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 63—Getting Back To Normal…Well, Almost
Please say that it wasn’t PR. Please say that it wasn’t PR. Please say that it wasn’t PR.
“Who is it?” I ask, waiting for the pendulum to fall.
“Francesca Meyers. She’s been with the company for three years.”
“What department?” Jason pauses. He knows that I wasn’t going to like the answer.
“Public relations, Sir,” he says.
“Ha! I was right!” she exclaims. I’ll never live this down.
“You were lucky this time, Butterfly,” I tell her. “These people will tell you whatever you want to hear to get their story. Just like he happened to tell you the truth this time, he could have been feeding you a lie.”
“You’re right, and I know that, but every so often… maybe once in a blue moon… you need to trust me, Christian. Your girlfriend is not an airhead. I don’t blindly follow or believe people for no good reason. I’m a very good judge of character—especially since I slipped and tripped and fell on my face with Edward David. Look at you and me. When I first met you, I thought you were an asshole… and I was right,” she says, sticking her tongue out at me. Oh, I’m going to make her pay for that.
“Put that thing away. I can’t play right now,” I deadpan and she gasps. That’s what I was going for. I smile to myself and turn to Jason. “Who hired her and how do we know it’s her?”
“I would suggest that we wait until we land and we can get this information directly from Alex. I wouldn’t trust the connection to the in-flight WI-fi, Sir.”
“How much longer until we land?” Yes, I have lost track of time while I was lost in my Butterfly.
“I’ll check with Lance, but I would say that we’ve got about another two hours in the air,” Jason responds. “We’re not due back in Seattle until about 6pm Pacific.” He must have known what I was thinking. I was ready to bring the whole of PR, HR, security, and IT in the moment we land to get to the bottom of this. I don’t know if she’s just been feeding personal details to certain people and the press or if she’s been leaking proprietary information. After a moment, Jason confirms that we do indeed still have two more hours in the air. I lean in to Ana.
“That gives you time to wash your undies and we will find a way to dry them. If a good wind catches that dress, the press will have more than a sound bite,” I say to her. She’s looking at me like the cat that caught the canary and I know exactly why. “And wipe that smug look off your face. Like I said, you got lucky this time,” I add. Her smirk falls quickly and I immediately knew that I had stepped in it again.
“Like hell I was lucky!” she snaps. “I was smart. I got publicity as a good, down-to-earth person and I helped you locate your mole. By the way, you’re welcome.” She stands up and walks towards the bedroom and as she clears the door, I hear her mumble “disagreeable asshole.” I roll my eyes and look back to Jason.
“Send Welch an email that I’m going to be calling him as soon as we are on the ground. I am going to want a full briefing with as much information as he knows. Tell him to liaise with McIntyre who I expect to speak with when I land as well. I want nobody outside of this plane and those two to know what’s going on here. I need to keep this as tight as possible.” Jason nods and starts tapping on his phone. I need to go in here and try to smooth things over with Butterfly… again.
I walk into the bedroom and close the door behind me. She is in the en suite trying to wash her panties. “I’m told that there is a tool that I can have installed that will surgically remove my foot from my mouth. I’m thinking of investing in one.” It doesn’t have the desired effect. She pauses washing he underwear for a moment but never smiles… she only sighs.
“Are you accustomed to dealing with women who don’t know how to do anything for themselves?” she asks, flatly. I don’t know how to answer that question.
“As a submissive, they weren’t required to do anything for themselves besides stay fit and beautiful and always be prepared. Most of them didn’t have jobs because they were kept, for the most part. They were only required to obey and keep their mouths shut,” I respond honestly. She throws her underwear in the sink.
“Do you realize that’s how you’re treating me?” she says with no malice. My brow furrows.
“No, I would never treat you that way, Butterfly…” I begin.
‘But you are, Christian. I couldn’t possibly have been right about Joshua Shaler, even though he did exactly what I said he would and his Intel was good. You don’t snap and bark at me because you are being disrespectful—you do it because it’s all you know. You’re not accustomed to your women being free thinkers or exercising free will in front of you in any way whatsoever. It’s been ‘yes Sir,’ ‘no Sir,’ ‘please spank me, Sir,’ ‘thank you, Sir,’ and any bit of strength, intelligence, or displeasure is frowned upon as defiance. And before you ask me, yes—I am shrinking you. I’m shrinking you for myself so that I can figure out who it is that I’ve fallen in love with and how I’m going to cope with the way he thinks!”
She picks up her underwear again and I can hear the sniffle in her voice. I squeeze into the bathroom with her and take her in my arms. “Oh God, please don’t cry again,” I say holding her head against my chest and trying to stop the angry tears before they start. “You’re right, and I’m not just saying that. I have no idea how to deal with a woman who thinks for herself. I’ve been the Dom, the protector, the decision-maker all these years. I didn’t even know half of those women really besides how much pain they could take and what to do to make them come. I never talked to them and I wasn’t interested in what was going on in their lives beyond the background check. I know it’s a strange and impossible thing to ask someone to not be mad at you for being an asshole, but I have to ask you not to be mad at me for being an asshole.” She looks up at me like I just grew three heads.
“This is my first time at the dance, Butterfly. I’m trying, but I don’t know what I’m doing. I know that you are a very intelligent, capable, strong woman. I’ve seen it and I know it, but most of the time when I see you, all I see is my beautiful, fragile Butterfly—the woman who was raped by a rich bastard, brutalized by a valley of snobs, ostracized by her mother, kidnapped by two psychopaths… I’m sorry, but all I want to do it defend and protect you when I think of all that.”
“You forgot something, Christian,” she says looking up at me. “You should also see the woman who survived all of that, the woman who came through that without being mad at the world, the woman who became a doctor and is now helping other people with their problems and issues. You don’t give me enough credit because you are holding me to the same standard of these other women you have been with, and I’m nothing like them—not even close. Christian, you’ve got to understand that or…” She drops her head and doesn’t finish the sentence.
“Ana?” My voice betrays every bit of uncertainty that I feel. “Baby?” She still won’t answer me or look at me. She sighs and wrings the water out of her underwear before hanging them to dry. “Ana, are you trying to tell me that we can’t be together?”
“Not if you keep treating me like a sub, Christian. I can’t be like that. I have my own mind and with only a couple of exceptions, I normally make good decisions. I didn’t suddenly become damsel Ana because I fell in love with you. You have to understand that. You have to,” she says.
“I do understand that, Ana, but I need you to understand something as well. I didn’t suddenly stop being Dom Christian because I fell in love with you. I’ve made a lot of changes and I’m still making changes. I need you to help me, but I need you to meet me halfway, because I’m going to make a whole lot of bonehead moves and say a whole lot of insensitive things while I’m trying to figure this out, but I don’t want to lose you.” She looks at me for a moment then rolls her eyes and shakes her head.
“This is what I get for falling in love with a damn Dom,” she says before putting her arms around my waist and laying her head on my chest. I breathe a huge sigh of relief as I enclose her in my arms.
“I guess so, Butterfly… I guess so” I squeeze her hard and kiss her hair. “We’re bumping heads pretty hard today. Could we be making up for the weekend?” She pulls back to look up at me.
“What do you mean?” she asks bemused.
“I adore you, Butterfly, be we haven’t had one drama-free weekend since we have been together.” She twists her lips at me.
“Oh that is simply not true!” she exclaims.
“I hate to break it to you, but it is very true. Our first weekend together, you were screaming at David in your apartment and I had to kick him out. Then he accosted you in the Marketplace and nearly lost his ability to procreate… which wouldn’t be a bad thing, but I digress. The very next day, you mooned the Pedophile before providing very comical entertainment for me and my head of security.” I raised an eyebrow at her. “Let’s see, what happened the next weekend?” I’m trying to remember what drama occurred in the saga of Christian and Ana that weekend.
“That was the week of the dinner party,” she said, “of the Bethany incident and the meeting at your parents’ house…”
“Oh, good God, how could I forget that? That was an absolute nightmare.” I shake my head. “The next weekend, I end up in the hospital for being an idiot…”
“…And the next weekend, I end up in the hospital because I was kidnapped by an idiot.” We both get quiet for a moment and I shudder at the thought. If any one thing had have gone differently that weekend, I could have lost my woman… any one thing.
“The next weekend, I had to grovel to Gail and Jason for being an idiot again…”
“…And then that disastrous playtime session,” she said finishing my thought.
“I deliberately set our flight for Monday. This is the first weekend that we have been together where absolutely nothing went wrong. I honestly didn’t want to fly on a Sunday for fear that the plane would just drop out of the sky.” We both laugh nervously at that statement, since we’re not on the ground yet.
“What about the Chuck situation?” she asks.
“What about it?”
“You had words with him yesterday,” she says.
“Oh, I have words with people every day. That doesn’t count. He didn’t get fired.” I wave it off. After a short silence, she says, “Those are not going to dry in time.”
“Yes, they will. Don’t worry. You need to eat. Do you want to rest in here and I’ll have Samantha bring you something?” she nods.
“Yes, please. I’m exhausted and starving.” She walks past me and into the bedroom. I take her wet underwear and head out to get her something to eat.
Getting to the Audis once the planes had landed was easy. Getting into Escala was another story. We couldn’t even get out of the cars. I had to call the manager and threaten to sue the building of my residence if they didn’t do something about the people who wouldn’t let me into my own building. It turns out that, as Escala is private property, those in the parking garage, blocking the cars, blocking the elevators and anyone in the lobby were trespassing. The threat of legal action quickly solved that problem, putting them a safe distance from Escala’s property and we were able to get inside.
“Whew! Home sweet home,” Ana sighed as we walked into the Great Room. It still warms my heart to hear her refer to Escala as home even though we haven’t made anything official yet. She lies on the sofa with her feet hanging off since she is still wearing her shoes. I sit at her feet and put them on my lap. I take off her shoes and massage her feet.
“Oh, that feels good.” She closes her eyes and puts her arms behind her head.
“We need to get quickly into the swing of things,” I tell her. “McIntyre and Welch will be calling to fill me in on the mole situation and devise our next course of action regarding her and our obvious ‘coming out party.'”
“Mmm. No worries. I have to go through some emails and let everyone know that I am home now.” She pulls out her phone and it has the cutest little jeweled case on it. “Damn, it’s dead. I have to charge it.”
“Where did you get the case?” I ask.
“At a little stand in St. Maarten. How did you get my panties dry so quickly?”
“I put them in the oven,” I deadpan.
“The oven?” she gasps.
“Yes, the oven. It was either that or the microwave,” I respond. She laughs embarrassed and covers her face.
“I’ll never be able to face Samantha again,” she whines.
“I didn’t say Samantha put them in the oven. I said I did.”
“Yeah, but she knew what you were doing,” she points out.
“Well, yeah… but desperate times call for desperate measures, Butterfly. Try not to worry about it. At least you didn’t have any Britney Spears beaver mishaps!”
“Yeah, you’re right. I know… but… damn!” She’s so cute when she’s flustered. I was just about to start working my way up her legs when Taylor, Davenport, Lawrence, and Williams enter with luggage and Gail is trailing behind them. I guess it will have to wait.
“Sir, Alex has just pulled into the garage. He’ll be up very shortly,” Jason says. I look at him bemused.
“I said to tell him that I would call,” I say. “What is he doing here? What did you say to him?”
“Exactly what you told me. I guess he has some things he wants to talk to you about in person. Do you want me to head him off?” He knows damn well I’m going to talk to Welch.
“Stop trying to be cute, Jason. It doesn’t fit you,” I say, giving Butterfly’s feet one more squeeze. “I guess I better take care of this,” I say putting Butterfly’s feet on the floor.
“Okay, I’ll go upstairs and start working through what my week should look like when I get back to work.” She sits up and after she gives me a peck on the lips, rises up the stairs to her office. Welch enters the great room and I gesture him towards my study.
“How was your trip, Sir? You’re looking well.”
“Thank you, Welch. It was very good. Now what brings you here? I told you that I would call you.” I sit at my desk while Welch takes one of the chairs.
“Does this picture look familiar to you, Sir?” He pulls out a picture of a pale brunette girl. Very pretty but she’s not ringing any bells. Was she a sub? I would remember that.
“No, she doesn’t look familiar to me at all. Should I know her?” I ask.
“I’m not sure. How about this one?” He now shows me a picture of a redhead—flaxen red hair to be exact, almost orange—wearing a little too much make-up, but definitely the same girl.
“Why should I know her, Welch?” I ask. Get to the damn point, Man.
“Because she was fast-tracked through the hiring system three years ago—four days from application to job offer. This is Francesca Meyers,” he responds.
“Fast-tracked by whom?”
“You, Sir.” Me!? That’s preposterous! I don’t fast-track anybody through the hiring system, and even if I considered, it would be at an affiliate somewhere—certainly not at GEH headquarters and definitely not in PR.
“You and I both know that I don’t fast-track anybody through my company. Everyone has to undergo a background check and sign an NDA, and that eliminates the fast-track.”
“Well, there’s a small problem with that,” Welch begins. “There is a background check in her file, but I didn’t perform it.” What the hell?
“What do you mean? How did she get hired if you didn’t perform the background check?” I yell.
“Sir, all signs make it appear that you pushed her through. Her resume appears in the Human Resources database during a candidate search for PR. There’s a background check attached to it and indications that she had already passed the pre-screening process. Everything was done under your log-in, Sir, from your home computer.” Oh shit, this is worse than I thought.
“That’s impossible!” I bark. “I don’t take leave of my senses, Welch. I didn’t fast-track anybody through GEH. I’m not that careless or sloppy. Were we hacked?” Access to anyone’s log-in information is dangerous for my company. Access to mine is disastrous!
“No, Sir, there are no indications whatsoever. No suspicious activity has been going on from your account. We watch it carefully and we checked it after we discovered that she was the mole. Nothing is amiss.”
“You don’t consider this suspicious!?” I’m about to blow my top.
“Well, I do now, Mr. Grey,” he begins, “but let’s be honest. You’re a big, powerful man. You know a lot of people and this is your company. If it seems that you have put someone on the fast-track to be hired, who are we to question you?” He does have a point there.
“What does McIntyre have to say about all of this?” I ask perturbed.
“Nothing yet, Sir,” McIntyre says stepping into my study at just the right moment. “I’m a little out of the loop. All I know is that someone in my department who was hired before I was in charge has been discovered to be a spy of some kind.”
“Don’t you people listen to anything I say? I said I would call you. Now, what are you doing here?”
“Covering my ass, Sir.” Gotta love her honesty. “I went to talk to Welch to get an update on the matter. They told me that he was on his way over here, and here I am. My job description says at a moment’s notice, so here I am… at your service.” She does a half-bow. They know someone’s head is going to roll for this.
“Who approved her hiring?” I ask.
“Megan Jones—she left two years ago to be with her family and that’s when I took over.”
“Megan was a model employee for years, Sir,” Welch offered. “There is nothing to indicate that she knew Ms. Meyers was up to no good and even if there were, she is long gone, punching out babies and being a housewife… yes, I checked.” Well, so much for that.
“What about Meyers? Is she living inside of her salary means or does she look like she could be getting paid off by someone? Could she be leaking trade secrets or proprietary information?” I ask.
“Most of her tracks have just been along what you’re doing. I’m digging deeper into it to see if there is anything else that we may need to be concerned with, but for the most part, she just has the markings of a CTGG…” Welch trails off.
“CTGG?” I ask bemused. Welch clears his throat and looks at McIntyre who answers, “Christian Trevelyan Grey Groupie.”
“A groupie,” I repeat in disbelief. “A groupie? Someone has been leaking information to outside parties about my comings and goings—one of which was a security guard that I fired who clearly had a vendetta against me—and you’re seriously standing here telling me that she’s a groupie?” This is the first time that I ever seriously wanted to fire Welch. That’s when McIntyre gasped next to me. “What?” I snap.
“Bob Harris! The guy that kidnapped Ms. Steele…” she says horrified.
“Yeah…?” Out with it, Woman!
“She was dating him for a while last year!” Fucking what?
“Are you fucking kidding me?” I’m screaming now. I must be dreaming! This is a detailed and elaborate plan of bullshit since the moment it began and it’s all falling right on my head! “Do you have any idea how much of a cluster-fuck this has been? Would I have ever found this out if I hadn’t met my girlfriend?” Their silence is telling me that I probably wouldn’t have. “I pay insane money so that this type of shit doesn’t happen and it has happened repeatedly in the last month! The fucker got close enough to know my schedules. He’s been telling this little bitch and she’s been telling God only knows who since she is in the lucky position of being able to obtain that information as well, if not more. He’s precariously placed on the fucker that he is supposed to be watching to keep him from getting to my Butterfly and not only does he allow that bastard to get to her while he’s on duty, but after I fire his ass he teams up with the psycho and fucking kidnaps her with him… in broad fucking daylight… while another fucker was supposed to be watching them both! Now I find out that the person that is still feeding information to God knows who is still in my employ and who tells me? My girlfriend… and how does she find out? From the fucking paparazzi! Have I covered it? Is that just about everything?”
I am out of my chair and screaming at the top of my lungs now. I cannot believe that I have some of the best in the fields of their expertise working for me and they are all being “one-upped” by a 26-year-old psychologist.
“Mr. Grey, there’s no way that we could have connected any of these dots without the additional information that we have now.” McIntyre is clearly trying to save her—and probably Welch’s—ass. “Once Alex contacted me with the tip that the suspected mole was most likely in PR, I immediately started looking at the digital footprints of our employees. Still nothing seemed amiss because she was covering her tracks. Not to mention that she was the Golden Girl…”
“What the hell does that mean?” I snap.
“She was nicknamed the Golden Girl before I even got there,” McIntyre defended. “It was no secret that her application magically appeared on the system with your name attached to it. As far as PR was concerned, her shit smelled like flowers. She did her job, she didn’t cause any trouble, and she had very few minor violations. I even cautioned her about fraternizing with security because I just didn’t think it was wise. They did eventually stop seeing one another. There were no red flags to alert me or anyone else that there was a problem.”
“Well then how can you be sure that she’s the mole?” I bark.
“I worked my way backwards from those members of my staff that would have known about your vacation. She was not one of them. One of the staff members that was privy that information went on vacation as well, so their log-in information should not have been accessed in the last week. When I noticed that it has been, I had IT trace which station accessed that information. It was Meyers’ station. Surveillance proved that she was at the station at the time of access. I gave the information to Alex.” I look at Welch.
“I traced her digital footprints and there were just too many inconsistencies,” Welch picks up where McIntyre left off. “She was logging in from stations that weren’t her own. She even attempted to log in to Harris’ ID once. It had to be her because Harris had been fired and she most likely didn’t think we would work so fast to get him out of the system. We have no idea what she fed to Harris after he was terminated or why she was even still talking to him. Word was that their breakup was pretty messy.”
“I don’t think he’s the only one that was getting information from her, and I just want to know why the fuck all of you professionals couldn’t figure all of this shit out before.” I’m screaming again. “Why the hell wouldn’t PR be the first people who you would want to clear after security? They have the power to bring my fucking company to its knees!”
“With all due respect, Sir, PR is not your biggest concern after security. The next biggest concern would be IT because they have the power to shut you down. Then you want to be concerned about Research and Development because they are privy to proprietary information and trade secrets. Next, you want to cover legal—yes, legal—and finance, for obvious reasons…” Is he trying to be a smart ass right now?
“Do you really want to fuck with me right now, Welch?” I snap, inadvertently knocking half of the items on my desk onto the floor in a rage trying to get around the corner to this smarmy bastard who is trying to explain to me why his incompetent ass didn’t catch this bitch sooner. “Do you really think now is a good time to fuck with me?” I roar.
“Christian!” Her voice is like a bucket of water on my raging fury. I’m huffing heavily as I look up and see Butterfly standing in the doorway and Jason making his way into the office around her. Her eyes are sharp and her voice is sharper. “I’m sorry… I don’t mean to interrupt you while you’re handling your business, but you need to calm down. You’re going to have a stroke!” She implores. I am so pissed off that I can feel myself shaking.
I had intermittently been reading my emails while I was in Anguilla, so there’s not too much that I have to cover when I sit down at my computer. It’s late enough in the evening that I don’t want to bother Marilyn with issues about work, so I just send her an email that tells her we should touch base tomorrow to figure out how to best handle the rest of the week. I inform her of the paparazzi situation and let her know not to try to get into the office tomorrow if she drives by and they are clustered out there, but that she may have to come by here and brave them at Escala and that we should plan for business as usual by the end of the week if all goes well.
I plug in my phone to get a charge and just sent out a mass email to the Scooby gang that I was back in the States, that “food and libations” was definitely on for this weekend and that I would contact everyone once my phone was charged or tomorrow if it was too late. Since I now actually have more of a web presence than I did a week ago, I Google myself. I, again, found my sound bite to Joshua, Christian and Al’s live stream, pictures of Christian carrying me out of the hospital, and my first hate site. I knew it was coming—it couldn’t be avoided. I’ve snagged the most eligible bachelor on the west coast… probably in America. Somebody has to be pissed.
The site has all the truth about Anastasia “Steal” and how she managed to capture Christian Grey. It’s filled with ludicrous claims about being a call girl and dropping out of high school with supposed facts verified by “those close to” me. I don’t mind haters, but crazy and blatant lies I won’t stand for. I’m going to ask Christian how we can go about getting the site taken down and maybe even make an example out of the owners to prevent this from happening again. Just as I finish the thought, I hear earthshaking screaming from downstairs.
What the hell is going on?
The last I checked, Christian was talking to Alex Welch. What the hell has happened? I open the door to my office and the yelling is in stereo now! This man is going to have a damn heart attack. I go flying down the stairs and I see a woman standing in the office with Christian and Welch. Who is she? Christian is out of his chair screaming something about my kidnapping while Welch and the woman are trying to explain something to him about one of his employees… probably the mole. Every time the conversation comes back to Christian, he’s screaming louder and louder. Welch is trying to tell him the order in which they clear the departments for suspicious activities and I have to admit, his tone is pretty damn smug. Holy hell, Welch, are you trying to light a powder keg under this man!?
“Do you really want to fuck with me right now, Welch? Do you really think now is a good time to fuck with me?”
Christian is clearly at DEFCON 1 and is about to go supernova.
“Christian!” I yell as I see various items fall from his desk. His eyes are piercing and he is about to charge. Jason has joined me in the doorway while all three sets of eyes inside of the office are set on me. “I’m sorry… I don’t mean to interrupt you while you’re handling your business, but you need to calm down. You’re going to have a stroke!” I insist. I’m trying to speak firmly but non-threatening. I swear I’m not stepping on your toes here, Grey, but you’re scaring the shit out of me and I truly am afraid that you are about to have a stroke. The fact that he is breathing heavily and his fists are clenched isn’t doing much to calm my concerns. Jason steps into the office and stands next to Welch. Christian closes his eyes and begins to count while I begin to make my way towards him. Jason reaches his hand out and gently grabs my arm. When I look up at him, he just silently shakes his head at me. What in the world happened that is causing Jason to be afraid that Christian would hurt me?
Welch is standing as well, defiantly glaring at Christian. Christian must have said something to piss him off, too. I wouldn’t be too cocky, Mr. Welch. My man does sign your paychecks and he looks like he’s about to lunge at you any second. I stay close to Jason as quietly instructed, still looking at Christian with concern. What has happened to upset him so badly?
He slowly opens his eyes to the room and they are so full of rage and fury that all I can see is “predator.” Did I fuck up coming here and interfering with his business?
“You never answered my questions about Ms. Meyers’ living conditions,” he hisses through clenched teeth. Welch pauses for a moment and he and Christian glare at one another. Jason clears his throat and this seems to snap Welch out of kill mode.
“She’s living beyond her means—not far beyond, but beyond,” Welch answers coolly.
“Look into her financials and let me know if she’s getting any payments from outside sources. Have her in my office at 10:00am tomorrow and don’t let her know why she’s coming. Keep her occupied until then and don’t let her near anymore privileged information,” he says to no one in particular, but I get the idea that both parties have their instructions. Christian and Welch are still glaring at each other. “Do you need me to draw you a diagram?” Christian spit. What is Welch’s problem?
“No Sir,” he spit before leaving the office with Jason close behind him. As Christian starts talking to this woman, I can hear Jason talking sharply to Welch. I step out of the office while Christian is distracted and stand just outside of the great room. Nobody is giving me any details, so I’m going to get them the best way that I can.
“I don’t care that he pissed you off, Alex. That man is our boss and he has a right to be angry right now!” Jason snaps.
“I don’t need him to tell me how to do my job! I appreciate that he’s a smart man, but he needs to leave security to me,” Welch retorts.
“That’s what he’s been trying to do!” Jason shoots. “You can be pissed about his reaction all you want, but we’ve let him down! We had a mole feeding information to an outside party for the last three years. The same guy got close to his girlfriend three times—three times—under our watch, and the third time he kidnapped her. And let me make something painfully clear. You and I both know about the relationships that he has had in the past—if you can call them that—but if something happens to that little lady in that office right now, God help all of us!” Jason growls at Welch who falls silent. “Trust me when I tell you that she’s worth her weight in gold. You should have seen that by him coming back to himself when she called his name. So make no mistake, she needs to be priority one along with all the other priority ones that we have because if anybody manages to harm a hair on her head, we will be dealing with the wrath of Satan. Harris is dead, for God’s sake! What’s more, he’s putting her on K&R.” Oh, that’s right. He did mention that to me.
“What? He can’t do that!” Welch protests.
“Yes, he can, and he is,” Jason says. Welch sighs heavily and shakes his head.
“God, this is so much bigger than I thought.”
“Much bigger,” Jason confirms, “and we need to start being on our toes, because this shit is unacceptable, Alex, and he has every right to be pissed as hell.”
“Well, I’m still not kissing his ass, Jason,” Welch says.
“You may not have a choice, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. In the meantime, bring this man some good news before 10am tomorrow, or there’s going to be some housecleaning… and nobody is safe.” Okay, I’ve heard enough. I don’t want to be the cause of anyone losing their job, that’s for sure. I go back into the office since I am a bit curious who this woman is, but I really don’t want to ask. I’m not jealous… or suspicious… or anything like that… seriously. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
I try to wander inconspicuously back into the office, but nothing gets by Christian Grey.
“Is that asshole gone?” he spits. I clear my throat.
“Um, Mr. Welch is talking to Jason right now,” I say. I examine the woman in the room with us—5′ 5″ easily, dirty blonde hair, looks to be late twenties, early thirties at the most, very professional, not flirty thank God…
“You two haven’t met,” Christian says. “Elva McIntyre, my head of PR, meet my girlfriend, Dr. Anastasia Steele.”
“Dr. Steele,” she stresses the Dr. “I didn’t know you were a doctor. It’s nice to finally meet you.”
“Thank you, Ms. McIntyre. A pleasure,” I say, sizing her up a bit. Ms. McIntyre is glaring at me harshly as she shakes my hand. “What?” I’m a little affronted. She points at my neck and says to Christian, “She’s going to have to cover that.”
“She’s right here!” I say, still holding her hand. Ms. McIntyre turns back to face me.
“I’m sorry, Ms. Steele, I was just caught off guard,” she apologizes, dropping my hand.
“Well, by all means, please feel free to talk to me about my neck,” I say sharply. She nods.
“It’s pretty prominent,” she states flatly as Jason comes back into the room and takes the seat previously occupied by Welch.
“Yeah, it is kind of big and blotchy now,” Christian adds. I sigh at him, perturbed.
“Well, I guess in the future, you’re just going to have to keep your teeth to yourself, aren’t you?” I spit. I’m done being shy. I’ve been ragged about this long enough. Yes, I’ve got hickeys, but I’m a grown woman. Get over it!
“Teeth!?” Ms. McIntyre gasps and her eyes grow large. Apparently equally perturbed, Christian snatches his shirt over his head and points to the wing of his shoulder where my bite mark on him has now turned a tad purple.
“Yes! Teeth!” he barks pointing at his badge of honor.
“Oh, Father in Heaven!” Ms. McIntyre gasps, turning away and putting her index and second finger on her forehead while closing her eyes. It took me a moment to realize why she was reacting this way. Then I looked over at my boyfriend’s beautiful rippling chest, broad shoulders, bulging biceps and six-pack abs and there was no doubt in my mind why this woman was about to become a puddle of primordial soup any moment. I can’t help but chuckle a bit at her distress. She manages to look up at me and say, “I’m sorry, Ms. Steele, but I am a straight woman!”
“Baby, put your shirt back on,” I manage over my giggle. Christian quickly replaces his shirt and put the poor woman out of her misery.
“Sir, please don’t do that again,” she says and Christian just throws his hand at her.
“As I was saying,” he continues, taking his seat again, “Butterfly seems to think that the best idea is to just go public as soon as possible…”
“Um… Butterfly?” Ms. McIntyre asks. Christian and Jason both point at me while I raise my hand. “Hmm, Butterfly…” she says.
“Sorry,” Christian says, “force of habit. Ana believes that the crazy media frenzy will die down if we have a press conference or do some kind of interview. In light of the accuracy of her instincts as of late, I’m prone to take her advice and I’d like to see if we can set it up for tomorrow.”
“Well, I agree,” she says a little skeptically. “An interview would quell curiosity and harassment, but I’m curious as to why you won’t wait a couple of days and let us put together an appropriate press conference.”
“Because my patients can’t get to my office,” I tell her. “I’m a shrink. These people have enough problems. They don’t need the added stress of dealing with the paparazzi while trying to get in to see me.” Ms. McIntyre nods.
“I see your point,” she says. “Ms. Steele, they’re going to have a field day on those hickeys.”
“Oh, don’t worry, the hickeys won’t be visible,” I assure her.
“Well, let’s set something up for tomorrow afternoon, then. Where would you like to have it and how big would you like for it to be?” she asks Christian.
“I’ll let you decide who should be in attendance, as long as you let me know. I say we have it at GEH, first floor conference room since the first floor is secure and requires no extra clearance. What do you think, Butterfly?” he asks me.
“It sounds good to me. I’m a little out of my element here, so I’ll just do whatever you need me to do.”
“Oh, you’ve been doing just fine,” McIntyre comments, lowly. When Christian and I get quiet and stare at her, she looks up at us and says, “Hey, the cameras love her. She’s a natural. She smiles, she’s very genuine, she doesn’t have that snotty Greta Garbo ‘I vant to be alone’ attitude,” she says mimicking a Swiss accent. “She’s a natural beauty; she’s real without acting overly friendly or phony and she’s not an attention whore. Keep being yourself, it’s fabulous.”
“Um, speaking of real…” I walk over to Christian’s computer and type in the website.
“Real Deal Steele… what the fuck is this?” Christian asks scrolling through the first page.
“Oh, looky here!” McIntyre exclaims. “Your first hate site! You have arrived… although I’m awfully surprised how quickly it’s up.” She scrolls through with Christian. “How did you find it?”
“I Googled myself. I don’t know if there are others… this is the first one that I saw.”
“Is any of this information true?” She asks.
“Poor immigrant parents from Minnesota? Ex-stripper? Carrying Christian Grey’s love child? Um… how about no?” I exclaim.
“Is there any likelihood that you could be pregnant?” she asks and I glare at her. She puts her hands up in surrender. “Okay, I have to ask. By this time tomorrow, it will be gone.”
“How?” I ask in amazement. “Doesn’t freedom of speech give them the right to put up anything that they want even if it’s a crock of lies?”
“No, Ms. Steele, it doesn’t,” she responds.
“Ana, please. How are you going to get it down so quickly?” I inquire.
“I have my ways… and call me Vee.”
“Okay, Vee, should I wear anything in particular tomorrow?” I ask.
“How would you normally dress to see patients?” she asks and Christian groans.
“Too sexy,” he says and I scoff at him.
“You think everything I wear is sexy!” I defend.
“Oh please, what about that red dress?” My mouth flies open at the mention of the red dress.
“You know I don’t dress that way every day, Grey!” I spit at him.
“Ooo, Grey!” Vee says softly and most likely unconsciously.
“Not that one!” he corrects, obviously thinking of the TPE dress. “The wiggle one with the black stilettos!”
“The Lindy? The vintage dress? You can’t have a problem with the vintage dress!”
“Too sexy!” he repeats. “And the electric blue skater dress that you wore to group therapy.” Okay, even I had to admit that dress was pretty damn short.
“Uuuuuughh!” I moan in frustration. “He’d have me wearing a burka if he could!” I say to Vee, who laughs at me.
“I’m going to let you two sort this out, but Ana, dress like you would dress to see your patients—nothing too flashy, nothing too sexy, not the happy housewife look… the public will see right through that… and please, don’t wear a burka.” She laughs as she picks up her purse. “Should I be in the meeting with you and Ms. Meyers tomorrow, Mr. Grey?”
“No, I want to meet with her alone.” Vee looks at him, and he rolls his eyes. “Don’t worry, I’ll cover my ass, but as soon as she’s in the meeting with me, get with that asshole Welch and deactivate all of her security clearances. Have someone clear her personal items off her desk and meet her downstairs in the lobby. I expect for our conversation to be not less than twenty minutes and not more than an hour. If anything changes, I’ll let you know. I say we do the press conference at around 2?”
“Sounds good to me. I’ll see you tomorrow, Mr. Grey. Ana, again, a pleasure meeting you.” She extends her hand.
“The pleasure was mine, Vee, I’ll see you tomorrow… sans the hickeys.” We both laugh and Jason goes to show her to the elevator. I look over at my boyfriend who looks very contemplative.
“You know, I don’t normally come into your study when you’re conducting business, but they could hear you screaming across Elliot Bay,” I say quietly. “You scared me, Christian.”
“Well, that smug asshole Welch has me ready to blow a fucking fuse,” he replies, running his hands through his hair.
“I’m sorry. I hope I didn’t undermine your authority. I really wasn’t trying to…”
“No, you may have saved somebody’s life, though,” he says, gesturing for me to come to him. I walk over and sit in his lap. “My staff is becoming all but incompetent. There have been too many mishaps… too many things that have gotten by them that shouldn’t have. They have state of the art equipment, unlimited resources and the best working conditions. I pay these people too much money to be sloppy.”
“Nobody was sloppy in these situations, Christian, except for Harris when he was watching David. Everyone else was doing exactly what they were supposed to do, and nothing that happened could have been prevented unless the circumstances had been different. This was a series of unlikely events.”
“Are you defending them?” he asks incredulously.
“No. I’m just trying to tell you that everyone is not a walking fuck-up, and that small things can prevent you from seeing the big picture. Harris was driving a different car and he and David were both disguised. How was anybody to know what they were doing when they didn’t even know who they were under those disguises? Hell, I screwed David for 2 ½ years and I didn’t even know who he was until he took that shit off!” I point out.
“Oh!” he winces. “Baby, I didn’t need that visual.” My hand flies to my mouth.
“Oooo! I’m sorry!” I apologize immediately. He shakes his head clearly trying to rid himself of the thought. “I’m just saying, maybe not so eloquently, that a lot of small things happened that no one could predict… things that very easily could have slipped under anyone’s radar… and did. It’s not because your staff is incompetent—it was just a series of unlikely events.”
He sighs. “Ana, I’m paying someone to take care of you… to look out for you… and so far, you’ve taken better care of yourself.”
“Uh… except when I was kidnapped from the aquarium!” I point out.
“Yes, but even then you were able to contact 911 and reveal your location and you didn’t even know where you were!” he retorts.
“That’s only because somebody figured out that the psycho blondes were Harris and David and your announcement shook them up. That’s when David gave me my phone,” I clarify.
“Even so, you’re still proving to be more competent than most of the people on my staff right now and that’s sad. I scared the shit out of you with the Lambert fiasco. You went and got your guns, went back to self-defense class, and got a background check on me. I put Davenport on you and Harris on David and he got to you twice… in three days! The first time you almost ripped his nuts off and the second time, you nearly shoved a ‘Boo’ down his throat. You read Harris the riot act before he was fired and kicked his ass before he died. Then you kicked David’s ass before he was carted off to jail. On top of that, you were the direct reason that we found the mole, who by the way has been in my company for three years! This doesn’t look good for my staff, Ana.” He’s right. It does look pretty bad. One thing after another clearly means that someone’s dropping the ball.
“So what are you going to do?” I ask.
“I don’t know, yet. Welch is valuable and his skill set is irreplaceable, but maybe he needs someone in there to shake him up a bit, maybe keep him on his toes.”
“Do you think that’s a good idea?” A one-man band usually doesn’t do too well with backup singers.
“I don’t know. I’ll talk to Jason before I make any big decisions, but one thing is for sure. Some things have to change or the next ‘unlikely event’ could cost someone’s life or could cost me my company.” I completely understand why he feels that way. This whole thing—though truly no one’s fault but the specific perpetrators—is damn sloppy and can’t go on like this.
“Why don’t we go and get something to eat then go and unpack before it gets to be too late. We’ve got a public début tomorrow as well as business that needs to be taken care of, so we had better start getting back into the swing of things.” He pulls me closer to him and kisses my nose.
“Thanks for bringing me back. I was about to kill that fucker,” he says.
“I know.” I kiss him on the lips. “Food. Now. Is there anything here to eat?”
Gail has managed to pull together a nice dinner on short notice with nothing thawed and very little refrigerated resources. She’s a miracle worker. My paintings have been taken to my office upstairs and now I must tackle the task of unpacking… or so I thought.
I go into our bedroom to find that the bags have been unloaded, the suitcases unpacked and everything—including the luggage—has been put away. Where did they put all of my clothes? I open Christian’s closet and ho-ly-cow Batman! It is easily twice the size that it was before we left! You can probably fit three of my condo closets in here!
“What in the world…?” I walk through his closet to see all of my casual clothes, dresses, blouses and skirts, maxi dresses, everything arranged to perfection! My shoes are lined beautifully on racks. There is a very large lovely four-door mirrored armoire full of my bathing suits, wraps, yoga pants, T-shirts, tank tops, underwear, sleepwear, and lingerie. There is still plenty of room for plenty of things in here. Christian’s clothes are once again neatly organized on his side, and mine on my side of this expansive space.
There is a very pretty white chaise facing my side of the closet as if he knew that I would need somewhere to sit to take in all of this—which I do. However, it’s more likely that it was placed here so that I could contemplate my wardrobe each day. The chaise is placed next to the island that has always been in the middle of Mr. Grey’s closet that houses his cufflinks, handkerchiefs, ties, and other necessary accessories. I take in a deep breath and sigh. I could very easily see all of my things in this closet, but I simply can’t move too fast, especially after the discussions we’ve had over the last few days.
You might be a little late for that. You’re having a press conference tomorrow, Sunshine.
Yeah, there is that, isn’t there? We have so much to talk about, but for now I think I’ll just enjoy my new closet.
“What do you think?” His voice breaks into my silent contemplation. I look over at him and smile.
“I think it’s lovely,” I respond. “I’m very pleasantly surprised.” He sits next to me.
“I’m glad. I… have something that I would like for you to wear to the interview tomorrow if you don’t mind.” I turn to look at him and he is holding the signature Cartier box—and it’s pretty big. What did he buy me this time… a damn crown?
“More jewelry! You certainly know the way to a girl’s heart, Mr. Grey,” I say taking the box from him. I put the box on my lap, open it and gasp.
“Oh… my… God…” I say, barely able to get my words out. Christian and I will be doing an interview tomorrow that will most likely make it to national news. During this time when he officially presents me to the world as his girlfriend, he wants me to wear the entire Cartier platinum and diamond Love Collection. There is easily $80,000 worth of jewelry here, probably more. We have the Cartier platinum Love bracelet complete with the platinum screwdriver, by the way. There are also the Cartier platinum and diamond Love ring, earrings, and necklace. The necklace is actually two Cartier rings looped together and connected to a platinum link chain—one ring matches the platinum and diamond Love ring and earrings while the other is diamonds all the way around the ring set in platinum. I saw that necklace in a catalog and the white gold version retails at $17,500.
“Christian…!” I breathe. “This is exquisite! Vee said we shouldn’t go overboard. Isn’t this too much?”
“I don’t think so,” he says confidently. “As my publicly-announced girlfriend, you are very likely to be wearing a lot of labels, especially when we go to red-carpet events.”
“Red carpet events? Really?”
“Yes, of course. I’ve avoided them up to this point except for my mother’s fundraisers but now,” he kisses me gently behind the ear sending chills down my spine, “I have more reasons to go and show off my beautiful Butterfly.” Well, when you put it that way…
“I guess I’ll need to wear a simple classic dress, then—something to show off my beautiful Cartier jewelry.”
“What did you have in mind?” he asks his voice soft and sensuous. Down, Grey. The coochie is still out of commission. I walk over to my new closet and scan the dresses there. I need something simple, preferably with a high collar in case the miracle tea doesn’t work overnight and the concealer doesn’t conceal enough. My eyes run across the perfect dress—a Milly Geo Pop knit mock turtleneck. It’s black on the top with alternating black and white triangles between graphite stripes on the bottom—half sleeves and it falls just above the knee. I turn around and show the dress to Christian.
“I’ll wear it with nude stockings and black stilettos. The platinum necklace will show beautifully against the black knit. It’s perfect!” Christian nods at my idea.
“Very good choice, Ms. Steele. Your fashion taste is impeccable. Make sure that you wear your hair up. I want you to show off those earrings,” he says coming to me and kissing my ear again.
“Christian, stop,” I whine softly. “You know you make me want you and I’m tender.” I close my eyes.
“Okay, I’ll try to behave myself,” he says, planting a soft kiss on my cheek. “So what should I wear?” Hmm, good question. What does fashion dictate right now? Our clothes should either be similar without being twins, or vastly different without clashing. I’ll go for similar.
I walk over to his wardrobe and eye his suits carefully. Considering what I am wearing, I decide on a three-piece black suit with gray pinstripes, a white shirt and a gray and black silk tie. I turn around and present to ensemble the Christian for his approval. “What do you think?”
“I think you’ve done it again, Ms. Steele,” he says, taking the tie from me and opening a drawer in his island to find some proper cuff links.
“I’m not really good with men’s clothing designers—except for Armani. I can spot Armani a mile away. So tell me what I just picked here.” He looks a little longingly at me and I cock my head to the side. “Christian?”
“I was just having flashbacks of the day you dressed me for work… Armani from head to toe.” He twitches a bit and I know he is fully recalling our TPE day. That was so much fun. He shakes it off and answers my question.
“The suit is Timothy Everest, single-breasted pinstripe and the tie is Stephano Ricci and these…” He pulls out a pair of silver and black cufflinks. “…are Salvatore Ferragamo Gancini-trimmed onyx cuff links.”
“Gancini-trimmed?” Is that some special metal?
“It’s the Gancini emblem. It’s trademarked. If you sit these cufflinks together…” He puts them together and I see the familiar emblem that I’ve seen on purses and belts before.
“Oooohh! I’ve seen that before. Wow… kind of neat.” He smiles at me and sets the items on the island.
“Well, we’ve got our wardrobe. Why don’t we have a bath and go to bed. We’ve got a big day tomorrow.”
“That we do,” I concur. “Um… do you want me to wear this ring instead of my promise ring tomorrow?”
“Absolutely not. Of course I want you to wear your promise ring. You can wear the Love ring on your right hand. If you wear it on your left hand, they will automatically assume that it’s a wedding ring. We just came back from Anguilla. The press is itching for a scoop,” he says.
“Okay, right hand it is, then. Let’s have our bath.” The sooner we get this press conference done, the better. We’ve got things to talk about and plans to be made, and nothing needs to get in our way at this point.
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Love and Handcuffs!