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
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 parents‘ house—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?”
“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.
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?”
“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.”
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