Mending Dr. Steele–Chapter 43—Back Down Memory Lane

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

Chapter 43—Back Down Memory Lane

STEELE

Luma thanks me profusely for helping her grieve last night. Her voice is still gone, but she looks less like the broken widow who has just lost both of her children that walked into Helping Hands yesterday. She told me that American custom did not allow her to grieve for any of her losses the way that she should, so she never got to release the pain of losing her husband, and now her daughter and Richard. I don’t bother asking her how she is able to mourn Richard when he killed her daughter. Everyone loves differently and none of us has a right to put them in judgment.

She informs me that Christian arranged for Richard to be cremated today and that she wanted to be there when it happens. We dress the girls and get them safely to school, after which I call Christian to let him know that Luma is ready to pay her last respects to Richard. When he meets us at the crematorium, he has the strangest expression on his face.

“Are you okay?” I ask him.

“It was a rough night. Let’s do this. I’m sure Luma would like some closure.” I eye him carefully, then agree.

“Yes, she would,” I respond. “Don’t try to talk to her too much. She doesn’t have a voice.” He frowns at me questioningly. “Her throat is sore and she has no voice.” He just nods and takes me by the hand. Walking over to Luma, he takes her by the hand as well. Without a word, he kisses her on the cheek and I learn quickly that he has become very fond of her in a short time. It’s just more evidence of his massive ability to love.

She opted for a simple oak casket and Christian ordered white roses to cover it. A priest agreed to say a few words over the departed as a kindness to Luma even though Richard was not Catholic and his death was a result of a suicide. We then follow the casket to the cremation, where Luma says her goodbyes in Portuguese before pushing the button that started the process. We watch at the oven fires and the platform carrying Richard’s body rolls inside.

Christian will arrange for his staff to collect the remains next week after they have cooled and been placed inside the urn of Luma’s choosing. She will then have them interred into the family crypt.

I could feel her breaking down again as we leave the crematorium. I look at her, silently asking her if she needs to go back to the woods. She smiles at me and whispers, “I am fine, now, Ms. Ana. I can grieve and remember like I should. Thank you. Thank you for everything.” She squeezes my hand and I can’t help the tears that fall. Christian puts his arm around my shoulder and takes Luma hand.

“You have no other family now,” he says solemnly, and she nods without raising her head. “You will be part of mine.” Her eyes shoot up to his as does mine, and I don’t think my heart could fill any more with love for him than it is right now.

“Mr. Christian…” she squeaks.

“Christian. We’re family now,” he corrects her. Her eyes well with tears as she throws her arms around his neck and weeps. He doesn’t flinch as he embraces her warmly, comforting her in her time of grief.

“It was a terrible thing to lose my anjinho and then my Richie, but God loves me, because he gave me you,” she squeaks to Christian, then looks over at me, “and you.” I squeeze her hand unable to stop my tears.

“Welcome to our family, Luma,” I tell her. She smiles the biggest smile I think I have ever seen… well, maybe not. Christian has a really big smile.

“I would like to go home, now. I want to prepare my home so that I may tell my girls. I will tell them of the story where Richie could not be without his Débora, so he went with her to watch over us. Then I will tell them about the wonderful family that he left for us so that we would not be in America alone…”

“… Or ever again,” I add, trying to contain my melancholy.

“My family is having dinner on Sunday,” Christian says. “We will come by around three to collect you and the girls so that you can meet the rest of them.” As if it could, her smile grows larger.

“Thank you, Mr… thank you, Christian. We will be ready.” As if on cue, Chuck offers his arm to her. She takes it and walks over to the car. Christian nearly drags me to the SUV and gestures to Ben. He nods and waits while Christian is hurrying me into the back seat. The door is barely closed and Christian is all over me, kissing me feverishly like I have been on another month-long trip.

“I love you. God, I love you so much,” he breathes between kisses. Fire is igniting in my soul as I allow him to consume as much of me as he needs at this moment. I don’t know if it was the funeral service or something else that has him so passionate, but he is madly trying to get me out of my coat. What’s going on? What’s wrong? What happened last night?

I think he suddenly realizes that we are outside of a funeral home and it would be highly inappropriate to have sex in the car. He is no longer trying to disrobe me, but his breath is heavy and his kisses are urgent as he tries to compose himself.

“Don’t ever leave me again,” he beseeches, holding my face and pressing his forehead to mine. His eyes are closed and his breathing is still heavy and erratic. He has me pinned to the seat and I am unable to move. “Please… please, don’t ever leave me again.” I reach up and brush the hair from his forehead so that I can see his face.

“Christian,” I breathe. He opens his eye to look at me. “What’s wrong?” His eyes are searching mine, pleading it seems. He kisses me again.

“I just know that I couldn’t survive without you,” he says, his voice thick with… fear? Grief? I don’t know. I gently brush his hair back again, then kiss him softly.

“Nor I you,” I say, looking into his eyes and begging him to believe me. The change in his gaze lets me know that he does. He nods and kisses me again and he is able to allow me to sit up now. Smoothing my hair down, he says, “Thank you for taking care of Luma. In a very short time, she has become very important to me. I don’t know why.”

“Because you are a good man and she has a good heart. She needs you and you need her. Embrace it, My Love,” I tell him. He kisses me again.

“I love it when you call me that. I know that you mean it.”

“Yes, I do.” I breathe. He sighs.

“I have an appointment. I have to go. I’ll meet you later.” I nod.

“Be safe. I’ll see you this evening.” I kiss him again and exit the SUV.

*-*

“Please remember that regression therapy is Pandora’s Box,” Ace warns us when we begin the session. “It’s going to unlock the fears that have kept you hostage for the last 10 years. Consequently, you are going to remember things that you would much rather forget, review things that you have pushed away for years, and possibly reveal things that your conscious mind has forgotten to protect itself… like that fight with Elena last week. It may cause nightmares and daydreams, so you have to be prepared for that. If that does happen and it’s something that we can’t control, then I would seriously recommend medication. Bearing all of this in mind, would you like to proceed with regression therapy?”

I look over at Christian who is holding my hand. “Are you ready?” I ask him. He takes a deep breath, then lets it out.

“I’m here for you, Butterfly,” he says firmly. I nod.

“I want to proceed,” I tell Ace. He nods.

“Sit in this chair,” he instructs me. I reluctantly release Christian’s hand, then move to a leather recliner. Ace makes sure that I am comfortable, reclining the chair and fluffing pillows behind me. “Christian, it is imperative that you remain silent during this time. You are part of her present and her future, not her past. Your voice could halt her memory, and if this is to work…”

“I understand, Dr. Avery. Keep my mouth shut and don’t try to save her,” Christian says. Both Ace and I smile at him.

“Good. So, let’s begin.” Ace turns to me. “Ana, I need you to relax. Breathe in and out and concentrate for me. Think very hard about your childhood. Put yourself in that place… what do you see?”

I close my eyes and relax. That’s not hard to do. Turning off the shrink is what’s hard to do. I wipe my thoughts clean and describe the first thing that comes to mind…

The porch swing in Montesano. I sat out there a lot. I never really fit in, but I explored many worlds on that swing. I used to get books from the library about exotic places and imagine that I would go there some day. Then I just started getting books about everything. I was starving for knowledge and the world just seemed too small to hold me…

Annie?” a voice calls from inside.

Yes, Daddy?”

Can you please come in here?” My latest destination is Australia and the Sydney Opera House. I place the Australian tour book open on the porch swing and run into the house to find Ray. I am always barefoot and wearing some sort of dress—that is most comfortable. Mommy always puts my hair in big curly pigtails. I like that. I like how they bounce when I run. I am stopped, frozen by balloons and streamers and a cake with eight candles.

Happy birthday, Annie!” Mommy and Daddy say together. I clap my hands feverishly at the German chocolate birthday cake—my favorite! I run into the dining room, decorated like a fabulous party hall with confetti and a sign with my name on it. A-N-A-S-T-A-S-I-A! We have cheeseburgers and french fries for dinner. Mommy makes them. She makes the best cheeseburgers in the world. I tell them about my trip to Australia today and my trip to India a few days ago. Mommy smiles and tells me how she always wanted to go to India. She is happy when I tell her that I will go again and she can go with me.

Now it’s time to cut the cake. I blow out the candles and make a wish. I wish for Mommy to have fun on our trip to India. Then we cut the cake. Coconut is the best icing. Mommy and Daddy let me lick some off of the top since it’s my birthday. We eat cake and vanilla ice cream and I get to have two pieces. While Mommy cleans the dishes and puts the food away, Daddy dances with me. We’re dancing to a song about grapes—that’s strange, but it’s okay. Daddy really likes this song.

We dance and dance until I get tired and Mommy comes out of the kitchen. I curl up in the comfy chair while Daddy twirls Mommy around and around. She laughs a lot. She loves it when Daddy twirls her around. Then another song comes on, it’s a slow song about love. Daddy holds Mommy really close and they dance. Mommy is smiling and she lies on Daddy’s shoulder. Daddy kisses Mommy’s hand. I watch them dance for a while and now, I’m sleepy. Before I close my eyes, Daddy kisses Mommy on the lips. They say they do that because they love each other. I like it when they kiss…

“When did Mommy and Daddy stop kissing?” I hear a voice say. When did Mommy and Daddy stop kissing? They kissed a lot, but I do remember when they stopped.

I was eleven. I came home from school and Mommy and Daddy were arguing about something. Mommy came home really late last night. I remember that I fell asleep before she got home.

I want more, Ray,” Mommy yells. “I’m tired of this tiny town and this tiny life. Ana shouldn’t have to travel the world through books and the Internet. She should see the world. Really see the world. Society girls are traveling by the time they are twelve years old. Ana will be there in six months and she hasn’t been anywhere.”

How do you expect me to do that, Carla?” Daddy asks. “We’re a military family for the most part and I’ve managed to keep us stable so that Annie wouldn’t have to go from place to place making new friends. I’ll be retiring in a few years. Maybe we can do some traveling then.”

On what?” Mommy barks. “You refused military housing so that you can buy this fixer-upper and now we barely have any savings, just a few thousand dollars. Where would we go—Disneyland?”

Are you saying that you were out until 3 a.m. because I don’t have any money? We’ve been together for 10 years, Carla. When did this become an issue?”

Mommy doesn’t say anything. Neither of them even know that I’m standing there. When she does say something, they fight and fight and fight until Mommy finally walks away. Daddy falls onto the sofa and cries. I just walk back out to the porch and sit on the swing. I never saw them kiss again after that.

“Tell me about the day you moved away,” the voice says. I have to think hard. I have tried for the longest to forget this day. It was one of the saddest days of my life. I didn’t know who to spend more time with. If I spent time with Al, I was missing time with my Daddy. If I spent time with Daddy, I was missing time with Al. My heart was breaking. I didn’t want to leave either of them and no matter how I begged, Mommy wouldn’t stay and she wouldn’t let me stay with Daddy. I cried the entire day. Daddy hugged me and Al held my hand.

Mommy was angry, very angry. She had changed in the last few years. She never, ever seemed happy anymore. She yelled a lot—at Daddy anyway. More and more, she seemed like she just ignored me. She wasn’t around that much anymore either. She would get dressed up and leave and not come back until late at night. I would fix dinner for me and Daddy and we would listen to music and dance. Still, Daddy was very sad. Then one day, we moved out. We moved to a house a few streets away, but I was still able to see Daddy and Al. The next thing I knew, we were leaving. We were moving away to another state and I didn’t know if I would ever be able to see Al or my Daddy again.

I am still crying when Mommy knocks on Daddy’s door to tell me that it’s time to go. I cry and cry and beg her not to make me leave. She doesn’t listen. She tells me to say goodbye and orders me into the car with her and Stevie as she calls him. I don’t like Stevie and he doesn’t like me. He calls me Ann and I hate that. The first day that he met me, he talked about how skinny and pale I was. He didn’t even know me and he had started teasing me already. I should do that karate chop on him Daddy taught me. That’ll teach him to call me skinny—but I haven’t perfected it yet, and now I’m leaving. I hug Daddy and Al really hard and promise to keep in touch. Daddy tries not to cry, but it’s no use. We are weeping into each other’s arms when Mommy orders me out of the house and into the car.

Stevie badmouths me the whole way to Nevada. When I shut him out and go on one of my mental trips, he yells at me to get my attention so that he can insult me some more. Somewhere in the mountains, I don’t respond at all and Mommy yells, “Listen to your new father!”

He’s not my father!” I yell back. Mommy turns around and says, “Ray’s not your father either.”

That’s when I find out about my real father, that he died in the Army or something and Mommy met Ray after he died. They got married really quick and changed my name so no one would be the wiser, but Daddy never adopted me. I don’t care. Ray Steele is my father, not Stevie and I will never call him that.

You let me know what you want to be called, but it won’t be Daddy. I have one of those,” I say to Stevie, ignoring my mother’s painful words.

I told you. Ray is not your father,” she repeats.

I heard you,” I say to my mother before turning back to the scenes out the windows. It was then that I knew that I wasn’t part of this family. Mom only cares about “Stevie” and he couldn’t care if I lived or died. I get the feeling that he didn’t really want me around and that Mommy only took me away to hurt Daddy. She wouldn’t let me call him Daddy in her presence. That’s how I ended up calling him “Ray” and “Daddy.”

The first time I called him “Ray” on one of our phone calls. It was because Mommy and Stephen sat there and listened to the call, making me call him “Ray” every time I addressed him. He was heartbroken and so was I. I later called him collect from a pay phone to tell him what happened. He was relieved that I was still his Annie and he was still my Daddy, but angry at how I was being treated. He tried continuously for months to get my mother to send me back to him, but she wouldn’t.

“How was school?” the voice asked me. “School… I was excited to go to school… until I got there…”

Growing up in Montesano, I was pretty much a country girl. Montesano wasn’t the country, but we lived a simple life. It was quiet and I was happy. I was pretty much a misfit in Montesano, but it was really no big deal.

Green Valley is 100 times worse.

The girls all look like supermodels and dress like rock stars. The guys all drive fancy cars or jeeps and they are always in clusters. If you don’t have a cluster, you are nobody. I didn’t have a cluster. There are mean to me and I’m fine with that because I paid them no attention. The poor girl with the good grades in the expensive neighborhood—how did I end up here anyway?

We are still poor—we just live in a big fancy house. My mother keeps trying to bring some of the ladies in the neighborhood over, but as soon as they see how we were really living, they quickly lose interest. My mother often blamed me for that, saying that I am bringing undue attention to the family while I’m in school. I don’t know how that’s possible. Then again, something is always my fault. Everything is my fault.

“Tell me more…” the voice wafts through my visions. They just keep coming and coming and coming. When I got teased or bullied at school, it was my fault. The office often sided with the rich girls and I got left out in the cold. They did harmless things to me—knocked my books out of my hand, splashed me with muddy water on a rainy day, called me names. I used to stay after class when the bell rang, leaving only when I had 30 seconds to get to class to avoid being in the hallways. I always made it to class on time, after I learned the long ways around and how to dodge being tripped. A whole year of that shit… Then, as if it couldn’t get any worse, it all came crashing down one day when I was walking home from school.

You want a lift?” I look up and see none other than Cody Whitmore next to me in his Rubicon. I look around to see who he is talking to. He can’t be talking to me. “Yes, I’m talking to you, Ana. It’s cold out. Do you want a ride?”

He calls this cold? This is nothing. Spend a winter in Washington then tell me about cold!

No, I’m fine. Thanks,” I tell him and keep walking home.

Come on. Riding is always better than walking,” he say. He’s right about that. I shrug and get into his jeep. “How long have you lived in Green Valley?” he asks.

Not long,” I answer, clutching my books to my chest. I can’t believe I’m in the car with Cody Whitmore. He’s so popular and a lot of girls in school like him. He shows a real interest in me—what I like, where I’m from. I’m so distracted with our conversation that I don’t notice he’s taking me all the way out towards Boulder Highway and I live closer to Silverado Ranch. They are miles apart.

Um, Cody, this is nowhere near where I live,” I tell him.

I know,” he says. “I want to show you something.” We are driving through the desert and it’s getting dark. What does he want to show me way out here? He stops in the middle of a sandlot out of clear view of the street. “You’re very pretty, Ana,” he says. I frown.

Are you teasing me?” I ask. Nobody likes me in that school. Why would he like me?

No, I’m not, You really are very pretty,” he repeats. “I just want to spend a little time with you, that’s all.”

Way out here?” I ask, skeptical.

I know,” he says, sounding chastised. “It’s just that everybody knows me and I wouldn’t get a moment’s peace to talk to you if they saw me.” Yep, he’s right about that, too. “Can we sit in the back?”

Why?” I ask.

Because I would like to put my arm around you, and I can’t with the gear shift between us.” I’m really smitten… and flattered. Of course, I want him to put his arm around me. I’m starving for affection. I have no friends; my mother and her husband hate me; school is bad and home is worse. I smile at Cody and move to the back seat. He is next to me in moments. I feel very safe in his arms. He talks about his family a bit and we laugh about the differences between Green Valley and Montesano. I want to stay in this place, but it’s getting late and I need to get home.

I really need to go, Cody,” I tell him. “It’s going to be a beast when I get home.”

Just a few more minutes,” he says… and then he kisses me. His lips are so soft and I like it, but when he kisses me again, something changes. It’s harder and he’s more aggressive. He starts feeling my breasts through my jacket and the lights and sirens are going off like crazy in my head.

Cody, don’t,” I protest, but he won’t stop. “Cody, please, stop. Take me home.”

Don’t fight it, Baby,” he says making quick work of my button and zipper on my jeans. I am terrified now and fighting to get him off of me.

Cody, please, don’t!” I beg. He has my body pinned under him. I don’t know how he did it, but I end up on my back on the seat with my pants at my ankles. He is ignoring my cries while he unzips his pants.

Relax, Baby. It’s gonna feel good.” He moves so fast that I have no time to resist before he moves my underwear to the side and penetrates me. It hurt like hell and I scream as he rips through my virginity. “Fuck, you are so tight! Are you a virgin?”

Not anymore I’m not, I’m screaming to myself! I cry and cry and beg him to stop. I try to fight him off, but he holds my hands down. It hurt so bad that I think my head will explode, but he keeps going and going until he comes inside of me. When he falls on top of me, I am still weeping.

Shut up!” he commands. “You know you liked it!” I keep crying. I can’t even find my words. “Bitches get on my damn nerves. You wanted it and you know you did. Get the fuck out of my car!” He gets off of me and jumps into the front seat of his jeep, throwing the door open so that I can get out. I crawl over the seat and slide out of the car with my pants still down at my ankles, still weeping. I’m barely out of the jeep before he takes off, throwing my books and purse out the window as he speeds away leaving me in the middle of the desert. I get to the street the best way that I can. I can hardly walk and I’m bleeding. When I see a bus, I ask the driver where I am and how to get home.

“What happened next?” the voice happened next? The inquisition…

Stephen confronted Cody and his father and they denied everything. Cody swore he was nowhere near Boulder Highway and that he only knew me from seeing me at school sometimes. When Carly walked in, it was over. Stephen refused to believe anything else that I said after that. He went home and told Carla and she bought his story without even caring that I was hurt. I was afraid that I was losing my Mommy. I was hoping that being away from Daddy would make her happier and we could have our relationship back. I didn’t know that I was already too late. She had stopped caring long before that. It was only then that I realized I had lost her completely.

I cried all night that night. I cried because I had been raped, because nobody loved me, because I was alone and miserable and I wanted my Mommy and my Daddy. Nobody came to comfort me. I just cried and cried. The next day, I learned that Cody was mad at Carly and he only wanted to sleep with me to piss her off.

It worked.

“Ana? Ana, can you hear me?” I hear the voice again.

“Yes,” I answer.

“Take a deep breath and open your eyes.” I breathe in deeply and open my eyes. Ace is right in front of me with his hands on both armrests. My face is cold. He hands me a box of tissues. “Are you okay?” I take the tissues after I realize that I’ve been crying.

“My head hurts,” I tell him as I wipe my face. He hands me a couple of ibuprofen and a bottle of water. “Why did we stop?” I ask.

“Because we’re nearly out of time. We need to go over what we’ve discovered,” he says. “You’ve uncovered some pretty significant things today.” He sits back in his chair and I finally see Christian leaning on Ace’s desk. He’s pale as a ghost and his hair looks like a bird’s nest.

“You look a fright,” I say frowning. He just shakes his head. I look back at Ace. He sighs.

“Your first memory was of your eighth birthday party. What was significant about that?” I think for a moment, then I remember.

“That’s the last time I remember seeing Carla and Ray dance together,” I respond. He nods.

“Then we brought you to when they stopped kissing,” Ace presses.

“Yes. Mom was seeing someone else. I knew it and Dad knew it, too, but nobody wanted to admit it. I don’t know if it was Stephen at the time, but whoever it was convinced her that she could have her heart’s desire if she just left Ray. She used me as an excuse when the truth was that she was discontent with her life and she wanted out. From what I could see, Ray wasn’t going to just let her walk out without good reason, so she decided to punish him… and me.”

“Why do you think she was punishing you?”

“Because I couldn’t hate Ray with her. She thought that telling me that he wasn’t my real father would make me hate him—that it would make me slide Ray out and put Stephen in his place. It did the exact opposite. I loved Ray even more because he treated me like his own child even though he knew that I wasn’t. He even let me carry his name. I never knew why he didn’t adopt me, but I have a feeling that it had something to do with Carla and her attachment to my birth father. Either way, Ray Steele was my father and always will be, and she has resented that since the day we left Montesano.” Ace nods.

“The next place we went was the day that you moved away,” he says.

“Yeah,” I say, with a sigh.

“Talk to me, Ana,” he says. I look up at Christian who is just looking at me with those big gray eyes saying nothing.

“I’ve tried to forget that day. I almost succeeded, but that day is key…”

“Key to what?” Ace asks. I shake my head and wipe away a few tears that fall.

“That was the day that she broke everything,” I say looking up at him.

“What do you mean?” I shake my head.

“Ray loved that woman. For what reason, I don’t know, but he loved her. She came to his house with another man in the driver’s seat and ripped his family away from him. He had to watch while the only child he knew and the woman that he loved rode away to another state with another man. What’s worse, she let me go to his house and cry in his arms up to the last minute just so that she could see for herself the pain that she was causing him. She’s probably masturbated to that vision for several years after, she’s so evil, and the pain that she was causing me was just collateral damage if it wasn’t a fucking bonus.” I drop my head.

“She hurt me so bad that day. I thought she was unhappy because of Ray. Now I realize that I made her unhappy, too. She wanted that big happy family in that big beautiful house and Ray couldn’t give her the lifestyle she wanted. So she dragged me along while she chased her happily ever after, trying to get me to call some man that I didn’t even know ‘Dad’ so that it would fit into her little picture. I hate her most for using me against Ray. He’s one of the kindest, sweetest, most generous human beings that I ever met, and that witch used me time and time again to hurt him.” My chest hurts at the thought.

“Ana…” Ace’s voice floats over to me. I look up at him with tear-filled eyes.

“Can’t you see?” I ask him. “She was never there when I needed her, and I needed her so much.” I drop my head again. “I needed her to comfort me when I hurt my Daddy. I needed her to help me take his tears away. Something in me just broke when Daddy hurt and I couldn’t stop it, and she loved it. She loved both of our pain. Why? Why did she love our pain so much? Why did she choose Stephen over Daddy? I saw her life with Daddy and her life with Stephen. The only difference was the house. The stuff inside of the house was still from a working man’s income. In the house with Daddy, she had love and we were at peace. In the house with Stephen, it was constant turmoil and we were broke. Why did she give up contentment and serenity to go to hell?”

“Because it wasn’t hell for her,” Ace answers. “It was hell for you. She was where she wanted to be. She stayed with that man until he died…”

“Yes, and now she’s penniless and alone, working as a nurse’s assistant and living in a house where she probably can’t even pay the property taxes. What does she have to show for all of this pain she caused?” My head is down again. “And I still don’t have my Mommy.”

“That’s what it always comes back to, doesn’t it?” Ace says. I nod without raising my head.

“I needed her. I loved her. She was my Mommy…”

Is your Mommy, Ana.” I shake my head.

“No, Ace,” I say, my heart breaking again. “Was my Mommy. I don’t have a Mommy anymore. That woman died. She died when she broke my father’s heart. She died when she left me to the monsters that climbed out from under my bed, walked into my real life, and tried to eat me alive. I love my Mommy. I love her so much, but she’s gone. She left when no one else’s feelings mattered but hers. She couldn’t see past her own needs. As a doctor, I understand that. As a girl who needed her mother, and often still does, I can’t accept it. I know now. I know what I have to do. I don’t hate her. I love her. I know what I have to do.”

“And what’s that?” Ace says. I look up at him.

“I can’t say. I need some time. I have to deal with some things, but I really need you to help me. I know what I need to do about my mother, and I will do it. It’s not time yet, but soon. Right now, I need you to help me stop running. Please, help me stop running,” I beg him. He nods and gestures to Christian. Christian is by my side in a moment, still looking rather frightful, but grasping my hand and kissing it gently.

“Here’s a good place to start,” Ace says. “This is your future. Your past was horrible, but your future is looking pretty good. Remember those feelings that made you want to run, that made you want to shrink. Don’t hide from them. Remember them and then compare them to the feelings that you are feeling now. Remember just how bad they were and that nothing in your life is as bad as it was then. Remember that there are a lot of people who love you—your friends, your family, and your fiancé—and there is no need for you to run anymore. Remember that Ray has found true love and he is starting a family, and that he will never stop loving you as his daughter. Remember these things when you want to run—that even though you don’t have the Mommy that you once had, that you did have her once upon a time and that’s more than a lot of people can say. Remember that the evil woman who has taken her place can’t hurt you anymore and you have no reason to be afraid of her, or even angry with her because she has no impact on your life anymore.”

“That last part I’ve already got. Appreciating the Mommy, that’s going to be hard, but it will help me do what I have to do when the time comes,” I tell him.

“We really need to call it a night, Ana. We’ve gone over your time.” I nod.

“I’m sorry, Ace. Make sure you bill me, okay?” He nods and I stand. Christian still looks like he’s going to faint. I’m making my way to the door when Christian says, “Wait a minute…”


GREY

I don’t even know what to say right now. I had to sit here and watch her relive all this crazy shit and I couldn’t say a word, but he was able to guide her from scene to scene with his voice and able to bring her out of it with just a few words. This is the first time that I am at a loss for words, but it only takes a few moments for me to find them. “Wait a minute..” Butterfly turns around to look at me, but I’m looking at “Ace.”

“Has this kind of therapy ever backfired?” I ask him. He frowns at me.

“What do you mean ‘backfired?'” he asks.

“There are a lot of people who have fought to overcome the struggles of their past. Believe me, I speak from experience. Now, here’s this therapy that opens all these old wounds and lets these old ghosts out of the closet. I’m asking if this has ever backfired—done more harm than good?” Avery folds his arms.

“I’m sure there are some cases where it hasn’t been the most productive form of therapy…”

“Don’t bullshit me, Avery. I asked you a direct question. It requires a direct answer.” He stands up straight.

“I told you before that I won’t answer to Avery, Mr. Grey, and I told you why!” he says firmly. I try not to glare at him.

“Fine, Dr. Avery, direct question… direct answer,” I clarify.

“I gave my patient the risks before she opted for this type of therapy. I also repeated them before we undertook this therapy. You were present a little over an hour ago when I explained those risks. Was there anything unclear about what I said?” I am so accustomed to people bowing to me when I ask a question that this independent, stand-up-to-me shit is irritating.

“Okay, I’ll try to ask this question again…”

“Don’t bother. I’ve already answered it,” he replies. “I refer again back to the risks I mentioned at the beginning of this session. Do you have any other questions, Mr. Grey?”

“I don’t understand this. How could you do that? How could you sit there and listen to that—to let her go through that again without bringing her out?”

“Because that’s what she wanted,” he says calmly. “That’s what she needed. She’s looking at this whole thing through the eyes of an angry, hurt child. She’s not that child anymore. She’s a grown woman—a doctor—and she needs to look at these events through different eyes so that she can get past them… or would you rather she be content with running away and shrinking?” I hate that his voice is so damn controlled.

“Please tell me what I can do,” I say, turning to Butterfly.

“Well, first of all, you can stop attacking my therapist!” she says, a little horror in her voice. “He didn’t force me into this, Christian. This was my choice. I’ve talked this thing to death and nothing is working. I’ve got to get to the heart of it and dig it out… just like you did.” I immediately know that she’s talking about my revelation with Lincoln. I thrust my hand through my hair again.

“Are you okay?” I ask her.

“I’m fine,” she says.

“Do you remember?” Ana nods. “Everything?” She nods again. “Baby, if you relive the beating, I can’t stay. I’m sorry, I can’t watch it. I can’t watch you suffer like that again… I can’t…” She takes my hand.

“I understand. I may not have to, but I don’t know that for sure yet. I think I know what I need to know now, but I still have a long way to go. If you can’t take it, I’ll have to bring Al. It’s time he knew all the gory details anyway.” I sigh.

“I’ll be here for you if I can, I promise.”

“I know.” She smiles. I turn to Avery.

“Sorry… Ace.” I say contrite. He snickers.

“I am fully aware of how it feels to want to be a knight in shining armor. Have you seen that hottie in the lobby?” Avery says.

“Sorry,” I say puling Butterfly close to me. “I only have eyes for one hottie.”

*-*

The ride home is silent, as is dinner and the hours that follow. I am lost in thought, reliving those things that Butterfly relived. Surprisingly, I don’t know what to say to her now. She handles that dilemma for me.

“I’ll take Al the next time I go to therapy. If he can’t do it, I’ll go alone,” she says while she’s brushing her hair. I look over at her while I’m pulling on my pajamas.

“You never told me everything about the rape,” I say. “I mean, I didn’t expect a play-by-play in our pillow talk, but now since I’ve gotten one, I don’t know what to say.” She turns around to face me.

“There’s nothing to say,” she says. “It happened. He was a selfish, entitled asshole who thought he could rape women and get away with it. Now, he’s in jail, hopefully getting ass-raped himself.” I glare at her. “Yes, I said it,” she says. “I hope he is getting anally raped repeatedly by a big guy named Bubba with a two-foot dick who uses baby powder as lubricant—and I hope Vincent is taking it down the throat.”

Egad! That’s harsh. My horrified expression prompts her to keep talking.

“That’s how I deal with the fact that he raped me and effectively got away with it. I remember that I’m out here free as a bird planning my wedding and the main ringleaders of my attack are now behind bars. Carly stopped living that charmed life that she was living a long time ago, George and Vincent could end up being cellmates, and if there is any such thing as Karma in the world, Cody Whitmore is—as we speak—somebody’s bitch.” She’s brushing her hair with a bit more fervor now.

“I don’t want you to think that you can’t depend on me, Butterfly. I just don’t know that I’m strong enough to sit through all these terrible things happening to you… again.”

“Well, imagine how I must feel,” she says, somewhat under her voice, but loud enough for me to hear it. Shit, I don’t know if I should have gone at all now. Maybe I should have just sat there and kept my mouth shut, not said anything to Avery at all about how I was feeling about this.

“Tell me what I’m supposed to feel here, Ana,” I say.

“Don’t worry about it, Christian. You won’t have to sit through that anymore. You certainly won’t have to relive the beating. I may have forgotten pieces of it, but after seeing that video, I can guarantee you that it’s committed to memory now!” Her voice is getting harsh, and I am remembering what Dr. Baker said this afternoon…

She’s not angry at you. She’s angry at the situation. Remember that, because she is likely to lash out when this is all said and done.”

I silently stand by while she continues to speak.

“I don’t need to regress to relive the searing pain of the brands on my back, or my begging them to spare my life and asking them what I did wrong. The only thing that I need to remember from that experience is that I called for my mommy in my head and she never came. Then again, she couldn’t come because she didn’t know what was happening to me. What’s worse is that I don’t think she would have come if she knew that I was in danger. So there’s no need for you to ever hear of that dirty little incident again!”

She’s screaming and throwing her brush by the time she is done with her speech. She jumps up from her chair and stomps to the bathroom door. She doesn’t go through it. She just stands there crying, her fists balled and her head down. I walk around the bed and come up behind her. Sensing my presence, she protests.

“No! Don’t touch me. I want to run!” she cries. Respecting her wishes—and shocked and proud that she’s working through this—I back up and sit on the bed. I hate most of all watching her stand there and cry, but I sit there and watch her ready to catch her if she falls. Her shoulders shake as she cries and I count to keep from running to her. Somewhere around 58, I see her breathing visibly change. She’s calming a bit. By the time I get to 75, she is taking deep breaths, though some of them are shuddering breaths. By lucky number 100, she has turned around and is facing me.

“Can I hold you now?” I ask.

“Yes,” she breathes. I have covered the few feet between us before the “s” gets out of her mouth. “Oh, Christian…” she gasps as I crush her in an embrace.

“I’m sorry, Baby. I’ll be there for you,” I promise her.

“No. I didn’t realize… I don’t want to put you through that.” I gather into my arms and carry her to our bed.

“I hate to see you suffer,” I say looking into her eyes, “but I’ll be damned if I let you suffer alone. I’ll be there for you.” She buries her face in my neck and weeps some more. “I made it about me. I’m sorry. Please forgive me. I won’t do that again.”

“I should have considered your feelings. Please forgive me.” She responds. I pull her close to me.

“I like this new ‘us,’ warts and all,” I say and she chuckles a bit through her tears.

“I loved her,” she says with a heavy sigh, and I know that she’s talking about Carla. “Part of me still loves her… still loves my Mommy, but she’s gone now. I don’t know if she left when she divorced Ray… Daddy…” She starts to cry again. “Help me to remember to never ever call him ‘Ray’ again,” she says through her tears.

“I’ll help you,” I promise, and she nods.

“Whenever she left, she wasn’t there when I needed her most, when I wanted her most, and now I can’t deal with conflict because of it.” She wipes her eyes.

“You said that you knew what to do about it. Do you want to tell me what you meant?” I ask her.

“Yes,” she sighs. “I need to confront my mother.”

“I thought you already did that… at Morton’s funeral.”

“No, that was anger talking. That was not me talking to mymy Mommy. I can’t do it right now. It’s going to take some time before I can. I don’t know when that will be, but… I have to confront her.”

“Just let me know what I can do,” I tell her.

“Right now, you can hold me and kiss me until I fall asleep,” she says.

I lay her on the bed and get up to turn off the lights. Coming back to her, I lie down next to her and cover us both with the sheet and comforter. I pull her into my arms facing me and entwine our legs together.

“With pleasure, my beautiful Butterfly,” I say before bringing my lips to hers.

*-*

“Mom, Dad, I want you to meet Luma and her granddaughters, Mariah and Celida.” I introduced Luma and the girls to my parents. Mom gives that big smile that she has to Luma and invites them in. I had the conversation yesterday with her about inviting Luma to Sunday dinner and to meet the rest of the family.

I appreciate what you are doing, Christian, but trust me. You can’t help every needy family in the world. I work for a charity. I know how it is to want to help them all, to get attached to them like stray kittens. First, the Martins; then the Whiteheads; now, Luma and her girls…”

Mom, let’s clarify some things. First, the Martins were our adopted family from the Adopt-A-Family Affair. Everything that was extended to them was based on their need as our adopted family. Although I do keep tabs on them, I am not involved in their lives any further. Second, the Whiteheads were Ana’s project. If you’re going to liken them to stray animals, Marlow was Ana’s kitten, Luma is mine… and I’m keeping her. Any more questions?” The line goes silent but I can hear her smiling.

I guess we’ll have three more for dinner,” she says.

So here we are, with three uncomfortable people in the Grey household… until

“Oh my God! How cute are they?” Mia comes bolting down the stairs and straight over to the girls. “Hi! My name is Mia,” she says, kneeling down to them. “What’s your name?”

“I am Mariah, and this is my sister, Celida,” Mariah says, protectively taking her sister’s hand.

“Would you like to come to my room? I have my own apartment, but I still have my room here. It’s the girliest room you’ve ever seen.”

“Even girlier than Felicia’s?” Mariah says.

“Who’s Felicia?” Mia asks.

“She’s a girl that goes to my school. She has Hello Kitty everywhere!” Mariah says, stressing the everywhere.

“Well, I don’t know. You’ll have to tell me if my room is girlier.” Mariah looks over to Luma who gives her a single nod.

“Okay. C’mon, Celida!” and off the three of them go up the stairs. Ana shows Luma around some parts of the house while my mother decides to pull me into the kitchen for a chat.

“My boys aren’t speaking,” she says, as she pours me a glass of wine.

“How do you know?”

“Oh, you mean besides the fact that Valerie called here in a fright in the dead of night on Friday morning to get your father to help pry a bottle of gin for Elliot’s hand?” Ooo, Mom does not sound happy. “Look around, do you see him?” I did notice that Elliot is conspicuously missing from Sunday dinner. “He can’t even face you, Christian.”

“Mom, you don’t understand. You weren’t there for how he talked to me and how he treated me.” I take a sip of my wine. “I was hurting so bad, Mom, so bad…”

“Christian, I had no idea,” she says, remorseful.

“That’s because I wasn’t advertising it. I didn’t want everybody to know. Then there’s this group of people who were supposed to have been my friends and they just left me hanging. It was my mistake to think that they were my friends, but it still stung like a bireally badly. Then Elliot shows up and he just rakes me across the coals. Talk about adding insult to injury.” I drink more of my wine. Mom sits on the stool next to me.

“Why didn’t you call me, Christian? I am your mother after all.”

“What was I supposed to say? ‘Mom, I suggested that we postpone the wedding, but Ana thinks I called it off. Can you please come and hold my hand?'” I shrug at the end of the rhetorical question.

“Quite frankly, yes,” Mom says, surprising me. I shake my head.

“I was too low. I don’t think even you could pull me out of it,” I confess.

“I never thought I’d see the day when a woman had you so deep in love that you didn’t know what to do with yourself,” Mom says as she brushes butter on some pastries. “Love looks good on you.” She puts the pastries into the oven and walks over to me. “You’ve brought a stranger to our home and have asked us to welcome her as family, which we will do, yet you can’t forgive Elliot. There’s something wrong with that, Christian. Talk to your brother.” She wipes her hand on her apron. “Now send Luma in here so that she can help me with the tarts.” I nod and go in search of Luma.

She’s right, there is something wrong with the fact that I can’t talk to Elliot. Dr. Baker even says that I have to let go of that pain and welcome Elliot back into my life. I’m trying. I’m really trying, but it’s so hard to get past the betrayal. I could barely concentrate on mine and Ray’s meeting yesterday thinking about all the changes going on with the people around my life.

I don’t know if I’m going to be able to sit still through another one of those regression sessions with Butterfly, but I know that I have to try. I don’t know how she’s going to react to what Ray and I are doing. I would think that she might be pleased, but I really don’t know. I’ve shaken my anger towards the “Scooby Gang.” It’s kind of hard to hold someone to a standard that they never really achieved in the first place. The friendship was all in my mind—it wasn’t real. So I had no problem letting it go. I don’t even really have any hard feelings towards them anymore. I just know where I stand and I won’t make the mistake of thinking that it ever was or ever will be true friendship… not in my case anyway.

And then there’s Elliot.

We’ve been through a lot of shit—shit that nobody else knows about. Brothers do that… they keep each others’ shit and they get into shit together and they get each other out of shit. He stopped me from getting arrested once. I helped him get girls out of the house before Mom caught him plenty of times. He helped me hide bruises and fights many times; he even fought side-by-side with me in a few of them.

I notify Butterfly that Luma is wanted in the kitchen. She agrees to go with her as a buffer between Luma and my mother just in case one is needed. I go out to the patio. Dusk is falling and the sky is streaked in cloudy purples and oranges as the sun sets over the water. I used to watch this scene often when I was a kid—that is, when I wasn’t with the Pedophile or running off to my secret place. I don’t know how long I go through my reminiscing when I hear the French doors open and close behind me. For some reason, I know who it is without even turning around, just from the shift of energy in the air.

“I hear you tied one on the other night,” I tell him.

“Yeah,” he says solemnly. “I need to work through some things. Not the best method, though. Dad was really pissed at me. He put me in a cold shower fully dressed. Either I was really drunk or Dad is really fucking strong for an old man.”

“I think it’s both.” There’s silence between us for a few moments.

“He actually put me on punishment. I’m not allowed to drink anything for 30 days, not even beer.” I look over at him.

“Are you going to do it?” I ask. He nods.

“Out of respect for my father and the fact that he had to come to my house and make sure that I wasn’t suffering from alcohol poisoning at two in the morning… yeah, I’m going to do it. I probably won’t drink until the wedding, and then only champagne for the toast.” He drinks some of his orange juice. I don’t know what to say to him. Small talk is okay, but anything in-depth, I can’t really put together right now.

“Christian, I know that I fucked up, and I don’t know if you’ll ever forgive me, but I’m not going to beg, Man,” he says looking me square on but with no malice in his voice.

“I don’t want you to beg, Elliot. That’s not what this is about…”

“Then tell me what it’s about,” he says.

“It’s about finding out that the one person that I thought would have my back didn’t. It’s about trust. It’s about all the shit that has gone on in our life going down the drain over some pussy. Not so long ago, you heard that I used to beat little brown-haired girls because of my birth mother. That didn’t shock and appall you. However, the fact that I postponed my wedding with my fiancée—my fiancée—made you completely drop the crest and walk away. The only person who had the right to be upset or hurt was Anastasia. Everybody else who walked around all bruised and battered because I postponed the wedding made it all about them when it was really none of their business.” I can hear myself going off on a tangent. This doesn’t need to be rehashed anymore.

“I needed you, Elliot, more than I can ever remember needing you before…”

“And I wasn’t there…”

“No, you were there,” I correct him. “You were there and you saw my pain and you still kicked me when I was down. That hurt like you’ll never believe.” I stand up and walk to the edge of the balcony. This time I don’t want him to see my tear, so I dash it away quickly.

“I still have to work out some anger issues I have when it comes down to what Kate did to me,” he says from behind me. “I really loved her. Well, if I’m honest, I thought I loved her. I did in the beginning, but near the end… Anyway, I had no right to take that out on you and I know that. It was my fucked-up situation to deal with and I didn’t do very well. Then when you asked me to explain it, I wanted you to just get over it; forget that it happened and forgive me. That’s why I was so callous when we talked about it. I just wanted you to let it go.

“She calls me to meet her for lunch nonstop. I thought if I ignored her, she would just go away, but she keeps calling and calling and calling. It was making me angrier and angrier. I finally called her back once and asked her what she wanted and she wouldn’t tell me. So I told her to stop calling me. Do you think she stopped? No! She just keeps calling and calling, telling me how much she wants to see me and how much has changed. I guess that Roger fucker dumped her.” I turn around to face him. He’s clutching that tumbler like he is praying that it turns to Vodka.

“Why didn’t you tell me that she was still calling you like that?” I ask him. He shrugs.

“I thought I could handle it—girl problems, you know? The more she called, the more she stayed in the front of my mind—all that time that I wasted on her and the plans we made; what our life was supposed to look like. Then you and Ana…” He trails off. “… And I took it out on you. I was so mad that I thought my head was going to burst and I took it out on you. I really thought I could handle it. I guess I was wrong,” he laments. I sigh. I wish he had explained it to me like this before. I would have understood more clearly.

“Hurt people hurt people,” I mumble recalling the words that Allen said to me the first time the Scooby Gang threw me under the bus.

“What?”

“It’s something I heard once. Hurt people hurt people. You were hurting and when something happened that compared to what you were going through, you lashed out and ended up hurting me,” I explain to him. He drops his head and nods.

“Yeah, sounds right,” he admits taking another drink of his orange juice. I sigh heavily. I’ve never been at odds with my brother, not like this anyway, but it’s really going to take some work for me to trust him again like I did before.

“I’m working on forgiveness, Elliot,” I tell him. “It is going to take some time, but I won’t shut you out anymore. It’s not doing either of us any good.” He looks up at me.

“I appreciate that, Bro, and I understand. All I can tell you is that I won’t let you down again, especially not over some stank piece of cheating trash like her. I may need you to bang some sense into me from time to time, though,” he adds. I chuckle.

“That I can do,” I tell him. He stands and extends his hand to me. I accept it and shake his hand.

“I won’t let you down again,” he repeats.

“I’m going to hold you to that,” I respond, still shaking his hand. “Do you want me to speak to Kavanaugh?” He shakes his head.

“No, I’m going to change my number since she’s stalking me. If that doesn’t work, I’ll send Val over there. She wants a piece of that woman really bad.” I raise my eyebrows.

“Now that’s a fight I’d pay to see,” I jest—well, not really jest. I would pay to see that fight.

“Well, you might get your wish if this woman doesn’t put a lid on it,” he confirms. Just then, I hear a delicate throat clearing. I’d know that voice anywhere.

“I hope I’m not disturbing anything,” she says coming out of the shadows.

“No, Ana Montana. We were just finishing up here.” Elliot makes his way over to her and embraces her. They have a 30-second conversation and then he goes back inside.

“What was that about? Did you send him out here?” I ask.

“No, your mother did,” she says, walking to me.

“What was that little…” I gesture with my hand, trying to formulate the words to ask why they were whispering.

“I can’t tell you,” she says. Excuse me?

“Why can’t you tell me?” I ask.

“Why couldn’t I tell you before?” she says, maintaining her cool demeanor. My mind immediately goes to five days without Butterfly, food, or water. My mouth forms a small “O” as realization dawns. “See? Cute and you got a little sense, too.” She tiptoes and plants a kiss on my lips.

“How’s Luma doing?” I ask her.

“Grace took her to the kitchen and I think she’s in stunned happiness.”

“And the girls?”

“They haven’t emerged from Mia’s room yet. I think they have fallen into the girly vortex.” I couldn’t help but laugh at that one. “They are going to need a lot of time, Christian.”

“I know,” I sigh. “I just couldn’t leave them alone.. not now. Not ever, I think.” She puts her hand on my chest.

“You’re a good man with a good heart. I just want you to be careful with it.”

“You and my mom,” I lament.

“We love you. We don’t want to see anyone take advantage of you, not that Luma ever would. She is one of the most genuine people I have ever met and I don’t really know how I know. I just feel it. I hope that I’m right.”

“You’re right,” I tell her. “Anyone who can show that kind of love to the man who murdered her daughter has a heart of pure gold.” She nods.

“Well, then in that case, I would say that she does need someone to take care of her right now.” She smiles at me before taking my hand and leading me back into the house.


A/N: Ana and Ray were dancing to I Heard It Through The Grapevine by Marvin Gaye on her eighth birthday.

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Mending Dr. Steele: Chapter 42—Opening Up

So, long story short—I got a promotion at work (yay, right?) but it required that I take a few classes that had to be completed by Monday. Guess when I found out that these classes had to be completed so soon? ON FRIDAY! So I spent my weekend fighting with this damn computer trying to get these damn classes done, which still were not done by Monday… I had one left (there were 12, and they were NOT short). Needless to say, I’m wiped out by the time it’s all said and done and couldn’t focus to read another damn word for a while. So while I do apologize that my update is late, real life comes first…

Someone asked why I didn’t post pictures on Pinterest anymore. I haven’t abandoned Pinterest. It’s just that a lot of what is going on in the chapters lately is more introspective than not, and it’s very hard to find pictures that portray my thoughts. I will do a little spoiler and say that there are some picturesque chapters in the works, though, but not before a bit more introspection. 

Thank you to those people who defended me and praised me for taking my story in my direction. Comments and emails got a little heated in the past several days. More than one person encouraged me and addressed the fact that I shouldn’t have to explain myself. I want to let all you know that I don’t consider it “explaining myself” if I post something like that. I am always prepared to clarify something that someone may have been mistaken about. I am also always prepared to support my facts. While many people saw that I was defending my facts and that I had gotten offended by the contents of some of the comments (again, NOT because my story was being bashed, but because of the direction of the conversations), I don’t think anybody really got that I was also trying to say “these comments are getting a bit out of hand and going off on irrelevant and offensive tangents. How about we bring it back around here?” Anywho, contrary to the belief expressed in some comments, I do appreciate your encouragement AND your constructive criticism.

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

Chapter 42—Opening Up

GREY

Butterfly looks so content lying naked in our bed this morning, her hair splayed over the pillow as she sleeps harder than I think I ever seen her sleep before. I bring my lips down to her beautiful stomach and lick her belly button.

“Mmm, no…” she whimpers. “I can’t… I’m sore…”

“Okay, Baby. I’m just waking you up,” I say as I kiss up her body, between her breasts, up her neck, across her cheek and to her tender lips. “Good morning, Beautiful.”

“Good morning, Gorgeous,” she replies as she returns my kiss before stretching luxuriously underneath me.

“What time is Marilyn supposed to be here?” I ask.

“Not until 10,” she purrs, pushing her breasts into me.

“If you don’t want me to fuck you, you better stop doing that.”

“I’m trying to stretch, Christian, and you’re lying on top of me. What am I supposed to do?” I pin her hands over her head and kiss her deeply, pressing my growing erection into her. “Good God, you’re a fucking machine… pun intended.”

“That’s right, so stop teasing me,” I warn. She raises her eyebrow at me.

“Shouldn’t you be getting ready for work yourself?” she asks.

“I own the place and I don’t have any meetings scheduled for today, so I can go in whenever I want.”

“Mmmm, that you can, Mr. Grey.” With gentle prompting, I allow her to roll me over onto my back. “However, you sexed me so much last night that I am a bit unable at the moment, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t ‘go in’ somewhere else.” She slides down my body then looks up at me. “Don’t resist me,” she says before sucking my erection into her mouth.

“Aahh, fuck!” I hiss. This woman has the most talented mouth that I have ever felt in my life! Maybe it’s just because I love her, but hot damn—she is skilled! She is bobbing feverishly up and down my shaft and it’s turning pink and angry already. Using her hands and her mouth, she massages my dick and balls and brings me to an erupting orgasm in nearly no time.

“Dammit, Anastasia, how do you do that?” I ask while trying to catch my breath.

“I know what you like. I couldn’t let you go into the office all hot and bothered just because my coochie is momentarily out of commission.” She licks my dick and kisses the head one more time, causing me to jump, before she rises out of the bed and goes to the shower. Fuck, that woman is amazing.

We enjoy a leisurely breakfast of eggs Benedict, asparagus, and fresh fruit while Butterfly tells me about the shrew who pretty much fired her yesterday. She is hoping that the woman quickly finds another therapist so that she can rid herself of the file. I’m proud to know that she was able to get three days worth of patients down to two half-days so far, allowing her the time to do what she wants to do—focus on her own treatment and her own life, and ours. Thursday and Friday were always light days for her anyway, so I’m sure she’ll either leave those like they are or have no problem reducing them.

Marilyn is dragging a rolling bag behind her with Garrett in tow with a second box as I am putting on my suit coat and heading to the door with my briefcase.

“Hi, Christian,” Marilyn greets in her usual, too-peppy-for-morning voice to which I have become accustomed. I’ve noticed that she will go with the flow—whatever the flow may be—but she doesn’t let circumstances affect her and she is loyal to a fault. The day that she stood up to me in Butterfly’s office will forever be etched in my memory. She is part of Butterfly’s “Jason”—Al and Davenport make up the other two prongs of that tripod—and I have to say that I appreciate that.

“Good morning, Marilyn,” I say, greeting Garrett with a noncommittal nod that he returns. “You know where she is.”

“Yes, I do,” she says heading towards the stairs as I head towards the door where Lawrence is patiently waiting. Once outside, I summon the elevator and we are off to start our day.

*-*

Later that evening, after a call to check on Jason, Gail, and Butterfly, Lawrence takes me to a nondescript building on the Alaskan Way Viaduct with a clear view of the waterfront. There’s nothing special about the building, it doesn’t stand out. There’s no writing on it, just an address. It reminds of a speakeasy, like you need a password to get in or something. I look over at Lawrence, who shrugs, but pats his chest to let me know that he is armed and ready if necessary. I nod and we exit the car.

The atmosphere changes significantly when we get inside. There is a bar that spans the far wall of the room. Several televisions display various sports events happening in various locations. There are tables and chairs and sofas spread generously around a very large room with no separators. As I begin to traverse the room looking for James, I overhear conversations about everything from the plunge in the stock market to someone’s ongoing custody battle. While one table is full of professional men, another is occupied by blue-collar workers while yet another is a mixture of both. I get a few strange looks from some of the men in the room. Either they recognize me or they are wondering why two men in designer suits are wandering aimlessly through the room.

“Christian!” I hear my name being shouted from somewhere off to my left. I turn to see James waving me over to a table where he is sitting with two other men. I walk over and shake his hand. “Glad you could make it.” He introduces me to the other men at the table and I introduce everyone to Lawrence.

“Call me Ben,” Lawrence corrects me as he shakes hands with each man. He takes a seat at the table and we all fall into comfortable conversation. Lawrence is still on alert as he is still on duty, but he manages to shed the formalities just enough to fit in. After a solid twenty minutes of talking to the gentlemen at this table, James deems it necessary to introduce me around the room with the hopes of making me more comfortable. This is going to be interesting. I’ve only felt comfortable meeting new people with Butterfly’s guidance. Now, I’m on my own.

Mostly everyone seems friendly enough as we make the rounds through the room. On some introductions, I hear the inevitable, “the Christian Grey?” I knew that would happen and I hope it doesn’t become a problem, but we will just have to see. As we are making the rounds, I have to say that I am happy to see a familiar face.

“Christian. You old dog, how the hell have you been?”

“Jeff, long time no see,” I greet the friend of my family and the long-time owner of a restaurant the I used to frequent in Bellevue. “How’s business?”

“Still booming. I’m priming Mike to take over, but he just doesn’t seem to have the heart for it. I may have to sell.”

“Oh, I hate to hear that. I know that place has been in your family for years…”

Making my way around the room and stopping at conversations that caught my attention, particularly getting caught in conversations involving business, flying, and sports—which was basically all of them—the hours fly by and it’s nearly 10:00 when I get a text from Butterfly.

**Just checking to see that you are okay. Hope you are having a good time. **

“Yeah, we’ve all gotten that text,” someone says to my right. “The little woman? ‘Hope everything is okay?'” I chuckle involuntarily.

“Exactly,” I respond.

“For the record, that’s a covert way of saying ‘get your ass home soon.’ I figured I’d let you in on the secret so that you don’t have to find out the hard way.” The other gentlemen at the table have a good laugh at my expense. I join in the laughter and rise from the table.

“I actually do need to get going, not just because I don’t want the little woman to bite my head off, but I do have a business to run. It was nice meeting all you,” I say to the group.

“Hope to see you again, Chris,” one of the guys raises his drink to me as I rise out of the chair. I nod noncommittal as James makes his way over to me.

“So, what do you think?” he asks. “I mean, I don’t expect for you to meet your new best friend here, but it’s a good place to unwind with guys just trying to do the same thing, right?” I nod.

“I have to admit, it’s a good idea,” I tell him. “Thanks. I’ll be around. Don’t forget—tux fittings at my apartment tomorrow evening.”

“I won’t forget. Allie will have my neck in a sling. You know he’s gone crazy with your wedding…” I can’t help but laugh.

“I understand your pain,” I say, smiling, before I exit the club.

Butterfly is asleep when I get home, so I don’t get to tell her about my night until tomorrow. I am nowhere near tired, so I kiss her gently on the cheek and go off into my study. As I turn on my laptop, my mind runs through the surprises that I am trying to set up for our wedding day. A few emails and texts tell me that everything seems to be on track. However, I have one email that gives me cause for concern:

To: Christian Grey

Cc: Andrea Fairchild

Subject: Request for Time Off

Date: Wednesday, March 27, 2013, 22:14

From: Luma Arias

Mr. Christian and Ms. Andrea,

You have been very kind to me and I appreciate it. However, I must ask for time off if you and Ms. Andrea can spare me. I won’t take much, but I must bury Richard. Call me when you have a chance.

Luma Arias, Personal Assistant to Andrea Fairchild, Grey Enterprises Holdings, Inc.

Bury Richard? Who the hell is… oh, fuck. What the hell happened and why does she have to bury Richard? I look at my watch—10:50. She just sent this email. I go through my contacts where I saved her number in case of emergency when Débora was ill.

Hello?”

Luma, it’s Christian. What’s happened?” She immediately begins to weep.

Mr. Christian. I didn’t mean to disturb you this late, but I received a call. From the jail. Richard is dead. He took his own life.” Oh, hell.

“When did this happen?”

Not long ago. Maybe an hour or so. He has no family—only me and the girls. Now, it’s just me and the girls.” She weeps harder. “I sorry, Mr. Christian. I know you just hired me and I don’t want to disappoint you…”

“Nonsense, Luma. You’ve done an excellent job so far. Take all the time you need. Tell me, do you know how this happened?”

He hanged himself in his cell. He was very depressed. Every time I take the girls to see him, he says goodbye. Every time. I asked him why. He said, ‘You never know when it will be last time.’ Now, it was the last time.” She weeps harder. Is she crying for him or for the situation?

Luma, what can I do to help?” The line is quiet.

I don’t know, Mr. Christian. I don’t know what to do.”

“Well, first, you don’t worry about time off. Take whatever you need. I will see what arrangements need to be made for Richard’s remains. Have you told the girls yet?”

No. There are asleep. I do not want to wake them.”

“Don’t. Let them rest. Luma, you need rest, too.”

I cannot sleep, Mr. Christian. I must pray. Too much tragedy. My heart cannot rest. I lose my husband. I lose my only daughter and my only son. Why am I being punished?” This woman’s heart has me flabbergasted. She is grieving the loss of the man who murdered her daughter. No matter what, she loved him like a son and now, she is destroyed because of his death.

“I don’t know why this horrible thing has happened to you, Luma,” I say softly. “I know that a very wise person once told me that everything happens for a reason—even tragedy. We have no idea why tragedy happens, but we must be strong. You must be strong for Mariah and Celida. I know that you feel like you are alone now, but you are not. You have those two beautiful girls that need you more than ever, and you have me. I will help you in any way that I can.”

Thank you, Mr. Christian. I don’t know how to thank you.”

“What can I do for you right now, Luma?”

Will you pray with me?” she asks. Um… boy, I’m really out of my element here.

“I… don’t do much praying, Luma, but I’ll try,” I confess.

Now might be a good time to start,” she says sweetly. “You don’t have to say anything. Just speak to Him in your heart.”

“Um… okay.” That doesn’t seem too hard. The line goes silent and I realize that she is praying. I close my eyes and try for some reverential thought to come through, some magnanimous declaration of worship—but nothing happens. I’ve just never prayed before, but something tells me that I should really try right now. So I close my eyes again and think of my life so far—not the early parts and the abuse, not even the moments with the Pedophile. I think about the last nine months with Butterfly. I think about how her “happy” smile lights up a room and about how many people she has helped just since I’ve known her. I think about how she supports me and she helped me when I was falling apart with my own revelations and emotions.

My mind drifts to our wedding day and how I can’t wait to see her in some gorgeous white creation that will pale in comparison to her beauty. My mind drifts further to our children running around a grassy lawn being chased by us. Laughter fills the air as beautiful mahogany-haired girls and handsome gray-eyed boys romp carelessly and happily around a ridiculously large yard with Butterfly and me. I see wonderful Christmases and beautiful Thanksgivings and quiet nights by the fire with the woman that I love. I don’t know how it happened. I don’t know what cosmic force crashed into fate and landed this woman in my lap and in my heart, but all my soul can say is…

… Thank you.

Amen,” Luma says into the phone as if she were reading my thoughts. I feel unbelievably happy right now even though I’ve just received some terrible news. “That was very good, Mr. Christian. Thank you. I can rest some now.” What did I do?

“You do that, Luma. We will take care of everything tomorrow. You sleep tonight, okay?”

Yes. I will. Thank you again, Mr. Christian… for praying with me.” I really don’t think that’s what I did. Nonetheless, I answer, “You’re welcome. Goodnight, Luma.”

Goodnight.” I end the call. I don’t know what to say or think, but all of a sudden, I am extremely content, and quite exhausted. I quickly send off an email.

To: Luma Arias

Cc: Andrea Fairchild

Subject: Request Granted

Date: Wednesday, March 27, 2013, 23:23

From: Christian Grey

Of course, you may have whatever time you need to make arrangements for your son. Meet with Andrea and me in the morning to coordinate the time that you may need and a temporary replacement in your absence if needed. Get some rest. We’ll talk to you in the morning.

Christian Grey, CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings, Inc.

I turn off my computer and the light in my study and go to my bedroom.

There she is… my salvation. She saved me from myself. Her love and inner beauty came into my life and forcefully began pushing away all of the bad. The horridness is fighting violently to hang on, but it won’t survive—not with her around. My champion, fighting off the monsters, banishing pedophiles with kitchen knives and bringing harpies to their knees with a Magnum. She’s absolutely incredible.

I climb in bed behind her after stripping down to my boxer-briefs. She curls into my body and makes everything alright. Wrapped around my Butterfly, I fall into an effortless sleep.


STEELE

Well, it looks like after a bit of rearranging, I’m going to have Wednesdays and Fridays off completely, which works out very well since I didn’t really like working on Fridays anyway. My light-load Thursday people utterly swear that they cannot survive without me, although two of them agreed to go down to half-hour sessions and one agreed to twice a month. The fourth absolutely refused to bend. She needs her sessions and I happen to agree after talking to her in detail.

I only had two patients on Friday and they were happy to move to Thursday and Tuesday on half-hour schedules as they weren’t ready to let go just yet, but didn’t feel the need for hourly sessions. They also both admitted that they didn’t like Friday as a day for therapy. It’s not a good way to start the weekend. I disagree. I happen to think getting things out in the open on Friday and then using the weekend to cleanse is a perfect recipe, but that’s just me.

I am thoroughly proud of myself. I have cut a full-time workweek down to 11.5 hours. I’ll have plenty of time to focus on Helping Hands, my own therapy, my relationship, and anything else that I choose at this time. I’m almost giddy.

Christian is going out with James tonight to some new Boys’ Club thing and Jason is a bit out-of-sorts because High Command forbid him to go. When he’s better, I’m sure he’ll be all for it, but for now, he’s grounded and pouting.

What’s most important is that it is Wednesday night and with the help of Al and Tammy, I have chosen my dress. It is absolutely stunning and I am hoping that I can get a little collaboration from the designers. If not, I will make my masterpiece work as is. A huge weight is lifted off my shoulders now that I don’t have to roll around in random balls of tulle anymore! Christian’s eyes are going to pop out of his head when he sees it, and I think my choice is just perfect for me.

I fell asleep alone, but I wake with Christian tangled around me—immovable. I mean I can’t even straighten my legs! He has me on lockdown.

“Christian? Wake up, Baby. Christian?” He doesn’t respond. “Christian!” He jumps and jolts out of his sleep. “Let me go, Baby. I have to pee.”

He looks groggily at me then rubs his eyes before releasing me to go to the restroom. What happened at that Mens Club? I don’t think I’ve ever seen him sleep that hard. I relieve myself and wash my hands before coming back out to the bedroom.

“What time did you get to bed last night?” I ask.

“Maybe around 11 or so,” he says, his voice still thick with sleep.

“That’s not late for you. What happened at the Mens Club that tired you out so badly?”

“It wasn’t the Mens Club,” he says. “It was after I got back home.” He throws his arm over his eyes. “Do you remember the woman that Andrea hired? Luma? She’s the one in the PSA whose daughter was beaten to death by her boyfriend.” I shiver at the thought of it. I remember my very shaken fiancé telling me that he had watched someone die that day.

“Yes?” I answer trepidatiously.

“She sent me an email last night. Richard—the guy who killed her daughter—hanged himself in his cell. I was thinking ‘good riddance,’ but this woman was completely broken. She cried for her lost husband, her lost daughter, and her lost son. I didn’t know what to say to her.”

“How did you know she was crying?” I ask.

“Oh, I called her. I read the email about twenty minutes after she sent it. She’s lost, Butterfly. I offered to help her, but she doesn’t even know what to do. So now, I most likely have to arrange for his remains to be removed from whatever jail he died in to whatever funeral home she wants to have handle his final arrangements.” He pauses. “I was hoping I could convince you to talk to her. I know that you’re trying to lighten your load, but I really think she needs some guidance. Just… think about it, okay?” I nod.

“I will. That still doesn’t tell me what wiped you out so badly,” I say. He sighs.

“She couldn’t sleep. She asked me to pray with her.” I jerk my head at him in surprise. “Yeah, I know. I was just as shocked, but what could I say?” He sits up and pulls me down onto the bed still holding my hands. “She told me to just speak to Him in my heart, and I tried. I really tried, but nothing happened.” He never raises his eyes to me as he continues his story. “I finally just started thinking about my life, about you and me and how remarkable everything has been since I’ve met you—the good and the bad. It was weird, but I went through our whole life, past, present, and future. I think of who I used to be and who I am now and I can’t believe the man I’ve become.” He’s caressing my hands as he speaks. “It all came rushing in on me at once and all I could think was ‘thank you.’ I don’t know who or what I was thanking, I was just… thankful.”

He quickly rubs his eyes and I could swear he is dashing away tears from his face. I must be mistaken. “Just as I was having this moment,” he continues, “Luma ended her prayer, thanked me and told me that she could sleep now. Isn’t that strange?” His eyes meet mine and they are a bit glassy, confirming to me that he was ridding his face of a few escaped tears.

“Not so strange,” I say softly. I don’t dare tell him what Carla used to tell me back when she used to be my mom… the Lord works in mysterious ways… I don’t think he’s ready for that.

“When I hung up the phone, I was utterly spent when moments earlier, I was as bright as a bunny! So I just came to bed and I don’t think I moved until morning.” I caress his hair.

“That’s some story, Mr. Grey,” I console him. “How do you feel now? Are you okay?” He nods slowly and looks up at me.

“Yes, I’m fine. I need to get to the office to get started on Richard’s arrangements. What’s your day looking like?”

“I have my condensed Thursday schedule and then I’ll be at Helping Hands.” He nods.

“I’d better get started. I’ll have Luma call you if that’s okay. If you decide you would rather not see her…”

“No,” I interrupt him, “I would be happy to help. Have her call me this afternoon if you can.” He nods. Taking my face in his hands, he kisses me gently.

“I love you, Anastasia Steele.”

“I love you, too, Christian Grey.”

*-*

Helping Hands is kind of quiet this afternoon. I help Grace with a project that she is working on and we talk about the wedding—out of range of listening ears. Christian cut her list of 50 down to 48—I didn’t know that. Apparently, the judge that sentenced him to the anger management session made it to the list. Grace must not know about that little faux pas on Christian’s part, or at least not that Hammerstein was the judge. Although he is indirectly responsible for this wedding, Christian feels no need to invite him.

As it turns out, Mia and Ethan are in the beginning stages of planning their wedding as well. Since they have settled well in their new apartment, they have set a date for September 20, 2014. Mia is nowhere near as frantic as I am since they have only gotten as far as choosing their color scheme. They haven’t even started on the guest list yet.

“Grace, this area needs a good dusting,” I tell her as I run my finger through a layer of dust on a nearby desk.”

“Yes, our cleaning staff has been a bit lazy over the last couple of weeks. I’ve been trying not to replace them…”

“Okay, but they shouldn’t be paid for sloppy work. Has anyone spoken to them?” She shrugs.

“I’m only a part-time director, Ana. I haven’t been able to keep tabs on things around her like I want and I really don’t trust anyone else with the task.” Boy, my schedule change couldn’t have come at a more perfect time.

“How about me?” I ask her. “I would only do it part-time, like you, and I wouldn’t expect a raise or anything like that. Two part-time directors—or a part-time director and a part-time co-director or assistant make a full-time person to handle the work.” Grace grimaces. “What’s wrong?”

“There’s another girl here that has been hounding me to do the same thing. She’s been here for a few years and she thinks that she can run the place without me…”

“Let me guess—Gloria,” I say. She raises her eyebrow at me.

“How did you know?”

“Because she actually already acts like she runs the place. When I asked her who she was, she said that she was your ‘assistant.'” I do the finger quotes around the word assistant.

“Is that so?” Grace says in an ominous tone. Oh shit.

“Grace, I’m not trying to start any trouble,” I say as I think to myself that maybe I would do better to clean this filthy desk than to put my foot in my mouth. I find some pre-moistened cleaning wipes and begin to cut through the dust and dirt on the desk.

“I should probably tell you that’s the desk that John uses occasionally,” she says. I stop. I’m not really able to label the feelings and thoughts that go through me at that moment. Instead, I just shrug and keep cleaning. With a smile, Grace lifts the phone receiver and dials a few numbers. “Lisa, can you please tell Gloria to come to my office? Thank you.”

Oh, hell… oh, well. I just keep cleaning.

A few minutes later, the 30-something Gloria walks into the office. Throwing a confused look at me, she goes over to Grace’s desk and greets her with the biggest smile I have ever seen on a human being.

“Grace,” she coos, “what can I do for you?”

“Gloria, I’m so glad you’re here. You’ve met Ana, haven’t you?” Grace says.

“Of, course I have. Ana…” Gloria turns to me and extends her hand in that same pissy way that Kate did when we met. Um, no. No thanks. I raise my hands away from her.

“I’m sorry. My hands are utterly filthy from cleaning this dust-ridden desk. Good to see you again, Gloria,” I say as I continue my cleaning. I don’t bother to wait for her reaction. I really don’t care.

“Well, I’ll need you to help Ana acclimate a bit to the way that things work around here—you know, the ins and outs of the daily operations. Since you’ve been with the organization for a while, I’m sure this is something that you can handle.” Grace speaks in a voice completely free of malice, seemingly oblivious to the knife that she is currently twisting in Gloria’s chest.

“Grace, if you don’t mind my asking, why am I training Ana for this? I can handle the task very well on my own…”

“Oh! Ana is changing her schedule a bit and wants to spend more time here at the center. As such, in addition to counseling the families, she is going to be my assistant.” I think the same stunned expression appears on Gloria’s face that appears on mine. Gee, Grace, a little more warning in the future please? “I mean, she will be my assistant until we can possibly move her up into an assistant director’s position,” she adds with a smile. Yep, I’m still stunned. “Oh, come on, you had to know this was coming,” Grace says to me.

“I, um…” What do I say?

“Ana, you’ve got the experience, the drive, the personality and demeanor, the education… Look what you’ve done with Marlow! We tried for weeks to bring him out of his shell and you accomplished that in one afternoon. You’re intelligent, tenacious, and you know what needs to be done. Whatever you don’t know, we will teach you. Right, Gloria?” Grace looks from me to Gloria with a huge smile.

“Um… yeah,” Gloria answers still as stunned as I am. Wow, how can I say no?

“Thanks, Grace. I promise, I won’t let you down.” I smile back at her.

“I have no doubt, my dear,” she says sweetly.

“Grace, with all due respect, Anastasia is not accustomed to dealing with troubled families on a regular basis or with the extensive duties involved with fundraising and non-profit agencies. Don’t you think she might be in a bit over her head?” Gloria protests. What the…? How the fuck do you know what I am accustomed to? I grunt under my breath and keep cleaning. “Is there something you want to say, Ana?” Gloria confronts. I raise my eyes to her, then go back to cleaning the desk, laughing to myself. “Please, Ana, let us all in on the joke. I mean your obvious lack of experience is nothing to be ashamed of.”

Bitch, do you really want to go there? Without even lifting my head enough to give her full attention, I respond, “Do you have any idea whatsoever just how much your opinion of me does not matter?” I throw a cold glare at her long enough to silence her, then go back to cleaning the desk. Damn, why didn’t this man think to pick up these wipes and run it across this desk a few times himself?

“Now, ladies, let’s not get snippy,” Grace scolds, like she’s talking to four-year-olds. “Whatever Ana doesn’t know, we will help her, but even you have to admit. To have another licensed doctor on staff as an assistant director is ideal.” Gloria throws a look at me then back at Grace. “I’m going to leave you two to sort out your schedule and decide how you want to tackle this task. I’ll be back shortly.” Oh, Grace, you are such a bad girl. You know that this woman would rather chew glass than take orders from me. Once Grace leaves the office, Gloria turns her glare on me.

“So, you’ve managed to weasel your way into my job. You’ve only been here for a few months. I’ve been here for years! What did you do—come in here and snitch on me?” she barks. What in the world is wrong with this woman? I turn to face her.

“No, all I did was offer to work for free to help lighten her caseload and make sure that people were doing their jobs around here!” I snap as I dispose of another filthy wipe that I have used to clean John’s desk. She smiles fiendishly and leans on Grace’s desk.

“You may be the golden child because Grace is kissing your ass, but you don’t mean a thing to me, Little Girl. This is gross favoritism and don’t think for a second that you’ll be able to boss me around,” she hisses.

“I’m not trying to boss you around, but Grace did put me in charge of certain things and I am here to help her out. If you can’t be a part of the team and do what needs to be done to keep this center running, you are free to submit your resignation. I am here for the center, not for you. I am here to help these people, not to win a popularity contest. This is a charity not the damn Presidency! These people need our help—that’s all you should be concerned about. If that’s not why you’re here, you need to re-examine some things.

“I don’t care about a title. I care that the person that sits at this desk has to sit under an inch of dust because housekeeping can’t seem to get the job done and Grace doesn’t have time to chase them around. When did this ever become about you? I don’t know what your problem is, but leave me out of it—and if you don’t want me to call you a fried-out, bitter, old, jealous hag, then don’t ever call me ‘Little Girl’ again!” She gasps at my last statement.

“Old!?” Is that all she heard? “I’m not that much older than you, Missy.”

“Yet another reason for you not to call me ‘Little Girl,'” I state firmly.

“You really think you’re big shit, don’t you?” she nearly growls. “Marrying Christian Grey and slithering in here under his mother. What are you trying to prove? You were a nobody before you met this family. What’s your game?” Oh my God, not another one.

“Let’s get one thing clear,” I say, my voice dropping two octaves to show my anger. “I am not now, nor have I ever been, nor will I ever be ‘a nobody.’ I have made it clear that I don’t care what you think of me. So do your job—or don’t. Whatever floats your boat, but rest assured, I will do mine. That’s all that you need to be concerned about. This conversation is over.”

“Don’t think for a minute that you can talk to me like that! I…”

“I said this conversation is over! I have nothing else to say to you!” I bark.

“Well, I’m not finished with you!” she barks back.

“Yes, you are.”

We are both stunned into temporary silence when we hear Grace’s voice in the doorway, and she is warm! She walks into the office like she is ready to do battle. Gloria stands at attention as Grace approaches her. “I’m glad that you decided to stand up straight when I walked in. Your finger was resting on the PA button.” She points to where Gloria was leaning. How could she not know that her finger was on that button?

“I do thank you for your services up to this point, Gloria, but they are no longer needed.” Gloria gasps.

“You’re… firing me?” she asks, appalled.

“I brought you to my office and I personally told you that I was putting this woman in charge of certain things. I even asked you to help her acclimate to her transition since you have been so knowledgeable and helpful in the center. Instead, you wait until my back is turned and then you insult, interrogate, and disrespect her. I need people here who will work and take instruction, not social climbers looking for recognition and having hissy fits when they don’t get what they want.” Gloria’s eyes grow large, then her face forms into a smirk.

“Figures,” she says. “Fine, I’ll leave,” she says flippantly, but her demeanor doesn’t get past Grace.

“Oh, and Gloria?” Grace calls to her. She stops and turns around. “I suggest you go quietly and find another cause for your purposes. I’m already on top of that mountain that you’re trying to climb. Make no mistake–if you go around slandering or badmouthing me, my daughter-in-law, or this organization, you will quickly find out exactly what a ‘nobody’ really is.” She glares at Gloria who narrows her eyes and marches out of the office. I sigh heavily.

“How do I manage to keep making enemies without even trying?” I say, shaking my head.

“Get used to it, Dear,” Grace says. “It’s the nature of the beast. You’re marrying my son which apparently is a capital crime among single women everywhere and particularly in my circle, especially since you didn’t start in my circle.” She walks around the desk and put her hands on my shoulder. “Face it, Ana. People are terrible snobs, and you are marrying into a society that accepts you for your net worth and social standing and will reject you at a moment’s notice.”

“I won’t be that woman, Grace,” I tell her. “I’m not going to change who I am to fit in. I don’t care if they reject me. I don’t want or need their acceptance. I’m not marrying Christian for status. I’m marrying him because I love him, and if they can’t accept that, then they can all just go to hell!” I’m yelling before I know it while violently tossing another useless wipe into the trash. I take a moment to compose myself while leaning on John’s desk and when I raise my head, another Grey is standing silently in the doorway.

My Beloved.

“Okay… though I love the sound of that, I’m curious of what I may have interrupted,” he says, throwing a questioning look at his mother while making his way over to me. Grace says nothing but surrenders her position to her son so that he can put his arms around me. “What happened, Baby?”

“Oh, nothing. I’m just being initiated into ‘society!'” I say sarcastically while sinking into his embrace. “What brings you here today? I would have thought you would be knee-deep in the world of mergers and acquisitions.”

“Not today,” he says solemnly. “I arranged for Richard’s remains to be delivered to the mortuary. Luma will have him cremated and his ashes placed in the family crypt with her husband and daughter. She’s having a bad time of it today and… I know you said you would think about it and I don’t want to force your hand, but…” My usually strong and confident fiancé is nearly begging for help. He can’t handle this grieving woman.

“Will you take her to the meeting room next door?” I ask him. He breathes an audible sigh of relief.

“Thank you, Butterfly. I brought someone else, too.” He releases me and gestures to someone in the hallway. My old friend comes into the room.

“Marlow!” I dash over to him and embrace him. His demeanor has changed and he has gotten taller—as if he could. He’s dressed like a young businessman’s apprentice. “You look great.”

“Thanks, Ana,” he says and his voice even shocks me. It’s gotten deeper and he speaks with a sound of authority. Christian Grey is really rubbing off on him.

“I’ll give you two a little time. Luma and I will be next door,” Christian says with a smile as he leaves the room.

“Have you started the new school yet? Which one did you choose?” I ask, wanting to know everything about what’s going on in his life.

“Seattle Prep, and not yet. Mr. Grey arranged for some of the prep work to be sent to me so that I can get ready for next semester, but it was just too far into the term to start now. It really keeps me busy, though. I’m on the website getting ready for 11th grade and there’s so much to learn and do. I can even go out for sports if I want… if I can establish a good GPA and keep it up…” He is so animated as he fills me in on everything that has been going on in his life, more animated and excited than I have ever seen. It’s fantastic and I couldn’t be happier.

“You spend most of your time in school and with Christian. Do you feel like you’re missing out on anything?” I ask. He shakes his head.

“No, I have a bigger agenda in mind. If I want to get into Morehouse or Howard, I’ve got to focus right now on getting into Sea Prep and keeping my grades up. It’s going to be hard, but I’m really looking forward to it. I’ll really be able to stretch my legs and see what’s out there once I get to the new school. Right now, that’s my focus—do everything I can to make sure that I get in and stay in. It’s full-time work along with taking care of Mom and Maggie.” He smiles a genuine smile at me. “I’m really happy, Ana—happier than I’ve ever been in my life.”

“Do you hear anything from Damon these days?” His face falls at the mention of his father’s name and I immediately regret bringing it up. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have asked that.”

“No, it’s okay,” he says raising his green eyes to me. “You always tell me that I can’t run away, right?” told him that? Ms. Marathon Runner Extraordinaire told someone else that they couldn’t run? Go figure. “We haven’t heard anything from him. I don’t doubt that he has tried, but his communications are not getting through. Either the jail or Mr. Grey must be doing something to prevent it.” I nod.

“You know my fiancé well, don’t you?” I ask. He chuckles.

“Yeah, he’s let me in on a lot of stuff. He says that he wants me to see the world for what it really is. He’s got me training with Claude and Harry three times a week in kickboxing and general self-defense. I don’t think you’d be able to kick my ass so easily now, Ana,” he says with a smile.

“Don’t get ahead of yourself, youngster,” I laugh back at him. “Remember, I took my own instructor down and made him tap out.” We laugh heartily once more. I put my hand on his arm. “I’m so glad that you are happy and doing well, Marlow. Don’t forget about me, okay?” He smiles again.

“My life has changed so much just because I met you. Thank you, Ana… for everything.” He hugs me again and I have to fight back the tears.

“It was all you, Marlow. I knew when I met you that there was more there than meets the eye. Thank you for proving me right.” I blink back a few tears.

“Listen, he’s a great guy and I know he is,” he says in a low voice to keep our secret, “but I mean it. If he ever hurts you, you let me know and I’ll take care of him.” Marlow is completely serious, but I can’t help my laughter.

“You are my hero, Marlow. I’ll be sure to turn him over to you—assuming he can survive me.” I wink at him.

I walk into the meeting room to find Christian crouching in front of a small woman sitting in one of the chairs. Her hands are clutching his handkerchief and if her head could go any lower, it would be in her lap. She is broken, completely broken.

“Hi,” I say softly, announcing my presence. Christian raises his head, but the woman doesn’t move. She looks to be completely buried in her grief. Christian rises and walks over to me.

“It’s bad, Baby,” he laments. “I haven’t known her long, but she’s been so strong all this time, even when her daughter died. Now, she seems like she’s just going to roll over and die.”

“How long has she been like this?” I ask.

“Since she identified Richard’s remains at the mortuary. She’s probably said five words since we left and that was hours ago,” he informs me. I walk over to her and sit in the chair next to her. “Luma?” She raises her head at the sound of her name. The whites in her eyes have disappeared and are now completely bloodshot. She looks as if she has cried every tear in her tiny body. “Luma, my name is Ana.” A glint of recognition flashes in her eyes.

“You are Mr. Christian’s fiancée,” she says with a weak smile. “He talks about you all the time. He loves you very much.” I smile.

“Yes, I love him too,” I respond.

“I had a love like that once,” she says mournfully. “It’s a beautiful thing. It gives me strength intimes like these.” My heart is breaking for this woman. There’s honestly nothing that you can do in a time like this. Grief has to take its course.

“Do you want to talk, Luma?” I ask and she looks up at me.

“No,” she says softly. “I want to wail. I want to wail from the bottom of my heart like the mothers from home. I cannot do that in America. It is unseemly, but no one mourns my children. No one is here but me, and no one mourns for them.” She raises her head to look at me. “In Brazil, the funeral process is very different. Family comes from all around, wherever they are. We grieve for many days and we are surrounded by family. The old mothers mourn loudly—for the loss. They take on most of the grieving and let it out so that the rest of the family can remember and not grieve. Now, I am the mother. There is no family around. The girls will not see their dead father, nor did they see their dead mother… and I cannot wail.” She drops her head and as if it could, it falls further into her lap. I squeeze her hand and go over to Christian.

“Take Marlow home or back to GEH. I want to spend some time alone with Luma.” He nods and without a word, kisses me gently and leaves the room. I grab my coat and inform Grace of my plans before gesturing to Chuck to follow me. I gently coax Luma to take a ride with me, to which she reluctantly agrees.

I bring the Audi to a stop just outside of a cluster of trees in a secret spot that I have revealed to no one before this moment. I tell Chuck of what is about to happen before I remove a mat and a large blanket from the trunk of my car. I again have to coax Luma from the car, and she obliges. Neither of us are wearing the proper shoes to go trekking through the trees, but hell… I can do anything in stilettos.

It is late afternoon, more like early evening, once we get to the small clearing inside the large cluster of trees. I put the mat on the ground and turn to Luma, who looks at me with a puzzled expression.

“You cannot carry your grief, it will kill you. You cannot release it alone, so I will help you.” I gesture to the mat. “There no one here but us. No one will judge you here. No one to call you unseemly.” I kneel on the large mat, leaving room for Luma. “Come, Luma. Mourn with me. Mourn for your loss.”

She stands there for several moments, unable to make a decision. I hold my hand out to her and leave it there until she takes it and joins me on the mat. She drops her head again and for quite a while, she sits in silence—her body becoming smaller and smaller, her head dropping further and further into her lap.

After several minutes, I hear a small whimper from her. The whimper quickly turns into weeping, then to sobs. Her body is shaking violently and suddenly, she throws her head back and lets out a piercing wail that reverberates through the trees and—I would say—reaches all the way to the heavens. She wails and wails and wails until I can feel my heart breaking and the tears begin to fall from my eyes as well. Her pain is palpable and I have no idea how she held onto it for even one second. I clasp my hands and begin to pray for her. I thought she had no tears left in that body, but she cried a river! She wailed for hours until she had no voice left, and when she her voice was gone, she wailed only her breaths.

I can see that she is becoming exhausted, so I text Chuck to turn on the lights in the Audis and come into the clearing to help me get her out. As soon as I wrap her in the blanket, she collapses onto my chest and I know that she is spent. I hold her there for the few minutes that it takes for Chuck to find us. He lifts her effortlessly into his arms and carries her limp body to my car.


GREY

In a way, I am glad that Butterfly decided to talk to Luma this evening. It gives me the chance to get the tuxes fitted without her seeing them and without giving away one of my surprises, which I take care of quickly, sure to get Marlow home before the others arrive. Davenport has updated me on their whereabouts, more or less, though he was sworn to secrecy by Butterfly not to tell me exactly what they were doing. I have no idea why they are in the middle of the woods, but I know that she is in good hands.

James and Allen show up first, just as I expected. I have come to discover that it’s because Allen hates to be late to anything, although he admitted being late to the girls’ fitting this past weekend. He and I hadn’t talked in any detail about what happened since Butterfly basically told me everything. Allen says he just thinks the girls are going through “growing pains.”

“They’ve effectively never been without Jewel as a constant fixture,” he says. “She’s more than family to us, Chris—much, much more. Any pain that she feels, we feel, too. That’s why the girls react so intensely.”

“I don’t mind them reacting intensely,” I tell him as I sip my Cabernet. I’m usually a fan of white wines, but being around Butterfly has made me expand my palate a bit. “Allen, I don’t know much about friendship as I don’t have many, but I do know about loyalty. Their loyalties lie with Butterfly and that’s okay; that’s where they should lie. The mistake that they made—the mistake that all of us made, you included—was making me think I was part of the group.

“I was never a part of the group. I was being observed, not accepted. It lulled me into a false sense of security, which is why I implemented the contingency and told you all about the wedding being postponed in the first place. Had I known the group would have reacted that way towards me, I would have let Butterfly tell you when she was good and ready.”

“Chris, I never ostracized you,” Allen defends. James again protectively reaches over and takes his hand. I sigh.

“Allen, it’s hard for me to say this, but in a way, you did. Don’t get offended, please. As part of the group, you took on the mentality of the group. However, you and I have built a friendship outside of the group. It’s that friendship that you showed me most often. When you are with them, you act like them and you are supposed to, because those are your people. Our relationship takes on a different dynamic when we deal with each other one-on-one. So as part of the group, I’m letting you know that I know I am not part of the group and I’ll never make the mistake of thinking I am again. Don’t worry, though. You’re still my favorite flamboyant fucker.”

At the sound of my nickname for him, the tension immediately breaks in the room with his laughter and his usual response of “Fuck you, Chris.” James seems to relax a bit, too. Even though we are developing a bit of camaraderie, I know that he wouldn’t hesitate to kick my ass—or attempt to kick my ass, anyway—if he thought I was hurting Allen in any way.

“Okay, enough of this shit. Let’s eat and get ready to be fitted!” I declare.

We are feasting on miniature beef pies, dim sims, vegetable samosas, curry chicken bits, calamari, vol au vents, and sausage rolls and washing them down with various beers and wines. My tailor showed up early and has set up shop in the subs old room, to Jason’s horror and surprise. Allen goes first and we have a little laugh at his expense when we see that he has brought a small piece of blue material with him so that the color of the bridesmaids’ dresses can be matched to his vest.

“So what did you think about the Men’s Club, Chris?” James asks before chewing on a sausage roll. Jason raises his eyebrow at me and I explain.

“James invited me to a gather of guys who get together and chew the fat, play poker, and general ditch their significant others every other Wednesday and one Saturday out of the month. I went last Wednesday. I’m not expecting to make lifelong friends there, but it was a pretty good experience.”

“I told him to bring you along, too, Jason, but I was told that Gail wasn’t having it until your shoulder was better,” James adds.

“Oh, that’s what that was all about,” he says. I asked Gail if he could go before I said anything to him. She must have said something to him about it without really saying anything to him about it. I assured James that I had a good time and that I would be back to see where it goes.

“Which one of you are next?” Allen says as he descends the stairs from the makeshift “fitting room.”

“I’ll go, though I don’t know how he’s going to measure me in this sling,” Jason says rising from the sofa.

“He’ll measure around it, then tweak it when the sling comes off. Don’t worry, he’s very good at what he does.” Jason nods and goes off up the stairs. My phone is buzzing in my pocket and I pull it out to see a text from Butterfly.

** We’re at Luma’s. I might stay the night. I’ll let you know. Love you. **

What the hell did they do in the woods? I excuse myself and go into my study.

Hello?” she’s whispering.

“Why are you whispering?” I ask her.

Because you brought a broken and damaged woman to my office and now I’m trying not to wake her,” she says matter-of-factly.

“What exactly happened this afternoon?” I nearly demand.

Something that Luma needed and since I was seeing her in an official capacity, I’m not going to tell you what happened. She has to tell you if she wants you to know. She’s exhausted and I’m going to stay the night with her to make sure that she’s okay. Chuck will sleep in the living room. We’ll be fine,” she scolds reading my mind.

“Butterfly…” I say in my warning voice.

“Yes?” she responds in the same tone.

“Is this a good idea?” I don’t know if I’m nervous about her being there or if I just don’t want her to be away from me.

“We’ll be fine. I just don’t want her to be alone tonight. I’ll be home tomorrow. I know you have the guys over and you’re probably eating and drinking. If not, you should be. Have a good time. I promise Chuck or I will call you if we need you, but we won’t. I’ve already put the girls to be, Luma was asleep before we even picked the girls up. Now I’m going to find a quiet corner and call Tammy. I just wanted to let you know we were okay.”

I sigh heavily. I don’t want her sleeping in some guest room somewhere. I want her here in my arms.

“Okay,” I relent, none too happy about this development.

“Stop pouting, Grey. It’s only one night, I’m not moving in. Enjoy yourself.” I can hear her smiling through the phone.

“I’ll miss you. I’m missing you already.”

“I’ll miss you, too, Baby. You’ll see me tomorrow, though.”

“Breakfast?”

“Maybe lunch. I want to make sure the girls get to school okay and then see if Luma needs anything.” Damn.

“You’re a good woman, Butterfly.”

“Thank you. Don’t forget it, you lucky bastard.” I hear her smiling again.

“I won’t. I love you.”

“Goodnight, my love.” Oh shit, how am I supposed to hang up after that.

“Goodnight, Butterfly.” I end the call and try to convince myself not to drive over to Luma’s. I shove my phone back in my pocket and join the fellas in the great room where John and Elliot have now joined us as well. Elliot looks like a fish out of water while John is making small talk with Allen and Jason. James is taking his turn with the tailor.

“Christian, you’re looking well… except for the scowl. What’s wrong?” John asks.

“Nothing,” I wave him off. “I brought one of my assistants to see Ana today. It turns out that she’s in really bad shape. Ana is staying the night with her to make sure she’s okay.” John tilts his head to the side.

“She’s staying the night with one of her patients?” he asks, a bit appalled. I narrow my eyes at him.

“Don’t fucking start, John,” I warn him and he puts his hands up in surrender. “She’s more of a friend. She’s one of the women in my PSA. I helped her through a terrible tragedy and gave her a job. The tragedy just seems to never end.”

“Speaking of PSA, how’s that going?” he says, quickly changing the subject.

“It’s actually almost finished. I just have to decide when I want to release it. I’m not sure if I want it to overshadow our wedding with all the implications.”

“Implications?” Allen asks. I look at him and twist my lips. “Oh. Sorry. Brain fart,” he apologizes.

“I think you should release it as soon as possible,” John says. “By the time the wedding date arrives, the worst of the dust will have cleared. Besides, it’s certainly one of those ‘moving on with your life’ things that you should do.” I nod reluctantly. I know that this PSA is going to open a horrible can of worms, but I have to do it.

“I’ll talk to Butterfly about it and we’ll decide together when it’s best to release it.” John raises an eyebrow at me. “Don’t try to shrink me, John. That’s not your job anymore.”

“I know,” he says. “Old habits die hard.”

This entire time, Elliot has been nursing a beer and hasn’t said a word. “Elliot,” I greet with a nod of my head.

“Christian,” he responds, raising his beer to me, and that’s all that is said between us for the moment.

I work my way back into the conversation, trying not to focus too hard on the fact that Butterfly is not here or that Elliot hasn’t said more than ten words since he’s been here. His obvious tomfoolery is conspicuously absent as he quietly munches on hors d’oeuvres and continues to nurse the same beer. After the fittings are all complete, I go over everyone’s role in the wedding, informing them that their order in the wedding will be determined by Butterfly’s lineup. The discussion about the best man and coupling was thankfully short and without incident, the biggest surprise being that Allen and James would lead the wedding party and not Gail and Jason. Elliot seemed unmoved that he was not the best man, though I never told him that he would be. James will escort Gail down the aisle since Jason will be in the front with me, and Allen will walk down alone as the Man of Honor.

Having gotten all the official instructions out of the way, we converse for a little while longer about whatever comes to mind before I step into the kitchen to refill my wine glass. Jason is hot on my heels.

“He’s been here for hours and he’s quiet as a church mouse,” he says.

“I know,” I reply. I don’t know what else to say.

“Don’t you think maybe you should let him off the hook? I mean, you let everybody else off—of course, I did take a bullet for you, so I’m sure I got a free pass,” he jokes. I laugh.

“That pass wasn’t free. You more than showed your loyalty with that move. You could have just pushed me out of the way, you know.”

“Boss, between me and you, that never works—especially if the victim knows the gun is about to fire. It would have taken longer to push you and I might not have been successful. You’re all muscle and you tensed up waiting for the gunshot. Even if I had succeeded, it still would have left me in the line of fire. By throwing my body against yours, we are both moving targets and I am guaranteed to push you out of the way. Yeah, there’s a 50-50 chance that she’ll hit a vital organ, but that comes with the job. It also alarms the shooter, which gave Her Highness the opportunity to disarm her—although I didn’t expect that. An inexperienced shooter is very likely not to cause as much damage, depending on the range and weapon of course. Now, if Her Highness ever aims a gun at you, you’re on your own.” We both laugh heartily at that thought.

“I will endeavor to never, ever give her a reason to do that,” I say with mirth. When the laughter dies, he’s back on the topic of Elliot.

“Why can’t you forgive your brother? I guess I just need you to help me understand.” I set my wine glass on the counter and turn to face Jason.

“Nobody knows my story, but he does. He knows how I feel about being deserted. He knows that I am generally an island—that I have stayed to myself for years; that I built an empire so that I could build a castle and lock myself in the tower, not only so that I can see enemies before they come, but also so that I can stay away from people and their judgments. He knows this better than anybody. He knows what I’ve been through. Second only to my parents, he knows my story—my entire story. Yet, he allowed something that he was going through to make me feel deserted all back over again. All of that aside, he is my brother! It doesn’t matter that we were not born of the same woman. He is the only brother that I have. The fact that he could turn his back on me… for this… shook my faith in everything I’ve ever believed. You couldn’t pay me to believe that my brother would ever turn his back on me… until he did.”

Jason clears his throat and gestures to the door. I turn to see Elliot standing there, his expression completely crestfallen. Oh, hell.

“I, uh… I was just coming to tell you that I was leaving now.” His voice sounds like a child. He looks like he’s going to cry again. “I’m sorry, Christian. I’m so, so sorry…” and he’s gone before I can get a word out.

“Shit!” I exclaim quietly, thrusting my hands into my hair.

“Go after him!” Jason commands.

“I can’t,” I tell him. “I’m still angry and hurt by how he treated me. That’s why I made him leave when he came to my office. I don’t want to hurt him anymore. If I go after him now, I don’t know what to say, and I’m guaranteed to hurt him again.” Jason shakes his head.

“You got a lot of work to do, Boss. Siblings fight all the time and over bigger shit than this. If you don’t fix it soon, you’re going to lose your brother.” He gives my shoulder a friendly squeeze on his way out of the kitchen.

*-*

It’s nearly midnight when my blackberry rings. I wasn’t asleep anyway and with Butterfly not here, I am on high alert. I answer the phone without even looking at it.

“Grey.”

Christian? It’s Valerie.” Oh hell, what’s happened?

“What’s going on?” I ask her, steeling my voice and my nerves for whatever she is about to tell me.

I’m not meddling, I swear. It’s just that… Elliot is drinking, a lot! I can’t make him stop. Can you please talk to him? If not, can you just tell me who I should call?” I sigh heavily.

“Call my father,” I say. The silence is almost deafening. “I did this to him, Valerie. I can’t talk to him right now. He’s my brother and I love him. I don’t want to hurt him anymore. Please… call my father.” I hear the begging in my voice and I hope she hears it, too.

Okay,” she relents. “Thank you. I’ll call Carrick.”

“Valerie?” I know that I catch her before she hangs up the phone. She is still silent. “Will you… call me… or text me and let me know that he’s okay?” More silence.

Sure,” she says softly, then ends the call. Are they living together now? Or did he go to Val for comfort when I broke his heart? Shit, I’m trying not to make the same mistake he did by making him suffer because of my feelings. The only difference is that these feelings were brought on by him. Fuck, I need to talk to Dr. Baker. I’ll see if I can get a quick chat with her tomorrow before Butterfly’s session. No doubt, I’ll need one anyway to screw up my courage to help her through her session.


A/N: 

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

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

Love and Handcuffs!
Lynn x

 

Are You Afraid of the Dark?

 

It’s 2:00 in the morning and I have to go to work… so you KNOW I must have something to say…

So, in last week’s comments, there was a lot of controversy in people’s differing opinions about the contents of the chapter, what they thought I should do, where they thought the story was going, on and on and on. I have no problem with extreme emotion, things that make you think, even differing opinions offered in a respectful manner. The biggest controversy, it appears, is that some people are speculating that the Strauss money could originate as far back as Nazi Germany.

I’m going to be honest and say that I don’t know much about Nazi Germany and I have no desire to do any research on Nazi Germany. However, if I had decided to take my story in that direction, it would have been my prerogative. People who come from “old money” don’t have to be alive when the wealth was initially acquired. Also keep in mind that Edda never said how old she was—Christian guessed that she’s at least 70 years old.

Having said that, I have to say that for those of you who don’t know by now, I am a black woman—a baby-boomer, in fact. That means that even though I may not be learned on the entire history of Nazi Germany, I am familiar with some of it’s most infamous facts. I don’t want anybody to think I didn’t comment because I didn’t care. I didn’t comment because I was getting pissed off and there was nothing that I could say that could have been said in a constructive way.

The first comment that I remember reading was from someone who suggested that the Strauss money may have come from Hitlerjugend (did I spell that right?) or something of the sort. She was stating an historical fact about a dark time in World History as well as an opinion about how this could have been where Edda’s family’s money came from. The next thing I know, I’m reading insensitive “yawn” comments and stuff about slavery and I’m sitting here like “How the fuck did this happen???”

I am writing a story about two people who are going up against extraordinary obstacles because they are both extraordinary people! If the extraordinary is too much for you, leave!

I have to say that I did not commit to memory who wrote what comments—I just have pieces of the comments in my head. I threw a mental dart at the countries that might fit in the storyline and the dart hit Germany. Should I have thrown the dart at another country to alleviate this issue? Because no matter where the dart landed, there was going to be a dark past of some kind. It’s the nature of the world being around so long! I didn’t feel like navigating around bad history just to prove that Elena is a sick bitch that was most likely mentored by another sick bitch—nor did I think I had to!

The age of consent in Germany is 14. I can’t remember if it was comments or emails, but the next thing that I knew, I was getting comments/contact me/emails about the age of consent and German law. I had to pull out my research and prove that I had done my homework on how old a child had to be before you could fuck ‘em! I’m like, “Do people think I just open my hat, pull out a rabbit and put it in my story?” I may not have been correct on German slang, but I do know that the age of consent in Germany is currently 14.

It is also 14 in Austria, Portugal, and Italy.

The next thing I know, I’m getting facts about if you’re 21 & 7/8 years old and you have sex with someone 14 years 3 months 9 days 6 hours and 37 minutes old that you can be sued by the state and if you do the hokey-pokey backwards while rubbing your head and singing “Zippity-Do-Dathey can put you in jail and don’t walk the wrong way down a one-way street after midnight on a full moon or you might get a ticket and… I didn’t ask all that! Neither did I say all that! Edda said… wait for it…

Age of consent in my country is 14!”

That’s all she said! That. Is. A. Fact. Whatever other prelims and statutes and police rights and restrictions are placed upon it, that particular piece of information is true.

The age of consent in Germany is 14…
and that’s what I said…
and that’s what Edda said.

For those of you who still choose to refute me, please see  I . § 176 of the German Criminal CodeThere’s a PDF of it on that page if you would like to read the whole thing…

No offense to my German readers, but many of you came out either in comments or email to tell me what I got wrong when the only thing that I really got wrong was that I said that a piece of German slang was more common than it actually is. And the callousness about Nazi Germany… I’m physically ill. That’s all I have to say about that.

It is totally fine to speculate about where you think the story may be headed—I still contend that the comment that started this was just an opinion about where the money came from and what may have influenced Edda’s upbringing. However, to eliminate this situation in the future, I ask that if you feel the need to make any comments about issues that could possibly lead to a discussion about Nazi concentration camps, Native American reservations, the African slave ships, Rwandan genocide, Japanese-American internment camps, the thousands and thousands and thousands of black men, women, and children who have been shot, stabbed, hanged, burned, beaten or dragged behind cars in lynchings and during the civil rights movement from the late-18th to the mid-20th century, Middle Eastern honor rape (among other countries), South African Apartied, the many protestant tortures and deaths under the Spanish Inquisition, African female genital mutilation, the millions of female babies killed, left at orphanages, or sold into prostitution or slavery because of China’s one-child policy, or any of the other dark moments in world history, that you kindly make them somewhere else and not on my page. That’s not what I write about and that’s not what I want to see over here.

One more little piece of enlightenment while we’re talking about dark moments. This very day, we Americans still contend with the Ku Klux Klan and white supremacists who made Hitler’s model their mantra and currently walk around with swastikas on their clothing and tattooed on their bodies. So I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but while Nazi Germany was dark, it’s not so much past over here on these shores.

BG

 

Mending Dr. Steele: Chapter 41—Ghost of Christmas Past

Edda Strauss2I 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 story in MY interpretation as a fan. I hope you—as a fellow fan—enjoy it, too.

Chapter 41—Ghost of Christmas Past

GREY

Butterfly was in a really good mood when I got back to Escala last night. She tried everything that she could to get me to tell her who I had recruited for the flower girl and the ring bearer, but she will just have to wait for the rehearsal dinner to find out. I know she will be pleased. She was pretty exhausted after dinner and based on the day that she had, I could see why. Consults with 14 patients in one day would exhaust even the best of them.

I’m a bit concerned about our appointment with Dr. Avery on Friday. I did a little research on regression therapy when Butterfly told me that she would be doing it and it has me a bit worried, I have to admit. I’ve read that it can be quite traumatizing delving into your past that way, but I want to be there for Butterfly and the only way that she can get on to her future—our future—is to let go of her past.

It’s a dreary Tuesday morning when I get into my office and I have had enough of playing with “Fish.” I don’t want to pull Gerald into a situation where he would have to squeal on his coworker and old academy-mate, so I put a call right in to the commissioner.

“Fred, I don’t mean to be a bother, I just want to know how long my office is going to remain a crime scene. I am running a business here after all,” I tell him honestly.

“Christian, I’m sure I don’t know what you mean.” What the…?

“My office is still taped off,” I inform him. “I called Detective Fischer last week to find out how long it would be that way, and he gave me the run-around. My best friend’s blood is all over the floor, and now I’m probably going to have the get the flooring replaced since the damage has been seeping in for a week now.”

“What!?” he snaps. Okay, he apparently didn’t know. “We’ve gathered all the evidence that we need from that site. I’ve seen it myself. Why is it still taped off?” I think he’s asking the question more to himself than to me.

“I… don’t know,” I answer anyway. “I’m new to this kind of thing. I asked Detective Fischer and he didn’t have any answers. That’s why I’m asking you.” I pause for a moment. “Fred, can I ask you something candidly?”

“Sure, what’s up?”

“Why don’t cops like me?” He pauses.

“Because you’re an arrogant asshole, Christian,” he says without pausing.

“Well, that’s true, but I’m not arrogant to everyone that I meet. Every encounter that I’ve ever had with law enforcement except for maybe one, I was courteous and cooperative. I may have become an arrogant asshole by the end of the conversation, but that’s because they treated me that way before I even did or said anything wrong. Even the DA in Vegas treated me that way. Seriously, you’re a cop. What gives?” I really want to know why law enforcement always wants to “put me in my place” before I even get out of my place. Fred sighs.

“You’re a rich and powerful man, Christian,” he begins. “Power and authority ooze out of your pores sight-unseen. It’s in your voice, your behavior, your carriage—everything. When you encounter someone in law enforcement, that’s exactly what we are… enforcement. If for any reason one of us feels like you are stepping on our toes, even if it’s only perceived, we will quickly let you know who the real Big Man On Campus is in that situation. Granted, it’s not right or fair, and in most cases we may discover that we are not the BMOC. It was all over the district how Roach was knocked down a few pegs when the Governor called. Fish knows about that, too, so I’m surprised that he wants to piss you off. Nonetheless, yes, we are here to protect and to serve. However, we can’t take down to anybody. If we do, we’re useless.”

“But do you see that I’m getting this kind of treatment for no reason? I have to endure this kind of discrimination and abuse no matter what law enforcement official I come in contact with because I’m a powerful man?” That is so unfair. I remember that I did nothing at all to Herbert Larson but he wanted to make me a bad guy anyway just because I was there with Butterfly.

“Let’s be realistic. You’re an Alpha Male. You know it and we all know it. When anyone with any kind of authority sees you coming, they automatically expect to lock horns. In fact, some of them have already sharpened their claws before you even speak. Heaven help you if you are dealing with someone who is suffering with a Napoleon complex. You can be guaranteed that it will be even worse. It’s a burden that you carry whether you like it or not.” This is such bullshit.

“So maybe I should just be an asshole from the very beginning and give them what they expect,” I deduce.

“It will get you nowhere and you don’t want that kind of reputation,” he warns.

“It looks like I’ve already got it and I don’t even provoke it!” I exclaim, then sigh. “These people better be glad that I have met a woman who makes me want to be a better person. When can I get rid of this damn yellow tape, Fred?” Fred chuckles a bit, though I swear that I see nothing funny.

By day’s end, Christian. Try not to let them get to you. Be the bigger man. You’ll feel better for it.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah. Whatever you say, Fred.” I hang up the phone and continue on with my day. As promised, the tape was removed within the hour and I had Andrea get someone down there to replace the carpet and clean the floors underneath immediately. Somewhere around lunchtime, Welch calls my desk phone.

“Sir, I’m at the front desk and I have a woman down here that wants to meet with you if you have the time,” he says.

“Does she have an appointment?” I ask.

“No, Sir.”

“Is it Ana?”

“No, Sir.” This is not rocket science.

“Then tell her to make an appointment.”

“Sir, I really think you should see this woman.” Welch is insistent and it’s making me a little edgy.

“What’s her name?”

“Mrs. Edda Strauss.” I run through my mental Rolodex and nothing comes up. “I can guarantee that you haven’t met this woman, Sir. You would remember if you had.” I sigh heavily.

“This better be good,” I warn.

“Good, maybe not. Necessary? Absolutely!” he says. Fine, let’s get this over and done.

“Send her up,” I relent.

“We’re on our way, Sir.”

A few minutes later, I am finishing up a document on my laptop when something happens that unnerves me down to my bones and causes me to do a triple-take at my office door. Into my office walks the nipped, stuffed, and tucked, 70-year-old version of none other than Elena Lincoln. Her work is obvious, and this is what Elena would look like now had she not had so much plastic surgery—same flaxen blond hair, same boob and ass job, same tanning, face lift and blood-red lipstick, though this version did not opt for the funeral garb… Elena Lincoln, only 20 years older. I stand out of ingrained habit when a woman enters the room.

“I am Edda Strauss,” she says with a nearly non-existent accent that I can’t place at the moment. “Elena Strauss is my niece.”

“Strauss. Is that her maiden name?” I ask.

“That is her name,” Ms. Strauss says, enunciating her “t’s” very hard.

“No, her name is Elena Lincoln… at least that’s what it says on her mug shot,” I say. Ms. Strauss walks into my office and takes a seat like she owns the place. “I didn’t offer you a seat, Ms. Strauss.”

“It’s Mrs. Strauss and I don’t have time for, how you say, niceties. I want to know where my niece is.” I take my seat. Is she being facetious or trying to feel me out? Everybody on the west coast and probably much further inland knows where Elena Lincoln is. Nonetheless, I’ll play her little game.

“We would all like to know where your niece is. The police have a lot of questions for her and, quite frankly, her silence makes quite a few people nervous.”

“Is that so? It is my understanding that you are the reason she is in trouble.” What?

“Me? How am I the reason that she’s in trouble?” I ask.

“You cut her, how you say, funding. You take away her businesses,” Mrs. Strauss accuses.

“That wasn’t me. That was the banks,” I defend impassively. “Her salons were seized by the banks when she was arrested to pay off her liens.”

“You, however, have purchased the businesses. Why not just give them back to her?”

“Mrs. Strauss, I don’t explain my business decisions to anyone. I don’t even have a board that I answer to, so I certainly won’t be explaining them to you.” I sit back in my seat.

“I see,” she says. “So you have left Elena, what is phrase… out in the cold?”

“Elena left herself out in the cold. She made bad decision after bad decision and she made a lot of enemies. She made this bed and now she’s trying to hide from it. One thing she is not going to do is blame me for her misfortunes, and neither are you!” I spit. Has she never taken responsibility for her own actions? Now her damn aunt is standing in my office trying to imply that I am the cause for her woes? She sits back in her seat, confident and arrogant.

“How do you know my niece?” she asks.

“She was a long-time friend of my mother’s, that is until my mother discovered that she molested me and tried to molest my brother.”

“Molest… what is molest?” Is she serious?

“Having sex with a minor–it’s against the law,” I hiss. Her head snaps back as she glares at me a bit.

“Oh! That is what this is about?” she asks.

“Yes, that is what this is about!” I say, mocking her accent. “She has been slowly blackballed from society ever since last summer when her friendship with my mother ended, and completely blackballed once she was arrested.”

“How long did she… molest you?” she asks. I don’t like her tone of voice.

“Until I became an adult,” I respond.

“You are—what, 30? Thirty-five? You say she was friends with your mother until last year, yes?”

“That’s what I said.”

“Friends with you as well, no doubt? She still had salons then,” she says.

“Yes, until I ended the friendship when I realized what she had done to me.”

“Realized? Realized, you say? When did you realize what she had done to you—when you met this naïve young girl you choose to marry? Is that when you realized that my niece had wronged you?” I now know that she has had some kind of contact with Lincoln because she knows too much and she sounds just like her right now.

“Are you here to plead her case, because if you are, I really don’t want to hear it,” I spit.

“No, I am here to discover who is responsible for what is happening to my niece!” Now I’m getting angry.

“Could it at all be possible that your niece is responsible for what happened to your niece?” I bark. Does this passing the buck thing run through the family? She narrows her eyes at me at rises from her seat. I don’t stand this time.

“You were how old when she molest you?” she asks disdainfully.

“Fifteen,” I hiss.

“Fifteen!” she declares! “Fifteen! You were not child! Age of consent in my country is 14!”

“We’re not in your country! We’re in America, and in America, she molested me and tried to molest my brother!” She folds her arms.

You stay her friend… after she molest you, yes?” I don’t answer. “How long? How long you continue relationship with my niece, then claim she molest you? You stay her friend after you were adult… after she molest you! You did not stop until your family find out—until this little girl come into your life.”

I feel fire rising in my soul. Once again, I find myself explaining myself to another delusional blond.

“No, I didn’t stop, and I take responsibility for that and any damage that it has caused to me and my family, but I do not take responsibility for her, her actions, or the fact that she likes to fuck little boys! That is unacceptable behavior in America and that’s all there is to it. Oh, and for your information, I have told your delusional niece several times and now I’m telling you. I came to the realization that our relationship was child abuse before I started dating my fiancée and before my family found out about it. I had to tell my family because your niece was so angry that I had cut her off that her behavior became irrational, particularly around my family. So whatever lies she has filled your head with, don’t bring them here and dump them on my doorstep! Do you even know what she’s being charged with?” Mrs. Strauss shakes her head. “Child molestation, sexual exploitation of a child, statutory rape, and child pornography—so many charges that I’ve lost count!”

“From you?” she says disdainfully.

“No, it’s not from me. My case is past the statute, but does it matter? These are children we are talking about!”

“Were any of them hurt?” she asks impassively.

“Of course they were hurt! They were beaten and tortured and molested and then photographed in the process! They were not only hurt physically, but mentally as well!” I bark.

“Trial gives them character—makes them strong,” she declares.

Oh. My. God.

Lincoln did this shit because she was taught this shit! I always wondered who or what brought her into the lifestyle. I wondered how old she was when she started and she would never tell me. I wondered why even after losing everything, she never changed her ways—after losing Linc, her money… what else has she lost?

“No wonder she’s so fucked up,” I say calmly. “She comes from fucked-up stock. We’re done. Get out of my office and never come back here.” I press the intercom button. “Welch!” She folds her arms.

“I may be old, Mr. Grey, but no one tells me when to leave,” she says. Welch, Williams, and Lawrence all step into the office as she speaks.

“If you want to know where your niece/protégé is, check the Washington Correctional Facility for Women. You see, she tried to kill me in that office.” I point down the hall past my three members of security where the yellow tape is still X-ed over my door. “Instead, she shot my best friend and bodyguard. Luckily for her, he didn’t die, but now she gets to add assault and attempted murder to her charges. When you speak to her, this will also probably be my fault because I didn’t stand still and take the bullet.” I say sarcastically.

Tis too bad,” she says, shaking her head. What’s too bad—that her sick niece is in jail or that she is still not taking responsibility for her own actions? She finishes her thought… “That you did not die.”

My blood runs ice-cold and I want to take my hatred and anger for Lincoln out on her twisted and tied aunt.

“Mrs. Strauss, you’re trespassing. Get out of my office or I will have you forcibly removed,” I warn. She looks at the three men surrounding her.

“Make no mistake, Mr. Grey, I can take down all three of these gentlemen,” she boasts. I fold my arms.

“After meeting my fiancée, I never make the mistake of underestimating women, but if you so choose to ‘take down’ these three gentlemen, you will then spend some time in one of our lovely American jails. Maybe you and your niece can be cellmates, do some catching up. What do you say?” She does not respond or react. “Get this Russian bimbo out of my office.” I add, waving my hand.

“I’m not Russian! I’m German!” she hisses.

“And now you’re gone. Get her the fuck out of here!” I command. Welch walks to the side of her.

“Ma’am,” he says, extending his arm and gesturing for her to leave.

“We’ll meet again, Mr. Grey,” she says, and I know it’s said to unnerve me. That’s it. I’ve taken all the fucking threats that I’m going to take and I certainly won’t take any from this bitch’s family. I stand up and walk around my desk, coming face to face with the Pedophile’s older twin. I need my Dom stance for this one, and I am only too happy to utilize it.

“Mrs. Strauss, if you come at me in any way, I will do everything in my power to make your life utterly miserable. I will attack everything that you hold dear, and I do mean everything. You will be lucky to walk away with your health and the clothes on your back. I have had so many threats leveled against me in the last several months simply for falling in love and I. Have had. Enough! I will be only too happy to make an international example of you for all the world to see if you so much as breathe my name by accident in your hotel restroom much less come near me or anyone that I love ever again. Do not test me, Mrs. Strauss. Your niece tried and now her whole world is crumbling around her. Would you like to give it a go?”

Her cold blue eyes stare at me as if she has no idea what I am saying, so I make it clear for her. “Make very sure that you never—ever—cross my path again. Before you ask, yes, that is a threat!”

The color leaves her face for a moment and this is the first time since she walked into my office that I see a crack in that unshakable exterior of hers. Before she can compose herself, I hiss “Goodbye. Mrs. Strauss!” She turns on her heels, attempting to show indignation, but only displaying veiled fear. I turn to Welch when she is out the door.

“I want everything that you can find about her and about Elena Strauss. That’s what she called Lincoln. I don’t want any more fucking surprises,” I tell him.

“Yes, Sir,” he says before following Strauss out the door. I dial a number in my blackberry.

Boss?” He’s surprised that I’m calling him.

“Guess who just left my office?” There is silence on the other line.

Okay, I’ll bite. Who?”

“Edda Strauss. She claims to be Elena’s aunt and she was the bitch’s fucking twin. Creepiest thing I’ve even seen.”

Oh fuck, there’s two of them,” Jason says, none too pleased about the revelation.

“Apparently so, but this one is older.”

How much older?”

“Twenty years easily,” I confirm. “Nipped and tucked just like Lincoln and throwing threats around like she owns the place.”

Strauss… German?”

“Yes, German. I mistook her accent for Russian, but it was so faint that I could barely tell. She acted like it was no big deal what her niece had done and then started blaming me for all of Lincoln’s missteps, just like she did! Man, I’ve met Germans before. I’ve even done business with them. I’ve never met any like this. What is this about?”

Some of them are pretty cold and desensitized, Sir. Then again, you’ll find people like that in any nationality to be quite honest.” I shake my head.

“Well, I don’t want to meet any more like her. I’m about to find out everything I can about her and put failsafes in place in case I need to take her down. She is cold and unfeeling and ruthless, and I am certain that she taught Lincoln everything that she knows.”

Fuck… worse than Lincoln. Now that’s frightening…”

“Fucking terrifying,” I confirm. “You wouldn’t believe it—Lincoln’s a carbon copy of this woman. This woman has no feelings, sees absolutely nothing wrong with the fact that her niece molests little boys, and completely blames me for Lincoln’s troubles. I think Lincoln is actually programmed to believe that everything that she does is a result of circumstances and not her own doing.”

Care to explain that, Boss?” Jason asks. I sit back in my chair.

“If you truly felt—I mean truly felt that there was no consequences to your actions, would there be any limit to the things that you would do?” He is silent. I know that he is contemplating the possibilities. “I think she truly believes that she’s not doing anything wrong.”

You mean like she doesn’t have a conscience?”

“No, worst than that. It seems like no one really taught her the true definitions of right vs wrong. If she was raised by or exposed at all to this aunt, for her there is no such thing as wrong. There’s only what’s good for her and what’s not good for her. Jason, she didn’t even know what ‘molest’ meant.” I hear him gasp.

You’re shittin‘ me!” he exclaims, dropping all decorum.

“I wish I were. When I explained it, she kept hurling the word at me like an insult—like I personally had this woman arrested and that what she did was the equivalent of jaywalking or something! She berated me for not giving the salons back to Lincoln after I paid the loans and basically for her entire situation thus far. These women really believe that the world owes them something for being alive—that the only important things in the whole world are the things that benefit them. If they examine her closely enough, Lincoln may actually be able to pull off that insanity defense.”

Oh, Boss, you can’t be serious,” he says.

“Unfortunately, I am. Jason, Strauss is easily 70 years old and she truly believes that the world revolves around her. As a young woman, I understand that feeling to some degree—the world is your oyster and you still have a lot to learn about how things work. As we grow older, we know better. Lincoln and Strauss don’t! They’ve lived 50 and 70 years and nobody ever told them that what they did was wrong. Lincoln is in jail for her actions and Strauss doesn’t even take her niece’s downfall as a cautionary tale! She threatened me before she left my office!”

Oh hell, another one on the watch list?”

“She’s more than just on the list, Jason. She’s going to try something and I’m going to catch her in the act and stop her before she does any damage. I won’t draw first blood, but I won’t allow her strike to hit. I’ve already got Welch looking into her background and assets because I know she’s going to try something. She had that same scared rabbit look in her eye that Lincoln got when you threatened her, but the minute she’s out of your sight, she’s plotting.” I sigh. “How many are on the list now?”

This makes 105? No, 106,” he replies.

“Hmm, that number is down a bit,” I say.

Well, people die, go to jail, things like that.”

“I didn’t mean to bother you with work crap while you are recuperating…”

Are you kidding? This has been the highlight of my day!” I laugh at the obvious joy in his voice

“I have a few things to talk to you about when I get home. Maybe with your wife’s permission, I can get you back into the swing of things on a consulting level for the time being so that you won’t go so stir crazy. I also don’t want you to lose touch with what’s happening around here. I can’t have you lagging behind when you’re finally back on full duty.” The line is silent.

Is that your way of saying that my job is safe?” he asks.

“Was there ever any doubt?” I scoff.


 

STEELE

Today, of course, was a short day. I had seen all of my Tuesday patients and was now delving into my Wednesday schedule. Thursday and Friday were my lighter days already, so I would look into those after I tackle the Wednesday schedule. Since my Tuesday patients barely took over my morning, Marilyn and I quickly tackle the six patients that I normally see on Wednesday, bringing that number down to one monthly, one half-hour comfort, and one full-time who have all agreed to change their schedules to Monday or Tuesday after tomorrow. The monthly maintenance session will be on one of the free Mondays and the full-time and the half-hour will be on Tuesday.

The other three patients all decided not to continue therapy. One of them was none too happy about my schedule in the first place and had been looking for another doctor anyway. I can’t blame her, but she did piss me off when she kept referring to my “instability.” It was everything that I could do not to curse her ass out. Bitch, you are coming to see me… how fucking stable are you? I finally ended the discussion by telling her to inform me as soon as humanly possible as to where I should send her medical records, cautioning her that she may want to start all over considering my “instability.” She hung up on me.

It is well into the afternoon when we lock my Wednesday schedule down. We enjoy a lunch of a berry goat cheese salad with a spring lettuce mix, chopped walnuts, and a light vinaigrette dressing and a delicious chicken-salad-stuffed pita. We have cleared things away from lunch and Marilyn is off to check her phone before we dive into Thursday’s schedule. I am extremely content from lunch and feeling very self-satisfied with the organization of my schedule so far when Marilyn comes back into the office, her expression bemused.

“Ana, there’s a woman here to see you,” she says. “She has someone with her, possibly her bodyguard. She’s not a new patient—she says her visit is of a personal nature. I should tell you that Chuck looks like he’s seen a ghost.” I frown.

“Who is she?” I ask.

“She says that her name is Edda Strauss. She’s an older lady, well-dressed but she’s had a ton of plastic surgery. I can spot a nose job a mile away.” I try not to laugh.

“Marilyn, that’s not nice,” I chuckle.

“Well, it’s the truth. Do you want me to send her away?”

“What is Chuck doing?” I ask.

“He’s on the phone.” I am contemplating my options right now. Chuck hasn’t come barging in here like my life is in danger, so I guess it’s okay to see them. A personal matter—her name doesn’t ring any bells for me. Has she possibly been sent here by my mother?

“A bodyguard, huh?” I ask and Marilyn nods. “So she comes from money… somewhere. That makes her safe for the immediate future. Show her in, but leave the doors open. Find out if Chuck feels like he should be in here as well.” Marilyn nods and leaves the office. I stand from my desk and straighten my clothes waiting for Ms. Strauss. When I raise my eyes from my clothes, the sight before me almost made me shit myself.

Unholy mother of Satan, what fresh new hell is this?

I swear on my medical license that She-Thing’s mother just entered my office. What the fuck? I am frozen in my steps. I can’t even greet the woman.

“Hmm,” she says, and I swear she’s examining me. “You’re not what I expected.” What the fuck did she expect?

“What do you mean by that?” I ask. I don’t like her already. She smirks at me.

“Yes, you know who I am, or at least you think you do,” she replies in an accent that I think is German. “I expected someone… prettier. Didn’t you, Hugo?” Her bodyguard remains silent. I can’t help the affronted expression that crosses my face and her smile grows larger. She’s enjoying this.

“Those are pretty strong words from someone whose ‘beauty’—and I use that term loosely—comes from a needle and a knife,” I say flatly. Her triumphant smile falls quickly and she invites herself further into my office. Her bodyguard hangs back by the door.

Dropping her large purse into one of the chairs across from me, she says, “I’m sure by now you know I am related to Elena Strauss.” Haughty ass bitch.

“I’m sure that you’re making a lot of assumptions about something that you know nothing about and I have no idea who Elena Strauss is,” I respond, folding my arms.

“Of course, you do,” she says, “she is woman who had your Christian before you.” She smirks again. What is this bitch up to?

Ooooohh! You mean the pedophile felon! I thought you looked familiar.” I smile right back.

“You Americans and your expressions,” she says, waving me off. She can’t be serious! American expressions? Where the fuck did you come from?

“Excuse me, but I didn’t use any expressions. Elena Lincoln is a felon and a pedophile. She has discovered the true meaning of ‘jailbait.’ Now that’s an American expression.” I raise my eyebrows at her.

“Nonetheless, she had your man before you.” She thinks she’s twisting the knife.

“That’s true,” I say, leaning against my desk, “but I have him now, and she’s in jail… for a long, long time. Now what do you want?” Again, the haughty smile falls.

“My niece loves this man. For what reason, I do not know. I want for you to leave this Christian. You are obviously with him for his money. I will write you check for $10 million. You leave him. Tell him you change your mind about wedding and go away. He go back to my niece, drop silly charges and everyone happy.” Oh my God. This woman has completely flipped her wig!

“Did she send you here?” I ask, horrified.

“No matter,” she says. “You take money and go. This whole thing go away.” I am quickly losing my composure.

“No, you take money and go!” I snap at her. “I don’t dare appeal to your sense of decency because you clearly don’t have one. You certainly don’t care about offending me, but you have some nerve thinking you can walk in here and treat me like some slut off the street. Get the hell out of my office!”

Arschgeburt!” she shoots. I don’t know what she just said, but I know it has something to do with ass.

“Femme désagréable et vulgaireSalope! La chienne!” You pull your language on me, Bitch, I’ll pull mine on you. She no more knows what I just said to her than I know what she says to me, but my expression and delivery are enough to let her know that she has been insulted.

“You are weak!” she spits. “You are nothing like my niece. This Christian, he is weak as well! You two are both weak little people. You think you win? No! My niece will win! You will see!”

“Well, I suggest that you don’t bet your 10 mil on it, because here in America, she’s looking at 20 to life at the least for her many crimes. You may think what she has done is harmless where you came from, but here in America, we take attempted murder and fucking children very seriously!” I hiss. I don’t want to talk to this woman anymore. I want her out of my office. She creeps me out and she looks like the Pedo-Bitch. I want her to leave… now. “I’ve told you to leave my office. I think you better go.”

She moves closer to me and I feel threatened. I see Elena Lincoln, the woman who tried to kill my love, and all senses are on high alert.

“You small, insignificant, hideous little dumme ziege!” she barks at me.

“I’m weary of your name-calling and I’m not going to tell you to leave my office again!” I bark back. She attempts to close the space between us even more. Her anger is emanating from her skin. She would leap over this desk at me if she could, but I do something that makes her think twice about that plan of action.

“Back. The fuck. Up.” I say. I stand with my feet planted and both hands firmly on my Magnum which I have pulled from my purse and am now aiming squarely at her forehead. Her bodyguard pulls his firearm and aims it at me.

“Put it down, Little Lady,” he says.

“Not a chance,” I tell him never taking my eyes off of Strauss. “I’m the daughter of a Marine with my finger on a very delicate trigger. Even if you drop me, I’ll drop her first.” My nerve is miraculously steady. It must be my hatred for Pedo-Bitch that’s driving me. I didn’t even notice Chuck had walked into the room until I hear his voice.

“Holster your firearm. I won’t tell you twice.” I think he’s talking to me until I see him with the barrel of his 9mm pressed against the head of Strauss’ bodyguard.

“I’m sure you know that I can’t do that, not while she’s aiming that gun at Mrs. Strauss,” he says without flinching.

“I’ll take care of her. Right now, you need to put your gun away or there’s going to be two dead bodies in this room—possibly three, and I won’t be one of them,” Chuck warns. I see Strauss’ face pale and she shivers at the thought. Good, Bitch. You need to feel some fear.

Out of the corner of my eye, I see “Hugo” put his firearm back in its holster. “Hands up, where I can see them,” Chuck says as he takes a few steps back. Hugo’s hands rise slowly. “Ana, put the gun away. Nobody needs to get hurt here.” I examine Strauss. She has the exact same look in her eye as Elena every time I scared her shitless then thought she would go away.

“You’re just like her, aren’t you,” I ask with narrowed eyes. “If I let you walk out of here, you’re going to keep coming back just like she did. Like a pestilence! A disease that needs to be destroyed!” The anger is rising up in me and is beginning to affect my sight. Is this Elena or Edda? “I made the same mistake with your sick, twisted, delusional, mad, wretched niece and she almost killed my fiancé!” I hiss.

“Ana…” Chuck’s voice is a warning. “Put the gun down.”

“Did you breed anymore pedophile nieces, you sick bitch? Are there other children out there suffering the same fate as Christian and those other poor boys because of your sick, polluted bloodline? Pedophile daughters, maybe? Sisters? Did you recruit them like you did the little boys? Is there a coven of you crazy bitches?” I am quickly coming unglued. I want to shoot her. I want to shoot and kill her right here in my office. How dare she show up here—like she was going to teach me a lesson! I could shoot her dead right here on my office floor and piss on her corpse! She’s the cause of all of this—she is!

“Ana! Put the goddamn gun down!” Chuck demands, and it is only now that I see that I have pulled the hammer back and I am ready to fire. “Ana, please… you‘re getting married soon… please…” Christian. My love.

“I hate you,” I hiss at her. “I hate what you did to him. I hate every single drop of blood in your body and I would gladly spend the rest of my days in jail to watch every bit of it drain out of you while you die a slow and painful death. You are a wretched, horrible excuse for a human being. When God made you and saw what He created, He cried! You are evil—pure, unlovable, irredeemable, desecrating evil. Nothing good will ever come from you but your death. Even then, the realm that is cursed to hold you for eternity will know nothing but anguish and sorrow just because of your mere presence. I hate you feverishly and passionately, and I would take great joy and immeasurable elation at your demise!” I am growling the words at her through clenched teeth as the unquenchable fire of hatred burns in my soul. All three of the people in my office have fallen silent as I breathe heavily—almost sensuously—at the thought of filling this woman’s body with lead in places where she would slowly and painfully bleed out under my watchful eye. As my adrenaline starts to wane, Elena’s face morphs back into Edda. Her perfectly-toned size-six body looks more like a size 10 now. Her face has a few more wrinkles, and she is scared to death!

“She didn’t believe me, but you had better. I swear on the lives of my unborn children that if I ever see you again, I will kill you. I will gladly take a bullet between the eyes if I get the chance to put one between yours first!” I turn to Chuck. “Get her out of my office!” I bark, then I turn to Hugo. “Get her out of my city!” I growl between my teeth, never lowering my gun.

Hugo takes her arm. “Mrs. Strauss, please, let’s go. Don’t say anything. Just leave. Mrs. Strauss, please…” Listen to Hugo, Mrs. Strauss. I will drop you before you can take a breath. Without turning her petrified glare from me, she clumsily reaches into the chair for her purse and having found it, hurriedly stumbles out of the office with Hugo’s assistance. Chuck walks to the door and watches as I hear the elevator ping and the doors open. A few minutes later, I hear him instruct Marilyn to lock the office down. I’m still aiming my gun at… nothing.

“Ana… put it down, please,” he says gently while walking over to my desk. My breathing is erratic and my hands start to shake. “Give it to me,” he says as he slowly wraps his hands around mine and the Magnum. “You can trust me,” he says soothingly. “Let it go.”

I finally release my death grip on my Magnum, only regretting that I never rid the world of that flesh-consuming beast Elena Lincoln.

“I hate her!” I growl, my voice shaking and heavy with the inevitable adrenaline tears.

“You don’t know her, Ana,” Chuck says, finally prying the Magnum from my hands.

“Yes, I do!” I snap, my voice deep as I turn my tearful glare to him. “She created a monster in her image, and they should both be destroyed. She deserves to die just like that worthless hunk of flesh that she calls her niece,” I hiss as I turn my glare back to the doorway she just exited. So help me God, if I ever see either of them again…

I feel Chuck guide me to my seat before he hurriedly dials a number in his blackberry. I guess Thursday’s reorganization will have to wait until tomorrow.

*-*

“Ana! Baby! What the fuck!” Christian comes barreling into the great room where I sit with Jason, Gail, and Chuck nursing a glass of wine. I’m still a bit shaken, but not as badly as I was when I almost blew that German bitch’s head off. He falls on his knees in front of me and crushes me in his arms.

“I’m okay, Baby,” I say into his neck, “she just creeped me out. She looks just like that crazy bitch!”

“I’m going to destroy her,” he hisses as he holds me close. “I’m going to make her wish she had stayed her ass in fucking Germany.”

“Do your worst!” I confirm, holding him close to me and kissing his cheek, happy to be safe in his arms. He cups my face in his hand.

“You pulled your gun on her,” he says, his voice grave. I raise my eyes to him.

“She frightened me,” I say honestly. “She offered me $10 million to leave you and when I refused, she became enraged. I thought she was going to attack me… and she looks just like that psycho bitch. I was seeing her aim that gun at you all over again,” I try to drop my head, but he won’t let me. “Christian, please. Get rid of this woman. I saw Elena when I was pointing that gun at her. I could have killed her. I really could have killed her.” I squeeze his arms hard. He needs to know that I’m serious—that I’m frightened and I won’t be responsible for my actions if this woman approaches me. “If I see her again… if she ever comes near me…”

“She won’t, Baby. She’ll never come near you again.” He rises and sits on the sofa next to me. Gail, Chuck, and Jason are all sitting on other parts of the sectional. “I want to put a full security staff in that building, Butterfly. Davenport has proven that he is quite capable of covering you, but I think more security is going to be needed and soon. The trials are coming up; there’s speculation about the wedding; and now we have new crackpots coming out of the fucking woodwork. Davenport is only one person. There’s only so much ground that he can cover without leaving you unprotected. Please don’t fight me on this.”

“Fight you?” I squeak. “Are you kidding? I would welcome it—as long as we don’t have any of the Keystone Cops that were working for Vansteen.”

“Oh, no, you will have your own team, like I do. I think it’s very necessary.” He turns around to Jason. “I know you are still recovering and I’m sorry to impose, but is this something that you could arrange with Welch—make sure that she’s protected?” Jason looks at Gail, who nods immediately.

“My pleasure, Boss,” he says and gestures for Chuck to follow him to his office after rising from his seat.

“Can I get you anything, Ana? Christian?” Gail says, rising from her seat as well.

“No, I’m fine,” I say, running my hands over my face.

“Thank you, Gail. We’re fine,” Christian reinforces. Gail nods.

“I’m going to finish dinner, then,” she says with a brief smile. Christian watches her leave, then turns to me.

“I have a question for you,” he says, “a professional question.” Okay, now you’ve got my attention. My silence prompts him to continue. “You once called me narcissistic. I looked it up and I now know that you were wrong. I wasn’t narcissistic—I was just an arrogant asshole. My question is… can narcissism be considered an illness?” I frown heavily.

“What?” I’m completely thrown by this line of questioning. Where is he going with this?

“Bear with me for a moment,” he says as he turns to face me to explain his point. I rest my hands in my lap and listen carefully. “Lincoln was trained. That sick woman came to my office today, too. She has no filter—almost no sense of right and wrong.” Yep, he’s right about that. “She thinks that what Lincoln did was perfectly okay. If anything, it’s you and I who are wrong, and all of those little boys who are accusing her. By her understanding, I should have bailed Lincoln out with the loans and given the salons back to her.” He runs his hands through his hair.

“It’s even worse than that,” I tell him. “By her thinking, I’m only with you for your money and the only reason that you are not with She-Thing is because I am here. If I am removed from the equation, you will go back to her niece and ‘drop these silly charges.'” I rub my forehead. “She says that Elena is in love with you.”

“That woman only loves herself,” he hisses, “but we’re getting off track. I have to know this so that I know how to proceed. Lincoln truly sees nothing wrong with the fact that she recruited young boys because she was taught that it was okay. I’m certain of it now. The rules didn’t apply to her. She couldn’t hear anything that wasn’t for her benefit. Her mind simply blocked it out—complete unilateral listening. Everyone is beneath her in some way. She only responds when her livelihood, safety, or happiness is immediately threatened. When the threat goes away, she’s back to her tunnel-vision selfishness and I think it’s because that’s all she’s been taught.

“When we were growing up, if we did something naughty, we were punished. Those were our first lessons of right and wrong. She didn’t get that—especially if that wretched woman had anything to do with her upbringing, which I’m certain that she did. She doesn’t take responsibility for anything. Her heartaches and troubles are all because of someone else—anyone else but her. She’s the most extreme case of narcissism that I’ve ever seen and I know some narcissistic assholes. Ana… can she possibly use that as an insanity defense?”

A what? Is that what she’s trying to do? My expression actually causes Christian to grasp my hand as if I were going to faint. I’m not faint, I’m horrified and appalled! I take a few deep breaths.

“Narcissism—even extreme narcissism—is a horrible thing and is unfortunate for anyone to have to experience, particularly the poor people who are subjected to the narcissism. However, it is not an insanity defense and certainly not an excuse to kill people and rape little boys. I’ve certainly never heard of anyone being acquitted due to vapid and extreme narcissism. There’s no pill that you can take for that. Something like that takes extreme deprogramming. Quite frankly, if she has believed that for 50 years, it’s too damn late for her. It’s ingrained into her on a cellular level…”

“But don’t you see what you’re saying?” he points out to me. “If she can get a doctor to say the same thing you just said, she just might get off! People get off for being abused repeatedly and then committing a crime. How is this any different if she was taught and taught and taught that bad behavior was not her fault and no one corrected her for 50 years?”

“Because it is different!” I snap before I realize that I snapped at him. I breathe deeply again and continue. “Those who act after being abused usually have done something impulsive…”

“Like snap and pull on a gun on you in your office,” he says. My eyes narrow.

“She didn’t ‘snap’ and pull that gun on you, Christian!” I’m beginning to lose my patience with him. “She stole the gun from my apartment and then nearly a month later, she dressed up as a workman and came to your office to kill you—shooting Jason in the process. She plotted the whole thing and waited for her opportunity to strike. Premeditation eliminates impulse action, and that is a key factor in determining if someone is ‘insane.’ In addition to that, she molested boys for decades. That’s not insane—that’s just sick. Even if it is curable, she still has to pay for her crimes. If she ever gets out, she has to register as a sex offender in whatever community she lives in. She will not win an insanity plea unless she truly gets a jury of her peers—a jury full of murderers and child molesters.” He sighs.

“Baby, you don’t know it, but you answered my question a long time ago.” He falls back onto the sofa and throws his arm over his eyes. After a labored sigh, he says, “I was wondering how that cocky asshole could possibly believe he could pull off an insanity plea for this wretched woman and that’s how he going to do it.”

“What do you mean?”

“You saw that woman,” he says, “she doesn’t think anything is wrong with what she did. She really doesn’t. It’s only going to take a moment for some crackpot to put a label on it and use it as an insanity defense.”

“There is a label for it, Christian, but it’s not strong enough for murder or pedophilia…” He reaches up to touch my cheek.

“You don’t have to convince me, Baby,” he says with large, sad, gray eyes, “but someone is going to have to convince a jury, and I just don’t have that much faith in mankind.” He kisses me on the lips and rises from the sofa, going off in the direction of Jason’s office.

I take a moment to ponder the day thus far. First, I wanted to slap the shit out of one of my former patients. I understand that I wasn’t a good therapist by going off the deep end and taking off when things got rough. Then, there was always the time-off for flipping my wig or flying to El Nido or Green Valley or getting kidnapped. Yes, I understand more than anyone the need to have a therapist who will be there when you need them, which is why I pulled each of my patients in personally to consult with them about a plan of action for their treatment. However, this bitch put on this superior attitude like it’s okay for her to have some issues but not for me. Yes, I took that shit personally and I am glad to be rid of her. I would burn her fucking file if I could, but that’s against the law. Maybe I could make a copy of it and burn the copy after I put the original in the archives. It wouldn’t do anything, but the symbolism of the act would make me feel better.

After that, I get confronted by the evil Pedo-Bitch’s more evil twin. That shit was creepy! That woman brings up every bad feeling in me that there can possibly be—and now she has a fucking twin who had the nerve to try to buy me off! Thank God I will have full-time security in the building now.

Now, my beloved has deduced that his nemesis may be able to formulate an insanity plea on a personality flaw that simply cannot defend her actions. He doesn’t understand that claiming not responsible due to narcissism is like claiming insanity because you’re afraid of the dark. He’s right—some quack is probably going to try to get her off on that, but it simply will not work.

I drop my head into my hands and try to shake off my feelings of doom. It’s only Tuesday… the week hasn’t even gone into full swing and it’s already headed downhill.


 

GREY

“What do you have?” I ask Welch over the speakerphone in Jason’s office.

“She’s untouchable, Sir—old money, very old. You would have to take down industries to bankrupt her. If she bankrolls Lincoln’s defense, she’ll have the best attorneys that money can buy,” Welch informs me. Shit! That’s what I was afraid of.

“Keep looking. Nobody’s untouchable, not even me. There’s a chink in that armor somewhere and I want the weak link. Find it.”

“Yes Sir,” he says.

“What about security for Anastasia’s building?” I ask.

“I’m sending two of my guys down there tomorrow to inspect the location with building maintenance. I think daytime security should be from the core team and night and weekends can be from one of our agencies, but they will tell me more when they get there.”

“I want restricted access. No one in or out without our knowledge. Jason, what do you think?”

“It’s a fairly small space, Sir. I think it will be pretty easy to pull off as long as we have Her Highness’ cooperation,” Jason says.

“After today, you have her full cooperation,” I assure him, then turn to Davenport. “Good job today. I hear you had to pull your firearm as well.”

“Yes Sir,” he says. “Mrs. Strauss’ bodyguard pulled his firearm on Ana when she pulled her firearm on Mrs. Strauss.” I flinch.

“How did you manage to neutralize the situation?”

“I told him that I would kill him if he didn’t put his gun away. A man is very powerful behind a gun, but the feel of cold steel on your skull is very persuasive,” he says flatly. I nod again.

“Exactly why did Butterfly pull her gun?” he swallows.

“I didn’t see that, Sir,” he admits. “I was trying to report the incident to Welch and when I heard the unmistakable sound of teeth-clenching, angry Ana, that’s when I came in the room. The doors were open the entire time and I had Mrs. Strauss and Hugo in my sights the whole time.”

“Hugo?” Who the fuck is Hugo?

“Her bodyguard, that’s what she called him. I was stepping into the office when Ana’s voice changed and just as she pulled the gun on Mrs. Strauss, Hugo reached for his, so I reached for mine. He told Ana to put the gun down. By the time she responded that she wouldn’t, he was already feeling my Glock.” This whole story is making me ill, but I am fully aware that Davenport is only one man and did what he could under the circumstances. Butterfly is still in one piece and safe at home and no one else is hurt.

“Who is going to be over the security at this location?” I ask.

“Chuck?” Jason asks, looking over at Davenport, who is shaking his head.

“I need to keep my focus on keeping Ana safe. She’s a real handful. I don’t need to split my focus on paying attention to what’s happening in the building.” I nod at him.

“Give him a raise,” I say.

“If I keep giving him raises, he’s going to be making more than I do,” Jason jests.

“Then I guess you need to step up your game,” I rib back.

“Um… shoulder… bullet…” he says, gesturing at his wounded wing and it brings a laugh out of all of us, immediately lightening a very tense mood.”

“Okay, fellas, let’s get on our assignments. Davenport, make sure Ana doesn’t have any more plans for the evening and then you can go. I still want you to be abreast of what’s happening with the building tomorrow, so I’m going to see if I can convince Butterfly to work from home. If not, take one of the other guys into the office with you tomorrow to keep an eye on her while you do the inspection of the building.” Davenport nods and leaves the room. “Welch, dig deeper. Find me something.”

“Will do, Sir.” I end the call and look over at Jason. “Two of them…”

“Is it even possible to have that much evil in the world at one time and it doesn’t explode?” he says.

“Apparently so,” I reply, running my hands through my hair. “She offered Butterfly $10 million to leave me. That’s a lot of money for someone who doesn’t have it.”

“But apparently not enough for her to betray you… if there even is such a sum.”

“I don’t think there is.” I drop my head. “Do you know how many people would sell me out for that kind of money?” His face goes dark.

“Yes, Sir, I do,” he says, realization dawning.

“I’ve got to get her before she gets me, Jason. I need something on this woman now. She has no moral compass whatsoever and she will leave me and everything that I love in the gutter to die just to prove her point.”

“How do you know all of this? You don’t even know her.”

“I know her niece. This woman is more evil, cold, and sadistic with a bigger bankroll funded by old money. This is going to be a power struggle, I’m sure of it.”

“Maybe not. If we can find that one hole that will bring down her house of cards. Everybody has one, you said so yourself…”

“Yep, and I really need to get to work on mine.” I pause for a moment. “You know, I have to say things when they come to me even if the moment may not be appropriate for it.”

Oookay…” he says expecting.

“I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind being my best man.” Why was that harder to say than I thought it would be? His silence highlights his uncertainty.

“What about Elliot, Boss? I thought he was going to be your best man,” he protests.

“He was, but I feel that the person that represents me as my best man should be someone that I think would stand by me. Even when you were angry with me, you protected me and stayed by my side. When a bullet came flying in my direction, you jumped in front of it. You have kept my secrets, put up with my bullshit, and had my back for years without faltering. That’s who I want to stand with me on my wedding day.”

“Are you doing this just because you and Elliot are fighting and I took a bullet for you?” I pause.

“Yes and yes, but also because I truly realized that you are my best friend. When I thought you were dying in my office, I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t think, and if Butterfly hadn’t been there to control the situation, I don’t know what would have happened. I know now that you are very important to me—my best friend and a good man in a storm. That’s why I want you to be my best man.” Jason examines me carefully and proffers his good arm to me.

“Thank you, Christian,” he says sincerely. “I don’t know what to say. I would truly be honored.”

“No… thank you, Jason,” I say, taking his extended hand.

*-*

“Do you have to see any patients tomorrow?” I ask Butterfly while she’s brushing her hair. I know that she has been condensing her schedule, but I don’t know how far she has gotten yet.

“Coincidentally, no,” she says, examining me in the mirror.

“Could I possibly convince you to work from home for the next few days… or even in an office at GEH, just until I can get your building fitted the proper security measures?” She turns to face me.

“Let me see what I can do,” she says. “Tomorrow shouldn’t be a problem. I can call patients from my office here, but Marilyn will have to go to the office to retrieve my files. She may need some help…”

“Davenport should be there. He’s going to be part of the security restructuring even though you will still be his primary responsibility.” She nods.

“Okay, tomorrow is a go. We’ll have to see about after that, though. I may have to go in for an hour or two to see patients. I’m already cutting them down or ending therapy altogether. I don’t want them to feel like I’m completely deserting them.”

“I understand,” I say walking over to the vanity where she is brushing her hair. “Did you think about it?” I ask. She places her brush on the vanity and looks at me in the mirror, crouching behind her.

“Think about what?” she asks.

“Taking the money and leaving. Being with me can be so trying sometimes. It’s a full-time job dodging the press and psycho blondes and my crazy egomania. I often wonder why you stay with me…” She spins around to face me.

“Not for a moment,” she says softly. “There’s nothing and no one in this world that can make me stop loving you. You are my everything, Christian. This is where I want to be… with you, forever. Nothing will ever change that.”

“Even when I’m old and penniless?” I ask. If this crazy woman has her way, that’s where I could end up.

“Then we’ll be old and penniless together,” she responds. “Besides, we won’t be that penniless. I’m a doctor, remember?” I gather her into my arms and kiss her passionately. A year ago, I was a lone soul—a powerful man in my powerful tower looking down on my minions and running the world. Now, I can be reduced to nothing in a second by this petite, mahogany-haired Butterfly that holds my being in the palm of her tiny little hand. I scoop her up into my arms and take her to our bed, where I intend to make love to her until my body can’t move anymore.


A/N: Arschgeburt–said to be an extreme and common German insult that literally translates in “born out of the ass.”

“Femme désagréable et vulgaireSalope! La chienne!”–Literally translated, this is “Disagreeable and vulgar woman. Bitch! The bitch!” What Ana is saying is “You rude and and vulgar woman. You dirty slut! You bitch!”

Dumme ziege“–said to be another common German insult that literally translates into “stupid goat.”

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

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Love and Handcuffs!
Lynn x

Mending Dr. Steele: Chapter 40—Getting Back On Track

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 40—Getting Back On Track

STEELE

“You are officially being removed from wedding planning duty,” Al says to me when I finally stop bawling.

“No!” I protest. “That’s the best part of my life right now.”

“Ana, you are stretched to the limits,” Tammy protests. “You can’t seem to hold it together.”

“You planned your father’s wedding and nearly all the details for Maxie and Phil’s wedding and that was no small feat…”

“And now I’m planning my wedding. Please, Allen, you can’t take this away from me. Except for my crazy bridesmaids and the occasional over-the-top dressmaker, this is my only escape. Please…” Al examines my eyes.

“Fine, but something has to give because if you keep breaking down in these damn crying spells, I’m going to be fired as GEH attorney, man of honor and best friend. Are you pregnant, Jewel?”

“Nice try. I had a pregnancy test at the hospital and I’m still on birth control,” I tell him.

“Why did you have one at the hospital?” Al asks. “Did you suspect…?”

“No. Procedure, I think. I was bruised up pretty badly.”

“Well, I’ll compromise with you. You make your plans, put together your ideas, make all the final decisions. Tammy and I will do all the heavy lifting—dealing with the vendors and the temperamental bridesmaids and cursing people out. Deal?” I can’t argue with that.

“Deal. I have a meeting with the possible photographer tomorrow. Christian will be there, so you don’t have to, but I’ll let him know to correspond with you if Christian agrees to hire him,” I say.

“Good. Now where’s your list?” Al asks.

“What list?”

“The list that drives every bride batshit with things that she should have done by now. Come, come, where’s the list?” I shake my head. My best friend knows me only too well. I open my laptop and punch a few keys, then show him my list. He does the little “tsk” sound and turns my laptop away from me, clicking away at the screen.

“We know what flowers you want. Tammy and I will search for a florist and have some selections for you by next weekend. We’ve already got a DJ for the reception. I’ve got some choices for your band, so I’m deciding for you. I’ll see if I can get the name of that delightful band that played at the charity event that had everyone dancing with their daddies. You and Christian are dealing with the photographer tomorrow. How about the videographer?”

“Nothing yet. We were going to ask our photographer tomorrow,” I say weakly.

“Good. Let me know how that turns out.” Tammy is typing madly on her iPad while Al is running feverishly down my list. “Guest list and officiant?”

“Meeting with the minister next month. Christian was supposed to get the final guests from Grace. I don’t know if he has yet.”

“I’ll ask him,” Al says. His phone is buzzing away in his pocket and I know that he is sending key parts of my list to himself. As much as I hate to admit it, I feel a bit of weight lifting from my shoulders already. “Music at the ceremony… music playing? Someone singing? Band?”

“I have no idea,” I reply. Tammy and Al throw a knowing look at each other.

“Back burner,” Al says quickly moving on to the next item on the list. “Cake? Groom’s cake? Rehearsal dinner?”

“Grace wants to handle the rehearsal dinner, so I let her have that. We have the baker, but we haven’t chosen the flavors yet…”

“That’s easy, what’s your favorite?”

“German chocolate.” Tammy frowns.

“That never goes over well as a wedding cake,” she laments. “What about Christian’s?”

“Chocolate,” I say.

“We may be able to work with that. We’ll arrange for some tastings maybe week after next. You’re going to have to go with something not so traditional if you guys don’t want to do the standard marble or yellow. There are some excellent choices,” she assures me and I nod. She nods to Al, turning the floor back over to him.

“As requested, I have chosen the charities that will act as your registry: the Harborview Center for Sexual Assault, CCSW, Helping Hands, Childhaven, and Village Reach. What do you think?” Again, he reads my mind and I can only nod. “And don’t get all sappy on me. This list is ridiculous. It’s no wonder you’re always crying! You will nonetheless have someone bring gifts to the reception. Tammy, make sure that we have a gift table. The guests that want to be known will be over the top with their items. You’ll have to decide if you want to keep them or donate them, Jewel. I will take the girls and we will pick out the shoes and accessories for the dresses. I will not let those heifers chose anything gaudy or tacky and nothing that will upstage you as the bride.”

“Just shoes, Al. Their accessories will be my gifts to them. I’ve already picked them out.” He nods.

“There’s hope for you yet, Jewel. I know the castle is handling the food for the reception. Does that include the alcohol?”

“Yes,” Tammy interjects, madly typing away.

“Good. You already know that we have to narrow the dress choices down by Friday—focus on that.” He stands. “Just like that, your wedding ‘to-do-past-due’ list is cut in half.” I sigh again. Al kisses me on the cheek. “You start looking at those gorgeous dresses that we saw and decide how you want to look on your magnificent day. We are going to start tackling the rest of this for you… okay?” I nod fighting the tears again, this time tears of gratitude towards my best friend. “We’ll show ourselves out.”


 

GREY

My meeting with Ray was a bit scary, but I have to say “mission accomplished” for session one. I know that Butterfly is back at the condo by now and the fact that I didn’t answer my blackberry is going to leave room for speculation. What do I tell her? I don’t want to lie to her but I don’t quite want to tell her what was going on either. This is going to be a tough square to circle.

I didn’t hear my blackberry—that’s the truth. What’s the likelihood that she won’t ask me about it? Not very likely. What do I tell her?

When I come into the apartment, I see her sitting in the great room looking at the fire. Uh oh, have I fucked up again by not answering my phone?

“Butterfly?” I approach with caution. “Are you okay?” I walk over to her and find her drinking the gourmet coffee again. I think it may have a calming effect on her.

“Why does everything have to be a fight?” she asks weakly. Oh, shit, I don’t like where this is going.

“What do you mean?” I ask her. She looks all worn and beat down.

“I spent most of the day fighting with Valerie and Maxine.” What? “I’m so tired, Christian. I beginning to just want this all to go away.” I sit down next to her.

“Do you want to talk about it?” I ask.

“Where were you?” she asks. Oh hell. No prelim, no nothing.

“I was handling some very important business.” Well, that’s the truth. “I’m sorry I didn’t get to my phone in time to answer your call. By the time I thought about it, I just came home instead.” That’s the truth, too. “Are you mad at me?” She looks at me and drops her head.

“No,” she relents, “I’m mad at my so-called friends for making my day and my situation all about them. I don’t know what’s going on anymore, Christian. Are we growing apart?” I pull her into my arms.

“No, Butterfly. You’re stressed out right now and dealing with a lot of things at once. Your friends love you just as much now as they ever did, but where they are being included in a lot of things, they are being left out of other things. That’s what the fights were about, weren’t they?” She nods. “You should consider handing off some of the wedding planning to Tamara. That’s why you hired her, isn’t it? I know that you want to be hands-on with everything, but you are running yourself to death and I don’t want you to have a heart attack or stroke before we even get to the wedding… not that I want you to have one after, but I think you know what I’m getting at.”

“Yes, I know, and Al beat you to it. He left here today with half of my to-do list barking orders at Tammy and forbidding me to make any decisions for now, except for my wedding dress.” Her face is in her hands and her voice is muffled.

“What happened, Butterfly?”

She tells me about the fight where Valerie guilt-tripped her about Gary, Philip, and Elliot and nearly got kicked out of the wedding. Then she informed me of the subsequent showdown with Maxine in a public bathroom. I want to chew out both of these women as Butterfly is currently in a very delicate mental state, not to mention that my fight with my brother has nothing whatsoever to do with Valerie Marshall. Couple that with the fact that the paparazzi could have easily gotten a picture or recording of Butterfly and Maxine fighting in the restroom—it’s taking everything in me not to lower the boom and tell her that these meddling harpies cannot be in our wedding.

“I know that you want to run in and rescue me from my friends,” she says, reading my mind in that way that we do each other, “but I don’t want that. I just want the fighting to stop. I don’t want to have to explain myself at every corner or justify my actions at every turn. It’s exhausting and I don’t want to do it anymore…”

“And you shouldn’t have to, Butterfly. I swear to God that I’m going to take you up on your suggestion to elope if this shit keeps happening.” I’m tired of this, too. “It shouldn’t be this hard. We love each other and we want to be together. That’s all that should matter. Why is that so hard to swallow?”

“I don’t know,” she says, shaking her head, “but I agree.” Okay… what is she saying?

“With what?” She looks up at me.

“If this doesn’t get easier very quickly, I want to elope. I don’t care where we go. We can take John and his wife if you want and Allen and James and just go. We don’t even have to tell anyone that we’re leaving—just go and come back married.” She looks me squarely in the eye when she says it.

“You’re serious,” I say.

“Yes, I am. I can’t take this anymore, Christian. If one more thing goes wrong—one more person comes around acting like a bruised kitten, like this is happening to them instead of us—I want you to take me the fuck out of here and marry me and I mean it!” I stare at her for a moment, then pull her close to me again.

“I will do whatever you ask, Butterfly. You say the word and I will have the jet ready before you know it.” She nods again.

“I’m going to take a nap,” she says rising from the sofa.

“Do you want me to come with you?” I ask. She looks at me.

“If you want to,” she says, shyly. I tilt my head at her.

“I always want to, Butterfly,” I reply, rising off the bed and leading her to our bedroom.

*-*

I hold Butterfly until I know that she falls asleep. She didn’t even take off her clothes. She just fell on the bed like a rag doll. I had to take off her shoes and cover her so that she would be comfortable. Once I know that she is out cold, I leave the bedroom and close the door behind me.

Sitting at my desk in my study, I call Allen.

Chris, what’s up?”

“Hey, Allen. I need you to call Valerie and Maxine and get them on Skype. I need to talk to you. Can you get the wedding planner, too?”

Sure. What’s going on?”

“Just get them all together in a conference and Skype me back when it’s done.”

Okay. Is something wrong?” he asks, clearly concerned.

“Yes, something is wrong. Please get everyone together and connect me when you’ve done it.”

Will do.”

About twenty minutes later, I hear the unmistakable tone of a Skype call coming from EsquireAllen. I open the screen and look into the curious faces of four people.

“There’s about to be no wedding again,” I say to them with no prelim.

What the hell happened now?” Valerie spits.

“Apparently, you happened!” I spit back. Her demeanor immediately goes from accusing to chastised. “I need to make it clear that I don’t really care anymore what you people think of me with the exception of Allen because we spend so much time together. You can make me the villain if it floats your boat, but my concern is this woman over here that will soon be carrying my name. You can cooperate with me or I can head-butt every last one of you to make her happy, but right now, she’s about to call off her wedding. She about to forgo her castle because she can’t stand bickering with you anymore! Believe me when I tell you that I will snatch a handful of people, herd them onto my jet and fly her out of here in a New York minute if that’s what she tells me that she wants. So you can do whatever the hell you want to do, but I’m telling you that if things keep going the way that they are going, she’s going to call off her wedding and she’s going to miss out on her castle and her Cinderella story and she’s never going to forget it. Oh, and unlike you, don’t think for a second that she’s going to blame me for it!”

Chris, what did Jewel say?”

“Her exact words?” he nods. “She said that if this doesn’t get easier that she wants to elope. She said that we would tell nobody, just run away and come back married. She says that she is tired of people acting like—what was the phrase? Oh, ‘bruised kittens… like this is happening to them instead of us.’ She said that if one more thing goes wrong, quote ‘I want you to take me the fuck out of here and marry me and I mean it’ end-quote.”

Valerie drops her head and Maxine wipes a tear away. Tamara sits there in stunned silence while Allen’s eyes and head roll.

She’s burning out,” he says. “I saw it at the restaurant.”

That would be my fault,” Maxine says, her voice thick with tears.

That was just the last straw, Maxie,” Allen says. “This was on its way well before now. That’s why I took that damn list from her. I’ll have most of that shit done by the end of the week. Chris, she’s not allowed to do anything but look at wedding dresses.”

“Yeah, I’ll let you tell her that she can’t do anything…” I begin.

I already did,” he says. I’m shocked.

“How did she take it?”

She was relieved, although she tried not to show it.” I nod.

“Well, I’m glad to hear that. She is clinging to a very delicate thread right now and I just want this to go off well. I know that this is what she wants in her heart, but she’ll give it all up if it means that she can have peace. That’s what I want for her. I want her happy and peaceful and believe me when I tell you that I don’t have a problem physically putting myself between her and her closest friends if you are going to threaten her peace. Her opinion of me counts, not yours, and if she tells me to pour her into a plane and take her to Timbuktu, then that’s what I’ll do. Is there any misunderstanding here?”

No misunderstanding, Chris. Right ladies?”

None whatsoever,” Maxine says, still crying.

I’m sorry, Christian,” Valerie begins.

“Don’t apologize to me,” I say to her, mainly because I really don’t want to hear their apologies anymore. “You don’t owe me an apology. Did you apologize to Anastasia?” She nods, still never fully lifting her head. “Then that’s all that matters. If you’re concerned about her happiness then we are on the same team, because I’m concerned about her happiness, too. Let’s focus on the main goal and we’ll be fine. Allen, Tamara, do you need anything from me?”

The rest of your mother’s guest list,” Allen says.

And the fittings for the tuxes for the groomsmen,” Tamara says. I run my hands through my hair.

“That will be this Thursday. Allen, will you and James be available?”

I think so. I’ll let you know if it’s otherwise.”

“Good.” I pause for a moment. “Let Elliot know, Valerie.” She raises her head to me in shock. “My tailor will be here at seven. Tell him not to be late—6:30 at the latest.” She nods, completely mute and stunned. “Allen, I’ll remind my mom about her guest list and get it to you no later than Monday. You know that there will be someone added somewhere around the middle of June, right?”

Oh, I’ve already allowed for that contingency,” Tamara says. Contingency… interesting choice of words.

Other than that, just take as much control of that photographer meeting tomorrow as possible and let me know how it goes. Jewel says that she was going to ask him about a videographer, too.” Shit, I didn’t even think about that. I guess if I’m a little more hands on with things, it won’t be so hard on Butterfly.

“Consider it done,” I tell him. “Is there anything else?” No one has anything to add. “Okay, you have your assignments. We’ll talk later, Allen. Tamara, if there are any problems or hang-ups, I want to know first, then I’ll tell Ana. If it’s business as usual, go ahead and proceed.” She nods and ends her conference. Maxine ends without another word as does Valerie.

We’ll talk later, Chris?” Allen says.

“Of course.” With a nod, he is gone. Before I can close the program, the Skype tone plays again with a call from RavenhairedAdGirl.

Valerie. Fine. I open the conversation and she has the same chastised look on her face that she had before, well, the part of her face that I could see anyway.

I’m sorry, Christian,” she says.

“You don’t owe me an apology…”

But I do,” she says, finally raising her head. “When Ana was gone, I was angry. I’m guilty of shutting you out, but if you remember, I tried to have your side. I told Elliot to stop being mean, and I held your hand while you cried. I wasn’t the best friend, but with my torn feelings, you have to see that I tried.” I can give her that. She did try, but I still don’t really want to call her “friend.” I think I would rather not. However, I’m not a complete asshole.

“You’re right,” I say. “You did make an effort.”

I’m sorry that I couldn’t be a better friend to you. I know that Ana would have wanted me—us—to be there for each other and for you and we failed, but I want her to have her castle and her dream wedding and I promise that I won’t be a problem anymore.”

“That’s all that I ask,” I tell her.

I know that you probably won’t trust any of us again and I can’t say that I blame you, but if you ever find yourself in a place where you need a friend that way, I won’t let you down again if you let me in. I won’t push, I just want you to know.” I appreciate the sentiment, and I won’t forget it, but that ship has sailed.

“Thank you. I won’t forget the gesture.” She nods as I am sure that she gets the full meaning of that statement.

One more thing,” she says nervously. “I won’t interfere in the situation between you and your brother, but I will tell you that he’s having a really hard time with this. He’s really crushed, and if he could take back his actions, I’m certain that he would.”

“That’s the problem though, Valerie. When you make someone feel like shit, you can’t take that back,” I tell her, which is more than I should have said.

Will you ever forgive him?” she beseeches.

“That’s between me and my brother,” I tell her with no malice. She puts her hands up.

I’m so sorry. I shouldn’t have said anything. I didn’t mean to… I’m sorry…”

“It’s fine,” I tell her. “I know that you love him. I understand what you are trying to do.” She nods.

I’m… going to go now.” I nod. She ends the call and I shut down the program. A few moments later, I feel her presence next to me.

“How long have you been standing there?” I say without raising my eyes to her.

“From somewhere around something about my peace.” That’s a long time.

“I meant every word.”

“I know.” I look up at her and there are tears threatening again. “You are a wonderful man, and I love you.” I stand up and walk to her. “I need…” she trails off.

“What?” I ask her.

“I…” She’s having an extremely hard time with this request whatever it is. I put my hand on her cheek where a tear has just fallen. Her eyes capture mine, begging, before she drops her eyes and whispers, “I don’t want to think.”

I stand there gazing at her for a moment before I wipe her tears and bring her hand to my mouth, placing a gentle kiss on her palm. I take her by the hand to our bedroom where I completely undress her. It’s late afternoon and she never took her full nap, but I don’t think she could sleep now. I run a bath and lead her into it while I choose her clothes. I always like for her to wear white when I do this. None of the others wore white… ever. I prefer to see Butterfly in white because I see her as pure and good and beautiful, even when I dominate her.

I bring her out of the bath and into our bedroom. After drying her body, I squat in front of her.

“Step,” I command, and she obediently steps one foot and then the other into a slinky pair of white thongs. I stand, pulling the thongs up her legs with me and placing them on her hips, gently caressing her skin as I do. Her breath catches, but releases immediately and she never raises her head.

“Arms up,” I tell her and she raises her arms. I slide a sexy white lace nightgown over her arms and down her body. It is long in the back and drapes up to a sexy split on the right side in the front. I stand behind her and apply the collar that I have chosen for today—her braided pearl collar. Taking the few pins from her hair, I allow it to fall over her shoulders and cascade in large curls instead of the traditional braid—another thing I think I will do away with. I walk to the front of her and she clasps her hands in front of her.

“When did you last eat?” I ask.

“Lunchtime, Sir,” she replies.

“Did you finish?” she pauses for a moment. She was upset. She doesn’t even have to answer that question. I already know.

“No, Sir.”

“Were you going to tell me?”

“No, Sir.” Hmm, I should punish her for that, but she really doesn’t need that at this very moment.

“You get a pass for your honesty. Good girl,” I say trailing my finger down her cheek to her chin. She shivers involuntarily

“Thank you, Sir,” she replies, her voice betraying her lust.

“Go to the kitchen, Ms. Steele. Fix those delightful chicken skewers that you make and a proper vegetable for dinner. Let me know the moment that dinner is served.”

“Yes, Sir,” she says and proceeds to the kitchen. I know what she needs. She doesn’t want to think. There’s only two ways for that to happen and she knows it—sleep, which she refused by coming into my office, or allowing me to do the thinking for her… to make her decisions for her. TPE. That’s what she wants. She wants me to do the thinking for her.

I can certainly oblige.

I go to my study and sit down for a moment. She came to me. This is bad. I mean, it’s good because she came to me and she trusts me to do this for her. It’s bad because she had to come to me. This whole situation is becoming more than she can handle. With these latest revelations into her past and her therapy, she certainly won’t last much longer without having a nervous breakdown.

I can hear the saxophone playing in the distance. Either Butterfly doesn’t hear it, or she’s ignoring it. When the sax plays again, then stops with still no movement from Butterfly, I make my way to our bedroom. There on the bedside table is Butterfly’s cell phone, buzzing away as Dr. Sax plays some more indicating an incoming call. The caller shows up as “unknown.” Nope, we won’t be answering that. I put her phone on the charger so that she will be able to find it when she’s ready for it, but turn off the ringer. I remove my socks and shoes, then my shirt and T-shirt before I hear her timid voice behind me.

“Excuse me, Sir,” she says softly. I turn around to see her standing there with her head down, her hair framing her face and cascading over her shoulders. My God, she looks heavenly.

“Yes, Anastasia?”

“Dinner is ready.”

“Very well. Lead the way.” She turns around dutifully and walks back to the dining room. I allow her to proceed in front of me so that I can watch her walk. She glides when she walks. Her cute, tight little ass makes the negligée swing from side to side, but her stride lacks the confidence to which I have become accustomed. She looks different today…

Timid…
Demure…
Vulnerable…

I feel the protector in me rising, wanting to shield her from any and everything that could possibly harm her. As she disappears around the corner, I have to adjust my pants just a bit. She is at her most submissive right now, completely at my beck and call and ready to bend totally to my will. It has the opposite effect on me that I thought it would. I thought I would want to use her—her body and her mind—and bask in her submission to me, but I don’t. I want to preserve her and keep her safe. The Dom is taking on a different form.

I follow her path around the corner and I see her standing at the dining table, head down and hands clasped in front of her. There are two plates prepared on the table—the chicken skewers and a vegetable medley of broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots.

She is so beautiful.

I stride over to her and brush her hair over her shoulder. I run my hand gently over her collar.

“You look stunning in this collar, Ms. Steele,” I say.

“Thank you, Sir,” she replies softly. I bring my hands down to my sides.

“You are mine,” I declare.

“Yes, Si…”

“Ssh!” I silence her. She’s immediately quiet. “You are mine. You belong to me.” I gently touch her lips with my index finger and feel her shiver. “I will always protect you… keep you safe from harm.” I walk into her, forcing her back into the chair behind her. Putting my hand under her chin, I lift her face until her eyes meet mine. “I will take care of you.” Her eyes are full of gratitude while also questioning. I take the seat next to her and take the fork from her plate. Filling the fork with meat and vegetables, I lift it to her lips. She pauses for a moment, then takes the food from the fork.

“Good girl,” I say as she chews her food. “Is it tasty?” I ask and she nods as she swallows the food. I take a forkful from my plate. “Mmmm, it is tasty.” I load her fork again. “Would you like some more?” A coy smile forms on her face as she nods. I feed her another forkful and she dutifully takes the food while leaving her hands resting in her lap. I feed us both from both plates until the plates are clean, then instruct her to clear the dishes. Once the kitchen is clean and the dishes are in the dishwasher, I lead her to the great room.

I turn off all the lights and start the fireplace. The blue and orange flames illuminate our bodies as I snuggle with her on the sofa. I cuddle her and stroke her hair while she lays in my lap. I tell her all about my conversation with Robyn and about what I know of his father, the crack whore’s pimp. I talk about Elena and the arraignment, how the last words she got from me—if you could call it that—was “fuck you.” I tell her about my conversation with Elliot and how he made me feel both while she was away and that day while he stood in my office and declared that he had treated me like shit because of his own issues with his ex. I tell her how brave she was to disarm Elena before she had the chance to get off another shot, even though she could have been killed herself. I beg her not to ever do that again as I could not endure living life without her.

I stroke her hair and keep talking about nothing and everything until I hear her rhythmic breathing. Then I sit there talking to her sleeping form—about everything and nothing. I talk to her about the nightmares that I had for years and years while waiting for the crack whore’s pimp to come back and get me after she died. I tell her how before she came into my life, I really did think that my heart had frozen and died because I truly felt nothing. I felt nothing for the subs who wanted so much more from me or the woman who sits in a jail cell right now pledging her undying devotion to me. My love for my family felt more like duty—like an intense need to keep them safe and make sure that they were never unhappy. It wasn’t until I fell in love with her that I realized the warmth and affection that I felt for Mia and Grace; the camaraderie and brotherhood that I felt for Elliot; the loyalty and respect I felt for Carrick as well as the undying gratitude that I feel for both of my parents. I wasn’t able to identify any of these things until I met her. I had always felt them; I just didn’t know what they were.

I watch the flames crackle in the fireplace as I think about how different my life was just under a year ago. My birthday is coming up soon and for the first time, I am looking forward to it. I’m looking forward to spending time with Butterfly and whatever we may have planned. I’m looking forward to celebrating growing a year older with the woman who will spend the rest of her life with me. I’m looking forward to every day now, waking up in her arms and kissing her—holding her and loving her and falling asleep with her. I never thought I would be that guy, but surprise, I am. The flames dance a hypnotic samba while I consider what I would have been doing had I not met her…

“Christian… no…”

It’s after nightfall now. Her whimpering voice wakes me from my slumber. She is curled up small on my lap, still asleep and now trembling.

“Please… no… Christian…”

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know what she’s dreaming about. I kind of hoped we could skip over this part of the trauma, but I was almost certain that would be impossible.

“I’m right here,” I say softly into her ear while stroking her hair and caressing her head. “I’m not going anywhere Butterfly. I’m right here with you and I always will be.” Her nervous twitching body whimpers a few more times before she falls back into an undisturbed sleep. I shift so that I am lying down and pull her into my arms, wrapping us both in the throw that hangs over the end of the sofa.

“I’ll never leave you, Butterfly. I’ll always protect you and I’ll always love you,” I whisper to her sleeping form. Her body melts into mine and immediately coerces me into a deep sleep.

I awake with the hardest, most uncomfortable erection I think I have ever had—well, maybe not ever, but it’s hard and uncomfortable! Butterfly has turned around to face me and she is snuggled into my chest. Good God, I was having the most erotic dream about her. I don’t know where it came from, but I need to fuck her—right here and right now!

I run my hands down her body and squeeze her ass, hard. She awakes with a jolt. After she stretches, it only takes her a moment to realize where we are. Her eyes meet mine briefly then drop almost instantly.

“I need your body. I’ve been dreaming about you and I’m going to use you this morning. Do you understand?” I say, still roughly grasping her behind.

“Yes, Sir,” she says without hesitation.

“Good. On your knees, lie flat on the cushion.” She quickly obeys and her ass is on glorious display through the lace nightdress. I realize that Jason and Gail can come out any minute, but right now, I don’t care.

“Mmmm, yes,” I say as I admire her lovely ass caressing it through the lace. “Don’t move.” I dash quickly up the stairs to the Playroom, my dick thrumming harder and harder in anticipation of what I am going to do to her. I lock the door after grabbing the heating lube and nearly skip back down to the great room.

She is still in position like a good little submissive. I lift her nightdress over her ass onto her back and caress some more. It’s beautiful and round, soft and calling me. I divest myself of my slacks and boxers before toying with her thong, tantalizingly disappearing into her ass and teasing me. I snap the little useless thing and toss the strings of material over with my clothes. I squirt the lube at the base of her tailbone and watch it slide between her cheeks.

“Hold you ass open, Anastasia,” I say, lust heavy in my voice as Greystone twitches in excitement. She reaches back and spreads her cheeks, allowing the lube to slide over and into her rosette. My God, it’s so seductive and hot, and Greystone jumps around a little more. I squirt some lube into my hand and rub it along my burning cock while spreading lube over Anastasia with my other hand. She whimpers a bit as her anus responds to my touch and Greystone can take no more.

I crouch behind her, one foot on the floor and the other on the sofa beside her. Slowly, I press the head against her protesting asshole. She whimpers again, fueling my need to be inside her. With a gentle push, I breach the barrier of her rosette and she gasps. Her breathing becomes a little labored as I push further into her.

“Relax,” I soothe, and her breathing calms a bit. I push further, then withdraw. Her ass is so tight. I squirt a little more of the lube between us and let it work its way in. Her breathing slows some more and I can feel her body begin to adjust to me. With slow, short strokes, I begin to intensify the friction between us and the lube starts to heat. She opens her cheeks a little wider to welcome me in and I gladly oblige.

Sssssss,” I hiss. “You are so tight.” The movement becomes easier and she is moving slightly against me. Once we get started, I know that she loves a good ass fuck. “Still, Anastasia,” I chide, and she reluctantly stops her movement, her aroused breathing becoming more and more evident. I put my hands around her waist to steady her and I thrust, short and slow, into her. I watch her bite her lip to keep from crying out and her body starts to shake. The lube is getting warmer and I have to concentrate to prolong the pleasure and not blow my load too quickly. She is struggling not to make any sound.

“Are you… enjoying this… Anastasia?” I say between strokes, the pleasure nearly too much for me to bear now that I am sliding effortlessly in and out of her ass.

“Yes… Sir,” she whimpers, and I hear her orgasm hiding in her voice. I thrust deeper into her, a little more quickly and rhythmically. She can’t resist a moan at my change of pace.

“Play with your clit,” I command. “I want you to come… hard.” Like a good little marionette, she reaches between her legs and begins to rub her clit. Her body starts to shake almost immediately. I steady myself with my hands on her shoulders and speed up my stroke, not too fast—just fast enough. Fuck, this is so damn good. She better hurry or I might come without her.

“Squeeze your muscles against me,” I instruct her. She tightens her ass muscles and I am losing the fight. Thankfully, however, not before she does. She cries out and her head lifts as her body tenses. Holy fuck! Her ass squeezes against me tight—so fucking tight. I pull her body upright in a kneeling position and cup her breasts hard, pulling her ass back against me as my orgasm begins to ooze into her. She’s coming so hard and her ass is gripping me with immense intensity. Coupled with the heat from the lube, this vise grip causes me to explode spectacularly inside her as she wheezes out her orgasm. I am shaking ferociously as I thrust into her sporadically to prolong my aftershocks while holding her body against mine.

I look over her shoulder and realize that she is still madly manipulating her clitoris.

“Ah, you still have one in there, don’t you?” I taunt.

“Yes.. Sir,” she breathes while chasing her orgasm. I thrust into her again, my still-hard member yet encased in her ass. She cries out and continues her assault on her clit. I thrust again and move one hand to her collar, squeezing gently and holding her upright while the other hand assists in the manipulation.

“Don’t stop,” I tell her, as my hand moves further down and I thrust two fingers inside of her. She cries out again and her knees start to wobble. She sounds as if she might cry from the passion. “That’s my sweet girl. Give it to me. You know you want to.” I run my tongue up her neck and suck her earlobe into my mouth, biting it gently. This sends her over the edge as I thrust into her two more times and she cries out loudly. I take her mouth with mine, absorbing her cries as she grabs on to any part of the sofa that will hold her up and my hand replaces hers, thrusting my fingers into her and manipulating her clit until she trembles madly in my arms. Oh, yes! That’s the reaction that I was looking for.

I hold her close to me—her back to my front—as she trembles out her orgasm, trying to catch her breath. She has told me on more than one occasion that she can climax vaginally as well as anally. I think that’s what happened here. I remove my hand from her tender, throbbing pussy and wrap my arm around her waist, my other hand still holding her neck and her collar. While she attempts to catch her breath, I quickly slide out of her ass in an effort to cause as little discomfort as possible. She whines slightly at the separation.

“Are you okay?” I ask while gently kissing her cheeks and hair.

“Yes Sir,” she pants, still trying to catch her breath.

“Good.” I stand and help her to her feet. Lifting her in my arms, I carry her to the bedroom. “Bathtime, Sweet Girl.”

*-*

According to his background check, Joshua Shaler is 25 years old, an only child and a Seattle native. He holds a two-year degree in photography, but dropped out of undergrad school in his third after having honed his craft as well as sharpened his journalistic skills. He’s done quite a bit of freelance work, but his big break didn’t come along until he bumped into Butterfly in St. Maarten. He’s been getting an influx of work and freelance assignments ever since.

“Mr. Shaler, I’m Christian Grey. Of course, you remember Anastasia.” I proffer my hand to him.

“Mr. Grey, it’s truly an honor to meet you. Please, call me Josh.” He shakes my hand. “Ana, it’s good to see you again.”

“You too, Josh. Please have a seat,” she says with a polite smile as she gestures towards the sofa. Josh returns her smile and takes a seat on the sofa. “I see you’ve been pretty busy since we last met,” she adds taking the seat next to me on the sofa to the left of Josh.

“Oh, yes. Everyone wants to know how I was able to get the first really ‘talkie’ from you after your accident—besides the little bite outside of Nordstrom. Of course, I won’t tell them.”

“Of course,” I say. “I hear that it’s you that I must thank for finding the mole in my company.” He shifts uncomfortably.

“I can’t take credit for that,” he says. “As a matter of fact, I had better not take credit for that or I may become known as a reporter who reveals his sources.” He’s half-joking and half-serious when he says that, so I decide to move the conversation forward.

“My fiancée says that she has been following your work. Not only does she think you are quite talented, but she also feels that she can trust you. I’m a very private man, Mr. Shaler, and I don’t want the media all over my wedding. As it is, it’s going to be damn near impossible to keep it a secret with the recent events, but I still want to do everything that I can to make this day special for my Butterfly. Since she feels that you are the man for the job and I trust her instincts implicitly, let’s see what you’ve got.”

Joshua lays out a rather large portfolio of his work, not only wedding shots and news articles, but also candid shots and captured moments of exquisite backdrops, children playing, a little old lady with a single tear in her eye contemplating her past.

A black and white picture of a beautiful blonde woman lying on a highly-polished floor. Only her head and shoulders, but he has captured her reflection bouncing off the floor as she gazes into the camera.

A close-up of ladybugs walking on a female hand. You can see the legs of the ladybug as well as count the dots on their backs.

A pregnant woman wearing a bikini, walking on the beach at sunset while gently cradling her stomach.

A little girl standing under an apple blossom tree. She is looking up at the tree and catching the blossoms as they fall.

A self-portrait, captured in the sunglasses of another subject and cropped to only him aiming his camera and the streets of Seattle as his backdrop.

The pictures go on and on and on and to be quite honest, they are exquisite.

“Joshua, these are breathtaking!” Ana finally says after being lost in the portfolio for several minutes. She raises her eyes to me and I know in a moment that she wants him to do our wedding photos. Without a word, she drops her eyes back to the portfolio.

“Joshua, you will have to sign a non-disclosure agreement, meaning that you can tell no one that you are doing the photos nor can you disclose any details of our personal life or the ceremony before or after the wedding without our permission.” His eyes grow large.

“Does that mean… I’ve got the job?” he asks incredulously.

“Yes,” Butterfly breathes wistfully, still looking at the portfolio. Neither Josh nor I know if that was a reaction to a picture she saw or a response to his question. I smile at her while watching her get lost in the magic that is Josh’s work.

“Join me in my study, please, Joshua,” I say as I stand. Butterfly looks up at me, concerned. “It’s only to sign the NDA, Dear,” I say before placing a gentle peck on her cheek. She nods and goes back to the portfolio. Joshua follows me to the study where I have a copy of the NDA already on the desk.

“Anastasia means the world to me, Joshua,” I say to him as I hand him the NDA.

“I can clearly see that,” he says. “Anyone in the room with you two for more than five seconds can feel your connection. I don’t know if she feeds off your energy or you feed off hers, but it’s rather remarkable. I’m not just saying that, Mr. Grey. The love between you two… it’s palpable. I’m very honored to be able to capture these moments for you.” He takes the non-disclosure agreement from my hands.

“Good. I’m very glad you feel that way. I don’t want you to take this the wrong way, but please know that I normally don’t let the press within 100 feet of me, let alone into my home or my most personal business. You are being afforded an opportunity that many will never see in their lifetime. If for any reason you make me regret it, I will be sure to make you regret it more.” I say the words firmly and with no malice, but it is imperative that he knows that I will destroy him if he steps wrong during this assignment.

“I completely understand and respect your position, Mr. Grey. You may not know me, but my word is all that I have. As a reporter and freelance photographer, people have to trust me. If I go back on my word, I’m done. My career is over and to coin an old phrase, I’ll never get work in this town again. You have my word that I will handle this assignment with respect and discretion, Sir.” His voice is very solemn. I know that he could have done any number of things with the video and picture that he took of Butterfly, but he presented them exactly how he got them.

“Anastasia can be very naïve at times. Although she is very trusting, I know what could have come from that sound bite that she gave you.”

“Yes, Sir, but she made it clear that you and she would hunt me down to the ends of the earth if I did anything dishonest or disrespectful with the information that she gave me. I truly don’t want to see that kind of wrath,” he confesses.

“Excellent. Take a moment to read the NDA and when you’re done, I’d like to discuss your vision for our wedding as well as your suggestions for a videographer.”


 

STEELE

“Good morning, Marilyn.” I’m feeling much lighter as I enter the office on Monday morning. Christian pretty much handled the negotiations with Joshua yesterday and now we have or photographer as well as our videographer. Joshua provides both services and, pending the background checks and the signed NDAs from his assistants, that’s two things that we can scratch off our list.

As it turns out, I didn’t lose as many clients as I thought I would with me being gone for a whole month. I manage to speak to or see all of my Monday regulars and at least speak to my Tuesday regulars to formulate a treatment plan for them. That’s 14 people. Out of the 14, I determined that four were just coming to see me for comfort—because not seeing me was scarier than continuing to pay my fee. I cut them down to half-hour sessions because they really don’t need me and I am hoping to ween them off soon or bring them down to emergency contact only. Five more only needed maintenance calls—not weekly, but maybe monthly to be sure that everything was on track and they were not in line for a nervous breakdown.

Three agreed that after being without the session for nearly a month and very, very careful scrutiny of their file and their progress, they really didn’t need therapy anymore at all. However, I agreed to keep them on file in case they ever feel like they are just falling into the abyss and can’t seem to find their way out. The final two were very deep in their therapy and definitely needed to continue. I have agreed to see those two twice this week to get them back on track since I was gone for so long.

This new schedule brought 14 full-time patients down to one full-time on Monday and one full-time on Tuesday, three half-hour comforts on Monday and one half-hour comfort on Tuesday, one monthly on two Mondays of the month and one monthly on three Tuesdays. So far, that means that a nine-hour Monday and a nine-hour Tuesday—with allowances for lunch and contingencies, of course—has now become a two- or three-and-a-half-hour Monday and a one- or a two-and-a-half-hour Tuesday. That’s not bad at all for my first day back at work.

I’m getting ready to head home and look at some dresses when a very maudlin Marilyn steps into my office.

“Ana, with you cutting down your hours to barely part-time, I’m certain that you won’t need a full-time assistant anymore,” she says sadly. Shit! I didn’t think about that. I’m still going to need her, especially while I’m still planning my wedding, but she’s right. I won’t need a full-time receptionist. I’m sure that I can find something for her to do for me. I’ll have to see.

“I promise that I won’t leave you high and dry. I’m still going to need you for the next several months, even though I won’t be on a full-time schedule here at work. I’ll still pay you the same for the things that I need—God knows I’ll need help keeping my life straightened out. After things settle down a bit, whenever that will be, I’m sure that I’ll will still need a PA for all kinds of things—keeping my schedules straight, running my errands, helping me with charity events…”

“Charity events?” she asks, bemused. I sigh.

“Yes. I want to focus more on myself and Christian and less on other people right now, which is why I am cutting back my hours. After the wedding and when the dust clears a bit, I’m going to go full-on into fundraising, volunteering, helping families cope with tragedies… things like that.” Marilyn frowns.

“Please tell me that you’re not going to become one of those rich, stick-in-the-mud, snobby, entitled trophy wives. I won’t be able to tolerate you if you do,” she says, her voice very serious.

“Oh, hell no, but I am going to be one of those rich wives that go to a lot of red carpet events. If I ever turn into the entitled, snobby, whatever you said, you have my permission to give me a swift kick and two quick slaps.” She examines me closely.

“Remember that you said that,” she says. “I don’t have a college education and I didn’t plan on having to look for a new job, but I will jump ship quicker than you can sneeze if you turn into one of those blue-haired, stuck-up bitches and I mean it, Ana!” I put my arm around her shoulders.

“Don’t worry. Even when I’m old and my hair is actually blue, that won’t be me. Marilyn, I can say with certainty that you have job security, because one way or another I’m always going to need you. Besides, you know too much about me. I can’t fire you… I’d have to kill you,” I say with a wink.

*-*

I am back in my wedding planning cove and I have narrowed my dress choices down to 10. I know that Tammy has some favorites, but I think she’s going to be disappointed that none of my choices came from The Wang. Her designs were unmistakably exquisite, but I still didn’t love them. I fire off my choices to her and Al and the responses are almost immediate.

“Ana, seriously? Nothing from Wang?” she says, aghast.

“No, nothing from Wang,” I say flatly.

“But you can’t turn down Vera Wang! She knows people. She can make your life miserable!” Is she serious? A dress designer can make my life miserable?

“Tammy, believe me, that woman can’t do anything to me that I can’t do to her. Many other people—important people—have gotten married without wearing a Vera Wang dress, and so will I. Her designs didn’t wow me like the others did, so I’m not going to use them. Vera Wang is out. Get over it!” She was the one who kept pushing me to see The Wang when I really didn’t want to see anymore dresses at that point anyway. She shouldn’t be surprised that I wasn’t really drawn to any of the designs.

“Fine,” she says sharply and I swear I can actually hear her pouting.

“Is this going to become a problem?” I ask her. No, I’m not looking for another wedding planner this late in the game and I am certainly not going to fight with you about a dress that I’m going to wear!

“No,” she sighs. “It’s not going to be a problem. I’m just disappointed. I was sure that you would fall in love with one of Vera’s dresses.”

“Well, I didn’t. Now let’s stop making a big deal about it. I’ve sent you my choices and I need your honest opinions on them. If you can’t give it to me, I’ll ask Al…”

“No, no, I’m a professional. I’ll take a closer look at the dresses and give you my opinion tomorrow. I need to picture the dresses on you standing next to Christian in his tux in the setting at the castle and I can let you know what I think.” That’s more like it.

“Thank you. I appreciate your input,” I say. “I’m going to call Al and see if he will let me do anything on my list.”

“Yeah, good luck with that,” she says and we end our call. Okay, time to call my drill sergeant.

“Hi Al.”

Hello Jewel, my darling. How has your day been?” He sounds a bit too happy.

“Busy. I’m cutting down my caseload, so I had to talk to and see quite a few people today. Tomorrow will be more of the same. How about you?”

Well, your fiancé went a little easy on me today, so besides fending off some frivolous lawsuits from some disgruntled ex-employees, I was able to book that band from the fund raiser and secure your florist—complete with signed NDAs in hand and background checks on the way!” Gosh, my soon-to-be husband is such a damn stickler for those background checks, but I guess you can never be too careful.

“Good, so we can definitely scratch those two off the list. Did you get the dresses that I sent you?”

Yes. I’m surprised that you didn’t have the Vera Wang,” he says.

“Oh, good God, not you, too,” I lament.

I’m not giving you a hard time about it, Jewel. I’m just surprised that you didn’t pick it. I mean those dresses…” He whistles to show his sentiment.

“Yes, I agree that they were extremely beautiful dresses, but unfortunately not my vision. Now what do you think about the choices that I sent you?”

I am very partial to number five and number seven.”

“Oh my God, me too!” I exclaim. “Now tell me why not the others.”

Well, while number one is very demure, I’m not liking that bottom. It looks too… homemade.”

“That’s what it is! I couldn’t figure out what was striking me wrong about that dress!”

Al gave me all the reasons why he shot down the other dresses. Number three looked like an older woman should be wearing it. Two was too boxy. He had no idea why I picked four at all. Six had kind of the same look as the ones that I liked, but the hip-hugger-type waist was just not flattering. Nine and ten were very pretty, but Al insists that they both look like something a stripper would wear. I sorely disagree, but hell, they weren’t my favorites anyway.

Five, seven, and even eight all had qualities that I like. They were by different designers, though. I’m hoping I might be able to get them to work together and combine the qualities that I like so that I can get the dress that I want. Hell, two jewelers designed my engagement ring. Why can’t two—or three—designers do my dress? We will simply have to see if that works out.

Okay so I’ll see what Tammy says tomorrow, but we’ve pretty much narrowed it down to these three. I don’t know how successful or even receptive she’ll be to asking three designers to work together. She’s a little tender about the lack of Wang in the selection.”

Lack of Wang,” Al repeats the phrase. “That sounds so dirty.” I shake my head.

“Yet another reason why I’m glad I didn’t pick her. Tammy keeps calling her The Wang. I can just hear some smart ass reporter announcing that ‘Anastasia Steele is now Anastasia Grey after a wedding in a castle this past Saturday. Mr. Grey was wearing a custom tuxedo by Brioni and the new Mrs. Grey was dressed by The Wang!'” Al bursts out in laughter.

Yes, I think that would be pretty tragic,” he says.

“Indeed!” I confirm.

So, tell me. What have you been doing on the list? I know that you can’t keep your grubby little hands off of it.” Shit. Busted.

“Nothing. I haven’t done anything,” I tell him.

Jewel, I’ve known you for more than half of your life and you are lying. Now, spill it.”

“I’m not lying!” Technically, I haven’t looked at the list. I was going to, but I haven’t.

Fine. Turn your chair around and open the list.” I hate him.

“I still wasn’t lying,” I say as I open the list. “I haven’t looked at it.”

But you were going to,” he chides.

“I was going to ask you first!” I defend.

Whatever! What’s next on the list?”

“Hire the photographer—done that, and the videographer.”

Good. What’s next?”

“Book your band—you’ve done that. Choose your dress—we’re doing that now…” I check more items off the list. “Choose groomsmen and ring bearer attire. You guys are doing that Thursday. Hey! Were you able to recruit a ring bearer and a flower girl?”

No, but Chris said that he found a couple of candidates for that, so you don’t have to worry about it.” Christian? He doesn’t know any kids either. I hope he didn’t hire a couple of actors. “And there’s that pause. Stop thinking about it so hard. He says that you will be pleased and they will be dressed and ready for the wedding. Now what’s next?” I sigh. I don’t have a choice but to accept it because I don’t have any suggestions

“Book your ceremony musician.”

Did you want someone to sing?” he asks.

“Well, I want the Lord’s Prayer at the beginning. I don’t know about when I walk down the aisle.”

Chris has that covered, too,” he says. Boy, Chris has covered a lot and hasn’t told me. “And another pause. Jewel, he had to do something while you were in Montana!”

Shit! I forgot about Montana… and he was still here planning our wedding. I sigh again.

“Tell him to pencil in my session with Ace on Friday. He’s going to want to be there. At least he said he would,” I tell him.

I’ll pass it on. Who’s Ace? Another hottie?”

“As a matter of fact, yes he is. However, he is my very married therapist.”

Le sigh,” he says, “of course he is. What’s next on the list?”

“Don’t you have a boyfriend?” I interject.

Yes, but I’m not dead. I can’t still appreciate a fine specimen… I seem to remember having this same conversation with your significant other,” he says.

“Allen, you were checking out my significant other?” I gasp.

No! That ship has so sailed. I was checking out the strippers at Phillip’s bachelor party.” Strippers!? Oh, wait. Christian did mention strippers, I think, when he came to the Four Seasons. At least I think he did… either way, he was at the Four Seasons with me. “So like I said, my beloved Jewel, what’s next?”


A/N: So Christian has finally spoken up and said “Enough is enough.” How do you think this will affect the dynamic of the “relationship” between him and Ana’s friends? He’s made it clear that he doesn’t care what they think about him anymore, to the degree of graciously refusing Valerie’s apology. What do you think happens now? 

Ana shot down The Wang. That takes balls. 

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

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Love and Handcuffs!
Lynn x