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.
“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.
“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.”
“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.
“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…
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.
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…
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.
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…
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Love and Handcuffs!