next week. Personally, I don’t see what the big deal is—line them all up on the wall and throw a dart. She look good in a potato sack!

I walk over to the table where the blueprints are for the quarters that I am having built behind my office. I almost decided to call it off since Butterfly came home, but truth be told, I think it might be a good idea to continue. I’ve always wanted quarters in my office if I needed to freshen up or take a nap or—heaven forbid—pull an all-nighter. I did that a few times on some of my more difficult acquisitions, particularly when I was dealing with countries in completely different time zones.

Workers have been in and out of the conference room installing the studs for the new wall and in and out of my office all day taking measurements for the door that has to be cut. I’ll be taking a couple of days off when the heavy banging starts and moving to a spare office down the hall on days that I have to be here. The renovation, I am told, shouldn’t take more than a week to complete. I’m a bit torn about it because I don’t know how Butterfly will feel. Will she think I’m trying to escape? I sure as hell hope not, not after last night.

When she awoke this morning, she was exhausted from last night and still in a bit of a recoil. As I had suspected, her empathy button got stuck in the “on” position and she couldn’t turn it off. She was reliving all of her pain from the separation as well as mine. I was hoping that I wasn’t taking advantage of her, but I needed her so badly—more than I ever remember needing her before in my life. I needed to love her, to feel her, to be inside her. It was almost more than I could bear. Then when I gave myself over to her, it turned out to be more than she could bear.

She confessed that she had heard part of my conversation with Dr. Baker but that she immediately stopped listening when she realized that it was a session. Though she apologized profusely, I could tell that her heart was still heavy. I resisted the urge to sex the problem away—she’s right, that is how I handle all my problems—and asked if she wanted to talk about it.

No,” she said. “This is one of those things that just has to heal. The deed is done and we both know where our errors were, but the memory from the resulting pain is something that’s going to stick around for a while and we just have to deal with that.” Feeling lost and adrift, I asked her if there was anything that I could do. “Remember how this made us feel,” she said. “Remember that an action that you may think is small has consequences and that we were both caused immeasurable pain because of this series of events.”

I hardly considered my decision to call off the wedding a small thing,” I told her.

No, of course not. I just want you to know that even though you’ve heard it your whole life, it’s very true that every action that we take results in a series of events that can change someone’s whole life—or even our own. You seem to know this when it comes to business, but when it comes to your personal life, something seems to get lost in translation,” she informed me with no malice.

That’s because there are some things that apply to both situations and some things that don’t, and I have a hard time distinguishing the two,” I confessed. “I may need your help with that one… I’m still learning, you know.”

I know,” she said sweetly. She seemed so vulnerable looking up at me and I just wanted to hold her. “Is there anything else that I can do?” I asked sincerely.

Yes,” she said stroking my face, “you can love me.”

I do love you, Anastasia, with all of my heart.”

I know that you do,” she said while running her tongue up my neck to my ear, sucking my earlobe into her mouth and biting just hard enough to cause the perfect amount of pain. The jolt went to my dick so fast that it shocked me and I jumped… and so did my dick.

I… thought you said that we can’t solve our problems through sex,” I replied, hearing the need in my voice as I tried to resist her assault on my ear and neck.

This is different,” she said huskily in my ear while biting the lobe again. Fuck! “We have discussed our issue.” She pushed her hand into my pajama pants and wrapped it around my now pulsing erection. Fuck! “We basically know what we did wrong and not to let it happen again…”

What I did wrong,” I corrected her trying to concentrate over the pleasure she brought me while pumping my dick. She stopped and looked me in my eyes. Shit! Don’t stop.

No, what we did wrong,” she said. “Remember, it’s never all black and white. It’s always gray.” I nodded as I could see where she was going. There were things that each of us could have done very differently even though we may have felt that we had no other choice at the time.

Always gray,” I said and she started pumping Greystone again. “Ah!”

What we’re doing now…” she rolled over on top of me, “is healing. We are loving each other and mending the hurt that we felt.” I am trying to concentrate while she rubs her wet core against my shaft.

Is it really that simple, Baby?” I asked, stroking her sides and her hips while she glided along my length, simultaneously pushing my pajama pants down my legs.

This part is,” she said, her voice husky with desire. “We are both hurting from our actions, and we both know what caused it. Now…” She entwined the fingers of her right hand with the fingers of my left. “…we both want to heal, and to heal each other.” She skillfully pulled my T-shirt off of her with one hand before shifting her hips and guiding me inside of her.

Ooooo,” I groaned as I slid into her, kicking my pajama pants off my feet. She gasped as I filled her, then laid down on top of me—her torso covering mine and her head on my shoulder. We were close, unbelievably close. Her free hand cupped my face as she kissed my cheek, neck and ear. “Oh, Baby,” I groaned as she started to move, clinging to my left hand. My free hand traveled around her body, stopping at the garden momentarily then rubbing her delectable ass while she ground into me. She whimpered and shivered a bit, prompting me to ask her an important question.

You’re not… going to cry again… are you, Baby?” I had to focus to get those word out around the mindless pleasure that I was feeling at the moment.

No,” she breathed seductively into my neck, never stopping her stroke, “not this time…”

That woman does things to me that no one else ever has; makes me feel things that I didn’t think were possible. I have no idea what ever made me think it was even possible not to want to marry her right this very moment.

It’s well into the afternoon when I get a call from Allen.

“Your lady needs you,” he says into the phone, mocking a royal tone. What? What is it now?

“Oookaaay,” I say waiting for him to hand the phone to Butterfly.

“Heeeelllllp…” She sounds like a mouse and I’m trying not to laugh.

“I’m going insane,” she says, her voice mournful. “If I have to look at one more roll of lace or try on one more ball of taffeta, I’m going to scream…” Oh, it’s time to get her out of there.

“I can’t leave just yet, but have the court jester there bring you to my tower, M’lady. I’ll have a late lunch waiting for you.”

“Uuhm,” she grunts before handing the phone back to Allen. “Yes, M’Lord?” he answers.

“Knock it off and bring her back here. I’ll have food and cranberry spritzers waiting for her,” I say. Allen laughs.

“Yes, Sire. We’ll be there in ten,” Allen laughs and ends the call. I shake my head and go to the door.

“Andrea, can you have some steak kabobs, wild rice, and side salads delivered from that restaurant down the street? Oh… and cranberry spritzers?”

“Yes, sir,” she says, picking up the phone to make the call. I close the door and turn around to a frightful sight.

“How the hell did you get in here?” I ask the Pedophile. She’s looking at me with a vacant stare in her eye. When is the last time I saw her… New Year’s Eve at Ray’s wedding, I think? She’s lifeless—walking dead. I don’t feel any sympathy for her, not after everything she has done. She stands in the back of my office wearing one of the jumpsuits that the workmen were wearing with her hands in her pockets. Her hair is hiding completely under a painter’s cap and brassy blond strands stick out in various places. She has dark circles under her eyes and she is wearing no make-up. She looks like she has aged several years in a matter of months. He face shows signs of exhaustion. She says nothing. She just stands there staring at me.

I don’t have time for games. I reach for the intercom to call Andrea.

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” she says, her voice cold. It was cold enough to chill me to my bones, but the next sound that I hear has me frozen to the spot. I’ve heard it many times during one of Butterfly’s famous cleanings…

…the sound the carriage makes when you pull it back to load a round.

She has completely lost her mind. Her cold gaze is trained on me along with the barrel of a gun.

“Not so high and mighty now, are we, Mr. Grey?” she hisses. I don’t even know what to say to the woman. I won’t give her the satisfaction of groveling although I’m not ashamed to say that I’m more than a tad bit frightened right now. Crazy, psychotic, delusional, blond Pedophile bitch has me pinned in my office staring down the barrel of a gun. How do you handle that shit?

“What do you want, Elena?” I say with no warmth in my voice. “There’s nothing I can do for you now. You’re totally fucked…”

“Yes, no thanks to you!” she shrieks. “I knew it! I knew that if I looked deep enough that I would find you and that brunette bitch! I know she convinced you to do this shit! I know she did! Morgan, my salons, my money, my reputation—I know she put you up to this! And you followed her! You followed her like a sad, disgusting, pathetic, love-sick loser!” She’s becoming completely unglued.

“Oh, here we go with this again…” I begin.

“Shut up!” she screams and scares the shit out of me. “I’m talking now! You’re going to listen to me now!” she weeps. I don’t know what look I am giving her, but I know what I’m thinking. This bitch has lost her marbles! She goes from viciously angry to tearful and maudlin in a nanosecond. “Why, Christian?” she cries. “Why did you let her ruin me? Ruin us? We could have been extraordinary, you and me! It would have been phenomenal and you let her ruin it all!” she wails.

I am only barely listening to her words as I am watching the gun shaking wildly in her hand.

“How did you get in here, Elena?” I ask. Keep her talking, keep her talking.

“Who the fuck cares how I got in here, you bastard?” she shrieks. “I’m here now, looking right in your arrogant ass face. The mighty and powerful Christian Grey, standing there with a gun in his face and all he can ask is ‘how did you get in here, Elena?'” she mocks. Boy, she is really gone. I can handle angry businessmen and board members who don’t want to give up their seats. I can even handle telling 600 people that they may be out of a job by month’s end, but I can’t handle a delusional, hysterical bleached blond waving a gun in my face. Butterfly is the shrink. I bet she could get…

Oh shit! Butterfly!

I can’t let her get in here. I can’t let anything happen to Butterfly.

“Tell me what you want, Elena,” I say trying to soften my voice. I need to get her out of here. Butterfly will be here any minute.

“Why? Are you going to make all of my dreams come true now?” she says, sarcastically. “Going to make everything all better, are you? Fix everything that you broke? Restore my reputation? My standing in the community? My wealth?”

“I could help you start over, Elena. I could arrange for you to escape, give you some money and help you get out of town…”

“And go where!?” she shrieks. “And do what!? You and you father have the world convinced that I’m a menace to society! What do you suggest that I do, go to a farm in Oklahoma and raise corn?” Okay… so that didn’t work.

“Just tell me what you need, Elena, and I’ll make it happen…” just please get out of here before Butterfly gets here. Her gaze softens a bit, her blue eyes longingly looking at me.

“Isn’t it obvious?” she squeaks. “Hasn’t it been obvious all of this time? I want you, Christian. It’s always been you. None of them ever compared to you. It was always only you. Can’t you see that? Can’t you see that everything was for you? I love you, Christian! I love you!” She starts to weep and I see this as my opportunity to close the distance between us. Just let me get that gun…

My approach is halted by the sound of my office door flying open. The sight there scares me more than anything I’ve seen or felt all day.

Butterfly. Butterfly is in danger.

The look on my face says it all, and the psycho Pedophile has morphed back into her psycho self. “You son-of-a-bitch! Get your ass over here!” she screams at me. Anything! Anything, just please don’t hurt Butterfly. She has changed places with me and now she stands in the middle of my office off to the side while I am standing at the far end near my wet bar and bathroom. Butterfly is frozen in place by the door.

“What a wonderful surprise,” Elena says sinisterly. “You are just in time to see mine and Christian’s reunion.”

What the fuck?


STEELE

David Tutera was our first stop this morning. Allen was beside himself! David is unfortunately on the outs with his “hunky husband” as Al calls him, and is throwing himself into his L.A. wedding planning business. I don’t know what his usual style is, but to me, it looks like go big or go home. He brought several designs then dragged me to several boutiques before his time was up. Then it was right on to see a local designer for something different.

Are you kidding me?

There is only one word that I could use to describe this woman’s work. Horrible!

Horrible! Horrible! Horrible!

The dresses were clunky, the colors were gaudy, and the fits were dreadful! I almost wanted to slap Tammy for wasting my precious time! I sat through about 30 minutes of torture before I was tearing down the door to get out of her studio.

“Ana!” Tammy and Al are nearly running to catch up with me. “That was a little rude, don’t you think?” Tammy scolds. I whirl around on her.

“Are you serious?” I nearly bark at her. “In the time that we have spent together, you didn’t have the slightest clue that I would hate those designs? They’re atrocious! You tell me that we have limited time to find someone that’s going to make the ‘dress of a lifetime,’ and then you present something to me that you know that I’m going to detest? Can you even picture me wearing one of those hideous creations? In front of Christian’s family? In a castle!? Seriously!?” I am clearly having an anxiety attack on the street. Tammy’s eyes get large and Al looks like he’s poised to catch me if I fall.

“Okay! Okay! Bad call!” Tammy says, her voice a little shaken. “We won’t go for unique…”

“Oh, unique I can do,” I hiss. “That was macabre!”

“Don’t you think that’s a bit dramatic, Jewel?” Al says. I whip around and glare at him. I actually see my best friend shiver.

“How about couture?” Tammy says, trying to throw some water on the fire. I narrow my eyes at her.

“Show me what you got,” I grumble, and we are off to the next victim…er, I mean designer.

The two couture houses put me in a better mood. The designs were absolutely divine. Some were not quite my taste, but beautiful nonetheless. By the end of the day, I had truly seen all the tulle and satin and silk and lace I could stomach for one day. It may have been a little easier to deal with had I not had that horror show right in the middle. What the hell was Tammy thinking? Was that supposed to be a bad joke?

“If anybody else looks like that Nightmare Before Christmas we saw earlier, scratch them off the list now!” I command Tammy. She nods timidly and goes back to her iPad. Tutera and the coutures are definitely in the running, but now I need to get the hell out of this setting. Almost like bells from Heaven, Al hands me his phone.

“It’s your fiancé. Talk to him and calm yourself.” I take the phone and I can only mutter one word.

“Heeeeeellllp…”

He instructs me to join him for a late lunch at Grey House, which I am only too happy to oblige. I’m going to vomit taffeta and lace any second now.

“Come on, Jewel. I think you’ve had quite enough wedding for one day.” Al and Chuck escort me back to Grey House and I am nearly sprinting to the elevator to get to my man. Chuck just shakes his head at me.

“I’m technically still not on the payroll, so I’ll be waiting in your car if you need me,” he says. I nod.

“We’ll get that straightened out soon enough,” I tell him as I step into the elevator and take it up to Christian’s office. When I step off of the elevator, Andrea is a pale as a ghost. Her assistant is standing there staring at the door. Both of their eyes grow large when they see me emerge from the elevator.

“Ladies?” I say, questioning their glare. I soon figure out why they are staring at me strange. There is a woman screaming in Christian’s office—and when I say screaming, I mean screeching like a witch. I look at his door and back at Andrea.

“Who’s in there?” I ask.

“We thought it was you!” Andrea confesses. “We were trying to figure out how you got past us!” I look at each woman’s face and literally storm into Christian’s office. Christian’s expression is a combination of horror and dismay. Why the fuck are you looking at me like that? You told me to come here!

It takes about three seconds for me to analyze what has just happened.

Standing on the other end of Christian’s massive office is the stank-ass, slutty, nasty, filthy, slimy, Pedo-Bitch She-Thing demon from hell, and she’s waving a gun at my fiancé…

Wait a minute… motherfucking goddamn bitches from the lowest fucking pits of fucking hell! That’s my motherfucking Beretta!

“You son-of-a-bitch! Get your ass over here!” She-Thing commands my boyfriend, who quickly moves to the other side of the room—as far away from me as he can get, it seems. I’m still stunned that this bitch is carrying my Beretta… and waving it at my man! She takes the place where he was standing in the middle of his office, midway between the two of us and off to the far right.

She’s been crying, and she looks like shit. She’s hysterical, and most likely still delusional.

“What a wonderful surprise. You are just in time to see mine and Christian’s reunion.” Yep, still delusional.

“Wha… what is this all about?” I say, trying to keep her talking. She glares at me.

“This is about you, Dear!” she hisses at me. I see Christian in my peripheral vision reaching for something near his wet bar. Please, Baby. Please don’t try to be a hero. I glare straight at Elena. Eyes on me, Bitch.

“What do you mean this is about me?” I ask. Don’t rile her, just keep her talking.

“This! This is all about you!” she’s screaming again. “Oh, FUCK!” she exclaims looking briefly up to the ceiling but now training her eyes onto Christian again, who has his hands back down to his sides. Thank God. No sudden moves, Baby, please. I just got you back, I can’t lose you again. “I thought she was gone! I thought you had finally come to your senses and sent her packing! He’s seen his mistake, I said. Now I can have him back, but I had to wait for the right time—the right opportunity to come to you and comfort you, to help you see all that you could be without her!” she barks in my direction. “You’ve turned him into a shadow of the man he once was! I thought I was rid of you!” She pulls at her hair from under the painter’s cap that she’s wearing. What is this, some kind of really bad disguise? “Then I look at the paper, and you’re back!” she wails. “Leaving hand-in-hand from my salon! And to add insult to injury, you put her name on it… you fucking bastard!”

This is getting worse and worse. She has completely checked out of all reality. She really could get away with an insanity plea because she has taken leave of her senses. Everyone is out to get Elena. Everyone is conspiring against Elena. Elena hasn’t done anything wrong—everything that has happened to her is everybody’s fucking fault but her own. I know that chewing into her ass again at this point would be futile, not only because she can’t hear a thing anybody says to her about how she fucked up her own life, but also because she’s on the giving end of a gun… my fucking gun!

“Oh God, I should just shoot you right now!” she yells at me and Christian turns white as a ghost.

“No…” It’s barely audible, but I heard it… and so did she.

“No!? No!? You don’t want me to shoot your precious Butterfly?” she spits the word with contempt. Oh, I hate this woman. I hate everything about her. I want to wring her scrawny little neck! Now I understand how Christian felt when he was facing Robin Myrick. I knew this bitch was too quiet for too long. Now, she’s somehow in cahoots with this fucker and has managed to get into my apartment and steal my gun. Now, she just might shoot me with it. Talk about ironic.

“Wouldn’t that be something?” she says, as if she were reading my mind, “to die with a bullet from your own gun?” Christian’s head snaps over to me and I nod. I don’t know if she was the one that actually broke into my apartment, but she’s in with this nut who claims to be your brother. I’m running scenarios in my head as quickly as I can. The Beretta is cocked, loaded, and aimed and she is looking wildly back and forth between Christian and me. She is highly irrational with her finger on a delicate trigger. If I try to pull my Glock out right now, she’ll likely have two rounds off before I get the damn thing out of my purse. I don’t know what I’m going to do yet, but I’ll be damned if this is where our story ends!

“Elena… please… just take the money. I’ll have the jet take you anywhere you want to go. Please…” Christian begs. She turns her glare back to him.

“You see!? You see what I mean?” Her head snaps back to me. “Do you see what you’ve done to him? He’s a groveling fool! The man I made—the god that I created—he would have had this situation in hand in no time. I knew you destroyed him. I knew it!” she turns back to Christian. “I’m going to save you from her though, my love,” she says softly. “I’m going to release you from the hell that she has created.”

“Elena, please,” Christian’s voice is desperate now. “Please, don’t hurt her. I’ll give you whatever you want.”

“You can’t give me whatever I want, Christian, because I want you… and you want her!” she points the gun back at me and Christian gasps. I don’t know what to expect. I know that there’s a bullet in the chamber because it’s cocked and ready to fire. I can see it from here, and with the way that she’s waving that thing around, it’s going to fire. My God in Heaven…

“Don’t worry, Mr. Grey,” she says with a smile. “I won’t kill your precious Butterfly. No, you see, dying is too good for you. It’s quick and painless, and I want you to suffer!” What the hell is she going to do, then? “I’ve lost everything, Christian. I have nothing else to lose at this point. You were my last hope. You were all I have left, and now, it’s clear that I’ve lost you, too. So you see, I have nothing else left to live for. I’m not going to run all over the country… the world… waiting for the authorities to catch up with me, all because of a few worthless little boys! None of them measured up to you, none of them!” Christian’s face changes and he looks like he’s going to be sick. However, when she turns the gun on him, the color all leaves again.

“If I can’t have you, she sure as hell can’t have you. You don’t want me now, but you will in the afterlife, when you remember how good it used to be between us, when she’s not there anymore to interfere!” She steadies herself putting both hands on the gun and aiming it at Christian. He doesn’t move. “I’ll leave her here to mourn, to know that it was her fault that you died. I want her to see you die, then I’ll come and be with you, my love.”

“No…” I whimper. Please, God, no…

“I love you, Anastasia,” he says. Oh, God… please, God, no. He turns his gray gaze to me and looks lovingly into my eyes. No, please! My heart is beating so fast that I can barely breathe.

“Christian…” I whisper.

“See you soon, my love,” Elena says, and a shot rips through the silence in the office.

“Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!”


GREY

Am I hit? Shit! Am I hit? I feel heavy. What’s going on?

There’s blood on my hand… but… I’m not hit. Butterfly is too far away. What’s going on?

“Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!” I hear Butterfly’s scream… right after the shot. What’s going on?

“You fucking bitch!” I have about five seconds to reconcile everything that’s happening. The heavy weight that I feel, the blood on my hands, it’s not mine—it’s Jason’s. I pressed the panic button near my wet bar and that was his cue to come in through the sliding wall on the side. I didn’t tell the fool to jump in front of the damn bullet, though. It’s his weight that’s bearing on me as he falls over into my arms and we both hit the floor from the weight.

“Fuck! Jason! Fuck!” I’m holding onto him and I can vaguely see brutal hell break loose in my office. Butterfly goes kamikaze on Elena—and I do mean kamikaze, because Elena could have killed her. Butterfly has somehow disarmed this woman and is beating the ever-loving holy hell out of her. There are no rules of engagement, no play-by-play. This is a street-fight, and although Elena is fighting with the strength and tenacity of a woman with nothing to lose, she is truly losing this fight with flying colors.

“You sick crazy fucking bitch!” Butterfly lands blow after vicious blow onto Elena’s face and body—kicks and punches like I have never seen. She may actually have some internal bleeding after this.

Butterfly is going to kill her… and I couldn’t care less. Rid the world of that piece of shit. Everyone in the room saw her shoot Jason.

Jason!

“Jason! Goddammit, Jason! Why the fuck did you do that?” I say to him, realizing now that his head is in my lap. The color is leaving his face. Where did she hit him? He opens his eyes. “Jason! Where are you hit?”

“Hi, Boss…” Oh shit, he’s loopy. I press the panic button under my desk that goes to Welch and the police, but I’m hoping that the gunshot prompted someone to already call them.

“I’m okay, Boss,” he says slurring a bit. “I caught it in the shoulder, but you want to get me to the hospital soon because… it could get worse.” Shit! This is why I fucking hate guns! Shit!

“Jason!” Butterfly has apparently finished her task and has come to tend to Jason. “Jason, where are you hit?”

“Right… shoulder…” She lifts his suit jacket to survey the damage.

“You’re going to be fine.” She reaches for me and I jump. My nerves are destroyed. I was almost killed. My best friend just took a bullet for me.

My best friend… fuck.

“Jason, you’re fired,” I say shaking my head. He starts to laugh then winces and stops from the pain. A lot of blood gushes out of the wound.

“Lie him flat, Christian, on the floor, please.” I lay him flat on the floor and he protests.

“Get away from me, you pussy ass. Your tears are falling all over me.” I didn’t realize that I was crying until he said that. I’m sure it’s the adrenaline of the whole thing, because I’m truly not feeling that emotional. Butterfly on the other hand…

I hadn’t noticed that she had gone to my bathroom and gotten some washcloths. When she returns, she is weeping.

“Christian, get a bottle of water, please.” I jump up from my seat and go to the wet bar and retrieve a bottle of water. “Open it,” she tells me, I crack the seal and hand it to her. “Now drink it.” I frown at her. “Drink the damn water!” she snaps after she puts the washcloths under Jason’s suit jacket and presses down hard. He lets out a painful wail.

“What are you doing?” I bark at her,

“I have to stop the bleeding!” she barks back. She summons me to her. “I want you to sing with me.”

“You want me to do what?”

“I want you to sing with me, come on… The itsy bitsy spider went up the water spout.”

“Oh, Ana, come on, seriously?” I protest.

“Sing the goddamn song!” she yells. “The itsy bitsy spider went up the water spout…”

By the time the spider was going back up the spout again, I was singing the damn song and drinking the damn water. I look down at Jason, and he’s actually singing, too. We sing a second round… and a third round… and I start to feel my heartbeat slowing a bit. Butterfly has stopped crying though her face is still streaked with tears. Jason just keeps singing.

“Your Highness?” Jason raises large blue eyes to Butterfly. How did I not realize his eyes were blue? Well, it’s not like I sit gazing into them for long periods of time.

“Yes, Jason?” she says softly.

“When are the paramedics coming?”

“They should be here any minute,” she replies, another tear falling from her face.

“Good… please listen. There’s an instruction card in my wallet. I’m allergic to penicillin and… something else but I can’t think of it right now.” His speech is very slurred and his eyes keep rolling back in his head. “Alex… has a copy… of my medical history. Make… sure it…” He’s beginning to fade.

“Jason!” Butterfly nearly barks at him. He jumps.

“Don’t chastise me now, Your Highness. I’m shot here…” he says softly and with a weak smile. “Call my wife.”

Shit! Gail! I forgot all about Gail. I’m fumbling with my phone but when I catch Butterfly’s eye, she is shaking her head. Jason groans.

“Jason, keep still, please,” Butterfly beseeches. He nods.

“It won’t be a problem in a moment, Your Highness,” he says and I hear the elevator bell ring. Who’s coming? Please be the fucking paramedics. There’s a knock at the door.

“Are you fucking kidding me come in!” Butterfly says all in one breath. Yep, it’s the paramedics. Where are the goddamn police?

“I’ll take it from here, Ma’am,” one of the gloved medics says to Ana. She stands and moves away, her eyes never leaving Jason’s. I move and stand next to her.

“I’ll be fine, Your Highness,” he says to her, “just… fi…” and he’s out. Butterfly’s knees nearly buckle beneath her and I catch her before she falls.

“Jason?” she calls out to him. “Jason?”

“We’ve got to get him out of here. His pressure is dropping.” One medic says to the other. They stabilize his shoulder and put on an oxygen mask… and the police are still not here.

“What happened to her?” I hear Butterfly ask. I turn around to see what she’s looking at. She looking at a badly bruised, bloodied, and battered Pedophile, who is still breathing but quite unconscious. I glare at her.

“You… don’t remember?” I ask her. She shakes her head. Another set of paramedics come into the office and begin to tend to her.

“Do not touch that woman until you have put her in handcuffs!” I order the paramedics and they glare at me. “Are you deaf?” I continue at the glaring medics. “That woman tried to kill me, shot my best friend, attacked my fiancée, and if she moves before the police get here, I’m going to kick her in the head. So you may want to wait until they cuff her… for her own protection!” They look back and forth from each other to me before their eyes rest on Butterfly.

“Can we take a look at her?” one of them says.

“Why? What’s wrong with me?” Butterfly asks, the conversation keeping her occupied while the first two medics remove Jason from the room.

“You’ve been in a fight, Baby,” I say to her. Of course, she hasn’t seen herself. She’s been too busy taking care of everyone else. Her hands tighten around my waist and she lays her head on my shoulder. “You might want to wait a moment,” I inform the paramedics just as the police arrive. Good fuck! It’s about damn time! Shots were fired, what took them so damn long?

“Sir, Ma’am? Officer Greenfield. Can someone tell me what’s going on?”

“Not until you cuff her,” I say pulling Butterfly close to me.

“Why? Who is she?” he says walking over to Lincoln. “It looks like somebody worked her over pretty good. Is she dead?”

“Unfortunately not,” I say before I can stop the words. The cop looks at me suspiciously. “That,” I say, pointing to the Pedophile, “is Elena Lincoln. She is in direct violation of a protection order and currently, she is at large evading countless charges of molestation and child pornography. If that’s not enough, she used that gun…” I point to Butterfly’s Beretta, now lying harmlessly on the floor nearby, “…which my fiancée reported stolen nearly a month ago, to hold us all hostage. She would have killed me, but my best friend and bodyguard who just rolled out of here on a stretcher took the bullet for me. Once the shots were fired, my fiancée tried to disarm her, but she wouldn’t go down. Ana is lucky that the gun didn’t go off and injure her as well.” Butterfly looks at me in horror.

“I did that?” she asks, pointing at the pedophile. I nod and her hand flies to her mouth as she gasps. “You don’t remember?” She shakes her head. “What do you remember?”

“Don’t say anything.” Allen comes bursting into the room and walks over to me and Butterfly. “Don’t say a word. Nothing.”

“But… I don’t… know what happened…” Butterfly says, clearly unnerved.

“Jewel, you need to get checked out. You’ve got some nasty cuts and bruises, and now you’ve got Jason’s blood all over you.”

“I’m sorry, but until we figure out what’s going on here, she can’t go anywhere,” Officer Greenfield says.

“Well, she can’t walk around like this!” I bark. Her clothes are all torn and her breasts are actually exposed. Except for when she put pressure on Jason’s wound, she’s been holding her shirt closed.

“Mr. Grey,” the second officer chimes in. “I’m sorry to have to be the one to tell you this, but this office is now a crime scene. The paramedics can check on Ms. Lincoln and determine if she needs additional care as well as Ms. Steele, but no one is leaving this room without our say-so.”

“She’s definitely going to need additional care,” one of the paramedics says, leaning over the Pedophile. “She has been choked to unconsciousness and we need to get her to the hospital…”

“Not without cuffs,” I reiterate. “She just shot a man and right now, she’s a fugitive!” Greenfield rolls his eyes and puts handcuffs on the unconscious Pedophile.

“Don’t let her out of your sight. Have her swabbed for gunshot residue immediately,” he says to one of the other officers in the lobby. I’m only just noticing how many of them are there. He gestures to the paramedic. “Check her out. Does she need additional care?” he says pointing to Butterfly. One of the remaining paramedics comes over and checks on Butterfly.

“Yeah. She’s going to need stitches in that gash over her eye. Besides getting these cuts cleaned and dressed, I seriously recommend a tetanus shot.” Butterfly groans.

“How bad is the bruising, Christian?” she asks. I know she’s concerned about a repeat of the scars from after the kidnapping.

“Not good, but not nearly as bad as you’re thinking,” I say, kissing her gently on her cheek. “We need to get you to the hospital.”

“Ms. Steele, I’m afraid that I’m going to have to place you under arrest,” Officer Greenfield says. Butterfly’s face turns white.

“What?” she squeaks. “Why?”

“Mrs. Lincoln was assaulted very badly. Until we can get to the bottom of what happened here, we have to keep you in custody,” he says. Butterfly’s breathing hastens and she’s starting to shake.

“Butterfly…” She’s not listening to me. She is freaking out, whimpering and crying and wringing her hands. As soon as she sees the cuffs coming out, her skin flashes hot in my hands and her eyes go so blue that the black almost disappears… and down she goes.

“Shit!” I exclaim. I catch her and save her from the near miss of her head hitting my desk.

“Oh, good Lord, seriously?” the second officer says. “That’s the oldest trick in the book. Ms. Steele, if you don’t walk out, we’re going to have to hogtie you and drag you out in front of the press!”

Nothing. Not even a flinch.

“Butterfly, I need you to wake up, Baby. We’ll fix it. Whatever it is, we’ll fix it, but I can’t let them carry you out of here like that. I need you to wake up.”

Not a twitch.

I look over at the paramedic that’s not working on the pedophile. Tell me what’s wrong with her, I will him. He takes a penlight out of his pocket and leans down to examine Butterfly’s eyes. He shines the light into her eyes a few times and then hits some pressure point and her leg jumps… but still nothing.

“Oh, she’s gone,” he says. “Something scared the shit out of her and she wasn’t staying awake for the show. Do what you have to do, but if she awakes in cuffs, she’s going to need a sedative. I’ve seen people freak out, but fainting… that’s extreme. That’s psychological and physiological.” I shake my head and groan.

“She was kidnapped last year,” I inform them. “She was cuffed to a bed for several days. She didn’t eat nor drink, she was nearly raped and very badly beaten.”

“Oh, shit! That’s who this is?” I can see the light of realization switch on in Greenfield’s eyes.

“Yes, that’s who this is.”

We all turn around to see Gerald standing in the door. He comes over to where I am holding Butterfly in my lap. “I’m not on this case, but I heard ‘Grey House’ on the police radio. The press is en masse outside. They could barely get Jason to the ambulance.”

“They want to arrest her, Gerald,” I tell them.

“For what?” he asks.

“For assaulting Elena Lincoln! She disarmed her after Elena shot Jason. She was aiming for me and they want to arrest her!” My voice is pleading.

“Christian, a man was shot today and the possible perpetrator is unconscious and…” he turns around to look at Elena, “…very badly beaten. They’re not going to let any of you go anywhere. It’s your word against hers—both of you. With your connection to Lincoln, it’s not very credible right now.”

“No, it’s more than that.” Welch speaks up after standing quietly in a corner with Allen all of this time. “We have video.” I glare at him, happy that we may have video but angry that I didn’t know I was under that kind of surveillance.

“We do?” I hiss, trying not to be angry.

“Yes, Sir,” he says. “When you hit a panic button in this office, hidden cameras begin recording from angles that you’re not even aware of. Everything from the moment that you hit the first panic button is recorded and the cameras are still recording now.

“No shit?” I ask, a little stunned. “Would a recorded floor show save my fiancée from the slammer?” I ask Greenfield, who appears to be nervously adjusting his tie.

“Um, yes Sir,” he says. I instruct Welch to fire up the monitor hiding in the cabinet behind my desk in the bookshelf and cue up the video. It takes him about three minutes before we are all silently watching Elena waving Butterfly’s gun at us declaring that she going to kill me and then herself and leave Ana to mourn. Both mine and Butterfly’s expressions are pleading with the other—for what, I don’t know—but we both felt like this was this end of our lives. You can see it in our faces.

The whole scene from the moment after I hit the panic button to the moment that the gun goes off only looks to have been five or six minutes, and I am glad that Butterfly is not conscious to relive it. I kiss her gently on her temple and rub her hair. I don’t need to relive it either. I hear her screech, no doubt thinking that the bullet had hit me, and then judgment begins.

Elena put up a good fight, but the gun was out of her hands with the first hit. Ana was a machine bent on vengeance fighting a psychotic woman with nothing to left to lose. They tear into each other like wild animals—relentlessly, angrily, and mercilessly. Butterfly finally gets the best of her and clasps her fingers around the Pedophile’s neck. No doubt a combination of exhaustion, dwindling adrenaline, and the beating she had just taken all contributed to Elena’s speedy surrender and she is on the floor unconscious in less than two minutes. Butterfly leaves her like the sack of shit and silicone that she is and scrambles over to tend to Jason.

“Seen enough so far?” I ask, still stroking Butterfly’s hair and willing her to wake up.

“Um, yes… we… don’t have to arrest her, but we still can’t let you all out of our sight. Of course, you understand,” Greenfield says.

“Of course,” I respond sarcastically. “Can I get my fiancée to the hospital now so that she can get stitches?” I hiss. I note that they have already removed the Pedophile and Butterfly is still here, unconscious with this weeping gash over her eye.

“Yes, Sir. An officer will have to accompany you…”

“I will,” Gerald says, thank God. He gestures to one of the remaining paramedics who cleans Butterfly’s wound as well as he could. They wanted to put her on a stretcher but getting me to let her go was going to be a task fit for Hercules.

I step out of the elevator downstairs and Davenport is standing in the lobby. I pause for a moment and look at him and he glares at me, unflinching. I gesture with my head for him to follow me and he is right in line, opening the door to the lobby. Unfortunately, there was no quiet escape for us as we had to ride with Gerald in the unmarked car. So out we go into the mass of paparazzi, Butterfly unconscious in my arms and her face looking like she had gone three rounds in a prize-fight.

“We’re going to the hospital,” I tell Davenport. “Meet us there and coordinate with Welch for a security detail. Jason is down and I don’t have details yet. I will expect everything in place by the time we arrive.”

“Yes, Sir,” he says, and it’s like nothing has changed.

Gerald puts the portable light on top of the unmarked car and we are flying through the streets of Seattle towards the hospital.

“We’ve got to stop meeting like this, Christian,” he says, trying to lighten the situation.

“I know, but it’s not very likely when you are surrounded by psychos and lunatics. Fuck, I wish we could just get all these damn people out of our lives!” I hiss.

“What happened today?” Gerald asks.

“In a nutshell, psycho ex. I’m beginning to feel like we’re never going to have any peace.” I look over at Butterfly who now looks more like she’s sleeping than unconscious. “Wake up, Baby,” I say softly, but there’s no response. “Come on, Baby, wake up. You’re scaring me,” I say brushing my lips against hers and willing her to come out of her terror-induced unconsciousness.

We’re really going to have to see someone about this fainting—first, Morton’s funeral and now today. This can’t be good. I was hoping that it may be a sign that she was pregnant, but she has informed me that her IUD is well in place and still working properly. We’re going to have to talk about that if we plan on getting pregnant.

“Christian…” Her voice is soft and squeaky, and music to my ears.

“Butterfly?” I hold her tighter in my arms and brush the hair out of her face. He eyes flutter open slowly and she flinches a bit in pain.

“Where are we?” she asks weakly.

“We’re on our way to the hospital. You need to get checked out and you need stitches. She takes a moment to observe her surroundings then looks up at me.

“Am I under arrest?” she asks cautiously, tears threatening her beautiful blue eyes.

“No, Baby, you’re not. We have to keep an officer with us though until the questioning is done. That’s why we have that flatfoot.” I gesture towards our driver. She turns her head slowly.

“Hi, Gerald,” she says softly, her voice still weak.

“Hi Ana,” he replies, throwing a quick look over his shoulder before turning his attention back to the road. She looks back at me.

“Why didn’t they arrest me? They said that they would. Are they waiting until I get back from the hospital? What’s wrong with me?”

“Nothing, Baby. You need stitches and a tetanus shot, but I’d like to know what triggers these fainting spells…”

“Too much adrenaline,” she interrupts me. “It’s crying or fainting. It’s been that way since I was a kid. Too much, I cry; too fast, I faint.” I remember the night that we had it out at the community center. She came out of the back door looking like she was going to pass out. I guess that was a delayed reaction and that’s why she called Allen to come and get her—she knew it was coming.

“It would have been nice if you had informed me of this little condition,” I say, kissing her gently on the temple.

“Sorry. This particular topic just never came up… and I was a bit preoccupied in Las Vegas. Forgive me?”

“Always.” I press my lips against hers while gently stroking her cheek. She melts into my kiss and for a brief moment, all is right with the world.

“Hey, no making out in the back of the police car.” Gerald’s voice reminds us that we are not alone. “Besides, we’re here… and it’s showtime.” We both look up with dismay as the paparazzi basically have the hospital entrance blocked—which is illegal but these bastards don’t care. “I’ll be right back. Don’t move.”

Gerald jumps out of the car and addresses the crowd. “You are all breaking the law by blocking the hospital entrance. Move away from the door or I’ll have you arrested.”

“We have a right to report the news!” one reporter shouts and the others cheer him on.

“But not to block people from getting care. This woman is hurt and you are preventing her from getting treatment. Now move, or I’ll have you arrested!”

“You and what army?” another reporter declares and they nearly rush the car. Almost on cue, two black Audis drive up behind us like the fucking Calvary. Davenport, Williams, Lawrence, Welch, and two others that I don’t know yet all spill out of the vehicles and move on either side of Gerald.

“Get the fuck out of the way or we’ll start kicking your asses!” Welch hisses.

“Can’t they be arrested for that?” I hear from the crowd.

“Oh, now you want me to be a fucking cop! A minute ago, it was me and what army… how about this army? Now move your inconsiderate, selfish, greedy asses out the motherfucking way!” Whoa! Way to go, Gerald! Just like that, there’s a path to the door of the hospital.

“The first flash I see, I’m going to break somebody’s fucking nose—and I’ve got a huge bail fund!” Welch declares. Knowing that they are about to open the door, I take off my jacket and wrap it around Butterfly.

“Just like we did when we left the hospital the last time, okay?” I instruct her. She nods, burying herself in my jacket. When Williams opens the door, I slide out and quickly lean back in for Butterfly. “Come on, Baby.”

She slides over to me and I lift her into my arms and quickly carry her into the hospital, not waiting to see or caring if Welch has to break someone’s nose.

Gerald leads us through the ER to a private room since we have to remain under surveillance. An intern is there almost immediately administering anesthetic and stitching Butterfly’s wound. It turns out that she also sprained her wrist and her clothes are just destroyed. I call Allen to bring her a change of clothes and he informs me that he has already stopped by Escala and is outside the hospital now. Since he is now known as the attorney attached to Christian Grey, he has just about as hard a time getting around as I do when something happens. He may need his own security detail when this is all said and done.

He also reminds Butterfly not to make a statement until he gets here as the detective in charge of the case is right behind him. Good Lord in Heaven, please don’t let this be another Roach situation. Gerald retains Butterfly’s clothing in an evidence bag as they will have to be checked for gunpowder residue and any other potential evidence.

Butterfly’s wounds are all dressed and she has had her tetanus shot by the time Allen and the detective arrive.

“Jewel, Jewel, Jewel… how do we keep finding ourselves in these situations?” he says, wrapping his arms around her.

“I don’t know, but I’d like to make a reservation for a nice, quiet insane asylum after this. I don’t know how much more of this I can take!” she says, covering her face with her uninjured hand. Allen examines her bandage.

“What happened here?” he asks.

“Apparently, it was sprained in the melee,” she replies. “That bitch must be pretty damn strong.” Allen puts his finger to his lip to shush Butterfly and gestures his head to waiting detective.

“Crab? Is that you?” I hear the detective say. Oh hell! Gerald turns around and smiles widely.

“Fish! What the hell!” Okay, what is it with these damn names? “How the hell are you, Man?” He crosses the room and proffers his hand to “Fish.”

“I’m good. I’m good,” Fish says, happily accepting Gerald’s hand. Okay, I’m feeling a little better. “I just passed the exam. Finally moving up in the world.”

“It’s great to see you, Fish. Listen, these are friends of mine, so treat them right, okay. They’ve been through a lot in the last year.”

“So I’ve heard.” He looks down at the evidence bag. “What’s that?”

“Ms. Steele’s clothes. Chain of custody. I’ll be holding onto this until it gets back to the lab.” Fish nods then makes his way into the room and proffers his hand to me. “Mr. Grey, I’m Detective Randall Fischer.” Ah… Fish, I get it. “I’m going to be assigned to this case.” I take his hand.

“Detective Fischer,” I shake firmly. “This is my fiancée, Anastasia Steele…” He nods to Butterfly. “…And this is our attorney, Allen Forsythe.” Allen proffers his hand.

“Detective.”

“Mr. Forsythe.” They shake hands as well. “Okay, so I have to question Mr. Grey and Ms. Steele separately since they were both at the scene of the crime.”

“Yes, I know. Which do you want first?” Allen asks.

“It doesn’t matter. Do either of you care?” he asks and we both shrug, non-committal. “Okay, I’ll talk to Ms. Steele first. Crab, you’ll stay with Mr. Grey?” Gerald nods and we both leave the room.

“I’d like to find out what’s going on with Jason,” I tell him. He nods and we walk to the nurse’s desk. “Excuse me, but I’d like to get some information on Jason Taylor please?”

“Are you a relative?” she asks, stoically.

“No, he’s my bodyguard… and my best friend,” I say the last part a little quietly. She looks up at me.

“Mr. Grey?” she says softly. I nod. “Take those elevators up to the third floor. When you get off, make a right, then another right at the nurses station. Mrs. Taylor is already up there.” Gail… fuck! What do I say to Gail?

I follow the nurse’s directions and take the elevator to the third floor. As soon as I get off and turn right, Gail is standing at the nurse’s station. She turns to me and I am frozen. I can’t move my feet. What if he dies? It will be my fault. What if he can’t do the job that he loves after this? Or if he loses the use of his arm? What if he never speaks to me again? What if…

“Christian?” Her gentle voice brings me back. I look into her blue eyes. More blue eyes. How did I not know she had blue eyes?

“Gail…” I don’t recognize my voice. “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t you dare!” she chastises me. “That woman is sick and delusional and this is not your fault. Jason knew the risks when he took the job…”

“But… he blocked me, Gail. He dived in front of me and took the bullet… that was meant for me… he saved my life.” I cover my face with my hands. “He’s my best friend, Gail, my best friend. If he dies…” She puts her arms around me.

“He won’t die, Christian,” she says softly. “They’re concerned about the blood loss and he’s getting transfusions. They are removing the bullet and assessing the damage, but he won’t die. The biggest damage is that it hit some major artery and he may need shoulder repair and therapy. At the most, he’ll be out of commission for a while and very grumpy because of it. He’ll be fine.”

I won’t cry. I won’t bitch up. Jason will never let me live it down. I shiver a bit trying to shake the thought of losing my best friend. Then I nod and acknowledge Gail’s words.

“Do you need anything? Anything at all? Should I call someone here to sit with you?” I ask her.

“I would really like to see Ana,” she says softly. Yeah, so would I.

“Um, she’s talking to the police right now. She was pretty beat up…”

“Beat up?” Gail says, horrified. “What do you mean ‘beat up?’ What happened to her now?” Oh, Gail hasn’t heard the entire story. Great!

“I can’t tell you everything just yet, Gail, but I promise to tell you after I have given my statement to the police. I know how horrible it feels to be out of the loop, but I don’t want anything to prevent this woman finally going to jail and staying there where she belongs. So I won’t say anything to anyone about what I saw until I talk to the police.” I tell her.

“That’s a good idea, Mr. Grey.” I hear from behind me.

I turn around to see Detective Fischer standing in the door. That was fast. This can’t be good.


A/N: So, the crazy Pedophile resurfaces. Stay tuned to see how Christian handles the branches of this particular situation.

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

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Love and Handcuffs!
Lynn x

 

Thank you…

I love you all!!!!!

I have been reading through my comments and doing my best to keep up with everything and with my mom. I hear all of the different feelings about Christian and how everyone thinks he will react to how things turned out during Ana’s disappearance. I will remind you all that you know I usually have five or six chapters written in advance–and I still do, so don’t fret. I think the coming chapters will surprise a lot of you, particularly because of some revelations and because you are going to see some responses that you may not expect. I am still reading through the comments, so if you don’t see yours approved yet, I’m still reading them…

However, I am mainly posting this little post to say “thank you” to all of the people who have extended their concerns and prayers for my mom. I wanted to thank you all personally, but there were so many that I would be typing forever just to respond. Things are still touch and go right now and they are still running tests for her to make sure that she is a good candidate for a pacemaker. So she is not out of the woods yet and I am trying not to worry. I will ask that you continue to pray and send positive thoughts into the universe for her as sometimes it is hard for me to concentrate on much else besides work. This is one of the reasons I write chapters in advance so that in case something happens, the story is not interrupted. Anyway, please continue to pray for my mom and I thank you all for your continued support.

Another chapter is on its way later today… 🙂

Love and handcuffs!
Lynn x AKA BG Holmes/Bronze Goddess

Mending Dr. Steele: Chapter 34—Come To Jesus

First, I would like to thank you all for you concern about my mom. Things are going well so far, so we are in the wait-and-see portion of things. Second, I have to apologize for not sending out an email when I posted the last chapter. That was my fault and I am sorry. I was concerned about my mom but still wanted to get my chapter posted before I had to leave town. Thanks to all of you who read and comment. Again, emotions are split on who is at fault and why Christian always takes the blame and Ana needs to grow up and on and on and on. Differing opinions are, of course, just fine. I hope you enjoy this next little segment.

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 34—Come To Jesus

GREY

“Marry me… todayplease.”

No, Christian. We’re getting married on June 29 in a castle just like we planned, but we have a lot of work to do.” She raises up on her elbows to look me in the eye. It’s about 9 or 10am on Monday morning and we are still on the sofa. “I’m sorry that I left you, but you had to know that I couldn’t stay.”

“I think I understand, but I really need you explain to me why you left instead of trying to talk to me,” I say. She takes a deep breath.

Christian, we don’t see eye-to-eye. We are two very different people. We have dealt with different challenges in our lives and we see the world in different ways. I never asked you to agree with everything I say, but I was never, ever so foolish to think that we wouldn’t fight. When I said that one or both of us would cancel the wedding, I meant that we would have a meaningless argument about something frivolous like placemats versus chargers, cancel the wedding, go to our corners and come back and talk about how silly the whole thing was. I never for a moment thought that we would have a fight and then one of us would cancel the wedding not because of the fight, but because of the fact that we’re fighting.

“Couple this with the fact that you walked out, you ignored texts asking if you were okay, and you pondered this issue for hours before you came back in the early morning hours and announced to me that you were calling off our wedding. By the way, I still don’t know where you went. The last time that you didn’t answer texts from me, you thought that I was screwing Elliot. True, the text weren’t from my phone, but they were from me because I know that Jason told you that I was worried. So somewhere around the midnight hour, I’m asking where you are and you’re not answering me. I wait up for you as long as I can—my mind dancing from horrible car accident to another woman…”

“Ana!” I say in disbelief.

Did you tell me where you were going?” she says while shrugging defensively. She’s right. I didn’t tell her where I was going, so there’s really nothing that I can say about where her mind may have wandered that night. “Like I said, I waited up for hours thinking the worst and you show up at 3am telling me that I’m not getting married anymore. And Christian, you can choose whatever wording makes it easier to live with, but the bottom line is that you told me that on June 29, we were not getting married. Can you see that?” I sigh and shake my head.

“Yes, Butterfly, I do.”

“So with my already fragile state, I get this news. I could barely put together a cohesive thought! I went to work completely expecting to see patients that day until Marilyn’s horrified silence signaled that I was in no condition to attempt to help anyone else.” She sits up completely and I follow, sitting next to her on the sofa. “I pondered just going home since I was useless in the office, and then I thought of going back to Escala—and seeing you—and I just couldn’t take it. My heart was breaking all back over again and I was falling completely apart. I knew that wherever I went, you would follow me or you would send someone or my friends would follow me and hound me and I didn’t have the heart to tell any of them that after that big rose ceremony and production, my happily ever after just got up and walked away.” She stops for a moment and I can tell that she is reliving the pain of the moment when she wipes a lone tear away before she continues.

I didn’t know where I was going. I hadn’t planned anything. I just wanted to go where no one would find me and I could be alone with my grief. If you guys had just looked in my desk drawer, you would have found my phone. I made all the travel arrangements on the Internet on my phone because I was sure that you would comb through my computer to find our where I was, but apparently, Marilyn played watchdog everyday and none of you could get into my office—that is until Chuck came and told her that he was fired, which was something like a week or so later. I was surprised that you didn’t fire him immediately.”

“I did fire him immediately,” I tell her. She looks at me.

Well, you can hire him back or I will, but I’m telling you now that I’m not breaking in a new CPO. So the choice is yours.” She stands up and starts to pace a bit. “Montana seemed secluded enough to mourn the loss of my dreams, so long story short, I left everything behind that could identify me and had Marilyn rent the Tahoe in her name, withdrew a very large sum of cash from my savings and disappeared.” She looks up at me. “You couldn’t stay in your own home because I wasn’t here. I’m sure that you can see why I couldn’t stay.” I nod at her.

“I see, Butterfly, and I’m so sorry. I know that I want to marry you. There’s no doubt in my mind about that. So why won’t you marry me today?” I ask her.

You are feeling the effects of being without me, not necessarily the error in calling off the wedding in the first place. If you want to call of the wedding, call of the wedding. That is your choice, but make sure that you’re doing it for the right reason. You called off our wedding because you said that we fought too much. We’re going to fight more. There are all kinds of things that we have to iron out in our lives, and you can best believe that you won’t win all those fights, Buddy. So then what? You lose a fight, we get a divorce? Do you see how ridiculous this is? Don’t agree with me if you don’t see it.”

“I see it. Believe me, I see it. It’s been banged into my head repeatedly. I was the first person to ‘bang’ it because I realized before I even left Grey House how ridiculous it was. The problem was that no one could hear me because you were already gone. So I got to the part where I said ‘I called off the wedding,’ but never got to the part where I said ‘I figured out it was ridiculous,” and you know why? Because I had already ruined everybody’s life, mainly yours. Everybody was hurt and angry and nobody heard anything that I said after ‘I called off the wedding.’ If I could have gotten one person to listen to what I was actually saying, I may have gotten you back home weeks ago.”

“I don’t think it would have been that easy, Christian,” she protests.

No? You’re saying that if I had come to your office before you left, fell on my knees and told you that I went to Newcastle Park and sat there for several hours trying to clear my head and came out of that experience with the dumbest ‘solution’ to the problem that I could have possibly come up with, that I was dreadfully sorry that I made a rash decision in haste and anger not to marry the woman who I would rather spend 365 days fighting with than one day away from… that you still would have left?” She frowns and ponders the thought and I can read in her face what her answer is. “Mmm-hmm, that’s what I thought. On the same hand, you’re telling me that if Marilyn or Al had told you that I told either of them that I realized that it was foolish for me to call off the wedding for fighting when I knew that we would be fighting about something for the rest of our lives and that I begged you to come home and marry me that you still would have stayed away for three weeks?”

“Well, maybe not three weeks…” she says timidly. I look at her.

“What do you mean?” I ask. She tilts her head at me.

“Christian, we are still getting married… on our date… in our castle… but I did have some time to think, and I do feel like I’m losing myself in everything that’s happening. I think I did need that time away from everything—even though I still really didn’t get away from everything with all the news, if you can call it that—to regroup and refresh myself.” I flinch.

“You heard about the headlines?” I ask her.

“Which ones?” she asks.

“Well, there were only two that I know of…” What has she heard?

Then, yes, I’ve heard,” she says and sits down on the sofa next to me. I take her hand and trace her fingers. I’m taking great joy in this small gesture right now because I didn’t know if I would be able to do it ever again. “Were you able to regroup?” I ask cautiously. She nods.

“I was able to regroup… and grieve… and think about some things. We spend too much time in each others’ faces, Christian. We’re going to have to spend some time apart or our relationship will get very old very fast.” I start to panic when she says this. Noticing my expression, she says, “Not like this—not three weeks or anything drastic like that, but more than just the workday.”

Can we hold off on that particular part of the relationship-building process? I’ve effectively been without you for three weeks, and I can’t even conceive being without you again at this moment,” I admit.

“Yes, we can. Um… and the sex…” Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! Wait a minute! I’m not giving up sex!

“Ana…” I say cautiously.

“Christian, fight and fuck, that’s all we did. That’s why you called off the wedding. There’s a problem there. Whenever we get angry and try to get to the bottom of our problems, we end up fucking! The one time we didn’t fuck, you called off the wedding. Sex is not a solution—it’s a cover! No more fucking before we solve the problem.” I run my fingers through my hair… my very long hair.

“But that’s how we release frustration,” I whine. “Otherwise, we would fight all night.”

Well, then, that will be our motivation to solve the problem. No sex before solution. I’m not budging on this one, Grey.” Oh shit. Grey. She’s serious. I release a very aggravated sigh.

“Fine. No sex before solution,” I concede, sounding every bit like a moody teenager—which I will be, no doubt, if I don’t get enough sex!

“So, what conclusions have you come to since I’ve been gone?” Uh oh, was I supposed to have some great epiphanies during our time apart? Should I just tell her the truth? Here goes…

“That I need people and I don’t like it.” She glares at me.

“Care to elaborate?” she says.

Not really, but I will,” I say, dropping my gaze to our entwined hands. “Everyone treated me like a leper. True, it was varying degrees of leprosy, but a leper nonetheless. No one wanted to be in the same room with me. No one called me. None of your friends would talk to me…”

“Oh, they’re my friends again,” she says sarcastically. I shake my head without raising it.

Let’s face it, Baby. They were always your friends and they always will be. They are only my friends when I don’t fuck up. If there is ever a side to be taken, I’m always going to be the odd man out. I’m not happy about that, but not because of how they feel or anything they did. It’s because of how I feel.” I pause for a moment and she says nothing, so I keep going. “Ana, I’d rather just be your friend, your man, and stay to myself then to have a bunch of people desert me when I don’t fall in line. They were all hurting and upset while you were gone and they clung to each other, but nobody came to see about me because I was the villain.

“Nobody treated me badly or accused me of anything, but I could have been dead in here and none of them would have known except maybe Allen and James. When you’re wrong, they will all stick by your side because they are your friends and that’s what friends do. When I was wrong, I was all alone. Even my brother deserted me and went with the crew and he’s never done that before. He has been hell-fire and brimstone mad at me more times than I can count in our lifetime, but he has never deserted me.

I have always been independent. I became a loner because of my business and my lifestyle. Then I met you and people are drawn to you. So I had a choice. Either I start letting people in, or I get cut out of a very large part of your life. I wasn’t willing to do that, so I let people in. Last Friday was the first time I truly regretted doing that.” I finally make eye-contact with her and I see that blasted empathy Elliot was talking about all in her eyes. That’s why I only want to be her friend, because she understands me.

I’ll have to figure out what I’m going to do in terms of needing people around me now. I’m not going to be that guy that I was when I had the issue with them last year because this time, I really was partially at fault and I can understand them rallying behind you—but consider this. My staff wasn’t talking to me, my family wasn’t talking to me, and then these people who loosely called themselves my friends ostracized me too. I don’t need fair-weather friends, Ana. I don’t want them either. You’ll talk to me and we’re cool as long as I stay in line? No thanks.” I’m careful to say my words with no malice because I want her to know that I am not angry. I would rather just be alone than to have friends that could turn their backs on me at a moment’s notice.

“I didn’t really want to turn into that guy I was becoming, but I felt like I had no choice. If I turned off my feelings and kept everything away from me that could hurt me and didn’t let anyone talk about you, then I would be okay.”

“I thought you had already decided that was no way to live,” she protested.

It worked for the time being. I concentrated on business and was able to focus on the weak spots in these damn small subsidiaries that I acquired. Did Al tell you that I unwittingly acquired Cassie Hamilton!?” She nods. I shake my head in horror. “I’m completely doing away with the concept of miscellaneous subsidiaries. I’m not buying shit else unless I know exactly what it is!” I shiver a bit then continue. “I would have just stayed at the office if I could. Those little businesses need so much work and some of them barely holding on by a thread. I have no idea what to do with them at this time, but they are backed by the Grey name and I either have to rebuild them—like Vansteen—or fold them, like I plan to do with Hamilton’s little outlet.”

“Al called you the Angel of Death,” she says. I frown.

“Why—because I’m getting rid of some small failing businesses?” I ask incredulously.

“No, because you walked around silent and ominous and you brought the air of doom into the room with you. I felt it when you walked in the door last night.” I shrug.

I was preoccupied,” I say, “but I think Angel of Death was a bit extreme.”

Think about it, Christian. Death doesn’t come barreling into the room like War. It comes in quietly, it sneaks out quietly, and unless it was a bloody, violent or loud and painful battle, you don’t even know it’s been there until you find the body.” That is such a creepy fucking analogy… but so damn true! “Then you’re walking around in this funeral garb looking like shit—all you needed was a hood and scythe!” she announces. Then she grabs a handful of hair and declares, “and what the hell is this!?” I almost forget myself for a moment.

“If you don’t want me to fuck you, you better let it go,” I hiss. She releases my hair quickly and shivers a bit. Oh yeah, Butterfly, I feel it, too.

Anyway,” she says, quickly changing the subject, “you need to get rid of that shit… a fucking ponytail. Indeed!” She actually sounds angry.

“I guess that means I should find my way to a barber,” I say, scratching the stubble that has grown on my chin again.

“I need a trim, too,” she says. “That mountain air is pretty frigid and it wasn’t kind to my hair. I have split ends everywhere.”

“Oh, I have the perfect idea!” I tell her.


STEELE

I could hear hearts breaking all across the room when Christian and I walk into Miana’s hand in hand in the early afternoon.

Ana! Bella!” Franco greets me in the usual way before seeing Christian attached to my hand. “Mr. Grey!” he says in genuine surprise. “Ana! Mr. Grey! Together! Fantastico!! Esmerelda! Champagne! Champagne!” I can’t help but laugh. This little Italian man has gone insane! Maybe he thought Christian would sell the salons since they are named after Mia and me. “What can I do for you? Oh, Mr. Christian. Tsk tsk tsk… what have you done?”

“Apparently, I have allowed my hair to grow a bit too long and my fiancée doesn’t like it. So I need you to—in her words—get rid of this shit,” Christian says.

“And I’ve spent some time in some very frigid weather, so I need to get rid of some split ends,” I declare.

I tell you what. Why we not do whole couple’s spa day for you? Hair, manicure, pedicure, mud bath, whatever you like,” Franco says. Christian does that half-nodding thing he does when he’s pondering something.

“That sounds fabulous, Franco,” I say on both our behalf.

After our couples’ afternoon of massages and hair cuts and lounging in luxurious baths while sipping on champagne and eating the best hors d’oeuvres that money can buy, I feel like a million bucks and Christian is back to being his well-groomed, hot self. We step to the front of the salon only to see a gaggle of reporters waiting outside. Christian smiles uncharacteristically and hands Franco his Amex black.

“Mr. Christian, you own the place!” he says, his voice devoid of his practiced Italian accent. Franco! You tricked me!

“And I’d like for it to stay in business,” he winks at Franco, who snickers a bit and runs the card.

As you wish,” he says, handing Christian a receipt with more digits than I care to count. Good grief, I could never afford to come to this salon on my own. After taking his receipt, Christian nearly drags me out of the salon to his waiting RS7.

“Ana! Christian! Is the wedding back on?” I hear someone ask. I conspicuously put my left hand with my engagement ring on the roof of the car. Christian is holding the passenger door open while I turn around to the crowd and frown theatrically.

“Back on?” I say with a scowl. “Who said it was off?” A shocked silence momentarily goes through the crowd, but then someone in front says “Break-Up Magazine.”

I pretend to stifle a disbelieving laugh. “And you listened to them?” I say with a harsh cackle. “Really, People, I heard that To Tell The Truth ran a story that I was carrying an alien baby. Did you believe that, too?” A rash of laughter ensues.

“Seriously, Ana, you heard nothing about that story? It was all over the Internet and Christian even addressed it earlier in the week.” I turn to Christian.

“You did?” I ask him. He shrugs. “And exactly what did Mr. Grey say?” I ask.

“That you were going through some hard times and having problems,” a sassy female reporter happily reveals. I glare at her because I know that Christian would say no such thing… at least not without a qualifier. Another reporter steps forward and clarifies the quote.

“What he actually said,” he began while opening his notebook, “was ‘Yes, we are having some difficulties; yes, we are working through them; and no, I am not on the market.’” He closes his notebook and glares at the woman. Yes, I know he did it to gain brownie points, but I’m glad he did. I would hate for Christian to make a blanket announcement like the one that she just insinuated, and I’m sure that she knew that. I look over at her and shake my head.

“Maybe you should go work for Break Up Magazine. It seems they can’t get their facts straight, either.” I kiss my fiancémoney shot! Then I get in the car. He closes the passenger door and goes around to the driver’s side. Closing the door behind him, he starts the car and smiles over at me.

“Magnificent!” he declares before dropping the gear and speeding off down the road.

*-*

I’m standing in the guest room looking at all of my wedding stuff—most of it is exactly where I left it, I think. Something is missing and I can’t tell what it is. Our mailed copy of the save-the-date card is sitting on the top of the pile, delivered and unopened. Our names are scratched in beautiful calligraphy on the front of the envelope. I pick up and examine it. The postmark is February 28—the first Thursday that I was in Montana. He did continue with the wedding plans.

To the right of the save-the-date card is another unopened envelope from Thornewood as well as a copy of a fax of what looks to be possible menu and wine choices. He—or someone—has crossed out some of the choices, such as baked Alaska, gourmet barbeque pork, and steak tartare. Eew! Who the hell serves raw beef at a wedding?

Will Christian still want everyone to be in the wedding after the events of the last three weeks? Did he even get the opportunity to ask everyone to be in the wedding? Are he and Elliot even speaking?

I go in search of him. He went to his study when we got back from our spa day. He was having the reports and clothing and things brought back from the Four Seasons and Jason went to check out for him. I don’t know if he’s back yet and if Christian maybe has buried himself in the “miscellaneous subsidiaries” again or what. I wander down the stairs towards his study and I find the door to his study is slightly ajar. I am about to knock when I hear him on the phone in a very disturbing conversation.

No, I never felt suicidal,” he says. “I just felt lonely and dismayed. I felt like there was no hope. I’m not saying that death may not have seemed a more favorable option than the pain that I was feeling. I’m just saying that I never considered ending my life.”

What is he talking about? Is he talking about our ordeal? He wanted to die? I listen some more even though I know it’s very rude. I can’t help myself. I’ll never get a straight answer if I ask him outright.

I never said that. I didn’t even say that they let me down, because I don’t feel that way. They didn’t owe me anything—I completely understand that. I guess I just had a different impression of what a so-called friendship should be.” There is another pause and I wait to hear what he will say next.

People can only give you what they are capable of giving you. I perceived my standing in the group to be higher than it was. I don’t blame them for that—it was my own fault. I got comfortable in the setting. I put too much faith in them and in my perceived position in the relationship. I considered myself an extension of Butterfly and I take responsibility for how I am feeling right now and how I felt then.” To my horror, I realize that he’s talking about the Scooby Gang.

Someone told me that I have a low tolerance for imperfection. I didn’t think it was so, but maybe I do. Now, I’m seeing that this is most likely the case with a lot of people, because when they see my imperfections, I become the devil. So that’s what I did. The devil doesn’t have any friends. Nobody really loves him. People may worship him and figuratively sell their souls to him, but only because they want some kind of reward. He’s under no misconception of their so-called loyalty, but I was. I expected more from them than they were willing to give me—probably than anyone is willing to give me, except maybe Butterfly. I was so caught up in being a part of something that I didn’t realize that I wasn’t a part of it at all.” This is so much bigger than I thought. We’re going to endure the separatism again… I just know it.

I won’t be peculiar,” he says almost in response to my thoughts, but most likely in response to whomever he is talking. Who is he talking to anyway? “I won’t make my fiancée or her friends uncomfortable, but won’t get comfortable around them anymore. Even more valuable than friendship is knowing where you really stand with someone. I don’t have a problem with it now that I know what’s really going on. That’s what was so terrible the first time I felt like they abandoned me. I expected more than I was entitled to. Now, I just won’t expect so much.” So now, he’s willing to put on the not-so-happy face for me around my friends so that he can keep me happy—along with a bunch of people that he doesn’t slightly consider his friends anymore.

Hmmm, probably the fact that my brother stood with them against me instead of backing me up… well, no, they weren’t against me, but the sure weren’t for me… I don’t know. I don’t think he wants to talk to me right now, and I’m not sure that I want to talk to him either… People have seen me as such a non-feeling monster for so long that they can’t see me as anything else. They can’t see me as a flesh-and-blood man who really does have feelings and a heart since this woman came into my life… I really would have been just fine locking myself in my office and spending my life making money hand over fist if the alternative meant that I had to live the pain that I was feeling.” I didn’t doubt that the experience was painful for him. Hell, it was painful for me, too.

I’m not asking for sympathy for a situation that I brought upon myself. I can deal with the consequences and I was fully prepared to accept them. I just can’t deal with the pain that I felt—the pain of having no one there for me at all. I don’t care about the reasons, I just know how I felt. Butterfly felt betrayed and jilted by me and she ran away. For three long weeks, I had to wonder if the happiness that I felt for eight months had ended. I couldn’t bear to even think about a life without her, so I didn’t think about her at all. I moved out of my house, didn’t think about the plans we had, the life we built, or the friends that I thought I had made. I only concentrated on work, and when my thoughts wandered to her and happier times, I practiced that infernal control that has become part of my subconscious and eventually, I was just fine… Yes, I know that, but it worked for the time being, and that’s all I had. That very moment—I just had to get through that very moment. The next moment would have to take care of itself. If it meant that in the end, I would find myself in a dysfunctional mound of goo crying over the incredible love that I had lost, then so be it—but I couldn’t focus on what would eventually happen. I just had to survive the moment.”

To a psychologist, he sounds completely illogical. To a mourning woman who thought her dreams had just been flushed down the toilet, he is spot on.

“It’s still very surreal to me, Dr. Baker. I still feel like I might wake up and she’ll be gone.” Dr. Baker!? Shit! I’m listening to one of his sessions! How the fuck did I not figure this out sooner? Shit! Shit! Shit! That’s what I get for eavesdropping! I step away from the study and dash back upstairs to the guest room.

Shit! Shit! Shit!

As a rule, you never listen to someone else’s session without permission.

Shit! Shit! Shit!

I have to tell him that I heard him, that I eavesdropped on his conversation because I was afraid that he wouldn’t tell me what he was talking about.

Shit! Shit! Shit!

God, I’m such an ass!

I push my hands through my wedding things to try to reacquaint myself with what I was doing. I feel like a big steaming pile of shit shit shit. I distract myself by calling Tammy.

Ana! Hi!” she says, surprise clear in her voice.

“He told you, didn’t he?” I ask. Isn’t it obvious?

Yes, he did. He told me that you were away thinking some things through, but I’ve done this for many years. So which one of you called off the wedding?” Boy, she’s good.

He did. Why is irrelevant, but I couldn’t stay under the circumstances,” I tell her.

So… are you calling me to tell me to stop planning or that the wedding is back on?” There’s that cautious hope again.

“It’s back on,” I reply. I can hear her clapping.

I knew it! I knew it!” she says gleefully. “So we really should start thinking about the dress. You have wasted precious time on your sabbatical, My Dear, and we have got to get this show on the road!”

“I wouldn’t call it ‘wasted time,’ Tammy,” I say defensively.

Forgive me, Ana, but three weeks in wedding-planner time… count dog years!” she says. I guess she’s kind of right, especially now since it’s mid-March and we’re getting married in late June.

“Okay, okay, I get it,” I say. “So what do we do?”

Well, I seriously have twelve designers who have sent ideas over for you to consider. You can see if any of them strike your fancy or if you might see some ideas that will help you design your own dress. Whatever the case, you have walost so much time that you now need to pin down some sort of idea in the next two weeks. No one—and I mean no one—is going to be able to get an Anastasia Grey original masterpiece done for you in less than two months. So unless you want to pick a dress off the rack, we need to be getting together sometime tomorrow, looking at samples, talking to designers, and trying on dresses.” Well! Quite frankly, I don’t see anything wrong with a designer dress off the rack! Maxie wore one and it was beautiful!

Anastasia, you are getting married in a castle! You will not be wearing a dress off the rack!” I guess my pause was a bit too long.

“Fine! My patients aren’t expecting me back before next week anyway. I’m yours for the week!” I relent.

Good. Now we’re getting somewhere,” she says.

“Tammy, what did Christian plan while I was away?” She gets quiet on the line.

He picked some flowers, not all of them, but some. He vetoed some of the menu ideas…” I saw that. “He chose the chair covers—royal blue and a beautiful muted silver—almost gray, but clearly silver. He’s set up some of the miscellaneous vendors… options for wedding favors and gifts for his groomsmen. He has a couple special things that he’s looking into but he would have to tell you what they are.”

“Why can’t you tell me?” I ask, my voice sounding like a whining child.

Because it’s not up to me to tell you. It’s up to him. So don’t ask me and don’t hound the man because you might just make him change his mind,” she warns. Okay… no harassing Christian about whatever these surprises are supposed to be.

Okay, fine. So who are the dress designers that are all supposedly clamoring for a meeting with li’l ole me?” I say, mocking modesty.

Well, Justin Alexander Bridal wants a moment of your time. Ralph & Russo also got wind of your upcoming nuptials and asked to be squeezed in. You absolutely must meet Vera Wang, whether you choose one of her dresses or not…”

“Wait a minute. Are you seriously telling me that these people want to meet me… to design my dress?” I ask incredulously. She grunts at me.

Ana, this is one of the biggest pieces of news that the west coast has seen for years. You are Carrie Bradshaw marrying Big in the New York Library, Babe….”

“No, no, no… that wedding didn’t happen, so don’t compare me to those two,” I tell her.

Well, they still ended up getting married, so that doesn’t count,” she said in one breath. “Anyway, David Tutera is flying out tomorrow. That meeting was already set up before you left and I wasn’t going to tell him that the bride flew the coop until the last minute.”

Oh, Tammy,” I say, dropping my head and covering my face. “This is so much more than I expected. I mean, really, I’m just now digesting that I’m getting married in a castle and now… David Tutera? Ralph & Russo? Vera fucking Wang?”

Hey!” she scolds. “Don’t take the name of the Wang in vain! Anyway, she has dressed all the A-list celebrities for their weddings. Jessica Simpson, Kim Kardashian, Elin Nordegren, J-Lo…”

“You realize you have just named people who have all divorced, right?” I point out. “You’re 0-2 for analogies here, Tam. I think you should quit while you’re ahead.” I hear Tammy sigh on the other end of the line.

Okay, let’s try this. If you don’t meet with these designers, you are going to come off like a stuck-up, snobby bitch who felt like she was too good to meet with some of the best. It’s like you said, you’re getting married in a castle. You don’t think you should at least talk to Vera Wang about her concepts?” Tammy’s voice is serious and almost sounds like Christian’s when he goes into CEO mode. God, I wish I didn’t care what the papers said about me, but the publicity is so important right now with the trials and pending lawsuits. I can’t be made out to be a disagreeable bitch in the eyes of the public. I sigh, defeated.

Tell me where to be and I’ll be there,” I lament.

Good. Keep tomorrow free. We have Tutera at 10. I’m going to see who else we can squeeze in. With any luck, we can get them all in before Friday and then sit down this weekend to do preliminary eliminations. We can have them ready to prepare some final presentations next week and then make some choices by the end of next week.” Oh, God, this is so overwhelming.

“Can you really get these people to do this? I mean, these are high-end designers. I can’t see them jumping through hoops for someone they have never met,” I protest.

Then you obviously don’t know how this industry works. You are going to be plastered all over the paper for the next several months whether you like it or not. Your trauma as a teenager is playing out all over the press. Your battle with your mother is front page media. You will soon be involved in the trial with you kidnapper ex-boyfriend. A close ex-friend of your husband’s family is somewhere on the loose evading charges involving child pornography. Bad publicity is publicity nonetheless, and while you are playing America’s tormented little sweetheart—no offense—anyone that can ride that gravy train of being part of the beautiful love story that flourishes in the midst of turmoil is not only going to jump through hoops to do it, but they are going to claw, fight, kill, and eat other for the opportunity. Why do you think Hamilton is shitting herself right now? Word has it that she has lost four big clients since you turned her down—something about a bad reputation and the most sought-after vendors not wanting to work with her. I thought it wasn’t public knowledge that you met with her because of the… sensitivity of the situation,” Tammy says.

“It’s not… unless she’s been telling people. Losing clients, huh? I thought once you paid your deposit, you’re locked in,” I say frowning.

Not if you can’t deliver what you promised. When you lose the ability to work with local boutiques, you’re on shaky ground, but garments can be shipped from anywhere in the world. When you lose the ability to work with local florists, it’s getting worse. Flowers are more fragile merchandise, but can still be shipped safely from various locations. When you lose the ability to work with local bakers and caterers, you might as well hang up your hat. The mayor does not expect to hire a planner for his daughter’s wedding only to have to pick up the cake himself.” Wow, Christian works fast. Her business is going to be garbage in no time, giving him all the reason he needs to dump her ass. It reminds me of the fate of the Heirloom. That bar was closed within a few days after that owner kicked me and the girls out on the night of Maxie’s bachelorette party. I don’t know what Christian did, but that place was history in no time and has not recovered.

Nobody fucks with Christian Grey,” I say under my voice. “So what else do I need to focus on right now?”

Well, has Mommie Dearest come up with more names that need to be added to the guest list yet? She knows that with your sparse numbers, she can add about 140 more people doesn’t she?” Tammy asks.

Not that I know of, and don’t call her that,” I say, firmly. “Grace and I may have had a difference of opinion, but she is one of the best women I have ever met in my life, so please don’t talk about her that way.” The line is quiet for a moment, then a moment more.

I apologize, Ana. I was way out of line. I shouldn’t have said that,” Tammy says, sincerely.

“We won’t draw it out as long as you don’t let that happen again,” I continue.

I won’t happen again, I assure you,” she says, her voice very professional.

“Good, now what should I be focusing on?” I ask again.

Have you picked all of your bridesmaids… um, men… um, you know what I mean!” Oh shit! I still haven’t told Al that he’s my man of honor. I better tell him soon.

“I have, but I don’t know how it’s going to look, yet, so let me get back to you on that.”

Okay, so Christian says that he wants the men to wear black tuxes, the best. He’s letting you pick the color of the accessories. I say have the men wear the silver vests and ties and have the women wear the royal blue dresses with silver accessories. Anyway, we’ve actually got a tailor coming to the penthouse to fit the men, which means that you need to lock down your bridal party and what you want them to wear…”

We cover so much ground in that conversation that I feel like we have nothing else to plan, but I know that’s too good to be true.

Will we do a Rolls Royce or a Bentley?
Exactly who will stay at the castle and for how long?
When do we recruits photographers, videographers, and DJ?
Will someone sing at the wedding?

By the time I am done talking to Tammy, I am completely weary. My notebook of things to do is just about full to the end. This is what I get for taking three weeks off from life. That shit won’t happen again!

Jewel, Darling. I’m surprised Chris let you come up for air,” he says. I laugh wearily in his ear. “What’s wrong?” he says immediately noting my tone.

Oh… nothing. I’m just exhausted. Tammy just slammed me with a trillion things that we have to do for the wedding. Do you know that I am meeting personally with David Tutera and at least three other designers tomorrow and Vera Wang on Friday? Ralph & Russo have arranged an early private showing of their fall collection for Thursday… fall collection! It’s not even spring yet!” I declare into the phone.

Ooooooo, I’ve always wanted to meet David Tutera! Can I come?” he squeals on the line.

“Um… yeah, about that… what kind of time will you be able to get off of work this week?” I ask him. There is momentary silence.

Well, I don’t know. Chris kind of surprised me by not coming in today, although I really should have expected it. Anyway, he had me put together a panel to help him comb through those miscellaneous subsidiaries… which I did… but I don’t know how hands-on he wants me to be with it. I was going to set them loose on his findings today, but again, he surprised me by not coming in. He didn’t even tell Andrea that he wouldn’t be here.”

“Well, he had to get that shit cut off his head and I went, too, to get rid of my Montana split ends,” I tell him.

Is that all?” he asks skeptically.

“Actually, yes, that’s all.” There is silence on the line again. “We haven’t had sex yet, Al.”

You haven’t!?”

“Nope.”

Well, what the hell are you waiting for?” he asks, dismayed.

“I don’t know. I told him that we had to stop fucking our problems under the rugs, but we just haven’t approached the topic other than that,” I respond.

Shit… well, um… so why did you want to know if I could get time off? Does it have to do with that hottie David Tutera?”

Yes, it does.” I’ve got his attention now. “I don’t know if there are going to be any changes to the wedding party as such after recent events, but one thing remains constant…” I pause. I… want you to stand up with me… as my man of honor.” The line is silent for several moments now. “Al?”

“I was waiting for the punchline,” he says sarcastically. Uh oh, was this a mistake?

“There… is no punchline,” I say hesitantly. After another pause…

“You’re not kidding…” he says. “Jewel…” he says wistfully, then he gasps. “Oh, Jewel, you’re serious! Oh my God, Jewel! Yes! Yes! Absolutely! Oh God! I can’t believe this! What… what about Val? And Maxie? They’re going to be so disappointed!” His joy immediately turning into sympathy.

They’ll understand, Al. They have to. You have been the one constant in my life since we were 14 other than my dad. It has to be you.”

“Oh, Jewel,” he says, his voice cracking. “Why did you tell me this over the phone? I don’t get the chance to hug you and get all weepy.”

Well, you can get all weepy, but the hug will have to wait,” I say with a smile. “Now listen, Forsythe. Being my MOA is going to be hard work. You are going to have to help out in a lot of ways with a lot of the planning, so get ready.”

Hell, that just means I get to see everything before everybody else does,” he giggles, “including that yummy David Tutera, right?” I chuckle at his excitement.

Be here tomorrow at 9:00am—if the Angel of Death will let you have the day off—and you will certainly meet David Turtera.”

Oh he will give me the day off, and I will be telling him exactly why. We are going to have so much fun, Jewel,” he says giddily.

I’m glad you think so, because right now, it’s just a bunch of work for me,” I sigh.

Well, we’re going to turn that all around. Now, I’m giving you an assignment for tonight. Go grab Diamond Dick and a jump his bones! It’s been three weeks for Christ’s sake!” I shake my head.

Goodnight, Allen,” I say ending the call. I drop my head in my hands for a moment and let my freshly-cut hair fall onto my crossed legs. “What was I thinking?” I lament aloud. “I have so much to do.” I look over at the list of things that my wedding planning website says that I should have done by now…

Finalize the guest list.
Set up our registries.
Search for an officiant and a ceremony musician. 
Choose the wedding party and invite them to take their roles.
Start shopping for the wedding gown…
And 55 other tasks!

None of this stuff can be delegated. I, or at least we, have to do it all. I feverishly start checking things off the list.

We have blocks of rooms reserved discreetly at the Four Seasons, the Renaissance Seattle, the Fairmont Olympic, and the Hotel 1000 downtown. The Alexis has been conspicuously deleted from our list of guest choices since their employees can’t keep a leash on their tongues. This information will be forwarded to Grace for out-of-town guests and family that may need accommodations. Christian says that Grace’s mom is definitely flying in the week before the wedding. She still lives in the manor in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, where Grace grew up, but RSVP’ed while I was away that she wouldn’t miss this event for the world. Her father passed away quite some time ago, I’m told. As I understand it, Carrick and his in-laws never really got along since he took their “baby away from them and moved her across the country to Seattle.”

Carrick’s family will be sparsely represented. As it turns out, he comes from very humble beginnings. He was born in Cleveland, Ohio, but moved to Detroit with his family when they were very young. He was the first to graduate from college, then law school, and when he passed the bar, he secured an internship with one of the most successful law firms in Southeast Michigan. His family, however, has always been comprised of blue-collar workers making a modest living—nothing to be ashamed of, mind you, but not as much as Grace and Carrick. His mother passed away when he was very young from breast cancer and he was raised by his father with his three brothers. They are not estranged, but the family is not very close as his brothers and father contend that he moved to Washington to get away from them and the “simple life.” Carrick doesn’t deny it, but that kind of attitude has put a bit of enmity between their children and Carrick’s children—particularly because Carrick’s children are all adopted. To that end, we are still uncertain if any of Carrick’s family will be at the wedding.

I will also forward the hotel information to Auntie Cynthia. I would love to meet her husband and I am hoping beyond hope that she can make it to the wedding. I so want her to be an active part of my life from this point forward. I don’t know what would have become of me if it hadn’t been for her.

Miana’s will take care of the pre-wedding pampering, but I have no idea who will be our ring bearer and our flower girl. I’ve gone through the damn list twice and I’ve only gotten it down to 54 tasks remaining that should have been done by now. At least that’s seven down.

Is Christian still talking to the doctor? It’s been hours now. I get up and stretch my legs before walking out of the guest room and down the stairs. I can’t find him anywhere immediately until I see his silhouette over by the piano. I quietly tread over to him and watch as he examines the once grand piece of furniture, now shockingly reduced to a big black beautiful shell with several missing keys. He is stroking the broken keys and open spaces with obvious regret.

“Christian!” I whisper, surveying the damage. I startle him from his thoughts but I am more surprised by the destruction that I am witnessing to one of his most prized possessions. I see the complete and utter sadness in his eyes as he absorbs the beating his piano has taken. He sighs heavily.

“I want to believe that I don’t destroy everything that I touch,” he says, the sadness seeping from his voice.

“Don’t be silly,” I say to him softly. “I don’t want to hear you talk about yourself that way.”

Who does this?” he laments. “Who destroys a piano with their bare hands? A priceless Steinway, no less?” He is really agonizing over this. I close the space between us and touch his hands. “My mother helped me pick this piano,” he said and I gasp a bit. It has sentimental value to him besides being his midnight companion. “She said that it had a silent power that made her think of everything I had become and could become. Now, I’ve destroyed it.” I couldn’t argue with him. I have no idea how to fix this situation, but I know lamenting over it will not make it better.

I close the top of the piano and move between him and the mangled masterpiece.

“You do not destroy everything you touch,” I say softly, lifting his hand to my face and closing my eyes as I lean into his touch.

“I wished I had never met you.” What? What did he say? My eyes shoot open. “When I did this… I was in so much pain… that I wished I had never met you. I was alone and bereft and… I thought that it would have been better if…” I put my finger over his lips.

“It’s okay,” I tell him and note his surprise. “I understand. I’ve felt that way before, too.” I think of the nights that I cried until I was blind, cursing the day that I even met Edward David. “That pain is very consuming. I’m very familiar with it.” The sadness multiplies in his eyes.

“I’m sorry,” he whispers, and immediately, he thinks I’m talking about him. In a way, I am. Those first days in Montana were nearly unbearable. I was hoping that an angel would come and take me away from this earthly coil and all of that pain.

Please, Christian. Let’s not dwell on those feelings anymore. Let’s concentrate on moving forward and planning our wedding and making sure that we never allow this to happen again… deal?” I look into his watery, gray eyes, silently begging him to release those feelings and join me in the here and now. Almost on cue, he pulls me forcefully into his arms and kisses me deeply—so deeply that it feels as if he would suck my soul from my body if he could. He releases my lips and with one arm possessively around me, and cups my cheek with the other and leans his forehead on mine, his eyes closed and his breath heavily.

My God, Anastasia, do you have any idea what you do to me?” he says shaking his head, our foreheads still touching. “I didn’t know how I was going to go on. I’m an extremely powerful man. I can change lives with the wave of a finger. I say a word and companies are erected… or destroyed… but I couldn’t maintain the one thing that made my life worth living; the one thing that made me want to wake up each morning…”

His hand slides to my nape and he buries his face in my neck, inhaling deeply and shivering a bit as he exhales. “All I wanted was you and I couldn’t have you. All I wanted was you…” His despair is palpable. “I told Cholometes that I would turn the world upside down to get you back if I ever lost you; that I would unleash a hell on this sphere that could be likened to Armageddon… but I couldn’t bring you back. I just wanted you back. I would have given up everything I own just to have you back.” He sounds so broken.

“Christian, please…” I beg, cupping his face in my hands. “Please, stop… stop this, please…” I kiss his face several times, relaying to him that I here now, in his arms. I am back and I’m not going anywhere. “Please, Baby, stop this,” I press, kissing him tenderly on the lips. He embraces me powerfully and claims my mouth again, his strong grip around me lifting my feet off the floor and snatching the air out of me. I tangle my fingers in his hair and return the kiss, just as powerfully… and the fire ignites.

Ho-ly fuck!

I instinctively wrap my legs around him, trying to meld myself into his body. At first, he pushes me hard against the piano, grunting in his chest and trying to burrow into my body. Then, like a flash, he effortlessly spins around with me in his arms and damn near sprints to our bedroom. He kicks the door open and dashes inside just in time for the door to slam behind him. Turning around, he slams my body against the door, his lips never leaving mine.

Oh my God, get me out of these clothes! I feel like I’m going to die, here!

In answer to my prayers he snatches my sweater over my head and spins around, crawling onto the bed with me still wrapped around him. He is ripping—and I mean ripping—my remaining clothes from my body and seconds later, he is naked with the exception of his linen shirt which I think I may have ripped open myself as I observe that there are no buttons on the thing.

With surgeon accuracy, he snatches me off of the bed and onto his awaiting erection. I gasp as he holds me in place, his penis balls deep inside of me filling me to the walls.

It’s been a long damn time!

I think I must be crazy because the tightening and tremors begin almost immediately. I try to control them with my breathing but… he’s doing something to me. His eyes are closed and he’s kissing the mounds of my breasts gently. His arms wrap tight around me and his hands splay across my back. I am sitting on top of him and I cannot move. He has total control of me… total control of my body.

His mouth is open, his eyes are closed, and he is inhaling deeply though his exhales are shuddering breaths. He moves his hips only slightly and pleasure shoots through me all the way to my eyes! I gasp again as he pulls out of me and rocks into me. Oh, God, this is so overwhelming.

Just as I try to speak, he begins a rhythm… not too slow and not too fast… a continuous burn that sears into my core and takes over my subconscious. He holds me in place masterfully and speaks to me through our joining bodies, everything he could not say before this day—everything he felt and no one listened—the love, the anguish, the pain, the agonizing that it would all end… I feel every bit of it and it’s almost as torturous as one of our playroom scenes.

The pleasure and the pain, both so intense and so powerful and I can only absorb it… absorb all the pleasure and the pain. My body is aching and tingling and burning and my mind is spinning and begging. The whole experience is both exquisite and unbearable at the same time.

I squeal like one of the girls in those bad porn movies, but only because it feels like my hips are going to explode. The fire and passion that he is pushing inside of me is almost too much for my body and soul to bear.

“Christian… pleasewait…” I beg, my voice high and unrecognizable.

Baby… please… I have to love you…” he protests, still pushing up into me and holding me down onto his body. He won’t be denied; he can’t stop. He has me captive, body and soul, and he is pouring all of his pain, anguish, and love into this moment. It’s so powerful that I feel it on a cellular level and it’s more than I can take.

“God… help me…” I whisper, as I surrender to his will. He is everywhere, all over me, inside me… in my mind, my heart, my body, my blood. “Please… please…”

Ssshhh,” he soothes, still loving me, his body starting to tremble, “I have to love you… I was made to love you…” Oh God, his words, the feel of him holding me, loving me, pouring himself into me…

My body erupts into a powerful, all-consuming, blinding, body and mind-shattering orgasm. I burst into uncontrollable sobs as my body is racked with pleasure and pain that I can’t contain. The shaking is so violent that have lost control of everything and Christian has to hold me up and he continues to drive into me with an unwavering rhythm and precision. My body hungers for him so much that the first explosion doesn’t even wane before the second one immobilizes me yet again. I can’t make a sound. I just let the tears fall as I try to hold on for the ride of my every loving life.

That’s when he grows inside me and I know he is about to release. The stretching of my vaginal walls cause my legs to clamp around him as he groans deep in his throat, laying his head on my bosom and beginning his ascent, his grip around me never changing, his hands still splayed over my back. His face is turning red and his whole body begins to tremble, including the sweat-soaked curls on his head. My never-ending orgasm finally seems to wane when he thrusts himself into me, pulling me down onto him powerfully as he groans deeply and buries his face into my breast.

Ana, Baby…” he keens as he trembles violently, and his wildly releasing member is dancing so hard inside of me—throbbing and pulsating—that it sends me into a wave of delirious aftershocks as he holds me still for several moments and rides out the pleasure of my convulsing muscles around his exploding erection. “Mine. Mine…” he repeats between breaths. He kisses the valley of my breasts and I still can’t control my tears.

He has ripped my soul from my body, filled it with love, pain, anguish, and ecstasy, and is now trying to hold the two in place while my fragile mind and heart try to reconcile what just happened. I would stay right here forever if I could, in this position, holding this man. I may fall to pieces if he lets me go.

Are you okay?” he says softly, his voice full of concern, no doubt at my inability to stop crying. My only answer is to thrust my hands into his hair, pull his head back so that our faces meet, and kiss him over and over and over again.

Baby… oh, Baby… I love you so much,” he says, still accepting my kisses and showering me in return. “I love you… you‘re my life.” He poured all of his angst into me, all the pain that he felt over the last three weeks—even when he pretended not to feel anything, he was dying inside… and he showed it all to me. He showed it all to me and my soul can’t take it.


GREY

We have connected on a molecular level today. No matter how many times I may have said it happened before, it really happened today. I gave her everything that I had—everything—and now she can’t stop crying. I’ve heard of this happening to other people, but it has never happened to me.

I lift my Butterfly—my beautiful wilting flower—into my arms and take her to our bathroom. With her still in my arms, I turn on the shower and let it get nice and warm. She clings to me around my neck as I step into the shower, her tears flowing down my back. I remove the shower-head and wet both of our bodies, and her tears seem to subside just a bit—but they still don’t stop. Part of me wants her to feel this pain, so that she knows how real it is and never wants either of us to feel it again. The other part of me knows that she felt her own pain during the time that we were apart—pain that I caused—and doesn’t want her to feel any pain, hers or mine.

I lather the part of her body that I can reach, including her hair, and gently clean her skin and mine. “Let me wash you,” I say softly, and she allows me to place her feet on the floor while she continues to weep. I wash the rest of her tiny body and rinse the shampoo from her hair. I quickly wash and rinse my front as well and turn off the shower. When I leave the shower without her to retrieve a towel, she buries her face in her hands and begins to sob again. I wrap the towel around my waist and come back for her with one of the warm bath blankets she loves so much.

Yes, she feels it. She feels all of it.

I wrap her body in the bath blanket and carry her back to our bed. I gently dry her body with the blanket and slip her into one of my T-shirts while I quickly step into a pair of my pajama pants. Then I proceed to gently dry her hair while I sit behind her on our bed. I’m going to have to stop her from crying because she’s going to go hysterical if she doesn’t stop soon.

Once her hair is dry, I take her with me to the kitchen to get a large glass of orange juice and two Advil. It seems to get worse when I leave her, even for a moment. So I lead her around by the hand like a toddler, even putting her between my body and the open refrigerator door as I remove the orange juice; between my body and the counter as I pull the glass down to fill it and the painkillers for the headache she will certainly have in the morning. If I remember correctly, she’s supposed to meet one of the famous dressmakers tomorrow according to Tamara, but I can’t remember which one.

When she has finished her orange juice, I put her glass in the sink and lead her back to our room, sniffling and shuddering. I take her to the en suite and wet a washcloth with cold water. I pull back the duvet and climb into bed.

Come on,” I beckon her gently and she lies down in my arms, her back to my front. I put the cold washcloth on her eyes and hold it there with one hand wrapped around her face while my other arm holds her close to me.

“I need you to stop crying, Butterfly,” I say softly in her ear. “I can’t stand to see you in pain. It hurts me terribly.” Her trembling slows just a bit and her breathing becomes more regular. I kiss her several times on her ears and neck before I serenade her to sleep with the last song that we played before I destroyed my piano…

I wish cross the ocean for you,
I will go and bring you the moon,
I will be your hero, your strength,
Anything you need,
I will be the sun in your sky,
I will light your way for all time,
Promise you,
For you, I will…


Carrie Bradshaw and Big—Sex and The City 

Mending Dr. Steele: Chapter 33—Putting It All Back Together… Or Trying To, Anyway

Yeah, so you may see some slight changes in the last chapter since one of my faithful readers (Thanks, Katie!) brought to my attention that I put a beer in Chuck’s hand and he’s a recovering alcoholic (duh!). This is what happens when you get so caught up in the trails of the other characters and everything that is happening to them that you forget very important details of the supporting cast.

There were a lot of varying opinions about how people felt about Ana’s decision and Christian’s actions. I can understand that. I will reiterate that I won’t tolerate viciousness or attacks on my characters. This is not Fanfiction. This is MY forum and you all have come here by choice. I appreciate that very much, but if you do not like the direction of my characters and their screwed up actions and decisions, you can CHOOSE to go elsewhere. For those of you who choose to stay, on with the story. 

In terms of commenting, if you have commented for the first time and it takes a moment for the comment to show up, it’s because I have to approve the comment and I will be out of town for the next few days and my internet access will be unsure. My mother is ill and I am going to see about her. 

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 33—Putting It All Back Together… Or Trying To, Anyway

GREY

She won’t come anywhere near me. After the conversation on the deck, she won’t even speak to me. I am completely out of my element here. On the one hand, I am elated to see her again, to breathe the same air that she breathes. On the other hand, I feel completely and utterly rejected—like she doesn’t even want me anymore, not sexually, not emotionally, not anything. She told Jason that we could stay the day and that she would think about what needs to be done tomorrow, but she avoids me like the plague—which is very hard to do in this small space, but she does it.

Of course, Davenport has less than nothing to say to me and I realize that when Ana comes back… if Ana comes back… he’s going to have to be on the payroll again even if he is employed by her and not me. I’m not apologizing to him. I feel like he dropped the ball by not keeping a closer eye on her when I told him what was going on and how she was feeling. I do realize that he most likely could not have stopped her from leaving, but he didn’t even have a clue until she was well on her way.

It’s like they are all having a reunion party and I’m the fat kid that never got invited to the dance. After I’ve had enough of pretending to ignore the festivities, I grab a beer and go outside to the fire pit. I watch the sun setting over Iceburg Lake behind the mountains. The sunset gives off a beautiful green hue, something like a green flash, but it sticks around for longer like the Northern Lights. It’s beautiful if you can tolerate the cold, which I can. I wonder to myself how many times Ana has watched this display.

I drop my head between my legs as I feel a wave of nausea hit me. I may have to accept the possibility that I won’t get her back. I feel like my heart is melting and oozing painfully out of my nose in tiny drops of blood. I try to mentally pull myself together and embrace the horror, but it doesn’t get any better. Whoever said time heals all wounds is completely full of shit.

How long has Chuck been here—the entire time? Did he run to her the moment that I fired him? Did he know that she was here when he showed up at Escala without her? Have his feelings for her developed into more than they should have… and how would I possibly approach that topic without pissing Ana off? Does it even matter anymore? I’m complete vermin in her eyes right now.

Sit up, you look like a toddler trying not to vomit.” Someone has finally left the party to see about the missing wallflower. I don’t need to raise my head to know that it’s Jason, but I sit up anyway. “You need to cut that shit off,” he says, gesturing to my hair. I run my hands through it again.

I’ll cut it when we get back to Seattle. I think I’ll cut it short… really short, like a buzz cut.” He frowns at me.

I can’t see that,” he says, shaking his head, “and I’m sure that she won’t like it.” He gestures to the house.

I think that ship has sailed, my friend,” I say to him, and I feel the painful tugging in my chest again that comes with the thought of being without her.

You really think so, huh?” he says, his voice laced with skepticism.

Jason, she can’t even stand to be in the same room with me. How the hell am I supposed to convince her to marry me now?”

I can’t tell you that, but you better figure it out, because that woman loves you and she doesn’t want to lose you anymore than you want to lose her, but this was the last straw, Boss. She can’t talk to you right now because she’s hurt and betrayed and doesn’t know what to say to you. You’re not the man that she thought you were, and it’s a good thing that she found that out before she took the vows. You have a hidden distaste and low tolerance for imperfection, which is strange to me since you’re the most fucked-up bastard that I know—by no fault of your own, granted, but it’s still true. You’ve built an empire and you’ve made a real name for yourself. You’ve overcome all of your obstacles and you proved everybody wrong, even your parents who thought you would fail after you dropped out of college; but I’m here to tell you that you can’t handle your relationship the same way you handle your business. That may have worked with those mechanical bimbots you had around before, but that won’t work with Ana.”

I never treated her that way, Jason… never,” I defend, feeling a bit chastised.

Yes, you did. You treated her that way when you discovered that the relationship—the marriage—wasn’t going to be perfect. Shit, Man, you haven’t even had the biggest fight that you’re going to have yet and you’ve already given up. She’s right, you’re the one who bailed, not her.”

Oh God, more profound beating up of Christian. I don’t think I can take anymore of this. This is the dumbest move I have ever made in my life and I am well aware of that, but will I ever live it down?

How long did you know she was here?” I ask.

A few days, when Chuck sent me the picture of her on the cliff,” he responds. I look over at him.

What picture?” He opens his phone and shows me a picture of my beautiful Butterfly standing in the snow looking out over a cliff. She is smiling broadly wearing a cute knit cap and earmuffs and her super-long hair blowing in the wind behind her. She’s wearing a white down Parka and jeans and a pair of hiking boots and she looks glorious, just glorious. I slide the picture and look at the text and time stamp:

Sat, March 9, 5:32 PM
Just wanted you to know she was okay.

This was Saturday… after I had that fucking meltdown. Why didn’t you tell me?” I accuse.

Because you didn’t deserve her, and I’m not too sure that you deserve her now. You see, you’re happy when everything is going well, and even when it’s not going well, you’re okay as long as she needs you to hold her up, or she’s there to hold you up; but when the problems start, and you two don’t see eye-to-eye, you want to bail. You’re okay when everything is great, but when the road doesn’t turn in a way that the great Christian Grey thinks it should, people get fired and balls of lava start falling from the sky. Armageddon commences and everybody’s life gets turned bottom-side-up until the situation is brought up to Mr. Grey’s impeccable standards and nobody—especially that young woman in there—wants to live that kind of life.

Hasn’t she been through enough without you bulldozing through her life and wreaking fucking havoc all over her? That’s why my wife won’t speak to you. She thought you had changed and as soon as things don’t go your way, you turn into that same selfish asshole we’ve always known, and you don’t have to fire me this time because I will gladly tender my resignation if it means that you expect me to stand by silently while you tear Ana’s life apart. If you can’t be the man that she needs you to be—all of the time—let her go and let her find someone who can!”

He stands up and proceeds to the door. “And knock it off with all this ‘woe me’ shit because your pain is caused by your decision. Hers is by no action of her own—it’s all because she fell in love with an asshole… again!” I stand and turn around, ready to square off against my trusted bodyguard.

What the fuck, Man? How can you possibly compare me to that fucker?” I bark, my voice bouncing off of the mountains.

What’s different?” he yells at me. “You think you’re any different than David? If anything you’re worse! She saw his ugly for months and she chose to stay with him and give him a chance. You… you showed her sunshine and rainbows, put her up on a pedestal, gave her a glimpse of the life and love that she could have and just when it was within her reach, you kicked her off the cliff like a ton of useless bricks and you had the nerve to think she would stick around for that shit? You really are a fucking sadist if you think any of that was okay!”

I can’t stand to hear this. That’s not what I did to her. I love her. I made a bad decision, but I wasn’t breaking up with her or deserting her.

Jason, stop. Now. I’m trying to remember that we’re friends,” I hiss. He squares his shoulders and walks right up to me.

Take you best shot, Big Man! I’ll drop you right on your billionaire butt!” he retaliates.

The next thing I know, we are rolling around in the snow, landing horrendous blows on one another. My hands hurt like fuck and I am at a huge disadvantage because of the battle I won—or lost, that’s still to be determined—with my grand piano a few days ago. I’m no good with this wrestling shit, but I manage to land a few good body blows and elbow shots before I hear Butterfly’s voice screaming for us to stop. She and Davenport manage to separate us and we are huffing at each other like two angry bears.

What the hell is wrong with you two!?” She’s screaming at us as she pushes me further away from Jason. Neither of us says anything, but I suddenly feel even more like shit than I did before. I turn away from the three of them and head towards the trees behind the house. My fists are clenched and I can’t really feel anything but the pain in my head and my heart.

FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK!” I yell with all the power in my lungs. I hear it bounce off of the mountains and echo into the night before I begin my trek into the trees. Where the hell am I going? I don’t know, but I just walk. A short while into the walk, I notice that someone is following me. I look back and I know that it’s not Jason. I stop in the snow and realize that it’s Davenport.

I drew the short straw,” he says with no mirth in his voice. When I didn’t respond, he continues, “It was me or Ana, and you know that I wasn’t sending her out here.” I examine him for a moment.

You love her, don’t you?” I ask, even though I know that I don’t have to ask.

Yes, I do,” he responds with hesitation, and I narrow my eyes at him. “Careful, Hotshot. Jason still works for you, I don’t, and I have nothing to lose.” I glare at him, my heart and soul full of hatred right now. “Yes, I love her, but not like you’re thinking. I’ve never had those feelings for Ana and I never will, but she is the most remarkable woman that I’ve ever met. She has been through things that would drive most men to alcoholism and suicide—I know, I’ve seen it. Hell, I’ve done it. Yet, she comes out of it a brighter, more beautiful human being. You did right to name her ‘Butterfly,’ because that’s exactly what she is,” he says calmly. I know this… I named her.

What I feel for her is more than a sister, more than a friend. It’s like a treasured and trusted confidant, and if you blackball me everywhere in the country—assuming you haven’t done it already—I’d still work for her for free. You can hate me, you can hiss at me, you can threaten me, but I’m not leaving until she tells me to. If she comes back to you, you can hire someone else to protect her and that’s fine, but if you do, you can consider me #7 of the Scooby Gang, because I’m not going anywhere. She is a very valuable person to have in your life and on your side, and I’m not going to lose that because of you. So do what you want to me, but I’m here to stay.”

I just look at him. I say nothing, but I know he’s dug in and I’m stuck with him if I want to keep Butterfly.

Now, you don’t have to say anything to me, but you need to turn your ass around and get back to the cabin, because this is avalanche country and I’m not dying out here with you.” He says. He waits for a moment for my decision, then turns around and starts walking back to the cabin. I have half a mind to stay out here and freeze to death. This cold is tolerable compared to the frost that Ana’s given me over the past several hours. Instead, I follow him back to the cabin and resign myself to get my ass back to Seattle first thing in the morning.

Ana makes a simple but delicious chicken pot pie for dinner. We eat in utter silence. Originally, Jason and I were to take the beds in the loft since Butterfly and Chuck had claimed the bedrooms downstairs. However, Butterfly thought it best not to put the “fighting boys” in the bedroom together even though we assured her that we had gotten our aggression out and wouldn’t go at each other again. He told me something that I didn’t want to hear, but needed to hear and I couldn’t hear it—so there you have it. Simple. Nonetheless, Chuck and Jason will take the queen beds in the loft, and Butterfly and I will each take one of the bedrooms downstairs. With that, she takes her leave and heads to the bathroom for her shower. I feel the smallest twinge of hope when I finally examine her hand and see that she is still wearing her engagement ring.

It’s a rough night. Sleep simply will not come to me. I’m dreading that I have planned to return to Seattle in a few hours without Butterfly and I don’t know what the future holds for us. I’m more afraid to close my eyes than ever and I had now gone a full 24 hours without sleep. I’ve undone the rest and rejuvenation I got from the two days of sleep, but I know the nightmares and heartbreaking dreams will return. So I just opt not to entertain them tonight. I don’t even bother changing into pajamas. I’ll shower and change at daybreak and just get going as soon as Jason is ready to leave.

I get out of bed and go to the kitchen. The clock on the stove says 2:18am. Coffee or beer? It really doesn’t matter. I opt for the coffee. I lean against the counter looking out at the snow. What do I do now? I guess I go back to running my empire, living the life of the hermit that I have now come to hate. I once again see the similarities between myself and the curmudgeon named Scrooge. He left a lover behind, too, and never redeemed himself. Redemption. I’m afraid to hope. Do I even deserve redemption? Shit, who knows?

All of those emotions that I didn’t want to face are crashing in on me at once standing here in the dark in this cabin in Montana. My hell has begun. This is my purgatory for being such a rotten human being. I don’t want anyone—no one but her. If I can’t have her, I will be alone—no companions, no subs, nothing. I’ll pay for my sins on earth and wait for death to take me away from this miserable suffering. Maybe that penance will purge my soul enough to make it to Heaven when this is all over.

I didn’t even hear her come into the kitchen until the refrigerator opened. I look over at her removing the sparkling water and cranberry juice—her famous cranberry spritzer.

I’ll get out of your way,” I say softly before escaping the frost and going into the living room. I sit on the sofa and again, begin to ponder my life—or what will be left of my life—when I get back to Seattle. A few moments later, she is sitting on the sofa across from me.

You’re still dressed,” she says. I look down at my clothes.

I wasn’t sleepy,” I respond, taking another sip of my coffee.

Your hair is getting out of control. You look like Jesus.” I look up at her.

Yeah, I guess it is. I’ll get it cut.” I look down in my coffee again. We are silent for a while when she says, “You need to get some sleep. You’re going to have a psychotic episode.”

I… um… already did,” I respond nervously. I don’t need to look up at her to know that she’s glaring at me waiting for any answer. “I had a bit of a meltdown on Friday and slept until Sunday night.” I hear her gasp a bit. “I’m okay, though. I mean, except for my hands, maybe, but they’re okay, too.” I don’t want any of her sympathy right now, so I downplay the whole thing. The truth is that I felt like I was going to die and a small piece of me wishes that I had.

You’ve never slept for two days, even when you went to the hospital…” Yeah, I said that, too.

Apparently, I was drunk out of my skull and I needed the rest,” I say, trying to make light of the conversation. She’s not laughing. I shrug… the story of my life right now. I bottom out my coffee.

Jason says you’ve decided to go back to Seattle this morning.” She almost sounds sad about it. I briefly consider asking her if I can stay, but then I think better of it.

Yes. I think it’s best… to give you your space to decide what you want to do without me hovering around.” I realize that I am squeezing the coffee mug, so I get up and take it back to the kitchen.

What if I decide that I don’t want to come back to Seattle, that I want to start over somewhere else on my own?” she says. My heart falls for the millionth time in two weeks.

Then I will just have to deal with that. I made a foolish decision and a foolish mistake and now I have to live with the consequences, whatever they may be.” I steady myself on the counter as I say the words. I never in a million years thought we would be having this conversation. I love her too much to let her go, but I love her enough to allow her to make her decision in peace, whatever happens.

So… that’s it?” she asks. I know she was expecting more.

Do I really get a say in this matter?” I say with no malice.

Of course, you do.” I sigh heavily.

Do you know how sorry I am?” I say without turning around to face her. “How much I want to take you in my arms and hold you and never let you go… to beg you not to leave me and to love you until you promise to stay with me forever, to be Mrs. Grey even though I know that I don’t deserve it? Do you have any idea what kind of agony I’m feeling knowing that I caused you enough pain to want to leave your family and friends and run away—possibly for good? To know that I am capable of causing you even 1/100th of the kind of pain that I’m feeling now makes me…” I feel myself losing control of the emotional monster building up in me again. “You need to make your own decision—if you want to take a chance on me and the life we hoped… hope we can make together, even though I may have fucked it up.”

I clear my throat. “Now, I hope that I don’t offend you, but will you please go away before I make a complete fool of myself?” I manage to choke the words out before the tears start to fall from my tightly clenched eyes. If she makes me talk again, I’m going to embarrass myself. She chose to have mercy on me and leave me with my bubbling over emotions. I wait until I hear her bedroom door close before I scramble with the kitchen door to escape into the night air. I lean over the banister and take several deep breaths. I allow the tears to fall until they stop, but I refuse to weep. I’ll take the consequences of my actions until she tells me that there’s no hope for us, then I’ll fight like hell to get her back. In the meantime, I can’t crowd or confuse her. I have to allow her to come to her own conclusion without any pressure. I’ve told her how I feel and now I have to leave it up to her.

*-*

I’m packing several suits and shirts into a garment bag back at Escala. I manage to mechanically put things together that I will need for my extended stay at the Four Seasons. After the fiasco with the Alexis, the 4S has guaranteed discretion during my stay. I have rented three suites—one for security, one for business and one for sleep and leisure. If Butterfly doesn’t come back to me, I’m putting Escala on the market. I can’t stay here without her anymore.

I think about our goodbye this morning when I left the cabin in Montana. I know her enough to know that she wanted me to stay but couldn’t ask me, and I couldn’t stay under the circumstances. Even though she threatened to stay another month if I touched her, I couldn’t leave without a proper goodbye. I pulled her into my arms and held her close to me, smelling her hair and remembering her fragrance and feel to get me though the next few days, weeks months, or years. I kissed her passionately, pouring all the love into her that I had in me, as if she didn’t want it, it would not be there for anyone else besides my family. Her tears broke my heart all over again when I pulled away from her, but I could only whisper to her that I would love her with my whole heart and soul until I breathed my last breath, and then my soul would continue to love her long after I was gone. I made a hasty retreat, sitting in the car next to Jason, not looking back, speaking, or barely breathing until we pulled into the parking garage at Escala 10 hours later for fear that I would fall apart any moment.

When I bring my bags into the great room, I see that Jason has packed his things as well and is waiting for me there with Gail. I look at them sharing a tender moment, then shake my head. 

No,” I say to him. “I’ll drive the RS7. I’ll see you at GEH tomorrow. Arrange for Lawrence and Williams to alternate staying with me in the evenings at the Four Seasons. You stay here with your wife.” He frowns at me. I know exactly what he’s thinking. Nobody is going to be able to handle me if I go supernova and have one of my meltdowns. “I’ll be fine, Jason, and I’m sure they all have you on speed dial if anything gets out of control.” He is still extremely skeptical, but he nods nonetheless and takes my bags from my hands to take them to the car. Gail’s disapproving glare changes for the first time to sympathy and it’s almost more than I can take. I smile stiffly and nod at her before nearly running to the elevator.

The suite at the Four Seasons—my new home away from home, for now. For how long, I don’t know, but I put my things away in the suite I’ve reserved for rest and go over to the work suite to look at emails and reports for the next day. I turn my mind off from every other thing and focus on nothing but all things GEH…

The next day, the paparazzi are waiting en masse in front of the Four Seasons. Fucking vultures. I’m not running from these sons of bitches!

Get the car. Bring it right to the front,” I say to Williams, who pauses for a moment—unsure of what he should be doing—before he disappears to get the car. I stroll right out the front door and glare at them. I don’t know what happened, but many of them fall silent and only a few cameras flash at me. What? No fanfare? You want to see my suffering? Here it is. Take your fucking pictures.

Christian, why are you staying at the Four Seasons instead of your Escala penthouse?” someone yells.

Because I like it here,” I say flatly.

Why is Ana not staying with you?”

I’m sure you’ll ask her when you see her,” I answer just as flatly.

Mr. Grey, is the wedding called off or no? Can the women of Seattle breathe easy now that you are available?” a lone, and apparently brave voice, calls from the back. I tilt my head a little to see if I can pinpoint where the question came from, but the crowd just eyes me like a strange, exotic animal. I still don’t react, but I tell them the truth without telling them anything.

When and if my wedding to Ms. Steele is ever ‘called off,’ I’ll be the one to announce it, not some nosy employee at a hotel that will never get my business again. Yes, we are having some difficulties; yes, we are working through them; and no, I am not on the market—so carry on with your lives, Ladies.” I nod and stroll through the crowd to the Audi waiting to take me to Grey House.

As soon as I get there, I get back into the swing of things with my business. Many of Vansteen’s employees have reapplied for their positions but several didn’t even bother. Pending review and rehire or termination, those who reapplied have been relocated to the fifth floor of Grey House. I am still waiting for the results from the internal audit, but the number of guards and administrative employees that opted not to reapply show me that I am most likely about to open Pandora’s Box.

Once again, I am seeing that there are weak spots that have slipped by me in my company, most likely because my arrogance that no one would dare cross the great Christian Grey has caused me to be comfortable and lax in my not-so-omnipotent power. I have decided to review each of GEH’s holdings myself, not to pick them apart—yet, but to see what I have that I didn’t know that I have. It seems that I can’t get away from thoughts of Butterfly no matter how hard I try. My property management company owns the building where her practice is housed. It was one of those ‘miscellaneous’ acquisitions that I got a few years back and never paid attention to it because it wasn’t necessary. I call over to Brettenton Property Management and tell them to redo Dr. Steele’s lease for zero rent for 100 years and send it over to her office immediately. If she marries me, I’ll gift her the building. If she doesn’t, I’ll sell it to her for $1.00.

Hamilton’s little business is starting to show signs of strain. She lost three clients—high-profile clients—in the last two weeks and her growth is showing signs of stagnation. I don’t know what happened with her and Harland, but at this point, I don’t care anymore. She may have been successful in her task of driving a wedge between me and my fiancée after all. Heaven help her if I ever see her again.

I have finally gotten the results from the DNA testing. I have no idea why it took so long, but as I suspected, I share no DNA if that fucker Myrick or Millfeld or whatever the fuck his real name is. According to intel, he’s been pretty quiet since his revelation. The agency that hired him for my parents terminated him, but he has since found other employment in the Seattle area. Security is still keeping a close eye on him, but he has done nothing so far… beside contribute to ruining my marriage, so I would say that he would be safe to stay several thousand feet away from me as well.

So there it is—work at GEH, where crowds of people fall silent and part like the Red Sea when I enter the building; comb through these miscellaneous acquisitions all week that would most likely bring my company to its knees because I was too damn cocky to pay attention to their significance; go “home” to the Four Seasons and keep working. No one dares speak to me or even ask how I’m doing until Friday when Allen comes into my office.

Chris, can we talk?” Do I really want to talk? I gesture to the chairs in the front of my desk. “You’ve got me worried,” he says.

Why?” I ask.

You’re cold as ice, Christian. I know that others may be accustomed to seeing you this way, but I’m not. Those who aren’t afraid to say something are saying that you’re colder than you were… pre-Ana.” Hmm, colder than before… that’s new. Well, I said I couldn’t go back to the man that I was before. It looks like I’m worse. That sucks.

I’m sorry, but I’m not trying to make friends here. I’m trying to run a business, and I see that I have slipped in a lot of areas. Have you seen the condition of these companies?” I ask him gesturing to the report I had Andrea print of our miscellaneous holdings. He opens the portfolio and thumbs through it.

No, I haven’t. Some of these really don’t look good at all,” he says concerned.

I know. I haven’t been paying attention and I haven’t designated anyone else to do it either. Is this something that you can put together a team on for me? I have a feeling I might be sitting on a powder keg here.” He looks up at me.

Interesting choice of words. I was just thinking the same thing about you,” he says. My expression doesn’t change. I don’t want to talk about this. I don’t want to concentrate on this here at all.

Allen, I can’t talk about this here. I have to focus on my work. If you want to talk about this some other time, we can, but not now.” I turn my head back to my computer. He waits for a moment, then stands and turns to leave. “She…” I breathe deeply to gather strength to speak of her at all. “She’s staying in a cabin at Glacier Park in Montana. You can take some time off and go to her if you want. It’s a nice place, you’ll like it. Ask Marilyn for the information. Let her know that I’ve been there already and there’s no reason to keep the secret anymore and I’m sure that she’ll give you the details. You can take Charlie Tango—I’ll have Tom fly you up there and bring you back when you’re ready.” I remember that I am at work and this is no place for the emotions that are fighting inside of me to get free.

Is it over, Chris?” His voice is full of sympathy. I look up at him and see that same sympathy in his face. It almost chokes me up, but I fight the urge with all of my old techniques.

It looks like it is, but you’ll have to ask her,” I say before dropping my eyes back to my computer screens and the contracts for Vansteen’s current clients.

*-*

That night, I am back in the work suite at the Four Seasons. This suite has seen more action than the leisure suite. Gail sent food over with Lawrence. I scarfed it down so as not to disappoint her but I didn’t taste a bite. I sit back down at the table and dive into the reports that have held my attention since my return to Seattle.

I get a glimpse of myself in the decorative mirror on the wall across from the table. I’ve subconsciously worn black suits all week and I never got a chance to cut my hair. I’ve worked until later in the evening, so I just never found the time. As a result, I’ve been pulling it back in one of those horrid man-ponytails to keep it from falling in my face. I have a permanent scowl on my face—brows furrowed, eyes narrow and piercing, the corners of my mouth turned down, face made of stone, like a hideous monster—a gargoyle. I don’t even recognize myself. I look like Satan.


STEELE

I knew that he would find me. I knew that no matter how hard I tried, all steps would lead him to me. As much as I hate to admit it at this moment, we are drawn to each other even miles away. No matter how hard I try to fight it, I love him and I always will. I hate what he did to me and I hurt. I never thought he would hurt me like this and I never want to give anyone the opportunity to make me feel this way. Unfortunately, when you open yourself up to love, you open yourself up to hurt.

When he said goodbye a few days ago, I wanted to beg him not to leave me, to stay and fight for me, but that would have solved nothing and we both know it. Then he kissed me in that way that made my knees fall out from under me. Chuck literally had to catch me as they were driving away. Holy cow Batman! It reignited all the pain and the loneliness and all I wanted to do was be in his arms again.

I spent the next two days in my room crying off the effects again. Chuck would bring me something to eat and I would cry myself back to sleep. I can’t go on like this and I know it. I love him and with him is where I belong, but I just can’t bring myself to go back just yet and I don’t know why.

My dilemma was solved with a knock at my door Friday night that brought four of my best friends. Allen and James picked up Gary and Marilyn and decided on a weekend trip to Montana.

What, Seattle wasn’t cold enough for you fools?” I say as I hug each of them crying happy tears.

It was too cold without you, Jewel,” Al says sweetly as he embraces me. Marilyn comes in with the guilty face.

I told you not to tell anyone else,” I say, playfully.

I didn’t. Christian did,” she informs me. I freeze on the spot.

Did he send you all here to bring me back?” I ask. Al shakes his head.

No. He told me to come and see you and that you were in a nice place. That’s all.” I know my best friend. That’s not all he said.

What else Allen?” I press.

He sent us in Charlie Tango. He told me to get the details from Marilyn because there was no need for her to keep it a secret anymore since he knew where you were.” Charlie Tango? He sent his beloved helicopter and he didn’t fly it? That’s a lot, but that’s still not it.

Allen?” I know there’s more. He sighs.

Jewel, I don’t want to talk about this right now. I want to at least enjoy half of my weekend before we have to talk about the elephant in the room, okay?” That’s it. I’m certain that Christian didn’t send him now.

Okay,” I concede. Marilyn gives me a pouch with my phone and all of my credit cards in it.

No use in leaving it behind now, right?” she shrugs. I smile. They all pause when they see Chuck come out of his bedroom.

He needed a job. Christian fired him,” I say with a shrug.

Oh, so you’re one of us now!” Gary says. Chuck grunts and chuckles a bit shaking his head. “Come with me. I know how this goes. James, you too. Is there a general store or something nearby?”

There is,” Chuck announces.

Good. Lead the way. We need supplies!”

Marilyn, Al, and I prepare the room for the slumber party that Al and I know is about to occur while the guys go get junk food and alcohol. I was careful not to have any in the house since I didn’t want to go on any crazy drinking binges—except for the beer, that is. I bend over to toss pillows around and Al catcalls behind me.

Wooooo, Baby! That view will make a gay man go straight!” he exclaims. I throw a pillow at him. We all fall into the pillows and talk a bit before they guys get back.

So, without getting too deep into it just yet, how are you doing, Ana?” Marilyn asks.

Okay, I guess,” I tell her. “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” She rolls her eyes.

If you say so,” she says.

I’m doing the best that I can. It’s all that I can do. Now, give me some dirt or we all sit here in silence.”

Well, you should know that Brettenton sent over a new lease this morning,” Marilyn says.

What!?” I gasp angrily. “They can’t just rewrite my lease! It was for two years and we’re only a year in!”

They can, and they have,” she says, pulling the manila envelope out of her bag and handing it to me. I snatch it from her and nearly rip the papers from the envelope. What the fuck are they trying to pull now?

I read the lease amount… and read it again. Something must be wrong.

Marilyn, is this a joke?” I ask her. She shakes her head.

Nope. It’s signed by Walter and Maurice brought it over himself to make sure that I knew it was real.” My eyes scroll down further.

I’m not signing this. It’s for a hundred years. What are they trying to do?” I smell a rat. “Al, you’re my lawyer. What is this?” Al doesn’t take the papers from me.

Well… there’s usually a reason for something like that. I’ll see if I can come up with an answer for you.” Why hasn’t he taken the papers from me?

Have you seen anything like this before?” I ask, my voice going very high at the end of the question. He nods.

I have, but can we save business for later and chew the fat right now?” he says, and thus ends the business talk.

The guys come back with food, drink, and treats and we spend the whole night getting drunk and talking about everyone’s life but mine. I just don’t feel like dwelling on it tonight. I want to hang out with my friends and have a good time.

We wake somewhere around noon the next day and Chuck and I take everyone shopping and to see the beautiful scenery of the surrounding areas. We take several pictures and send them to Val, Maxie, and Phil who couldn’t come up for the weekend, but to show them that I wasn’t wasting away into nothing. Elliot kindly tells me to call his brother before he has to put him down like an injured steed. That makes me wonder exactly how badly Christian is doing. He seemed okay when he left on Tuesday, a little upset as was to be expected, but certainly not suicidal or anything.

I get Al out to the fire pit that evening and finally decide to ask him about Christian.

Okay, Al, give it to me straight. Elliot just texted me telling me to call Christian before Elliot has to put him down. Is it really that bad or is Elliot just pulling my leg? He has a tendency to do that, you know.” Al’s extremely heavy sigh already tells me that this is not an exaggeration.

No, he’s not pulling your leg. I mean, he’s not… maudlin or… crazy or anything, but…” What the fuck, then?

Well, what is it?” I ask, anxious.

He’s like the Angel of Death, Jewel,” Al says. What?

What do you mean? Is he just firing everybody?” I ask.

No, it’s worse. It’s like he brings doom and destruction when he walks into the room. He’s dressed like an undertaker every day and he’s combing through his miscellaneous subsidiaries to see what he has missed.”

This is a concern because?”

Because it’s a filler and we all know it. When he’s done with this, another department, division, or subsidiary is going to fall under the ax. He’s laser focused and right now, he’s silent but deadly.”

Okay, can you tell me what this all means?” I ask, still in the dark.

When he walks into a room, he brings a silent darkness with him. He’s not cursing or screaming or anything like that. He’s a deadly calm. I have never seen him like this and most of the employees that I have spoken to say that they haven’t seen him like this either. Half the time, he’s not even giving orders. He just strolls in and goes about his business. He looks like he’s always contemplating, like he’s just going to call a meeting of key people, walk into the room and just say ‘you’re all fired.’ He’s kind of reminding me of that guy from Highlander…”

Okay, which one of the Highlanders are you talking about?”

Adrian Paul—1992 version—just as hot, but not as cuddly,” Al says.

The man was cutting off people’s heads. Cuddly is not a word that I would choose to describe him,” I protest.

Exactly!” Al says, his eyes large. Oh, shit, this is so much worse than I thought. “Lately, he does a lot of listening and then acting, not a lot of delegating. He’s hands-on with these subsidiaries, mainly because one of them is Vansteen and one of them was your girl’s wedding planner business.”

What!?” Wedding planner? He was backing Cassie Hamilton and didn’t tell me?

Settle down, Killer, it’s not what you think…” Allen explained to me how GEH categorizes these miscellaneous subsidiaries and that they can easily get lost in the company unless someone has a reason to look for them… like illegal activities, operating losses, “my girlfriend’s car gets vandalized on your watch,” or “you pissed off my fiancée by flaunting our past relationship.”

Had it not been for you, he never would have known he owned either one of those companies,” Al continues. “Vansteen was already a bit of an issue after the situation with your car. Hamilton came up because he was trying to find out who her backer was. Imagine his surprise. Vansteen truly fell under the knife when your gun came up missing. He had basically dismantled that company the day before you left and the pendulum is still swinging on Ms. Cassie.”

Why still swinging?” I ask.

Because GEH has an iron-clad contract with her that they inherited from the selling company, so he’s ruining her from the outside-in. That’s how he can break his contract. He can do anything he wants with a company that’s not at least breaking even.” I nod. “That brings us to now. After he discovered that he was financing one of his ex-subs, he had Alex gather information on all of his miscellaneous subsidiaries to be sure that he wasn’t financing any more of them. It’s not pretty, and he has been combing through those reports day and night looking for discrepancies and weak spots. He only just asked me to try to put together a panel to help with this, but right now, he’s hands-on with it because he feels like his cockiness and delusions of his own invulnerability has put him here in the first place. Ros is handling all the mergers and acquisitions and he’s dealing with this, only stepping in to help Ros when it’s utterly necessary. Every Vansteen employee had to reapply for their jobs and he’s just waiting for the results of the internal audit before he decides if the company will fold. Everybody’s wondering who’s next.”

What is he doing? He’s always been concerned about putting people out of work,” I say.

That’s why he’s still trying to hold on to Vansteen. He closed the building that housed them and he’s trying to decide if he’s going to put it on the market or renovate it and lease out the office space. Vansteen has been moved temporarily to the fifth floor of Grey House so that he can keep a closer eye on them. He has to decide if he’s going to get rid of the weak links or the entire company. Speaking of lease, I don’t need to look into the rarity or frequency of the type of lease that you have.”

I’m stunned. I know that Christian is a shrewd businessman, but this seems extreme even for him.

“Why not?” I ask.

“You’ve had a lease with Brettenton for nearly a year?” I nod. “Then you’ve been paying rent to your fiancé for nearly a year. GEH owns Brettenton. He most likely discovered that you were one on his tenants during his investigation of the records.” I shake my head and Al takes my hand.

Jewel, I have a feeling that this is just an anesthetic. He’s throwing himself into his first love to try to keep his mind off the absence of his true love. It’s the one thing that he can fix right now, and he sees the cracks and flaws in these companies that have the potential to cost him everything. They were issues and problems that were right in front of his face and he couldn’t even see them. Then someone came along and shined a light on the problem and he’s displeased—appalled even that this is something that he should have seen a long time ago and never did because he thought everything was okay… until it wasn’t.

In a nutshell, Jewel, he was one of those miscellaneous subsidiaries and you shined a light on him. He saw all of his weaknesses. He won’t say it out loud, but he thinks he’s already lost you, so he’s doing everything he can not to let the wolves come in and take the only thing he has left… his business.”

Oh, God, I broke him.

What… does he say about me… about us?” I ask.

He refuses to talk about you,” Al says. “You can see the slight chink in his armor anytime anything happens that involves you or relates to you in any way. It’s only for a moment, and then it’s gone, but it’s there. When I asked if he was okay, he immediately started talking business. When I tried to talk about you, he dismissed me with a task telling my that he absolutely can’t talk about you at work. He stopped me from leaving by telling me that you were here and that’s when I saw the chink. The man puts up a great façade but I can see the pain he’s hiding everyday. The staff is saying that he’s worse than he was before you, not because he’s angry or ruling with an iron fist, but because you don’t know what to expect from him—and that’s worse.” I shake my head.

How are Gail and Jason holding up under the new Christian Grey?” I say, fighting back the tears.

They’re not.” What? Did they quit? “Jason meets him at GEH every morning. Since Chris is so standoffish, there’s very little communication between them during the day unless it’s utterly necessary. He’s nailed to those reports and making observations and shooting off emails. Like I said, the M&A portion of the business for now has been handed over to Ros, so all the meetings that he had set for the week were shuffled off to her. He’s most likely in the office as we speak. Gail and Jason stay at Escala. Chris doesn’t. He hasn’t been there since he had his breakdown.” What the hell? He’s not staying in his own home?

Why?” I ask, the tears flowing freely now.

He can’t stay there without you. He’s talking about putting the penthouse on the market. He was staying at the Alexis at first until someone there got loose-lip syndrome and talked to the press about his condition last Friday night. Now, he has three suites at the Four Seasons—one for the guards, one for sleeping, and one for work. He hasn’t been home in several days.” I drop my head and cover my face.

He’s all on his own, Jewel,” Al says softly. “Last Friday when he called me in a state, he said ‘this is what I get for thinking I could be normal.’ When we got to his apartment, Elliot chewed him a new asshole and he weeped asking if anyone understood how he was feeling and why he may have thought he was doing the right thing at the time. Before he deserted his apartment, he declared, ‘she made me need people.’ Now, he doesn’t want to need anyone anymore. He won’t let anybody near him, not even me. When I try to break down that exterior, he immediately starts talking business. He doesn’t even look like himself anymore. If you love him, and you want to be with him, you need to get home. If you’ve changed your mind about being with him, then you need to let him off the hook. It’s only fair.”

*-*

Ana! Oh my God, Ana!” Gail runs to my arms, tears flowing down her face. “Oh my God! I’m so glad you’re here! It’s been a nightmare. I was so worried about you! Everyone was worried about you! And that man! Oh, Ana, I’m so glad you’re here!” She clings to me and just cries and cries.

Okay, Love, let her come in,” Jason says, prying his wife’s arms from me. “It’s good to see you, Your Highness.”

Good to see you, too, Jason,” I say, looking around the apartment. It’s so cold–or at least it feels cold. “Where is he?” They look at each other.

I’d say he’s probably at Grey House,” Jason says. “He won’t say it, but the only reason he leaves that place is so that I can get home to Gail. I think he would stay there all the time if he could. I actually think he’s having a private quarters built into that space behind his office soon—at least, that’s the indication that I get.”

Why do you get that indication?” I ask.

I saw some blueprints,” he says. “It looks like he plans on making the conference room behind his office smaller and shaving a few feet off of his office to accommodate a living quarters back there.”

You’ve got to be kidding,” I moan. “No one can live like that…”

Apparently, he can,” Jason says. I look up at him. “He doesn’t leave that suite. I keep tabs on him through the security staff and he doesn’t come out of there. Once he’s in, he’s in. Gail sent him some food yesterday because we didn’t know if he was eating. Apparently, he inhaled the meal according to Chance.”

Chance?” Who the fuck is Chance?

Williams? Chance Williams?” Oh… so that’s his name. “So, he’s been nourished, but he doesn’t move from that room. Ten will get you 20 that he’s at Grey House right now with Lawrence.” I shake my head. This is a disaster. He’s coping the only way that he knows how—well, the only acceptable way anyway—and that’s work. He’s going to rip apart his whole company before this is all over.

Are you… back?” Gail asks me cautiously.

I… need to talk to Christian first,” I tell her. I don’t think anyone should hear my decision before he does.

I’ll call him,” Jason says.

Don’t… don’t tell him that I’m here. Just tell him that… there’s a matter here that needs his attention.” I don’t even know how to handle this, but I guess I’ll figure it out in a moment.

I thought time would stand still. It flew by in a flash. It seems like only an instant has passed when this ominous black figure comes wafting into the room. I don’t even hear his feet hit the marble floor as he walks. It’s like he’s gliding on a cloud—a cloud of doom. The air becomes heavier when he enters and he hasn’t even said a word yet. He has this grotesque scowl on his face and he looks like he has aged 10 years! There’s no warmth in his eyes. They are white on white, piercing and frightening. He has unkempt stubble on his face and he’s wearing a black business suit on Sunday… and a ponytail! A fucking ponytail! What the hell is this!? I am horrified!

Who is this and what have you done with my Christian???

He looks straight at Jason and nowhere else—not to the left or the right. He doesn’t even see me.

What was so important that you couldn’t tell me on the phone?” he says in a baritone voice that carries a menacing calm that chills me to my soul. “Or better yet, handle it on your own. You know how I hate coming here right now.”

‘Well, I didn’t think you would want me to handle that,” he says, pointing to me. Christian turns around stiffly to face me, still scowling. Almost instantly, his shoulders fall, his face changes, and the ominous black midst that followed him into the room begins to lift. Good God, now I know what Al was talking about.

Christian? Wha…?” I can’t even find my words. This isn’t the man that I fell in love with. This is some… impostor! This can’t be Christian!

Ana?” His voice is weak and timid. “Ana… Bab…” He sounds tortured now. “What… are you doing here?” he asks, his voice carrying the same caution Gail’s did moments ago.

I…” I can’t breathe all of a sudden, so I choke the words out the best that I can. “I want to come home.”

You want to come back home.” The statement is… cold, almost… impassive? I don’t know. There’s a chill in his voice… skepticism? It makes me want to step away from him for fear that the frost might freeze my soul.

I drop my head. Is this what I’ve done? What we’ve done? Are we completely broken?

We have so much to talk about… so much to clear up. I can’t go on like this. We can’t go on like this,” he says.

I know,” I say without lifting my head, my eyes filling with tears. “I don’t even know where to start.”

Anastasia…” he chokes, but clears his throat, “may I… kiss you now?” I raise my head and observe his pleading eyes.

Yes… please…” I breathe.

I hear his shoes on the marble this time and he appears to be floating across the room. I am in his arms in a second. He snatches me so hard and fast that I gasp. His lips crash into mine and his kiss consumes me. I can’t move my arms and I am again transported to our very first kiss. I whimper into his mouth.

This… This is my Christian.

I drop my head back to get some air. He’s trying to eat me alive. He kisses me everywhere—my neck, my cheeks, my ears…

I love you… I love you… I love you… so much…” His voice is breathy and winded. He repeats himself over and over like he can’t stop. “I love you… please…” He’s kissing me again. “Ana… Butterfly… Oh my God…” I don’t know how he’s talking between all the kissing, but I can feel the relief flow through him. His whole demeanor changes and the dark creature that walked in moments ago is gone.

He releases me and puts his hands on both sides of my face. He’s touching me and looking at me like he can’t believe I’m here. He kisses me and gathers me into his arms again. “Oh, God, I missed you so much… I can’t breathe without you, Butterfly,” he says, his face buried in my neck.

I missed you, too,” I breathe through my tears. Now I’m all breathy and weepy and can’t speak. He tightens his arms around me and kisses me deeply. This time my arms are free and I wrap them around his neck. He falls back onto the couch with me on his lap.

Please… please… just let me kiss you…” he says, still kissing me. Let you? I think that’s a forgone conclusion here, Babe! His lips are everywhere he can find skin and I mean everywhere! He’s even kissing the palm of my hands. “Oh God, you’re here… you’re back… I thought I lost you, I really thought I lost you… I love you so much…” I can’t say anything. It’s too much for me. I just let him kiss me and hold me. He needs it so much… we both need it.

*-*

Hours later, I am still sitting on his lap, one arm around his shoulders and the other on his chest. We have talked about quite a bit… the horrible fighting, the time apart, my tendency to run, his cut-and-dried manner of “solving” problems that doesn’t really solve them…

How we handle all the issues outside of our relationship that seem to always affect our relationship…

How we both have serious trust issues that we are never going to overcome if we don’t learn to trust each other

How being around each other every single minute of every single day that we are not at work may not be the best idea. Even though we are madly in love with each other, we do sometimes need time apart…

How I’m not going to be perfectly-rounded Wilma Wife and he’s not going to be completely-balanced Henry Husband. This has been a bumpy ride from day one and although it has gotten smoother as time goes by, it’s still going to be a bumpy ride…

How other people’s opinion of who we are or should be will not affect who we are and what we will be to each other, no matter how fucked up we really are…

How our undying love and devotion to one another will always get us through these hard times—no matter how horrible they become—because in the end, we are truly committed to each other…

How too many cooks spoil the soup and yet another shrink is not going to solve this problem. We need to communicate and solve it ourselves, only bringing in outside “counsel” when we hit a brick wall and absolutely cannot come to an agreement; that the new shrinks that we are seeing right now are part of the problem/solution because they are pulling back more layers than anybody ever has, resulting in a lot of emotional turmoil in the course of our personal development…

I understand now why he thought it was necessary to call off the wedding. In his “fix this, fix this now” mentality, he only wanted the fighting to stop. Thinking about spending your life fighting with someone forever and ever is not something that is very appealing, especially when you are accustomed to waving your hand and the problem goes away.

He now understands why I left. There was no way that I could stay here with him. In addition to that, I was nursing the biggest rejection that I had ever felt in my life—even bigger than David! It was an all-consuming black hole that sucked all the will and life out of me. There was nothing that I could say or do to portray my feelings to him or to anyone… I could only be, and I couldn’t do that here with him or anywhere that he could find me. Hell, I even hid from my father—that says a lot! The last time I hid from Daddy, I was in a battered women’s shelter!

We have such a long way to go and so much more to talk about, but we covered a lot of ground in these last several hours.

What made you come back?” he asks, kissing my forehead.

Elliot.” He pulls his face back to look at me. “Allen wouldn’t tell me anything. So when we sent pictures to the Scooby Gang, Elliot told me to call you or he would have to euthanize you. That’s when I asked Al to give it to me straight, and he did.” I pull the ponytail holder out of his hair. “I see that he wasn’t lying,” I add running my fingers through his hair.

So you came back for me,” he says, solemnly.

Yes and no,” I tell him. “It wasn’t fair to leave you hanging on without knowing what was going to happen next, I know that, but I wanted to come home. I knew I wanted to come home. I just didn’t know how to do it. Al helped me with that one.”

How?” his voice is wistful and I know my fingers on his scalp are putting him to sleep.

He gave me my choices—come back because I love you or put you out of your misery. The second wasn’t an option.” He lifts his head and gently touches my cheek.

I’m glad to hear that,” he says softly. His eyes are hooded and I can tell that he suddenly needs sleep.

You haven’t been sleeping,” I say. “You sleep for two days then none at all?” He gets that convicted look in his eye and I know that I have him dead to rights.

I’ve been having a lot of dreams lately,” he confesses.

Oh?” I ask waiting for him to elaborate. He nods.

Nightmares that you weren’t coming back to me… and dreams that you never left.” He closes his eyes. I don’t know what to say. “I’m really tired. Really, really tired, but I’m afraid if I close my eyes…”

That this might be one of those dreams,” I finish his sentence and he nods again. “Well, I’ll tell you what,” I say, scratching his scalp and he succumbs to my massage. “You close your eyes and I’ll meet you in your dreams. When you wake up, I’ll be right here, okay?” He looks at me like he is truly skeptical of my promise, but he nods, and he is truly asleep almost instantly.


 GREY

So what do we do now?” she asks.

We get married,” I tell her. “We can go to the courthouse and get married today.”

No, Christian, we can’t.”

Why not?” I whine.

Because I don’t want to get married at the damn courthouse. I don’t want a shotgun wedding. I want the pretty dress and bridesmaids and my man of honor and I want to walk down the aisle and eat cake and throw my bouquet, that’s why not… and my leg is asleep.” I massage her leg.

Is that better?” I ask.

No, it’s still asleep… and so am I… and so are you. So wake up.”

Huh?” What is she talking about?

Wake up and see that I’m still here,” she says with a smile. I’m still confused, but then I remember. She’s gone when I wake up.

I don’t want to,” I tell her truthfully.

Come on, Christian. Trust me,” she says as she puts her arms around my waist and leans into my chest. Okay, I’ll trust you… I close my eyes and pray…

I open my eyes, and there she is—with her arms wrapped around my waist and her head on my chest, fast asleep… and it’s my leg that’s asleep. It’s the middle of the night and I have fallen asleep with my girl on my lap. We are both still on the sofa and we’re not going anywhere. I gather her in my arms and drag both our bodies until we are both lying on the sofa. She stirs a bit, but she is asleep again in moments… and so am I.


A/N:

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

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Love and Handcuffs!
Lynn x

 

Disagree but don’t attack…

This is just a really short note to say that I have had my first comment/review that I didn’t allow to post. Please note that you can disagree with my characters, but don’t attack them.

We all have differing opinions on who we think is right or wrong and for what reason, and that’s okay.

Some of you I agree with, others I think are completely off the mark, and that’s okay, too.

We are not supposed to read and translate everything exactly the same and some of us don’t even come close… even that’s okay.

However, when you attack my characters, I take that personally–especially since they live in my head and keep me awake most nights.

Strong emotions, strong opinions… good. It means I’m making you think. Attacks and statements where you ceremoniously and definitively cut my characters down… um, no.

That is all.

BG Holmes