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 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.
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.
“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…
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.
“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.
“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?
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.”
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…”
“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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