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, hi… yes, 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…
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 I 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 burned… like 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. “I love you! I 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.
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