Mending Dr. Steele: Chapter 80—Answers…?

Here it is, Folks. The final chapter of Book II. Enjoy!

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 80—Answers…?

ANASTASIA

His lips and tongue are hot on my core, licking and probing, rubbing me into sweat abandon. God, it seems like it’s been forever, though I know it’s only been a few days. I have been relieved of my panties and sleep shorts and my night shirt is unbuttoned to expose my body. My thighs are on his shoulders and his arms are around my hips so that his hands reach up and torture my aching, hungry nipples. His face is buried deep, deep into my valley so that when I look down, I can only see his copper locks moving sensually between my thighs.

“Christian, please!” He’s tormenting me, sucking deeply on my tender, pulsing clit in a manner that causes pleasure and pain—sucking so deeply that I want to grind into his mouth and pull away from him at the same time.

“Christian!” I cry out, my hands thrusting into his hair, trying to make him stop—give me a reprieve, let me breathe, please! The pain and the pleasure are both intense and he won’t stop. No matter how much I plead, he goes on and on, sucking and rubbing and grinding until…

“Aaaaaaaahhhaaaahhaaaaaaaaaaaa Gooooooooooooooooodddd!” My chest is pumping and my shoulders are shaking. I’m making crying sounds, but no tears are falling. He groans and I can actually feel my clit harden against his tongue. He clamps down harder on my clit as if he could and the explosion is ginormous! My hips are on fire and I’m trembling from head to toe. He continues to suck my clit and torture my nipples until he is sure that I have ridden out every wave of my orgasm, although my walls as still pulsing uncontrollably.

Having already divested himself of his boxers, he climbs on top of me and let my feet fall on his thighs, my legs still open and welcoming him. He positions himself at my opening and only allows the head to breach its walls. Secure in the fact that he won’t slip out, he slides his hands under my arms and shoulders again and rests his weight on me so that he is looking right into my eyes. Without taking his eyes off of me, he slides slowly and deeply into me. I gasp at the fullness and he trembles.

“God, your muscles are still quivering,” he says, his voice thick with desire. He pulls out slowly and deliciously slides back into me so that the only part of him moving is his hips. His body rubs delectably against mine and causes me to shiver in the closeness. He groans deep with his next stroke and I open my mouth and breath deeply, absorbing the intensity of our closeness. I’m sure that I won’t come again after that cosmic orgasm he just gave me, but the closeness is overwhelming and strong, and as I take another breath, he thrusts his tongue into my mouth and kisses me… deep… hot… passionate…

Mmmm. I taste good on his tongue. I want more.

I grab his hair and press his mouth harder against mine, tasting my juices in every crevice. He moans deep in his chest and deepens his stroke. Fuck, this is so hot. He bites my lip and I release my grip and my kiss, panting with satisfaction.

“Baby… fuck, Baby, you’re so hot.” He’s grinding into me again and again, fighting not to come. He groans and shakes with every other stroke, telling me how soft, warm and tight I am. He’s making hot, tortured sex faces and it’s turning me on to know what he’s feeling. I clench my muscles around him as he pushes into me. The pressure is delicious.

“Oh, fuck, Baby,” he groans as he grinds and thrusts into me again and again. I feel him shaking and sweating, in that way that he does when he hasn’t come for a while. He’s stressed. He needs to release.

“Come for me, Baby,” I whisper into his ear. He groans loudly.

“Uuuugh! No. Too good… it feels too good… I don’t… want it do end yet,” he pants.

“I’m yours,” I breathe. “You can have me all night… over and over again.” He moves with long controlled strokes, drawing out his pleasure and groaning deep in his chest with the pleasure of every long, slow grind. He’s pushing me again—his body adulating against mine; his breath on my neck; his tortured sex groans in my ear; his hands cupped under my arms, but over my shoulders, pulling me down harder on his sex with every slow thrust; the occasional kiss wherever his lips fall… I’m rising, slowly, but oh, so intensely.

“Christian,” I moan, unable to orate the pleasure I feel with him pinning me to the bed with his body, rubbing against me everywhere. I raise my feet from his thighs right at the moment he’s thrusting in. The penetration is deep… so deep…

“Ffffffffffuuuuuck!” he exclaims as he stills and grinds deeper into me. The pleasure is blinding! His pelvis is stimulating me intensely and I don’t want him to stop, but I know his orgasm will wane soon.

Or so I thought.

That wasn’t his orgasm. That was him stopping himself from coming. Fuck, he’s still hard as a rock and he’s starting to move again. This stimulation is agony. I raise my legs high and lock my ankles behind his back. He groans another expletive as his thrusts quicken a bit. I’m so hot and wet that I can hear the splashing and slapping of the meeting of our sex. It’s so fucking hot—mentally and physically!

Oh, fuck! Oh, fuck! Oh, fuck!

“Christian!” I cry as I feel my orgasm begin to burn deep and my muscles clench.

“Yes! Oh, yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes…” He grinds deep into me, his hands now gripping the bed on either side of my head and he clings to it for leverage. A few more strokes and my orgasm strikes with force and intensity, causing all of my muscles to lock around him as I cry out in pleasure, including my fingers in his hair. His knees bend on the bed and he begins to pound into me, still gripping the sheets on either side of my head. I’m weak and tingling, still pulsing everywhere from my orgasm when his climax begins.

“Aah! Ah, shit! Aah! Aah! Aaaahhh! Uuuuuggghhhh! Aaaaahhhh!” With each long groan, he grinds into me—back and forth, or in a circle. I’m still pulsing so hard that the aftershocks send me into what I think is another orgasm. If it wasn’t, those were the most intense aftershocks I’ve ever felt. He is wheezing and out of breath, lying on my shoulder and I can’t even think straight. His full weight is pressing down on me as I drift off to sleep.

I wake up in my own bed in my condo and the sun is shining in my face. For a moment, I swear that I dreamed last night—except that my clit and pussy are still deliciously sore, and there’s a heavy ass arm around me and heavy breathing on my neck. I just lay here, because it seems so long since I’ve felt this that I don’t want it to end. It’s only been two days, but when you know something’s not right, it feels so much longer. I let his warmth cocoon me for several minutes and when it feels like I’m just about to slip back off to sleep…

“I saw you on the Hello Magazine website. You looked so beautiful… and so unhappy. No one else would have known because your smile is so vibrant—until that asshole asked you about the prenup. You looked absolutely edible in that dress, Baby, but I knew. You were hiding something deep down and I knew. I had to get to you… I had to see you…” I sigh.

“I hadn’t seen you for two days, Christian. We had a lovely night on Monday and when I woke on Tuesday, you were gone. I brought you something to eat and saw you for about three minutes, during which time you told me not to come to Grey House. Then, I didn’t see you Tuesday night or Wednesday morning, and I didn’t expect to see you last night. So I felt like you left early and stayed late, so I couldn’t see you at home. Then you told me to stay away from Grey House, so I couldn’t see you at work. I felt like shit, Christian, and I just wanted to feel like myself again, whatever that meant.”

“Is that why you went shopping?” he asks.

“No, I went shopping because nothing fits me but my maxi-dresses. That’s why I wore the dress. It made me feel… pretty.”

“Pretty?” he asks, surprised. “Butterfly, dresses don’t make you pretty. You’re already very beautiful.”

“But my husband wasn’t there to tell me that,” I say, and I can feel his energy change. “So, I wanted to look in the mirror and see someone pretty.” I won’t tell him about the “Ana Steele” part. I think I should keep that one to myself.

“Well, it worked,” he says, “because that dress was hot!” He rolls me over onto my back and looks down at me. “But it couldn’t hide the fact that you were unhappy. Even the tabloids said that you were hot, but you looked ‘off’ and they blamed it on the stress of the trial. I knew better.” I look away.

“It’s just that… we’ve always been so close, and then it seems you were shutting me out. I didn’t know what to do or how to feel.”

“I’m sorry. I wasn’t shutting you out, but I do have a lot on my plate right now. And it really is a lot, so that means that I’ll be leaving early and staying late. I promise that I’ll try to keep the nights as short as possible, but you have to let me do this. This is my life’s work and you have to let me take care of it.” Of course, I do.

“Okay,” I say without another word. I just have to prepare myself for a few lonely nights and try not to let my imagination run away with me, although this couldn’t have come at a worse time. I’m about to have this man’s children and Grey House chooses now to fall apart. Great, just great.

“I’m going to tell you something, Butterfly, but I don’t want you to panic.” Why do men always do that? Don’t they know that statement is a sure guarantee that we’ll panic? “I’ve sent you an email with a ridiculous story about two boys riding down a hill on a sled. When you read it, there’s a series of numbers in the story—in order. That’s the combination to the safe in my study. In the safe, there are keys to 10 safety deposit boxes at six different banks and the information to four more offshore accounts.”

“Christian, you’re scaring me,” I say. I don’t like the sound of this at all.

“Don’t be afraid, Baby. It’s just an insurance policy. There is $47 million in cash and liquid assets between those accounts and safety deposit boxes. I just want you to know should you ever need it.”

“Why would I need it, Christian?” I demand. Something is going on Grey House that has him staying all hours of the night and day and now he’s telling me about getaway money! “Are you in some kind of trouble? Is someone after you?”

“No, Butterfly. Nothing like that. I’ve always had money separate from my main funds. I just want you to know where it is.”

“Why do I need to know? You know—why do I need to know?” I’m certainly panicking now. Something is wrong and he’s not telling me, but he is telling me where I can find large sums of his money.

“Baby, listen to me.” We’re sitting up in bed and he’s holding my arms. “Every man of any wealth has money stashed. If he doesn’t tell somebody where it is, and it’s never claimed, it goes to whatever government has jurisdiction. If something happens to me, nobody can open those safety deposit boxes and nobody can get to those offshore accounts. I’m just telling you where this stuff is so that you’ll know.”

“But what’s going to happen to you? Why are you telling me now?”

“Because we’re married now!” he says, a little perturbed. I don’t know how to take this. I’m panic-stricken and he’s losing his patience with me? He takes a deep breath. “Please listen to me and stop thinking the worse. Nothing is going to happen to me. Nobody’s trying to kill me that I know of, I’m not going to drop dead, and I have no intention of mysteriously and quietly leaving town. However, something is going on at Grey House that requires that I comb through accounts. As I’m combing through them, I realized that I didn’t tell you about these!” He says it a little forcefully. “There is more than likely going to be some more that pop up while I’m going through the accounts because I honestly don’t know how many I have. But Baby, if you’re going to freak out every time I have to give you crucial information, how often am I going to want to give you crucial information?”

He’s right. I can’t freak out, but his eyes are hiding something. I know him too well. I already know that he’s hush-hush about whatever is going on at Grey House, so I’m going to take it that this is what he’s hiding. I know that he would never intentionally deceive me… and yet…

“I’m going to trust you, because this is your business and you know what you’re doing. When this is all over, Christian, I want the whole story. I deserve that, because it’s affecting my life, too, and you’re asking for my patience and understanding, which I will give you. For now, I won’t give you a hard time.” I don’t feel the conviction of my words. I’m scared shitless not knowing what this is all about. I’m trying to be strong… for him, for us, and for the babies, but I feel impending doom like I have never felt before. I’m trying to calm myself, but it’s not working.

“You’re shaking,” he says softly.

“It’s adrenaline,” I say, trying to downplay the seriousness of the situation.

“Are you going to cry?” he asks, his gray eyes boring into mine. No, not while you’re watching.

“I don’t think so,” I reply, but I can’t stop shaking. He props himself up on the headboard of my bed and takes me in his arms cuddling me close to him. I lay my head on his chest and close my eyes. I have no idea what to prepare for. He has given me two really shabby things to hold on—an ominous scenario with no concrete answers, and access to an obscene amount of money “in case something happens to him.” I think I’m going to vomit.

“Please, Baby, trust me. Nothing’s going to happen to me. I wish I hadn’t told you about the insurance policy now. You’re shaking like a leaf.”

“I can’t help it,” I say finally, the damn bursting and tears falling onto his bare chest. “I’m scared and I can’t help it!”

“Sssshhhh,” he soothes. “Don’t cry, Butterfly. It’s going to be alright, I promise.” I want to believe him, but my soul says that something is wrong and I can’t stop it. I hate that I wasn’t able to be strong at least until he left.

“I’m sorry, it’s the hormones,” I lie. “I don’t have control of my feelings anymore. I’ll be fine.”

“No, you won’t,” he says, and he sees right through me. “You’re so scared that you’re shaking. That’s not hormones, Butterfly, that’s unmitigated fear.” He’s rubbing my arms trying to calm me.

“I don’t want you to think that you can’t tell me something important. I hate not knowing what’s going on.”

“That’s part of the problem. My timing sucks. I stay away from home and from you—though unintentionally—then I spring on you that there’s a problem at Grey House and, because of the sensitivity of the issue and my business, I can’t tell anyone outside of the immediate issue what it is. The information has to be as contained as possible, so it’s strictly a ‘need-to-know’ basis. Right after I tell you that, I tell you where my storm-cellar fund is hidden. That’s not a good combination of information to drop on your newlywed, pregnant wife.” I look up at him, and I don’t know what my expression says, but I know I want to slap him right now. “What?” he asks.

“That’s not what you told me,” I scold him. “If you had put it that way, I would have understood more clearly.”

“That is what I told you,” he says, slightly chastised. I sit up in the bed and look at him.

“Do you remember Flynngate and the whole issue of interpretation?” I ask him with no malice. “This is the same thing.”

“How?” he asks, bemused.

“Your first words were ‘I need you to stay away from Grey House.’ Flat. No explanations, and then you weren’t home for me to ask you what was going on. Your elaboration was ‘There are some things going on at Grey House. I can’t talk about them right now, but for my own peace of mind, I need you to stay away from Grey House for a while.’ That makes it sound like there’s a bomb in the building! Like you’re going to go traipsing in there, but you don’t want me in there because you don’t know when the damn thing is going to go off. Then you basically follow that up with ‘if something happens to me, here’s $47 million.’ Can you see how that looks?”

“Um…” he pauses, chastised again, “yeah.”

“Now, a minute ago, you told me that there is a very sensitive issue going on at Grey House and because of the nature and the sensitivity of the issue, information can only be shared on a need-to-know basis. This most likely means that anyone on the inside of the issue is not going home discussing this stuff with their wives. Do you see how different that presentation is? I can’t tell you anything about my patients because of doctor/patient confidentiality. I’m the first one to understand the concept of sensitive information.” He’s really looking a bit beaten now.

“Yeah, I… I see what you mean, now.”

“I’ll admit that the whole ‘stay away from Grey House’ and the ‘storm-cellar fund’ thing still has me a bit worried, but not as much as I was before.” I add. “And what’s with the term ‘storm-cellar fund?’ That’s the first time I’ve ever heard of that. It reminds me of Dorothy being swept away to the Land of Oz!” He laughs at me and wipes my cheek with his thumb.

“When you squirrel away $47 million, you’ve gone beyond a ‘rainy day’ fund. You’ve about put away enough to cover a fucking tsunami.” I nod.

“I get it.” I stretch. “I guess I should get dressed and make you some breakfast. You’re going to have to go into the office soon. This is the latest you’ve gone in all week.” He twists his lips.

“Yes, it is, and I don’t think I have time for breakfast, Baby. I need a shower and a change of clothes and I need to get into the office for some very important meetings.” I throw the covers off of me and step into my sleep shorts.

“You can have breakfast if you get in the shower now. Your Anderson Sheppard is still in the closet. It smelled a bit stale, so I had it cleaned a while back. Your shirt is there, too, although you will be sans one burgundy tie.” I blush a bit, remembering that the tie had to be cut off of me last year when I nearly hanged myself with it in a wine-drunken-stupor. He smiles and nods.

“I’ll have Jason bring me a tie,” he says as he goes to the closet. I put on my pajama shirt and button it.

“Is Chuck still here?” I ask him, but he doesn’t answer. “Christian?” He comes out of the closet holding his Anderson Sheppard, a bemused look on his face.

“I thought you moved most of your clothes to Escala,” he says, his voice slightly accusing.

“I… did. Those are the things I bought yesterday.” He puts his suit on the chair.

“It’s quite a bit. Why did you hang them here? You’ll only be wearing those things for the next few months before you have to buy more things to accommodate your growing belly. Some of those things actually look like they can accommodate your growing belly.” He’s pointing at the closet with his thumb. His brow is furrowed and his eyes are full of questions.

“I…” I don’t have an immediate answer for him. It was all part of the “feeling like my old self” day, I think, even though there’s truly no way that I could possibly be my old self. I understand that now. Everything’s changed and dealing with the changes are frightening. I just… lack some of the confidence I used to feel and I don’t like it.

“Were you leaving me?” he asks, and I have to restrain myself from rolling my eyes.

“No, Christian,” I say in an almost defeated voice. “We established that I can’t very well leave you to an apartment where you have the key.” His face doesn’t change. He wants answers. He deserves them. I have a whole new wardrobe hanging in the closet of my condo. “I… I couldn’t take being alone in the penthouse. You weren’t coming home; I don’t even know if you came home last night. If I was going to be lonely, I at least wanted to do it in a place where I didn’t expect you to walk in any second… even though that’s what you did.”

“Did you prefer I didn’t?” he asks impassively.

“Of course not! It’s just… the hoping hurts.” I never raise my eyes to him.

“So you were leaving me.”

“I wasn’t leaving you, Christian. I don’t know what I was thinking when I hung the clothes in the closet. It just… felt right.”

“And when you changed your clothes and climbed into bed—here instead of Escala?”

“I knew that if I woke in this bed, I wouldn’t look for you, and it wouldn’t hurt as much.” I still never raise my eyes. I can see him walking away from the closet. His hand rises and I assume that he is thrusting his fingers in his hair.

“That’s a temporary fix, Ana, unless you planned to stay for a while.”

“I don’t know what I was planning,” I say honestly. “I just… wanted to rest for a night and not wake up searching for you.” He sits at the foot of my bed.

“I’m trying to understand here,” he says. “It’s not that you’ve done anything wrong, because you haven’t. You have every right to buy clothes and put them wherever you want them. It’s just… the implications, Ana.” He’s struggling with his words. He really wants to scold me, but he has to know that he contributed to if not completely caused the way that I feel right now.

“There are no implications,” I tell him. “I bought new clothes and I came here instead of back to the penthouse, so the clothes are here. I didn’t want to go home and be there alone, waiting for you, and still don’t get to see you, so I decided to stay here. I didn’t even think you would notice that I was gone. It’s that simple—nothing implied, no hidden meaning or agenda. There’s everything on the table.”

“You need to tell me when you feel this way,” he says, his voice uncertain. “If I didn’t have advanced notice that you had bought new clothes, I would have thought you had moved out. Now, you have them all here. Do you intend not to wear them or now take them all out and move them to Escala… or…” He trails off.

“I’ll have them moved to Escala,” I say. “I just… I don’t know. If I was doing anything sneaky, Christian, I wouldn’t have let you go in there and get your suit.” I finally raise my eyes to him.

“Yes… there is that,” he says. He can’t hide from me. He’s afraid of something, and I don’t know if it’s what just happened with the clothes or if it’s what’s going on at Grey House that he can’t tell me about, but I really don’t like it.

“Go shower. I’ll get breakfast going.” I try to make the situation lighter, but there’s nothing light about it. He’s afraid and it’s written all over his face. He leans in and kisses me, then goes to my bathroom. I shake my head as he leaves. He never answered me when I asked if Chuck was still here, so I’ll have to explore on my own. Al’s door is open and the apartment in quiet, completely unoccupied. I go into the kitchen and quickly get started on breakfast sandwich—bacon, fresh scrambled eggs, cheese, and a toasted English muffin. I take two travel cups and fill one with fresh brewed coffee and the other with orange juice. I have a little fruit salad in the refrigerator, so I put some in a bowl with a snapping top. He can eat the sandwich on the way to work if he wants and eat the salad when he gets there. I’m looking for a bag or one of my lunch boxes to put the salad in and I see him standing at the doorway of the kitchen, in that Andersen Shepherd and shirt, sans one tie. He looks marvelous, and I am having flashbacks of the first time I saw him in that suit.

“Come here,” he says. I walk over to him in my pajamas and bare feet and him looking every bit of superhuman handsome. When I get him, he doesn’t touch me at first. He just stands there looking at me. He looks like he’s ten feet tall and I feel the air leaving the room as we stand there gazing into each other’s eyes. He brings his hands to my shoulders and strokes down both arms to my hands, then around my waist, pulling me close to him and pressing me hard against his body. He’s kissing me passionately and I taste his urgency, his uncertainty, and his fear.

Christian… what is it? Is it because of the clothes?

When he pulls away from me, we are both breathless and I can barely stand.

“I love you so much. You know that, don’t you?”

“Yes,” I reply, “I know.” His forehead is touching mine when he briefly closes his eyes. He sighs, then steps back from me.

“Jason will be here in a moment,” he says. I nod.

“I made you a breakfast sandwich that you can eat now. I didn’t know if you wanted coffee or orange juice, so here’s both, and here’s some fruit salad to eat when you get to the office and you’re sitting down. I was trying to find one of my old lunchboxes, but…” Before I can finish the sentence, he has slammed me against the wall, reaching under my shirt and kissing me passionately again. My arms are around his neck and I’m clinging to him. I’m starting to feel his same angst and urgency.

“Christian… please… tell me what’s wrong,” I breathe when he releases my lips this time.

“I just don’t ever want to lose you,” he mumbles into my neck.

“You’re not going to lose me, Christian. I’m not going anywhere. What’s this about?” He brings his lips to mine and kisses me urgently, but softly.

“I just… have everything that I want now… almost,” he says, placing his hand gently on my stomach, causing butterflies to flutter about inside. “I’m just… I just don’t want to lose it.”

“You’re not,” I reinforce. “I don’t know what has you thinking this way, but please, stop. If this is about the clothes, they’ll be at Escala before days’ end, so please stop worrying.”

“It’s not the clothes, Baby… Just… I’m glad that I have you,” he says, holding my face and closing his eyes.

“I’m glad I have you, too, Christian.” I close my eyes and inhale his scent. He kisses me again gently on the lips.

“I have to go.”

“I know.” He releases me and somehow, I don’t know how, balances the food and both cups easily in his hands before kissing me again. I hold the door open and he walks out, throwing a last look and a smile back at me. He mouths “I love you” and I throw him a kiss before he goes to the elevator. I close the door and lean against it. It was almost just like our first date, if you can call it that. Having gotten him off to work, I sigh heavily and go to my room to start repacking my new clothes.


CHRISTIAN

I look at her picture on the website again. She’s absolutely stunning. She looks really beautiful even though I know that she’s troubled and I know why. She put all of her clothes in the closet at her condo. She planned on staying—maybe not staying indefinitely, but she planned on staying. I can’t lose her and possibly lose my company, too. Fuck, Grey, what are you saying? You’re not going to lose your company! You have some of the best technical minds around working on this issue. They’re going to find this asshole. Have a little faith.

Faith.

Shit, faith never got me anywhere. Just blood, sweat, and tears… never faith.

Until you met her. You have faith in her.

Yes, I have faith in her. I told her not to panic, but if she knew what I knew, she has every reason to panic. I can’t tell her the whole story, yet, because I need her to be level-headed in case she needs to make some snap decisions. This will only serve to distract her and she’s already distracted enough waiting to find out if a jury of his fucking peers is going to let that fucker David walk.

I lied to her today, about the getaway money, as she called it. I’ve always only had about $10 million stashed away in the storm cellar fund. It’s $47 mil now because of her and the babies and I’m hoping to get to $60 mil by the end of the day. Moving the assets to untouchable accounts without my regular resources is a little harder than I thought it would be, and the bankers are looking at me like I’m committing some kind of criminal act. They probably want to report me to the IRS. Sorry, boys, this money is all accounted for and completely legal and it’s mine to move. So get over it.

I guess it really wasn’t a lie. I just wasn’t completely forthcoming. I can’t be yet. I’ll tell her everything once I have a handle on this whole thing, but for now, I have to just hold tight and get to the bottom of it.

James has put his “seek and identify” software on my network and it’s running in the background trying to tag our culprit. I hope it’s as good as he says it is, because I think we are quickly running out of options. I’m sure that everyone else is as panicky if not more panicked than I am that this asshole has gotten into GEH’s finances and is actually doing something tangibly dangerous. While Jason and Welch are working on compiling information about the people on the lists I gave them, James and Barney are nose-to-the-grindstone in sniffing out our culprit while Ros is eliminating possibilities in-house and I’m still trying to keep the deals rolling. I’m so damn exhausted when my blackberry rings and it’s an unknown number. Normally, I ignore them and let them go to voicemail, but this time I answer.

“Grey.” Nothing. Just some kind of clicking sound in the background. “Hello?” Still nothing but clicking. I end the call and continue with the documents that I’m reading. I’ve never felt so wiped out and it’s still early in the afternoon—just after three. This shit is really getting to me. I’m rubbing my eyes and when I look up, I see Allen standing at the door.

“Allen, what’s up?” The look on his face tells me that he has news.

“You should probably head home, Christian.” Head home? Why? What the fuck is wrong? Is it Butterfly?

“Why? What’s going on?” I’m trying to keep the raging anxiety and fear at bay.

“I just got word and so did Jewel. The verdict is in.” Shit! The verdict is in! I’m out of my seat and snatching my suit coat while calling Jason at the name time.

“Car. Now! We need to get back to Escala!” I bark into the phone…

When I get there, she’s sitting on the sofa—our sofa—with the fireplace going… in July. We’re really going to have to get this aquarium thing going.

“Baby?” She looks up at me. “Hey.”

“Hey,” she says softly before turning back to the fire. “I have to go back to court tomorrow. The verdict is in.” She shifts on the sofa. “Why can’t they just read it tonight?”

“Because the court isn’t open tonight, Butterfly,” I tell her, snuggling next to her on the sofa. “Listen to me, we’re going to go to court tomorrow, and when they find that fucker guilty on all charges, we’re going to celebrate!”

“And if they find him ‘not guilty?’” she says, her voice betraying her doubt.

“That won’t happen,” I tell her. “The system is going to work for you—for us.” I squeeze her close to me. “And Butterfly, if for some reason the system is as fucked up as you think it is, don’t worry about David. He’ll get what’s coming to him by sundown.” She looks up at me questioning for a long while, then snuggles back into my side.

“Okay,” she says without another word. She truly doesn’t care anymore. That makes me a little nervous, because I don’t want her to not care, but after what that lady lawyer did to her on the stand, she’d probably watch whatever plans I have for David’s demise with glee. She has moved beyond the need for justice and straight to the need for revenge.

“You know that you don’t have to go, right?” I say into her hair.

“I know,” she says, “but I’m meeting this fate head on. I’m not going to hide. On the off-chance that the injustice system works, I want to see his face when they tell his ass that he’s guilty. And if it turns out as I suspect and they let him off, I want to look in his face and see that false sense of security before you unleash whatever hell you have planned for him.” I hug her close and kiss her hair.

“That’s my girl.”

*-*

Butterfly and I are sitting behind the prosecutor’s table. She has a bit of a far off look, but she looks the picture of calm. She’s wearing a sexy black two-button skirt suit with peeptoe stilettos. Her hair is in big waves cascading down her back. Her make-up is subtle but beautiful and she’s wearing a pair of teardrop earrings. Her eyes are fixed in front of her until we see a door open and David is once again led into the courtroom in shackles. She turns her head only moving her neck and looks him square in the eyes. Her expression says nothing. She doesn’t even blink. When he notices that she is looking at him, he puckers his lips and blows her a kiss. She doesn’t even flinch. His smirk is soon replaced with a scowl and Butterfly pushes her sleeves up to just below her elbows, folds her arms, and crosses her legs. Good God, those legs look hot. They almost make me forget that I want to choke this bastard with my bare hands…

…Almost…

He doesn’t dare look at me as they remove his shackles, only at her. He knows better than to look at me. He knows that if he does, I might destroy him with one look. I want to tell him with my eyes that I would kill him single-handedly just to watch him die slowly, but he won’t look at me.

“All rise.” We stand and remain standing as the judge and the jury are escorted back into the courtroom. Butterfly’s eyes finally move from David and on to the judge who is now announcing what is about to happen in terms of the verdict, directing the occupants of the courtroom to remember courtroom decorum and refrain from emotional or dramatic outbursts during the reading of the verdict.

Cow.

She asks for the verdicts of the jury and several pieces of paper are handed to the bailiff who takes them to the judge. She looks over the pieces of paper.

“The verdicts appear to be in order. Mr. David, please rise and face the jury.” She hands the forms back to the bailiff who hands the forms back to one of the jurors. David stands looking sorrowful at the members of the jury, none of which—I noticed—looked at him when they were brought back into the courtroom.

“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, have you reached a verdict in all counts.”

“We have, Your Honor,” one of the jurors, a young man, stands and speaks clearly.

“Very well, in the matter of case #08082012546821XS-54FE, the State of Washington vs Edward Robert David…” I had forgotten his middle name was the same as that sick fuck’s first name. “…Verdict as to count one, first degree kidnapping, what say you?” After the judge asks the question, the young man speaks in a loud and clear voice.

“We the jury find the defendant…”


ANASTASIA

Guilty… guilty… guilty… guilty. The word plays over and over in my head until I almost can’t hear anything else that is said in the courtroom. They have to find him guilty. They have to believe me. He kidnapped me. He’s a psychopath. He was behind all of this. He was the bankroll and Harris found the Intel and the resources. Oh, God, they have to believe me… please believe me… please…

“We, the jury, find the defendant guilty of first degree kidnapping.”

Stay in your seat Ana… don’t move… don’t scream… don’t run into the middle of the courtroom a dance a jig like you really want to… stay put, Anastasia… class and decorum…

“Verdict as to count two, unlawful imprisonment, what say you?” Her Honor asks.

“We, the jury, find the defendant guilty of unlawful imprisonment.” Lady Smug actually looks like she’s sinking down into the seat.

“Verdict as to count three, assault and battery, what say you?”

“We, the jury, find the defendant guilty of assault and battery…”

This continued with the assault with a weapon and the robbery. Guilty! Guilty on all charges! They believed me. Oh Dear Lord, they believed me. I feel a little light-headed from the adrenaline rush, but I maintain my impassive demeanor as the clerk polls the jury.

“Juror number one, are these your true and correct verdicts?”

“Yes.”

“Juror number two…”

With each “yes,” I feel more and more vindicated, like the system may not always work, but this time it did. This fucker kidnapped me, drugged me, held me against my will, allowed the other fucker to beat me and planned to take me to a deserted house to live with him after I had fallen in love with someone else. He destroyed me in every way that he could and when I wouldn’t allow him to destroy me further, he violated me physically. He even almost raped me.

Christian touches my elbow to bring me back to the here and now. Lady Smug looks like she wants the ground to open up and swallow her whole. I listen half-heartedly while the judge gives the jury instructions and thanks them before they leave.

“You said we had this! You said we had this!” David protests as the officers begin to shackle and cuff him again. “You said we had this! I never touched her! You said we had this!”

“Edward, I’m sorry! We’ll appeal!” Lady Smug says.

“Mr. David, control yourself!” Her Honor says.

“You said we had this! You stupid bitch! You said we had this!” He’s coming unglued. His eyes meet mine as the officers restrain him. “Rosie! Please! I didn’t tell her to do that to you!”

“Mr. David!” Her Honor scolds again.

“Rosie! Rosie, please! Tell them this is a mistake. Please, Rosie! Please!”

I stand up and without a word, I fish my Jackie-O’s out of my purse. Still looking at him, I slide them on my face and walk out of the courtroom, leaving him behind me still screaming that name that once made my heart stop.


CHRISTIAN

“She hasn’t said a word since we’ve been back,” I say to Jason as we watch Butterfly standing next to the glass wall and staring out at the Seattle skyline.

“It’s only been about an hour, Boss. It’s been a pretty tough morning for her.”

“It’s been a pretty tough week,” I say, rubbing my lip and thinking about the surprise I have for her that I wanted to wait until this weekend, but I think today is a better day for it. “Get the car ready. We’ll meet you downstairs.”

“Are you taking her to…?” I nod.

“If you see us come to the garage together, you’ll know where to take us.” He nods and leaves the great room as I begin to walk towards Butterfly. She looks like one of those highly paid women executives, staring at the world at her feet in a sexy black business suit, only she’s so much hotter. Her arms are folded and I can tell that she’s contemplating something. She’s not just lost in some random thought—she’s picking something apart hard.

My shoes fall on the marble floor announcing my presence, so I know that I won’t startle her. I put my hands on both her arms and kiss her hair. The worst part is over now, Butterfly, at least this phase of it. Why so glum? As if to answer my question, she speaks.

“I loved him once,” she says softly. Those are hard words to hear. “I thought I loved him with my whole being, but I didn’t. I know that now.” Because that’s how you love me? “But I did love him once, and I’d like to think that at one time, part of him loved me.” She drops her head. I don’t know where she’s going with this and I wonder if I should back away and let her get it out without interference. “Forgive me,” she continues, “I would just… hope that I didn’t waste those years of my life on someone who was completely psychopathic the entire time.”

I hate to tell you this, Butterfly, but he was. You dodged a bullet! He was a womanizer and he put women in the hospital long before he met you, and continued after you left him.

“There’s nothing to forgive,” is all that comes out of my mouth. She sighs.

“He never took responsibility,” she says, shaking her head. “Even after five guilty verdicts, having to be basically carried from the courtroom in shackles, he still screamed for me to make it all go away—like I was the one in control. No ‘I’m sorry,’ no ‘Please, forgive me,’ just “Rosie, Rosie, make it all go away.’” She mocks his voice in a very unflattering way. “He still thinks it’s my fault. He’s always blamed me from the very beginning. He blamed me for all of the problems in our relationship; he blamed me for his cheated on me; he blamed me on the stand for his kidnapping me…” She shudders a bit and I rub her arms again. “I guess expecting ‘I’m sorry’ was way too much. At least I got the guilty verdicts that I didn’t even expect. I don’t want to believe that there are people who completely have no redeeming qualities. I mean, I’ve met some real characters, but I was still hoping that there was something in them that would be worth something in some way, but…” She shakes her head again. “Some people are just not worth the skin they live in.”

That’s pretty deep. I feel kind of bad for her because I don’t know what to tell her. Unfortunately, she’s right and there’s nothing she can do about it. We had this same conversation at Christmas about the Green Valley lot.

“We need to forget about this,” I tell her as I kiss her hair again. “Sentencing isn’t for a whole month. We kill all things David until that time. He a worthless son-of-a-bitch and he doesn’t deserve your consideration. If he’s deserving of anything, it’s pity, because his life is over for what he did to you and he’ll never redeem himself because—like you said—he’ll never take responsibility for it.” I turn her around to face me.

“It’s very likely that he’ll never see the light of day again as a free man. If you need to vent about him, I’m here for you. I love you, but we’re going to squash this for now because I have something that I want to show you and I hope you’ll be pleased when you see it. Do you mind a little road trip?” She looks at me questioning, then nods and allows me to take her hand.

*-*

“Christian, how did you know?” I frown for a moment.

“How did I know what?” I ask. She examines me and most likely, the utter bemusement on my face.

“You didn’t know, did you?” she asks in amazement.

“Um…” I pause. “I’m not going to know what I didn’t know until you tell me what I’m supposed to know.” She turns away from me and examines the granite countertop of the center kitchen island and breakfast bar, so smooth and buffed to a high gloss so shiny that it generates a reflection from across the room. A single tear makes a trek down her cheek.

“I wanted this house,” she says, as she brushes the tear away. “The moment I saw the pictures in the email, I wanted this house. We’d have to get rid of some of these Grecian columns because there’s just too many… but I knew this was it the second I looked at it.” She continues around the kitchen, fondling the stainless steel appliances. I never thought I’d feel jealous of a stove. “This house has everything. The property is huge, guest houses and pool houses and gym houses—it’s fucking fantastic! More bedrooms than we’ll ever need and the decorating and renovating possibilities are endless!” I walk over to it.

“Why didn’t you just tell me this was what you wanted? We could have already had the place.”

“We had so much going on… I was lost in wallowing and you had the issues at Grey House, then the verdict. I only just saw this house in the email a couple of days ago. It’s so much more than we asked for but so much better than those huts she kept sending us!”

I laugh at her description. They were hardly huts, but they were significantly smaller than we requested. They only had two or three shoebox bedrooms when we asked for four or five, the square footage was laughable, and most of them were inland when we specifically asked for waterfront. She even sent us a property that backed up to a small, man-made lake with 10 other properties—like a fucking commune! Oh yeah, Christian Grey who lives in a secluded penthouse tower in the sky wants to live in a fucking commune… real smart, Lady!

When I told her that she had 24 hours to find me something like what I asked for, we got this.

“So, should I make an offer?” She whirls around to look at me.

“Make an offer??” she asks in a horrified, but hushed tone. “I don’t care what the seller is asking, I want this house!” I chuckle again.

“You never give asking price, Baby. It’s always a negotiation.” She narrows her eyes at me.

“I know that, Christian. I own a condo. If I had lost negotiations, I could have found another condo. I don’t want another house.” I put my arms around her waist and pull her close to me.

“I don’t lose negotiations, Butterfly. You can start looking for a decorator and we can get Elliot out to look at the place for renovations. This house is yours.” Her eyes widen.

“You already bought it,” she says, a statement, not a question.

“I did,” I tell her. “It fit the description of what you described in Napa and I couldn’t let it go. If you didn’t like it, I would have tried to convince you. If you totally hated it, I would have put it back on the market. I checked it out and this place is hot, so I could have easily sold it and gotten my money back—but I couldn’t let it slip out of my fingers if it turned out to be the same dream for you that it was when I saw it.” Her lips form a thin line, then she wraps her arms around my neck and takes me in a warm embrace.

“Oh, Christian,” she says into my neck, “you fell in love with the house! There’s no way I wouldn’t love it if you loved it that much, even if I hadn’t seen it and fell in love with it myself. We’re going to have a wonderful life here.”

I pull her in close to me. Yes, Baby, a wonderful life indeed.

I stand on the patio watching her walk in her bare feet across the endless back lawn that stretches all the way to Lake Washington. I can see her running, surrounded by children—three or four, at least. They’re all giggling and laughing in the breeze while the sun bounces off the lake. They tire and fall on the grass, laughing and panting wildly while lying on their backs and staring at the clouds. They’re safe here because the property not only has a natural barrier of Western Hemlock, Douglas fir, and spruce trees, but the trees also camouflage a tall, security wall around the perimeter of the property.

Access is only granted through two massive wrought iron fences at the end of an impressively long driveway. The front lawn puts most football fields to shame. Even the stealthiest of intruders would be easily picked off before getting to the main house. Access from the water is restricted to residents who own property around this part of the lake. With the proper surveillance equipment and security team, this place could be a veritable fortress, just what I need to protect my family. Nobody is going to hurt them while I’m alive.

I open the photos on my phone and the first thing that I see is the ultrasound picture of the beans. I couldn’t tell what I was looking at when I first saw the picture. Now, it’s as clear as day—two little miracles created from Ana’s and my love. My heart tightens for a moment due to the force of the love that I feel for them already, and she’s carrying them in her body… magnificent!

After our tour and my wife’s blaring seal of approval on what will be our new home, Butterfly goes back to Escala to jot down some of the ideas that she has in mind for the house and I have begrudgingly come back to Grey House to get a handle on the things I neglected by leaving early and when my presence was required in court this morning. I really need to do something special for Butterfly to help her decompress. Maybe another spa day? I’m not sure. My thoughts are interrupted when my phone rings.

“Grey.” Nothing—just this clicking noise again. What the hell is this? I look at the call and it’s unknown again. Another unknown call at about the same time it came in yesterday and nobody is on the line, just this damn clicking.

“Hello?” Still nothing. Something or someone is dialing the wrong number. I end the call and rub my eyes, trying to refocus from the interruption when my phone rings again.

“Goddammit!” I answer the phone. “Who the fuck is this!?” I bark.

“Christian! It’s your father!” Oh, shit. I didn’t even bother to look at the caller ID.

“Oh. Dad, I’m sorry. I didn’t look at the number. What’s up?”

“I should be asking you the same thing,” he says. “What was that about?”

“My phone number is in some automatic dialer of some kind. It’s just irritating. I’m sorry, Dad. What can I do for you?”

“Well, I have some sad news.” Oh, shit, just what I need.

“What’s wrong?”

“The test results have all come back. None of us are a match for a kidney for Dad.” I sink into my chair and loosen my tie. This can’t be.

“None of us, Dad?” I ask, deflated. I had only just made it to the hospital a little while ago to get tested and we were still waiting to hear if anyone else from the family was a match.

“Unfortunately not, Son. We were hoping that at least one of us would be able to help him, but unfortunately, not even Ana was a match.” Ana!? When did Ana get tested? Why didn’t she tell me?

Exactly when did she have time to tell you? During those nights when you stared longingly into her eyes while you held her close overlooking the Seattle skyline from the penthouse bedroom window? Or maybe it was during those deep and meaningful breakfast conversations that you’ve been having every morning at the Escala breakfast bar…

“Okay, okay. I get it.”

“No need to get snappy, Christian. We’re all frustrated about this, you know.” Shit, I did say that out loud, didn’t I?

“I’m sorry, Dad. That wasn’t for you. When did Ana get tested?” The line falls silent for a moment.

“I’m not sure, Son. I thought you two might have gone together.”

“No. I had no idea she got tested. I love Pops dearly, but I wouldn’t want to put Ana or my children in jeopardy by having her donate a kidney while she’s pregnant,” or at all as far as I’m concerned.

“Well, maybe they would have waited until she had the babies. Either way, it’s a moot point. She’s not a match.” She didn’t tell me. She probably would have given him the damn kidney and not told me until the very last minute to keep me from stopping her. She’s kind and selfless and hard-headed that way.

“Dad… we’re both very wealthy and powerful men…”

“I know what you’re going to say Christian, and the answer is No!” he cuts me off before I could finish my thought. “I don’t even know if you can still do that anymore, but if you could, we could all end up in jail for something like that. There’s no telling where the kidney would come from; we wouldn’t know the donor’s medical history in that kind of exchange; the possible complications from that scenario are endless! There is no way in hell we are buying my father a kidney. He wouldn’t accept it anyway. He’s a proud man and has already told me that he would rather die quietly than take an illegal kidney and he has no way how it was acquired.” I shrug.

“I’m sorry, Dad. I’m desperate.” Wait a minute… if Pops said that he wouldn’t take an illegal kidney, then that means… “You considered it, too, huh?” He’s silent for a moment.

“Yeah, I considered it. I lied. There is a way to make it happen, completely safe for both parties, but highly unethical and could land all parties—donor, patient, hospital and ‘broker’—into deep shit. I tried to find a way to do it ethically, but there is none. We just have to wait for UNOS… and pray.” I sigh. This really sucks.

*-*

Our weekend was fairly busy, interviewing decorators and banging out ideas with Elliot on what changes we want made on the house. Butterfly wants to get rid of some of the Grecian columns that are part of the architecture of the house and make it more American. I have to agree that some of the columns make the house look more like a museum than a home. While I like some of them, I’m with Butterfly that there are just too many.

It turns out that the decorating and picking color schemes and deciding what stays and what goes and eliminating decorators that seemed more concerned about working for the Greys—particularly me—than what we really wanted for our home was just what the doctor ordered to help lift Butterfly’s spirits from the stress of the trial and the fact that her beloved husband couldn’t seem to find his way home several nights last week. It was a definite “no” on the spa day as she indicated that she would much rather work out at this moment than be pampered. I don’t know how I feel about that, but she says that Dr. Culley indicates it’s okay as long as she sticks to her usual regimen and no Krav Magna.

I’m still not so sure.

We’ve narrowed our choices down to four decorators—two men and two women. I’m already sure that I don’t want any men working that closely with my wife, but she seems hell-bent on the designs and ideas of one of the guys. I’m trying to remember what I promised Jason before I left Greece…

Less Neanderthal…
Less Neanderthal…

She’s feeling the same way about the women, but is more able to control her possessive tendencies than I am. Either way, we’ll be choosing one of them by week’s end so that we can get on with the work.

We spent the days tangled in blueprints and color swatches and furniture ideas. We spent the nights tangled in each other’s bodies, re-exploring each other and getting to know our skin once again, having several of those massive orgasms where my dick knows the difference.

Monday brought all of the dreary truths back to haunt us once more, and with a vengeance. Though I had managed to sign the papers on two of the acquisitions that I had been working on since before the wedding, our computer culprit has become more brazen. According to James, he has the ability to get into the system, bounce around several times and then just disappear. This is why we haven’t been able to identify his access point.

Not only that, but he has also begun moving larger sums of money and we’ve discovered that it’s a diversionary tactic. While we’re tracking down the larger sums of money, smaller sums are disappearing—into thin air. They get transferred out of one account and into nowhere—no holding account, no dummy account, no nothing. We would have to rewrite our entire financial allocation program to stop him. By the time we did that, it would not only cost us a fortune, but we would also have to basically shut GEH down to get it done. Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, Jason comes into my office with more bad news.

“Sir, Myrick is off the grid.” Myrick? There’s two Myricks… which Myrick? As if reading my mind, he clarifies. “Robin Myrick, Sir.”

“How did we lose this fucker?”

“We didn’t,” he says. “It’s like he disappeared into thin air, literally. He’s been doing nothing but going to his little job and coming back home to his little apartment. When he didn’t leave the apartment to go to his little job this morning, the team investigated. He disappeared much like David did. His apartment hasn’t been touched—yes, we checked. His employer doesn’t know where he is. He didn’t even call in to work this morning. It’s like he got up, went to the 7-Eleven for a beer without us seeing him, and never came back. His apartment looks like he’s coming back to it, most likely trying to throw anyone looking for him off the scent. He hasn’t packed; nothing is missing; but he’s gone.”

“How do you know he’s gone? He really could just be at the 7-Eleven and you all just blew your cover.” I ask.

“His car is still here. The television is still on. He even had the coffee maker still running. It’s like he just got up and walked out of his life, leaving everything behind—except the picture of his father and anything that could link him to Robin Myrick. Louis Millfeld is all over the place, but Robin Myrick is nowhere to be found. Most likely, he’s about to kill Millfeld off again.”

“How the fuck can he do that and not get caught? Didn’t we turn this guy in to the FBI or something?” I ask, frustrated.

“Somehow, he has covered himself well enough that they can’t link the two. You only found him because he wanted you to find him, Sir. He’s playing games with you. I believe he has much more resources than we know of.” The wheels in my head are turning. Of course, I never saw him as a real threat. He kept himself in plain sight—the best place to hide.

“Myrick! Of course!” I hiss. Robin Myrick. He has something to do with this. I know he does. “That’s why he’s dropping off the fucking grid. He’s playing with me like a fucking cat plays with a mouse before he eats it.” I rise from my desk to go in search of James. “He’s not in this alone. He never is and he never has been. First, it was Lincoln. Now, it’s someone that is—or was—inside my goddamn company. I just don’t know who.”

I burst into the IT department, startling the shit out of James and Barney.

“I know who it is,” I say, triumphantly, but then my sails are deflated again. “I just don’t know where he is or how he’s doing it…”


ANASTASIA

Three nights have come and gone with me not seeing my husband again before I fall asleep. I’m trying to be understanding about all this, but I’m still in the dark about what’s happening at Grey House, and now he’s staying all hours at work again. Tuesday morning, he did make sure that I saw him before he left for work, but he was wound tight as a top and ready to break. I hate not knowing what’s going on, but I hate more not seeing my husband. I’m getting more and more irritable and finding myself snapping at people more than I should and apologizing all the time. I blame it on my hormones and just ask people to please be patient with me while I try to get a grip on things. I dare not tell anyone that I’m uptight because my husband isn’t coming home.

Except Al.

He works for Christian, so I can vent to him without betraying any confidences, but he can’t reciprocate or even empathize without possibly violating his NDA with GEH. Fucking great—I don’t have my husband and now I don’t have my best friend either.

Two weeks have gone by and things don’t seem to be getting any better. If anything, they’re getting worse. Christian is snapping at me now, losing his patience on the slightest little things. We decided to go with Aaron as our decorator, and Christian insists that I’m too comfortable with him. I have to be comfortable with him. He’s decorating my house! What am I supposed to do—run when I see him coming? We had a pretty big fight about it over the weekend and didn’t speak to each other for the whole day—which was pretty easy since I rarely see him anyway.

Things seem to be falling apart quickly and there’s nothing I can do about it. Part of me wants to march into Grey House and demand to know what’s going on, but security is probably instructed to detain me the moment I step inside the doors. I’m tired of sleeping in this bed alone. I’m tired of being on the outside looking in. Is this how it’s going to be every time there’s some major catastrophe at GEH—I’m left to fend for myself and possibly our children while we all wonder where Daddy is?

I’m sitting in the middle of our bed in the dead of night, weeping and having a massive pity party when he comes in and begs me to forgive him. He admits that he wants to give me something, but right now, he still can’t because he’s still in the dark. My heart aches because that means there’s no foreseeable end to this and I just don’t have the strength to keep wondering if for some reason, my world is collapsing around me.

Right now, I don’t want to ask or answer any questions. I just need him. More and more time passes between our sexual encounters and I need him in the worst way. Reading me the way that he does, he brings me to several orgasms—loving me, fucking me, licking me, kissing me—doing everything that I so desperately need right now until I fall into a coma-like sleep and save my questions and issues for another day. I’ll have to trust him. I know that he would never hurt me or leave me and everything he does is for the safety and security of me and the babies.

It’s still very hard trying to be patient, trying to understand what’s going on without knowing what’s going on—but in the end, I’m going to trust him. I gave him my life and my heart and he swore that he would take good care of them. I just have to trust that he’s going to keep his promise.


Epilogue

There’s an old saying—“it’s always quiet before the storm.”

It’s really a very technical reason why it’s so calm before a storm. Technically, warm air is pulled into the storm system and fuels the storms, but it is pushed up and over the storm cloud and falls back to the earth, creating a calming effect. The problem is that this calming is actually what fueled the storm in the first place, making it more powerful and possibly deadly in the case of a hurricane. So while the air may be calm, warm, and comfortable, it’s actually a trick to lull you into a false sense of security before the storm comes and destroys your life.

And so it goes…

I have a beautiful wife. We are creating a beautiful home. She’s pregnant with my children—twins! I’m about to be a father! I never would have thought in a million years that this would be the life that I wanted. I was happy as a rich miser, beating little brown-haired girls to get my kicks and satisfy my need for control and then go back and rule the world from my palace in the sky. I was content to be master of all that I touched—and then, I met her.

She showed me a different life, a different future, a different tale for Christian Grey, and more than anything in the world, I want that story. I want that different life where we raise our children in our beautiful palace by the lake, surrounded by love and family and sunshine. More than anything, I want the peace and the love that she has shown me that I can have. I want to provide for them everything their hearts desire.

Just when it seems that I’m finally going to get what I want, that the son of a crack whore is finally going to start his true fairy tale life, something or someone comes in trying to snatch it all away from me…. someone is after me and wants to take away the things that I love the most. What’s worse is that he’s close… he’s so close, yet I have no idea where he is or even when or where he’s going to strike.

He’s taunting me, exploiting my weaknesses, and showing me that he can cripple me at any given moment.

But I can’t find him. He’s always a step ahead of me, and by the time I figure out where he is, he’s already gone. The most sophisticated security systems in the world can’t seem to protect me… and now, he has made his purpose clear.

I’m sitting at my desk in my study, watching a slideshow—if you can call it that—of my beautiful wife; an ultrasound of our babies; the house on Mercer Island; the wedding picture released to the press the night we went on our honeymoon; a picture of my mother and father at the Adopt-A-Family affair; a picture of me, Elliot, and Mia at some outing we attended; a picture of Pops and Uncle Herman at the wedding reception; the front door and the doorman at Escala. Most of these are private pictures not even released to the public. No one but immediate family even knows about the babies. This slideshow is playing behind eerie green words flashing on the screen that remain on a black screen when the slideshow stops playing…

What if one day you lost everything that you hold dear? Everything that you have come to love, gone in a second? The clock is ticking, Grey. Think you can stop me? Give it your best shot!


A/N: That’s it, the final chapter of “Mending Dr. Steele.” Thank you all for taking this journey with me and hopefully, you’ll stick around for the next legs of the journey. My next endeavor will be to publish the original story, which means the backstory–“Journey of Miles”–will be going through an overhaul. During the editing process and after having another set of eyes look at the story, I realized that the rewrite was waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too close to the original. To stay that they were extremely linear is an understatement. To that end, I had to change a few scenes, M.O.’s, and outcomes, which means I need to redo that story, too, since I refer to it quite a bit in shaping the book. 

I will keep you all posted and I will try not to be away too long. I will send you emails from time to time and there may be some one shots in the future, I don’t know. In the meantime, thank you again for your support and I will talk to you all again soon. 

Love and Handcuffs!
Lynn x

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Mending Dr. Steele: Chapter 79—This Is Your Life

A quick note… If you are NOT getting emails from me and you should, please make sure that I have the correct email address for you. My emailer is “bouncing” some emails back to me, so I try to send them through my regular email… and they are still bouncing. This usually means one of two things…

I’m marked as spam in your email or…
I have a bad email address that is either full or no longer active. 

Since I am about to end Book II and get ready to publish the original (I’ve been editing and tweaking all this time and I am almost done), you are going to want to be on my mailing list or you just may miss your opportunity to be the first to learn about the published story. So please…

1) Make sure I have the correct email address for you and
2) Please put divinebronzegoddess@gmail.com in your contacts so that I don’t go to spam and you don’t get bounced.

There is one more chapter after this one.

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

Chapter 79—This Is Your Life

ANASTASIA

So he doesn’t want me at Grey House. What the fuck is going on at Grey House that he doesn’t want me at Grey House?

“What the fuck is going on at Grey House, Chuck?” I snap when I get back into the Audi. He frowns.

“What?” he asks.

“I’ve just been banned from Grey House. What the fuck is going on?”

“Nobody told me you were banned from Grey House.”

“Well, I am. His Highness just told me not to come back!” I snap. Chuck’s head pops back. He immediately takes out his phone while we’re still in the parking garage.

“J, did you hear anything about Ana being banned from Grey House?… Yeah, this is the first I’m hearing of it, too, and I heard it from her. Can you get some clarification on it for me?… See what Alex knows and call me back.” He ends the call. “Jason doesn’t know anything about it.” Oh, great. So this means that this is some decision that he came to when he saw me there.

“What. The fuck. Is going on. At Grey House?” I ask slowly. He twists his lips.

“Ana, you know that security protocol dictates that I can’t tell anybody anything outside of Grey House about what’s going on at Grey House, including you. Why would you ask me that?”

“So there is something going on at Grey House?” I press, desperate for an answer other than my husband doesn’t want me in his palace in the sky.

“There’s always something going on at Grey House, Ana!” he snaps, once we’re seated in the car. “You can put marbles in a bowl like bingo, pull one out and find something going on in Grey House! I have no idea what has happened to get you banned from Grey House, but make no mistake. When I find out what it is, unless I’m given express instructions to tell you what it is, I’m not telling you. Now, where would you like to go?” Asshole.

“Take me to my condo,” I say through clenched teeth before slamming the door behind me. He pauses for a moment, then starts the car.

It’s about 10:30 when I get to the condo. I originally came here to pick up some of my favorite clothes that fit a little looser than what I have at Escala. Now, I just want to chill here for a while in my own space. Maybe I’ll tell him he’s banned from my condo; let him see how it feels. God, that’s so childish. Where the fuck did that come from? I’m scolding myself inwardly for my foolishness when my cell phone rings.

“Hi, Dad,” I say with little enthusiasm.

“Hi, Annie… what’s wrong?”

“Just a little miffed at my husband, that’s all. What’s up?”

“I… want to talk to you about something, if you have the time.”

“I always have the time for you, Daddy. Is everything okay?” I’m concerned.

“Oh, yeah, everything’s fine. It’s nothing like that. What are you doing at lunchtime?”

“Nothing, hanging out at my condo. I needed to pick up some things, but I think I’ll stick around for a while.

“That’s perfect. Do you want me to pick something up for lunch?”

“Save your money. I’ll whip something up here. Any preferences?”

“Something light,” he laments. “Mandy wants me to watch what I eat and keep an eye on my cholesterol. Wants me to be around when Little Harry goes to college.”

“Perfect! You won’t be disappointed, Dad. I promise.”

“Thanks, Annie. Is 12:30 okay for you?” he asks.

“Twelve thirty is perfect, Daddy. I’ll see you then.” Lunch with Daddy—I haven’t had a meal with just me and my daddy in ages. I’m almost a bit giddy. Chuck opted to stay in a chair outside the door, reading the paper and some boring book, rather than deal with the wrath of Her Highness—which is just fine by me. I decide to luxuriate in a bath in my tub with the wonderful jets, not too hot as I have heard that super hot baths are bad for the babies. I’m already panic-stricken about the alcohol I’ve drunk, so I’m super careful with everything else. I almost fall asleep in the luxury and the bubbles until I remember that I have to cook.

I‘m looking in my closet for something that won’t cling too much to my monstrous ass and my wildly expanding boobs. I’m so damn angry that we bought all those clothes in Paris and now, I won’t even be able to wear most of them. I probably have about two more months to wear my sky-high stilettos, if I’m lucky. Then I’ll have to stick to kitten heels or flats. I fucking hate kitten heels! I’ll go down to pumps—no taller than two or two and a half inches—but kitten heels are out!

The easiest thing to wear, of course, would be yoga pants. I slide comfortably into a pair and pull on a tank top and an old, tattered U-Dub sweatshirt. For a few brief moments, I feel like my old self—simple Ana Steele with no worries other than what to fix for F&L this weekend and maybe a slight concern about dealing with the losers at the community center. I sigh, thinking about simpler times…

Before the Green Valley box was opened again…
Before Edward lost his ever-loving mind and kidnapped me…
Before I ever knew who Elena Pedo-Bitch Lincoln even was…
Before the paparazzi watched my every move or even cared who I was…

Carly Madison could have rotted in her trailer home and I would have been just fine. I would have kicked the shit out Cody Whitmore if he came near me again and the rest of those fuckers could have just gone to hell.

There’s really no use in lamenting over the what ifs. There’s just too many of them. I’ve been down this road before and even though I’m angry with him right now, I can’t see my life without Christian. I sigh again looking at the U-Dub sweatshirt that accompanied me through many nights of solo studying, and just decide to live in the moment for a while—relish the simplicity attached to this little shirt while I go make lunch for my daddy.

Luckily for me, the security staff keeps the refrigerator stocked so that I don’t have to go shopping. I’m surprised and delighted to find fresh vegetables in here. I guess they might have been told to keep it stocked for me, too. I have to quickly thaw some chicken breasts, though. I cut them into strips then sauté them in olive oil with slices of red, yellow, and green pepper and red onion, then season the mixture generously to make it spicy before wrapping it in a leaf of romaine lettuce and securing it with a toothpick. I make several of these wraps and serve them with a ranch dip to complement the spiciness of the chicken. Then I make a cucumber and tomato salad with feta cheese chunks and black olives drizzled with a light, sweet vinaigrette and some fresh ground black pepper.

There’s no bruschetta, but I do find some sliced “everything Italian” bread in the bread box. It’s fresh and I’ve never tasted it before, so I try a slice. It’s delicious right out of the bag. It’s soft and the crust tastes like a fresh onion bagel. I take a few slices and put them on a plate and cover them until Daddy gets here. I set everything up on the breakfast bar and pull down two of my large bowl wine glasses. I can’t have wine, but dammit, I’m using these glasses for something! I put a couple of mint leaves and small wedges of lime into the glass before adding shaved ice over the mint and lime. Chuck lets Daddy in just as I’m pouring the sparkling water and cranberry into the wine glasses.

“Hey, Annie. Sure smells good in here,” he says, as he puts a file or something on the sofa and comes over to the breakfast bar.

“Thanks Daddy,” I say as I add another mint leaf on top of the drink and push it towards him. He takes a sip, and then another large swallow.

“That’s really good,” he says after swallowing his drink. “Mandy is really trying, but her concoctions are tasteless.”

“Why don’t you tell her?” I ask. He glares at me.

“You’re kidding, right?” he says, in horror. “That woman is one big ball of emotion. If I tell her that her cooking is no good, I’ll be lucky to escape with my life! Besides… I love her.” He’s so sweet. He doesn’t want to hurt her feelings.

“Maybe I’ll have a girls’ day where I’ll tell her that I’m looking for new recipes. I’ll have all the girls come over and bring a dish with a recipe, but they’ll all be mine. Then we can see if we can get her some new recipes. I’ll even help her perfect them. What do you think?”

“Oh, please do,” he says as he savors the flavor of the chicken wraps. “I saw all these vegetables and lettuce and thought I was in for another non-taste sensation, but these are fabulous!” He takes another healthy bite of the chicken and moans in satisfaction. That’s when I realize I forgot about Chuck. It’s a good thing I made plenty.

“Be right back, Dad,” I say after piling a few wraps, some salad, and some bread onto a plate. I open the door and his nose is buried in his phone. “Do you want some ranch for the wraps or some butter for the bread?” I ask.

“No, this should be fine, thanks,” he says, accepting the plate.

“Taste it. It’s kind of spicy. You might need that ranch.”

“Even better,” he says. “Smells good.”

“Do you want anything to drink?”

“Just some water is fine.”

“You sure?” I ask. “There’s some juice in here.” He ponders the thought for a moment.

“Nah, water’s good.” He takes a large bite of one of the wraps and I hear him moan just like Daddy when I go to the refrigerator to get his water. He’s chewing and trying to swallow when I get back.

“These are great, Ana,” he says with a slightly full mouth. “I thought you were bringing me rabbit food, but these are really good. May a have a few more?”

“Sure,” I say with a laugh. Boy, I thought I made too many, now I may not have made enough. There’s still some chicken left, so I can make more if I need to. I bring a few more wraps out to him. “Let me know if you want more. It only takes a minute to whip them up.” He nods and mumbles something with his mouth full that I think was “thanks.” I go back in to Daddy who is enjoying them as much as Chuck and is now loading his fork with cucumber and tomato while eating his bread.

“Annie, wow,” he says. “You can really make magic with simple stuff.” I sit across from him and start on my lunch.

“I like to eat healthy, but I won’t do it if I don’t like the flavor of what I’m eating. I don’t care what the statistics say. I can’t eat beef right now, though.”

“Why not?” he asks, looking up at me.

“The babies don’t like it,” I tell him. “It causes violent reactions.”

“Say no more. I understand. For Mandy, it was eggs. Boiled, fried, poached, scrambled, it didn’t matter. She couldn’t tolerate those things for a moment…”

We talk about how I’m doing and how the babies are doing, a whole lot of this and that and nothing throughout lunch. I have a feeling that what he really wants to talk about is in that file on the sofa, so we keep the conversation light for the most part. We don’t talk about David and the impending verdict or the fact that Christian has banned me from his precious glass house. We do brush on the topic of Mom for a bit, though. He asks if I feel sad that she’s not here to be a part of the development of my babies. A valid question, but no, I don’t feel sad. Maybe I feel a little sorry for her that she’s going to be missing out on this part of my life, but I don’t feel sad. She made her choice when she chose not to care about me and now, I just have to let it go.

“That’s kind of why I’m here,” he says while we’re washing and drying the few dishes we used. There are no leftovers as we all inhaled those chicken wraps and the salad. We dry our hands and I make us two more spritzers after taking another bottle of water out to Chuck. Dad asks me if I feel cut off by not having more family around.

“I don’t know,” I say as I hand him the spritzer. “You can’t really miss what you never had. I do feel a little melancholy every now and again when I see other people with their extended family, but it passes eventually.” He leads me over to the sofa where he left the file.

“You’re about to have children of your own. I think you should know what you can about your family.” He opens the file and hands me a picture of him when he was younger. He looks like a dork. He’s wearing this striped sweater with a way-too-big V-neck and another striped polo underneath. He has big hair, like he had a perm or something, and there’s this little guy standing next to him with wild hair. He’s wearing a shirt and a pair of pants that clearly don’t match… and bangs. For heaven’s sake, bangs! On a man! He has to be a full foot shorter than Daddy.

Daddy…
Oh God…

“Who is that?” I ask cautiously.

“That’s your father, Harold Lambert.” I almost gag. I feel so guilty now for what I thought of him. I cover my mouth with my hand. I don’t remember how he looked in my dream. The image is completely gone from my memory. All I remember is that he felt familiar.

He’s short. Mom’s short, too. I was doomed from birth.

“W… when…?”

“A long time ago, before you were even born. I don’t have many pictures of him. Alexandria has them all, but I have a few.” He pulls out another picture. It looks like some kind of promo shot. He and Harold are back to back and they don’t look so dorky—still dorky, but not so dorky. Their eyes almost look the same color in this one, and Harold’s hair is combed differently so that his bangs are swooped up and to the side, out of his face. Good grief.

“He looks so serious in this one,” I point out.

“That one’s been photoshopped a bit. There were other people in that picture. One of them was your mother.” Thanks for photoshopping her out, then. I nod and he grabs another picture.

“Harry was a comedian,” he says. “He learned to tell jokes to keep people from teasing him about his height. Then he became a Marine and people shut the hell up. He was one badass Marine. People kept testing him. They wanted to see what was in that little package. Harry got beat up a lot, until one day he just couldn’t take it anymore. He kept taking those beatings and kept learning until one day Lance Corporal Fortelli stepped up to him. Fortelli had to be, I don’t know, 6’3” or so. He was taller than me. They used to do humiliating high school things to him, you know, like lock him in the footlocker, throw him in garbage cans. This time, I overheard them talking about hanging him on a hook by his pants in the Officer’s Club. I went and told him about it, and I’ll never forget that look he got in his eye. I could tell that something really bad was going to happen if they came near him.

“Sure enough, Fortelli and a few others came into the barracks looking for him. Harry just stood up and looked Fortelli square in the face without flinching. Fortelli came over and said something snide to him, and Harry just stood there glaring at him. He shoved Harry’s shoulder and he still didn’t move. He showed no fear. Fortelli shoved him again and when he went to grab Harry, something snapped and Harry went crazy! He was like a Chihuahua on speed! He was beating the hell outta this guy, and Fortelli was a tree compared to Harry. He beat that lug down to the ground and when he got him down there, he beat him some more.”

Maybe that’s where I got my pugnacious tendencies—and my love for bangs every now and then.

“I would have let him beat the guy to Kingdom Come. It would have served him right for being a damn bully, but Fortelli’s flunkies were too afraid to get into the fight themselves so they went to get help. I knew the sergeant would be bursting into the barracks any second, so I pried Harry’s hands from the asshole and held him until he came down. We heard ‘attention’ behind us and everybody fell in. Harry’s wearing a T-shirt and boxers with Fortelli’s blood all over him. Fortelli can’t even stand to attention. Sarge came in and nobody would tell him what was going on. I was wondering what the flunkies said to him, but apparently, they left out the part where the barrack’s ‘little person’ was beating the tallest guy in the room.”

Dad continues the story telling me how the blood was a dead giveaway, but the sergeant still wouldn’t do anything to Harry unless he admitted that he had beaten Fortelli or Fortelli admitted that he was stomped by someone a foot and a half shorter than he was. Needless to say, nobody ever messed with Harry after that.

Dad had other pictures of Harry, too—a picture of him looking out of a car window, Harry juggling some orange balls and Dad looking on with both of them smiling widely, but the next picture was enough to scar a girl for life.

“Daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaad,” I nearly squeal in a sing-songy voice, “what is this!?”

“Oh, that was the year that we cross-dressed for Halloween. We were two of the ugliest women in the world.” Oh God, I think I’m going to faint. My Dad is in a dress and a curly wig. Please never let this picture make it to the light of day. Well, hell, they already had. “God, I’ll never forget Corporal Cummings saw this and made us patrol like this for a week.” He shows me another picture and it’s even worse than the first.

“Oh, Dad, please, no more…”

Ah, but there was more. Dad spent all afternoon telling me about the times he had with my biological father. Of the pictures that he had, Carla had only been in one and he photoshopped her out of it. They had some great times together, and some not-so-great times, too. Daddy told me as much as he could, never talking about Carla or about Harry’s death until…

“Alexandria may have used any benefits as Harry’s ‘next of kin,’ but if you’re interested, contact the Veteran’s Association and see if there’s anything left for you or that you can benefit from as Harry’s only child.” I look at the paper that he gave me and nod. I’m not really interested in any benefits there may be to being Harry Lambert’s child, but maybe I’ll contact them to get any information they may have on my birth father.

“Thanks, Dad,” I tell him. He didn’t have to share any of this with me, but he knew it would be important with my own children now part of the equation.

“You have two uncles, Frederick and Archibald—Harry’s brothers. I’ve heard of them, but only met them once… at the funeral. When I tried to contact Alexandria after Harry died, one of them answered her door and told me that she wasn’t there anymore, but I don’t even know which one it was. Just, if you’re interested, you have two uncles.” He reaches into the folder and pulls out another piece of paper.

“This is Carla’s birth certificate,” he says. “Her mother grew up in an orphanage. Sorry, there are no birth records. Her father left when Carla was a baby. His name was Gregory Donovan. I couldn’t find any other information on him. Her mother died when she was a 16 and she’s been on her own ever since.” Maybe that’s why she didn’t care about me. Her grandmother didn’t care about her mother and there’s no telling what kind of life Mom lived while her mother was alive. Could she have been loved and cherished by my grandmother and still turned out as selfish and rotten as she did in the end? I think not.

“What did she die from? Do you know?” I ask him.

“Cancer, I think. I honestly don’t remember. I’m sorry, Sunflower. I’m sure Christian can scare up some more information if you’re curious.” Christian… yeah, I suppose he could.

“To be honest, Dad, I think I would only want to know if there are any hereditary illnesses or traits that run in the family. I’ve had enough of opening Pandora’s Box and having vermin crawl out all over me. I need some peace.” I run my hands through my hair and lean back on the sofa.

“Everything okay, Annie?” he asks, “Besides the obvious, that is.” I look over at him.

“Christian’s being a little distant,” I tell him, “not horribly distant, but he’s staying at work later and going in early. I surprised him with brunch this morning because Gail said he hadn’t eaten. He was on his way to a meeting, thanked me, and… left.” Maybe I should leave out the part about banning me from Grey House. I don’t know how Daddy would react to that and honestly, it’s between me and Christian. “I think he’s working too hard,” I lie. “I hope nothing’s happening with the business.”

“You know that Christian is a smart guy,” he says. “Whatever’s going on, he’ll figure it out. He didn’t become king of the mountain by sitting on his laurels.” I know this, but it doesn’t tell me why he wants me to stay away from his place of business… and this shit is eating at me.

“I know, Dad,” I tell him. “Do you think Mandy would be willing to part with Harry for a few hours this weekend? I really want to spend some time with him on my own if you guys don’t mind.”

“I’ll ask Supermom what she wants to do on that one,” he says. “It might be nice for us to have a little time to ourselves. We rarely get it now that Harebear is here.” I shiver a bit.

“Oh, Dad, please don’t call him that when he’s older. He’ll never live it down,” I beseech him. Dad chuckles.

“I know, Sunflower,” he replies.

*-*

It’s well after 9pm when I get home and still no Christian. “Figures,” I say to myself as I go into the bedroom and put on some comfortable pajamas. I go back out to the kitchen and grab some fruit as a snack. I had dinner alone at the condo while watching old black and white movies. I take my fruit and a tall glass of water into the bedroom and settle down with my laptop. I plug my phone into the charger and see that I have a message from earlier.

Now, how did I miss that?

I play the message and it’s from Christian, telling me to trust him without telling me what’s going on. Of course, I trust him. He’s never led me to danger, but I hate that he’s keeping things from me. If something is big enough that he wants me to stay away from Grey House, I should damn well know what it is. What if danger is lurking around the corner and I don’t even know it? Suddenly, I’m feeling that same way I felt when I found out about Alexandria. There will, however, be no more bouts with a murder-burger. I guess some things never change.

I open my laptop and go immediately to one of those family tree sites. I’ll see what I can find on my own without having to ask for help. The most popular one has a two-week free trial. Let’s see what I can find out.

I start with myself and fill in all the information that I already know—my parents, Mom’s parents, Harry’s mother and brothers, and that’s it. I put that information in the system and come up with some immediate hits, but they have to be further verified. Harry’s father had another family and if these dates are right, he had them at the same time he was making a family with Alexandria. Oooo, scandal! There’s some more information that needs to be verified on his father and paternal siblings, but his mother’s information checks out. She had a daughter, too, but the little girl died very young. I’ll have to see if I can find out what that’s about.

I run through my email a bit and I see that the real estate agent has sent us some more options. Yes… yes, these look much better than that crap she was sending before. Seven bedrooms! Good grief, that won’t need much building out, now will it? The infinity pool with the rainbow fountains is to die for and the black granite in the long kitchen island/breakfast bar is so new, it’s shines like a mirror. Those Grecian columns throughout may be a bit much, though…

The blaring in my ears jolts me from my sleep with a few choice expletives. This is the second day the alarm has awakened me. I reach over to the spot that I know is empty, and it’s cold—very cold. He hasn’t even slept in the bed with me. What the fuck is this? We’re newlyweds! We should be fucking every night! I throw my covers off me and walk out of the bedroom in my bare feet. Gail is in the kitchen when I get there and she turns to greet me but looks at me strangely.

“Ana? Are you alright?”

“Where’s Christian?” I ask, rudely ignoring her question. She’s clearly a bit taken aback.

“He… left about an hour ago,” she says. “He ate breakfast, though.” I drop my face in my hands and attempt to brush away the thoughts that I’m thinking.

“I’m sorry, Gail,” I murmur. “I’m just… I’m sorry.” I scurry back to the bedroom close the door behind me. What is going on? He’s out before I wake up; he comes in after I’m asleep; he bans me from Grey House. Effectively, I can’t see him morning, noon, or night! If something’s going on, he won’t tell me. I have the worst feeling of dread right now. I don’t know what’s happening and this whole thing is scaring me shitless. I turn on the shower, strip, and step inside, allowing the water to run over my head and face.

I will not cry. I will not cry.

Does he not want me around him anymore? Is there something so horrible going on that he can’t tell me? If that’s the case, what is he going to do—wait until the bottom falls out from under our lives before he lets me in on the catastrophe? Maybe he got a feeling of being the old him like I got a feeling of being the old me yesterday. Maybe that’s why he doesn’t want me at Grey House. Maybe I distract him… good distraction or bad distraction?

I feel a sick, gurgling feeling in my stomach and make it out of the shower and to the toilet just in time. Ugh! Is this morning sickness? It’s the worst! I don’t seem to get too sick unless I’m upset, but when I do, it’s nasty!

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to keep my hair safe from the exchange, so I have to wash it thoroughly to get the remnants of—whatever that is—out of it. How delightful. While it’s wrapped in a towel, I brush my teeth to get the wonderful taste of vomit out of my mouth. I feel like shit and Al’s words immediately come back to me:

When you feel like a dollar, look like a million.

I pull out one of my sexy Agent Provocateur black lace bra and panty sets with the matching sheer thigh-high stockings. The material feels luxurious against my body and I’m starting to feel a bit better already. What to put over it? I’ll only have this body for a little while longer. I might as well enjoy it. My tits and ass have already started running away from me. I think I’ll spend the afternoon doing some shopping after I’ve seen the handful of patients I have to see this morning and go by Helping Hands. I think Donna Karan’s New York Black draped jersey dress will do the trick. It’s draped in the front over my boobs, showcasing the size without making me look naked. It’s ruched in all the right places, making my humongo ass look great and not so humongo. The little tie leather belt allows me to accentuate my waistline as it’s just about the only thing that hasn’t lost its shape… yet.

I put a little mousse in my still-damp hair and brush it back tight, pulling it into an insanely long ponytail. Yeah, not fighting with this shit today. I twist and twist, wrapping the wet hair around the ponytail holder until it forms a nice bun. Once I have it twisted neatly, a few hairpins, hold it in place. Very nice! Now, for the accessories.

Only a couple more months of being able to wear stilettos, so the black and white calfskin Louboutins will set this dress of nicely. Now, for black and white jewelry. Hmmm… no Chanel jewelry today. I open my favorite jewelry box that has my costume jewelry in it and my eyes go straight to the Eclipse black and white statement necklace. Five strands of semi-precious onyx, rock crystal, Swarovski glass pearls and crystal—just gaudy enough to be classy and break up the black in this dress. At 25” long, it drapes over my bosom just right. I add my black and white pearl bracelet and my teardrop freshwater black pearl earrings, and I’m good to go. I switch everything over to my black and white Louis Vuitton handbag and I feel just like Ana Steele, fashion icon… just without all the knockoffs.

That’s because Ana Grey doesn’t wear knockoffs, except for that attention-grabbing monstrosity around your neck.
Shut the fuck up. I’m just trying to make myself feel better, not snag a fucking date, you self-righteous twat!

And just like that, she’s silent. A little bit of moisturizer and lip gloss and my Jackie O’s and I’m ready to face the world.

Gail literally gasps when I sit at the breakfast bar.

“Wow! You look fantastic! What’s on the agenda today?”

“Not much,” I tell her. “Same as any Wednesday—I’ll be seeing a few patients this morning, then going over to Helping Hands. Later this afternoon, I plan on doing some shopping, since none of my clothes seem to fit anymore,” I lament.

“Well, someone forgot to tell that dress, because it fits like a glove,” she says before turning around to the stove. “What would you like for breakfast?”

“Just a bagel and some cream cheese.” She turns around and looks at me.

“Are you sure that’s all you want?” Then it dawns on me again. I’m pregnant. Boy, when I slip into Ana Steele, I slip all the way into Ana Steele. I better watch that.

“Of course, what was I thinking? I have babies to feed. I’ll have eggs and sausage, please with an English muffin and a slap of butter.”

“Orange juice?” she asks.

“Absolutely,” I say, and my stomach growls at the mention. “Plenty of eggs and sausage, Gail… please…”

After that wonderful hearty breakfast, I go down to the garage and wordlessly get into the driver’s seat of my Audi. Chuck scrambles quickly to start one of the security cars and I wait for him. I’m not trying to cause him any problems. I just don’t have much to say today.

My patients are just dripping with compliments on my appearance today. It makes me feel good and again, I feel a bit like my old self. I don’t know what I’m expecting. I don’t want to be single Ana or anything like that, but I think I’ve come to depend too much on Christian’s approval. Without it, I feel like I’m floundering. So what if my butt’s bigger? I’m pregnant, for Christ’s sake… with twins! It’ll probably get bigger than this by the time the beans are born. I have to ask Dr. Culley how much exercise I’m allowed to do while I’m carrying the babies. There will certainly be no Krav Magna in my immediate future, but I don’t want to get completely fat and flabby by my ninth month.

“Ana! You look ravishing!” Grace says as I walk into her office at Helping Hands. My God, have I been looking so bad that when I put in a little effort, people think I’m a different person?

“Thanks, Grace. How are the renovations going? I know I’m so far behind with the honeymoon and the trial…”

“They’re going simply splendid. Come, let me show you…”

Grace takes me through the areas that have had the most construction—the learning room and the floor that she’s hoping to set up as dorms in the shelter. The work is moving very quickly and the areas look very nice.

“Oh, this is going to be fantastic when it’s done, Grace,” I say, examining one of the rooms that have an en suite meant for a family of four. “There’s going to be so much more that we can do. Did you imagine that we would be able to accomplish this much in such a short period of time?”

“No, I didn’t,” she says, looking around the room with silent satisfaction. “If it hadn’t been for that $20 million donation, we would still be just hoping and wishing this could happen.” She closes the space between us. “Tell me the truth, Ana. Did my son donate that money?” I smile widely, knowing that I don’t have to lie to her about this part—at least not totally lie.

“No, Grace,” I said, firmly. “To my knowledge, Christian did not donate that money to Helping Hands. You have no other idea who could have possibly thought that money would have been useful?” I ask, trying to throw her off the scent. “No silent benefactors? Secret admirers? Former patients or clients who struck it rich? No clues whatsoever?” She pinches her chin in a thoughtful manner.

“No clue,” she says contemplating. Her brow furrows as she falls deeper and deeper in thought.

“What is it, Grace?” I ask.

“I don’t know. Maybe I’m just being paranoid,” she sighs.

“About what?”

“When I thought it could be Christian, I was okay with spending the money and doing the renovations. I was so sure that it was him and he was just being modest. Now…” She trails off.

“Now what, Grace?” She sighs.

“I’m afraid that someone is going to come back looking for something in return,” she says. “You don’t just donate $20 million to something out of nowhere without expecting some kind of favor. It’s the nature of the beast. I wasn’t born yesterday—only the obscenely rich can afford to donate that kind of money. I have that kind of money, but not to donate, so I know what I’m talking about.” I sigh heavily. I can’t let her think that someone is going to come banging down the door expecting the deed to the building. I have to tell her where the money came from.

“Grace, is there somewhere that we can talk… very privately?” I ask. Her eyes grow wide and she nods. She takes me outside and we sit in her car. It’s the most private place that we could talk without someone walking in on us.

“I’m curious. I thought you said you didn’t want any donations from Christian,” I begin.

“Honestly, I don’t, but once the money was in our hands and I saw how much good it could do, I though, maybe just this once…” I purse my lips.

“Grace, I’m going to tell you something, but it could have catastrophic consequences if it goes past this vehicle.” She leans away from me a bit.

“It’s not something illegal, is it, Ana?” I shake my head.

“Not on our end, no, but the origins, I’m not sure. That’s why this conversation can’t go past this vehicle. I need your word, Grace. You can’t repeat this anybody. Not even Christian.” She’s really looking scared now, but I have to tell her or she’ll never rest—and her curiosity is eating her up. She sighs again.

“You have my word, Ana.” I drop my head and take a breath.

“The $20 million didn’t come from Christian. It came from me.” Her eyes are nearly bulging out of her head now.

“What?!” she asks in unmasked surprise. “You? Where did you get $20 million?”

“I received a visit a few months back from an unsavory German woman…”

I tell her the whole story about Strauss first offering me $10 million to leave Christian thinking that my presence was the only thing that kept her niece in jail. When I refused, the $20 million showed up in a foreign bank account with my name on it. I certainly didn’t want that woman’s money, so I turned it over to Christian who validated the account and arranged for the money to be released to me and then turned over to Helping Hands. Based on Christian’s intel, the money can’t be traced to Helping Hands since I “withdrew” it first and never put it in another account in my name. Not only that, but Strauss sources wouldn’t want anyone snooping around in her finances, so she’s knows it would be best to just let sleeping dogs lie.

“She has no way of knowing that her money went to your charity and even if she could, there’s nothing she can do about it. She gave me $20 million dollars with no express instructions and I did with it what I pleased.” She’s looking at me as if she’s seen a ghost.

“She offered you $10 million to leave Christian and you turned her down?” Huh? I thought she’d be more concerned about Strauss and Pedo-Bitch.

“Um, yeah?” It sounds more like a question than an answer.

“Then she gave you $20 million and you turned it over to charity.” It’s a statement, not a question.

“Well, not just any charity…”

“I don’t care if you gave it to the American Cancer Society! You turned over $20 million to charity… for love?” She sounds incredulous.

“Um,” I’m scratching my head. Is this a bad thing? “Pretty much.” She just shakes her head.

“You’re one of a kind, Ana,” she says softly. “Plenty of women would have taken that money and gone before Christian knew what happened, but you… charity! You didn’t even try to hide it! You could have kept that money and Christian would have never known.”

“Yes, he would,” I tell her definitely, “but it wasn’t about the money. That wicked old bat thought that she could buy Elena’s freedom, and if she couldn’t buy her freedom, then she could buy my silence and loyalty. As I know we are all a product of our environments, then her environment must be absolutely deplorable! She has no morals and no consideration for what’s right or wrong. If she had a part in Elena’s upbringing—and I’m sure that she did—then it’s no wonder that Elena’s so fucked up!” The words are out of my mouth before I can catch them, but I wave them off. “Grace, it’s very important that Christian doesn’t find out that I told you this, It’s very hush-hush for a reason and as we speak, Christian is monitoring that woman’s every move.”

“I won’t say a word, Ana. Thank you for telling me. I would have been endlessly afraid of the unknown if you hadn’t. You’re sure the money can’t be traced to Helping Hands?” I nod.

“Only to me, and I was the rightful recipient. She can’t very well go the court and claim that I cheated her out of a bribe, now can she?” I shrug. She looks at me with grateful eyes and sighs.

“I hope my son realizes what a wonderful girl he has,” she says. I smile a tight smile.

“Thank you, Grace. I hope he does, too.”

*-*

I’ve never been one for retail therapy, but shopping honestly made me feel better. I found lots of cute things at Nordstrom, which is the first store I hit right from the parking structure of the Bellevue Collection. Chuck’s arms are full of bags when I go to Michael Kors and start picking enough items to make the young sales clerk begin to stutter. Chuck is in a corner surrounded by bags and typing on his phone. I give a fleeting thought to the fact that I haven’t heard from Christian all day and then remember that I’m banned from Grey House. That makes me angry all over again, so I fish my phone out of my purse only to realize that it’s dead. That’s odd. I’m sure I put it on the charger last night. Well, there’s nothing I can do about it now, so I go into the dressing room to try on some jeans and cute blouses that I saw.

Luckily for me, I’m already small-framed. So going up a size in Michael Kors wasn’t a big deal. True, I’ll probably only get to wear these things for a month or two, but right now I don’t care. My expanding ass and boobs have made most of my favorite pieces unwearable and I’ll be damned if all I’m stuck with are maxi dresses throughout this pregnancy. I’ll buy a new wardrobe and have it tailored every two months if necessary!

My haul from Kors is pretty substantial and I wonder how Chuck is going to get all of this stuff to the car, especially since I’m not finished. I’m buying too much, I know, but I don’t have a problem wearing last season’s clothes as long as I like them, so these things will still be there after I have the babies. I soon find out that I don’t have to worry about all of the bags as Chuck has brought in reinforcements while I was in the dressing room. Ben is standing in the doorway awaiting instructions after he—or Chuck—has already taken my Nordstrom haul to the car. They gather my bags and Chuck is the one that makes the trip to the car this time while Ben follows me to Max Mara.

My haul there isn’t as big, but they have a couple of really pretty mid-thigh faille dresses that would work very well once my baby bump starts to get bigger. No frumpy maternity clothes for me! More jeans from Intermix, some work dresses from Burberry and Kate Spade, and some fantastic accessories and outfits from Free People, and now I’m ready to eat. We decide on lunch at the Cheesecake Factory in Macy’s. I want to ask Chuck about his relationship with Keri, but I decide against it since Ben is here. They both ask me how much more shopping I plan to do and just as I’m about to answer, I see a camera flash to my right. I sigh heavily as I look out the window and see various members of the paparazzi begin to gather on the sidewalk. I raise my hand and wave at them.

“Smile for the cameras, boys,” I say to Chuck and Ben as they look out of the window with distaste. Just like that, ‘Just Ana Steele’ is shot to hell and I’m back to being one-half of AnaChris. At this moment, I resent it. I just wanted a quiet lunch in a public restaurant without having to hide my face or put on a disguise.

It could be the trial, you know. That really has nothing to do with Christian.
Not directly, no, but if I was just some psychologist that lived in Seattle, they really wouldn’t care about the trial. They only care because I’m married to Christian.
Do you resent being married to Christian right now?

“Ana, are you okay?” Chuck brings me back from my inner musings. I don’t know what kind of pictures the paps caught while I was contemplating my current circumstance, but it doesn’t matter.

“Yes, I’m fine. Can you get the server over here? There’s no use in spoiling everyone else’s lunch with this disturbance…”

We’re back in the mall again after picking up some things in Macy’s and I discover that it’s no use trying to shop anymore, because the paparazzi won’t give us a moment’s peace. I’ve told them several times that I can’t discuss the trial, so they’ve opted to asking highly personal questions about me and Christian. This is what our babies have to look forward to when they’re born. Thank God we’re moving to an island!

Once we’re safely back in the cars and driving back to Seattle, I hear her repeat the question that she asked before:

Do you resent being married to Christian right now?

No, definitely not, but I do resent feeling like I’m on the outside looking in, I think to myself as a single tear makes a trek down my cheek.


CHRISTIAN

“They’re doing what?” I ask in horror. This is impossible! This can’t be happening.

“They’re moving money, sir,” Seigel from Accounting tells me. “Small amounts, a couple thousand at a time. They’re just moving it around, Sir—they’re not taking it.”

“Well, that doesn’t fucking make me feel any better!” I bark. “They’re in accounts that they shouldn’t have access to at all! Are we sure this isn’t someone in-house doing this for budgetary purposes?”

“No one cleared these transfers through me,” Marx from Finance pipes in. “The amounts are so small that we never would have seen them if we hadn’t been looking for them, sir. There’s no reason to move those amounts around because they won’t affect anything.” He shows me a spreadsheet on his tablet. “R&D can’t do anything with $5000. They can’t even get anything off the ground with that. IT, $2000… Legal, $3500… There’s nothing these departments can do with these amounts, and the IT department head is in the room with us with the same questions.”

Fucking hell! This is not good. They’re not just running around, now. They’re in the financial networks.

“I thought there was some kind of protection that the banks offer against things like this,” I say, my voice cool while I’m exploding inside.

“There is, but someone has made them think they were GEH, so the bank thinks this is business as usual.” I shake my head.

“What do we do?” I ask, then James speaks up.

“They don’t want your money, Christian. They’re doing this to show you that they can. Somebody is playing with you. They may want your money later, I don’t know, but that’s not their intention now or they would have taken it. You may have to let the financial institutions in on what’s going on…”

“And publicize that there’s a breach in our network security system? If I do that, every snotty-nose, college kid computer geek is going to try to break into my computer system! While we’re busy brushing off all those little gnats, the snake is busy crawling in destroying my company.” James’ face changes as I say that. The other department heads are still talking, bouncing around ideas, but I see the wheels turning in James’ head.

“May I speak to you alone for a moment?” he asks. This normally doesn’t sit well with me, but I have to admit that I’m a little desperate.

“Gentlemen, we’ll be right back. Continue to bang out your ideas. At this point, there are no impossibilities.” They continue to chatter among themselves as James and I leave the conference room and go to my office.

“Are your personal accounts attached to your GEH network?” he asks.

“Not all of them, but yes, some of them are.”

“You have accounts that aren’t?”

“Yes.”

“You need to manually start moving money from the accounts that are on your network to the accounts that aren’t. You need a safety net in case this intruder plans to wipe you out. I’ve seen things like this, and unfortunately, the companies never know what hit them until they’re flat broke.”

“If you’ve seen this before, then you can stop it, right?” I ask.

“If it’s what I think it is, I probably can, but not the conventional way.” Probably… that doesn’t sound good, but my team can’t seem to catch this guy and he’s advancing quickly.

“I’m listening.”

“I have a program. It’s in its experimental stages. I created it when I saw this kind of attack before, one that couldn’t be traced. Other companies wouldn’t let me use it on their networks because it’s experimental, and using it in this instance is going to require some trial and error. It’s the error part that scares them, but in the end, if you don’t try something unconventional, this guy could run away with half if not all of your company.” Shit. I don’t want any experimental software running around in my super network, but when I look at the alternative…

“Tell me clearly what this program does…”

James explains that the program is just like the basic tracking programs that employers use to track where their employees go on company networks, but much more detailed and precise. His program can do that and track the user back to its source, even a seemingly unknown user—which it is precisely formulated to find. It leaves a footprint like a neon light in the dark.

“What are the drawbacks?” I ask him.

“Nobody else can know that I’ve put it on the system. No one else can access it; no one else can operate it. That means that you have to trust me fully and completely,” he says. “Your tech guy is pretty damn good, one of the best I’ve seen. He’ll find these lines of code in about three months because I’m that good. By then, we will have smoked out your intruder and it won’t matter. We have to catch this guy using an angle he wasn’t prepared for. Whoever he is, he’s good and he’s been doing this for a while. He’s cocky, and you’re not his first target. You most likely won’t be his last if he gets away with it, but what a feather in his cap if he manages to take down Christian Grey and GEH.”

“And what a feather in yours if you manage to stop him,” I point out.

“Hell, yeah!” he says with no modesty, and that’s what sold me. If he had come with that fake modest shit, I would have known something was rotten.

Your program?” I ask.

“Solely mine, not even patented yet.” Oh, this has possibilities.

“Not something in Research & Development with your employer?” I clarify.

“I didn’t even write the program on their computers.”

“Have you approached anybody with this idea?” he smirks.

“Ever the businessman. No, I haven’t. I tried to get other companies to let me use it to sniff out their hackers, but they were too squeamish. I eventually found their hackers, but not nearly as quickly as I would have if they had let me use it.”

“What were their reasons for not wanting you to use it?” I ask.

“Most of them were concerned whose side I was on. If they let me install software that no one else knew about that basically gives me access to their entire network, I could actually be on the hacker’s side opening gateways that they needed to enter the network. What they didn’t understand was that I already had access to their entire network and I don’t need a special program to let a hacker in if that’s my M.O. I could very easily do it with something as simple as an SQL injection or exploiting a cross-site scripting vulnerability…”

“Okay, stop,” I tell him. “Don’t lose me, here. I’m business. I have some experience with computers, but not enough to follow what you just said, so don’t lose me.” He nods.

“Simply put, if I wanted to hurt you, I could have already done it by now, and you already know that. Our friend—and I’m using that term sarcastically—is trying to get in, and he’s moving fast. I’m already in. Let me use my program and we’ll catch him.” I sigh heavily.

“If this works, I want marketing rights,” I tell him. “I’ll give you the best backing and R&D money can buy. I’m putting my whole life in your hands and while I will be eternally grateful, I will want a piece of what saved my company.” He’s contemplating.

“My attorney works for you,” he says, matter-of-factly.

“So what do you suggest?”

“I’ve pretty much got you by the balls, here. We’ll work something out.” He proffers his hand. I take it and shake firmly.

“I very rarely, if ever, do anything based solely on trust,” I say as a statement and a warning.

“And this is years of personal sacrifice and research that I’m putting in your hands,” he says, equally cautionary. I nod.

“What do we need to do?”

I have to keep Barney and the other department heads occupied while James puts the program on the main server. It runs in the background and unless you’re specifically looking for it and you know what to look for, you’re not going to find it. If Barney doesn’t find it in the three months that James says it will take, I’m going to fire him—or at least demote him. We’re looking for an intruder here and this, in a way, is an intruder. He just got in through the front door.

An hour later, James comes back into the conference and joins the war council, nodding once to me to let me know that the software is in place. We’ve decided that extra security measures need to be taken around the financial systems, but each department—Barney included—agree that this is just a temporary fix. I concur, but at least it will buy us some time.

Each department goes off with new instructions of what to do next while I head back to my office to look at some vulnerable accounts and ventures. I hadn’t realized how much time had passed. It’s well after lunch and I haven’t heard a word from Butterfly. Trying to find this cyber attacker and not let my business go south means that I’m out before dawn and back in well after dark. This is not good for a newly married couple. I try to call her and it goes straight to voice mail. Does she have me blocked? Is she stewing now? I don’t bother leaving a message.

It’s late in the evening when I raise my head from the last set of spreadsheets that require my attention. Andrea has long since left for the night after sticking her head in the office to see if there’s anything else that I need before she leaves. My phone buzzes and, anxious for a word from Butterfly, I quickly look at my texts. It’s from Jason. It’s a link to one of those tabloid websites. I click it and there’s Butterfly, flanked by Charles and Lawrence in what looks to be a shopping mall. Whoever is taking the video is walking in front of her. Her smile is forced. They can’t tell, but I can.

She looks fantastic! That black dress she’s wearing is moving with her every curve—sultry and sensual, but not trashy. She says something about not being able to talk about the trial and they start in on her about the honeymoon and a prenuptial agreement. Her forced smile falls and she walks faster, her currently cameraman unable to keep pace. Now, he’s behind her as she walks quickly away from the mob.

That ass! Good God, that ass!! All of Washington and anyone who Googles her or follows this piece of shit site is looking at that ass! Fuck me! She’s trying to kill me here! Why is she dressed like that anyway? I don’t even think I’ve ever seen that dress. It’s sexy as fuck! I know that she had patients today, but her attire has been a tad more casual lately unless we’re going out. When did Lawrence get there? Has Charles been with her the whole day? I open the link on my computer and look at it again. Jason walks in just as I having this mental conniption.

“Thought you might want to see it before it goes viral,” he says. He’s looking at me questioning. “What’s wrong, Boss? There’s nothing wrong with it, just that the paps got to her while she was shopping.”

“Look at her!” He walks around the desk and looks at the computer.

“What am I looking at?”

“Her!” I snap. “If that smile was any faker, her face would crack and fall off. She’s jeweled and dressed to the nines! And look at that ass!” I gesture to the screen. Jason frowns.

“Sir, are you actually asking me to look at your wife’s ass?” He went completely professional in less than a moment. I roll my eyes.

“When did Lawrence get there?” I ask perturbed.

“Hours ago. Chuck said he needed backup.”

“For the paparazzi?”

“For the shopping.” I frown and cock my head to the side.

“He needed backup for shopping?!”

“Have you ever been shopping with your wife??” he asks, nearly horrified.

“As a matter of fact, I ha… oh!” I pause mid-sentence thinking about the shopping spree in Paris.

“Yeah, marathon, not a sprint!” Jason reinforces. I look at the screen again.

“We just went shopping three weeks ago. What could she possibly want to buy?”

“According to Chuck, clothes that fit, sir.” I frown.

“Clothes that fit?” Now I’m really confused.

“’Look at that ass?’” he says, with a shrug, using my own words against me. Yeah, it was me that said a minute ago that I’ve never seen that dress. It probably didn’t hug her properly, so she never wore it. It’s sure as hell hugging the fuck out of her now. As I’m clicking on the feed to see it again, my blackberry rings. Butterfly?

No.

“Hi Dad,” I say.

“Hello, Christian. How are you?”

“I’m fine, still in the office trying to wrap some things up.” He’s quiet for a moment.

“Still in the office? It’s nearly 10pm, son.”

“Yeah, I know. I’m going home soon. What’s up, Dad?”

“I was just calling to let you know that Anton Myrick is still safe under lock and key.” I nod. I knew that. The dream just scared the shit out of me.

“Thanks, Dad. I appreciate you going through the trouble.”

“No trouble, Christian. Hopefully you can put this demon to rest now.”

“I hope so, Dad. Is Mom around?”

“Sure, let me get her for you.” There’s a pause and then I can hear him talking to my mom. “Hello, Christian. How are you?” She sounds awful chipper.

“I’m fine, Mom, and you?”

“I’m doing well. The renovations on the center are coming along very nicely. I haven’t told Ana yet, but I’m having an area renovated where clients will be more comfortable talking to her and John, like her office—you know, with comfortable chairs and whatnot. She’ll have her own office as assistant director, too. Things are moving along very nicely! What’s going on with you?”

“Just trying to close the deal on some ventures and tie up some loose ends.” Critical loose ends, I might add. “Can I ask you something?”

“Sure.”

“Did you see her today?”

“Yes, she came to the center this afternoon. Why? Is everything okay?” She hasn’t said anything to my mom.

“Yeah, everything’s fine. I’m just… a little overprotective, I guess… with the babies and all… Did she say anything?” …about me? Mom pauses for a moment.

“Yes, Christian, she did,” Mom says. Well… what did she say?? “I told her that I hope you realize how wonderful she is and she responded ‘I hope so, too.’ I really didn’t think anything of it until you asked.” Oh, fuck.

“I’ve been working late, Mom. I’m still at the office as we speak. I’m going home now.”

“That’s a good idea.” I can hear her smiling through the phone. “I love you, Christian.”

“I love you, too, Mom.”

*-*

I almost shit my pants when Jason tells me that Butterfly is at her condo. What the hell is she doing there? I open the door and Charles is yawning on the sofa in his shirt and slacks.

“She’s asleep, sir,” he says. She didn’t intend to come home?
Why should she? She never sees you. She probably thinks you won’t miss her.

“Thanks, Charles. You can stay if you’re tired.”

“You’re staying?” he asks. I nod. “I’ll see you in the morning, sir.”

I don’t know how to take that.

“See you in the morning, Charles.” I lock the door behind him and throw my jacket on the back of the sofa. I walk back to her room and open the door. She’s under the covers, snuggled in for the night. She wasn’t coming home. She was staying here. That’s not good.

I strip down to my boxer briefs and contemplate if I should wake her. Will she even want to talk to me? Will she feel like I’m intruding? She didn’t come home after all. Hell, last night, I didn’t even come to bed. Hell yes, I should wake her.

She’s laying on her back with her arms over her head, sleeping so soundly that I so hate to wake her, but I must. I need to talk to her. I need to hear her voice. I need her to see me and know that I’m here. I pull the covers back and she’s wearing the cutest pajamas—a warm button-down shirt and a pair of matching shorts. She didn’t expect me to come. She would have worn something else—my T-shirt, a nightie… or nothing.

I slide over her and her arms instinctively wrap around my neck. I slide my hands under her shoulders and on either side of her face, then wait for her to wake up.

She slowly opens her eyes, then immediately remembers where she is. I can’t read her expression. She’s not angry, but not completely accepting. She’s silent, though she hasn’t moved her arms. She’s just looking into my eyes while I’m looking into hers.

“There are some things going on at Grey House.” My tone is low and measured so as not to betray the terror hiding behind my words. “I can’t talk about them right now, but for my own peace of mind, I need you to stay away from Grey House for a while—not forever, but just for a while. Can you do that? Can you trust me and do that, please?” I look into her guileless questioning blue eyes. Please trust me, Butterfly. Please…

“Yes,” she says softly. “I can do that.” I take a deep breath and sigh heavily, placing my forehead onto hers and trying to release some of the fear that’s burning deep within me.

“Thank you,” I breathe. I know it’s hard not knowing, but I truly believe that knowing part of it without knowing all of it will only make it worse for her. It’s hell on me. She leans her head up and kisses me gently on the lips. The gesture sends a warmth through my soul that immediately calms my raging spirit.

“If I could make love to you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, I would—not because of how hard you make me come, but because of what you give to me; what I feel when I’m in your arms; what I see when I look at you; how much of myself I want to give to you. I want to melt into you and feel every cell of you in every cell of me. May I make love to you… please?” I need her so much. I need to feel her warmth and her love to give me strength. I can lose my company. Though it would hurt like fuck, I could live without it if I had to. I can’t live without her… without our babies…

“Yes,” she breathes. My will almost collapses when I close my lips over hers.


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

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Love and Handcuffs!
Lynn x

One Shot–I’ve Been Waiting…

Remember when Al outed Gary, indicating that he knew exactly when Gary lost his virginity because he was walking differently? Here’s a little tale about our boy losing his cherry.

I’ve Been Waiting…

Gary

“I can’t believe you haven’t seen Avatar yet,” Marilyn says as she pushes the DVD into the player. “It’s so old, it’s almost a classic.”

“It’s not that old, Mare,” I say as I take a seat on the sofa. “It’s only a few years. I just never got around to it.”

“I was sure Avatar would be your thing,” she says with a smirk as she plops down next to me. Her tiny skirt rises a bit and her thighs taunt me as she crosses her legs. She’s so sexy that I almost want to drool. I’ve been wanting to approach her about taking our relationship to the next level, but hell. I don’t know anything about going all the way. I mean, I’m a grown man and I have the basics down of what needs to be done, but I have no clue on how to approach the topic. I don’t publicize that I’m a virgin, but after being with me this long, only an idiot wouldn’t know.

Mare is no idiot.

We’ve briefly talked about it once or twice, but it’s been an uncomfortable topic to say the least. I at least know that she has secured birth control and is ready whenever I am. We’ve done some heavy petting… very heavy petting, like third base heavy petting, but no penetration of any kind. She so hot that I’m afraid if I don’t make a move soon, she’ll find someone who will. If I do and I screw it up, she’ll dump me like yesterday’s trash.

Marilyn's Schoolgirl outfitNow here she is sitting on my sofa wearing this schoolgirl mini skirt and a perfectly-fitted button-up white shirt—just decent enough to be worn in public, but only just. I swear I think she wore this outfit on purpose. I’m not sure if I should make the first move or if I should wait for her to do it. She agreed to wait until I was ready to explore, but hell, we’ve done everything except oral and penetration. Maybe I should stop hesitating…

She’s right, though. Avatar is a really good movie. I don’t know why I didn’t take the time to watch it before. It’s so long, though. If I’d seen it at the movies, I probably would have fallen asleep. No chance of that happening here, though. Every time Jake finds himself in some kind of close proximity to Neytiri and that electricity flows between them, I find myself looking at those thighs again. I turn away each time she turns to look at me and pretend like I’m really engrossed in the movie. I feel like a damn teenager who can’t make up his mind. What am I, twelve?

When Jake and Neytiri bond under the tree of voices, I finally decide that it’s now or never. I reach over and run my hand up her smooth thigh. I hear her breath catch as I push my hand further up her skirt and to her inner thigh. She raises her eyes to me, questioning but wanting. Taking the back of her neck in my hand, I lean over her and kiss her, my hand still traveling up her skirt. She moans in my mouth when my hand reaches her panties and I start to tease her outside of her underwear. This is as far as we usually get… or have gotten so far, so anything beyond this with be the point of no return.

Okay, Pope. Here goes nothing.

I push my hand into her panties and part her lips. Gently, I begin to fondle her clit. She groans quietly into my mouth. Remembering something I saw in a movie, I thrust my middle finger inside of her and she nearly rises off the sofa.

“Aaaaahhh!” she cries out as she pulls my hair and bites my lip. Hell! That’s hot. I don’t really know what to do, so I thrust my finger in and out like I’ve seen—and heard—it done.

“Let me… help you…” Mare breathes as she throws her leg over me and guides my hand deeper inside of her… way deep. Shit! It’s hot in there! And wet! She tells me to curl my finger and allow it to slide and straighten as I pull it out, bending it again as I thrust it in like I’m using it to say, “C’mere.”

That’s right, little kitty… c’mere.

I know when I get it right because she starts to moan and thrust into my hand. Shit, she is dripping and hot and sliding into my hand with fever! I want to try something with her and I know that she’ll shoot me if I stop unexpectedly, so I warn her.

“Baby,” I whisper.

“Huh?” she is completely sex-dazed… or finger-dazed.

“I want to try something.” She looks at me as if to say, “Now?” but she doesn’t protest. She just nods as she tries to catch her breath. I slide down off the sofa and land on the floor in front of her. I unbutton three buttons of her shirt to reveal her pretty red lace bra that opens in the front. Yeah, if she didn’t plan this, she was hoping for it. I hope I don’t disappoint her. I unhook her bra and take her nipple in my mouth, sucking hard until it pebbles in my mouth.

“Gary! God!” she nearly squeals as she wraps her legs around my body. Shit, that’s encouraging! Her breast feels so good in my mouth. I want her. I really want her.

Am I ready for this? Fuck, yes, I’m ready for this!

I unwrap her legs, much to her dismay, but quickly slide her panties off her hips and down her legs, much to her delight. I nestle myself between her open legs, her forbidden fruit staring back at me, expecting. I raise my eyes to hers.

“Tell me,” I say, as I kiss her lower lips and inhale her aroused scent. God, I’m anxious to do this, but I don’t want to get it wrong. “Tell me what to do.” She nods.

“Separate the lips and lick the clit… softly… slowly,” she breathes. Okay, I can do that. I use two fingers to push her lips apart and her clit jumps right out at me—wet and pink… tiny… pretty. In an uncontrolled moment, I blow on it just to see how she reacts.

“Aaaahh!” she pants. “Gary!” Hmm, that’s a nice reaction. I’ll have to remember that. With my tongue, I gently travel from bottom to top and back to bottom again.

“Ooooooohhhhh!” she groans. Wow, I really must have done that right. Think I’ll do it again. I travel from bottom to top again, and again, like an ice cream cone. Now, she’s squirming on the sofa and I have to hold her down a bit. I put my arms around her legs like I’ve seen in the movies and that opens her up to me.

Ooooo… that’s nice.

I dive in to her again and she croons from her chest, thrusting her hands into my hair and her pelvis into my face. I like this. I really like this! Her flavor is so arousing that I have to control myself to keep from just gobbling her up. And her smell… good God, her smell! She loves the way that I kiss her and I always try to taste every bit of her on my lips when I do. I want so much more of her… let’s see if that technique works down here.

Using my tongue and lips, I explore every bit of her intimate area, tasting her vagina like I do her mouth; caressing her clit and opening like I do her tongue and mouth; nibbling every so often on her lips and gently sucking her clit into my mouth and slowly letting it slide out as I release it.

“Oh God! Yes! Yes! Just like that! Yes!” she pants as her head digs into the back of my sofa. I’m so glad that she likes this, because I absolutely love it. She tastes delicious and her smell is divine! I’ve heard other guys talk about it, but nobody said it was going to be like this! They always talk about how it affects the girl, but never how it affects them. I’m hard as a rock and I feel like I’m going to explode out of my damn jeans.

I continue with the kiss, reveling in the taste of her and her shivering reactions to my every move. I don’t want my teeth to hurt her, but she is animal as the feeling becomes more and more pleasurable. I hold her firmly as I lick and suck her sweet juices and suddenly, she screams with such force that I nearly pull away.

“Don’t stop! Don’t stop! Don’t stop don’t stop don’t stop…” so I don’t stop. Her clit gets hard as a stone against my tongue and instinctively, I suckle it and massage it deeply with my tongue. She almost sounds like she’s going to cry as her hips rise to my lips and she freezes, rigid, still begging me not to stop. Her flavor changes and I lap it up as I continue to lick and suckle her clit. This is amazing and hot and I love this shit!

Finally, after about a minute or something like that, her hips go limp in my arms and she is making a different plea.

“Gary! Gary! Stop! Please, stop! It’s tender!” I immediately stop my ministrations, but I know she couldn’t have fallen so quickly from that crazy ride. So I blow on her clit once more as I release her. “Oooooohhh, Gary!” she moans. “Baby…” she almost sounds like she’s coming again. I climb up onto the sofa, hoping I did a good job and she’s not just stroking my ego. I want to get this right.

After catching her breath, she sits up and leans over me, kissing me passionately and stroking my aching penis.

“Mmmmm!” I groan, in pleasure, pain, and awe as she is devouring my mouth still drenched in her juices. Good grief, that it so hot! I thought they only did that in pornos! My dick is so hard that it’s painful inside of these jeans and I don’t know what to do with it.

Masturbating is very unsatisfying to me. Sure, there’s a nut and I release, but there’s nobody there against me, no warm body to caress or to feel rub against my skin. Unlike most guys who have never gotten laid, I don’t enjoy it that much. I only choke the chicken when the balls get unbearably heavy and have to be emptied. Otherwise, I’ve been pretty much celibate… even with myself.

But right now, I feel like every cell in my body is going to explode as she rubs my throbbing cock through my pants. Oh God, this is killing me.

She quickly undoes my belt and fly and snatches my pants and boxers down. When she slides them off my feet and crawls between my legs, I realize that she’s about to return the favor. She kisses up the inside of my thighs and her dirty blonde hair brushes against my legs. Shit! I’m not going to last. When she looks up at me with those hungry blue eyes, I verbalize what I’m thinking.

“This is going to be quick,” I say, somewhat of a warning to her.

“That’s okay, baby,” she says, scooting closer to me. “I’m so ready for you.”

Oh, shit.

Her pretty pink lips kiss the head of my penis then wrap around it almost immediately and I nearly rip the upholstery off the sofa. My first blowjob and this woman really wants me. I can tell! She’s looking me straight in the eyes as she lubricates my entire penis—shaft and head—with her lips and tongue, those sexy blues and an occasional moan telling me that she’s enjoying every minute of it. Her hand strokes my head and she licks salaciously all over my balls. God, I’ve never felt anything like this! I was right—it doesn’t take long. After only a few minutes of torturing my dick and balls with her tongue, mouth, and hands, and can feel my orgasm building and about to blow as she’s bobbing on my shaft.

“Ba… by,” I try to choke. “I’m… I…”

“I know, baby,” she says, stroking me with her hand, my tip right at her lips. “Give it to me.” She strokes a few more times, the head inside of her open mouth so that I can see the initial squirt coat her tongue.

“Shit!” It’s too much for me and I empty in her mouth. As soon as my head drops back and about midway through my orgasm, she drops down on my shaft and locks on, sucking hard. I almost can’t breathe! “Aw, shit!” I groan as this fresh new torment causes me to thrust into her mouth. Hell, I hope I didn’t hurt her… but she doesn’t release and I can’t stop. When I feel like it’s burning and tender, she stops. She knows exactly when to stop.

Damn! My first blowjob! It was amazing!

I’m panting like a marathon runner and she’s licking the tender skin in the crease of my leg. Please… it’s unbearable. Occasionally, she looks up at me and I don’t know what to say. Do I want her to stop? To keep going? This feels so good… her touching me, licking me. Hell no, I don’t want her to stop. She can keep going until she consumes me completely!

Resigned to my fate, I lay back and let her feast on my body. She is insatiable. I’m trembling every time she touches me and a few minutes later, the tremble becomes want again. I want her. Will it be fast again? Will I be able to hold out a little longer? Will we have sex this time or more advanced third base sex play?

She climbs up my body and straddles me. I can feel her thighs and the heat from her core though I can’t feel the meat yet. She takes my face in her hands and looks into my eyes. What is she looking for? I want you, baby. I want you so much. Please. Please, let me have you.

She crushes her lips against mine and thrusts her tongue into my mouth. Goddamn! The taste of our juices mixing together in our mouths is driving me fucking insane. This has to be the hottest fucking thing in the world. I can feel my dick getting hard again as she thrusts her tongue into my mouth, licking and massaging every crevice. I’m gobbling her hungrily, trying to control myself, but holding her against me securely. I want her so badly.

She plays with my mouth with hers, pulling her face back just enough to see my begging eyes as she taunts me—licking my lips and teasing me with our intermingling flavors.

Baby, please!

She wiggles her hips and rubs her naked pussy against my dick. Shit! I shiver with delight at the sensation. She has to stop this. I can’t take it. I’ve exploded in her mouth already and now, I’m ready for warmth again. Shit, this is unbearable! Soon, she puts me out of my misery.


Marilyn

He gasps loudly and groans as I adjust myself and drop my hips down onto his throbbing member. His arms snake under mine and his hands secure my shoulders from behind me. Fuck, this is so hot! He’s taking me without taking me—forceful, holding me, but relinquishing control to me at the same time. He’s so strong. His arms around me have always sent me into heat, but it’s this moment that I’ve wanted for months… to feel him inside of me, to wrap myself around him and make him feel good and have him make me feel good. The connection is almost too much.

“Uuugh!” I moan as I rise and fall on him, over and over—trying to keep it slow and deep, trying to make it last. He feels so good inside of me. I sucked him off first because I knew it would be quick. I know he’s a virgin, but I didn’t know if he had ever come before. His reaction told me that he had, but that he still never had a blowjob before. Thinking about the feel and taste of his skin in my mouth spawns me on a bit and I have to remember to keep my rhythm or this will be over way too soon for both of us.

“Oh, baby,” he groans, his voice tortured. “God, you feel so good.” His voice goes right to the core of me and I can’t help but deepen the stroke. “Baby, please… shit!” He pulls me down onto him forcefully and begins to pump into me… hard. Oh, God! Is he really a virgin?? That dick is saying that he knows what he’s doing! I drop my head back in ecstasy, just letting him fuck me.

“Oh, Gary,” I keen as he causes my body to rise, licking and sucking my breasts as he holds me in place and pounds into me. He’s always known what to do with his mouth. I was very pleasantly surprised when it took little direction for him to lick my clit and make me come so hard. He zeroed right in on the magic spot and went right for the money. His masterful skills on my nipples right now ensure that I won’t be able to hold out much longer. Could it be this good because I’ve waited for it for so long? No. No. Bad sex is bad sex no matter how long you’ve waited for it, and this is definitely good sex.

I stop being so analytical and concentrate on the good sex, on him thrusting into me and mauling my breasts, nipples, and neck as he groans in satisfaction. God, this is so much better than I ever imagined. He feels so good that I can barely move, but I do my best to match his stroke the best that I can. His hands travel all over my back and waist and he strokes into me, sucks me, kisses me. He’s a natural at all of this and I can’t take much more.

“Gary… Gary… I’m gonna… come…” I breathe.

“Yeah?” he says sensually in my ear, but never stops moving.

“Yes!” I breathe, screwing my eyes shut as the wave begins to creep up on me.

“Shit! Shit! I feel it! I feel you!” he grunts as his hands travel to my ass, squeezing my hips and guiding me up and down on his member. I know this is more instinct on his part than skill, but fuck! Those instincts!

“Aaaahhhh… aaahhh! Gary! Gaaarryyyy!” I tremble out my orgasm on top of him as my nails dig into his shirt and shoulders. My eyes are tight and my body is tighter, my muscles screaming for what they have craved for so long—the torment of a massive, uncontrollable orgasm. “Gary…” I pant, “Oh God, Gary.”

“I feel it!” he breathes. “So tight! So… tight…” He pumps into me feverishly as my aftershocks threaten to steal my consciousness. He’s magnificent! How could he possibly be a virgin? I don’t know, but he’s mine now and I’m loving every minute of it!

“Gary… yes… yes…” I feel the pulsing of my muscles around him as my sated body surrenders to his thrusts, caressing him and gripping him as he chases his orgasm.

“I feel it…” he grunts as he grips my behind tight, holding me in place as his stroke becomes uncontrolled, almost violent. He’s there… he’s right there.

“I feel it! I fee… I… shit…! Shit! Shit!” He presses me down hard onto him, groaning loudly as I feel him coming fiercely inside of me.

“Yes, baby… oh, yes, baby,” I encourage, as I kiss his face, his lips, his neck while he rides his orgasm.

“Ah! Shit! Oh God!” he exclaims between breaths while his fingers dig into my butt cheeks. It’s so hot! I try to grind against him, but he’s strong and holding me solidly into place while his member pumps out its contents deep inside my core. I love it. I love how he feels and how he holds me, so tight that I can’t move. It’s fantastic.

“Oh, God, Mare, baby,” he breathes as he nuzzles his sweaty head between my breasts, trying to catch his breath. I cup his head in my arms and hold him, concentrating on the feeling of him inside me—pulsing while his orgasm wanes and his breathing begins to slow. He releases my butt and his hands move up to my back, holding me just tight enough and pressing me against him in an intimate embrace.

Oh, Gary… I love you.

“Mmmmm,” he moans, almost in response to my unspoken words. He raises his head to mine and kisses me. His skills in that area are unmatched. I often try to kiss him like he kisses me, but he is a master with his lips and tongue and I often find myself melting in his arms while his lips ravish mine. Now, combined with the sexual satisfaction that I feel, the fact that he is holding me so close to him that I can feel his heartbeat, still feeling him inside of me—pulsing, and now slightly rubbing against my walls… oh, God…

“Are you trying to get started again?” I’m trying to breathe normally as he makes my spirit quiver.

“I just love how the inside of you feels,” he groans. “Just let me feel you.” Oh, good God. He’s doing this to me without even trying.

“Gary,” I caution, closing my eyes. “You’re going to start this fire again.” After just one time, I crave him; crave his body and his touch.

“Just let me feel you,” he beseeches again, his hands and mouth exploring where they can as he gently strokes his member into me. He’s not aroused, not hard—just feeling the warmth and the closeness I guess. He unbuttons the rest of the buttons on my shirt and pushes it off my shoulders along with my bra. His hands on my bare skin ignite me again. The effect is dizzying.

“Aaahh,” I whisper, helpless.

“Oh, God, does it always feel like this?” he breathes. “This is so much more than I ever thought it would be.” It’s been so long that I don’t know how to answer that question.

“Gary,” I breathe, succumbing to his touch. His hand strokes gently and sensually up my back. He loves me. He hasn’t said it, but I feel it in his touch. I feel his love.

“Say it again,” he groans deeply as he plants a kiss between my breasts. I shiver.

“Gary,” I whisper, hearing the yearning in my voice.

“Again.” His lips move from the sides of my mounds up my chest to my neck. I try to hold my head back, but he holds me firm, nipping at my earlobe. “Again, baby,” he coaxes.

“Gary…” I surrender to him—his touch, his warmth, his kiss, his sex hardening inside of me each time I breathe his name.

“Kiss me,” he instructs and my lips find his immediately. His hands cup my face possessively as our mouths mold to one another, and he starts to grind into me again. His breath quickens and he moans, his mouth never releasing mine.

I call his name many more times that night…

Mending Dr. Steele: Chapter 78—Mixed Signals

It’s been a hell of a month for me, with the death of my closest girlfriend, my hospitalization, and my grandson being born all in a matter of two weeks. I won’t be lying if I tell you all that I am completely exhausted right now–still working to get the original story published and get the final chapters of this book posted has not been an easy task. For your patience, I am posting the next chapter.

There are two more chapters after this one. 

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

Chapter 78—Mixed Signals

ANASTASIA

“Mr. David, you testified that you come from ‘humble beginnings’ and that your father saved for years for you to go to college, is that correct?” Batiste begins his cross-examination.

“Yes.”

“Do you care to explain what this is?” Batiste drops some papers on the witness stand in front of David. He picks them up and examines them briefly. An unknown emotion shows on his face for a fleeting moment.

“College transcripts,” he says.

“Whose?” Batiste presses.

“Mine.”

“From?” he keeps going. David doesn’t want to say.

“The first college I attended,” he responds.

“University, you mean. On a scholarship?” David seems uncomfortable. “Remember, you’re under oath.”

“No… some of the money that my parents saved.”

“Oh, okay. So why did you come to U-Dub?”

“Their computer science program was better,” he answers.

“I see… with the money that you parents saved… from the humble beginnings.”

“Yes,” David hisses.

“Hmm. That’s interesting, because I show here that your parents own a very lucrative sporting goods chain and the main office is housed in your hometown. I’m pretty sure that ‘saving up’ for your college fund couldn’t have been that difficult.” Batiste says.

“I said we came from humble beginnings. I didn’t say we were still there. My parents made something of themselves, just like me. I mean, look at me.”

“Yes, look at you,” Batiste says, and the courtroom falls silent. “I understand making something of yourself, Mr. David, but your parents have owned this very successful chain of stores for more than 20 years. That’s most of your life, Mr. David. Not only would I say that you did not come from humble beginnings, but you were nearly born with a silver spoon in your mouth.”

“Objection, Your Honor,” Lady Smug protests.

“Withdrawn,” Batiste says and continues with his cross-examination. “Let me rephrase what I was trying to say. Mr. David, while you are saying that you came from humble beginnings, the truth is that even though you were born in a small town, you were raised in a very large home in an affluent and exclusive area of the county for most of your life. Isn’t that correct?”

“It was still a small town,” David answers.

“A small suburb where only the well-off members of society resided, correct?”

“I didn’t lie,” he protests. “I said that I came from a small town from humble beginnings and that my father saved up for me to go to college.”

“I never said you lied, Mr. David. However, you have left out considerably important information in your recollection and description of events, like what you failed to mention was that you lived a privileged life as a teenager and as a college student where you stayed in private dorms and your father paid for most of your expenses out of a several-thousand-dollar college fund and his sizable income from the family’s sporting goods chain.”

“Objection, Your Honor. Relevance,” Lady Smug says.

“You Honor, Ms. Ramsey and Mr. David have painted the picture for the jury that he was a poor boy from a small town. I’m just giving the jury the actual picture that he was a privileged child that lived a more-charmed life than he has portrayed.”

“Overruled,” Her Honor says. “You presented your picture of the situation, Ms. Ramsey. The prosecution has a right to present his facts as well.”

“Thank you, Your Honor.” Batiste turns back to David. “Mr. David, what was the first vehicle that you owned…?”

The prosecution goes about the business of ripping apart David’s implication that he was a poor boy from a small town. It turns out that he went to private schools, drove fancy cars, and had archery lessons… archery. Even I didn’t know how rich he really was and we lived together! I notice that everyone is tiptoeing around the fact that he’s from Cedar Rapids, or from Iowa altogether. I wonder why that seems to be such a big secret.

“Let’s talk about those formidable college years,” Batiste continues. “You said that you didn’t have a girlfriend at the time before Mrs. Grey, correct?” He winces at the mention of my married name.

“That’s what I said,” he nearly hisses.

“Okay. Does the name Camilla Johannson ring a bell?”

Fuck! I didn’t know they could bring that up in this case! David clearly blanches and then tries to quickly recover. I don’t know if the jury caught it, but his suave exterior has clearly been broken. He’s twitching like a meth addict on that stand.

“I know of her,” he says.

“You know of her?” Batiste asks. “Isn’t it true that you were dating her before you went to the University of Washington?”

“Objection…” I knew that was coming. If he’s going where I think he’s going, he can’t take it there, although I wish he could. Camilla Johannson is the reason he was in exile at U-Dub in the first place. That’s the girl he raped and beat and was sent away from Iowa as part of the payoff.

“He said he didn’t have a girlfriend,” Batiste says with a shrug. David looks like he’s going to shit himself.

“Overruled. Mr. David can respond as to the nature of the relationship with the girl at the time.” He is frantically searching for a suitable answer to the question and he can’t hide it.

“We had dated before I went to Washington, but we had a falling-out before I left and we were not dating by the time I got to U-Dub.” Oh, how convenient! By all means, don’t tell them that you raped and beat the girl damn near to death—but it appears that the prosecution is using this just as much as he can without violating the rules.

“I see. She was actually the reason you went to the University of Washington. Is that correct?” He still hasn’t said it, but he’s letting David know that he knows the whole story and he’s hoping that Edward will step over into the hole.

“I left my hometown to come to Washington to study computer science. Camilla and I were history before I even left.” He’s not going to admit it. He must have been coached on this part.

“So you actually did have a girlfriend before Mrs. Grey… she wasn’t your first experience with women, shall we say.”

“I never said that she was,” David says with a frown. No, you just implied it, Asshole. Small town boy meets Vegas floozy who turns him out and leaves him high and dry.

“No, of course you didn’t. You’re not saying a lot.”  Yikes, gut shot. “Speaking of not saying a lot, the dinner at Canlis—you left out that the conversation was quite heated and Mrs. Grey repeatedly told you that not only did she not want to meet with you, but that you two were not getting back together.”

“I didn’t leave it out,” David says.

“Oh? I have Mrs. Grey’s testimony here from earlier in the week. Would you like for me to read it?”

“No,” David hisses. “I just don’t recall the conversation going that way.”

“Really? That’s very interesting. You recall where you went, what you drank, her leaving with Mr. Grey, his ‘goon’ sitting outside of her apartment and returning the next day, being thrown out of her apartment, being ‘attacked’ in the Marketplace, but you don’t remember the content or the tone of this very crucial conversation?” Batiste adds incredulously. The courtroom is silent for a while.

“I do remember the content of our conversation. We were talking things out.”

“That’s not what Mrs. Grey said.”

“Her husband was sitting here. What do you expect her to say?” David snaps. Batiste nods.

“So, just so that I’m clear, it is your testimony that Mrs. Grey went to Canlis with you that night with every intention of getting back together with you even though she had repeatedly told you over the course of four years that it wasn’t going to happen, and her sole purpose of leaving was that Mr. Grey showed up with a bottle of wine?” The courtroom is silent again. I actually giggle at how ridiculous that sounds. I can see myself in my mind’s eye crawling across the floor following Christian out of the restaurant, and he has a bottle of wine tied to the end of a fishing pole. I’m almost certain that members of the jury see something similar. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.

“That’s not what I said. Don’t put words in my mouth.”

“My apologies, Mr. David. You’re leaving so much out that I assume that you expect us to fill in the blanks. I’m just trying to get clarification.” He thumbs through his notes. “You left out that you had a girlfriend before you came to the University of Washington, leading the court to believe that Mrs. Grey was your first experience with a woman. You omitted that you came from a lucrative childhood, driving fancy cars before you even turned 18, focusing only on the fact that you lived in a small community and making it appear that Mrs. Grey was the big town girl from Vegas who came and corrupted you when it was actually the other way around. Mrs. Grey has testified and it has been verified that she was living in a homeless shelter before she went to U-Dub, and she in fact was going to college on a scholarship. So, again, please forgive me, Mr. David, if it appears that I am putting words in your mouth. That is the very last thing I would want to do as I can assure you that the court would much rather hear the full story come from your mouth.”

“Objection!” Lady Smug is out of her seat again. “Is he going to tell the story or question the witness?” 

“I’m only reiterating what the witness has already said and attempting to get clarification on his testimony, just like you did when you cross-examined Mrs. Grey. Would you like for me to ask him all of those questions again… just like you did when you cross-examined Mrs. Grey?” Wow, these people are cut-throat! I’m getting a kick out of watching Lady Smug squirm and seeing David’s face turn fifty shades of green.

“It’s fine to get clarification of the answer, but be careful in your narration, Mr. Batiste,” Her Honor cautions. Batiste nods and after several moments, he’s back on David.

“I’d like to go back to the ‘attack’ in the Marketplace. We have already had testimony from Mr. Forsythe that you attempted to restrain Mrs. Grey when she tried to leave after you insulted her. Do you care to explain that?”

“What is there to explain? That faggot is her best friend—of course he’s going to say that!” I hear a gasp in the courtroom and it’s not Al. The look on his face and the fact that he’s looking over at the jury lets me know that he may have lost one of them with that statement. Batiste doesn’t let this opportunity pass him by.

“I’m sorry Mr. David. You’re implying that Mr. Forsythe may not have been completely truthful when he indicated that you unnecessarily restrained Mrs. Grey. Your reasoning is a bit unclear. Are you saying that he’s lying because he’s her best friend or because he’s gay?” Good one, Batiste.

“I don’t know why Mr. Forsythe is lying. All I’m saying is that I didn’t try to restrain Rosie.”

“So again, you contend that you were just minding your own business and she just walked up to you in the Marketplace and assaulted you not hours after she threw you out of her apartment, saying that she never wanted to see you again?”

“That’s exactly what I’m saying, and Rosie never told me that she never wanted to see me again!” Yes, I did, you asshole!

“Are you sure about that, Mr. David?” Batiste asks.

“I’m positive! She was upset with me, but that always blows over. She never said she didn’t want to see me again.” Batiste goes over to the prosecution table.

“Your Honor, I would like to now refer to States Exhibit V.” Her Honor nods. “Mr. David, is your phone number 555-8782?” David nods.

“Yes, it is.”

“Can you please read what this is?” He hands Edward a piece of paper.

“This looks like the restraining order served on me telling me to stay away from Rosie.”

“And can you turn to page six please?” Edward turns to page six and blanches again. “Can you please tell the court what you’re looking at?”

“I think… it’s text messages,” he says slowly.

“Can you read the date of the texts, Mr. David?” David sighs.

June 30, 2012.”

“And is that your phone number there?” Batiste asks.

“Yes.”

“Can you please read the pink highlighted line labeled ‘line seven?’” David sighs again.

“’You’re a real fucking bitch, Anastasia. You’re going to pay for this shit.’” Batiste nods.

“And what phone number did that come from?”

“Mine,” David says and we can barely hear him.

“I’m sorry, we didn’t catch that, Mr. David. What number did that come from?”

“Mine!” he nearly yells.

“Thank you, Mr. David, and what does line eight read?” David reluctantly looks down at the transcript. Yeah, you forgot about the texts, didn’t you, asshole?

“’ And thank you so much for that. I’ll make sure that I let the judge see this when I file for my restraining order on Monday. I never ever want to see your fucking face in my life ever again. You are dead to me.’”

“And can you read the number that the message came from?” David reluctantly reads my old phone number to the court. “Your Honor, please let the record show that Mr. David has read Mrs. Grey’s phone number on June 30, 2012.”

“Duly noted,” she says. Batiste turns his attention back to David. “Mr. David, do you still contend that Mrs. Grey never told you that she never wanted to see you again?”

“I had forgotten about that text,” he says.

“Surely you hadn’t forgotten about it when you accosted her in the Marketplace. According to the timing, it was only about three hours after the text exchange.”

“I was only trying to talk to her,” David defends.

“By stalking her in the Marketplace, insulting her and her best friend in public, and then restraining her when she tried to leave—after you told her that she was going to ‘pay’ for whatever supposed malfeasance she had committed against you?”

Batiste systematically begins destroying David’s “poor little victim me” defense, all the way into meeting Harris in the coffee shop and going about the business of changing his identity. The whole thing finally sounds as ridiculous as it really is and if it was truly as David says it was—which I highly doubt—then he wasn’t under any kind of duress or diminished capacity. He was just duped.

This story is completely different from the one that he described to his attorney earlier. Harris all but put a gun to his head and mine in the first version. In this version, he’s just confused and angry, which is exactly what he was on that island. He didn’t know what to call me, what to say to me, how to handle me, or what to do next. By the time he and Harris had gotten into that fist fight, he was all out of ideas. That’s why he handed me my phone. No one in their right mind would have done that, which lends to his insanity defense, but he wasn’t insane. He was desperate.

For once, I finally see my saving grace. Everything he’s saying sounds like a jumbled garble of mess and confusion. He can’t get his lies straight and he can’t sustain this defense he’s trying to present. His “expert” witness was bullshit and his own testimony is falling apart. His attorney was so ready to tear into me that she didn’t prepare for the rest of the trial. He’s going to fry.

Unless this is a jury of complete and utter idiots, David has lost this trial with flying colors. By the time he is called to task for handcuffing me naked to the bed, he has absolutely no justification for his actions—not that there is one.

Not once did he try to contact the police.
When he saw that I was falling ill, he still failed to try to get medical help for me.
Harris went to the mainland to use my cards, gone for God only knows how long, and David never released me or even tried to escape with me.
After he and Harris fought, he still kept me shackled to the bed.
While Harris was outside being shot down by the police, David never voluntarily released me.
Nothing he did—not one thing—indicated diminished capacity or duress, just a psycho who was trying to get a woman to succumb to Stockholm’s syndrome and love him again.

He’s toast.


CHRISTIAN

“I don’t want to scare you, but this doesn’t look good, Chris,” James says after his initial review of our systems and network. This is definitely not what I want to hear. My eyes are spinning and my head feels like lead after James tries to tell me in laymen’s terms what’s going on with my network. Long story short, someone has been able to bypass the firewalls in the front and back of our main network as well as many—many—of our subnets. What this means is that whoever this is knows exactly what they are doing and are easily able to gain a foothold onto the network.

Barney couldn’t see it as quickly because he’s too close to the situation. Barney was micro-searching before looking at the big picture, which is the exact opposite of what James did. It’s like someone breaking into your house, and you go around the house searching every door, window, trap door, patio door, balcony door, secret passageway, and sliding wall to see how the intruder got in. That’s Barney. Now you call the police and they look for obvious signs of forced entry and visible damage that is normally caused by someone breaking into your house. That’s James. I’m going to need both of them to continue because I need James to tell me where they are going and where they’ve been, then I need Barney to lock the doors behind them. That may be an exercise in futility, but I don’t know yet.

“What are they trying to do?” I ask him, thrusting my fingers into my hair.

“I still can’t tell for sure, but I can tell you this. They used a pretty elementary technique to log into your system as a host—elementary only because the technique is easy, but you have to be well familiar with the system you’re trying to crack. You are definitely under friendly fire, or once friendly fire.” So that lets me know that this is not some strangers trying to infiltrate Grey Enterprises. This is someone who is or used to be on the inside. Of course, my most recently fired lawyers come to mind. “They log into your system with a login that’s different every time, so you can’t just find them immediately because they don’t leave the same footprint as the last time.”

“So how can you single them out as opposed to any other GEH employee if their footprint is different all the time?” I ask.

“By searching for anomalies,” he answers. “I have a sophisticated program that runs on a near infinite loop that is able to identify unfamiliar users as well as users that do thing outside of the normal parameters. This means that I can easily locate the user, but unfortunately they are usually in and out before I can pinpoint them and they never use the same signature twice. Whoever they are, they’re anticipating something like this and they never stay put.”

“Shit!” I hiss. “James, what are they trying to do?”

“I don’t know, Chris, but their behavior indicates that they are up to no good. Trade secrets, financial information, control of the system—you name it, expect it.”

“What do I do now?”

“There’s nothing that you can do right now until we find out who this joker is and where they’re operating from,” he tells me, much to my chagrin. “If you alert him to your actions right now, he’s likely to close up shop and sit and lie in wait until you get comfortable again. We have to find out how the joker got in and in the process, we’ll most likely find what he’s after, but this can be a long process, Chris.”

“Long? How long?”

“Weeks… maybe months.”

“Months?” I say, horrified. “He could have stripped my whole company by then!”

“No, he can’t. We can stop him before he does too much damage in that time.” I sigh. I don’t like the sound of this.

“James, I’m putting my life’s work in your hands. I have never put this much of my life in anyone’s hands.” He looks me square in the eyes.

“You’re a good man, Chris, but more than that, the man that I one day hope to marry is best friends with your wife. If I do anything that could possibly hurt her, he will drop me like yesterday’s garbage and I can’t take that chance. I will do everything in my power to make sure that whoever this is doesn’t get far, but you have to trust me. Even when it seems like I’m asking you to do something crazy, you have to trust me. Can you do that?”

“Do I have a choice?” I feel hopeless and exposed, vulnerable in the worst way.

“Yes, you do,” he says firmly. “You can tell me to pack up my shit and get the hell out of your building.” He’s not being facetious as he stands there waiting for my answer.

“I trust you, James. I do, it’s just that…” I’m at a bit of a loss for words. “This is everything I’ve built. I have a new wife. We’re about to have twins. We’re going to be buying—or building—a house. Not that there ever is a good time for something like this, but this is the absolute worst! My pregnant wife is stressing over this trial and the safety of our babies. I just can’t…” I trail off again. Should I tell Butterfly about this? I hate keeping things from her, but the fact that this could be very serious and I have absolutely nothing to give her by means of an answer means that this is going to eat at her and eat at her, and that can’t be good for the babies… especially right now.

“Do you want my opinion?” He says to me. I look over at him as I nearly forgot that he was in the room. “Don’t tell her yet. You don’t have anything concrete and she’s only going to worry. Let’s get Edward David locked away before we hand her another crisis. Give me time to give you something—and a possible solution—before you lay this on her.” I shake my head.

“How could you possibly know what I was thinking?” I ask. He shrugs.

“I have an analytical mind. I put myself in your shoes and think about if this were me and Allie. They are the same person, and she would just worry. Don’t tell her yet. Soon… but not yet.”

He scares me.

“Give me something soon, please, not just for my wife, but for me too.” I beseech him.

“We’ll figure it out, Chris. Don’t worry.”

*-*

I spend more time that usual in the office combing through reports for any anomalies and checking in or James and Barney without being a total nuisance. It’s well into the evening when Allen and James come into my office and tell me that they are going home. I look at my watch—7:30. Damn, I didn’t call Butterfly. It’s too late now. I might as well just get home. I text Jason that I’m ready to go and grab my suit coat before leaving my office.

The ride is quiet as I check my emails on my blackberry and the real estate agent is coming up with some more suitable choices for us since our chat. We know what we want, and simply being on Mercer Island is not it. We have specific requirements and if we can’t get them, we’ll stop looking and build them. I think she got the picture after our talk. If you ask me, she has some properties on Mercer that she’s been trying to move and she just decided to throw them in there with hopes that we might see them and want one. When I reiterated my wishes to her and assured her that I would find another agent if she couldn’t find what we wanted, she snapped right in line and began sending information on properties that were more to my liking. I was just about to forward one very large property to Butterfly when my phone buzzes with a text.

**Hey, where are you?**

Shit. I knew I should have called. I was sure that I’d be home before she started wondering, but this damn cyber attack has me so preoccupied that I don’t know which way is up sometimes.

**I’ll be in your arms in less than 10 minutes, Baby.**

Pour on the goo, Grey. You’re late and you didn’t call your wife.

**Is everything okay?**

No. No, everything is certainly not okay, but you’ve got way too much on your plate right now for me to introduce this to the meal.

**Very uncomfortable and boring work shit. I need my wife in the worst way.**

Hopefully that’s enough to derail this line of questioning.

**By the worst way, I hope you mean the best way.**

Mission accomplished.

**Oh, yes, Mrs. Grey, the best way and every way. Please tell me that dinner—and you—are ready for me.**

I pause and wait for her answer.

**I’m always ready for you, Mr. Grey, and your dinner was ready quite some time ago. I couldn’t wait, I was too hungry and the beans wouldn’t take no for an answer. Do you want to heat your food for you?”

God, do I love her.

**Yes, please. Then go to the bedroom and put on something sexy. I want to admire you before I devour you.**

It took a little longer for her to respond this time.

**Dammit, Christian, I dropped my phone and had to find it. Thank God I wasn’t near any water! Where are you now?**

**I’m in the parking garage about to come and get you.**

**Well, come and get your dinner first. It’s in the microwave, and I’ll be in the bedroom waiting. Give me a little time, okay?”

I’ll give you all the time you need, Butterfly, because I doubt if you’ll be getting any sleep tonight.

**Okay, Baby. Get lost, we’re coming up.**

The texting stops and Jason and I get in the elevator. I loosen my tie and stretch my neck trying to relieve the tension there.

“Long day, huh?” Jason asks. I raise my eyes to him.

“Yeah. I’m facing one hell of a monster and I hope I can slay this dragon before he burns my castle down.”

“You’ll figure it out, Boss. You always do.” I hate to tell him that this time, I’m not so sure.

The elevator opens to the foyer and Jason opens the front door. The great room smells like… beef. This means that Butterfly had to heat dinner and basically run to the bedroom. I don’t know if she’ll ever be able to eat or stand beef again, but right now, it’s her worst enemy. Jason excuses himself for the night and I open the microwave to find a delicious beef stew. At my place setting in the dining room is a plate of healthy chunks of hearth bread with butter and a Merlot opened to breathe. I should have had Butterfly join me, but instead, I sit down and enjoy my meal, giving her time to make whatever preparations she wants to make in the bedroom.

When I have sopped the last of my stew with a piece of the hearth bread and popped it into my mouth, I take a satisfying gulp of my Merlot before rubbing my stomach happily. Now, to find my woman…

*-*

Her hair is tossed carelessly over her face and I’m watching her sleep. She’s exhausted. There was nothing gentle about our sex tonight. It was hard, long, wild, and animal. I was aggressive and rough and she gave it right back to me. Her chest is covered in love bites. My back is covered in scratches. There are teeth marks on my shoulders and I swear that some of my hair is between her fingers. She pushed my back against the headboard, sat in my lap, held on to those slats and rode me hard… and I mean hard! I must’ve left handprints in her ass as she bounced and pumped with no mercy, commanding me not to come until she came twice. When she turned around in reverse cowgirl and dropped that sweet ass on me, I was a goner. I came so hard that I lifted her off the bed with my pelvis, pumping hard and emptying my seed into her ass. I had her in every possible way and if I’m honest, I’m tired, too, but sleep just seems to evade me. I’m thinking about this intruder and what they could be after… who it could be.

One of many competitors.
A disgruntled employee, including those fucking attorneys I just fired or anyone from Vansteen.
Some pimple-faced kid trying to make a name for himself.
It could be anybody.

It’s a slow, quiet attack and that’s what frightens me the most. It’s made to look harmless, but it’s not. I have the best tech team that money can buy and I’ve even added more to it, which is why they were able to find these footprints so soon. Right now, it just looks like someone is walking around, opening doors, and peeking inside. What are they looking for and what’s going to happen when they find it?

I can’t sleep so I get out of bed and go to my study. I fire up my computer and open my email. I don’t know what I expect to find. Of course, it’s the same stuff that was there during my ride home. I open the email from the real estate agent. There are a few really nice properties on the waterfront just off the bridge. I don’t know how I feel about being that close to the bridge, but I would have to see them before I rule them out completely. There are two other properties further south on the island. One has eight bedrooms and the other has seven. That’s more than we talked about and I know it may be a bit ostentatious, but they are wonderful properties also on the water.

The property close to the bridge has several houses as part of the large estate—guest houses and pool houses and sports houses. It may be a bit much for a couple just starting out, even a billionaire and his wife, but this house has the long private drive which is a must-have on my list. I don’t know if the other properties don’t have one, or if the agent failed to include that information in the email, but that small fact has shot this property to the top of the list.

I’m rubbing my eyes because they are tired and burning and as much as I don’t want to admit it, I’m exhausted. I’m so preoccupied with everything that’s going on that I just haven’t been sleeping well at all, but I can’t even keep my eyes open. I have to find some way to stop my mind so that my body can get some rest before my systems mutiny against me. I shut down the computer and turn off the light in my study.

Butterfly hasn’t stirred. She seems more exhausted than I am. I wonder what her day was like today. I crawl back in bed and wrap my arms around her, her back to my front. I close my eyes and fall asleep instantly.

“You thought you were so damn untouchable. After all this time, you thought you could get away from me.”

No… this is impossible. He looks so big, like he did back then. I’m a grown man now. This can’t be.

“Did you think you could hide from me, you little shit? Get your ass over here!”

I’m being dragged. He’s dragging me! This isn’t possible! This can’t be happening.

“Let me go, you sick fuck!” and suddenly, I’m as tall as he is and we’re nose to nose. He’s snarling at me. Alcohol is heavy on his breath and seeping through his pores. I could take him. I couldn’t take him as a kid, but I could take him now. “Get your fucking hands off me!” I snap, pushing him hard away from me with both hands. He releases my shirt and stumbles backward. “What the fuck are you doing here?”

“How’s that pretty little wife of yours?” he asks with a sinister little smirk. “She looks just like Ella. Is that why you picked her?”

I haven’t heard that name in years. I asked about her once and never asked again.

“My Ana is nothing like that useless, drug-addict whore, so don’t you dare compare them!”

“You made her that way!” he hisses.

“No, YOU made her that way!” I growled. “You kept her high on that shit until she killed herself just to get away from you and that life. She knew that I would be taken care of because you didn’t want me. So you can serve that shit somewhere else.”

“You’ll have little shits of your own soon,” his face is morphing into some grotesque monster and then into nothing but black. “You wait and see. Slowly but surely, you’re going to lose everything that’s important to you.” He has no face and no mouth, but still that same voice that has haunted so many nightmares before is wafting from the faceless void. “You won’t have anything left—no wife, no money, no family, no business, no nothing. I’m going to take it all. You just wait and see.”

“Who the fuck are you?” I’m desperate. I need to know who he is and what he wants, and suddenly, I’m feeling small again. No! No! This is not happening!

“You just wait. You’ll see. You think you’re safe. You think you’re invincible… untouchable… but you’ll see, Grey. You’ll see…”

His voice echoes through my head when I sit up in bed drenched in sweat and breathing heavily. I didn’t scream, so I didn’t wake Butterfly. I slide out of bed and to the bathroom to throw some cold water on my face. Why is Anton Myrick haunting my dreams? Every other nightmare has been some recollection of my childhood, but this time, he’s taunting me as an adult. What is this? I step in the shower to wash away the images and the familiar smell of the monster implanted in my brain for eternity.

Monster.

It’s beginning to make a little sense now, but I think I better talk to Dr. Baker about it.

I’m showered, dressed, and drinking my coffee in about twenty minutes. A slightly sleepy-eyed Jason passes me with a travel mug and wordlessly goes into the great room. I finish my coffee just as Gail comes rushing out of their suite smoothing her hair, also looking a bit sleepy-eyed. I guess Butterfly and I weren’t the only ones bringing the house down last night.

“Can I get you something to eat, Christian—your usual omelet?” she says, her weariness evident in her voice.

“No, Gail, thank you. I’ll get something in the office. I’m in a bit of a hurry.” She looks at me questioning. She knows that I never skip breakfast, but this morning, I need to put some things in motion. I finish my coffee and stand from the breakfast bar. The elevator ride is silent and my mind is going a mile a minute. I need to gather some Intel on a few people, and I need it now. I open my phone and begin to make a list when we get to the car.

“Do you want to stop somewhere and get something to eat, Sir?” Jason asks me.

“No, I need to get to the office and talk to some people.”

“It’s just after dawn, sir. Nobody’s going to be there,” he protests.

“Someone will be there,” I say, still typing my list.

We enter Grey House and the security staff that were slouching at the front desk perk up immediately.

“Good morning, sir,” one of them says while straightening his tie. I grunt something intelligible and head straight to the elevator, still looking at my blackberry.

“Good morning, sir. You’re here early,” Barney answers the phone when I get to my desk. See, Jason, I told you someone would be here. Andrea’s not even here yet, but I knew Barney would be.

“Barney, when did we first notice these abnormalities in the network?”

“You mean when they first appeared or when we first saw them?”

“When they first appeared.”

“That’s hard to say, Sir.” Good fuck, why is everything hard to say? Give me a straight answer! “If we go back to every unknown entity that looks like a hack into the network, it could be years. This perpetrator is one of at least a million attempts to break our network.”

“Okay, let’s try something different. Something happened to set this guy apart from the others. What was that and when?”

“Again, it could be one of many, but we’ve narrowed it down to about ten. The biggest problem is that those 10 could all be one attacker, two, or even 10 separate attacks. The oldest of those attacks happened about…” he gets quiet and I can hear him typing, “…about 10 months ago. The most recent one to cause red flags occurred just a few weeks ago. We need to be sure before we put everybody on high alert.” I nod. I’m going to start in the most obvious places. I can’t sit still and let my entire empire be infiltrated by some unknown assailant and do nothing.

“I know your department is stretched thin with this assignment, but I need to know if you can spare a few people for a special project.”

“What’s the project?”

“I need the cyber trails of every person dismissed from GEH or a GEH subsidiary in the last year. I need to know where they’ve been in my company network over the last 12 months.” Barney whistles.

“Sir, that’s a massive undertaking,” he laments.

“I know, which is why I need someone familiar with the system to do it. With you focusing on the main vein, I need someone looking at the capillaries. Your budget is bottomless. You can bring in anybody you need, as long as they pass the security screening.”

“Can James’ company spare some more people? They’re some of the best I’ve seen.”

“Find out. Remember, bottomless. Don’t hesitate—get what you need, and get me what I need,” I reinforce.

“You got it, sir. I’ll get started right away.”

I end the call and make my second call after firing off an email.

“Sir,” Welch answers on the first ring.

“I sent you a list. I want to know what all of these people have been doing for the last 12 months and what they’re doing now.”

“Sir, most of these people are on our watch list,” he protests.

“I need you to look deeper. See if you’ve missed anything—who they may have been talking to, new relationships, anything that might lead us to whoever is running around in our systems.”

“Thinking outside the box.”

“We don’t have a choice,” I tell him.

“Okay, but… Lincoln’s in jail, sir.”

“She hasn’t been in jail for 12 months and she tried to kill me. I want all of her little pets investigated. She sent a snotty-nosed lawyer fresh out of correspondence school after me last November. I want the man who delivered sparkling water to her Kirkland estate investigated. I want one of your best guys on this, because I want you to stay sharp with current affairs. Bring in whomever you need—your budget is bottomless,” I say, repeating the words that I said to Barney.

“I don’t think I’ll need that much. I just may have to call in a few favors,” he says.

“Do what you need to do.”

“Yes, Sir.” I end the call and see that it’s still not 8am yet. Too early to call Dr. Baker or my father. I still need to get about the business of running my business. Andrea should be here any minute and she can run through my schedule with me. My dream is still haunting me… that fucker’s voice telling me that I could lose everything dear to me. Reality is merging with my biggest fears. If it wasn’t so goddamn early in the morning, I’d have a drink.

*-*

“I took the liberty of ordering some pastries from that bakery down the street. I thought you might be hungry.” Andrea comes in with a tray and some coffee. Jason and his big mouth. I know he told her that I skipped breakfast, the snitch.

“Thank you, Andrea,” I say, shamelessly gobbling down huge bites of an apple fritter. “What’s on the agenda today?”

“You have several meetings, sir. I left you notes on the two biggest ones.” She looks around my office and points to a stack of papers that have been sitting there since I don’t know how long. “I emailed them to you, too, sir.” Shit! I’ve been so preoccupied with this damn hacker, I didn’t even pay attention to these.

“How many meetings do I have today?” I ask her, she looks through her tablet.

“Six, including these.”

“Can the others be rescheduled?”

“Most likely, but if you’re going to focus your attention, you’re going to want to focus on that one. Feinstein are signing the final deal today and they’ve made some additional demands.” Additional demands? Oh, they’re crazy if they think they’re going to change the deal this late in the game.

“Cancel the others. Let’s start with them.”

About two hours later, Andrea and I have pulled out all of the bullshit these fuckers tried to slide into the deal. I call Allen down to double-check what I have found and make sure that I haven’t missed anything. It’s clear to me that Jones and Webber are still in their ear in some kind of way because these contracts have their paw prints all over them. I’m just about to prepare myself to go to battle with these assholes when I hear Allen nearly squealing in my lobby.

“Jewel! What are you doing here?” Shit. What is she doing here—and why do I all of a sudden have the feeling of impending doom with her here? She can’t be here right now—as a matter fact, she can’t be here at all.

Andrea examines me strangely before walking out of my office and back to her desk.

“Hi, Baby,” Butterfly says as she breezes into the office with a bag, no doubt full of food. “You were gone when I woke and Gail said you didn’t eat breakfast. I thought I bring you something—some fruit and cheese, croissants… I know you’ve had coffee already, so I stopped at that smoothie place and got you this mango-strawberry creation. I thought you’d like that.” She stands on her toes and kisses me quickly before proceeding to take the items out of her bag and arranging them on my desk.

“Um, Butterfly. It sounds delicious, but I’m just about to go into a meeting. It’s not for another 20 minutes, but I’m trying to prepare for it.”

“Oh,” she says, a bit surprised and trying to hide her disappointment. “I’m sorry, I should have called.”

“It’s very sweet,” I tell her, trying to ease the sting, but there’s still this niggling feeling. “I can eat when I get out of the meeting.” She smiles a tight smile and nods.

“Yes. It’ll keep. Just keep the containers closed and it should be fine… and find a refrigerator for the smoothie.”

“I will,” I say, putting my arms around her waist and kissing her gently. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome,” she says with a smile, and like always, she can see right through me. “What’s wrong?” I sigh heavily. I’m worried… no, I’m scared. There’s no other way to put this. This is not a harmless attack. I’m not being paranoid, and that dream meant something. I know it did.

“Butterfly, I’m going to need you to stay away from Grey House for a while.”

I would have done better to punch her in the face.

“Why?” she says, her frown deepening and her voice several octaves that normal. “Because I came without calling?”

“No,” I say, my voice now higher than normal. What do I tell her? I don’t want to tell her about this cyber attack yet. I don’t have enough information, but if I tell her that I’m worried for her safety, that’s going to be an hour-long conversation that I can’t have right now.

“I can’t explain it to you right now, but it for the best,” I tell her. That sounded weak even to my ears.

“Can’t, or won’t?” she accuses. “You said you would tell me everything. If something’s going on, I don’t want to be left in the dark.” I don’t have time for this. I need her to listen to me and just do what I say. I can’t be worried about her and GEH, too.

“Ana, I just need you to not come around for a while,” I tell her, trying not to lose my patience. I’m losing prep time while I’m trying to convince her to stay away from the office. She reads my expression, no doubt laced with frustration and a bit of impatience. She squares her shoulders and I’m getting ready for the fight. Oh shit, not now… please, not now.

“Fine,” she says, sharply, putting her purse on her shoulders and walking to the door. “Enjoy your brunch.” She turns around and walks out the door, her heels clicking on the marble and daring anyone to come within 10 feet of her.

Shit! Shit! Shit! Fucking shit!

I want to throw something, but right now, I know that will get me nowhere. Instead, I call my dad before I go in to meet with the vultures.

“Good morning, Christian. I was just about to go into court. Is everything okay? Is the jury back so soon?”

“No, Dad, still waiting. Dad, is Anton Myrick still in jail?” There’s a pause.

“As far as I know, yes. What’s going on, Son?”

“I had a dream about him last night.” I run my hand through my hair.

“No offense, Christian, but you’ve told me that you frequently had dreams about him.”

“This one was different, Dad. Way different.”

“Oh?” he asks. “In what way?” I don’t want to tell him either, especially since I haven’t told Butterfly. Butterfly… shit!

“I’m an adult and he’s threatening my family and making reference to my kids,” I tell him.

“Hmm,” Dad says, “that sounds like your subconscious playing games on you. Have you talked to your psychiatrist? Are you still seeing John?”

“Not for nearly a year, Dad. How could you not know that?”

“Did you tell me?” My father answers calmly. Come to think of it, I didn’t tell him.

“I’m seeing a different doctor. I’ll see if she has any emergency openings or a few minutes to talk to me.”

“Is it Ana?” I twist my lips.

“Really, Dad?” I ask him sardonically. “Ana can’t be my shrink—she’s my wife.”

“Just checking,” he says. I shake my head.

“Well, just check and make sure Myrick is still in jail. Humor me, okay?”

“Okay, son. I’ll find out.”

“Thanks, Dad. I gotta go.”

“Yeah, me too. Talk to you later.” I end the call just in time for Allen to come back into the room minutes before we’re supposed to go to the conference room.

“Do I even want to know why Jewel’s heels were doing the ‘get the hell away from me or I’ll fuck you up’ click across the marble floor downstairs?”

“No,” I say flatly. “What do you have?” He shrugs.

“You were right about the changes you found. There was nothing else though. This is pretty amateur shit, Chris. Reeks of those losers you fired, but more on an entry level—not stuff we’re accustomed to seeing from them. I would say same style, but not them. You don’t even need to pull out your big guns on this one. Just do that regular crunch and crush that you normally do with your Cesar Picotti’s and you should be fine.”

“Good. Let’s go crush these fuckers.”

“Remember, you don’t need your big guns.”

“I know I don’t, but I do need to let off some frustrations…”

Those poor fuckers never knew what hit them. All this time, I thought I was playing with some nice-sized fish—maybe not a whale, but at least a nice hunk of tuna. These morons turned out to be guppies. I go in expecting to play hardball and it turns out to be stick ball. They could have had those fuckers I fired on staff and they still wouldn’t have been able to offer me a decent challenge.

When I walked into the conference room on the 18th floor, Thomas was sitting back in his chair with his jacket open, one foot crossed over his knee like he owns the place. I just glared at him, because I knew what he was doing. It only took about 30 seconds for him to straighten up in that seat, and I could have stood there all day. I went right into those bullshit demands they had and shot them down one by one. With all the work that I had put in and that shit that they tried to pull a few months ago, I was ready to let the deal go—especially after having that little tiff with Butterfly this morning. I’m on edge like you wouldn’t believe with this cyber attack and this fucking Myrick dream and fighting with my beautiful wife when I would much rather be fucking her, and these asshole have the nerve to poke the hornet’s nest.

Thomas briefly tried to insinuate that if they didn’t get the demands they made—or at least some of them—that they would pull out of the deal and take the information that they had elsewhere. That was the wrong move. With these phantom attacks on my company, I really don’t know who knows what, but there’s one thing for damn sure. I’m going to sniff them the fuck out like the rats that they are and if they are in cahoots with H&S or Feinstein, I might as well know now—and I sure as fuck won’t allow those assholes to hold me hostage and affect my negotiations. So that was definitely the wrong move.

After reminding him about our conversation a few months back, I realized that he had nothing, and these dumb “stuffed shirts” let him do the talking. I finally tired of the whole situation and informed them that they might want to put a sock in Thomas’ mouth because if he keeps talking, not only will I walk away and go forward with the lawsuits like I promised, but I’ll also make damn sure that everyone in the industry knows what kind of bad faith this company operates under. Any company doing business with or hoping to do business with Grey Enterprises won’t go anywhere near Feinstein, and that’s a whole lot of territory. When the meeting was done, not only did we have the signed contracts, but we also got some concessions that we didn’t anticipate. You can’t bring a knife to a gunfight, you idiots. If abusing them hadn’t been so much fun, I would have been insulted. I’ll own this company in a year.

I finally get a moment around lunchtime to call Dr. Baker. I almost feel like I don’t need to call her since I’m feeling like my old self after that meeting, but I know that the adrenaline will wane soon and all of the old monsters will be back. She couldn’t drop what she was doing to talk to me this time, but she told me that she had maybe a few minutes after lunch as long as it didn’t turn out to be an entire session. If that was the case, I would have to wait for our scheduled appointment next week or hope for a cancellation. Nope. I’ll take the fifteen minutes after lunch.

“I’ll dispense with the niceties, Christian, as we’re pressed for time. Tell me what’s going on,” she says, when I call her back at the allotted time. I tell her about what’s going on with the company and about my dream of Myrick. I hadn’t had any dreams about him for quite some time, and when I did, they were flashbacks. He’s never presented himself to me as an adult.

“This is an easy one,” she tells me. “Myrick represents your phantom attacker. You don’t know who it is, you don’t know what they want, and you don’t know what’s going on, but you know the possible ramifications of them getting access into your network. There’s an intruder in your house hiding in a corner—you don’t know who he is, what he wants, or which corner. So he takes the face of your biggest nemesis.”

“He’s not my biggest nemesis,” I protest, thinking of all the companies that I’ve bought and put out of business. Shit, I have ex-subs that pose a bigger threat than he does. Speaking of which…

“Yes, he is, Christian,” she says, bringing my thoughts back to the here and now. “Name one person in your life that has affected you more harshly that he has—not your birth mother, not Elena, and certainly none of your competitors. The last time you saw that man, you were four years old. Twenty-six years ago and he’s still etched in your memory like you saw him yesterday. He most certainly is your biggest nemesis. He represents the unknown. He was the only one who has taken advantage of you when you were helpless and weak. That’s why you felt small in the dream. Even your relations with Elena were consensual. Even as a child, you could have stopped it. You could have gone to your parents and told them what was going on. You chose not to…”

“It really wasn’t that simple, Dr. Baker,” I interject. Lincoln had a hold on me. I craved her at one point. Though the thought sickens me now, it was the truth back then.

“Okay, maybe not, but did you ever have bad dreams about Elena—even after she tried to kill you?” Point taken. I only wanted to kill her after that.

“I see your point. I still can’t reconcile something, though. If this has to do subconsciously with the cyber attack, why did he bring my wife and unborn children into it?”

“What would hurt you more right now, losing your company or losing your family?” I feel a sharp pain in my chest when she asks that question. I put my life into GEH—lots of blood, sweat, and tears, literally—and if something happened to my life’s work, I would be utterly devastated. However, I would push a broom on the streets of Seattle as long as I could be with Ana and the beans. My breath quickens a bit at the thought of losing them, really losing them.

“Christian?”

“My family,” I breathe, trying to get a hold of my wild emotions. “My family. I would hate to lose my company, but my family is more important.”

“Yes. That’s why he attacked your family. Dreams are a manifestation of your subconscious, Christian. This unknown entity with no face has taken the form of your worst nightmare and attacked those people and things dearest to you in your sleep when you are most susceptible. It’s that simple.”

“So what do I do about it?” I ask, hoping for a quick escape from future nightmares.

“You know what to do about it. Neutralize the threat.” Well, that’s obvious.

“There’s nothing I can do about the dream? It’s making it hard to function.”

“Use your wife to reassure yourself. She’s here with you. She’s not going anywhere. She’s carrying your babies…” Yeah, and I sent her away from Grey House pissed off this morning.

“Yeah, about that…” I explain to Dr. Baker our brief meeting this morning in my office.

“Oh, well, that was really smart!” she says sarcastically. “Why did you do that?”

“Because this threat is real and I don’t want her around here until I can figure out what’s going on.”

“Does she know about the threat?” she asks.

“No. She’s already petrified that the world is going to swallow our babies whole. Then there’s the trial and waiting for David’s verdict, the Green Valley suspects taking pleas… She’s already under so much stress and I just don’t want to add to it.”

“And this was your solution? Ana, stay away from Grey House? Seriously, Christian? You can’t be that dense!”

“I don’t even know what we’re up against, so I have no idea what to tell her,” I say in my defense.

“Well, you better come up with something, because you have effectively banned your wife from your place of business and she has no idea why.”

Oh, shit.

“Yeah, I know. Thanks for the talk, Doc. I have to get back to work.”

“Damn, straight, you do. You better find out what’s going on fast before you self-destruct. And Christian, that is my professional opinion. Find out what’s going on before whoever this is wears you down slowly.” I sigh heavily.

“Thanks, Doc.” I say before I end the call. I immediately dial Butterfly’s number.

“You’ve reached Dr. Steele. If this is an emergency, please hang up and dial 911. Otherwise, please feel free to leave a message.” Why did I just feel a pang in my side at the name Dr. Steele?

“Hey, Baby, it’s me. I can’t explain it to you right now because I don’t have all the answers, but I need you to understand that you just need to stay away from Grey House for a while. I don’t know what else to tell you right now. I would have loved to sit and enjoy that delicious fruit and cheese with you. Please don’t worry. It’s probably nothing, but I just don’t have the details right now and the less people know, the better. Please trust me. I love you.”

I end the call and try her office.

“Dr. Steele’s office,” the voice answers.

“Marilyn? Is Ana there?”

“No, Dr. Steele isn’t in. This is her answering service. Would you like to leave a message?” I sigh. Yes, I would, but I can’t leave it with you.

“No. No message, thank you.” I end the call feeling a bit forlorn. She’s probably at Helping Hands with Mom, but if she didn’t answer her phone, she’s most likely still pissed.

Fuck my life.

“Sir?” my thoughts are broken by Jason’s voice. I didn’t even know that he had come into the office.

“Yeah?” I ask distracted.

“Her Highness is banned from Grey House?” Oh, shit. Butterfly’s been talking. This is why I don’t want to say anything about what’s going on.

“Yes, I told her to stay away for a while. I don’t want her around while we try to sniff out this threat. Do you have a problem with that?”

Maintaining his impassive demeanor, Jason simply says, “No, Sir. I had a question about the security protocol for Grey Enterprises and you just answered it.” He steps back out of the door and closes it behind him.


A/N:  Thank you all for being so invested in me and in my story. As you know, I will be taking a bit of a break after Book II, but hopefully it won’t be too long. Even with a lot of the controversy, I miss my story and I miss you guys. 

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

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Love and Handcuffs!
Lynn x