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
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.
“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.
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.
“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?” I 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 in… times 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.
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.”
“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.
“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.
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