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
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.”
“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…
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.
You’re about to get married.
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.
“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.
“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.”
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.
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,
As soon as he turns around, I nail that asshole right in the goggles.
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.
“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.
“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.
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/
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Love and Handcuffs!