Mending Dr. Steele: Chapter 61—Getting Ready For An Adventure


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

Chapter 61—Getting Ready For An Adventure

STEELE

Christian is driving the RS7 again and we are on our way to Bellevue once more. The last time we made this trip, it was because Elliot was finding out that he was not the father of Kate’s son. That visit ended in disaster. Now, we are having our final brunch as single people and a long overdue family discussion. Christian has already told me that family is the most important thing to him, and I understand that. If he were to put me ahead of the woman who raised him as her own for 26 years, I think I would have a problem with that. Many women would argue with me on that, but he’s only loved me for the last year. He’s loved her for most of his life.

As we drive through the affluent neighborhoods of Bellevue, my mind wanders to the conversation that I had yesterday with Alexandria. She was still stalking me when I made my trip to the Marketplace even though Daddy told me that he made it clear that she was to stay away from me. Chuck was watching her ominously, but in my impetuousness—secure in the knowledge that she was not a threat—I walked right up to her.

I already know that Ray told you to stay away from me and I really don’t see that we have anything else to say, so why are you still following me?”

I just want to explain my side of whatever Ray may have told you,” she says. I sigh heavily. I don’t know anything about this woman. All I know is that she hurt my daddy. The last woman who hurt my daddy made me stand by and watch—even tried to make me take part. Not this time. I’m not a child anymore. I’m going to do now what I couldn’t do then. I’m going to defend my daddy.

Alexandria, you may be a wonderful person. Unfortunately, I’ll never know. You offended my father, badly, and I can’t have anything else to do with you.” She nods.

He’s not your father,” she says. I fold my arms.

Yeah, you see, I’ve had that discussion already, and I don’t intend on having it again with you. Now, you have offended and insulted my father, so you need to stay away from me. Please stop stalking me or I’m going to get a restraining order against you.”

Restraining… that is completely unnecessary, Anastasia!” she gasps.

Only if you stop following me and my name is Dr. Steele, which is completely useless information to you since we won’t be speaking after today.” I turn and begin to walk away. I turn back and say, “I would say that it was nice meeting you, but unfortunately it wasn’t. I would have loved to get to know my grandmother since I never had one, but nobody hurts my daddy. Goodbye, Mrs. Lambert.”

I remember the pained expression on her face before she turned to walk away. I think that maybe one day, we could have a relationship, but only if she mends those fences with my father first and that’s something that I don’t think she will ever be able to do. I don’t know what she said to him that sent him completely over the edge, but on Friday night, he was a complete mess in Christian’s study. I’ve never seen him like that—even when I left for Nevada… both times—and I never want to see him like that again. I had a grandmother for a week, and now she’s gone.

C’est la vie.

We pull up to the Bellevue estate on an overcast Sunday morning and I hope it’s not an omen of things to come. The day is dreary and threatens rain. I’m getting married in a week, so I hope this dreary weather passes over by then. We are about to have a conversation that is long overdue and I don’t know if it will send us running from the manor again. Christian turns off the car and sits there for a moment. I reach over and take his hand.

“Are you sure you’re ready for this?” I ask him when he turns to make eye-contact with me.

“No,” he says honestly, “but I have to do it. So much is happening. So much has happened. I’m about to embark on the biggest adventure of my life. There are some things that need to be said.” I cock my head at him.

“Marrying me is going to be an adventure?” I ask. He smiles.

“Oh, yes, Mrs. Grey,” he croons. “It’s going to be frightening and horrifying and tumultuous and dangerous and nerve-wrecking… and wonderful.”

Asshole.

“Come on, let’s go see your family before I show you that I can be scarier than they can,” I huff.

“I already know that,” he says, opening the door of his car.

“Hey Bro,” Elliot greets as he opens the door for us. “Ana Banana, you look hot!” I blush.

“Careful, Elliot,” Christian growls.

“I’m just stating the obvious, Bro. Get a grip.” Elliot opens the door and allows us in. I’m wearing a goldish-brown cashmere mini-dress with semi-long sleeves pushed up to my elbows and matching knee-length stiletto boots. It’s cute and comfortable, but I’m suddenly hoping that I’m not overdressed. Elliot leads us out to the patio where everyone is sitting. Although the day is overcast, it still warm and there is a lovely breeze coming off the water.

“Hey Ana, Christian.” Val smiles at me as soon as she sees me. I’ve often wondered if she and Elliot have given any thought to getting married, especially since our wedding is literally just around the corner.

“Hey Val.” I bend down and give her a kiss on the cheek. “Daddy.” I lean over and kiss my father and then Mandy who both have joined us for brunch today.

“Hey, guys.” Mia shoots as she and Ethan wave from just across the lawn as they return from… the garden, I guess.

“You two look great,” Grace says as we take a seat on one of the wrought iron love seats.

“Thanks, Mom,” Christian says with a smile. “So, I’m sure you’re all wondering why I asked you all here.”

“It had crossed our minds,” Carrick says, playfully.

“There are a few things that I… we want to discuss with you all and inform you of,” he begins while taking my hand.

“Why so serious, Christian?” Grace asks.

“Because these things are pretty serious,” he replies. “First things first. I know that Grandmother is supposed to be flying in tomorrow. Do you need me to do anything or is everything okay with that?”

“No, it’s fine. She insisted on staying at the hotel. I have no idea why. She won’t even let me pick her up from the airport.” I immediately tense a bit. I was so caught up in the wedding that I forgot I will be meeting Christian’s extended family for the first time. Noticing my tension, he turns to look at me.

“Are you okay?” he asks softly. I nod and force a smile. He throws a knowing glance at me and continues with the conversation.

“So, although we ha intended on having brunch the day after the wedding, we have decided to forgo that and leave for the airport straight from the reception. We will be spending three weeks in Greece.” Various reactions flood the group as the ladies gasp and smile and the men mostly nod their approval. “You all know that we have trials coming up, the most prevalent one being the kidnapping trial. It was set to begin this week, but David’s attorney has managed to secure yet another continuance. So we’re just going to go on our honeymoon and let the chips fall where they may.”

“How are you holding up, Dear?” Grace asks me.

“I’m fine. I can’t let these antics dictate my life. I’m going to marry the man that I love, go on my honeymoon, and deal with all that crap when I get back,” I tell her.

“Good for you!” Carrick pipes in. “I’m sure that monster would love nothing more than to disrupt your life.”

“Here, here!” Daddy chimes in and I smile at them both.

“Everyone knows where they are supposed to be in terms of the wedding night and the days ahead, right?” Christian asks and most of the members of the group nod. “Does anybody not know?” Silence. “Good. We’ll go over everything during the week—most likely several times—and then finalize what you are supposed to do at the rehearsal and dinner on Friday.”

Christian talks a little more about the wedding, who’s coming in, where everyone is supposed to be, and finally our departure. We even discuss the stag and hen parties a bit before he approaches topics that are a bit more somber.

“You all know that Ana is going to be part of the family now,” he begins. “On that note, we know that you have bits and pieces of the story and some of you know the story in its entirety. However, she wants to tell those of you who don’t know exactly what happened to her so that you can be prepared for what will happen in the weeks to come and what may be revealed during the trials that involve Green Valley.” Grace’s eyes turn to me and I smile a tight smile as Christian turns the floor over to me.

“My mother Carla left Daddy just before I started high school,” I begin. “She later said that she was going to find her happiness and that I was nothing more than a tax deduction for her and her new husband, then boyfriend. We moved to a house in an affluent area of Las Vegas call Green Valley. We couldn’t afford to live there and my mother’s entire goal in life at that time was to fit in…”

Over the next hour or so, I lay out my life in Green Valley in gory detail—the misery imposed upon me by Stephen, my mother’s neglect, the unbearable days at Green Valley High, the rape, the beating, losing my baby, being ripped from my safe haven in Montesano to go back to Vegas, all of it. The women cry silently, even those who know the story. Mia and Mandy weep openly, causing Baby Harry to stir and announce that he is ready for lunch. Mandy excuses herself and tearfully leaves to feed Harry.

“I hope I haven’t spoiled anyone’s appetite for brunch, but that’s a tale better heard—and told—on an empty stomach,” I say, my head down.

“I’ll say,” Carrick says his voice heavy. “Does anyone mind if I have a drink?”

“Make mine a double,” Ethan says. Christian rubs my hand warmly to let me know that his is still there with me.

“Elliot? Christian? Ray?” Carrick asks.

“No thanks, Dad. We’ve lived it for a while. I can stomach it a little better, now,” I say.

“Thanks, Carrick. No,” Ray says and Elliot just silently shakes his head.

“So… what’s going on now?” Ethan asks after Carrick gives him a double-shot of Scotch. I shrug.

“I don’t really know exactly. The three people who had the biggest roles in the attack and the cop that covered it are all in custody. The father that paid off Carla and Stephen killed himself when an investigation was opened into his finances and business practices. I’ve been too busy planning my wedding and dealing with my own catastrophes to pay too much attention to the progress of that particular case, although I know that I should.” I turn to Christian. I know he knows what’s going on in Green Valley.

“There have been more arrests,” he says. “Some are being held and some have been released. They are pretty much trying to see who is going to roll on who so that they can build the biggest case possible against the main perpetrators.” I already know what that means. Someone is going to turn state’s evidence and walk away with a plea. I shake my head. This is why I hate the justice system. “They may not even need Butterfly’s testimony with all the evidence they have, but she will certainly drive the point home by putting a live voice to the victim.” I look over at him.

“You’ve been talking to someone,” I say. He shrugs.

“Al, the D.A., the assistant AG…”

“Why didn’t you tell me?” I ask.

“You’re planning our wedding. Six days…” he says, unapologetic. I look at him for several moments.

“No more secrets, Mr. Grey,” I say lightly scolding. “I deserve to know.”

“Yes, Mrs. Grey,” he responds, still unapologetic.

“Mrs. Grey?” Elliot says. “Not for another week.”

“Says you,” Christian replies impassively. “She’s already Mrs. Grey as far as I’m concerned.” Elliot examines him.

“Did you guys elope already?” he asks, accusingly.

Nooooo!” Mia whines in horror.

“Christian… did you?” Grace asks. Christian looks from face to face and announces, “What if we did?” Protests erupt from all over the patio. No one can hear anyone else speak. Daddy looks questioning at me and I purse my lips in disgust at the display I’m seeing. I look at Daddy and shake my head, informing him that Christian and I have not eloped. He nods and at that moment, Christian explodes.

“You people are incredible!” he yells as he leaps to his feet. The group falls silent. I see my father slip from his seat and make a hasty getaway. I have a feeling that here comes the part of the conversation that I was dreading. “This is my life. MINE! There may be a possibility that I and my fiancée have decided to say our vows early and you people are cackling like a bunch of loose hens about how this somehow affects you. When are you all going to stop being so selfish? When are you all going to realize that Christian Grey is not made of stone? I am a living, breathing, feeling human being and you all treat me like a heartless ogre with a dollar sign on my head!” Ouch! No!

“Christian!” I say gently but urgently. He looks down at me and his anger subsides, but only infinitesimally.

“Elliot made me feel like shit and nobody paid any attention to what Elliot did. It was only what I did. Mia follows right behind him treating me like crap for an assumed behavior—not for something that I actually did—and what did I get for that? Dad calling me at my office telling me how badly I acted that Sunday, how I made Mom and Mia feel bad. The only one that came to check on me was my wife. Yes, I said it, my wife! None of you even bothered to come and make sure that I was okay. You were too busy placing blame and making sure Mia and Ethan were okay. Who cares about Christian’s feelings, right? He’ll be fine. He always bounces back. He’s made of stone. He has all the money in the world. He doesn’t feel anything. Well, surprise! I do, and I am done with the lot of you acting like my feelings don’t matter.

“Do you know how many people out there in the world treat me like shit for no good reason? It’s because they don’t know me. They just think they do. You are my family. You’ve known me for 26 years. I would think I wouldn’t have to be subjected to that kind of prejudice from you!”

His words cut like a knife even though they aren’t aimed at me. They stab at the heart and leave open wounds bleeding all over the patio. He goes on and on about how the world thinks they have him all figured out; how he may as well be a character made to bend to the wills of those who watch him as opposed to a living, breathing man with a heart that can be broken and feelings that can be hurt; how he is deathly weary of people trying to analyze him and predict how he should react or behave; how they assume what he’s thinking, how he should feel, and what he’s going to do next. I do my best to fight the tears that are threatening to fall, but I don’t stop him. It’s about time they understand exactly how he feels when they ignore the fact that their assumptions and behavior hurt him.

“There are strangers out there that are less assuming and judgmental of me than my own family. I’m almost afraid to know exactly what you all think of me—what the first words are that come to mind when someone says my name.” He looks down shaking his head and pinching his nose. That’s something I’ve never seen him do. “I’m not even going to address whether or not my wife and I have taken vows. If you want to see a wedding, be at the castle on Saturday and you will. As far as if we are already married or not, that’s not of your damn business!”

This would be the moment where Grace would chastise Christian for his language or Carrick would chide him for his tone, but they don’t. There’s silence, complete and utter silence. Christian grasps my hand tightly and part of it, I think, is if we need to make a quick getaway. The other part, I’m certain, is to keep him grounded.

“You’re right.” The words come from Elliot. We all turn to look at him. “I don’t know about anyone else, but I’ve always only thought of you as this pillar of strength. It wasn’t until recently that I even saw you as a man with feelings and a heart. You were always so… cold and… untouchable. It was easy to see you as a man with no feelings because… that’s all we ever saw. We never saw the inside—the part of you that loves or feels or hurts. When you met Ana, you were different. You started hugging and kissing Mom more, telling people you love them… I really should have known then that you had changed, at least a little. I’ve already apologized for how I acted, but I hope you know how sorry I am for not recognizing your feelings.”

Christian stands there, no doubt stunned at his brother’s words. In an uncontrolled moment, he and Elliot embrace each other, hard. I think I see Grace actually jump at the gesture and Mia is still sitting next to Ethan, wide-eyed and speechless.

“Thank you, Lelliot,” I hear Christian whisper.

“I’m sorry, Bro. I hope you believe me.”

“I do,” he says, looking at his brother. “I believe you.” Elliot smiles a tight smile at him and takes his seat again. Christian doesn’t make eye-contact with anyone else in the room. Instinctively, I think, he reaches down for my hand again.

“I think we better go,” he says without raising his head. I squeeze his hand to let him know that I will do whatever he wants.

“No, Christian, please. Don’t leave.” Grace is on her feet and in front of her son in no time. “Please don’t leave. It’s… this is a lot to digest. We’re not perfect and… I’m not making excuses but…” Another first—the usually eloquent Grace Grey is stumbling over her words. “Just… please… don’t leave,” she says finally, rubbing her son’s arms in that comforting way that only your Mom can. Christian finally raises his face to his mother’s pleading eyes.

“Okay, Mom,” he says, putting her out of her misery. “I’ll stay.”

Elliot and Ethan spearheaded the conversation during brunch, not allowing the table to go silent for even a moment. Val, Mandy, and I held conversation about the wedding and Baby Harry with interjection from Grace. Daddy and Carrick kept conversation about this and that—the latest game, current events. Christian pretty much jumped in wherever he could. The one person at the table who is uncharacteristically quiet is Mia. She silently eats her fruit salad and croissant while the rest of us mindlessly carry on conversations about whatever may be interesting at the time.

It’s about 2:30 when we rise from the table and start to go to different rooms of the house. Christian and Carrick retire to Carrick’s study for a private word and Daddy gets dragged along. While Grace and Mandy oversee the clearing of the table and the dishes, Val pulls me aside.

“C’mon, Steele, tell me. Did you and Christian elope?” she whispers conspiratorially.

“No, but you can’t tell Elliot,” I tell her. Christian has had enough of the way people are treating him. It’s just a matter of time before he said something.

“Christian can be pretty intense,” she says. “I don’t know how you deal with it.”

“I deal with it the same way anybody deals with someone they love,” I answer, slightly offended. She looks at me for a moment.

“Oh, please. Don’t be so quick to get mad at me. I didn’t mean anything by it. You have to admit, the man is intense!” she defends. My shoulders fall.

“I’m sorry, Val,” I say. “We’ve been through a lot this week… hell, this month… fuck, this year! It never seems to stop. He just doesn’t have the strength to deal with this shit day after day after day. Think about it… the Greys are intense, all of them. I don’t know if they hold him to a higher standard than he’s able to achieve or if he’s right and they just don’t expect him to feel. He’s not going to make it without their support.”

“Mmm,” Val says looking past me through the French doors. “And what do you think is going on there?” She gestures behind me with her head and I turn around. Mia is walking with her arms folded towards the gazebo. I sigh.

“She’s sulking. I’m sure of it,” I say, battling with going to talk to her or going to find Christian.

“Where did the fathers go?” Val asks as we both watch Mia walking to across the yard.

“Carrick’s study with Christian, probably discussing my dowry,” I respond and we laugh hysterically. I sigh heavily. “I’ll go talk to her.”

“I knew you would.”

When I get to the gazebo, Mia is standing in the middle of it with her arms folded, staring across the garden. As I get closer to her, I can see that she has been crying and the tears are still falling.

“I never knew he felt that way,” she says, wiping the tears from her cheeks. Her voice is solemn, not sad–just sort of impassive. If I weren’t looking at her face, I wouldn’t think she was crying. “I wonder how long he felt like that and never said anything.”

“I don’t know,” I say softly. “You would have to ask him, but at least since the last time that we were all here.” She chuckles through her tears but keeps her gaze focused in front of her.

“That long, huh?” she says without meeting my eyes.

“Yes… at least that long,” I reply. She wipes another falling tear from her face. She never really sobs or weeps, she just wipes them away when they fall.

“When I was a kid, I used to wake up screaming. I didn’t know why, I was just screaming. Most of the time, Christian would come to my room and lay down with me until I went back to sleep. It wasn’t hard. I didn’t have any bad dreams or anything like that—I was just screaming. The doctors called them night terrors. I don’t know.” She wraps her arms around her as if she were cold. It’s not cold at all, so I know that’s not it.

“One night, I awoke screaming and Christian didn’t come. I was six years old. I walked down to his room and just as I got to the door, I heard him screaming. I couldn’t believe it. Here I am screaming in the middle of the night only to find out that my brother was screaming, too. I opened his bedroom door and the sight was terrifying. He was thrashing about in the bed like someone was beating him.” That’s probably because somebody was beating him. “I was so afraid. I thought, ‘he’s my protector, and he’s screaming, too. Who’s going to protect me now?’ I stood there and watched him fight his nightmare until he woke up, breathless and in a terrible sweat. It couldn’t have been more than a minute or so, but it felt like hours. My big brother was supposed to protect me from the Boogie Man, but the Boogie Man was coming after him, too.

“I’ll never forget that night. I stayed plastered against the wall until his breathing returned to normal. He stood up and went to his bathroom, never turning on the light and never seeing me. Once he was inside, I went back to my room and got into bed. A little while later, he came into my room. He had changed into clean, dry pajamas and dried his hair. ‘Are you okay, Meelo?’ he had asked. I nodded and just like every other night, he climbed into bed with me and stayed there until I fell asleep. I never told him what I saw that night. I just never forgot that while his monsters were chasing him, he always came to chase mine away.”

She wipes her tears from her cheeks again and turns to stare out at the water.

“I don’t know why I never let it sink in. I knew it, but I never let it sink in. He never let anybody in. He never let anybody see his monsters…” I saw them. “but they were always there. I knew they were there, but… I guess since I never saw them, I just thought they weren’t as scary as mine. Hell, I never even saw mine.” The tears are flowing harder and faster now, but her voice never shakes.

“It wasn’t until I was older that Mom and Dad told me that I was a crack baby. That could be why I’m such a hyper adult. The night terrors could be anything. I never remember if it was a dream or what could be happening. I just wake up screaming.”

“You still have them?” I ask her. She nods.

“Occasionally. Imagine my embarrassment the first time I spent the night with Ethan and woke up screaming bloody murder.” She rubs her arms. “How big are his monsters, Ana? I know you’ve seen them.” I’m silent for a moment, but I finally answer her.

“They’re big. They’re ginormous.” I won’t lie. She finally drops her head and weeps openly. I walk over to her and rub her shoulders.

“He has always protected me from mine… always! No matter how big or small, he was always there to fight them. Why couldn’t I see his?” Her shoulders shake as she sobs bitterly.

*-*

It’s Friday morning, the day of our rehearsal dinner and singles’ nights… and the day before my wedding. We’ve made our plans for our honeymoon since we still haven’t heard anything about David’s trial, and I make it my business to block everything out of my head that doesn’t involve my wedding. Val and Maxie threw me a surprise bridal shower on last Wednesday night when Christian went to Boys’ Night. They couldn’t do too much since the wedding is still a secret—which is amazing to me that the cat is not out of the bag yet. I’m sure that it will be before the night is over, but no one knows where the wedding is, so it really won’t matter. There are armed guards outside the castle gates, the airspace is restricted, and all cell phones must be surrendered before anyone is allowed into the wedding. There’s no way that unwanted pictures can surface or unwanted guests will be able to attend.

I’ve packed everything that I need for the next two days into garment bags and suitcases and have already sent them to the castle. My honeymoon wardrobe is already loaded onto the GEH jet. There is nothing left for me to do now except be where I must be for the festivities.

Christian and his gang of merry men took off early this morning and I won’t see him again until the rehearsal dinner. I’m a little lost right now since there is absolutely nothing left for me to do at the moment.

“Ana! Isn’t there something you should be doing right now?” Grace asks when I show up at her home at 11 in the morning the day before my wedding.

“Not a thing, and if you send me away, I won’t have anything to do but go back to the penthouse and twiddle my thumbs. Christian has gone hiking… or fishing… or something, and I have nothing to do until the rehearsal dinner and even then, all I get to do is sit and observe for the most part. So give me some kind of task or I’m going to lose my mind,” I beseech her.

“Steele!” I hear Val’s voice coming from somewhere in the house. “What are you doing here?”

“My rehearsal dinner will be here in a few hours! I’m not allowed to help or watch?”

“No, you’re not. Go get pampered or go shopping or something. You’re not allowed to be here. You’ll just stress yourself out.”

“But Vaaaaal,” I whine.

“No buts. Get out of here, Steele. You can’t be here.” She all but shoves me out of the front door, closing it behind me. What do I do now?

I give Mandy a call, but her phone goes to voice mail. I forgot. She has a newborn. She’s probably napping.

“Hi, Mandy. It’s Ana. I was just looking for something to do and was hoping I could come over and see you and Harry. Call me later.” I hang up the phone and try to find something else to do. Maxie, Phil, and Gary are all at work. I have no idea where Al is. Marilyn is making sure that all of my patients know that I will be unavailable for three weeks. Every single little thing that needs to be done for the wedding has been done and what hasn’t been done is being done right now. There is absolutely nothing for me to do. Val said go shopping… for what? There’s nothing for me to buy! The mani/pedi/spa day is tomorrow. There’s really nothing for me to do.

I’m driving aimlessly around Seattle, looking for a purpose in life—anything at all to fill my time when I find myself in the last place I thought I would ever go…

the aquarium.

Chuck is out of his car and standing at my driver’s side door before I can even turn off my car.

“Are you sure you want to be here?” he asks cautiously. I look at the building that I haven’t visited in nearly a year, since that fateful day when David drugged me and he and Harris dragged me off to that God-forsaken house on that island that won’t be mentioned.

“Yes, I’m sure,” I say as I put my guns in the glove box and lock it. “Just… stay close. Okay?” He looks at me and nods.

“Sure thing, Ana.”

I pay admission for both of us when we get inside and I trace the same steps I did the day that I was kidnapped. I don’t know what brought me here. I know that I wanted to come back and reacquaint myself with the place, and with absolutely nothing to do, it seemed logical. I don’t know if I’m confronting demons or just doing something dumb because I’m bored. I’m at the coral reef exhibit, the one that makes me feel so insignificant in the big scheme of things.

You’re thinking about the last time you were here.
Yep.
You’re about to get married.
Yep.
So why are you thinking about the last time you were here?
My life is about to change. Seems appropriate.
How much different is it really going to be? You’re going to leave your penthouse apartment, go have a big party in a castle, spend three weeks on a fabulous vacation, then come back to your penthouse apartment.
It’ll be different.

I had a long conversation with the Bitch the last time I came here, too. I was mad at Christian for going to Green Valley and looking at the same exhibits. This time, I have Chuck tailing me. Since he’s in his official capacity, he gets to keep his gun. That makes me feel a little better walking among so many strangers, even though several of them are curious children. The Bitch only shows up every now and then these days and I haven’t actually pinpointed when that is.

I’m sitting in the Life on the Edge exhibit, getting reacquainted with one of my favorite places. I’ll be Mrs. Grey, not just because Christian calls me that, but because we’ll be married and I will legally be Mrs. Grey. Mrs. Christian Grey. I smile to myself as I think I will be the envy of women all over the greater Seattle area. True, I already am, but it will be official.

I don’t know how long I sit in the exhibit going back and forth with the Bitch about how things will be different, but I finally move on to the next one when my butt gets tired of sitting on the rocks. Christian will probably insist that I have another CPO since I will not only have extreme emotional worth, but increased net worth as well. I don’t know how I feel about that. Although I always knew that it was necessary, it took a while to get accustomed to Chuck following me. I think he may have to work something else out with that one. I won’t allow my life to become a circus, even if I am Mrs. Christian Grey.

The Ocean Oddities exhibit reminds me that Christian and I were supposed to build our own aquarium. I was slow to do it at first, and even now, I’m feeling some trepidation about it. Do I really want an aquarium in my home again? I know for sure that I won’t be the one taking care of it, but a wall of water and fish suddenly seems like a wonderful idea. We’ve all but abandoned the idea with everything that has been happening in our lives, especially with the wedding planning over the last several months. Maybe we’ll approach the topic again after the wedding.

Several minutes later, I find myself in the Underwater Viewing Dome unable to move. This was the last exhibit I saw before they took me.

He’s not going to be out there.

“I know.”

“You know what?” Chuck asks. I didn’t know that I responded to the Bitch aloud. I’ll have to be careful with that.

“Nothing, I was talking to myself,” I answer him honestly. He examines me for a moment, then extends his arm to me with a slight smile. My heart swells for this man who I love like the brother I never had. That small gesture assures me that he will protect me and I gladly accept his elbow as we are walking out of the aquarium.

The moment we are out in the open air, crippling fear hits me. I look around and see the familiar sites—the Alaskan Viaduct, the little eatery to my left… where Harris jumped out at me. I can feel my breathing quicken and I grasp Chuck’s arm with both hands. I feel him turn his head and look at me before covering my hands with his free one. He says something to me, but I can’t hear him. I’m back at the day I was kidnapped. There was a car at the end of the drive. It was… green? Gray? I’m not sure. There are more people around than there were that day, but I still feel alone. I clutch Chuck’s arm harder. I’m afraid.

One foot in front of the other, I slowly walk down the wide passageway toward the street. I feel like I’m going to be sick, but I keep walking. It seems like we have been walking forever, but we aren’t even halfway. God, this is torture! That’s when I see him. I swear I see him. I know that I’m going to fall over into unconsciousness as the space between us closes. Oh, God…

The next few minutes… seconds… hours… I don’t know… are honestly a blur to me. I’m clinging to Christian like a six-year-old lost in the zoo who just found her daddy. He’s holding me up and I can feel the bewilderment emanating from his pores. I could care fucking less that we are in a public place and there are children around. I have my arms and legs wrapped around him like a drowning woman clinging to my only hope of survival.

“Butterfly, what’s wrong? What are you doing here?”

“I… didn’t have anywhere else to go,” I squeak.

“It’s the day before your wedding! There must be a million things to do!” he protests.

“Nothing,” I murmur, inhaling his smell deeply and allowing it to comfort me. “Everything is done. Whatever else needs to be done, someone else is doing it and they won’t let me help.” He’s still for a moment and I sink into his grasp. Holding me solidly against him with one arm, he reaches for something and I lay my head on his shoulder. He’s here. He came to save me—I know he did. He always does. We get to the car and he slides inside with me in his arms. We are sitting alone in the back seat, me straddling his lap and him still holding on, when I realize he has pulled out his blackberry.

“Allen! What the fuck is going on, Man? I thought you were supposed to be the Man of Honor. I’m at the top of a fucking mountain when I get a call that Anastasia’s at the aquarium. Where the fuck are you?… You’re what?… I thought you did that yesterday!… I’m taking her to get some food. You get your ass over here! What kind of Man of Honor deserts the bride the day before her wedding?… Save it, Forsythe. Get your ass to Tulio. I’m going to get this woman some food. She looks like she’s about to pass out!” He ends the call with Al and lifts my head to look him. “When is the last time you’ve eaten? You’re pale.”

“You… um…” I can’t find my words. He just ripped my best friend and Man of Honor a new asshole in 60 seconds or less, but he’s right. I shouldn’t be alone today. “I don’t know… a bagel for breakfast?” I stutter. He glares at me.

“Butterfly! It’s almost 3:00!” he scolds. It is? I look at his watch. It is!

“I’m… I’m sorry. I didn’t know so much time had passed.” He puts his hands on either side of my face and examines me closely, looking deeply into my eyes for… what? I don’t know. With lightening speed, his lips slam painfully into mine and suck my breath away in a moment. My arms are pinned against him like they were during our very first kiss, and the same fire is igniting inside of me that did that day. He is urgent and uncontrolled, outside of himself—only this time, I’m not running. When he pulls away from me, his eyes are molten gray and feral.

“What are you doing here?” he asks again, his voice a harsh whisper. “You scared the shit out of me.”

“I’m sorry,” I pant. “I didn’t… mean to…” I’m intoxicated with his smell and his macho, the hold he has on me right now. I can’t move, and I would let him do anything to me that he wanted at this moment. He runs his nose up my neck and inhales deeply. His breath is causing shivers to travel down my spine and I melt a bit more in his arms.

My Christian. My husband.

“What brought you here?” he asks softly. “Are you okay?” He cups my face again so that he can look into my eyes.

“I didn’t have anything to do… I just… It was instinct.” I can barely catch my breath.

“You’re… not having second thoughts?” he asks, his voice laced with fear. Is that what he thought? Is that why he came running down the mountain? Oh, my God.

“No,” I say in a voice that I don’t recognize, now taking his face in my hands and looking into his eyes. “No, never. No second thoughts.” My voice is pleading, begging him to understand that I have never been so sure about anything in my life.

“Oh, Ana!” His mouth captures mine once more in a searing kiss. I thrust my hands into his hair and pull him to me, devouring him, making him one with me. He thought I had changed my mind. He moans into my mouth as his tongue caresses mine in a sensual dance, flaming my love and passion for him and causing explosions in all the right places.

Oh, Christian

“I was so scared,” he breathes between sensual kisses. One hand travels up my back to my neck while the other travels to my butt and even through my jeans, I can feel his erection rising and rubbing against me in the perfect spot.

“Ah!” I gasp, grinding slightly down on him as he groans and presses against me. His body is so hard, his chest strong and firm, and I want to fuck him right here. My clit is throbbing. I’m only too sure that I have soaked through my panties by now, and I continue to rub against him, slowly.

“Ana…” he groans as he grabs my hips, his strong hands enveloping me. I feel like a toy—small and insignificant in the hands of this massive, strong man. He looks me in my eyes, his expression telling me that he owns me and he knows it. He’s gritting his teeth and the veins are visible in his arms. “Ah! Ana, stop!” he commands as his strong hands still my hips, holding them in place. I almost want to cry, I was so close. “Not here, not now… not yet.”

Fuck!


GREY

I almost did it. I almost fucking came in my jeans in the back seat of Butterfly’s car outside the fucking aquarium in broad fucking daylight. She is so hot. Damn, she is hot, but she scared me to death. One minute, I’m hiking up my favorite trail with Elliot, James, Ethan, and Jason. The next minute, Davenport checks in that she’s at the damn aquarium. She hasn’t been here in a year. When she was here, she was mad at me and a couple of fucking cowards kidnapped her.

I think I pissed myself getting down that goddamn mountain.

It took everything in me not to wring Davenport’s neck when I got out of the car to see them clinging to each other until I saw the look on her face. She was fucking terrified. She was more behind him than beside him and her eyes were darting around like she expected someone to jump out at her. I think she did expect it. I kept my feet planted instead of following my instinct, marching over to Davenport, and snatching my Butterfly away from him.

It was a good move.

She looked at me like she had seen a ghost, then broke into a marathon sprint leaping into my arms and wrapping her body around mine. It was the most wonderful feeling in the world until I felt her fear. It was palpable. Even though she was holding on with the strength of 10 men, I could still feel her shaking.

Now, I’m in the back seat of her car, holding her hips down on my throbbing manhood and begging her to stop stroking her intoxicating flower against me lest I come in my pants like a pubescent boy. Even under those jeans, I can smell her arousal and it’s killing me.

“Fuck, Baby, you are so goddamn irresistible,” I groan, kissing her neck and nibbling her ear.

“Christian, please,” she begs, trying to move her hips. I look around and Jason and Chuck have both flanked the car, their backs to the doors. I will never live this down if I go back to the guys with cum stains in my pants. This is one of the many times that I thank the heavens for tinted windows! I make quick work of Butterfly’s zipper and thrust my hand into her jeans, finding the magic spot in no time flat. She gasps several times as I probe, sinking my two middle fingers deep inside her core while my thumb deeply massages her clit.

“Hah! Christian!” she breathes while shivering against my hand, both of hers planting firmly on my shoulders. “I’m… I’m go…”

“That’s good, Baby. Come on, give it to me,” I coach her, kissing her neck and licking her earlobe. She starts to whimper and I take her lips with mine, masking her cries as she comes wetly against my hand. I press hard against her clit, drawing out her orgasm along with all the fear that she felt in the aquarium.

You’re safe, Butterfly. You’re safe with me.

She’s panting feverishly as she pulls her mouth back and leans her forehead against mine. I remove my hand and button and zip her jeans again, resisting the urge to stick my fingers in my mouth and taste her essence. Instead, I wrap my arms around her as she lay on my shoulder and catch her breath. When her breathing is slightly normal, I crack the window and look up at Davenport.

“Take us to Tulio.”

Butterfly has just finished her clam linguini and roasted chicken when Allen arrives at the restaurant. “The aquarium, Jewel?” he asks, bending down to kiss her on the cheek. “Are you trying to give us a heart attack?”

“Oh, not you too,” Butterfly laments.

“What were you thinking? Why didn’t you call me?”

“Why weren’t you here?” I grumble. Butterfly didn’t hear me, but Allen did. He throws an irate look at me.

“I’ll take it from here, Chris,” he says, his voice slightly menacing.

“Allen, a word?” I say before climbing the stairs to the second floor of the restaurant. I turn around to see that Allen and Jason are almost right behind me. I light into him as soon as we reach the second floor.

“For fuck’s sake, Allen. Isn’t it written somewhere in some rule book or list of wedding etiquette or something that the Man of Honor is not supposed to leave the bride alone the day before the wedding?” I speak in a subdued but angry voice. “She could have done anything, went anywhere. She went to the fucking aquarium! She could have ended up in Montana again for all we know.”

“Look, Chris, I’m sorry, but I would rather deal with your wrath now than to deal with that woman if she got to the castle and her dress wasn’t there!”

“Well, congratulations! You get your wish!” I hiss. Jason turns around and shushes me, indicating that I’m getting a little loud. “Look, just keep her occupied until the rehearsal dinner, okay? I’m certain there is some crazy plan to keep her occupied for the rest of the night.”

“Yes, there is. I got it, okay?” His voice is sounding slightly annoyed and I’m getting more than a little irritated.

“I’m going to leave now. I just jumped off a goddamn mountain to find my fiancée in the last place I expected her to be, trembling and shaking in her jeans, so I really don’t have time to stroke your bruised feelings right now.” Without another word, I turn and leave him where he is standing and go back to Butterfly.

“I’m going to get going, Baby.” She reaches for my hand and clings tightly.

“Do you have to go so soon?” Her voice is beseeching again. It’s both reassuring and heart-wrenching. I bring her hand to my lips and kiss it gently.

“Yes, Baby. I have three grown men in a paintball park waiting to pelt me within an inch of my life,” I say with a smile and she laughs with me.

“I’m sorry I interrupted your day,” she says, truly apologetic.

“As long as you’re okay, it was worth it.” I kiss her gently on the lips. “Don’t go back to the aquarium, okay?” She nods. I kiss her again and after throwing a look over at Allen, I leave Tulio.

“You’ve never had a disagreement with Allen,” Jason says when we’re back in the car.

“Yes, I have,” I correct him, thinking about the moment we both realized that Butterfly was missing last year when those idiots kidnapped her. “Both times, it was about her, and this won’t be the last time.” He looks at me and starts the car, headed for Adventure Paintball Park.

Okay…

Let’s just say that if any of these fuckers worked for me, they would all be fired right now.

Jason got fired 12 times.

I’m accustomed to being good at everything, but I swear to God these assholes set me up!

Since I recently learned to shoot, getting the hang of shooting a paintball gun took little effort. However, when you have four other people—including the asshat who is supposed to be on your team—out to get you, it doesn’t matter how good you are. You are getting tagged like a wall in the urban jungle. I’m not on the course 30 seconds, and I get hit in the fucking face. Let me tell you, paintball paint has a putrid flavor!

And now I’m pissed.

This fucker that I pay to watch my back professionally doesn’t do shit to watch my back on the fucking course. He might as well have worn neon lights, guiding people to me with orange wands like an aircraft marshall. All we needed was the big red map arrow to point out my location:

WE ARE HERE!

After a few minutes of having a target on my back, I figure it out. I turn around and nail Jason so many times that he actually goes down.

“Boss! What the fuck!” he exclaims.

“You tell me what the fuck,” I say before I yell, “EVERY MAN FOR HIMSELF!” and pelt that fucker four more times. He’s writhing on the ground after each shot and from every direction, paintballs come flying out of nowhere… but none of them are coming at me.

These idiots are shooting at each other… nice!

Jason does some kind of commando crawl out of my line of fire and I take off in the direction of the shots. Fuckers gang up on me? Fine.

Elliot is the first victim.

I manage to get behind him—about thirty feet—while he’s stalking Ethan. I believe he’s the one that shot me in the face. If it wasn’t him, then he’s about to take one for the team. I kneel behind a big ass rock and take my aim right for that fucker’s head before I say just loud enough for him to hear,

“Hey Bro.

As soon as he turns around, I nail that asshole right in the goggles.

“Goddammit, Christian!”

I don’t fucking stop. I have been nailed with these fucking paintballs for I don’t know how long and this asshole barely looks like he’s been touched. Okay, take a couple of splatters from your little brother. Effectively blinded by my paintball, much like I was about 20 minutes ago, he’s a sitting duck. I tag him a few more times at close range causing several expletives to proceed from his mouth then take off into the trees and leave him there like roadkill. Some lovely opportunist takes this time to start firing on him while he’s trying to clean his goggles and he’s cursing again, flat on the ground trying not to get hit.

I am laughing my ass off, trying my best not to choke or make a sound.

I travel through the trees trying to find out who the opportunist is that attacked Elliot and I realized that I’m being stalked.

It has to be Jason. He wants to get back at me.

Well, I’m not going to outsmart a former military man and I’m not going to try, but I’m not going to just lay down and let him get me either. I run through the trees towards the first shooter then crouch to the ground when I get to the open field. I’m at least 15 feet or so away from the nearest barrier. Somebody’s going to tag me. I decide that diversion is the best defense. I run out onto the field at top speed screaming “Bonsaiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii!” This disorients my assailants for about two seconds. Once they recover, the balls start flying. Amazingly, I only get nicked once—nicked! Diversion successful!

I’m behind the barrier which is now being thumped repeatedly by paintballs to prevent me from moving. I turn around and Jason is eyeballing me from behind one of the other barriers. Who the fuck was stalking me, then? I take a shot at Jason and only hit his barrier, buying me enough time to scramble to another barrier. Across the open field, Ethan—at least I think it’s Ethan—is running like a headless chicken, attempting my same diversion tactic.

He gets nailed so badly that I feel sorry for the guy.

We now have three people in the field of barriers where we are. Jason knows where I am so I quickly change position. I know where he and Ethan are and Elliot has to come out of those trees sooner or later.

Somebody’s missing.

“Looking for me?” I turn around and see something that pisses me off and amazes me at the same time. Standing there several feet away from me in completely black gear is James and he hasn’t been hit once! Just like I tagged Elliot, he unloads on me mercilessly and those damn paintballs hurt!

“Fuck!” I yell as he pings me several times then disappears behind one of the barriers. He’s a fucking professional! He has to be!

“James!” I yell. “He’s clean! Get that motherfucker!” The course is quiet for a moment, then the murmurs begin.

“He’s clean?”
“How the fuck can he be clean?”
“I got hit in the balls and he’s clean?”
“Get the fuck outta here!”
“Find that son-of-a-bitch!”

And all hell breaks loose. Three grown men come out of their hiding places and start running in my direction. James knows they are after him, so he just starts picking them off one by one—but he can’t shoot us all at the same time. The moment he emerges from the barrier to make a getaway, I roll over—still on the ground from his earlier assault—and blast him twice in the back of his thigh.

“Shit!” he exclaims and breaks into a limp. Yeah, those paintballs hurt, don’t they? He shakes it off quickly and tries to hide behind another barrier, but the poor sucker doesn’t stand a chance. That barrier is being pelted like crazy with paintballs and four angry bad sports are closing in on him. Realizing that he’s beat, James jumps up from behind the barrier, waving his hands in the air.

“You win! You win! I surrender.”

Now, this is what plays in my head in about five seconds. This fucker has run around this course probably getting a hit on every man in the game. About five minutes ago, he stood over me with his cocky ass, clean as a Sunday School teacher, flaunting that he hadn’t taken a hit without saying a word. Seconds later, he unloaded on me while I was lying on the ground. Now, he has his hands in the air, his gun still firmly in his palm, and his finger still on the trigger.

Nope, not buying it.

“Nice try,” I say, before I quickly tag both arms and one leg with yellow balls. As if waiting for my signal, Elliot, Ethan, and Jason let loose on the pretty, clean, black gear. He is almost instantly covered in Technicolor splats of paint. All I can say is that I hope Ethan is right about the shit washing out of your hair.

*-*

Fuck, this day was exhausting. I don’t even have time to take a little nap. I’m in the hottest of hot water up to my neck back at Escala, trying to soak away the aches and pains before I have to be back at Mom and Dad’s for the rehearsal dinner. We only spent about an hour at paintball—well, at least I did—but it might as well have been the whole day. I’ve got several red and purple circular bruises all over my body and they truly hurt like hell. My muscles are killing me and I could fall asleep right here. Butterfly is going to kill me if I am in anything less than perfect shape before tomorrow. I chastise myself for running around like a teenager shooting a bunch of grown adolescents—if there can be such a thing.

but it was fun, though.

I walk out to the kitchen in nothing but my boxer briefs to find Elliot out there in the similar garb. He’s hunched over a cup of coffee and he looks miserable.

“I feel like shit, man,” he grumbles as I walk past him to the cupboard to get the ibuprofen.

“You should. Your back looks like a war zone.” I hand him a couple of pills and he swallows them immediately. “Did you take a bath?”

“A shower,” he laments.

“You should have taken a bath,” I scold and he groans.

“Well, you two look like I feel.” Jason has emerged from his apartment in bottoms, but no shirt.

“Who’s great idea was it to do paintball again?” Elliot asks.

“That would be Ethan,” I tell him. “Admit it, you had a great time.”

“Yeah,” he admits, “but at what cost?”

“Oh, stop your fucking whining,” I say. I almost want to slap him on the back, but the thought makes my back hurt. “I’ll get the Arnica cream and we can do each other’s backs. Just… be careful with mine…”

A couple of hours later, we’re no worse for wear—still a little stiff, but now enjoying the rehearsal dinner catered in my parents’ backyard. It was the best place to hold the rehearsal since the weather permitted and the actual wedding will be held outdoors at the castle. Butterfly watched the entire thing from a birdseye seat since she refuses to walk down the aisle until she’s walking towards me. She nearly burst into tears when she saw my surprise for her—Maggie is our flower girl and Marlow agreed to be our ring bearer. This was really a site to see, since Marlow is nearly six feet tall, but he was happy to do it. Butterfly almost leaped from her seat when she saw him. I felt good knowing that this was one surprise that I could make happen for her.

Once Tamara finally has the procession the way that it should be, we all proceed to the other marquee set up on the lawn for the rehearsal dinner. We feast on steak and lobster while Billy Currington provides the soundtrack for a slideshow of our story. I watch Butterfly sitting demurely in the same dress that she wore the first time I saw her at the nightclub over a year ago. While she’s getting a little teary-eyed next to me watching pictures of our trip to Anguilla, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and our engagement, I’m thinking about how that dress showed a whisper of ass-cheek when she wrapped her leg around Gary on the dance floor last year.

Settle down, Grey. She’s marrying you tomorrow.

She’s gently dabbing her eyes when she gets to the picture of us on Love Lock Bridge outside of the Wine Train. I knew that would make her all weepy. When the slide show is over, she smiles up at me and dabs her eyes again. This time tomorrow, she’ll legally be Mrs. Grey… mine in every sense of the word. I gently kiss her lips and try to fight the intense feeling of possession that’s washing over me right now.

Mrs. Grey…
My wife…


A/N: “C’est la vie.”–“That’s life.”

Billy Currington–Until You

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

The wedding is right around the corner. See the event take form in the new album on Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/mending-dr-steele-the-wedding-weve-all-been-waitin/

You can join my mailing list on the “Contact Me” page. Just click the link and it will lead you to a form to join the list.

Love and Handcuffs!
Lynn x

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Mending Dr. Steele: Chapter 60—Daddy’s Girl

There were many different comments about how Christian should have acted in the Playroom and Jason’s concern for Ana. Some thought the scene was hot and appropriate for their relationship. Others thought that Christian should find a different way to release his aggression. All I can say in response to that is HE’S A DOM, PEOPLE! Nothing else to say.

I do want to say that people do things for different reasons and we really have to be careful not to judge what we may not understand. So please, I do want to request that we not slam anybody’s lifestyle just because we don’t agree. I know that I have people from different walks of life reading my story and I don’t want someone to read someone else’s comment and say, “Well, damn, what the fuck did they mean by that?”

Opinions are just fine—I welcome them—as long as they are not derogatory or offensive. Let’s just remember that we are already dealing with “taboo” topics here. Let’s be sure that we are not saying anything that may offend someone. If I have offended anyone, please forgive me.

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

Chapter 60—Daddy’s Girl

GREY

“Who? Who the fuck did you say?” I bark at Welch.

“Alexandria Rose Lambert. She’s 71 years old and resides in Harrisburg, PA. Widowed, three sons—Archibald, Frederick, and Harold Lambert…”

“Anastasia’s father… fuck!” I bang my hand on the desk. Fuck, fuck, fuck! Butterfly just shed the nightmare that is her mother. Now, long-lost relatives are coming out of the fucking woodwork! Why now? Is it because Ana is about to be rich? “Could this woman be an imposter? An opportunist trying to play on Ana’s emotions?”

“There is that possibility, Sir, but imposter is not very likely. We’ve followed her and tracked her ever since she started watching Ms. Steele. She didn’t even know that we were tracking her. She most likely still doesn’t unless one of the security detail has approached her, and I’ve got no word on that.” I look at the pictures again.

“She doesn’t look 71. Fifty, maybe, but not 71.” I say. Welch shrugs.

“Hair dye, maybe. She takes excellent care of herself from the Intel I get. She’s staying at the Marriott, runs every morning and gym every evening. I don’t know about her eating habits, but she’s in excellent shape.”

“Again, another reason I think she’s not 71 and could be an imposter. I want to meet this woman. Right now. I want to know why she waited until now to show up. Ana has never mentioned her. Nobody has, not even Ray. I want to know if she is who she says she is and why she’s here.” I pick up my phone to call Jason only to see him walking into my office with a bit of a solemn look on his face. “What is it?” I ask him.

“Her Highness is on her way back to Escala. She had an episode while she was shopping today.” He’s stalling.

“An episode?” I nearly growl.

“Yes Sir. Paramedics were called, but she refused to go to the hospital and had Chuck take her home.” Hospital? Paramedics? What the fuck?

“English Jason quickly,” I say through my teeth. He sighs.

“She passed out in the street, Sir. Chuck doesn’t know exactly why, but he knows that she was talking on the phone to her father and she had just confronted a woman who says she’s her grandmother.” I thrust my hands into my hair.

“Oh, fuck! Are you kidding me? How the fuck does this shit happen? Why do I even hire you guys?” I’m screaming now.

“The details are sketchy, Sir, but as far as I can tell, Her Highness recognized the woman and approached her after asking Chuck to come with her. She didn’t do anything careless from what I’m being told, but it just seems like the shock of the situation was too much for her.” I shake my head in dismal despair.

“Two weeks,” I hiss. “Two weeks before her fucking wedding. You lay down one demon and four more pop out. I swear I’m going to lock her in the fucking apartment!” I snatch my suit jacket from the back of the seat and head for the door.


STEELE

“You’re… who?” I don’t recognize my own voice. It can’t be. This can’t be.

“I’m your grandmother, Anastasia. I’m your father’s mother. I didn’t mean for you to see me… at least, not like this.” Her voice is kind and soft, and I feel like I’m about to shit my pants.

“I’m 27,” I say, shaking. She frowns at me, confused.

“I know that, Dear,” she says.

“Where have you been? I’m 27…” I’m hoping these few words can relay the horror I feel right now. I had a grandmother—a grandma—and I didn’t know it for 27 years. There was someone out there of my own flesh and blood that didn’t come for me when I was suffering. A man who doesn’t share one bit of DNA with me cared more than my own blood. Am I really that unlovable? No! No! This flaw is not mine! This is hers. My family is nothing but a bunch of hideous, uncaring people and that’s not my fault. I refuse to believe it’s my fault.

Daddy. I need my Daddy.

“Daddy? Daddy? Daddy, I need you…” I say into the phone after shakily dialing his number.

Annie? Annie, what’s wrong?”

“There’s a… lady… She… says… she says she’s… my grandmother.” I can barely speak. I feel like I’m going to pass out.

Your grandmother?” He sounds completely flabbergasted. “What? Who… what’s her name?”

“Al… Alex… andria…” There’s a gasp on the other end.

Mrs. Lambert!?” he squeals. “I thought she had died!” My brain is scrambled for a moment.

“You… know her?” I squeeze the words out of my throat. There’s a pause on the other end of the line.

Yes, Sunflower, I know Harry’s mother… I knew Harry, too.” That’s it… here comes the darkness…

*-*

I’m safe in my bed. Maybe it was all a dream. The woman claiming to be my grandmother, Daddy on the phone, the paramedics… I look down at my clothes. Nope, not a dream. It was real. Fuck, it was real. I throw my legs angrily out of the bed. Where has she been all these years? My mind automatically goes to the beating. That was the time when I asked if anyone loved me, cried and wondered why there seemed to be no escape for me. Daddy couldn’t take me because we’re not blood, but she could have. Why didn’t she come to rescue me?

After I relieve myself, I emerge from my bedroom to find my fiancé, father, stepmother and baby brother all in the great room. I almost feel like a stranger until I hear Harry coo. I walk right over to his baby seat.

“Hi, Harry,” I say softly, not speaking to anyone else in the room. I gently lift him into my arms and cradle him there, taking comfort in his innocence and untainted love. “How are you, Little Guy?” I say kissing him on the forehead before sitting on the sofa. He looks up at me with that blank look that newborns have, unassuming and curious, and it makes me feel a little better about the world. At 22 days old, he already has the ability to make things right.

“Butterfly… are you hungry?” Christian is the first to approach, though very cautiously. Without raising my gaze from my gorgeous baby brother, I nod that I would like something to eat. “I’ll go have Gail fix something. I’ll be right back.” Christian makes a hasty escape and I turn my attention to my father.

“You know her?” I ask, a bit more coldly than I wanted.

“Yes, I do,” he says, softly.

“Did you see her? Is it really her or some sick fuck trying to come at me for money?” Ouch! That was certainly too much. Daddy winces at my words and I instantly regret how they came out, but not what I said. I want to know who this woman is and what she wants.

“I didn’t see her yet, Annie, but I will. Christian asked to meet her after your episode this afternoon and she refused. She won’t talk to anyone until she talks to you, which is going to be a task since your fiancé will not let her talk to you until she talks to him.” I glare at him. How is Christian going to tell me who I can and cannot talk to? Is this how he thinks our marriage is going to go? As if to answer my question, Daddy continues. “He wants to make sure that you’ll be safe before you speak to her. She could be anyone, Annie. We can’t take that chance.”

We. He agrees with Christian. Beneath my confusion, anger, pain, and frustration, I agree with Christian, too. There’s another feeling there, though. It’s betrayal. Alexandria Lambert is not the only one who has been keeping something from me.

“Why didn’t I know about her? I didn’t know that you weren’t my biological father until I was 14. Why didn’t I know about her? Why did you all keep her from me?” Daddy’s face falls.

“We didn’t keep you from her, Annie, I swear it. We didn’t even know that she was still alive,” he defends.

“How could you not know? You said you knew my…” What do I call him? I can’t call him my father. Ray Steele is my father… but so was he. What do I call him?

“It’s okay, Sunflower. He was your father. You can say it.” He seems reserved to the fact but it still doesn’t feel right to me, not in front of Daddy.

“You said that you knew my biological father. How could you not know about Alexandria?” A look of relief comes over his face, but it is quickly replaced by shame.

“Ana, it’s time for me to feed Harry, and I think you and your father need some time alone,” Mandy says reaching for Harry. “May I use your guest room please?”

I reluctantly hand Harry over to his mom. He was my talisman, my little bundle of comfort and strength, but I guess I’ll have to be strong on my own.

“There are more comfortable chairs in my office if you like. It’s upstairs, first room on your right. The guest room is the last room on the left.” She nods and kisses Daddy on the cheek before disappearing up the stairs. I turn my gaze back to Daddy but say nothing. He sighs heavily.

“Mrs. Lambert stopped speaking to me after Carla and I got married,” he begins. “It was very shortly after Harry died. She stopped speaking to Carla, too. She felt like we were dishonoring Harry but getting married so quickly.” I’ve often wondered why they married so quickly myself. I always thought it was unrequited love that just saw the opportunity for happiness and took it. “Harry was my best friend, Annie.”

WHAT?!” The word was out of my mouth before I could stop it. Daddy actually jumps in his seat. What fresh, new insanity is this? Your best friend dies and you marry his wife? Please tell me that my Daddy is not that guy!

“We were in the Marines together. I won’t lie, I loved Carla from the moment that I saw her, but she was my best friend’s girl and I loved him like a brother…”

I sit in horrified silence while Daddy tells me about loving my mother from afar; about giving Harry and Carla their space so that his feelings wouldn’t interfere with their relationship; about begging Harry not to die when the bomb went off. I can’t believe what I’m hearing. Daddy and Harry were friends? Daddy loved Mom from afar like some Shakespearean tragedy? Daddy married his best friend’s wife right after he died? Oh good hell!

The more I listened to the story, the more I realized that Daddy’s act was mostly selfless in that he was trying to save me and Mom from being homeless. The fact that he loved Mom was both a blessing and a curse. He had to come clean with her about his feelings knowing that she didn’t feel the same way. For a long time, they lived in the same house but never shared a bed. It took several months for Mom to feel anything more than grief for her husband, several more months for her to feel the depth of nothing more than gratitude. Daddy was so happy to be near her that he took whatever he could get, happy in the thought that he was also keeping his promise to his friend to take care of us. He was finally rewarded after two years of marriage with Carla’s affection, and cursed 11 years later with her hatred.

She’s suffering the curse of their decision as well. I don’t think she ever truly found what she was looking for after Harry died. She found solace in whatever situation she was in until she… didn’t. Now, I imagine that she is quite miserable knowing that she threw away what little peace she had to go searching for something better.

My heart swells for my father. I know that although he was driven by his desire for my mother, he made a promise to his friend to take care of us and that’s exactly what he did. He cared for us to the best of his ability, often putting himself and his own feelings second for what he thought was best for us. Some of my best memories are with my daddy, but I have to say that I am even more happy that he has started his family again with Mandy and he is finally living his life on his own terms.

“So what ever happened to Alexandria after she stopped speaking to you? What made you think that she was dead?” I ask.

“We just never heard from her. We were sure that she would at least try to get in touch with us to see how you were doing. You were Harry’s only child, her only link to her son left on earth and she just… disappeared. I even went by her house a few times in the years that followed. Her sons knew who I was and wouldn’t give me any information, just that she wasn’t there anymore. I gave up after a while thinking that if she was alive, she would surely have gotten in touch with us. I had no idea that she held that grudge so long and missed out on her granddaughter’s life.”

“Can you blame her, Daddy? She didn’t know what to make of all of this. I can completely understand how she felt.” Daddy looks at me with sad eyes. No, Daddy, don’t… please. I launch myself into his arms and hug him tight. “I can understand how she felt, Daddy, because she didn’t know what was going on. I don’t feel that way. I think you are the strongest, kindest, most selfless and wonderful man that I have ever met in my life—even more now knowing what you did for me and Mom.” He hugs me back and I can feel him shuddering against me.

“I love you, Annie,” he says, his voice thick with emotion.

“I love you, too, Daddy,” I reply, holding him close to me.

*-*

I awake on Saturday morning ready to go to my final fitting for my dress. Mandy, Al, and Tammy are all going with me and once these final adjustments are confirmed correct, Al will take the dress back to his apartment to prevent it from being discovered by prying eyes.

When we arrive at the studio, the three designers are all falling over themselves to get me into the final product. They are patting one another on the back for being able to collaborate on such a marvelous creation and are now clamoring to get me into the dressing room. Seeing my dress on the hanger stole my breath away. I have to sit down for a moment and admire it before I put it on.

When I emerge from the dressing room, I am smiling and crying at the same time. Demetrio gasps and covers his mouth. Neal claps his hands while Jesse fans himself. “Miss Steele… you are breathtaking,” Jesse breathes. Although I know they want me to be happy with their creation and wouldn’t say anything less, I would have to agree with his analysis. I do my best to compose myself before revealing the dress to Mandy, Al, and Tammy. I gently lift the front so that I don’t walk on it while Neal carries the train. The moment that I clear the curtain separating the back of the studio from the showroom, the room falls silent. Mandy is staring at me completely stunned and I think I see Al drool a bit.

“Oh my God,” Tammy says softly. “Wang is going to shit herself that she didn’t get commissioned for this.”

I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but I don’t care. I’m convinced that Tammy is obsessed with Vera Wang. I step onto the four-foot-round bridal podium and admire myself from all angles in the surrounding mirrors. For a moment, it’s just me and my dress. The dress is diamond white satin with a French floral lace overlay that covers the entire dress. The dress would be considered a sheath dress, but it has a slight mermaid fit at the hip which flows out into a full skirt and three-foot round train. The “collar” is high, sheer floral lace that meets and flows continuously over a satin, sweetheart neckline.

The bottom of my breast is framed by a four-inch wide white tulle sash which drops in an upside-down “V” and is attached at either side of the dress. Holding the tulle in place is a beautiful three-inch, diamond-shaped broach made of platinum and Swarovski crystals nestled between my breasts directly under the sweetheart neckline. In the back, the collar splits into two panels of lace—both three inches wide—that frame my back creating a dramatic large teardrop opening that meets just below the center of my spine. The lace gives you just a peek of “the garden” before the flowers and butterflies disappear behind white satin and twenty covered buttons that line up down the small of my back and just over the top of my butt.

I admire my dress a few moments more before turning around to face the “critics.” Al and Mandy are actually crying… both of them! Good God, I hope Christian doesn’t cry when he sees me!

“I knew you could do it,” I say turning to Demetrio, Jesse, and Neal. “You brought my vision to life.”

“I only had the sash, Miss,” Neal says, a bit forlorn. I hold my hands out to him beckoning him to come to me. He walks over to me and takes my hands.

“Yes, Neal. You only had the sash, but look at it. With Demetrio’s shell and Jesse’s lace, your sash and brooch brought this beautiful creation together. Look at it,” I say, regarding my reflection once more and fondling the Swarovski crystals on my bosom. “Without your contribution, it wouldn’t be complete. Thank you,” I say, taking his hand again and kissing it dramatically, eliciting a beet-red blush from him. “Thank you all so much. Delighted and ecstatic do not begin to describe how I feel right now.” The other two gentlemen bow and clap as I turn to Mandy and Al. “Well?” I say with a shrug and a smile.

“Jewel,” Al breathes while walking over to me. “Oh, Jewel, you look…” He drops his head and starts to weep again. My best friend is having a hard time keeping it together. I lift his head and kiss him gently.

“I’m still your Jewel. I’ll always be your Jewel,” I say softly, reading his thoughts. He purses his lips through his tears and nods. He turns his face to my hand and kisses my palm.

“I know. I can’t wait for Chris and Ray to see you.” I smile and kiss him again. “You look lovely.”

“Thank you, Al.” I squeeze his hand and turn to Mandy.

“I wish Ray could see you,” she says, her voice cracking. “I mean, I know he will, but I wish he could see you now.”

“Thanks… Mom,” I say to her with a wink. She giggles a bit and wipes a few stray tears from her cheek. I turn to Tammy. “Still think I should have gone with The Wang?” I ask her. She sticks her tongue out at me.

“Hey! I will never defame The Wang, but…” She walks around the podium examining my dress. “This has to be one of the most exquisite and divine creations I have ever seen in my career.” Wow! That makes me feel like a million bucks in this dress. “Bravo, gentlemen! Bravo! Ana, out of the dress. Demetrio, champagne!”

*-*

Christian and I are sitting in the first floor conference room at Grey House. It’s about 3:00pm on Monday afternoon. Christian sits on the end and I am sitting in the seat directly to his right. Across from us is the woman who says she is my grandmother, Alexandria Lambert. Christian has shared her background check with me. Apparently, I have two uncles that I’ve never met as well. Interesting. They’ve all left Seattle—either immediately after my father’s death, as was the case with Alexandria, or in the few years that followed. This would be why Ray never heard from her again.

Until now, that is.

I examine her carefully. She says that she’s 71, but she doesn’t look a day over 50 and that’s stretching it. She’s familiar—very familiar—so I know that we are related. She looks just like Harry, my father, not my brother. I only know because he haunts my dreams regularly now, still refusing to tell me who he is, why he’s sorry, or who he broke. This shit really creeps me out, I’m not afraid to say, but shit… he’s just like Harris. He’s shows up when there is some kind of weakness in my life that I’m having trouble dealing with or when something huge is about to happen.

I haven’t seen Harris. Maybe Harry chased him away.
Harris. Harry. That’s a little too close.

“I know what you must think of me,” she says, her hands folded in front of her. Her voice broke me from my daydream and I can’t help but chuckle.

“Do you?” I say, impassively. “You know, the last person that said that to me was very shocked to discover what I was really thinking.” I must admit that I feel a bit guilty. Part of me wants to put this woman through her paces. Another part wants to know where the hell she’s been all these years. Yet another part wants to get up and walk out of here and leave her to her life. “However, I would really like to know what you think I’m thinking right now.” She clears her throat.

“I guess I should have been a little more… specific. I don’t know what you must be thinking, but I can just about imagine. I know what I would be thinking and none of it is good.” You got that right, Lady. “There’s nothing that I can say to you that I think you would want to hear—nothing that could erase all the years I haven’t been around. Honestly, I just wanted to see you in person, to see the woman that you’ve become…”

“Why?” I ask, interrupting her. She stares at me for a moment.

“You look like Carla,” she says. That’s why? “You were so young the last time that I saw you, just days old, in fact. Your features had not yet developed. You were just one of those featureless but beautiful babies and we just waited to see what you would look like. But then, Harry was gone. Just like that, Harry was gone. In no time flat, Carla was marrying his best friend and living in the house with him, like my Harry never existed.” Her voice cracks as she relays the story. “How does someone do that? How do you claim to love a man, have his child, then marry his best friend moments after he dies?” She shakes her head. “I know that’s your mother…”

“I don’t speak to my mother,” I say, interrupting her again. The last thing I want to talk about right now is Carla Morton. She raises her eyes to me in surprise. “We have had our say and I don’t speak to her or of her,” I add.

“Oh!” she says. “I had no idea.”

“You wouldn’t,” I say, coolly. “I ask again, why did you have to see me?” She looks crestfallen.

“You’re all that’s left of my Harry,” she says softly.

“I was all that was left of Harry 27 years ago… 20 years ago… 15 years ago. Why now?” Get to the point, Lady. You saw the news.

“I was bitter!” she shoots. “What they did—they dishonored my son! It was disrespectful and treacherous and unthinkable!”

“Careful, Lady. That’s the only father I’ve ever known that you’re talking about.” I realize that my voice has fallen a few octaves and I think I scare her a bit. I try to reign in my anger. “I can sympathize with what you must have been feeling after my father died, but had you bothered to ask what happened, Daddy would have told you. He would have told you that he held Harry in his arms while Harry breathed his last breaths and made him promise to take care of me and my mother. He would have told you that Harry knew that he was quite taken with my mother, but that Daddy deliberately stayed away from Harry and Carla at of respect for his friend. He would have told you that my mother and I were in jeopardy of being thrown out of our home which is why they were married so quickly—so that we could stay on the base. He would have told you that they slept in separate bedrooms for years while my mother mourned the loss of the man that she loved. You were so wrapped up in your own hatred and grief that you never bothered to ask.” Take that! Don’t talk about my father like he’s some sort of cad!

“He took away your name,” she says, still a little bitter. “Anastasia Steele? Your name was Lambert.”

“Oh, surely you can see how awkward that would have been for Lance Corporal and Mrs. Raymond Steele to have a newborn baby named Anastasia Lambert!” For crying out loud, Lady, you can’t be that dense.

“It couldn’t have been any more awkward than him marrying his best friend’s wife. I mean, really!” She shoots. She’s too angry about the marriage and the name change to see beyond it. Besides, we’re getting off track.

“I guess that’s something that you’ll have to take up with my father… or not. Either way, it still doesn’t tell me why you showed up in my life after all of these years. I needed a grandmother years ago. I don’t need one now nor am I interested in forging new relationships with long-lost relatives who didn’t think to look for me before I became an independent adult through years of hard work and sorrow.” I guess I’m a little bitter, too. You show up after 27 years, you insult my father, and now I guess you’re hoping for a family reunion? Not going to happen, Sister. She blinks at me a few times.

“Oh my,” she says softly. “If that’s how you really feel…” She begins to fidget with her fingers and her purse in her lap. “I should go.” She stands quickly and straightens her clothes before scrambling to the door. “I’m really very sorry that I bothered you,” she says before proceeding out the door. Christian sits there with me in silence for about five seconds before he stands and follows Alexandria out of the door. I don’t really know what to make of that, but I sit there alone with my thoughts for a few moments.

How dare she insult my Daddy. Who the fuck does she think she is? I really am very sorry that Harry died so young, and I’m very sorry that you didn’t take the time to talk to his best friend and widow to see exactly what was going on. I know how it must have looked, but you didn’t even ask! I try to sit there in my righteous indignation, but the truth is that I would have felt the same way had that been my son. I would have thought that his best friend and that hussy that he called a wife must have lost their rabbit-ass minds to get married before my son was even cold in his grave yet. Would I have listened had he come to me to explain why he married my daughter-in-law once removed? Would I have even asked? Would I have even wanted to know? Would I have truly shut myself out of my granddaughter’s life because of it?

Would I?
Oh, fuck!

I can’t even answer those questions. I stand and walk through the door that Christian and Alexandria exited moments before.


GREY

“Mrs. Lambert! Mrs. Lambert, wait!” I catch her just as she’s about to leave through the revolving door. She turns around and looks at me with large, sad eyes. I examine her closely and realize that she is in very good shape. Toned legs and arms are visible under a blue skirt suit, but her neck and eyes show signs of aging. I can tell that she hasn’t had any work done and besides maybe a dye job to cover the gray and, looking at her more closely, she actually could be 71 years old—a very fit 71 years old, but yes, she could.

“I don’t want to disrupt her life. I’ve seen the news. I know what she’s been going through,” she says. “I never would have known but one of the people involved in that whole beating case in Nevada has ties in Harrisburg and… well, they showed her picture. She looks just like Carla and I knew that her name was Anastasia. They named her after me—Alexandria Rose.” She stops realizing that she has begun to ramble. “I couldn’t remember Ray’s last name until I heard it. I swear I didn’t want to upset her. I don’t want anything. I just wanted… to make sure that she was alright.”

“I believe you, Mrs. Lambert,” I tell her to her surprise. “I pride myself on being a good judge of character and I am generally mistrusting of people and their motives, but I believe you. You have to know that this is a delicate time for Anastasia. It’s only been a few months since the Green Valley story broke and she’s been dealing with it for over a decade now. Most of the people involved haven’t even been brought to justice yet. We don’t know when the trials are going to be or how much this is really going to disrupt our lives… You have to know that this timing was very bad.” She nods.

“I know, Mr. Grey. I’m an old woman and I have to admit that I had hoped… well, no matter. I’ll leave as soon as I can make travel arrangements. I didn’t mean to… I’m sorry, Mr. Grey.” She turns to leave again and I hear Butterfly’s voice behind me.

“Alexandria.”

Mrs. Lambert turns around to face Butterfly, her expression hopeful.

“You need to talk to my father first. He’s the only family that I have and I love him very much. He was mourning the loss of his friend, too, and he didn’t deserve to be condemned by you. You missed the opportunity to comfort each other and heal together, not to mention the opportunity to be a part of your granddaughter’s life. Talk to my father, and we’ll see where it goes from there.” She tilts her head at Butterfly.

“You are quite loyal, I see—quite the formidable young woman,” she says.

“I’m very protective of the people that I love,” Butterfly replies. Mrs. Lambert nods.

“I don’t know what Carla did to get on your bad side, but whatever it was, I bet she’s kicking herself right now.” Mrs. Lambert puts her purse on her shoulder and smiles a small smile. “Hopefully, we will meet again, Anastasia.”

“Alexandria,” she says with a short nod. Mrs. Lambert returns the nod and leaves the building without incident. I turn to Butterfly and rub her arms.

“Are you okay?” I ask her. She nods.

“I’m not going to let her disrupt my life, Christian. I’ve had enough of that. We have a wedding in 12 days and that’s what I’m concentrating on. At least I don’t have to worry about her hiding in shadows and creeping around corners now.” I rub her arms again and lead her to the elevators.

*-*

I go to Boys Night on the next day and bring Ray and Dad with me. Since they won’t be taking part in the bachelor day next week, I thought I would spend some time with them and show them where I “hang out,” so to speak. I’ve become a little more than acquaintances with some of the guys there, and it’s a comfortable place to be. My father and father-in-law fit right in.

“Ana told her that she has to talk to you,” I tell Ray concerning Alexandria. “She’s still very bitter about you marrying Carla right after Harry died.”

“Well, first of all, that’s none of her business,” Ray defends. “Second of all, I would have been happy to explain things to her had she come to me and asked.” Ray takes a swallow of his beer.

“Yes, I think Ana made that quite clear to her. She told Mrs. Lambert that she had no right to condemn you because she didn’t know the whole story. I have no doubt that she’ll be trying to contact you this week.”

“She doesn’t know how to contact me so that’s not likely.”

“She found Ana, she’ll find you.” That thought doesn’t sit easy with me. With Butterfly being so newsworthy, she’s very easy to find with very little effort. I may want to talk to her about another security detail. If Davenport goes down, she’s all alone.

“Well, I wish her luck then.” He takes another swallow of his beer. “What do you think she wants after all these years… money?”

“I don’t know. Has she ever struck you as that type of woman?” He shakes his head.

“I didn’t know her well enough to be able to speak on her character. Off the top, I would say ‘no,’ but why show up now?”

“I honestly think she’s just an old woman who found a missing link to part of her family and just wants to reconnect it.” I say. Ray shrugs.

“Do you know how to reach her, Ray?” Dad asks. Ray shakes his head and Dad looks at me.

“I didn’t get any contact information from her yesterday and my background check may or may not have a cell phone number. I can check.” Ray pauses for a moment then shakes his head again.

“No. Annie is right. She condemned me. She cut me off. She needs to make the first move. If she wants to talk to me, she’ll find me.”

“Would you meet her if she does contact you?” Dad asks. Ray stares at his beer for a moment.

“I always felt guilty, you know,” he begins, spinning the bottle on the table between his fingers. “I hated losing Harry. I really did, but the fact that I got Carla made me… almost happy that he died. He was my best friend. What kind of man feels that way about his best friend?”

“Did you really feel that way about Harry, or about the circumstances?” Dad asks. Ray raises his head.

“I don’t follow,” Ray says.

“Well, it’s true that you had to lose your friend to get the girl that you coveted…”

“Do you have to say it like that?” Ray nearly whines. I almost want to laugh. What else would you call it, Ray?

“I won’t mince words with you, Ray,” Dad says. “I don’t think you would appreciate that. You’re a good man. From what I can tell, you were a good man then, too, but you coveted your best friend’s wife—severely. That’s why you felt guilty. You wanted that woman so badly that the fact that you had her overshadowed the fact that your best friend had to die in order for you to get her. That’s what I think makes you feel guilty, but don’t misconstrue it. You weren’t happy that your best friend died. That would make you a monster, and a monster wouldn’t admit that. However, you were happy that Harry was no longer an obstacle to you being able to have Carla…”

“But he was an obstacle,” Ray protests. “I may have been married to Carla, but I didn’t have her for two more years.”

“Would you have rather had her sooner?” I ask Ray and he looks at me, frowning a bit. “Would you rather she had stopped mourning her husband and loved you sooner?” Ray stares at me for a bit.

“I don’t know how to answer that,” he admits, taking another drink of his beer. “Of course, I didn’t want her to act like Harry never existed, but did I want her to love me… more than anything.”

“Think of this, Ray,” Dad says, after sipping his Scotch. “Even as Harry lay dying in your arms, you thought of Carla and Anastasia. You begged him not to die not because you would be losing your best friend, but because you didn’t want them to be left alone. Even at the time, you never thought of yourself. You begged your friend to live—to hold on—for someone else. Do you still think that you were ‘happy’ that he died?” Ray pauses for several seconds before dropping his head.

“No,” he says, his voice just above a whisper and a single tear falling to the table. “I was happy to have Carla… happy to have a chance with her, but it hurt like hell that Harry died. It hurt for a long time.” He wipes his face. “He comes to me in my dreams, you know. I know it sounds crazy, but he’s been doing it for years. Not often, but every now and again. Now, he’s telling me that I did my best. After all these years, he comes to me now telling me that I did my best. Why do you think that is?” Dad and I look at each other.

“Maybe it’s because you finally moved on with your life,” I tell him, not knowing what else to say. “Think about it, Ray. You gave up any chance that you had to find a girl of your own—at the time—to help this broken, grieving family. True, you were in love with Carla, but you had no way of knowing if she would ever return that love to you. She could have never felt anything more than grateful to you for helping her and Ana during their time of need. You took a big chance with that and put your life on hold for them. What would have happened if she had gotten on her feet, thanked you, and left? How would you have felt?” Ray ponders that for a moment.

“That’s turns out to sort of be exactly what she did—13 years later and without the ‘thank you,'” he says as he bottoms out his beer.

“Yes, but you did get 13 years—or at least 10 or 11. You tried, Ray, even as she was walking out of your life, you tried. Maybe that’s what Harry is trying to tell you.” I’m not all into that spirits-crossing-over-realms thing, but I don’t disparage anyone who is. God knows, I haven’t heard from my dead mother, and I don’t want to hear from her now. So she better fucking not show up!

“Maybe you’re right, Son,” Ray says, trying to take a swallow from an empty beer bottle. “Looks like I need a refill,” he says, holding up the empty bottle for us to see. “Can I get you two anything?” We both tell him that we’re fine and he nods.

“Do you think he’ll be okay?” Dad asks when he’s out of earshot.

“He’s a strong man, Dad,” I tell him, “but I’ll let Ana know to just keep an eye on him. Monsters that suddenly pop out of closets have a way of destroying your life if you let them.”

*-*

Friday rolls around and I find myself in the first-floor conference room again sitting at the conference table, this time, with Mrs. Lambert and Ray and I’m playing referee.

“Why now, Alexandria?” Ray asks, his voice cold.

“I don’t have an answer to that question, Ray,” Mrs. Lambert replies, her voice not as cold, but still frosty. “I just… after all of these years, I just wanted to see her. I’m an old woman now. I haven’t had any link to my granddaughter—my Harry—for nearly 30 years.”

“That’s not her fault,” Ray snaps. “She’s very fragile—strong, but fragile. Now is not the time for you to be disrupting my daughter’s life.” She scoffs a bit.

“While I… appreciate what you did for Carla and Anastasia during their time of need, Anastasia is not your daughter,” she says matter-of-factly. Ray slams both of his hands down on the conference table, causing me and Mrs. Lambert to jump. Oh shit, you fucked up now, Lambert.

“That. Is my. Daughter. Lady. And nothing you can ever say is going to change that!” Ray snarls through his teeth, his voice grumbling deep in his throat. I think this particular topic is definitely off-limits.

“I’m going to have to call a time-out here,” I say, trying to break the tension. “Mrs. Lambert, I can understand that you may want some answers and you have some definite feelings and opinions about this situation. However, for 27 years, Ray has been the only father Anastasia has ever known. He gave her his name, took care of her even after he and Carla split, and loves her like his own flesh and blood to this day. He means the world to her and she to him. I will not allow you to diminish that relationship in my presence. If you do it again, I will have to ask you to leave. If you feel that you cannot refrain from doing it, I will ask you to please leave now. The man and woman that I currently call ‘Dad’ and ‘Mom’ had nothing to do with my conception. So I take personal offense to what you just said.”

I try not to glare at her because this is not my fight, but certain topics are simply off-limits, and I hope she gets the picture without me having her escorted out of the building. She looks over at me, then back at Ray, then straight ahead.

“Fine,” she replies curtly. “I’ll keep my feelings on that particular topic to myself.” Wow, she really is bitter about this. Ray rolls his eyes and shakes his head.

“What do you want, Alexandria?” he says, his patience clearly running thin.

“I want a relationship with my granddaughter.”

“That’s completely up to her,” Ray replies.

“She said I had to speak to you first.”

“Why?”

“I don’t know. Your permission, I guess,” she nearly hisses.

“If you’re looking for my permission, I’m not sure that I want to give it. I don’t know what your motives are for turning up so late in her life!” Ray snaps back.

“I couldn’t find her!” Mrs. Lambert barks back.

“Bullshit!” Ray accuses. “You didn’t want to! I looked and looked for you! Carla tried to reach you! You were cold and unfeeling and too wrapped up in your own anger and hatred to understand what was really going on… to even ask! So you can try again with that ‘I couldn’t find her’ bullshit, Lady, because we never hid!” Ray is mad! I’ve never seen him this angry in my life.

“Oh, so now I’m the bad guy!” she nearly shrieks.

“Who say anybody’s the bad guy here? You’re acting like I took your granddaughter and hid her away in the Himalayas somewhere. I was active duty military for years! You could always get a message to me, even if you claimed you didn’t know where I was!” There’s silence for a few moments.

“I… didn’t know what to do,” she says, her voice still laced with anger… and she’s hiding something. This is the first time I’ve felt like she was hiding something.

“What do you mean you didn’t know what to do? Twenty-seven years. She needed you. You could have helped her during that time when I couldn’t. You could have spared her some of the misery she experienced.” She smirks a bit.

“Oh, are you saying that your precious Carla ended up not being the saint you had hoped you would acquire?” This woman plays dirty. Ray’s face falls.

“That’s exactly what I’m saying,” Ray says, leaning in a bit. “And guess who took the brunt of that hell, Mother Theresa? Your granddaughter.” His voice is unwavering when he makes his revelation and Mrs. Lambert’s smile falls away.

“The sins of the father,” she says smugly.

“But you said that I wasn’t her father, so are you speaking of Harry now?” Ray shoots. She glares at him.

“Don’t you dare speak of my son,” she hisses.

“He was my best friend!” Ray hisses back.

“And how do you show that friendship? By marrying his wife before he was even cold in his grave!”

“And I see that you still don’t listen, so we’ll try this one last time. My dying friend made me promise to take care of his wife and child. Saint Carla and Ana were going to be displaced—removed from base housing with nowhere to go if I hadn’t married her. She has no other family that I’ve met in 27 and just had a baby. What do you suppose she should have done?”

“She should have come to us!” Mrs. Lambert shouts.

“She did come to you!” Ray yells back. “You turned her away!”

“After she married you!”

“She was confused!” Ray defends. “Did you see what kind of shape she was in after Harry died? She didn’t know up from down! You were so lost in your own grief, you didn’t even acknowledge her at the funeral. She probably didn’t even think to ask you if that was an option and when she did come to you, you shut her down. Do you think for one second that she would have taken my offer if she thought she could move in with you? She didn’t love me! She loved Harry! It was an arrangement. We didn’t have any kind of romantic relationship for years. She was alone… lost. She didn’t know what to do. She was a young mother with nowhere to go. Yes, I loved her, but I loved Harry more. You can think whatever you want to think, but I lost my best friend and I never got over that…”

“So you slept with his wife!” She snaps back. She didn’t hear anything he said. Ray sits back in his seat and clasps his hands in front of him on the table.

“No,” he says calmly. “If you’re looking for permission to speak to my daughter, the answer is no. You’re bitter and hateful, and I don’t know what your motives are. So, no, stay away from my daughter.”

“Your daughter! Your daughter! Isn’t that convenient? Remove one man and insert another and poof… instant family!” Her voice is laced with ire and her filter is slowing flying out the window.

Remove? Harry wasn’t removed, he died! He didn’t take some payoff and leave the country or run off with another woman. He died! You make it sound like we were changing a pair of shoes. The man died!”

“And you dishonored his memory by sleeping with his widow!” Ray’s mouth falls open.

“Lady, are you deaf, slow, or just deliberately ignorant?” he asks, bemused. “By the time Carla and I slept together, it was years after Harry had died. Years! She was not hanging around waiting for someone to come take care of her or looking for someone to take Harry’s place.”

“Oh, I believe that,” she says sarcastically. “A woman lives in the same house with a man that she has married and they don’t sleep together for years. She really was a saint.”

Suddenly, her motive is clear to me. I don’t know why I didn’t see it before. Seeing Ana was a secondary goal, a bonus maybe. What she really wanted was to confront Ray. She has been sitting on this bitterness and anger and hatred for nearly three decades. Now, she can confront the cause and she is not taking down.

“I think we need to refocus here,” I break in. They both look at me as they clearly forgot that I was even in the room. “Mrs. Lambert, because I’m going to marry Anastasia, I would really like to know just like Ray does—what is your purpose for being here? Why did you show up now?”

“I’m an old woman,” she says. “I want to see my granddaughter before I die.” I think about her conversation with Butterfly two days ago. She was leaving and I stopped her. Did she plan that? Did she plan for one of us to come after her?

“And you did, two days ago. So why come back?” I press. She examines me shrewdly.

“I was hoping to have some kind of relationship with her. In order to do that, she said that I had to see him.” She points at Ray.

“To which you agreed. You insulted him in that meeting and you’re insulting him now… and you’re still hoping to have a relationship with your granddaughter?” I ask calmly, but bemused. I can see it in her eyes. She’s on the ropes. She doesn’t know where to swing now.

“I’m… I’m emotional,” she defends.

“But you’re not,” I point out. “Everything that you’re saying is calculated, controlled. You haven’t said five complete sentences on your own about your desire to see Anastasia, but you have plenty to say to Ray about his marriage to Carla.” Ray’s brow furrows as he contemplates what I’m saying, probably running the conversation over in his head as well.

“Come to think of it,” he concludes, “you haven’t said much about Annie.” He narrows his eyes at her. “What is this about?”

“Ray Steele, don’t you try to make this about me. This was always about you and that woman and you know it.”

“That woman?” Ray asks. “Are you talking about Carla?”

“My son was just in the way. I knew that she was bad news the moment I saw her, but you… Harry talked about you all the time. Lance Corporal Steele this and Ray that! He idolized you! Then this happens and nobody has any answers. A training accident—that’s all I get! One minute, my Harry is alive and well and starting a family and the next minute, he’s gone and Lance Corporal Steele is living in his place—sleeping with his wife and changing his daughter’s name—removing every remnant and memory of him like he didn’t exist!” Ray’s face has gone from angry to surprised and confused.

“What are you talking about?” he asks. He’s just as confused as I am. “I never tried to erase Harry’s memory. My…”

“Oh, save it! You and that woman moved on and raised his daughter as Anastasia Steele. Why not let her keep her name if you weren’t trying to erase his memory?” Mrs. Lambert accuses. Ray looks at her and shakes his head.

“I’m wasting my breath,” he says, still shaking his head. “Look, I didn’t come here to fight with you. I can leave this room and never see you again and I won’t lose a bit of sleep. So say what you came to say and quit pussy-footing around!”

“Did you kill my son!?” she screams as Ray.

Ho-ly shit!

Ray is clearly stunned. I think the words are swirling around in his head like he has to process their meaning. After a few seconds of silence, Ray’s fists hit the table again and his voice echoes through the room like horrifying thunder.

“WHAAAAAAT!?” he roars.Angry Ray2

He stands up so hard and fast that the heavy leather seat he was sitting in flies back like a folding aluminum chair and hits the wall behind him. Mrs. Lambert leaps from her seat as do I. Ray’s eyes are full of rage as his shaking fists test the sturdiness of my conference room table. I can see the veins in his muscular arms through the sleeves of his shirt. He is livid!

“You want the gory truth? His body was so mangled that his meat was coming off in my hands! I held my friend! I watched him die! And his flesh came off in my hands! I begged him not to go! I begged him to fight! I knew he wouldn’t make it, but I begged! Please don’t die on me, Harry! Please don’t die!” He’s screaming. He’s losing control. Where’s the panic button in this room? No time to remember. Mrs. Lambert is backing away while I dash to the door and throw it open.

“Get in here! Now!” I yell to the security detail at the desk before turning back to the room to see Ray’s white-knuckle fists banging on the table.

“You hateful, wretched bitch! How could you?! All these years! You thought I killed my friend—to have his wife! You hateful bitch!” Security couldn’t get in that room fast enough for me. She picked the wrong time to ask that question. Not that there would ever be a right time, but definitely not now. Less than 48 hours ago, my father and I were convincing this man that he wasn’t “happy” that his friend died. Now, that same friend’s mother asks Ray did he kill him. Fuck me!

Security pins Ray against the wall and he is fighting like a bear and cursing like a sailor. He calls this woman every unkind, unseemly name in the English language. Raymond Steele is enraged and out of control. Mrs. Lambert is horrified and I can tell by the look on her face that she now knows that she has made a grave mistake. Too little, too late, Lady.

“Be careful!” I hiss at the guards. “That’s my father-in-law. Don’t hurt him!” Ray is fighting to get away from the now three men trying to hold him against the wall. If he gets free now, he just might kill this woman.

“Ray, listen to me,” I say urgently, trying to get through his rage. “Ray, I need you to calm down. Think about Ana. Think about Mandy and Little Harry…”

“Little… Harry?” Mrs. Lambert asks.

“His son!” I hiss, throwing a hateful look at her. If she thinks she getting within a mile of Butterfly, she can fucking forget it.

“You stay away from my daughter! You stay away from my daughter, you wicked old witch!” Ray commands, confirming my assumption.

“Ray, I…” she begins.

“Shut up!” I say, spinning around to look at her. She is stunned. “Get out! Now!” There’s nothing else she can do here but make a bad matter worse.

“I’m sorry… I…”

“Get out!” I command again. The sound of her voice just might set him off. She stands there, still stunned. “Get her out of here!” I command one of the guards standing by as backup. Mrs. Lambert is unceremoniously escorted out of the room and I turn my attention back to Ray.

“Ray, listen to me. She’s gone. She won’t be back. I’ll make sure of it.” Ray’s chest is rising and falling madly as I make eye-contact with him to assure him that the threat has been neutralized. Still a bit crazed, he says, “Don’t tell Annie! Don’t tell Annie she asked me that question! Don’t tell Annie!” He is shaking like a leaf.

“I won’t, Ray. I won’t. I won’t say a word about it, I swear.” He looks at me, his eyes full of angry unshed tears, and he nods. He is taking deep breaths trying to steady himself.

“She asked me if I killed him. She asked me if I killed my best friend…” The tears begin to fall.

“I know, Ray,” I say in a calming voice.

“I asked myself that question a million times.” Okay, now I’m shocked. “Did I desire his wife so much that I wished my best friend dead?” Whew! That was close.

“Ray, no matter how hard you wish, you can’t wish someone dead. If that were true, there would be a certain pedophile six-feet-under by now, if now burned to vapor by spontaneous combustion. Besides, you didn’t wish Harry would die and you know it.”

“Not directly, no, but you and your father were right. I coveted Carla more than anything else in the world. Did I indirectly cause his death?” I look into his sad, broken eyes.

“No, Ray. You never wished you best friend dead—directly or indirectly—and I want you to stop talking like that, because you know that I’m right.” Ray nods and finally breaks down in heart-wrenching sobs. The guards let him go and push a chair behind him so that he can sit down.

“I miss him,” Ray sobs into his arms, face down on the conference table. “I have missed him every day for nearly thirty years… every day! He was the best friend I ever had!” I put my hand on his shoulder while he mourns the loss of his friend all over again.

*-*

“How did it go?” Butterfly asks as she hoists herself up onto the desk in my study later that evening. We’ve had some wild sex on this desk and her sitting here like this is causing some devious thoughts to run through my head, but she wants to know about her father right now. I put my pen down and turn to her.

“It was horrible. She needs to go,” I respond.

“That bad?” she asks.

“Worse.”

“Well, you won’t get any argument from me. What happened?” I lean back in my seat.

“I really think you should let Ray tell you.”

“Christian, tell me what happened.” How do I do this without betraying Ray?

“She said some really terrible things to your father and it got really bad. He’s asked me to let him talk to you about it.” She’s not happy about that answer, I can tell, but she nods.

“I guess I can respect that. How is my daddy?” I shake my head.

“You may have to give him a little time. This was hard on him.” Her shoulders fall.

“He’s my daddy,” she says, almost sounding like a six-year-old, “I hate it when he hurts.”

“That’s good to hear.” We both look at the doorway to see the voice coming from a slightly disheveled Ray standing in the door of the study. “I needed to see my Sunflower.”

“Daddy,” she says softly, leaping from her perch and nearly running to her father. He embraces her like she is his life’s blood and buries his face in her shoulder. Behind him, Amanda stands holding a sleeping Harry in her arms. I walk around Butterfly and Ray to get to Amanda.

“I’m sorry it’s so late. He’s been drinking a bit and didn’t want to drive, but he wouldn’t rest until he saw Ana,” she said. I lead her out into the great room.

“I know. It was brutal today. I can only hope that woman is gone.” I say. She nods.

“I’ve never seen him like this. It’s like she’s broken him,” she says looking past me to her husband.

“He’s not broken. He just needs to process what happened today.” I say, looking back at my study door and waiting for them to emerge.

“She must be a really horrible woman,” Amanda says. “I just want to get her into a room by herself and scratch her eyes out!” I lean back a bit.

“Whoa! Remind me never to get on your bad side,” I say facetiously. Amanda laughs.

“I can’t help it. I love him and she hurt him. I want to see her die,” she says a little too calmly for my taste. “Some people are just plain selfish and mean.” I walk past her to the kitchen.

“Would you like something to drink? Some water or juice maybe?” I ask. She shakes her head.

“No… thank you, though.” Harry has fallen asleep and Amanda places him gently back into his baby seat. I stand up and look at my study door. I look over at her diaper bag… or I should say bags.

“I don’t know much about babies, Amanda, but you packed enough stuff in those bags to last a week,” I say playfully. She looks down at the bags and chuckles a bit.

“Yeah, I’m a bit paranoid. I always feel like whatever I need is going to be left at home at that precise moment that I need it.”

“How are you doing?” I ask.

“I’m doing better. The caesarean was no walk in the park and it was harder on me than I expected, but I’m doing much better now.” She sits on the sofa next to Harry. “He seems like he’s getting bigger every day,” she says wistfully. “I hope he doesn’t grow so fast that I miss it all.” I sit on the sofa across from her with my bottle of water.

“I’m told that it moves quickly, but that you won’t miss a minute of it.”

Just as I am finishing my sentence, Ana and Ray join us from my study. Ray sits next to Amanda and she quickly clasps his hands. Butterfly crawls into my lap and I can tell by her demeanor that she needs the closeness. I don’t know what Ray told her, but she is more than a bit maudlin after their conversation.

“I’m tired, Baby. We should get home,” Ray says.

“No, Daddy. Please stay here. It’s late and I would feel much better if you stayed,” Butterfly protests.

“We’re not that far away, Annie. It’s not like I’m in Montesano anymore.”

“I know, but… humor me, Daddy. Stay the night. Get some rest. You can go home right after breakfast.” Butterfly and those big blue batting eyes will win many arguments throughout the course of our marriage.

“Okay, Annie, just this once. Does Harry have everything he needs?” Ray asks, turning to Amanda. She nods before throwing a look over at me.

“I haven’t said a word,” I say, putting my hands up in surrender and causing Butterfly to throw that “what’s going on” look at me. I point to Harry’s bags and let the volume speak for itself.

“Oh,” she says almost inaudibly. Yeah, that kid has enough stuff for quintuplets! “I’ll get the guest room set up for you. Christian, grab Harry’s bags.”

“I’ll help you, Ana,” Amanda says as she follows Butterfly up the stairs. I stand and pick up the diaper bags Amanda left behind while Ray retrieves his son.

“Ray,” I say, stopping him when we get to the bottom of the stairs, “this is some pretty deep stuff I heard today. Have you thought about talking to someone?” He chuckles a little sadly.

“I’ve probably had more therapy than you have, Son,” he says.

“Somehow, I doubt that, but I’ll give you the benefit of that doubt this time,” I respond before ascending the stairs.


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

The wedding is right around the corner. See the event take form in the new album on Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/mending-dr-steele-the-wedding-weve-all-been-waitin/

You can join my mailing list on the “Contact Me” page. Just click the link and it will lead you to a form to join the list.

Love and Handcuffs!
Lynn x

 

Mending Dr. Steele: Chapter 59–Control

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

Chapter 59—Control

GREY

“Exactly what seems to be the problem?” I ask Thomas, leaning back in my seat.

Oh, you know these stuffed-shirt-types, Grey. They hear things, they want to make sure that they’re going to be covered in the end. You know how it is.” This fucker is trying to play games with me.

“What, pray tell, are they hearing?” I’m not biting.

This and that,” he says, being coy and intentionally irritating. He’s not going to budge any more than I am. Fine, have it your way.

“Well, Thomas, I have a bit of advice for you and those ‘stuffed-shirt-types’ as you refer to them. If you’re going to take a chance on blowing a multi-billion-dollar deal based on hearing ‘this and that,’ I would strongly suggest that you consider the source—not only where they came from, but where they are trying to go and what they stand to gain… or lose. I’m a self-made billionaire and I got here in less than 10 years, on my own, before I reached my 30th birthday. I’ve played with some pretty big fish in my day—bigger fish than Feinstein. I’ve won a few and I’ve lost a few, but I certainly don’t like to be toyed with. I’ve put countless man-hours into this deal and more money and effort than I would like to see go to waste because of hearsay. So you let your ‘stuff-shirt-types’ know that I can guarantee that they will lose more out of this than I will if they pull out now based on gossip or the whisperings of someone who thinks he knows what he’s talking about.”

Those are pretty big words for a man who has no idea what information we have,” he says with confidence.

“I don’t need to know what you have,” I respond. “All I need to know is what I have. If all front doors are squeaky clean, then no one has anything to worry about, do they?” Thomas falls silent. I’ve done this too long, played chess with the best of them and poker with the rest. I know that no one’s front door is squeaky clean, not even mine. However, not knowing what the other man has on you is a terrifying thought. I know that Thomas is pondering this thought. He won’t know that I’m pondering it as well.

I’ll have another chat with the board,” he says non-committal.

“You do that,” I say impassively. “As a courtesy, I will tell you to tell the board to wait a week before they make any decisions and I guarantee that the ‘this and that’ floating to their ears will change. By that time, I won’t be as amiable as I am right now.”

Grey, do you realize you don’t have any room to negotiate right now? I may have crippling information on your organization from key parties on the inside and you’re sitting here trying to play ‘King of the Mountain.” Oh, he’s a cocky fucker. Right now, he can be, but I won’t let him know that.

“In order for me to play with you, we have to be on the same mountain. I’m on Everest—you’re still on the bunny slopes. You say that you have key information from someone inside my organization. First of all, you have to know that if I let go of any key parties, I change the structure of everything inside my company. Second, even the janitors here sign non-disclosure agreements, so the key individuals all sign non-compete clauses. Any information that you think you could possibly get and use against me is privileged. I would bury you, your stuffed-shirts, and whatever assholes you’re talking to so deep in lawsuits that no company in America would dare come near you for fear of falling into the vortex that will be left by what was once known as Feinstein LTD. More importantly, Thomas, you should know by my reputation that Christian Grey is the last man you want as an enemy. I hold grudges for a long time, and I make it my special project and mission in life to cause particular and intense misery to those who try to fuck me over.”

The line is silent for a while and without knowing, he just confirmed my suspicions.

Like I said, Mr. Grey, I’ll speak with the board.”

“No need,” I say, coolly. “I know I just did.” I hear a couple of almost silent gasps on the other line. You don’t toy with a master, but I know that this deal is still hanging on by a very thin thread. “Gentlemen, I’m not a patient man. You all know that I have invested nearly a year of time, energy, and resources in this deal and I don’t play games with my money. When I fire someone, you can rest assured that there’s a damn good reason for it, so you should be very careful where you listen to ‘this and that.’ As a courtesy, I won’t hold this little attempt at a power play against you if we can agree to proceed as planned before certain sniveling little weasels slithered their way into your office.” I pause for a moment before I deal the final blow.

“Oh, and please, assuming that they are not listening to me right now, tell those key individuals that I have lovely plans for them that I am about to implement right now.” More quiet gasps on the other line alerts me that members of my ex-legal team are part of this conference call. “Good day, Gentlemen.” I end the call abruptly and have to control myself from throwing the phone across the room. These idiots really think that they can try to screw me out of my company and then go to the competition and try bring me down when I fire their asses? They are going to burn. I’m going to make such a fucking example out of them that when I’m done with them, they are going to wish they were dead. While I’m sitting at my desk for several minutes attempting and failing to calm my raging temper, my blackberry rings.

“Welch!” I say, after looking at my phone.

You’re a scary man sometimes,” he says into the phone.

“Who is it?” I don’t have time for games. I’m so angry and wound so fucking tight that I could snap right now.

Jones and Webber. You’re right. It wasn’t Abrahms.” I nod.

“Good. Did they see you?”

Of course, they did—me and three other members of the security team. Jones turned so white, he was almost blue.”

“Good. They know that I’m on to them, even before they saw you. They’re probably pissing themselves wondering what’s about to happen. I can’t for the life of me figure out why they would want to cross me. They’ve seen first hand how I can destroy people and they haven’t even seen my worst,” I say shaking my head.

What do you want to do?”

Covert surveillance right now. I’ve got plans for those boys.”

Yes, Sir.” He ends the call. I’m so angry that I’m shaking. I hate betrayal. Of all things in the world that you could do to me, betrayal is the worst. These men were my trusted counsel for years. They knew the ins and outs of my business like no one else. I had to change almost the entire format when I let them go. Now, they are saying God only knows what to one of the companies that I one day plan to acquire—though they don’t know it yet. Feinstein has one of the largest market shares of raw materials in the Pacific Northwest—a small acquisition in the big scheme of things but coupled with my production and manufacturing capabilities, Feinstein could be one of the most lucrative acquisitions of my career to date! It’s like coupling the company that makes the cardboard cups and plastic tops for soft drinks in fast food restaurants across the world with the company that manufactures the straws. Both of them are okay on their own, but together, they become a powerhouse.

If these fuckers have caused my powerhouse to crumble, I’m going to make them regret it for years and years to come.

I try just about everything to loosen up for the rest of the afternoon. I comb over spreadsheets and contracts—tedious things to occupy my mind. I run through the qualifications with the members of my legal staff to see if any of them can move up to senior attorneys on the staff. I even go to the company gym and do several miles on the treadmill. Nothing is working. If anything, I’ve worked myself into more of a tizzy than I was when I finished with Thomas. I sit at my desk, trembling inside with anger and frustration. I know what I need. I know what I need to do. I look at my watch—it’s 4:07pm. I pull out my blackberry and text Butterfly.

**I need you. Tonight. In the Playroom. Be showered, ready, and waiting at 8pm. Tonight’s events will be televised. **

*-*

I burst into Escala promptly at 8:00. I had to force myself not to come back sooner or I would have surely fucked her on sight. That would have done nothing but satisfy my dick, not my intense need to regain control.

“Sir, are you going to be okay?” Jason asks. It must be worse than I thought. I nod.

“Yes, I’ll be fine. Ana is waiting for me.” Jason always has the ability to remain impassive, but his facial expression clearly tells me that he’s concerned even though it has only changed infinitesimally.

“I never ask this, Boss, but is Ana going to be okay?” Oh yeah, it is worse than I thought. I glare at him and he glares right back. He knows what I have done to women in my Playroom and he’s making it extremely clear that he will not allow me to hurt Ana. I take a deep breath before I speak.

“Jason, I’m going to try to remember that we are friends and that you didn’t just insinuate that I am going to take my anger out on Anastasia.” I say, my voice low.

“I won’t apologize,” he says without pausing. “She’s up there in that room and I know she is. I know what you’ve done to women in that room when you’ve had your wits about you. Now, you’re so far on the edge that your hands are trembling. So while it’s none of my business what you two get up to in there, as your friend I’m going to remind you that that is the woman who you love and not one of those bimbots that you used to bring here that could take whatever you were dishing out. She loves you and she’ll do anything for you, and you need to remember that while you’re releasing your frustrations.” He glares at me for a few moments, then turns to leave. “I’ll be in my room, Sir,” he says while walking away.

That fucking asshole… I hate it when he’s right.

I go to my study and pour two fingers of Bourbon to calm my nerves. I need Ana in that Playroom in the worst way, but he’s right. I do need to control my emotions and not take today’s failure out on her the way I used to do my subs. I sit for a moment, knowing that she is in position and rethinking my strategy to release my tension.

I remove my jacket, tie, socks and shoes, and I unbutton a few buttons on my shirt before I enter the Playroom. She is sitting on the bed wearing a black nightie so sheer that she might as well be wearing nothing. Her hair is pulled back off of her face into a slick ponytail. It looks like it has gotten longer, or maybe it’s a hairpiece. Maybe she just hasn’t worn it in a ponytail in ages, I don’t know, but even draped over her shoulders, the ends cascade over her breast and tickle the top of her stomach. At that moment, I know exactly what I want to do to her.

“Stand,” I command after I walk over to her. She is on her feet immediately. I run my fingers over the length of her ponytail. It’s soft and it feels real. “Is this you?”

“Yes, Sir,” she says, just above a whisper. Her voice spurns heat in me almost immediately and I know that in order to maintain control, I cannot allow her to speak… at all!

I brush her ponytail over her shoulder so that it falls down her back. Her head is bowed like a good little submissive, allowing me to wrap her ponytail once around my hand and, with lightning speed, pull her head back so that her eyes meet mine. She gasps loudly at the force.

“Good,” I growl. A flash of something goes across her face. Fear, I think. I have to admit, I want a little of that, but not a lot. “I have plans for you tonight, Mrs. Grey,” I say. Her eyes widen a bit and her reaction tells me that she knows I’ve been drinking.

“Just one,” I assure her. “I want to be completely coherent for what I have in mind.” From the look on her face, that doesn’t seem to comfort her much. No matter. Like I said, I want a little fear.

I go to the console inside the wall and press the necessary controls. All of the cameras are activated and the two previously hidden monitors come to life. Yes… I want to see tonight’s action from all angles. I wave my hand in front of the iPod dock and pick a few selections that will serve as our soundtrack. I’m not a real Madonna fan, but I choose the very few songs of hers that I have in my repertoire for tonight’s interlude—diverse, to say the least. The choices will confuse Mrs. Grey a bit… sensual, sad, some with a beat and some a bit touchy-feely. Yeah, I may be enjoying this a bit too much already, but the anticipation and the anxiety is palpable and the Dom in me is ready and anxious. Even Greystone has taken the night off and Dom Dick has taken his place.

Poor Little Butterfly.

I go into the last drawer of my chest and pull out my custom creation that I had made specifically for this moment, even though I didn’t know it at the time. Madonna sings about the uselessness of words as I move deliberately back over to her, keeping my little surprise out of sight. I’m glad she wore this flimsy little nightie. It’s easy to get rid of. I brush the straps off of her shoulders and let it slide down her arms and body to the floor. Now, here comes one of my favorite parttrussing her up.

I now reveal my little surprise, a custom, metal-boned underbust leather corset. It looks like a medieval torture device with the buckles and studs in the front and the loops built into the back, but it’s anything but that. Actually, I had it made so that she is comfortable during suspension. I wrap it around her body, securing each buckle tightly in front of her body. I’m a little rougher than I have to be, but I know that I’m not hurting her… just intimidating her a bit.

When I am done strapping her into the corset, I examine her lovely breasts. The corset has them pushed up and presented in a lovely fashion. I cup them underneath and run each thumb across her nipple. She whimpers.

“Not a sound, Anastasia. Unless I say you can speak, you can only nod, shake your head, or use your safeword. Are we clear?” A slight shiver goes through her and I don’t know if it’s from my words or my tone of voice. She timidly nods that she understands. “Good.” I go over to the chest again and remove several more items that I will need for tonight. I go back over to her and apply leather cuffs to her wrists and ankles.

“Lie flat on the bed, face down, hands next to your head,” I instruct her. She does as I command and I stand next to the bed. “I’m going to suspend you now, Anastasia.” She gasps again. I’ve never suspended her, but I have dreamed about it over and over. Now, I’m going to fucking do it. “I said no sound. Do you have a problem with that instruction, Mrs. Grey?” I ask, my voice harsh. Her body sinks down into the bed—as if it could—and she shakes her head resignedly. I think I may have actually hurt her feelings. I regret it if I did, but I won’t apologize for it. I’m the Dom and she has to follow my commands now. “I will punish you if you fail to follow instruction again, are we clear?” She nods and I can barely hear her breathing.

I hook the chains from the roof of the bed into the rings at the top, bottom, and middle of the custom corset by heavy-duty pear hooks. Once they are secured, I attach her ankle cuffs to chains that attach to each of the bed posts. I spread her legs as far as the chains will let them go without being painful. Her pretty little pink pussy is already on full display and smiling for the camera. I then attach her wrist cuffs to the loops in the back of the corset. Then I crank the winch so that her beautiful body is bound and suspended about two and a half feet above the Playroom bed. She looks fucking glorious! Her ponytail is hanging over her shoulder and her head is hanging down. Her breathing is more erratic than I have ever heard. I don’t know if she’s turned on or afraid—hopefully a bit of both.

“Are you uncomfortable, Mrs. Grey?” I ask, my voice honey-smooth but still commanding. “You may speak.”

“No, Sir,” she says, her voice several octaves higher than normal. She is afraid. That turns me on a bit, but I won’t let her stay that way.

“What are your safe words?”

“Bells and whistles,” she squeaks. I think she instinctively knows that she won’t be needing the third one.

“Good girl,” I say as I crawl to the foot of the bed and between her legs. After shedding my shirt and T-shirt, I bury my face into that beautiful wet valley that has been calling my name. She stifles a gasp as I feast on her glorious, juicy fruit, groaning each time her juices grace my tongue. Her arousal is immediate and she doesn’t bother trying to stop her orgasm since she is concentrating on not making a sound. She trembles so hard through her climax that the chains attached to the bed rattle. Having to hold in an orgasmic cry intensifies the orgasm and I plan to make her insane tonight.

As I devour the last of her juices drawing out her aftershocks, Madonna’s words remind me that there is satisfaction in pain. Dom Dick twitches at the thought. I shed my pants and boxer briefs then lower the winch a little. I slide underneath her convulsing body, brushing my hardness against every part of her softness, until my face reaches hers. She is puffing madly to catch her breath and I thrust my tongue into her mouth so that she can taste her own juices.

“You are going to come…” I kiss her again, licking the inside of her mouth just once, “over…” kiss, “and over…” kiss, “and over again.” Kiss, kiss. “And I am going to come…” kiss, “over…” kiss, “and over…” kiss, “and over again.” Kiss, kiss. “When you can’t take anymore, use your first safeword. What is your first safeword again?”

“Bells!” she pants, wildly.

“Bells, very good. If I am hurting you and you want me to stop what I am doing immediately, use your second safeword. What is your second safeword?”

“Whistles!” she pants again.

“Whistles, very good. Now what I am about to do to you means you won’t be able to safeword. Your mouth will be full,” I smirk at her devilishly. “So you will hold this.” I reach behind her and put a ball in her hand. “If you drop the ball, I will know to stop immediately. Do you understand? You may speak.”

“Yes Sir,” she breathes. I nod.

“Good.” I kiss her once more and then slide to the top of the bed. This is another thing I have wanted to do to her since the first time she smart-mouthed me in the community center. I prop myself up on several pillows and bring my dick to her face.

“Open your mouth,” I command her. She opens her mouth and I adjust myself comfortably before inserting the head between her lips.

“Suck, gently,” I tell her and she applies the slightest suction to my head. “More,” I tell her and her lips and mouth tighten a bit. “Yesss,” I hiss. “Yes, that’s it. Right there.” I lean back onto the pillows and cup her face with my hands. I have wanted her like this for so long, but I never thought that she was ready. Now, I have her hanging over my Playroom bed, trussed up and helpless, with her mouth wrapped around my dick… and the cameras are rolling. The thought alone makes me want to blow, but I have waited too long for this to let it end too quickly.

A more sensual beat begins to play as I stroke into her mouth, only halfway, allowing myself to concentrate on the feeling of the roughness of her tongue on the underside of my dick. Fuck, it feels so good, holding her steady while I stroke in and out, in and out, in and out. Oh God, I use my control tactics to prolong this feeling without coming too soon. It looks glorious and feels magnificent! I hope the camera at the head of the bed is getting this angle because I will want to relive it over and over again. I adjust my stroke so that I hit the walls of her mouth.

Fuck!

The head rubs against the insides of her cheeks. I can feel it against my hand. I turn her head a bit so that it hits harder against her cheek. Fuck! Fuck! It feels so good that I’m panting trying not to come yet. I keep stroking, now trembling because I want to come so bad, but I won’t. It’s too damn good to end it now. I watch the ball in her hand. She’s grasping it tightly with no intention of letting go. Good, because I want to go deeper. I straighten her head and do just that. I grab her ponytail and while steadying myself on the bed with my other hand, I push her head slowly down my length.

Shiiittt!” I growl as she takes me all the way to the base and nearly makes me shoot my load. I hold her there while I breathe deeply, my head back in ecstasy as I am fighting for all I’m worth not to come. I have wanted this so badly—to have her suspended and helpless, to fuck her mouth until I can’t take it anymore—the anticipation was so intense that the act is getting to be too much for me. To top it all off, we’re recording it! I feel Dom Dick throb in her mouth with glee and I know that he just spit a bit down her throat. Not yet, Man, you’ve got to hold on for just a little while longer.

I look down at her hand—still holding the ball. Good. I wrap her ponytail around my hand and guide her slowly up and down my dick while I thrust in and out of her mouth. Each time the head slides out of her throat, the muscles tighten. I don’t know if it’s reflex or if she’s doing it on purpose, but I like it! I test my limits to the very end, fucking her throat for a few long moments before I am panting again, trying not to come. I relax and pull my dick halfway out of her mouth.

“Use your feet against the bedposts and swing,” I instruct her. Like a good little student, she swings, and her mouth slides up and down my dick while I sit on the bed.

“Fuck!” I groan as I match her swing, fucking her mouth exquisitely and slowly, bringing me painfully to the brink of my pleasure. Leaning back on both hands, I throw my head back again as I absorb the delight of her hot lips wrapping around my purple, angry dick, grinding slowly into her mouth while her tongue edges my frenulum. I moan in ecstasy, not recognizing my own voice but not caring one bit. It  long now. I look down at her swinging back and forth, coating my dick with her saliva, some of which is sliding down my dick to my balls.

Ball.

I look at her hand and the ball is still there, gripped tightly between her delicate fingers.

“Listen… to me…” I’m trying to talk between each of her delicious swings and my matching strokes. “When I… tell you to… I want… you to stop… swingingand hold… the head… in your mouth.” Now I keep still and let her swing because I’m about to come. Fuck, it’s hard to do! My thighs are shaking, my legs are shaking, my feet are clenching and my balls are tight as fuck!

“S-stop!” I almost missed it. She stops stroking and holds my head tight in her mouth. Holy fireballs and shitsticks from Hades! My eyes are locked on my purple dick, jumping violently with each squirt of my orgasm into her mouth. Fuck, it’s the hottest thing I’ve ever seen! I’ve always felt it, but never watched it. I’ve watched the cum squirt out but usually I or someone else was holding it. Watching it jerk and throb and grow while I come wildly inside of her mouth, it’s almost more than I can bear. I force myself to keep my eyes open and watch it while it dances, shiny and purple and veiny, holding me hostage with debilitating pleasure.

“Oh my… God…” I choke as this orgasm goes on and on, spurned to continue by the visual assault that I am withstanding. When it seems like it might wane, I reach down to my balls and rub, gripping them slightly and massaging them with the saliva that ran out of her mouth. It sends another wave of pleasure through me, not a full-blown orgasm, but insane aftershocks intensified by the sensitivity of my head still clamped inside her mouth.

When Dom Dick has finally tapped out for this round, I command her to release and fall back on the pillows in breathless bliss. Fucking hell, that was everything that I hoped it would be and more! Time to move on to some more fun!

Once I catch my breath, I move off of the bed. “Well done, Mrs. Grey,” I commend her. “I’m not down for the count yet, but I think I need to recuperate a bit, which means that now I need to concentrate on you.” I take the ball from her hand. “You won’t be needing this anymore.” I go back to my chest and retrieve my next toys.

I walk around to her perfect, round ass, hoisted up and presented to me. I know that the “back end” camera has captured several minutes of this beautiful and flawless creation and I can’t wait to see the playback of it swaying back and forth while she’s swinging her mouth onto my dick. I caress it gently, then firmly, squeezing her flesh between my fingers. She knows well what’s coming next and I hear her breathing change in an effort to calm herself.

Not many, Little One, just a few.

The first strike comes as a surprise even though she has prepared herself. She jumps and gasps loudly as the straps of the flogger wrap around her hips before I pull it over her ass. I strike her again, a little lower this time and she jumps again. She’s panting now, trying to absorb the blows. Before she has a chance to recover from the last, I strike again. An involuntary whimper escapes her mouth before she presses her lips together tightly and holds her breath. I strike her a few more times to bring the pinkness to her skin, then shower her behind with light whispers of the tips to make sure it stays that way. She wriggles in attempt to escape the assault, but it’s of no use. When I finally stop, she releases the breath that she was holding and drops her head.

I oil her ass a little to illuminate the pinkness and she is so gorgeous all bound up and at my mercy that I can’t resist. I part her tender cheeks and allow my tongue to explore her rosette. She gasps again as her anus contracts and releases in response to my erotic massage. Her breathing is erratic, panting, and her hands are flexing and stretching while grasping at nothing. I extend my tongue down to the hole of her core, tasting her juices there, before bringing it back up to asshole and teasing it mercilessly. She lets out a whispered “Ah,” almost inaudible, and I slap her ass again for her malfeasance. Oh yes, she’s so ready.

Fever!” Madonna breathes. You got that right.

Anal hookLubricating her hole a little more, I massage her ass with the first ball of my toy. She tightens immediately in anticipation and I gently and slowly push the first ball into her ass. She breathes through the sensation, her whole body responding to that foreign object now invading her. Once her breathing has calmed a bit, I gently push the second ball into her. This invasion is not as brutal as the first, and she immediately acclimates to it. I push it further into her, watching her responses and feeling a twitch in Dom Dick as her hole contracts and releases around the metal. I let it go and allow it lay against her hands so that she can feel what it is. She tentatively strokes the metal with her fingertips and once she feels the ring at the top, she knows that it’s an anal hook with two balls at the end.

I release her wrists from behind her back and lower the suspension bar in front of her. I attach her wrist cuffs to the outer rings of the bar so that her arms are stretched out a bit. I think I hear a slight sigh of relief at her being able to straighten her arms. I stand back and observe my creation. My dick is getting harder and harder.Suspension bar

“Oh, Mrs. Grey, I can’t wait for you to see how beautiful you look,” I say walking around the bed and taking in the view from all angles. “You will surely be as turned on as I am right now.” I get to the front of her again and see her nipples are two extremely pink pebbles—ruby pink, almost red. Should I go for nipple clamps? No, I’ll have more fun torturing them mercilessly with my mouth. I slide under her body again, lowered just enough for me to fit underneath her.

“Hi,” I say looking up into her anxious and aroused blue eyes. “My God, you are so beautiful.” I reach around her and pull the hook, pushing it further inside of her and pulling it out just to the first ball as her body starts to swing again. She gasps again and closes her eyes in ecstasy. Oh yes, this is wonderful! I slide my free hand between her folds and play in the moisture that I know I will find there. Her mouth opens and she begins to pant. Finally, I envelop one of her aching nipples between my lips to tease and suck it relentlessly. In moments I start to feel the sheen of sweat on her skin. I move to the other breast with my lips and replace my fingers with the head of my shaft, rolling it around her clitoris, her lips, and the outside of her entrance.

Fuck, she feels good!

Her breathing becomes hard and rhythmic and right when she’s at that point of no return, I plunge into her, grabbing the hook and pulling up hard while thrusting my tongue into her already open mouth and exploring it madly. A tight, short squeak comes from her throat as her muscles grip my dick and pull it in while she shakes uncontrollably through her orgasm. Oh, God, this is so hot, but I knew it would be. She is breathless and limp when I release her mouth.

“I’m going to mark you,” I growl through my pleasure as I thrust into her incredible wetness, still convulsing through her orgasm and aftershocks. “Nod if you understand.”

She nods wildly while she’s still panting through the vibrations and I immediately sink my teeth into the fleshy meat above her breast. She gasps and chokes out a breath and I fuck her madly and deeply, one hand pulling on the hook and massaging her ass in and out while the other holds one of the cheeks open for better penetration. I make the mistake of looking at the monitor above my head and see the view from behind—my hard dick going in and out of her hot, wet pussy; the vein underneath it bulging and pulsing as I disappear inside of her and reappear with each feverish stroke; my hand gripping her ass hard and pulling it open revealing the first ball slightly pulling on the inside of her asshole. I push the hook in again and she gasps—the sight and the sound spurns me on which is why I told her to keep quiet.

“Aw, fuck!” I groan, pumping into her harder, deeper, and only slightly faster. My mouth clamps onto more flesh in front of me, I don’t know what it is—tit, chest, shoulder, neck—I’ve covered it all by now. She is panting and I know that she is about to come again, but I can’t hold on anymore. I feel the fountain release inside of her, my eyes closed tightly and my lips sucking madly on her neck.

“God… dammit!” I groan loudly as my dick pulsates madly inside of her. As hard as it is, I control it, not allowing myself to release completely because I still want to fuck her ass. I grunt through the pain of a self-ruined orgasm, and I almost don’t notice that she is coming undone again on top of me.

“You’re coming?” I say seductively, forgetting my pain and pressing into her again, slow and deep. She nods wildly, holding her breath through her orgasm. “Good girl,” I encourage while moving the hook in and out of her ass. When she finally releases her breath and starts to pant, my eyes catch the monitor from the camera behind us once more. Her muscles are squeezing the result of our combined orgasm out of her core and down my still-hard shaft. Oh shit, that’s so fucking hot! I push into her a few more times, very slowly, watching the white cream slide out of her and down my dick settling on my balls. I let go of the hook and grab her ass with both hands, guiding her hips to press down and rise up, enjoying the show of her riding me, arousing me again, and squeezing out my semen.

“Oh, Baby, you’re going to love this,” I say as my nature, which hasn’t fully fallen, starts to rise again.


STEELE

Fucking hell! I don’t know how much more of this I can take! Who came up with this idea? Hang a woman from the ceiling, bind her hands and feet and fuck her until she can’t breathe… oh, and don’t allow her to scream. I don’t know if this is the best of times or the worst of times! I am having some of the most mind-blowing, earth-shattering orgasms that I have ever had, and so is he. He’s absolutely wild and insatiable—but my head’s going to explode in a minute if I’m not allowed to scream. By the way, being suspended is not exactly the most secure feeling in the world, but so far it seems pretty sturdy as I haven’t fallen yet, and the fact that he is able to fuck me freely from every direction… aidez-moi, tel plaisir!

And this music! What’s with this music? I can understand Justify My Love and Erotica, but Live to Tell? I can even understand the beat of Spanish Eyes. Hell, he fucked me slow and deep to the rhythm of that one, and if I’m honest, Live to Tell will have a whole new place in my heart when I remember the taste of him in my mouth, but damn! I didn’t even know that he liked Madonna!

We have both come for the… third time? Fourth time? I’ve lost count. He withdraws from me and I get a glimpse of his erection—still perfectly hard. What the fuck? He gently removes the ball hook from my ass and I groan inwardly. My God, that’s a wonderful invention! I swear it felt like I was being fucked from both directions. It was outstanding! He disappears back over to his magical chest and comes back with yet another toy. I can’t see what is it, but he starts strapping something else around my legs. The next thing I know, he’s inserting a dildo into me.

Fuck, are you serious?

Good grief, it feels just like him. It’s veiny and soft, but hard, only this one has a more prominent curve to it. Fuck, did he have his dick molded and turned into a damn dildo? This thing is some sort of reverse strap-on and he’s got it harnessed to both of my legs and around my ass somehow. Now the real fun begins.

I hear a click and the damn thing starts to vibrate, inside of me and against my clit. Oh, heaven help me. I immediately start to shake with the sensation. I’m still very sensitive from my last orgasm and this thing digs into me—literally—and immediately finds my pleasure center, making me rise all back over again. It’s a slow incline, but I feel it, and from his position behind me, I know that he’s going to fuck me up the ass.

And what the fuck is playing now? Nobody’s Perfect? What the fuck?

The picture on the monitor dead ahead gives me full view of my Dom behind me. He is looking down at my ass and stroking lube onto his dick. He pleasures himself for a while as he reaches between my legs and pushes the dildo further into me then pulls it out slightly, repeating this process over and over and watching my reaction. Oh, God, he finds new ways to sexually torture me every day and this time, I am certain that I will expire if he pushes that magnificent dick into my ass while fucking me with this exquisite dildo.

I don’t have to wait long for him to test that theory.

He slides in with ease though it is still a tight fit. The anal hook loosened the grip a bit. He pushes in further and further, groaning deep in his chest with each movement. The music and singing swells as he sinks into me and withdraws—deliciously and slowly.

“This ass, this ass, my God, Anastasia, this ass!” he growls as moves slowly and deliberately, licking his lips and grasping the chains that hold the harness/corset to the top of the bed. As he moves, I feel it. Fuck, I feel it! He used that fucking heating lube again. I’m going to die. I’m fucking going to die.

“Oh, Baby, goddamn!” His strokes are getting wilder, deeper, harder. He is plunging into me, using the chains to pull me back hard onto his pelvis. The torture is exquisite and the pleasure is insane. No more… please, I can’t take it.

Stop watching the monitor!
I can’t! I’m trying, but I can’t!

My Dom looks up and notices that I can see what he sees. “Feel me, Baby,” he groans. “Watch me disappear into your beautiful ass. It feels as good as it looks.”

Oh yes! God, yes, it does!

The song has changed into a deep, slow base beat and Madonna is speaking French. It’s freaky and sensual and spurning me on. He moves his hands around my waist and thrusts, trying to get a better grip but the corset slips from his oily fingers. Finally frustrated, he grabs my hips and starts to pump furiously into me.

Fuck me, Sir! Fuck me!

He moves his hand and I hear another click. The vibrating increases. I swallow my groan and breathe out hard as he pushes me, harder and higher, beads of sweat now forming on his forehead, chest, and arms.

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhh!
Shut the fuck up! If I can’t scream, you can’t either.
Fuck you! I can’t take this anymore!

“Yes! Fuck, yes!” he exclaims as he digs himself deeper into that place where no one is allowed but him. Over and over… deeper and deeper… he’s relentless!

Oh yes, Sir! Please, Sir! More, Sir, more!

I drop my head from pure exhaustion, my body wracked and pulled to its limits. The pleasure has complete control of me and I am helpless and useless. Even if I weren’t bound by this excellent contraption, I could do nothing right now.

“Watch!” he grunts as he grabs my hair and pulls my head upright so that I can see the monitor. His beautiful, hard penis going in an out of my ass—fuck! I try not to gasp at the delicious sight, but I can’t stop the drool that slips from my lips. It looks so dirty and it feels so decadent. I feel the tightening in my muscles. I can’t stop it.

“Oh, fuck, Ana!” He feels it too. He is riding me hard, pulling me back against him by my hair, painfully crashing me onto his dick until my hair tie suddenly slips out of my hair and he loses his grip. I drop my head and my hair cascades around my face while I try to withstand his assault, brutal and lustful and hot. He grabs the harness on either side of my hips and uses it to thrust into me deeper and harder. All the time, this insane fucking life-like vibrator is tormenting my pussy inside and out and now he’s pulling it into me, against me, mercilessly—oh God, help me!

He is fucking my ass with abandon and that heating lube is about to cause an explosion. He releases my wrists from the bar holding them in front of me and pulls them to my sides. Somehow he has my wrists pinned to my hips and the harness in his hands at the same time, pulling me against his dick by my wrists and the harness.

I look up at the monitor and see him thrusting feverishly into my ass. He head is thrown back and his mouth is hanging open, his copper tresses wet with sweat and sticking to his face. He is mindlessly chasing his orgasm while he is fucking my ass and somehow masterfully fucking my pussy with this amazing vibrating dildo at the same time. Again, I feel like I’m being fucked by two men simultaneously. It’s insane! It looks glorious! It feels glorious! My own hair is sticking to my face with each of his ardent strokes, and after a few more thrusts, I break the cardinal rule.

I groan loudly from my chest as this orgasm rips through my ass and my pussy, searing me from the inside out. I stiffen and cry and tremble, trying not to make another sound while I’m gasping for breath. He curses several times as he thrusts into me hard and deep then stills inside of me, holding me against him and panting wildly.

I am coughing and wheezing, not aware of what he is doing at all, trying to catch my breath and not expire. I’m dizzy and my head hurts. I don’t know where he got this corset, but this fucker is amazing! It’s the only thing preventing a faceplant onto the Playroom mattress at this moment. I’m still coughing for air when Christian appears in my face with a glass of water and a straw. I take long drags from the straw, nearly emptying the glass and only stopping to breathe. I drop my head again out of pure exhaustion… surrenderand I feel myself being lowered to the bed.

Leave me here. I can sleep right here.

He begins to undo the chains and the cuffs. I don’t know how long I was up there, but my legs hurt like hell. I don’t whimper or complain. Just let me sleep…

The dildo and harness have magically disappeared, but he is now unhooking the corset. I gasp as it releases me. Another song begins to play… a haunting melody, but I’ve never heard it before. Christian is gone for a moment, but is back in no time with massage oil and Arnica cream. I moan gratefully as he coats his hands with warm oil and starts with my toes that were pressed against the bedposts. My body sinks into the relief that his hands elicit as they travel over my feet and meticulously up my calves, my painful thighs…

*-*

I awake cloaked in exquisite warmth, oozing the aches and pains out of me. Christian has moved us from the Playroom to our bedroom. I am in the bath, a waterproof pillow behind me as Christian washes my hair from his position outside of the bathtub.

That’s odd.

I look over at him and see a combination of expressions on his face.

“You were remarkable tonight,” he says softly, cupping his hand and filling it with water to pour over my hair and body. He’s taking care of me… like a treasured submissive—but there’s something else there. Uncertainty. He only makes eye-contact with me briefly, and I know that there’s a measure of guilt in what he’s feeling as he continues to caress me.

“It was…” I can hardly speak, comfort and exhaustion taking me over, “extraordinary,” I breathe. He raises his eyes to me.

“Really?” he asks, his uncertainty apparent now. “I’ve always wanted to suspend you, but I think I went to far.” I open my eyes silently asking him why he feels that way. It was a Playroom scene and I didn’t safeword. It was grueling, but I enjoyed it very much. “You have stripes in your skin from the boned corset. I don’t know if it will bruise.” I nod.

“Next time, we have to put something next to my body underneath it,” I say softly, closing my eyes and not giving it a second thought. I open my eyes at the silence and lack of movement to see Christian gazing at me.

“Next time?” he asks. I turn my head to him.

“Yes, next time,” I say with as much strength as I can muster. “You can’t introduce me to something like that and then tell me that I can never have it again.” I infuse as much regret in my voice as I can, eliciting a relieved smile from him. “Now get your ass in this tub. This feels weird.”

Already naked, he inserts himself in the tub behind me, wrapping his legs around me and cradling me in his arms. He kisses my hair, my cheek, and my neck over and over.

“You are so perfect for me,” is the last thing I hear before I drift off again.

*-*

It’s nearly noon when I emerge the next day. Luckily I had no plans for today or they would have been shot to hell. I normally would have gone down to Helping Hands today to see what kind of progress was going on with the remodel, but I had already decided to stay home and make sure that all loose ends were tied up for the wedding.

Two weeks—17 days to be exact—I will officially be Mrs. Grey. I think Christian is trying to get me accustomed to the concept because he’s been calling me “Mrs. Grey” all week. Last night… oh, last night… I can’t even describe the way that he made me feel. I’m sore in lots of places, but the ache reminds me of the lust, passion, and pleasure I endured for I don’t know how long in the Playroom. How many times did I come? Did I pass out at some point? Jesus, I was dizzy with orgasms. They were so damn powerful. After the fact, I understand the purpose for the songs. They were a fucking mind trip! Oh, God, he’s going to have to warn me before he does that to me again.

“Where’s your mind?” His voice startles me as he walks up behind me. I’m sitting at the breakfast bar looking at my wedding planner and checking off last minute details. When I see him walking towards me in a tailor-fit double-breasted charcoal gray suit with lighter gray tie, my mouth falls open and I think I actually drool a bit. Fuck, he is fine! My girlie parts start to tingle again, but I am sore from head to toe. Dammit, he’s looks fucking edible. “Earth to Butterfly.” I swallow hard.

“Sorry. I was… distracted,” I breathe. He smiles and puts his arm around me. I flinch a bit. He was right, the corset did bruise a bit. The flinch didn’t get by Christian.

“Are you okay?” he asks, concern clear in his eyes. I nod.

“The corset,” I confirm. He frowns.

“I’m sorry…”

“Don’t be,” I whisper. “We know what to do next time.” His pupils dilate.

“Anastasia…” he groans.

“What?” I answer softly.

“Don’t look at me like that,” he growls. I bite my lip.

“Sorry,” I respond insincere. He grabs my butt with both hands and brings his lips to mine. I return his passionate kiss, thrusting my hands in his hair and letting him know that I’m hungry for him anytime. After I lick his delicious flavor from his lips, he pulls back from me.

“I’m going into the office for a few hours,” he mumbles. “I won’t be long.”

“I was wondering why you were still here on a Wednesday,” I breathe.

“I wanted to make sure that you were okay.”

“I’m more than okay,” I say, licking his lips. “I’m deliciously sore all over.” He squeezes me ass again and groans in his chest.

“Fuck. How am I suppose to leave when you say things like that?” I kiss him again.

“You have an empire to run. Go run it. I’ll be here when you get back.” I caress his hair again and nip his lip. He groans again.

“Leaving now,” he says as he pushes himself away from and walks back to his study. I chew my ink pen as I watch him walk away. That fucking suit fits like a glove. I’m not sure I want anybody else to see him in that suit. It makes you want to rip it off of him and…

“Your highness?” Fuck! He scared the fucking shit out of me. When did Jason get here? Fuck.

“Yeah?” I answer, startled out of my skin.

“I didn’t mean to startle you,” he says. He just saw me ogling Christian… and now, I’m embarrassed. I know that I’m blushing, because I can feel it. “Don’t be ashamed. I just… I wanted to talk to you.” I frown a bit. His tone is uncertain. What’s wrong?

“Okay,” I say, giving him my full attention.

“I’m concerned… and a bit confused. When he touched you just now, you flinched. I saw you.” Shit, I was hoping he didn’t catch that. “but the way you looked at him, it was like you would take him on the floor right here in front of me.” I shake my head and look down, smiling coyly. “I don’t want to get into your business but… well… I know what he does—used to do—to women in that room. I‘ve been around for a long time. I just want to make sure you’re not being… hurt.” The last word trails off. Jason knows that if Christian heard this conversation, he might very well be fired. I look over at the study door to see if he’s emerging before I speak.

“Jason, Christian is not capable of imposing the kind of pain that you’re concerned about… not on me anyway. Yes, it gets rough sometimes, but nothing more than I want. He’s adamant about that. Don’t worry about me. I may have been abused in my past, but I’m not the kind of girl to just roll over and take it.” I raise my eyebrows at him. His expression changes slightly and he nods once.

“Forgive me… for intruding. It’s just…” I put my hand on his arm to silence him.

“Thank you,” I say, smiling up at him. He returns my smile with a tight smile and a nod before returning to Christian’s study.

*-*

Chuck and I are making our rounds on Friday. My wedding is in two weeks and I have to make sure that everything is in place. Everything that needs to be picked up has been picked up. All of the travel arrangements that need to be made have been made. The bachelor and bachelorette activities have all been planned. With the paparazzi always just around the corner, I have no idea how we managed to keep this a secret. Christian and I have met with Josh and have already taken our engagement photos, although it was just a formality—something to go into the wedding album since our engagement was announced almost immediately and quite involuntarily.

I’m having the bridesmaids’ jewelry delivered to Escala along with a little something for Mandy, Grace, and Auntie Cynthia. I’ve also hand-picked my wedding trousseau as I don’t want anyone to see it but Christian. It’s being wrapped now at Agent Provocateur—the little skimpy ensemble. I’m moving on through the mall to Gucci. I fell in love with the Gucci by Gucci fragrance a while ago and knew that I had to have it, but not for every day.

I’ve finally found the occasion for it.

I’ve had this bottle on hold forever and I was sure that they would have sold it by now. Luckily, it’s not a fragrance they will discontinue anytime soon. It’s exquisite… so beautiful. You can’t use too much of it at once, but it’s quality and it lasts for hours and hours and hours. Couple that with body wash and lotion of the same scent and you have quite the winning combination. Those items were a bit harder to procure, but the salesperson at the Gucci store were able to find them for me with a little work. This scent is sure to drive Christian wild on our wedding night. The closer the day gets, the more excited I become about its implications:

I’ll become Mrs. Anastasia Grey.
I get to wear a one-of-a-kind, breathless, dreamy creation.
I’m getting married in a castle to Prince Charming.
All of my closest friends and family will be there.
I’ll be gaining a new family of some of the best people I have ever met.
My daddy will be giving me away and my new little brother will be somewhere in attendance.
And let’s face it—I’m going to be filthy rich!

I’m pulled from my nostalgia when I realize that we have arrived at our destination—an exclusive jeweler who deals in extra-exclusive items. Once again, buying a wedding present and ring for the man who has everything is damn-near impossible, but I saw something that I wanted to get him the moment I saw it just after we were engaged. I had to ascertain that he didn’t have one already, which is no small feat, then I had to find someone who could order the damn thing and have it ready before our wedding. That wasn’t the hardest part though. The hardest part was paying for them. These things took a nice chunk of my savings, but this was one thing that I definitely could not put on “the Black.” I went through a bit to procure them, being that I am not Christian Grey and couldn’t tell the jeweler exactly why I was buying it without letting the cat out of the bag about our wedding. Nonetheless, I’ve got them now, so no harm, no foul!

We are walking back to my Audi, bags in hand when I see her. She’s standing across the street just gazing at me. Chuck follows my gaze and freezes. He’s on his phone in minutes and I simply can’t stand the cat and mouse game anymore.

“Follow me or stand and watch,” I tell him before checking for traffic on the narrow street and crossing over to where the woman is standing. Older woman, dark hair… familiar looking. Why does she look so familiar. I’m drawn to her and I don’t know why. I’m not in danger. I’m know that I’m not even though Chuck is not so sure.

“Ana… be careful,” he says from right behind me as I examine this woman like a strange creature.

“It’s fine, Chuck,” I tell him as I continue to approach her.

“You’re…” She seems like she can hardly speak. “You’re beautiful.” What? That’s a little creepy. Where do I know this face?

“Who are you?” I ask. “Why do you keep following me?”

“I’m sorry, I…” her words trail off as she continues to examine me. “You’re so beautiful. I never would have imagined.”

“You’re making me nervous,” I tell her honestly. “And the big man over there is going to lose his patience. Tell me who you are.”

“I’m sorry, I don’t mean to frighten you. I just… want to see for myself… that you were alright.”

That’s when it hits me. I know why she’s familiar. She’s familiar because he’s familiar… the man in my dream, the one who keeps apologizing but won’t tell me who he is. Oh. My. God.

“Who… are you?” I choke. She closes her eyes then opens them again.

“I’m Alexandria Lambert. Harold Lambert… was my son.”


A/N: “Aidez-moi, tel plaisir!”–“Help me, such pleasure!”

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

You can join my mailing list on the “Contact Me” page. Just click the link and it will lead you to a form to join the list.

Love and Handcuffs!
Lynn x

Mending Dr. Steele: Chapter 58–Legacy

So, I got lots of feedback on the last chapter on Ana’s possible condition, her reaction to Chuck’s withholding information, how Christian should react to it, the whole nine yards. I got you thinking, lol!

For those of you who noticed the personalized touch of my last email, thank you. It wasn’t easy to get that in there, but I’m learning some new things. 😉 

FYI, I don’t know where I wrote or lead my readers to believe that Christian didn’t know that Ana may have a stalker, but I wrote the chapter with the understanding that he did know. If I did mention that he didn’t know, to be honest, he doesn’t know everything either until it becomes a problem. So, to answer that question, No–Christian is not going to roll anybody’s head on this one.

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

Chapter 58–Legacy

STEELE

I was ordered to bed for the rest of the evening on Thursday and not allowed out until after noon on Friday. I was having a conniption by then because Mandy and Daddy’s shower would be in a few hours and I had to get to their house to do the decorations and get things started. I am the hostess, after all. I cancelled my session with Ace as Christian ordered me to stay in bed so I didn’t have much time to be skipping off to my therapist for an hour of delving into my feelings.

Marilyn has come with me as well as Valerie and Maxie to help with the decorations and organizing the house for the shower. Gail has agreed to cook the food and won’t allow me anywhere near the kitchen to assist—not even to slice vegetables. I’m beginning to feel like a bit of an invalid here. I just had a stomach ache… well, have a stomach ache, but I dare not tell any of them that I’m feeling the remnants of my bout with the murder burger night before last. I should sue the place that sold me that gastric catastrophe. I mean, seriously, that damn thing should come with a warning sign of some kind—caution: may induce vomiting.

Chuck and I have barely said two words to each other the whole day. It’s strange since we talk to each other all the time, but I just don’t feel like discussing the inevitable right now. I just want to concentrate on my baby brother’s shower. Speaking of which, I really hate that Harry won’t be here. He’s due to come home tomorrow, but the doctors wanted to keep him one more day for observation. He had some breathing complications when he was born, but the hospital gave Mandy steroids the day that she came into the hospital. So that, along with the surfactant after Harry was born, helped to develop his lungs. He was only in the NICU for a short time before he was released to the regular nursery. Now, he is as strong and healthy as a horse. I can’t wait for him to get home so that I can start spoiling him.

Daddy becomes the super proud father all over again every time he talks about Harry. He’s only about nine days old, but Daddy is talking about how much weight he has gained and how big he has gotten already. Mandy has brought the youth back to my father and I have no doubt that Harry will do that as well.

The guys stick around and help with the decorations as Christian is convinced that I’m not back to 100%. Although he’s right about that, I won’t let him know because I don’t want him to haul me out of my baby brother’s shower. My stomach is still cursing that damn burger and although I am not vomiting or cramping like I was before, the memories are still very vivid in my tired abdominals. To that end, I don’t give much argument when he restricts me from doing certain things. I stick to delegating and giving orders.

A couple of hours later, we have transformed Daddy and Mandy’s house into Baby Central. The farthest wall in the living room is covered in white balloons in a honeycomb pattern with a long table in front of it covered with a blue linen tablecloth. Two white vases of flowers flank several of Gail’s blue and white confections. Two helium-filed baby blue heart-shaped Mylar balloons hover over the table holding a banner between them of five small triangular flags that spell out “Harry.” Gail’s delectables consist of several blue, white, and silver cake balls with buttons or bows on top, little cupcakes with fondant babies on top in different poses, and individual dessert cups with some chocolate creation inside. Each dessert cup is a mini-mason jar with a fabric cover in blue and white or green and white stripes or checks or flowers. The fabric is held on by a blue or green ribbon and a large plastic matching diaper pin. These along with several other cookies, candies, chocolates and such, all sit around an adorable two-tiered cake covered in sky-blue fondant with white fondant clouds. The cake topper—also made of fondant—is a stork delivering a tiny little baby.

Speaking of stork, the proud father has actually rented one of those cheesy stork displays and planted it firmly in his front lawn. Not only does it alert arriving guests that they have the right address, but it also announces the birth of baby Harrison Raymond Steele to the world. This is not one of those regular storks with the baby in the blanket hanging out of his mouth. No… not for Master Steele. This stork has his feathers full spread, admiring the elated baby that he holds over his head in his wing-hands. Both are smiling profusely right under a star-spangled blue sign that reads “It’s a boy.” The display, which has to be about eight feet tall, includes Harry’s name and birth statistics. There’s absolutely no doubt that the proud parents can be found at this location.

Along with the extra seating set up by Christian, Daddy, Jason, and Chuck, Daddy has assembled a crib for the gift table. I got the idea from something that I saw online. Since the baby won’t be using his crib until tomorrow, we assembled it without the front railing and put a flat piece of white-painted wood where the mattress would be. We’ve decorated all three sides with baby bedding and beautiful fabric, including a cute little runner in the front. A baby canopy of white mosquito netting hangs from the ceiling with a cream parasol covering the hooks that are holding it up. Blue and white party balls hang inside the canopy and are strewn on the floor around the gift table.

Another table is set up with dinnerware, food, drinks, and hors d’oeuvres and we are ready for the party to begin. The gentlemen excuse themselves from the revelry that is about to become Mandy’s baby shower just as the women begin to arrive. The gift table is quickly covered with gifts for little Harry as well as the floor nearby. Mandy’s coworkers, friends, and several judges, as well as Grace and Mia enjoy the food and the shower games while I watch Mandy bask in the attention of being a new mother. Pictures of Harry are passed around the room and the ladies coo endlessly at my little brother.

I still haven’t gotten completely over the queasiness in my stomach as Mandy begins to open her gifts, so I sneak out the back door to their yard for a few moments of alone time and some fresh air to help ease my discomfort.

I have a brand new baby brother.

I’ve never liked being an only child. I considered Al my brother since there was no one else. I wonder if things would have been different for me if I hadn’t been an only child. Would Mom and Daddy have stayed together? Maybe for the sake of the kids? Would Mom have dragged us both to Nevada to be with her new husband in that hellhole? Would he have been able to protect me from being raped? Beaten nearly to death? You have such a “what if” legacy, Harry. I won’t hold you responsible for not being born twenty or so years sooner.

It begs to question, though… Mom and Daddy were together for many years. Why did she never get pregnant? Mandy got pregnant within a few months. Did they not want any children? If not, why wasn’t Daddy upset when Mandy announced her pregnancy? I guess these are questions that will never have answers. I have to say that I’m not really interested in the answers as I am sure that if Mom had any other children, she would have ruined their lives, too.

I’m walking around the outside of the house, taking in the wonderful May weather when I get a glimpse of that ridiculous stork on the front lawn in the distance. I was wrong. I think that thing is about 10 feet tall now that I get a better look at it. Who knows? I chuckle to myself as I think about Daddy picking the display and most likely watching with pride as they are planting the hideous thing in his front yard. There will be no stork displays when Christian and I have children… out of the question.

A fast movement past the monstrosity in my father’s front yard catches my attention. I see one of Mandy’s guests nearly run out of the house and towards one of the parked cars on the street. She stops momentarily and it looks like she shaken, like she’s seen a damn ghost. I make my way over to her car.

“Are you okay?” I ask as I approach her in the street. She’s taking deep breaths like she’s trying not to hyperventilate.

“I’m fi—” she begins before she looks up into my eyes. Her face becomes even paler, as if it could. She looks like she might pass out any minute.

“You should probably come back in and sit down,” I say, grasping her arms for fear that she might faceplant on the concrete if I don’t.

“No. No. I’m fine, really. I just have to go,” she says, sounding like a scared rabbit. What the hell happened to this woman?

“Would you please take a moment to catch your breath?” I beseech her. “I don’t want you to have an accident on your way to whatever emergency has called you away from the shower.” She seems to be getting more and more panicked by the second.

“No. Really, I’m okay. I just really need to go,” she says desperately trying to escape.

“Okay,” I say, her anxiety jumping off on me a bit. “Can I at least have someone take you somewhere?” She freezes and her shoulders fall.

“I’m sorry,” she says, defeated. I frown. What is she talking about?

“Huh?”

“I had no idea, I swear. I didn’t plan this. I didn’t know. I swear I didn’t make the connection.” She’s babbling. Just as I’m trying to figure out what the problem is…

“Anastasia…”

Okay, so not only is he using my whole name, but he’s using that fucking tone. I turn around and look at over my shoulder at him wondering what brought this on and what brought him out here.

“Christian,” I say, imitating his tone and showing my obvious irritation.

“Aren’t you going to introduce me to your friend?” he says, glaring at this shivering, quacking woman in my hands.

“She’s not my friend, but she’s clearly upset. I was trying to make sure she was okay to drive.” The quaking woman is no longer looking at me, but at Christian now.

“I didn’t know,” she says to him. “I didn’t make the connection.”

“What are you doing here?” he asks her. What?

“She’s here for the same reason that the other twenty women are here,” I say, not getting his questioning at all.

“Anastasia…” he says again in that tone.

“What?” I bark before I have the chance to catch myself. I’m not doing anything wrong and I won’t let him just take that tone with me for no reason. Quaking Girl actually jumps when I snap at Christian, causing me to glare back at her. She is looking at me like I am some kind of alien being. I look back at Christian, then at her, then at Christian, and back at her.

Then it hits me.

“Oh,” I say as I drop my hands from her arms, realization clear in my voice. Petite, a little taller than me, very fit. Although the brown roots are being hidden by a soft auburn color, the collar—though stylish—makes it quite evident.

She’s a sub—one of his past, to be more specific.

“Oh, God,” she says, covering her face with one of her hands. “I tried to leave before you saw me, before she saw me. I tried…”

“Steele,” Christian says, his voice menacing. “She’s all over the news. The trials, our engagement, how could you not know, Shawn?”

“I didn’t make the connection,” she excuses. I’m standing here in the middle of the street in front of my father’s house listening to my fiancé argue with one of his ex-subs about why she came to my brother’s baby shower. What are the odds? “I’m engaged, Sir… Mr. Gre… look!” She thrusts her hand into his face to show the stylish engagement ring on her left hand. “I swear I didn’t come here to cause any trouble, Sir.”

“Stop calling me that!” he barks.

“Then what do you want me to call you?” she says back, her tone frightened and surprised.

“Nothing!” he retorts. I sigh heavily.

“Leave her alone, Christian,” I say. He turns an icy gray glare to me. Oh, if you only knew how much I am not in the fucking mood.

“Anastasia…”

“And knock that shit off, too!” I bark. I think I surprise them both. “She didn’t come to crash the party or to out you or even to see you. She came because she was invited. She obviously has a new interest…” I point at her collar, “who’s going to marry her.” I point at her engagement ring. “I am certain that she doesn’t want anything to disrupt her life just as much as you don’t want anything to disrupt ours. In fact, she would have left if I hadn’t stopped her. What did you say to her? She was shaking like a leaf before she even got to the car.”

“He didn’t say anything to me, Ms. Steele,” she says, her head down. Oh, fuck. The last thing I need is to see the sub in action.

“I realize that this may be hard, but I’m going to ask you to please refrain from assuming sub position one while I’m standing here. That’s not a visual that I need right now.” She raises her head quickly and stares questioning at me. “He said nothing to you?”

“He didn’t get the chance. I was on my way to the restroom and when I spotted him, I snuck out,” she responds, looking only at me. I nod.

“You should go back to the party,” I say. She shakes her head.

“I… no! I should leave,” she protests.

“Does Amanda know why you left?” I ask.

“God, no!” she replies, confirming my suspicion that even though she is collared, she still doesn’t want the details of her lifestyle to be common knowledge.

“Does Amanda know you left?” She shakes her head.

“No,” she says. “I was just going to tell her later that I had an emergency call and had to leave.” I sigh.

“Then go back to the party,” I repeat. She frowns. “Amanda invited you because you are her friend. She wants you to celebrate the birth of her first child with her. Go back to the party.”

“What do I say?” she asks.

“Tell her that you had an emergency call that you had to take but it’s all taken care of now. Get the attention off of you and back onto Harry as quickly as possible.” She nods.

“Okay. I’ll do that. I really didn’t want to leave the party, but I didn’t want to cause any trouble. When I saw… Mr. Grey, I just had to leave.” I nod at her explanation.

“Go, now, before she realizes that you’re missing if she hasn’t already.” She nods again.

“I really am sorry, Mr. Grey. Ms. Steele.” She turns around and heads back to the house. As I watch her walk into the front door, I notice Chuck standing over by the stork monstrosity. Great, just what I need.

“Did you have to undermine me like that?” Christian asks. I turn to him.

“You mean the same way that you undermined me with that Anastasia shit?” I ask. “You and I both know what that was.” The argument is extinguished before it begins.

“You’re right,” he says, impassively. “You didn’t feel the urge to scratch her eyes out?”

“I don’t want to talk about it right now,” I say, the queasy feeling coming back to my stomach again. “When I saw her take the position, and I knew that she was…” I shake my head. “I just don’t want to talk about it.” He puts his hand on my cheek.

“Later,” he says softly.

“No, not later. It’s done. I don’t want to talk about it,” I say, finitely.

Not, it’s not, Baby,” he responds. “We’ll talk about it whenever you’re ready, but it’s not done.” He kisses my cheek and walks back to the house. Good God, this day was supposed to be about Harry. I rub my forehead and walk back towards the house as well.

“Are you going to continue giving me the silent treatment?” Chuck asks as I walk by him. I turn to look at him.

“Are you going to continue to keep things from me about my safety? If you are, I don’t need you. I’ll protect myself.” I don’t have time to beat around the bush with him, nor will I sugarcoat my feelings.

“Ana, can’t you see why we can’t tell you everything that happens?” he protests.

“Fine,” I say with a shrug and begin walking back towards Daddy’s house.

“Ana, please…”

“Don’t ‘Ana, please’ me, Chuck. You keep key information from me about my protection and safety for God only knows what reason, and what you don’t understand is that not knowing about a potential threat that was that close to me is just as bad as me walking around here on my own. If you don’t get that, then I don’t need you. I can take care of myself.”

“You know that’s not true,” he says.

“What’s not true?”

“That you can take care of yourself! You have no idea how many people were beside themselves when that fucker had you chained to that bed! There’s a whole army of people hell-bent on that never happening to you again!” he yells.

“And I’m one of them!” I yell back. “So try not to keep me out of the fucking loop! What’s so goddamn hard to understand about that?”

As if a light has gone of in his head, he stops yelling and folds his arms.

“You’re fucking insufferable, you know that?” he declares.

“And you still love me, so stop fucking keeping shit from me, Davenport!” I bark back.

“Fine!” he snaps.

“Fine!” I shoot and walk back to the house.

That felt good. Even my stomach stopped hurting.

*-*

I’m in a field of wild grass. The sun is rising or setting, I don’t know which. I can’t tell where I am or where I am supposed to be. There’s a man walking towards me. I don’t know who he is, but I feel like I should. I walk towards him, but I don’t seem to be getting any closer.

Where are we?” I ask, but he doesn’t answer. “Who are you?”

I’m sorry, Baby,” he says. I’m confused. Sorry for what? Then I remember.

I’m dreaming.

I’m supposed to know who he is, but I don’t. I know that I should know him, but I don’t.

Can you please tell me who you are?” I ask him again.

You know me. You know who I am.”

I’m sorry, Sir, but I don’t know.”

You know me. I just want you to know how sorry I am.” He keeps apologizing.

Why are you sorry?”

Because I broke her, and I can’t fix her. I’m sorry, Baby?” Why does he keep calling me “Baby?”

Who did you break? Can you tell me that?” and he’s fading again. “No, please. Don’t go yet. Who did you break? Why are you sorry? Please don’t go.”

And he’s gone.

I awake lying on my back and alone. The sun is up but Christian is not in bed with me. Who is this man in my dreams? Why does he keep apologizing to me and why does he keep calling me “Baby?” I don’t know who he is. I’ve never seen him before—well, not that I can remember—but he says that I know him. Who is he?

I sit up slowly and throw my legs over the edge of the bed. Thank God the murder burger has made its way completely out of my system and I no longer feel like I have to stay close to a bathroom. As a matter of fact, I’m as hungry as a horse! Dad and Mandy are going to be bringing Harry home today and I have a few things planned to get to know my little brother. I know that Mandy will want to spend every waking moment with him, but I’m hoping that she will be willing to share one or two of those waking moments with me.

After a long shower and deep conditioning, I take a good look at my wet hair in the mirror. It’s only now that I realize that I haven’t decided what I’m going to do with it for the wedding. It’s getting so long that it’s becoming difficult to style on a daily basis. I can wear it up or down with the dress. Either way will be stunning. I’m giving some thought to cutting it off…

Oh, hell no. Christian will have a coronary.

Oh well, for now I pull out my round brush and dry it so that it has big waves at the ends. After dressing in my black Donna Karan New York draped jersey top and Rag & Bone high-rise skinny jeans, I pull my hair into a loose over-the-shoulder ponytail where the bangs swoop lazily over my forehead and the ends cascade down to my breasts. I do dramatic eyes and some redder lipstick than I normally wear with a pair of plain stud earrings. After sliding into my over-the-knee black Louboutin leather stiletto boots, I’m ready for the day.

I go up to what has now morphed into more Harry-Central and less Wedding Central and grab the things I’ve bought for Harry—lots of onesies to come home to, some stuffed toys, the usual things. I have one special toy that I’m going to give him when no one is looking. It will be something that will bond us together as sister and brother and let him know that I will always have his back.

I take the few bags down to the great room and can’t help but notice the lack of activity—no Jason, no Chuck, no Gail, and no Christian. Where is everybody? I head to the kitchen to put something on my stomach. I’ll find them all later.

I’m eating the last of my bagel, bacon and eggs when my iPhone rings.

“Hi, Daddy,” I answer.

“Hey, Annie. I didn’t wake you, did I?” Daddy asks.

“No, Dad. I’m just finishing breakfast. I was going to call you to find out when Harry was coming home.”

“They are discharging him as we speak. I think he knows who I am, Annie!” Daddy sounds so excited.

“Of course he does!” I tell him. “You’re his father. Trust me, he loves you already.”

“You think so?” I can hear him smiling through the phone.

“I know so, Daddy. There’s not a soul in the world who couldn’t love you.”

“Well…” His pause tells me that we are thinking of the same person.

“And even she loved you once, so the saying still holds true.”

“You’re a wonderful daughter, Annie. Please don’t ever forget that.” I can hear one of those rare moments when Daddy is getting emotional. I smile.

“I won’t, Daddy. I love you.”

“I love you, too, Sunflower,” he says softly. “We’ll see you at the house later?”

“Of course,” I say with a smile. We say our goodbyes and end the call. I clear my dishes and put them in the dishwasher. When I turn to leave, there’s Christian on the balcony. I notice his buns of steel first, leaning on the railing and looking delectable. I double-check my make-up to make sure that I haven’t eaten away all of my lipstick before I walk over to the sliding doors. He’s gazing off into the distance, toying with something on his shirt. When I get closer, I see that it’s the key that I gave him last year in Anguilla. I had all but forgotten about that key. I see it when he’s getting dressed, but it’s something that is always there so you never see it.

He’s thinking about me. Should I interrupt him or leave him to his thoughts?
Interrupt him. He’s been out there for a while.

I open the sliding door and step out onto the balcony. It’s late morning going into early afternoon and the sun it out. It feels good. It’s June 1st. I’ll be married in 28 more days. I move next to him on the balcony, but he doesn’t acknowledge my presence. Have I done something wrong?

“Hi,” I say.

“Hi,” he replies. Okay, that wasn’t painful, but what’s going on? “Fifteen.”

Where did that come from?

“What?”

“Fifteen. There were 15 of them, Ana, and you’ve met two.” He’s talking about his prior subs.

“Um… okay.” Where is this going?

“You could meet the other 13, you know.” Why is he worried about this?

“Yes… and I actually met three.” He turns to look at me and does a double-take. What?

“You’ve only met two,” he says, his voice lower. “Greta was never my sub.” She wasn’t? She was possessive as hell. Why did I think she was actually his sub? Didn’t he tell me before that she was never his sub? I don’t remember. I shrug.

“Okay, so, Cassie was a nightmare. Shawn was an accident. Greta wasn’t even a sub. There’s 13 more. Is something wrong?” I ask. I don’t know what the problem is. “Is this why you’ve been out here all this time?”

“I’m having a hard time reconciling this part of my past with my present,” he says, never taking his eyes from me. “I really don’t know how to act when you meet them.” I frown.

“Because of the Cassie fiasco?” I ask.

“That, and the fact that… I only know to dominate these women. I can’t even talk to them when you’re around because I can’t dominate them when you’re around. I can’t even dominate them when you’re not around unless I’m ordering them out of town.” I can see how that could be a problem. He immediately went into bully mode with Shawn yesterday, and she was clearly trying not to make a scene.

“Are you angry at me for telling you to leave Shawn alone?” I ask. I wanted to ask him yesterday but the opportunity never presented itself. His pupils constrict and I know that no matter what comes out of his mouth, he was angry that I said that.

“I didn’t like being handled, particularly in front of her,” he says, honestly. Yep, he was pissed.

“Then you have to understand that you can’t attempt to handle me in front of your ex-subs either,” I say with no malice. “If I was handling you yesterday, it was because a—I was defending myself and b—I really didn’t think she was doing anything wrong. She was a friend of Mandy’s invited to Mandy’s house to see Mandy’s baby. When she saw you, she tried to leave. I diffused the situation and sent her back to the party. Remember, my dad isn’t aware that I partake in the lifestyle yet.”

“Yes,” he says after a beat, “there is that.”

“I have no intention on making any scenes while your ex-subs are around unless they are disrespectful to me, Christian. You are going to have to learn to deal with the fact that I may run into one of them while we are together. You had this same conversation with me when we ran into Greta in the Marketplace. I truly don’t think that all of them have bad intentions. Do you?” He thinks for a moment.

“Not all of them, no, but some may wonder why I chose you over them and that’s what worries me,” he says, closing the space between us. “It’s not like having an ex-girlfriend and a current girlfriend in the room together… at least, I don’t think it is. The nature of my relationship with these women was purely sexual—primal, based only on physical need and intense because of that fact. I can tell by their reactions that they still feel a spark when I’m near.”

“Well, hell, Cassie was in heat at the mere hope of seeing you so that’s pretty obvious, but I didn’t get that vibe from Shawn at all. She couldn’t wait to get away from you.”

“Well, true…” he hesitates.

“You said ‘they.’ I thought Greta wasn’t your sub.” An unknown emotion flashes briefly across his face. What’s wrong? I’m trying to read him, but he’s protecting himself in that CEO shell. What’s going on?

He said “they.”
He said “they.”
Fuck, he said “they.”

“Who else have you seen, Christian?” I ask. The CEO exterior falters for a moment, but only a moment. It’s back before I have a chance to read him.

“I saw a young lady that I contracted a few years back,” he says impassively. My heart sinks. Why, I don’t know. I guess because I want to know why he kept this from me.

“Oh?” I say, maintaining the same demeanor as he.

“Yes. Her name was Ava. Her contract lasted a little over a year.” I don’t think I want to hear this, but something is saying that I must. So I just stand there waiting for him to tell me the rest. “She showed up at Grey House the day that you came back from Montana.” That long ago? “She wanted to offer her… services again. I wasn’t sure why she was there so I invited her up to my office.”

I feel like I’m going to vomit again.

“She was nearly naked under the coat she was wearing. I should have known when I saw her, but… I was in a bit of a state at the time.” His eyes change, like he’s pleading with me to understand. All I can see is this nearly-naked brunette standing in his office while I’m on my way back to “rescue” him. “She started talking about how she liked my new look and could sense that the Dom was still there and… hungry, as she put it. I sent her away, Butterfly. I only wanted you. I only want you.”

I’m fighting to get air into my lungs. I don’t know how to feel about this revelation. Though I’m calm and cool on the outside, the Bitch has taken the liberty to stomp around and throw a full-blown temper tantrum. Why did he keep this from me? Why didn’t he tell me this before?

“Anyone else?” I say, a chill in my voice that I am unable to hide.

“No,” he responds. “No one else.” I look away from him and walk towards the door. He catches my arm before I get far.

“Why didn’t you tell me sooner, Christian?” I say, snatching my arm away from him. “What if I had heard this from someone else?”

“I didn’t want you to think that I would go running back to my old ways as soon as we had a problem,” he says, defensively.

“Because Shawn showed up, now became the time for you to tell me, but not sooner. Would you have ever told me?” He looks down and I have my answer. “Great.” I walk into penthouse and back to the bedroom. I pick up my cell phone and text Chuck to come and get the packages that I have for Harry. Putting my messenger bag on my shoulder, I turn to leave and run right into Christian in the hallway.

“You’re running?” he asks, expectant. I fold my arms.

“No,” I say sarcastically. “I’m going to see my brother, something that I had planned long before your revelation about Ava.”

“I was wondering why you…” he trails off.

“Why I what?” I nearly hiss. He stares at me for a moment.

“You look phenomenal,” he says, his voice deep and husky. “Even mad, you are sexy as fuck.”

What the hell? I think I’m stunned. The Bitch has completely stopped in her tracks and is standing there staring at him like a lion at the zoo at feeding time. I am livid and confused and angry and my libido is betraying me. I’m at a loss for words and he closes the space between us again.

“Only you, Butterfly,” he says softly. My eyes travel down to his neck to avoid making eye contact with him. “I was afraid of what you would think if I told you. I was afraid to lose you. You have to know that it’s only you.” He puts his finger under my chin to lift my face so that he can look into my eyes. “Only you.”

My lips part and I think I’m panting. He does things to me and he knows it. He’s using it against me right now and I can’t fight back.

“You don’t play fair,” I say, weakness, anger, and defeat evident in my voice.

“I know,” he says, kissing the corner of my mouth. “It’s because I love you so much. I can’t stand to lose you.” His lips move over mine and he brushes them together gently. “I would move Heaven and Earth to keep you. I never want to risk losing you.” He licks my lip before using his tongue to part them farther, kissing me softly and briefly massaging my tongue with his. He moans when our lips separate. “Strawberry?”

Huh? Oh! My lipstick. I nod mindlessly.

“Sweet,” he says, taking my lips in another soft kiss. “I’m sorry. I won’t keep this from you again, I swear. I promise,” he breathes, leaning his forehead against mine.

“You promise?” I whisper. I don’t want to fight, especially not about some hot-in-the-ass, ex-submissive that didn’t even get his attention.

“I promise. It was very foolish of me not to tell you sooner. Please forgive me.” Damn him. He’s so hot and beautiful, and so damn irresistible when he’s repentant.

“Remember this, Christian,” I say, trying to be firm and scolding, but sounding more like I’m begging. “I don’t like feeling like this.”

“I don’t like you feeling like this either, Baby,” he says sliding one hand around my waist and the other against my cheek and into my hair. “I won’t forget.” He pulls my face to his and our lips meet again. His kisses are soft, warm, and probing—sensual, but not sexual—still enough to make me weak in the knees. He “apologizes” for about five minutes against the wall outside of our bedroom before we both reluctantly agree that I should fix the lipstick on my face and he should remove the lipstick from his before we go to little Harry’s welcome home party.

*-*

“Good God, Ana, you always manage to look like a supermodel,” Mandy says when she opens the door for us. I kiss her on the cheek and go in search of my little brother only to find him nestled in our father’s arms. I kiss Daddy on the cheek.

“Hi, Daddy,” I say with a smile. He looks up at me, beaming like the sun on a bright summer day.

“Hey, Sunflower. Look what I have here,” he says, presenting my brother. I sit down next to him.

“I see,” I say, looking down at the beautiful baby boy in my father’s arms. “Hi, Harry. I’m your sister, Ana. Aren’t you the most handsome little thing I’ve ever seen?” Daddy smiles widely as he gently rocks his son in his arms.

“It all comes back to you, Annie,” he says softly. “The last baby I held in my arms this way was you. It’s like riding a bike. Almost 30 years and it all comes back to you.” He looks up at me with the biggest smile on his face. “The happiest years of my life were the days that I held you in my arms and watched you grow. Now I get to relive them with my boy. I’m the luckiest man in the world to have two of the most perfect children God ever created.” My dad never gets emotional, but I can read all the love in his eyes right now for his children.

“Oh, Daddy, please stop,” I say fighting back my tears. “We love you too, Daddy.” I kiss him gently on the cheek, leaving my strawberry lipstick stain behind. He smiles lovingly at me and looks back down at Harry. I am so happy for my father and Mandy. Daddy has had some really rough years, dealing with Mom and having his family ripped away from him not once but twice. It must have been hard being in love with a selfish, wicked harpy. Then to find out that I was living in a battered women’s shelter to hide from her must have ripped his heart out. I don’t even want to think about what he went through when I was kidnapped, or even hearing about the whole story behind Green Valley. Daddy has loved me like his own since as far back as I can remember. The fact that she tried to take that away from us makes me that much happier that I was present for the birth of my brother and Daddy’s first—maybe only—son. I never asked if they had planned to have more children, but that would be a conversation for another time.

Harry is a little angel as he sleeps and stares most of the time at his family and extended family. Christian holds him like a little china doll, his large hands nearly swallowing poor Harry whole. He barely breathes the entire time he’s holding the baby. I finally put him out of his misery and relieve him of carrying my brother. He actually breathes a heavy sigh when I take the baby from his hands. I’m holding Harry for about five minutes when he starts to protest announcing that it’s feeding time. Christian is ready to make a fast getaway when Mandy proceeds to open her shirt to feed my brother. Daddy takes pity on him and they escape to the den, leaving Mandy and me to chat while Harry eats.

“Did you think we would be here when you threatened me at lunch the first day we met?” Mandy asks as she covers Harry and her exposed breast with a receiving blanket. I gasp and cover my mouth.

“Oh my God, I did do that, didn’t I?” I say, recalling the warning I gave her about hurting my Daddy.

“Yes, you did. I kind of knew that we would be friends because you didn’t mince words. You were very serious and protective of Ray. You didn’t look at me like a lioness trying to infiltrate the pride, but more like a growing cub who would rip my throat out if I threatened the king.” I nod.

“That sounds about right,” I agree. “I didn’t like you at all at first. No… let me rephrase that. I didn’t like the idea of you—a young, pretty girl chasing after my Daddy who hadn’t dated in more than a decade that I knew of. I was very suspicious of your motives.” Mandy laughs at my description.

“It never ceases to amazing me that you describe me as ‘young.’ I mean, I’m not old, but I’m 36. You father is only 49. True, he’s no spring chicken, but I think he’s proven that he’s far from ‘used up.'”

“Yes, I would say that he has,” I say, looking at the little wiggly blue bundle in her arms. We both laugh before she continues.

“I didn’t set out to fall in love with Ray,” she says, wistfully. “I wasn’t even looking for love at all. I’ve dated my fair share of losers—nothing particularly serious. Then along comes this handsome, older man. He was a gentleman, and he had a kind face. You don’t see many gentlemen anymore. Everyone wants to be flashy or macho or what have you. Not Ray, no, he’s sweet and caring. He had me from the moment he spoke. He smiled at me and those gorgeous green eyes had me hooked.” She looks down at Harry. “If he grows up to be half the man his father is, he’ll be better than most of the men on the planet.”

Wow. She is really in love with my daddy.

“How did you feel when he told you that he had an adult daughter?” I ask. She snickers.

“He was 48. I thought he had more,” she says with a laugh. “It… wasn’t what I expected. He told me just a bit about Carla and how she took you away when you were young. He told me how you two hadn’t talked for a few months and, to be honest, I thought you were a bit estranged. Then I met you and found out just how wrong I was.”

“I hated that she took me away,” I confide. “I tried to understand her—tried to give her a chance to explain herself. She was miserably unhappy and nothing else mattered, not even me. I didn’t ask to be born. If she didn’t want me, she should have left me with Daddy, but that’s a whole different tragedy.” I drop my head, suddenly wishing that we hadn’t introduced my mother into the conversation. Harry starts to fuss on cue, alerting Mandy that it’s time for a burp and a switch. She’s a natural with him. She immediately puts his tiny body over her shoulder, rubbing his back gently to coax the gas out. When Harry complies with a generous burp, she situates him onto her other breast and lets him latch on, which he does almost immediately.

“How do you know what to do?” I ask, in awe. “I mean, you make it look so easy.” She shrugs.

“I don’t know,” she answers honestly. “I’ve read all the books, took all the classes… I’ve loved him for nine months, Ana. From the moment that I knew that he was growing inside of me, I’ve loved him. There was no hope for me when he began to move. I spent several hours of every day talking to him and promising him that I would be the best mom in the world. I never knew that you could love someone who you never met so much until the day that he was born. I can’t explain it. I just need to be everything he needs. I’m even… thinking about not going back to work.” Wow, that’s news.

“Really?” I ask. “Does Daddy know.”

I don’t even know yet,” she says, softly. “I just don’t want to leave him—after the close call and the hospital stay, I just want to stay by his side. I don’t know how I could possibly leave him to go back to work. Who would take care of him?”

“Would you guys be okay on one income?” I ask. I never knew how much Daddy brought in, but I know that he got a new contract about a year ago.

“We would be okay, and if it became a problem, I could always return to work later…”

“I could help out if you guys need it,” I add. She smiles.

“That’s sweet, but I know that Ray wouldn’t have it. He’s a proud man and he would need to know that he was able to take care of his family. Besides, we’re doing very well right now. We’ve got some money saved and our expenses are quite small since we don’t live outside of our means.”

“You’ve got a baby, now, though. Baby’s are quite expensive,” I remind her.

“I know. That’s why I say I will go back if I have to,” she says, her voice a bit maudlin.

“Well, you don’t have to think about it now,” I say, trying to lighten the mood. “Right now, I want to show you what I got for my baby brother! I went a little overboard, but he’s the only brother that I have so please don’t be mad…”

I begin to open package after package of baby clothes and toys, diapers, miscellaneous items for my baby brother. Daddy returns to the room and is smiling brightly while Mandy coos over each outfit and toy that appears from another bag. I inform them both that once I got to any baby department, I was a goner and beg them both to forgive me. The excitement means that Harry has been bright-eyed and bushy-tailed all this time, but now, he’s starting to show signs of weariness.

“Come here, little man,” Mandy says to her son as she gathers him in her arms. “It’s time for a diaper change and then you need to go down for your nap.”

“Can I do it, Mandy… please?” I ask. She smiles widely at me and places my little brother in my arms. The world around me seems to melt away and I look into his beautiful eyes and coo at him while we walk to the nursery. I’ve saved one special gift for him that I wanted to give him when we were alone. A quick diaper change later, and I am sitting in the window seat inside the hidden nook the nursery talking to Harry.

“Well, it’s just us now, Harry. There’s a few things that I want to tell you. I’m your big sister, but I’m a little screwed up. I’m working on not being so screwed up. Hopefully by the time you’re old enough to know just how screwed up I really am, I won’t be so screwed up anymore. It’s partially because of my screwed-up mom and my screwed-up past, but you don’t really need to hear about that.”

I look out the window and see fluffy clouds billowing through the Washington sky. It’s usually kind of overcast and often rainy, but today is one of those rare, sunny days that we get. I feel a little melancholy thinking about Harry’s life starting out all fresh. The happinesses and horrors he has ahead of him makes me shiver a bit.

“Your mom is a really good lady, Harry. She’ll take good care of you and love you to pieces. Our dad is the best man that I’ve ever known—the most wonderful father in the world. He and your brother-in-law Christian will teach you how to be a good man. They’ll teach you to be strong, honest, and valiant. They’ll teach you how to treat a lady and make her feel like the sun rises and sets at her feet.” Harry responds with a big yawn and I know he’s fading fast.

“We’re all new at this, Harry. So if we mess up, don’t be too hard on us. We’ll get it right after some practice, I promise. Just know that we all love you very much. Oh!” I reach behind me and pull my last gift out of a small bag. “This is a friend of mine.” I show him the patchwork bunny that I’ve had since I was a child. “This is Mr. Fuzzlewuzzers. Our father gave him to me when I was three years old. You put him on your pillow at night and he keeps the Boogie Man away. Hopefully, you’ll never know who the Boogie Man is. Unfortunately, I’ve met him often.” I slip into another melancholy and suddenly feel the need to protect Harry from anything and everything that could possibly bring him harm.

“Harry, as long as I’m alive, you can come to me for anything. I’ll always be there for you. You have the most wonderful father in the universe, and your mom’s pretty cool, too. But I just want you to know that you’ll always have me, no matter what happens. I love you, Harry Bear.”

Harry has long since slipped off to sleep and I kiss him gently on his forehead. I lay him in his crib and he settles in without waking. I put the bunny in the corner near his head.

“Keep him safe, Fuzzy,” I say before turning to leave the room. I look up into the face of my father just as he’s wiping a tear from his cheek. His eyes say so much and I almost break down with him.

“I love you so much, Annie,” he says, his voice cracking. “You know that, don’t you?”

“Of course, I do, Daddy,” I say, my voice soft but high-pitched with conviction. “You’re my daddy… the best daddy in the world. I don’t mind sharing you with Harry,” I say, getting to the heart of what I know he’s feeling. I turn back and look into the crib. “He’s beautiful, Daddy.” Daddy comes over to the crib and looks down at his son.

“I know,” he says putting one arm around me. “That’s Fuzzlewuzzers,” he says, matter-of-factly. “You kept him all these years?” I nod.

“I was going to give him to my child when he or she was born, but I think he should stay with the Steele children for now.” I look up at Daddy. “I kept him hidden for a few years. I knew she would throw him away if she found him. Those were the nightmare years.” I look back down at Fuzzy. “Those days are over, and now, he’ll protect Harry.”

“You really believe in that little thing, don’t you?” I look up at Daddy.

“Yes, I do,” I tell him honestly. “He came from you, he’s full of love, and he kept me safe while I slept. Unfortunately, he can’t keep the adult monsters away, but I always slept better when he was around.” Daddy sighs and kisses me on the forehead.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better daughter.” His voice is cracking again.

“And God hasn’t yet created a better Daddy.” I put my arms around his waist and sink into his chest.


GREY

Ana is a natural with her little brother. She spent so much time in the nursery yesterday that Ray went in to make sure she hadn’t fallen asleep in there. She’s really taken with Harry. I have to say that he is a cute little guy, but he’s so small. I thought I would crush him in my fingers when I held him. It’s probably too early to say that he’s the spitting image of his father, but you can see a lot of Ray’s characteristics in him. He furrows his brow and gets that same taciturn look that Ray has sometimes. He obviously has Ray’s dark hair. I can’t tell about the eyes yet, but he’s a real looker, even at just a couple of weeks old.

Allen and his team have finally finished reviewing the mishmosh that I labeled “miscellaneous subsidiaries.” He presented his findings on Monday morning and I spent the week shutting many of them down and performing major damage control. Some of the things that have transpired hidden in the name of “Grey” will make you cringe. I had one company involved in human trafficking in Bosnia, another involved in experimental drug testing in Africa, and a few that used sweatshop practices in third-world countries. I even had a few brothels and bathhouses under my name.

There were a few small companies looking for “investments” and running off with the money. Although they never used the Grey name as backing, it still had the potential to blow up in my face. I think these people either never knew that they were owned by GEH or just flew under the radar to keep from getting caught. The problem is that they have been caught now. I have arranged for the “investors” to get a settlement for the monies that they lost while my watchdog Welch tracks down the petty thieves and have them prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Speaking of law…

Allen’s dream team of lawyers have sniffed out so many underhanded dealings by those Armani-clad crooks disguised as my legal team, it’s a wonder I’m still in business. This is yet another example of me being too cocky in my believed omnipotence that I almost put myself in a position to lose everything. Had it not been for the prenup, I may have never known what these assholes were doing. In my demise or should I have been deemed incompetent, most of my company would have gone to them. This is why they couldn’t afford for Butterfly to be in charge of anything. It took away all of their power. I notice that none of them have even bothered to contact me since their “vacation” after the signing of the prenup. No doubt they knew what I would find. Once again, Butterfly has inadvertently rescued me without even knowing.

Needless to say, I let them go along with their assistants. There’s no way that the attorneys did this without the assistants knowing what was happening. Allen and I along with two members of human resources made special trips to each on of them informing them that their services were no longer needed at GEH. Those who balked about contracts were informed that blatant acts against the interests of the company’s owner are a clear breach of contract. They were then invited to take their evidence to court and be prepared to pay my legal fees when they lost. The personal assistants were released on the grounds that the attorneys that hired them no longer worked for the company. Hence, there was no longer a place for them at GEH. In addition, there is a clear conflict of interest involved. With that, they were paid for their remaining unused leave and reminded of their non-disclosure agreements.

This left me with no legal team to speak of. I mean, I still had attorneys, but many of the key players have now been fired due to conspiracy. This, of course, made the rest of the team fall right in line, but I knew I needed more sharks. Allen is the biggest fish in the pond right now and he’s a pretty big fucking fish. I didn’t really know how big he was in the legal arena until he started working for me. Several downtown corporations tried and failed to land him. This man could write his own ticket. Apparently, not only did I have the right amount of zeroes in my offer, but I also had the magic Jewel to seal the deal. I became the envy of CEO’s everywhere. One of his dream team has agreed to stay on with him after seeing what kind of disaster my trusted legal team left behind. Now, I just need a couple more key players and I’ll feel secure. Our newest member gave me a couple of really good prospects who can be persuaded to join me for the right compensation package. I asked Al if he thought anyone was good enough to be promoted from within. He gave me a few suggestions, so I’ll give that some thought in the days to come.

Jason is back to work this week and I couldn’t be happier. I thought I would eventually have to fire Williams and Lawrence because they just weren’t Jason. He knows my moves before I make them, my thoughts before I speak them, and my mood without me having to tell him. I’ve become accustomed to someone knowing what I plan to do without me having to give them play-by-play instructions. Williams and Lawrence were good substitutes, but they were just that—substitutes. Even two of them couldn’t make one Jason Taylor.

I did a lot of traveling this week… an overnight to New York on Tuesday and another one to Tampa on Friday. There was a day trip to Dallas on Thursday and several visits to several companies in the greater Seattle area and surrounding suburbs. Jason loved it. He was thrilled to be back in the saddle again. He slid so easily back into his role, it’s almost like he never left.

Butterfly is as insatiable as ever, barely letting me get into the apartment each time I returned to town before she’s ripping my clothes off and having her way with me. I was so tired when I came back from Tampa on Saturday that she just jumped on top of me and rode like the wind. Even though I was exhausted, she brought me to two explosive orgasms before I fell off into a comatose slumber. I actually woke the next morning calling her “Mrs. Grey” and have referred to her as such ever since.

Things were going very well in terms of cleaning up my messes when I got word on Monday that the bottom was about to fall out of one of the biggest deals that I have been working on all year.

“Someone on your ex-legal team has been talking,” Allen says to me when he comes into my office with the bad news. “They’ve gone over the Henderson and Speig insinuating that the team is jumping ship… a sinking ship, that is.” Fuck. This is not good.

“Who’s talking?” I ask him.

“It could be any one of them, Chris. It could be all of them. The bad news is that H&S does legal for the Feinstein Group.” Double fuck. I‘ve had a collaboration in the works Feinstein for at least the last seven months and those fuckers knew it.

“Can we prove that they’ve done anything wrong? They had an NDA, you know.” Allen shakes his head.

“It’s all hearsay and conjecture, Chris. Every employee talks shit about their previous employer. That’s basically all this is. The difference is that these fuckers are talking to people who have your balls in their hands in terms of this deal.” I am not accustomed to being the man with the lower hand. Now a group of disgruntled fuckers who tried to bring my company down may have the last laugh after all. I walk to my desk and sit down, contemplating my next move. I don’t want to play my biggest cards now in case I need them in the future and they know that, but if I don’t do something, they could nickel and dime me or throw a wrench in every deal I have my hand in. My first instinct is to call Thomas over at Feinstein, but I know that’s groveling and it means they have me on the ropes. If I don’t nip this thing in the bud, though, it has the potential to fall apart right in front of me.

“The wheels are turning,” Allen says. “I can see the smoke coming out of your ears.” I raise my eyes to him.

“Put together those care packages we discussed. I’ll decide which ones to send once I see exactly where this is going. I don’t want to show my hand too quickly. It’s not Abrahms, I know it. That asshole knows I can fuck him over dry, so he won’t cross me. Those other three haven’t seen the worst of me yet. It might be time that they did.”

“What are you going to do?”

“I always start with the bank accounts, but they’ll be expecting that. I don’t think any of them are too concerned about losing their reputations either. I think their biggest loss would be their freedom, and I’ve got shit on them that even they don’t know I have. You start with the information that we discussed. I want to wait to see what their next move will be…”

I didn’t have to wait long.

Tuesday morning, I get a call from Thomas that the board is not too sure they want to continue with the collaboration.

Super fuck!


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

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Love and Handcuffs!
Lynn x

Mending Dr. Steele: Chapter 57—I’m A Little Teapot…

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 57—I’m A Little Teapot…

STEELE

I’m sorry, Baby.”

Who are you?” He walks toward me. I don’t know who he is. He seems familiar, but I just don’t know.

I did this. I’m so sorry.” He’s still walking toward me, but the space between us is not closing.

You did what? Who are you?” I have a need to know who he is. He’s not threatening me, but the fact that he won’t tell me who he is…

I wish I could fix it… fix her… but I can’t.” He’s talking in riddles. I have no idea who he is or who he’s talking about. “I have to go now.”

Wait!” I reach for him and the space between us grows. His legs aren’t moving, but he’s moving away from, like he’s floating. “Come back. Who are you? What did you do?” He’s still floating backwards and now I’m walking forward trying to catch him. He’s getting away and now, for some reason, I have a desperate need to know who he is and what he’s talking about.

Please come back…”

Baby…” Another voice is wafting towards me through the midst. It’s not the same voice.

And he’s gone.

Please…”

Baby…” I still hear the voice. It’s familiar, too, but it’s not the same. I fight the urge to curl up small… fight it hard. I feel lost and alone, like I needed to hear what he had to say, and now he’s gone. I feel myself shivering.

Baby…” The voice still calls to me. “Baby… wake up.”

I open my eyes and Christian is gently rousing me from my sleep. I see the look in his eye and I just want to cry. Who was the man in the dream? Why did I recognize him but not recognize him? Why did I yearn for him to come back and not recognize Christian’s voice when he called out to me? “Are you okay, Baby?” he asks, his eyes filled with concern.

I don’t know what to say. How do I tell him that I was just dreaming of another man? I want to cry, but I’m frozen. He cups my face with one hand and kisses me gently. “It was just a dream, Baby. It’s over now.” His kind words are my undoing and I start to weep. Why am I crying? I don’t even know who the guy was.

He called me Baby, too.

“Hold me, Christian. Please…” He pulls me close to him and spoons me, kissing my hair and bare shoulder repeatedly.

“Just a bad dream, Baby,” he says again, caressing my skin. I am still tender from how many times and how many ways he made love to me tonight—from the front, from the back, vaginally, anally, orally, standing up, lying down, against the wall, on the counter, on my knees. I don’t know what happened at Poker Night, but he was unquenchable. We only stopped because I was exhausted. Christian could have gone on all night. “Do you want to talk about it?” I shake my head, but start talking anyway.

“There was a man. I don’t know who he was. He was apologizing to me… I don’t know… I want to know who he was. Why would some random man be apologizing to me in a dream?” I haven’t been resting enough. I’m tired all the time and now it’s beginning to catch up with me. The wedding is all planned. There’s nothing else for me to do but another fitting or two and just show up. Why am I so damn tired all the time? And now I’m dreaming crazy dreams about men that I don’t know? This has to stop.

“Just a bad dream, Butterfly,” he says as he strokes my hair. “Sleep, beautiful girl. I’ll protect you and I’ll be here to wake you if the bad dream comes back.” He kisses my hair again. I nod and sink down into the comfort of the bed and Christian’s arms.

I wake to the morning’s light shining in my face and Christian wrapped around me like a vine, his face buried in my neck. He effectively chased away the Boogie Man and I was able to sleep comfortably through the night. I gently unwind myself from his grasp, only slightly disturbing him but he falls immediately back into sleep. I put on one of his shirts and some underwear and go in search of breakfast.

When I get to the kitchen, I am pleased to find a Belgian waffle iron that I never knew we had. I start several strips of bacon then mix the ingredients for waffles. After spraying the iron with non-stick cooking spray, I pour a generous amount of batter onto the heated surface and close the lid. I fetch eggs, strawberries, and whipped cream from the refrigerator and come back to turn the bacon. I make quick work of cutting a few strawberries and as soon as I finish, the light on the waffle iron signals that they are ready. I remove the perfect waffle, spray the iron again, and pour the batter for the second.

After placing the bacon on a rack to drain a bit, I set about the easier task of eggs. Hmm… sunny side up, I think—like my mood. When I have finished two perfectly sunny eggs and placed them on plates, I situate the bacon and waffles on the plate with them. Deciding to give Christian the hottest waffle that just came off the iron, I sprinkle them with confectioner’s sugar, add a dollop of whipped cream and several cut strawberries. I put the plates on the rolling tray with orange juice and coffee and head towards our bedroom for breakfast in bed with my man.

He is sitting up in bed, a bit perplexed–by my absence, no doubt. His furrowed brow is replaced by a prize-winning smile when I roll the tray of food into the room.

“Good morning, Beautiful,” he croons as I bring the tray closer to the bed. I climb on to give him a peck and he envelops me in his arms, dips me back over his lap and locks his lips onto mine.

Oh. My. Fuck. My panties have suddenly become flammable material and my coochie is seeping gasoline.

FIRE!

He is holding me so close to him with my arms pinned against my body and I can’t move. His tongue is doing a sensual dance with mine and he is devouring me. I feel my nipples turning into pebbles and I am dripping. When I say dripping, I mean dripping! His hands move up my back and one hand thrusts into my hair, holding my head in place as he continues to consume me. I moan into his mouth and my body is aflame! I swear there is unbearable heat in my core and I feel like I’m going to explode.

My nipples are hard as stone brushing against the fabric of his shirt and he is all over me all at once, somehow holding my legs closed while pressing me against him. He doesn’t come up for air and he doesn’t allow me to come up for air. It’s one long sensual, sexual, searing hot kiss that lasts for an eternity. His tongue is pushing me closer and closer to my wit’s end. When he groans in my mouth, it sends a jolt of electricity straight down my spine and to all the right places. I squirm in his arms. It’s almost unbearable. What is he doing to me? His kiss becomes more intense, his tongue more deliberate, his groan deeper. It’s getting hotter, harder to breathe, and before I know what’s happening…

I come! I fucking come!

I’m writhing and shivering in his arms wondering what the fuck just happened! What the hell did he do to me? He was so ardent in our sex last night, I can’t even explain it. He was claiming me, owning me, marking me without… marking me. I don’t know what got into him, and now this. What was this? He has made me come fifty ways of Sunday, but never with just a kiss. I mean… damn!

“Christian… wha…” I try to speak.

Sssshhh,” he silences me gently against my lips. He kisses me again and runs his tongue through my mouth once more. “You taste so good, almost as good as your clit against my tongue.” Oh, shit, is he trying to start the fire again?

“Christian…” I breathe.

“Yes?” he answers, his voice oozing with seduction.

“What was that?” I pant. He looks at me with a coy smile.

“I think they call that an orgasm, Butterfly,” he says, cocky pride hiding in his smile.

“I know butwhat was that?” I repeat. I silently examines me for a moment.

“That was my love, adoration, and desire for you coming out in a kiss and consuming you until you came,” he says, his baritone voice caressing my ears and almost making me forget breakfast… almost.

“I… made you breakfast,” I breathe. I don’t know why I said it. I think the rolling tray was a dead giveaway.

“So I see,” he says moving to sit me up.

“No,” I protest. “Don’t let me go. I’m… still light-headed.” He smiles and lays me down instead of sitting me up. He moves so that he is hovering over me, his hands on both sides of my head. He brings his mouth down to my breast and bites my nipple through his shirt.

“Ah! Christian, please,” I mewl.

“Don’t worry, Baby,” he croons, “I won’t fuck you. I just want to play with you a bit.” Thank God! I honestly think I sprained my pussy last night… or something… either way, coming a minute ago on an already tender pussy was quite the experience. I don’t think I could take it again.

“I don’t want your food to get cold,” I say softly, playing in his hair while he unbuttons my, erm his shirt and kisses me down my stomach.

“I won’t let it get cold,” he says, his warm breath brushing against my pubic hairline, or fuzzline I should say. Time for a wax. The hairs on my arms stand up and I feel goosebumps where his lips touch my pelvic bone.

“I love the way your body responds to me.” His voice is so soft, so deep, and I’m being transported again. His hands are wandering in various places and I surrender to his touch. Just as I am slipping into comfort, he says, “What did you fix me?”

Huh? Oh! Breakfast. “Belgian waffles with whipped cream and strawberries, bacon and eggs… sunny side up.”

“Oh, how sweet.” Something’s wrong, I can tell immediately. I lean up on my elbows.

“What is it?” I ask him. He smiles sweetly.

“I have a thing about runny yolks, Baby,” he says with mirth. Now how did I not know that?

“I’m sorry, Christian. I’ll make you some more,” I say, making my way out of bed. He rises over me and pushes me back.

“You’ll do no such thing,” he chides, softly. He brings one of the plates to the bed from the rolling tray and uncovers it with a flourish. “Now that truly looks delicious,” he says. He picks up a piece of bacon and takes a bite. His eyes close in appreciation as he crunches it between his teeth. He brings it to my lips and I take a bite, savoring the salty crunchiness myself.

“Very good,” he praises as he now begins to cut a piece of the waffle. Loading his fork with a strawberry, some cream, and the cut waffle, he digs in to his breakfast. He hands me my plate and one of the glasses of orange juice and I gladly dig in to my food. We eat in relative silence, smiling at each other now and then. He has masterfully cleaned his plate of everything but the egg yolks. They both sit on his plate, unbroken, the whites of the eggs completely gone. How did he do that?

“Are you perfect in everything, Mr. Grey?” I ask, examining the untouched yolks.

“Well, I don’t think so, but I am a bit of a perfectionist,” he says, putting the dishes back on the tray. “Stay here. I’ll go refresh the coffee.” I watch his beautiful form as he pushes the tray out of our bedroom. I don’t have anywhere to rush off to, but I do need to reschedule Mandy’s baby shower. Harry’s early birth meant that Mandy was in the hospital last night, which was the original date for the shower. She’s coming home today, but the hospital wants to keep Harry for a while, just to make sure his lungs develop fully.

I can’t help but think about how close of a call this was for Daddy and Mandy. She was so scared and so was I. It was really very frightening. Good Lord, please don’t let anything happen to me while I’m carrying Christian’s children. He would have a fit! My face must be quite contemplative because I don’t even hear Christian come back into the room until he asks, “What’s wrong?”

“I was thinking about Daddy and Mandy,” I tell him. “Her shower was supposed to be last night.” Christian sets the coffees on the night stand and joins me back in bed.

“You’re going to reschedule it, right?” he asks, handing me my coffee. I nod before taking a sip.

“Yes. It shouldn’t be that hard. Everyone most like already have their gifts purchased. We’ll just have it at Daddy and Mandy’s since the baby is already born, and I’ll just give everyone the new date. It shouldn’t be too difficult.”

“Your father thinks the world of you, you know,” he says before sipping his coffee.

“I know. I’m so happy for him and just so glad that I could be here for the birth of his son. My daddy is the world to me, you know.”

“I know,” he says with a smirk. “He was trying to tell me last night that you loved me more than him.” What? My eyes get wide. Why would Daddy think that? Where could that have possibly come from?

“What?” I ask a bit stunned. Christian takes my hand and kisses it gently.

“Don’t worry about it, Butterfly. He knows better. You know how Daddies can get with their Sunflowers.” I smile.

“You two have been talking,” I say.

Yes we have, and I’ve already told you too much so don’t ask any more.” He kisses me on the lips and sips more of his coffee. Daddy and Christian have been talking. Did they talk about babies and marriage and the future or just boring guy stuff? “Don’t look at me like that, Ms. Steele. I don’t want to spill my guts.”

Oh, I wish I could remember that look I just gave him for future reference.

“Fine, Mr. Grey. Keep your secrets, but don’t say anything when I have a juicy little tidbit that I refuse to share.” I wink at him before getting out of bed.

*-*

The weekend was filled with planning and more planning—changing Mandy’s baby shower to this Friday and her and Daddy’s place, and more last-minute plans for the wedding. Every time I think we’ve done everything that we’re supposed to do, something else pops up that we forgot—the favors, the place cards, a few RSVPs. I woke in a frenzy on Wednesday morning after having a dream about that man again—familiar, yet not familiar. Dark hair, sad blue eyes, and young… handsome, but I’m sure that I never saw him before. He was apologizing again. I’m certain that it’s my mind playing tricks on me, like the many times Harris has appeared in my dreams since he and David kidnapped me last year.

David… I haven’t heard anything about the trial, yet. The last I heard it was supposed to be next month, right around my damn wedding. Then I heard there was going to be another continuance, so we’re stuck in limbo again. He’s been in jail for nearly a year already. Why would he want to keep delaying it? His attorney is battling in civil court to keep his assets—and get paid—but Al says that it’s actually looking pretty good for me. We asked for most of his net worth and it looks like I could walk away with it, if not just under it. I think civil court is waiting for the outcome of his criminal case. Although one shouldn’t affect the other, I still think the verdict could have some bearing on how it turns out.

Chuck and I are leaving Helping Hands on Wednesday evening when I get the urge to look around. I don’t see anything particularly strange. There are a few people mulling about here and there which is not unusual since there is a strip mall across the street, but I still feel uncomfortable.

“You’re not imagining it,” Chuck says to me. I turn to look at him.

“What?” I ask.

“There’s a woman across the street who has tailed you for the last couple of days now. I’ve already submitted a picture to Alex.” I try not to panic or look around.

“Where?” I ask calmly, but irritated. He raises his eyes, but not his head.

“Roughly to your 8:00—older, brown hair.” I look up at the sky, trying to figure out how look at this woman without giving away that we know she is standing there.

“I’m very irritated right now, Chuck,” I hiss.

“Why?” he asks, bemused.

“You need to let me know when there is possible danger nearby. First of all, I don’t need to be blindsided by it. Second of all, you know that I am capable of defending myself and I have been nothing but cooperative with you since the kidnapping. So I really would like to be a part of my personal protection if you don’t mind,” I say as low as I can.

“Ana, we can talk about this, but can we please not do it in the middle of the parking lot?” he says firmly, gesturing to the car. I stomp to the car like an errant child and stand near the passenger door waiting for him to open it. From this angle, I get a perfect view of the woman standing across the street. She looks harmless enough—long brown hair, soft features, at least twice my age. Unless she’s an undercover ninja or carrying a gun, I don’t think she could really hurt me. I get in the car, remembering my irritation at Chuck for not keeping me in the loop. When he gets into the driver’s seat, I tear into him.

“Okay, now we’re not in the open parking lot anymore. Do you want to tell me why this bit of information was kept from me?” I snap. Chuck turns to me and is very serious now.

“Do you have any idea how many people stare at you during the day?” he snaps back. “Men—and some women—look at you like you’re a T-bone steak. I can see them undressing you with their eyes and fantasizing about you nearly at a rate of one every 10 minutes. Women look at you like they want to rip you apart with their bare hands, more than the others fantasize about you. It’s my job to keep an eye on them—and you—and make sure that doesn’t happen. If I told you every time someone turns their eyes and looked at you—even for more than a day—you’d be at Defcon One 24/7. I only told you this time because you clearly got that feeling that someone was watching you and I thought you deserved to know. So while I appreciate that you are capable of defending yourself, I’m going to ask you to please respect the fact that I am highly trained in what I do and not to question me about how I do my job!”

Boy! I’ve never seen him this mad. I pushed the wrong button this time.

“I’m… sorry,” is all I can say. He’s clearly very angry and unable to respond. He starts the car and pulls out of the parking lot. The ride home is silent. I think I really stepped over the line this time. It’s just that I feel like I deserve to know if I’m in imminent danger.

Get real. You know he would tell you if that were the case.
I know, but don’t I have the right to ask?
It’s like he said, if he told you every time, you’d be on pins and needles.

I know she’s right, but has to be some kind of happy medium. I shouldn’t have found out that this woman was following me and watching me only because I got a creepy feeling. Nonetheless, I will clearly have to approach this topic another day because it’s dead in the water right now. Chuck is white-knuckling the steering wheel all the way back to Escala. I don’t bother waiting for him when we park. I jump out of the car and dash to the elevator. It’s only a few feet away and he can watch me from the car. I look around and make sure there is no imminent danger in the vicinity and board the elevator, punching in the code to the penthouse before the doors close. I’m not in the mood for a tense ride to the top floor.

I exhale deeply when I get off the elevator. Jason is waiting for me in the foyer. What is this all about?

“Unless you want to go in there and tell him why you’re looking like someone stole your puppy, you might want to wait for Chuck.” I frown at him.

“Oh, are all of you going to treat me like a child now?” I snap. I’ve had about enough of this shit.

“No, but if we tell him that you’ve been followed by some strange brunette for the last couple of days, he’s going to flip his wig. Now how would you like to handle this, Your Highness?” he says coolly.

“Don’t be a smart-ass, Jason. I’m not in the mood,” I grumble.

“I don’t ask much of you, but I do ask that you cooperate with your security detail. It’s the only way that we can properly protect you,” he says. I glare at him.

“He says I was uncooperative?” I ask, appalled. All I did was ask why I wasn’t told about the phantom brunette. How was that uncooperative?

“Um… well…” Just as Jason is tripping over his tongue, the elevator door opens and a perturbed Charles Davenport steps off. I look up at him briefly, turn around, and storm into the apartment. How dare he! I nearly run face first into Christian’s chest.

“Whoa!” he exclaims catching me by the arms. He is clearly taken aback by my expression and he leans back a bit to examine my face. “What’s wrong?”

Jason and Chuck are right on my heels. I turn and point.

“Ask them!” I nearly scream, wrenching myself from Christian’s grip and stomping to our bedroom like an angry toddler. I realize that I’m acting like a spoiled brat, but I don’t care. All I asked was for Chuck to tell me if my safety was really being threatened so that I could be prepared. That went from trying to tell him how to do his job to the white-knuckle silent treatment to him telling Jason that I was being uncooperative. Either something’s going on with Chuck or something’s going on with me. Either way, I need to be alone right now.

I strip out of my clothes in 2.2 seconds, don a short terrycloth robe and go to the en suite. I need the comfort of the familiar, so I run a hot bath and pour the bath soap in it. Immediate calm washes over me as the scent of lemongrass citrus assaults my nostrils. I drop my robe and step into the water before the tub is even full. I fill the tub almost to over full before I turn off the hot water and disappear into the bubbles. I sit there for a moment thinking of all the things I’m still waiting to hear about…

Does Myrick have an accomplice?
What’s the deal with his father and trying to convince this Robyn character that Christian is his brother?
How did he hook up with She-Thing?
Exactly when is David’s fucking trial?
Is there really a red button?
Where the fuck did that come from?
I don’t know. I just thought I’d throw it in there.
Oh, you got jokes.
Just trying to make you feel better.

I appreciate the Bitch’s efforts, but right now I am too angry at the testosterone in this house to feel better. Feeling the need to be completely covered in my lemongrass citrus, I sink down into the water and allow it to cover my head. Hopefully, it will rinse away the thoughts of the day. While submerged in the water, I spread the luxurious bubbles over my knees which currently are the only part of my body not under the water. After a few moments, I reluctantly emerge from the water, pushing my hair back and wishing for the first time that I could breathe water and stay there forever. I sigh heavily as I lean back on the tub and try to relax.

“Feeling better?”

Even with my eyes closed, I can hear the slight irritation in his voice.

“I was getting there,” I reply.

Was?”

“If you’re coming to scold me like those other two dicks, save your breath. I was not uncooperative and I was not telling All-Of-A-Sudden-I’m-Robocop how to do his job. I was only asking to be informed. That’s all. If those two macho, chauvinistic, testosterone-driven, chest-beating, Neanderthal…”

“Ana!” Christian stops my rant right in the middle of my name-calling. Dammit! I had some good ones lined up. The surprise in his voice is evident. “Calm down. They only want to keep you safe. We all do. We may get a little enthusiastic about it, but it certainly doesn’t have to be like this.” I lean back into the tub and close my eyes.

“Just get those Terminator Wannabes out of my house. I don’t feel like dealing with them right now.” I’m taking no prisoners and I don’t care about anybody’s feelings.

“I can’t throw Jason out. He lives here,” Christian answers sardonically.

“Well, then, send him to his room!” I snap before I even know it. His silence causes me to open my eyes and look over at him. He’s glaring at me like he doesn’t know who I am. “What?” I shoot.

“What’s going on, Anastasia?” He says it slowly like I’m keeping something from him. I sit up a bit in the bathtub.

“I’m not sure what you’re asking me, but I don’t like being treated like a child—not by them and not by you. I only asked him to keep me informed if he felt that I was in some kind of danger. He acted like I lopped off his balls and handed them back to him on Popsicle sticks. I get upstairs and Jason is telling me how to behave, then I get in the bath and they send you in here to handle me!” He jerks back almost like I pushed him. Yeah, take that, Grey!

“Nobody sent me in here to handle you. I’m trying to find out what’s going on. You’re biting everyone’s head off and no one knows why. Did something happen at work today?” If his irritation was masked before, it’s quite clear now—but so is mine.

Oh what’s wrong? The little woman is not allowed to be upset because the big bad men want to jump down her throat?” I nearly yell. I can’t even describe the look that comes over his face. It’s a combination of confusion, anger, disbelief, and something else that I can’t even place. Suddenly, it’s replaced by complete stoicism and impassivity. He stands up straight in the door and speaks very clearly in a business-like tone.

“You know what? I don’t know who your fight is with today, but it’s not with me. So I’m not going to stand here and have it with you. If you want to berate Davenport for treating you like the ‘little woman,’ you know how to reach him. If you want to chew up Jason for telling you how to behave, I’m sure that you can find him in his room. As for me, I’ve done nothing wrong, so I’m not going to fight with you.”

Before I have a chance to rebut, he turns around almost military style and is out of the en suite and the room in just a few long strides. Good! He shouldn’t have been in here in the first place!

What exactly did he do wrong?
If you’re going to take his side, you can leave, too.
No! What exactly did he do wrong?
Oh, Bosco…
Have a seat, Bosco. I’m talking right now. What exactly did he do wrong?

She’s really not going to leave me alone… and she’s pissed!

He took their side against me.
And how did he do that, by asking you what the hell was wrong?
Did you hear the tone that he was taking with me?
I sure did, after you took a tone with him!

Well, she’s not helping at all.

He should have just understood that I want to be kept in the loop. He’s keeping things from me, too, you know.
Then maybe you should have talked to him instead of barking at him! I thought we were done going off the deep end on shit.
I didn’t go off the deep end.
No? Then what do you call it? You told him to send Jason to his room!

I wince to myself. Yeah, that was a little deep-endish.

Look, they pissed me off and upset me by treating me like a child.
Chuck maybe should have handled things a little better, but nobody else treated you like a child. Jason told you exactly what was going to happen if you walked into the apartment that way and he was right. Your fiancé asked you what was wrong and you treated him like a child.
Well, he should have understood how I was feeling.
You come in barking at the whole house and that’s the best you can come up with? Think about that for a while. Bosco and I are going to have a drink.

Oh, this is priceless! Everybody’s mad at me including my inner voice. This has got to be a first for me. I get out of my now-cold bath water and quickly dry my skin. For some reason, I am freezing from head to toe. What do I do now? I feel like shit. While I dry my hair, I wonder why I have reacted the way that I did today. I’ve felt pretty strongly about not being told anything about Robin Myrick and how he got the key to my apartment, or how he and She-Thing fell into cahoots, or who exactly broke into my apartment and took my gun. Is that danger over yet or did they just decide that I didn’t need to know about it?

I pull my hair into a ponytail and, after putting on some underwear, dress in a pair of jeans and a T-shirt. I step into some socks and my Converse and grab a sweat jacket.

Where to, now?

I don’t even want to leave the bedroom. I can’t just go for a stroll without calling Neanderthal #1. I pick up my phone and call Al.

Hey, Jewel,” he answers. His voice already makes me feel better, but I feel horrible.

“Hey, Al. Can you come and get me please?” My voice sounds quite defeated.

What’s wrong?”

“I just need to be away from the men of this house for a while,” I tell him.

No Chuckie?”

“No Chuckie,” I confirm. He sighs.

I’m on my way.”

*-*

“Okay, so do you want to tell me why I’ve kidnapped you from your fiancé and you look like shit?” Al asks when I get into his car.

“Can you please just take me somewhere where there is water?” I say. I can still hear the anguish in my voice. I feel a little sorry for myself—just from hearing that tone. Al quietly drives me to one of our favorite spots by the water and parks the car.

“Jewel, what’s wrong, Hun?” He asks, turning to me.

“I don’t know,” I say just before I break down into tears. “I tore into Chuck today for something that I really should have discussed with Christian. I got all pissed at Jason because I didn’t like what he said to me even though it was the truth. And I don’t know why I got mad at Christian. I was just so damn pissed at everybody. It was like I couldn’t even function. I was seeing red and no one understood how I was feeling. Nobody!” I weep remembering the inner conversation that I had and feeling completely destitute when I couldn’t even get support from myself.

“What brought this on?” Al asks me.

“There was some strange woman watching us today and I just wanted to know who she was. It turns out that she’s been watching us for a few days, such that Chuck has sent a picture to Welch for facial recognition.” Al jerks back in surprise.

“Really?” he asks.

“Really! And nobody thought I should know this! It made me think about the fact that Christian hasn’t told me anything about this whole Elena/Robyn connection and if there’s someone else that might be after me because of who I love. Goddammit, Al, all I wanted was to be kept in the loop. Is that too much to ask?” I weep. He puts his arms around my shoulders and rubs my arms.

“It might be, Jewel. I mean look at you. You’re a nervous wreck right now. Are you really this upset because they didn’t tell you something? Think about everything that’s happened. Chris almost got shot, Jason did—with your gun—and you were there to witness that. You went through this whole regression thing and opened all those old wounds. You confronted your mom and truly let her out of your life, and that couldn’t have been easy. You had to hold Mandy’s hand for fear that she may have lost little Harry, and then he was born prematurely. Add to that the fact that you’ve been planning your wedding for the last few months—the mother-in-law guest showdown, the lack of Wang argument with Tamster, the impromptu vacay to Montana, your sometimes-supportive-sometimes-judgmental friends, Babygate… It’s a wonder you’re not playing ‘kick the can’ with your own head down the sidewalk. Something’s got to give, Jewel, or you’re going to pop like a damn water balloon!”

“What do I do, Al? I can’t run again,” I ask through my tears.

“You don’t want to run and you know it. Every time you run, what happens when you get back? You feel bad for running. Don’t run anymore. It’s not what you want.”

“So what do I do?”

“I don’t really know what to tell you to do, but you need to decompress and you need to do it fast.” He holds me for several more minutes while I cry it out. I don’t even know why I’m crying. Nobody really hurt my feelings. I’m just pissed and confused. I don’t even know why I’m pissed and confused. Not knowing why I feel this way is making me feel this way even more and I cry some more. Damn, Al is right. I’m a fucking mess.

We stop and get really greasy burgers and fries from a nearby greasy spoon. I tell Al that I told Gail I would be with him since Christian and Jason were nowhere to be found when I left the apartment. I know he must really be pissed at me because he hasn’t called or texted me in the hours that I have been away from the apartment. I don’t even want to go home, but I realize that even though I don’t have to work tomorrow, Al does. So I can’t keep him out this late. He drops me back at Escala and I walk through the front door like I’m about to face the firing squad.

It’s about midnight when the elevator reaches the 31st floor. It’s quiet and there’s no Taylor waiting to scold me… or to make sure that I’m safe. There’s no one in the great room, either. The lights are all off except for the pendants over the breakfast bar. The place looks completely deserted. I walk to our bedroom and our bed is empty and hasn’t been slept in. Peeking around the corner, I see that he’s not at his piano. I stop looking, because if I look in his study and he’s not there, I’ll be crushed.

He didn’t even care. Did he even know that I was gone?

I go into our bedroom and close the door. I don’t bother to turn on the lights. The moon is shining into the glass wall casting eerie shadows all over the room. I walk over to a white chaise that has always been in front of the windows that I’ve never used. I sit down on it and look out at a rare flawless Seattle night sky. The tears start again and I just let them fall. There’s no weeping or anything like that, just tears. I feel so alone—no one in the bed with me, no one waiting when I got home, no note, no text, no scolding voice in my head, nothing. I wonder if this is what it’s like to be dead? In hell? Just… nothing

I’m freezing, so I pull my sweat jacket tight around me and curl up small on the chaise. I didn’t run… at least I think I didn’t. I told Gail that I would be with Al. I kept my phone with me. I don’t think I ran, but I’m sure as hell going to shrink. When my knees are in my chest, I wrap my arms around my legs and attempt to find some inner warmth. There’s no comfort there for me. I feel too forlorn and I have no idea why. More tears keep me company, making treks down my face and onto my jeans, but failing to cleanse me of my uncertainty.

I’ve often thought to myself that I would want to sit on this chaise and watch the sunrise out of these beautiful windows over the Seattle skyline. It looks like now, I’ll get my chance.

I open my eyes and I’ve missed the sunrise. I’m still on the chaise, still in my clothes, not in the bed… but warm, very warm. I’m covered with a heavy blanket, but still very alone. My head hurts like hell and I have to pee. It will have to wait. I only move one hand to cocoon the blanket around my neck and go back to sleep.

I wake again and my bladder won’t let me rest. I walk to the en suite with one eye open and get my jeans down in just enough time not to have an accident. I clean myself up and, without looking at the clock or opening the other eye, make my way back to the chaise, curl up small under the big blanket and go back to sleep.

I wake up a third time with the sun blaring right in the window at me. This time, my stomach is churning like hell. Fucking greasy burger. It was fantastic going down, but now, my insides are protesting the grease that I never eat. I don’t give it a chance to bother me. I bury my head under the big blanket, block out the light, and will myself back to sleep.


GREY

She hasn’t left the room all day, Boss,” Jason tells me when I ask him about Ana. That’s strange. It’s after 3pm.

“She hasn’t come out to eat?” I ask.

No. She hasn’t made a sound.”

“Have you guys made sure she’s alive?”

Sir, I’m sure she’s just sulking,” Jason says.

“Have you ever seen her sulk like this? In nearly a year, I sure as hell haven’t.”

No, I haven’t, but Chuck has.”

“When has he seen her sulk like this?” I ask, bemused.

In Montana.” In Montana? She didn’t even know if we were still getting married in Montana!

“I’ll be home after my last meeting,” I tell him.

Yes, Sir.” His tone has hidden inclinations.

“You think I shouldn’t?” I ask.

I don’t know, Sir. Gail never sulks like this,” he answers honestly. I sigh.

“I’ll decide when my meeting is over. I have to go.” I end the call. Ten minutes to my next meeting. I call Allen.

I was wondering when you were going to get around to making this call,” he says when he answers the phone.

“And how do you know what this call is about? You do work for me, you know.”

After that response, I’ll bet a week’s salary that you’re calling me about Jewel.” I love this guy and hate him at the same time.

“How did she seem last night?” I get right to the point.

Lost, floundering, confused, really sad. I think she’s exhausted,” he says.

“How can she be exhausted? She cut her work load down to at least one-fourth of what it was before.” I am completely bemused.

Yeah, but she’s doing Helping Hands, so that makes the days full-time. She’s planning this wedding and she’s got all this emotional shit flying at her. You can ask anything of Jewel and if it’s in her power, she’ll do it. I’m telling you, I think she’s exhausted.”

“But the wedding’s all done. I think the only thing that we have left is her final fitting and to book the honeymoon. We were waiting to see if we were going to hear anything about David’s new trial date but fuck it, we’re just going to book it. Besides that, it’s stags and hens and the rehearsal dinner. Then it’s time to get married.”

Chris, look what you threw in there,” he points out. “‘I can’t plan my honeymoon because I have to be sure that the fucker who kidnapped me doesn’t plant his trial date right when I’m on a boat headed for Zakynthos Island.’ Really romantic and stress relieving, don’t you think?” I run my hands through my hair. I can’t be this big of an asshole.

“What did she say last night, Allen?” I ask.

You know I can’t tell you that. She’s my best friend. I’ll tell you this though, and listen carefully… she’s exhausted. She so exhausted that she doesn’t even know that she’s exhausted. If she doesn’t decompress soon, she’s going to be in the hospital. Take my advice or don’t, but trust me. I know my Jewel, and she’s a pressure cooker ready to blow.” I sigh again.

“Thanks, Al,” I say finally.

Don’t mention it,” he says before ending the call. Ana is a pressure cooker. That’s just what I need. It would explain why she was so angry yesterday. Three minutes before my meeting and my cell phone rings.

“Grey,” I answer a little more gruffly than I intend.

Hello to you, too, Son,” Mom says a little affronted.

“Mom, sorry. I’m getting ready to go into a meeting and I was distracted.” It’s the truth. “What’s up?”

I won’t keep you, Christian. I just want to know if Ana is alright. She was supposed to be at the center today to help me with some of the fund-raising and the allocations and I haven’t been able to reach her all day. It’s not like her to just not show up or at least call.”

“Oh! Yeah, she wasn’t feeling well today. She may have forgotten to charge her phone. I’m going home right after my meeting to see if she’s doing better.”

Really? Maybe I should stop by…” Hmm, should I send my mom? Er, maybe not. Not looking like a good idea.

“That’s not necessary, Mom. Gail and Jason have been with her all day and I’ll be with her soon. I’m sure she’ll be fine.”

Mr. Grey, they’re waiting for you in the conference room.” Andrea’s voice comes over the intercom.

“I’ll be right there, Andrea,” I respond. “I have to go, Mom. Really, I don’t think it’s anything to be worried about.” Mom pauses.

Okay, Christian, but you’ll call me if it is, right?

“Yes, Mom. I will,” I assure her.

Okay, go run your empire.”

“I’ll talk to you later, Mom.” I end the call and call down to Lawrence. “Have the car ready. We’re leaving as soon as this meeting is over.

It’s about 4:20 when I get back to the penthouse and according to Jason and Gail, Butterfly still hasn’t emerged. Davenport is there, too, now because he’s certain that she going to come out of her funk and want to go somewhere. I walk into our bedroom and I am surprised to find that our bed has not been slept in.

“Butterfly?” I call out but I get no answer. I walk further into the room and see the mountain of blanket on the chaise almost exactly where I left it this morning. I go to the chaise absently, intent on folding it up when I see a small brunette head sticking out of the other side. Good God! How can a person get so small? Where’s the rest of her? I pull the cover back and she is drenched in sweat. Her body is squeezed smaller than I have ever seen it before.

“Butterfly… wake up.” She turns weary, swollen eyes to me then coughs twice. Before I know it, long limbs unfurl from this little compacted form on the chaise and she dashes wildly to the bathroom. I hear her vomiting violently as I make my way to the en suite behind her.

“Were you drinking last night?” I ask. She shakes her head as she continues to cough into the commode. I remove her jacket and hold her sweat-drenched hair off her face. “Do you have a fever?”

“No,” she chokes. “I’m just hot.”

“Have you been sick all day? What made you sick?”

“Greasy burger,” she laments.

“You? Grease? Do you have a death wish?” She’s dry heaving by now and I think it’s safe to get her to bed. I pick her up from the floor where she lay praying to the porcelain god and carry her to our bed. I go back and get a cool washcloth and a glass of water.

“Small sips,” I tell her as I wipe her face with the cloth and push her wet hair off her face. I kiss her gently on her forehead. “Please tell me what going on, Butterfly,” I ask softly.

“I don’t know,” she says weakly as she sips her water.

“You don’t know or you don’t want to tell me?” I ask.

“I don’t know… and I don’t want to fight,” she admits.

“That means that there’s something you want to tell me.”

“I’ve already told you,” she says, her voice weaker than before. “I feel like the little woman surrounded by all these men telling me where to go and what I should be doing. I’ve been so independent and now…”

“You’re suffocating.” I finish her sentence. She sighs.

“I don’t know that I’m suffocating, but I don’t feel like I’m in control of my own destiny… and I’m going to kill Al for letting me eat that murder-burger.” I have to keep from laughing at her calamity.

“I’m sure he wouldn’t have done it if he had known you would feel like this today,” I say, attempting to defend Allen. “What can I do for you?”

“Shoot me,” she groans.

“That’s not funny.”

“I know, I’m sorry. I just… ugh!” She covers her eyes with her arm and lies back on the bed.

“Ginger tea?” I ask, trying to suggest something that would settle her stomach. She nods in surrender from under her arm. I kiss her forehead again and head out to the kitchen.

“Mrs. Taylor, can you please make Ana some ginger tea?” Gail turns around with a puzzled look on her face.

“She hasn’t eaten all day. She wants ginger tea?”

“It appears that when she left last night, she had what she now terms a ‘murder-burger.’ She’s been asleep all day. I found her in a sweaty mess on the chaise.”

“So she’s been sick all day!” Gail exclaims. “Well, now I feel like shit.” She throws a scolding glance at Jason. “That’s the last time I listen to you!” she hisses as she turns around to the stove and begins to make the tea. I look over at Jason and mouth “Sorry.” He shrugs and continues to drink his afternoon coffee. I go back to the bedroom to find that Butterfly has drifted off to sleep again, her arm still over her eyes.

“Baby?” I say softly.

“Hmm?” she murmurs from under her arm.

“I need you to talk to me.” She groans.

“I don’t want to talk, Christian. You don’t understand,” she whines.

“Make me understand,” I press. She sighs heavily and moves her arm.

“When I met you, I was just… me. I liked fashion, hung out with my friends, complained about group therapy, and did my best to dodge Edward David before he went completely psycho. Now, I’m Anastasia Steele—one half of AnaChris, soon to be Anastasia Grey. I can’t go anywhere without Chuck. I have trackers in my phone, my car, and probably in my hair. Everybody knows who I am and people despise me for no reason. I’ve dealt with the trappings of being your life-mate—good and bad. It’s a small price to pay to be with you. What I can’t tolerate is having all of my independence sucked away from me. I have to be the ‘me’ that I’ve always known or I’m going to lose my mind. Yes, I’m becoming a better version of that person—slowly but surely—by dealing with the issues in my life, but yesterday was just a breaking point for me. I was livid that Chuck would let something like this go without at least warning me, then blow it off like it was an everyday occurrence and scold me for asking about it. Then I get to the apartment and Taylor is waiting for me in the foyer, basically telling me to buck up and straighten my face or Daddy is going to get me! When I come inside and get in the bath, you…” she pauses for a moment. “You didn’t do anything wrong,” she admits. “I was just angry and ready for a fight. Wynken and Blynken had already chopped me down to size; I was ready for you to make the trio complete and do it, too. I wanted you to know that I just wasn’t going to stand for it.”

So we get to the heart of why she was so choppy last night. It doesn’t get past me that she called Jason Taylor either. She’s feeling pretty strongly about this.

“You haven’t updated me about anything going on with Robin Myrick and I know he didn’t just go away because Elena’s murder attempt failed. I don’t know who was in my apartment or who took my gun. I don’t know if they had an accomplice or if they acted alone. I find out from Charlie Boy that someone is watching me all the time and I’m walking around like everything is hunky-dory!”

“Baby, don’t you understand that’s the best way to protect you? If you know all the dangers coming at you at all times, then you’re constantly on edge,” I protest.

“That’s exactly what I meant when I said ‘little woman.’ You guys treat me like I couldn’t take any one of you in a street fight if I had to. I may not win, but I could take you. That infuriates me. I know not to walk around acting like a jittery, paranoid fool, but my instincts warned me that something was wrong before my security detail did. That’s totally unacceptable.”

I can’t argue with that logic. I would be angry if Jason kept information from me about my safety. He knows that I demand to be in the loop on all things. Now we all expect Butterfly to just roll over and behave when just over a year ago, she was completely taking care of herself. Hell, three months ago, she could shoot and I couldn’t.

“The thought of anything happening to you scares the shit out of me,” I confess. She struggles to sit up and puts her hand on my cheek.

“I know that. I appreciate that and I love you for it, but not knowing that danger is around is more detrimental to my safety than knowing.” Dammit, I really don’t want her to be right on this, but I know that she is. “Think about this. Harris distracted me which allowed David to drug me. Do you think I couldn’t have at least disabled them enough to get away if I had known that they were both there? Harris could have kept the purse, I wouldn’t have cared. My Magnum wasn’t in it. Had I known David was there, I would have disarmed him and ran.” And that was the clincher. Her main reason for agreeing to take Davenport with her everywhere was not because she needed protection. It was because she needed someone to watch her back. This apparently meant that she intended to watch her front, and she can’t do it if we don’t keep her informed. I sigh. I know when I’m whipped.

“I’ll talk to Jason and Davenport. It’s going to take some adjusting, so go easy on them okay?” I warn. She nods, non-committal, but it’s because her body is about to “timber” back onto the bed—which she does. I untie her laces and begin to remove her shoes and socks. “For the record, there’s nothing to tell about Elena and the Myricks that you don’t already know. We think he must have cut your key during one of the times that you were at my parents’ house. We don’t know who their accomplice is or if there really is one, but I’m fairly certain that the person going into your apartment that day was a woman and not Elena. We don’t have any leads on who it could have been. She has, well, had many subs and it could have been any one of them. Hell, it could have even been one of the little boys that she was molesting for all we know. Myrick Sr is definitely still in jail, but we can’t get any of the particulars on his sentence or detention. So unfortunately, we’re still in the dark.” When I get both her socks off, she sits straight up.

“Fuck! It’s Thursday!” she exclaims.

“Yeah?”

“I had patients!” Oh… well, that’s not good.

“You didn’t call Marilyn?”

“I slept all day!” She’s trying to get out of bed now.

“Oh, no. You and the murder-burger stay right where you are. There’s nothing you can do about it now. Where’s your phone?” She thinks for a moment, then starts looking around.

“It’s in my jacket,” she says, deflated. She sinks back down onto the bed, her momentary adrenaline burst now depleted. There’s a timid knock at the door.

“Come in,” I say, looking at Butterfly’s dead cell phone. Gail comes into the room with a small tray carrying a cup and a teapot with a small container of what I assume is honey.

“I’ve brought you some tea. Are you feeling any better?” she says to Butterfly.

“I feel like the dead,” she says from her position back under her arm. “Thanks, Gail.” Gail’s face looks apologetic.

“I’m sorry I didn’t check in on you sooner. Jason said… well, I’m sorry.” Butterfly raises her head a bit as Gail sets the tray down on the nightstand.

“Jason said what?” Butterfly asks.

“He just thought… that you might want to be left alone. Neither of us had any idea that you weren’t feeling well,” Gail tells her. She twists her lips.

“I’ll just bet he did,” Butterfly says covering her eyes again. “You’re an angel, Gail. Thank you.”

“You’re welcome, Dear. I think I should tell you that Charles has been here all day and Marilyn came by earlier. She said to tell you that she canceled your appointments when you weren’t in the office by 10 and you didn’t call.” Butterfly nods.

“I’m a terrible shrink,” she says. “My whole life is falling apart and I have the nerve to try to help other people put theirs together.” I rub her feet.

“You’re having a bad patch, Baby. We all have them at some time. You’re entitled to it.” I kiss her toes.

“I’m going to leave you, now. Let me know if you need something else. You must be starving. Can I get you something to eat? Some chicken soup maybe?” Gail asks.

“Yours?” Butterfly inquires, sounding like a five-year-old with a cold. Gail smiles an accommodating smile.

“Of course, mine,” she says sweetly. Butterfly nods in that five-year-old way again and Gail leaves the room to fetch the soup. I turn back to Butterfly.

“Wouldn’t you be more comfortable in some sweats or a nightshirt?” I ask her. “You’ve been sweating all day like you’ve run a marathon.”

“Is that your way of telling me that I need to wash?” she asks me.

“Well, no. Not really, but I do think you’ll be more comfortable after a bath and a change of clothes.” She sits on the edge of the bed and sips the ginger tea Gail left for her. Her heavy sigh informs me that she is feeling some form of immediate relief. I move next to her and put my arm around her waist. “I think you may be pushing yourself too hard,” I say cautiously. She looks up at me.

“What do you mean?” she asks.

“The wedding, all the stuff that’s been going on with your mother and the trials coming up, being concerned about what monster is going to jump out of the shadows at us… I think you may need a bit of a break, Butterfly.”

“You’ve been talking to Al, haven’t you?” she asks with a twist of her mouth.

“Well, I always talk to Al, but he wouldn’t tell me anything.” I pull her closer to me and kiss her gently behind the ear. “Honestly, Baby, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to tell that you’re wiped.” I kiss her behind the ear again. “Plus, we’ve been fucking like rabbits. I don’t know how you even keep up.” She sighs and relaxes in my arms.

“I like that part,” she whines, softly. “It’s the only part that’s not stressful.”

“Well, maybe we can keep doing that, but you need to rest, Baby. You need to relax and take some time to yourself to do… nothing.”

“But I can’t,” she says forlorn. “Harry’s baby shower is this weekend. I can’t miss that.” She’s right. She can’t possibly miss her little brother’s baby shower.

“We will make an exception for the baby shower, but nothing else. If you don’t de-stress soon, you’re going to self-destruct—and what made you buy a greasy, artery-clogging hamburger? You are the queen of chicken skewers, pinwheels, and bruschetta. Emotional turmoil wasn’t enough for you—you had to add physical anguish?” I can hear the scolding in my voice, but I just don’t get why she did this to herself. She looks miserable.

“Well, excuse me Mr. Healthy! I didn’t know you were so keen on my eating habits.”

“Hey, I eat like a horse. Everybody knows that. You on the other hand eat like a bird. Everybody knows that. Your eating habits have gone a little crazy, so I know you must be stressed out. I’ll lay down the law however I have to, but you. Need. Rest. So how are we going to do this, Ms. Steele?” She sighs again.

“I’ll do my best to take it easy, but I can’t take any time off right now, Christian. We’ll be going on a honeymoon in a few weeks. My patients think I’m taking a sabbatical. They’ll put two and two together after the wedding, but I can’t skip out on them now. I just can’t.” I love her dedication, but she’s going to make me hog-tie her and take her away to a desert island.

“Okay, then that means that Helping Hands may have to suffer.”

“Oh no, Christian! They need me more than my patients!” she protests almost horrified.

“Ana, I’m trying to negotiate with you here. Something has to give. You’re running yourself into the ground and it has to stop.” She sits up on her knees.

“I promise I will find a way to do what needs to be done and not be so stressed out. Once we say ‘I do,’ I guarantee you that’s 50% of my stress going right there. Please, Christian…” She looks at me with those big blue eyes and I’m a goner.

“Bath. Now. Don’t fight me. I’ll get you something comfortable and it’s right back to bed with you,” I order.

“But the baby shower is tomorrow,” she protests.

“Then it will have to wait until tomorrow,” I declare. “Bath first, then back to bed.” I’m pointing towards the en suite. I will not be dissuaded, Ms. Steele. Get you fine ass into that bathroom before I carry you in. Her shoulders fall.

Yes sir,” she says like a scolded child before heading for the en suite.


A/N: Ana talked about making the “trio complete” when she was talking to Christian about Jason and Chuck’s behavior and she called them “Wynken and Blynken.” “Wynken, Blynken, and Nod” is a poem/lullaby about a kid who doesn’t want to go to sleep. His eyes are winking and blinking and his head is nodding. So in the poem/lullaby, the three characters are fishermen in a boat that is a wooden shoe. The sky is the ocean, the stars are fish, and the moon is singing to them. The three fishermen try to catch the fish but they never do. No real significance… that’s just where the names came from.

Pictures of places, cars, fashion, etc. can be found at ladeeceo/mending-drsteele/

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Love and Handcuffs!
Lynn x