Mending Dr. Steele: Chapter 39—Showdowns

This relationship is not big enough for the four of us… er, five… um, oh hell, there’s too many of us in this relationship!

Okay, so it was supposed to be a surprise, but yes, Marlow and Maggie are the two kids that are going to be in the wedding. It’s still going to be a surprise to Ana, though. Happy now? 😛

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 39—Showdowns


Christian is handling the invasion of his home very well. Since I didn’t want Jason to know what I was planning, I had to leave Christian out of the loop, too. It was a welcome distraction after my session with Ace.

We covered a lot of ground in tonight’s session. He didn’t bother browbeating me for not talking to him while I was in Montana since we had such a huge breakthrough with my whole Mommy issues, but we did decide that regression therapy would probably be a good idea. I haven’t paid any undo attention to the feelings that I had for my mother except that I am very angry with her and I hate her, nothing more. Now I discover that there is much more and that I have to face it in order to move on with my life. We started tonight with a chronological recounting of everything that I could remember about my mom. I gave him as much as I could with the time that I had and it has left me emotionally drained. So this celebration is right on time to rejuvenate me.

I don’t know most of the people here tonight since it looks like there are 30 men in Brooks Brothers, Armani, and Dolce and Gabana suits in my living room. There’s not a suit from the rack among them—believe me, I can tell. About half of them have alcoholic beverages while the other half decline in favor of soda or water, citing that they are driving or still on duty. The girls help to serve them these insane burgers we‘ve had delivered from the Lunchbox Laboratory. I’m telling you I have never seen creations like this. They have names like “Burger of the Gods” and “Tearjerker,” and they can’t fit in your hand like a regular burger. These men battled with these burgers and eventually won, but it was not an easy fight for many of them. With all the sides and the soft drinks, I would say that these gentlemen were duly satisfied.

About one-third of the security staff has left as they are on duty or going to relieve someone on duty somewhere and Jason is sitting in the great room talking and laughing with those who remain. Maxie, Val, and I have started clearing the dishes. The dishwasher will most likely have to be run twice tonight for this load of mess.

Please let me do something,” Gail says stepping into the kitchen.

Are you sure, Gail? I would much rather you sit down and spend time with Jason,” I protest.

Oh, please. I‘ve sat down with Jason all week and there is more sitting down in my near future. Besides, they’re swapping ‘war stories’ and such. That’s no place for me. I need a bit of normalcy back in my life, so I beg of you. Let me do something.” I snicker at her a bit and let her take over loading the dishwasher as I proceed to put the leftover burgers in the carry-out containers that Lunchbox Laboratory left just in case.

So, how are you and Christian doing?” Maxie asks as we are putting the food in boxes.

We’re doing fine,” I say non-committal, “talking about our relationship and where we want it to go.”

Did he say why he called off the wedding? I mean, you know, did he elaborate?” Val asks.

We’ve talked about it,” I respond.

And?” she presses. I put my hands on the back of one of the dining chairs.

It’s not something that I really want to share. It’s between me and Christian.” Both Maxie and Val are stunned by this reply.

Oh,” Val says a little affronted. “So… we’re not talking about our guys anymore?”

Yes, we are, just not as much and not so much of the intimate stuff,” I say.

Which pretty much means that you’re shutting us out again,” Maxie says.

That’s not what it means, Maxie. It means that I need to start focusing on my man and my relationship. Is that so hard to believe?”

Of course not, Ana,” she relents, “but clearly Christian would rather brave the elements than to spend one moment in the room with us. Seriously, it’s cold out there. At least James is wearing a coat and gloves.” Oh, God, when will my friends ever learn?

Not that I owe you an explanation about why this man is sitting on his own balcony, but I sent him out there to get himself a beer, and I saw when James grabbed his attention. Yes, Christian loves the outdoors, so I doubt that he even feels the cold. And no offense ladies, but he no doubt has a lot more in common with James than he does with any of you.”

So… this new Ana I’m seeing,” Val says, “what does this mean?’

I am going to start handling our disagreements better in the future. I’m a grown-up, and it’s time for me to start acting like one. Yes, Christian felt deserted again, but that’s not your fault. That’s mine. I should have never put him in a position where he could have been made to feel that way. I can hold you guys responsible for how you treated him when I checked out in December. I can’t hold you responsible for how you acted when I left. I put him and you in that position and I shouldn’t have done it.”

But Ana, you were jilted. You were hurt. He called off your wedding…” Maxie protests.

Yes, but that’s not your concern,” I point out with no malice. “I love that you guys love me so much, but you do it at the expense of my boyfriend, my soon-to-be husband. I can’t keep letting that happen, and I can’t keep lecturing you like you’re children telling you that you can’t feel bad when I feel bad. You guys are the closest thing to a family that I will ever have, but…” I shrug, “I can’t tolerate the way that you treat Christian, and now, neither can he.”

So, now we’re getting the silent treatment again,” Val says. “We may not have sat with him the entire time, Ana, but when Al got the call and told us that he was in bad shape, we all came rushing over. Really, we did.”

Thank you. I appreciate that.” I carry the food that I have in my hands to the kitchen and set it up on the breakfast bar so that the guys can take it on their way out. Lots more to bring in here so I go back to grab some more. Maxie and Val are still standing in the dining room.

Ana, we don’t want a repeat of what happened in December,” Val begins.

This won’t be a repeat,” I respond, not telling them that this time is different because Christian has completely washed his hands of them. “This time is different in so many ways that I can’t begin to tell you. Christian and I really need some time to focus on who we are as a couple and what we want. We’ve been talking to our therapists and a lot has come out since I’ve returned from Montana.”

Oh?” Maxie says, clearly intrigued. Oh, no you don’t. You dumped me. We don’t get to have this conversation.

Yes. We’ve made some really big breakthroughs in a very short time and we are examining them further in the coming weeks. This requires us to redirect our focus to one another to get through this because more than anything, we both want a successful marriage and a happy life together.” I see them both struggling with what to say next when Al breezes through like the fairy god-best-friend that he is.

Girl, I think our boyfriends are now BFF’s. They’ve been out there in the freezing cold forever talking about God only knows what,” he laughs, but his laughter fades when he notices the tension in the room. “Okay, what did I miss?”

Nothing. Ana was just telling us that she and Christian need to focus more on their relationship,” Val says with a little salt in her voice. I note her tone and turn to look at her.

Oh, tell me this is not turning into that conversation!” I say, incredulously.

Of course, it’s not, Ana!” Maxie says sharply, throwing a warning look at Val. “We just want to make sure that you’re happy and that you feel like you are doing the right thing—and we don’t want to be shut out in the process. That’s the truth.”

Then stand by me!” I declare. “You’re so ready to take my side against my man, but you’re not so anxious when I ask you to support my decision to focus on him—on us! I’m not going to keep having this conversation with you guys. I can separate the two if I must, but that means family functions—birthdays, christenings, first dances, milestones, proms, graduations, anniversaries—you won’t be invited. I’ve already taken responsibility for putting him—for putting you all—in that position when I left, but don’t expect me to stand here and say that it’s okay for you to treat my man like shit!”

I dash out of the kitchen and into our bedroom before any of them can follow me. I know that this is running again, but the damn walls are closing in and I feel the tears about to fall. With a house full of people, I don’t want to have an adrenaline breakdown in front of everyone. I take a few deep breaths and try to compose myself as there is no one inside the apartment to act as host. I don’t want to blame my friends for supporting me, but at this moment they are acting like brats!

Do you want me to make everyone leave?” I hear him say as chilly hands touch my shoulders.

No,” I respond. “It’s fine. I’ll be fine.” I turn around and wrap my arms around his waist sinking into his chest. “Jason is having such a good time. It’s not his fault that my friends are…” I let the sentence trail off, just pulling Christian closer to me.

This is going to be hard for you,” he says, kissing my hair.

It’s going to be harder for them, because I’ve made my choice,” I say looking up into his eyes.

I never wanted that, Butterfly,” he says, gazing at me.

I know,” I tell him, “but honestly, both times that this happened they made it about them. It wasn’t about them either time. I tried to give them a ‘gimme‘ this time because it was my fault for leaving…”

I thought you said it was our fault,” he corrects.

No,” I say pulling away and sitting on the bed. “Their reaction and the reasons they were hurt, that’s all on me. Christian, they were actually upset because I wouldn’t give them ‘girl talk’ on the intimate details of our conversation when I came back.” I put my head in my hands. “I don’t know how I’m going to handle this. All I know is that I can’t be more concerned about them than I am about us and that’s the bottom line. They can either deal with it or move on.” Christian sits next to me.

When this whole thing blows over—and it will—things will look much clearer, to you and to them.” He leans down and kisses me on the lips. “Now let’s get back out there before they think we’re having sex.” I giggle, stand up and straighten my clothes, and leave our bedroom with Christian in tow. When I get to the dining room, Gail and Al have packed up the rest of the burgers and moved them to the breakfast bar. Val and Maxie seem to have made a quick getaway. We lost a few more of the security staff, but Jason is still in his element with the crowd that remains. I turn to Al.

They said that they will see you tomorrow at the fitting and they are both really sorry that they upset you. I know that there will be more talking tomorrow, but do you want to fill me in a bit?” he asks.

Please tell me that you are coming with me tomorrow. Please tell me that you’ll be there,” I say, my voice cracking.

Of course I will, Jewel,” he says taking my hands in his. I nod.

We’re a package deal, Al,” I say desperately while looking into his eyes. “If they can’t accept us both—good or bad, better or worse, pretty or ugly, fighting or in love—then they can’t have me. It’s that simple.”

I know,” he comforts, “and they will, too.”

I walk around the edge of the great room, just out of sight of the occupants there, and over to Christian’s piano. Al is right behind me.

He’s so hurt about it,” I tell him. “He and his mother picked it out and he destroyed it because of me.” I let a tear escape as I caress the cover with my index finger, not daring to open it.

Yes, I know,” Al replies, not bothering to dispel what I said. I sit on the bench, bury my face in my hands and weep.

I’m going to lose my friends,” I say between sobs. Al sits next to me and puts his arms around me.

Not if they love you like they say they do, Jewel. If they do, they will understand what is going on between you and your man and they will support you. You may have to leave them be for a while, but they’ll come around. They love you too much.” I nod and continue to cry into my hands with Al’s arms wrapped around me.


We have finally rid the house of all the guests and bid Jason and Gail goodnightButterfly looks like she is completely spent, but I can look in her face and tell that she is tense and unable to relax. I turn off the lights in the apartment while she goes to take a very long shower. She emerges from the en suite to find me leaning against the door waiting for her. I have removed everything but my slacks and boxers, and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to tell what’s on my mind.

Drop the towel,” I tell her. She freezes for a moment, then unwraps the towel that covers her body and lets it drop to the floor. She is so beautiful. I’m going to take my time, but I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t want to devour every inch of her right this moment.

Lie flat on the bed, face up.” She silently walks over to the bed, crawls on top of it, and lays down. “Close your eyes,” I say from where I am standing and I see her close her eyes. I walk over to her and gently stroke the inside of each of her legs from her ankle up her thigh and back, my fingertips barely touching her skin. Her breath catches and her beautiful breasts rise and fall with her arousal and anticipation. Her hands clinch the bedding and she is so ready that I can smell her. I quickly crawl between her legs and bury my face in her valley. She cries out as my mouth reaches her core, wrapping her legs around me and throwing her knees over my shoulders. I wrap my arms around her hips and hold her pelvis down flat so that she can’t squirm and continue my feasting. She is so aroused that I can feel her body starting to rise already preparing for release, but I’m not ready yet. Just as I am sure that she is about to detonate, I stop.

Nooooooo…” she mewls as I look at her from between her legs.

Hold on to the bed, Baby. Stretch your arms out beside you and don’t let go.”

She obeys and reaches her right hand to the edge of the bed. Her left hand can only hold the sheets. I quickly remove my pants and boxers before I crawl up her body and take her nipple in my mouth. She cries out as I sink my teeth into it just slightly. I repeat the process with her other nipple as I use my legs to push hers apart. I grind into her, the length of my dick running up and down against her clitoris. She groans loudly.

Do you want me?” I say, barely able to contain my need.

Yes,” she breathes.

Tell me,” I coax.

Fuck me Christian,” she growls. I press my hips hard against her and I can feel the pre-cum escape with those words. I flick my tongue across her lips.

Say it again,” I command against her mouth.

Fuck me, Christian, please,” she begs and her body starts to tremble. I know that she’s close so I stop my stimulation against her clitoris. She groans in protest. I kiss her lips gently, giving her orgasm a chance to fade. My hands travel down her body and I lick and kiss her neck. She is panting now, her body aching with desire and sweating already. She is hot!

Let’s not keep the lady waiting, Greystone taunts as he stands erect and attempts to push away from me.

I put my hands on each of her hips to hold them down, both for leverage and to keep her from moving. I shift my hips and Greystone breaches the promised land. She gasps as I only allow my head inside. Fuck, she is so wet. Pushing her legs further apart and coming up on my knees a bit more, I torment her with short strokes of just my head followed by one or two deep thrusts here and there. The torment brings her right to the edge and if I’m honest, me too. I hear the wetness of our sex moving together and I almost blow. I stop my stroke more for myself this time than for her.

Oh my God, please!” she cries out as I tease her throbbing pussy.

Don’t let go,” I threaten, my voice so heavy with my orgasm that I can barely stand it myself. I continue to tease her with my head and the occasional thrust, listening to the slick, sliding, sloshing sounds of my dick in her wet pussy. When she comes, I want to be buried so deep inside her coming with her that she feels my dick on her spine.

Suddenly, the teasing becomes more than Greystone can take and he is crawling up into that core looking for that spine. I suppress a groan as Greystone takes over and I try to maintain control. I reach out and pin her wrists down, pumping hard into her and giving Greystone the depth and stimulation he craves. I am lying on top of her, grinding into her, my mouth right next to her ear when I whisper, “Say it again.”

F… fuck me… C… Christian…” she breathes as her eyes open slightly. I grunt as her words shoot right to my dick and I grind my hips in a circle, eliciting a long, drawn out moan from her. I grind and circle again and again. The pleasure is almost unbearable. I bring my left hand to her neck and squeeze slightly, my right hand still holding her wrist down. She gasps and pants as I command, “Say it again.”

Fuck me… fuck me, Christian,” she purrs closing her eyes again, and I am sure that she is about to blow. Fuck, this is so good. I push myself up onto my hands and bury myself deep, hard, and slow into her—so hard and deep that her body rises and rides the sheets with each thrust. She’s whimpering and panting and her orgasm is evading her. After all the teasing, her body is angry and tormenting her further. It’s spurring me on and making me thrust and before I know it, Greystone has won the battle.

Oh shit, I’m coming so hard! I’m frozen in place from the sheer fact that my hips are locked from the pressure of this orgasm. My head is back and my mouth is open but nothing is coming out. I’m supporting myself on my fist, my arms straight and my dick balls deep inside of her—or so I thought. Sensing my helplessness, she wraps her legs around me with both of her feet right at the base of my ass. My balls are tightening like I’m not already in the process of a cosmic orgasm as she pushes her feet up, forcing my ass cheeks apart and somehow, my dick further into her.


I mean to say the word, but only a choked gasp comes out as the air assaults my asshole and the back of my balls—all of which are drenched in sweat and extremely sensitive. She hasn’t come yet and she is chasing her release, taking full advantage of my paralyzed body. She is writhing underneath me, her hips relentlessly rolling and grinding into me—and Greystone won’t surrender. He is valiantly accepting her attack and sending signals that he is about to explode again.

Again…? Did it ever stop.

Baby! Baby! Oh fuck, Baby!

The words still don’t come out as my entire body is frozen in space.

Ride me, Baby, ride me. Fuck, it’s so good… so fucking good…

My neck muscles are the first to release from the strain. They are sore and my head drops forward though the rest of me is still frozen. My eyes open involuntarily to give those muscle a rest, too.

Oh, fuck. Wrong move.

I see this sexual goddess before me. She is drenched in sweat from head to hips. Her lips are parted and she is gazing at me with such licentious lust that it’s almost frightening. Her perfect, beautiful mounds are rolling around on her chest and her pink, taut nipples are staring at me. Her arms are still outstretched giving me a perfect, unobstructed view of her wanton body. She is still clinging viciously to the bed and using it as leverage to free her lower body allowing her to work my nether regions like a pro.

I’m watching her hips writhe and grind against me causing her tits to roll and bounce deliciously, her gaze never leaving me the entire time. I must look like a helpless puppet hanging over her because that’s certainly how I feel. There’s a party going on in my dick and balls and I can’t do a damn thing about it because I can’t fucking move. I am being milked—deliciously, and here I thought I was in charge.

Her tongue darts out of her mouth and shoots to her top lip, the tip of it licking the same spot repeatedly. Oh shit, I almost lose it. After several moments, her body stiffens and her abs lift her back off the bed. Her breasts are thrust forward at me and her head falls back. She is panting and her pulsing, her tightening pussy is pulling me in as she keens one word…


I lose it. I’m spurting into her again so violently, I swear that I didn’t just come a few minutes ago. Goddamn, a man can only take so much! My arms give way and I quickly move them to either side of her head in an attempt to protect her as I collapse against her body. My hips have finally unlocked and they are pushing into her—hard, deep, and very slow—and she is matching every move so that our hips are never separated for a moment.

Touch me, please. I need you to touch me.

Hearing my silent cry, she releases the bed and wraps her arms under my arms, holding me close to her. Her hands travel down my back and cause me to shiver as she keens passionately while caressing my body before sinking her nails into my ass.

Greystone likes that. He jumps around happily and squirts a little more to show his joy. Fuck—when is this going to stop? I’m going to have a heart attack here… but what a way to go!

I hear myself whimpering as Mini-Me down there refuses to submit. Still grinding against me, she reaches up and grabs a healthy handful of my hair. Pulling hard, she brings her mouth to mine and thrusts her tongue inside.

Oh my fucking hell!

Greystone finally gives up the fight and shoots what’s left of his load inside of her warm, wet, tight core as she deliciously assaults my mouth and we consume each others cries of passion. My orgasm finally subsides a bit and I am able to speak and breathe, but I dare not withdraw from this heavenly place that is still caressing and massaging my sex.

My God,” I pant, pushing sweat-drenched hair from her face and kissing it all over. “Oh, my God.” My dick is still throbbing inside of her. She whimpers as I push my hips into hers again. She reaches down and squeezes and strokes my ass cheeks as I continue to grind into her. I caress her body as we both enjoy delicious aftershocks and hot, passionate, devouring kisses.


I woke up this morning and buried my face between Butterfly’s legs. After clamping my mouth onto her soft, hot clit for a few minutes, I sent her away to the dress fittings with her heart, body, and mind a little lighter. After a shower and breakfast, I go to my study to get on with some work.

I am examining the file on the Pimp, including the DNA test for his son. Myrick is not done yet, and I know that he’s not. It reminds me that I have an appointment with Ray in a couple of hours. He fakes his own death with whose body, we don’t know, but this person was identified as Robin Myrick by dental records since the body was burned beyond recognition in the “car accident.” As far as Welch can tell, the dental records were fraudulent as well and that’s extremely hard to do. So Louis Millfeld arises and Robin Myrick is supposedly dead. I tell Welch to notify the proper authorities that Robyn Myrick is alive and well and causing problems in Seattle. I also recommend that he include that he may be an accessory to attempted murder as well as the murder of the unknown body that now lies in his grave. That ought to put some fire under their butts. What I really want to know is if he has the resources to make something like this happen, why is he working in the service industry as a butler?

I’m still not getting any answers on Anton Myrick, either. Records show that he is still in Ionia, but finding out his sentence and when it ends is proving to be a much tougher feat. This information is supposed to be public record. However, OTIS—Michigan’s prisoner search—has nothing on file for him. Could he have been released and it just hasn’t been recorded yet?

My train of thought is broken by the alarm that I have set on my blackberry. It’s time to go meet Ray. I quickly check in on Jason and let him know that I’m leaving before Williams and I head down to the parking garage.

Ray gets into the SUV moments after we drive up to his and Mandy’s modest Kent home. He looks at me and silently shakes my hand.

Do you want to tell me what this is all about now?” he says. “I deserve to know if my daughter is in danger. I have resources too, you know.” Oh yes, I am well aware of your resources and he is well aware of me.

The woman who shot my bodyguard was trying to kill me. She’s an old flame who had gone totally off her rails and she came after me to take me with her to the afterlife. It was supposed to be a murder/suicide. Do you remember the lady that approached you at the Thanksgiving fundraiser?” he frowns.

I knew that woman looked familiar,” he says. “Old flame?” I nod.

Yes. I’m not proud of it, but yes. Long story short, she had an accomplice—or maybe she was the accomplice. Either way, this guy is hell-bent on my demise because his delusional father has him convinced not only that I’m his brother, but also that I’m the reason that his father has been incarcerated for so long.”

Are you?” he asks.

I’ve had a DNA test. No, I’m not his brother. As for his father, he abused me when I was a kid and still living with my birth mother. I was adopted when I was four. We left the state and moved to Seattle. I was still a kid and here in Seattle when he was arrested. Whatever the case may be, this guy is still a free man and I know he has at least one more accomplice. If he wants to find someone else to get close to me who has an ax to grind, he’ll be spoiled for choice if he digs deep enough. You make a lot of enemies in my line of work; it comes with the territory. In the meantime, I was caught completely unprepared when Lincoln showed up in my office on Tuesday and I just can’t take that chance again.” Ray sighs.

This is not an overnight process, Christian. It’s going to take some time,” he cautions.

I understand that, but I have to start somewhere.”

Okay,” he shrugs. “Let’s get you started, then.”


Gail went with me to the hospital to have the stitches removed from my eyebrow. Chuck waited in the car. It was quick and fairly painless, and I asked for a bandage to cover it since it was still a little tender. Val and Maxie are already waiting at the condo in the parking lot when I get there. Mia is driving up just as Gail and I enter. Tammy should be on her way any minute now. I’m not getting out of this car until I see Al. I fidget with my keys and my purse and whatever else I can until Gail calls me out.

You’re stalling,” she says. “What’s wrong?” I pull out my phone and text Al.

** Where are you?? **

I had words with Maxie and Val last night and I just don’t feel like hearing it today. Also, the lineup of the groomsmen has been changed, so I have to explain why Marilyn is not here and why Maxie will not be walking down the aisle with Gary. Oh, and Val’s escort is up in the air as well.”

Elliot?” Gail gasps and I nod.

Christian is having a hard time with the way Elliot treated him when I left. So now, Elliot may not be in the wedding.” Gail shakes her head.

I never thought I would see that day. Those two are inseparable.”

I know. Everybody’s at odds now because I decided I needed a hiatus.”

No, that’s not true,” Gail says. “If everybody is at odds, it’s not because of you. Real friendships, strong relationships, and family bonds withstand everything. This had to happen to show everyone’s true colors. You know who your friends and loved ones really are based on the people that they become when times get tough. It’s easy to be friendly when everything is great. It’s when things go south that your true personality comes out.

I’ll admit, I was very cold and angry at Christian when you left. Please forgive me, I wasn’t angry because of you. I was angry because I felt like he was throwing his life away and I had no idea why. There was no logic in his actions and I just couldn’t figure them out. Did he want to go back to his old life? Was he getting cold feet? I couldn’t figure it out. The moment Jason told me what was going on, the first thing I saw in my head were those mechanical balls of flesh being beaten in that room and parading through the apartment again and treating me like crap. After nearly a year of peace and normal, I wouldn’t be able to take it again.

When he was upset and crying, I wanted to yell at him ‘If this hurts so bad, then why did you do it?’ It wasn’t until he came back from Montana that I could truly see what he was made of. I always felt like Jason was his crutch, but when he couldn’t stay in his apartment anymore, he went out there on his own. He took other guards that handled him from a distance and he left Jason at the apartment with me. I saw the shutters come down that night and even though I still didn’t know why he called off the wedding, I knew that if you didn’t come back he would never be the same.

Sure enough, he started morphing into someone I had never seen before in all the years I’ve worked for him… in all the years I’ve known him. I was more worried than I was before, so believe me. Those tears of joy were real when I saw that you were back.” She turns her head and looks out of the window. “Now, whatever reason you’re stalling, you need to go on and face them because they are waiting, and it’s rude to keep them waiting.” I was waiting for Al, but she’s right. Let’s just get this show on the road.

I get out of my car and walk over to the elevator when Maxie and Val are standing and Mia has now joined them.

I’m sorry,” I tell them when I get there. “I think I left the bag at home that has my main samples in them, but Tammy should be here soon and she has some choices that I liked so we can just pick from those.”

Do you need to go home and get them?” Maxie asks.

No,” I say, further building on the lie. “I think Tammy’s supply should be enough for us to make our decision.” I push the button for the elevator.

Where’s Al?” Val says. “Isn’t he your Man of Honor?”

I figure he should be along soon,” I respond as we file into the elevator.

Where’s Marilyn?” Mia asks.

Yeah… about that…”


So basically what you’re saying is that we are down one bridesmaid and possibly two because Christian doesn’t want anybody from our group in the wedding,” Val says when we are sitting on the sofas in my living room.

No, what I am saying is that Christian has rethought who he wants to stand up with him on his wedding day. As a result, I have had to adjust my line-up. For the record, Elliot’s not in ‘our group,’ so make note that my fiancé does not discriminate. Apparently, he’s an equal opportunity offender.” I hiss.

Oh this is ridiculous,” Val snaps under her breath.

Exactly what’s ridiculous about it, Val?” I ask her.

No offense, Ana, but this all seems really very childish.”

Please elaborate. I would really like to know,” I say.

He’s acting like a child! He’s acting like if we don’t all kiss his ass, he’s going to take his ball and go home!” she spits.

Val!” Maxie chastises.

It’s true,” she adds. “Either we fall in line or we don’t get to play! I’m only saying what we’re both thinking, and you don’t have to admit it, Max. I’ll take responsibility for speaking up. Pretty soon, he’s going to kick us out of the wedding, too!” She is angry, but not nearly as angry as I am. I take a deep breath and let it out before standing to face my friend.

Valerie, my man will not now, nor will he ever do anything to please you—even more so when he becomes my husband. Though he has not dictated who will stand next to me on my day, he has every right to decide who will stand next to him! He has made it very clear that he will not interfere with my wedding party, but make not mistake. Had he told me that he was too uncomfortable with you standing there, I would have kicked you out—not him, me! So you need to accept right now that I am now emotionally and will very soon legally be one half of Christian Grey. I love him flaws and all, and if you can’t deal with that you are welcome to leave… now!” I stand there glaring at my friend and waiting for her to make her decision. She does something that surprises the hell out of me.

She starts to cry.

What the fuck! I’m not ready for surprises again. Is she pregnant? First, she’s crying about Elliot; now, she’s crying about this. Val never cries.

Unfortunately, I can’t feel her tears right now. I love her dearly, but this particular situation is about me and my man, not Val and her tears.

Oh my God, am I really that much of a bitch?” Val declares. I don’t know what to say to her. I don’t comfort her. I don’t even move from my spot. “Ana… I’m sorry. I’m really sorry. I nearly got kicked out of my best friend’s wedding. I don’t know what to say.” She falls down onto the sofa. “All I keep thinking about is how badly it must have hurt you that he called off the wedding that you left all of your family and friends and didn’t tell anybody that you were leaving. We talk about everything, but you didn’t talk to me or Max. Even Al didn’t know where you were even though you were talking to him. It scared me, Steele. It really scared me. So yes, I do still feel some contempt for Christian right now, but I completely understand that this is his wedding and I shouldn’t feel that way, and I definitely shouldn’t be taking it out on you. If anyone was as shitty to me as we were to Christian, I wouldn’t want them in my wedding either. Can you ever forgive me?”

I just stand there for a moment contemplating how I feel about what Val just said. I am so tired of telling these people that they can’t treat Christian like a nonperson, but my feelings are truly conflicted. This is my man and these are my friends. Everyone was hurt and everyone wants to blame someone for their pain.

Valerie, you guys have to understand that this is my man and we are going to fight. Every time we fight, you guys can’t come in drawing battle lines and throwing up forts. My relationship with my fiancé is being jeopardized by the fact that my closest friends are constantly building battlements every time something contrary happens. That simply will not do.

I understand how you’re feeling, but you can’t do this. I told Christian the same thing. Life is not going to be perfect. There are going be some crazy ups and downs in our relationship as well as some knock-down, scratch-your-eyes-out fights, especially when it comes to our children. I already know that. When those fights and disagreements happen, yes, I need my friends to be supportive. What I can’t tolerate is you taking sides and villainizing him to such a degree that he can’t recover. I can tell you that when the dust clears, 99 times out of 100, I will forgive him and he will forgive me. That 100th time, we are going to talk until we figure out what’s going on. Where does that leave you—my friends who have painted him out to be such a monster that eventually, he doesn’t want to be in your presence?

If you guys continue to take sides this drastically, I’m going to have to separate the important moments of my life. I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to have to exclude you from my children being raised and all the milestones that will happen in my life. I don’t want to draw a line between my family and my friends because I’m afraid that you are going to jump down Christian’s throat or ostracize him for his latest faux pas. For one thing, it’s nobody’s business but ours. For another thing, I would like to come and vent to my girls when I’m feeling angry at him without having to worry about you guys coming at him with torches and pitchforks! That simply can’t happen and I’m not going to say this again.

The next time I have to say this, I’m going to start actively cutting some people out of my life. I am going to turn my back and walk away the next time I have to tell you guys that you can’t summarily crucify or ostracize my boyfriend for a bad decision. This was something that he and I had to work out. Again, I take responsibility for leaving town and not telling anyone where I was, but this had nothing to do with any of you and Christian has never done anything like this to any of you, because he is not in your business that way—not even yours, Val, and you’re dating his brother.

This is why I say that I have to focus more on me and Christian, because I am focusing too much on things outside of our relationship. We both are. Focusing that energy on outside forces is what got us to the point where Christian felt that he had no choice but to call off the wedding. We were at an impasse and he didn’t know where to go. Did anybody bother to ask him what was happening at that time? Did anybody ask what was going on besides the fact that we were fighting and he made a rash decision?”

I look at the faces of the women in the room, including Gail and Mia since they obviously had opinions about Christian’s actions as well. No one has an answer for me and I really didn’t expect them to have one because I know that once he said that the wedding was off, everyone shut down.

Well, don’t feel too bad,” I tell them dropping my head. “Although the only thing that anyone could see was ‘that lowdown, dirty, rotten scoundrel… look what he did to poor Ana,” I’m just as guilty as any of you. At one point, he tried to tell me what he was thinking, but all I could hear what that he was calling off my wedding, that I wasn’t getting married. I certainly didn’t want to hear that, especially after I had waited for so long for him to propose to me.”

Ana,” Maxie takes this moment to interject. “No one crucified Christian. If anything, what we did could be likened to ‘radio silence,’ but we didn’t attack him or gang up on him… well, except for Elliot. You were gone and we were just trying to process what was going on. We’re still not 100% sure because you’re not telling us, but that’s your choice and we respect it. We just want to make sure that everything is okay. We were confused. We didn’t know what was going on. You were gone and saying nothing and Christian was telling us that the wedding had been called off. You have to know, though, that none of us attacked Christian. It was our absence that was so detrimental to him.” I nod, realizing that she is right. They didn’t attack him, but…

You deserted him, Maxie. All of you deserted him. You were all a part of our proposal and as soon as the tide shifted, you deserted him. He understands, though. He understands that he made the mistake of thinking that my friends were his friends, and he was wrong. Even his family turned their backs on him.” I throw a look at Mia who quickly drops her head in shame. “However, he’s not your responsibility, Maxie, so you don’t have to worry about it anymore. He’s mine. I will take care of him, I will love him, and I will stand by him. I will certainly support his decision to choose who he wants to stand at that altar with him on his wedding day, and he is standing by mine. So you all can deal with it, or you can move on. It’s your choice.”

We want to be a part of your day, Ana, of course we do. We just don’t want to see our guys excluded because they were following our lead…”

Then they should have followed their own, Maxie. Christian hadn’t asked anyone to be in the wedding by the time this all happened as far as I know. So tell them or don’t tell them, but he has made his decision who he wants in his wedding and I stand by him. Any questions?”

Yes,” Val says, her voice still thick with tears. “I’m not trying to start another fight, but Elliot is his brother. How can he shut out his own brother?”

Honestly, Val, that’s something that has to be worked out between Christian and Elliot. I don’t know what version of the story you are going to get, but I got my fiancé‘s version as you know. You of course will get your boyfriend’s version. You were there. You saw what happened.” Val’s face pales a bit and even though I wasn’t there, that tells me that the exchange between Christian and Elliot must have been pretty brutal. “Long story short, Christian feels like he has had enough of being deserted, attacked, and/or betrayed, and he just doesn’t want it anymore. Would you?” Silence falls over the room for a moment again before Val speaks.

Elliot did try to apologize yesterday,” she says. I frown. “Yes. He went to Christian’s office and tried to explain his behavior and Christian wanted none of it. Elliot was crushed when I saw him last night.” I had no idea that Elliot had tried to talk to Christian. He must be more hurt than he is letting on. I am more than a bit shocked by this revelation.

Be that as it may, this is still something that is between Christian and Elliot, not you and me and not the four of us. Elliot and Christian will have to work that out.”

At that moment, Tammy and Al burst through the door—using Al’s key, no doubt. They are laughing it up and having a great time until they observe the somber mood in the room and, for a change, I am dry-eyed and Val is tear-stained.

Dammit!” Al exclaims. “I missed something again!”

That’s what you get for being late,” I tell him with my arms folded.

Well, forgive me, oh Jeweled one. Jimmy-Babe wouldn’t let me leave this morning… oops, too much information. Anyway, here I am. Valerie, why are you crying?”

Because I’m a bitch,” she says without pausing.

No, she’s not,” I interject, “but she does need to know when the pull the reigns back,” I add looking at her and waiting for her to acknowledge my statement. She looks down and nods. I am completely at the point where I refuse to have this conversation any more or ever again for that matter. I am not holding my friends hands through my relationship. If they can’t on the board, then this train is moving on without them. Get with the program because this show is going on no matter what they do. “Good. Now go wash your face and fix your make-up because your going to be trying some dresses on today and I don’t think runny mascara goes with my shade of blue. Waterproof, ladies! Waterproof!” Val laughs and breaks that bit of tension before going to clean and repair her face.

Now,” I say with a clap of my hands. “I have spent enough time on who pissed Christian off. My bridesmaids and Man of Honor are all here and Val will be back in a moment. Let’s look at some dresses.” Just like that we are back on schedule.

We have reviewed all the bridesmaids choices and narrowed the field down to three. As they are at two different boutiques, I now must drag my reluctant bridesmaids to try them on. Gail checks on Jason, who has one of the guards with him back at Escala while Maxie, Val, and Mia try on the dresses. Al turns his nose up definitively at the blue strapless criss-cross with the empire waist declaring that they look more like nightgowns than bridesmaids’ dresses. Seeing the dresses on the girls, I have to agree. The taffeta strapless is very pretty with the criss-cross ruched bodice and A-line skirt. I take individual pictures of the girls in the dress and we head to the second shop and the last dress.

It was no contest. The minute we got those women into the dress as the second shop, they began admiring themselves in the mirror and twirling like they were in a fashion show. I had to admit that the first dress was beautiful and formal—exactly what I am looking for. However, this dress is much more appropriate—lovely blue chiffon still with a criss-cross bodice, but with a sexy, slightly plunging sweetheart neckline and a feminine ruffled strap over the left shoulder. The material is delicate and flowy, which is perfect for a June wedding and much more forgiving that taffeta, and the strap is just enough embellishment without being gaudy. It’s perfect and the girls love it. It seems that we have our dress.

The girls all have their measurements taken while Al retrieves a swatch of material for his waistcoat. He has another appointment with Christian for… God only knows when… to get fitted for “proper tuxes” as he puts it, and I want to make sure that his waistcoat matches the dresses. The groomsmen will all be wearing silver waistcoats to match Christian’s. That reminds me that I haven’t spoken to Christian since we left and I don’t know what he’s doing with his day. While Tammy is finalizing everything with the dressmaker, I call Christian.

Grey. Leave a message.”

That’s odd. Although I know it’s very peculiar for Christian to have his calls go to voice mail, I try not to read too much into it.

Hi. We’ve just finished choosing the bridesmaids’ dresses which went surprisingly more smoothly than I expected and we are heading to lunch at Matt’s. I just wanted to touch bases with you since I haven’t spoken to you all day. Well… call me… or I’ll see you when I get home.”

That felt so weird.


Is it my imagination or are you handling me whenever I ask about something that may have to do with your therapy?” Maxie asks me when we both go to the ladies’ room at Matt’s in the Market.

No, Maxie. It’s not your imagination,” I reply applying my lip gloss. She stands there staring at my reflection in the mirror. I sigh heavily and glare at her. “Do I really have to explain this to you?” I ask, one hand on my hip and the other on the counter. Her expression falls.

Oh… seriously?” she asks affronted. “You’re seriously telling me that I’m being punished because I thought it best that you find another therapist?” I gasp at her, mouth open and eyes wide.

Oh, don’t you even try to put a pretty little bow on that shit and hand it to me, Maxine!” I say, doing my best not to screech at her. “You left me cold at a moment when I needed you the most. Then you shut me down and didn’t even help me find another therapist. No, I may not hold it over your head or pull it out every time I want something out of you, but that shit hurt! So you don’t get to act all bruised because I don’t want to include you in the new therapy. I’m making some painful strides at the moment—strides that I couldn’t have made with you. While I appreciate your reasons for ending our professional relationship, you method sucked! I know that I am incapable of giving all of my patients what they need right now because of my own issues and for that reason, I am going to sit them down and give them some options—ask each of them what they would like to do, how and if I can help them. One thing that I won’t do to them is kick them out in the cold and tell them to fly or die and just walk away. So don’t you dare stand there and act like I owe you something for dumping me like a bad boyfriend because I don’t owe you a thing!”

I turn my back to her quickly and resist the urge to run out of the bathroom while my chest heaves fiercely and the tears burn my eyes. The nerve of her acting like she did me a damn favor. In the end, it was a good thing to find another therapist, but the way that she ended that relationship was horrible! I expected a lot more from her and I sure as hell wouldn’t recommend anyone to her.

Ana! Why didn’t you ever tell me you felt this way?” Maxie asks aghast.

Because I didn’t want to talk about it.”

So you just let it fester until you explode all over me? Is that what friends do?” I spin around and glare at her.

Oh God, Maxine, are you really that fucking blind?” I ask with clenched fists. “You knew that I was fucked up when you dumped me! That’s why you dumped me! Now, you’re asking me to fucking explain myself? For my reaction to something that you did to me? A lesser person wouldn’t even speak to you, yet I continued to plan your wedding—and now you’re in mine! Now—at this moment—you really want to ask me what friends do?” I’m huffing at her now like an overheated freight train. She stands there staring at me like a deer stuck in headlights.

Ana, I’m really sorry. I had no idea that you took it like this. No idea at all.”

Well, surprise, I did!” I say through my tears. I want Christian, and I want to run, but I keep my feet planted in place while my body shakes with fury and adrenaline. Maxie steps over and locks the door, then comes back to me to sit me down on a nearby chaise and takes a seat with me.

I’m sorry, really,” she begins. “You’re right. What I did was really shitty. I always wondered why you never called me to task for it. I just thought that you came to the same conclusion that I did and let it go. I didn’t think for a moment that it affected you like this. I really wish you had told me.” She drops her head. “The whole time—you planned my wedding. You planned my bachelorette party. You cursed out that bar owner. You paid for the rooms and the pampering at the Four Seasons… and the whole time, you felt like this.”

Not the whole time,” I say, wiping away my falling tears and never raising my head, “but some of the time, yeah, I felt like this.” She shakes her head.

I really wish you had told me,” she repeats.

Well, I didn’t. I couldn’t. I’m fucked up, remember?” I take some tissue from a strategically-placed box on a table next to the chaise and wipe the remaining tears from my eyes. “Look. I already forgave you for this. I don’t want to rehash it again and again, but you’re right about one thing.” I look up at her. “You are being punished, and your punishment is that you don’t get to ask me about my therapy. You told me that I needed to do this without you and that’s what I’m doing, so you don’t get to ask me about it.”

I know that’s what I said, but I still care about you, Ana. I still want to know that you are okay.”

I’m fine. I’m having a rough time with some recent breakthroughs but I’m not on my way to the loony bin. That’s all that you get to know.” She nods.

Okay, but you said that you are going to let go of your patients. What’s that about? Are you closing your practice?” I sigh.

More than I should have told you, but no, I’m not closing my practice. I’m slowing down a bit because I want to focus more on myself. I can’t do that while I am trying to give so much of myself to others—and failing—especially with the most recent revelations about my behavior. That’s all you get, Maxie. No more.” She sighs heavily. I can tell that this hurts her a bit, too, but this is a bitter pill that we both have had to swallow.

I just…” Maxie’s thought is interrupted by a loud banging at the door.

Hey! There are other people who need the use the restroom, you know!” came the voice from the other side. Maxie looks at me with large, sad brown eyes before rising from the chaise and unlocking the door.

I’m sorry,” she says to an angry blonde who storms past her and into one of the stalls. Two other women brush past her and quickly enter the other two stalls as well. I quickly wash my face and dash out of the restroom before any of them can see who I am.

Finally!” Mia says when we get back to the table. “I thought you two fell in.” I slip silently into my seat and attempt to finish my halibut, which is now cold while the rest of the table continue their meal. I wish all of this bickering and fighting would just go away. I left for three weeks and I come back to this? It’s making me want to elope more and more, then run away to a deserted island with my new husband for a few months and leave all this shit behind.

Run away. Of course, I want to run away. That’s how I handle all of my problems, right?

Ana? Are you okay?” Gail asks quietly. I nod. I just want all of this to be over. Chuck eyes me from a nearby table and I can’t even fake a smile for him.

Okay, Kittens. My girl has the grouchy face and there are still a few more things that Tammy and I have to pick her brain about. So let’s settle up our bill and call it a day,” Al announces like the savior that he is. I push my halibut away and pull out my Amex Black.

I’ve got it,” I say, putting it down on the table.

Of course, you do.” Al says, picking up my credit card and replacing it with his own. He holds on to mine so that I don’t argue, not that I have the strength or will to fight anyway. When the bill is paid, he hands me my card and we all head to our separate vehicles.

The ride back is quiet. Gail doesn’t say anything to me although I am sure that she wants to. When we get back to Escala, she gives my hand a little squeeze and heads back to her apartment to be with Jason. After verifying that I wouldn’t be going anywhere else for the rest of the day, Chuck follows behind her leaving me with my thoughts. Christian isn’t here and I don’t even have the wherewithal to be concerned about where he is. I wander aimlessly around the great room until Marc announces that Al and Tammy are on the way up. I open the door for them after they exit the elevator and they immediately zero in on my mood—not like you could miss it.

What’s wrong, Jewel?” Al says. I just shake my head and gesture for them to follow me to the guest room. Enough with the formalities. Let’s just plan this damn wedding.

We ascend the stairs and I introduce them to the area that has only been my cave for the last month, with the exception of the occasional visit from Christian. It’s only now that I realize how much of a mess this room really is—swatches and samples everywhere, piles of lists of things to do and people to see, notes all over the place. There’s not one thing in a stack or a document where I could slightly tell these two what I am thinking or trying to do. I have a vision of what I want, and some little thing, some selfish person, some nervous breakdown, some psycho gun-wielding blonde keeps getting in the way of my plans.

I drop my head and allow the tears to fall—chest-wrenching, shoulder-shaking tears. I can’t even begin to explain why I’m crying. Hell, I don’t even know why I’m crying. I just want to cry without having to tell anybody what’s wrong, not even myself. Just let me cry…

A/N: So finally, here is the showdown with her friends that many reviewers alluded to but had not seen yet. It was well past time for Ana to tell her friends to shape up or ship out. There is way too much meddling going on and it’s time for it all to stop. My girl made it clear that’s what she wants. She’s going to make it even more clear to Christian in the next chapter. Wait until you see what happens then. Any idea where Christian spent his day? The clues are all there…

Pictures of places, cars, fashion, etc. can be found at

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

Love and Handcuffs!
Lynn x


The Voice Of God–Friend Status With CG (not a chapter)

Don’t make me have to come down there….

Okay, so maybe the title is a bit dramatic. Of course, I am NOT God, but in terms of the story I do create the scenes, settings, and outcomes. So in a way, in “Mending Dr. Steele,” as a character, I would be considered “god.” Yes, the little “g” is deliberate. So here’s my voice.

First, thank you to all of you who have followed me thus far, waiting patiently for my book to be published. I promise that it’s getting closer. Also, a huge thank you to everyone for their well-wishes and prayers while my mom has been sick. It looks like it’s going to be okay from here on out, but don’t stop praying!

Now, on to the business at hand. I’ve heard all kinds of opinions on Christian’s reaction to the Scooby Gang, their reactions to him, Ana’s reaction to everyone, John’s reappearance, and on and on and on. So I thought I’d better throw one of my little narratives in here to try to explain exactly what’s going on… or at least my version on it.

Yes, I wanted to break Christian away from the Christian that we all know and love–the solitary, private, island-all-his-own Dom that beats little brown-haired girls. The only way to do that was to introduce him to someone and have him make friends. E.L. James’ CG and Ana were perfect for each other–he was Dominant and she was submissive, whether she wanted to admit it or not. She didn’t like the idea behind or the concept of being a submissive, but she was submissive. She was just defiant.

Bear this in mind–Ana went through college and came out with two friends. TWO! Jose clung to her like a rag because he was hoping to get into her pants and she was Kate’s roommate. She was an island just like Christian, so she was perfect for him to come and dominate. There is no way in HELL that even the mousiest of mice would have a party girl like Kate on her hands that liked to dress her up like a Barbie Doll and not at least end up knowing some of the people that Kate knew–making some kind of friends, even if they were just acquaintances and contacts. Ana had none! The two friends that she did have were critical of CG from the beginning, always hounding her to defy him in some way, egging him on, sticking their noses in her business and causing problems (Kate) or asking inappropriate questions and looking for trouble when there was none (Kate and Jose). Of course, Christian had no interest in befriending either of them for obvious reasons.

On the other hand, if Ana had more friends that she had gotten to know–like Kate–CG would have gotten to know them too–like Kate. Somewhere along the way, there would have been an opportunity for him to get to know them–like Kate–and make a decision as to whether or not he wanted to introduce them into his life in some way–like Kate. The Scooby Gang was perfect for that as they already met in some way every weekend and they were people that Ana trusted, so Christian decided to trust them, too. The problem is that with the personalities that I know the Scooby Gang has, this would never work–but Christian had to give it a try anyway. It opened him up to meeting people and making friends, which was the purpose of this exercise in the first place.

Someone commented that Ana shouldn’t have been so hard on her friends for taking her side against Christian. I disagree and here’s why. Ana’s friends made Christian and Ana think that they were Christian’s friends, too. When the shit hits the fan, they either attack or desert him. I wouldn’t want friends like that. If there are not his friends, they need to make that clear instead of lulling him into a false sense of security and then dropping him when things don’t go the way that they think it should. It’s that simple. Either you are his friend or you are not. Stop pretending like you are his friend and then treating him like shit when we fight. Quite frankly, he didn’t have to tell any of them what caused Ana to leave. He could have waited and let them find out on their own. Instead, he chose to be a man about it and own up to his role in the matter only to have his “friends” and his brother treat him like slime while he was hurting, too. So, I have to respectfully but whole-heartedly disagree with Ana being wrong for tearing her friends a new asshole. Number one, she didn’t go to all of them and rip them apart–Gary and Phil still haven’t heard anything. She only confronted the ones that confronted her, and I would have done the same thing. Number two, she had this conversation with them before about how they treat Christian. Though the circumstances were slightly different, the outcome was the same. If I am  angry at my husband and we are fighting, I am going to be highly upset with ur so-called mutual friends if they take sides in the matter.

That happened to me twice and, as it turns out, I was the Christian in this story. I hadn’t done anything wrong, but I made the mistake of thinking that our mutual friends really were mutual. I turned out to be so wrong about it and when I ended up on the outside looking in, I was hurt beyond repair, and I do mean beyond repair. I have cut ties with those people that I thought were my friends and let them remain his friends (the first instance was my ex-husband so that point is moot since I cut ties with ALL of them). I don’t interact with them anymore. I let him remain friends with them and I stay out of it. So I have been on Ana’s side of this fence and on Christian’s side and Ana was completely within her rights to let her friends know that they were foul in how they reacted.

This thread is open for discussion. I will do my best to answer all posts and any questions that you may have about getting into the character’s heads without giving away the storyline.

Love and handcuffs!
Lynn X

Mending Dr. Steele: Chapter 38—Moving On…

Watch out now….!

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 38—Moving On…


I’m sorry that I didn’t get in to see you yesterday. It was a really long day,” I say to Jason and Gail as I enter his hospital room. I hand Gail a small suitcase with a change of clothes for her, pajamas for Jason and toiletries for both of them.

It’s okay,” Gail says. “We’ve actually been swamped with visitors. Even Elliot came by.”

Elliot?” I ask, bemused. Why would Elliot come and see Jason? They’re not enemies or anything like that, but they are not particularly friends either.

He came to talk to his mother, but he stopped in to see about Jason, too. I have a feeling that he was hoping that Christian would be here.” Now, I’m confused.

Why doesn’t he just call?” I ask.

Because like the rest of us, he was kind of hard on Christian when you left… only he was worse,” Jason says. “He was pretty brutal. Even when Valerie told him to lighten up, he was relentless. I don’t think he knows how to approach his brother now that you’re back together.” I shake my head.

I’m beginning to think that it might be time for me and my fiancée to take some time to ourselves,” I say. “At first, I was thinking that we were spending too much time in each other’s face and that it might have caused us problems. Now, I’m feeling more like there are just too many people in our relationship. My father reamed me out, Elliot treated Christian like shit, and my group of friends just went radio silent. What happened was no one’s business but mine and Christian’s, really. The only ones that were invited into the situation were Marilyn and Allen… and maybe you and Chuck,” I say to Jason, “but everyone else took it upon themselves to judge and act and this really had nothing to do with any of them. Daddy knew that I was safe even though he didn’t know where I was. Elliot is in a relationship with Val, so why did he take off on Christian about our issue? And my friends… oh, my friends, that’s a whole kettle of worms I can’t even address at this moment.” I sit in a nearby chair and put my face in my hands. “They are determined to make me choose.”

I don’t think that’s what’s going on at all, Ana,” Gail protests.

Oh, but it is,” I say. “I told them the last time that they ganged up on Christian that this kind of behavior would drive a wedge between us.”

In all fairness, Ana, they didn’t gang up on him.” I have to agree with her. They really didn’t.

They chose sides. I’m very grateful that they have my back when the going gets rough, but I guess it’s my fault that I pushed everyone to be friends resulting in Christian thinking that he was part of the gang. When the chips were down, he was left alone—completely alone. I know that it was my fault, but I don’t know how I feel about my friends treating him that way or how to handle it. Now I find out that Elliot…” I shake my head again. “He was all alone… all alone. I need to focus on him now… on us. That’s what I plan to do.”

How are you going to do that?” Jason asks. I shrug.

I’m going to limit my time with my friends. I’m going to use the time that I have more wisely—with them and with Christian. I’m not going to push him to go to social events with them or to do anything that he doesn’t want to do, and I’m not going to readily invite them to invade his space.”

So no more Food & Libations?” Gail says. I can tell that she’s a little melancholy about that. I sigh. I really love F&L, but I don’t know what else to do right now.

I’ll have to talk to Christian about it, but for the near future, no more Food & Libations. Maybe I’ll bring it down to once a month and have it at my condo or something, I don’t know.” I am so ready to change this subject. “So, I hear you’re going to be blowing this popsicle stand tomorrow,” I say to Jason.

Yep. I’m going home where I can properly die of boredom,” he laments. I laugh.

Is there anything that you need?” I ask him. He shakes his head.

No, Your Highness. From what I’ve been told, Christian already has the place laid out like the Taj Mahal for when I get out of here. I won’t be able to start therapy for at least another few weeks and he already has the PT’s set up. I swear…” I laugh at him.

You saved his life, Jason,” I point out. “Now, you’re stuck with him.”

Yeah, I know,” he says.


I send an email through my blackberry to Christian telling him to get with me on what songs have to be played and can’t be played during the reception so that I can get the list over to the DJ. I also inform him that we have a meeting with Josh on Sunday and ask if he wants to have it at Escala or somewhere else. It’s been a while since we talked to Grace about adding people to her list so I suggested that he talk to her about 50 more people who she would like to invite. I was concerned about our list getting longer, but if I know Christian, there’s a few people that he would like to uninvite. He responds telling me that he has made a definitive decision on his wedding party and that we will discuss it when he gets home. I already know that means some people are getting dropped, but he has the right to choose his wedding party just like I have the right to choose mine.

Allen has made his appearance today for the bridal gown showings that begin at Escala promptly at 10. I have decided that even though it may be a little “diva” to have the designers come to me that I can’t bear running around town looking at white balls of material and that if I must, then it has to be convenient for me. None of the designers seem to mind of course except for The Wang who says that we simply must come to her as there is no way to transport her designs to Escala and present them properly. So we will be going to see her designs tomorrow at a location here in Seattle that she has set up as an impromptu runway for us. Al is not as excited to see her as he was to see David Tutera.

Yesterday, we saw gowns from Luly Yang, Naeem Khan, and a local designer who are all in the running so far. Today, I am graced by representatives from Carolina Herrera and Ralph & Russo. Unfortunately, their gowns didn’t grab me at all. I think it’s because I have seen so many dresses that they are all beginning to look alike, not to mention that I keep seeing the top of one dress that looks magnificent but the bottom looks like shit or vice versa. When Al agreed with me, I had to break the bad news to Tammy that I wouldn’t be seeing any more designers.

But Ana… Vera Wang!” she says, like it is self-explanatory. I sigh heavily.

Fine, I will meet with the Wang, but she’s the last one. After her, we will choose from the designers and the styles that we already have.” I declare. Tammy claps and nods enthusiastically. “Now. I need to do some delegating because I am about to lose my mind. Allen, please arrange for our registry to be donations to the charities that we discussed. Tammy, cakes, tomorrow, after the Wang, right?” She nods and starts punching into her iPad. “Al, I need you to secure a wedding band. They will play during dinner and some parts of the reception. Have your choices ready for me by Wednesday. I want to choose from them by that date and get this out of the way. Reverend Martin is supposed to meet with us on the 15th of next month…” I send off a text to Marilyn to put the meeting with the Reverend on my calendar. She’s not working this week, but always has my schedule at her fingertips.

I have a dilemma, Al. I know no children… none! Who’s going to be my ring bearer and flower girl?”

Let me see what I can do,” he says, put the information into his blackberry.

I’ll be meeting with the girls on Saturday to look at bridesmaid’s dresses, but I got a message from Christian that the lineup of groomsmen may be changing, so I’ll let you know.” Tammy frowns and Al throws a look at me.

It’s not a good idea to start changing the wedding party around,” Tammy warns.

Well, you tell that to Christian Grey,” I say impassively and cock my head at her waiting for a response. Nothing. I thought so. “This is his wedding. He can do whatever he wants. If he says nobody is standing on the side of him, then nobody is standing there. It will be us and a bunch of women… and Al. So let’s just see what he has decided and we will adjust our plans accordingly. I promise to let you know as soon as he tells me. Fair enough?”

Fair enough,” she relents, tapping on her iPad again.

C’mon, we can’t have been the worst couple you’ve every had,” I tease.

No, not the worst, but definitely the most interesting.”


I want to tell you what I did when I left the hospital,” Christian says to me at dinner. I am swallowing a bite of mouth-watering Dijon-crusted salmon when I suddenly feel like my appetite is about to disappear. I put my fork down on my plate and take a sip of Sancerre.

Okay,” I reply, waiting.

I went to see Dr. Baker,” he says. “I didn’t know how to pull together how I was feeling. I was angry, frightened, confused… I was so upset with you for coming into that office…”

Upset with me?? You told me to come! He read my expression and continued.

I know. I know. You did nothing wrong, but I was still upset. I could have disarmed her had you not come into the office, and Jason wouldn’t have gotten shot. I wouldn’t have felt like she was going to shoot you and have all of the worst feelings of my life flood my brain and screw with my logic. I know that you did absolutely nothing wrong, but I was illogically blaming you anyway just for being there. That’s why I had to see Dr. Baker. I had to talk this through and get past it because it didn’t make any sense and I know that it didn’t.” He takes a deep breath. I don’t quite know how to feel right now. I know that I shouldn’t take it personally, but I’m still having a hard time interpreting what I’m feeling right now.

Once Dr. Baker helped me get my head screwed on straight, I went for a run—a very long run. That’s the thing that took so long to get back to the hospital. I ran until I could think more clearly and focus the blame where it should be—on that sick blond bitch. God, I regret that I ever met that woman!” He runs his hands through his hair then places them on the table on either side of his plate. He is still really tormented by all this. I sigh quietly, reach over and touch his hand. He examines our hands for a moment, then curls his fingers around mine.

I came back to Escala, took a shower, made some calls to some specialists about Jason’s shoulder and what he might need for his recovery, and got dressed. I didn’t even know what I was reaching for until I was dressed and out the door. On my way back to the hospital, I called to make sure that Jason had a private room and that Gail would be comfortable since she would no doubt be staying with him until he was released and then I heard on the radio that Lincoln was being released.” He shook his head. “I must have broken every speed limit between the I-5 and Pacific St. I had to be there when she walked.”

He took a sip of his wine with his free hand and continued his story.

I had already summoned Charlie Tango and knew just about how long it would take to clear a flight plan and get her airborne so that we could avoid the press, but the latest news was Lincoln and that would be their focus. I didn’t even hide the car or park anywhere covertly. I just put on my hood and walked behind the crowd of reporters. She caught my eye almost immediately. I wanted her dead. Had I had the means at that moment, she would have been on a slab by midnight.” I hear the hatred boiling in his voice again and I squeeze his hand to bring him back to me. I feel him relax even though he doesn’t look at me.

While they were busy taking pictures of her being led to the police car in cuffs, I just slipped inside the hospital and out of sight.” He sits back in his seat and I stroke his hand again. “Talking to Dr. Baker really helped me sort out a lot—the things that I had been holding in and avoiding, or denying is a better word.” Uh oh. I don’t think I like where this is going. Christian reaches into his pocket pulls out a small piece of paper.

This is who I want in my wedding party,” he says, and pushes the paper over to me. I release his hand and open the paper to see the names written in his impeccable handwriting.

Jason Taylor
James Flemings
Ethan Kavanaugh
Elliot Grey?
John Flynn

Three things stand out on this piece of paper, but only two surprise me. One, the Scooby Gang is blaringly missing from his choices, but I expected that. Two, there’s a question mark next to Elliot’s name. Three—John Flynn!

Respirer, Ana. Respirer

Why is there a question mark next to Elliot’s name?” I ask. This is clearly not the first question he expected. He drops his head.

I don’t know if I want him to be in my wedding,” he says flatly. Whoa! I knew that it was serious, but I didn’t think it was this serious.

He’s your brother, Christian. Brothers fight all the time.” He shakes his head.

This is different. I needed him. I needed him very badly and he deserted me. I don’t know if I can get past it.” His voice cracks only slightly before he says, “Al was there as much as he could be. I know that he was torn, but he was still there. James, too, as much as he could be… and John…” There’s the elephant in the room. “We’ve had our differences and we’ve talked about them. He was there for me, too, and I consider him a friend.” He sighs, having gotten that off his chest.

You can bury your differences with John but not your brother?” I ask him honestly. He looks up at me.

This is different,” he says.

How?” I ask.

He’s my brother!” he says like that should explain everything. “He turned his back on me, completely turned his back on me…”

And John lied to you,” I point out. “Then he hindered your treatment by holding your medical records.”

He’s not my blood,” he growls. “What Elliot did was inexcusable.”

But John’s actions weren’t?” I ask, bemused. He falls silent for a moment. “Baby, by you logic, someone outside of your family is more worthy of forgiveness than someone in your family,” I say, making sure that my voice is non-confrontational. His shoulders fall. I have hit a soft spot.

It’s too new,” he says softly, dropping his head again. “I just can’t see it yet. It’s not a no, but it’s not a yes either. It’s still too new.” This, I understand. I reach over and touch his hand again.

I get it,” I say. He looks up at me. I shrug and smile. What else is there to say?

You don’t mind John being one of my groomsmen?” I sigh.

I won’t say that I don’t mind, but I won’t protest. I’m still having Maxie and Val as bridesmaids and you can’t tell me not to do that, so I won’t dictate who can be your groomsmen,” I say.

I won’t alienate them, Ana. I promise, just… not in my wedding.” I nod.

Okay. I won’t force anything,” I say.

I don’t want you to feel like you have to choose…” he begins to protest. I put my finger over his lips.

It’s our time now, Christian. We have to focus on us, and I want you to be happy. I love my friends. I’m not going to leave my friends, but you are my other half. You are my priority. You are my future, and we need to look out for us now.” He looks at me peculiarly.

Tell me more,” he breathes and leans in.

Before we get a chance to recoil from one bad thing happening, another bad thing happens. We’re trying to mend from our shady, tragic pasts and I get kidnapped and you nearly killed. I berated you for ‘dead mommie issues’ and yet my ‘mommie issues’ have me literally running out of town. We’ve been doing this all wrong, Christian. We’ve been verbally supportive of each other in our personal growth and healing, but we’ve still been doing it wrong. That’s why it’s taking so long, and it’s causing more damage than it’s helping. We have to do this together. I need you…” I stand from my chair and slide into his lap, wrapping my arms around his neck. “And you need me.” I kiss him gently on the lips.

It’s an uphill battle, I know,” I add, “but no one can fight this battle for us. We have to fight it ourselves, and we have to be together, in word and in deed.”

You said that we need time apart, though, to not be in each other’s face all the time,” he points out. Yeah, I did say that, right when I came back from Montana and didn’t know what the hell was going on in my head.

I was wrong,” I whisper. “I need you… and you need me. When it comes to us, no one else matters, and I mean no one.”

How do I know that you mean what you say?” he asks. He has a right to ask that question, and I have no right to be offended. I put my hands on his cheeks, my fingertips caressing his hair.

I will elope with you… tonight if you want,” I say, brushing my lips against his. “Just us. Just you and me. Nobody has to know. It’s all about us.”

You will?” he asks, wonder in his voice. I look in his eyes and nod slowly.

Just you and me,” I whisper. “It’s all about us.”

Won’t we need witnesses?” he says, his voice still questioning.

Who do you want?” I ask, softly.

I want John,” he says definitely.

I’ll take Al,” I answer without a pause. He crushes me against his body, kissing me deeply and holding me so tight that we feel like one person. I pull him as close to me as I can, willing him to understand that no one else matters anymore when it comes to us. He breaks the kiss and brushes his lips against my ear.

No,” he begins, “we will have our fairytale wedding, but I love you for being willing to do that for me.”

I love you too, Baby,” I breathe.

Now I need to be inside of you,” he groans.

Please,” I beg. He lifts me in his arms and carries me to our bedroom.


I awake uncurling my back and ready to take on the world. Christian stirs a bit and runs his hands over my naked body.

Mmmm,” he moans as he pulls me close to him, “you are divine.”

You’re not so bad yourself, Gorgeous,” I say before submitting to a luscious good-morning kiss. “What’s on the agenda today?”

Same thing, basically. Looking at some background checks, following up on the companies that Vansteen may have cost us, checking into a few other things—you know, running my business. What about you?”

I may go into the office today, I’m not sure. It depends on how quickly I can get things done.”

I thought you weren’t planning on going in until Monday,” he frowns.

I’m not seeing patients until Monday, but I am certain that I have lost a few after not being in the office for a month, so I want to rework my schedule. I’m… considering lightening my workload.” That got his attention.

I’m listening,” he says slowly. Here goes, Steele.

Well, I meant what I said about wanting to focus on us more and recent revelations have shown me that something certainly has to change.” I sit up so that I can face him. “I’m not giving my patients 100% if I’m all screwed up and I certainly can’t give this relationship the attention that it deserves. I’m rethinking my priorities, Christian. I still love my job and I still want to work, but I need to focus more on myself for a while. I also want to do more at Helping Hands and minimizing my workload will allow me to do that.”

I’ll support you in whatever you want, Butterfly, but you stopped doing group therapy because you hated it so much,” he protests.

Oh, God, the two aren’t even comparable! Helping Hands is so much more fulfilling than that damn community center! Look at Marlow, Maggie, and Marcia.” I’m silent for a minute.

There’s more,” he says examining my eyes.

Well, the biggest thing is that I’m not going to be bringing in the money that I was before, so you will be paying the mortgage on my condo and maybe my expenses…”

That’s not it,” he interrupts me. “I spend more in jewelry for you than the value of your entire condo. We can pay the condo off tomorrow and you know that. What is it, Ana?” God, I hate that he can read me so well. I sigh.

I did my Faces of Abuse segment on Wednesday. That’s what triggered the ‘Mommy’ breakdown. I knew that I was holding up the final production and that you wouldn’t allow completion without me, so I went to the studio and did it.” I drop my head. “It opened up so many floodgates, Christian. I was okay when I did it, but then when I was alone and I started thinking about it, it all came rushing at me. I really want to be a better ‘me.’ I want to do everything that I can to make that happen. I want us to be a better ‘us,’ and I want to concentrate more on working on that, too. I know that if I give up my job completely, I’ll be miserable, but it’s time for my priorities to shift to myself.

I selfishly want more time to work on my issues and our issues and to plan our wedding and our future. My life thus far has been my work and on the weekends, my friends. No offense, but I’m about to marry a billionaire. I want more than just work and weekends.” I feel like I’m stomping my feet and having a mini-temper tantrum.

That’s fine with me, Butterfly. You can do whatever you want. I just don’t want you to regret it later.”

As long as you allow me to keep my options open throughout our marriage, I won’t regret it because I can always change my mind.”

You can always change your mind,” he confirms without pausing.

Even after we have kids?” I ask.

Even after we have kids. As long as our children are well-loved and taken care of, I have no problem whatsoever with you doing whatever you want. I would never try to clip your wings or hold you back. I will say this, though. I know you will need help if you plan on doing anything at all outside of our home, but promise me that our children will not be raised by a 24/7 nanny. My mother adopted three small children—Mia was a baby. She and Carrick both had full-time jobs. I don’t remember being raised by a nanny.”

Oh, I fully agree! I don’t some young hussy raising my children!” I declare. Christian laughs heartily.

I doubt that you will allow some young hussy in our home, Butterfly,” he says between laughs.

Well… I have an appointment with my doctor next month. I’ve been reading up on the IUD and pregnancy success varies after you have it removed. When do you think I should have it removed?” His expression is unreadable. He said he wanted children and I’ve been on birth control forever. If I want to conceive, I should probably get this thing out and get started before I’m barren or something. “Christian?”

I’m sorry… I just… I didn’t know we would be having the baby talk so soon.” Shit. I gauged that one all wrong.

Don’t feel any pressure, Baby,” I start to back-peddle. “It’s just that we did say that we wanted kids, and I just wanted to know when you thought I should end my birth control. I’m not trying to back you into a corner or anything, I was just…”

Baby… Baby, stop.” He puts his finger over my lips. “I’m thrilled that you want to have my babies. Whatever the doctor says is fine. We’re both at a good age and God knows we can afford it. I’m all for it.” My eyes grow large.

Really?” I say, clearly relieved. He laughs again.

Yes, really. We’ve had this conversation already. I don’t know much about birth control except that it stops conception. So being on it for a long time can no doubt affect your ability to conceive, correct?” I shrug.

Probably,” I concede.

So, by all means, whatever the doctor says, let’s go for it.”

What if I get pregnant right away?” I ask.

Are you pregnant, Butterfly?” he asks expectantly.

No!” I exclaim.

Then why are you so panic-stricken? Besides, I’m marrying you in June either way, so why does it matter?” he asks with his hands in the air in a suspended shrug. I shake my head.

This is why I want to make changes. My brain went right into panic mode and I have no idea why.” I lay down on the pillow next to him. “I’m supposed to see Ace today. He thinks that I might be suffering from a bit of depression. I don’t agree with him, but I’m going to listen to what he says anyway.”

Has he suggested any treatment? Medication or coping techniques?” Christian asks.

He threw a couple of ideas at me. I don’t want to be medicated unless I absolutely have to. He did suggest regression therapy. I think that one may be a good idea, but if I do it, I want you to be there with me.”

Absolutely. Do you want me to come tonight?” he asks.

No, we won’t do it tonight. We’re going to review all of my options and then come up with the best solution. If it turns out to be regression, then we’ll definitely start next session. So please plan your week with that in mind.” He leans down and kisses me.

I will. Now I have to get up and go run my empire before I find myself buried in you again.” I giggle as he gets out of the bed and admire his lovely ass as he walks naked to the bathroom for his shower. I honestly have a lot to do today myself. I agreed to keep the Wang appointment and Tammy managed to squeeze in another designer, too. Jason is coming home today so I want to make sure that everything is perfect for his arrival. His staff insists on escorting him home from the hospital.

Speaking of staff, I never asked how Chuck came to be back on staff again but c’est la vie. I send out a group text to let the girls know we will be meeting at my condo tomorrow to discuss bridesmaids dresses with Tammy and maybe put them through the torture of having to try some on. I have some choices from some of the boutiques I visited and designers that met with me and I want their input as well. Christian has agreed to meet with Joshua on Sunday and we will take suggestions from him for a videographer. Christian had suggested going with Saul, but Saul wanted to make the whole thing a movie production and I don’t want that. Al and I will meet Tammy to see the last two designers then head off to the bakers. I should be finished with my session in time to welcome Jason home. With my schedule somewhat in my head, I go to the closet to choose my outfit for the day.


I’m walking on a cloud this morning. I mean literally walking on a cloud. Butterfly and I made love so deeply and passionately last night that I fell into a coma-like sleep and didn’t wake until this morning when she was stretching with a nipple in my face. I never expected the conversations we had last night or this morning. I mean, I should have expected them. Any man would be thrilled to hear that after all the struggling and fighting and crying and running that the woman he loves is dedicated to focusing on strengthening their relationship and their love. What’s more, she’s going to see her doctor next month to stop birth control so that she can have my babies. Hot damn, I’m walking on a cloud, I say!

Good morning, Andrea, Luma,” I say walking into my makeshift office.

Good morning, Sir. You’re certainly in a good mood,” Andrea says.

Yes, I am,” I tell her. “It’s a beautiful day and it’s Friday. What could be better?” I give her my brightest smile and walk into my office. I wonder when the police are going to release my original office as the crime scene? I’ll have to call them. They still have Lincoln’s house on lockdown and she was arrested last August. The hell if they think they are going to keep me out of my office that long.

Randall Fischer.”

Good morning, Detective Fischer. This is Christian Grey.” The line is quiet.

Yes, Mr. Grey, what can I do for you?” Yeah, he doesn’t like me, but I don’t care today.

I was just trying to find out when the police would be releasing my office as a crime scene.”

Well…” Oh, boy. I can tell he’s going to be an asshole about this. “A man was shot in your office…”

Yes, and the bullet was recovered from his shoulder, you have the perpetrator in custody who shot him as well as the gun that she used and a recorded video of the whole incident.” I wait for a response.

These things take time, Mr. Grey,” he says callously.

That’s not a problem. I’m just trying to find out how much time it will take. God knows I want that crazy woman behind bars as much as anybody. Just let me know. Thanks. Have a good day.” I end the call. He wants to irritate me and it’s just not happening today. I’ll just put in a call to the police commissioner later and see if he can tell me how long this might take.

In the meantime, I turn on the news on the large screen to see what’s happening in Singapore this morning. I am interested in an electronics company there as well as a fledgling company in clean air technology. I’m keeping my eye on the market trends before I decide to send my money in that direction.

There are several emails from HR concerning lawsuits from Vansteen employees citing unfair labor practices. I forward those emails to legal who will let me know if GEH has anything to worry about, which I am certain that we do not. I have given the go-ahead to shut down three more of my failing miscellaneous acquisitions and instructed Ros to schedule visits to five more and internal audits on 12. She will visit Cassie’s little failing venture on my behalf, just to give her an idea that the ax is coming. No doubt, she will try to get in touch with me very shortly thereafter. Then, I’ll really let her have it.

Your father is on line three, Mr. Grey,” Andrea says. I push line three and greet Carrick.

Hey, Dad.”

Christian, have you heard the news… about Elena?” he asks.

No, is she dead?” I ask impassively. My father snickers a bit on the line.

That’s not really funny.”

Then why are you laughing?” He pauses for a moment more and gets his snickering out.

She’s not dead but I’m sure that she wishes she were. Four more victims came out.”

Four more?? Really?”

Check the news when you get a chance. It’s all over the place—two adult males plus one more still inside the statute… and another child.” God, I hate this woman. Why didn’t I say anything sooner? “Son, you should know that you could be brothers with each of these boys. It’s only a matter of time before the truth comes out about you.” I sigh.

I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it, Dad,” I tell him. He sighs.

I just think that you should be in control of how this information gets into the mainstream—use it to your advantage if you can instead of being a victim of revelation…”

I know, Dad, and I plan to. The Faces of Abuse campaign should be complete any day now and I plan on releasing it very soon. It will most likely be a catalyst for much more. I’m no fool, Dad. That detective knows that there’s a connection between me and Elena and it’s only going to take a moment before he puts two and two together. He may even try to make a quick buck off of trying to reveal who I am since my pictures are in police custody as evidence. Like I said, I’ll have to cross that bridge when I get to it. I can’t sit and worry about it every day and today, I refuse.”

Okay, Son. Well, turn on the television and get caught up,” Dad chides.

The television is already on, but I was watching Singapore markets instead of local news. I change it and get caught up, Father,” I say sarcastically.

Thank you, Son,” he replies just as sarcastically. “Your mother wants you and Ana to come over for Sunday dinner…”

Oh, no can do, Dad. We’re meeting with someone who may be our photographer on Sunday evening. I don’t know how long that’s going to take. Most likely, Ana and the wedding planner are going to be caught up in something before and after that because Ana has to choose a dress and a designer by week’s end or she won’t have it in time for the wedding. This whole weekend in fact is full of wedding stuff. Tell Mom that we will have to take a rain check.”

Okay, I’m sure that she’ll understand. How’s Jason?”

Coming home today. I’ll be going straight to the hospital after work to pick him up.”

You’re going to pick him up… personally?” he asks.

Yes. He’s my best friend and he took a bullet for me. I’m going to pick him up!” I reply, a bit affronted.

Okay, okay, no need to get defensive, Son. I just thought that you may want to avoid the press and have one of your staff go and retrieve him.” Yeah, there is that. I forgot all about the press. No. No. I’m going to get him.

Thanks, Dad. I didn’t mean to get all sensitive on you. I’ll be fine. There will be plenty of staff there, some even off-duty. If the vultures want a picture of me taking my best friend home from the hospital, then they can have that one.” I can actually hear my Father’s smile on the other end.

You’re a good man, Son,” he says.

I’d like to think so,” I reply.

Turn on the news. I have to go.”

Talk to you later, Dad. Love you.” There is a long pause on the other line.

I… love you, too, Son.” He ends the call. I only just realized that I can’t even remember the last time I told my father that I loved him. I turn to the news channel and watch the stories that they have in loop until I see the one that I am waiting for.

A clip of the Pedophile being led away from the hospital in cuffs, looking over her shoulder a few times at me—no one has figured that out yet. The pictures are of three men and a generic John Doe outline to represent the underage boy who have all come forth. Dad’s right. These men all look like me. One of them even has my exact hair color. Where did she find these people? Seriously, it took some real profiling stalker-type shit to find people that look that much like me. I know that I wasn’t the first. Hell, she tried to recruit Elliot and we couldn’t be more different. It truly makes me ill that I started a fucking trend in her life.

Dad’s right. It’s only going to be a matter of time before someone connects all of these dots and figures out that I one of the boys in those pictures. I still won’t let it sour my day, though. I take great joy in knowing that two more victims beat the statute and added to the Pedophile’s charges. She’s going to die behind bars.

I thought I would be able to hold on to this feel-good feeling all day. Lord knows I tried. However, just after lunch, I got the visit I have been dreading.

Mr. Grey, your brother is here.” Shit! I was having a great fucking day and now beloved Lelliot decides to show up. What they hell am I supposed to say? “Mr. Grey?”

Show him in,” I say finally. Why didn’t he just call? That would have been easier for both of us.

Elliot walks into my office looking like a child coming into the principal’s office.

Hey Bro,” he says, his head down and his hands shoved in his pockets. I sit back in my seat and rest my arms on the armrests.

Hey,” I reply. He looks like he would kick a rock or a can in front of him at this moment to keep from looking at me. I don’t know what to say to him or even how to feel. Right now, I feel numb.

Can I sit down?” he asks, finally raising his eyes to me.

Of course,” I say, gesturing to the chairs in front of my desk. He shuffles over to one of the chairs and sits, folding his hands and resting his elbows on his knees.

How’s Ana?”

She’s fine. Planning the wedding, making decisions…” I’m trying to decide what I am feeling towards my brother at this moment. The prevailing thing right now is… confusion.

Val’s good, too,” he says, like I care, and I know that he’s trying to fill in the dead air between us. “I, um… want to tell you that I’m sorry…”

Why?” I ask, before I know it came out of my mouth.

For being an asshole while Ana was gone…” he begins.

No… why?” He looks at me, bemused. “Why you, Elliot? You’re my brother. We’ve been through all kinds of shit together. Why you?”

I…” he’s stumbling over his words, but I need an answer.

Do you have feelings for Ana?” I ask him. He scowls at me, horrified.

No!” he nearly screams. “Why do you think everything with a dick wants to fuck your girl?” he accuses.

Normally, you’re right. I am very irrational when it comes to other men around my woman. I am always expecting some horny bastard to try to get into her panties, but this? This is different. Although I wasn’t expecting it this time, it’s no surprise to me that those lemmings that she calls the Scooby Gang fell in behind each other ready to crucify me, but you? You are my ace in the hole! You are my Scooby Gang! Why? Why, Elliot!? I want to know!” I have raised my voice and I didn’t intend to, but the pain I felt was so real and I want to know why he was a part of it.

Because I was pissed off, okay?” he barks. “You have the perfect girl for you—true love at first sight and all that shit. People kill for that! For less! I wasted more than two years of my life trying to turn a stuck-up, snobby, self-absorbed bitch into Ms. Perfect. You had it handed to you—someone that knew and accepted all of your shit and your baggage and loved you anyway… and not for your fucking money! She loved you for you and all your fucked-upedness and you almost threw it all away over a few stupid fights! It burned me up that I worked and fought and waited for the selfish, cheating trick to be the one only to happily escort her ass out of my life years later, and you… Ms. Perfect-for-Christian-Grey walks in and says ‘take me’ and your dumb ass almost pushes her away!”

What the ever-loving fuck? He’s standing here telling me that he treated me like shit because he had flashbacks of Kate??

That’s just it, though, Elliot! This wasn’t about you and Kate. If this was at all compared to that relationship, it’s because you made it about you and Kate, and then you took it out on me. Do you have any idea how badly I was hurting inside? The crazy thoughts that went through my head? Have you ever hurt so bad that you just wanted it to end? And nobody cared about me… no-fucking-body in the world—or at least that’s how it felt. Then to treat me the way that you treated me and to say the shit that you did to me—on top of everything else? Way to stab me in the fucking eye, Elliot!”

Man, don’t you have any clue when you are about to fuck up a good thing? That girl could have walked out of your life forever!”

And it still would have been between Ana and me! I had done nothing whatsoever to offend you, and I didn’t deserve the way that you, or anybody else, treated me. This was for me and Ana to sort, and everyone who walked around all bruised and beaten up about it had no right—no right whatsoever. This was not your life, not your wedding, not your happiness on the line and you were out-of-order.”

Unable to say anything else that made sense to him or me, he took a cop-out.

Look, you asked me and I told you…” I pause momentarily. My world was rocked to its very foundation and the one person in the world that I expected to have my back left me out in the cold, and this is all he can say to me as an explanation as to why he took my relationship so personally? I feel fire rising in my soul, but I push it back down and douse it with ice.

You’re right. You told me, and now, you can leave,” I say coldly. The color leaves his face and his blue eyes widen.

Christian…!” he says in disbelief.

I’m not ready to discuss this with you, Elliot. You left me. You left me high and dry when you knew that I needed you the most because just like the rest of them, you are convinced that I don’t have any feelings. I was experiencing horrendous, searing, blinding pain and darkness and you thought that I deserved it. That’s fine, Elliot. You formulated your opinion and you acted on it. I could’ve dealt with anybody turning their back on me… except you. Anybody except you. Mia is flighty—she goes where the wind blows. I have learned to accept that. Mom and Dad try to stay impartial and I appreciate that. Ana’s flock of friends… yeah, whatever, but you—you were always my wingman and I was always yours. When I fell, I always knew that you would be there to catch me. If nobody else was there, I knew that I could count on Elliot. When I turned around to find you, you were on the other side—watching me fall and kicking me while I was down. That hurt me more than anything—even more than losing Ana, if you can believe that. Bros before hoes, Elliot, and before this, if I ever had to choose between the two of you, I would have chosen you.”

Tears spring to his eyes and begin to stream down his face. I can probably count on one hand the times that I have seen my brother cry, and I sure as hell never wanted to be the one to make it happen, but he had to hear this. He had to know how he made me feel, and why I can’t forgive him just yet.

So now… that’s all changed… because I made a bad judgment call? Isn’t that the point that you had been trying to make to everyone about calling off the wedding?” His voice is cracking and desperate.

That’s exactly why I’m not ready to discuss this right now, because I know what it’s like to do something stupid and have to pay the consequences. God knows I know. The difference here is that I thought what I was doing was the right thing. I made my decision thinking that I was finding a solution to a problem. I was mistaken. You, however, were being malicious! You formulated an opinion based on your bad experience with your nightmare ex-girlfriend and you took it out on me—right when I needed you the most. So, yes, I understand a bad judgment call, but no. I am not. Ready. To discuss this. With you. Right now!” I drop my head and thrust my hands into my hair.

Please, Elliot. I don’t want to hurt you. Please leave before I say something we both regret. Please, just leave.” I can’t stand to look at him. I know if I look at him, I’m going to see anguish and disbelief. I’m not particularly a praying man particularly, but at this moment, I pray for my brother to leave my office and spare us both any further agony. I don’t know how long I remain in that position before I hear him rise from his seat, walk across the floor and leave my office, closing my door behind him. I take a deep breath and let it out, calming my nerves before I raise my head and get back to work.


Butterfly called and said that she would meet us back at Escala so I just leave GEH and go straight to the hospital. At least 12 members of my security staff—personal and corporate—are waiting outside when I get there, including Welch, Davenport, and Williams. Lawrence came along with me. I’m moved by the show of loyalty when I step out of the SUV, so Jason is likely to be fucking weeping when he sees this. I nod and smile, then proceed to lead the group of men into the hospital. I’m probably the shortest of them and I’m 6’2”…

The crowd split like the Red Sea.

A gang of tall men in expensive dark suits floating through the hospital like the Secret Service, leather soles clicking in sync with one another as we inadvertently fell in step together—silence ensues when we approach and follow us as we pass. I discover that there are more than 12 men when six of them get into the elevator with me and several more of them stay on the first floor. Lawrence and I are the only two men that enter Jason’s room when we get to the sixth floor.

Are you ready to go?” I ask. Jason is out of bed and dressed, his arm in a sling.

More than ready. I need some real food or I’m going to kill someone,” he says. I laugh.

We’ll arrange something for you when we get back. What are you feeling?”

Burgers!” he barks. “Real burgers, not that fast-food shit!”

We’ll make it happen,” I nod. Gail comes out of the restroom.

You’re just in time. The doctor has discharged him and he’s turning into a bear,” she says.

Tired?” I ask.

Restless!” he answers. “I know I can’t go back to work anytime soon but I have to do something or I’m going to go stir crazy!” I shrug.

I don’t know if I can help you there, Jason. We may have to clear that with high command over here,” I say gesturing to Gail. She shakes her head and sighs.

Let’s just get out of here first. Jesus, we haven’t even left the hospital yet and you’re already giving me problems,” she says. I see another problem walking in the door.

Your ride is here, Mr. Taylor,” a tall, blond nurse says from behind a wheelchair. Jason looks at the wheelchair, then at me, then back at the nurse.

Oh, hell no!” he exclaims. “You’ve kept me in this joint in bed for days. I’m leaving on my own two feet!”

Mr. Taylor, it’s hospital policy. You have to leave the hospital in the wheelchair,” the nurse protests.

I beg to differ,” he says. “There’s nothing wrong with my legs and I’m walking out those doors. I was wheeled in here, I’m walking out!”

Sir, the hospital can get into a lot of trouble if you don’t follow procedure. Please, I’m just trying to do my job,” she pleads.

Well, no offense to you and your job, but I’m not leaving here in a damn wheelchair.”

Well, you can either sit in the wheelchair or get back in the bed.” Jason’s doctor comes in behind the nurse and lays down the law. “Come on, Mr. Taylor. Don’t make it hard for the staff. Get in the chair.”

I am not getting in the chair and I’m not going to let you blackmail me! I’ll sign whatever you want, but I’m not being wheeled out of here…”

Jason, sit in the goddamn chair!” We are all stunned to silence when we hear the normally soft-spoken Gail Taylor order her Bear to be wheeled out of the hospital. He huffs and puffs for a moment, but begrudgingly sits in the wheelchair.

High command has spoken.

I move behind him and take the handles as the blond nurse begins to protest. I put my hand up to silence her.

This one you’re not going to win,” I say to her without flinching. She surrenders the handles to me and steps to the side. Jason turns around to see that I am pushing his chair.

Oh, shit!” he exclaims and grumbles a bit before settling into the chair. Lawrence gathers their bags as I proceed to wheel Jason down the hall to the elevator with Gail holding his hand. As we turn to the small hallway that ends at the elevator, two of my security staff are in stance on either side of the hallway—hands clasped in front of them, feet apart, eyes forward—and a fifth is waiting at the elevator.

Jason’s back straightens in the chair and he is clearly at a loss for words. Gail is becoming emotional and I’m a bit taken aback as well and I knew they were here.

The elevator arrives as soon as we get to it. Lawrence and Davenport get inside with us and the four guards in the hallway never move before the elevator doors close.

Chuck,” Jason says once the doors close.

Jason,” Davenport responds.

Welcome back,” Jason says with a smile that Davenport reciprocates.

It’s good to be back,” he says.

The elevator opens at the first floor and we are greeted by more of my security staff lining the hallway. I honestly don’t know how many man are here and I don’t bother trying to count. I swear more must have arrived since we were upstairs. Jason is now having a hard time fighting his emotions and Gail is all waterworks. I wheel Jason past the line-up of men. None of them move a muscle. They don’t even breath! Jason see the press and the cameras as we get closer to the automatic doors and begins to get uncomfortable.

Boss,” he says with uncertainty. Before I get a chance to say anything, Welch, Davenport, and Lawrence all walk outside and stand at the door for moment. I’m not certain if any words are spoken, but the crowd silences and again splits like the Red Sea. I guess the great photo-op is still not worth a broken nose. Welch turns around and gestures inside, and several of my security staff that were once lining the hallway have marched outside and are now forming two well-dressed walls lining the pathway leading to the waiting Audi SUV.

This bear of a man is quickly losing his battle with his emotions, but still no tears.

I wheel him down the pathway and there is only one flash, which is immediately followed by bits and pieces of a broken camera falling to the ground somewhere to my left. I’ll write him a check. We get Jason safely into the car with Gail and I shake his hand.

See you at home, Jason,” I say.

Yes, Sir,” he responds, his voice cracking heavily. I close the door to save his dignity and knock on the front window.

Privacy screen,” I tell Williams, who is at the wheel. He nods and presses a button causing a window to rise separating the front seat from the back. When I turn around and see the waiting press, I decide to climb in the front seat and make a quick getaway with Jason. “Let’s go,” I tell him, and a line of black SUV’s leave the hospital like the Presidential motorcade.


 “Someone told me that you needed a real burger,” Butterfly says as we enter the penthouse. There are massive He-Man stacked burgers all over the place! What the hell is this?

Um… Your Highness?” Jason questions.

First things first,” she says walking over to him in her chef’s apron. She stands on her toes and wraps her arms around him, holding him in a long and warm embrace. Strangely, this gesture doesn’t make me uncomfortable. I wonder why? When she pulls away from him, she kisses him gently on his cheek. Nope, still no discomfort.

Thank you,” she says softly. “I wouldn’t survive without him… or you. Thank you.” She quickly wipes away a tear and the Bear almost breaks down again. Slowly but surely, my apartment begins to fill with my security staff. I already know…

The Butterfly effect.

I move towards the dining room to see burgers everywhere—and these are not regular burgers. These are superhuman burgers! I also see Ana’s girlfriends all wearing aprons ready to serve the masses.


I nod politely and turn back to the great room.

I promise I won’t keep them here all night,” Butterfly whispers. “I really needed some help with this…”

Butterfly,” I say, putting my finger over her lips to silence her. “It’s okay, really.” I kiss her softly on her lips. “I know Jason loves having everyone around and knowing that you are there for me, this is really no big deal.” She wraps her arms around my waist.

I love you, Christian,” she says holding me close. I close her in my arms.

I love you, too, Butterfly.”

Ana! Is this Lunchbox Laboratory?” Davenport asks.

One and the same,” she answers. I hear someone in the crowd say, “Oh my God, she’s perfect. Where did he find her and how do I get one?” I’m not going to turn around to see who said that because I don’t feel like firing anybody tonight.

I’m going to find a beer to go with my artery-clogging burger,” I say.

In the bucket on the balcony, Baby,” she says, pointing to the balcony. I smile at her and go in search of ale. The sun is going down and it’s a bit nippy out here. I look in the bucket and there’s my Budvar. She knows what I want. I break one open and immediately take a long drink. It feels so good going down.

You look a whole lot better than the last time that I saw you,” I hear a voice say to my left. I look over and James is standing against the wall in a leather jacket, jeans, boots, and leather gloves.

Thanks,” I say. “I never said ‘thank you…’”

No need,” he says, walking over to me. “We’ve all come on bad times, Man. It is what it is. You guys get that all straightened out?”

We’re working on it,” I say, taking another drink of my beer. “We’re coming up on a really good place. I mean it’s good now, but I only see it getting better.” James nods.

That’s really good news. I’m really glad to hear it.” He takes a beer out of the bucket and opens it. “What about them?” he says gesturing inside. “I was there for the last time this crew ganged up on you, even though my biggest concern at the time was Allie.” I sit in one of the patio seats.

I’ve been a loner most of my life. I was only trying to be sociable for Butterfly. I didn’t want her to feel like she had to choose between spending time with her friends or spending time with me. They chose for me.”

Let me give you a bit of advice, Christian.” He sits down across from me and takes another drink of his beer. “I don’t have many friends. Just a few close people. The rest are acquaintances and I have a lot of acquaintances. Those…” he gestures inside the apartment, “…are Allie’s friends. When he wants to hang with them, I go along. It never hurt. I get to be with my man and he gets to be with his friends, but I never made the mistake of thinking that those were my friends. That’s where you messed up.” He drinks more of his beer.

“I’m a gay man. When I first came out, I was ostracized in a lot of circles. Men all over the place didn’t want me to be in the same room with them for fear that I would hit on them. It’s a ridiculous concept, but homophobic males seem to think that every gay man wants to fuck them. Homophobic females are even worse. They make things up about you and ridicule you like they are afraid that you are going to take what they have. Half of them don’t even know that their men are getting their jollies with someone like me but taking them home to meet Mommy and Daddy just for show.” He sighs. “I’m saying that to say that I know how it feels to live in the shadows, for whatever reason. I moved out here and didn’t tell anyone that I was gay for a long time. I couldn’t stand trying to be someone that I’m not, so I just stayed away from people. I didn’t let them get close to me. Things changed a bit of course and my ‘lifestyle’ became a little more ‘acceptable,’ but for the most part, I still kept to myself, so I know how it feels to be a loner and not let people in.

 “Allie and Ana are a lot alike,” he continues. “They draw people to them, although for different reasons. That’s why they are so close and that’s why these people flock around them. If Allie and I had a public fight, don’t think for a second that I would not be ostracized. The difference is that I don’t care. These people don’t affect me the way that they affect you. They follow the sunshine, Christian. I’ve seen it for myself even though I haven’t said anything. So if I were you, I wouldn’t worry about them anymore. Just focus on Ana.”

Yeah,” I lament, “I discovered that a little too late, but I’ve learned my lesson.”

I heard that you almost turned into Ebenezer Scrooge,” he laughs. I chuckle nervously. He has no idea that was exactly my plan.

Yes, I did,” I confess. “My main reason for trying to get along with Ana’s friends was to prove that I could come out of my shell. Well, now I know that I can. I just chose the wrong group of people.”

Shit, man, hang out with me sometimes. I’ll introduce you to some of the guys I know… and before you ask, no they’re not all gay. They’re just guys that get together for poker and beer, shoot the shit without the women—or in my case, the men—around. You might like it, you might not, but it’s worth a shot.” This might be a plan.

I’ve never been one to just hang out. I tend to find trouble that way.”

Don’t worry about it, Man. We’ve got everybody from garbage men to millionaires in the club. When you pass the door, we’re all the same. Jason would like it, too.”

So when do you guys meet?”

Every other Wednesday, one Saturday out of the month, and whenever the mood hits us. Whoever is available just comes together at the lodge. There are even places to sleep down there for someone who finds themselves in the dog house. You’ll come with me next Wednesday. If you don’t like it, no sweat. It’s just an experiment, right?”

Right.” We clink beer bottles. “Listen, I wanted to ask you this before we had this chat, but I would appreciate it if you would be one of the groomsmen at my wedding. Don’t feel pressured or anything.” James looks at me skeptically.

Why, Christian, are we having a moment?” he says, doing his best feminine voice—which doesn’t sound feminine at all. I pause for a moment and burst into laughter.

I hope not,” I tell him. “I have a reputation for being an asshole. I don’t really want to lose it.” He shakes his head.

I’d be honored, Man. Thanks for asking me.” He proffers his hand to me and I shake it.

Thanks for accepting.” I can’t help but wish that he had had this talk with me before I tried to make Butterfly’s friends my friends.

A/N: A new friendship is blossoming, Where do we think this will go? What will the Scooby Gang say about the change in the wedding line-up… even though they were not yet asked to be in the wedding? What about Elliot–how do you feel about his revelation about why he treated Christian the way that he did? 

Pictures of places, cars, fashion, etc. can be found at

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

Love and Handcuffs!
Lynn x

Mending Dr. Steele: Chapter 37—Why Fight Or Flight?

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 37—Why Fight Or Flight?


Butterfly was exhausted! She barely stirred when I took her out of the bath last night. I had to lay her head on my lap to dry her hair. I noticed that she had commandeered some of Gail’s special tea for her face, so I situated it on the pillow for her. Today, she looks as fresh as a daisy—no bruising and just a few minute scratches on the other side of her face. Nothing can be done about the gash over her eye for now. I don’t think she thought of that when she slipped her head into the Armani bath last night, but I changed her dressing and so far, it seems no worse for wear.

“Butterfly.” I kiss her face softly several times. I’ve let her sleep as long as I can and now, I have to wake her. I have to get going and I don’t know what she has planned for the day. She stretches and uncurls her body, reaching out for me and making me want to crawl in bed with her again. I take her hand and kiss her palm. “Wake up, Baby.”

“What time is it?” she says sleepily.

“It’s nearly nine,” I reply brushing the hair off her face. She stretches some more. “Your phone went crazy last night.” She shakes her head.

“Probably Al trying to find out if we’re still on for dress shopping today. I couldn’t possibly…” Her voice trails off.

“Yes, Al and your father,” I tell her. She sits up in bed.

“Daddy called back?” she questions. I nod.

“You were asleep in the bathtub. I told him that I would tell you first thing in the morning.” I reach over her and disconnect her phone from the charger before handing it to her. “Call him, Butterfly.”

She looks at the phone like it’s a foreign object before taking it from my hand. Tucking her hair behind her ear, she touches the screen. I kiss her gently on her cheek.

“I’ll see you later,” I whisper to her. She looks up and nods at me. Just before I walk out of the room, I hear her say, “Hello, Daddy?”

“Docket #86085738R, People of the State of Washington vs Elena Lincoln. The charges are two counts of assault with a deadly weapon—first degree, one count of assault with a deadly weapon—second degree, one count of attempted murder—first degree, one count of attempted murder—second degree, and violation of a restraining order.” I meant what I said. If this bitch gets out, I will kill her the moment that she breathes fresh air. Her head is down and her hands are cuffed in front of her. She looks… smaller, a lot smaller. I’m sitting in the back of the courtroom, where I have a bird’s-eye view of her. Most importantly, when she turns around, she has a bird’s-eye view of me. I can still see the red marks around her neck where Butterfly choked the shit out her—miserable old wretch!

“How does the defendant plead?” The judge asks.

“Not guilty, Your Honor,” her attorney answers on her behalf. I snort at the plea as does the judge, though I’m sure that his was involuntary. This causes her to raise her head and turn around. I catch her cold empty eyes and sneer at her. God, if I could kill her right now—right here in this courtroom—I would. I would wrap my hands around her scrawny little neck and finish the job that Butterfly started.

“I’m all for ‘innocent until proven guilty,’ Counselor, but according to the report, there is irrefutable evidence that this woman did indeed shoot someone who is currently recovering in the hospital,” the judge protests.

“We intend to prove mental duress, Your Honor,” the attorney retorts. I just shake my head.

“An insanity plea,” the judge states. It was supposed to be a question, but it came out more like an incredulous statement.

“Yes, Your Honor,” the attorney responds. The judge attempts to remain impartial but fails miserably.

“What say the people on bail?” as if he has to ask.

“Your Honor, Mrs. Lincoln was out on bail on several unrelated charges when she committed the crimes of which she stands accused. Possession of the firearm was enough to revoke her bail as was the violation of a standing restraining order. I’m certain that actually shooting someone is enough for remand,” the district attorney calmly points out.

“Mrs. Lincoln has no assets. She’s not going anywhere,” her attorney retorts. The judge’s head shoots up from examining his documents.

“Counselor, are you new at this or are you being purposely obtuse?” the judge accuses.

“Your Honor, as we plan to prove mental duress, detention would be quite damaging for Mrs. Lincoln in her delicate mental state.” Not as damaging as the bullet that Jason took for me, but go ahead. Set the bitch free.

“You can’t be serious!” the judge finally loses his objectivity. “She stands accused of possession of a firearm—which is not in the charges, but should be…” He shoots a look at the D.A. who nods. “three charges of assault and two charges of attempted murder with that same firearm while on bail for unrelated charges. I think her delicate mental state is the least of her worries!”

“I’m only pointing out that she’s not a flight risk, Your Honor.” Yep, purposely obtuse.

“No, but apparently, she’s a murder risk!” the judge spits before he could catch himself. “Bail is denied,” he says exasperated. “Remand to the Washington Correction Center for Women.” The gavel falls, sealing the pedophile’s fate until she gets her first day in court. I stand and she turns around to look at me before being escorted out of the courtroom.

“I’m sorry,” she mouths to me.

“Fuck you,” I mouth back and she disappears behind a doorway with the bailiff.

“I would have told you what happened,” I hear over my shoulder. I look back to see Carrick standing there.

“I had to see for myself,” I tell him. “I had to know that they were locking her up, and see for myself if they dared to set her free.” We walk out of the courtroom.

“Well, the summons’ have come through. Her child porn cases are going to begin in August.”

“August? Why so far away?” I ask him. He shrugs.

“These things take time, Son. There are cases that are already on the docket that have to be heard first. Evidence has to be gathered; witnesses have to be contacted; attorneys have to do due diligence and discovery. There is a lot involved in making sure that a criminal doesn’t walk away free.”

“In the meantime, they can get a guy in really quickly who decks a drunk driver,” I hiss. Carrick laughs at me.

“Yeah, and look how that worked out for you,” he jests. We walk outside into the brisk March air.

“Dad, Myrick claimed to be my brother,” I tell him. He raises his eyebrow.

“You can get a DNA test, Son. Don’t let him swindle you…”

“He couldn’t if he tried and I already have a DNA test. He’s not my brother, but the pimp had him convinced that he was. Still does, in fact.” Carrick rubs his chin.

“What do you think he wants?” he asks.

“Revenge,” I tell him. There goes that eyebrow again. “When he copied Ana’s keys, he got someone to break into her apartment and steal her Beretta from a locked drawer in her bedroom. We still don’t know how he knew about it unless he overheard us talking about it, which I’m certain that he didn’t. Dad, that’s the gun that Elena shot Jason with, and she was going to kill me. He’s in cahoots with that batty bitch and now she’s out of the picture. We can’t prove that they were working together, but we have little bits of proof so that we know it. Nothing that will stand up in court, though.” Carrick shakes his head.

“What are you going to do, Christian?” Dad asks. I shake my head this time.

“I’m going to protect myself, Dad,” I tell him. “What would be a more perfect act of revenge than for me to be shot dead by an ex-lover with my fiancée’s stolen gun?” I stare at him and he stares back. “I could have died yesterday, Dad, and a restraining order did me no good—absolutely no good at all.”

“Again, Son… what are you going to do?” I can’t tell Dad. He’ll just worry more.

“I’ll tell you as soon as I have a plan, Dad.” I put my hand on his shoulder reassuring. “Can you see if you can find anything out about the current charges on Myrick Sr? Records say that he’s still in Ionia Prison but I can’t see how long he’s going to be there.”

“I’m on it, Son. Promise me that you won’t do anything foolish,” he says.

“I won’t do anything foolish, Dad.” Hmmm… define foolish…

I say goodbye to my father and then take out my blackberry and dial a number as Lawrence brings the car around. My security team has already swept my parents’ home and questioned the staff thoroughly. We are satisfied that none of them were involved in Myrick’s plan or even aware of it at this time, but I still can’t take any more chances.

Ray, hiyes, I know. She was talking to you when I left this morning… Good, I’m so glad everything worked out. I haven’t talked to her yet today. How was she doing when you last spoke?… Good, good, excellent. I’m so glad the two of you were able to straighten that out… Listen, Ray, I need a favor from you and it might sound strange at first, but if you can’t do it, I know that you can point me in the right direction…”


“You know that you’re fired, right?” I say to Jason when I enter his room. Gail raises her head and smiles at me.

“Yeah, Her Highness told me last night,” he chuckles weakly. “I’ll find a new job once my big fat pension and my hazard bonus pay clause runs out.” I laugh back at him.

“Is that why you dove in front of that bullet—to get that big injury bonus?” I joke. He snaps his fingers.

“He figured out my plan, Love. We’ll have to leave town now.” Gail laughs at him. “Why else would I dive in front of a bullet for your ugly ass?” I laugh again but then drop my head.

“Thank you, Jason.” I can barely get the words out.

“C’mon, don’t get all mushy on me,” he says.

“I don’t do this often, so you need to let me get this out,” I say, raising my eyes to him. His tentative blues meet my watery grays and he nods. “You saved my life. She was going to kill me and you saved my life. I could have died…” I drop my head again, “… or I could have lost my best friend.” I hear him gasp and I meet his eyes again. “I’ll always be grateful to you. I know you guys understand that something like this is always a possibility, but you could have just pushed me out of the way. You took a big chance in that room, and I’ll never forget it.” I drop my head before a tear falls. I have to save some of my dignity or this big lug will never let me forget it.

“We’ve got a lot of time in, Christian,” Jason says to me. “And the last person in the world that I was going to let cut that time short was that batty blond bitch. Now wipe that piss off your face or I’ll tell the guys you can’t hold your water.” I laugh through my tears as does Gail. “You’re important to me too, Boss, as much as I hate to admit it.” I look up at his face and he’s bearing a full 32-teeth smile. That helps to break the tension as I am sure that I have never seen him smile like that at anyone but Gail.

“So,” I say, quickly wiping the tears from my face, “how are you feeling?”

“Tired mostly,” he admits. “They’re keeping me a little sedated to prevent me from walking the fuck up out of here. This place is going to drive me bat shit.”

“It’s only for a few days, Jason. Quit complaining,” Gail chastises before turning to me. “They say that as long as he follows instruction, he should be able to go home by the weekend.” I nod.

“That’s good,” I say. “Is there anything you want?”

“Yeah, a double cheeseburger with everything and a large order of steak fries,” he says.

“Oh, no you don’t!” Gail breaks in. “The first person that brings contraband into this room will have to deal with me, and I promise you that it won’t be pretty.”

“Okay… Her Majesty has spoken,” Jason relents. I frown.

“I thought Ana was Her Majesty,” I say, confused.

“No, Ana is Her Highness. That…” Jason pauses to point at his wife, “is Her Majesty.

“Duly noted,” I say with a chuckle and a nod. “I, um, just left the courthouse.” I say taking a seat. Jason’s smile fades as does Gail’s.

“And…?” Jason asks.

“Two counts of assault with a deadly weapon—first degree, one count of assault with a deadly weapon—second degree, one count of attempted murder—first degree, one count of attempted murder—second degree, possession of a firearm and violation of a restraining order. Current bail was revoked due to the obvious violation and of course further bail is denied. She’ll be resting her head in Gig Harbor before sunset.” Gail releases a breath that she was holding.

“That was fast,” she says. “Do they usually decide that fast?”

“Sometimes,” Jason says. “Sometimes they hold defendants for a while before they are arraigned, but this is a pretty high-profile case. It looks bad for the state’s case that they let this woman out on bail and she committed another crime. So they are sure not to let her out now.”

Jason, Gail and I talk a little more about what is going to happen in the next few weeks and months. When Gail briefly leaves the room, I let Jason in on a plan that I have and I am certain that I have shocked the ever-loving shit out of him. It’s something that he never expected from me, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

It’s early afternoon when I leave the hospital and head back to GEH. I have a makeshift office down the hall from my own since my office is now a crime scene. It’s almost a replica of mine, but about two-thirds the size. I have just sat down at my desk and loosened my tie when Andrea buzzes me that my 2:30 is here.

“My 2:30? I don’t have a 2:30 scheduled for today,” I protest.

“You do now,” I hear Butterfly say as she and McIntyre stroll into my office looking all official and not to pleased with me. Oh fuck, what did I do now?


I was glad that Daddy and I got the chance to talk this morning. After our conversation last night, I was a bit raw and tender and truly had no intention on initiating contact any time soon. When Daddy gets really mad, it’s best to just leave him alone and let him stew. I didn’t agree with everything that my father said, but he was clearly very angry with me. So I had every intention on steering clear for a few days…


Maybe I’m being a bit dramatic, but let’s just say that I was going to let Daddy cool off for a while.

He told me that he meant the thrust of what he said, particularly about running away and handling my problems better, thinking about how my actions affect other people—but he didn’t mean to yell at me or scold me, only to make his point so that I understood the impact of bad decisions. Like I said, I’m glad that we talked.

Tammy was on the phone with me almost immediately after I hang up from Ray, telling me that we have meetings with more designers today. To her horror, I informed her that I had no intention on dragging myself to anyone’s design studios today. She almost cried talking about the whole “dog years” and “have to get a dress not now but right now.” I inform her that anyone that could get to Escala can give me a private showing today and tomorrow and I will let her set up the appointments. The miracle worker had three back to backs set up at 10:30, 11:30, and 12:30 before we even hang up the phone. Now I have to jump up and dress very quickly.

So Al couldn’t make it to today’s fittings and showings if he wanted to stay on top of his job, especially with She-Thing being arraigned today. I have no doubt that he and Carrick are front and center to get the first hand scoop on where that bitch will be spending the night. Nonetheless, I have decided that from this point on, until I make the final decision, all designers must bring designs to me for consideration.

At a moment’s notice, these top fashion designers present intricate runway shows of their latest ideas on video and slideshows that we watch in Christian’s media room. No swimming in taffeta and lace and tulle and satin—just one hour to show me the best of what you’ve got AND leave me with 8×10 glossies with detailed descriptions of my favorites so that I can decide on my own time which ones I like and don’t like. Oh, this is the only way to shop for a wedding dress! I was still feeling fresh-faced and energetic when I was done and had some great ideas for my dress.

I’m just about to turn off the large flat screen television in the media room when I see the newsflash about Lincoln’s arraignment. As I expected, her bail is being revoked and she’s going back to jail. I knew she was going to try that mental duress plea and I know that she won’t get off with it. She’s crazy alright, but it’s not going to fly. They show a picture of her perp walk from the hospital and she does a double-take glaring at the crowd. She finally looks frightened. She should be. It’s about time she understands that she is not untouchable.

The clip of her perp walk plays again and she’s still glaring into the crowd. I look… and I look again…

Oh fuck!

Tammy is saying something to me but I can’t hear her. Her voice is becoming a mosh of words as I dial my iPhone.

Vee? Hi it’s Ana… I’m good. Listen, I don’t mean to bother you in the middle of the day, but I think we may have a situation and I need to talk to you about it. It could be nothing, but do you have some time to spare?… Great, give me about twenty minutes.” I end the call and Tammy is looking at me puzzled.

“What did I just miss?” she asks.

“It could be nothing but I have to go. We’ll pick this up tomorrow and I call you later with some more things from the checklist.” There’s always a fire to put out and the press is going to have a field day reading all kinds of shit into this one.

With Tammy tucked safely into her car, Chuck takes me down to GEH and shows me to the PR floor where Vee is waiting for me. I had made a call to her to acquire footage of She-Thing’s perp walk and have it queued up for me when I got there. I’m walking through her department to her office at the far end and there are several women scowling at me. I have never been in the PR department, but I’m certain that these sneering cows know who I am. I hold my head high and strut right past the hateful bitches to Vee’s office.

“Thanks for seeing me on such short notice, Vee. I know that you have your hands full, especially now,” I say.

“Yes, there’s a lot of work to be done, but I need to know what you think you saw,” she replies as she begins to play the video of the perp walk.

“Can you run the video at half speed?” I ask. Vee runs it at half speed and I follow She-Thing’s gaze. “Right there! Stop!” I declare. “Run it back.” Vee runs the video back and follows where I’m pointing then gasp. Did she see it?

“Oh fuck,” she says almost under her breath.

“My sentiments exactly. If I found it, I know that someone else will spot it, too.” I tell her.

“We’ve got to talk to Christian,” she says, clicking a few more buttons then brushing past me and out of her office door. I almost have to run to catch up with her as she calls Andrea an informs her that Christian has a last-minute appointment with her and she is on her way down. When we get off the elevator at Christian’s floor, I’m a little more perturbed than I was before. I hate finding things out this way. I’m walking in front of Vee to Christian’s door, but she alerts me that he is in another office due to yesterday’s incident. We walk down a hallway a bit to an office that I didn’t even know existed on this floor. I get to the door just in time to hear him say that he doesn’t have a 2:30 appointment.

“You do now” is the only announcement that he gets from me that he will be tied up for a little while. Christian turns around to face me and the welcoming smile he has is quickly replaced by a questioning glare.

“To what do I owe this honor?” he says, almost sarcastically.

“To this,” Vee says and presses the necessary buttons to reveal a screen behind him in the bookshelf. This office is just like his, but it looks smaller. A few more buttons and the perp walk comes up. Vee walks over to the screen and waits for the magic moment. Just as we get to the moment of truth, she freezes the screen and magnifies it to where She-Thing is staring into the crowd. Hiding behind the paparazzi, just enough to be seen is none other than my fiancé! He is wearing a black hooded sweatshirt, his copper locks peeking out just a bit. Vee has managed to stop the video right where a flash goes off in the crowd somewhere to capture Lincoln’s stunned and frightened expression, but also enough to capture Christian glaring hatefully at her, the flash causing just the appropriate amount of red-eye to make him look like fucking Satan! We don’t know if the photographer caught Christian or not.

“You want to tell me how you let this happen?” Vee barks at him. The color leaves his face. He knows the numerous possibilities that can be gleaned from this picture—the speculation can be endless.

“Oh fuck!” he exclaims. Yeah, that seems to be the going sentiment on this particular situation. He looks at me. “You saw this first.”

“Yes,” I nearly hiss.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” he says.

“I’m telling you now!” I nearly bark. “Why were you even out there, Christian?” I almost squeal. He runs his hands through his hair.

“I had to see it for myself,” he says. “I had to make sure that they were taking her ass to jail… and I wanted her to see me.” You wanted what? “She tried to fucking kill me. I wanted her to see me watching her being led away in cuffs. I told that bitch that I would kill her the moment that I saw her breathing air as a free woman and I meant it! So I wanted her to see me watching her!” He’s growling. The words are boiling deep in his soul and they rumble as he lets them out. I am chilled almost to my core by his reaction. He is holding an intense deadly hatred for the woman who nearly took his life yesterday. He wore it on his face in that clip and he’s wearing it now.

“So what do you expect me to do about this?” Vee asks, perturbed. “If Ana saw it, someone else will, that’s a guarantee.” He runs his hands through his hair again.

“Prepare a statement in case it gets out—something about my trusted bodyguard being hit by a bullet that was meant for me, an emotional reaction, etc—whatever sounds good. We won’t release it unless we have to,” he says. Vee nods and rolls her eyes.

“Fine!” she says storming out of the office. She stops and looks at me. “Thanks for bringing this to my attention,” she says before exiting the office in a huff to do damage control. I look at Christian who is somewhat glaring at me.

“Why did you go to McIntyre before you came to me?” he asks flatly.

“Because I didn’t want you to blow me off and because I needed to have that video queued up so that you could see it. I needed back-up when I asked why you didn’t tell me about this before now and I wanted to hopefully have a solution waiting for you when we brought it to your attention,” I say truthfully.

“Obviously, I didn’t know that I was caught on camera so there was no way that I could have told you this ‘before now.'”

“But you could have told me that you were there for the perp walk last night. Is that why Al was ordered to keep me at the hospital?” I ask. He nods. “Jesus, Christian. You went through all that trouble to have us escape in Charlie Tango just to make the evening news anyway?” I’m more than a bit confused.

“Shit, Ana! I didn’t do this on purpose!” he barks, and I see another useless fight coming on. Not on my watch—the man was damn-near killed yesterday!

I walk over to him and push my fingers into his hair. I pull his head down and place a gentle kiss on his lips.

“We’ll work it out,” I say softly. “We’ll cross that bridge together if it comes to that. I just wanted you to know what was going on. Please don’t keep anything like this from me again. It was important that I know even if you didn’t think so, okay?” My voice is soothing and nonthreatening and I think it takes him by surprise.

“Okay,” he says, a bit bemused. There is a pause before he adds, “I guess I should tell you that Dad and I were at her arraignment today.” He was at the arraignment? Hmmm

I guess my expression was giving away more than I wanted because he asks, “Are you angry?” I recover quickly.

“Just that chickenshit Al was hiding out somewhere instead of helping me with the damn dress designers,” I say with a half-scowl/half-smirk. “Any photo ops?”

“Not that I know of,” he says, his voice still unsure. “There were no photographers in the courtroom, which I found really strange. I don’t think anyone caught me leaving, but those bastards are so covert lately…” He shakes his head and I nod before I bring him down to me for another soft kiss.

“What time will you be home?” I ask.

“The usual… I think.” He is still clearly bemused, but he probably needs time to formulate his next course of action.

“Okay. I’ll see you in a few hours, then,” I say, releasing his hair and turning to leave. He grabs my hand and snatches me back into his arms, causing me to gasp. He holds me possessively against his body and plants a deep, probing kiss on my lips. I thrust my fingers back into his hair again and sink into the kiss, feeling a flush of warmth rush through me as he nearly lifts me off the ground, my stilettos barely brushing the floor. He pulls his mouth back from mine just enough for me to feel his breath.

“I know what you just did,” he says, his lips brushing mine.

“It wasn’t… an argument worth… having,” I say breathlessly, just above a whisper. “We’ll work it out.”

“Yes… we will,” he says, kissing me gently on the lips again. “I should have told you. I’ll tell you more when I get home.” His breath is intoxicating. I don’t know if I’ll be able to stand when he releases me. Oh, God…

“Okay…” I breathe. He brushes my lips again.

“I love you, Butterfly,” he whispers, a deep yearning in his voice.

“I love you, too, Baby,” I reply with equal yearning before he plants another passionate kiss on my lips.


My legs are a bit wobbly when I leave Christian’s office. Andrea alerts me to the smeared lipstick which I am glad that I touched up before leaving as Chuck and I have to dodge the paparazzi the moment we exit the building. This will be my life from now on, I think to myself. Normally, I don’t mind talking to them so much, but not this time… not about this situation.

I still shudder thinking about watching that woman aim that gun and fire at the man that I love. I hope that they don’t expect me to ever claim that particular firearm. It can remain state’s evidence forever as far as I’m concerned. This means that I will have to find a new gun to replace my Beretta.

I’m having a bittersweet moment with this right now. I really liked the Beretta as my in-between gun. It was light and easy to handle with just enough intimidation power to make someone get the fuck away from me. However, that bitch had her claws on it. She almost killed my fiancé and did injure one of our closest friends with it. I never want to see that thing again.

In between all the wedding planning, I have to fit in a trip to the West Coast Armory soon. That may not go over so well with Christian.

Sitting in the Audi with Chuck, I realize that I have absolutely nothing to do with my afternoon. I look down and examine my clothes. I don’t know why I have been leaning towards Jackie-O’s look, but today I’m wearing a cream chic jacket with ¾ length sleeves and a matching pencil skirt with simple pearl earrings and nude Louboutins pumps and handbag. This should work out nicely. I know Tammy would love to monopolize this free time, but I saw three dress designers today and I will see more tomorrow. I’ll go home a little later and handle wedding planning on my terms. In the meantime, there’s something that I should have done several weeks ago…

“Just act natural,” he says to me. “The outfit is perfect. I couldn’t have picked better myself. Whenever you’re ready.” I nod, and everything goes quiet. In a split second, I run through everything that brought me to this place—the beating, the mental cruelty, the rape, the neglect—I think of how many times I nearly lost myself; all of those days and nights that I spent crying alone as a teenager and as a young adult; the fact that so many decisions and events left me vulnerable and ripe for the picking for Edward. I had no one to talk to and I was struggling… dying… No matter how much of a façade I put on, I was still dying. A little every day. I came out of it okay for the most part, but even now, I’m all screwed up. I don’t know if I’ll ever be completely whole in my life, or even if I ever was before. All I know is that I have to keep trying. That’s all that I can do. That’s all that anyone can do, but a little help along the way never hurt. I straighten my back, look straight ahead, and say the words.

“I am the face of abuse.”

The room is silent for several more moments before Saul yells, “Cut!” A flurry of activity ensues and Saul walks over to me.

“Ana… what were you thinking just then?” I look up at him and shake my head.

“I guess I just had a flashback—a quick flashback of all the things that happened to me that I consider abuse. It’s… sobering,” I say dropping my head. He puts his hands on my arms.

“It was written all over your face,” he says softly. “It was perfect. We’re ready to print.” He gives me a warm smile. “Give my regards to Christian,” he says before squeezing my arms again and heading off into parts unknown. I had been holding up the PSA, so I had to get my part done so that they could continue. I pick up my purse and head for the door.


I head back to the guest room and my checklist of things that need to be done. The very first thing on the list that should have been done by now is to choose a photography. Because our details have to be discreet, I decide to call on the one person that I am acquainted with that I know can take pictures and who owes me one.

Joshua Shaler,” he answers.

“Joshua, this is Anastasia Steele.” The line is quiet.

No, it’s not. Is this some kind of joke?” he says.

“No, this is really Ana Steele,” I repeat.

Prove it,” he says. I think for a moment. We only spent a few minutes together in St. Maarten. What would he remember?

“Okay. When I gave you the money shot in St. Maarten, I told you that my boyfriend would have you neck and career on a platter if you crossed him but that you should be more concerned about me.” There was another pause on the line.

Wow. Well… to what do I owe this honor?” he says, immediately contrite.

“I told you that I would be watching you, and I have,” I say to him. “I see you’ve come a long way since that moment in St. Maarten.”

I sure have, thanks to you. So many opportunities have opened for me and I’ve done quite a bit of traveling as well. I’ve made quite a name for myself in the last few months. I don’t know how to thank you,” he gushes.

“Well, your information helped us sniff out a very dangerous mole in Christian’s company, so I’d say that you were very beneficial to us as well,” I tell him.

That makes me very happy, Ana,” he says with sincerity. “I hear that congratulations are in order.”

“Yes, they certainly are, thank you. Mr. Grey has proposed and I have happily accepted. That’s one of the reasons why I’m calling you.”

Really? Why would you need me? The story has already broken. I’m just a photog…” He pauses and gasps. “No! You’re kidding me!”

“You’ve caught on,” I say with a smile. “I’d like to meet with you about doing some work for us. It will be extensive and tedious and you will meet with me, Mr. Grey, and our wedding planner. You will also have to sign a non-disclosure agreement and we dictate the use of the pictures.”

Tell me where you need me to be and when!” He’s so excited, he would leap through the phone line if he could.

“Is your schedule free this weekend?”

Saturday morning and Sunday after 1:00pm,” he informs me.

“Let’s do Sunday at three. I will text you with details of where we will meet once I talk to Christian.”

Excellent! I’ll be waiting, and thanks for thinking of me, Ana.” I can hear him beaming through the phone line.

“Okay. I’ll talk to you soon.” Great… one more thing done. Only 102 left to do.

In my brief moment of silence, I think about the small but huge thing that I did this afternoon.

I am the face of abuse.

My life comes rushing back at me at the speed of light, just like it did the moment I said those words. Abuse comes in many forms and has varying effects on many people. For me, the various forms that I suffered—mental, physical, and emotional—resulted in huge and nearly immovable trust issues, sporadic bad judgment, constant fear of loss, spontaneous crying spells, frequent loss of control, and constant and also frequent fight or flight responses. I’ve been seeing some sort of therapist for nine years, and my condition is only marginally better.

It’s not about simply being able to straighten up and fly right when something affects your life this tragically. The rape, I may have been able to survive. Hell, I hardly ever think of that anymore because it pales in comparison to what happened next. Something in me broke when I was so brutally beaten and forever scarred as a result of that rape. It never mended because of the neglect and the cruelty shown to me in the years after the attack. I was on the mend in Montesano, but the break never mended properly when was thrust back into the care of Carla and Stephen Morton.

I read a study once while I was in school about an experiment on the true results of affection on the human body. Several babies were split into two groups—babies… little people who had not yet been taught to love or hate, who couldn’t even understand words yet. Group A were cared for and cuddled, treated like little babies should be treated. Kind words were spoken to them and they were snuggled and kissed and rocked to sleep. Group B were fed, changed, cleaned and laid back in their cribs—no snuggling or cuddling, just cared for and put back to bed.

An astounding event occurred about four months into the experiment. Group A thrived and were meeting all immediate milestones. Group B were stymied and irritable almost from the very start and not long into the experiment, the babies began to die. One by one, the babies were found not breathing in their cribs and the experiment was ceased immediately. We never found out if this story was true or an urban legend, but they are still teaching it in college.

Out of all the tragic events that occurred in my life, I think the one that affected me the worst was the neglect from my mother and the corresponding mental cruelty from Stephen. I was under the impression all these years that it was the rape and the beating, but I was wrong.

You’ve got Ace,” he says on the other line.

“I couldn’t get away,” I say to him.

You can never get away,” he says after a long pause. I know he’s waiting for me to fill in the blank.

“It was killing me… but I couldn’t get away.” I weep. “It’s the worse feeling in the world… the worst! I was trapped… it was horrible…” My chest hurts at the thought of the nights that I cried and cried and cried, wanting to go to my father, wanting someone to love me and tell me that it was going to be okay—that I was going to be okay. I curled into a ball many times just trying to hold myself together. My own closeness was just enough to get me through another day. No one held me. No one showed me affection. No one comforted me.

Tell me more, Ana,” Ace says into the phone.

“I just… wanted the… pain to stop. I… just wanted… to be loved… I needed… someone to tell me… that this… wasn’t my fault…” I am quickly losing control. I have never faced this monster like this, and it’s scaring me. It’s scaring the shit out of me. The beating was bad. It was horrible, in fact—but the neglect and the mental cruelty was worse. All I wanted to do was run, to get away from how they treated me, and I couldn’t. I was trapped. When I finally saw my opportunity for escape, I ran as fast as I could and didn’t look back… but I took the pain with me and I never healed.

“What do I do? I’m scared!” I wail. The line goes silent for a moment and then Ace is back.

Tell me why you’re afraid. What are you afraid of?” he asks, his voice soothing.

“All of it! I don’t know… I can’t separate it…”

Try, Ana. Try to separate it for me. What’s the first thing you’re feeling?” I shake my head. I don’t know…

“Not good enough,” I say finally. “Never good enough,” I breathe.

Okay, that’s a start. That’s good… tell me more…” he gently coaxes.

“I tried,” I weep. “I was a good girl. I was a good girl. I did well in school and got good grades. I stayed out of trouble. I was a good girl…” Why did they hate me so much? What did I do that was so horrible? “She never hugged me… never! She never hugged me one time! She never even smiled at me! She barely looked at me! She was my mother, for God’s sake!” I’m screaming now.

Breathe, Ana. I need you to breathe,” I hear him say. Who can think about breathing at a time like this? “You know what happens if too much rushes in on you at once. Where are you right now?”

“Bed… bedroom…” I choke out.

So you’re home,” he says more as a statement than a question. I nod. “Ana, are you at home?” Oh. He can’t see me.

“Y… yes.” The line goes silent again and then he’s back.

Keep talking to me, Ana. Tell me more…”


I pull up to the address that Welch gave me earlier and ring the bell. It’s not far from my parents’ house so it was easy to find. I want to see this fucker face-to-face to deliver the news, just in case he doesn’t know.

He opens the door in the traditional black butler’s suit. This must be an older family as most people would just opt for the white top and black bottom that I have become accustomed to seeing. He sees me and begins to close the door in my face. I stop it with a push.

“You can let me in and hear this or I can stand outside on the lawn and scream it at the top of my lungs. I really don’t care which one,” I say. His eyes narrow as he looks at me but my glare and stance never change. He opts to let me in rather than to have his new employers hear what a bad boy he’s been. He leads me and Lawrence to what looks like a parlor off of the great room and closes the door.

“So, I’m sure that you’ve seen the news by now. Your presence makes me ill, so I’ll make this quick. Your little scam didn’t work and that sick trick that you were working with is behind bars. She tried to kill me and she shot my best friend and since she’s locked up with no hope of release anytime soon, that makes you Public Enemy #1. You think that you’ve had all the hell that you can take, but you clearly don’t know me as well as you thought you did. I know that you faked your own death and I know how. You should have stayed dead because you’re playing with the big boys now.”

“You don’t scare me, Grey,” he says unshaken.

“Oh, that’s good,” I say, equally impassive, “because maybe then you’ll make a slightly more formidable opponent. Legally… or illegally… you‘re going down. Watch your back, because I’m coming for you, and feel privileged that I had the courtesy to warn you first. Until we meet again, Mr. Myrick.” I turn to leave and remember the paper in my pocket. “Oh, and uh, nice try.” I throw the DNA test at him, then open the door and proceed to leave the room.

“This is a lie! I don’t believe you!” he yells after he examines the results. His voice echoes through great room and I am certain that someone will be coming soon to investigate the commotion.

“I don’t care if you don’t believe me, Robin!” I say turning around on my heels. “What’s most important here is that don’t believe you!” That little piece of paper has planted the seed of doubt in his mind. What other lies has Daddy told you, Myrick? I glare at him for a few more moments then turn around and successfully make it to the exit without interruption this time.

He has another accomplice, of this I am sure. The woman who broke into Ana’s apartment was not Lincoln. Whether she is a friend of his or someone else out to get me… or Ana… I don’t know, but this part of the tale is not over and I plan to be ready for the next round of battle.

We are on the I-90 bridge from Mercer Island when my blackberry rings. I don’t recognize the number.


Mr. Grey, this is Amber Avery. My husband is Lordis Avery.” Avery… oh, Avery.

“Yes, Mrs. Avery. What can I do for you?”

We were on our way home from the office when Lordis received a call from Ana. We’re on our way to your apartment now. Wherever you are, you may want to alert someone that we are coming and you might want to get there as fast as you can. Ana appears to be having a breakdown and she sounds like she’s alone.” That’s because she is alone! Fuck, not again. What happened to trigger this one… and why did she call Avery and not me?

“Step on it!” I tell Lawrence. “I’m probably about five minutes away. How far are you?”

We are just about outside your door right now,” she replies.

“I’ll be there shortly.”

Moments later, I am punching in the code to the elevator and I and the Averys are on our way up to the penthouse.

“It’s okay to feel that way, Ana,” Avery says into his phone. “It’s actually very healthy that you finally understand that. I know it’s difficult…” Come on, come on, I will the elevator to move faster. The doors barely crack when I squeeze through and burst into the apartment.

“Where is she?” I ask.

“Bedroom,” Mrs. Avery answers. I lead them to our bedroom, but there’s no Butterfly. I momentarily panic until I remember the wedding planning. I brush past the Averys and up the stairs to the guest room. The door is locked. Now I really am panic-stricken.

“Open the door, Ana. We’re in the hallway,” Avery says. A few moments pass and I hear the lock turning. The door opens to reveal a very disheveled Butterfly. Her eyes grow large when she sees me.

“Christian!” she exclaims as she launches herself into my arms, dropping her phone and weeping. I cling to her, holding her close to me and stroking her hair.

Sssshhh, it’s okay, Baby,” I soothe. “I’ve got you. I’m here…”

It took a while but we were finally able to calm Butterfly down. We’re sitting in the great room around the fire with the Averys and she is having an impromptu session. I offered to leave, but she insists that I should be present—something that she never did when she had sessions with Maxine. Hell, it took forever for me to even realize that Maxine was her therapist. Butterfly is sipping on a large mug of gourmet organic Cafe Moka—a new favorite of hers—and she has calmed considerably since I got home.

“I guess it was there all along but I couldn’t see it because of the rage,” she says of her feelings for her mother. “Even now, it’s hard to admit. It hurts so much. I really feel kind of stupid because there are people suffering from real abuse and I’m falling apart over this…”

“That’s the kind of thinking that got you here in the first place, Ana,” Avery says. “The abuse that you suffered is no different from the physical abuse of another. I have patients that have nightmares and flashbacks over the things that have been said to them during the course of their lives. I have one woman who has to actively force herself to stop thinking of the cruel things that were said to her throughout her lifetime just so that she can function from day to day. She relives those scenes like they are playing on a movie screen in front of her—and they just pop up out of nowhere. What makes you think that your suffering is any less relevant that anyone else’s?”

“It’s just that bigger fish to fry thing. I just feel like I should be dealing with things better, but when they present themselves, I just can’t. I fall apart on the inside and I just… can’t deal.”

“Well, we’ve made some huge progress,” Avery adds. “We’ve pinpointed the shrinking thing and where it comes from. You are going to consciously have to work on that, but knowing where it comes from allows us to be able to find some more productive coping techniques.” He leans back in the seat and crosses his ankle over his knee. “Now about the running…” Butterfly sighs heavily at this statement.

“I don’t know what to do about that, Ace,” she replies. “I don’t plan to do it. I can’t say that it just happens, either, because I know that’s not true.”

“Tell me what happens when you run,” he says. I want to hear this, too. Maybe I can better predict it if I see it coming.

“It’s hard to say. I don’t… really know when it’s going to happen…” She’s clutching her mug and I sit closer too her, putting my arm around her to calm her a bit.

“Okay, let’s try this another way,” he says, leaning forward. “What happened this time? What made you run to Montana? I’m not asking about what happened between you and Christian. I’m asking about what you were thinking and feeling that led up to you getting in a car and driving away from your life.”

Butterfly closes her eyes. I’m sure that this is very hard for her to think about right now. She opens her eyes and looks at me.

“Hold this, please,” she says, handing me her mug. I take her mug from her hands and she stands up. Why did she ask me to hold the mug? She could have put it on the end table. She walks over to the fireplace and gazes at the fire for several moments.

“Ana?” Avery says as if reminding her that she’s not in the room alone. She closes her eyes again.

“Lost,” is the first word she said. “I felt like I was lost and alone and suffocating. I felt small and insignificant and getting smaller by the second. It’s like I was trapped in a personal hell and I couldn’t get out. I couldn’t think. Chuck tried to talk to me, but I couldn’t talk. Talking about it burned me… I mean literally burnedlike boils all over my skin. I knew everyone would want to talk about it… and talk and talk and talk…” I watch Avery’s expression carefully. He is, of course, analyzing everything that Butterfly is saying.

Hurt is the last thing I was feeling. It was there, but it was being smothered by all these other things—hopelessness, anguish, fear, total distress, suffocation… and the burning… oh God, the burning…” She rubs her arms as if to warm herself—or stop the pain. I move to stand and go over to her, but Avery’s hand flies up to halt me. I feel a flash of anger that quickly turns to understanding. She needs to get to the bottom of this. Her hand moves to her forehead and her breath quickens. “I need to leave,” she says as she bolts for the door.

“Ana, no!” Avery is out of his seat in a second and throws a look at me. I initially run to Ana to stop her, but he’s there before me. He holding her arms and looking into her eyes. He’s holding my woman…

Breathe, Grey, breathe…

She’s looking up at him like a scared rabbit, begging him to let her go…

Breathe, Grey. He’s trying to help her…

He’s talking to her in a soothing voice, but she’s still shaking…

Calm, Grey… 10… 9… 8… 7… 6… 5…

“What are you feeling right now, Ana? Right at this moment?” he asks her. She is breathing heavily and tears are flowing down her face. She wants to run and he’s trying to stop her. I do the only thing that I can right now. I proceed to the door and stand in front of it. If she wants to run, she’ll have to get past me.

“I just… need some air…” she says, panting.

“Then breathe… slowly…” he says. She’s squirming.

“Please let me go… I can’t stand it!” she cries.

“Ana, listen to me!” his voice is more forceful now. “I know how hard this is for you. So I will let you go, but you are not leaving this apartment. Do you understand?”

“Please, just let me go!” she wails.

“Ana, answer me!” he says giving her a little shake. I damn-near dig my nails into the door to keep from thrashing him. “You are not leaving this apartment. Do you understand?” Her eyes shoot up to him, a mixture of fear and anger. He’s so close to her that he looks like he’s about to kiss her.

“Christian…?” I hear her whimper and I leave my post.

“Don’t!” Avery says, throwing a look over his shoulder at me. Now I’m pissed. How the hell is he going to tell me not to go to my woman?

“Avery…” I say in a warning tone, but he ignores me and turns back to Butterfly.

“What are you feeling, Ana?” he says again, his voice controlled but still authoritative.

“I… I…” she stutters. “I can’t breathe,” she says softly. “I… I want my mommy…” she keens.

She wants her mommy?

“Keep going,” Avery coaches.

“I…” she’s panting again. “She’s not here,” she weeps, looking to Avery for answers. “She doesn’t care… and I hurt so much… so much…” she drops her head on his chest and starts to weep. He looks over at his wife and she nods. His arms move around Butterfly and I feel the air being sucked out of the room.

I recognize that you silently asked your wife for permission to hold my woman but you didn’t ask me! Breathe, Grey

“Listen to me, Ana,” he says pulling her away from his body so he can see her face. “Mommy is not coming.” She closes her eyes and nods.

“I know,” she says, tearfully. “She never comes, not once. Not ever! I have to get out because I can’t stand to be here without her…” What? What is she saying? “Every time I come back, she’s never here… and it’s hell! She’s never here so I leave again! Nobody wants me… I’m worthless and useless and no one will ever love me…”

“No…” I can’t believe what I’m hearing. “No!” I pull to her like a rubber band stretched to its limits and released. I snatch her from Avery’s arms. I hear him saying something—protesting, I think, but I don’t care. “No, Anastasia, that’s not true!” I say, shaking her and willing her to believe me. She looks at me like she doesn’t know who I am. “love you! love you, Anastasia! You are not worthless! You mean the world to me! You’re everything to me!” I hear desperation in my voice. My heart is beating so hard I feel like it’s going to leap out of my chest and bounce around on the floor a few times. “I love you, Anastasia. I love you very much.” She stops her crying and looks at me incredulously.

“You love me?” she asks, her voice childlike. I gently touch her cheek and wipe her tears away with my thumb.

“Yes,” I say softly. “I love you. You are wonderful, and beautiful, and very special, and I love you with my whole heart.” I still see flight in her eyes but the fear is subsiding.

“Why?” she asks, her voice still childlike, “I’m nobody. I’m nothing. I’m poor and no one wants me…” I try not to frown but I look over at Avery for help. I can see him trying to relay something to me, but I don’t know what, so I have to wing it here. I look back at Butterfly.

“You are smart and beautiful, and you are rich in here,” I gently kiss her forehead, “and in here.” I softly point to her chest. “That’s what counts. All the money in the world means nothing if you are poor inside. Anastasia, you are one of the richest people that I know, and I want you. I need you. I will love you enough for the whole world. Believe me, you are my everything.” I hold her close to me and put my forehead on hers, closing my eyes. “You are my beautiful, beautiful girl and my heart needs you to survive. Please don’t leave me.” It takes a few moments, but her body relaxes.

“You need me,” she says softly.

“Yes,” I breathe. “I need you very much.”

“You love me…” her voice sounds unsure.

“I can’t live without you. I love you with everything that I am. Please believe me.” Her body falls into mine and I hold her close. She believes me. I don’t know where she is right now, but she believes me. Thank God.


“Do you always pick her up like that when she cries?” Avery asks. We are sipping coffee while Amber puts Ana to bed. After her breakthrough and breakdown, I had carried her to our bedroom.

“Sometimes… not always. Why?”

“It’s a good thing and a bad thing. She needs that support sometimes, especially when she feels like she can’t hold herself up—like today. Other times, she’s going to have to learn to stand on her own two feet or she’ll never stop running away.” I don’t know how much obliging I can do for the good doctor. When I see her fall, I want to catch her. I don’t know when not to catch her. “It’s a delicate balance, I know, and you are a natural protector; but this is necessary for her development. So you are going to have to figure it out.”

Yeah, Doc. Whatever…

“Every time she wants to run, she goes back to feeling like she did when her mother rejected her,” he continues. “Every child loves their mother, whether they admit it or not. She wanted… needed her mother and she was not there for her. So she left the house and went to school. When she didn’t want to go home, she went to work. When she was forced to go home, she curled up small in her bed and held herself together to get through the hours of being in a place where no one loved her and she was nothing and she was worthless and useless. She heard it all the time and her mother never did anything to stop it or dispel it.

“She was already a troubled, insecure girl dealing with the aftermath of a devastating event, and nobody bothered to try to pull her back together again. I am amazed—and I mean completely amazed and bewildered—that she is not suffering from depression, bipolar disorder, or drug addiction. She has beaten all the odds, went contrary to all the statistics and predictions, except one. She can’t get past the fact that her mother deserted her. Whenever something bad happens that she can’t handle, one way or another, she ends up back in Green Valley.”

“That’s why she keeps running,” I say and he nods. “So how do we stop it?” He sighs heavily.

“That’s the hard part. The good thing is that we know what triggers the flight response. The hard part is going to be developing some coping techniques to keep her from running. That’s going to be an uphill battle since this has been her defense mechanism for over 10 years. It’s going to be rough deprogramming her.”

“Why didn’t her previous therapist see this? She had been treating Ana for years.”

“Don’t blame her,” Avery says. “She was way too close to the situation. She never would have seen it.” I have my own reasons for calling “bullshit” on that analysis, but I’ll just keep it to myself. “You called me Avery,” he adds. I look at him impassively.

“Yes,” I reply.

“You can call me Dr. Avery or Ace, but don’t call me Avery. I won’t answer to it and as a man of power and authority, I’m sure I don’t have to tell you why.” He looks me square in the eye and awaits my answer. I respect him for that, and for calling me on my tactic—not that I singled him out, of course. I do that to everyone.

“Understood,” I say. “We are not familiar enough for Ace, so I will go with Dr. Avery for now.”

A/N: The story about the babies and touch—I did find various versions of this story in my research. It included stories from overcrowded orphanages, a version about a monkey being separated from its mother, and the actual experiment being conducted in Russia. That fact that the information varies is enough for me to notate that here. However, I did first learn this story from one of my college professors which is why I chose to have Ana learn it from one of hers.

Pictures of places, cars, fashion, etc. can be found at

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

Love and Handcuffs!
Lynn x

Paging Dr. Steele: Not Really A Chapter

This was the “chapter” that I wrote announcing my exit from that site that shall remain unnamed, henceforth referred to as “*****”. Eventually, I did decide to leave my story up because I’m still gaining readers, so it’ll stay there until I decide to take it down. I had originally only written the announcement part. Then, some Bitchy McBitchBitch wrote me a review telling me that she was reporting me because it wasn’t a chapter. I shocked her with my creative skills by coming up with this five minutes after I read her review:

We’re Moving…

“Christian! You have to come and see this! You’re not going to believe it!”

“What is it, Butterfly?” Christian looks over Ana’s shoulder at her iPad to see what she’s reading.

“Apparently, Bronze Goddess is leaving *****. She’s taking our story to a completely different forum!” Ana says bemused. Christian frowns.

“Why would she do something like that!? She’s been with ***** for over a year! She’s one of the only people that I’ve seen who’s not afraid to speak her mind when people are disrespectful. Why has she all of a sudden decided to leave?”

“Well, she has a notice right here that says apparently, the petty bullshit and childishness have just become too much for her. She has had to deal with name calling, insults, personal attacks, racial slurs, you name it—and people think that she should just shut up and take it,” Ana says, reading some of Bronze Goddess’s previous zingers and author’s notes.

“Well, that’s just bullshit!” Christian says. “Maybe those fuckers should try to churn out chapter after chapter of something—anything—and let people be disrespectful and talk shit to them since they think it’s okay.” Ana shakes her head.

“I know, right? I mean, who in their right mind would just sit around and allow themselves to be subjected to this kind of thing? Listen to this.” Ana begins to read Bronze Goddess’s most recent author’s note:

NOTICE! NOTICE! NOTICE! YOU ALL WANT TO READ THIS! I will most likely be taking my stories off of ***** soon. I’m mainly doing this because I am trying to publish the rewrites and you can only leave the story up for so long anyway once you decide to take that route, but also because I see a lot of pettiness on ***** and I’m having a hard time tolerating it anymore. Some of you know this and some of you may not, but I’m nobody’s youngster. I don’t have time for petty, childish bullshit—I’m very serious about my stories.

I have been on ***** for over a year. I have seen reviewers saying things to the authors and those authors end up quitting writing. Surprise! My skin is thicker than that and I am not going to quit—you can forget about that shit. However, I see people saying things to me in my reviews and to fellow authors that is horrible and personal. I had someone in a review call me the N-word at least 10 times. ***** can’t do anything about that because they are guests, but you can go through and take someone’s story down because you think it’s too erotic or offensive. WTF? I saw a story about Christian and Phoebe having a sexual relationship that stayed up on ***** for a long time despite many complaints to take it down, yet I personally know of friends whose stories have been taken down for being too explicit! Seriously!?

So here’s the deal. If you are already on my mailing list, you know where my stories are going. If you want to know where my stories are going, you better get on my mailing list, because if one of my stories gets removed from *****, they are all gone; and if I just get too damn tired of dealing with the kiddie bullshit, then I’m gone anyway. I am moving them as we speak. I have amassed a fairly large following on ***** and I really hope that you all continue to follow my stories when I move them, but if you don’t, that’s fine, too. I really hate to see you go. Once again, if you would like to join my mailing list, do it now! My email is on my profile page, but here it is again: If you PM me your email address, please send it in this format. Otherwise, the PM will erase it.

Love and handcuffs,
Lynn x

Now it’s Christian’s turn to shake his head. “That’s so ridiculous. It’s a shame that people can’t just be left alone to write our story. There are so many versions of it out there, if you don’t like one, you can surely click a button and one hundred others appear. What’s the problem with just walking away?” he asks.

“Well, apparently, since the trolls have decided that they’re going to stick around, that’s exactly what Bronze Goddess has decided she’s going to do… walk away, and she’s taking us with her. So, where do you think we’re going?”

Christian looks over her shoulder and says, “It says that you have to send her an email and get on her mailing list and she’ll tell you.”

“Should we send one? I mean, we’re going, so we’ll find out soon enough,” Ana says. Christian shrugs.

“Yeah, send one. See what happens,” he responds. Ana quickly types out a short request and sends it to Bronze Goddess. Not three minutes has passed and she gets a response.

“What does it say?” Christian asks.

“It says, ‘Ana, is this really you or is this a joke?'” Christian laughs loudly.

“Type in the password to her email so that she will know it’s really you.”

“Which email?” Ana asks.

“Any one of them! Who has her email passwords?” Ana nods.

“Good point.” Ana types her response along with Bronze Goddess’s email password. Another response shows up almost immediately.

“What does that one say?”

“It says, ‘You’re lucky I responded. I’ve got hundreds of requests and your name popped up while I was working on them. So, I answered. You’ll be at the new locale very shortly, but since you are curious, here’s the link.” Ana clicks the link.

“Wow! Not bad! Nicer than the old digs,” Christian says.

“So… Should we pack?” Ana asks.

“Nah. It looks like the new version of us in Mending Dr. Steele is already over there. The old us just has to catch up.”

“Well, from what it looks like, it won’t be long. Ever since she announced her departure, they’re getting jabs in on her like crazy—horrid guest reviews, reporting her story. I guess it’s a good thing she decided to leave, but it looks like all of her followers are coming with her anyway. Look at these numbers.” Christian leans over Ana’s shoulder to see what she’s talking about.

“Damn! All of that in two days!?” Christian says, aghast.

“Actually, it’s just been over 24 hours.” Ana corrects him.

“Well, shit, what does she still need ***** for? Let the ones that like her follow her and the ones that don’t can stay their asses behind!” Christian exclaims.

“I think she got that point, Christian,” Ana says with a smile.

See you at the new address. 😉

(… Well, we’re actually already here now…)