So hopefully things have quieted down and we can get on with the story. My Muse seems to be peeking her head back into the door every now and then, but she only got me as far as Chapter 76 and she poked her head in and churned out 77 this week. If the story falls dead there and I tell you guys that you just have to wait, then you’ll know that she took a hiatus and didn’t come back. We’ll see…
Thank you all again for my birthday wishes this week. I felt really special.
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.
She’s standing next to the bed when I come out of the bathroom. The shower is heating and I am naked about to get in. I walk up behind her and spin her around. She gasps at my force and I devour her mouth, plunging my tongue into hers. She’s uncertain at first, but she melts at my touch. I break our kiss and snatch her dress over her head. I grab her luscious ass and press her into my aching erection. She groans as I grind her into me.
“I need you,” I nearly hiss.
“Yes,” she breathes. I lift her by her ass and carry her to the bathroom. I take her into the shower without removing her underwear, grinding into her the whole time. She’s panting as the water runs down her back. Her fingers thrust into my hair as she returns my hungry kisses. I tighten my grasp on her ass and continue to grind her against my erection. I can feel her clit hardening through her panties. Oh, yes, baby, come for me. She drops her head back.
“Christian! I… I’m…” Before she can finish her sentence, I take a mouthful of her breast and sink my teeth in, teasing her nipple with my tongue through her bra.
“Aaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhh!” she cries out and begins to shudder. I press her hard against me and grind back and forth until her breaths are coming in short. Holding her around the waist, I release her bra with one hand. She removes it while I tear her panties from her body. It’s harder to do when they’re wet, but they still don’t stand a chance. When I plunge into her, she’s still pulsing.
“Fuck!” I growl. It feels so good. With one hand against the wall and my arm holding her captive against me, I plunge into her again and again and again…
I’m standing on the third floor terrace facing the setting sun and hoping that Butterfly gets up here before the sky turns orange. Santorini has the most breathtaking sunsets I have ever seen and I really want to share this last one with her before we have to go back to Seattle. I hope I didn’t come off as a “Neanderthal” a little while ago. I felt the possession all over again and I couldn’t control it. She is mine and I needed to feel it. When we had both come at least twice—three times for Butterfly—I dried her hair for her and got dressed.
She was standing near the bed trying to decide between a white Alexander McQueen with large black birds or a simple angelic off-the-shoulder peasant dress. She was standing there looking gloriously delicious in just white panties. She jumped when I touched her skin and the resulting goose bumps let me know that she wasn’t startled. I brushed my lips against her neck and watched her eyes close.
“That one,” I had said, pointing to the peasant dress. She opened her eyes, looked at the dress and nodded. I kissed her shoulder. “I’ll be upstairs. Don’t be long. The sunset awaits.”
I’m pulled from my daydream by a delicate voice clearing her throat behind me. I turn around and she’s standing there in the peasant dress, her hair flowing over her shoulders with wildflowers somehow spread throughout, and she’s barefoot—wearing some of that barefoot jewelry that she wore in Anguilla. She truly looks heavenly and I think my heart stops for a moment.
“You’re so beautiful,” I breathe as I walk over to her. She smiles widely.
“Thank you,” she says sweetly. I take her face in my hands and kiss her, first softly, then passionately. I love her so much. I need her so much.
“I wasn’t too… rough with you, was I?” I ask cautiously. She looks up into my eyes while I’m still holding her face.
“I could feel your urgency,” she admits, “but no, not too rough at all.” I sigh heavily and put my forehead on hers.
“Good,” I breathe before looking into her eyes. “I’m trying.”
“I know,” she says. “Was it Harley?” I close my eyes.
“I don’t know,” I admit. “I think it was just the sexual energy. It was all around us and I needed you. Maybe they were just feeling it for each other and it jumped off on me. I don’t know.” And I really don’t know. This guy didn’t look at my wife too long or say or do anything inappropriate. I just… felt it, swirling around us, and I needed her. It was so strong that it almost overtook me. I would have been fine had I taken a shower alone. I would have washed that crazy, intense energy down the drain and came out okay, but she came into the villa. She’s my weakness in every way. My heart swelled and my dick got hard immediately. I had to feel her.
I take her hand and walk to the edge of the terrace. I wrap my arms around her with plenty of time to watch the Santorini sunset. I think about our home and our life together again. She is my dream come true and it’s the moments that we share like this that makes me so happy that she picked me. The sun slowly disappears behind the water, changing the sky from hues of orange to hues of purple… our last Santorini sunset.
“Close your eyes,” I say, my mouth right next to her ear. She closes her eyes and I brush my lips against her shoulders. “Do you see it? Do you still see the sunset?”
“Yes,” she breathes with a shiver.
“Can you feel the warmth of the sun on your skin?” I ask peppering kisses from her shoulder to her neck. She takes a deep breath and lets it out.
“Can you see the light shimmering off the water?” She smiles slightly.
“Yes,” she whispers, “it’s beautiful.”
“Don’t forget it. Remember our Santorini sunset, when I held you in my arms and kissed your flawless skin; told you how beautiful you are and that you mean more to me than anything in the world; when I told you that you have become the single most important thing or person in my life. I tried to fight it; I tried to resist and stay strong and independent, but I couldn’t. I can’t live without you. I can’t breathe without you. It’s you, Anastasia, only you.”
She gasps a sob and turns around in my arms. Pulling my head down by my hair, she kisses me feverishly and now I feel her need. I lift her off the floor and stand up straight, absorbing her tearful kisses as she feeds off my energy and I off hers.
It’s completely dark when we get back down to the main floor. Shelly and Harley have joined the security team in a drink. Once again, I have taken everyone off duty for our last evening in Santorini, certain that they will be in good form tomorrow afternoon. Jason is behind the bar making drinks while Charles chats up Harley, and Norbert and Adrien have Shelly’s attention. The dining table has been set up on the main floor terrace and the smells coming from the kitchen are divine.
“There you are,” Shelly says, rising from her perch at the bar and excusing herself. “I was talking to Norbert and Adrien. They really are nice guys.”
“Are they?” Butterfly says. “I’m sorry, I was too caught up on my honeymoon. I just didn’t notice anyone else.” Shelly smiles mischievously.
“You two must have had a fantastic time on your honeymoon,” she says.
“We did,” I say, looking lovingly at Butterfly. “We’ve had some truly unforgettable moments.” She smiles up at me, then leans shyly on my arm. God, I love that.
“Well, let’s have a drink to toast your wonderful trip and wish you a safe journey home,” Shelly said. She appears anxious to have a good time. She leads Butterfly over to the bar and I follow.
“What’ll it be, Boss?” Jason asks.
“What do you have?” I ask.
“Basically, some of everything—scotch, bourbon, vodka, beer—you name it, it’s back here.”
“Single malt,” he confirms. I nod.
“I’ll take a double shot,” I tell him. “Butterfly?”
“I don’t want anything,” she says. “I’ll wait for dinner.” Shelly laughs.
“You and Chuck,” she says. “It’s a party and you guys won’t drink.”
“Well, Chuck doesn’t drink. I’m just not good with alcohol on an empty stomach.” Shelly nods.
“Smart,” she says, putting her drink on the bar. “Nothing tackier than a stumbling-drunk woman.” I guess she has opted to wait for dinner as well.
The table is finally spread with an out-of-control amount of food and we eat and drink well into the evening until our hearts are content. Butterfly nursed the same glass of Cabernet all night. I guess Shelly’s comment about the stumbling-drunk woman made her drink only very modestly. She mostly drank water and I am reminded of her waking with a headache in the middle of the night and unable to find any painkillers. We talked to the wee hours of the morning before Shelly and Harley decide to call it a night.
“I couldn’t help but notice the strange faces you were making while you were talking to Shelly,” I say as we are standing near the pool looking out over the wall at the sea. She gets a little stiff, then recovers.
“She’s… different. Like… strange.”
“Strange? In what way?” I ask.
“I don’t think she’s happy. I don’t think she’s happy with her life, with who she is, with how she looks…”
“How she looks? She’s hot,” I say. The look she throws at me is deadly. “Oh, come on, Butterfly. Okay, granted, maybe I shouldn’t have said it out loud, but are we really going to deny that this woman is hot? Her husband is very handsome—for an older guy—and she’s hot.”
“Okay, I get it!” she snaps. “She’s hot.” She glares at me for a while and I just shrug. Well, it’s true. I didn’t mean to let it just trip out of my mouth, but it is true. “I don’t think she particularly likes being hot. I mean she likes it, but I think she would really rather not.” I frown.
“I don’t get it. Who doesn’t want to be hot?”
“I don’t think that she doesn’t want to be hot. I just think that it’s not what it’s cracked up to be. You see her boobs?” I look down at her.
“Is that a trick question?” I ask. She frowns.
“What do you mean?”
“Of course, I saw her boobs. Satellites in space saw her boobs, but if I admit it, you’ll get mad at me again and if I say that I didn’t, you’ll know that I’m lying. So again, I ask, is this a trick question?” Seriously?
“Point taken. Those things are hell to carry around. She has to practice keeping her back straight and not walking like a hunchback. When I suggested going to a smaller size, she looked at me like I had insulted her. After she recovered, she talked about the pain and the recovery time involved in the surgery and I couldn’t help but think that the recovery time and pain had to be less for smaller boobs than they are for larger ones. Then to top it all off, she has the body of a Barbie Doll with boobs the size of…” She trails off.
“Soccer balls?” I assist. She looks at me.
“Just about,” she confirms. “Who does that?”
“Women who want big boobs,” I say with a shrug.
“I want big boobs!” she protests.
“Baby, you’ve got big boobs!” I say, looking down at her luscious melons. “What are you now? An E?”
“Christian!” She scolds. “I’m a D!”
“If you say so,” I say, cupping one boob and stroking her bare nipple through the material of the dress. Her breath catches and I see goose bumps rising on her skin again. “That thing has been staring at me all evening.”
“Christian…” she breathes as I cup the other breast and repeat the teasing of the other nipple.
“You’re always so ready,” I whisper, bringing my lips down to her neck and keeping the same amount of pressure on her tits and only her tits. This little action in making her rise high and fast. It only takes a few minutes…
“Christian!” She grabs my arms to steady herself. Her mouth is open and she’s breathing through her orgasm. When it wanes, her knees buckle under her and I have to catch her before she falls.
“I love the different ways that I can make you come… anytime… anywhere… with very little effort.”
I’m sitting at the bar with my laptop, tying up loose ends and getting ready for our trip back to the States. I brought Butterfly to another orgasm in the early morning hours by feasting on her pussy and commanding her not to come. She squirmed for a good hour before she finally gave in then collapsed into a blissful sleep around 5am. I let her sleep until just around noon, but we have to get ready to get to the airport soon. We fly to Heathrow today to meet the GEH jet at 10pm. From there, we fly to New York to go through customs and board the 604, which will get us to Bellingham about the same time in Seattle. Dad will pick us up from Bellingham and we should be at the Bellevue manor by midnight.
“Hey, Boss,” Jason says, bringing his bags out to the courtyard and sitting them next to ours.
“Jason,” I say with a nod. “Everybody ready?”
“They better be or they’ll be finding their own way back home,” he replies. “Norbert and Adrien have already left for the airport. It’s just us now.” It’s official. We’re going back home. “I talked to them for a bit before we hit the sack last night. It’s always good to get someone else’s take on things. They brought something to my attention that you should probably know.” I close my laptop and turn to look at him, my eyebrows furrowed.
“I think you need to turn the caveman down a bit when it comes to Ana,” he says. “When you were at the Acropolis and that Owen guy approached her, you handled it well, better than I’ve ever seen and I was proud of you—but anybody in a 10-foot radius could still see that you were chomping at the bit to get to that guy. Then when we got to the nightclub and he was… let’s just say, more overt—you were ready to tear the place down with your calm aggression and you made it well-known. Now any man would feel that way about the woman he loves. Hell, look what I did to the guy at the bar in Anguilla. It’s a little different with you, though, Boss.”
“I don’t know what you mean,” I say frowning. “I mean, granted, I react when men make the moves on my wife, but I don’t make a scene unless they do.”
“That’s not it,” he says, taking the barstool next to me. “Whenever you want someone to stay away from her, you tell them exactly what she’s worth and follow it up by telling them that you would spend your entire fortune to keep her happy or to make their life miserable.” He’s right. I remember having just that conversation more than once in relation to my Butterfly.
“You better not tell anyone else how much she means to you,” he continues. “She’s your Achilles Heel. She can bring down everything you have, and K&R won’t be able to stop it. If someone gets a hold of her, they will turn your entire empire into a house of glass. That I know of, you’ve got a couple of hotheaded lawyers who know exactly what she is to you and exactly what she’s worth. You also have a pining Cholometes who wouldn’t mind seeing you hurt, not that he would ever hurt Ana, but I’m just saying. Don’t tell anyone else what she means to you. Your enemies will try to use her against you any way that they can.”
“How did this come about?” I ask. “Were they plotting or something?” Jason shakes his head.
“No, we were just talking like security guys talk. They brought up that she’s an easy mark for an opportunist. You’re very possessive of her; you barely let her out of your sight for the entire trip. She’s your biggest weakness, Christian, and a professional knows that. She’s already been kidnapped once with very little effort. Don’t think someone else wouldn’t try.” I rub my fingers over my lips. What does he suggest that I do—be less affectionate and loving to my wife? Not going to happen.
“More covert coverage?” I ask. “Less Neanderthal?” He nods.
“That’s a good place to start… and stop threatening people with your wealth when it comes down to her. You’re putting a big red arrow over her to let opportunists know she’s a great mark.” I nod.
“I need to tell her about the covert surveillance,” I tell Jason. “No more secrets. I can’t have a repeat of what happened on her hen night.”
“You just did.”
We turn around and see Butterfly standing there, dressed and ready to go. I can’t read the expression on her face, but she makes her way over to the bar and puts her hand on Jason’s arm. Wordless communication passes between them and he nods before leaving the bar area. She turns her attention to me.
“I’ll agree to whatever you need,” she says softly. “I don’t want you worrying about me. He’s right, though. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that we’re in love, and it only takes one small opportunity for someone to capitalize on that. They don’t need to know what lengths you’ll go through to get me back, although most of them already do.” She puts her hands on both sides of my face. “I love you, Mr. Grey. I’ll do whatever you need.”
I wrap my arms around her and pull her close to me. Two strangers can see that she’s an easy mark. That’s horribly frightening. I don’t really know what to do.
“I’ll keep a lid on that part,” I tell her inhaling the scent of her hair. “I’ll try not to be so cave-man, but I don’t know how to cap my affection for you and I don’t want to.” I rub her back and press her into me. “Thank you for agreeing to more surveillance.”
“Thank you for agreeing to tell me,” she says. I pull her back and look into her eyes.
“I’m sorry the honeymoon didn’t turn out to be all that we had hoped it would be,” I say.
“Well, it was very nice for the time we got to enjoy it, but I knew David was going to pull something like this.”
“Not just that, I mean the fights that we had. I know we could have enjoyed Athens and the island a little more had we not been at odds.”
“The first one wasn’t really a fight, and it wasn’t your fault,” she protests.
“Yes, it was. Had I not said anything about soul mates…” She puts her finger over my lips to silence me.
“You have a right to how you feel, Christian. There’s nothing wrong with that. I’m glad you told me. It gave me the chance to show you what you mean to me—to put to rest that whole ‘soul mate’ thing and show you exactly why it doesn’t fit for us. You understand that now, don’t you?” I put my hand on her cheek and my fingers in her hair.
“Yes, Butterfly, I understand.” I kiss her soulfully. “You make me a better person. I try every day to be worthy of you.”
“And I of you,” she says, kissing me again. “We’re going to remember the beautiful sights that we saw and the magnificent experiences we had; the remarkable sunsets on Santorini and the emotional connections we both felt at the prison at Agora; the dip in the hot springs and how the water made our skin tingle; the many, many times that we made love and the massive orgasms that we had. We’re also going to remember the breakthroughs that we had from our disagreements and hold on to them—learn from them and grow from them, and take every opportunity to connect to each other the way that we did afterwards. We won’t wait until we have an argument to do that. I think it will help us grow more and understand one another, to be more patient and understanding of each other.” I kiss her again.
“I’d like that very much.”
“Christian, Ana. It’s good to see you, though I wish it were under better circumstances.” Mom hugs me warmly, then Butterfly. “You both have beautiful suntans.
“Thank you, Grace. You shouldn’t have waited up. That was very sweet,” Butterfly says.
“Oh, nonsense. I wanted to make sure you had everything that you needed. It’s going to be a long few days for you and I want you to be comfortable. Your assistant brought some things for you and I’ve already had them taken to Christian’s room. Do you want anything? Tea or something, or were you just looking to turn in?”
“I want to sleep. I know that I should, but I’m as bright as a bunny,” Butterfly confesses.
“Come with me,” Mom says. “I have just the thing to make you drowsy and you can tell me all about Greece.” Mom and Butterfly head off to the kitchen, no doubt for some of Mom’s secret chamomile tea. We never knew what the secret ingredient was, but she’ll be out in the next 20 minutes or so. Dad comes down the stairs shortly after they head to the kitchen.
“Jason and Charles are settled in two of the guest rooms. I’m surprised that Jason didn’t go home to his wife,” Dad says.
“It’s all part of the façade, Dad,” I tell him. “The jet is on the tarmac at SeaTac by now and they’re waiting for us to get off. I don’t doubt that there are a few reporters at Escala as well awaiting our arrival. If Jason goes home, the jig is up.” He nods.
“I can see how that could be a problem. Speaking of trials, Lincoln is pushing for a trial date soon, too. She is positive that she’s going to get off, according to the DA. She refuses to take any kind of plea on the charges because she’s convinced that her defense will work.” I shake my head.
“Still delusional as ever,” I say. “We won’t say anything to Butterfly about this. She has enough on her mind.”
“I can imagine. The fact that this is going to trial at all is beyond me. She was missing for four days, starving, dehydrated, and brutally beaten when they got her to the hospital. How can this monster possibly think that a jury would believe anything he has to say?”
“The same way that Lincoln thinks her case is airtight.” I say.
Butterfly did manage to get to sleep for a few hours after Mom’s secret tea and now we are sitting outside of the courthouse about to go inside. Her eyes go to the ceiling as she takes a deep breath. I take her hand and squeeze.
“Are you ready?” I ask.
“No, but let’s go anyway.” I nod to Jason and he gets out of the driver’s seat of my mother’s car. We have a moment of peace as he opens the door to let us out, but once the press sees that it’s us getting out of the Volvo, they are running down the stairs to get to us. Jason and Charles are in front of us and we are flanked by Williams, Lawrence, and three other guards just to get into the courthouse. Butterfly sighs heavily once we get past the metal detectors. This ordeal is trying enough without having to deal with those vultures. Certain members of the press are still allowed beyond the metal detectors, but not as many as are parked outside. A different car will be here to pick us up from the parking garage while Mom’s Volvo sits out front after today’s proceedings.
Allen meets us at the courtroom doors to tell us what’s going on. We’ll all be able to listen to opening arguments, but once that is done, we have to be led from to the courtroom and we can testify one by one. We will have to wait for our turn to testify before we are allowed back into the courtroom. A look of horror comes over Butterfly’s face.
“I have to testify alone, you mean? I have to face him alone?” She is shaking in her Louboutins. I almost think she’s going to pass out. She’s clinging to me for dear life and I can see the flight response kicking in. She’ll leave this courthouse and never come back. Allen sees it, too.
“You’ll be in the middle of the witness list, Jewel,” he says. “By that time, Chris will have given his testimony and he won’t have to leave the courtroom.”
“Is it always this way?” I ask him.
“Not always, but most often it is. Witnesses shouldn’t be in the courtroom at the same time because the court wants a clear and honest recollection of what happened from the point of view of each witness. They don’t want one witness to hear what another witness says and change their testimony.” I nod. Butterfly is calming a bit, but still shaking.
“So we didn’t have to come today?” she says. “I’m not first, so I didn’t have to come today.”
“Well, we never know how long testimony might take, who may not show up, what other circumstances may delay or speed up the proceedings. Unfortunately, that means that you have to be here every day until you are called to the stand. After that, it’s completely up to you if you want to be here or not,” he responds. She sighs.
“So what are we looking at?” she says, rubbing her forehead.
“This trial can go from three days to 10 days from my experience. There’s no hidden witnesses, no rabbits or magic tricks that I can see. We just have to be patient and see where it goes. I know this can be nerve-racking, but we just have to wait and let the system do its job.”
Butterfly scoffs at the phrase. He has no idea just how little faith she has in the system right now.
“What about the charges?” I ask. “He’s still blaming Harris for masterminding this thing?”
“Well, that didn’t work out well for him,” Allen says, leading us to a quieter corner. “As it turns out, in relation to kidnapping, the law dictates that if two or more persons commit the crime, both persons will be charged and punished for any crimes that either of them commits. So as it turns out, if his farce of a defense works at all, he can only hope to get a reduced sentence because he’s been charged with everything that Harris did.” Butterfly’s eyes widen.
“Really?” she says.
“Really. So he’s looking at six to life for the first degree kidnapping because this is his first offense…”
“First recorded offense, you mean,” I grumble. Allen looks at me.
“We can’t hold those against him. There were no arrests, let alone convictions.” He turns his attention back to Butterfly. “He’s looking at a month to five years for unlawful imprisonment, which is what we’re suing him for. He’s looking at up to 10 years for the robbery…”
“Robbery?” Butterfly asks.
“Harris stole your credit cards and beat the pin numbers out of you. He’ll be lucky if they shave anything off that.” Butterfly shivers visibly and looks a little light-headed. I put my arms around her to hold her up.
“Anything else?” I ask him. He nods.
“About a year for the assault, five to ten for the propofol…”
“Five to ten,” I comment.
“Anybody recall that famous artist that we all know and love who died from propofol being administered by a doctor who was supposed to know what he was doing?” Oh yeah, I hadn’t even thought of that. “How David even got his hands on this drug is beyond me. Then he administered it to an unwilling participant to commit a crime… with no medical training. Then he threatened her with it again. Jewel could have died, so the DA is charging assault with a deadly weapon, first degree.”
“This is sounding better and better,” Butterfly says, her shaking subsiding immensely.
“Jewel, you have another problem.”
“What?” she hisses.
“That,” he says, gesturing to her Salvatore Ferragamo two-piece black pants suit. “You look like a million bucks, Jewel, not the victim of a kidnapping. That look has got to go.”
“Oh, see, that’s where you’re wrong,” she says, crossing her arms and putting one foot out to the side—a stance that indicates she is ready for a fight. “I was a Fashionista before he kidnapped me. I was a Fashionista once I was recovered. I am now married to a billionaire, and although they may have found 12 people…”
“Sixteen,” Allen corrects her.
“Fine, though they may have found 16 people who may have no clue who Edward David is and what he did to me, the entire north Pacific has seen me plastered over the news for some reason or another over the last six months… at least! Every time they’ve seen me plastered over the news, I was a Fashionista. If I walk in there now on Christian Grey’s arm, looking like some humdrum victim that’s been dragged through the wringer, that jury is going to see right through me. You may know the law, Counselor, but I know people, and there’s no way that I’m going into that courtroom looking any less than I would on any given day that I am going to do something very important. If the prosecution’s case hangs on me looking forlorn and beaten, you better tell them to rethink their strategy.” He sighs heavily.
“Allen, it’s a lost cause,” she says putting her hand up. “The only platinum I’m wearing are my rings. That’s all you get.” He shakes his head.
“Fine. Opening arguments will begin soon. Let’s go sit down.”
It’s nearly 9:00 when we take our seat behind the prosecution’s table. The jurors each look at me impassively and I do my best not to stare. Christian and I sit close to the front with our barrage of security sitting around us. Dammit to hell, I expected to be in Crete right now—offroading in the hills of Rethymnon, lying on the beach, or visiting one of the museums again—not back here with this fucker trying to get him convicted of kidnapping me. A door opens off to the right, and there he is, being led to the defendant’s table in shackles. Our eyes meet and I turn away immediately, my stomach churning wildly and threatening to return my breakfast. Christian grabs my hand and squeezes. We are not allowed to show any signs of affection and as much as I just want to lean on him right now, I’m not allowed to do that, either. They call that “trying to influence the jury.” I don’t know how I’m going to make it through these proceeding with him in the same room.
“All rise.” I know what that means. We stand to our feet and a tall woman with black hair pulled into a bun takes her seat at the judge’s podium. I didn’t even catch her name. This whole thing seems so damn surreal to me. Her Honor takes several minutes to instruct the jury on what they will be seeing over the days to come and what will be happening. I feel like the walls are closing in on me. This is really happening. Right now, this is really happening and I have to be here for it.
Breathe, Ana. Breathe…
“Are you okay?” Christian whispers, noting my obvious discomfort. I take a deep breath and nod. I can’t fall apart during this. I have to be strong.
Several minutes later, the prosecution begins their opening statements. I listen as they outline what will be presented and how I was attacked after leaving the aquarium. I follow his words as he mentions that I was kidnapped, assaulted, drugged, nearly raped, and beaten while chained to a bed for four days; how I was airlifted to the hospital not a moment too soon after being found starving and dehydrated, nearly comatose and unable to speak. It seems like it took him forever and ever to outline my horrific ordeal and the entire time, I’m trying not to vomit. I feel a strange pang of relief when, about thirty minutes later, he stops talking. I take a deep breath. Thank God, I think to myself… that is, until the defense starts to speak.
She stood up and straightened her designer suit. The next thing I knew, I was hearing all kinds of horrible things… about me! Maybe not in these words, but this was the thrust of it:
I was the promiscuous tease that, for years, led David to believe that there was hope for us.
I had dinner with David leading him to believe that we were on the road to reconciliation, then went home and slept with Christian the same night.
He was harassed and followed by Christian’s security team and forced to stay away from the woman that he loved after he realized the err of his ways.
I got his hopes up just for a free dinner, then left him hanging once I got a better deal and a bigger paycheck.
I brutalized him in public, humiliated him twice, drew my gun on him in a parking structure and took out a restraining order against him when I was the real threat, not him.
He met a man who shared a common enemy with him—Robert Harris, a psychotic womanizer who wanted to get back at Christian for firing him and at me for costing him his job. David was desperate and vulnerable and first believed that Harris would help him get his love back. Once he had drawn David in, his greed for David’s money drove him to trap David with threats of violence again him and me, and forced him to cooperate with Harris’ plan.
Not only was David temporarily unstable because of the circumstances—having his woman stolen from him by Christian as well as being shunned, assaulted and threatened by me and by our security—but he was also being forced to take part in the kidnapping by an angry, vengeful, psychotic man who had him convinced that I would love him in the end.
Harris was going to kidnap me anyway. David only participated in an attempt to try to keep me safe from harm.
If I hadn’t been present for the whole ordeal, I’d be thinking that this bitch they were talking about should just burn in hell for what she did to him. I can see some of the sympathy in the faces of the jurors and I don’t know what to think. Maybe I should just go home. I don’t think my testimony is going to do anything to sway those sympathetic faces. I should just let Christian handle him however he plans to after he gets off. Why put myself through this?
I hear the judge say something about excluded witnesses and I see Allen nod at me. That’s my cue. I get up and run out of that courtroom as fast as my feet can take me. I can’t stand it. I can’t breathe. I feel like I’m suffocating and I’m going to die.
Run! Run! Run!
I take off down a long hallway with no idea where I’m going. The neat chignon that was once my hair is now flying wildly behind me. I’m tasting my tears and still running, looking for an escape as people in front of me part and let me through. I’m about to turn a corner when strong hands grab my arms and pull me back. They’re not Christian’s and I immediately panic. I’m trying to swing, but these hands have a death grip on me.
I need to go! I need to go now!
I’m still swinging wildly when I hear a familiar voice wafting through tears and loud breaths.
“Ana! Stop! Ana, please! Stop!”
It’s Jason. I stop swinging to see him standing there in his navy blue suit, holding my wrists, his blue eyes piercing mine. I fight to catch my breath while he holds my wrists.
“Breathe with me, Your Highness,” he says, softly, only loud enough for me to hear. I breathe as best I can, and once my breath is coming in a little more regulated, I collapse in his arms, weeping bitterly.
I awake on a sofa somewhere. I must still be jet-lagged. I try to stretch, then realize that I’m lying on someone’s lap. It’s Christian. He’s stroking my hair. It’s calming. Wait… we’re still at the courthouse—in some kind of lounge. Fuck! I rise from his lap and sit up on the sofa.
“Hey,” he says, his voice comforting, “how do you feel?”
“Pretty shitty,” I answer honestly. “What time is it?”
“Nearly two,” he answers. “They’ve recessed for lunch. They won’t get to you today, Butterfly. Do you want to go home?” I look over at him.
“How do you know they won’t get to me?” I ask. He sighs.
“The defense is tearing the witnesses apart, Baby,” he says, solemnly. “I was on the stand for a good two hours, Jason almost just as long. They were ripping Williams apart before we went to lunch.” I sigh heavily.
“Who else has to go before me?”
“According to Allen, Lawrence and Gerald will testify before you… Maybe Allen, too.”
“So unless Chance, Ben, or Gerald drop dead at lunch, I won’t be testifying today,” I comment.
“It’s not likely,” he says. Part of me really wants to stay. I mean, I really feel like if I go home, I’m going to miss something important.
“I’ll stay for now. I’ll tell you how I feel later… Can you stay with me?” I know I’m begging, but I don’t care. I want to cry again. I’m trying to be strong, but this is just too much… and it’s only just beginning.
“I’ll have Jason update me on what goes on in the courtroom,” he says. I nod nervously and lie back down on his lap.
“What was he doing?” I ask. His hand freezes in my hair. He knows exactly what I’m asking.
“Glaring at whoever takes the stand,” he answers. “He has this crazed look in his eye, like he’s changed since the last time I’ve seen him. I’m convinced that if he does get off…” he trails off.
“No need to say any more,” I tell him. I will have my gun cocked and loaded at all times if this man goes free. I’ll never feel safe on the streets alone again. He’ll have me looking around every corner until he is six feet under. I can’t even rest knowing that there’s a possibility that he can walk free.
“Are we going back to your parents’ house?” I ask.
“Just for the night,” he says. “Jason should have security well in place for us to be able to go home after the proceedings tomorrow.” I nod in his lap.
“What does he have to do?”
“We have to establish a perimeter in order to be able to get in and out of the apartment. Escala is helping with that since it is private property and there are other people who live there. The reporters are actually trespassing. Once we can get them thinned out and a decent distance from the front door, we’ll have guys posted at the door and in the parking structure 24/7 until this ordeal is over.” I roll over on his lap and look up at him. His beautiful gray eyes are looking sympathetically into mine. His hair is hanging just a bit over his face. I caress the end with his fingertips.
“Your hair is getting long again,” I say, gently rubbing it between my fingers. He turns his lips to my hand and kisses it gently.
“So it is,” he says. “I’ll cut it before it gets too long.”
“Good. No more man ponytails, please!” I say.
“You didn’t like my man ponytail?” he says, trying to make light of the situation.
“Not in the least!” I exclaim. It was horrid! I jump nervously when someone comes into the lounge and I see that it’s Chuck. He has an assortment of salads, sandwiches, and various other food and drinks in his arms and in a bag that he’s carrying.
“I tried to get a variety,” he says, putting the food on a nearby table. Jason is a few steps behind him coming into the lounge and eyeing the food. He looks at me and I know that everyone is waiting to see what I’m going to choose. I stand up and walk over to the table. All of a sudden, I’m ravenous! I take a chicken wrap, a chef salad, and a bottle of cranberry juice. I miss my cranberry spritzers. I got cranberry juice in Greece, but not my spritzers. I have to admit that it’s one of the small comforts of being back home… so to speak.
“Thanks, Chuck,” I say with a grateful smile. He returns my smile as Christian takes a tuna melt and fries with a bottle of cola. Jason grabs some huge package or sandwich wrapped in foil and what looks like a basket of fries. It’s quiet as we eat our lunch. We are all in silent contemplation, no doubt. When I have finished my salad, I am startled again by the door opening and Al enters.
“There you all are,” he says. “I thought you would make a run for it.”
“What’s happening?” I ask.
“Oh, I don’t know,” he says. “I’m excluded until after I testify, just like you. It’s probably better that you don’t know, Jewel. We want your testimony to be crisp and untarnished.”
“Untarnished?” I ask. He makes me sound like old jewelry. He nods, taking a chicken salad sandwich from the pile of food.
“Yes,” he says, while opening the sandwich and taking a bite. “Don’t take it personally. The proceedings can change your testimony subliminally. That’s why we’re excluded from the courtroom until after we testify.” His mouth is full and he’s trying to talk around the food. “Forgive me, I’m starving.”
“I know how you feel,” I say, tearing into the second half of my chicken wrap and not even knowing what happened to the first half. Al looks over at me and does a double-take.
“I know that you won’t listen to me about your million-dollar wardrobe, so while I can’t get you to turn down the fashion, I do need you to turn down the sexy.” I frown at him. What does he mean by that?
“What?” I ask bemused.
“The bra, Jewel. You’re showing way too much boobage, so lose the push-up bra and just go with a regular tomorrow.” Jason’s cheeks redden just a bit and he turns away from us. Christian is looking gaped-mouth at Al like he can’t believe Al just said that, and Chuck doesn’t know where to look. I put my hands on my hips.
“I am wearing a regular bra!” I nearly bark at him. It takes him a few moments before he registers what I said. His eyes widen as his lips part and he reveals his partially chewed food. Oh, gross!
“Close your mouth, Al!” I hiss. He snaps to himself and swallows his food.
“Good God! Where’d you get those melons!? Did you have those when you left?” he asks, slightly shocked. What the…?
“No, I picked them up by the side of the road. They were just sitting there begging for someone to take them home!” I say sarcastically. His eyebrows furrow a bit before he twists his lips at me.
“Right.” His speech is curt and short. “Well, whatever designer outfit you’re going to wear tomorrow against my advice, please wear a shirt that fits better. You look like you’re going to explode out of that one.” He looks at his watch and heads for the door. “Court is back in session in 10 for anyone who wants to observe,” he says before walking out with his half-eaten sandwich. Did I hurt his feelings? I didn’t say anything that harsh, did I? Chuck has now found somewhere to put his eyes—anywhere but on me. Jason is examining his sandwich like it’s the most fascinating thing he’s ever seen. Christian is looking at me squarely, expecting—what, I don’t know, but expecting. I suddenly feel subconscious and embarrassed. I must have snapped hard at Al, because his parting words were none too kind and then he was gone. I look down at what’s left of my wrap. Suddenly, my appetite has vanished.
“I’ve changed my mind,” I say softly. “I’d like to go now.” I sit my wrap on the table and fold my hands in my lap. The room is silent for a few seconds before Christian reaches over and squeezes my hand.
“You’re sure?” he asks. I nod silently. I don’t want to be here. I didn’t want to be here this morning, but I had to. Now, it’s after 2pm and it’s not likely that they’ll get to me anyway. I don’t know if it’s being in the same building with Edward, or the way that they jury looked at me after the opening statements, or the little semi-tiff I just had with Al, or the fact that I feel like the justice system has no idea what justice means. I just want to get out of here. It’s my life’s goal to get out of here right now, and I have to stay planted to this seat until I’m told to move to keep from running out of this room, down the hall, and out the door to parts unknown.
Sensing my obvious tension, Christian asks Jason to keep us posted on the proceedings and instructed Chuck to escort us back to the manor. I just want a warm bath and a nap, or maybe just a dark room with some quiet time to myself. I must have gotten lost in my thoughts because I’m startled when Christian’s hand touches my arm to help me from the sofa and lead me out of the room. Carrick is still in court, so he can’t take us home and we hadn’t thought of a contingency in case I wanted to leave early. Jason suggests that we send for one of the Audis since Escala isn’t far from here until Christian reminds him that our signature Audis would lead the press right back to his parents’ house.
I lean against the wall again while they powwow about how to get us out of the courthouse with the press guarding the two main entrances. I allow my mind to drift back to Greece and Socrates’ Prison. Al and I never fight. It’s something that we just don’t do. I can probably count on one hand the differences in opinion that he and I have had in the last several years that we’ve know each other. Now, I’ve probably said something harsh that pissed him off and caused him to march out of whatever lounge we were just in, and I want to go home—but Bellevue will just have to do.
Some guy in a uniform—a bailiff, I think—walks over to us and hands Christian a set of keys. We follow him out a set of doors that look like a fire exit, down some stairs and to a tiny elevator. We go down one floor and the doors open to a parking garage, not the same garage I always used when I used to come here while I was working at the community center. After a few steps, I see Grace’s Volvo. Christian hits the key fob, then gives the keys to Chuck after the doors unlock. He opens the door and I silently climb into the back seat. I don’t want to think or talk or ponder anything. I wipe my mind blank and just stare out the window.
I step out of my clothes the moment I get to Christian’s childhood bedroom and sink right into a hot tub of whatever soap I could find. It relaxes my aching muscles and mind. I actually sit there until the water gets cold before I get out. I put on a white cowl-neck long-sleeved sheath mini-dress and head downstairs. I spend some quiet time in Grace’s library with my legs thrown across the arm of one of the chairs. The last time I remembered sitting quietly in here, Ginger Creepy Guy was hiding in the corner watching me. I instinctively look at the corner where he was standing. There’s no one there. Of course, there’s no one there. I haven’t heard anything about him, but I know he’s not in that corner.
I sit in the library for I don’t know how long, forcing myself not to think about anything or anyone. It’s harder to do than I thought, but I ended up falling asleep. I awake a couple of hours later in the same chair, wrapped in an Afghan. Someone came in while I was sleeping—Christian or Grace, most likely. I didn’t speak to anybody when we got back from court. Then again, only Burt and Herman were here. I didn’t make eye-contact with Herman because his constant staring makes me nervous. I’m going to have to address that at some point because if Christian hasn’t noticed it already, he will very soon. I stand and stretch, waking my cramped bones before I go in search of the rest of the family.
I find everyone in the dining room just about to have dinner. I feel a little slighted that no one came to get me. I’m wondering what excuses Christian made for my absence.
“We thought it best to let you rest, Dear,” Grace says as all the men stand at the table. “You looked completely worn out in the library.” Burt is still struggling to stand.
“Burt, no,” I raise my hand to stop his struggling. “It’s fine. Thank you,” I say with a small smile, which he returns… and Herman is staring. Christian makes his way over to me and puts his arm around my waist.
“Are you feeling better?” he says, as he kisses my cheek. I nod. “We’ve only just started.” He leads me over to the empty place setting next to him and pulls out the chair for me. I take the seat and smile at him.
“I’m sorry, everyone,” I say, putting my napkin in my lap. “It was a pretty rough day in court today… and it’s only just starting.” Grace reaches over and squeezes my hand.
“No need to apologize, Ana,” she says sweetly. “It must have been terrible for you.” I don’t tell her that the most heart-sinking part of the day was snapping at Al when he hadn’t done anything to deserve my ire.
“It’s no picnic,” I tell her honestly.
“Christian briefly told us what’s going on. It’s really awful what happened to you,” Herman says, his voice full of kindness. I forget for a moment that he creeps me out with the staring. I smile tightly and drop my head. “He’s going to get what’s coming to him.”
“I hope you’re right,” I say with a sigh, his words doing nothing for my lack of faith in the system.
“Good always prevails in the end, Ana,” Herman adds. “Don’t you worry.” He reaches across the table and pats my hand. There’s a tender warmness to his touch, like a father, and again, I forget about the creepy staring. I look up at him and his eyes are full of sympathy. I smile at him.
“Thank you, Herman,” I say sincerely. He nods once and looks down at his plate. Something has made him slightly uncomfortable, too. I do need to talk to him.
Dinner conversation started out a little tight due to the subject of court, but it eased a bit as everyone began to contribute different topics that ease away from all things David. Grace talks about how the renovations at the center have started and I hang on her every word. Please, let’s talk about anything else but Edward David. Christian informs everyone that everything should be all set for us to return to Escala tomorrow, which makes me happy. The manor is great and quite comfortable and Greece was fantastic, but I really want to get back to my own bed.
We finish our meal in pleasant conversation and during after-dinner coffee, Herman excuses himself from the table. I wait a reasonable time for him to be gone and while Christian is engrossed in some conversation with his father, I excuse myself as well. I have to do a bit of searching before I find him smoking a cigarette on the patio. Besides the cigars that Carrick occasionally indulges in, Grace has a strict no-smoking policy in the house. I quietly step out of the French doors. He’s sitting on one of the wrought-iron benches on the lawn looking out at the water, clearly lost in thought.
“Hello, Herman.” I have clearly caught him off guard as he actually jumps at the sound of my voice.
“Oh! Hi, Ana. I’m sorry, you startled me,” he says, putting out his cigarette and turning his attention to me.
“May I sit?” I ask, gesturing to the seat across from him.
“Yes, by all means.” He gestures to the same seat and he is clearly uncomfortable and a little confused. Well, imagine how I feel.
“Herman, I hope that I don’t offend you, but you are my husband’s uncle—an uncle that he never knew that he had until just a little while ago—and I don’t want anything to interfere with that relationship. He’s very happy to have you and Burt in his life as am I, but there is an issue that we have to discuss. My husband is extremely possessive and protective of me. It’s something that I’ve known and accepted from the moment we agreed to start dating. It’s going to be a huge problem if he catches you staring at me the way that you do. Not only is it inappropriate, but he’s going to have a fit. We didn’t speak for something like a week because he mistakenly thought that I was seeing his brother.”
“He didn’t speak to you for a week over that?” he asks in amazement.
“No, I didn’t speak to him for thinking that about me, but we’re getting off the point…” He holds up his hand.
“No. I understand. I don’t mean to make you uncomfortable and believe me, it’s not desire that’s in my eyes when I look at you. Well, maybe just a little, but it’s not for you.” He stands up and walks a few steps away from me. With his back to me, he begins to talk.
“I had a beautiful wife, a beautiful family. I had a great job; we owned a house… and all because of one dumb move, it all started crashing down around me.” He drops his head. “I had an affair. I thought it was no big deal. I was attracted to the woman and she was attracted to me. My wife trusted me completely, so it was the easiest thing in the world to do. I thought I was so careful, but it turns out that the moment you think you’ve got everything under control, you don’t.
“When Shannon found out, all bets were off. She went from one extreme to the other. I went from being the love of her life to the most despised person in the universe. I came to find out later when she was able to speak to me that it was because she had put so much love, hope, faith, and trust in me that when it all came crashing down, it was shattered with no hope of repair. She left me and didn’t look back. That was nearly 20 years ago and I’ve never recovered from it.
“All I have ever wanted besides my dad getting well is to have Shannon back. I started drinking. I lost my job. She got the house and the kids. My life was over. When Dad’s health started to deteriorate about, oh I’d say about 15 years ago, it’s like God gave me a new purpose. ‘Get your life together—someone still needs you.’ So I dried up and went to go take care of my Dad. I’ve met other women since then, but I only end up comparing them to Shannon. She was the best thing that ever happened to me and I screwed it up, so it’s my cross to bear. I’m resolved to the fact that I had my chance and I blew it. Some people only have one great love and Shannon was mine.” He finally turns to look at me. “You remind me a lot of her. If I stare, it’s only because I see her in your eyes. I know that you’re not her and I’m not trying to make you uncomfortable, but I miss her often… especially at weddings and funerals.”
“I used to feel that way… like I’d never find love again. I was stricken with a real loser, gave him my whole heart and he destroyed it. Then I found Christian—or he found me—we still haven’t figured that part out yet, but he showed me that life doesn’t end with one bad decision.” Herman laughs softly.
“That doesn’t help, Darlin’,” he says. “You’re Shannon. I’m the loser.”
Yikes! I hadn’t thought of it that way.
“Herman, I just can’t see someone with a good heart being alone for the rest of his life. You made a bad decision. It doesn’t have to dictate your future,” I tell him.
“You’re a really sweet girl, Ana, but I’m okay with this. The nostalgia of seeing her in you will wear off and I’ll be okay. I know that you’re not my Shannon. You just remind me of her.” He pulls out his wallet and removes a picture. When he hands it to me, I almost swoon. If Herman is Carrick’s twin, Shannon is mine.
“Oh, my God,” I breathe without thinking.
“I know. The resemblance is uncanny. That picture was 25 years ago, but she’s still a real looker. After two husbands and five kids, she’s still as beautiful as ever.” He pulls out another picture, one that is certainly more recent. He’s right, she’s still a very beautiful woman. I hope I age this well. I look up at him and see him gazing lovingly at the pictures in my hand. “I think it’s a good thing for me to have moved to Seattle, not only for Dad, but so that I can begin to let go of my past a bit. I’ll always love her and I can’t see loving anyone else that way, so no… I’m not looking to fall in love again. I had my great love and I’ll hold it in my heart. Now, I have the rest of my family, and I still have my brothers and my kids. They’re not kids anymore, but I still have them. I have to say that I like Seattle a whole lot more than Detroit. So I’ll be just fine.”
“You have five kids?” I ask him.
“No, I have three. Shannon has five—three with me and two with her second husband. He’s a good man and he’s good to my Shannon. That’s all I can ask.” He sighs heavily. “While I still love her dearly and think of her often, I really don’t want to talk about this anymore if you don’t mind. I don’t mean to be rude…”
“Oh, no… no, I completely understand,” I tell him while handing him back his photos. “I don’t want you to be uncomfortable around me either, Herman.” He smiles at me.
“I’m not uncomfortable around you. You’re a breath of fresh air and while you remind me of my Shannon, you’re not my Shannon.” He seems incredibly well-adjusted to have been pining over a woman for the last 20 years.
“You know, I’m licensed in this kind of thing, so if you do ever need to talk…” He chuckles again and I have to say that I like his laugh.
“Sweetheart, you can’t help me,” he says with a sad smile. “I’m willing to take recommendations, but I’d see Shannon every time I look at you. I appreciate the offer though and I’ll work on the staring thing. It’s good that you called me out on it because now, I’ll be more conscious of it. Just give me some kind of hint or signal if I get too lost, okay?” I smile back.
“Sure thing, Herman.”
A/N: The jig is up—saying in America that simply means you’ve been caught or your trick or game is finished, has been exposed, we’re onto you now… you get the idea.
I had already penned it by the time she figured it out, but VRB Mariposa (Vanessa) hit the Uncle Herman nail on the head.
So the last of the Greek honeymoon was in this chapter and Ana’s peasant dress is in the honeymoon album on Pinterest here http://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/mending-dr-steele-off-to-greece/ All other pictures are and will be back in the Mending Dr. Steele album here https://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/mending-dr-steele/
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Love and Handcuffs!