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 41—Ghost of Christmas Past
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.
“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.”
“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.
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 vulgaire. Salope! 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.
“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 vulgaire. Salope! 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.”
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Love and Handcuffs!