Mending Dr. Steele: Chapter 51—You Want A What???

I do not own Fifty Shades Trilogy or the characters. They belong to E. L. James. I am only exercising my right to exploit, abuse, and mangle the characters to MY discretion in MY fanfic in MY interpretation as a fan. I hope you—as a fellow fan—enjoy it, too.

Chapter 51—You Want A What???

GREY

Calm down, Man. No matter what happens, it’s going to be okay.” I try to calm Elliot’s nerves while we wait for his name to be called.

I know. I know, Bro. I just want this to be over so badly. What if she doesn’t show up? What if this is another one of her…” Before he finishes his sentence, William and Katherine Kavanaugh show up with Baby Kevin. They both sit down without making eye-contact with any of us, but Valerie is throwing death glares at Katherine that could start a war. The silence finally prompts Katherine to raise her head and freeze. Valerie doesn’t blink.

Katherine is visibly uncomfortable. Ana battled Katherine with words well before she was driven to slap her. Valerie looks like she could lunge herself at Katherine’s milky white throat right now if she weren’t carrying that baby.

I look from Valerie to Katherine and back to Valerie. Elliot and I look at each other while Katherine nervously clears her throat. Kavanaugh looks up and clearly says, “Pay her no attention, Princess. Some people were never taught how to behave in public.”

I wouldn’t worry about me if I were you, Pops,” Valerie retaliates before I even get the chance to scoff. “My father isn’t sitting next to me trying to discover my baby’s paternity.” Ouch! “So while you’re talking about how I act in public, you apparently failed to even teach your daughter how to behave in private!” Elliot hisses at the venom in Valerie’s voice.

You have no idea who you’re talking to!” Kavanaugh barks.

Likewise, you don’t know me either,” Valerie bites back. “We’re in the same line of business, Gramps, so don’t try that powerplay shit with me. I can spin a story faster than any of those second-rate pencil-pushers or weatherman wannabes that you have working at those B-rated cable shows of yours or those gossip rag tabloids that you dare call newspapers. So don’t try me, because I do bite!” Fuck me! Hell, after that speech, I don’t want to cross Valerie. Kavanaugh is trying to think of a comeback when a woman whom I assume is the court clerk appears from a door to our right.

Elliot Grey and Katherine Kavanaugh,” she says with efficiency. Elliot looks over at me and stands. He squeezes Valerie’s hand and without looking at Katherine, he walks over to the clerk.

Elliot Grey, Ma’am,” he says. She nods and gestures him inside. Katherine and her father stand and proceed behind him.

Um, I’m sorry. Only the mother, baby, and potential father are allowed inside. You have to wait here, Sir,” the clerk tells Kavanaugh without flinching. He glares at her for a moment, but she just turns her head to Katherine. “Ma’am?”

Katherine and Kevin Kavanaugh,” she responds indignantly. The clerk smirks a bit at her paperwork and holds the door open.

Right this way,” she says, gesturing Katherine into the doorway. Katherine throws her head in that snobby, debutante fashion that she has learned and walks beyond the door. The clerk just shakes her head and closes the door after following Katherine inside.

Christian, I’ll be outside. I need some fresh air. Present company makes it too hard to breathe,” Valerie says, looking directly at Kavanaugh.

I’ll text you the moment that he’s out,” I say. She turns her steely gaze from him and looks to me with grateful eyes.

Thank you,” she says before leaving the waiting room. I immediately pull out my blackberry and start going through my emails. I know that he’s watching me. I can feel his eyes on me.

Are you waiting for my hair to change color?” I snap, looking up at him and catching his glare.

No,” he hisses back, “there’s no full moon and it’s not midnight!”

Good one, Gramps!” I say, purposely borrowing Valerie’s term. “So, tell me, any more ‘young’uns’ on the way? Will my people turn over some rocks and find that Baby Kevin is going to be able to grow up alongside his aunt or uncle?”

Keep your fucking voice down, Grey!” he growls looking towards the door his daughter just walked through after my brother.

And watch your fucking tone with me, Gramps!” I growl. “I’ve had just about all that I can take from you and your selfish, prissy, stuck-up, entitled ass daughter. So why don’t we just sit here quietly and wait to find out if the Greys and the Kavanaughs are doomed to deal with each other for the next 18 years?” He narrows his eyes at me.

I hope to God that baby is not your brother’s!” he says. I chuckle.

Is that supposed to be an insult?” I laugh. “You know, Bill, the only person in this world that is hoping that baby is Elliot’s is Kate! I am hoping on my lucky stars that Kevin isn’t Elliot’s. If he’s not, her problems have just begun. I spoke to Roger on her behalf when she showed up in my office two weeks ago and do you know what he said? ‘No way I’m being tied to that shrew for 18 years.’ So once this DNA test proves that your daughter is a lying, cheating little slut, my family and I will have a party celebrating the fact that your grandchild isn’t a Grey. Then, we’ll send her flowers and condolences that her son will grow up just like half of your children… without a father!” I glare at him again and his eyes are shooting daggers at me.

Now, unless you want me to make the announcement about her extended family to Princess the minute she walks back through that door, I suggest that you find another fucking focal point in this room and stops fucking talking to me.” It’s my turn to stare him down. He breaks my gaze after a few moments and moves to another part of the waiting room. He is such an asshole.

I talked to him the moment that I hung up from Ethan yesterday and let the cat out of the bag about Jordan and the lovely little package I had set to be sent to Eliza Kavanaugh. Of course, I had no package ready, but the fact that I knew all of the details of his prenuptial agreement as well as the very hospital where Jordan was born was enough for him to convince Katherine to produce Kevin for paternity testing. I don’t know what he said to her to get her here and I don’t care. I’m just glad that she’s here and we can get this over and done, one way or the other.

My mind drifts to last evening when Butterfly and I had our second couples session with Reverend Martin. That certainly could have gone better. Ladies and gentlemen, tonight’s argument will be brought to you by child-rearing questions! Do we teach the little buggers who’s boss or let them run all over us and act however they want? During our questions about child-rearing, we discovered that I am a believer in corporeal punishments while Ana, not so much. She’s more of a “time-out, privilege denial” type of girl.

I never felt those methods worked. They didn’t work for me. I was a tyrant of a child! We argued all through the session, back and forth about this one thing—not the number of times we should have sex, not whether or not she would work once our children were born, not even how many children we planned on having, but whether or not we would spank our children when they needed to be punished. The car ride home was silent, but once we got to the penthouse, the gloves were off again.

Don’t you understand that the kids will run over us if we don’t discipline them correctly? They are already going to have whatever their hearts desire. There must be a form of punishment or they will grow up being entitled little brats!” I argued.

You just said it—they’ll have their hearts desire. Taking those things away from them and removing ready access to them will be just as effective if not more than beating them!” she retorted.

Who said anything about beating our children??” I asked, horrified. “Did you forget that I was abused for the first four years of my life? Do you think I would allow that to happen to my kids?”

No, but…”

But what?

She didn’t finish her sentence.

But, what, Anastasia?” I asked, waiting for her to finish her sentence. She never did. But what? Oh, God… she doesn’t think…?.

But. What. Anastasia?” I asked slowly. Then I knew, and she knew that I knew. She thought that I wanted to punish my children because that’s what I do when I lose control. She thought that was the only form of discipline that I knew and that spanking meant some kind of cruel, control exercise on my children like it did on my subs.

My heart fell into my stomach. This is the same woman who, not two days ago, was proclaiming her never-ending love to me and then, she thought I was some sort of sick, sadistic fuck that would extend my BDSM practices in some way to my children! I wanted to vomit. I think she said something to me, but I was already on my way into my study before she could get her words out. I think I heard her say something about running, but I didn’t care. I slammed the door to my study and locked it behind me.

I remember leaning against the door, yanking off my tie. I couldn’t breathe. I think I was completely naked before I could pull in a whole breath. I sat on the floor counting, wondering how she could think I could do that to my children? To any child? Did she think I was a monster? How could she even suspect? I don’t know how high I had counted… 1000… 10,000? There was a light knock at the door.

Sir, would you like something to eat? Or drink?” It was Gail. She was concerned, but I was crushed.

Please leave me alone,” I said to her. That’s the last thing I heard before daylight this morning, when there was another knock at the door before someone tried the door knob.

Christian?” Her voice cut right through me, both because she hurt me so badly with what she thought of me and because I could hear the pain and concern in her voice and I wanted to take it away, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t see beyond my own pain and I couldn’t even speak. “Christian, are you okay?” I couldn’t answer her.

Moments later, maybe minutes, hours… I don’t know… there was another knock at the door.

Boss? You okay?” I took a deep breath and rolled my eyes. Clearing my throat, I answered, “I’m alive.” I heard her gasp, then sob as her heels quickly clicked away on the marble floor.

I’m sorry, Butterfly.

Boss, I don’t know what’s going on, but I’ll be back at this door when she leaves. If you don’t open it, I’m calling your mother.”

Needless to say that when Jason got back to that door about 10 or so minutes later this morning, I was off the floor and dressed. Gail set breakfast in front of me, her eyes questioning. I was wearing the same clothes from the day before and I hadn’t showered. I ate because I knew that these snitches would call my mom if I didn’t, but the lump in my stomach didn’t allow me to each as much as I normally would.

You may want to shower. Your brother called,” Jason said…

So now I’m here sitting across from this asshole waiting for Elliot to come out of the room so that we can get out of here. It took several minutes before Elliot was walking out of the same door he had gone into.

Let’s go. Where’s Val?” he asks.

She couldn’t tolerate present company,” I said, texting Valerie that we were on our way out. “She’s waiting outside for you.”

Little girl can’t take the heat?” Katherine says under her voice. Elliot turns to look at her.

You have no idea when to quit, do you?” he snaps at her. “Eat shit and die!” he adds.

Not before you!” she hisses back. I expect him to get angry, but he doesn’t. He looks from Katherine to William, back to Katherine. He shakes his head at her in disbelief. This is the first time that I see any emotion in her or her father.

There was a time when you meant everything to me,” he said softly. I could hear her gasp at his confession. “I loved you so much. I wanted to spend my whole life with you—waking up to your beautiful eyes every day. I can’t believe you’re that same woman. What happened to you?” His voice almost sounds tortured and Katherine looks like she’s going to cry. “If I did this to you, if I turned you into this, I’m sorry.” He sighs heavily and looks at the ceiling before saying, “Goodbye, Katherine,” and I know that he means it this time. He walks out of the waiting room without another word.

Don’t speak too fast! You’ll be seeing plenty of her if this is your baby, Grey!” William spits to Elliot’s retreating back, but he doesn’t stop. He doesn’t even pause or look back. He keeps walking until he reaches the door. Once he proceeds through it, I turn back to Kavanaugh.

I don’t think it matters anymore,” I say to him with no malice. It’s a statement of fact, not a cheap shot. Elliot’s done. “Did he do this to you?” I ask Kate. She shakes her head.

No,” she whispers. “He didn’t.” She cradles Kevin close to her before looking up at me with tear-filled eyes. “Kevin is not his,” she says softly. “I can see it when I look into his eyes. He’s a beautiful, wonderful blessing… but he’s not Elliot’s.” Her words are breathy and pained, like she’s pushing them out. “He’ll get his confirmation in two weeks. After that, I’ll never bother him again. I’m sorry.” She quickly gathers Kevin’s diaper bag. “Let’s go, Daddy.” She walks quickly across the lobby and Kavanaugh falls in step behind her. This whole ordeal has given me a massive headache. I look at my phone again for the text or email that I hope is there, but I know that it isn’t. It’s my turn to walk the long trek across the lobby to the front door.

Kate is standing at the top of the stairs, looking down and across the parking lot. Elliot is holding Valerie close to him, kissing her tenderly and occasionally looking longingly into her eyes. You can feel their love in all directions. Even people on the street are stopping to stare, smiling at them.

He used to hold me that way… look at me that way. I’ll never have that again. I could live a hundred years and I’ll never get it again.”

You never know, Kate,” I say, almost feeling sorry for her. She looks up at me with a sad smile.

I know,” she says, tears streaming down her face. “He’s one of a kind and I’ll never meet anyone like him again.” She starts down the stairs. She pauses only to watch Elliot lead Valerie to his truck by her hand. He kisses her again before he opens the door for her and helps her into the truck. Closing the door behind her, he walks around to the driver’s seat and climbs in. “I had my chance. I blew it… big time.” She looks down at her baby. “Now I need to concentrate on him.”

What about his father?” I ask as Kavanaugh pulls up.

Roger doesn’t want him,” she says. “I won’t force him to be a father. I can take care of him on my own.” She walks the few remaining stairs and to her father’s car. “I’ll stick around until he gets the results so that he doesn’t think I’m running away with his child. Goodbye, Christian.”

Goodbye, Katherine.” That’s the most human I have ever seen her, except for those few moments outside of my parents’ house—the night that she broke off her engagement with Elliot almost a year ago. Kavanaugh drives away with his oldest daughter and grandson without throwing another glance at me. Elliot and Valerie drive away without looking in my direction either. Now, I have an aching need to find my Butterfly.

*-*

When I get home later that evening, there’s no Butterfly. Is she running again? She said that she wouldn’t do that anymore. I choke down some of my dinner alone, then call my mother.

Hello, Christian. What’s going on?” Mom asks, and I already know that she knows something is amiss.

Ana’s not home, Mom. Did she come to Helping Hands this afternoon?”

Yes, she did. She said that she wanted to do some yoga in the community room after closing. Maybe she’s still there.”

Can I get in there after hours?” I ask.

You’ll have to go in the back. Security is there until 11. I’ll call them and tell them that you’re on your way.”

Thanks, Mom,” I say before hanging up. I go to the garage and get in my RS7. Then I call who I should have called in the first place.

Yes, Sir?”

Are you still at Helping Hands?”

Yes, Sir.”

Is she okay?”

It seems so, Sir, but she’s alone in the community room.”

Where are you?”

Standing outside of the door.” So she doesn’t want Davenport near her either.

Okay. Thanks,” I tell him.

See you in a minute, Sir.” Arrogant asshole.

A few minutes later, I’m pulling in next to Butterfly’s Audi and moments after that, security lets me into the back door and tells me where to find the community room. I find Davenport standing outside of the room guarding the door and I hear music inside.

Sir,” he says with a nod.

How long has she been in there?” I ask.

Not long. Maybe 20 or 30 minutes. This is the first time she’s stayed around until the center closed.” I nod at him. When another song begins to play, I sneak into the room and hide in the shadows. She’s wearing yoga pants and a sports bra with short socks and sneakers. Her hair is in a ponytail and she is sweating. She looks beautiful. The lights are low and only one area of the room is well-lit—the area where she is dancing. I thought she was doing yoga. I watch for a while as she dances with free abandon like she did at the club the first night I watched her dance, lost in her own little world, her own little peace. Her hips sway from side to side and mesmerize me just like they did then. I fight the urge to go to her and hold her or to outline her body and feel her energy the way that I did that night.

Then the music changes again. A soft, beautiful melody begins to play. The music starts to swell slightly, and Butterfly removes her shoes and socks. She slides her ponytail holder out of her hair and onto her wrist. A solitary voice sings softly about a woman painfully and slowly making her way to Jesus. I watch as my Butterfly rises from her cocoon once again, her body and fluid movements telling the story of the woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears and hair. I stand in awe and watch yet another talent that I didn’t know my fiancée possessed. Her hands paint the picture and her legs launch her from one pose to another, spinning her around as her arms flow through the air in beautiful lyrical twirls.

How did I not know that she could do this? When did she find the time to practice and I not know that she could dance like this? She moves across the floor beautifully interpreting Mary’s pain and shame as she pays tribute to her Savior the only way that she can. At that moment, I feel Butterfly’s pain. I feel her ache and my chest hurts. She dances, twirling and aching and beautifully spreading her pain throughout the empty room with her legs and hands and arms and feet and hair for a whole five and a half minutes. I counted. It seemed like eternity.

When the soft voice ends with a long, sad note about a box made of alabaster, Butterfly ends her dance, her body bent so that she is kneeling face down on the hardwood floor. One arm is stretched out in front of her and one is bent behind her. Her beautiful mahogany hair hides her whole head and face… and she begins to weep bitterly. I feel each of her tears as her body shakes and she sobs inconsolably. I can’t take it anymore.

I don’t know how I get to her so quickly or how she didn’t hear me coming. I don’t know how I fall down next to her on the hardwood floor without hurting myself. All I know is that I lift her into my arms and hold her close to me, so close that I feel like I’m going to squeeze the air out of her tiny body.

Let it out, Baby. I’m here. I’ve got you.

I can barely make out the music as song after song plays and Butterfly weeps in my arms. I don’t know how long she cries before she turns around in my arms and begs me to forgive her for what she thought. She can barely form her words and all I can feel is her pain and shame as she repeatedly begs my forgiveness.

Sssshhhh,” I soothe her. “No more, please,” but she can’t stop. Her anguish is consuming her and she weeps and weeps. I take off my suit jacket and wrap it around her shoulders. Lifting her in my arms, I instruct Davenport to collect her things and meet us at her car. After gathering her purse, shoes, socks, and street clothes, Davenport unlocks the door to her Audi. I’ll send someone back for my car. She is still crying when I climb into her back seat with her still in my arms; when we get back to Escala and ride the elevator up to the penthouse; when I carry her through the great room under the watchful and confused eyes of Gail and Jason; when I lay her in our bed and hold her close to me, cradling her in my arms as she cries herself to sleep.

I wake in the middle of the night and she is lying on her back staring over at me. Her crying has stopped, but her eyes are swollen and tired.

I’m sorry,” she breathes. I take her hand in mine and kiss her palm.

I know, Butterfly,” I say.

I know that you would never hurt a child. I know that you wouldn’t hurt our children. I’m so sorry, Christian.” I lean up onto my arm and stroke her face.

Please, don’t do this,” I tell her. “I know that you know that I wouldn’t hurt our children that way. That’s all that matters. Please don’t apologize anymore. I can’t stand to see you hurt that way.”

And I can’t stand to see you hurt that way… because of me… Christian, please tell me that you forgive me.” This is what she needs. This is what we need.

I forgive you,” I tell her kissing her hand, her cheek, then her lips. “I forgive you, Butterfly.”

Thank you,” she whispers, sliding her arms around my neck. “I love you, Christian. It was old fears and mistrust and… never you, Christian. You’re my protector. Never you…” I know what she’s trying to say in all of her babbling. “I love you, Christian. I love you so much.”

I love you, too, Butterfly,” I whisper. She looks up at me with questioning eyes and I realize that she thought she broke us. My performance didn’t do much to dispel that theory. I was hurt and broken by what she thought I was capable of, but here she is begging for my forgiveness and aching to know that I still love her. I cradle her in my arms and kiss her with everything I have in me, with all the love that I can muster. This is not a sexual moment. This is Butterfly needing to know that I love her down to my core.

Yes,” I say honestly, “it hurt like hell that you could think I would do something like that to our children, but even in my pain, I understand why that’s the first thing you thought. We never talked about this, never discussed how we would handle things, which is why it really is a good idea that we do this couples’ counseling. But Butterfly, we have to set some ground rules.” She looks at me with big, frightened blue eyes. I think I could ask her to walk on water right now and she would do her very best to make it happen.

Okay,” she says timidly.

First, we broke our rule not to go to sleep with unresolved issues… well, I broke our rule, so we have to remember not to do that again.”

Okay, I can do that,” she says.

Second, we have to know that there are going to be disagreements throughout this process and we are going to have to work them out. We have to know when to talk about them and when to call a time-out so that we don’t do or say anything to hurt one another.” She nods.

That’s a good rule,” she agrees.

And finally, even though you may hurt me, or I may hurt you—intentionally or unintentionally—you have to know, remember, and never forget that nothing can ever make me stop loving you. If you stopped loving me…”

Never, Christian,” she interrupts me touching my face. I cover her hand with my own.

But even if you did, I couldn’t stop loving you. I don’t know how. Do you understand me?” I implore her. Her broken blue eyes transform and are filled with love. She heard me. Thank God, she heard me.

Yes,” she whispers with a nod. I gather into my arms and kiss her once more.

*-*

I want to ask you something, but I don’t want you to get the wrong idea.” Butterfly and I are sitting next to each other at the breakfast bar eating bacon, eggs, and pancakes when I decide that I should approach the conversation that Ethan and I had on Monday. She raises her eyes from her plate and puts her fork down.

What is it?” she asks softly.

Have you thought about us signing a prenuptial agreement?” She freezes for a moment, then I think the logical part of her wins out over the emotional part.

Why do you ask? Do you want a prenup?” she asks with no malice. I shrug.

I don’t really give a fuck about the material shit,” I tell her, “but as much as you say that it doesn’t bother you, people do talk. My net worth is enough to buy a third-world country and I don’t want to see you get hurt.”

Why would I get hurt?” she asks. “I’m not going anywhere and neither are you… are you?”

Of course not,” I reassure her.

Besides, a prenup is going to feed into everybody’s thoughts that I really am a gold-digger,” she reinforces.

Having no prenup is unrealistic and everybody knows that, too. A prenup says that you’re not after my money, you just want me. No prenup says that you refuse to marry me without knowing for sure that you could walk away with half my assets.” She sighs.

A prenup says that we aren’t secure in our relationship and we are taking out a warranty on our marriage. No prenup says, ‘fuck ‘em, we don’t care what they think,’” she says, dropping her head, “but I’ll do whatever you want, Christian. If you want a prenup, then we’ll sign a prenup.” I take her hands in mine.

It’s not what I want to do, Butterfly. It’s what we want to do. If you are dead set against a prenuptial agreement, then we won’t sign one, but to be honest, I would like for you to be protected if I bump my head and turn into an asshole.” Her eyes shoot up at me.

Don’t even play like that, Christian,” she scolds in a tortured voice. I squeeze her hand.

Okay, I’m sorry, but you just never know what’s going to happen.”

What brought this on?” she asks. “Was it because I thought…”

No! No, that’s not it at all,” I say turning to her. “All this shit with the Kavanaughs. I found out that they have a prenup that would nail William to the wall if his wife knew what I know. I couldn’t understand how he could be such an arrogant fucking asshole all these years and she just… let him. I never want that to be us, ever, but I do want you to be protected if from some ungodly reason, I turn into an asshole.” She doesn’t make eye-contact with me. She shakes her head as if she’s trying to forget some horrible thought, then waves her hands in the air.

Fine. Fine, draw up whatever you want, I’ll sign it,” she says, now staring at her food.

Baby, listen. I won’t draw up anything if you‘re against it…”

Just do it, Christian, please… I don’t want to talk about this anymore.” Now I hate that I brought this up. I don’t think I would ever do anything stupid, but this is a lot of money that we’re talking about. I don’t want anything to happen to Butterfly or for her to find herself at any disadvantage if I ever happen to take complete leave of my senses.

Butterfly stands and takes her plate to the sink. She knows how I hate wasted food, but she’s not paying much attention to that as she scrapes the remainder of her breakfast into the garbage disposal and places her plate into the dishwasher after rinsing it. She washes her hands in the sink, dries them, takes a deep breath, then looks at her watch. She walks out of the kitchen and back to our bedroom. I know that she’s going to brush her teeth, so I quickly call my accountant and tell him to get my portfolios together and meet me in my office in an hour. Then I fire off an email to Allen to do the same thing. I’m just finishing when she comes out of the bedroom with her purse and keys.

I have to go,” she says. “Grace is expecting me. We have to decide what we’re going to do with this space at the center.” She kisses me quickly on the cheek then attempts to make a clean getaway. I catch her around the waist and pull her back over to me.

I don’t want you to be upset about this,” I press.

I don’t understand. I don’t see why we need one. I don’t want your money, I never have. I could have kept that evil woman’s 20 mil if that were the case, but you seem to think we do, so… do whatever you need to do.” She still won’t raise her head and look at me. I want to tell her why we should do this, but I don’t think she will understand. “I have to go, Christian,” she says again. “Really, Grace is expecting me.”

I’ll call you later?” I ask, she nods and walks to the door. I hold her hand until the last possible minute, and then she’s gone. I put my elbows on the breakfast bar and thrust my hands into my hair. It’s always been me—just me. There has never been anyone else to be concerned about when it came down to my money, my assets, my company. Now, there’s going to be a wife and most likely children—and I have some of the most ruthless lawyers alive. Butterfly doesn’t know that there are so many loopholes and fail safes in place in my portfolios that my estate could be stuck in probate when our great-grandchildren are in college. I have to protect her… to make sure that there is a portion if not the majority of my wealth that can only be accessed and controlled by her. In order to do that, there has to be a prenup in place. I also need to update my will and my advanced directives as well as my declaration of trustee. I know that I’m doing the right thing for her and for us. I just need her to see that.


STEELE

A prenup. A fucking prenup. I turn over $20 million to him that was in my name that I could have hidden and never told him about, and he wants a fucking prenup. My head has been swimming all day. He has to know that I don’t want his money. Now because Kate is a bitch and her father is a whore, he’s approaching me about a goddamn prenuptial agreement. It must be because of what I thought when he mentioned corporeal punishment. That’s the only thing that’s changed. Even when we had the press conference and I was being attacked by the press left and right for months about being a gold-digger—even then, he never once mentioned a prenup. Now, all of a sudden, we need a prenup because “you just never know what’s going to happen.”

I love him. I really do, but the thought that he thinks we need a prenup makes me wonder if I should even marry him. I mean, does he really think I’m after his money? Didn’t I prove myself with She-Thing Sr’s $20 million? I guess not. I want to cry. I really want to cry, but I think I’m too stunned and hurt to cry. Plus, I’m tired of turning into Weepy Wilma every time the proverbial sun goes down in my life. I just have to deal with it.

Why don’t you all take the measurements over there and let me know if it’s going to be enough room for what I have in mind,” Grace says, dismissing some people who are looking into remodeling some unused areas of the center. Once they are gone, she turns her focus to me. “Okay, Ana, you’re a million miles away and not in a good place. What’s going on?” I raise my eyes to her, then shake my head.

No offense, but you have to know that I can’t talk to you about it,” I tell her, dropping my eyes to the clipboard and nothing in particular. 

Ah,” she nods, “so it’s Christian.” She walks over to a window seat and wipes it of any stray dust before sitting down. She waits for me to sit without saying a word. “I think the third and fourth floor would work well as a shelter, but there’s so much involved in getting that off the ground.” She says nothing else and waits for my response. I sit next to her on the window seat and push my hair behind my ear.

We would have to hire new staff, around the clock. We would need at least one social worker on staff…”

Well, we have that, but I think we would need more. It’s a massive undertaking.” She looks around the space that we are occupying. “I want to use this space for classes—adult education and GED, tutoring, that sort of thing. Depending on what we decide to do, we would have to definitely drum-up our fundraising activities. Twenty million is a lot, but it can be gone in no time in renovations and salaries.” I nod.

Yes, you’re right.” I’m again looking at nothing on the clipboard when I blurt out. “He wants a prenup.” Grace falls silent.

Oh,” she says, her voice laced with shock. “Did he say why?” I shrug.

Does it really matter?” I ask, defeat oozing from my pores.

I take it you don’t want this,” she says.

I just don’t see why we need it,” I respond. “I’ve never wanted Christian’s money. I thought he knew that,” I say looking at her. “We had a difference of opinion and the next thing I know, he approaches me about a prenup.”

Is that really all that happened? I know my son can make some snap decisions, but this seems a bit ‘out of the blue’ even for him.” I look down again and push my hair behind my ear once more.

He talked about William Kavanaugh and his wife and their having a prenup. Then he said something about protecting me in case he turns into an asshole.” I feel the dread coursing through my body and threatening to take over. I’m not going to cry. I refuse to cry. “It doesn’t matter. I love him. I’ll sign anything he wants.” It still hurts though. She cocks her head at me.

You know, not many people know this, but Cary and I have a prenup.” My head snaps to her and I look at her like she’s a little green man from Mars. She nods and smirks. “We certainly do,” she reinforces. “Cary was considered to be from the ‘wrong side of the tracks,’” she continues. “He’s from a blue-collar family and I’m from a white-collar family. My father had no intention of letting his Bloomfield Hills debutante daughter marry the son of a General Motors factory worker from Detroit without an iron-clad prenup in place. I was completely against it. I fought him every step of the way, but Cary just said the same thing you did…’I love you and I’ll sign anything he wants.’”

But this isn’t you and Carrick asking for the prenup, Grace. This is Christian.” I put my hand on my forehead. “Listen, I don’t really care about a prenup. I really don’t want Christian’s money. I never did. True, we have fun and do great things because he’s a billionaire, but if he didn’t have a cent, I still wouldn’t care. It’s not the prenup that bothers me, because if we didn’t work out, I’d walk out of that marriage with nothing anyway. There’s nothing that I would want. What bothers me is that I don’t really know why he wants the prenup and that it came right on the heels of a very sensitive disagreement that we had—one, by the way, that we still haven’t sorted out.”

I sigh heavily. “I can’t help but wonder if I’m being ambushed, like if I don’t agree with him there will be some huge price to pay.” I look up at her. “The fact that he wants a prenup says a lot—that I’m not really certain about what he thinks of me… what he thinks I want of him. It makes me not want to spend another dime of his money on anything. We’re having this extremely extravagant wedding, and I haven’t paid for anything—not even my underwear… well, yet. But every time a payment or a down payment or a delivery is needed, out comes the Amex Black. You would actually probably shiver at the cost of my dress. And this?” I thrust my hand in her face and show her my exquisite engagement ring. “This probably cost more than my damn condo… but we’re talking about a prenup.” I laugh sadly and shake my head. She takes my hand and squeezes it a bit.

You know, my father nearly had a conniption when we finally did sign the prenuptial agreement.” I can tell that she remembers this fondly as she smiles while telling the story. “I had agreed to sign it because it was practical. Cary was just starting out as a lawyer and I as a doctor. His family didn’t even come to the wedding. They thought that he was turning his back on them and their way of life. They still feel that way. I doubt that you will be meeting any of them at the wedding.

Anyway, I had the prenup written so that Cary would be more protected than me. If something happened in our relationship, I had my family. Cary had nothing. True, he has made quite the name for himself now, but when we started out, it was just us and not a lot of money. Daddy—God rest his soul—would have liked to see it remain that way. We leave the marriage with exactly what we brought into it. Well, I refused to let my father see my terms before Cary and I signed the agreement. Imagine his surprise when he discovered that I had given Cary most of my current assets as well as some of my possible future earnings… including my trust fund. Daddy had a fit. He threatened to disown me if I didn’t rewrite it. I told him to go right ahead because if I didn’t have Cary, any money that he could take would mean nothing to me and I was not going to allow Daddy to bully him. So… don’t give up on Christian yet. You never know what he’s got cooking in that mind of his.” I sigh again. I wish I could be as confident as she is about all of this, but we will just have to see.

*-*

I’m quite shocked to see that Christian is already home when I get there. I don’t know if he was just coming out of his study or wandering around the penthouse. He kind of freezes when I come into the house.

Hi,” he says, his voice a little nervous.

Hi,” I reply, my voice uncertain. I will not treat him differently. I will concentrate on acting normal.

How was your day?” he presses.

Um… busy,” I lie. I can’t even remember what all I did today. “Yours?”

Busy, too,” he says coming over to me. “Are you hungry?”

Sure,” I say, searching for my appetite. I know it’s there somewhere. I didn’t finish my breakfast and I haven’t had any lunch.

Would you like to go out to eat? Gail wasn’t feeling well today, so I gave her the night off. I don’t think she has voluntarily taken a day off since she worked for me.”

What’s wrong with her? Is she okay?” I ask.

Yes, she just said that she was a bit under the weather and wanted to take a nap. I told her to take the evening off. So it looks like we’re on our own for dinner.” I take my Mulberry messenger bag off my shoulder. I swapped my briefcase for it since I don’t spend as much time in the office anymore and I’m always carrying some piece or pieces of the wedding around with me.

I’ll fix us something,” I say, making my way to the kitchen. He heads me off.

You don’t have to do that,” he says softly. “We could go out… or order in if you like.” I twist my lips slightly then agree.

Okay,” I shrug, “We can order Chinese if you want. I’d like some of that shrimp fried rice with the whole shrimp in it.” He nods, almost happily.

Okay, anything else?”

Some fresh sushi,” I say.

Any preferences?” I shrug.

California roll, sashimi, definitely ikuraa variety. Surprise me.” He nods as I start to walk away.

Where are you going?” he almost sounds panicked.

Up to the guest room. I have a few things to wrap up for the wedding and a couple of appointments to make.” He nods at me.

Okay.” I rise up the stairs and go to Wedding Central. That wasn’t so hard. I didn’t look into his face much, but I didn’t avoid his glances either. Was I too cold? I did offer to make dinner. I don’t want to be different, but if I act like this whole prenup thing isn’t affecting me, I’d be lying. I sigh and sit on the bed, pulling things out of my messenger bag.

*-*

Why are you so damn crabby today?” Tamara asks me as we are checking some of the final things off my checklist.

I’m not crabby!” I snap. “I’m just… tired.”

Well, don’t conk out on me now. We’re in the home stretch and we’ve almost got this puppy locked down.”

Except for that fucking Bentley,” I almost hiss.

See!? That’s what I mean. I don’t know what’s got your butt in a bunch, but we’re not going to get anything done tonight with that attitude, so I’ll talk to you tomorrow.” Fuck it, I’ll ask Christian about getting the Bentley.

Fine,” I say ending the call without another word. I know she’s right, I’ve got a bug up my butt, but I don’t care. We’ve got the music locked down. I’m going Saturday for the first fitting of my gown and to pick up the shoes and accessories for the girls. I’m going to look at some things that will fit my dress as well. We have locked down the guest list and it looks like a cool 300 with the possibility of 50 add-ons. That’s still more than I wanted, but I’ll live with it. I’ve got my wedding favors, three different kinds. They’re cute, but not spectacular. Hell, this is my wedding. I’m the one that’s supposed to be getting gifts.

The menu and bridesmaids dresses have been finalized. None of those girls better gain any weight or they will have to pay for their own alterations. Christian and I will do the final tastings for the menu next weekend. We will give the final head count to the castle, caterer, and cake baker at that time. Al has fabulously handled the florist, procuring a guestbook, creating a seating chart, and ensuring that the wedding announcements will be mailed the day after our wedding. I think that’s enough for one day. I take off my glasses and massage my eyelids.

May I come in?” His voice breaks my train of thought. I can tell that he’s walking on eggshells and honestly, I’m just trying to come to grips with why he wants this damn prenup without acting like a total bitch.

Sure,” I say, trying to sound inviting but not phony. He walks in and tentatively sits at the foot of the bed. My mess is a little less frantic as we draw closer to the wedding. The more things we get scheduled and taken care of, the less I have to be concerned about and the less little pieces of paper and swatches and pieces of information I need floating around my workspace or in my messenger bag. He picks up some random piece of paper and asks, “What are you working on?”

Nothing in particular,” I answer. “Just checking some things off of my quickly diminishing list, except…” I almost don’t want to ask for anything at this point. He’s already thinking about protecting his assets—maybe it’s a better idea if I just forget about the Bentley.

What is it, Butterfly?” he presses. I try not to roll my eyes and I just spit it out.

I’d like a classic Bentley. I don’t know what it will cost and Tamara seems to be having a terrible time finding one and on such short notice…”

Consider it done,” he says before I can finish my thought. I’m caught completely by surprise. Surely if the wedding planner can’t find a Bentley, he won’t be able to find one at this short notice.

Really? You can find one in time?” He smirks at me.

I know a few people, Baby. I can find a classic Bentley,” he says.

Are you sure it’s okay? I mean… it could really cost a fortune…” His expression changes a bit and I can’t get a read what he’s thinking. In a moment, he has snatched me from the bed and I am lying over his lap. He is kissing me feverishly… passionatelyand he’s snatching the air from my body. I melt into his embrace as he siphons all of the resistance out of me. Noting my surrender, he holds me closer to him, one hand supporting my head, the other supporting my back. His kisses are softer now, intermittent, but stealing my breath nonetheless. He pulls away from me only enough to look into my eyes and I know that I am completely dazed and confused.

You do know how much I love you? How you mean the whole world to me? That I would never as long as I live do anything to deliberately hurt you… you do know that, don’t you?” His voice is soft and pleading. His tone and his words reach right into me… right to my heart and soul and make me gasp.

Yes,” I whisper, unable to do much else.

Then please, please, trust me on this… please…” He closes his eyes and caresses my nose with his and I immediately know what he’s talking about. Nothing I said or did—even in its subtlety—could hide my feelings. His face is pained as he brushes his lips against mine, silently begging me to understand what he is doing.

Okay,” I breathe, stroking his hair and absorbing his love as well as his uncertainty. He covers my mouth with his again and his relief is palpable. He kisses me earnestly before burying his face in my neck and holding me close. I begin to feel a little guilty again, like I caused him unnecessary pain. Yet, although I know that I have to take responsibility for my actions—like thinking what I did about him punishing our children—I also have a right to my feelings and concerns, speaking of which…

Baby, we still need to talk,” I say softly in his ear. He squeezes me again like he’s trying to draw strength from me before he releases me and allows me to sit up on the bed. I straighten my hair and clear my throat. “Our children and… the spanking…” He inconspicuously releases the breath that he was holding. This is clearly not the conversation that he was expecting, but I just don’t want to talk about the prenuptial agreement anymore. I meant it when I said that I would sign whatever he wants.

Okay,” he says softly. “I am a proponent of spanking, not because of my lifestyle or even to cause pain to our children, but because I truly do consider it an effective means of discipline. After a certain age, I feel that spanking is no longer effective for those purposes, but as a manner of teaching right from wrong, I highly recommend it.”

What do you consider a spanking?” I ask. He pauses for a moment.

It depends on the age and sex of the child and the severity of his or her actions,” he says. “A small child needs no more than to be bent over the knee and a few swats to the butt in most cases. Bigger children may require that they bend over and be spanked with a paddle or a brush.” Okay, that bothers me.

Bigger children… how big?” I’m not convinced that his method is as effective as he does.

Well, I don’t know. I mean, an 11-year-old boy could be three to five feet tall depending on his physical make-up. A 17 year old could be four to six feet tall, so I guess that question is fairly relative.” I drop my head like my neck is hurting. “Talk to me, Butterfly.” I sigh.

I don’t see where spanking is an effective method of child-rearing at all. I can’t dismiss your argument on its merits, particularly when discussing teaching a small child right from wrong. However, I can’t see any part of me at any time being able to tolerate my children being disciplined with a foreign object. At that point, I think that if a child is too big to be affected by a swat on the butt with a hand, they are too big for a spanking and other methods of discipline have to be employed. Those methods can be more severe, depending on the child’s behavior, but hitting my child with a paddle…” I shiver visibly. Christian quickly grasps my elbows and begins to run his hands up and down my arms.

Okay,” he says, resigned. “I can see this bothers you a lot and I didn’t really know how much. So you can somewhat see the merits of spanking, but definitely not with a paddle, brush, or any foreign object.” I shake my head feverishly without making eye-contact with him. “I can understand that. Then we need to decide what we think is too old and too big for a spanking and what we plan to do as punishment for when our children get out of line after that age. I’m sorry, but I just don’t see how taking away an iPhone—or whatever space-aged contraption they’ll have when our children are teenagers—is going to be of any consequence to them whatsoever.”

We’ll come up with something, I’m sure. Besides, I’m a shrink. Mental warfare is fun to me, I just haven’t had a chance or cause to use it yet. What better way to put it to use than to torture my children?” He frowns, feigning disapproval.

This from the woman who shivered a moment ago?” he asks. I shrug.

It’s like you said, we don’t want them to grow up being entitled little brats.” He just shakes his head.


GREY

Butterfly and Allen go off with Tamara to the first gown fitting with three temperamental designers that have to combine their ideas for Butterfly’s gown. I head off for my last shooting lesson with Ray. Jason goes with me to see how I handle a firearm, but only in an unofficial capacity at the orders of Her Majesty Mrs. Taylor. He and Ray both tell me that I overcorrect a bit from the recoil, but that will work itself out with more practice. After a few hours at the range, Ray gifts me the Glock G17 that I learned to shoot with and we decide to go have lunch to celebrate finishing my classes.

We get a semi-private table at Ruth’s Chris Streakhouse as I am desperate for a New York strip. The conversation goes in every direction as Ray talks about Amanda and her wildly fluctuating hormones as she gets closer and closer to her due date. He seems very happy about becoming a father, but more concerned about Butterfly’s feelings since this child will actually be his biological baby while Butterfly is not. I assure him that she is way too concerned with planning this wedding to be affected by sibling rivalry right now. What’s more, she adores Amanda and is very happy that her father will be giving her a little brother or sister.

After a little reassurance, he asks me if I have actually filed the paperwork for my license to carry a concealed weapon. I assured him that I had taken care of all the necessary paperwork and that I had passed the background check. Jason is in possession of my firearm until the permit actually reaches me, which I should see it any day now. I pick this time to tell him and Jason about the prenuptial agreement. They both look at me like I have completely taken leave of my senses until I explain to them why I want the prenup. The reasoning goes over Ray’s head as he assumed certain things were understood when it comes down to married couples. I assure him that he is correct in essence, but in reality, the lawyers hold all the cards—especially in terms of business.

They both commend me for thinking ahead on this matter. I almost can’t take credit for it as it was Kavanaugh’s faux pas that made me think of it in the first place. However, I won’t tell them that.

More and more, Jason is shedding his sling. He admits that his arm and shoulder still get a little tender if he leaves the sling off for too long, especially on the days where he has his physical therapy. However, he’s using it more and more as of late and can’t wait until things get back to normal again. Gail has agreed to let him do a couple of ride-alongs—so to speak—each week to get him back in the swing of things, as long as they are not on the days when he has physical therapy. He’s just thrilled to get back in the game in any way whatsoever. I think being locked up in Escala was driving him into temporary insanity. A man who is accustomed to action cannot take too many quiet evenings at home.

I have to say that I am going to miss the weekends with Ray. We’ve gotten kind of close during this bonding experience and I’m having a hard time letting go of that. Without sounding like too much of a sap, I ask him if we can get together for a couple of beers and watch the game next Saturday. I have no idea what game is playing, but it just wouldn’t feel right to just take my gun and run. Ray smiles knowingly at me and agrees, saying that we will see what “the women” are doing and maybe make a day of it. I’m more relieved than I expected to be. I enjoyed these Boys’ Weekends with my father-in-law. It’s getting me to thinking that maybe I should call Dad and invite him somewhere, too.

Yeah, I’m turning into a sap.

Butterfly isn’t home yet when I get back to the apartment, so I take this moment to give British Motor Coach a call.

May I speak to Arien please?”

Mr. Arien is unavailable at the moment. May I take a message?” the smug voice on the other end says.

Yes, tell him Christian Grey is calling.” The line goes quiet. I didn’t say to tell him that I called. I said to tell him that I’m calling. Mr. Smug on the line says, “Christian Grey?”

Yes, Christian Grey.”

One moment please, Sir.” It takes maybe 30 seconds before I hear, “Arien speaking.”

Arien, Christian Grey here. How are you?”

Mr. Grey, I’m well and yourself?”

I’m doing well. I need the impossible and I know that if you can’t do it, you can point me in the right direction.” That introduction assures that he will definitely get me what I want. This is the same company that we used for the limousines for the Adopt-A-Family Affair and any time I have needed a car for a red carpet event. He wants to keep me happy.

Of course, Mr. Grey. Anything you need. I will move mountains to get it done.”

Excellent. You know that I was recently engaged…”

Yes, and congratulations, Sir.”

Thank you. Well, your company already has a standing NDA with me, so I can tell you that the wedding will be June 29th. My bride-to-be has made a specific request and I will pay any amount to the first company that can get it done.” He is the first company I have called and probably the only company I will call, but he might as well think that there are others.

I understand, Mr. Grey. What is the request?”

She wants a classic Bentley—during the afternoon for pictures and to take us from the reception site to the airport.” The line goes quiet and I hear him exhale.

A classic Bentley… in June… on such short notice…” I can hear the wheels turning from here. “I’m not saying that it’s impossible, but… it could get to be quite costly, Mr. Grey.”

Arien, we’re getting married in a castle. She is somewhere now talking to three dress designers—three—who have agreed to collaborate on her gown. I am expecting that creation to cost me five digits, but I am prepared to pay six. Her ring cost more than most people pay for houses and this Bentley is the only thing that she has asked me for specifically. You tell me what I am willing to pay for it. I’ll leave that information with you and start calling my other contacts to see if they can make this happen.”

Um, no need Mr. Grey. Can you give me a few days to secure the vehicle? I’m sure I can get what you need.”

Absolutely. I will look to hear from you later this week.” I end the call.

What Butterfly wants, Butterfly gets.


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

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Love and Handcuffs!
Lynn x

Mending Dr. Steele: Chapter 50—Pathways and Discoveries

Wow, wow, and double wow! I’ve got a lot of Moms out there, lol. “Take care of yourself.” “Don’t overdo it.” “Your health comes first.” You guys make me feel so special and loved. The outpouring of love, emotion, and concern was AMAZING! Forgive me that I wasn’t able to respond to each of you personally, but I felt it ALL. Thank you so much!

I won’t overdo it, I promise. I want to live… but I SO love Christian and Ana. They make my life bright, although there was one part that was really very hard to write and even though I knew how it was going to turn out, I’m glad it’s over. I may let someone else edit it because it was just that hard to write. I’m actually thinking that I might ditch it because… oh, I don’t know why. Ultimately, it fits into the story but… I don’t know. We’ll see when I get to it. CG and Ana will tell me. They keep me company, you know. 😉

We have some strong feelings about a bitch named Kate and a poor little boy named Kevin, don’t we? I like that! I like that people are being pulled either way by how they want or think this story will turn out. I’ll tell you that part is already written, too (you guys know me… four or five chapters ahead).

It irritates me though that I have been reading some other stories and I see ideas that I have on other pages… not because I think they stole from me, but because I don’t want anyone to think I stole from them. You guys know that I work hard on my ideas—that I research most of them and others come from personal experience. Know that I would never take someone else’s idea, but that if I see an idea that I have or have written but have not published it yet, I’m not going to change my story.

I read the “hot air balloon” trip somewhere, but I had already written it, so I published it. I sent CG and Ana to wine country, then I read that somewhere… not exactly the same trip, but I knew that it was published before my trip to wine country. Now I have read a sexual act that my Ana and CG did in someone else’s story. I was sure that I had the mold on that one (ominous music playing). Lo and behold, I was wrong. Yet, I’m still not changing it. I wrote it my way, and I’m posting it when the time comes. I know my readers will know that I don’t steal ideas and although I am mooching off of E. L. James, both my CG and my Ana have strayed away from her version of them. So… on with the story!

Chapter 50—Pathways and Discoveries

STEELE

I am in desperate need of something familiar and I think the boys really need to blow off some steam. So, I awake on Saturday morning and plan Food and Libations for tonight. Daddy took Christian and Jason to the shooting range with him. Jason can’t handle a firearm yet, but he went along anyway to try to cure himself from cabin fever. I sent out a text around 10:00 to let everyone know that we were on for tonight at my condo and it feels like old times again—except I’ll have Gail and my very pregnant stepmother along.

Every night this week, I’ve awakened in the middle of the night to an empty bed and the sound of sad piano coming through the bedroom. He would come immediately to bed and fall right back to sleep after I retrieved him from his piano, but it never failed. Three nights straight, he’s up on the piano. He says that he’s not having nightmares, and hot sex on Thursday didn’t even prevent the nighttime wanderings.

Last night, I had a very productive therapy session with Ace. I decided to start journalizing my feelings for Carla. I have to get them sorted out one way or another so that I can confront her without going all over the place. We’ll see how that works out. When I got home, we had a lovely dinner, a beautiful talk, and we fell asleep in each other’s arms. Yet, he awoke again, playing lamenting songs that sounded like sorrowful rain and broken hearts. I didn’t retrieve him this time. I just sat down next to him and stroked his hair.

“I don’t know how to help him,” he said, and I knew he was talking about Elliot.

“No word from Kate?” I asked. He shook his head. “That’s the only thing that will solve this, Baby. Closure. It’s what caused the problems before and it’s what’s causing his heartache now. She knows that. She’s a vengeful, spiteful bitch that doesn’t realize that she’s stacking universal cards against herself. I’m just hoping that poor baby doesn’t have to pay for the sins of his mother.”

“…Or his father,” Christian lamented. I stroked his hair some more.

The Greys are the most loving and kind family that I have ever met. You all welcome people into your hearts based on an introduction and a kind spirit. If that baby is so blessed to be a Grey, he will have all the love and affection his little heart can hold. If he’s not, then we can only pray for his well-being and move on. Either way, Elliot will have the closure that he needs. Right now, make sure that your brother knows that you love him, that he can always count on you. He’s lost and floundering right now—he’s rudderless. He needs strength and guidance that he can only get from you. Can you give him that? He really needs that.” Christian nodded.

“Yes… I can give him that,” he said.

“Good, now play me a song, and none of that sad rainy shit you’ve been playing.” He laughs at me.

“There are some pretty nice songs about rain, you know,” he corrected me.

“Then play one of those,” I commanded. He laughed again, then kissed me on my forehead.

“Thank you for fixing my piano,” he said, softly.

“You’re welcome,” I replied. He kissed me gently on the lips and began to play me one of those “nice” songs about the rain. By the time he had gotten halfway through the second one, I was asleep on his shoulder.

I write for about an hour in my Mommy Journal and decide that I’ve spent enough time thinking about Carla Morton. Gail and I have things to get from the Marketplace so I pack my supplies in my trunk and the three of us head down to Pike’s Place. I feel festive and the need to celebrate with my friends. So we quickly gather the things that we need from the market, including some fresh spring blooms, and head over to my condo.

Being here reminds me that Christian has told me nothing about Robyn Myrick or his connection to She-Thing. He had the key to my apartment and she had my stolen gun. Christian refused to let me come tonight without at least three members of security, so Chuck is inside the apartment while Williams—I keep forgetting his first name—and some new guy will be posted outside. Chuck and the other security guys help me move the furniture out of my living room and I lay several tartan blankets of different colors on the floor.

After Gail and I prepare the food, I change into a pair of denim short-short and a white shirt that ties up at my abdomen with 3/4 length sleeves trimmed in crocheted lace. I lay out trays of covered food on the tartan blankets with pillows scattered all around. We are having a combination indoor picnic/slumber party with just the original six of us along with Gail and Mandy. I have to say that my stepmom has packed on a few pounds carrying my dad’s baby. She is in her seventh month and she looks like she’s ready to drop any day now. Her butt is huge, though I don’t dare tell her that—and she can barely walk. Dad brings her all the way to the door and sits her gently on the sofa. He’s very attentive to her and doesn’t really want to leave her. He’s going with Christian and James to the once-a-month Saturday Boys Night. Elliot and Jason are going, too, so Christian is having his own form of F&L this evening… which really makes me happy.

I have to pry my father away from his wife and remind him that people are waiting for him. Truthfully, I want him to leave before Christian comes looking for him and someone has to pry him away from me.

Mandy is seated comfortably on the sofa while Gail and I continue to arrange our picnic—warm skirt-steak picnic burritos; potato salad; sandwiches-on-a-stick (cold deli sandwiches built on a skewer); cherry-tomato and basil salad; spicy pasta with chicken, spinach, and goat cheese; lemon cake; cherry-pistachio tea cake; ice cold lemonade, and whatever libations my friends bring with them. Of course, Allen shows up first in the loudest pair of Bermuda shorts I have ever seen.

“I said ‘picnic,’ Al, not loud and crazy beach party!” I say with a laugh.

“Hey, what better way to rush summer on in than with a sexy, gaudy pair of Bermudas?” Al says with a shrug. “Beautiful Amanda, you are positively glowing, my dear.”

“And you are full of shit, but thank you, Allen,” she laughs as she accepts a hug and a kiss on the cheek from my best friend.

“When is Little Jewel due again?” he asks her.

“June 16,” she responds, rubbing her belly. “A little under two months away.” Al whistles.

“I do not envy you ladies in your ability to harvest and bear children, but I do reserve the right to spoil them.”

“Get in line, Forsythe. This one is all mine,” I say, defensively, eliciting a laugh from Mandy.

“So it looks like I won’t have a shortage of babysitters,” she says.

“Are you kidding?” I tell her. “You may have to send out a search party for me once I get my hands on that baby!” We laugh again. I want to make sure that Mandy knows how much she means to me and my dad. I’m sure Daddy tells her all the time, but I don’t get to show her as much as I would like. “Are you comfortable? Do you need a pillow for your back?”

“As a matter of fact, yes. That would be great,” Mandy says. Al and I reach for the pillow at the same time and smile.

“Go ahead, Mr. Forsythe,” I say, “but you’re still not getting your hands on that baby before me.”

“We’ll see, Jewel. We’ll see.” Mandy giggles again and I know that she’s comfortable.

“What did you bring me?” I ask.

“Well, I know that the Cabernet will be flowing en masse this evening, so I brought a lovely Chablis and some of my jungle punch for Mandy.”

“What do you mean? She can’t drink—she’s about to have a baby!” I exclaim. Al frowns at me for a moment, then breaks out in hearty laughter.

“Come on, Jewel, really? Not jungle juice, Jewel… jungle punch! Give me a little credit. People often confuse the two, but no. My jungle punch is the same thing as jungle juice, but it has no liquor in it and the wonderful assortment of fresh fruit has marinated in the delicious juices all day.” Gail comes out of the kitchen with several glasses of varying heights and the party is about to begin. Within minutes, Val shows up right behind Gary with Phil and Maxie bringing up the rear. We are into full swing when everyone is required to bring the group up to snuff on what’s happening in their lives.

“Well, everyone knows what’s happening in my life,” Val announces. “Elliot might be a father and the psycho ex is hiding the baby so that we can’t get a paternity test.”

“What’s up with that?” Maxie asks. “I would think the little tramp would be itching to be the mother of a Grey baby.”

“That’s just it,” Val says. “She doesn’t know if it’s Elliot’s baby.”

“Fuck, seriously? Her father was all over the news talking about how Elliot’s prior philandering and how he wouldn’t stand up to his responsibilities! Now you’re saying the slut may have another candidate?” Phil asks.

“That’s exactly what I’m saying,” Val confirms, “although you didn’t hear it from me. There’s supposed to be a gag order in place. That’s rich. The Kavanaughs are the most powerful media family in the Pacific northwest, and there’s a gag order keeping them from exploiting the Greys.”

“Wait a minute… Kavanaugh? As in Kavanaugh Media Kavanaugh?” Gary asks. I nod.

“Yep. The tramp in question is none other than Katherine Kavanaugh, princess to the Kavanaugh empire,” I say.

“Kryptonite Dick Kavanaugh is talking about someone else’s philandering?” Gary says and I almost choke on my burrito.

“Excuse me?” I finally get out after Phil pats me on the back a few times. Gary rolls his eyes.

“Oh yeah,” Gary continues, “that’s his nickname in the media circles. We assume his dick must be dipped in Kryptonite because the women can’t leave him alone, not even his wife who has to know what he gets up to if everybody else knows. That’s man has been with more women than Caligula…”

“Okay, now you’ve lost me,” Mandy pipes in.

“Well, let’s just put it like this. My cousin’s girlfriend’s brother may actually be a Kavanaugh. He’s most likely not the only one.”

I hear bells going off in my head and my eyes immediately go to Val. Her mouth falls open and her eyes are bugging out of her head like a cartoon. “You’re not serious!” she says to Gary. He nods.

“Yep. Jordan… Jordan West. That’s his name. He’s about 17 now and he’s the spitting image of Kavanaugh’s oldest son Eric.”

“You mean Ethan,” I correct him.

“No, I mean Eric,” he says. “I don’t know how long he and the little woman have been married, but Krypto has a son that’s older than both of his children by his wife. Eric has to be in his 30s now.” I’m texting Christian faster than I can think.

“Is Eric a Kavanaugh?” I ask.

“No, his name is…” Gary thinks for a minute. “Caulder. Eric Caulder.”

“How do you know him?” I ask.

“He worked at City of Music for a while, not long though. He knows Krypto is his father, but I think the relationship is strained to say the least. It’s Seattle’s best kept non-secret.”

“Non-secret?” Val asks.

“Yeah. Lot’s of people know, but Krypto controls a lot of the media. Who’s going to out him?”

“I know somebody who might,” I say under my breath as I text Christian with this newfound information. “What about Jordan? Does Kavanaugh have a relationship with him?”

“Well, I don’t know,” Gary says. “He really is a secret as far as I can tell. I think he’s a payoff situation, but that’s just word on the wire.” I know that terminology. I text that information to Christian as well.

“Okay, so Kavanaugh’s a hypocritical slut. What else is new? Have we had enough of this particular conversation?” I ask.

“I certainly have,” Val replies, maudlin.

“Good. Let’s move on. Maxie, Phil, I’ve been running around like a clucking duck and I haven’t heard any deets about the honeymoon.” I press, quickly changing the subject. Maxie glances nervously at Phil who just shrugs. I examine them both. “Okay, out with it. What’s going on?”

“We…” Maxie acts as if the words are burning her throat. “We… may be pregnant.”

Val gasps and my hands fly to my mouth. “Oh my God! That’s great… isn’t it?” Val asks trepidatiously.

“Well, yes, if it’s true,” Maxie smiles coyly. “We’ve had one false alarm and one…” she trails off.

“One what?” Gail asks.

“One miscarriage,” she says, her voice barely audible.

“Oh my,” Mandy says, protectively rubbing her stomach.

“Max… when? Why didn’t you tell us?” I ask concerned.

“It was a long time ago,” she says, trying to wave it off, “before we were even engaged. I really don’t want to make a big deal about it. It happened, I grieved over it, and I don’t want to draw it out. I just want to concentrate on hopefully making a healthy baby now. We didn’t want to say anything about it until we were sure, but I have missed my period and I did have a positive home test. How could I keep that from my dearest friends?” I fight to keep my tears back and grab her hand.

“Oh, Maxie, I’m so happy for you. This is going to be the one, you just wait and see.” I squeeze her hand and give her a full sincere smile which she returns.

“Thank you, Ana. I needed to hear that. It’s gives me hope.” Phil takes her other hand and kisses it gently before wrapping his arm around her shoulder.

“So, Gary, how about you?” Val asks. “Anything new on the horizon for you and Marilyn?” He actually blushes at the mention of her name.

“No, nothing new,” he says. “We’ve been getting along really well and things have been going great.”

“Has she popped that cherry yet?” Phil asks, unashamed. Gail gasps and Mandy giggles.

“Of course, she has!” Al chimes in and Gary turns to him.

“How would you know?” Gary asks.

“Gary, Darling, that walk changed months ago. Sorry, but yes, I do pay attention. You are not only getting laid, but you are getting laid well. From the looks of things, I would say that dear Marilyn is pretty happy with the goods too,” Al responds flippantly.

“Oh my God,” Val laughs and I’m almost embarrassed for Gary.

“I can’t believe you people! Have you no tact? We are not having this conversation!” Gary says.

“Oh, we can talk about Krypto Dick, but we can’t talk about G-Spot Gary?” Al asks. The room erupts with laughter. Gary drops his face into his hand shaking his head.

“Give us a break, G. We’ve been waiting for this moment for years!” Val exclaims.

“Yeah!” I chime in, “and after the Bethany fiasco, I can truly say that I for one am very glad that you have met a beautiful, nice girl who is apparently taking care of you and making you happy.”

“Well… you’re biased, but I have to give you that,” Gary concedes. “She does make me happy, and I like her… a lot!” I cock my head at Gary.

“You like her… a lot?” I ask. He looks at me but can’t keep eye-contact for long.

“Yes,” he says shyly.

“Do you love her, Gary?’ I press gently. He pauses.

“I think…” He rolls his eyes and sighs heavily. “Yes, I love her.”

“Now why is that always so hard for guys to admit?” Val says. I glare at her.

“Are we really going to have that conversation?” I ask her. She twitches her lips.

“Shut up, Steele. You would have to pull teeth before getting me to admit that I loved anyone. That’s just the way I’m built, so yes—it was a trial admitting that I love Elliot, but that’s me. That’s not all women. Men, on the other hand… it takes wild bulls to get them to admit their feelings. Why is that?”

“Because that’s not the way we’re built,” Al says. “Even as a gay man, I don’t want to readily give my heart or admit that someone has snagged it. When it came to Chocolate, though, I was a goner. There was no denying it and no doubt in my mind. I was hooked almost from the beginning. Before that, ask Jewel—love was not in my vocabulary.”

“Besides,” Gary adds, “like Ana said, before Mare, there was that disaster Bethany. So no, even under normal circumstances, I’m not waving the love flag, but after that bitch… hell, no!”

“Do you ever see her anymore?” Maxie asks.

“Not since that night,” he says. “She took off from that apartment and I swear she disappeared into thin air.”

“So have you told her that you love her… Marilyn, that is?” I ask. He shakes his head.

“I’ve come close a couple of times, but… I don’t know, I guess I’m scared.”

“You better tell her,” Gail chimes in. “If she’s not sure of your feelings, she may just think you don’t want her.”

“No… she… knows…” he says, uncertain.

“How do you know that she knows?” Mandy asks. Gary looks down.

“She knows. She knows me… she knows,” he says quietly. I get the feeling that Marilyn really does know. It’s written all over him and I don’t even know him intimately.

“Well, it’s still nice to hear,” Val reinforces with a gentle touch and a kind smile… and he’s blushing again as he nods.

“Okay, get off Gary. How about you, Ana? We’ve heard about everybody else. It’s your turn,” Phil says, and the room falls quiet. I realize that Gary is still in stunned shyness, but the other three have been quite informed about my new mantra concerning mine and Christian’s love life. I see that now is the time to find a happy medium where I can discuss my life with my friends.

“Well,” I begin. “We all know that the wedding is a little over a month away. I have finally found my dress. My life for the most part is pretty much an open book—psycho Pedo-bitch tried to kill my fiancé and ended up shooting his best friend. Oh, by the way, she’s trying to plead.”

“What!?” Gail pipes in, appalled.

“No, Gail, not on the shooting. She’s trying to plead on the molestation charges. There are so many of them, it’s actually her only hope. She could end up getting 25 years for the lot.”

“Twenty-five years? That’s all?” Mandy asks.

“That’s all,” I say, “Oh, and some pretty hefty fines, that is if the victims agree to the plea. Christian says it looks like they will.”

“Well, I guess if it will spare the boys from having to testify against her, it’s a good thing,” Maxie says. “At least she won’t get off free and clear. If she does live to get out of there, she has to register as a sex offender. No more country clubs and spa days for Mrs. Lincoln.”

“That’s true, and she still has to face the attempted murder charges, so I say let her ass plead!” Gail grunts. “If I ever see her plastic blonde ass again…”

“We know, Gail,” I say, squeezing her hand. “Oh, and she has a twin.” The room has fallen completely silent. “Yes. She has an aunt who is just as unscrupulous as she is. This aunt is from Germany—rich and looks just like Pedo-bitch. She offered me $10 million to leave Christian so that She-Thing can have him.”

“Okay, I’m lost… who’s She-Thing?” Phil asks.

“She-Thing, Pedo-bitch, same person,” Al clarifies.

“Anyway, I turned it down,” I continue, “then she gave me 20…”

“Twenty dollars?” Maxie asks.

“No, $20 million.”

“You mean she offered it to you,” Val says.

“No, she gave it to me. She had it transferred into an account in my name.”

“You turned it down right?” Mandy asks.

“No, I accepted it.” Everyone gasps except for Al and Gail since they know the story.

“I don’t get it. You just said that you got your dress and now you’re saying that you accepted $20 million to leave Christian?” Gary nearly screeches. I nod. “Well, what the fuck did Christian say?”

“Nothing. I gave him the information. He traced the money. We found out that the whole transaction was valid. We transferred the money out of that account into another account and made an anonymous donation to Helping Hands. What’s she going to do, sue me?”

“That’s a lot of money to play with,” Phil says. “Aren’t you worried about retaliation?” I shake my head.

“No. You see, we have been trying to find a weak spot in Mrs. Strauss’ armor—that’s her name, Edda Strauss. Being able to trace her money and check its validity gave us just the invitation that we needed into her finances. Let’s just say that Mrs. Strauss’ fortune comes from some very shady sources. Even though she originates from old money, her new money is very dirty. If those sources find out that some nosy American is digging around in her finances, they’re not coming after the nosy American. They’re coming after her.”

“How can you be so sure?” Maxie asks.

“It’s just the name of the game. The transaction was between Strauss and me, so any retaliation would come from her. Christian has paid a small fortune to keep such a close eye on her, it’s like ants crawling all over her every second… and he’s not even being discreet about it. He’s making sure that she knows. Now, when it comes down to the source of her money, he’s digging into how the deposits are being made. If he goes too far, there’s going to be a ‘ping’ into someone else’s finances. That’s where I started to worry, so he had to explain this to me.

“If that ping stops and it doesn’t go any further, of course he could be contacted by some powerful and shady people. At that time, he would have to defend his actions and clarify that the sought-after party is not them, but Edda Strauss. Now without giving away any details, would you want to be a high-powered European government official with ties to dirty money about to be exposed because of a woman actively defending the actions of her American pedophile niece?”

“Well, at least give us a clue!” Gary says. I twist my lips.

“Okay. Well, here in the states her money can be traced back to several Ponzi schemes, including The Big One…”

“Which big one?” Val asks.

“The Big One… the one where people started dying…” She frowns and then realization dawns.

“Oh! That one,” she says. I nod.

“Christian’s head of security says that he’s surprised that she is even on American soil.”

“Shit, Ana. That seems so damn risky,” Val says.

“It is. I’ll be the first to say it, but she opened this door and she approached me. We couldn’t just stand there or she would never go away. We are certain that she taught She-Thing everything she knows. We are certain that she honed that horrible woman’s taste for little boys and that she programmed her that there was absolutely nothing wrong with it. Christian is positive that she is building an insanity defense on that very fact.”

“That’s preposterous!” Maxie exclaims. “She can’t build a defense on being a… a…” she is angrily searching for the word.

“Narcissist. Yes, that’s what I told him, but unfortunately that’s where you’re wrong. If there is any so-called justice in this fucked-up system, she can’t win a defense based on being a narcissist, but she can build one.” Maxie just shakes her head.

“Well, now I’ve heard it all,” she says. “Honey, it’s time to move to a deserted island. I don’t want to raise my baby in this country if this woman gets off.”

“Ditto,” Phil says, putting his arm around her and pulling her close to him.

“Come on, Ana, tell us something good,” Mandy says. I shrug.

“I love my mother,” I say quietly. The room falls silent and Al frowns.

“What?” he asks. I lean back against the bottom of the sofa.

“I love my mother. Many of my flight issues stem from the fact that I love her and I couldn’t take the fact that she used, misused, and deserted me during some of the most critical times of my life.”

“And this is a good thing because…?” Gary asks.

“It’s a good thing because I can face it now. I can deal with what she did and what it’s doing to my life instead of running off to Montana when things get rough.” They all fall silent again. “I’m journalizing to deal with the immediate onslaught of feelings. We’ll see how that works out.”

“I think you’re going to have to confront her, Ana,” Val says. “Elliot is still dealing with the shock of finding out that he may be a father, but I’m telling you that telling that woman how he really felt about her and what she did to him turned him into a whole new man. He stronger and more open, and I don’t think he would have been able to even deal with this kind of drama if he hadn’t gotten that off his chest.” I know that she’s right, but I don’t want to see my mother right now. I’m just not ready.

“When the time comes, I will,” I tell her. “I’ve been doing regression therapy to deal with some of the stuff that has happened to me. I won’t go into any details…” I flash a look at Maxie, but then to everyone else so that it doesn’t seem like I’m singling her out, “…but I did go back to the shooting and what I forgot about She-Thing.” Another silence falls over the room.

“And?” Gail breaks the silence.

“She hit me in the head with the butt of my gun. That’s how I got the stitches… but I beat the hell outta that bitch!” I proclaim with a hearty laugh that causes the whole room to break up into similar laughter.


GREY

“Her Highness is going to have my ass on a stick for this,” Jason says as he, Ray and I ride the elevator to Butterfly’s condo. Ah, yes… my beautiful Butterfly. Wait a minute… what?

“For what?” I ask him.

“You’re shitfaced!” he says. Like fuck I am. I laugh at him.

“I’m not shitfaced, Jason,” I tell him.

“Well, you’re happy as hell,” Ray says. I nod.

“I am a little happier than usual,” and hornier, “but I’m not shitfaced. I only had a few drinks with some of the guys to celebrate my birthday, but I am definitely not drunk.”

“Okay, lively then,” Jason says. I nod.

“I’ll buy that, too,” I tell him, “but I am not shitfaced.”

The elevator opens on the 13th floor and we walk around to Butterfly’s door where Williams and Martin are standing.

“You can go,” Jason tells them. “We’ve got it from here.” They both nod at him and leave without a word. It’s about 1:00am and I expect that the party is still going on. I was wrong. Gail and Amanda are laid out on different sofas while Butterfly is nowhere in sight. The television is on and no one is watching it. Tartan blankets are all over the floor.

“What happened? It seems early for the party to be over so soon,” I say.

“No it’s not,” I hear a voice on the sofa say. I look over and Amanda is struggling to sit up. Good God, she’s huge! Do all women gain weight like that when they are pregnant? Shit, I hope not! Her ass looks like it has two area codes, but I dare not say that aloud.

“Let me help you, Tulip,” Ray says to her. Tulip? That’s a strange pet name. Maybe he calls all women a flower. I’ve heard him call Butterfly Sunflower. Butterfly Sunflower… I have to stifle a laugh at that one. Maybe I  am drunk. “Everyone left about an hour ago barely able to keep their eyes open. This was really fun.”

“I’m glad you enjoyed yourself, Tulip. Now come on. I want to get you home so that you can rest properly. Arms around my neck, now.” I watch as Amanda grabs Ray around the neck. He anchors his hands together at her lower back and effortlessly lifts her off the sofa to her feet. I’m impressed, and apparently, so is Mandy.

“You’re the best, Ray,” she says lovingly smiling at him.

“Where’s Butterfly?” I ask. Amanda looks puzzled at me.

“Annie,” Ray clarifies for her. She nods.

“She’s in her room. After she cleared all the dishes and cleaned up the food, she was exhausted. I think she may have had a few too many glasses of wine.”

“If that’s the case, you two will make a perfect match tonight,” Jason chuckles as he rouses Gal. “Wake up, My Love. It’s time to go home.” Gail sleepily opens her eyes and stretches.

“What time is it?” she asks.

“About 1:30. I had to make sure the Boss got back to the Butterfly in one piece. He’s a little one past his limit,” Jason says.

“I. Am. Not,” I say, getting a little irritated that Jason keeps insisting that I’m drunk.

“I didn’t say that you were shitfaced,” he teases.

“Take your wife home,” I order him. “Where’s Davenport?”

“He’s in Allen’s room.” Gail says. “With two guards posted at the door and security at the desk, there was certainly no reason for him to sit awake waiting.” I nod.

“Fine,” I say removing my leather jacket and tossing it on the sofa. Gail stands and takes Jason’s hands.

“Jason, where is your sling?” Gail asks.

“It’s in the car, Love. I just needed to stretch my arm a bit. The therapist said that’s okay if it gets too stiff.” Gail looks side-eyed at him.

“Jason…” she says in a warning tone.

“Don’t read any more into it, Love. I was only stretching my arm. Now let’s go home,” he says. They walk to the door where Ray and Amanda are already standing.

“Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do,” Jason says to me.

“And exactly what does that cover?” I ask him sarcastically. “Before you speak, please remember that my fiancée’s father is standing behind you.” Jason chuckles and shakes his head.

“Goodnight, Boss,” he says as the four of them leave the apartment.

“Goodnight,” I respond before closing and locking the door behind them. I examine the living room while I ponder my night. It looks like they were having a huge picnic here. I hope she had a good time with her friends.

I’m beginning to enjoy the evenings at the Men’s Club. This was only my second visit, but it was a good time and environment to reconnect with my brother and begin to rebuild our relationship. We really have to stick together with this Kavanaugh shit coming out and… well, fuck, he’s my brother. I was glad that he was able to loosen up and have fun. He’s sticking to his pledge not to drink, but it didn’t stop him from being his goofy self. I was glad to see that with all that he’s going through right now. Some of the men tried to talk about his ‘situation,’ but we just headed them off telling them that we can’t discuss it because of the gag order.

Boys’ Night turned into a small birthday celebration for me thanks to James. The more we talk, the more I discover that we have a lot in common. He’s a loner that always wanted to make a name for himself but doesn’t make friends easily. Allen is only his second serious relationship. His first was some guy named Jose. He confided in me that he was very much in love with Jose, but the guy left to follow his dreams and James was pretty broken after that. Following a series of meaningless sexual trysts which sounds achingly familiar to me, he met Allen and the rest is history.

After I cut a cheesy ass cake they bought me and had a few celebratory rounds with the guys at the bar, James and I found ourselves at a table in the corner spilling our guts to each other after we had both had a few more drinks than we intended. Shit, the man told me all about being molested as a kid before he really knew who I was. I think I can trust him. Once they could see that I was loosening up, a few guys came over trying to talk a little business or get some details out of me about the date for my and Butterfly’s wedding. Sorry, guys, I’m not that drunk.

I turn off the television and walk the familiar trek to Butterfly’s bedroom. I can’t help but remember the first time I had sex with her here, carrying her down this very hallway and groping that fabulous ass. I couldn’t wait to get her into bed. My dick starts throbbing just thinking about that night. As a first fuck, she was the best I had ever had. That says something, because I have had a lot! Not that I’m proud of it, but it’s true. As I get to Butterfly’s door, Davenport cracks the door to Allen’s bedroom in his boxers and I can see his Glock in his hand. I nod once at him and he nods back, closing the door behind him.

I open Butterfly’s bedroom and there she is. She is wearing these tiny ass denim shorts and a white shirt tied around her waist. She’s lying on her stomach with one leg bent and she cuddling the pillow. That ass! God, that ass! Her cheeks are sticking out of the cut-off shorts and my mind immediately scans who was here tonight possibly looking at her ass:

Phillip—newlywed and present with his wife.
Garrett—fucking ga-ga over Butterfly’s receptionist.
Allen—as gay as the day is long.
Davenport–more like a brother than a suitor.
Williams and Martin–outside of the apartment. Did they see that ass?

I take a deep breath and let it out, closing the door behind me. The disturbance causes Butterfly to roll over on her back and resume sleeping. Her hands are over her head and I swear it’s like she’s offering herself to me. Fuck, my dick is so hard that it’s painfully trying to explode from my jeans. I remove my shoes and socks, then quickly unbutton my fly to release Greystone. I think he actually sighs from relief once I get him out of my jeans and boxers.

Leaving my clothes in a mass on the floor, I snatch my T-shirt off and throw it across the room before taking my erection in my hand. I just want to look at her for a moment and Greystone is viciously hard and pulsing. I stroke my hand up and down my shaft hard and slow a few times as I watch the rise and fall of Butterfly’s beautiful breast peeking out from the buttons of her shirt. Is she wearing a bra? Fuck, I don’t think so! That makes my dick ache more and my hand is just not doing it. I climb onto the bed and make quick work of her shorts and panties. She whimpers and moans and moans a bit as she stretches her arms above her further, pushing her breasts up at me.

Fuck!

I untie her shirt to find that, to my delight, she is in fact sans her bra. Her perky breasts stare back at me as she is slowly bringing herself to consciousness, stretching and writhing underneath me like a cat. I can’t stand it anymore. I nestle myself between her legs and Greystone finds his mark without any help. I thrust hard into her, gasping at the immediate relief I feel being buried inside her core.

“Hah!” she gasps, immediately grabbing the bars in the headboard. “Christian!” she breathes without opening her eyes. The acknowledgement goes straight to my dick and I start to stroke her, deep and steady.

“Yes, Baby,” I whisper, bringing my hands up to the sides of her body so that my thumbs can caress the soft flesh of her mounds. My lips and tongue feast on her nipples, first one and then the other, while I stroke in and out of her hot wetness driving us both to the edge of sanity.

“Oh, god, you feel so good,” she whimpers, her breath uncontrolled as she floats in ecstasy, still never opening her eyes. I know she is concentrating on the feelings and sensations our coupling is producing and it makes me even hornier. Desire is flooding me and burning in my balls and my pace quickens only slightly with the rise in my nature. “Yes… yes… so good,” she gasps.

“You feel good, too, Baby,” I growl as I grind deeper into her, trying to keep this steady rhythm that burns so good.

“Yes… god… please… don’t stop, Baby. Please, don’t stop…” she begs. Are you kidding? Stop now? With this aching, burning, passionate… are you kidding? I groan in my chest and I hear her whimper as her body stiffens and her hands tighten around the bars. Fuck, I can’t take this shit.

“I’m gonna come… I’m gonna… I’m… ah… ah… aaaa—” Just as she’s crying out her climax, I cover her mouth with mine to absorb her screams. I cover her fists on the bars with my own, anchoring us both to the bed as I continue to thrust and grind deliciously into her. She is pulsing and shaking and keening as this orgasm racks and torments her body, inviting my powerful erection to follow suit. I am groaning into her mouth in no time, burying myself hard inside her hot, pink flesh while she is still pulsing out her release and squeezing my juices out of me. It’s so intense and hot that I think I stop breathing for a moment to pulse out the seconds between her legs. I release her lips and bury my face in her neck as my nuts continue to empty into her, rendering me completely helpless. I finally take a breath as the contractions begin to subside, but I dare not move.

Good God, that was insane! I bring my mouth back up to hers and take her panting lips in a delectable kiss. She moans quietly into my mouth as my tongue makes love to hers. God, my body is feeling nothing but relieved and grateful after that cosmic coupling. I pry her fingers from the bar and gently massage her hands as she purrs into my mouth. I lay her hands flat on the bed and bring my hands to her cheeks. I finally pull my lips away from hers and cup her beautiful face.

“Open your eyes,” I breathe. I need to see her. I need to see those beautiful blue eyes and I need her to see how much I love her… how much I need her.

She opens her eyes, sated and longing at the same time and looks right through me. “You are incredible,” she whispers. I brush the sweat-drenched hair from her forehead.

“You are amazing,” I say, taking her lips with mine again. I roll over on my back, taking her with me so that she straddles me but holding her close so that I am still inside of her. Anchoring her head at the nape, I indulge in more of those delectable kisses. After a while, she moans again and her hands cup my face. I feel her muscles contract and she moves her hips a bit. Shit! I’m still tender… a little hard, but tender.

“Don’t move! Oh, god, Baby, please don’t move!” I plead, crushing her pelvis into me. She pauses for a moment and looks at me.

“I want to make love to you,” she says softly, her voice betraying her disappointment.

“I’m…” I don’t know how to tell her that I still so tender and I don’t know if I can do it. Her expression is begging, yearning. “But you did make love to me, Baby,” I say, trying to ease the pleading in her eyes.

“No,” she whispers. “You made love to me. I want to make love you, now.” Her hands are on my shoulders now, her expression waiting for permission, wanting. I have to give in. I know that once I get past the tenderness, it will be heaven all over again… and I can’t stand this rejected look in her eye. I could never reject her, no matter what a certain doctor says.

“Please be gentle,” I say, and I can’t believe that I hear myself saying those words.

“Gentle,” she repeats softly.

“Gentle, Baby. I’m sore. I came so hard that…” I gasp as she slowly starts to move her hips—very slowly. It’s still a little painful, but something stirs in me…of course it does. She always moves me. I slide my hands around her waist so that they rest right as the top of her ass. She is slow, methodical, and gentle.

“Look at me, Christian,” she says, her voice soft but commanding. I didn’t know I had closed my eyes. I open them slowly and see a combination of my lover and my Domme. I am captivated. Oh, god, she can do whatever she wants to me.

“There he is,” she says, regarding me licentiously. “I want you to look at me. Never take your eyes off of me.”

“Yes. Yes,” I breathe. I don’t call her Mistress. That’s not what this is, but I can hear my Mistress talking to me, commanding me to watch her while she loves me. “Keep your hands right where they are. That’s the perfect place,” she breathes, controlling her arousal while she instructs me. “Do you know why?”

“Why?” I groan as she pulls me into her world of pleasure and Nirvana.

“Because you’re touching the small of my back, which is where you hold me when you guide me and when you want me to know that you are there to protect me. You are also cupping part of my behind. This ass is yours and no one else’s, so this is where you hold me to possess me. Holding both of these places, you can feel me loving you.” Her voice is full of lust and her words shoot right to my dick—to the Neanderthal in me that is beating his chest, jumping about and declaring, “Woman! Mine!”

I groan loudly as my balls want to come from the emotion of what I just felt, but my dick is not even close. Greystone is lounging in paradise, sipping on sweet nectars and indulging in a luscious full body massage. She’s right—I can feel her back roll against my hands as well as her gorgeous ass rise and fall with each slow, gentle glide of her body against my sex.

“Oh, Ana, Baby,” I moan as I almost close my eyes again, lost in the wonderful sensations she is bringing to me.

“Ah, ah, eyes open,” she coaxes, and I open my eyes again. “That’s it. I want to see you. I want to watch you like you watch me.” She grinds gently into me then rocks her hips seductively while I’m inside of her.

“Oh gooooooooddddd!” I lament. I want to touch her all over. She only moves her hips. Her whole torso never leaves mine and her legs cradle my hips.

“Yes, Baby. I want you to feel me,” she croons. Our closeness is pushing me harder than her magnificent stroke if that’s possible. She moves her hands from my shoulders to my face and lowers her mouth to mine. Our lips are parted, barely touching, and we share each other’s breath. I’m fighting not to wrap my arms around her and pull her closer to me. The intimacy is so extreme that I feel like my chest is going to explode.

“Ana… Baby… I’m…” I don’t know what to do. I almost feel like I’m going to come, but not really. My body is caught—trapped in some middle land between intense lust and orgasm.

“Don’t come yet, Honey,” she says, her voice smooth and sweet. “I know you can hold out. I know you can enjoy the ride with me.” She does the gentle seductive rock again and my fingers clasp against her ass. “No,” she chides, ” gently, just like you want me.”

“Please, please, let me touch you.” My voice is strained and tortured, but I can’t take it anymore. She pauses for a moment as she continues to gently ride me still looking into my eyes.

“Yes,” she breathes, and it’s like a beautiful harmony ringing in my ears. I run one hand the full length up her back splaying my fingers across her while the other arm wraps possessively around her waist holding her gently so that she is still able to move. She lets out a small gasp of air at the closeness while I feel like my whole body is about to explode.

“You are magnificent—everything I want… everything I need. My heart burns for you and my body is yours. Forever, I will be your every desire.” She says as she licks the shell of my ear then brings her tongue down to my earlobe. I feel a shiver that starts in the back of my neck and tickles me between my shoulder-blade. Her teeth gently nibble my lobe before biting just hard enough for me to gasp and for that tingle to wiggle down my spine and start simultaneously in my toes. I move infinitesimally to match her gentle strokes just a little as her words turn that tingle in my toes and spine to a gradual fire.

“You make feel things I’ve never felt before,” she whispers into my neck and I finally afford myself the luxury of closing my eyes and sinking into her total essence, absorbing her feel, her smell, her taste still on my lips, her words. Oh, God, I’m transcending this place into ultimate pleasure and I don’t know what to do except… just be.

“I can’t wait to be your wife… to belong to you in every way… to truly be one with you—body, mind, and soul.” You are one with me, Baby. You are one with me right here, right now, in this place, just us. You are mine.

Her lips are back against mine, kissing me and speaking to me as the fire creeps up my legs, my thighs, and to my hips, down my spine and into my stomach. Fuck, it’s consuming me! I groan loudly into her mouth. “You are everything to me. Everything! You light up all of my dark places and make everything worthwhile. You give me strength and peace… you are more than every dream and fantasy I ever had. You fill my heart and soul with love and joy and I love you, Christian Grey. I love you with my whole being now and forever.”

The two fires meet in the middle of my body and become an unbearable flame. Nothing in the world will stop this blaze, and I mean nothing… except…

“Wings! Wiiiinnnnggs! Wiiinnnggss!” I pant. I can’t hold it. All the love and passion that I feel at this moment is likely to kill me if I don’t come… now… inside of her. Physical orgasms I can control but emotional ones, I have no hope.

“Come for me, Baby,” she breathes into my mouth while licking my lips. “Give it to me!” That fire burst into my pelvis and consumed everything from the waist down. I let out a cry so loud and primal that I’m sure it could have awakened the dead. If Davenport didn’t hear it, he’s deaf—but if he comes into this room, I’ll shoot him with his own gun!

My body breaks into powerful convulsion, causing me to involuntarily shoot to a sitting position with Butterfly still in my arms and on my lap. I am gushing frantically and endlessly inside of her, my head back and mouth open gasping for precious air.

“Yes! Yes! Come for me! Give me all of you,” she breathes as she licks and nips my neck lusciously. “Oh, God, you feel so good filling me… aaaaahhhh!” She cries out demurely and I know that she is coming now, too.

“Ooooohhh, Aaannnaaa!” I groan tortured as another wave of pleasure pulses through me with her quickening muscles.

“I love you, Christian,” she breathes, tortured and aroused. “I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you…” I lean my cheek against her breast. I need to be here or I feel like I may pass out. Sensing my need, she cradles my head, thrusting her fingers into my hair while her orgasm wanes and she fights to catch her breath. I hold her down unto me, close to me, begging this feeling not to leave as my breath returns and the muscles in my legs release. As the burning in my body finally cools and our breathing matches one another, calming and soothing, I turn my face to hers.

“Kiss me… please,” I beseech, and her lips meet mine almost instantly, infusing me with the energy to bring me back to planet Earth, back to my role as her protector and lover. She has to know that all of her words while she made love to me are tenfold in my heart for her. I used to be strong and independent, an island among men. Now, there is no me without her. The thought is frightening and exhilarating all at once, to know that one person can be the end of me—but that same person is right here with me, holding me, loving me, pledging her life, body, and soul to me. I wrap myself in that comfort just as she’s wrapping me in her arms, declaring her love to me over and over…

*-*

“We hit money with this one,” Welch tells me on Monday morning when he comes into my office. “Jordan is definitely a secret. What’s he’s paying that West woman to keep quiet is a whole lot less than he would have to pay if Mrs. Kavanaugh found out that he had a love child during their marriage.”

“Really? The asshole didn’t get a prenup? He’s just the type that would need one,” I say.

“That’s just it. He did sign a prenup. Eliza knew about Eric before they got married. They were together when he was conceived. So she made him sign an agreement that three-fourths of his net worth would convert to her if he had any children outside of the marriage. Not only that, but their children would take precedent in any will or division of property before any children conceived outside of the marriage. By the time she’s done with him, anything that he has left over, he would have to split between his children or be left completely penniless.”

Why is this man so fucking cocky if he knows that there is another human being out there that can cost him everything that he has?

“I don’t get it,” I say. “He’s too ballsy. There has to be something else, something he has on her maybe?” Welch shrugs.

“Not that I know of. Katherine and Ethan Kavanaugh are definitely their father’s children. Eliza Kavanaugh doesn’t have any skeletons in her closet that I could find. Believe me, I checked. Katherine is dirtier than her mother as she had an abortion in high school, but these days that’s not so taboo—pretty much nullified by the fact that she’s toting around a baby now. Ethan’s clean—nothing to come out and bite him in the ass except that he has at least two siblings out there that he doesn’t know about.”

“I think he does,” I say. Welch raises his eyebrows at me. “Ethan got into a fight with his father last week. He told Kavanaugh to give him his trust fund or else he was coming clean with everything that he knows. It has to be Jordan unless there’s another deep, dark secret that we don’t know about.” Welch says.

“I’m going to run with this one, but I really need to call Ethan. If we have the same trump card, it would take the wind out of Ethan’s claim and I don’t want to do that.”

“Are you sure about that, Sir? I mean he is still in enemy camp and that shit could backfire on you in the biggest way.”

“Not really. I just want this baby shit buried, and I want Kavanaugh to know that I have something on him because his daughter has something on me. It’s going to come out when I’m ready, but I can’t have him or her blabbing it before that time. So I need to know if we’re shooting with the same ammo, because if we are, then I need different ammo.” Welch nods.

“I’ll keep digging just in case,” he says standing to leave. “Good luck.” I nod.

“Yeah, I’ll need it.” When he leaves the office, I dial Ethan’s job.

“Thank you for calling Freestone Capital. How may I direct your call?”

“Ethan Kavanaugh, please,” I tell the operator.

“One moment.” A few seconds later, “Ethan Kavanaugh.”

“Ethan, it’s Christian.” There is silence on the line for a moment.

“Christian! Is something wrong with Mia?” His voice is panicked.

“No. No, nothing’s wrong with Mia. I need to talk to you about what happened on Wednesday,” I say. He sighs.

“Please tell me we’re not going to fight. I just can’t take it anymore…”

“No, we’re not fighting, Ethan. You’ve still been fighting with you father?”

“Not really,” he says. “I gave him a week and he has until Wednesday to transfer my trust fund, then all bets are off.”

“I have to ask you, Ethan. What do you have on your father that makes you think he will sign over your trust fund and let you walk away from being a Kavanaugh?” The line goes quiet again.

“Oh, fuck, not you, too?” he exclaims. “I told my father—my blood—that I would not use my relationship with Mia against you all and now you want me to use it against him?” he fumes.

“No. God, Ethan, calm down. That’s not it at all,” I say sighing heavily.

“Well, what the fuck is it then?”

“Remember our talk about information being power and I told you that I was looking for something on Kavanaugh, too? Well, I found something and I don’t our something to be the same something because it will take the wind out of your sails if it is.” The line is quiet again.

Forgive my mistrust, Christian, but I’ve had enough lies and deceit to last me for-fucking-ever. How do I know you’re not full of shit right now?” This is the part I don’t like. This is where I would tell the other person on the line that they would just have to trust me. Ethan is not having that shit and I know it. So I just have to come clean.

“You have another brother,” I tell him.

“I know about that,” he says, impassively. “Everybody knows about that. I’ve known about Eric since I could talk. If that’s your big secret, keep looking.”

“I didn’t say you have a brother, Ethan. I said you have another brother… a little brother.” The line is quiet and then I hear a small crash on the other end of the line.

“Are you fucking kidding me? Another fucking son? You’re fucking kidding me, right?” Okay, I take it that he didn’t know.

“Unfortunately, I’m not, and by your reaction, I take it that you didn’t know this piece of information.”

“Fuck me! Fuck me! Fuck me! Fuck me! Another fucking son! Fucking hell!” He has put the phone down and is obviously pacing around the office. I can hear someone’s voice in the background and he exclaims, “Do I look like I’m alright? I’m having a fucking temper tantrum! Now get the fuck out of my office… and close the goddamn door!” Shit! He is mad. Does he ever get this mad at Mia? I hope not. Then again, I discovered last summer that Mia has a bit of wildcat in her blood, too, so I don’t doubt that she could take him on if he started to feel himself too much. After a few more expletives, he’s back on the phone.

“Fuck it, I don’t care anymore. All we need is one more girl and we’ll be the fucking Brady Bunch,” he hisses. Okay, I’m lost. I remember watching reruns of that old show and we’re a kid short.

“You mean two more girls, right?” I correct him.

“No, I mean one. My father has a 14-year-old daughter in Little Rock, Arkansas.” What? How did Welch miss this?

“How do you know?” I ask.

“You tell me first. How do you know that my dad has another son?” I tell him what I know, how I found out and how I had Welch double-check and confirm the facts before I presented them to him.

“I’ve never seen Eric,” I conclude, “but I’m told that they look exactly alike.” He sighs.

“Well, Ashley’s mother came to me for money a few years back,” he says. “She had a picture of her and my dad together and she had Ashley with her. The kid is the spitting fucking image of Kate. I don’t know why she came to me instead of Dad, but I gave her some money and she went away. I’ve been keeping tabs on them… and she still looks like Kate.” Shit. Does this man thinks that the press has so much power that it can work for him and not against him?

“Does he know that you know about his daughter?” I ask Ethan.

No, but the fact that he has been pooling my $3 million to transfer to me by tomorrow indicates that he has something to hide,” he answers.

“How do you know that?”

“I’m a financial advisor. I have my sources.” Yep, and I have mine.

“Okay, well I should tell you that when I hang up from you, I’m calling your father. I’m using this bit of information about his son to press him into getting Kate to the courthouse by Wednesday. I will also be holding it over his head in case he wants to go public with anything that he may know about me. There’s a little issue of a prenuptial agreement that might just ruin his whole life. I won’t say anything about Ashley.”

Yeah, we know about the prenup. That’s why he’s getting my trust fund money together.” He sighs. “William Kavanaugh is such an asshole,” he adds.

“Are you sure that you want to change your name?” I ask him. “That would bring up even more questions—you know, like, why you don’t want to be associated with your father?”

I don’t know. He’s being spiteful and he thinks that requiring me to change my name is going to change the fact that I don’t want anything to do with him. I’m willing to do that, but now, I’m thinking about my mom and how this will affect her. I hate that she fell in love with a man who couldn’t love her like she deserves. This whole thing is going to tear her apart. I don’t even know what to say to her.”

“Well, think about it, Ethan. You may even want to talk to William about it—after you get your trust fund, that is. There are other people to consider before you make that decision, and the public will want to know what’s behind it.”

Yeah, I guess I should think about it. Christian, should I have a prenup for Mia?” he asks. Okay, that question hit me out of the blue.

“That depends. What are your intentions?” I ask, suspiciously.

“Well, we both have money and if we ever split up…” He pauses and I actually hear him gulp on the other end. “I don’t want anyone to think that I want any of Mia’s money and I’m sure that she doesn’t want any of mine. That’s all.” He spit the words out quickly, like they were burning his throat.

“You should really talk about this with Mia,” I say, not sure how to answer that question.

Do you and Ana have a prenup?” Oh, shit, I’d never even approach a prenup with Butterfly. Should I? Why would I even want a prenup? If she left and took half of everything that I own, I’d still be a very wealthy man—miserable, unhappy, and very wealthy.

“No, we never discussed a prenup,” I tell him. He’s quiet.

“Forget I asked, Man. I’m not trying to cause any problems…”

“You haven’t,” I assure him. “It’s just something that we never discussed, and you and Mia should if you think you should.” The line is quiet.

“Thanks for being straight with me. I don’t know about the name change anymore, but I know that I’m done with my Dad after this. I don’t even want to know if he has anymore children because it won’t matter to me, so if you find out, don’t tell me.”

“Will do, Ethan. I’m sorry that I had to be the bearer of bad news.”

“Yeah, well, I have to go. Bye Christian.” He ends the call without another word.


A/N: Caligula was one of the Roman Caesars during the Julio-Claudian Dynasty. During Caligula’s reign, Rome was all sex and sadism. He was killed much like Julius Caesar, but he was quite known for his sexual perversity.

Mending Dr. Steele: Chapter 49—And In This Corner

I love writing this story. You all know that I do, but I had the biggest scare of my life this past weekend. I am sure that most–if not all of you–know that I had three mini strokes (or TIA’s) this past weekend. It made me rethink a lot of things going on in my life. I’m taking things slower and much less seriously now. I am under doctor’s care, but I am still as snarky and sarcastic as ever and truly hope that I haven’t lost my edge. I will attempt to still post every week if it doesn’t cause too much of a strain on me, but I so love being here and will do my very best to stay. 

Thank you to all of you who have wished me well and continue to pray for me. The fear is still there, but I am working on it. Now, you’ve waited long enough. On with the story!

I do not own Fifty Shades Trilogy or the characters. They belong to E. L. James. I am only exercising my right to exploit, abuse, and mangle the characters to MY discretion in MY fanfic in MY interpretation as a fan. I hope you—as a fellow fan—enjoy it, too.

Chapter 49—And In This Corner

GREY

I almost feel like I need a shower when Cassie Hamilton leaves my office. She walked in here practically salivating all over the furniture and when she left, the room just feels—I don’t know—like she left something behind, something gross and funky.

Lawrence picks up the contract and the pen and hands it to me. I put it in my safe to give to Allen when he’s back at work tomorrow. He will most likely be tied up at the courthouse for the rest of the day. I dismiss Lawrence to figure out what I’m going to do about the many other problems on my plate today. My mom had to see that shit on television. I know that Elliot talked to her and Dad last week, but I also know that she wasn’t prepared for things to come out like this. I believe that she would turn into a mythical Amazon warrior all over Katherine Kavanaugh right now if she dared to show her face in Grace’s presence. I run my hands through my hair and rest my elbows on the table, trying to figure out what to do next.

“Welch,” I say into the phone after he picks it up. “I need to know where Katherine Kavanaugh is hiding and I need to know today. She’s avoiding all of our calls and this is going to turn out to be a media nightmare if we can’t get paternity on that child she’s keeping from us.”

I can see what I can do, but my money says that she is either hiding in the Kavanaugh house or they have sent her to the Hamptons, Martha’s Vineyard, or Aspen—something like that.”

“Well, wherever she is, find her. I can’t have this thing dragging on forever. My wedding is coming; there are trials looming in the near future. This thing needs to be cleaned up quickly.” I want to pull my damn hair out.

“No problem. I’ll get on it. I’ve got a little news about Strauss, too.” Oh, now you’ve got my attention.

“Excuse me, Sir,” Andrea’s voice coming through my intercom interrupts my conversation. “You’ve got another visitor downstairs in the first-floor conference room. We had to put him in there because the press have gathered at the front door and were clamoring to get in to speak to him.” Why do I already know that this is not going to be good news?

“Who is it?” I ask.

“William Kavanaugh.” Shit! I knew it! He wants a showdown, but he won’t have it with my father. He wants to have it with me. That’s fine, but he can wait until I’ve finished my conversation.

“Have Lawrence meet me in the conference room. I’ll be on my way in a moment.” I turn back to the phone. “What about Strauss?”

The book collection is what brought her out of the woodwork. I can’t even begin to put a price on the collection of books in Lincoln’s library, but Strauss is claiming that they were family heirlooms and plans on suing the state of Washington for their value,” he tells me.

“Really?” I ask. “So she still doesn’t think that it’s a big deal that her niece molested all those boys, I see. Doesn’t she know that those books are evidence now? She can’t get them back. They were used to store evidence of a crime.”

“Well, apparently she didn’t get the memo,” Welch replies sarcastically.

“Wait until she finds out what we did with her money. She’s going to shit bricks—especially since I had the funds wired in the moment that I discovered the source was legit.”

“How are you going to explain that away?” he asks me.

“Ana and I requested that donations be made to charities in lieu of wedding presents. This was a donation made by a remorseful woman to the very charity that helps families and victims of the kinds of acts that her deplorable niece committed. Let her try to prove it otherwise. ‘No, your honor, I was not making a donation to Helping Hands. I was trying to bribe Ms. Steele to leave Mr. Grey so that my felon niece can have him.’ That will go over well in a lawsuit, don’t you think?” That’s what she gets for thinking Butterfly was only after my money—spiteful bitch.

“I’ll get on Kavanaugh and let you know what I find. I’ll tell you, though. That Strauss transfer might have opened up some more avenues into her finances.”

“Let me know what you come up with. I have to go downstairs and handle yet another fire.”

“Anything I need to be concerned about?” he asks.

“Not yet, but I’ll let you know if that changes.” I end the call and take the express elevator to the first floor.

“The good thing about being downtown is that everything is pretty centrally located. Unfortunately, that’s also the bad thing about being downtown. What do you want, Kavanaugh?” I say as I enter the conference room. Lawrence is standing to the side of the door while Kavanaugh is at the far end of the conference table.

“You know, when I was a kid, my father taught me the value of a dollar. He also taught me the worth of being a man and what real power really was. He also taught me to respect my elders. I guess Carrick must have missed those lessons with his boys,” he shoots.

“This coming from a man who unscrupulously sleeps with anything in a skirt and doesn’t think that most of Washington knows about it,” I respond impassively. He flinches a bit. It’s almost unnoticeable… almost. “Is that where Katherine got her ‘free spirit’ from—watching her daddy? While you’re spitting useless venom on me and my brother, I’d like to know just how many lost heirs there are to the Kavanaugh fortune.” He flinches again. There’s something else to put Welch on, just in case I need some more ammunition. “But enough about us boys. Why don’t we talk about your little whore daughter who doesn’t know who the father of her baby is and is now hiding him for God only knows what reason while you stand on a pedestal spouting lies about my family? Why don’t we just stick to that?”

Kavanaugh begins to walk slowly towards me. It’s like he’s stalking me, but he doesn’t realize that he is playing this game with a master. I don’t move. My glare is fixed on him and, of course, I don’t blink. His stride is made to produce a chink in my armor, but it won’t happen. I didn’t become a billionaire by taking down to anyone and I won’t start now. I’ve taken on boardrooms full of arrogant motherfuckers like this and still came out with exactly what I wanted. Bring your best, Grandpa!

“You really think you’re tough shit… untouchable, don’t you?” he says with a smirk.

“Being a self-made billionaire tends to have that effect on you,” I reply impassively. He smirks again.

“Yeah, you think no one can get to you, but I can. I can get to anyone. I can bring your house of cards falling down anytime I want.”

“That’s where you’re wrong, Kavanaugh,” I say. “My house is not made of cards. It’s made of steel, and if you shake one beam, there’s another one behind it, and another one, and another one. If you’re so unlucky as to break all of my foundations, my steel house will fall down all over you and crush you like a bug.” I put just enough venom in those words to elicit yet enough flinch. Maybe it’s a nervous tic. He couldn’t come in here thinking he was going to own me while he’s flinching and twitching at my every word. “Do you have to piss or something? This twitch that you have going on is very distracting.”

“Fuck you, Grey!” he barks, clearly upset that his nervousness was not as well hidden as he had thought. “My Katie is distraught and heartbroken because of you and that worthless piece of shit that you call a brother. He made promises to her and then he broke them! He pushed her into the arms of another man and then blamed her for falling in love!”

“Is that what she told you?” I say, incredulously. “You really believe my brother would put a ring on that trick’s finger and then just decide after two years that he didn’t want to marry her? My fiancée walked out of my parents’ house—my parentshouse—and found her on the phone with ‘putative father #2’ professing her love. Katie cried on her shoulder and told her that she was in love with this Roger fucker, and she was still wearing my brother’s ring!” Kavanaugh’s face loses all of its color. Yes, we know who the other guy is. “I even called the asshole—told him that if this child was his responsibility, that he should man-up. Do you know what he said? ‘No fucking way I’m linking myself to that shrew for 18 years. No way in hell.’ She loved him so much that she ended her engagement with my brother—broke his fucking heart. He’s still dealing with the emotional fallout from that break-up, and as karma would have it, the man that she left him for doesn’t even want her—and she might have his baby. This is fucking classic.” I laugh heartily.

“Cut the fucking shit, Grey! You fuckers wouldn’t know emotion if it bit you in the ass! You think you’re so fucking high and mighty, but I’m just as powerful as you are. You’re not going to drag my daughter through the mud so that your fucked-up family can save face!” He’s getting angrier and angrier by the second.

“Produce the child and shut the fuck up, or you will be put in a position to prove just how powerful you really are,” I snap. I don’t want to play this game with him. I don’t even want to talk to him. All I want is the kid and a damn DNA test. What’s so fucking hard about that?

“You’re an arrogant little son-of-a-bitch. Information is power, don’t you know that?” and that was a threat. My mind goes immediately to the fight that Kavanaugh witnessed at my house when the Elena let the BDSM cat out of the bag.

“I don’t give a fuck what you’ve got!” I hiss. “You throw whatever you want at me. I can take it. I’m a big boy, but when you come at my family—when you try to hurt the ones that I love—you better duck, because I’m coming at you with everything that I’ve got. I won’t stop coming at you until my arsenal is empty and trust me, I have a whole lot of pennies between my mattress and a whole lot of people in my pocket. So go ahead, hit me with your best shot.” His face pales briefly, and I see that complete chink in his armor. He just lost the fight.

“I was playing with the big boys while you were still in diapers. You don’t scare me, Grey,” he growls, trying his best to acquire the upper hand.

“Is that so? Then why did you feel the need to tell me that, because I sure as fuck don’t need to say that to you. I mean really, no need to state the obvious,” I breathe, inches away from his face, waiting for him to make his move. He doesn’t. I wave my hand at him and shake my head.

“Get out of my building, Kavanaugh. I have nothing else to say to you. Keep your opinions and threats to yourself and don’t even bother talking to me again until you produce that slut of a daughter of yours and her illegitimate baby. Oh, and watch what you say to the media on your way out as well as from this point forward, because if you slander me, my brother, or anyone in my family again, I’m going to shut you down. If you don’t think I can do it, try me.”

“It’s not a good idea to threaten the press, Christian. We can make it hard for you henceforth and forevermore.”

“Like I said, William, try me!” He flinches again. I realize that’s his tell. It’s not that he’s afraid. It’s just that when he doesn’t have all the cards, he flinches. I glare at him waiting for him to follow instruction and leave my office. Realizing that there’s nothing else to say, he squares his shoulders and leaves the room showing no signs of weakness. I call up to Welch again.

“I’ve got another project for you. Look into Kavanaugh Media. I want to know how ripe they are for a hostile takeover or a poison pill. Oh, and do some digging. I have a feeling there are some other little Kavanaughs running around.”

“You’ve got a hunch, Sir?”

“He all but confirmed it with his infernal twitching.”

“I’m on it.” I hang up from him and dial my Number Two.

“Ros, how many shares of Kavanaugh Media do we hold and how many more can we get before day’s end?”


STEELE

“I knew it! I don’t know how I knew it, but I knew that little tramp would be trouble the day that I met her!” Grace is fuming! She is walking around her small office in a sky-blue blouse with navy blue pants. Her black patent-leather pumps click furiously on the linoleum as she paces the length of her small office. She might want to consider expanding some of her space now that we’ve gotten this “donation” to Helping Hands, but right now I have to keep her from hunting down and killing one Katherine Kavanaugh.

“Grace, maybe you should sit down,” I say, but she doesn’t heed me. She pulls out her phone and begins searching frantically through it. Having found the number she was looking for, she puts her phone determinedly to her ear.

“Eliza, what is all this about?… I beg your pardon, but my son was only defending himself against your husband’s lies and attacks!… <gasp> How dare you! That little floosie is hiding an illegitimate baby and doesn’t even know who the father is, and you have the nerve to say that about my son?… Well! People in glass houses really shouldn’t throw stones, Eliza, or have you forgotten all of those teas and lunches where you confided in me about William’s late nights and suspicious impromptu business trips!” Uh oh, I can only assume that this is Kate’s mother on the other line and this conversation has gotten really ugly. “That’s fine by me! You go right ahead and draw that line in the sand, but don’t come crawling back to me when you find yourself face down in the dirt!” She ends the call and storms out of the room. I don’t think I have ever seen her this mad in the entire time I’ve known her. This is becoming an all-out family feud! I’m about to call Christian when Helen—my newly-acquired ally—steps into the office.

“Ana, Mrs. Sherwood is here from ‘Clean It Up For You.’ She says she has a meeting with Grace, but I just saw Grace storming down the hall arguing with… nobody.” Oh shit. I forgot, we do have a meeting with the housekeeping company today about the shabby job their company has done. I don’t want these people to get out of here before we confront them.

“Helen, I need your help.” I fill her in on what I need to do and she gladly agrees to assist me. She’s even a bit giddy to be a part of my conspiracy. She leaves the room and I take the seat behind Grace’s desk. She comes back in with an immaculately dressed woman who is momentarily taken aback by my appearance.

“Dr. Grey?” she says, looking incredulously at me. “I’m Sonia Sherwood.”

“No, Dr. Grey was called away on an emergency matter. She may join us later if she can wrap up this other situation in time. Otherwise, she has asked me to convey our concerns to you. I’m Anastasia Steele, Dr. Anastasia Steele. I would shake you hand, but I’m filthy because as well as being Dr. Grey’s assistant here and being groomed to be co-director of Helping Hands, I’ve been busy doing the job that your staff has failed to do around here. Please have a seat.” I gesture to the seat in front of the desk and sit down without waiting for her to take a seat. I open the file where I have included locations and conditions of various areas of the building. I begin laying the pictures out in front of her.

“As you can see, these areas haven’t been cleaned in several weeks—at least—when they should be cleaned at least weekly and some of them daily. Yet, your workers are logging in records for work that they haven’t done and Helping Hands is paying your company for areas that haven’t even been cleaned.” She touches the photos and regards them with disinterest.

“Well, Ms. Steele…” she begins.

“Dr. Steele,” I correct her impassively. She smirks.

“Very well, Dr. Steele. I would really like to discuss this matter with Dr. Grey, and I would be too happy to reschedule our appointment for a more convenient time for her.” She plasters on a huge, condescending fake smile that I don’t return.

“I see. Unfortunately, Ms. Sherwood, as I informed you, Dr. Grey is unavailable. So, you will be dealing with me since I am the one who discovered this breach of contract and your company’s gross failure to fulfill your promises. So, as I was saying, I would like to know what you plan to do about this malfeasance on the part of your employees.” She chuckles.

“Once again, Ms… Dr. Steele, I will only be discussing this matter with Dr. Grace Grey. I don’t even know who you are.” Her tone is indignant and snobbish, and I have had enough.

“Very well, have it your way. Helen?” I look down at my iPad at the companies that I have contacted in the past week about this matter for just such an emergency. “You can go ahead and call Simply Clean, April Lane’s, Maid in the Northwest, and Capitol Cleaning and let them know that I am ready to take their bids.” Helen is scribbling on her note pad. Ms. Sherwood frowns hard.

“You can’t do that,” she protests. “We have a contract.”

“Ah, yes, your contract,” I say, pulling her contract out of the file drawer on the side of the desk. “Do you mean the contract that clearly states the areas that your employees should have cleaned that I have pictures of that haven’t been cleaned for weeks?” I open the contract to the terms and conditions with the neglected areas highlighted. “Is that the contract that you’re referring to? You see, Ms. Sherwood, not only can I do this, but Helping Hands can also sue you for charging us for work that you haven’t done!” I nod to Helen. “Make those calls please.”

“Yes, Dr. Steele,” she says as she rises out of her chair.

“Um… wait… just one moment, please.” Ms. Sherwood is nearly begging. She now decides to look at the pictures more closely, but her expression doesn’t change. “I’m sure that we can come to a mutual agreement that will satisfy all parties involved, can’t we?” She smiles, and it sickens me. My hand goes to my forehead.

“Ms. Sherwood, with as much due respect as I can muster, I’m going to ask that you put that fake smile back in your pocket, because I can’t stomach it anymore.” I raise my eyes to her and she looks clearly affronted. “I can accept the fact that you may have been remiss about dealing with me because you didn’t know who I was. I can even accept the fact that you didn’t expect to see a young woman sitting behind the desk telling you about your company’s obvious lack of work ethics when you clearly expected to be dealing with a more mature Dr. Grey. What I’m having a hard time choking down is that you didn’t even bother to look at the pictures of the shabby work your employees were doing when I presented them to you. What’s more, you oozed out that phony, condescending tone and smile when you declared that you wouldn’t speak to me about the matter. You showed absolutely no remorse for the fact that we pay you to do a job and your people are not doing it. Then you have the nerve to ooze that same condescending, phony smile and tone when you ask me what kind of ‘mutual agreement’ we can come to.

“Quite frankly, Ms. Sherwood, I don’t like you and it’s okay if you don’t like me. You have made a horrible first impression on me of a businessperson and to be honest with you, I wouldn’t lose one bit of sleep if you walked out of here and never looked back. I am a psychologist. I shouldn’t be walking around this place inspecting and cleaning instead of doing the job that these families need me to do.

“So what we’re going to do now is this—I’m going to talk to you like a woman. Granted, I’m going to be speaking as a displeased client, but I’m still going to speak to you like a woman. In turn, you are going to speak to me like a woman. You role, however, will be the owner of the agency that really would like to ‘come to a mutual agreement that will satisfy all parties involved.’ Now, since you clearly can’t afford to pay my hourly wage to continue cleaning this building, I would like to know how you plan to compensate us for this huge inconvenience and to assure us that your company is going to do what we’ve been paying you to do all this time.” I sit back in my chair, fold my arms, and wait. Ball’s in your court, Hun!

She takes a deep breath and looks a little closer at the pictures that are in front of her. “I propose that we offer Helping Hands a week of free cleaning…” I raise my eyebrow to her. You know your lazy ass employees left this place filthy for more than a week. Try again. “Okay.. a month of free cleaning for the inconvenience and for you having to clean the place yourself.” I settle back in my chair. “We do reserve the right to renegotiate our contract at the end of that month,” she adds.

“Okay, here’s my counter-proposal. I will accept your offer of a month of free cleaning. However, your current contract is now void. You will sign a new short-term agreement that indicates that you will be utilized for a probationary period of 90 days, in which that 30 days will be included. After that probationary period, you will be completely free to renegotiate your contract, but it will be on a month-to-month basis. This way, both you and Helping Hands have the option to withdraw if one of us is not pleased with the business arrangement. In addition, we don’t want any of the previous workers that you had on assignment here. We want all new employees. You don’t have to go out and hire them—we are not adverse to them being pulled from other sites. However, we don’t want any of the people who were working here before to be working here after we have this conversation.”

“Month-to-month is a very stringent requirement,” she protests, her business woman in full effect. “May I suggest a three-month continual agreement—much like the probationary period—with an option to terminate with a 30-day notice except in case of breach of contract. This way, if either of us decides that we don’t want to continue, 30 days gives us enough of a cushion to make other arrangements. I think that’s only fair.”

Once she decided to deal with me woman-to-woman, I can see that we are finally getting somewhere. I stroke my chin in that way that Christian does, contemplating her counter-proposal. I’m going to accept it, but I want to make her sweat a bit. I also want to be sure that Helping Hands is getting the best deal possible and being duly compensated for this woman’s fuck up.

“New employees—fully trained on Helping Hands’ expectations?” she nods.

“Fully trained new employees,” she confirms.

“So to recap, one month free; 90-day probationary period with the remaining 60 days at the same price that we are paying now; possible contract renegotiation after that 90 days with short-term contracts on an ongoing 90-day basis; and an escape clause with 30-day notice.”

“Yes, Dr. Steele, that is correct,” she says.

“I will add one more stipulation.” She tries to hide her displeasure. “You or a representative from your company will come to this site and inspect your employees’ work. You will sign off on their performance that they are doing the job that we pay you to do. The inspections will be unannounced, and if I get the slightest idea that they are getting advance notice that the inspection is coming or they fall off right after inspection, all bets are off.” She’s contemplating my final demand.

“That seems fair,” she says with no malice. I squirt some of Grace’s hand sanitizer in my hands to clean them a bit, then extend my hand to Ms. Sherwood.

“Then it looks like we have a deal,” I say. She shakes my hand firmly before placing her hand back in her lap. “Considering the fact that we will be continuing with a business arrangement, I need to make something perfectly clear. I don’t care if you don’t like me, but you will respect me and you will respect this organization. If you find that’s something that you cannot do, I’m going to ask you to leave now. Know that I will be watching your every move. If I find that your work is less than satisfactory, Helping Hands will initiate that lawsuit and we will hire the best attorneys in the land to make sure that this goes all the way to end. Oh, and by the way, our lawsuit will include attorney’s fees. We are, after all, a charity—a non-profit organization—and we can’t afford to be chasing down companies that clearly think they can take advantage of us.” She straightens her back and purses her lips.

“Apparently, Dr. Grey has found herself a shrewd negotiator,” she says curtly.

“Apparently so,” I say, matching her curtness. She stands to leave and I stand with her.

“Dr. Steele, I will have the probationary contract in your hand by Friday for your review.”

“I appreciate your expedience with this matter. I will have it reviewed by our attorneys and if it is satisfactory, you will have it back no later than Tuesday. Our probationary period will begin on the day that we sign the contract.”

“Fair enough,” she says as she turns to leave. She bumps head first into Grace who is barreling back into the office.

“Oh, Ms. Sherwood!” she says, her voice harsh. “I forgot about our meeting. I assume Dr. Steele informed you of our displeasure with your company’s performance.”

“She has, Dr. Grey,” Ms. Sherwood says contritely.

“Are we retaining your services?” Grace asks, her voice still very sharp.

“Yes, Dr. Grey, you are.”

“I also assume you that you have come up with a suitable form of compensation for this wretched inconvenience,” Grace snaps.

“Yes, Grace, she has. She was very accommodating once we understood each other. I think you’ll be pleased with our agreement,” I respond to Grace with the edge still in my voice.

“Excellent work, Ana.” She turns back to Ms. Sherwood. “Is she correct, Ms. Sherwood? Will I be pleased with the agreement?” Grace is taking no prisoners and Ms. Sherwood is sweating in her designer shoes right now. If she were a man wearing a tie, she would be pulling on her collar. I’m doing my very best to hold a stoic face and not break out in fits of laughter.

“Yes, Dr. Grey. Dr. Steele made your stipulations very clear and we have come to a very equitable agreement.”

Her stipulations,” Grace clarifies, and Ms. Sherwood blanches. “I had nothing whatsoever to do with your contract negotiations. They were her demands and I trust her implicitly to look out for the best interests of this organization. That’s why she’s being groomed as director. So, hopefully, you will fulfill your obligations this time and you won’t let us down again. Can I trust your company to do that, Ms. Sherwood?” She swallows hard.

“Yes, Dr. Grey, Dr. Steele. Please, both of you accept my sincerest apologies for the way that my company handled this situation. We will not let you down again.” She is thoroughly chastised and I have to say that I am very happy that Grace came in here and backed me up. She wasn’t compromising with this woman at all. If Grace had her way, Sherwood would be bounced out of here on her designer ass.

“Accepted. Have a good day, Ms. Sherwood.” Grace dismisses her like a scolded child and after a short nod, Ms. Sherwood scurries through the door. Grace sits in the chair in front of her desk and rests her elbows on the armrest, covering her face in anguish. I quickly walk over to the door and close it.

“Grace?” She’s clearly trying not to break down.

“Cary tells me that your friend Allen is at the King County courthouse obtaining an order to determine paternity with the prosecutor’s office,” she says, he voice cracking. I sit in the chair that Helen vacated some time ago and put my hand on her back, attempting to comfort her. “Apparently, he was able to get a directed judgment since William Kavanaugh was spouting off at the mouth on television about Elliot’s philandering and Katherine being in hiding to prevent the baby’s exposure to the press. Katherine has seven days to produce Baby Kevin for DNA testing, which will now be conducted by the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office since we had to get the courts involved. If she doesn’t produce him in that time, she will be held in contempt of court and a warrant will be issued for her arrest. She will be held until Kevin is brought in for testing.”

“Well, this is good news, isn’t it? I mean, either way, we really want to know if Elliot has a son or not. With the court overseeing the paternity test, we have no worries of anyone tampering with the evidence, right?” I say, soothing. She nods.

“You should have heard the things Eliza said to me,” she says, her anger flaring anew. “The things that she said about my son were horrible! I don’t even know how she could fix her mouth to say those things with all the women William has slept with. He’s not even discreet about it—he’s a flaming whore! Oh God, her son is marrying my daughter next year. I swear to God, if he turns out to be like his father…”

“Grace, let’s not put that in the air. From what I have seen and heard of Ethan, he’s a good guy and nothing like his sluttish father,” I say, interrupting her.

“Well, he had better not be, because if he hurts my Mia, there’s nowhere in the world he’ll be able to hide from me!” she spits through tears that she can no longer hold. Wow… she sounds like Christian.

“Grace, please don’t get yourself all worked up over this. We’re creating problems where there are none.” She sniffles and nods.

“We took them all from terrible conditions,” she confides. What is she talking about—when they were adopted? “Elliot was far too young to remember anything. Mia was just a baby and Christian… well, you know Christian’s story. They all lived in terrible squalor though Christian is the only one that remembers his circumstances. Elliot’s father was an alcoholic. He and his wife were killed in a car accident. His alcohol level was so high, we’re not certain that he didn’t die from alcohol poisoning before the car crash.

“Elliot was left at home, alone. It was horrible. His conditions were worse than Christian’s even though he wasn’t abused. He wasn’t two years old yet and…” she trails off. “It was horrible, Ana, absolutely horrible.

“Mia came from a crack mother. No one wanted her for fear that she would go through the crack withdrawal symptoms. Miraculously, she didn’t. She was an ideal baby and Christian’s number one concern. We were afraid that she would wake in the middle of the night in withdrawal.

“She awoke screaming one night. Her screams woke us out of a dead sleep. Then out of nowhere, she was silent… completely silent. We thought the baby monitor was malfunctioning. We went barreling down the hallway to our baby girl’s room to find Christian with her in his arms. She was sucking on a binky and he was sitting in the middle of the floor rocking her. He looked up at us and turned back to Mia, just rocking her until she went back to sleep.” She looks up at me and smiles through her tears. “They’ve been inseparable ever since.”

I know that mothers love their children—well, most mothers—but Grace shares a particularly special bond with hers. She’s a protector in the truest sense and she will go to the wall for these children, especially if someone tries to hurt them.

“Grace, I think we should get you home,” I tell her. “We’ve pretty much done what we came to do today. Let’s go.” She nods at me and stands. Taking her purse from the desk, she turns off the light and locks her office door.

We do what can be likened to the walk of shame as everyone falls silent as Grace walks down the long corridor, through the community room, out of the lobby and out the front door to her car. She keeps a strong face on, but they have all clearly seen the news reports and knows that the Greys and the Kavanaughs are in a massive mudfight. When we get to her Volvo XC90, I take her keys and put her in the passenger seat. I nod to Chuck who knows to drive my car and inform all parties involved that I am taking Grace back to Bellevue.

“Mom, I’m so sorry. I swear I didn’t mean for any of this to happen.” Elliot kneels at his mother’s feet and lays his head on her lap as she sits in one of the large chairs in her library. We have talked all afternoon into the evening about her children and her marriage and wanting what’s best for her babies. She’s feeling better after having talked all afternoon and having tea and cookies to snack on until dinner. She strokes Elliot’s hair and comforts him.

“I know you didn’t, Darling. We were all fooled by her for a while. This is not you’re fault…” While she and Elliot talk a while, I rise out of my seat to give Val a long, warm hug. I bring her over to the glass doors and out of earshot of Elliot and his mother.

“How are you holding up?” I ask her. She shrugs.

“I don’t know,” she says honestly. “I want to kill the bitch, and I’m terribly, terribly jealous. What if that’s really his son? I wanted to be the one who…” She trails off.

“Has his first kid?” She looks up at me, horrified, then drops her head and nods.

“I love him, Ana. I… haven’t thought about marriage or anything and we’re not trying to get pregnant but… I wanted to be the one.”

“You are the one, Val,” I tell her with sincerity. “True, this may turn out to be his kid, but so what? You love him and you guys can have a hundred kids together.” She glares at me. “Or… just one,” I stammer. She laughs at me.

“I know. I have to hold it together for El and see what this witch says,” she admits with a heavy sigh.

“Yes, you do,” I confirm, giving her hand a squeeze. She nods and fights back the tears that are threatening to fall. I give her a reassuring smile and send her back over to her man. She stops next to Grace’s chair.

“Grace?” Val says timidly. Grace looks up at her. “It’s going to be okay. Either way, it’s going to be fine.” She smiles shyly and Grace reaches for her hand. She takes Graces hand and sits on the arm of the chair next to her. Val reaches for Elliot with her other hand. He grasps it quickly and tightly.

“My boys have both found great girls,” she says, smiling at Val, who turns and looks lovingly at Elliot.

“We’ll get through it,” Val says softly to him. “No matter what the result, we’ll stick together and we’ll get through it,” she says, her voice begging him to believe. He launches himself from the floor and embraces her, hard and strong.

“I love you, Valerie,” he says to her.

“I love you, too, Elliot,” she whispers. With those words, he slides to the floor with her in his arms. He ends up on her lap, weeping. She covers him with her whole body, raven hair splaying across his torso as if she wanted to protect him from the world. Grace moves to go to him, but I put my hand on her shoulder and shake my head. He needs Valerie right now. He needs her love and comfort to help him heal from the damage that Kate has caused and is still causing. Silent tears flow down Grace’s cheeks as she and I watch as Val comforts Elliot. His cries are mournful and they both shake from the force of his grief.

“Lelliot?” Christian’s voice is just above a whisper as he enters the library. His face blanches when he sees his brother weeping on the floor. I rush to his side as I see the protector in him coming alive at lightning speed. I explain how we got to where we are and convince him to stay back and allow Val to comfort Elliot.

He cries for several more minutes and Christian holds my hand just staring at him, eager to go to him. He’s almost relieved when Val sweeps her hair from his body and Elliot raises up with red, swollen eyes. Christian releases my hand and nearly runs to his brother’s side, falling to his knees beside him and Val.

“Chri… stain… what am I… going… to do?” he stutters out to his brother.

“Don’t worry, Lelliot. Everything is going to be fine. We’re going to get the DNA test, and we’ll move on from there. We’re all behind you 100%. Dad is on his way home. You’ve got your family, Bro. We’re not going to let you down.” Elliot looks up at Christian and thrusts himself into Christian’s arms, tears falling anew. Christian holds his brother like a child, one hand in cupping his hair, the other arm firmly around his back. “Let it out, Bro,” he coaches. “It’s all going to be okay, I promise you.”

Valerie kneels nearby, weeping softly and Christian surprises me by holding one arm out to her, inviting her into the embrace. She crawls over to him and falls into his arm, leaning on Elliot and keening quietly. I wish I had a camera to capture this, because even though they are all experiencing some kind of pain, this is one of the most tender moments I have ever experienced in my life.

Carrick walks in just as it appears that Elliot is all cried out. I hold Grace’s hand and swipe away a few tears of my own as Christian and Val help an exhausted Elliot to the sofa. His weeping has finally stopped when Carrick hands him a double shot of scotch.

“No, Dad,” Elliot squeaks, waving the drink away.

“These are mitigating circumstances, Son,” Carrick says, his voice comforting.

“Dad… no. Thanks, but no,” he repeats. Carrick nods and gestures to Christian who also declines the drink.

“I’ll take it,” Grace says shamelessly, and Carrick hands the glass to his wife.

“Mom…” Elliot’s face is full of remorse again.

“Son, this is not your fault, but I do want to kill that woman. So, a scotch is just what I need right now. As far as I’m concerned, that whole family can go to…” Grace’s eyes glaze a bit and we all follow her glare. Standing inside the double doors of the library is Mia… and Ethan.


GREY

Settle down, Grey. Don’t do anything yet. He’s holding your sister’s hand and she might get caught in the crossfire if you try to snap his Kavanaugh neck.

Ethan looks from person to person in the room, but never shows a sign of weakness or remorse. Mia starts to speak, but he holds his hand up to silence her. That one small gesture makes me want to launch myself across the room at him.

“I need for you all to know that I don’t share my family’s sentiments,” he says firmly. “I agree that my sister is a real fucking bitch for what she did to Elliot. If she says that’s his kid, then he deserves to know. I don’t care what they say and I don’t care that I’m a Kavanaugh. She’s wrong!”

I and most of my family look at him with disbelief. Does he expect for us to believe that he’s going to turn his back on his family at a time like this?

Would you do it, Grey? Would you do it for Ana? God, I don’t know. Thank God, I’ll hope I’ll never find out.

“So, just like that, your sister’s a bitch… no questions asked?” I say, the sarcasm oozing from my voice.

“No,” he answers, defensively, “I thought she was a bitch the moment that I found out that she was cheating on Elliot, but nobody ever asked my opinion,” he shoots back. I want to argue with him just because he’s a Kavanaugh and I hate those fuckers right now, but he’s right. Nobody ever asked him.

“We’re not trying to draw battle lines here, Ethan,” Dad says, throwing water on a fire about to blaze, “but your family is, and you might find yourself in a place where you will have to decide which side of that line you’re standing on.”

“I’m standing wherever Mia’s standing,” he says without faltering. “I hope you don’t treat me as an extension of my family as this plays out, but even if you do, you’re not chasing me away. I’m not leaving Mia.” The room falls silent and no one knows what to say.

“He hasn’t done anything wrong,” Mia defends, her voice begging. “If you want us to leave, we’ll leave. I’m sorry that this happened Elliot. Really, I am, but I’m standing by Ethan.” Elliot doesn’t raise his head. I don’t think he’s ignoring her. I just don’t think he has the strength to raise his head.

“Mia, Ethan, sit,” Mom says. Mia moves to the other sofa and Ethan slowly joins her. Dad calls for refreshments since he and Grace seem to be the only two indulging in cocktails. He takes a seat next to Mom on the armrest of her chair and holds her hand. Valerie is still comforting my brother and I take the seat on the far end of the same sofa where they are seated. I beckon Butterfly to me, and she takes her place on my lap. It calms me and keeps me from lunging at Kavanaugh.

“As an update, Katherine has been ordered to produce baby Kevin no later than a week from today. If she doesn’t, she will go to jail and have to pay a healthy fine for each day that she remains in hiding,” Dad informs us all. “The papers have been served, so there’s nothing that we can do but wait. William has a lot of power in the press, but it won’t help him now. Allen and I were able to secure a gag order, more to protect the privacy and the interests of the child than of the parties involved. This means that after today’s little fiasco, neither party or anyone related to the parties can talk about the case in public until paternity and, if necessary, custody is established.” That’s good to hear. That means that Kavanaugh’s threats have literally fallen on deaf ears since no matter what information he may have, he and his family have to keep their mouths shut.

“If that’s my son, I’m going to tear down the state of Washington to get him out of her clutches, and I mean that!” You can barely hear his voice, but he might as well have yelled when he said it as a hush falls over the room.

“We’re behind you, Son, whatever you choose to do,” Dad says. Elliot just nods. Greta comes back into the library with refreshments for everyone and scampers away like a scared rat. What’s that all about?

“I have Welch looking into where she may be hiding,” I say. “I don’t want her to have an excuse that she didn’t know about the court order.”

“She knows,” Ethan says, and we all look at him. “She’s not hiding. She’s at Dad’s… apartment. She’s been staying there with the baby ever since her plan to get Elliot back didn’t work.”

“Your dad has an apartment?” Valerie asks in disbelief. “He’s talking shit about Elliot and he has an apartment?” She looks as if she wants to lunge at Ethan herself, but I can see Elliot squeezing her hand.

“Yes, he does, in the market district,” Ethan says. He’s not moved at all by Valerie’s anger. I can tell he was expecting it.

“Do you have the address?” I hiss at him. He looks at me suspiciously. “…So that we can serve her properly. You can give it to my father if you want.” He glares at me, clearly not taking down, but asks Dad for his phone number so that he can text the address. I still don’t trust him. I think the best thing for him to have done would have been to lay low until this thing blew over. Butterfly strokes my hair gently. She knows that when it’s not arousing, it’s calming. The jaguar in my head slowly backs into his cave and waits for another moment to strike.

“So what do we do now?” Mia asks.

“We wait,” Dad replies. “We wait for Katherine to present Baby Kevin so that we can find out if there is an extension to the Grey family.”

“Mia, if that woman comes to your wedding, I won’t be there,” Elliot grumbles.

“She’s not going to be invited to our wedding,” Ethan states.

“That won’t stop her from coming,” Val says.

“Oh, yes, it does,” Mia says, firmly. “Not to be snobby, but I’m a Grey. If you’re not on the list, you don’t get in.” Mia speaks a little snappy and Val glares at her.

“Please let us remember that the enemy is not in this room,” Mom says, noting the tone of each woman.

“That we know of,” I say, nearly inaudibly. Of course, Butterfly hears me and throws a scolding look at me.

“It’s not going to help anyone if we all start fighting among ourselves,” Mom continues. “Let’s remember that we are a family, that everyone in this room loves someone else in this room and we need to stick together.” Everyone looks resigned and a bit scolded, but I am still glaring at Kavanaugh and he occasionally glares at me. “Now since we’re all here and there’s nothing else that we can do about this, I propose that we have dinner and catch up on what’s been going on in our lives besides this particular situation. I was very proud of Ana today. She took the reigns on a very important issue while I was storming around like a raging bull…”

Mom tells us about Ana and the housekeeping company as we all move towards the dining room. I guess Mom must have told the staff to be prepared to be bombarded by family this evening because dinner for 10 is served almost immediately. Valerie almost has to force-feed Elliot, and I can see that my brother is doing everything that he can to hold himself together. Mom and Ana talk about what they want to do with Helping Hands with that German bitch’s money. Dad and I are talking about anything we can while Mia and Ethan speak in hushed tones as he picks at his food. After barely touching his food and looking at his phone several times, Ethan excuses himself from the table and leaves the room. Moments later, Mia follows him.

Conversation picks up at the table again and after a few minutes, Mia comes back into the dining room.

“Ethan and I are leaving,” she says calmly. “We won’t be back until this thing dies down and even then, I don’t know when we’ll be back.”

“Mia!” Mom says, “Why?”

“Isn’t it obvious?” she asks, clearly fighting her own tears. “Don’t you realize that we feel like Romeo and Juliet here? This is ridiculous! Ethan has made it very clear that he’s not pleased with Kate’s actions and that he doesn’t share his family’s sentiments. He even told you were to find her. Yet, he’s still being treated like the outsider here contrary to what you may be saying, Mom. Ethan’s the enemy because of his family, and nobody wants to be made to feel that way.” I make my way over to Mia.

“Mia, you have to know why we are looking at this situation with a bit of pause. This is his family… his blood. He’s being forced to choose sides whether he wants to or not. We have to see what side he’s on. You have to understand why hearing him say it is not good enough.”

“No! I don’t!” Mia snaps. “I love Ethan. I know him better than any of you. He has shown me that he is loyal to me! He is not pro-Grey or pro-Kavanaugh! He is pro-Mia!” She is yelling now. “You have him guilty before proven innocent just because of who his family is. I’m not going to stand for it and he doesn’t have to tolerate it either. So, no, Big Brother! I do not have to understand why you are condemning him when he hasn’t done anything wrong!” Good God, my sister is mad! The only time I have ever heard her yell is when she attacked the Pedophile.

“Mia, please!” Grace beseeches. “We don’t want this. We really don’t, Baby, please…”

“I don’t know what else we can do, Mom. I’m not going to subject Ethan to feeling like this…”

While everyone’s attention is on Mia and Mom, I sneak out of the dining room to find Kavanaugh. I don’t trust him, I don’t care what Mia says. I want to know where he is in my family’s home at this moment. It doesn’t take long to find him. I see him standing on the grass in the back of the house just beyond the patio. He is on his phone watching the patio doors, so I walk around to Dad’s office and leave from the French doors in there. I come around the back of the house and stay out of sight while he is still in the phone having a heated conversation.

“Dad, are you serious?”

He’s talking to William Kavanaugh. Let’s see what this fucker has up his sleeve.

“I can’t believe you,” he declares as his glance keeps frantically shooting towards the patio doors and he’s trying to control his voice. “You would actually have me use the woman that I love to spy on her family to find something that you might be able to use against them?” He is clearly very angry. If not, he’s one hell of an actor—with no audience that he knows of.

“What the fuck is that supposed to mean—being a Kavanaugh means that I’m supposed to be a dirty, wretched, lying, cheating fucker like you?”

Whoa!

“Oh my God, Kate is just like you. No wonder she can’t keep a man, good or bad… You know what? I’m done. I tried, but I’m done with you. All of those nights that my mother cried over you, but begged us not to judge you. I tried to give you the benefit of the doubt, but you are a horrible excuse for a human being. Oh God, if I ever turn out anything like you, I’m going to live in a monastery!” He is mad at his father and I really can’t believe he’s talking to him that way. I wish I could hear Mr. Kavanaugh’s end of this conversation.

“I don’t want your empire, Father. All I want is what you promised me. I want my trust fund and I want it now. If you don’t give it to me, I’m going public with everything I know about you and believe me, I know more than you think I know. You always taught me that information was power. I want what you promised me, and I want it in one week. I don’t want any of your future earnings or nothing from your legacy. I don’t want anything else to do with you…”

“Don’t try to compare me to you!” he nearly shouts. He looks at the patio doors and, seeing that the coast is clear, he continues. “I would never do to Mia what you’ve done to my mother! I can’t believe I have your blood coursing through my veins! I don’t trust you to do anything that you promised. I want the money that you promised me and I will leave you alone.” I can hear the pain in his voice even though it’s mostly covered with anger. “Really? Those are your conditions?… Fine. Give me my trust fund and I will gladly change my name. You have one week, Father.” He ends the call and quickly dashes away the tears that have fallen. He stands there trying to collect himself before he starts walking back towards the patio.

“Ethan,” I call out to him.

“Fuck!” He turns around, clearly startled. “Goddammit, Grey! How long have you been there?” he demands.

“Long enough,” I tell him. “That was pretty bad.” He still hasn’t wiped all the tears from his eyes.

“I don’t need your pity, Man,” he says, wiping his eyes. “You don’t trust me, that’s fine. Just… don’t tell Mia—or anybody—what you heard. I’m going to tell her myself. Just, don’t, okay?” He’s getting frustrated.

“This is your story to tell, not mine. And no, I don’t trust you, but I don’t trust many people. My trust has to be earned, so get used to it, Kava… Ethan.” He rolls his eyes dramatically.

“Oh, fuck! You heard that, too.” He throws his hands up in the air and starts walking towards the French doors again.

“Wait a minute, Ethan,” I call to him. He stops walking and looks at me like I’m keeping him from a really important appointment. “If you go in there with a tear-stained face, my sister is going to think I beat you up. Take a minute and pull it together.” He glares at me, then apparently realizes that he probably should pull it together before he sees Mia again. “How long have you felt this way about your father?” He glares at me, but I remain impassive. He finally concedes.

“A long time,” he answers, “since I was a teenager. Everybody knew what he was doing. He was so blatant with it that nobody talked about it. It’s not really gossip unless it’s secret, right?”

“He wanted you to use Mia to get information on us?” I ask. He nods.

“Information is power,” he says sitting on the wrought iron and wooden bench between the garden and the patio. “He wants as much ammo against you all as he can get when—if—it comes out that Kate’s baby is Elliot’s. They’ll use it as leverage to get what they want in court.” He leans his elbows on his knees. “I shouldn’t be telling you this.”

“Then don’t,” I tell him. “You should probably know that I’ve got my guy gathering information on your father as well.”

“He won’t have to look far,” Ethan grumbles. He turns his head to me and asks, “Why do you guys do that?” I sigh.

“Everybody has something to hide, Ethan,” I say sitting next to him and leaning on my knees as well. “Your father’s right—information is power. Powerful people hold information over other powerful people to keep their secrets from being exposed. Your father threatened me today before I got the gag order. I’m just building up my arsenal.”

“Oh, good Lord,” he says shaking his head. “I don’t want to have any part of any of this.”

“You don’t have to. If you stay neutral, that’s the best place for you to be—especially since you’re dating a Grey.”

“That’s what I tried to tell my Dad!” he snaps. “He tells me that since I’m a Kavanaugh, I’m in the perfect position to infiltrate the enemy. And just what am I supposed to do after I’ve done something like that? ‘Gee, Mia, I’m sorry. Let’s get married now.’ He’s insane! He doesn’t care about anybody but himself. I’ve asked this girl to marry me. We’ve moved in together. We’ve set a date. What the fuck is wrong with him?” He drops his head. “He’s a heartless bastard and I swear to God, I don’t want anything else to do with him. I just want my trust fund because he promised it to me and I’ll go away.”

“How much is your trust fund, if you don’t mind me asking?”

“Three million. I’m supposed to get it next year. He wanted me to make my way in the world before he gave me the money. Now, I’ve done that so he can give me my damn trust fund. I hope Mia will still marry me when I’m poor…”

“She’d marry you if you lived in a shoe,” I say almost as an afterthought. He looks at me and I shrug. His chuckle breaks the tension of the moment. “She was in there blessing out our family for how we treated you during dinner. She compared us to the Capulets and the Montagues.” He tilts his head at me.

“Romeo and Juliet?” he asks. I nod. “Oh, boy. Kitten is so dramatic,” he says, shaking his head, “but I wouldn’t have her any other way.”

“Are you really going to be poor?” I ask. He shakes his head.

“No, just not ‘Kavanaugh’ or ‘Grey’ rich. I have my own money. I’ve worked nearly my whole life in one way or another. I’ve never had to spend any money, so I just squirreled it away. When I opened my first bank account, I was 10 years old. I had over $4000 of my own. I’ve always been a saver. Even now, I only really spend what I need. The rest goes to CD’s and mutual funds. Even money that sits in the bank just makes interest for me.”

“So what do you have now after all the squirreling?” He ponders for a moment then shrugs.

“I’d have to take a closer look, but somewhere between 10 and 12 million, I’d say.” I scoff at him.

“Ten to 12 million? Exactly what part of that is poor?” I ask him.

“It’s poor comparatively,” he admits. “Look how Mia lives. She’s expecting to marry a Kavanaugh, not a man who just disowned his father for $3 million.” I shake my head.

“Have you been living off your father all these years or off of your own hard work?” I ask sarcastically.

“I have no doubt that the Kavanaugh name has gotten me somewhere all these years.” I scoff again.

“You didn’t just hear my sister in there. I’m telling you that if you lived in a shoe and had nothing, she would still marry you. Believe me when I tell you that she doesn’t give a fuck about your name.”

“No… I don’t.”

A very distraught Mia startles the hell out of both of us. She’s standing there with a tear-stained face and she’s a little out of breath. I don’t know how we didn’t hear her coming.

“Kitten… what’s wrong?” Ethan says, rising from the bench and taking her in his arms.

“I couldn’t find you. I was talking to Mom, and then Christian was gone and I couldn’t find you. I was scared,” she says, her voice trembling.

“You thought I had hurt him?” I ask and I stand. I see Dad walking towards us from the direction of  his study.

“Quite frankly, yes. You’re a hothead! I couldn’t find my fiancé, so yes, I thought you had hurt him.” I shake my head. I guess I had that coming, but it still smarts a bit.

“You two need to talk,” I say, walking past them and towards the French doors. I can’t hide my ire.

“Christian,” Dad calls out to me.

“I’m going to find my fiancée and we’re going home,” I say without stopping or turning around. “It’s been a long, rough day and I just want it to be over.” I keep walking until I get to the dining room, and to Butterfly.

“Hey, where did you get off to?” she asks concerned.

“I went to talk to Ethan,” I answer, then turn to Mom’s concerned face. “He’s fine. I didn’t touch him.” I turn back to Butterfly. “Let’s go. I want to go home.”

“Christian?” I turn around to my mom’s questioning gaze.

“I’m just tired and I really want to go home.” I’m not going to debate this. I walk over to Elliot and put my hand on his shoulder. He looks up at me with tired eyes. “You’ll be alright?” I ask him. He nods, resigned. “You two should probably stay. Get some rest.” He nods again. I squeeze his shoulder. “Call me tomorrow, okay?”

“Okay,” he says. He’s wiped out.

“Get him to bed,” I say to Valerie. “He needs some rest so he can think things through a little more clearly.” She nods.

“I’ll take care of him,” she whispers. I take Butterfly’s hand and we head towards the door.

“Christian?” I turn around to Elliot’s voice. “Thank you.”

“Anytime, Lelliot.”


A/N: 

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Love and Handcuffs!
Lynn x