Becoming Dr. Grey: Chapter 12—A Man’s Gotta Do What A Man’s Gotta Do

Surprise! Bonus Chapter! Just to move things along a bit. FYI–My bonus chapters are usually strategically placed. I don’t just decide to do a bonus chapter spur of the moment. So when you ask for a bonus chapter and you don’t get one, don’t think I’m ignoring you. My chapters are timed based on storylines and how much I’ve got written. You can’t rush art… 😉

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.

Zip tiedChapter 12—A Man’s Gotta Do What A Man’s Gotta Do

ANASTASIA

“I’m sorry, Jewel. Bad choice of words. Let’s change the subject. I went by to see Maxie and Mindy today before they left the hospital.” Maxie and Mindy… that’s so cute.

“How are they?” I ask, going back to the great room with Harry.

“Just fine,” he says, sitting next to me. “Val was there.”

“I don’t want to talk about Val.”

“Well, we’re not talking about you and Val, we’re talking about me and Val, and as my best friend you’re going to have to hear it this time.” I sigh and take several swallows of my water.

“She threw her little dirty looks at me and made little nasty comments. I let it slide for about three minutes, then I had to go all ‘mad fag’ on her…”

“Al, you know I hate that word,” I protest.

“It’s okay. I’m gay, I can say it,” he replies, waving it off and I roll my eyes. “I told her that since we’re in a hospital that she should probably see a doctor about that bug up her ass.” I almost spray the water out of my mouth. Al pats me on the back to make sure that I don’t choke.

“You told her what?!” I gasp through my laughter.

“Oh, yeah. She did that whole gasping thing that she does lately…” He mimics the horror face of a woman clutching her pearls in the movies and I just laugh harder.

“You know once you get me started, I keep going. Any and everything that I feel or have seen and kept quiet about all comes spewing out and I let her have it.”

“Al, you didn’t.”

“Oh, yes, I did. I didn’t do anything to that trick for her to treat me that way and as far as I know, neither did you. I sat wondering and wondering what you did to her that could make her treat you so badly until she flipped the script on me for no reason. That’s when I knew that she has some kind of personal problem that she’s taking out on everybody else and I’m not going to deal with it. Whatever it is, she needs to get her shit together and stop holding other people responsible for her misery. Gary won’t come near her because he’s afraid he’s next! In the meantime, if this is what she wants, this is what she’ll get. If she wants to act like a catty ass little bitch, she’s messing with the wrong one, because I can out-cat any bitch any time, anywhere all day any day of the week!” Ooooookay, she has really pissed Al off, and I can truly see that he really did go “mad fag” on her, as he put it.

“Al, what did you say to her?” I ask. He folds his arms and takes his girl-let-me-tell-you stance.

“I told her that she really needs to get her shit together because she’s about to lose all of her friends. I told her that everybody sees the way that she’s treating you and now they’ll see the way that she’s treating me. I called her petty, childish, ridiculous, insensitive, uncaring, inconsiderate, and rude. I told her that I have no intention of kissing her ass and that I don’t care about her thinking she’s hurting my feelings because anything she thinks she can say to hurt me has already been said to me, reminding her that I’m a gay man living in a now semi-accepting but previously intolerant, totally anti-gay society. I also informed her that if she has anything to say to me, she needs to just shut her mouth because I have nothing to say to her until she gets her stank ass attitude in check. I wrapped the conversation up by telling her that anytime she thinks she’s bitch enough to go word-for-word with me, she better be fucking ready because I will wipe the floor up with her ass and walk over her remains!”

I feel very sorry for Valerie, because my friend has a photographic memory and I know that’s exactly what he said to her.

“Whoa! I’m expecting radio silence for a while after that,” I say.

“I’m not expecting anything,” he says coolly. “She wants to act like a goddamn brat who doesn’t know which way to go, that’s fine by me, but she’s going to have to run that shit on someone else, because Allen Michael Forsythe is not the one.”

“So how did this end?” I ask, wanting to know more about what happened with him and Valerie.

“She left the room crying,” he says without remorse. “Apparently, she can dish it out, but she can’t take it. Never try to cross verbal swords with a flamer carrying a doctorate in law… you will get burned.”

“Allen…” I whine.

“I can say it,” he sings. “I’m gay, get over it.”

“But you’re not a flamer…”

“Not per se, but I have ‘flamey’ ways and I can flame with the best of ‘em, chile!” He ends that last sentence with a snap that makes me laugh. I hate any kind of derogatory statements about his sexuality. Being his best friend and “fag hag,” I’ve heard them all. I even adopted “fag hag” to take the sting out of being called that when we were kids. I lean on his chest and he wraps his arm around me.

“Something’s wrong with Valerie,” I tell him. “I just don’t have the strength or desire to figure out what it is. She ostracized me for no reason and now she’s alienating you. Maybe Maxie will help her figure it out.” I snuggle into him and get comfortable.

“You might be right. She’ll have to work that out though.”

I awake on the sofa to Harry giggling wildly and Al playing every baby’s favorite game.

“Peekaboo!” Al bursts from behind his hands and Harry’s infectious little laugh fills the great room.

“Oooooohhh!” I whine as I stretch. “Why didn’t you wake me? You’re stealing all my Harry time!”

“That’s why I didn’t wake you,” he says, unashamed. “I knew I’d never get my hands on this little guy once you woke up. Peekaboo!” More Harry laughter. “Besides, I started talking about the lawsuit and you were out like a light.”

“The lawsuit?” Now I’m wide awake. “What about the lawsuit?” I slide onto the floor next to Harry’s bouncer, now vying for his attention.

“He’s been fighting for continuations based on the criminal trial. Now that it’s concluded, his attorney is drawing it out further. Why, I don’t know.”

“So now what?”

“At the last pretrial, the judge indicated that they have had ample time to gather their evidence since the criminal trial is done, so I expect a court date in the next couple of months.”

“I’ll have to testify?” I ask. Al nods.

“Yes, Jewel, you will.” I sigh. I don’t want to go through all that again. I was seeing red and looking for blood before I had to take the stand at David’s criminal trial. Now, I’m not as thirsty as I was before I had to withstand that ordeal.

“The wheels are turning,” he observes.

“Isn’t there some kind of way we can win this without me having to testify?” I ask. “The man is in jail for nearly thirty years. I just didn’t want him spending all that money on a great defense, then get off and be able to spend it all—celebrate his victory. It turns out that he had a shitty defense that he still has to pay for, his ratty little car was repo-ed, and that piece-of-shit condo is in foreclosure. Where does his net worth really stand? Christian put him at about six mil last year…”

“It’s more like five now,” Al says. “Creditors were calling in debts as soon as they realized he was on lockdown—various loans, outstanding bills… it took about a million to square him away. The car was repo-ed and the condo is in foreclosure because those are assets that can be given back to the lien holders. So, yeah, he’s closer to five now.”

“What were we hoping for?” I ask.

“Four to four point five,” he reminds me.

“Has he made any offers?”

“Yeah, we had one for two and one for two point three.”

“Have you countered?”

“Yeah, four to four point five. That’s what you said you wanted, so I haven’t bent. You’re having a change of heart?” I nod.

“My babies are coming, Al,” I tell him. “In a few months, I’m going to be a mom, in a new house with beautiful things. Sometime really soon, I’m going to have to head to Henderson to deal with that trial and those monsters. I don’t want another trial with David. Make a deal.”

“You’re sure about this?” he asks cautiously.

“Get me the best deal you can, but make a deal. It wasn’t that I wanted his money. It’s that I didn’t want him to have it. I still don’t.” Al nods.

“I’ll wrap this thing up,” he says. Then he sighs. “James didn’t come home last night.” I look at him wide-eyed. Christian did, why didn’t James?

“Did he call?”

“Of course, he called,” he responds. “It’s just… all of this dark shadows, hiding in corners, incognito shit—I want it to be done. I know why he’s doing it and it’s a very worthy—and profitable cause, but I just want this over.”

“You’re preaching to the choir,” I say, playing with little Harry’s feet who has been cooing quietly in his bouncer this entire time. “Speaking of Henderson…”

“Dead in the water, Jewel, but you knew that. It’s hard as hell to sue municipalities and you currently don’t have evidence.”

“I’ve got a crooked cop in jail, his brother in the next cell, a buried police report and case, and a goddamn video. How much more evidence do I need?” I squeal.

“You’ve got proving that you were tortured and brutalize compared to proving that the police force, the city, and the prosecutor all conspired against you. One’s a little harder to prove than the other and, believe me, it’s not a criminal case.”

“Well, I wasn’t looking for money from this anyway, but it seems like nothing’s happened with it,” I lament.

“Don’t worry,” he says. “It’ll get hotter the closer we get to the trial. That’s what we want, right?”

“Yeah, that’s what we want,” I say, laying on the floor next to Harry’s bouncer. “I can’t wait to be a mom,” I say.

“As long as my godchildren are healthy and beautiful, I’ll be a happy man,” he declares. I smile.

“Any ideas on a godmother?” I ask with a sad smile, which he returns.

“I can’t help you on that one, Jewel.” He squeezes my hand for a bit of moral support. “We’re having a goddamn party when this thing is all over,” he adds. “I just want to take my man away for a month vacation!”

“I concur,” I say. “Remember, my honeymoon was interrupted.”

“Oh, yeah, how could I forget that? Then right on the heels of that shit, this shit happens! God, it’s always something with you two!”

“I know, right?” I say. “Our new house is going to be a fortress and I can’t say that I mind.” Little Harry starts to get fussy again, so I start to rise to take care of him.

“Ooo! It smells like someone has a serious situation going on down there!” Al exclaims, and I laugh.

“Will you go heat one of his bottles and I’ll take care of his diaper?” I go off to our bedroom and change Harry’s diaper on our bed—on a towel, of course—my little brother was a bit of a mess. Once he’s dry, happy, and cooing again, I come out of the bedroom to see Gail and Chuck whispering.

“What’s going on?” I ask quickly, trying to calm the panic surging inside of me.

“Nothing, dear,” Gail answers rubbing my shoulders. “Christian should be calling you soon. There’s nothing to worry about.” For some reason, I don’t believe her, but I don’t think she would blatantly lie to me, either, so I settle my nerves.

“Come on, Harry. Let’s go find your goddaddy.” I leave them there and go in search of Al. I find him in the kitchen, testing the bottle on his arm.

“Well, don’t you look domestic,” I tease.

“I know a thing or three about babies,” he says, reaching for Harry.

“No!” I say, turning the baby away from him. “He’s my brother! I’m feeding him!”

“Testy!” he teases, handing me the bottle. I’m back in the great room, sitting on the sofa and feeding the baby. That’s when I realize that the burner that Christian would call me on is in the bedroom on the nightstand.

“Al, there’s a phone on the nightstand by my bed. Would you bring it to me?” In a moment he’s there and back with the burner and I check the display. No missed calls. Good! I haven’t missed him. Al and I talk a little longer about the house and the babies. That seems to be my main topic of conversation these days… the house and the babies. I’m startled out of my pants when the burner rings. I fumble with it and nearly drop it twice.

“Hello!” I’m a bit too anxious.

“Hello Rapunzel.” I smile and sigh at the sound of his voice. What was I supposed to call him again? Oh, yeah…

“Hello Henry,” I breathe, “it’s good to hear your voice.”

“Yours, too,” he nearly croons. “I get promoted tomorrow. The boss wants to talk to me.” Either he’s found Myrick or the son of a bitch is going to call him.

“Just talk?” I ask, hoping for more.

“Just talk,” he confirms. “We’ve got so much done. He’s really going to be impressed with our progress. Then he might just be compelled to meet me.” Apparently, they’ve cracked most of the case and Myrick is eventually going to be found or have to come out of hiding.

“That’s really good news,” I say.

“Yes, it is. Everybody’s been working really hard. We just want to see a reward soon… I just wanted to hear your voice. I have to go now.”

“So soon?” I whine, hoping I can keep him for a few more moments, but knowing that I can’t.

“Yes, my love, I have to go.”

“I love you,” I whisper.

“I love you, too,” he breathes before ending the call. I don’t expect him home tonight.


CHRISTIAN

“You make that call and you make him believe you, because if he doesn’t, you’re going to regret the day you were born.” One of the guys tells Dodd when we’re back at the warehouse. “Do what you need to do, but make fucking sure he believes you.” He breathes heavily and looks over at me. Don’t look at me, you son-of-a-bitch. Do what the man says. He pulls out his cell phone.

“On speaker,” I growl. “If you tip him off…” I trail off. He swallows hard and dials the number. After the second ring, someone picks up.

“Yo Doddy, whassup?” the voice greets.

“We got problems, man,” he says. “The boss has a message and I can’t talk on the phone.” There’s silence.

“How did the boss give you a message? He sends all of his messages through Roc. I’m calling Roc.”

“Don’t call Roc!” He’s almost panicked and he’s going to blow it. I narrow my eyes at him. He regains his composure and keeps talking. “I don’t know who got to him, but Roc’s dirty. He’s been compromised, Nick. Leave the snakes running, but we need to meet. The boss says we have to regroup since we’ve lost our info man.”

“Shit! This is not good,” Nick says on the line. “He’s got enough information to take all the money and run, leave us all high and dry.”

“Yep. That’s why we need to meet. I put my ass on the line and I’m going to have to get out of here soon. Grey and his squad are on our asses. They’re watching that guy they had arrested, but it won’t be long before they realize that they’ve got the wrong guy. He’s cocky, but he’s not stupid.” Nick sighs on the other line.

“Maybe I need to call the boss…”

“Look, man. I’m taking a big chance calling you like this. We need to meet in person so I can tell you what’s up. The boss doesn’t know if his lines have been compromised or just Roc’s. Now you need to meet with me before it turns out that we’ve done all this shit for nothing. Are you in or out, because if not, I’ll just go meet with the boss and tell him that you didn’t want to do it.” There’s another pause.

“Fine. Listen to me, because you’re not going to be able to find me on your GPS…”

Nick gives him directions to a café in Belfair. We find it just fine on GPS, so I’m thinking that he was going to lead us right to him, but changed his mind and decided for a more public meeting place.

“Got it,” Dodd says. “Meet me in an hour and a half. Remember, Nick, don’t call anybody. We’re being watched.”

“I’m not new at this, Doddy, you are,” he hisses and ends the call.

“He doesn’t like you very much,” Welch says as he hands a piece of paper to Jason. “He’s hiding something.”

“Of course he is,” Jason says, taking the paper. “He’s got a lot to lose. I’ll tell the guys in the Belfair perimeter that this is where we’ll be. They’re already set up and most likely already know where this is.” I look at Dodd.

“You better hope he believed you. Let’s go.”

*-*

Dodd is sitting nervously in the back seat of the SUV between me and Jason. We’re parked slightly away from the diner, but it’s still in our line of sight.

“Make the call,” I tell him. With shaky hands, he dials the number.

“Doddy, where are you?” Nick answers.

“Look, man, I think Roc sold us out. Somebody’s following me. I couldn’t come out there and lead them to you. Listen to me carefully and don’t ask questions. Go back to your spot and wait for my call. Don’t call anybody, don’t touch anything. If Roc has given them information—and I believe he has—they know exactly what we’re doing and who we are. Since I have Grey in my sights, I can tell what his next move is. It’ll be a couple of hours, but sit tight, okay?” My instincts are never wrong, and something didn’t sound right.

“Okay, Doddy,” Nick sighs. “You have two hours and I’m calling the boss, you understand?”

“Understood.” Dodd says and ends the call.

“Tie him back up,” I say. “Gag him, too.” He looks at me with horror in his eyes and confirms my suspicions.

“Sir?” Jason questions me without gagging Dodd.

“He just tipped him off,” I say. “I don’t know if that idiot was smart enough to catch it, but he just tipped him off.”

“What do you mean?”

“In one breath, he tells him that somebody’s following him. The guy knows that Dodd left to meet him a while ago. In his next breath, he tells the guy that he has me in his sights. What does that mean, military men?” Welch sighs.

“That he’s looking right at you,” he laments. Jason pulls out his Glock and loads one in the chamber. He puts the gun right to Dodd’s temple.

“That guy is going to leave that café in a moment and you’re going to tell us who he is. If we end up tracking some kid on his coffee break between classes, I’m going to put one of these right in your skull and we’ll find this fucker on our own.” I shift myself forward and to the left a bit so that I’m looking Dodd right in the eye. He’s actually looking at me like I’m going to save him.

“Oh, he’ll do it. I’m just moving out of the line of fire so I don’t get hit by the through-and-through.” I add a wicked, insincere smile at the end. Dodd gulps and watches the café.

“That’s him!” he says several minutes later. A scruffy guy with black hair walks out of the restaurant and gets into an older model sedan. What was he doing in there all this time?

“Plates!” I hiss at Welch.

“Already on it, sir,” he says calmly. The sedan starts and turns the corner.

“Why aren’t you following him??” Dodd asks. “You’re going to lose him! I don’t want to die!” That’s the fear I needed to see. He didn’t seem reverent enough up to this point. He saw the guns. He withstood the interrogation, but he still thought he was going to get out of this.

“Don’t worry. We’ve got him,” Jason says. “You need to be worried about yourself now.”

“Who’s on this guy?” I ask.

“Peters, sir,” Welch says, looking at the built-in computer. “Deville will pick him up Washington and Old Clinton.”

“Good.”

“Nicholas Cross,” Welch announces. “Thirty-five, address is a PO Box…”

“Oh my God,” Dodd interrupts him.

“What?” I hiss.

“That’s Roc.” He points to a black man walking out of the café looking around with a phone to his ear. “He’s supposed to be up north, I think. They were onto me. They already knew. Shit!”

“So why would he let you just lead us to him?” I ask.

“He was waiting to see if anyone was following Cross,” Jason says as Roc walks across the street and gets into an SUV.

“Someone is following Cross,” I say.

“Several people are following Cross, but I can guarantee he doesn’t know it. Trust me, sir. We have a network that you don’t even know about. He won’t get away and they won’t get made.”

“What about the truck that just left?” I ask.

“Alex?”

“On it,” he says without raising his head.

“So what do we do now?” Dodd asks in a panic.

You shut up. We wait.” At first I was glad I didn’t gag him or we might have missed Roc, but now I’m having second thoughts. “Don’t think I forgot that I told these guys to gag you.”

After a few minutes of silence, Welch announces that Roc is Wallace Rockland from Spokane. He has a street address, which Welch has already forwarded to Cholometes to send another squad out there to investigate. The net is closing.

A few more minutes and Jason is informed that Cross has pulled into a warehouse garage about ten miles from our current location. We’ve sat here for nearly an hour, so it’s safe to move. Welch summons our driver from the café and he walks out and gets into the car.

“Did you notice anything?” Welch asks him.

“They were just talking about what they planned to do with their savings once this was all over. Whoever’s in charge, he knows you’ve been tipped off. They’re still sitting comfortably because they think you can’t stop them.” I frown.

“You already knew?” I accuse Welch.

“We knew, but we couldn’t let him know we knew,” he says, nodding at Dodd. “There was no way to inform you, sir. We just had to proceed. That’s why the three-mile perimeter was so tight. We had to be ready for all contingencies.” I want to be pissed, but I can completely see the logic in his approach. I shake my head.

“Has anybody been in touch with our IT? Are the worms still running?” I ask.

“Constant touch, and yes, they are,” Jason says. I nod. “Now, we need to get closer to Cross’ location and mobilize the team…”

*-*

“Cross and Rockland are both at this address,” a voice says from Welch’s satellite phone. We are outside of a small two-story warehouse in an abandoned industrial area in Belfair. The good—and bad—thing about Belfair is that there are small clusters of buildings spread out among lots of trees like little villages in the forest. It’s great if you’re trying to hide, but not so great if you need help.

“Cross showed up first, Rockland arrived twenty-two minutes later,” the voice continues.

“Have we secured the perimeter?” Welch asks.

“We’re doing that now. We’ll inform you as soon as it’s done.”

“Roger that.” He ends the call. “Now we wait.”

So we wait…
And wait…
And wait…

After God only knows how long, Welch’s satellite phone rings again.

“Talk to me… Yes… Roger that.” He ends the call.

“What is it?” I ask.

“A few more moments, sir.” More waiting… hurry up before I kill this guy myself.

Sure enough, a few more moments pass and the large front gate opens, allowing us to drive into a large industrial lot covered by a thin dusting of snow. The warehouse is the only building on the lot. The windows are boarded and barred, but it’s clearly occupied by our two hackers. The large gate closes behind us and a guy in black approaches the car.

“The perimeter is secured, sir,” he says to Welch as he is exiting the car.

“Surveillance equipment? Possible booby traps?”

“None, sir,” his subordinate says. “No trap doors, not even an escape hatch—typical hideout. Well, not so typical, but tactically, nothing at all.” Welch nods to the other men.

“Bring him,” he says. Jason and I exit the car while Mr. Dodd is dragged, bound and gagged, from the back seat by the two gentlemen that kept him company last night. We enter the warehouse through the front door. To the left of us is a living area. Though it’s not an elaborate setup, it’s quite homey and looks nothing like a warehouse. I recall him telling Dodd that he’s not new at this. I wonder how long he’s been at this because even though this is not extensive, converting this warehouse wasn’t cheap.

Dodd is dragged pass the living area and to another room to the right, but in the middle of the warehouse. Before I can follow him, Welch leads me to yet another room just beyond the living area. This is Cross’ version of Data Central. It’s outfitted with top of the line monitors, hubs, hard drives, built-in CPU’s, laptops, printers, scanners, modems and routers. This couldn’t all be just for one operation.

“Sir?” Welch gets my attention and shows me a monitor with a bunch of crap on it that only looks like the Matrix to me. “This is your worm, sir,” he says, pointing to some kind of program running so fast that I can’t see what it’s doing. “This number is the amount of money they’ve taken from you so far.” It’s up to eight digits.

“Why does it keep changing?” I ask him.

“It’s the nature of the program,” he tells me. “Several worms are working as one, taking money out and putting money back so that if you catch one worm, another one is waiting to take its place. With the money moving back and forth so quickly like that, you never know which worm is doing what. Of course, the worms that are removing the money are moving faster than the ones that are putting it back, so more money is leaving the account than is going back in.”

“Of course, the bank can see this,” I say, more of a statement than a question.

“Of course.” So there’s no doubt, someone working with him at the bank.

“All of this is me?” I ask. Welch shakes his head.

“I’m not the expert, but the knowledge that I do have indicates that these are different companies. Cross here is your money man so I would say that Rockland is most likely information.” I nod.

“Can you get this information to James and Barney?” I ask. He nods.

“I’ll have to call them and link them in, but yeah. All I need to do is give them remote access.”

“Good, make that happen. I want to talk to Cross and Rockland.”

“I’ll be with you in a moment. In the meantime, follow them.” He points to two more black-clad men that I’ve never seen before.

“Lead the way, gentlemen,” I gesture to them. They lead us to yet another room through the room on the right and there sit Cross and Rockland, both bound to chairs and looking madder than sin.

“Doddy!” Cross says his name with contempt. “I should have known!”

Dodd’s escorts drop him into a chair and take the gag off his mouth.

“You have no idea who you’re dealing with,” Dodd says weakly.

“Oh, that information was supposed to come from you!” Cross barks. “You were supposed to know his comings and goings and how close he was getting to us! You were supposed to warn us when he was closing in. Instead, you lead him right to us, you stupid asshole!” I fold my arms and lean against a wall.

“Are we not standing here?” I say to Jason and the other operatives. Jason shrugs.

“You’re nobody to me!” Cross says. “I’ve been in worse predicaments than this. I’m not worried.” I smile.

“Oh, but you should be, because right now you’re pretty much at my mercy and I’m not very happy with you.”

“That’s pretty hefty talk for a motherfucker standing over someone bound to a chair. Untie me and let me see you talk all that shit!” I laugh heartily. He’s got to be kidding!

“What do you think this is, clash of the fucking gladiators?” I laugh. “You’re right, I’m a big, bad motherfucker that’s got you tied to a chair with four other motherfuckers standing here looking down at you. I’m not going to fall for your bullshit and untie you so that you can show me how fucking macho you are. What you’re going to do is shut the fuck up and speak when you’re spoken to before I find a ten-inch pipe, attach it to a ball gag, and shove it down your goddamn throat!”

He’s glaring at me. He wants to say something so badly, but I think he believes that I’ll find that pipe and shove it down his throat.

“I need information, gentlemen, and I’m sure that you’re going to be the ones to give it to me.”

“I ain’t givin’ you shit,” Cross says, still glaring at me.

“You may not give me anything, but if you don’t, you’ll sure as hell be giving it to him.” I point to one of the operatives who just glares at Cross. I get the feeling that he doesn’t like Cross already. Rockland hasn’t said a word.

“You keep thinking that,” Cross says. That’s when the guy standing next to me gets into Cross’ face, examining him closely.

“He’s right,” he says, calmly. “He’s not going to tell you anything.” He turns to Cross. “Listen, Buddy. I’m not beyond personally pulling out each one of your teeth slowly, one by one, then dropping your body in different parts of the world and keeping what’s left of you on life support until you tell me what I need to know,” one of the guys tells Cross. Cross doesn’t even flinch. Where did Myrick find this guy?

“Yeah, he said you guys would be full of threats and tough words. He even said you roughed him up a bit. That shit don’t scare me. Doddy can’t tell you much, that’s why he led you to me, but I’m not worried. You go ahead and work me over. Whatever you do, I’ve had worse.” I walk over to him and get in his face.

“I like you,” I say with a sinister smile. “You’re a tough guy. You think you’re a tough nut to crack. You’re cocky, just like me, and you think you’re just going to walk away from this with a beating and maybe a quarter of what you’re stealing from me. You’ve got balls. I’m impressed.” Cross smiles at me.

“You’re Grey. Of course,” he smirks. “The boss has a message for you. He knew somehow you’d find out who we were. He was impressed that you found us so fast. He said you should have finished the job when you had the chance. He’s going to see you face-to-face before this is all over, because no matter what you do, you’re never going to be able to prove he was involved. He’s going to drain you dry, little by little, for the rest of your life and there’s nothing you can do about it!” I look over at Jason who says nothing.

“So… he thinks he’s going to do that, huh?” I say in a cool controlled voice. “That’s fine. I’ve got enough money to lose a few million here and there, so it will take more than both our lifetimes to drain me dry. But you have to know this is not about the money.”

“He said you’d say that,” he scoffs.

“Then he knows me well,” I continue, “better than I thought. Did he also tell you that I was onto you a month ago, that I knew where you were just not who you were, so I continued to allow you to take millions of dollars of my money just so I could see your face? Did he tell you that he got in to see my wife under false pretenses and the only reason that he’s not dead is because she begged me to release his throat? Did he tell you that the miserable man who he calls ‘father’ is the reason for some of the most horrendous years of my childhood life and if I ever see either one of them in broad daylight that he will get his wish and I will finish the job… myself? Did he tell you that he tried to have me killed and that I have a mortal bone to pick with him? Or did he just tell you that I was some angry little rich man that was more concerned about a dollar than the fact that his family has mortally wrong me twice?”

Cross looks a little less convicted now. His earlier resolute expression has fallen and although he didn’t show fear, he’s not so certain of his position anymore.

“You thought this was all about money, didn’t you?” I taunt. Cross doesn’t answer. “Boy, he’s better than I thought he was. This isn’t about money, you assholes. This is personal!”

“Goddammit, Nick! Roc! Tell him what he wants to know!” Dodd pleads, bound to a seat in the corner.

“Shut the fuck up, Doddy!” Cross hisses. “When I get out of this, I’m going to fuck you up so bad…” My laughter interrupts his tirade.

“When you get out of this?” I laugh harder and remove my jacket, revealing the holster and the Glock. His face goes completely white. “You’re making some pretty tall assumptions for a man tied to a chair, staring into the eyes of an angry billionaire in an empty warehouse in the middle of a bunch of abandoned buildings. This is perfect! I couldn’t have planned this better myself.”

“Nick, please…” Dodd begs.

“He’s right,” I tell Dodd. “You need to shut the fuck up. You were the inside man. You were the traitor in my camp and you’re lucky you’re not a dead man already.” Dodd goes silent, which was good since I was tired of hearing his voice.

I turn my attention to someone walking in the room. It’s Welch. “Are we ready?” I ask him.

“The remote is set up, sir. IT is already on it.”

“What about the second team?”

“ETA 20 minutes, sir.” I nod.

“Then we’ll just wait.” I sit on the side of the table and examine the three men who have caused me all this headache for the past few months. They look like insignificant little nobodies all sitting here bound to these chairs. Myrick has these men convinced that this situation is much less serious than it really is. What’s more is that I think Myrick feels that I lack the convention to kill his ass. He knows that I’m swayed by Butterfly. He saw it, so he thinks that I’m all talk now and that won’t do anything but rough him up and send him on his way. He has convinced these jackasses of the same thing. I look over at Welch.

“Meet me in the hall,” I tell him and walk out.

“What is it?” Welch says when he gets into the hallway.

“Your guy is right. He’s not going to tell us anything,” I tell him.

“We haven’t even started yet,” Welch protests.

“And it doesn’t matter. They’re not going to tell you anything. Rockland is locked up like a vault. He hasn’t said two words since we’ve been here. Cross is doing all of the talking and he’s not giving us anything. Myrick has them convinced that the worst that can happen is a work-over and I know why… because I let him live.” Welch twists his lips skeptically.

“Sir, I think you may be a bit too closely involved to look at this rationally.” Oh, really?

“Is that so?” I answer in that let’s not forget who’s the boss here tone. “Well, let’s see. We wasted valuable time—weeks even—when I told the entire team, and I quote, ‘I know who it is, I just don’t know where to find him.’ You gave me this mumbo jumbo about how you had to be objective about who you were looking for and the entire time, I kept barking ‘find Myrick, find Myrick.’ You let your opinions and your belief of my personal involvement with Myrick lead you down a road that took you all the way around the world and right back to where I started. Are you going to let that happen again?”

He wants to protest and I know he does. He wants to give me some line about how I want to move too fast, but he can’t because he knows I’m right.

“He’s here. He’s right here in my face. I know people. I know how to read them. You can read them in combat situations. I can read them in negotiations. That’s what he thinks this is. He has something that he knows we want and he thinks he can bargain with it or bully with it.” He’s topping from the bottom…way on the bottom. “Myrick has him completely brainwashed that I’m not going to do shit. Whether it’s because Ana stopped me the last time or Jason didn’t wipe him out, he’s certain that I won’t go any further and he’s convinced these fuckers of the same thing. If you’re so good a judge of character, look in their eyes. They’re locked down, trust me.”

Welch sighs and walks back into the room. I don’t even follow him. I stay out in the hallway, pacing. I don’t want these idiots, I want Myrick. I want his wretched ass in my hands so that I can squeeze the fucking life out of his miserable body. I let him go. I set him free and he tries to take me down every chance he can get. I can’t let that happen again. He’s getting away with too much and I can’t let him do this to me. After a few moments of wallowing in the reality of my mistake, Welch comes back out of the room and closes the door behind him.

“I tend to believe you’re right. I think they want something in return for what we need from them and they’re not going to give it up until they get it,” Welch says flatly.

“I’m not negotiating with these fuckers,” I say. “I refuse to give them anything! I’ll shoot them with my own gun first.”

“You won’t have to negotiate. The team will.”

“Did you hear me? I’m not giving them anything!” I bark.

“You won’t have to,” he says. “They’re going to change their demands. Just leave it up to me, sir. Once we get the second team in place and they’re getting the information from the second location, you can go, and I’ll see you in the morning.” That’s it? It’s that simple?

“What about the interrogation?”

“You can handle that in the morning. They’ll be more cooperative tomorrow.” Somehow, I thought this would go differently, but apparently, this is how it’s done.

“Is the second team in place now?” Welch looks at his watch, then at his tablet.

“Not yet, but any minute now.” I nod and go back into the room.

“What’s going on?” Jason asks.

“We’ll be leaving soon,” I tell him quietly. “I’ll want to go back to GEH.” Without a word, he nods and crosses his hands in front of him. Apparently, he knows the protocol, too. I lean against the wall and wait for the signal from Welch. Several minutes later, he nods to me that it’s showtime.

“Gentlemen, I’d like for you to direct your eyes over to that gentleman with the tablet.” I turn to Welch. “You might want to show them now.”

Welch types something onto the tablet and opens the portal into our network that he had already assessed. A picture of several men sitting in an office appears and Rockland tries to stifle a gasp. I turn to Rockland.

“That’s your house, isn’t it?” I ask Rockland. “Did you think we would find him and not find you? Did you think we would just happen to show up when you were here and not find out who you were? Did you think we were stupid enough to only follow one signal? We had you pinned down to a three-mile area, but your license plate gave you away.” Though Cross’ face shows no fear, Rockland is clearly one step off of terrified. I don’t care which of them gives me the information that I need, as long as I get it.

“You know what your downfall was? Greed. You should have pulled the plug when we said we had someone in custody. You should have pulled the plug when that idiot over there told you that there could be another hacker. You really should have pulled the plug when you found out that somebody among the three of you was lying. Instead, you chose to follow a lunatic who had you fooled into believing that this was all about money. Know this, I know who you are. I know your date of birth. I know where you grew up. I even know where your father is buried and where your mother lives.” He still says nothing, but I think it’s more because he doesn’t know what to say. I back up to where Jason and Welch are standing.

“I’m sick of this cat-and-mouse game. I’m ending your little money exchange—you’ve already got just under 11 million. That’s for informational purposes only because when I get what I want, I’m going to be putting that money back where it belongs. Consider this—I have enough to put you boys down for a long time. I’ve got all the information on your computers to show that you are the ones that hacked into my systems and stole from me. Obviously, I want more than that. I want your fucking boss.”

“Why should we help you?” Rockland finally speaks. “We’ve got shit on you, too. You kidnapped up and held us against our will!”

“Is that all?” I nearly cackle. “No, gentlemen, what I, my IT team, and my security team did was track the hackers who infiltrated my network, then came to speak to them about their demands. When the conversation became heated, we subdued them until the authorities arrived. When they see your little set-up here, who do you think they’ll believe—a pillar of the community or a couple of small time cyber crooks looking for a big payday?” They’re all seeing their plans go to hell now, but Cross is not willing to take down.

“You still want something from us, so we still hold the cards here,” he says. “You hurt us or put us away and you’ll never get the Boss.”

“Listen to me carefully,” I begin. “I could very easily put a bullet in each one of your vital organs and watch you bleed out. You and that asshole hacked my phone and released pictures of my unborn children to the press. In trying to intimidate me, you compromised the safety of my babies. You not only threatened my company and my life’s work, but you threatened my family. That’s where you fucked up, and if I don’t catch that fucker this time, I will catch him later—but in the meantime, I’ll take great joy in watching you rot… slowly.

“You won’t get away with this!” he hisses. He’s afraid. He should be. I laugh lowly.

“Not only will I get away with this, but I’m not even here. Once I’m done with you, they won’t be able to find you much less identify you if they do.”

“What are you—the mob or something?” Rockland is terrified.

“No, nothing like that. I’m a very wealthy father, husband, and businessman and you and your friends have just pissed me off. I’m tired of talking to you, now.” That’s Welch’s cue to call in the night shift. He disappears for a moment and a few moments later, about six ominous looking men—and Cholometes—walked into the room. Dodd and his friends are gagged and this is my cue to leave. I’m well aware of what comes next.

“That fucker that you’re working for, I’ve looked in his eyes. I’ve met his kind of insanity. He will gladly give his life to see me go down. Will you?” I look each of them in the eyes before saying, “see you in the morning, boys,” and walking out of the room.

That entire ordeal was exhausting. I’m in the backseat of the Audi SUV trying to ease my mind of the plethora of feelings that flow over me. What’s so strange to me is that of all the emotions that are rushing upon me, even with what I know is probably happening to Dodd and the others right now, there’s one feeling that seems to be obviously absent.

Guilt.

I have justified my actions by saying that I’m protecting my family. Is that really what’s happening? What’s the driving force behind what I’m doing?

Yes. Yes, I am protecting my family. I don’t have to convince myself of that. This fucker is threatening everything I have, everything I am, but I have to be honest. A big part of me wants him because I had him and he got away, and when he did, his sole purpose was to unleash hell on me and my family. He tried to have me killed. He won’t stop until he has taken me down. So while I am driven by the need to protect me family, I admit at this moment that I’m also driven by one other factor…

Revenge.

It’s me or him now. If the authorities get him, that’s fine, but they better keep him this time, because if he ever gets free… if he ever walks the streets again… he’s a dead man.

We get back to the Seattle city limits and I have an aching to see Butterfly. I spoke to her earlier, very briefly. I gave the indication that we would be seeing Myrick soon, but I’m honestly not really sure. I know that I need to go back to Grey House, though. I need to get this thing wrapped up as soon as possible before my children are born, before we move into our new home and start our new life.

Just before we left Belfair, I had Jason call to have something delivered once we arrived at Grey House. Neither of us have eaten since breakfast and although it won’t be Gail’s or Butterfly’s home cooking, we still need to eat. It’s only about 10pm when we get there, but when I attempt to contact Butterfly—on the burner and on her cell—there’s no answer. She must be asleep. It’s been a trying couple of days for both of us and I can imagine that the beans have been restless as they usually pick up on Butterfly’s moods. I have to admit that although I don’t like for her to worry, I kind of hoped that she would be waiting up for me to call her. I completely understand that she needs her rest, though.

The night guards spring to life when I stride through the lobby, but I barely pay them any attention. With Jason close behind me, we ride the elevator down to Data Central.

“It’s my turn to work the night shift,” Barney says when I get there and asked where James was. “Don’t worry. I can run his program, too. He’s a good teacher.”

“I’m not worried,” I say as an afterthought. “What do you have for me? What’s on those computers?”

“A whole lot,” Barney says. “I wish I could tell you that they reveal Robin Myrick’s location, but unfortunately, they don’t. He’s completely cloaked and it appears that we won’t see him until he wants to be seen or he slips up.”

“Shit!” I hiss. Just when I think I’m going to bring this shit to a close, I hit a brick wall again. I lean on the table and drop my head. I’m weary—weary of all of this and weary of dealing with this man… of having him breathe the same air that I do. My soul is weary of every moment that this issue keeps me away from my wife.

“Um, sir, we did get evidence that he’s currently stealing from quite a few more people. Why don’t we just turn this information over to the FBI and let them deal with him? Of course, they know where to find him. Wouldn’t that be easier?” I rub my hand over my eyes.

“In an ideal world, yes, but I don’t know what those fucks are up to or how they even plan to handle this so I have to get to him first. I will turn him over to the FBI and this information that you’ve found will be invaluable to that end, but I have to get to him first. I just… I have to get to him first.”

“May I ask why?” Barney says. I raise my head and look at him.

“He has to know that no matter how crafty he is, I can still get to him. I can’t keep letting him get away with this. He can’t keep running into my life, turning it upside down, and then just running out like…” I trail off. “I have to put an end to this. I have to. I can’t stand it anymore.” I lean against the wall. “He’s just like Lincoln. He won’t stop. He’s like a pestilence that keeps coming back and he has to be stopped before he drives me insane, before he…” I shake my head and close my eyes again. He’s breaking me, not because he’s in my system or taking my money or even the information. Anything he gets is insured and can be replaced. It’s because I can’t catch him. It’s boring into my soul that I can’t seem to catch this fucker. I had him, and I let him go… and now I can’t catch him again.

“I’ll look again, sir,” Barney says after a long pause. “Maybe I’ve missed something.” I turn around and look at him. His eyes reveal a bit of concern.

“You’re doing fine, Barney,” I tell him. “Stay the course. No use in both of us going insane.”

“I don’t know if this will help at all, but it appears that most of their communication is via email and the emails suggest that they texted a lot. They called each other and Dodd. Dodd called Myrick sometimes, but it looks like he may have been the only one. I was waiting to give this information to Alex so that he could use it in the interrogation, but he never called me back.”

“He won’t call until tomorrow,” I tell him. “That’s when the interrogation will be. Anything useful in those emails?”

“He’s used these guys before. Dodd is the only odd man out.” This is why Cross called Rockland when Dodd called with the conspiracy theory. “When they’ve finished their siphoning or when they’re about to get caught, they reroute everything to a location that they call ‘Bagstop.’ The word has no significance that I can see except that it’s the collection point before they do whatever they’re going to do with the money.” I nod.

“Thanks, Barney. It’s good information.” I rub my eyes again. “I’ll be in my office.” I turn and walk out of the office. The elevator ride up to the office is quiet and the floor is a tomb when I get there. Now, I’m regretting not finishing those quarters behind my office.

“I’ll be in my office if you need me, sir,” Jason says.

“Thanks,” I say before entering the large double doors that lead to my office. I take a deep breath and it catches in my throat before I have a chance to let it out. It won’t come out. I almost can’t believe what I’m seeing.

“Hello, Christian.”

I’m stunned into silence. She’s standing there in a strapless white mini-dress that flows over her body perfectly. Her hair is arranged in a perfect chignon and her jewelry and make-up are minimal. When she walks around my desk to meet me at the door, her lovely legs are accented by a pair of white open-sided leather booties with gold-plated stiletto heels and toes.

“What are you doing here?” I breathe.

“I… thought you might need me.” I do, more than you know. She slowly walks over to me and gently touches my cheek. The touch is both soothing and igniting at the same time.

“Christian…” she breathes as her lips brush my cheek. I breathe her in, stroking the soft skin on her arms and trying not to fall completely into the abyss and forget where I am.

“Tell me why I’m doing this,” I whisper. She pulls her face back to look into mine.

“Because if you don’t, he’ll never leave us in peace,” she says as she takes my hand from her arm and places it over my children. “We’re behind you, no matter what happens. We love you and we’ll stand by you, but he’ll never leave you in peace. I know that now. You always did. You have to do what you have to do… and we’ll be here for you when you’re done.” She whispers the last three words and they rush through my body and warm my darkest corners.

“Do you know how much I need you?”

“Yes… I do,” she caresses the hair near my temple and down to my ear, “even when you think you’re strong enough to carry it on your own.” I look into her deep blue eyes and fall in. All of a sudden, I feel small and weak. I lay my head on her shoulder and she caresses my nape.

“I love you so much,” I whine. “I’m so in love with you that it hurts.”

“I know exactly how you feel,” she coos into my ear. She unzips my jacket and pushes it off my shoulders. She leads me to my desk and guides me into the chair. While I’m sitting, she removes my gun from the holster, releases the magazine and checks the chamber for a round. She puts both pieces in my desk drawer before finally removing my holster. I never thought it would be sexy—and comforting—to watch my pregnant wife disarm me.

She sits on my desk to the right of me and opens a plastic bowl—fruit, I think.

“Eat,” she says, loading the fork with fresh fruit. I take it hungrily, my mouth and stomach grateful that she’s feeding me. Between feeding me forkfuls of fruit, she uncovers a plate of lemon chicken, wild rice, and sautéed vegetables. It has to be the most delicious meal I’ve ever tasted. I don’t discount that it’s probably because she fed me and my heart and soul are so heavy right now, but no matter. She opens a bottle of Sancerre that’s been chilling in the bar area and pours me a glass. It’s divine.

“You’re not eating,” I say as she continues to feed me.

“I’ve already eaten. This is for you.” She loads the fork and feeds me more until the plate is clean. Then she takes my hand and leads me to the sofa. I sit down and watch her as she pours me another glass of wine and clears the dishes from my meal. Neither of us have said much, but she just keeps going, giving me exactly what I need without me having to say it.

I love watching her move. I don’t think she believes me when I say it, but her carrying my children is the most beautiful and sexy sight in the world—the most magnificent gesture and labor of love imaginable. I just gaze at her lovingly until she catches my eye, and smiles that beautiful smile that warms me to my core. She finishes with the cleaning and turns the light down. I never dim the lights in my office. The room looks so shadowy and strange… but comforting.

I hate when she takes off my shoes and socks… well, normally I do. I think a man should always remove his own shoes and socks, but tonight, I let her. I need her to care for me tonight and I think she knows it. I have to be big, strong Christian Grey tomorrow, but tonight, I need care. I should have gone home.

She gently massages my feet, then my legs and calves through my jeans—just enough to relax me. She removes her own shoes, then climbs onto the sofa next to me. She directs my head to her lap and begins to gently scratch my scalp. I don’t want to sleep. I want to look at you and tell you how beautiful you are and how much I love you and how grateful I am to you… for all that you do for me… and…

It’s still dark outside when I wake. Butterfly is sitting up on the sofa asleep and I’m still lying in her lap, her hand still in my hair. I raise my head to see the moonlight bouncing off of her alabaster skin. I gently scramble to a sitting position so that I can look at her while she sleeps. I don’t know what to call her… an angel is too cliché. A savior is more like it, but not romantic enough.

As I continue to gaze on her, the moon causing her to emit a celestial haze, I think of a poem that I once read. I have no idea where it came from, but I gently stroke her face, playing with loose strands of hair as I breathe the words into her ear…

My heart is weak, my soul is deep with words I can speak,
But would you listen, understand or even believe?
So I prefer to show you in actions, take you through a journey of my thoughts.
So when words are spoken then walls are broken,
and you believe in my love,
Because my heart is weak, my soul is deep with words I can speak.
Do you believe?

When I lift my eyes to hers, she’s gazing at me, looking into my soul and once again filling the dark places with light.

I’m at her mercy… again.

She cups my cheeks with her hands and kisses me so gently that I barely feel it, but my heart does.

She rises from the sofa and stands before me. She puts her fingers under the top of her dress and slowly slides it off her breasts, down her body, off her hips… Oh, God, I feel like I might explode. Standing there in just a pair of white lace panties, she reaches for me and I gladly stand. She helps me out of my T-shirt, then my jeans and boxer briefs. She gently palms my penis, causing my breath to catch in my throat. When she looks up at me, I can only pant wordlessly.

She gently pushes me back onto the sofa, my erection now pointing straight to the ceiling. She slowly slides out of her panties, then skillfully removes a few pins from her hair, causing it to fall and cloak her torso.

I think I’m going to hyperventilate.

She crawls on top of me—that beautiful, soft, swollen body—and straddles me. My dick is pressed between us, begging to enter that soft place. Her hair covers her shoulders and one of mine. I don’t wait for permission to touch her. I caress her soft skin gently while she warms me with her touch. She looks into my eyes as she reaches between us and guides me to her core. I gasp as she slides down on me. It always feels so good! I keep my head up, trying not to fall completely into the pleasure and lose myself. It would be over far too quickly.

That’s not a problem, though, because her gentle and slow rise and fall ensures that the evening—or the morning—will be prolonged. I caress her hips as she slowly pushes and pulls me through immeasurable laps of love and pleasure; her lips kissing me gently, then passionately, then gently again; her tongue challenging me to a sensual samba while the teeth succulently tease my bottom lip, my chest, my neck, my ear…

She grinds and kisses and caresses me right to the point of explosion and then she stops—still sealing my lips with juicy kisses and thrusting her fingers in my hair. When the throbbing stops, she starts again, bringing a dripping sweat to my brow and so much pleasure to my body that I begin to feel goosebumps. I don’t know how many times she does this to me before I gently hold her close to me and beg her to let me fill her.

“Please, baby, please don’t stop,” I breathe as I feel the most nuclear explosion building up in my loins.

“You ready, baby?” she says softly, cupping my head so that my face is lifted to hers.

“Yes… yes…” I couldn’t stop it this time, even if she did. It’s been building for hours and demands its freedom.

“Then come for me, baby,” she breathes against my mouth as she sinks her teeth into my bottom lip. She slides down on me once more and the geyser erupts—hot, hard, and painful. I cry out and her mouth covers mine, hungrily swallowing my cries and causing me to pump harder and harder inside of her. Still on her knees, she clamps her thighs around me, immobilizing me while I explode inside of her, every so often giving me a strategic pumps that seems to start the process all over again. After what feels like forever, my body trembles, then relaxes and her lips move to my ears and neck and she continues to shower me with kisses.

“What about you?” I ask when I can finally speak.

“I came four times, baby,” she whispers between kisses.

“I think I did, too,” I breathe before turning my face to hers and accepting her juicy lips once more.

*-*

She’s wearing my T-shirt and wrapped in my jacket and I’m wearing my boxer briefs as we lie comfortably on the plush carpeting in my office. I’m holding her close to me as she sleeps on my chest and I’m gazing out of the floor to ceiling windows. Dodd, Cross, and Rockland are guests of Welch and Cholometes’ special team tonight, and they guarantee me that the three of them will be more than ready to spill their guts in the morning. They were so much less than cooperative when we left. For a brief moment, I forgot my purpose. I was floundering in the dark, drowning in uncertainty. Then she showed up and reminded me of my task—why I have to continue and not let this fucker win.

She refilled my cup and my strength has been renewed. I’ll see you fuckers in a few hours and when I do, you’ll lead me right to this asshole and I’ll rid myself of him once and for all.


A/N: So there’s a little bit of Val, a little bit of Al, and a whole lot of CG and ANA–separately and apart. Fasten your seat belts, Darlings. It’s going to be a bumpy ride…

Pictures of places, cars, fashion, etc., can be found at https://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/becoming-dr-grey/

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

Love and Handcuffs!
Lynn x

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Becoming Dr. Grey: Chapter 11—Your Time Has Come!

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.

Gun and Shoulder Holster

Chapter 11—Your Time Has Come!

CHRISTIAN

Welch is upon me the moment I get to the office on Friday. I’ll admit that I still have pictures of my angelic Butterfly asleep in my arms as I attempt to explain the psychological significance of Dumbo. “Sir, we’ve got the word from James. With your permission, we need to get the teams in place. We’re close enough. It’s time to move on Dodd.”

This is music to my ears. I’m so tired of waiting to put this thing to rest. I’m anxious to get this behind me.

“What do you need me to do?” I ask. Like I said, I’m anxious, but I have to be careful to follow instructions or I might blow the whole thing.

“We need to get him separated,” Welch says. “He needs to be away from Grey House. We have somewhere that he can be interrogated and the Ops team is ready, but judging by his appearance and demeanor, we won’t need Ops for him.” I nod.

“So you’re saying that I need to lure him to this other location.” He nods. “Any suggestions?”

“We looked into his work history and of course his background check. He’s had several ideas that he’s brought to the table that got axed before they even got to the planning stages.” This means I never even saw them. “I would use one of these to get his attention.” He hands me a list of Dodd’s rejected business ideas.

“No wonder they were rejected. These are really awful. I can’t even pretend to be excited about any of these!” I’m nearly gagging at how bad these are.

“You have to try, sir. We need to get him to that warehouse.” I’m feeling a bit nauseous about these ideas.

A robotic painter. Not an automated or android painter. No, a real robot that paints. The damn thing looks like a transformer.

Voice-activated alarm system—is he serious? There are so many of these already on the market, I can’t begin to name them all!

Fingerprint technology that operates your computer—now he’s just being ridiculous. Even if GEH had accepted any of these ideas when they were originally presented, we would have been technologically years behind the competition in research and development. There’s many, many more on the list that are just as bad and from what I can see, he’s been trying to get ideas on the R&D table for years.

“Is this why this guy agreed to conspire against me—because we wouldn’t support this drivel?” Welch shrugs.

“It’s highly likely, sir, but you’re going to have to pick something in some of that drivel that’s going to make him comfortable enough to leave the premises without tipping anybody off.” I twist my lips. I can probably do something with that robot, but not as a painter. That’s just ludicrous.

“The robot,” I say. “Maybe we can pitch it as something to assist with security.” As soon as I say it, Robocop immediately comes to mind. It’s just as ridiculous, but no more ridiculous than the other ideas he’s presented. Welch shrugs.

“I don’t know how a robot would assist with security, sir,” Welch protests.

“That’s because you’re an expert. We don’t really want the damn thing to assist with security. We just want him to think we do, right?” Welch twists his lips and nods. “It fits in perfectly. With everything going on right now, of course I would be looking into methods—even unconventional methods—to secure the safety of my family and my home. Sure, we know it’s ridiculous, but he doesn’t have to know that.”

“That’s actually pretty genius,” he says. “Now, how do we sell him on it?”

“Well, I’ll need your help on that. I know basically what to do to stay safe and I can just about tell you the watered-down version of what you guys do, but I don’t know anything specific about security protocol in terms of what a new person would be doing. I guess we would treat this thing like it was a person—with special abilities—and go from there.” The more I talk, the more this sounds like a bad science-fiction movie.

“Weapons, armor, size would be a factor—you know they already have things like this,” he says.

“Who does?” I ask.

“The government. Ever heard of drones? It’s the same technology.” Drones. Of course.

“We’ll convince him that it’s something different,” I say. “Let’s be real—two of his original ideas include voice-activated alarms and fingerprint technology. How smart could this guy really be?” Welch nods again.

“True.”

Welch and I quickly bang out some ideas and draft a few plans for prototypes from Dodd’s illustrations that look like real plans for a real product. We even put it in planning folders and Welch takes the liberty to jot a few notes on the copy that we will show to Dodd. After a few hours and certain that our mock-up is complete, he goes to set the wheels in motion to make sure the site and necessary staff are in place. I call Jason on his burner.

“Richard Maverick. What can I do for you?” he answers.

“Henry Walsh here. We need to move forward with our dinner plans. Let’s get going and tell Godiva and Rapunzel.”

“You got it. Meet you in five.”

We’ve rehearsed that so many times that it sounded odd saying this time. Dodd is dinner since I plan to chew him up and spit his ass out and Godiva and Rapunzel are Gail and Butterfly. We don’t know what this operation is going to lead to or what’s going to be required or come from it. So, now, all communication has to be on the burners and we might be away from home for a while. The ladies will not be pleased.

Gail is there when we get to the apartment, but Butterfly hasn’t made it home yet. I’m not surprised. It’s only four in the afternoon, but I’ll admit that I wanted to see her before I go “undercover.” I don’t want to call her because I don’t want to tip her off and I know that I will. I change into jeans and a T-shirt with hiking boots and grab a jacket before leaving the bedroom. I was trying to stall a bit, but we don’t have any more time. By the time I get to back to the great room, Gail is quite pale and holding two burners.

“We’ll be fine, Love,” Jason assures her. “We are more protected than I have time to explain to you.” She doesn’t look convinced, but she nods anyway. I stand there looking at them, longing to hold my wife, but trying not to look so forlorn. Jason kisses his wife deeply before heading in my direction.

“Did he give you the names?” I ask, and she nods uncertainly.

“Yes, I have them right here.” She shows me a small piece of paper. I nod.

“Good. Tell her… tell her I’ll call and that I love her.”

“I will,” she says forcing a smile. I feel like she’s the only connection that I have with Butterfly right now and I don’t want to leave yet, but I know that I have to. It’s the unknown that makes this shit so scary.

“Boss, we can handle this without you, you know,” Jason says, giving me a chance to back out. I shake my head.

“No, but give me a minute. I need one more thing.” I turn around and walk to my office. I open the safe and the lockbox, then the attaché. Removing my gun, I put it in one pocket and the loaded magazine in the other before joining Gail and Jason back in the great room. I was caught unprepared once before. It won’t happen again.

“Let’s go. The sooner we get this started, the sooner it’ll be over,” I say, walking pass Jason and Gail and out the door to the elevator. The damn thing seems to take forever, but it finally arrives and we step inside.

“You got your piece, didn’t you?” he asks. I turn to him and say nothing. He just nods and doesn’t say anything else. When we get to the car, he opens the trunk and pulls out what looks like a belt.

“That’s a pretty big piece to have in your pocket. Take off your jacket.” Um, okay. I remove my jacket, but I don’t put it down since my gun is in the pocket. Jason straps this thing around my shoulders and I soon discover that it’s a body holster. He takes the firearm out of my pocket and loads the magazine.

“How does that feel?” he asks once he puts the gun in the holster. I squirm a bit.

“Loose,” I tell him. He tightens the holster.

“Draw,” he says and I pull out my firearm. “Now put it back.” I sink it back into the holster. “Easy enough?”

“Yeah, that’s a better fit,” I tell him while putting my jacket back on. We’re in the parking garage, for God’s sake.

“Good. Close that,” he says, gesturing to my jacket. ”You haven’t mastered how to conceal yet, so you’ll just have to hide it under your jacket.”

“Not a problem,” I say, zipping my jacket and getting into the car.

“Ben and Chance and going to be stationed at the penthouse in my absence,” he tells me as we drive back to Grey House. “I just talked to Chuck and he said that Her Highness is at the hospital with Philip and Maxine Guest. Apparently, Mrs. Guest had her baby.” Well, that’s good news, and now I don’t feel so bad about not waiting around to see her as she’ll probably be at the hospital until visiting hours are over. “Chuck is going to stay at the penthouse, too…”

“Do we need that many people?” I ask, knowing that the sheer magnitude is going to scare the shit out of my wife.

“We don’t know what we’re walking into. Better safe than sorry. And just so you know, there are a couple of mobile units at the apartment, too. I know how you feel about Her Highness and I feel the same about Her Majesty, so to answer your question—yes, we need that many people.” I see the slightest crack in Jason’s normally unshakable resolve and I realize that he’s just as uncertain as I am about leaving his wife to do this. I won’t give him a hard time about it.

When we get back to Grey House, Welch meets us at the door, indicating that everything and everyone is in place and Dodd is giddily waiting in the conference room. I take a moment to go over everything that Welch tells me about our performance before I enter the conference room.

There he is, sitting there looking over his plans like he doesn’t have a care in the world. He stands when I enter the room and smiles at me. I want to pull his teeth out one by one.

“I don’t think we’ve formally met outside of the department head meetings,” I say, coolly. “Christian Grey.”

“Maurice Dodd. It’s a pleasure to finally meet you one-on-one, sir.” I would be moved by his reverence if I didn’t know the fucker was stealing from me and potentially threatening the safety of my company and family. I gesture for him to sit and I take the seat at the end of the table with him to my right. “I was surprised to hear from you, sir. This particular project was submitted over a year ago.” That’s because it’s a piece of shit.

“Well, you never know what little tidbits you find right up under your nose,” like a traitor in your own camp.

“Yes, indeed.” He smiles wider.

“As you know, I have an intruder in my network. When I find the son-of-a-bitch, I’m going to make him wish he had never heard of Christian Grey.” I glare into his eyes and see his resolve break, a bit of uncertainty creeps up and his posture falls a bit. Welch clears his throat to get my attention and get me back into character. He pours himself a bit of water and utters an apology for the interruption. “To that end,” I continue, “I will need to upgrade some of the security protocols.”

“Security, sir?” he says, puzzled. The asshole was sitting here looking at the plans and couldn’t ascertain that it had something to do with security? I don’t know how Myrick picked him out of everybody in the company, but he sure picked the right idiot.

“Yes,” I reply rising out of my chair and walking around a bit. If I stay in close proximity of this piece of shit, I’m surely going to hit him. “This fucker is threatening my life’s work, my company, my fortune, the safety of my wife and children… for a few extra bucks.”

“I…” He pauses and swallows, taking a gulp of water. “I’m sorry, sir. I hadn’t realized that things were this… serious.” Yeah, you’re not sorry now, but you will be. “How can I help?” You can tell me where that fucker Myrick is so that I can choke the living shit out of him and rid the world of him once and for all.

“Apparently, Mr. Welch feels like your robot here could be useful in the overhaul,” I lie.

“For security?” he asks surprised. “I never thought of that.”

“Yes. As you can see, with the correct modifications and some appropriate outfitting, your little creation could be quite the unique piece of machinery.” Unique as in useless.

“Thank you, sir. I can see how it would be. I couldn’t imagine an automated painter being used as a security droid.”

“Nor could I,” I say honestly. I let a little too much time pass after that statement and Welch jumps in.

“We actually have a prototype built already and we’d like your take on it. You know how it’s supposed to function and we just want to see what you think about what we’ve done to it.” He smiles widely again.

“Yes! Yes, that would be splendid!” He’s so easy. If I were face-to-face with the man who I am currently stealing millions of dollars from, I would show a little caution—maybe just a bit of trepidation. No, this idiot is walking right into the lion’s den with the King of the Jungle circling him and preparing for his next meal.

“You’ll have to forgive me if this whole thing seems hush-hush and undercover, but I don’t know who I can trust these days and I have to be careful,” I throw in.

“Of course, Mr. Grey, I completely understand. You can never be too careful.” I want to snatch his teeth out of his mouth. You can never be too careful. You should know, you sniveling little piece of shit.

“The prototype is in another location. I don’t want anyone to have a clue what I’m planning, so I had to be very discreet about it. I’d like to take you there so that you can see exactly what comes next.” Welch throws a look of caution over at me, but this is the best I can do without beating this little weasel to a pulp right here and now.

“I’d love to see what you have planned, sir.” Actually, you wouldn’t, but that’s okay.

“Good. I’ll have you follow us in your vehicle to a secured location and we’ll go from there. Is that okay with you?”

“Yes, sir, absolutely!” he nods frantically.

“Mr. Welch will ride with you and we’ll rendezvous in a few short minutes.”

“Yes, sir. Thank you, again, sir. I didn’t think anyone was paying attention to any of my ideas. It’s a little disheartening to be the Director of Planning and can’t even get one of your own plans onto the production floor.”

“Well, persistence pays, Mr. Dodd,” I say as I leave the conference room. Jason is standing just on the other side of the door and I nod at him, signaling him to the car. I take a deep cleansing breath and prepare myself for what’s about to happen. It’s very likely that someone may not come out of this ordeal alive—I’m unusually okay with that. All I have to think of is the fact that anything or anybody in this operation could have jeopardized my family—my beautiful Butterfly and the beans. After a few moments, Welch and Dodd walk out of the conference room.

“I’ll see you gentlemen in a few minutes,” I say before leaving.

A few minutes later, we’re outside of an empty building waiting for Dodd and Welch. I’m impatient for the asshole to get here. I couldn’t chance him riding alone just in case he might decide to call Myrick. Any idiot with two nickels worth of good sense would know that this jackass is walking into a setup…

Except for this jackass.

After Dodd pulls around the back of the building where his blue Lincoln is out of sight, he and Welch meet me and Jason at the SUV.

“The need for secrecy is very important, Mr. Dodd. You and Mr. Welch will ride with us from here. Where I’m taking you is going to be pretty dirty. I should have warned you in advance, sorry about that.”

“It’s no problem at all, sir,” he says, chomping at the bit.

“You’re not about to walk into some CSI sparkly clean top-secret shiny lab. These guys get down and dirty with what they do and where you’re about to go is just that—down and dirty.”

“A little dirt won’t hurt me. I’ll be fine, Mr. Grey…” or so you think. I nod and we all pile into the SUV.

Several minutes later, we are outside of a warehouse that happens to belong to Welch located just outside of Seattle. I have no idea what else may have gone on in this location, nor do I want to know. Welch leads us into the warehouse that is very dimly lit on the inside. He bolts the door behind us and we walk through a large empty area to a platform at the far end of the warehouse that turns out to be an elevator.

Up we go to the second floor and a well-lit room in the middle of another room. A few chairs and a table are inside along with what appear to be two of Cholometes and Welch’s friends.

“You’ll want to take a seat there, Mr. Dodd,” Welch says, pointing to a chair near the middle of the room. Dodd sits like he’s about to see a Broadway show.

“These are the gentlemen that I was telling you like to get down and dirty,” I say, gesturing at the two ominous figures standing at the far side of the room who now make themselves known. “They’re handling a particularly delicate situation for me. Now, you did say that you were willing to help in any way. I certainly hope you meant that, because this is where it gets a little sketchy.”

“Absolutely, Mr. Grey. What can I do?” Dodd says eagerly.

“As you know, a few months ago, we discovered that there is an intruder in GEH’s systems,” I begin.

“Yes, sir, I’m well aware of that,” he replies.

“Oh, I’m sure that you are,” I comment. “You see, we’ve been watching the activities of these hackers very closely. We’ve been able to map their patterns, determine their destinations, and for the most part trace their current locations.” Some of the color leaves his face.

“You have?” he says nervously.

“Yes, we have,” I continue. “We have a few blanks to fill in, but we’re certain that we’ll get the answers that we need very soon.”

“Well… the last that I heard, there was possibly another intruder in the system,” he says nervously.

“No, that was just a piece of propaganda fed to key players to see how quickly it would filter down to our hackers. It moved very quickly because we could even see a change in their patterns when we released that story, just like we did when we released the lie that we had arrested someone else for the crime.” He swallows hard. He remembers all of this because he was deliberately present for every meeting.

“If I may ask, sir, where do I and my robot come in with this?” he says nervously.

“I so glad you asked. Mr. Welch?” He nods.

“Gentlemen, would you please bring the prototype of Mr. Dodd’s robot so that we can show him our plans for it?” Without a word, the two gentlemen disappear out of the room.

“I need you to pay close attention because you will determine where we go next with this project,” I tell Dodd. “I’m a bit stumped and I don’t like being in the dark. In fact, I particularly fucking hate it. But with your help, I’m certain that I can get to where I need to be.” He’s silent now, waiting for the finished product of his creation to be brought to him. I sit on the edge of the nearby table examining him while he takes in his surroundings.

The two men come back into the room with a large box and I ceremoniously remove a robot from the box—a very small, white robot way too small for the box with no function whatsoever. Dodd frowns.White Robot Toy

“Um, sir… there must be some mistake. That’s not my robot.” I look at it curiously.

“It’s not?” I question, feigning surprise. He shakes his head.

“No, sir. That looks like… a child’s toy.” I twist my lips.

“Hmm, so it does.” I take the thing by the feet and bang it on the table several times until it shatters into tiny pieces, throwing the legs across the room before turning back calmly to face a very startled and afraid Mr. Dodd.

“You want to know something?” I say as I remove my jacket. “I saw it in your eyes. I saw it more than once. You were questioning my intentions. You were wondering what was really going on, but you didn’t have the common sense or the self-preservation to think about your current situation and step back and look at all of the possibilities.”

He’s justifiably afraid now. His face is as white as a sheet and the expression of horror painted on it at this moment is priceless. His eyes don’t leave mine, but I know he’s already seen the weapon. I lean closer to him.

“You walked right into danger based on the hint of a promise. You had no guarantees, nothing concrete, but some phony mock-up of your pictures. I gave you several chances to see what was going on and you couldn’t see the forest for the trees. I gave you innumerable hints just tonight and you ignored them all. Every phony meeting you sat in on, you had an opportunity to pull out or come clean, but you chose to continue—to follow blindly into the depths of hell. Well, welcome… you’ve arrived.”

I can see him eyeing my gun in my holster. Go ahead. Try it. I’ll have you on the floor before you can blink. Just as I thought, he lunges for my gun. I only wanted an excuse to hit him since I plan on leaving that work to the professionals. With little effort, a good right cross lands him on his ass.

“Tie his ass up,” I say, and the two guys drag him back to the chair and secure his hands with a cable tie.

“Mr. Dodd, you haven’t worked for me for very long, so you don’t know me very well. You haven’t seen the worst of me… but you’re about to.” I take a chair from the wall and place it in front of him. I take a seat and cross my legs at the knees.

“What I really want to do right now is torture you slowly—me, with my bare hands. I want to watch you beg for your miserable fucking life because you have no idea what I’ve been through these past few months… no idea what you nearly cost me. I want you to suffer physically what I’ve suffered mentally and emotionally.”

“Please…” he says, his voice trembling, “think of my wife.” Before I could catch myself, I plant my foot squarely in his chest, sending him and the chair sailing several feet backwards. He’s gasping for breath when I get over to him, still bound to the chair and lying backwards on the floor.

“Your wife?” I hiss, looking down at him. “Your fucking wife? Did you think about my wife when you gave that asshole access to the pictures of her pregnancy? Did you think about the stress that she’s been through because of this whole ordeal? Did you think about the fact that she’s carrying twins, which is stressful enough on her body without having to deal with this shit? Did you think about the fact that helping that asshole get into my system threatens her future? My children’s future?” I snatch him and the chair off the floor and sit them upright—hard!

“No,” I say so close to his face that he can feel my breath and spit. “All you thought about is that nobody paid any attention to those ludicrous and useless ideas of yours–things that have been in production for years already, if not decades. Nobody licked the literal shit out of your ass, so you thought of me as nothing but another fucking dollar sign. A few measly pennies won’t hurt billionaire Christian Grey! Well, you’re right about that. A few measly pennies won’t. Too bad this is not about money!” I smack him hard enough to knock a tooth loose—I hope.

“Sir.” Welch chides gently. No bruises. We agreed. Well, too bad, because he’s already got a few. I stand up straight and count to compose myself. I’ve got a mission here and I have to tame my anger to accomplish it. When I’ve composed myself, I turn to Welch.

“I reserve the right to knock the shit out of this motherfucker anytime I so choose,” I growl, “but I’ll pull the reins back.” Jason wisely brings me a chair. I’m slower to hit him if I’m sitting.

“I don’t give a fuck about your wife, Dodd, and I don’t give a fuck about you. Let’s get that clear. You’re a traitor in my own circle and treason is punishable by death. For right now, I choose to spare you, because I need information. I know who’s behind this and I need you to help me get him. Don’t mistake that word ‘help,’ because as you can see, I have ways to persuade you if you resist, and if I don’t get what I want from you, I’ll just rid the world of your miserable existence and find the fucker on my own.

“Yes, I will admit that the success of this entire situation lays in your lap. This means that if that fucker gets away, I will take my revenge for him out on you. I don’t know what he’s told you or what he’s led you to believe, but even if the police fuck up and he gets away, you get to suffer his share of my wrath. He keeps coming after me. He’ll come again. He’ll just find another expendable fucker like you to get inside. Believe me, I know there’s plenty of you.”

He’s breathing hard and sweating, completely panic-stricken and probably about to have a fucking heart attack.

“Any health concerns?” I ask Welch.

“None, sir, he’s healthy as a horse.” I turn back to Dodd.

“Good, because if you just so happen to develop asthma and have a fatal attack, I will gladly let you die.” I lean my arms on my knees. “Now, this is how this is going to go. I’m going to ask you some questions, some very direct questions, and you’re going to give me very direct answers. If I feel like you’re holding anything back from me, I’m going to redirect my question. If you continue to hold back from me, then I’ll resort to more persuasive measures. Like I said, you will determine where we go next with this project. Is there anything unclear, Mr. Dodd?” I ask like we’re holding an average job interview.

“No, sir!” he gasps, his eyes wide and wild.

“Good. Now the first thing I’d like to know is how you got involved with this in the first place.” I fold my arms and wait for the story.

“This guy approached me in the coffee shop down the street,” he begins, his voice trembling. “He just started talking to me out of nowhere. He seemed friendly enough.”

“What did he look like?”

“Young, red hair…”

“That’s enough.” Myrick approached him in person. “What did he call himself?”

“Victor,” he answers. Another alias, no doubt.

“Continue.”

“He asked what I did and I told him. It was harmless at first, but then he started talking about how far I had advanced in the company and I started thinking about…” he trails off. I don’t say anything. I want him to finish the sentence, but he’s already been warned about withholding information. So we wait for a few moments. “I started thinking about all of the ideas I submitted and no one even looked at them.” I didn’t bother to respond to that comment. I’ve already told him how ridiculous and antiquated his “ideas” were. If he’s that unimaginative, I don’t even know how he was hired.

“So, basically, he talked to you until he found your vulnerability and you allowed him to exploit it. Got it. Continue.” That took the wind out of his sails. I think he was looking for some sort of sympathy and now he realizes that there is none here for him. He drops his head.

“He… he convinced me that he had done this many times before and never got caught, that there was plenty of money in it for me and if we did get discovered, we could get out before anybody actually caught us…”

He continued with his story about how he only met Myrick in person once, but has constant contact with the other two sides of the triangle, whom he calls Nick and Roc. The information he’s giving me still seems sketchy and there’s a lot missing, but I think he fills in some of the blanks as much as he can. We spend quite a bit of time together that night and I realize that he’s particularly exhausted after our… discussion. He’s going to have to be in better form for his performance tomorrow, so somewhere in the wee hours of the morning we decide to call it a night. Mr. Dodd is fed some kind of oatmeal porridge mush shit and handcuffed to the wall in another room where he can get some sleep and ponder his circumstances.

“We’ve got a lot more to go on than we did before, sir,” Jason says in an attempt to calm my angst.

“We still don’t have Myrick,” I say, unsettled. “I’ll breathe easy only when we catch that fucker.”

“Hear, hear,” Welch concurs. My staff has been invaluable during this time. I’m tempted to give them each all-expense-paid vacations to the destination of their choice when this is over, but I know that many of them won’t accept it—particularly Welch. I’ll offer it anyway, though.

“I guess there’s nothing else for me to do here tonight, is there?” I ask. Welch shakes his head.

“No, sir. Let us analyze the information that he gave us and calibrate our next move. Try to get some rest. I would say come back around eleven or noon. I’ll call you if anything develops before then.”

“Good man,” I say. “Um, we’re taking the only car.”

“No, you’re not,” he says and smiles. “Goodnight, sir.”

“Goodnight, Welch.”

*-*

“Christian!” She leaps into my arms and I’m almost afraid that we’ve hurt the babies. I hold her close and breathe in the fragrance of her hair. I hate being away from her, even for a day.

“Butterfly,” I breathe before I close my lips over hers, devouring her in a sweet, sensual kiss.

“I was so worried,” she says when we stop to breathe. “Is it over?”

“No, Baby, it’s not over.” Her face falls. “We still have some work to do, but there’s nothing else that Jason and I can do tonight and I had to see you.” Her eyes travel down my chest and she opens my jacket. I’ve gotten used to wearing the damn thing and forgot that I had it on.

“Your gun,” she says, softly, with a sigh. “I don’t know whether to concerned, terrified… or turned on.”

Oh shit! Greystone jumps to attention in my jeans immediately and need to fuck her—not make love, we’ll save that for later. Fuck!

I grab her hair and slam my mouth into hers. Reading and responding to my need, she challenges my tongue with her own, pulling my hair at the same time. I groan into her mouth, lift her by the ass and carry her to our room. She hastily gets me out of my jacket and doesn’t remove anything else. She pushes me down on the bed and swiftly undoes my jeans, freeing my aching dick. She grabs it and strokes it—hard—while treating me with more sensual kisses. She is on fire! Over a gun holster?? Damn. She quickly slides down my body and treats Greystone to the warm caress of her mouth. I’m so hard that I almost can’t take it. She climbs back on top of me and I’m pleasantly surprised to find that she is naked under that robe. She throws it open and slides down onto my throbbing cock.

“Aahh!” I gasp as she wraps around me, tight and warm. Shit, she feels so fucking good. When she rolls her hips, it’s everything I can do not to blow immediately. I groan in agony trying to control my orgasm.

“You look so hot wearing it,” she breathes. “So hot…” and she grabs the holster with the gun still in it. Thank God I unloaded it or the damn thing just might go off in all this heat.

“Baby, shit!” I hiss, the heat between us almost too much to bear as she grinds into me, harder and faster. I’m watching those round tits wobble and I’m rising and losing control. “Yes, Baby. Fuck me!” I command. “Fuck me harder!” On command, she uses the holster for leverage and begins to bounce wild and fast on my dick.

“You’re so hard,” she breathes. “You feel so good.” I’m holding her ass and with her head held back, I can feel her hair brush against my fingers. It’s so hot and I am going to come. I grasp her ass hard, separate the cheeks and play with her asshole. She shudders at the sensation.

“Stick it in, Baby,” she coos. “Stick it in.” I gladly thrust my finger in her ass and she cries out. With each stroke on my dick, her rosette tightens around my finger. It’s unbearable.

“I’m going to come, Baby,” I growl. “Fuck me, Baby. Make me come.” She holds the holster more firmly and rides with purpose. I stick my finger further into her ass and in no time, I’m gushing endlessly inside of her, my dick burning as she continues to bounce on my viciously ejaculating member. I want her to stop because the pleasure is unbearably blinding, but I know that she can’t because that last deep thrust of the finger has her well on her way to her own orgasm. I hold my breath through the pulsing and burning and moments later…

“Aaaahhaaaahaaaaa!” she cries out as she convulses on top of me. I have to hold her down to keep her from gyrating off the bed. I don’t mind holding her because my dick is still pulsing and I really need her to keep still. Now comes my favorite part—the steady contraction of her muscles. That shit feels so good, even better during an orgasm, but I couldn’t wait. The babies make it impossible to reach her mouth unless she leans down to me, so I take her nipples in my mouth instead since she’s holding her head back. She’s breathing hard and my dick is still cocooned inside of her, enjoying the warmth and the vibration. She starts to moan as I suck her nipples, first one, and then the other. Her hips start to roll, alerting me that we’re not done yet, and she’s already ready for round two.

Who am I to deny my wife?

*-*

The sun is rising now and Butterfly looks gorgeous lying next to me. I would do all this and more to keep her and my children safe. They mean the world to me and nothing is more important to me than they are, especially not worthless thieves following behind a madman hell-bent on my ruin because he has an imaginary bone to pick with me. It’s like I told Dodd last night—it’s not about the money. That fucker tried to kill me by orchestrating the delivery of Ana’s gun to that psycho blonde bitch. Now he’s up the ante by extending the threat to my family. We hadn’t even discussed additional security for Ana or the children before it was leaked to the press that she was pregnant. It’s bad enough that you attack my company, but my family—he better hope I don’t find him when he’s alone.

Butterfly snuggles into me and I hold her close, enjoying her warmth and essence and watching the sun come up. This is a tough position to be in. I have no idea where I would draw the line when it comes to her safety. Is one life more important than another? When it comes to Butterfly, yes, it is. Her life is even more important than mine. I’m fully aware that everyone involved in this could end up dead, and I don’t care. To them, their lives were more important than Butterfly’s. To me, her life is more important than theirs.

Butterfly finally rouses around 9am and does that lovely every-bone-in-her-body stretch that I love to see her do in the morning. She uncurls like a cat, then lies flat on her back to let her body settle into the bed again.

“Good morning,” she says sweetly.

“Good morning,” I reply. “How did you sleep?”

“Like the dead,” she says. “The beans didn’t even wake me with early morning soccer,” she laughs. I smile and kiss her.

“You know I love you more than anything in this world, don’t you?” I say. She examines my eyes.

“Yes, Christian, I do,” she says honestly. “I know that there’s nothing that you wouldn’t do for me and the babies, and I love you for that.” She touches my face reassuringly. I turn my face to kiss her palm. “What time do you have to leave?”

“In about an hour,” I respond, and she sighs.

“Well, that’s enough time to get you some breakfast,” she says before getting out of bed and heading to the bathroom. I watch her walk away and again, remember why Cholometes calls her Helen of Troy. I lie in bed for a few minutes and she comes out and of the bathroom in a super large Seahawks jersey. She retrieves a pair of leggings from the chest of drawers and quickly winds her hair into a messy bun, securing it with some hairpins.

“Get up. You don’t have much time,” she says before leaving the room. I roll out of bed and take a quick shower. I’m in the kitchen after donning more jeans and a T-shirt with my boots. In the short time it took to get dressed, Butterfly has pancakes, scrambled eggs, bacon, toast, coffee and orange juice all waiting for me.

“How did you do that?” I ask, sitting at the breakfast bar ready to tear in.

“I multitasked,” she says sweetly, laying the plates in front of me piled way too high for one person. “I’m going to eat with you while you tell me what you can about what happened yesterday. Leave out any gory details.” I look at her as she pours the coffee and juice and takes a seat, smothering our pancakes with syrup.

“Dodd sang like a canary with little persuasion,” I begin, while loading my fork. “We’ll most likely be confronting the hackers before day’s end.”

“Well, that’s good,” she says filling her mouth with food.

“We don’t have Myrick yet.”

“That’s not good,” she says around her food and I nod.

“We’ll have to see what information we can get from these guys when we apprehend them—or from their computers and phones. The night shift is regrouping and planning the next course of action, which is why I came home.” She nods.

“Does he know you’re on to him?” she asks, eating more.

“I don’t know, yet, but he will soon. The way Dodd was talking, he thought this was all about money.”

“Did he try to use that as a bargaining chip?” she asks. I shake my head and swallow my food.

“No. I made it pretty clear that it was a futile attempt. By the time I left, he was a mixture of uncertain and afraid. I’m hoping the team will have something for me this morning.” She smiles faintly.

“I’m sure they will,” she says softly. “I won’t pretend that I don’t know what’s going on, but hopefully you’ll be able to get the information you need from the computers and phones if these guys are not forthcoming when you catch them.” She eats more of her food and she appears to be concentrating on chewing. I cup my hand around hers.

“Are you okay?” I ask, concerned. She swallows her food and pauses for a moment.

“I don’t like this at all,” she says honestly without raising her head, “but that man declared war on us, and I understand and concur that all bets are off. So, you do what you have to do and don’t worry about me. I’m behind you one hundred percent.” She looks up at me with those last words to make sure that I heard and understood her. She’s not pleased with the tactics, but she supports me in doing what I need to do.

“I swear that we’ll wrap this up as soon as we can,” I promise her. She smiles and nods.

“Eat your breakfast before Jason comes out.” I soon decide that I don’t want breakfast. I want to kiss her and hold her as much as I can before I have to leave. Walking around the breakfast bar, I hoist her up on the counter and kiss her feverishly. She wraps her arms around my neck and returns my fervor, our tongues dancing a sensual tango. I need her strength and her love, and she’s giving me every bit of it. Our souls speak to one another, proclaiming our love as we seal it with our kisses. I feel his presence before I hear him as his essence is an intrusion on our connection.

“I’ll be with you in a minute,” I tell Jason before he gets a chance to clear his throat, never turning my head to him.

“Yes, sir,” he says, and I hear him disappear off somewhere. Butterfly is clutching me tightly, holding me close to her and the babies and saying nothing.

“Please be safe,” she whispers while clinging to me. I hold her tight and kiss her hair.

“I belong to Anastasia Grey,” I breathe. “I am not allowed to take chances. This is your body. This body belongs to you.” I move her hair and kiss her ear. “I must follow instructions and stay safe. I’m not allowed to take chances and I’m not allowed to get hurt.” I kiss her neck. “I belong to Anastasia Grey.” She chokes out a sob and swallows it.

“And don’t you fucking forget it,” she says tearfully, still clinging to me.

“I fucking well won’t,” I say returning her embrace. A few moments later, she calms herself and takes a deep breath.

“You better go,” she says releasing her death grip, but still embracing me and stroking my nape.

“I love you, Butterfly.” I don’t want to let go.

“I know,” she breathes. “Believe me, I know. I love you, too, Baby.” With those words, I take a deep breath and release her, kissing her once more before I get her off of the counter and go back to our bedroom. I put my shoulder holster back on and go to the study to retrieve my gun and clip. Jason is waiting for me at my desk.

“Have you checked your emails?” he asks, looking blankly at my computer screen.

“I haven’t had time,” I confess.

“Scroll through them. See if anything requires an answer. You need to establish location—show normal routine… just in case.”

“Have you?” I ask.

“I have. Come on, we need to get going.” He rises from my desk and gestures for me to sit. I fire off an email or two to Ros, some to Andrea, and a few to department heads and board members of committees expecting meetings this week. About twenty minutes later, I holster my loaded weapon and grab my jacket from the bedroom. When we walk through the great room to leave, Butterfly is still in the kitchen.

“I’ll meet you at the elevator. One minute—no more,” I tell Jason. He nods and leaves. I walk over to the breakfast bar.

“Baby?” She looks up at me like I startled her.

“I thought you were already gone,” she says.

“No, I’m leaving now.” I look into her eyes.

“I’ll be fine, Christian,” she says. “I was… just daydreaming.”

“For half an hour?” She looks at me and fights the tears.

“I just want to be in our new home with our babies and our new life. I just want all of this to be over,” she sniffles.

“It will be, and we’ll have all of that. Don’t worry. I promise you that this is coming to an end. Do you trust me?”

“You know that I do,” she says, catching a tear before it falls.

“Good, then try not to worry. It’s bad for you and the babies.” She purses her lips and sighs.

“Okay,” she says reluctantly. I cup her face and kiss her lips once more.

“I love you, Mrs. Grey.”

“I love you, Mr. Grey.” I kiss her forehead and her hand before walking through the great room and out the front door.


ANASTASIA

I don’t know why even bothered trying to sleep. I’ve been staring at the ceiling for I don’t know how long trying to calm the babies and it’s not even midnight yet. Even they know something’s not right. Jason has already proven that he’ll protect my husband with his life, but I don’t want Jason to get hurt any more than I want Christian to get hurt. I’m terrified that they’re going to get caught in some kind of crossfire or something and I keep having the worst visions in my head of my husband lying dead somewhere. I hope I’m just being paranoid, but I can’t help it. He’s my everything and right now, he’s on some kind of undercover mission to confront the guy who hacked into his computer systems.

It’s no use. I’m not going to get to sleep. I get out of bed and go to the bathroom, hoping that a warm shower will help to calm my nerves.

Feeling no better than I did before the shower, I go to the kitchen to make a cranberry spritzer. It’s dark and quiet except for the lights above the breakfast bar. I tie my robe tight in case one of the security guys are on the night shift doing patrols or something. I don’t know that Chance guy very well, but he’s been on duty with Christian a lot and I don’t doubt that he knows what he’s doing.

I make my spritzer and sit at the breakfast bar. Maybe I should watch television or read. I know it won’t make a difference. All I’ll do is think of Christian and what might be going on with him. I don’t want to think about it, but I can’t help it. If I could will him home with me, I would. I don’t want him out there chasing the bad guys. I want him here with me.

I must be daydreaming because moments later, I see him walking towards me. Am I delirious? I blink my eyes a couple of times to adjust to the light. He is coming towards me.

“Christian!” I run over to him and jump into his arms. I just need him to hold me. I need to know that he’s real. My elation is dampened by the news that the ordeal is still not over, but while he’s talking, I see the holster under his jacket.

He carried his gun. Fuck! He really could have gotten caught in some kind of crossfire. I’m suddenly awash with fear and concern, but the most prevalent thing I feel is… lust! He looks abso-fucking-lutely hot in that holster—hotter than I ever remember him looking before. It does something to me and the next thing I know, I’m on top of him holding on to that holster and riding him like a fucking rodeo princess! I don’t know what I was thinking! Was the damn thing loaded?? I don’t know, but three orgasms later, neither of us had taken a bullet, so I guess not.

I don’t know how long I stand in the kitchen the next day after he and Jason have left. He tells me that he’ll be careful. He even recites my mantra to me—the one that I made him memorize. I know that he’ll do everything in his power to stay safe, but I just can’t shake the feeling of impending doom. I try to clear the dishes, but all I can do is stand there and cry. I have to be strong for him, but when I’m alone, I don’t have to be strong. I can cry all I want.

The problem is… I’m not alone.

“Come on, dear,” Gail says putting her arms around me, no doubt trying to get me to sit down. I don’t move. I don’t want to be taken care of right now. I want to cry. I’m afraid that something terrible is going to happen to my husband and I want to cry.

“He’ll be fine, Ana,” Gail comforts, realizing that I’m not going to move. “He has so many people to protect him and he’s a smart man. He’s not going to do anything to put himself in danger.”

“He has his gun!” I wail, weeping from my chest and letting the tears fall.

“Well… you carry yours. Every day!” she tries to retort.

“That’s right!” I tell her. “I carry it every day. He doesn’t! He never carries it! Ever!” I weep harder.

“Darling, you’re going to have to calm down,” she warns. “Your blood pressure is going to shoot to the roof.” I hold my babies and cry right there in the middle of the kitchen. I want my husband. I want Christian. I want him here—safe with me. I don’t want him out there fighting the bad guys. I want him in my arms so that I can love him and tell him what he means to me. I don’t know what it is, but something bad is about to happen and I know it. I feel it deep inside, not because I want him here and he’s in a dangerous situation, but because there is the feeling of impending doom floating all around me and I can’t shake it. Gail wraps her arms around me and lays her head on my back and shoulder, trying to comfort me, but I’m inconsolable. Something’s coming. Something really bad.

“Please, God,” I weep from my soul, “Please, keep him safe… please…”

I spend the day doing some of the most ridiculous things to keep my mind occupied, one of which was putting together absolutely out-of-this-world names for my baby boy—names that I know Christian would never agree to…

Einstein Hillsboro Grey
Wallingford Fitzgerald Grey
Charleston Eggbert Grey

After about an hour of that, I thumb through this app on my phone that sells a boatload of useless things and try to find something to buy. Something for the house, maybe…

Wall tattoos
Artwork
Floor lamps

I’ve picked out all the tacky things I can think of, then empty my cart, certain that I won’t purchase any of them. By lunchtime, I’m going stir crazy wondering what’s happening with Christian. I can’t talk to anybody about it. All I can do is sit here and lose my mind. Then, like angels falling from heaven, Mandy calls and asks if I felt up to babysitting Little Harry for a few hours.

Oh, boy, do I!

In twenty-five minutes, she brings him over, declaring that she has a bridal shower to go to for one of her friends and forgot to find a sitter for him. My heart is lifted immediately when I see his cute little pudgy face.

“Hi Harry,” I coo and she smiles.

“You’ll be alright?” she asks and I nod.

“Gail’s here if I fall on hard times. Besides, it’s good practice,” I reply, bouncing my baby brother on my hip.

“Okay, well, my cell is on. There’s plenty of breast milk in his diaper bag and I’m only twenty minutes away if you need me.”

“No problem. Go. Have fun. We’ll be fine.” She kisses Harry then give me a half-hug before leaving. “So, little guy, I guess it’s me and you, huh?”

I show Harry around the apartment as if he has any idea what he’s looking at. I look longingly at the playroom door as I pass by. We haven’t been in there in months and I miss it. I know Christian wouldn’t dare do any scenes with me in my current state, but still…

I rip myself from the melancholy of wanting to go into the playroom and turn my attention back to my active and playful little brother.

“Do you want to go see what’s happening in the kitchen?” I ask him and he just smiles obliviously up at me. I take him downstairs and into the kitchen where I find Gail preparing deli sandwiches, and lots of them!

“Are we feeding the homeless?” I ask, and I clearly startle her. She turns to me and makes to say something before she settles her eyes on Harry.

“And who do we have here?” she coos with a genuine smile. “Hello, little fella. I haven’t seen you in a little while.” She smiles and pokes his little stomach and he rewards her with a smile of his own.

“What is it about babies that make things right with the world?” I ask, admiring my little brother.

“They’re untarnished,” she says. “They represent fresh starts and new life… and they’re so damn cute!” She tweaks Harry’s cheeks and he giggles again. I have to agree. Having Harry around makes me feel all fluffy and hopeful inside.

“It’s wonderful having him here,” I say, kissing his soft cheeks. “He gives me comfort.” She smiles.

“Are you hungry?” I look at her deli trays. Actually, they’re just plates with sandwiches and crudités, probably lunch for the guys. Another little platter is covered with various little cakes and cookies.

“I want that,” I whisper to Harry, pointing at the cakes. “How about you?” More oblivious smiling. I’m certain he’s too small to have the sweets, but it’s fun to play anyway.

I sit Harry in his bouncer and take my sandwich and goodies to the great room. He’s sucking on his binky while I’m eating a delicious turkey and Swiss sandwich in front of the fire. He’s a captive audience while I talk about anything that comes to mind—the babies, the house, Helping Hands. Thanksgiving is coming soon and we are supposed to be having it at our house this year since Elliot and Aaron assure me that everything will be ready by then. Harry gets a little fussy after lunch and I deduce that he might need a diaper change and a feeding of his own. The diaper change goes more smoothly than I thought it would. Gail warms a bottle for him while I cuddle him on the sofa. The entire time he’s nuzzling and trying to get under my shirt.

“Sorry, buddy,” I tell him. “Nothing there just yet.” He fidgets a bit almost like he understood what I said and wants his instant gratification. I can’t help but laugh, wondering what Daddy must have been like as a baby. Probably just as adorable as Harry.

He devours his bottle when I finally give it to him and follows his lunch with two healthy burps. Almost immediately, he releases a huge yawn and I lament over the fact that I have to release my little companion to the Sandman.

“Okay, Harry,” I say rocking him in my arms. “I can’t sing my lullaby to you, so what should I sing?” I think for a moment and the perfect song comes to mind:

Frère Jacques,
Frère Jacques,
Dormez vous?
Dormez vous?
Sonnez les matines,
Sonnez les matines,
Din, din, don!
Din, din, don!

Are you sleeping,
Are you sleeping?
Brother John?
Brother John?
Morning bells are ringing,
Morning bells are ringing,
Ding ding dong,
Ding ding dong.

Two more choruses of Frère Jacques and little Harry is out like a light. I can’t bear to put him down yet. I don’t want to be alone again. So I hold him for a little while and just watch him sleeping. New life and fresh starts… hope… That’s a lot to put on a kid.

“I wonder if your mom felt the same way about you,” I say to my sleeping baby brother. “I know I’ve already lived a wonderful life, some good and some bad, but I feel like I won’t even start living until the babies are born. That’s a pretty big responsibility to hang on their shoulders and I try not to do it, but it’s no use. You guys have a power over us that make us helpless and useless. Might as well get used to it.” I sit there for I don’t know how long holding little Harry until a familiar voice breaks me out of my trance.

“Getting in some practice, huh?”

I look up and see my best friend standing there in his casual best—jeans and a polo shirt. How did I not hear him come in?

“Hi, Al,” I say before turning my attention back to Harry. “I guess you can say that. I love this kid so much and he’s not even mine. I think it’s the fact that he’s part of Daddy.” Al sits next to me.

“Yeah, he is a cute little guy, and he looks just like Ray.” I finally decide to put little Harry in his bouncer and let him rest.

“So what brings you by, Darling?” I say, taking my seat back on the sofa.

“Bored,” he says. “We’re always kind of doing something. Now that our significant others are all tied up with cracking this… thing, I figured we would keep ourselves occupied.” He pulls out a bag of my most favorite chocolate.

“Lindor!” I exclaim quietly so as not to wake Harry. “Give it to me!” He snatches it away from my grasp.

“What do you say?” he taunts.

“Give it to me now or I’ll break you face!” I say stoically. He jerks his head.

“Alright, alright,” he says in his whiny voice. “Testy!” He gives me the chocolates and I quickly open one of the individually wrapped truffles and bite into it, moaning with ecstasy as the smooth center coats my tongue. “Damn, Jewel, you make that sound like sex.”

“It’s a close second,” I say after allowing the chocolate deliciousness to slide down my throat.

“You look right at home with the little guy,” he says as I finish my truffle.

“He’s easy to love,” I say, looking admiringly at my little brother, “and it’s a distraction.” Al nods.

“I heard,” he confirms, “as much as I want to hear anyway. Anything he does with me is protected by attorney/client privilege, but there are certain things that I still don’t want to know.”

“And things that I already wish I didn’t know,” I add forlorn. “He’s carrying.” Al frowns.

“Carrying what?” My turn to frown.

“His gun!” I announce matter-of-factly.

“Christian has a gun?!” he exclaims in surprise.

“How can you be his lawyer and not know that he has a gun?” I ask.

“I don’t know what he doesn’t tell me, Jewel,” Al defends. “How long has he had a gun?”

“Since right after Jason was shot in his office,” I inform him.

“Okay, so not that long, and how often does he carry it?”

“Never,” I respond.

“That would be why I don’t know,” he says. “Attorneys are just like wives. We’re either the first to know or the last to know.”

“Goddammit, Allen,” I whine as I go to the kitchen to get some water. I didn’t need that analogy, at least not right at this moment. I can’t think about what I don’t know. I have to trust my husband and let him do what is best for our family, even if I may not agree—but I have to admit. The waiting—and the not knowing—is agony.


A/N: Pictures of places, cars, fashion, etc., can be found at https://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/becoming-dr-grey/

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Love and Handcuffs!
Lynn x

Becoming Dr. Grey: Chapter 10—For Everything There Is A Season

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 10—For Everything There Is A Season 

CHRISTIAN

I’m reluctantly dragged away from the hope of Butterfly kisses by James and Jason, who take me to this restaurant not far from Escala called Lost Lake Café. It’s an honest-to-goodness greasy spoon right downtown, and I can’t help but think that my poor Butterfly would just hurl her little heart out in this joint as her breakup with beef started in similar surroundings. Speaking of beef, I order the largest, most obscene bacon double cheeseburger on the menu with a huge order of steak fries and strawberry shake as tall as the damn space needle. I have to take my jacket off to tackle this meal and I devour every bite while James rambles on about Allie and Ana and whatever else he can talk about besides work or Colostomy. The damn burger is better than filet mignon.

Apparently, quite a few gentlemen had a bad day today and found themselves at the boys’ club that night. The beers were flowing freely and everyone was spilling their troubles to one another. I gave a bit more free advice than I normally would—anything to avoid talking about myself and GEH.

“Grey, you must live a charmed life,” Tony says. He’s one of the regulars I remember from the last time I was here. “I bet you can just wave your hand and things get done, can’t you?”

“Something like that,” I respond, still trying to avoid talking about my own life. “’With great power comes great responsibility.’”

“I’ll bet,” he says, drinking his beer. “And that wife of yours, you’re one lucky man.” I get a little uncomfortable with him bringing Butterfly into the conversation.

“Thank you,” I say flatly, hoping he gets the message that this topic is taboo.

“Here’s my Donna,” he says, revealing a picture of him and a woman who I assume is his wife. She’s not a bad-looking woman, but she has nothing on my Butterfly. I nod non-committal. “She’d kill me if I reveal her age, but we’ve been together for 14 years,” he says looking at the picture with admiration. His fondness of her is apparent and I feel a little foolish for getting so defensive when he spoke of Butterfly.

“Any children?” I ask while I drink my beer.

“Two boys—ten and seven.” He pulls out two more pictures, one kid in a soccer uniform and the other in a baseball uniform. “Yeah, I know, the typical nuclear family. I almost lost it all one day.”

“You cheated?” I ask, going for the obvious. He shook his head and put his pictures away.

“She did,” he said, taking another drink. Whoa! That’s not what I expected to hear. “I was chasing my fortune,” he tells me. “I’m pretty well-to-do—not as rich as you, of course, but I do okay. It wasn’t enough, though. I was young like you, and I wanted more. Donna only wanted me… my time, but I didn’t have enough to give to her and to chase my fortune. That’s why it took four years for us to start a family.” He takes another drink of his beer.

“How did you find out?” I’m all ears now.

“Women hide it better than we do, you know,” he says, turning sad eyes to me. “She just had enough of being without me, enough of me not being around and she just started going out—by herself, she said… to movies and things. I was just happy that she wasn’t bugging me about working late anymore. I was doing it for us, right?” He looks down into his beer.

“I wanted to surprise her by coming home early one night… well, not early, but early for me. I parked around the corner so that she wouldn’t have a clue that I was coming in the house. She wasn’t even there. Her car was there, but not her, so I waited. I didn’t even suspect, man. I was completely clueless.

“It became later and later and she still wasn’t home. I didn’t want to call her cell because that would have let her know where I was and ruin the surprise, but it was getting so late that I didn’t have much of a choice, so I did. She assumed that I was still in the office when I called, so she told me that she was home in bed. I was sitting on the bed while I was talking to her. I knew immediately what was going on. She didn’t have to lie about where she was, but she did. He even brought her home—to our house! Dropped her off at our doorstep and kissed her Goodnight before she got out of the car.”

Shit, that’s rough. I don’t know what I’d do if I found out Butterfly cheated on me.

“What happened?” I ask. He shrugs.

“I sat at the breakfast bar drinking until she got home. When she walked in, she was stunned to see me there. I confronted her and she admitted to everything—blamed me and the late nights, leaving her alone, my work is more important. You get the idea.” He drinks more of his beer. “I couldn’t really fight with her, man. I was crushed. She’s my whole world and she was sleeping with another man.”

God, he sounds like me. My life would just stop if Butterfly told me that she had someone else.

“What did you do?”

“I shut down for a few days, went and stayed at a hotel, took some time off work. Having all that money didn’t mean anything to me if Donna wasn’t there with me. I was doing it all for her—for us, for our life together. At first I was really angry and very sad, but it just turned into very sad all the time. She left frantic messages on my voice mail, at my job, with my family. I didn’t want it to go that far, but that’s what happens when you disappear on your wife.”

“So, you guys are together now, with two kids. How did that come about?” He sighs.

“I filed for divorce,” he says, shocking me. “I obviously wasn’t making her happy and I didn’t want to make her miserable. She clearly found happiness with someone else and the longer I stayed around, the more it would hurt. I staked out my own address and waited for her to leave. Then I went inside and grabbed only my personal belongings and only what would fit in my car. I didn’t want anything that reminded me of our life together… of what I was losing.” I can tell that he still gets emotional when he talks about it. I guess some wounds never heal.

“I knew the neighbors or someone would call her when they saw me go into the house, so I made a quick getaway. I left her copy of the divorce papers on the counter—no fancy subpoena and shit. If she wanted to be free, she’d sign ‘em and she could be free. I left her everything—the house, her car, the bank accounts, about 70% of my portfolio—everything. I was working to build that life for her so I gave it to her. Somebody might as well enjoy it.” He finishes his beer, then turns to me.

“We went to divorce court about six months later. I wouldn’t contest anything that she asked for. I think she was too ashamed to ask for anything else. I was very generous after all. She looked like hell—she had lost some weight and her skin was… I don’t know, gray or something…” He frowns as he recalls her appearance. “I know I looked like shit, but I didn’t care. My life was ending as far as I was concerned, but I didn’t expect for her to look so bad. The judge—a woman—looked at us both and requested that we see in her chambers before she would consider granting the divorce. I had already waited for six months. I just wanted to get it over and done and fade away somewhere. From the looks of it, the whole thing was taking a toll on Donna, too.”

I don’t interrupt him. I keep drinking my beer, held captive by my older self talking about how I could have lost my Butterfly.

“We sat in silence. I don’t know about Donna, but I was exhausted from lack of sleep and weak from not eating right. I could barely hold my head up and if death came knocking at the chamber door, it would have been more tolerable than waiting for this ordeal to end. When the judge came back into her chambers, she actually had lunch for us. I’d never seen anything like it. She ordered us to eat every bite and made the bailiff stay in there with us to make sure that we did. I protested and she told me that she would hold me in contempt if I didn’t eat.” He laughs at the memory. “I don’t know if she could really do it, but I wasn’t taking any chances. I stole a glance at my Donna—frail, pale, emaciated… and beautiful. Her hair was stringy and lackluster; her clothes didn’t fit. The thought that she was unhappy and unhealthy made me physically ill.

“The judge came back in and asked why we were getting a divorce since I sited ‘irreconcilable differences’ as the cause. I refused to speak. I didn’t want to hash this out. I didn’t want to drag Donna through the mud. I just wanted this to be over, for her to be free to do what she wanted, but she spoke first. She told the judge that she had been unfaithful and that’s why we were getting a divorce. The judge asked me if it was true and I finally spoke. I told her that I worked late hours and was never home, even on weekends. She ordered us to go home—to the same house. She said that we had to live together for six months. We didn’t have to sleep in the same bed if we weren’t ready, but we did have to live together. She said that we had to go to marriage counseling and she wanted to see us back in court. If after six months we still wanted a divorce, then she would grant it.”

“So you moved back home?” I ask.

“Reluctantly, yes. My first instinct was just to run, to sign everything over to her and just run, but I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t just leave like that. I was making my way to the guest room and she said two words to me… Tony, please. She was so frail and so weak, she could barely speak. I thought she would just fall down and die right there. I…” He trails off and shakes his head again. “Christian, I don’t know what came over me.” He called me Christian. “I took that woman in my arms and I held her and kissed her…” There’s fever in his voice when he talks about this moment. “We made love right there on the living room floor, several times. We cried the whole time…”

Yep, sounds like me and Butterfly.

“I discovered that she broke things off with him that same night that I left. She hadn’t seen him since and barely left the house. She tried to get in touch with me to tell me, but when I left her the divorce papers, she accepted her fate and gave up hope. I don’t know where her family was or my family were during this time because I pretty much went into hiding, but I believe that if that judge hadn’t made us go home together that day, one or both of us wouldn’t be here today.”

“You were going to end it all?” I ask, horrified.

“I don’t know about that, but we were clearly on a road to self-destruction. Both of our health had deteriorated. I don’t remember eating a full meal during the entire time that I left her. She was clearly starving to death. Three days after D-Day, we both went to the hospital. She was so malnutritioned that they put her on an IV—vitamins, iron, saline, some other concoctions. They almost admitted us both to the psyche ward until we explained to them what had happened.”

“So how did you get past it? You’re obviously happy now.”

“It wasn’t easy,” he admits. “It hurt for a long time, knowing that someone else had been touching her and loving her, it made me crazy—irrational even, but I just had to work through it. We did go to marital counseling, because it was the only way I could get beyond the betrayal. We both loved each other dearly—still do, in fact—but infidelity is one of the hardest obstacles to overcome. You never stop seeing her with him… it just gets a little easier to bear after a while. You have to look at the reasons, too. Some people just cheat because they can—they feel entitled or enabled. Not Donna… she tried to tell me, warned me about the long nights and the loneliness, but I didn’t listen and I nearly lost her. Hell, I nearly threw her away.” He pushes his empty glass away. “I don’t know why I’m telling you all this, Grey. I doubt you miss spending a moment with that beautiful wife of yours. It’s just that… when you have this kind of security in your love, it’s easy to take it for granted. Don’t get caught in your own importance, Christian. I know you’re a very successful businessman and you could probably buy my life’s work with the swipe of a pen, but you’re new at this marriage thing and I’ve been in it for a while. Take my advice–if you ever lose that woman, it will be one of the worst experiences of your life and you may never recover.”

He put his hand on my shoulder… and I didn’t flinch. He feels like a friend even though I barely know him—a fairy godfather sent to reinforce something that I already knew… or thought I knew, because I sure almost lost Butterfly the same way that he nearly lost his wife. He sighs like he just let the weight of the world off his shoulders, then he looks at his watch and smiles.

“I have to go now,” he says. “I promised Donna I wouldn’t stay out late.” He nods and shakes my hand, then leaves. I’m sitting there nursing my beer and thinking when, after I don’t know how long, Jason comes over to me. I know he wasn’t more than five feet away the entire time

“You okay?” he says.

“I want to go home.”

I think I will myself home for eternal minutes it takes to drive there. I’m aware that Jason nearly has to run to keep up with me once the car pulls into the parking garage. I try not to enter the apartment like my ass is on fire. Allen is sitting in the great room with Butterfly when I arrive. They’re sharing some private joke and laughing among themselves. My presence has halted their laughter, something that I didn’t intend. They both turn to me, eying me curiously before Allen says something witty and makes his escape.

I just stare at her. A vision of Tony at some lonely hotel deteriorating and pining away for his Donna comes to mind. Then the memory appears of the suite at the Four Seasons and my dreadful attempt to push her out of my mind and heart during those days she escaped to Montana. I fully expected to be able to freeze my soul one day at a time until the thought of her didn’t prick my heart until I bled to death. One day at a time, I tried to eliminate every tender thing and thought she brought to my life and mind, focusing only on my work until I could see nothing else… hope for nothing else… want nothing else… expect nothing else…

I was becoming Ebenezer Scrooge.

It’s what I wanted. I didn’t fear dying a lonely old man, but I dreaded hoping for the love that I assumed I had lost or attempting to look for it in someone else.

“Christian?”

Her voice is a salve that soothes the pounding in my head and the burning in my heart. I feel like my breath is slowly leaving my body as I gaze down at her celestial form.

Touch me.

Her hand slowly and gently strokes my cheek and I freeze, concentrating only on that one spot on my entire body and the touch of her hand, the feel of her skin against mine.

“Baby… what’s wrong?”

I can’t answer her. I don’t know how. All I know is that the thought of losing her—the reality of the fact that just a few short weeks ago, I could have been Tony—comes rushing in on me, paralyzing me with fear and anguish. I was doing the same thing he did. I already made my fortune, but I was trying to protect it… trying to save my life’s work, and in the process I was neglecting my wife. When she didn’t react the way I wanted, when she sought attention from someone else, I ignored her—punished her for feeling lonely and unwanted. I reinforced that she was nothing by turning my back on her while she was grieving, hurting, lonely, sick…

…dying…

I was Tony. How could he know? How could he possibly know? I was worse than Tony. I imposed this judgment, this punishment on her for something that I did. I wasn’t mourning and hurting like Tony. Yes, I had a couple of rough patches, but nothing like what he went through and nothing like Butterfly went through. Now, she’s full of self-doubt because of me. What have I done?

My heart is so heavy that I can’t even cry. She’s staring at me, begging me to tell her what’s going on, but I can’t. The weight is so heavy that I just drop my head, too heavy to hold. She moves to comfort me, but I feel that I’m not worthy. Everything I made her feel just unloads on me and I have to fight to stay on my feet.

“Turn around,” I barely recognize my own voice. She frowns at me, but I just wait for her to do as I ask. After a few moments of uncertainty, she slowly turns away from me. I slide my arms around her, above our babies, and pull her as close to my body as I can. I need to feel her warmth and energy. I hold her closer and she gasps, but doesn’t struggle. I lay my head on her shoulder and breathe her in deeply, trying to soothe the ache from what I made her feel. Neither of us speaks. I close my eyes and continue to breathe her in, the pain so deep that I still can’t find those cleansing tears. I can sense her uncertainty, but she doesn’t question me. We just stand there in the great room with me holding her close to my body.


ANASTASIA

We stand there for a long time, I don’t know exactly how long. I have no idea what has happened. I only know that something is ghastly wrong and Christian won’t talk to me. Has the hacker situation gone south? Is something wrong with someone in his family? What is it? Jason came in and breezed right pass him without giving me any kind of hint of what could possibly have happened. Suddenly, I feel his body shift, and he’s pulling me towards him. A moment too late, I discover that he’s stumbling backwards. I only have a moment to fear falling when I feel the wall catch him and he begins to slide down onto the floor with me still in his arms.

My God, the babies!

I find that my concern is unwarranted because even in his forlorn state, he manages to cocoon my body so that he lands on the floor but I land comfortably in his lap. My love… what’s wrong? What is it?

“Christian… please…” I breathe and he only pulls me closer to him. I don’t know what’s wrong, but all I can do is wait and hope that nothing catastrophic is happening. I sigh heavily and rest my head on his chest. I try not to envision bad things happening to him, to our family… to us. I try very hard to stay positive, to give him all the positive energy that I can. At the same time, I attempt to steel myself for bad news. I can’t worry, it’s bad for the babies… but how can I not? He won’t talk to me.

Several more minutes pass and his body is relaxing more. His breathing is regulating a bit, and he seems to be coming back to himself. Every time I speak, it seems to make a bad matter worse, so I just stay silent until he opens up to me.

“I met this guy tonight,” he says, adjusting me slightly on his lap. “He’s been with his wife for 14 years. I showed him a picture of you and he just started talking about her. He loves her dearly–you could hear it in his voice and see it in his eyes, but he almost lost her.”

What happened? Is she sick?

“They were nearly divorced.” Oh. Yeah, that’s bad. “The only reason they’re still together–and according to Tony, still alive–is because the judge refused to grant the divorce.”

“Why?” I ask, softly.

“She knew that they still loved each other.” He raised his eyes to mine and he looks lost—not sad, just… lost. “She ordered them to go home and live together for six more months and to seek marriage counseling. If they still wanted a divorce, she would give it to them. He went home with his wife and they had both suffered immensely since they split up. They were both unhealthy and pale, but he was determined to let her be free. When he saw her…” His gray eyes get glassy and now I see what the problem is.

“Why were they getting divorced?” I ask, my voice still soft, non-threatening.

“She was unfaithful,” he answered, “but so was he. He neglected and ignored her for his work, and she tried to tell him that this was an issue, but he wouldn’t listen. She eventually found comfort in the arms of another man. He couldn’t tolerate it so he moved out and filed for divorce and you know the rest.”

“I don’t understand. I see that she cheated, but how was he unfaithful?”

“He didn’t keep his vows,” he said. “To love and to cherish her, forsaking all others… to spend my life hoping to be worthy of the love that you give me and endlessly covering you in the love that I have for you…” He’s quoting his vows! Those are his vows—I’ll never forget them! He’s talking about me! He’s talking about us. He’s not talking about them anymore… this is us. “They reconciled the first night he moved back home. They were aching for each other… mourning for each other…” He sighs again. “A few days later, they both went to the hospital and she had to be put on an IV because she was suffering from malnutrition.”

And the penny drops. He was seeing me and the incident at the Mercer house… and the situation that led to it.

“We learned, though, Christian,” I try to tell him. “We understand what went wrong and we know not to do it again.”

“I lost you, Butterfly,” he says. I frown—what does he mean? “I’ll take you however I can get you, but my beautiful, confident Butterfly has been damaged… and it’s my fault.” I don’t respond. I don’t know what to say. “I broke you and I know it, and the thought of losing you…” his body caves like he was just hit in the chest. His head lands on my shoulder again and I gently stroke his hair.

“I swear I’m not going anywhere, Christian,” I whisper. “I won’t leave you again… I won’t… I promise.” He nods on my shoulder and says nothing. I just hold him there, willing him to believe me and know how much I love him.

*-*

We didn’t make love last night. We did finally get off the floor and make it to the bedroom, but once we did, he just held me close to him like he was afraid I was going to run away. It was kind of hard for me to go to sleep because even after he drifted off, he held me so tight that I felt like I was being held captive.

He even had one of his nightmares.

I didn’t like it at all. Hearing that story made Christian feel lost and I didn’t like it one bit. I wrapped my swollen body around him as much as I could. He wrapped his arms around my torso and laid his head on my belly. I played in his sweat-drenched hair until he fell asleep and he slept for the rest of the night. Unfortunately, I didn’t. When morning came, I was utterly exhausted. Christian has gone off to work and I’m lying in bed trying to think if I have anything planned for the day.

“Dr. Steele’s office,” Marilyn answers my phone when I call.

“Mare, it’s Ana. What’s on my schedule today?” She pauses.

“You sound awful. Are you okay?”

“I didn’t get any sleep last night,” I tell her.

“Oooohh, one of those?” she says suggestively.

“No, not one of those,” I reply sleepily. “It’s a long story, but I need to know what my schedule looks like today.”

“Well, you had Ms. Peterson at eleven, but whatever you’ve got she must have because she canceled.” Thank God. “So now you have nothing but Helping Hands this afternoon.”

“Was anyone scheduled to see me at the center?”

“No, not that I know of.” Thank God for that, too.

“Take the day off. Go shopping. Do something fun. I need to get some sleep.” I tell her.

“You’re sure?” she protests.

“I’m positive,” I reinforce.

“Okay, I’m locking up. I’ve got my cell if you need me.”

“Excellent. I’ll remember that. Goodnight.” I don’t even wait for her response before I’m out like a light.

I don’t wake until Christian comes home from work and when he does, he has a huge bouquet of flowers for me, apologizing for keeping me up all night. He serves me dinner in bed and we watch Bambi and Dumbo. He told me that his mother said that he should watch them because Bambi’s mother is killed by a hunter and Dumbo was ridiculed for being different. I didn’t think it was a good idea, but it turned out to be okay. He really liked Dumbo and he related to Bambi enough to understand the premise of the movie without going into flashbacks.

“I think I like Dumbo,” he says once the movie is over. “Talk about turning a negative into a positive!” He’s still talking about the movie with the flying elephant when I fall asleep in his arms.

It’s been nearly two weeks—nearly two weeks and I still have no idea why Val stopped speaking to me. I cry about it sometimes when I’m alone, but not a lot. I can’t allow too much stress into my life or it will negatively affect the beans. I miss her sometimes, though. I miss talking to her and her sassy attitude. I miss hearing about her and Elliot and talking about me and Christian. I hate the fact that we aren’t speaking because I knew that we would have the time of our lives dressing up the twins and taking them places. Granted, Christian and I will do those things, too, but it’s different with the girls.

I hadn’t and still haven’t considered anyone else to be the godmother of my children. It was always Valerie. She would impart some misguided wisdom on them that would be sure to get them in trouble. Her free attitude would rub off and whenever she came around, they would beg me to let them go somewhere with “Auntie Val.” She would tell them embarrassing stories about me and our college days and she would be faithful to a fault—the one they could always run to when “Mom just didn’t understand” or “Dad was smothering me” or “Please don’t tell anybody.” At least… I thought she would.

I wipe another tear from my eye, resolved that it will be the last of the Valerie cry today. I allow myself to get a little melancholy about it every few days, but I can’t afford to fall off into the abyss. I rub the beans again. Who am I kidding? They’re certainly not beans anymore. I’m as big as a house. I can barely hold myself up!

“What should I call you?” I ask aloud. “Soccer players isn’t affectionate enough. Granted, it is what you are… at three in the morning… when I’m trying to get some sleep… but it’s not cute enough. I guess beans will have to do. My little beans. I wish I knew what the deal was with you Auntie Val…”

Today, I will be ordering the fish for our new aquarium. Christian wouldn’t let me see it and it’s the one thing that Aaron wouldn’t discuss with me. The damn thing must be huge because I’m ordering enough fish to fill a damn room! There’s one area of the house that was always sealed off when I went out there, so I’m sure that I know where it will be, just not what it will look like. I have one patient to see today and I admit to myself that I am currently in semi-retirement from my private practice. Most of my time is devoted to Helping Hands and the rest of it to growing these beautiful babies inside of me. Once the beans get here, I don’t see how I’ll have too much time for anything else. I’m considering releasing my remaining patients even though a couple of them might have an unhealthy attachment. There’s only six of them total—hardly a reason to even keep the electricity on in the office.

It’s about two in the afternoon and I’ve already chosen my fish as well as taken the usual Thursday tour of the center. The cleaning staff has really gotten their act together and Ms. Sherwood from the housekeeping service has taken to kissing my ass since she has now discovered that I am not just the assistant director now, but also one half of AnaChris—a fact that I didn’t bother to disclose at our last meeting. I couldn’t care less what she thinks of me as long as the damn building is cleaned properly. I’m snacking on biscotti and tea, a recent favorite of mine, after having seen my one patient and giving consideration to closing down the practice when my phone rings.

“Anastasia Grey.”

“Ana!” It’s Phil. He sounds like he’s running a marathon. “It’s Max. The baby is coming! Right now!” I freeze. Okay. Baby coming right now…

Right right now?” I ask.

Right right now! She crowning! I have to go! Benford Hospital! By the time you get here, the baby will be born! Bye!Bye?! And just like that, he’s gone. Wow! Way to drop a bomb and leave, Guest! What do I do now? Did he call only me? Should I activate the contingency? Yeah, activate the contingency. I call Chuck first.

“Bring the car around to the front. I need to go to the hospital,” I tell him.

“What?! What’s wrong?” Oh, that was really smart, Grey.

“Nothing. Maxie is having her baby. Phil just called.” I hear an audible sigh on the other end.

“Dammit, Ana,” he scolds.

“I know. I wasn’t thinking, I’m sorry. Just bring the car around, okay?”

“You’re going to cause me to have a heart attack one day,” he says before ending the call. I walk down to Grace’s office to see if she’s there. No sign of her. I’ll have to leave her a message. I dial Al.

“You’ve reached Allen Forsythe, attorney-at-law. Please leave me a detailed message and I’ll return your call at my earliest convenience.”

“Hey Al, it’s Ana. Maxie is in Benford Hospital dropping her load, lucky bitch. I’m on my way down there now. Phil says the baby is already crowning and should be here by the time I get there. Give me a call or I’ll just see you at the hospital.” Hmm, Al’s phone is going straight to voicemail. That’s just great. That leaves me to activate the contingency… the entire contingency. I leave the same message for Gary before I decide—after careful consideration—to call Elliot.

“Grey Construction.”

“Elliot, it’s Ana.”

“Hey Montana, what’s up?”

“Maxie is delivering her baby and I was hoping that I could get you to pass the message to Val.” Another audible sigh.

“I don’t know what’s going on with you two, but I really wish you would bury this thing. She’s all moody and snappy lately and I don’t know what’s going on with her.”

“Could she be pregnant?” I ask, slightly disinterested.

“I thought that might be it, too, but no. She’s not pregnant.”

“I don’t know what’s going on either, Elliot. She just changed faces on me out of nowhere and I have no idea why. Anyway, I really don’t want to drag you down in this…”

“I’m already involved,” he corrects me. “You’re my sister-in-law and she’s the woman that I love. I can’t not be involved.” I sigh.

“I’m sorry, Elliot. You really don’t need to be in the middle of this. If I could tell you what was going on, I would. If I could make it stop, I definitely would. Unfortunately, I’m as in the dark as you are about this and I don’t have any answers. Just… tell her about Maxie. The baby is probably already here by now.” He’s silent for a moment.

“Okay, Montana. I’ll tell her. What about you? How are my niece and nephew holding up?”

“Still keeping me awake at night with their acrobatics,” I laugh. “At least I know they’re healthy and strong.”

“That’s good. Don’t let anything stress you out, okay? That’s not good for you or the babies.” That’s easier said than done.

“I know, Uncle Elliot,” I tease. “I’ll do my best.”

I end the call and climb into the passenger seat with Chuck. My baby bump has gotten so big in just the last couple of weeks that I don’t dare try to get behind the wheel of a car. The lumbar seat in my Audi is set perfectly for me and my lower back and once I get situated, we’re off.

“Maxine Guest,” I tell the nurse at the station in the maternity ward.

“She’s in recovery right now.” So the baby’s been born. Phil said she was right there. “She probably be there for another hour or so. If you want to wait, I can get you a pass.”

“Yes, please,” I tell her. I have to take a picture for my guest pass, so she asks me for my ID. I hand it to her without thinking.

“Anastasia Grey,” she announces in disbelief and everyone at the station freezes and looks at me. I sigh quietly.

“Yes, ma’am,” I say politely, looking at her and waiting. After a few moments, “My guest pass, please?”

“Oh! I’m sorry.” She types something into the computer and after having my picture taken against a white wall, I get a sticker with my picture and information on it to put on my shirt and she gives me directions to the waiting room. Chuck has to take a picture, too, just to be on the ward.

“How long do you think before the paps get here?” Chuck laments as we take a seat in the waiting room.

“They’re probably already here,” I say, not raising my head from the phone. This is my life. I’ve gotten used to it. It irritates me some days and other days, I just deal with it. A few minutes later, Gary comes into the waiting room.

“The Scooby Gang has its first pup,” I tell him with a smile.

“I heard,” he responds, sitting down next to me and holding my hand. “How are you holding up?”

“Okay,” I tell him. “I’m a little jealous. I’m ready to hold my babies and I’m really to not look like a pencil and a beach ball.” He laughs at me.

“Val’s here,” he warns. I sigh. “She came in with me. We knew you were here because the press is outside.”

“How many?”

“Just a handful right now.” I shake my head.

“Why am I such a headline?” I ask. We’ve been able to get injunctions against them coming to our home or our places of work, so the ability to follow us is stunted unless they can get a helicopter to see which direction we’re going when we leave. Let’s face it—I’m not that important. I understand the fascination just a bit, but I resent when it affects my friends. “How’s Val?” Gary shrugs.

“Moody,” he says. “I’ve only seen her twice since your birthday. She’s standoffish and… I don’t know, angry.” Angry? Why the hell is she angry?

“Well, I didn’t expect to hear that,” I say honestly. “I would think she would be treating her other friends like gold since she has obviously forsaken me.”

“That’s the thing. She’s snappy and crabby all the time. Actually, she’s acting kind of bipolar. It’s hard to know who you’re going to see when you see her. The first time I saw her, she probably covered the entire gauntlet of emotions—happy, sad, angry, remorseful, obtuse… Then the next time I saw her, she was just quiet. She didn’t say much at all. Now, I won’t approach unless she approaches me because I don’t know if she’s going to cry on my shoulder or bite my head off.”

“She’ll probably blame me for that, too,” I say. There’s a pause before I ask no one in particular, “I wonder if the baby is in the nursery or if Phil has her right now?” Gary shrugs.

“I’m completely out of my element, here,” he smiles. “I’ll have to take my cues from you guys on this one.” I hear high-heels clicking down the hall and dread the moments I think are going to follow. Luckily, Marilyn bends the corner and comes over to Gary. I inwardly sigh with relief.

“Hey, you guys. Has she had the baby?” she asks.

“Yeah, she’s in recovery now. We should be able to see her soon.” Gary replies. She throws a scolding look at me.

“You could have told me,” she pouts. “I was right down the hall…”

“I’m sorry, I wasn’t thinking. My brain just… well, I’m sorry,” I apologize.

“You’re forgiven… this time,” she smiles. “When your babies are on the way, I won’t be so forgiving.” She sits next to Gary and takes his other hand. “And why are you holding my man’s hand?” Gary smiles shyly. Oh, it’s so late in the game for him to still be blushing, but I think it’s cute.

“Because Chuck is preoccupied and would probably lose his shit if I held his hand,” I reply. “I’m going to go see if I can get some information. I’ll be back, you guys.” I leave the waiting room and start my walk to the nurse’s station and I see Phil walking in my direction.

“Ana, hey. I was just coming down to give you guys an update.” He doesn’t look any worse for wear, so it must have been a smooth delivery.

“How’s Maxie?” I ask.

“She’s fine. Tired, as you might imagine, but she’s fine. They’ll be moving her to a room soon. She’s still in recovery.”

“Can she have visitors yet?”

“Only one at a time and Val is down there now.” I nod.

“The baby?”

“A beautiful girl, 8 pounds 14 ounces.” Ouch! That’s a big baby. “Max was a pro, I was the nervous wreck. She was magnificent. She’s my hero.” He drifts off in his own thoughts for just a moment. “The baby is in the nursery if you want to see her. They’ll be bringing her to the room once Maxie gets in there.”

“You mind if I…?” I gesture like I’m leaving.

“Go ahead. I’ll go tell whoever else is here.” He says. I give him as big a hug as the babies will allow.

“Congratulations, Phil,” I say sincerely. “I’m so unbelievably happy for you guys.”

“Thank you, Ana,” he gently returns my hug. “Thanks for being our friend all these years.”

“I wouldn’t have had it any other way.” A slight wave of sorrow comes over me thinking about Val, but leaves quickly. He releases my embrace and, with a smile, heads towards the waiting room. I walk down the hall to the nursery to see the baby.

The nursery is nearly full. There are so many babies and I try to decipher which one is Maxie’s. They’re adorable little bundles wrapped in pink and blue blankets. Some of them are fidgety and others are asleep, but none of them are crying—just content to be part of a whole new world.

“Which baby are you looking for?” A nurse startles me before going into the nursery.

“Oh! Guest,” I say. She smiles and goes inside. A few moments later, she’s rolling a bassinet to the front of the window. Baby Girl Guest is asleep. Her little face is red and puffy and her hands look a little blue and are balled up in tiny little fists. I mouth a “thank you” to the nurse and smile. She returns my smile and nods, leaving me to admire little Baby Guest. She’s really beautiful. I put my hands on the glass and almost press my nose into it, trying to get a better look at her. So content—no idea what horrors the world holds for her. Such a precious little thing. I wonder what our twins will look like when they’re born. Will they have red hair or brown? Gray eyes or blue? Will they be healthy and happy? Will they favor each other or look totally different?

“Thinking about your day?” I’m still pressed into the glass when I answer Al’s question.

“I’m scared,” I answer honestly.

“Still?”

“More now than ever,” I admit. “My life feels like it’s on this tilt-a-whirl that never seems to stop. One minute, everything’s wonderful and the next, it’s all upside down. I didn’t get to finish my honeymoon because David suddenly wanted a trial. I haven’t been able to enjoy being pregnant, feeling my babies grow, decorating my home, because someone is after Christian or his company or his money or something. We nearly fell into divorce for a moment…”

“But you didn’t,” Al tries to comfort me.

“But we could’ve,” I protest.

“No, you couldn’t,” he says. “That man loves you too much and as mad as he ever gets with you, he’s never going to leave you.” I sigh.

“I almost made it happen though,” I lament, “just because I wanted attention.”

“You were left in the dark, Jewel. You had a right to be concerned. If James hadn’t let me in on what part he was playing in the whole thing, I might have thought he had hooked up with Jose again. The only reason he could let me know is because I was a part of the whole thing.” I know he’s trying to make me feel better but it’s just not helping. Once again, it’s hard to see the good in the world.

“You just can’t depend on anything good anymore, Al,” I say, leaning my forehead against the nursery glass and gazing at all the beautiful babies. I’m trying to be strong, God knows I am, but the bad around me just keeps beating on me and beating on me and I’m getting weaker and weaker, once again ready for me and my babies to be in that bubble that Christian often refers to.

“You can’t think that way,” he says. “You’re about to be a mother, too, and you can’t impart that type of cynicism on your children.” I almost want to laugh. This is not my doing. I haven’t brought this on. It’s just the way my life has been.

“And then of course, there’s Val…” I lament, my heart sinking immediately.

“What about Val?”

Her voice cuts through the air like the sound of a sonic boom, even though she’s not speaking loudly. I’m shocked that she’s standing there and she smirks at me.

“Go ahead,” she taunts, folding her arms, “don’t stop talking about me now that I’m here.”

“God, Val, it’s terrible to eavesdrop on people!” Al chides. I think he was startled, too.

“Who’s eavesdropping?” she says, unconvincingly. “I was coming to see the baby and as soon as I turn the corner, I hear that I’m the topic of conversation. So please, do continue. What about Val?”

“Well, we hadn’t said anything, but she’s probably hurting and wants to know—like the rest of us—what the hell is going on with you!” Please, Al, don’t help.

“With me? Oh, it has to be me, huh? It can’t be your perfect little Jewel, could it?”

“No, Val, it doesn’t have to be you, but right now, it is you! You’re swinging from one extreme to the other every time I see you. You snap at people for no good reason and all we’re trying to do is find out what’s wrong. You turn on Ana when all she’s ever done is be a valued friend to you. None of us can get a straight answer out of you about it and we’re all wondering which of us is going to be next!” She glares at him.

“Oh, look, your knight in shining armor… or one of them anyway. God knows the whole state of Washington is part of your fan club, so I guess I better watch my step around you. I might get tackled by the Secret Service or something if I come within 1000 feet of you!” I don’t even have a comeback. I usually have them stacked up and waiting when people attack me, but this is friendly fire and I have no idea how to retaliate. I look up at Al for some kind of direction, but like me, he’s got nothing.

“I should have known you were here. We couldn’t even get into the hospital for your public outside clamoring for a glimpse of the whale that is Anastasia Grey!” she hisses. Ouch! That stings!

“Valerie, must you be a cat all the time?” Al asks. “You know there were five reporters—if that—outside when we got here.” Her expression clearly shows that she is not pleased to be outed.

“Well, no doubt we won’t be able to leave,” she snaps, “but that’s not your problem, is it?” She shoots the question at me. I just examine her and wonder what happened to my friend. Where did she go and will she ever be back.

“Oh, for Christ’s sake, stop gawking at me!” she shoots. “I’m not here for your entertainment. I’m here for my friend, Maxie. She can’t even have her baby in peace without your fan club following you around. Why don’t you just leave and take them with you?”

“Val, what is wrong with you?” Al chastises. He’s right. Something’s wrong. Something’s ghastly wrong, but I’ll never know what it is. I’ll never know what made Val change faces on me so hard and so quickly, what made her so bitter at me. I wordlessly turn back and look at Baby Girl Guest. Hopefully you and my babies and my little brother will make this world a better place, where ex-boyfriends don’t kidnap you, ex-Dommes don’t try to kill you, and your closest friends don’t turn their backs on you for no reason.

“So, now she’s going to ignore me. That’s just fine by me. I never needed your ass anyway and I sure as hell don’t need you now that you think you’re better than the rest of us. Have fun with the paps. I’m sure they’ll have a great time plastering your huge ass all over the front page of some gossip rag!” She turns to walk away. “Oh, and congratulations, Al. You want to know who’s next? You don’t have to wonder anymore. You are!” And with those last verbal daggers, she walks off down the hallway. My façade stays up long enough for her to bend the corner, then it crumbles at my feet. I’m sobbing as Al gathers me in his arms.

“What’s wrong with her?” I weep into Al chest. “If I only knew what I did, I would take it back, but I have no clue. She looked at me liked she wished I were dead!”

“I don’t know, Jewel,” he says softly, comforting, “I know something’s off, but I don’t know what it is.” I don’t either, but I can’t keep putting myself through this.

“How can you defend her?” I ask. “She just wrote you off for defending me.”

“I don’t know. Maybe because I’m an attorney and I like to see the argument from both sides. I love her as much as you do, but if she’s willing to write me off for calling her on her shit, then I guess I just have to deal with it. You know I’ve never been the type to cry over spilled milk. I’ll let her stew in her brew until she comes to her senses and if she never does, then she never does.” I shake my head and attempt to pull myself together.

“I can’t do this,” I sniffle, “I can’t do it. I won’t be around her again. I’ll never do it again.”

“How do you plan on doing that? You’re married to her boyfriend’s brother,” Al asks.

“I don’t know, but I won’t see her again. I can’t take her treating me this way.”

“Christmas? Thanksgiving? Remember last year?”

“I’ll have my own home now,” I tell him. “I’ll stay at my own home and let her spend time with Elliot and the Greys. I just can’t do this anymore. I just can’t. She wins. Whatever she thinks of me, whatever she says about me, it’s fine—but I won’t be around to hear it and don’t want to hear a report.” I pull out of his embrace and search for a tissue.

“Jewel, you can’t mean that.”

“Oh, yes I do,” I say, drying my eyes with a salvaged tissue from my purse. “I gave her a chance. I gave her time to breathe, to consider whatever was wrong and let me know. Instead, she comes back at me like I was her worst enemy and she wish I were dead. So I’m granting her that wish. To her, I am dead. I don’t know why she’s acting this way and I don’t think she’s ever going to stop. For that reason, I never want to see her again. I need to see Maxie. Are you coming?” I start walking down the hall without him. He quickly catches up with me.

“You’re serious about this, aren’t you?” Al says in disbelief.

“This topic is no longer open for discussion… ever!” I reinforce. Chuck comes out of the waiting room just as we are about to pass and examines my face closely.

“Ana?” he begins.

“I’m going to see Maxie, then I’ll be ready to go,” I say coolly. “Do you want to come or wait here?”

“I’ll… just see where you’re going, maybe wait nearby,” he says cautiously. I nod.

“Did Phil give a room number for Maxie?” I notice Gary and Marilyn aren’t in the waiting room anymore.

“Yeah, it’s 4217.” I nod and start walking around the hospital. We have to go up the elevators to the fourth floor and her room is a few feet away. Al peeks in to make sure the coast is clear, then I follow him inside.

“Are you still on the one visitor restriction?” I ask softly. Maxie shakes her head.

“Did you see her?” a tired Maxie asks.

“I did,” I reply with a smile. “She’s beautiful.”

“You’re just saying that, but you’re right, she is.” I sit by her bedside. “You’ve been crying.” I wave her off.

“Just emotional about the first Scooby pup and the fact that my two little angels won’t be far behind,” I say rubbing my belly. It’s partially true. No use ruining Baby Guest’s birthday with my drama. “Have you picked a name?”

“Ages ago… Minerva Denise Guest.” Minerva?? It’s written all over my face. Where the hell did that name come from? “To answer your unanswered question, Minerva is the Roman goddess of wisdom, born from Jupiter’s head.” Oh… Athena, okay. Maybe she should have gone with Athena instead. “The more current reason, it’s his grandmother’s name.” Oh. Well, okay, I can understand that.

“Um, okay. It’s really pretty. It’s just very… kinda… formal, I guess. What will her friends call her… Vee?” I really don’t know what nickname could come from Minerva.

“We’ll call her Mindy,” Phil says. I nod.

“Okay. I can see that. Mindy’s kind of cute,” I smile. “Prime her to be a lawyer.”

“Why do you say that?” Al frowns.

“Think about it.” I gesture in the air like I’m framing words on a chalkboard. “Minerva Denise Guest, Esquire… that sounds fabulous!” Maxie laughs and shakes her head.

“Yes, it does,” she concurs, “but I’m going to let little Mindy be whatever she wants to be.” I twist my lips, mocking disapproval.

“Okay. I let you get away with it this time,” I jest.

After a few minutes, the room is full with Maxie’s friends and husband. We talk for several minutes about labor and the water breaking and all things baby while the others occupy themselves with other conversation. Mindy is brought into the room and everyone just dotes on her. She is truly the star of the show with a light dusting of brown hair and those colorless eyes that all babies have when they’re born. It’s my turn to hold her and I can’t believe how small and fragile she looks. Even little Harry didn’t look this small and fragile, and he weighed less than she did.

The door behind me whooshes open and I swear I feel a cold breeze brush into the room.

“Oh. She’s still here.” I look lovingly once more at Mindy, ignoring Val’s voice, but not her presence.

“I have to go,” I say softly, handing the baby to Maxine.

“So soon?” Maxie whines. I smile.

“Yeah,” I say with no explanation. “I love you, Max. She’s really very beautiful.” I kiss her on the forehead. “You, too, Phil,” I walk around the bed and give Phil a hug.”

“I’m beautiful?” he comments playfully.

“I wouldn’t go that far,” I tease, “but you make a good-looking kid.” I wink at him. “I’ll see you both later.” I kiss Al on the cheek and quickly nod goodbyes to Marilyn and Gary, before quietly walk out of the room without acknowledging Val’s presence. I find Chuck when I leave the room and we walk to the elevator.

“Let’s get the paps away from the door,” I tell him, thinking about Val’s comment that my friend couldn’t have her baby in peace. We walk down the hall and out the door as I close my coat around me, and the cameras go wild.

“Ana, why are you at the hospital?”
“Where’s Christian? Why isn’t he here with you?”
“Is something wrong with the babies?”

I take a deep breath at all the questions being fired at me. Why can’t these people just leave us alone?

“I’m very tired and I would like to get home, so I’ll make this brief. I’m here because one of my friend’s just delivered her baby. Christian isn’t here with me because I was at work when I got the call and so was he. It’s hardly necessary for him to be present at the delivery of my friend’s child, now is it? No, there’s nothing wrong with my babies. They are growing healthy and we’ll see them when they get here. Now, as I said, I’m very tired. As you can well see, I’m sharing my body with two other people. So I will kindly ask that you just let me go home.” After a few more pictures, they part and make a path, shouting things like “Good luck with the babies” and “You look beautiful, Ana.” I smile and wave, thanking them for their kind words as I get into the car. After all, you never want to make an enemy out of the press. I sigh when I sit down, then fish in my purse and call Christian.

“Grey. Leave a message.” I am so tired of talking to voice mails today.

“Hey, it’s not like you to have your phone turned off. I’m on my way home—sorry I’m so late. You’re going to probably see something on the news or in a rag somewhere about me being at the hospital. The press was waiting when we left. Maxie’s little girl is adorable, but I’ll tell you all about it when I get there. Love you. Bye.” I end the call and sit back in the seat, enjoying the ride back to Escala.

Chuck helps me up to the apartment, but doesn’t leave when I get to the door.

“I’m fine, Chuck,” I tell him. He must be concerned about that altercation with Val. It was rough, but I won’t dwell on it. I can’t.

“Just call it due diligence,” he says kindly, and I remember why I like having him around. We go inside and I immediately know something’s wrong. Gail is sitting on the sofa in the great room and she rises when I walk into the room. Where’s Christian?

“What’s happened?” I ask, my pulse beating faster by the second.

“Nothing’s happened, Ana,” Gail says calmly. “Christian and Jason may not be home tonight. They…” she pauses. It could only be one thing—one thing that would keep them both away from home and all cloak and dagger. Christian didn’t even call me and he’s not answering his phone.

“They know,” I say, calmly. “They know where the hacker is and they’re going after him.” She purses her lips and hands me a phone.

“He’ll call you on this,” she says, her voice calm. “You’re Rapunzel.” Rapunzel… a reference to all this hair. “I’m Godiva. Christian is Henry Walsh and Jason is Richard Maverick. If you can’t remember that, please write it down. If we don’t respond to those names, that’s their cue that something is wrong.” I nod. I’m nervous. He’s doing something so undercover that he turned off his phone and I have to wait until he contacts me on this burner. I turn to Chuck. “You already knew?” He doesn’t answer. “Why didn’t you tell me sooner?”

“He wanted you safe at home first. You know how he is.” Yes, I do know how he is.

“Does that mean I can’t leave?” I ask.

“No, that’s not what that means. It’s just, well, he would prefer that if you don’t have to go anywhere that you don’t go anywhere. It would be easier to contain any situation here at Escala.” I nod. Of course it would, and Christian can’t be worried about me gallivanting around in the streets while he and Jason tackle what could be a dangerous situation.

“So you’re staying here with us?” I ask.

“Along with Ben and Chance. There are a couple of unmarked cars downstairs and in the parking structure.” This is pretty damn big. I sigh again.

“Who wants shrimp?” I ask, heading towards the kitchen.


A/N: Pictures of places, cars, fashion, etc. can be found at https://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/becoming-dr-grey/

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Love and Handcuffs!
Lynn x

Becoming Dr. Grey: Chapter 9—Seeing Red

I’m a little confused as to why I had people asking why I would make a Dominant character become Dominant when he was dealing with something. Think about that for a second…

Dominant Christian became Dominant when he was dealing with something… hmmm…

At the end of the last chapter, all he did was prepare her bath. He didn’t even do anything yet! Let him DO something before you start criticizing him and asking “Why is he doing that!” Geez!

Oh, and please recall that at the end of “Fifty Shades Freed” when you read the bonus material–if you read the bonus material–he had a D/s session with Ana when she was pregnant with Phoebe. 

Just… read the chapter…

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 9—Seeing Red

ANASTASIA

I swallow and sit back in the water as he approaches me with a fresh water sponge. Without a word, he washes me from head to toe, and I do mean head to toe… hair to toenails. Every crevice of my body has been cleaned when he’s finished. He holds open one of those divine bath blankets when we’re done and helps me out of the tub. After he dries my body and hair as thoroughly as the towel will allow, he helps me into a beautiful red terry cloth robe that I’ve never seen before, then leads me back into our bedroom.

The lights are low, very low. The music is so subtle that I couldn’t hear it in the bathroom. Horns… Rick Braun, I think. He leads me by the hand to my vanity seat where he painstakingly and gently combs through the tangles in my long hair. He loves my hair this long. I was considering cutting it, but I love it when he plays in it. It takes him several minutes to comb it through and put it in the perfect braid down my back, secured with a ponytail holder. He pushes the robe just over my shoulders so that they are exposed and kisses me gently on the neck. It sends shivers through me.

“I want you to wear something for me,” he says, his breath caressing my skin. I already know what it is by the way he has me exposed. He turns me to face my mirror and from—I don’t know where, he presents a red leather collar lined in fur. It’s beautiful, and comfortable, and when he gently fastens it around my neck, I look hot!

“Okay?” he asks. I nod, unable to break my gaze away from his hungry stare. “Good.”

He takes my hand and leads me to the end of the bed. “Sit.” I sit on the bed and he reveals a tray that has a heaping helping of Gail’s wonderful homemade creamy chicken pot pie. The babies stir at the smell of it, confirming that we are all famished. He smiles as he takes a forkful and brings it to my mouth. I take it gratefully, savoring the flavor of every ingredient… the chicken, the peas, the carrots… it’s delightful. He takes a forkful for himself and shows the same appreciation. He continues to feed us both as smooth jazz plays in the background, the only sound in the room besides our breathing. When we’ve had our fill of chicken pot pie and spritzers made with shaved ice, soda water, and fresh cut strawberries, he takes our dishes to the kitchen, once again instructing me not to move.

While he’s gone, I take the liberty of examining the room. The duvet has been removed from the bed. There’s another tray on his side of the bed, but it’s covered with a red satin scarf or something so that I can’t see what’s on it. There’s a familiar scent in the room—citrusy like my bubble bath, but something else. I don’t have time to figure it out before he comes back into the room with a bowl and spoon. What have we here?

“Open.”

I open my mouth and I am greeted with double fudge chocolate gelato. Oh my God, I’m in heaven! I groan loudly at the flavor and gasp immediately, realizing my malfeasance.

“Sssshhhh,” he gently chides me as he places another delightful spoonful into my mouth. I am succumbing to this slow seduction as he feeds me and himself every spoonful of the delicious dessert. He places the bowl on my vanity and turns his attention back to me. His lips are cold when he closes them over my shoulder, moving down to the exposed part of my breast. I shiver and they brush against my mounds and back to the valley of my chest. I hold my head back and take deep breaths, my skin still hotter than his mouth traveling up to my neck and giving me gentle nips above and below the collar.

Christian…

“Did you speak?” he asks, his voice deep and his mouth right at my ear, biting and sucking the lobe. No, I didn’t speak. I thought it… I felt it… but I definitely didn’t speak.

“No, Sir,” I pant, leaning back on my hands, my head now tipped to give him access to my ear.

“Mmmmm,” he moans while licking the shell of my ear… more shivers. “It must have been your soul talking to me again.” That’s exactly what it was.

“Ye… yes, Sir,” I pant again, so wanton and hot that I can’t think straight. His mouth moves to mine and he kisses me deeply, passionately, finally releasing after gently biting my bottom lip. Good God, I’m so seduced, I can think of nothing else… see nothing else. It’s almost unbearable. He smirks deviously at me.

“Patience, my little vixen,” he chides, “we have all night.” I nod, knowing that this is his show and I can only obey… and enjoy. “Something’s missing,” he says in a sing-songy voice like he’s only just realizing it. He goes to my vanity and gets a bottle of fire-engine red nail polish that I know wasn’t there before. I don’t wear red nail polish—red lipstick, only when I want the vamp look, but not red nail polish.

“Scoot back… to the middle of the bed.” I slide back to the middle of the bed and he sits on the edge. With uncanny precision, he polishes the nails on first my right, then my left hand, gently blowing each finger when he’s finished. It’s a very good job, but red?

Remember, this is his show.

“Bend your leg.” I bend one leg so that my foot is flat on the bed. He polishes each toe and I can see the reflection of his beautiful ass in the mirror on my vanity. I don’t even notice that he’s done with the foot until he speaks and breaks my concentration.

“What has your attention, Mrs. Grey?” he demands softly. I gasp, realizing that he has caught me staring at… something.

“I…” I feel my trepidation and his dominance. It’s consuming. His gray eyes pierce through me awaiting my answer to his question. I part my lips, attempting to breathe again. He’s hot and irresistible, and I can’t lie to him—not that I would dare.

“You, Sir,” I breathe, the wanton nymph settling in again and taking over every cell of my being. If he doesn’t do something to me soon, I’m going to combust. He looks behind him and observes his reflection in my vanity.

“Tsk, tsk, tsk,” he chastises, turning back to me with a knowing smirk. “Naughty girl. I may have to make you pay for taking that little liberty without permission.” I swallow. I have no idea what he has in mind, but right now, he can anything to me that he wants.

“Yes, Sir,” I breathe, my voice never coming higher than a whisper. I can’t even manage it.

“Other foot,” he directs, lingering on the “t” and making me hotter. I slide my foot down slowly and sensually slide my other foot into position. He licks his lips and adjusts his pants.

“I know what you’re doing,” he warns, softly. “You’re going to pay for that, too.” His eyes break from mine and he begins to polish the nails on the other foot. How could something so innocent be so sensual? I want him so bad that I could break character and just jump his bones right now! I hold my head back again, leaning on my hands and trying to clear my head of these wayward thoughts. My Dom has finished and he stands at the end of the bed, examining me.

“One more thing,” he says, turning around to the vanity again. When he sits on the edge of the bed, he produces my vamp lipstick. He opens it slowly and begins to apply it to my lips.

“Yes,” he says as he finishes. “I see wonderful things happening with that gorgeous mouth tonight.” Oh, God, I’m going to explode. He puts the nail polish and lipstick back on the vanity and turns to face me. He’s silent for a moment as a shadow falls over his face and he appears to get taller. I feel vulnerable… exposed… but I don’t move.

“If you only knew,” he nearly growls. “You’re stunning… you look like a beautiful, hungry little sex kitten.” He pulls a digital camera out of his pocket. “For my eyes only, Mrs. Grey,” he says. “Don’t move.”

With the first flash, every bit of trepidation leaves my body and I am now the sole subject of a sexy photo shoot. A warmth passes through me immediately and removes all hesitation.

“Mrs. Grey… you’re flushed,” he says knowingly and takes another picture. He moves over to me and gently strokes the inside of my thigh. I lick my top lip and try not to move. He undoes the belt on the robe and fully exposes my baby bump, the camera flashing the entire time.

“Sit up… just a little. Careful of your nails.”

I sit up straighter, still leaning on my hand. He opens my robe at my breasts, caressing each one as he only exposes the inner mounds and not the nipples. I almost can’t control the flame growing in me any further.

“Put that hand on our babies,” he instructs and I move the hand that’s not supporting my weight over my baby bump.

“Now, look up at me.” I turn my head to where I can see his shoes, the slowly raise my gaze to his, glaring at him through my eyelashes and subtly throwing my shoulder forward to meet my chin.

“Oh my God,” he moans as the camera flashes several times. “You are so hot.” He has to take a few deep breaths once he’s finished with those pictures, then issues another command.

“Lie down flat, hands above your head.” I obey and the camera flashes wildly again. “Pull the robe open, just one breast… this side. Careful…” I know, watch the nails. I obey and he stops me before I let go of the robe.

“Hold it! Right there, baby,” he says as he snaps more pictures of me. “I’ve wanted to do this ever since our trip to wine country,” he says, still snapping pictures as he walks around the bed. “You were like a work of art. I couldn’t believe you belonged to me.” He’s on the other side of the bed and my head is turned away from him now. “You were so beautiful, so sexy and wanton, feral and desirable… I wished with all my soul that I could capture that beauty.” He runs his fingertips over the mound of my exposed breast. “And now, here you are again, looking more exquisite than ever and I finally get my chance.” I close my eyes and concentrate on his touch. I can’t see the camera flashing anymore, but I can hear it. I don’t care. I’m too damn horny to care.

“Give me your hands.” I open my eyes and he’s leaning over me. I reach for him and he takes my wrists, helping me to sit up again.

“Take it off,” he says, holding the sleeve of the robe so that I don’t mess up my nails. I remove my arms from the robe and he lays it back on the bed so that it’s still behind me.

“Lie back.” I lay on the bed and he goes over the covered tray and removes the red satin. There are all kinds of goodies on that thing. I try to see what they are, but my eyes are drawn to the rope he removes—red velvet. He loops it around my right wrist four times—a little snug—so that it makes a wide bracelet before he makes a knot and attaches the ends to the headboard. He repeats the process with my left wrist so that my arms are spread over the bed.

Now… I’m vulnerable.

I watch as he folds the satin in half, then in half again like a blindfold. He places it over my eyes, but he doesn’t tie it. This means that he doesn’t want me to move—a silent command indicated only by the satin blindfold. I lick my lips in anticipation and I hear the camera flashing again accompanied by my Dom’s heavy breathing. He’s really turned on, and that turns me on.

There’s silence for a moment, then I smell the citrus and feel his hands. It’s orange oil, and he’s going to massage me. I prepare myself for the torment that I know will follow. His hands are incredible and only make me want more of him. I know he plans to torture me for as long as possible.

His oily hands start just below the collar and move to my shoulders, working away whatever tension remained from the day. He moves slowly to my arms, covering my skin with the delicious citrus oil and leaving a kiss in both of my palms when he’s finished. He travels back down my arms to the side of my body, bypassing my breasts and moving to my sides. I try not to react to my disappointment, but he knows and I hear him attempt to cover a chuckle. He caresses my belly slowly, leisurely, covering every inch of it in oil and luring me into sweet relaxation. I’m awash with desire again, however, when he gets to my legs—covering them from hip to toe, including the sensitive flesh in the crease of my pelvis, and paying extra attention to my inner thighs.

Goddammit, fucking hell, this is killing me!

There’s silence for a few moments again before I hear the sound of metal. What the hell is that? My question is answered a few moments later when I feel a cuff being attached to my left ankle, then another cuff attached to my right, and I can’t close my legs.

It’s a spreader bar.

The air is hitting my clit, heating and cooling it at the same time. My breathing is suddenly erratic as that little piece of meat takes command of my body and demands satisfaction. I can’t be calm anymore. I’m painfully horny and desperately in need of satisfaction. I feel my Dom’s oily hands on my breasts now, oiling the mounds and working their way to my nipples. When I feel the pinch, I bite my lip to keep from crying out. His fingers and lips work me mercilessly to the edge of sanity. I can’t close my legs and there is no stimulation to my clit, but the burn goes directly to the spot and sets my soul ablaze. I whimper in my throat, my yearning and frustration building and taking over my thought process. I want to come! I need to come! Please…!

“Relax, baby,” he whispers, releasing my nipples from his mouth and fingers. I’m puffing, panting, out of breath with need. I feel his skin against mine and I don’t know if he has shed his shirt or his pants or both, but that only makes me want him more. I ball my fists and panic immediately, concerned that I’ve ruined my nails.

“Only one smudge, baby,” he answers my unspoken question, and I can hear the camera again. Oh, God, how long will this torment last? I don’t know whether to calm my body or let it rise until it erupts into orgasm on its own.

“Damn, Baby, your nipples are so hard.” With that, I feel the pleasure and the pain of the nipple clamp.

“Aaaaahhhhh!” I cry out, mindless of punishment and silence. My body is throbbing with need and I can’t stand it anymore. He repeats the process with the other nipple and I cry out again.

“Fuck, you’re making me want you so much!” and the camera flashes again and again. Next, I feel a single drop of something cold on my clit and it’s light a fucking blowtorch. I nearly convulse off the bed when feel his entire hand cover my pussy and begin to stroke up and down, up and down—over my lips, my clit, everything.

“Oooooooohhhhhh!” I groan mournfully as the powerful pleasure racks through my body and makes me mindless. My thighs are trembling as he takes a clamped nipple in his mouth again. The feeling is excruciating and he hasn’t told me if I can come yet.

“Quiet!” he chides softly and clamps onto my nipple again. I’m panting… hard! I’m going to hyperventilate. I know it. The feeling is so good that I’m dizzy. I don’t know what to do.


CHRISTIAN

Those red nipple clamps look exquisite on her. Every few minutes, I have to take a picture, because her body changes like I’ve never seen before. Is it because she’s carrying my children? Is it because I’ve seen her sexual parts like I’ve seen other women and didn’t pay attention to her uniqueness? I don’t know, but nearly every response tonight is different than before and I have to capture every moment that I can. I wish I had done this in the playroom—the movie cameras are in there.

Her red nails grasps the red ropes and that turns me on.
The red satin is covering her eyes and moving every so often as she tries to keep her head still and that turns me on.
She occasionally licks and bites those luscious red lips and that turns me on.
Her beautiful pale skin flushes crimson with her unchained desire against the backdrop of that red robe behind her and that turns me on.
Red nipple clamps dangle from beautiful blush red pebbled nipples and that turns me on.
A spreader bar with red cuffs keep her feet with red toenails separated and her pussy accessible to me and that turns me on.

I’ve had this “outside-of-the-red-room” red theme in mind for quite some time, but it was just never the right time. Now, I’m seeing my Butterfly, my submissive, my wife in a whole new light. I’m almost drunk with glee that she belongs to me and she’s so beautiful, so sexy, spread out here in front of me, the agony of pleasure ripping through her body. I have to see this…

I’ve removed my clothes except for my boxer briefs so that the oil on her body doesn’t ruin them. Never moving the hand that’s stimulating that sweet pussy, I climb between her legs and move the spreader bar up so that her legs fall open. At the same time, I slide my middle finger inside of her and go right to the magic spot. She gasps loudly at the intrusion and shakes fiercely when I zero in on my target. I put my face right there at her pussy and watch the pulsing of her clit. It’s fascinating and hot and sexy. I take my oiled thumb and touch it. The response is immediate. Not only does her body jerk, but her clit visibly hardens under my thumb.

I’ve never watched her clit throb at my touch. I’ve felt it, tasted it, but never watched it. Now, sitting here between her legs with my longest finger inside of her massaging her G-spot and my oiled thumb meeting it on the outside, rubbing her little nub until it’s pink and swollen, pulsing and juicy, shining and slippery from the oil, it’s really quite astounding. I mean, of course, it’s arousing—her beautiful pussy is right here in my face. It’s everything I can do not to lick this juicy, delectable fruit dry, but that’s not the purpose of this exercise. I want to watch her muscles when she comes. I want to see what they do so that I can imagine it when she’s clamping around my dick.

It’ll be impossible for her to hold still during that time, but she must because I have to see. The spreader bar will prevent her from closing her legs, but there’s nothing to stop her hips from moving, but she must. I have to see it.

“Don’t move,” I command as I push her gently further towards her orgasm. “When you come, I want you to stay still. Don’t move anything. If you do that, if you’re a good girl and do as you’re told, I’ll reward you…” with all night orgasms. Her breathing is erratic as she grips the ropes attached to her wrists. Her moans begin. I don’t stop them, because I know that she can’t keep quiet and keep still, too.

“Sir!” she exclaims, her legs shaking involuntarily.

“Still, Baby,” I coach.

“I can’t… I’m trying…” she pants. She’s going to come so hard. The babies will prevent her impressive back arch. I’ll just have to hope that the spreader bar keeps her still enough for me to enjoy the show. I continue to stroke and rub and she continues to rise—quickly, now. Her moans are tortured, her pleasure is sweet agony. Her clit and lips are engorged, flushed—dark pink, almost red. It’s fucking beautiful—more to add to the red theme.

“Aaahhhhh!” It’s begun. It’s a long one, an orgasm so deep that it starts before it starts. You don’t know if you’re coming or still rising. I never lose my rhythm as my free hand snaps more pictures of her tormented body, not to mention close-ups of her beautiful, throbbing pussy.

“Aaaaaaahhhhh!” It’s getting deeper, but it’s not there just yet. Her muscles are beginning to tighten around my finger and I watch and they close and pull me in, white cream sliding down my hand and pooling in my palm.

“Aaaaaaahhhhhhhh!” I imagine how my muscles feel at the base of my balls when I’m emptying inside of her—a thumping, burning, pulsing, crippling pleasure that makes my whole body freeze. I wonder if she’s feeling the same thing while her juices anoint my hand and her lips kiss my finger.

“Oh Gooooooooooooooooooooood! Oh Goooooooooooooooooood!” And there it is. Finally. She’s a good girl. She’s keeping still for me—or she’s paralyzed with pleasure. Either way, her red, pulsing pussy is right in my face. I move my thumb away and she rides out this massive orgasm on her own, her clit pounding like an erect dick—hard, pebbled, red, and vibrating. Her muscles are squeezing my finger so hard—still massaging her G-spot—that I can’t pull it out, not that I would dare try right now. The color is beautiful, unlike anything I’ve ever seen. I’ve never been this interested in how a pussy looked, only how it felt and how I could make it feel, but it’s fascinating and beautiful. I want her to feel this way all the time and I’m proud to be the one to make her feel this—to feel her wrap around me like she’s wrapping around my finger. To flush dark pink, then red with immense pleasure that racks her body until she’s paralyzed and spent. This is glorious!

She finally falls limp, breathing hard and almost crying. What an experience! I climb the bed and bring my face to hers, sliding the scarf from her eyes.

“What a good girl you are,” I commend her while I kiss her cheek. “Such a good girl! Now, Mrs. Grey, I need to be inside you. That turned me on like nothing I’ve ever seen before. So tell me, do I get to fuck that beautiful mouth of yours, or that perfect pussy? Which do you want?” She takes a few deep breaths and turns wanton eyes to me. Licking and biting her still-red lips salaciously, she says, “My mouth, Sir. Please, Sir.” I smile widely at her.

“As you wish,” I say as I rise to my knees and slide out of my boxer briefs, Greystone springing into action and bobbing up and down once I release him. We’ve just about gotten down to a science now where I can kneel over her without putting any weight on her and my shaft is right at her mouth. I hold on to the headboard for support and after preparing myself for the warmth that I know will follow, I lower myself to her lovely lips.

“Haaaah!” I gasp when her lips clamp furiously around my dick. Not so fast! I don’t want to come so soon. “Gently! Gently!” I breathe. She releases her lips and moves slowly. Starting with my head, she sucks me in—gently and loudly slurping as she moves along. It drives me wild.

“Ssssss!” I hiss as her lips run over my head and partially up and down my dick. So hot and wet and her tongue does magical things to me. “Yessssss,” I hiss as I close my eyes and let her feast on my erection, “that’s it, Baby.” I angle myself and slide deeper into her mouth until I reach the back of her throat. It’s hard not to thrust, but I don’t want to hurt her. She has to control the depth from here.

Instinctively, she closes her mouth tight and starts to suck harder. I don’t get the chance to stop her because it feels so good. I groan from my chest as I try to keep my hips still, but I already feel the tightening of my balls.

“Baby, slow down,” I groan. “I can’t hold it, slow down,” but that only made her intensify her assault. She lifts her head, taking as much of me as she can while lying on her back, then wraps her lips tight around me and slowly pulls all the way to the tip. The feeling is insane, enough to drive me out of my mind, but not make me come yet.

“Fuck, that’s good! Oh fuck, that’s good!” I pant, as she repeats the process over and over again until I’m so ready to blow that I’m sweating. The veins are popping out in my arms and sweat is streaming down my chest. My dick is hot and hard and ready and she slowly changes her stroke, pulling and pushing now in that deep slow stroke.

“Oh, fucking hell, that’s so good!” I groan, burying my chin in my chest and now rolling my hips to match her stroke. She groans on my dick and the vibration starts my downfall.

“Fuck me, Baby,” I breathe as I fuck her delectable mouth, “fuck me!” She doesn’t change her rhythm. She matches me stroke for stroke, with suction and power and force, even when I speed up.

“Ah, baby, I’m gonna come. I’m gonna come really hard!” I warn and she continues to work me with her lips, strong and deep and hot, again and again and again until…

“Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm!”

That final hum was my undoing. I blow hard down her throat, holding still and enjoying the warmth of the inside of her mouth and the suction of her cheeks as she swallows my seed. A vise has my chest in its grip as I hold my breath and ride out this intense pleasure. My muscles are still jerking as she slowly starts to work up and down my shaft again, causing me the most intense post-orgasmic pleasure/pain experience. Oh, God, I’m going to fuck her all night!

And fuck her all night I do!

I sit her on my lap and take her from behind, tormenting those nipple clamps. Then I bend her over doggy-style, hanging on to that mile-long braid and plunging into her until she’s pulsing around my dick once more.

I lay her on her back, raise her hips to mine, and drill her until she’s quivering in orgasm.

I bury my face between her thighs and suckle that juicy clit so deep until she comes so hard that she has to beg me to stop.

When she’s almost had enough, I lay her on her side and lean her into me. I hold her close against me, her back glued to my chest and my mouth marking wherever it can reach while I hold her prisoner with my hand secured around her neck and that collar. She coos and quivers, calling my name while I have her leg wrapped backwards around my hip, loving her slowly and deeply until she’s paralyzed and speechless with one final toe-curling orgasm and I pump into her in a wild, hot, painful, and cosmic explosion.

Somewhere around eight or nine in the morning, we fall asleep.

I awake somewhere around noon and I have to admit that my body is aching like you wouldn’t believe! Fuck! I’ve never fucked myself into pain before. I dread to know how Butterfly is feeling. I hope I didn’t overwork her. She was just so beautiful that I couldn’t stop myself.

I don’t know what came over me in the doctor’s office yesterday. I was so excited to see our babies, to see what their faces would look like. Then, when I saw our daughter, the whole world stopped. I mean, it stopped–like screeching halt! I didn’t hear anything or see anything but that gorgeous little girl on the screen. Time stopped, air stopped, space stopped, everything stopped and nothing mattered at that moment, but my baby girl… nothing at all. Not the hacker, not the company, not my money… nothing!

When I realized that she had to be brought her into this horrible world, I became consumed with protecting her and my son and my wife from anything and everything that could possibly hurt them. My mind was going so fast that I couldn’t put my thoughts together. I couldn’t formulate a cohesive sentence. It was incredible and terrifying. All of the emotions that I’ve ever felt in my life came crashing down at once and erased each other. I couldn’t even speak. Anything I said after that was mechanical.

Then I saw my son—my handsome, wonderful son—jerking around in there like he couldn’t wait to be free and take on the world. I could hear him in my head saying, “Let me at ‘em!” I was so overwhelmed that I didn’t think I would be able to stand when it was time to leave. Butterfly probably thought that it was just my sense of excess asking for twenty copies of the pictures, but I just didn’t think that was enough. I want to make a wall out of their faces so that I could put one in my office and one in my study so that I could gaze at them day in and day out and remember why God put me here on this earth—but I realized that I was asking a bit much and a poster will do just fine… a really, really big poster.

And then she spoke.
That beautiful, remarkable, unbelievable woman that is carrying my name and my children spoke.

I don’t even remember what she said. I just knew that I needed to take care of her and make her happy. Dinner at Altura was out of the question now. I needed to get her home. During the entire ride, I tried to think of ways that I could show her what she meant to me. Money means nothing, so gifts are even more useless. I could only give her me, but I had to do it in my dominance—become what I considered my most powerful self and then give that “self” to her. As I was planning this during our ride home, every time that I had ever made her feel small, hurt, useless, angry, disappointed, unloved, or insignificant came to mind and I felt like a first class asshole who truly didn’t deserve her.

I thank God more now since we’ve been together than I ever have in my whole life, but I truly thanked God at that moment for Butterfly being the woman that she is and for her coming into my life and changing my perspective on everything I thought I was or could be. She’s incredible.

I don’t know if I found the words to tell her what she meant to me when we were sitting in the car, but the plan finally took form when I got out of the car and all I could think was “Love her. Love her with everything. Give yourself to her until she doesn’t want anymore, then hold her until she sleeps and be there to chase the Boogie Man away.

And now, I’m aching. I’m aching all over with the memory of loving that precious, beautiful Butterfly all night until neither of us could even stay awake anymore. I sure hope I didn’t hurt her, though I smile and savor every ache and pain I feel as a reminder of my fantastic night with this gorgeous and insatiable woman. I’m flipping through the pictures of our red night of passion when Jason knocks on my open study door.

“I thought we might have to send out a search party for you,” he jests. “I don’t think I ever remember you sleeping in this late.” I turn off the camera to hide the pictures of my sexy wife.

“I didn’t sleep in,” I tell him. “I only got four hours.” Jason’s silence causes me to turn and look at him. His expression says it all.

“Well, damn,” is all he can say. “Um… is Her Highness okay?” He asks his question carefully and I almost want to slug him one and tell him that’s none of his goddamn business, but I know what he’s getting at, so he gets a pass this time.

“Her Highness is perfect,” I declare. “Out like a light, though.” He just shakes his head.

“Okay, that’s enough. Alex called this morning. He discovered that Myrick had to be moved from his position in Seattle because he blew his cover.”

“Who else besides us knew who he was?” I ask.

“That’s it. Us. He blew his cover by revealing himself to you. People in witness protection don’t get to choose where they go, so I don’t even know how he ended up in Seattle. Anyway, when I started digging to find out why and how Robin Myrick faked his own death, it tipped off the right people and they eventually had to get him out. Unfortunately, that means that he could be anywhere now using any identity.”

“Shit! That means that we may never catch this fucker!” I hiss.

“I don’t know, sir,” Jason says. “I looked in his eyes and I did everything I knew to break him and nothing worked. This is personal. He’s careful right now, but he’s going to get careless, because he doesn’t only want to hurt you. He wants to see you hurt. Getting back at you for your imagined crimes against him is more important than his own safety. He made that very clear. He’s going to slip and when he does, we’ll get him.”

“Well, I’ll feel better about this whole thing when we’ve got this guy under lock and key,” I say as I open an email from Cholometes. Why is he emailing me directly?

“Do we have anything planned today, sir?”

“Not that I can think of,” I tell him. “I’ll have to wait until Butterfly is awake and see if she wants to do anything.”

“Did everything go okay with the ultrasound?” he asks. He still has no explanation for my demeanor yesterday and I think he’s still searching.

“Yes, it did,” I say fishing for the folder from the doctor’s office and giving him a picture of each child.

“Wow,” he says. “Technology’s come a looooooong way.”

“Yes, it has,” I say, reading the email from Cholometes, declaring that although he’s going to keep his promise and make sure we catch the fuckers hacking into my system, he still loves Butterfly and nothing’s going to change that. He reiterates that he’s going to do all that he can to make sure that she’s happy, and he will still be there if I slip up. He’s laying down arms and won’t look to bring me down in any way, but he won’t go away because he loves her very much.

Bad timing, Colostomy. I love her now more than ever.

“Is everything okay, sir?” Oh, good God, give it a rest, man. I fucked my wife all night long and except for the fact that some fucker wants to see me make a mistake so that he can take her from me—which is nothing new—everything’s fine. I look over at him.

“Jason, stop digging. I’m fine. Except for the fact that I want to catch this crazy fucker digging into my system, everything’s fine. Okay?” he nods and holds his hand up in surrender.

“Okay. Okay. Just checkin’,” and he finally leaves my office so that I can continue to admire the woman in red.

Time flies by as I comb through thousands of emails, deleting and ignoring Cholometes’ email completely. Somewhere around four, Butterfly stumbles into my office in another of her long-sleeve Victorian nightgowns. I love those things on her.

“Christian?” she says, her voice soft.

“Yes, baby?” I say.

“Um, about last night…” She has my full attention now. I turn to face her completely and wait. Did I hurt her? Was it took much for her? Is something wrong? I take a deep breath and steady myself. She holds her stomach looks up at me.

“I think I’m pregnant.”

I frown and wait for a moment, because her words just aren’t registering. Then, we both break down in simultaneous laughter. She walks over to me and crawls into my lap. I lean her over and kiss her passionately. She thrusts her fingers into my hair and returns my ardor.

“You were beautiful last night,” I croon, looking into her deep blue eyes.

“You were unstoppable,” she says, lust lacing her voice.

“Are you okay?” I ask concerned. She shrugs.

“My lady parts are a bit out of commission for a moment, but I’m no worse for wear. You did all the work.” I nod.

“I’m sore.” She frowns.

“You’re sore?” I nod. “Where?”

“All over.” She examines me.

“Christian, you’re never sore,” she says.

“Well, baby, it’s like you said. I was unstoppable, and it was a real workout.” I think about controlling my leg and thigh muscles as I drilled into her slowly while we were lying on our sides. “The pain is still worth the pleasure.” She looks at me with those same eyes she did last night. “Don’t look at me like that. Your lady parts are out of commission and I’m sore.”

“I know,” she says seductively, “but it doesn’t stop me from mentally wanting you.”

Holy fuck! Who the hell can resist that shit? I dive into her kiss once more and try to tame the beast rising up in me. I couldn’t placate him if I tried.

“You drive me crazy,” I say, kissing her nose and the corner of her mouth.

“You too me too,” she breathes, returning my kisses.

“We must behave, Mrs. Grey. Neither of us is in any condition to feed to Love Monster.”

“I know,” she says, kissing my neck and nuzzling into my chest.

“What would you like to do today?”

“Veg out, eat, and watch TV.” I smile.

“That sounds like a good idea. What would you like to watch?”

Sleeping Beauty,” she says with a smile. I kiss her nose.

Sleeping Beauty it is, then.”

*-*

Barney is the first person that I see when I get to Data Central on Monday morning. I dropped that DiPignano shit because I’m never going to remember to call him that. Hell, I hardly even noticed or recognized that name if I saw it on emails. I had him listed as “Barney” in my contacts and never paid the full name any attention. Maybe he was right about me not extending him the proper respect that I would my other employees. When I think about it, I’m the only one who didn’t know that he was so confident in his craft. I knew that he was good in his craft, but not that confident. I even had Butterfly thinking he was this meek little nerd, which is probably why she misdiagnosed his behavior as shrinking. She’s going to be shocked as fuck if she ever sees him now.

We had a long talk about it and he doesn’t care if I continue to call him Barney, as long as I remember and respect his position in the company. I always have, I just didn’t blare it across the loudspeakers. So, we dropped the formalities, though he kept the GQ look. He’s become GEH’s most eligible bachelor until the ladies found out that he was engaged to be married. However, you know some women. “He’s not married yet” can be heard floating around some circles.

“I’ve got good news, sir,” he greets me.

“What do you have?” I ask.

“James and I have narrowed the signals down based on an area they keep hitting. We’ve got one that hit the same radius several times,” he says.

“We’ve correlated the hits on the cell towers with the hits from the computer,” James chimes in. “Every other signal from these towers have been eliminated as random. We’re getting a lot of those, but we’re getting more than one hit in these particular areas that match the scrambled signal in from the worms—several at times.”

“This is good,” I sigh. “This is really good.”

“We’ve been able to narrow down a general vicinity since there are so many hits in the same place. Our next step was to see what was in the area.” Barney touches a screen and the satellite image of the area comes up. “Vacant buildings, internet cafes, the library… Unfortunately, lots of places to get computer access, but not sophisticated enough to scramble the signal, not to the degree that we’re seeing anyway. In a residential location, we just have to see who’s out there with the best toys.”

“We’ve got it narrowed down to a three to four-mile radius in both areas. I don’t know if that’s enough to work with…”

“It’s plenty,” Jason says. “We can set up a surveillance perimeter and check out the locals.”

“What if our suspect makes you?” I ask. Jason cocks his head and twists his lips as if I’ve just said something stupid… which I have. I hold my hand up. “Forget I asked—forgot who I was talking to.” He actually rolls his eyes at me, arrogant fuck.

“So we set up a perimeter around both areas and look for what?”

“Like I said, just watch the locals, observe what’s going on in the area. See who comes and goes and get a take and a background check on who we can. This sort of thing will be a process of elimination—while the team here does the technical work, we’ll get started on the physical, the footwork. It’ll be a little tedious, but that’s what we do.”

“No more tedious than picking out two specific locations from scrambled signals and burners that could have taken us anywhere in the world,” Barney says confidently without moving his eyes from the screen. My brow furrows, but James just holds his head down and stifles a laugh. I look over at Jason, who appears to be doing the same thing—though more successfully—as he mouths the word “cocky.” I just shake my head. Getting acquainted with the new Barney/Dino is going to be quite interesting.

“So you’ll need to know where the security team needs to set perimeters, correct?” I ask Barney.

“Not exactly. I’m just the tech guy,” he says, and I know it’s a shot at Jason’s prior statement. Jason just rolls his eyes again. I get the feeling he’s used to this. “I don’t need any other details, but they’re going to need details from us. I’m assuming that you’ll need the layout of the neighborhood and possibly a few locations where you can set up a stakeout.” I look at Jason and he nods once.

“You assume correctly.”

“You’ve got your radius… or radiuses, I should say.” All movement stops.

“How many are there?” I lament.

“Two that I’m fairly certain of, but there’s a third party in there somewhere. I think you’re dealing with a standard triangle—money, information, and the zenith. I can tell you that, most likely, the guy at the top is not getting his hands dirty, so sniffing out his location is going to be the hard part. Hopefully, there’s only one of him, but I can tell you with strong conviction that Dodd has only been speaking to three people. He hasn’t called anybody else on that cell phone since the word went out that our ‘suspect’ was released from jail.”

“So… approximate locations?”

“Just like we suspected—Belfair and Spokane,” James says.

“So where do we start?” I ask.

“We have to go with both,” Welch says after sitting quietly for several minutes. “We have to set up residency like yesterday and we need to establish four corners as soon as we can. Does it look like we’re dealing with professionals or just a couple of grunts who happen to know what they’re doing?” he asks Barney.

“It’s hard to tell,” Barney answers. “Some of the greatest minds became that way because they were underestimated. I would say treat them like professionals until you learn for sure otherwise.”

“In the meantime, here are some demographics of the areas you’re going to be staking,” James says, handing Welch and Jason a stack of papers each. They thumb through them quietly while I’m looking at the satellite picture of Belfair. The place reminds me of that God-forsaken island where David held Butterfly captive. It’s a small community sprawled out a bit, but nestled inside a cluster of forests. It’s clearly one of those places that you don’t know is there unless you know it’s there. It’s the perfect place to hide.

“We need to be careful,” Jason says, breaking my train of thought. “These are neighborhoods. I mean, we could easily set up perimeters, but I’ve got a feeling that when we find these guys, they’re going to blend right in.” He looks over at me. “We’re going to have to bring Dodd in soon.” I look at Welch.

“How close is he to getting the information we need on Myrick’s past dealings?” I ask, and he knows that I’m talking about Cholometes.

“I’ll have to check,” he says. “He’s a loner on most things. He does what he needs to do and he brings me the results. That’s how we both operate and I like it that way, but I’ll see if he can give me a time frame.” I undo my tie and nod. I can’t ask for anything more.

“I just want this to be over as quickly as possible,” I say sharply. “My patience is wearing thin and I’m ready to get on with my fucking life!”

“We’ll have perimeters set up by day’s end, sir,” Jason assures me and Welch nods.

“I have a conference call in twenty minutes. Is there anything else I need to know right now?”

“Not immediately, but you do need to prepare to bring Dodd in,” Welch says again. “I’ve got a feeling this thing is about to come to a head, and we’re going to need him to lead us to these guys.”

“What makes you think he’ll be so cooperative?” I ask. Welch actually scoffs at me.

“Oh, he’ll cooperate. Don’t you worry about that. You should probably get to know him better though. I’ve prepared a dossier on him. You might want to look at it. It’ll give you some idea of why he was so ripe for the picking. I’ll make sure you have a copy of it within the hour.” I nod and leave the room with Jason close behind.

“Don’t you need to be in there assisting with the perimeter and planning?” I ask.

“Alex will keep me up to date. You’ve forgotten protocol in possibly hostile times,” he says. He’s right, I did forget. If we’re not in the penthouse, I’m always in earshot or line of sight during times like these. You would think I would be safer in Grey House, but the Pedophile showed us that we were mistaken about that. That reminds me that I never finished that space behind my office. I probably want to get that done even if I may never or rarely use it. Right now, it’s literally a hole in the wall.

“Andrea, I need coffee… and the Birmingham file,” I say as I enter my office.

*-*

Things are quieter than I would like for the next 24 hours. I distract myself with a few dull meetings and a couple of small acquisitions that I had my eye on, as well as spending every free moment with Butterfly. I already knew the story of Cinderella… somewhat… but we spend Tuesday night in the land of “bippity boppity boo” anyway. It’s strange to me how I can relate to so many of the Disney classics—young, mistreated girl is blessed with a fairy godmother who facilitates her escape from the evil stepmother, and she ends up marrying the prince and living happily ever after. I really should have watched or read these stories as a child. Next time, we’ll be sure to watch Bambi.

Wednesday is as eventful as Tuesday was quiet. Welch and Cholometes make their way into my office to update me on what Brian has found out about Myrick. He never comes to my office alone. I’m sure it’s not because he’s afraid of me. He mostly likely very correctly assumes that we’ll come to blows if left alone, so he makes sure that he has an escort. It must be to protect himself because I would personally love to get that fucker alone.

“I’ve come across enough information to put this guy away for quite a while, even if we didn’t have the evidence we have on your company.” He sits in front of me with an iPad.

“I thought we wanted to be careful about transmitting classified data across the network,” I say.

“I’m not on your network,” he declares, still scrolling through his iPad.

“Exactly what network are you on?” I demand.

“The CIA’s,” he says nonchalantly, awaiting my response. I really hate this cocky ass fucker. “Your golden boy is wanted in 10 states on 24 counts of fraud and embezzlement under eight aliases… so far.”

“How do you know they’re all him?” He raises his head and looks at me, waiting for me to answer my own questions.

Of course, bread crumbs.

“I’m going to need more than that this time,” I tell him. I don’t have time for his games.

“Well, that’s what you’ve got. Now, do you want to hear more or should I just pack up my shit and leave?” I look over at Jason.

“I told you that I wouldn’t be the only one behaving myself. This fucker wants me to grovel and I’m ready to hit him,” I warn.

“Take your best shot, pretty boy!” he shoots.

“You know, that’s always meant to be an insult, but all that means to me is that I’m one good-looking motherfucker and you already know it. Now if you really want to know just how tough I am, keep that shit up. I’ll beat your ass into next week!”

“Door’s open anytime, Red. Like I said, take your best shot!” And this fucker is out of his seat. I’m coming around my desk like a goddamn freight train and Jason is in front of me in moments.

“Sit the fuck down!” Welch says to Cholometes. “We don’t have time for this shit! You two want to beat the fuck out of each other when this is over, that’s fine. In the meantime, we’re right on the heels of wrapping this shit up, so let’s get it done!” Welch holds his hand out to Cholometes who, after a bit of a stare down with me, hands the iPad to Welch.

“Sit down, sir,” he says quietly. “We need to remember that we’re all on the same team, at least for now.” I glare at Cholometes. This isn’t over yet, you asshole. I back into my seat and sit down.

“He’s wanted in all three states on the west coast,” Welch says, thumbing through the information. “Two in the Bible belt, three more in the Midwest and two in New England. He’s been doing this for years—under more names than the Feds can track. Each identity disappears when he’s done with it. He used Myrick because he wants you to know who he is. He’s a master at hiding. He got away with this so many times and nobody had any clue it was him. Even now, some of them still don’t know. He’s leaving a trail for you so that in the end, he wants you to go right to where he is. He knows that you’re going to find him eventually—and he wants you to.

“He sets up these bogus companies, then uses them as the holding company for the money he siphons off of whatever victim he’s decided to hit. Then he starts to divide the money up into different smaller accounts, and later orchestrates a ‘sale’ of his business. There’s no way right now of telling where the money actually ended up, but this is how he ends up with so much money ‘in his mattress.’”

“How can he do this while he’s under witness protection?” I ask.

“They don’t know about it,” Welch says. “He picks up these aliases and he does this stuff right under their noses—all from Comerica bank. He definitely has an inside source, but whoever it is, it’s not a teller. It’s somebody up on the ladder that can bury his activities and move his money.”

“And why can’t we find them and just take them both down?”

“Timing and position. He’s going to make a move to shift that money once he knows the gig is up. That’s how we catch his behind-the-scenes man—or woman—at Comerica. Whoever it is, he’s high enough on the totem pole for us not to be able to just walk in there and get him. What’s more, the feds think they’re still dealing with Millfeld. They have no idea that he’s been using all these aliases. We have to get some more info, but we have reason to believe that he has something to do with a really, really, really big drug ring in Detroit. We don’t know what, but we know that they’re looking for him and not because they want to reminisce over old times.”

“That’s why he’s in witness protection,” I say and Welch nods.

“He’s been in hiding since he faked his death. If you had Detroit’s equivalent of the mafia looking for you, you’d be hiding, too,” Welch adds. He’s a brave little bastard. If I had the mob looking for me, I’d leave the fucking country! “I would say that these other companies have just been practice, even though he’s siphoned millions from these and probably even more, he was doing it all to get to you.”

“Well, come and get me, fucker,” I say to no one in particular. “I’ll be waiting when you get here.” As I’m having daydreams of breaking that fucker’s neck with my bare hands, I get a glimpse of Cholometes glaring at me like he could do the same to me. I match his glare and the stare down commences. I think the other alpha males in the room just decide to let this happen and see who’s going to win. I don’t even have to wonder.

I don’t know how much time passes before he stands, straightens his jacket, and walks silently out of my office. Welch just shakes his head at me.

“Don’t piss him off, sir,” he warns. “We still need him.”

“Where have you been for the last year?” I hiss. “He’s already pissed. He’s in the perfect position to take me down, and he can do it whether he’s pissed or not. So, I’m not going to waste my time being nice to him. In fact, I respect the bastard enough to let him know that I’m aware that he’s the fucking enemy and he shows me the same respect. Anything less would be an insult. Now, somebody get Claude fucking Bastille in the goddamn gym so I can kick the shit out of him instead of Colostomy!”

About an hour later, I’m in the company gym giving my trainer the workout of his fucking life! I’m beginning to be wound tight again with us appearing to be so close to Myrick yet so fucking far away. My beautiful wife is carrying our beautiful babies and because of me, the insecurity that comes with being pregnant has been multiplied probably tenfold. Now, my staff wants me to kiss the ass of the man who would gladly see me floating face down in Lake Washington to have the woman that I love, but for the fact that said woman wouldn’t come within a hundred feet of him if something like that were to happen. I feel every vein in my body pumping, every muscle pulsing, every bead of sweat dripping when…

“Grey! Stop!”

I look up and I have Bastille on the ground covering his head in a defensive position. Shit! That’s never happened before. Who was I seeing? I look up and the very person who was occupying my mind at the time is the voice who stopped me from pummeling Bastille.

“Let the man get up before you don’t have a trainer anymore.” I look down at Claude, who is looking up at me like he doesn’t know who I am. He probably doesn’t right now.

“I’m sorry, Claude,” I mumble. “A lot is going on. I got carried away.” I hold my hand out to help him up and I think my apology stunned him more than the beat down.

“I can only imagine,” he says, looking at me puzzled. “Get the hell out of this place for the rest of the day, Grey. You’re gonna kill somebody.” I glance over at Cholometes.

“Good idea,” I say, ripping off the gloves and throwing them in whichever direction they fly. This whole situation is going to make me burst a blood vessel.

I think I take the longest hot shower I’ve ever taken trying to calm my nerves. My skin has to be red and puckered in areas when I finally get out and dry myself. I’m combing my hair out and I remember for a moment when I used to wear it this way—slicked back off my face and neat. That’s when the Pedophile and I were… together, for lack of a better word. My hair is still wet and it lays down amazingly easy and for a brief moment, I get a glimpse of the man I used to be. I quickly run my hands through my hair and muss it up… a lot!

“You look like birds are nesting in your head.” James is waiting for me outside the locker room and Jason isn’t far away.

“Yeah, well… Ana likes it,” I comment, running my hand through my wet hair and trying to tame it again, but not too much.

“I sent Allie to the penthouse to keep an eye on Ana,” he says. “You need a boys’ night more than ever, so let’s go.” I look at my watch. It’s not even five o’clock yet.

“It’s early, and I want to see my wife,” I protest.

“You’ll see your wife when you get home, and we’re going to get some dinner before we go to the club—something greasy and unhealthy. Don’t fight me. We’re leaving. Let’s go.” He gestures for me to walk ahead of him. I look over at Jason, whose face says that he has no intention of rescuing me from this little outing. I sigh heavily and walk in front of him, resigned to my fate and the fact that I won’t get to see my succulent, beautiful Butterfly for a few more hours.


A/N: 

Pictures of places, cars, fashion, etc. can be found at https://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/becoming-dr-grey/

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

Love and Handcuffs!
Lynn x

Becoming Dr. Grey: Chapter 8—All About Ana…

Okay, three issues I want to address. First, the Val issue. We have run the gauntlet of what we think is going on with Val and I have to say I adore when people’s minds start reaching out there and asking the questions! So here’s what we have so far (I hope I have forgotten anything):

—She’s jealous of Ana
—She wants what Ana has
—She’s lonely because she feels left out
—She’s upset that Ana has changed
—Elliot doesn’t really want/love her
—She wants all of those things she said she didn’t want but Elliot doesn’t
—She and Elliot really want the same things but their afraid to tell each other
—Elliot is longing for Kate or can’t get over how she treated him and therefore can’t commit to Val
—Elliot is still seeing Kate or trying to rekindle his relationship with Kate
—She’s the hacker (classic!)
—She’s pregnant
—She has mental issues
—She can’t have children
—She has betrayed Ana in some way and is trying to push her away
—She really does think Ana is a snob
—She still wants to live the single life, but her friends—namely Ana—can’t do it anymore

I think I got them all, or at least the thrust of all of them. I will tell you this. One of them—and only one of them—is correct.

I will also tell you that she’s not the hacker, but I love how if someone becomes anti-Ana or anti-Christian in any way, they immediately become the hacker! That means that I have written this particularly storyline to the point that people are asking “who did it? Who is it?” and nobody knows. So if somebody falls outside of the realm, everybody goes “I think they did it! Was it her? Was it him?” I really like that! 🙂 

There’s really only one person in the current storyline who knows who the cyber attacker is. I like the fact that someone’s unusual behavior can cast the light on them where people will say, “hmm, is it you?”

Speaking of the hacker, the second issue was about the cyber storyline, but one of my readers already took care of that for me <cough—seralynsmom—cough> so I won’t address it.  

And the third issue involves a later response to the “third trimester sex issue” in chapter 6. I don’t take issue with the fact that 90% of the women in America and around the world were never told that they couldn’t have sex in their last month of pregnancy. That’s fine that most of you were not warned against sex in your last trimester, and it’s okay that many of you pointed that out and that ninth-month sex is usually safe. However, 21 years ago when I was pregnant with my daughter, the doctor advised that I couldn’t have sex in my last month of pregnancy. Twenty-one years later—five months ago, in fact—that same daughter was advised by her doctor that she couldn’t have sex in her last month of pregnancy when she was pregnant with her son. 

I wasn’t taking the challenge to my facts personally at first because I was thinking, “Well, that’s okay. Maybe different women were told different things.” Then, as I’m looking at some later responses to chapter 6, the next thing I read is, “No they don’t. I don’t know what she’s talking about,” and the first thing I thought was “WELL, EXCUSE THE FUCK OUTTA YOU!”

A week prior, this same person graciously said that sex was okay in your third trimester and I was okay with that. A week later, she writes a response right after mine—“I don’t know what she’s talking about.” The first thing that I wanted to say to this oh-so-informed commenter was that I apologize that I wasn’t aware that she was present in EVERY doctor’s appointment of EVERY pregnant woman in the United States since the beginning of time and she knows what they’ve all been told. I must have forgotten her presence at MY prenatal visits and I’ve had two children! Oh, and my bad–that must have been YOU in the room holding up my daughter’s leg going “Push! Push! Push!” I must have been completely mistaken and that whole experience was a figment of my imagination! The claws came out immediately and I had to pull them back in.

I thought we established two books ago that I don’t write anything that I haven’t either researched or experienced myself. This one I experienced myself—twice… three times if I include my daughter’s pregnancy. No, my opinion is not law. However, my opinion–when I write it–IS based on FACTS! Then to have someone just blow me out like that, completely dismissing me like I have no clue what I’m talking about… I mean, I responded to someone’s post that my daughter was told to abstain and she came right after my response two days later with “No they don’t. I don’t know what she’s talking about.”

YOU’RE RIGHT! YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT. SO YOU SHOULD PROBABLY TAKE A BREATH AND LISTEN!

Just because something didn’t happen to you doesn’t mean it didn’t happen to someone else, and for you to dismiss my response and my personal experience that way was disrespectful and rude! It may not have been your experience or anyone other reader’s experience, but it was certainly mine and my daughter’s and now it’s Maxie’s!

Please note that I am not disparaging anybody who disputed this fact. It’s fine, I understand. I am only taking issue with the one commenter who completely dismissed my experience that way! I hope I don’t lose you as a reader. If I do, I hate to see you go, but I will not sit by and allow someone to disparage me that way.

That is all.

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.

All About AnaChapter 8—All About Ana…

CHRISTIAN

Butterfly and Allen spend the afternoon at Escala on Sunday, briefly talking about what happened with Valerie, but more just unwinding and being the friends that they are. Butterfly pretends that she’s not as affected by this falling out with Valerie, but I know that it hurts not to know why one of your closest friends is turning her back on you. It’s hard not to get jealous when I see them together. She loves him—it’s quite obvious, but I know that she loves me more… or at least differently. I’d never want to be in a place where she would have to choose. She adores me and I know it, but I’m still not certain that I would win.

I’m surprised that same old struggle is coming to mind after what happened in Greece. I knew without a doubt that we were one person, with one heart and one soul, even if we don’t consider ourselves soul mates. She told me that I was more than that, and I know that she’s right because I feel the same way. It’s just that after the whole fundraising nightmare, I can’t help but wonder…

I’m being ridiculous, I know I am. Allen is madly in love with James and Butterfly is head over heels for me, but watching them sitting on the sofa—watching the fire and talking for hours while she lies in his arms… I still feel that twinge of jealousy seeing my wife in the arms of another man. I watched them for so long when there were so many other things that I could be doing. I finally tear myself away from the scene and go to my office. I leave a message with Dr. Baker that I need to discuss my issues with her as I have not been dealing with them very well.

She calls me back almost immediately.

“I was wondering when you were going to call me, Christian,” she says. “The last time we talked, you and Ana weren’t speaking and that was weeks ago. I thought we agreed that you wouldn’t go so long without a session.”

“I know, I’ve just had a lot of shit going on, Doc. I don’t even know if I can talk about it over the phone.” My lines aren’t secure and… wait a minute. The burner! No, there are only limited minutes on the burner. “Do you have any time available tomorrow?”

“I would have to check my schedule and let you know. Tomorrow’s Monday, you know.”

“Yes, I know,” I say.

“You hardly ever have time on Mondays.”

“I know that, too,” I tell her. “I really need to talk and I can’t do it over the phone.” I rub my eyes and my floppy hair falls over my hand.

“I’ll leave a message with Andrea if I have anything available,” she says. Concern evident in her voice. “How’s Anastasia?”

“She’s fine,” I reply. “Getting harder for her to stand and sit, but she’s fine.” I sigh. “I’ll talk to you tomorrow. I’ll take you to lunch if you don’t have any other openings.” There’s a pause.

“Okay, Christian. I’ll see you tomorrow then.”

I know she wanted to delve, to ask me what was going on and why I felt the need to leave her a message on a Sunday evening after I hadn’t contacted her in weeks. It’s because I’m feeling rudderless. I need to know what the hell is going on with Myrick and my company and I need for things to be quiet and peaceful just for a moment. I’m supposed to be enjoying the process of watching my babies grow and pampering my wife and instead, she’s in the arms of her best friend while her other best friend deserts her on the heels of discovering that we could have lost everything to a hacker right after I ignored her for nearly a month after treating her like a useless piece of meat put on earth for my satisfaction. Yeah, that just about covers it.

Franco comes to the office Monday morning before the salons open and cuts more hair off of my head than I have left on my head. How the hell did that happen? My hair is growing as fast as Butterfly’s these days. I may have to get a maintenance trim once a week before I start looking like her!

Meetings, meetings, and more meetings. Dr. Baker tells me that her afternoon is free and she has one opening and one cancellation. I make good on my promise of lunch and have Jason bring us something from The Georgian since I’m sure that I’ll take up both of those hours.

I was right.

I pour information out to this woman like I don’t think I’ve ever talked to any other therapist before her. I tell her all about the hacking going on at Grey House. I tell her all about how I treated Butterfly after what she did and the fallout of the whole thing—my mother’s disappointment, my wife sleeping in a construction site. I reveal how I feel about her and Allen’s relationship and what has happened with her and Valerie and how it’s affecting us. I tell her about teaming up with Cholometes to help find who’s working with Myrick.

By the time I’m done with everything—the birthday weekend, Ana threatening Cholometes, Disney—I think the poor woman is suffering from information overload. We talk nearly all afternoon as I chew her ear until she makes me leave. We pick apart so many issues and delve into so many dark corners and when we’re done, I know none of this will be put to rest at all until I talk to Butterfly.

So, that night, I do the same thing with my wife. We talk and talk and talk until the early morning hours and she was falling asleep on my chest. I’m not tired. I’m disturbed about everything. I feel like I’m never going to find peace again in my life because something is always going to be lurking around the corner waiting for me. Maybe this is some strange karma chasing me from another life. I’m not a particularly bad guy. Except for being a fairly ruthless businessman, I don’t just walk around fucking people over. Yet, look at my track record.

I was burned, abused, and left with my dead mother before I can remember any other significant events of my life.

I spent decades not being able to be touched or fully loved.

I fell into the hands of a heartless pedophile who made me her perfect submissive at the age of fifteen and subsequently created me in her own fucking image, almost guaranteeing that I would never have any chance at a normal life.

By some miracle, I finally find that normal love, someone who can touch me and love my fucked up soul, and I keep finding ways to chase her away from me.

I’ve got more money than the Egyptian Pharaohs and more power than most world leaders, yet people keep finding a way to hit me where I’m most vulnerable.

I love my wife with all my heart. I love my children endlessly and they’re not even here yet, but I can’t shake the feeling that I’m going to lose them any second, and I keep doing things to sabotage my own happiness.

Yeah, I must have been a real bastard.

After staying up all night, and leaving a note and a kiss for my Butterfly, I go into Grey House early on Tuesday morning and I’m frightened by what I discover at the briefing. Welch is a force to be reckoned with who has a reach further than anyone I’ve ever known. With his resources, he could find Jimmy Hoffa if they put him to the task.

Cholometes is his twin.

If I didn’t have Welch, I’d honestly be afraid of Cholometes. However, the two of them together are a terrifying combination. I still don’t trust the man because I know that he wants my wife, but he’s been following our “bread crumbs” and it has proven to be invaluable. I did find out that the “bread crumbs” he refers to is nothing more than him stalking me. He follows my actions and he can see what my people are doing. Anybody can do that, but he has more resources than the average man, so he can see exactly what we’re doing. So while he made it appear that my people were carelessly leaving footprints, what’s really going on is that he’s combing his resources to track my actions and movements.

Even when Welch was gathering information about Anastasia Lambert, all Cholometes did was start at the end and work his way backwards to see who was digging into the file. He made it seem like Welch was writing messages in the snow with radioactive neon piss.

“You are not going to believe what we found,” Welch tells me when I get to the office. I haven’t even had a chance to sit down yet.

“Tell me,” I demand.

“Not here. We need to do lunch, somewhere you don’t normally go.”

“No, we need to do breakfast, because I’m not waiting.” I summon Jason back to my office.

“We’ll take my car,” Welch says. A few minutes later, we’re in his Pathfinder silently headed to some location somewhere that only Welch knows. For some reason, I expected him to be driving something else—some two seater hot rod maybe, or some “loner man” car, but not an SUV. We end up at yet another park and as I about to get out of the car, my pocket buzzes. It’s the burner and there’s a text on it.

**Leave your phones in the car.**

Jason searches in his pocket as well and I know that he got the same message. We both look at Welch, who only nods, and we simultaneously toss our main phones into our respective seats, taking the burners with us.

We walk across the cold ground in the deserted park over to the area where children normally play. We look like unsavory characters, plotting a crime. It’s cold out, but the cold doesn’t really bother me.

“So, we’ve found a situation where if one is good, two are astronomical,” he begins as he pulls out the proverbial manila envelope. I open it to find pictures of someone at a bank, several pictures in fact. I watch as he appears to sit at one of the banker’s desks, conduct some business, and leave. As these are stills, I can’t immediately tell how long the entire transaction takes.

“Brian followed some of our trails and used his contacts to get these pictures.” I look up from the pictures at him.

“Brian? You’re on first name basis?”

“Well, first off, he hasn’t done anything to me, sir. Second, you’re one of the only people I know that calls everybody by their last name, and everybody calls you ‘Grey’ or ‘Mr. Grey…’ or ‘sir.’” He pauses. I guess he’s waiting for a reaction. When he gets none, he continues.

“What you’re looking at are pictures of what appears to be the president or owner of Daggers, Inc opening the bank account where your money is going. Though the company is based here in Washington, the account was opened somewhere else.”

“We’ve established that, I thought,” I say bemused. “It’s a Texas-based bank.”

“That’s where you’re mistaken. The headquarters is in Texas, but that’s not really where the bank is based,” he says.

“I’m just going by what you told me,” I protest.

“Then I was wrong,” he says. “Comerica is based out of Michigan.” Fuck! Michigan. That’s the last thing I want to hear—that somebody in Michi… Wait… Michigan! I look at the pictures more carefully, then look at Welch. “Before you ask, that account was opened in Ferndale–just outside of Detroit.”

“I knew it!” I declare. “I knew it was him! I said from the beginning that I knew it was him and I was right!”

“In this case, sir,” Welch says. “You had a hunch, and you were correct. You realize that we can’t operate on hunches, right?” I try to understand that there was a process to be followed here, but my gut told me that it was Myrick—not because I don’t trust the fucker, but because of everything that has happened so far. He accosted my wife when she was my girlfriend. He played a role in trying to have me killed. He disappeared right when this shit started happening. He’s delusional because of the lies his sick ass father has told him and now he thinks he’s my fucking brother. This attack is personal. He’s playing with me, tormenting me. He wants to see me suffer.

“Welch, I understand and appreciate that you have this sophisticated technology that finds things for you, but I’m a successful business man and half of that success is gut instinct. I suggest that you trust me when I tell you that I’ve got a gut feeling about something… My instincts are never wrong.” I look at the pictures again. “Do we have any idea where he is now?” Welch shakes his head.

“He could be one of these hits we’re getting from the software or Dodd’s phone, but I don’t know. His trail just disappears into thin air. Brian is looking into some possibilities, but we’ll have to see.”

“And now I have to sit and wait for Brian to save my ass,” I lament. “Those odds look fantastic.”

“Sir, I told you, we’re working together. I don’t know his motivation, but he sincerely wants to catch this guy.” I glare at him.

“Seriously? You don’t know his motivation?” I ask in disbelief.

“Let’s face it! He’s knows he can’t have her, sir,” Welch exclaims. “No matter what he does, he can’t have her. Even if you die, he can’t have her. So what else is there?” I sigh and run my fingers through my hair.

“She made him swear to keep me safe, that nothing was going to happen to me,” I say. “She was serious. Angry. I thought she was going to scratch his eyes out. She doesn’t completely trust him and he’s holding him responsible if something goes wrong.” I rub my face. “At the end of the day, he loves her. As much as I do, I don’t know. I couldn’t say, but he loves her. If he’s doing it to be near her or just to keep her happy, he loves her. There’s his motivation.” Welch shakes his head.

“That’s a dangerous situation to have in your camp,” he says.

“Yet, you’re on a first name basis with him,” I point out. He nods.

“Duly noted.”

“He’s more dangerous to have against me,” I add. “I don’t trust him, not one bit. So while he’s being all helpful and such, keep your fucking eye on him. You’re my first line of defense in this situation.”

“Understood, sir. In the meantime, he’s giving us valuable information. I have connections that he doesn’t have and vice versa. When we put them together, doors fly open all over the place—government, corporate, confidential…”

“So why haven’t we found Myrick yet?” Welch shrugs.

“I explained his ‘disappearance’ to Brian and he has an idea, but doesn’t want to let me in on it until he’s sure.”

“So now he’s keeping secrets,” I accuse. Welch sighs and cocks his head.

“Mr. Grey, in my line of work, you don’t reveal anything until you’re sure that the bone you’re chasing is real. It’s an occupational hazard. Is he keeping secrets? Yes. That’s how we operate. I shouldn’t have even mentioned it to you, but I wanted to give you some kind of tangible update on tracking down Myrick. In the future, should I follow my normal protocol and keep this information to myself?” If he did that, I would never trust anything he said until he gives me the answers that I want and he knows that.

“No, but you can’t blame me for not trusting that guy. This attack is personal and I’m certain it’s about more than just money, but I won’t know completely until we catch this fucker. Do we have any idea if Myrick is working alone? What about the other officers of this company?”

“Well, sir, it’s easy to set up a company. All you have to do fill out the paperwork and register it with the state and it’s done. A federal identification number is free, and those two things are all you need to set up a bank account.”

“I know that. This is a corporation, with officers…”

“A private corporation,” he says.

“Okay, but who are the other officers?” I ask impatiently.

“As far as we can tell—and we have dug deep—Myrick is the only real officer. The others are fabricated. One of them is Louis Millfeld and we both know who that is. The names are all made up.”

“Wouldn’t more than one of them have to be present to open a corporate account?” I ask.

“It’s good practice for purposes of checks and balances, but not really needed. Certain types of businesses require face to face contact while other business can actually start an account online without having to go to the branch at all. Daggers, Inc., has just been registered as ‘business consulting.’ The fact that he went to a branch, much less one all the way in Detroit when at the time, he was still in Washington, suggests that someone at the branch may be in this with him.”

“Are we exploring that avenue?” I ask.

“We are. Nothing yet, but I’ll let you know if we find anything.” I nod. He’s got a lot of power for one little man working as a butler. How did he get it? Someone in that bank is getting a payoff and is part of his cover-up.

“Still no other activity from the bank account?” I ask. Welch shakes his head.

“The money is still going into the account, but nothing is being moved from the account. He’s nowhere near our threshold yet, so I wouldn’t worry about it, but progress indicates that we’ll most likely nail him before he gets close.” I wish I shared his optimism. The sooner this thing is over, the better.

“Keep your eye on Brian. I’ll admit that he’s handy right now, but I don’t like him having access to my lifeline. He might have you on his side right now, but trust me, I will cut him down where he stands—literally—if he crosses me.” His eyebrows furrow.

“You don’t really get how powerful he is, do you?” he asks.

“I don’t really care how powerful he is,” I reply. “If he puts me in a position where I have nothing left to lose, then that’s how I’m going to react. After all, he is only human, just like me.”

“Sir, do you remember that conversation we had during your honeymoon?” Jason warns.

“That’s why I’m having this conversation with you… and you… and not him. Keep him in check and I’ll keep the Neanderthal in check.” The caveman and I aren’t on friendly terms anyway, since I last set him loose on Butterfly, but I’ll gladly let him run rampant all over Cholometes. I know that he’s only doing this because it’s the only way he can hope to get close to Butterfly.

I go back to the office to try to sort some things and get my day going. I knew it was Myrick. I knew it all along. There’s no telling how much time we’ve lost running around and chasing leads instead of concentrating all of our efforts on him in the first place. When it comes to my business—all aspects of my business—my instincts are never wrong, and I knew that asshole was at the root of all of this.

I get back on track with a few meetings and I’m starting to feel a bit more in control again. James and the team have put some more procedures in place to ensure that Dodd calls his connections more often and he’s narrowing down the location of the calls more and more. This makes me very happy when I leave for the day to go home to my wife. I had called her earlier to check on her and the beans at lunch and promised that I would be home for dinner. It feels good to be able to keep that promise.

Wednesday was a real bitch of a day and when I get back home, I find my wife giggling in the great room sharing hors d’oeuvres and cranberry spritzers with some guy. I keep the jealous caveman at bay long enough to see that it’s Aaron, our decorator. I don’t know if I have the strength to deal with this tonight, but Butterfly looks so happy that I just come in and join them.

“Hello, Christian. It’s good to see you again,” Aaron rises and extends his hand to me.

“Aaron,” I greet, accepting his shake. “What are we looking at?”

“Well, that lovely mansion of yours is just about finished. This has been one of the best jobs I’ve ever had. I hate that it’s almost over.” Yeah, but you won’t hate the fortune I’m paying you to get it done to our standards. “The nursery is finished and I swear it almost looks like two completely different rooms. I think it was a stroke of genius decorating it with a masculine and feminine motif instead of an overall neutral theme. Little Precious will be able to identify with her soft, pink fluffiness and Mr. Man will be able to develop and do what boys do—until they grow a bit and he gets tired of the girly stuff and she gets tired of GI Joe and video games. Then you’ll be calling me back for separate rooms.” He laughs at his own “joke” which I always though was tacky, but he’s quite pleased with himself. Butterfly is smiling and looking at pictures of some of the furnishings they have picked for various rooms.

“Look Christian,” she says, handing me a picture of the nursery. “It does look better with the brighter carpeting.” The room is still empty, but the carpeting has been changed out to some kind of off white or eggshell.

“I thought you said the nursery was finished,” I frown.

“It is,” Aaron says, “but I don’t want you to see it in a picture.” I nod. That makes sense.

“Well, I’m going to leave you guys to it. I’m going to take a shower.” I kiss Butterfly on the cheek and excuse myself again. Time seems to be going by so fast. It seems like just yesterday that I was running around Paris shopping with my wife. Now, she’s pregnant with twins due in a little over three months and she’s decorating what will soon be known as the Grey Mansion. How many children will we have? Will we have a big family and start again soon after the twins are born or wait for a few years? Will we have more children at all? Will I be a good father?

Will I find this fucker before my babies are born so that I can stop looking over my shoulder and waiting for him to pop out at any moment? The thought continues to plague me and I can’t even rest at night. I’m so concerned about my wife and my children and my company that I don’t know how to relax anymore. Something is going to have to give or I’m going to just explode. I strip naked and step into scalding hot water, hoping to rinse away some of my troubles and worries.

*-*

Each day seems to bring some huge new surprise. I guess this shouldn’t have been a surprise to me—or at least not a huge one—but it was.

I get back to Escala on Thursday evening a little later than normal, but not too late only to find that Butterfly is not in the penthouse.

“Gail, where’s Butterfly?” I ask after I put my briefcase in my study and remove my tie. Gail looks around at me and frowns. She’s in the middle of making dinner and I have disturbed her.

“I don’t know,” she says, a bit puzzled. “She didn’t tell me that she was going anywhere.”

“When’s the last time you saw her?” I ask. She drains something in the sink and puts a steaming pot back on the stove.

“I don’t know for sure,” she shrugs. “Maybe about 30 or 45 minutes ago.” I nod.

“Was Charles here?” I ask. She dries her hands and turns off the eye on the stove before coming over to the breakfast bar.

“I’ve been in the kitchen for the last hour or so. I’m not really sure who was here.”

“When you last saw her, what was she wearing?” I ask.

“Is she missing?” Gail asks, more puzzled now.

“Well, I don’t know where she is, so I’m just trying to gauge where she might be.” Gail thinks for a moment.

“Something casual, I think,” she says. “She’s been casual all day and I don’t remember seeing a significant change.”

“She’s been home all day?” Now I’m puzzled. She usually goes somewhere… the office, Helping Hands, somewhere. Gail nods.

“Yes, she’s been here all day. She was complaining about her back.” I run my hand through my hair. If she’s been here, then where is she now? Don’t panic, Grey. She’s not a stray puppy. She’s a grown woman. The door opens and I turn with hope only to see Jason enter the door.

“Hello, Love,” he greets his wife with a kiss. “Smells good.”

“Yours is in the kitchen in the back. I’ll be done here in just a few minutes.” She smiles widely.

“Jason, was Ana’s car in the garage?” He raises his eyebrow at me and then ponders the question.

“Yeah, it was. It is. What’s up?”

“I’m just wondering where she’s gotten off to,” I say a bit concerned. I call her phone and hear “Love All the Hurt Away” ringing in the bedroom. I follow the ring and her phone is on the nightstand plugged into the charger. Her purse and keys are in here, too. She has to still be in the building. I check her office and the guest room and there’s no sign of her.

“She can’t be gone far without her purse,” I say, more to myself, but to anyone who’ll listen when I come back downstairs.

“Well, did you check the gym?” Jason asks. She’s pregnant! Why would she be in the gym? “Remember you said she asked the doctor about doing low impact exercises?” I do remember that, but I don’t even know why she would be concerned about that right now.

“That’s logical. If I call you, she’s not down there and I’m ready to ring the alarm.” He smirks.

“I bet you she’s down there. Where else would she go with no purse?”

“Or phone,” I say leaving the penthouse. I try not to be too anxious as I take the elevator down to the gym, but my step quickens as I get closer. Yep, she’s down here and I nearly lose my fucking cool when I see her. She’s wearing these tiny little athletic shorts and a maternity tank top and she’s backed up against some guy, bent over with her butt at his dick!

What the fuck!?

“Ana?” I say while entering the room, caution in my voice. She looks up from her position and slowly stands.

“Oh, good. Your timing is perfect.” Perfect? Is she being sarcastic? “Dr. Culley said it was okay for me to do some basic maternity yoga, so I called Randy here from the studio I usually visit, but I’ve been away a bit too long. Not only that, this belt and these soccer players are making it even harder. Can you help me… please?” And there goes those guileless blue eyes again. She has no idea what I was thinking when I walked in the room.

“What do you need me to do?” I say uncertainly.

“Take off your suit jacket. Randy, tell him how to help me.” She almost sounds like she’s begging. Randy gestures me over to them on the mat and I take my jacket off. Did he have to be so damned attractive? My wife bends down again almost in a doggy-style position, only she standing with her hands and feet on the floor and her beautiful, round ass up in the air. Her trainer gets right behind her, almost right up on that beautiful ass.

“This position is downward facing dog,” he says. “Mr. Grey, I need you to come over here and put your hands here and here.” His hands are spread over her hips and I’m doing everything I can not to lose it. I’m only too happy to relieve him of his position.

“Move your hands up, spread your fingers wider and hold firmly,” he instructs. I try to follow his direction. “How’s that, Ana?” he asks her.

“A little more support,” she says, and he puts his hand over mine.

“Like this,” he says, paying attention to the placement of my fingers. “Do this with your other hand.” I adjust my hand like he says.

“Perfect!” Butterfly exclaims. “Right there.”

Don’t think about sex. Don’t think about sex.

“I know it’s hard not to think about sex right now, but try,” her trainer tells me quietly. “When Bev was pregnant, we never made it through a full session.” Yeah, he tells me this while Butterfly is pushing her butt back while dropping her stomach and raising her heels. It did, however, break the tension a bit. “Good for you, Ana?” he asks.

“Great for me,” she sighs. Damn, she looks hot.

“This helps to release some of the pressure on her back,” he tells me. “Your main focus is to help her into and out of difficult positions. She has to do the exercises herself, but obviously, it’s harder for her to move and shift, especially with twins. Ana, be sure to tell him where you need him as the session goes on, okay?”

“Roger!” she says, her voice a little muffled from her chin being tucked into her chest.

Yoga is fun! Well, maybe it’s not, but it sure is lots of fun with my sexy, curvy wife. I mostly came in where she was trying to get up and when her center of gravity made her lose her balance, but being able to touch her so innocently and just share these moments with her was so amazing and warming… and a little arousing. She’s so cute while she’s doing this. This is the most at peace I’ve seen her in weeks. When the 30-minute session is over, I just want to gobble her up.

“Go easy on her,” Randy says after he packs his gear and is heading towards the door. “She’s going to be tired and a little sore. Make sure she gets plenty of water. Oh, and a little bit of advice… put her on top. In your lap is going to be easiest for her, and support her back. Have fun!” This guy knows too much. Then again, he did say he had the same issue with his wife… or girlfriend. “See you later, Ana!” he calls as he leaves the gym.

“Bye, Randy!” she calls back while packing her own things, bending and stretching and… damn. “I didn’t mean to make you work right after work, but I just couldn’t get it right and Randy was uncomfortable holding me up.” Is that so?

“He didn’t look too uncomfortable to me,” I comment, taking her gym bag from her hand. “Then again, I’d have a problem with Mother Theresa touching you, so I guess I’m no judge.” She shakes her head.

“Mr. Grey, you are impossible,” she declares. “Come upstairs and eat. Gail is probably finished with dinner by now…”

So she goes upstairs and robs me of the opportunity to shower with her by taking a quick shower alone before dinner, but when she comes out of the bedroom…

“Oh my God.”

She’s wearing this off-the-shoulder, long-sleeved sweater dress that looks like it’s oversized from just above her baby bump and up, but clings to every delicious curve from the twins down, I can see her tiny black underwear through the dress and I want her… badly! My dick isn’t throbbing or even erect, but my soul wants her. I want to touch her and love her and kiss her and…

“Christian?”

Her voice pulls me out of my daydream and I must have her near me.

“Come here, baby,” I say softly, holding my hands out to her. She walks gingerly over to me and puts her hands in mine. I can’t take my eyes off of her. She’s stunningly magnificent and I just want to stare at her for a moment.

“Are… you okay?” she asks nervously.

“Yes,” I respond. “I just want to look at you.” She swallows hard. “Does that make you uncomfortable?”

“I don’t know… a little,” she says shyly.

“Why?” She holds her head down and begins to caress her stomach.

“I feel fat. I don’t feel like myself,” she admits.

“Ana…”

“I know that you say I’m beautiful. I believe you feel that way when you say it. It’s just that I see a fat person. I used to be so fit and petite and now I’m a condo for two soccer players. I’m huge, there’s no denying that. I do the best I can to look nice in what I wear, but the truth is… I’m huge.” She turns away from me. “I don’t hate myself because of it. I know it’s a beautiful thing that my body is doing—nurturing our children until they’re born—but I can’t help the way that I feel. There’s nothing I can do about it. I feel so ungrateful.”

“Ungrateful?” I ask, puzzled, closing the space between us.

“Yes,” she says, turning around and looking up into my eyes. “This is a wonderful blessing, to raise these two wonderful beings inside my body. Two! I’m twice blessed! And all I can think is that my body is being stretched and pulled and I may never look the way I did before I was pregnant.” I snatch her into my arms and hold her close to me, as tight as the beans will allow.

“Oh, Butterfly, how can you say that?” I ask, caressing her cheek with my lips. “I wish you could see what I see,” I whisper. “I wish you could see what I see when I look at you. I wish you could see the wonder—the beauty and magnificence that is Anastasia Grey.” I close my eyes and put my forehead on hers. “I know this is my fault,” I lament. “Partially or wholly, I don’t know, but I know that largely, I did this.” My heart breaks when I think that my beautiful Butterfly could think that she’s anything less than a goddess, a blaring siren that calls right to my soul. “I may never be able to repair the damage that I’ve done, but I’m going to love you with everything I have for the rest of my life. I’ll never neglect you again or make you feel like anything less than what you are—the most beautiful, desirable, seductive woman on the planet.”

“Thank you, Christian,” she says softly as she strokes my cheek. “Let’s eat. It’s getting late.”

When we sit down to dinner, I tell her what we’ve discovered about Myrick. It makes her uneasy, but I did promise not to keep any secrets from her about the situation any more. I share my frustration that I knew it was him all along and that we’ve wasted precious man hours exploring other avenues when we should have been concentrating our efforts on Myrick. Butterfly sides with Welch that we had to treat the situation like we were dealing with an unknown because we actually were. There was nothing concrete to say that it was Myrick, so we had to do a process of elimination to find him. I love her and she’s smart, but I still feel like we were wasting time and we should have zeroed in on him from the beginning.

I try not to dwell on what she said—that she only sees a fat person and not the beautiful enchantress that I see every day, but it strikes something deep inside me and I can’t make it go away. The putrid flavor of self-loathing, I know it well. It leaves a bitter taste in your mouth, and most often, there’s nothing that you can do to get rid of it. I don’t want her to feel that way. I hate that she feels that way. I spent most of my life feeling like that and never believing that I deserved to be loved until I met her. I don’t know what I can do to undo the damage that I’ve done, but I’m going to try.

I love her with my mouth, my hands, my fingers, and even a couple of toys, bringing her to several shivering orgasms without actually having sex with her. I want this to be about her. I want her to feel special, sexy, and beautiful as often as possible. I deliberately deny myself even though I want her so bad. Even if she asks me to take her, I won’t do it tonight. I have to wait. Tonight is about her.

“You are my soul,” I whisper as I hold her close to me and she shudders through her last orgasm. “You are everything good in my life and I thank God that you love me… that you chose me.” I stroke her hair and kiss her temple as her breath calms and her body becomes heavy in my arms.

“Sleep beautiful girl,” I breathe. “I’ll be here when you wake. I love you.”

Almost instantly, she falls into a comfortable sleep. I lay my head on my pillow and inhale the scent of her hair. How can I make this up to her? How can I ever undo the damage I’ve done? I have to try. I have to love her with everything and show her how much she means to me, how beautiful she really is—even more so swollen with my babies. It’s absolutely remarkable what her body is capable of, to nourish and protect the amazing and astounding product of our love. How could she think she’s anything less than incredible for that part alone, not to mention the loving, caring, and considerate wife that she is?

I know it’s my fault, and I just have to spend some time making it right.

I awake with the sun shining in my eyes and my phone ringing on the nightstand. I know who it is. We should have been gone by now, but I promised Butterfly that I would be here when she awoke and that’s what I’m going to do. I stretch gently, trying not to wake her, but she’s a lighter sleeper since she’s pregnant. She whimpers and stretches as much as her body will allow as she groggily takes in her surroundings. She rolls over and looks me in the eyes.

“You’re here,” she says sleepily.

“I promised I would be.”

“You did, and you are.” She caresses my cheek and kisses me softly before lying on my chest. “I know you have to go,” she says. “There’s so much that you need to do.”

“I don’t want to leave you,” I confess.

“I’ll be fine, Christian,” she says. “I was having one of those moments when I don’t feel my best… my prettiest. I try to keep them to myself because they’re ridiculous really…”

“No, they’re not,” I correct her. “If you feel badly at all, that is definitely my concern. I know those months of neglect were hard on you. Though I can’t take them away, I can make the rest of our lives together much better. I’ll never make you feel like that again.” She looks up at me with those beautiful blue eyes filled with love and I almost melt. “What can I do for you?” I breathe.

“Just… love me like you do… and I’ll be fine,” she says softly.

“Gladly,” I tell her, folding her into my arms again.

*-*

Jason and I get into the office about an hour behind schedule and he starts to fill me in on what’s going on today. Butterfly has a doctor’s appointment at three, which I didn’t forget even though she reminded me almost five times before I left this morning. I’d like to take her out to dinner this evening, so I have Jason make reservations for us at Altura.

“Mr. Grey, Mr. Welch is here to see you,” Andrea’s disembodied voice alerts me that Welch is waiting for me. These days, he usually just invites himself in, but never when the door is closed.

“Send him in,” I say into the intercom. A few moments later, Welch steps into my office and Cholometes is right behind him. I’m still not comfortable having this guy around, but as the saying goes, “keep your friends close and your enemies closer.”

“We know why that little bastard is so hard to find,” Welch says.

“I’m listening.”

“He’s in witness protection,” Cholometes says. It takes a moment for this information to sink in.

“What!?” I almost yell. “That can’t be! Are you sure?”

“Yes, we’re sure,” Welch says. “Confirmed with both our sources.”

“You’re telling me this fucker is under the protection of the fucking federal government while he’s fucking stealing from me?” I roar.

“That’s what I’m fucking telling you,” Cholometes says calmly.

“Fuck!” Jason says. “That’s why they didn’t respond to us telling them he faked his death. They already knew. That didn’t even occur to me!” I know he’s kicking himself 50 times for this, but honestly, it didn’t occur to any of us. “How the hell can we possibly do this? And how did you find out?”

“Breadcrumbs,” Cholometes says with a shrug. I don’t care how he found out. I just want to know what we do next.

“He’s untouchable,” I lament. “I can stop him, get my money back, but I can’t catch him.”

“That’s not true,” Cholometes said. “He’s protected, not immune. He’s breaking the law while he’s under federal witness protection. He was moved in the first place because he violated the terms by getting in touch with you. He walked out of that building right in front of your noses because that’s their job. Your men were probably looking right at him when he walked out and didn’t even know it.”

“Okay, so he’s not immune, so what do we do?” I ask.

“We have to gather enough evidence on him and present it to the FBI. I don’t know why he’s in protective custody, but whatever it is, he’s compromising the investigation and they don’t take kindly to that.” I shake my head.

“Don’t we have enough evidence?” I ask. “Worms in my network, my money being siphoned to an account set up by him where he and his alias are the president and vice-president…”

“Yeah, but you want more. He’ll go down for that, but not as far or as long as he needs to. What would you say if I told you that my sources and tracking show that he’s wanted in five states and counting—all under different aliases?”

“You’re shitting me!” I exclaim. “How do you know this?”

“Breadcrumbs,” he says again.

“Goddammit, will I ever get a straight answer out of you?” I hiss before I know it.

“Hell, no!” he says without pausing. “Make no mistake. I’m not doing this for you, but I did make a promise and I’m going to keep it. I’m not even slightly remiss to tell you that I’m only doing this because of her. So while you don’t have to worry about me crossing you—this ­time—don’t be mistaken. We’re not friends.”

“I don’t make mistakes, Cholometes,” I hiss back. “Know that everything I do is a very calculated move. I would be out of my mind to let my guard down around you.” We stand off silently for a few moments before Jason breaks the tension.

“Alright, play nice, boys,” he says in a cautioning tone. Cholometes doesn’t bother competing in my “stare” game. He just smirks and straightens his suit jacket. Arrogant fuck.

You’re just mad because he’s just like you.

Yes, he is… and that makes him dangerous.

“So, since you’re basically following a fucking bakery, when do we catch this fucker?” I ask.

“I’ll have enough information to bury him in a few days. Your boys need to get their shit together to smoke him out. You get his boys, but not him, you’re fucked. You get him, but not his boys, you’re screwed. So I suggest you get your team of wonder boys together and get this shit locked down.”

“Ah, there’s the asshole I know and hate,” I shoot.

“He’s never far away, Grey,” he says before making a clean turn and walking out of my office.

“How do you manage to piss off everybody?” Jason asks. What the hell is he talking about?

“How was that my fault?” I bark.

“You know this man wants your woman. You know that he doesn’t like you and you don’t like him. Stop antagonizing him! I know you’re all ready to take him down and everything, but he’s in a very precarious position in your company right now. Stop poking the fucking gator, man.” I hate when he talks to me like this—logical, in a tone like we’re friends instead a business tone. He knows I’ll listen to that.

“Fine. But put his ass on a leash, too. I’m not going to be the only one behaving myself.”

Jason and I leave the office headed for Butterfly’s doctor’s appointment. Witness fucking protection—of course. What else don’t we know about Mr. Myrick? What was he a part of that he now has to be protected by the feds?


ANASTASIA

I’m sitting in the lobby of the lab waiting for Christian. Today, we get to see a three-dimensional sonogram of our babies. I’ve been waiting for this for so long that I can hardly contain myself. My little girl and my little boy—I imagine their little faces while I sit and wait for my husband. I’m pretty early, so Christian’s not here yet. I sit bouncing my heels on the floor until a few of the other women in the lobby throw me the evil eye for the clicking noise. I can’t help it! I want to see my babies and I want to see them now!

An eternity later, Christian strides into the lobby, all designer suit, wool coat, and windblown, and the women who were moments earlier throwing me the evil eye all swoon—some of them with their significant others sitting right next to them. Chuck stands and surrenders his seat, most likely going to join Jason wherever he’s hiding.

“What took you so long?” I quietly scold. Christian looks at his watch—the Hublot that I gave him on our wedding day.

“I’m not late,” he says, a bit questioning. I sigh.

“No, you’re not late,” I concede.

“You’re anxious,” he says, taking a seat next to me and putting his arm around my shoulder. I nod.

“Very. I’ve never seen a real 3D ultrasound… of anything.” I went online and tried to prepare myself for what we’re going to see, but it’s no use. I know nothing and no one is ever going to be as beautiful as our babies.

“Are you worried at all?”

“No, I’m not worried. Like you said, I’m just anxious.”

I try to sit still, but it’s useless, so I stand and go to the “Wall of Fame” where parents have brought or sent in side-by-side pictures of their babies—the sonograms and the live pictures of the babies in the same pose. Most of the pictures are identical. It’s not until this moment that I realize that I’m about to see my babies’ faces for the first time. I sigh and rub my stomach, fighting the emotions that are tempting me to cry in the middle of the lobby.

It takes another twenty minutes for them to call my name, and I’m up like popcorn. Christian scolds me for moving so quickly, then guides me into the sonogram room.

“This is no different from your regular ultrasound, Mrs. Grey,” the technician assures me while I’m lying on the table. “It’s easy and painless, so just sit back, relax, and prepare to meet your babies.” I take a deep breath and watch the screen. A normal ultrasound picture shows up. Once the technician examines the position of each baby, he singles them out. A few more movements and a green frame captures the first baby. On the side of the screen, a tan-ish picture pops up, and I’m looking into the face of…

“There she is,” the technician says. “This is your little girl.”

…My daughter.

She’s beautiful. She’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen in my whole life. She’s not a bean anymore. She’s a living, breathing, beautiful ball of love and my heart feels like it’s going to burst. I love her with every cell of my body and soul and I don’t know how I’m going to wait until she’s born. I stare silently at the screen while the technician takes several pictures—moving and still—of our beautiful baby growing inside of me. I almost forget that I’m not alone in the room until…

“Mr. Grey, are you alright?”

I look over at Christian who has an unreadable emotion on his face. I don’t know if he’s happy, sad, angry, stunned, or disappointed.

“Mr. Grey?” He tears his gray gaze from the screen, then focuses momentarily on the technician.

“Yes. I’m fine. Continue.” I don’t know how to take his reaction. He seems… stoic. That’s not good. That’s why the technician asked if he was okay, no doubt. She continues with the ultrasound until she finds baby number two. He’s the energetic one, I see.

“There is your son,” she says as she pulls up the 3D picture of my little boy. He’s quite the feisty little thing.

“Well, hello, Mr. Beckham,” I say as my active little boy jerk about. Suddenly, I see the silhouette in the nursery of the little boy hanging upside down from a tree. Yes, that will be my little boy. How will I ever convince Christian to let him do things that normal little boys do like play sports and skateboard and skin his knee? He’s my perfect little athlete already and I know that I will have to back him up more often than not when the King of the Hill doesn’t want to allow him to do something.

After more pictures and movies of our baby, the technician informs us that the babies are progressing just fine as far as she can see, though she will give the pictures to Dr. Culley, who will let us know the final analysis. She also tells us that we can take prints today and order a more variety later.

“How many can we have?” It’s the first thing he’s said besides “I’m fine, continue.”

“As… many as you want. I mean, I can’t do a hundred, but…”

Twins“Can we get twenty? Of each child?” He still seems stoic, but the fact that he wants twenty pictures… What is he going to do with twenty pictures?

“I can… maybe do ten of each child today, but I’ll give you the brochure and you can order whatever you like… movies, too.” She sounds nervous.

“Yes. Yes, that’s good. That’s fine,” he says, nodding before he runs his hands through his hair.

“Okay, I’ll go and get the prints and Mrs. Grey, you can get dressed.” I nod and she leaves me with my unreadable husband.

“Christian, what’s wrong?” I ask, concerned. He looks at me as if I’ve interrupted his thought process.

“Nothing’s wrong,” he says, flatly. “Do you need help?” Without waiting for my answer, he takes paper towel and begins to clean the gel from my stomach. When he’s finished, he holds his hand out to me. I take it and he helps me sit up and removes my gown. He helps me to get dressed—every single piece of clothing. He helps me down from the table and just as he’s putting my shoes on my feet, the technician comes in. She freezes and looks at him with longing as he doesn’t pause from his task when she enters the room. There’s that “dreamy guy” look again. I’ve gotten used to it for the most part, especially at moments like this when he makes me feel like I’m the only woman alive—even though he’s acting a bit strangely.

He doesn’t acknowledge her presence until after he has helped me into my coat and did my buttons. When he turns to her, his still-stone face shakes her out of her daydream and she hands him a small file with our babies’ pictures and the brochure enclosed.

“Thank you,” he says and nothing more.

“You’re welcome. I’ll get these to Dr. Culley,” she says, turning her attention to me. “She should have them by your next appointment should you have any questions.”

“Thank you so much,” I say with a smile. She nods and we leave the room.

Jason looks at Christian questioningly when he instructs Jason to take us home. The ride home is completely silent. Christian holds my hand, but he’s turned away from me. His legs are crossed at the knees and he’s turned away from me. He’s contemplative, looking out the window and I swear I have no idea what could possibly be wrong. The babies are beautiful and healthy. We got to look into their perfect little faces. We should be giggling and looking at our babies—well, Christian doesn’t giggle, but we’re supposed to be happy and for the life of me, I can’t figure out why the car is filled with gloom.

Jason doesn’t say anything. There’s not even any music playing in the car to break the monotony. When we pull into the parking garage at Escala, he turns off the car and waits for a moment. When there is no movement from Christian, he looks at me in the mirror and I try my best to tell him with my eyes to leave us alone for a minute. It works, and he leaves the car, but there is still no movement from my husband.

“Christian, please…” I feel like I’m on the outside again and I don’t like it. Did I do something wrong? Is he unhappy about this now? What is it? He turns to look at me and there’s a battle going on in his eyes.

“They’re real,” he says, just above a whisper. “They’re really real. I mean, I knew they were real, but now…” He turns his head and looks out of the window. I don’t know what he’s saying. I don’t know what to feel. Is he happy? Afraid? Does he wish this wasn’t happening? What?

“Nothing else matters anymore,” he continues. “Nothing else seems important… at all. Nothing.” I watch as he raises his hand to his face in a wiping motion and though I can’t see it, I know he’s wiping a tear. “How could one person change your life so drastically?” I frown.

“Two,” I correct him, hoping that he’s not drawing a line between our children before they’re even born. He turns to me and takes off his seatbelt.

“No,” he says, cupping my face with his hand. “One.” His lips meet mine and there’s a reverence in his kiss that I don’t think I’ve ever felt before. I slide my hands into his hair and absorb his kiss. It’s divine and I feel it all through my body—warming and comforting, protective and loving. He breaks the kiss and gazes into my eyes, the same reverence that was in his kiss. It takes my breath away.

He slides over to his door and steps out of the car, leaving me a little loopy still in my seat belt. I feel the cold air when my door opens and I don’t think I can move.

“Come on, Baby. I need to take care of you.” His voice is commanding and hopeful at the same time. Even with the uncertainty there, I know this is my husband… and my Dom. I look up at him and dominant eyes capture mine while he releases my seatbelt. He holds his hand out and I take it as he helps me out of the car. His pace is faster than mine, but he slows a bit when he sees that I’m struggling to keep up with him. Chuck and Jason stand on either side of the elevator like the two “tin soldiers” they are, awaiting instruction. Jason nods to Chuck, dismissing him while he calls the elevator. No one says a word. Jason looks uncertainly at me and I look up at Christian and give him a slight smile. Christian’s eyes are fixed ahead of him.

“I don’t want to be disturbed this evening,” Christian tells Jason when we enter the penthouse. Jason nods and takes his cue to go to his apartment. Gail is in the kitchen, but quickly follows without a word. He leads me into the bedroom and begins to undress me—slowly, like he’s making a meal of it. I know better than to rush my Dom, but I’m a little concerned about what he has planned for me. As my Dom, he always brings me to the height of my pleasure… except maybe that one time in Anguilla. Even then, the ordeal ended with blinding orgasms. However, Anguilla brings to mind the other side of him, the side that needs control and can be too intense. Will I be able to withstand whatever he has planned?

When I’m down to my bra and panties, he puts his finger under my chin to lift my head. I don’t know if it’s fallen in contemplation or if I effortlessly slid into my submissive role without thinking. Apparently, my Dom knows. He lifts my chin with his fingers and kisses me gently, then again.

“Trust me?” he asks softly and I nod. “Good.” Taking me by the hands, he leads me to the en suite where he starts a bath. He knows to make it warm and not hot so as not to harm the babies. After a few drops of my lemongrass citrus, he slowly removes my bra and panties when the tub foams up. When it’s half full, he helps me in. I like my hot baths, but this will just have to do right now.

“Relax. I’ll be right back.” He leaves for a while and I’m left to contemplate what will happen next. We haven’t played since I’ve been pregnant. Hot sex, yes, but no playtime… well, at least not with me as the submissive. Even then, it was nothing intense. Several minutes later, I hear him come back into our bedroom. There’s some shuffling of things around a bit and then a few more minutes of silence before he appears in the bathroom doorway again… in uniform, his white sleeves rolled up past his elbow. A lump forms in my throat and I am immediately silenced as I remember the rules:

No speaking without permission.
No direct eye contact unless he tells me to or forces me to.
Do what I’m told.


A/N: The beginning author’s note was long enough.

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Love and Handcuffs!
Lynn x