I’m very happy everyone was so touched by the PSA viewing party. Of course, it was the same commercial that played in the prologue and I didn’t want to repeat the whole thing, but I thought that it was much more powerful at the premiere party.
This is the chapter that I found so hard to write. I don’t know if it will flow as well as my other chapters because believe me, it was really very hard! I didn’t like it. I didn’t like writing it, but I really felt like it was necessary. Know that I did my best and if you see grammatical or story errors, let me know.
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 54—A Change for the Better
“Ana, you were in the commercial. How were you abused?” I turn around. The very last thing that I want to do this morning is talk to the press. Today is the day that I have to meet Christian to sign that dreaded prenuptial agreement and I don’t feel like putting on the pretty face to deal with these people right now. Nonetheless, I always meet the press head on and I have to answer their questions to get them away from my office. I have patients to see.
“It’s been all over the news right after we announced our engagement. Haven’t you seen it by now?” I’m certainly not going to discuss my Mommy issues with the press.
“So not either one of your stepfathers?” Motherfucker…
“Of course not!” I say, appalled—mostly for Ray—glaring so hard at the reporter that he shies back a bit.
“Your mother?” another dares to ask. “Is she the one that hit you?” I turn my glare to her.
“No one in my family has ever hit me,” I say through clenched teeth, my ire rising. I can normally handle these people very well, but today I am feeling like they are just getting under my skin.
“Why aren’t you two speaking, then?” she continues.
“I think I addressed that in an earlier interview and, though quite incorrectly, so have some of you,” I glare at her. When she makes to ask another question and shoves the recorder in my face, I ask, “Are you gunning to be today’s sacrificial lamb?” The others look at her and she gets silent immediately. I don’t keep a tally of them all, but if I’m not mistaken, all the “lambs” have been female. Christian says it’s because the women are desperate to find something wrong with me and they can’t. Strange. I’m a smörgåsbord of issues if they look deep enough.
“So you’re referring to the case in Green Valley in the commercial?” the first reporter jumps in again. I turn back to him.
“Wasn’t that enough?” I ask him, clearly appalled.
“But is that considered abuse in the traditional term, Ana?” Oh, he’s feeling friendly now. I frown.
“What would you call it?”
“Cruel and brutal…” he trails off, trying to save face. “More like battery.” My mouth falls open as I listen to him try to put a label on what happened to me so that he can punch holes in my story.
“And abusive,” I hiss as I feel my body begin to shake. Chuck puts his hand on my arm, but I jerk away from him. “Those people in Green Valley abused me for quite some time before it culminated in that brutal, vicious beating that you all hear about on the news. Bullying is just as abusive as any other physical or emotional abuse that a child can suffer, and I endured both. So when your child comes home from school, tormented and broken and asking you why everybody seems to hate him, you make sure that while you’re trying to comfort him, you tell him loud and clear that what he is suffering is not abuse!”
I managed not to raise my voice, but the angry tears streaming down my face speak volumes. I have never cried in front of the press. I have always handled them with poise and grace and never allowed them to shake my exterior. This time, something is shaken right down to my very core. This guy is smart, though. He’s not going to allow himself to be the sacrificial lamb.
“Ana… I’m very sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you. Thank you for sharing that with us. I shouldn’t have been so insensitive.” I don’t know if he’s sincere or trying to save his ass, but I choose to take the high road.
“Apology accepted. I will make this statement, though. If you encounter any of the people in that public service announcement, please do not badger them. Those people have suffered so much—some of them have lost loved ones, and yet they were brave enough to speak up in an attempt to help others. Those are not actors, and I think I speak correctly for my fiancé, Grey Enterprise Holdings and Helping Hands when I say that we will do everything—and I mean everything—in our power to protect the privacy and the dignity of those brave people. So please feel free to pass that word around to any ambitious journalists who may want to seek them out to make a quick buck. That’s all I have to say about this. Now, please, clear away from my door. I am a doctor, I have patients to see, and they deserve dignity and privacy as well.”
Instead of turning around and walking back into my building, I stand there and wait to see if these morons are going to follow my directions. Slowly but surely, they get into their cars and drive away. It takes about 15 minutes for the last one to realize that I’m not going inside until they are gone. I turn to Chuck.
“I need someone posted outside to see my patients in when they get here. I’ll get you a list. There will be five of them if they all show up today.” He hands me his handkerchief.
“Sure thing, Ana,” he says as we walk into the building. This was the last thing that I needed knowing that I need to meet Christian at GEH this afternoon to sign this fucking prenuptial agreement. What a way to start the day.
“Ana, what would you like to do for lunch?” Marilyn asks me after I’ve seen my last patient.
“I don’t know,” I say wearily. Take a nap, I think. Talking to my patients zapped every bit of what was left of my strength from me and I am exhausted. I can’t even think about food. I just put my head down on my desk and lament the coming events of my afternoon.
I am awakened by gentle kisses on my shoulder and someone brushing my hair away from my face. I smell his scent as his hair brushes against my cheek.
I attempt to lift my head, but my neck is in excruciating pain and I wince. His thumbs go to work releasing the kinks in the top of my spine while his hands and finger attack the knots in muscles of my shoulder and neck. It feels heavenly.
“Bad morning, Baby?” he says in his velvety soft voice. And a worse afternoon ahead, I think to myself.
“Yes,” I answer simply as I allow relief and comfort to flood my body through his magic fingers.
“Davenport called. I knew my presence would only stir up the press so I waited for lunch time. I brought you a chicken Caesar pita and a cranberry juice.” Mmmm, suddenly, the idea of food is making my mouth water.
“Thank you, Christian,” I say, finally raising my head and leaning into his massage. He works out the pain for a few more moments, then sits on the edge of my desk. Placing his hand on my cheek, he kisses me gently, then again, and again. His eyes are filled with concern when they meet mine. He kisses me on my forehead, and then proceeds to open my lunch. Once I dig into the food he has set before me, I notice that he’s not eating.
“I’ve already had lunch,” he says softly, answering my unspoken question. I eat in silence for a few more moments. He opens my cranberry juice and hands it to me. I take several healthy swallows.
“You really are hungry,” he acknowledges. “Will this be enough for you?” I nod gratefully at him as he moves from the desk to one of the seats across from it. “We don’t have to do this today if you don’t want to.”
Hmm, the thought is tempting, but I meant what I said. I want to hurry up and visit this issue and get it done because the next time I visit it, my life will be over anyway.
“No,” I say after swallowing the food in my mouth. “I don’t want to put it off. The longer we wait, the worse I feel about it. It’s like the Sword of Damocles ready to fall,” I say shaking my head. He chuckles to himself and I glare at him. Exactly what about this is funny to him?
“I’m sorry, Butterfly. No, it’s not a laughing matter, but I just remember thinking that same thing last year when you were going to submit that report to the court about me. It’s a very obscure reference for someone who is not familiar with its origin. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that you know what it means.” He reaches across the table and takes my hand. “Please, trust me.”
“I do,” I say without hesitation. “I just want to get this over and done.” I swallow the last bite of my sandwich and quickly drink down the rest of my cranberry juice. I’m grabbing my purse when Christian comes around the desk to me.
“Slow down, Ana. We have plenty of time,” he says. “Talk to me.” My heart falls into my stomach.
“Oh, please, let’s not talk about it anymore. Let’s just get it signed.” An unknown emotion flashes in his eyes. I put my hand gently on his arm and control my tone of voice. “Let’s just get it signed,” I say again, softer. He looks at me and nods, then leads me out of the office.
“I have an attorney for you,” Christian says as we ride the elevator to the 20th floor of Grey House. I look up at him. “I have ruthless lawyers, Anastasia. Besides Allen, most of them are bitter single or divorced men who know or care nothing about love, trust, or loyalty. I want you to feel free to voice your concerns and ask your questions.” I nod silently and look ahead. When the elevator doors open, we step out onto the 20th floor and head straight for the conference room.
There are five attorneys in the room waiting for us. One of them is Al. Oh, great, now I have to explain to my best friend why I didn’t tell him that my stinking rich fiancé who he works for wanted a prenup. I feel like another business deal, like one of his contracted subs. I’m going to be sick. I pause before proceeding to a seat. Christian turns around and looks at me.
“Trust me,” he mouths to me and I relax a bit, taking the chair he has pulled out for me. “I didn’t realize we needed this many people,” he says, voicing my thoughts.
“This is a very important decision you’re making, Sir,” Attorney #1 says. “We are just making sure everything is in order.”
“Is that so?” Christian responds, and I hear the sarcastic skepticism in his voice. “Would that be why I was bombarded with emails from each of you all weekend long?”
Attorney #2 clears his throat. “We just… thought you may want to revisit the document before you and Ms. Steele signed it, Sir.”
“Have you included everything I requested?” Christian asks. There is a pause. “Well, have you?”
“Yes, Sir, we have,” Attorney #1 says.
“Then why would I want to revisit it? If you’ve done what I’ve asked you, then it’s perfect.”
“It’s far from perfect,” Attorney #3 pipes in. I call him Prune Face.
“Oh, and what do you mean? Please, let’s talk about this now.” Prune Face looks from Christian to me and back at Christian.
“It doesn’t seem prudent, Sir. You’ve taken our advice thus far and you’ve done just fine. Now, I must admit that we feel you are making a grave mistake with this agreement and we hoped you would reconsider.” Grave mistake? Reconsider? What’s going on?
“Well, let’s see. I’ve run a very successful business for nearly 10 years now, built mostly before I had even met any of you. So by all means, please tell me what grave mistakes are in my agreement.”
“It changes the structure of several operations and failsafes that you have had in place for many years.” Oh, now I’m really curious. It’s just a prenup. At its worst, it says I get nothing. What the fuck are they worried about?
“That’s the whole idea,” Christian says firmly. “I am getting married, after all. Some things will undoubtedly have to change.”
“But this, Sir…” Prune Face protests. What exactly is in this agreement? The fourth attorney is sitting there silently. Maybe that’s supposed to be my attorney.
“What do you suggest?” Christian says, his eyes bearing down on the Prune Face. He straightens his collar and clears his throat. He clearly doesn’t want me to see the agreement or know wants in it.
“Well, the percentage needs rethinking,” he says, “and the balance of control…”
“There was no balance before. There is now,” Christian says. Control of what? His money?
“What is the problem with the control?” Al asks. “Is it that the control no longer lies in your hands—that Mr. Grey has opted to take on more of the control and who gets it, which effectively eliminates you?”
“Whose side are you on?” Prune Face barks.
“Oh, I didn’t know we were taking sides here,” Al says. “In this capacity, I thought we all worked for Mr. Grey!” he snaps, silencing Prune Face immediately. “To that end, I’ll answer your question. At the request of Mr. Grey, I’m on Ms. Steele’s side today, but tread carefully; because tomorrow I’ll be right back in that seat that you hate to see me in.” Whoa! I’ve never seen Al in full-on action. He speaks with intense authority and he’s a force to be reckoned with. He doesn’t take down to any of these sour-mouthed bastards and I’m so glad that he’s on my side. Christian opens the agreement. There are two copies, one in front of him and one in front of me. He only looks briefly at the first two pages.
“Who approved the final draft?” Christian asks.
“I did, Sir,” Attorney #2 says begrudgingly. Christian looks up at him.
“Everything?” Christian asks.
“Everything,” he confirms. Christian nods.
“Very well. Anastasia, would you like to read it?” Christian asks me. I look from him to Al who is nodding at me, then around the table to the Four Horsemen of the Fucking Apocalypse. I pick up the pen and begin signing the agreement.
“You should read it, Anastasia,” Christian says firmly.
“I don’t need to read it,” I tell him, not only because I have no idea what I would be reading anyway, but also because I’m not interested in what it says. I continue signing it and push it back over to him.
“You really should read it, Ana,” Al says, and I know now that I probably should have read it before I signed it.
“It’s signed now,” Attorney #1 says. “She’s accepted the agreement.” He nearly can’t contain his underlying glee when a moment ago, he was begging Christian to reconsider the entire thing. This behavior does not slip by my super-shrewd fiancé. He eyes Attorney #1, and then turns to Al.
“Mr. Forsythe, did you go over the agreement like I asked?”
“Yes, I did.” The four attorneys look nervously at one another.
“Did you find anything out of place?” Christian asks.
“Yes, I did.” Attorney #2 points at me.
“She signed it! She agreed to the terms! We’re all witnesses!” He’s frantic for this agreement to be signed.
“But I haven’t!” Christian roars, silencing Attorney #2 and glaring at him. “Allen! What did you find?” he asks, still glaring at Attorney #2. Al opens the agreement.
“Ambiguous writing at the bottom of page three—check paragraph eight.” I don’t bother opening the thing. I still wouldn’t know what I was looking at.
“What the fuck!” Christian yells. He looks at the attorneys with fire in his eyes. “Explain this!”
“It’s…” Attorney #1 takes the document and pretends to read it. We can all tell that he already knows what it says. “It’s an escape clause, Sir, in case you changed your mind.” What? He asked for the prenup. Why would he change his mind? Are they protecting me or him? What is this?
“Is that what I asked for? Did I fucking ask for an escape clause?” He’s nearly screaming now.
“Excuse me,” I say softly. Christian calms right down.
“What is it, Baby?” he asks reassuringly.
“What does ‘ambiguous writing’ mean?” I ask. I need to know exactly what’s going on. Al speaks up.
“Ambiguous writing is unclear wording that can be interpreted more than one way in a court of law. Not only can it lead to a challenge of the document, but it can also render the document invalid,” he says. I shake my head.
“So,” I don’t quite understanding what’s going on, “this…” I wave my hands around, “…writing basically means that if the time came where the agreement came into play, then this clause here would make the whole thing void?”
“Pretty much, yeah,” Al says. My hands fly to my face. I am thoroughly confused as I shake my head trying to make sense of all this.
“Ana?” Christian’s voice interrupts my confusion.
“I don’t get it! I said I would sign anything you want!” I exclaim.
“But this is not what I want!” he snaps, more at the lawyers and none at me. They begin to murmur amongst themselves.
“Sir, she says she’ll sign anything you want. Why are we going this route?” Prune Face asks.
“Are you deaf? I said this is not what I want! She’s always said she’ll sign anything I wanted. I told you what I wanted and you did something else altogether.”
“That’s not all, Sir,” Al says. Oh shit, there’s more.
“What else is there?” Christian asks.
“Page four, paragraph four,” Al says. Christian turns the page and reads for a few moments. His ears turn read. Oh, fuck.
“Let me see if I get this straight. You were about to have my fiancée, the woman I am about to marry, my soon-to-be wife and hopefully the mother of my children sign an NDA hidden in her prenuptial agreement?” He is talking so low and calm that I don’t whether I should be running or what.
“Again, Sir, you don’t want an ugly divorce splattered all over the tabloids,” Attorney #1 says.
“Neither do I!” I scream, clearly affronted. “I’m lost again! I wouldn’t say anything about our marriage anyway. What’s the need—or the harm—in an NDA?” I’m getting more and more perturbed by the second. I have no idea what the fuck is going on.
“There’s no need for it, but plenty of harm,” Christian says. “If, heaven forbid, we were to find ourselves in divorce court, you wouldn’t be able to tell anyone anything about what happened in our marriage or the cause for the breakup.” Okay, that sounds unreasonable to me, but I could see why he wouldn’t want his business all over the paper. I look at Al.
“Not even an attorney, Ana. You would have to rely solely on these guys or me—if I’m still here—to give you what you should get in your prenup, and they don’t want to give it to you now.” I have to let that sink in for a moment then the light comes on.
“Oh, shit, is that what this is all about?” I nearly scream, rising from my seat and slamming my hands on the table. “This is why I didn’t want a prenup!” I’m nearly shaking. “Because assholes like this are sure that all I want is your fucking money!”
“Ana, it’s not you, I swear,” Christian says, grabbing my arms and trying to still me. “Do you still trust me?” he asks firmly. I’m so angry that I can’t form my answer. “Anastasia, do you still trust me?”
“Yes,” I gasp out. “Yes, I still trust you.” I’m nearly choking the words out.
“Then you have to let me make this right. Please…” I know he has nothing to do with these extra clauses. I am just sick to know what the original prenup said that these tight-ass fuckers felt the need to change it—and what did Al mean by “they don’t want to give it to me now?” That horse’s hair holding that sword is getting weaker and weaker and I swear it’s about to fall on my head. I sit back down in my seat and glare at each one of them. None of them dare return my stare except #4. He hasn’t said a word all day and for some reason, I think he’s going to be my biggest nemesis in all of this.
“What else, Allen?” Christian spits, running his hands through his hair.
“One more, Sir. Page five, paragraph nine and page six, paragraph one.” Christian turns to the last page and I hear him chuckle in disbelief. I don’t even raise my head to see what was going to happen next.
“An indemnity clause,” he states in the same disbelieving tone. “Fucking hell. In a prenuptial agreement. An indemnity clause. Exactly who would be the injured party besides us if our marriage falls apart? And who besides one of us would be expecting a payout from said breakup?”
“Ooooooh, you don’t want to know the ambiguity that could be harvested from that clause,” Al says. I still say nothing and stare non-seeing at the document on the table in front of me. Christian reaches for the agreement under my hands. I look up at him.
“May I?” he says. I lift my hands and he takes the document. He turns to the seventh page and writes “VOID” in big letters over my signature. “Allen, have you corrected the document?”
“I have, Mr. Grey,” Allen says.
“May I see it please?” Al reaches into his briefcase and produces two new agreements. These are six pages long, no doubt because those ridiculous clauses have been eliminated. I pick up the pen again. “No. Read it.” Christian holds the hand with the pen in it.
“Christian, this is all going to be Greek to me,” I admit to him.
“Then have your attorney explain it to you,” he says flatly. “Mine are clearly worthless.” He throws hateful glances at the assholes at the end of the table and I don’t look in their direction at all.
“Ana, it’s mostly legal jargon that won’t mean anything to you, but you’ll want to pay attention to page five, paragraphs three and four,” Al says. I turn to page five and read the paragraphs.
“‘Property in Schedule A1 and A2 will remain the property of the owner,'” I read. “Where are these schedules? Al pulls out the schedules. A1 is Christian’s and only lists Escala and Grey House. I know he owns more than that. A2 is mine and lists my condo and the office building where my office is housed.
“I don’t own this,” I protest.
“You will,” he says flatly. I just look at him then go back to the document:
Unless a particular piece of property is explicitly documented as being owned by both parties, the following types of property will not be deemed as shared property:
a. any property owned by a party at the date of execution of this Agreement; and
b. any property acquired by a party through an inheritance.
Except as otherwise provided in this Agreement, such property as is listed in Schedule “B” attached hereto will be and remain the property of both parties. In the event of the parties separating, or upon the death of a party, any jointly-acquired or jointly held property will be deemed to be owned equally with each party entitled to fifty percent (50%) of the net equity of the property, regardless of the initial or ongoing proportion of each party’s investment, unless the parties otherwise agree in writing.
I look at Christian. “Schedule B?” He looks at Al who pulls out a stack of papers so big that it needs a binder clip. I don’t even need to read it. What the hell?
“Christian! This is not joint property! This is all yours!” I exclaim.
“I’m well aware of that,” he says. “Allen is having the papers drawn up to have everything put in both our names so that no one can do anything without your permission in the event that I am incapacitated.” He looks down at his monstrous attorneys. “Including my business.”
“Your business?” I nearly choke. “I saw Grey House on Schedule A!”
“That’s the building, not the business. The functions, the assets, the net worth…”
“Fifty percent of your business? Everything you’ve built?”
“Well, 65% if I’m ever unfaithful.” Now I’m nearly gagging. “Allen, do you have the codicil to my will?”
“Right here.” Al pulls out another document and hands it to Christian. He signs it immediately and Al signs it as well.
“Okay, what’s that?” I ask, still not completely able to catch my breath.
“That is the amendment to my will that makes you sole beneficiary and executor of my estate.” Everybody except Al gasps. “That’s just in case I walk outside and get hit by a car before we get married.” Now I’m hyperventilating.
“Christian!” I pant. “This is insane! I expected…” I can’t think. What did I expect? I don’t know. “Fifty percent of your assets? Your business? This is crazy!”
“This is what you would have gotten if we didn’t have a prenup,” he points out, trying to calm me, “only you wouldn’t have been in control of it. They would have!” He finally tells me. He finally tells me why we needed the prenup.
“But Allen… Christian… 50… sixty-five?” I ask disbelieving.
“Butterfly?” He gets my attention with a gentle shake. “Do you really want them to be in charge of my future? Of our future?” he says softly. My shaking slows. Those fuckers in charge of our future. Hell, no. This is about more than who gets what if we split. This is about protecting his legacy, about safeguarding his assets from a bunch of crooked, greedy lawyers. I straighten up and nod.
Finally, the one attorney who has sat silently on the opposite side of the table stands in a huff. He just can’t stand it anymore.
“Sir, you’re acting like a lovesick fool! You’re throwing your legacy away, handing over control of everything you’ve worked for!” He nearly bellows.
“You’ve got one thing right in that whole statement—my legacy! My company, my money. Make no mistake, Gentlemen, I built this company. You have handled my legal issues, advised me when I needed it, but you did not build this empire. I did. I am by no means remiss to take credit for my hard work and to make the final decisions on what’s going to happen to my fortune. Do not forget that if you want to continue working for my company! Are we clear?” Fucking hell! He has brought this room to total and utter fucking silence. Even I feel myself cowering in my chair a bit.
Christian picks up the pen and quickly signs and initials the six pages of the prenuptial agreement. He takes the second copy and repeats the process before he hands the pen to me, his face firm. Grace’s conversation about her prenup comes to mind. We’re going to be together forever and he knows it. He has no worry whatsoever about his fortune. I smile softly at him and take the pen from his hand, signing and initialing the twelve pages of the two documents. I gently push them back to him and he hands them over to Allen, who leaves the room with the only signed copies of our prenup. Christian helps me from my chair.
“You’re right about something else, too,” he says to the last lawyer who dared to speak. “I am a lovesick fool. You should try it sometimes.” He grabs my hand and leads me out of the conference room and into his office. When we get there, I stand in the middle of his office, the adrenaline beating the blood into my head.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” I ask. Christian was pacing the office, but now stops in his tracks and looks at me. “Why didn’t you just tell me what was going on? Was I being tested or something?” I truly feel forlorn. I don’t know why he couldn’t just end my suffering when we first talked about this by just telling me what he was doing.
“It was never a test. I just needed you to trust me and you did. Against everything that you thought and felt, you trusted me. You walked wide-eyed, alert and aware, and jumped off the cliff. If there was any test, the test was for me. I had to earn that trust that you were giving me. I had to show you that I had your—our—best interests at heart. The terms of our prenuptial agreement are sealed, but now the world will know that you are not after my money and I will know that ruthless, heartless attorneys will not be able to take advantage of you if worse comes to worst.”
I fall into the chair in front of his desk and burst into tears, burying my face in my hands and weeping bitterly. Christian is on his knees in front of me in seconds.
“Please! Oh, please, forgive me for ever doubting you!” I cry, unable to control my sobs. Christian puts his arms around me and rubs me soothingly.
“Sssshhh,” he hushes me. “It’s a prenup. It’s very purpose is doubt.”
“Why is she crying?” I hear Al say as he enters the office. “She’s going to be wealthier after she says ‘I do’ than she would have been if she hadn’t signed the prenup.”
“Don’t be an asshole, Allen,” Christian says. “It’s been a trying day for her.” That it has! First the reporters, then his lawyers basically begging him not to give me a damn thing in the prenup, then finding out exactly what it says. I am weak and tired and drained and I want to go home. The next announcement doesn’t help much.
“Sir?” Williams comes into the office. “Excuse the intrusion, Sir, but we couldn’t get you on your line.
“What is it?” Christian asks, annoyed.
“At the front desk, there’s a call. It’s from the prison, the women’s prison, Sir.” Elena. Fucking She-Thing, Pedo-Bitch Elena Lincoln.
“Lincoln?” he asks.
“Well, yes and no, Sir. It’s the warden actually. Mrs. Lincoln had some kind of psychotic break this weekend. She’s in the infirmary and they’re not quite sure what’s wrong with her.” Christian stands.
“Why the fuck are they calling me?” he bellows.
“The warden says that Lincoln is asking for you. Your name is the only word she has muttered for two days. They don’t know if she’s crazy or slipping away,” Williams responds.
“The warden should also know that bitch tried to kill me. Tell them to call me when she’s dead,” he says flatly. Williams nods and leaves the office.
“I’m going home now,” I say. I just can’t take anymore. My head hurts and I need a long, long nap before it explodes.
“I’m coming with you,” Christian says, shutting down his laptop and gathering a few things that he needs.
“I’m just going to go to sleep, Christian. I’m so tired…”
“And I’m coming with you,” he repeats and nearly lifts me out of the seat. “Come on, Baby.” Christian drags me out of his office towards the elevator. Seeing that the Awestruck Foursome is still in the conference room with the glass walls having a powwow, he drags me behind him so fast in that direction that I almost have to run to keep up with them.
“Oh, shit!” I hear Al hiss behind me as he quickly catches up with us. Christian slams into the door so hard that I’m surprised it didn’t shatter from the force.
“Mr. Abrahms,” Attorney #2 looks up at him. “You took credit for the presentation so I’m holding you solely responsible for it. You clearly can no longer execute my wishes and you seem extremely comfortable with making decisions over my head that are clearly contrary to my instructions. You’re fired. Everything that you have learned, heard, or seen since you have been an employee of GEH is not only under attorney/client privilege, but also protected by a non-disclosure agreement. Breathe a word about something as simple as what color suit I am wearing and I will have you disbarred. What’s more, I will make your life fucking miserable. Now get your shit and get the fuck out of my building, you bad-faith, treacherous, mutinous asshole!”
He stares at Christian like he can’t believe what he’s hearing. “Mr. Grey! Please! I’ve been with your company for five years! I was only doing what I thought was best.”
“It doesn’t matter what you thought,” Christian says, calmly. “I gave you specific instructions of what I wanted. You changed that document—a legal document—against my wishes, and then you pushed it in front of my fiancée and almost had us sign it! Me! You almost had me sign a legal document concerning my assets that was completely against my wishes! I could have you disbarred for that alone. I can’t trust you anymore. I’m opening an investigation on every document you have touched in the last five years. If I find something shady, you can kiss your legal career goodbye. Now shut the fuck up and get out of my building before I change my mind and call the bar association now! Lawrence!” Christian yells for Ben who is in the conference room in moments.
“Yes, Sir?” Ben asks, briefly making eye-contact with me.
“Have security pack up Mr. Abrahms’ belongings right now. Escort him to the lobby and have someone sit with him while they bring down whatever personal trinkets he has on his desk. Whitewash all of his accesses immediately including his email. He is not allowed to leave with any hard copies, flash drives, or digital reproductions of any GEH materials. He can’t even leave with the cell phone that he has in his pocket right now.” Christian glares at him. “Your badge, Mr. Abrahms.” Abrahms sourly unclips his badge and hands it to Ben.
“I know that you may have some of GEH’s materials at your home. I suggest that you make sure they are back in GEH possession within the next 24 hours without reproductions because any bit of information that leaks out of GEH from this point on, I’m going to blame it on you. You know how I operate, Abrahms. You know I can find out.” I have never seen this Christian Grey before. He scares me.
Apparently, he scares Abrahms as well.
“Yes, Sir,” he says, ducking is head and leaving the office with Ben in tow.
“Lawrence?” Christian calls out. Ben turns around. “Company car.” Ben nods and follows a cowering Abrahms onto the elevator. Christian pulls out his blackberry.
“Barnie, Abrahms has been fired. You have twenty minutes to strip his home computer. I don’t care if the files say that they are family pictures. We’ll give them back to him when we discover that it’s nothing GEH related.” He ends the call and turns his attention to the other three people in the room.
“I’m certain that bastard took the fall for you all. That means that he has more guts than any of you, which doesn’t fare well for you. I will be watching your every move from now on. I am fucking pissed that you thought you could slide these crooked ass clauses past me on something that affects me personally. And how stupid do you feel that she was willing to sign that agreement without even looking at it?” he asks gesturing towards me. “I don’t think you have any idea what you’ve done. One day, you may very well be answering to her, and you just let her know that she can’t trust any of you.” They look at each other in horrified silence before returning their gaze back to Christian.
“Make no mistake. You are all worthless pieces of shit to me right now, but if you ever try something like this again—anything even close—I’m going to have your fucking asses on a barbecue.” He grabs my hand and leads me out of the office.
“What are you going to do?” I ask.
“I’m going to fire them all, but I’ll have Allen help me build another legal team before I do.”
“How did you know?” I ask.
“Allen suspected. This was the litmus test. I knew what I was going to do all along. I just needed to know if they would support me. I can’t trust them. They have to go.”
We get to the parking garage and once we are in the Audi SUV, we drive through the few remaining reporters outside of Grey House and head back to Escala. Christian starts talking to me once we are on the road for a few minutes.
“Butterfly, second only to my family, you are the most important thing in my life right now. Anybody that can’t accept that has to go. That fact drove Elena absolutely crazy and look where she is. The way my company was set up, my attorneys were my executors. If anything happened to me, they made all the decisions. They held most of the cards, or at least they thought they did. I had to see who was on my side, and I’m sorry that I used you to that end, Baby. I needed your genuine surprise. I needed every reaction you gave today, just like you gave it. It reassured me of what I already knew about you, and smoked out what I suspected about them.”
“Is that your entire legal team?” I ask him.
“No, that’s a little under half,” he says. “They each have a different specialty. That’s why I have to build a new team before I can get rid of them. It’s not going to be easy. I have to find the kind of talent I need without tipping them off.”
“And that’s where Allen comes in.”
“I certainly hope so. I’m getting to the point where I just don’t trust lawyers at all anymore,” he says with a sigh.
“What did you mean when you said they thought they held all the cards?”
“Well, simply put without telling you more than you need to know, did you see Abrahms reaction when I told him that he knows how I operate?” I nod. “They all know. They don’t want to cross me.” I nod again and yawn as we pull into Escala. “This day wore you out, didn’t it?” I nod again. He gets out of the car and comes to my side. Opening the door, he takes my in his arms and carries me bridal style to the elevator.
“I can walk, Baby,” I say sleepily.
“Mm-hmm, and I can carry you, too.” He kisses me gently on my forehead as we ride the elevator up to Escala.
This has been a long day. I thought the biggest thing that I would be facing was the attention from the PSA. I truly had no idea that I had attorneys on my payroll that would actually try to trick me into signing something. It’s truly unbelievable. I put Butterfly down for a nap and she was asleep before her head hit the pillow—stilettos and all. She is completely worn out. I’ll let her sleep for a couple of hours before I bother waking her for dinner.
I go into my study and sit down at my desk. I don’t even know where to start. I run my hands through my hair and try to resist the urge to have a drink. Fuck it, I’ve been moderate lately. I can have a cocktail. I go over to the cabinet and pour myself a double shot fingers of bourbon. I walk over to the window and ponder my situation for a while.
How many contracts have these assholes put together for me over the years?
How many hidden clauses have been slipped in that I don’t know about?
How would I even begin to find out?
This is not as simple as an internal audit, which is not simple at all. This would involve hiring a separate team of lawyers to interpret ever single contract GEH has drafted over the last—what, sever or eight years?
“Fuck.” I’m about to get married. I don’t have time for this shit. What do I do? Fire these fucks and hope nothing comes back to bite me in the ass? That’s just not the way I operate. These were my lawyers, my trusted advisors—and they bit me in the butt, not even while my back was turned. They tried to do it today while I was looking.
“Hey Boss.” I turn around and Jason is standing in the door. He’s no longer wearing his sling and he is well into his therapy. The doctors say that he’s healing and progressing faster than normal, but they expect that from someone with his metabolism and physique. “Ben told me you fired one of the legals today. Do you think that’s wise?” He takes a seat in one of the chairs while I nurse my drink.
“I didn’t have a choice,” I tell him. “He tried to fuck me over, big time.”
“What did he do?”
“He and three of the others tried to slide some pretty dangerous clauses into my prenup.” He raised his eyebrow at me.
“How did I not know you were doing a prenup?” I take a sip of my bourbon and turn around to face him.
“Because I’m an asshole,” I tell him walking back to my desk and sitting down. “If it weren’t for the fact that Butterfly may have gotten hurt from this shit, I would have deserved anything those fuckers threw at me today.” Jason frowns.
“I don’t follow,” he says, bemused. I lean my head back on my seat.
“I used her as bait, Jason,” I say looking at the ceiling. “She trusted me and I used her as bait.” He falls completely silent as I bottom out my glass. “I knew without a doubt that she wasn’t going to leave that meeting with less than half of my assets. I made it even sweeter. She gets 65% if I cheat on her, half of everything I own if we part ways for any other reason—everything, the business, the properties, the investments, the cash, everything except this apartment and Grey House, the physical building. Those fuckers nearly pissed their pants. They‘ve been pissing for a week now. They didn’t make this much noise when I put her on the K&R insurance.”
“I don’t understand. Why would they care about all of that? It’s not like you were liquidating your assets and selling the company. What’s the problem?”
“The problem is that before I had a fiancée, I had no one. My family knew nothing about how my business was run or even what my true net worth is. Who do you think had control of all of that? The accountants? Fuck no, the lawyers. They controlled everything, and if anything happened to me, they were executors, trustees, everything. They sat at the helm and now, I’ll have a wife. By law, she would generally control everything anyway but there are so many ways to get around that in the corporate world and, trust me, that’s exactly what these fuckers wanted. I’ve changed my will, my living will, and my advanced directives all effective immediately and our prenup will, of course, be effective when we marry. She’s legally in charge of everything—even my business—if I become incapacitated or unable to make decisions for any reason. They tried to put an NDA in my prenup, Jason.” He frowns again.
“You have to tell me what the repercussions of that are. Why an NDA in a prenup?” he asks.
“It would prevent her from employing outside counsel if the prenup had to be enforced. She would have had to go to them because she wouldn’t be allowed to tell anyone about the terms of our prenup or the cause for our separation. I’m sure that she could have protested that along with all the other bullshit they tried to slip in there, but hell. By the time she got any justice from it, those fuckers would have divvied up my estate and ran off to some foreign country with no extradition laws.” I run my hands over my face.
“That bad? Seriously, Boss?”
“Seriously. Butterfly was clueless. Hell, even I didn’t know it was this bad until I saw the clauses that they we trying to slip in right in my face. I hate not knowing what’s going on right up under my nose. I fucking hate it.” I rub my eyes. “That whole redo of all the departments that I did last August didn’t mean a damn thing if legal was so fucking cocky to try some shit like this. I know what I need to do, I just don’t know how to go about doing it.”
“Start with the home computers,” I hear a familiar voice say from the doorway. I look up and I see Allen standing in my study door. “The moment you told Barney to wipe Abrahms home computers, assistants upstairs started getting texts. I knew something was up when they started huddling and got quiet when I walked by.” Oh shit, this is worse than I thought.
“Are they all in on this?” I ask, forlorn.
“From what I can see, it’s just those four. They were clustered and working together. I got into some files after I sent their hussies home and it doesn’t look like anything big enough to bring your company down, just enough to make them comfortable in their positions. Most of what they were doing was nullified by the documents we filed today, which is why they were so desperate to talk to you before you signed them.”
“Wait a minute,” Jason says, “Go back. You sent their hussies home?”
“Keep up, Agent T. Every one of those horn dogs is fucking his assistant.”
“What!?” Okay, I didn’t know that. There’s a no fraternization policy at GEH to prevent any claims of sexual harassment. Allen looks over at me.
“You really didn’t know this?” he asks me.
“No! No fraternization? Remember that? Is there any proof?” I ask.
“Well, there’s no documents, but everybody knows.” Allen shrugs.
“Fuck!” I exclaim. “These fuckers are going to bring my company down!”
“Settle down, Chris. This type of thing happens everyday. Even if one of those little sluts did cry sexual harassment, GEH would bury her. There are bigger fish to fry, though these fish aren’t really that big either.” He pulls some files out of his briefcase. “These five guys are going to sweep your legal department, do the internal audit that should have been done in August.” I open the files that he hands me and look at the information for five attorneys that I have never heard of before.
“Why the hell would I allow five attorneys that I don’t know to comb through my records?” I ask. Allen frowns.
“Because I’m trusting you with my Jewel, which is far more valuable to me than your company, so you should probably trust me, too,” he says curtly. I look at the files and sigh.
“I trust you implicitly, Allen,” I say, “and not just because you’re trusting me with your Jewel.”
“Good, because this operation has already begun,” he tells me and I freeze. “While your boys were in the conference room trying to figure out their next move, their girlfriends were busy trying to cover their tracks. That’s when I knew that we had to move. You had already told Barney to lock down Abrahms’ home computer. I took the liberty of locking the rest of them down. I never thought I would see three grown men piss their pants until those three tried to get back into legal and couldn’t.”
“You started all of this without even needing my clearance?” I ask. Allen cocks his head at me.
“When we’re done with all of this, we’re going to go over exactly who can do what. Do you know that any department head in your company has the ability to lock down their department without clearance from you, and that you are the only one that can override it?” Oh, shit, yeah I do vaguely remember something like that. “Consider this, Chris. I knew everything that happened in that conference room before security even got down to the 14th floor to clean out that asshole’s desk. Those idiots were so same cocky that for several minutes after you left, they sat down there still confabbing. It gave me ample time to have Barney wipe their home computers—boy, he’s amazing! And yes, the moment I dismissed their little hoochies for the day, they came barreling down the hall to see what was up. By then, it was too late.”
“Too late for what?” Jason asks.
“For anything. They no longer had access to their offices and neither did their assistants. Two lovely tin soldiers were posted outside of the department until I could get their clearances changed, and they are just about as useful as Abrahms right now until we can get our boys there into their files. I took the liberty of giving them 30 days off with pay because it’s going to take at least that long for my dream team there to uncover the extent of the damage they have done, and before you fall in love with them—because you will—let me tell you now that none of them are looking for employment. However, they may be able to point us in the direction of a few good candidates.”
“What, in the name of God, would I do without you, Allen?” I say, a huge weight lifted from my shoulders. “You are never allowed to retire. Ever.” Allen laughs at me.
“Don’t worry. He told me the same thing,” Jason says, “and I took a bullet.” Allen and Jason laugh at his statement but I am laughing out of pure relief! I trusted these men to handle my business and the legal affairs of my company, my baby, and they screwed me. I just don’t know how badly yet, but thanks to my superhero over here, I’ll find out soon enough.
Allen, Jason, and I bang out the particulars of getting Allen’s “Dream Team” into the office as soon as possible. Allen says that they can probably get started as soon as Wednesday and Jason will liaise with Welch to get complete background checks by then as well as the necessary clearances. I have already gotten threatening emails from two of the three assholes about resigning and taking their expertise with them to another company along with the strategies that they have learned from GEH and blah, blah, blah.
This is kind of like the mole situation, only worse. I trusted these men.
We know that we’ve been at it a long time when James shows up at my door to collect his boyfriend. It’s nearly 7pm and I ask if they just want to stay for dinner. They both shrug and accept before I go off to the bedroom to rouse a Butterfly.
She is still dead to the world, in the same position I left her in. Good God, she must have been exhausted. I sit on the edge of the bed and gently brush her hair away from her face. This is the second time today I had to wake her to eat. She is so beautiful, and I get to marry her in less than two months.
“Butterfly, wake up,” I say, gently brushing my fingers over her cheek. “Wake up, Baby.” I see her toes curl and stretch and then her fingers. She’s adorable. Sometime during her nap, she rid herself of her stilettos. She stretches each bone and muscle, one by one, before opening her eyes and smiling sweetly at me.
“Hi,” she says softly, reaching for me. Oh, yes, yes, Butterfly—here I come. I go to her welcoming arms and kiss her gently.
“Did you sleep well?” I ask. She nods.
“I’m famished,” she declares.
“Good, because it’s time for dinner.”
“Thank God! I didn’t want to start snacking but I feel like I could gnaw my arm off right now.”
“Well, come on out. Your best friend and his boyfriend are here and we’re going to just make a night of it with Jason and Gail,” I tell her.
“Ooo, sounds like fun. Let me just freshen up a bit and I’ll be right there.” She pecks me again on the lips and swings her legs out of the bed headed for the en suite. I shake my head at her enthusiasm and hang my jacket and tie in the closet, opting for just my shirt and slacks. Butterfly comes out of the en suite moments later in just her bra and panties and my dick goes wild. She’s standing salivating herself and I wonder what she’s looking at.
“You had better put some clothes on or I will have to send our dinner guests away,” I warn.
“Well, you’re…” she clears her throat. “You‘re in uniform.” I look down at myself. White shirt, black slacks. Yeah, I am.
“My shirt is closed, I’m wearing a T-shirt underneath, and my chest isn’t showing. Get a grip, woman.” She twists her lips at me.
“Mmm-hmm, okay.” She walks coolly to the closet to find something to wear. When she emerges, she is wearing this tiny little brown and white skirt with some kind of retro pattern on it with this boat neck lace shirt. She looks like a bite-size morsel of heaven.
“You’re wearing that?” I ask in a tone meant to discourage her choice.
“You’re wearing that,” she states matter-of-factly and walks past me out the door. I just shake my head. My dick is going to be aching by the end of the night.
We are enjoying a delicious chicken pot pie with fresh salad and roasted asparagus while everyone talks about their day. The prenup is no longer a secret and no one who has taken part in it wants to talk about it anymore. Most of the parties from the PSA are only recognized by those who already know them, thank God. Only Butterfly and I as well as the Judge and a couple of other “celebrities” were hounded by the press today. Tomorrow, they’ll find yet another story to focus on.
“I’m bringing Carla to Seattle on Saturday,” Butterfly says, and the statement brings silence to the room… again.
“Who’s Carla?” James asks.
“My mother,” Butterfly replies. James’ mouth makes a silent “O” and he takes another bite of his pot pie.
“So why are you bringing the wicked witch to Seattle?” Allen asks.
“It’s time to confront her,” Butterfly say flatly. “The journals aren’t working and this grudge isn’t moving. I’m getting married in no time and I refuse to bring this baggage with me. I’ve got to let it go. I’m going to hear her side and then I’m laying this thing to rest once and for all.”
“Do you really think it will be that easy, Ana?” Gail asks her.
“Oh, I know it is. Every other time I’ve spoken to my mother, I’ve always told her how horrible a woman and a mother she was. I never gave her a chance to give me her side of the story. That’s what I’m going to do this time. I’m not going to read anything into her words or try to psychoanalyze anything that she says. I’ve done that for years. I’m going to listen to her and I’m going to take what she says at face value. Then I’m going to make my decision about her, say my piece and go my way.”
“Make your decision?” Allen asks. “You make it sound like there’s a possibility that you two could come out of this friends again.”
“There is a possibility,” Butterfly says. Well, that’s news to me. “There’s always the possibility that I could hear her story and bury the hatchet, but let’s face it. That chance is so slim that I wouldn’t bet on it. I just want to lay this baby to rest one way or the other without anymore name-calling and screaming. It’s not doing me any good.”
“Well, I say good for you, Ana,” James says. “It takes a lot to face a painful past head on and say ‘you are not the master of my destiny anymore.'”
“Here, here.” I say raising my glass in salute to my lovely fiancée. She blushes and takes a sip of her wine.
“Some of you know this and some of you don’t, but I’ve done some regression sessions with my therapist,” she begins. “I was able to clearly remember a time when she…” Butterfly pauses. She is getting choked up. I reach over and take her hand and she smiles tightly at me. “I could remember when she was Mommy and Daddy was Daddy and we were a family. We didn’t have much, but we were so happy.” She pushes a stray hair behind her ear. “I’ve needed her for so much. I miss her. I love her…”
Allen looks like he’s seen a ghost.
“So, you want to mend the relationship with your mother.” He says it more like a statement. Butterfly eyes her half-eaten pot pie and shakes her head.
“One can always hope,” she squeaks. “I’d like to believe that my Mommy is still in there somewhere, but if she is, she’s been dormant for years and years and I’m just not holding my breath that she’s coming back… but, yes. I do miss my Mommy and wish more than anything that I could have a relationship with her, especially right now while I’m planning my wedding and combing through the tragedies that have been my life.” She wipes away a tear.
“Do you need backup?” Allen asks, somewhat breaking the tension in the room. “I’d love to see an old-time, tear-filled reunion and if that doesn’t happen, I’ll hold her down and you can kick the shit out of her.” We all laugh, though nervously.
“You can count me in for some of that,” Gail chimes in, and the laughter becomes more genuine.
“Now, Love,” Jason scolds, “haven’t we had this discussion? No street fighting on Mondays or Wednesdays.” Again, the laughter erupts and Butterfly is chuckling sincerely while wiping away her remaining tears.
“I do appreciate the offer,” she says, “but I’ll be fine. Christian, either way, I do want to give her some money.” My head snaps over to her.
“You want to what? You know that all she wants,” I say, fuming.
“Yes, I do, and I plan to acknowledge that, but I’m not heartless like her. She’s a widow now, and I’m going to give her some money. If our relationship is to end, she can’t say that I never gave her anything. I can understand if you don’t approve. I’ll give it to her out of my savings.” I run my hands through my hair.
“Are you sure you want to do this?” I ask her. “Once you give them money, they never go away.”
“She will,” I tell him. “If she doesn’t want to be my Mommy, if my Mommy is gone forever, then she will stay away after this conversation. She won’t be able to face me again, I can guarantee it. Either way, it will be worth the money.” She speaks with conviction. I don’t know what she plans to do, but I have to support her.
“Will 100 grand be enough?” I ask, and she raises her eyes to me.
“Yes. Plenty. More than I could come up with,” she says. I squeeze her hand.
“You’ll have it tomorrow then,” I tell her with a smile. I would pay any amount for Butterfly’s piece of mind. If she’s certain that this will work, then I’m all for it.
A/N: Okay, so, I can’t tell you why this chapter was so emotionally difficult for me to write, but I will tell you that I had just finished writing this chapter for the first time right before I had the TIA’s. Last night when I was re-reading it for editing, I started to feel anxious again, but I think I was just bringing it on myself (I won’t wear the dress again that I was wearing when I had the TIA’s either–it’s that OCD in me that links “bad” things together and won’t come near them). I will tell you that there are parts that I didn’t read again, so if you see typos, please be specific about where they are and I will fix them.
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Love and Handcuffs!