Becoming Dr. Grey: Chapter 17B–My Visit to Grey Crossing

Instructions for this chapter:

This chapter is “link-heavy,” so if you are using a device that might be slowed down because of the links, you may want to move to a computer. 

When you click a link, the picture should open in a separate window so that you don’t lose your place. 

If you just want to see the pictures instead, you can see them here at Grey Crossing on Pinterest.

If you would like to see the movie that I made (yes, MOVIE) of the house, you can see that here at Grey Crossing Movie. After you click the link, click the picture to go to the movie. If you’re at work, turn your speakers down…

I hope someone will actually read the chapter and click the pictures and walk through the house with me, but I do understand that different devices may have a problem with all the links. It was a lot of work, but it was a lot of fun, too, and you’ll actually get to see me interact with the characters. 

All of the same disclaimers apply. Have fun and enjoy…

Grey CrossingMy Visit to Grey Crossing

“Hi everybody. It’s your favorite zing queen and egocentric writer, Bronze Goddess aka BG Holmes aka Lynn. So, I decided that the introduction of the Greys’ new home—Grey Crossing, as I call it—would not the typical descriptive trip that you would normally see in other stories. You know how it normally goes… I see the adventure first and then I get to relive it through everyone else’s eyes. Well, for the sake of argument and the fact that I really want to take this trip with you guys without having this situation take up too much story time, I actually decided to make it a segment by itself.

“I have a little surprise for you, too. I’ve decided to jump into the story myself and join you all on the tour of this amazing 13,721-square-foot mansion sitting on 2.5 acres of land, located in the oasis known as Mercer Island surrounded by beautiful Lake Washington. One of Washington’s most coveted zip codes, Mercer Island is five miles long and two and a half miles wide, the small size of the community adding to the exclusivity of its occupants.

“Did you see that? Yes, that was a link if you haven’t figured it out already. Go ahead, click on it. You should get a lovely aerial view of beautiful Mercer Island. So, in case you haven’t figured it out yet, this segment is interactive. I know that it can be a bit hectic to go back and forth to the Pinterest page while you’re trying to read the story. So for the sake of realism, the links—which you will find generously spread throughout the story—will take you right to the place in the house or the location or the thing that is being described. It should open in a separate window so that you don’t lose your place. Don’t want to click the links throughout the story? Don’t fret. All of these pictures can be found on my Pinterest page under a special board dedicated to Grey Crossing.

“Now, being the social Butterfly that she is, Ana has graciously agreed to give us a tour of their new home. Keep in mind that some of her marbles are still rolling around somewhere on 4th and Stewart where the accident occurred, and although she’s almost all there, some things are still missing. She’s going it alone with this tour—no Christian (sorry, ladies). So let’s be nice and not ask her any crazy questions that might send her into a tailspin, okay? You know that’s not good for the beans.

“Also remember, I’m seeing this house for the first time just like all of you. So, don’t be surprised if I get surprised by something. Oh, and I guess I should warn you. These people take a lot more liberties with me than they should. Although I feel that I should be treated with more reverence, they’re pretty goddamn comfortable saying whatever they want to say around me, particularly the men (recall Christian’s “Henry the VIII, I Am” incident when he didn’t get his way a while back). Anyway, just thought I’d warn you. Don’t be surprised if I have to put somebody in check… like I’m about to put Jason in check because he’s late and I’m standing outside!”

“I was just waiting for you to stop talking.” I turn around and he’s standing behind me with his arms folded. “If you’ll follow me, Ms. Holmes…”

“Okay, first of all, you’re going to make me walk in these heels… in the cold? You couldn’t even have a car to meet me down here?” He’s frowning at me while he takes in my attire. Under my cream wool coat, I’m wearing a curve-hugging red dress with three-quarter sleeves, a sweetheart plunging neckline, and ruching on the bottom half complimented by a pair of pointy-toe red Louboutins. I look hot! Too hot, in fact, to be walking up this long ass driveway.

“Who are you trying to impress?” Jason nearly squeals at me. “You know Christian’s not here, right?”

“Yes, I know Christian’s not here!” I say through my teeth. “But you know as well as I do that I will look like a troll next to Ana no matter what she wears, so I better look good!”

“Who’s looking?” he points out. “Some the stuff you wear to write in—or don’t wear, I should say? I can’t unsee that shit!” He shivers a bit. Again, now his arrogant ass is pissing me off.

“You do realize that I can write you out of the story, right, Jason?” I try to threaten him. “Just a couple swipes of a pen or a few taps on a keyboard and a bomb in an Audi meant for Christian, and you’re pink mist!”

“Yeah, but you won’t do it,” he says confidently. “You already shot me and here I am.”

“Okay,” I fold my arms and remember that, as always, this is my story. “Would you like to see how many unbearable, uncomfortable, and painful things you can actually live through? They’d make for some very interesting storylines.”

“Are you forgetting that you’re the one that could write the car in here?” He says, glaring at me. Oh, yeah, there is that. “Did you really think I wanted to come down here to the end of the drive in my suit coat to get you and then stand here and argue with you for a page and a half? You want to run me over with a train, that’s fine. In the meantime, why don’t you write yourself into something more comfortable and let’s get on with this because you’ve got a lot of walking ahead of you!” I sigh.

“I see why Christian can’t stand you now,” I mumble.

“I’m his best friend and his right hand. He loves me. Now change clothes.” Cocky ass, know-it-all, son-of-a…

“I can see that,” he says, matter-of-factly. “’Cocky ass, know-it-all, son-of-a’ change your clothes! We’re headed into two pages here!” He gets on my goddamn nerves… black jeans, a gray Debbie Morgan long-sleeved Military shawl-collar sweater and a pair of Material Girl Rhodes black lace-up platform booties.

“Platforms?” he scolds.

“They’re comfortable!” I shoot back.

“Fine. They’re your feet.” He turns toward the gate. “Follow me, Ms. Holmes.”

“That’s another thing. Do not call me Ms. Holmes or ma’am. I hate that shit.”

“Well, I’m not calling you Your Highness,” he says, smugly.

“I didn’t ask you to call me…” Why am I fighting with this man? I smile widely. “You know what? I was going to have you call me ‘Lynn’ or ‘BG,’ but now, I think I’ll have you call me ‘Most High Writer of My Life’ or ‘Guardian of My Destiny.’” He scoffs.

“I’m not calling you that,” he affirms.

“Oh, yes, you are, and like you said, we’re up to two pages—past two pages now, so take me to Ana.” I close my now fur-lined oversized leather jacket around me and adjust my leather gloves. “Lead the way.”

“Oh, no, after you, Most High Writer of My…” He freezes.

“What was that?” I put my hand delicately to my ear. “I think some of my readers didn’t hear you.” He clears his throat.

“Let’s just go, Guardian of… dammit!” I can’t help but chuckle.

“Oh, this is fun,” I say as I walk up the driveway to the gate.

“Oh-ho-ho, if you think ‘Henry the VIII, I Am’ is bad, wait until you see what I have planned for your dreams,” he threatens.

“Oh, really?” I say, not showing a bit of concern as we approach the guard’s booth.

“Yes, really, Most High…” He purses his lips.

“Okay. Hi Ben,” I greet Ben when we get to the booth.

“Hello, Ms. Lynn,” he greets. “Ana is waiting for you.”

“Thanks, Ben,” I say with a smile, and Jason breaks into the Macarena.

“What the fuck!” he exclaims as he puts his hands on his hips and rolls them rhythmically. Hmm, Gail’s a lucky girl.

“Go, Jason!” I giggle, while Ben looks on in horror, wondering what the hell is happening.

“Jay… what are you doing?” he asks, awestruck.

“It’s not me!” he nearly growls before he drops his hands to his sides and stands straight up, putting one foot mechanically in front of the other. Around the curved driveway he goes, walking like a tin soldier.

“It’s good to see you again, Ben,” I say with a smile and a wave.

“Yeah… see ya…” he says, still distracted by Jason’s behavior. As I approach the house—if you can call it that—the front façade looks like a lavish luxury hotel. Lush landscaping gives way to a huge driveway, or more like a parking lot. To my right, the parking lot—er, driveway—leads to several garage doors, I don’t even know how many. The front portico supports one of many second-floor balconies visible from the front of the house, and is large enough to drive through, offering protection from the elements for the vehicle’s occupants as they exit the car before entering the impressive edifice. Two stunning glass and wooden doors open before I even reach them to reveal a cheerful Gail Taylor standing there smiling at me.

“Ms. Holmes, it’s wonderful to see you,” she greets before her glance goes to Jason. “Jason, what in the world are you doing?”

“Apparently, the electric slide,” he grumbles as he swivels his hips again before kicking, turning and taking three steps to the right.

“He’s a pretty good dancer,” I tell her.

“Yes,” she says, frowning at him, “though why he’s choosing now to do now, I’ll never know.”

“He can’t help himself,” I giggle. “He’s got the music in him. Call me Lynn, please, Gail.”

“So it seems,” she says, her brows furrowing at her husband. “Well, Lynn, if you come on in, Ana is waiting for you in the living room.” She leads me and the tin soldier—now back in formation and walking behind me—pass a second set of wooden doors, through the grand entry and into the living room. Wow, poor Ana. She’s all baby, but that’s a lot of baby!

“Lynn, hi. So glad you could…” Her gaze goes to Jason, who now begins to whip and nae-nae. “Jason! What the hell are you doing?”

“I have no idea,” he says as he now Bops and does the Stanky legs. Ana covers her mouth and giggles.

“You pissed her off, didn’t you?” she asks. I turn to her and smile.

“Very perceptive,” I inform her as she attempts to hold her laughter.

“Most High Writer of My Life and Guardian of My Destiny, may I please stop now?” he asks.

“I’m sorry, what was that?” I ask with a smile.

“Please, may I stop now, Most High Writer of My Life and Guardian of My Destiny?” He lacks humility, but he did say “please.” Plus, his wife is now standing behind him laughing, so I think I’ve made my point. He stops the dancing and stands there in his regular stance, glaring at me.

“Don’t fuck with me, Jason, and don’t threaten me. I’ll have you doing a strip tease in the first floor conference room ending up in a purple sequined thong complete with media presence. Understand?”

“Understood,” is all he says. Why do the alpha males always want to test me?

“Well, that was interesting,” Ana says as Jason and Gail leave the room. “So, we’ve got a lot of ground to cover—literally—so let’s get started, shall we?”

“We shall. You look stunning by the way,” I tell her. Even in casual clothes, she looks adorable. She’s wearing a super long-sleeved cowl-neck maternity tunic that buttons from the shoulder down to the hem which covers her bump and her hips very neatly, a modest pair of maternity leggings and a not-so-modest pair of Louboutin black suede Love Story wedge knee boots. As much as I hate to admit it, I was quite overdressed before and Jason was right for making me change my clothes earlier, but I’ll never tell him that.

“Well, I definitely wanted to look good for the—what is it? Mighty Powerful Life Writer… something, what was it?” I have to chuckle as she tries to remember the title.

“Girl, please, just leave that alone,” I laugh. “Well, you look beautiful as always.”

“Thank you,” she smiles. “While I have you here, just between us girls, what the hell is going on with Val?” I tsk her.

“You know, you’re about as bad as some of my readers,” I scold gently. “You know I can’t tell you that.” She sighs.

“Well, just go easy on me,” she beseeches. “I’m carrying the beans, I almost lost my husband, he could have lost his business, I almost lost my life…”

“Okay, okay, I get it,” I say, cutting her off. She’s being a bit dramatic about some of that, but I get the point. “Now, stop stalling and no more attempts to weasel story lines out of me. Show me this beautiful mansion.”

“With pleasure. So you already saw the beautiful tree-lined driveway and those commanding gates—who’s in the booth today… Chance?”

“No, Ben,” I correct her. She nods.

“I can never keep up,” she says, waving her hand. “So, anyway, since we’re here, we’ll start with this beautiful formal living room, then go back to the grand entrance and continue from there. As you can see, two-stories tall with a balcony up there by the landing; full wall fireplace, but this is my favorite aspect of this room—the floor-to-ceiling view windows that look out onto the rear grounds and Lake Washington. Isn’t it stunning?”

“Yes, it is,” I say, looking at the breathtaking view. “I can’t help but notice that there are a lot of columns—the two-story columns there on the back portico, and the two round and two square columns at the entry of the living room. Was that Christian’s idea or yours? Is it reminiscent of your honeymoon in Greece?” Ana twists her lips in contemplation.

“You know, I hadn’t really thought of that,” she says. “It might have been a subconscious thing. In all honesty, the columns were here when we first bought the house, and there were many, many more. We had several removed and you’re still going to see a lot of columns, but maybe Greece did play a role in our choice,” she says with a smile as we walk out of the living room. “There’s quite a bit to cover, so forgive me if I get a little turned around.”

“Oh, don’t apologize,” I tell her. “We’re all just thrilled that you would let us invade your private space this way.” She smiles as we ascend two marble stairs.

“This is where you started,” she says with a flourish. This is the grand entry—marble floors, oversized wooden doors, extremely high ceilings just like the living room, and the curving marble staircase.” I know that this is stating the obvious, but this place screams “money” and I’ve only seen one room really. I nod as she gestures back the way we came. “I told you I would get a little turned around,” she chuckles nervously. “We actually have to go back through the living room.”

“Oh, no problem,” walking through the living and then through a doorway on the left, which is the only place I can go. I am greeted by more marble columns and flooring as well as a marble table with ten posh brown chairs sitting in front of a wall-sized window, also boasting a view of the impeccable grounds.

“This is the formal dining room,” she points out, bringing special attention not only to the columns that flank the doorway, but also the marble beams that line a hallway leading off to the left.

“Oh, my…” I breathe, admiring the theater-style drapes that adorn the glass wall. “Food and Libations in this room is going to be quite the experience!” She laughs genuinely.

“I guess you’re right!” she says. “I’ve just been trying to get accustomed to living here. I hadn’t even given any real thought to entertaining.”

“People are going to come here and never want to leave,” I exclaim.

“Then I guess it’s a good thing we have eight bedrooms.” Eight! Egad, man! What can you possibly do with eight bedrooms?

Entertain, I guess.

“The kitchen’s through here. It’s going to blow your mind,” she says, guiding me through the column-lined hallway.

“More than it’s already blown, you mean?” When we clear the marble hallway, my question is answered. Yes. Yes, definitely more than it’s already blown.

“My God, Anastasia! You could cater a wedding in here!” I squeal.

“Yes, there’s a lot of damage I can cause in this space,” she admits. “I can’t do much right now, but after the babies are born, Gail is going to have her hands full keeping me out of this gourmet kitchen.”

Gourmet is an understatement,” I tell her. “This space is nearly restaurant-quality commercial!” She nods.

“Yep, not far off of it,” Ana concurs. Dark wood cabinets and molding with granite countertops; three sink stations; two Sub-Zero refrigerators with wood inlaid cabinetry panels; four professional grade Wolf ovens—two full-sized under a commercial cooktop and two wall-mounted; dual Bosch dishwashers, and an oversized island with seating for five.

“Right through here is the family room and just off that area is the casual dining room.” She shows me the dining room first. It’s a cozy cove-like circular area containing a small round table and seating for four, hardly the opulence I’ve seen throughout the rest of the house, but I’m assuming that this area will mostly be for intimate meals shared by Ana and her husband. I can see them enjoying a light breakfast in this area surrounded by the paned windows under the custom finished ceiling.

We move on to the family room, which is ridiculously large with lots and lots of sofa seating, several television sets, some sports paraphernalia here and there, lots of gaming equipment, and a fireplace. I see that Ana’s favorite throw from the Escala great room has made its way into this room.

“Yes, I know,” she blushes. “It was our first home and it’s seen some good times. Even though we’re not selling Escala, I had to bring it with me.” She strokes the throw fondly and I can imagine her remembering some hot encounter she had with Christian in the great room at Escala.

“Earth to Ana,” I tease, bringing her back to the here and now. Yet another crimson flush lets me know that’s exactly what she was thinking about. She clears her throat.

“I can see Christian and the twins having lots of fun in this room,” she says, not making eye-contact with me.

“Um-hmm,” I say bringing her attention to my face. “Just Christian and the twins, huh?”

“Well, me, too,” she says with a bit of a nervous shrug. I get the feeling that although she doesn’t have a problem doing the nasty, talking about it is an altogether different issue. I decide to let her off the hook.

“So what’s next, dear Anastasia?” I ask, clapping my hands together.

“Well, follow me and I’ll show you. As you can see, the family room and the kitchen open into that back deck.” She points towards the double glass doors at the end of the family room and I can see out onto a large stone patio with a gas barbecue grill. “It’s a bit chilly out, so I don’t want to go out there just yet, but as you can see…” she leads me back into the kitchen and points to the large window, “…these windows open concertina style and this counter converts into a bar that joins the patio and the kitchen…”

“Hence, the lovely bar stools outside facing the window,” I observe. “I wondered why they were sitting there.”

“I think Food and Libations would be absolutely fabulous in the summertime on that patio, but trust me. There are so many options for it that we could almost have a different theme every month.” I look out the window at the indoor/outdoor patio sofas and ottomans doubling as coffee tables as well as the high-end wicker bar stools and I can see what she means.

“The current setting is screaming Tiki bar,” I tell her while looking at the tan and brown furniture.

“I think Al would agree with you,” she says with a smile. “Follow me this way.” She takes me through the door on the other side of the family room which leads to a standard hallway with a single door. “After you,” she says, opening the unimpressive wooden door to reveal a very small square space. A coat closet, maybe? She steps in with me and closes the door and the thing starts to move.

“It’s an elevator!” I exclaim and she laughs at me.

“I thought the buttons on the wall would be a dead giveaway.”

“I didn’t see them!” I confess. “I was just sitting here wondering why I was being led into this room that went nowhere.” She laughs again.

“Well, surprise! It does go somewhere. It goes up and down and right now, it’s taking us to the second floor.”

“That’s really cool!” I tell her. “I saw that there’s a back staircase around the corner and of course the marble staircase in the grand entrance, but I’ll have to admit that I couldn’t see you consistently negotiating those things in your condition.”

“I don’t have too much problem with them, honestly, but to keep Christian from having a conniption, I use the elevators.”

“Elevators?” I ask when we stop at the second floor. “As in plural?”

“Yeah, there’s one on either end of the house that travels to all three floors. There’s also another flight of stairs or two in the south wing, so I just have to pick my poison.” We step out of the elevator and she closes the door. “Of course, we didn’t know I was pregnant when we discovered that the house had elevators—or maybe we did, I don’t remember…” She appears to be feeling a bit subconscious about what we’re discussing. “I’m still missing some of the finer details of things,” she says as an apology. I quickly take her hand.

“I know,” I say, sympathetically. “I completely understand.” She nods.

“Christian is very understanding and patient. I want to remember everything so badly for him. I can still see the hurt in his eyes when there’s some small significant thing that I can’t recall,” she says, dropping her head. I don’t want to push her…

“He had to remind me about my promise ring.” Her voice cracks on the last word. I rub her arm for comfort. “I forgot that I gave him that key that he wears around his neck all the time, too.” I know this is hard for her. “He’s good about it, though. He just tells me the story all over again and sometimes I remember… sometimes I don’t. I remembered the key, not the ring.” She’s gone into full-on weeping now and I take her hands.

“You can’t cry in front of company,” I tell her sweetly. “Anyway, take it from the Most High Writer of Your Life, everything will be fine.” She laughs through her tears, most likely remembering Jason’s little display earlier.

“No offense, Most High, but I hope this weepy shit is going to be gone once I have the babies. I mean, damn!” she protests tearfully.

“Well, I can’t tell you one way or the other, but I promise you’ll survive,” I say with a smile. She takes a deep breath and lets it out.

“I’ll have to trust you, then,” she replies, resigned. She takes a moment to rub the babies. I know that’s where she draws her strength when she’s feeling overwhelmed. I see what Christian means when he sees her do this and why he looks at her with such reverence. She’s really very beautiful, especially when she’s not paying attention to how beautiful she is.

“He tells you that you’re beautiful all the time. You don’t believe him,” I say. She looks up at me like I caught her with her hand in the cookie jar. Then she turns her attention back to her baby bump.

“Well… you know,” she says, trying to brush the situation away.

“Yes, I do know,” I tell her, “not only because I write it, but because I know how I felt when I was pregnant with my daughter. I didn’t need anybody to tell me that it was a miraculous and wonderful thing that I was doing because I already knew, but I sure could have used someone telling me that I was beautiful.” My pregnancy with my daughter was a catastrophe, and even though the father was present at the time, he was not there for me. So I did it alone. I think that’s why I have Christian tell her that she’s beautiful all the time, because really, she is. She puts her hand on my shoulder and now, she’s forgotten her own melancholy and is focused on mine.

“I’ll try to do better,” she says, with a sad smile. “The accident was a blessing in disguise. It made me relive and remember so many things, and made me truly see what a wonderful man Christian is and how blessed I am to have him.”

“Good girl,” I say with a tight smile, trying to forget that neither of the fathers of my two children ever showed me one tenth of the reverence that Christian shows Ana as the mother of his… except for that one time, but he gets one gimme.

“Okay, Grey, let’s pull yourself together,” she scolds herself and dabs her eyes with a CTG handkerchief that she pulls from inside her shirt. “I remembered our wedding,” she says as she directs me to the right.

“You did?”

“Every moment,” she says. “Once he started talking about it, it just all came flooding back to me.” She leans on the railing of the second-floor landing in the hallway near the marble staircase. “I don’t know how I could ever forget all that,” she laughs and I take a moment to enjoy the view of the two story living room and the floor-to-ceiling view windows from the second-floor landing.

“Oh, Ana, this really is quite stunning,” I say.

“I know, couldn’t you just look at it forever?” she concurs as she gazes dreamily out the window. “That’s another back patio that leads down to the pool area, but we’ll look at that later.” She draws my attention to a set of very tall cream double doors.

“This is the Owner’s Suite—our bedroom,” she says as she throws open both doors to reveal a very gender neutral colored room. When she said “Owners’ Suite,” she wasn’t kidding. I haven’t seen suites at luxury hotels that look this good, and you guys know that I’ve seen a lot! The bedroom portion of the suite is painted in chocolate-brown alternating flat and semi-gloss stripes—about two feet wide each—that wrap around the room. The trim, impressive crown moldings, and main fireplace are all painted ecru, including the three-tier 14-foot recessed ceiling. The top level is painted brown like the walls and showcases a replica of a 17th century brass chandelier garnished with Swarovski crystals. The room is dark, cozy, romantic. This space is only for sleep, connecting, and coupling.

The cream drapes are very simple and frame ecru windows that are covered by white shutters, making it appear to be nighttime in this room no matter what time of day it is. The chandelier is not the only period piece in this room. The entire room is decorated is a cross between modern and 18th century luxury—a padded headboard and hand-carved bedposts with matching dresser, oversized night stands, and bed bench; silk, quilted bedding and pillows that match the quilting on the bed bench; a cream chair and ottoman and end table, and another table and chairs closer to the fireplace that appears to be more for decorating than for sitting. The dark wood bamboo floor is covered with what appears to be a very large Persian rug that completes the room.

The suite continues into the sitting area which is considerably different from the bedroom. This area is flooded with light and contains another ornate fireplace, a built-in refrigerator, and modest furnishings. The far end of the room is oval-shaped with wall-height wooden-paned windows that offer lake views and access to a private terrace.

“Why does this room look so much different than that room?” I ask her of the bedroom and the sitting room.

“That room is mostly dark-colored though it’s offset by the bright furnishings,” she begins. “Even the small amount of light that manages to enter is captured by the dark walls and make it feel more like dusk than afternoon. This room, on the other hand, invites in the day. There are windows everywhere. You can’t avoid the light, and you can always step out onto the terrace if you want to commune with the outdoors and the fresh air before you start your day.” I tap my chin.

“Night and day,” I point out and she nods. “He designed the bedroom and you designed the sitting room.” She smiles. “I’m right, aren’t I?”

“Yes, you are,” she chuckles. “I like the bedroom. It’s beautiful, it’s comfortable… it’s perfect for both of us, but I wanted more light, so I got to design the sitting room.”

“That’s a pretty good compromise,” I nod. “Where are the closets?”

“Off the bathrooms,” she says. “They’re dressing rooms.”

“Bathrooms? Plural? Again?” I ask. She giggles.

“For those days when we both need space to get dressed, like going to work or to a fundraiser or a red-carpet event. We can’t take every shower together, now can we?” she asks coyly and leads me to the first bathroom.

“This one is mine.” Wow! It’s enough that they have his and her bathrooms, but good God, this is ridiculous. “I wanted to replicate the bathroom at the Hotel Grande Bretagne in Athens, but Christian wouldn’t agree to it. He felt that we should definitely have aspects of the bathroom, but that a replica would just be too tacky—so I got this.” She says it like it’s some kind of consolation prize. My God, look at this place! Athena herself could bathe here!

This main room houses the vanity and bathtub—if you can call it that. It’s more like a mini-swimming pool housed inside of a small Grecian temple. Both the vanity and the tub are white marble with ribbons of gray, along with many of the walls and parts of the floor. The marble vanity has dual porcelain sinks and a full wall mirror. Four marble columns support a long white arch that creates a canopy over the “pool.” These columns are resting on a two-foot-tall slab of marble, into which the mini-pool with Jacuzzi jets, of course, sinks and partially into the floor as well. Custom fixtures include a handheld shower head with a six-foot flexible hose just in case Ana decides that she would rather shower here than in the luxury shower beyond the arch just around the corner.

The walk-in luxury shower—and believe me, that’s an understatement—is hidden from the bathing and vanity area in a cove all its own. The shower is mostly tiled geometric marble, more defined than the marble in the main portion of the bathroom. There is an overhead rainwater shower head as well as a standard detachable shower head with ten settings like the one attached to Ana’s tub. There are also multiple wall-mounted sprays as well as a marble bench that spans the far end of the shower.

Fun times ahead in Grey Crossing, I assume.

“Why the drastic difference in the marble?” I ask Ana.

“The marble in the main bathroom just didn’t look good in a shower,” she says. “I don’t know what it was, but it just didn’t look right. I needed cleaner lines for the shower, more definition…”

“Are you saying that you actually built the shower and then tore it down and built it again?” I inquire. She twists her face.

“Yeah,” she says, a little embarrassed. “Elliot and the crew were not happy about that, but it’s the only anal retentive moment that I had, so they accommodated me. We really wanted that undulating marble bench we had in Greece, but no one could make it seamless, so we stuck with the square bench.” She shrugs. “Come on. My dressing room is through here.”

She leads me into another gorgeous room covered in mirrors and reflective surfaces all around.

“I always wanted a room where I could see myself from every angle. With this, I can see reflections of my left in the right, of my back in the front—it’s wonderful.” I’ll say it’s wonderful. Fresh flowers adorn a large island in the middle of the room—white counter with reflective drawers like the mirrors. Designer fixtures and sconces cast a golden hue in parts of the room. A portion of her impressive wardrobe, I discover, in hiding behind several of the mirrored walls, which spin to open with a press of a button and reveal the lady’s possible choices for the day.

“The rest of my things are in a closet that Christian and I share in the bedroom. His dressing room is on the other side of that hidden door.” She points to a portion of the wall that I would never have thought was a door. “I won’t take you in through that way. We’ll go through his bathroom.”

We walk back through the shower area, the main bathroom, and the bedroom to another door that’s right by the entry door. Here we find the throne of Mr. Christian Grey. Christian’s bathroom looks a lot like Ana’s, but where her tub is ginormous, his shower is insane! His marble is a mixture of tan, off white, ecru, and a few splashes of brown, but his shower is all glass with a mosaic tile floor containing the same colors of the marble. Windows cover the far wall that holds the bathtub and the shower, offering a view of several treetops that shield them from Lake Washington. With gold fixtures, multiple shower heads, a sunken floor, and a few wall-mounted sprays, there’s enough room in this shower for a small party.

“I know you’re creative,” I say, “but I can’t imagine what you guys are going to do with two luxury bathrooms in the same room.” Ana laughs.

“”I’m sure you will after a while, Lynn.” I think about it for a moment, then laugh myself.

“Yes, I’m sure I will,” I confess.

“This is Christian’s dressing room,” she says, showing me into a sizable, but empty, dressing room in dark wood, quite the contrast from hers.

“Where are his clothes?” I ask.

“Oh. Master Grey is just now making the change out from summer to winter,” she informs me. “Several of his suits are being refreshed at the cleaners. Others are, as I mentioned, in the overflow closet with some of my things.” She shakes her head as we exit the space. “It’s December, for Christ’s sake. Who waits until December to change out their summer wardrobe?”

“Christian Grey, apparently,” I laugh.

“Apparently,” she concurs. “The overflow closet is here if you’re interested.” She opens a door and the lights automatically come on. “This is where most of my summer things are and some of Christian’s winter things. I’m hoping I can get into these things again when the weather breaks. A lot of this stuff was purchased in Paris. My fashions will be a year old, but you know I don’t care about that as long as it’s cute.”

“Oh, please,” I say, waving her off. “My fashion sense is expounded vicariously on you. Some of the things in my closet are 15 years old and still look good. Hell, if you hold on to it long enough, it just comes back in style! You see the go-go boots they’re all going batty over? Circa 1964.”

“Shit! That’s before I was born!” she exclaims.

“I’m damn near twice your age and that’s before I was born! Don’t get me started on corsets!” She flushes for a moment and rubs her neck. I’m certain that she’s thinking about a certain playroom suspension moment a few months back. She quickly recovers.

“You’re nowhere near twice my age, Lynn,” she scolds as she leaves the bedroom. I fall in step behind her.

“Well, no… but I’m just saying that I’m no spring chicken and go-go boots were even before my time. Yet, they’re all the rage now!” We giggle as she leads me to the only other room on the North Wing.

“This is the nursery,” she says, opening the door. “I think the original architect must have built this home for a young couple because there’s this huge suite and then this little room that’s only fit for a nursery—and that’s all that’s on the North Wing.”

I’m greeted by the swinging children on the wall that I remember writing about in chapter three. If I didn’t know better, I would think I had walked into two separate rooms. One side is decorated with a large crib—soft beige, a bit opaque, with cream and pink bedding—and a matching chest of drawers, changing table, hope chest, and rocking chair. The other side boasts a rich, dark wood crib with light blue and white bedding and complimenting furniture—chest of drawers, changing table, footlocker, and a small rocking horse. Christian added a second dark wood rocking chair later as he realized that two children would most likely need two caregivers—thus, two rocking chairs.

“How did you feel when you and Christian didn’t agree on the furniture?” I ask Ana.

“At first, I was unhappy. I know these are his children, too, but when it came to the decorating, I felt like I should be able to choose whatever I wanted. The dark wood furniture is extremely attractive, but I didn’t want that for my little girl. Likewise, he didn’t want his son lying in a ‘prissy white crib’ even though it’s beige.” She does the finger quotes and mocks Christian’s voice when she says prissy white crib. “So this was our compromise. For the styles to be so drastically different, I would say that the room turned out pretty well.”

“Extremely well!” I concur. I look around. “No baby monitors?”

“They’re built-in,” she says. She opens a vented panel on the wall that has a small control panel inside. “The main control center is in the security suite and these are portable.” She hands me one of four devices that look like a smartphone. “There is audio as well as video, so we can hear and see what’s going on in the room. We can also tap into the system through secure apps installed on our phones. Christian was leery about that after the whole hacking thing, but James has made our phones basically hack-proof. We have the standard baby monitors, too, for when we’re in different places, but this works in every room in the house and it can be disabled at any time.”

“So every room in the house can be observed from the control center?” I ask. She nods.

“Just like Escala—everything but bathrooms. The bedrooms are only activated from the bedrooms and only with my or Christian’s permission, for now. The bathrooms have limited communication ability, like if I were to fall in the bathroom, I have a code phrase that will voice activate the communications system and call for help.” I nod.

“Kind of like Medic Alert…”

“Exactly like Medic Alert,” she confirms.

“Christian’s idea, no doubt,” I say. She shakes her head.

“No, it was mine,” she says, surprising me. “I want to be able to hear my children if they start to cry or get hurt in a room where they can’t be seen.”

“How will they know when or how to activate it?” I ask. It’s hard for children to remember passwords or think logically when they’re in pain.

“When they’re old enough to go to the bathroom alone, they’ll learn the passwords. They’re very simple. Until then, none of them will be in there without Christian or me… or Gail.”

“Okay,” I say, nodding again, “that makes sense.”

“Speaking of bathrooms, this is where we will bathe our children.” She directs me to a basic clean white bathroom with splashes of pink and blue, toilet and shower, storage for towels, toiletries, and necessities. What caught my eye are two stations in the same color as the babies’ furniture, each with brushed stainless steel fixtures, but no sink that I could see.

“Christian found this company that makes these,” she says, moving over to one of the not-quite-a-sinks. “It’s called a baby slide.” With the slide of the top counter and the addition of a few accessories from underneath, the station turns into a baby bath with a changing table. The swooping faucet actually has a detachable head for filling the tub and assistance cleaning the baby. It’s one of the neatest things I’ve ever seen.

“It’s easily converted back into a sink when the babies aren’t babies anymore, and back into the slider if we decide to have more children.” She puts everything back the way it was when we entered.

“What’ll they think of next?” I ask. “They never had anything this convenient when I had kids. I had to pull that little portable tub out and use it wherever I was going to use it—the counter, the bed, the ironing board, wherever.”

“The ironing board?” she asks in horror. I shrug.

“I was poor. I didn’t have a lot of space,” I tell her. “My daughter was lucky. She got the tub. My son was bathed right in the kitchen sink.”

“Augh!” she exclaims, covering her chest with her hand like it’s the most ghastly thing she had ever heard.

“Oh, come off it, Ana,” I say waving her off. “It’s not the worst thing in the world. At least they were bathed.” She shakes her head.

“Maybe Val’s right,” she says. “Maybe I have become a snob. I sigh.

“You are a bit of a snob, Ana, but you have a right to be,” I tell her. “I would hardly expect for you to be using reusable butter tubs as cereal bowls because you’re married to a billionaire. Just… don’t act so appalled when you hear how the poor have lived… and still do live. They do the best they can with what they have and disparaging them doesn’t make a hard life any easier.”

“Oh, Lynn, I wasn’t disparaging anybody! I just can’t imagine bathing my baby in the kitchen sink!” And now, we’re fighting.

“Okay,” I raise my hands in surrender. “Let’s change the subject. I’ve already got Jason threatening to keep me awake with whatever nonsense he can think of. Let’s not have you keeping me awake with wondering if Val is right about the snob thing and visions of babies in kitchen sinks. Your nights are already interrupted with midnight soccer games.” She shakes her head.

“I’m being too sensitive,” she says, flippantly. “Let’s just go see the rest of the house.” I hook my arm in hers, hoping for the camaraderie I felt when we started the tour.

“Good idea,” I smile. She returns an accepting smile and closes her hand over mine as she leads me to the other side of the house.

“This is south wing,” she continues. “It has four bedrooms, each with a private en suite, but none as grandiose as the Owners’ Suite.” We walk into the first room on the other side of the elevator, and she’s right—beautiful, but nothing like the Owner’s Suite. Lots of light and classic good taste, though. The second bedroom is more muted—less light and darker walls, more masculine. Even the en suite dictated that this was a “male room”—no bathtub, but dark walls and a walk-in shower.

The third bedroom looks like it might have been a collaboration—a four-poster bed, darker furniture, but combination walls and more natural light than the second room. The fourth bedroom is definitely more of a couples’ retreat. It has a wrought-iron fancy bed and crescent bay windows lined with a leather-padded window seat adorned with throw pillows. The room is lushly decorated in light and dark shades of brown and shades of black. The en suite is complimentary in tan marble with a Jacuzzi tub for two and a walk-in shower.

“I can see Elliot and Val sneaking in here during family dinners,” Ana says, absent-mindedly. At the same time, we both remember that she and Val are not speaking, and she just shrugs it off with a tight smile and continues the tour.

There’s one more room in this wing that Ana calls a playroom—not that playroom, though I’m tempted to ask if there is one in the house, but I won’t. This room has built-in shelving to serve as a playroom for children or as another bedroom if needed. French doors open to a large patio—secure enough for a small play area as well.

“We’ll take the south elevator to the lower level,” she says. “That’s where all the good stuff is.” As we head to the elevator, she points out the built-in wrap-around desk in the hallway near the south stairwell as well as the entrance to the second floor balcony with a view of the lake.

“This station is perfect for the twins when they’re old enough to do homework, but I have a feeling that they’ll be holed-up in their rooms.” She smiles as she rubs her swollen belly. “I can hardly wait for them to get here.”

“I can only imagine,” I reply. “I’m sure that the readers would very much like for me to stop putting you guys through hell and get on with the birth of the twins already.” She nods and laughs nervously.

“I have to concur, but I know more than anyone that there’s a method to your madness.” She pushes the button to summon the elevator. “Getting to know Christian all over again is an adventure,” she admits. “I mean, he’s not a total stranger, but some of his finer points really caught me off guard.”

“Such as?” I ask, just as the elevator arrives.

“Well, he doesn’t trust any man around me… I mean any man! I knew he was possessive. That was evident when he tried to fire Dr. Hill, but Brian? Come on, that’s just ridiculous.” She walks into the elevator just as the look of horror takes over my face. She turns around in time to catch my expression. “See? Even you think it’s ridiculous.” I chuckle at her unfortunate ignorance.

“Things don’t just come back to you, do they?” I ask her as I follow her into the elevator. She examines me for a moment.

“No, not really,” she says, cautiously. “Most of the important stuff does, but with things that aren’t so important, sometimes I need a little push.” She says that as soon as she pushes the “L” for the lower level.

“Well, you have evidently forgotten something that is not necessarily important to you, but particularly important to Christian.” She frowns.

“What?” she asks in that sing-songy way that drags the word out.

“About a year ago, Mr. Cholometes threw the gauntlet down and let your husband know that his hat was in the ring.” She frowns.

“In the ring for what?”

“You,” I announce as the elevator dings at the bottom floor. Her face now takes on the horrified look that mine had moments earlier.

“What?!” she screeches. It’s at this moment that I realize that Jason is down here because he meets us at the door of the elevator with his hand inside his jacket.

“What’s wrong?” he asks, ready for whatever might be threatening Her Highness.

“Stand down, soldier,” I say calmly, so as not to agitate his trigger finger. “Even we Most High Writers of Life forget things and apparently, I forgot to write that somebody should have informed Ana that Brian was sweet on her.”

Jason’s hand falls from its position near his firearm and he looks sympathetically at Ana.

“It’s considered one of those taboo subjects since the guy is sticking around so long to make sure that you’re alright,” he says to her. “Christian didn’t want to force bad memories on you. He just… he would rather they came to you on their own, if they had to.”

“How could Brian be a bad memory?” I can tell that she combing through whatever memories she has to try to figure out what we could be talking about. “He’s my father’s best friend! He’s ten years older than me! I know Daddy has a young wife, but he couldn’t think after all these years…” She trails off. Jason looks over at me and I nod.

“You can blame me for this one whenever Christian gets home,” I say, putting my hand on his shoulder. I turn to Ana. “Brian has held a flame for you ever since you broke up with Edward,” I inform her. “He was waiting for you to get over it and all of that ‘harmless flirting’ that you ignored all those years was real. He’s been waiting in the sidelines for his chance, and Christian swooped in and took his opportunity. He’s been bitter about it ever since. He made his intentions clear at Ray and Amanda’s wedding, and again right after…”

“…We announced our engagement,” she finishes my sentence. “I remember that conversation. I remember… he sent me flowers. I threatened to cut all communication with him if he interfered with our relationship… and he stopped.”

“No, he heeled,” I clarify. “He agreed not to cause problems, but he’s been lying in wait for something to happen so that he could come and get you…”

“Is that why he was involved in catching the hacker?” she accuses.

“Yes and no,” I answer as Jason gets more and more anxious the more I talk. “It was his initial intention to gather information that might assist him in obtaining the brass ring. Even though he and Christian were basically at each other’s throats for the entire time that they were tracking down the hacker, it was mostly to egg Christian on. You let Brian know in no uncertain terms…”

“…That his efforts were futile,” she finishes my sentence again. “It was hopeless, because I love Christian too much. I told him… to promise… I made him promise me that he would protect Christian. I knew they were doing something dangerous because of who Brian is… who he knows…” She looks down at her hands. “I didn’t trust him. I thought he had something to do with it, with the hacker.” She looks up at me. “Did he?” I don’t think she cares whether or not I can or will tell her about this. She looks at me straight on, expecting an answer. “Was he part of it? Did he have anything to do with what happened to my husband’s company?”

I know she won’t be satisfied, won’t be content at all without an answer to her question.

“No. He had nothing to do with the attack on Grey House,” I confirm. She sighs heavily.

“Good,” she says, relief oozing from her pores. “Is it over? He’s still around. Why is he still around?”

“It’s not quite over,” I tell her. “There’s some unfinished business, but that’s all I can say right now. Don’t worry, though,” I soothe her. “It’ll be wrapped up soon and there will be other dilemmas to solve.” I smile at her, but she doesn’t return my smile. “Do you want to take a break?”

“Yes,” she says, wearily. “Yes, I do.”

“Good,” Gail pipes in behind us, “because I have lunch ready.” She’s stepping off the elevator with a rolling tray covered with food. “Would you like to eat at the bar or somewhere more comfortable?”

“The bar is fine,” Ana says as she strolls across the terracotta colored tile to the bar on the other side of the entertainment room. The dark wood bar chairs look large and comfortable like office chairs, not like the standard bar stools. Jason has slipped into the corner and I can already tell that he’s calling Christian. I know that Christian has him posted at the mansion until the situation with all of the security staff is straightened out. Chuck is still recuperating and he trusts no one else with Ana’s safety except Jason in Chuck’s absence.

Gail sets up two places on the bar with what looks like hamburgers and French fries with milkshakes. I happen to know that these are chicken guacamole burgers as our beloved heroine still has a bit of a problem with beef. I follow Ana over to the bar and climb into the seat next to her. The first few bites of our lunch are silent, and Christian doesn’t know that I know he’s currently watching us on his cell phone. Ana is pondering the information that I gave her about Brian. I scan the room for the obvious places where I think the camera might be hidden. I notice a slotted vent in the wall—almost invisible to the naked eye, but just like the one in the nursery. I glare into it with scolding eyes.

Why didn’t you tell her about Brian?

Why didn’t you write it? is the mental answer that comes back to me. Keep fucking with me, Grey. I’ll have you doing the hokey pokey all over GEH.

Silence.

“Tell me about this, Ana,” I ask gesturing to the wall as I consume the delicious chicken burger.

“That is Christian’s way of keeping me away from the Aquarium,” she says. What she is referring to is a floor-to-ceiling aquarium that spans the wall just in front of the doors that lead to the lower level covered lounge and pool area. Framed by more Grecian columns and a Grecian archway, this impressive structure contains several large and small fish that Ana doesn’t even bother to name. The goldfish castle inside—for lack of a better description—is a full-sized replica of the ruins of a Greek temple, complete with fallen columns. It’s like looking at the lost city of Atlantis.

“How’s that working out for you?” I ask. “I know that you weren’t keen on having an aquarium after the Edward ordeal.”

“This is so different,” she confesses as she finishes her milkshake. “This takes a little getting used to because, let’s face it, it’s an aquarium—a very impressive aquarium—but it’s not the Aquarium. So I have to accept it and the others as a consolation prize.”

“The others?” I probe. She nods.

“Yes. There’s four or five of them, I think. I can never remember.” She pauses for a moment, then laughs at her own unintentional joke before sliding out of the seat. “This one is the biggest, I think,” she says going over to the aquarium and tapping on the glass. “I’ll have to find out what each of the fish in this tank is. If I’m not mistaken, this is the salt-water aquarium. My favorite one keeps hiding from me, but if we stick around for a little while…” She searches the tank until a beautiful black and white fish comes swimming to the front. “That’s the one. That’s my favorite. He’s kind of shy.”

“Why kind of fish is that?” I ask, although I already know the answer.

“I don’t know,” she answers, “But I really like him. I get the feeling that I’ve seen it before, but I know Edward and I didn’t have one.” That’s because you have seen him before, Ana. It’s the banded butterfly fish that you picked as your favorite while snorkeling in Anguilla last year. I wonder why no one has told her about it yet. “I could sit here and look at these all day. I understand why—in light of everything—he wants to keep me safe at home. For right now, I’m mostly complying with his wishes, mostly being the operative word. I have everything I could possibly need in this house and I’m still getting to know it, but I think he knows it’s impossible to keep me locked up here forever. I’m just not giving him a hard time right now.”

I follow her across the terracotta floor to another doorway at the end of the large entertainment room. It looks like a smaller version of what we just left—a small bar and a living area.

“This is where we start to get into the guest quarters. This is the community space. There are actually three small guest apartments—two of them are empty and one of them is in used by Jason and Gail.” We take a quick peek into each apartment. Jason and Gail’s area is very quaint and simple, mainly because they spend most of their time in the main house and only private time in their small apartment. Each area is spacious for what it is and has entrances both from the community area we just left as well as outside entrances.

She continues to show me the rest of the lower level, which includes a fitness room with private shower, powder room, and sauna; the full-service laundry and utility room; and an extremely impressive wine cellar. Also on this level are his and her libraries with fireplaces—which I thought was kind of strange—and a state-of-the-art home theater with reclining seats and large theater screen. I ask Ana why his-and-hers libraries and she just shrugged.

“We couldn’t agree on what we wanted, so we got both. It’s not like we don’t have the space. There’s still some parts of the main floor you haven’t seen yet, but since we’re headed in this direction, we’ll see the outside first and finish in a circle. There’s one more room that I need to show you down here, though.” She leads me through the fitness room to the other side across from the sauna and showers and I am certain that I have reached Nirvana.

“Oh, Ana,” I say wistfully as I take in my surroundings. Perfect Zen space with ambient lighting… rich burgundy and cream décor… aromatic fragrances wafting from the space before you even enter the room… a deep and low tub perfect for a detoxifying salt soak or an imported mineral spring mud bath. Of course, Mrs. Christian Grey would have an in-house private spa, complete with large and luxurious massage tables, areas for extensive beauty treatments, and a vast array of candles.

“It’s my intention to be in this room at least once a week until the babies are born and I don’t know how often once they arrive,” she says with a giggle. “I’m starting to get that little issue with my ankles which is why I’ve opted for the wedges today. The days of stiletto retirement are fast approaching,” she admits. “I can’t even stand to walk in them anymore.” She shrugs a bit. I know how comfortable wedges are even on the most tired feet, but I know the time will come when she will be able to do nothing but the dreaded flats. I don’t have the heart to tell her though. I think she’s going to come to that decision on her own.

“I’m so jealous, Ana,” I tell her as I caress the million-thread count sheets on the massage bed—well, at least they feel like a million-thread count. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a house with a private spa. I know that people have private masseuses, but I don’t ever think I’ve seen a private spa.”

“To be honest, I haven’t either,” she says. “Christian felt that it would be harder for me to get around as the day came closer for me to deliver, and of course, I raved on and on about the prenatal massages Maxie and I got during my birthday weekend.” Her eyes actually roll back in her head as she recalls the experience. “And let’s not forget…” She hits a light switch and a display lights up—bamboo backing and bright-colored rocks with minimal flora and lots of fish—spanning yet another wall. “The relaxing spa aquarium.” I shake my head and laugh.

“You guys have someone to take care of these things, don’t you?” I ask, folding my arms and examining the display of fish swimming back and forth almost like a highway.

“Oh, of course,” she says, admiring the fish in the tank. “There was no way I was going to agree to take care of fish again… much less in more than one aquarium… of these sizes!” she exclaims. “But I do have to admit that I do so love having the spa.”

“I can just about imagine,” I say as I picture myself lazing about in this room having the kinks worked out of my back or soaking away my troubles between churning out chapters. She takes my hand.

“Write yourself in anytime,” she says with a smile. “You might just be surprised how relaxing it could be.” I make a mental note to do just that, just to see how effective it might be. With a nod, I follow her out to the three-level limestone terrace. Now, this is a sight to behold! Where do I start? How about with the resort-style infinity pool with rainbow water fountains and an ozone cleaning system. It’s a shame that there won’t be any wild pool parties out here…

Or will there? With the amenities this house has to offer, I think there’s going to be a bit of entertaining in the Greys’ future.

The pool area has a hidden TV lift that accommodates a 150” screen. I wouldn’t even know where to find a television with a 150” screen! Just off to the side of the pool is an outdoor dining room for ten with a kitchenette. A structure not far from the dining room houses the outdoor sauna and showers. Yes, there will be pool parties here… at least one.

“We’ll be going back in soon, but I have to show you the boathouse first,” Ana tells me. I look out at the dock that leads to the boathouse. It’s easily seen and I can’t imagine why we’re walking down the stairs and across the lush lawn—away from the boathouse—to see the boathouse.

“Um, Ana?” I question, gesturing to the dock and the boat house.

“Oh, that?” she says, closing her wrap around her. “That’s the dock, and I guess that’s what normal people call a boathouse. That area can accommodate a 30-foot boat, two jet skis, and moorage for a 75-foot vessel. We have this other structure back here that Christian calls a boathouse.”

“Well, what do you call it?” She shrugs.

“I don’t know… Nautical townhouse… floating condominium… outrageous dwelling for a catamaran. I mean, what did you think when you wrote it?” I shake my finger at her.

“Ah ah, this is my first time seeing the house just like it’s everyone else’s first time seeing the house. So you can’t ask me questions like that.” She twists her lips at me.

“Yeah, sure, okay,” she says sarcastically. “So, let’s go see your… um, I mean our boathouse for the first time.” She rolls her eyes. I just shake my head at her and follow her around the grounds. There are a few trees and just beyond the clearing, I see what she’s talking about.

Um… okay. Wow…

“So, Christian has this 150-foot yacht that I never knew he had—not the most sizable boat I’ve seen, but still fairly large. It’s been moored at the marina all this time, but once the house was finished, he decided that he wanted to move it here instead. You can’t moor a 150-yacht just anywhere, so he built this.”

Standing before me is what they call a boat house that could actually rival many resorts! That’s what I’ll call it—a boat resort. It’s ridiculous! It’s a two-story luxury lodge with a wrap-around deck and porch and two outrageously large bays for two outrageously large boats, although at this moment, there’s only one outrageously large boat inside.

“Good God, Ana,” I exclaim. “This place is bigger than most people’s houses!” I say as we walk around the porch and into the sporty lodge area, decorated very much like a luxury man cave. “He certainly put his mark on this place, didn’t he?” I ask.

“Yes, he did. I actually kind of like it. He was surprised when I told him that. I guess he expected for me to see it and go ‘Ew, icky boys,’ but, no. It’s homey and cozy. It’s an escape away from home. I have no idea why he never told me about the silver bullet in the bay, but there it is.” She gestures in the direction of the monstrous silver yacht on the other side of a glass wall.

“The water has to be pretty deep for a yacht that size, doesn’t it?” I ask, marveling at the size of the boat precariously called “Slayer.”

“Not that deep,” she responds, “just deep enough for the keel and let’s face it—we’re living on Lake Washington that opens into the Sound and the Pacific Ocean. I think there’s enough water,” she jokes.

“I don’t do so well on boats,” I confess. “Cruise ships, yeah. Boats, not so much.”

“I love boats,” she says longingly. “I might have been a fish in a past life… or something. I’m so drawn to the water. I can’t believe we actually live on a lake… that opens into the ocean! It’s always been a dream of mine. That’s why I bought a condo overlooking Elliot Bay. I thought that was the closest I would ever get.”

“And now this,” I say, gesturing to our surroundings. She nods.

“Christian promises that we’ll get out on the boat now that it’s housed here at home, but our life has just been a whirlwind ever since we met.” She gestures me out of the boat resort and closes the door behind us. “He tells me that he has… we have property in various locales all over the world that he never visits—Hawaii, Cancun, Bermuda. It’s just been one catastrophe after another, and now we’re about to have kids. I don’t know when we’re ever going to do this traveling he speaks of.”

“Oh, you know Christian Grey,” I say as we make our way back to the house. “He’ll find a way.”

“That he will,” she says.

Before we get back to the house, she shows me the wade-in beach right by the water bank as well as a cozy water swing hidden inside a cove of trees and hanging over the still water. We also pass a beautiful wild jungle patio that leads into a barbecue kitchen and dining room—open-ended to give you the best of the inside and the outside.

“Besides the three 3-car garages that house Christian’s insane fleet of cars, the last area of the house is the east wing. It’s just these rooms on the first floor.” She deposits her wrap on a coat rack just inside the door and I have to admit that I’m glad to be back inside as I foolishly failed to grab any kind of outerwear before we toured the back yard. “This little area—if you can call it little—is a bit of a circle.” We move from a wide and spacious hallway to a lovely room on the right.

“These are the last of the his-and-her rooms. This is my parlor.” She gestures around the brightly decorated room—outrageously tall ceiling with a two-story window that looks out onto the lake. Decorated in tans and browns with marble, wood, and touches of wrought iron, the parlor is yet another statement of Ana’s tendency towards light. An impressive fireplace and an equally impressive mirror adorn the two-story wall across from the sofa, adding to the brightness of the room.

We wander through the parlor to another room, just as well-lit but with darker furniture. “This is my office,” Ana says. I nod.

“It looks like a shrink’s office,” I jest.

“It is a shrink’s office,” she retorts, “but I won’t be seeing patients here. That’s where we both draw the line.” Once again, decorated in lovely wood tones and neutral colors, this space is a testament of Ana’s good taste. I point to the wall facing across from her desk.

“Another aquarium,” I point out. She nods.

“Those, I’m sure, are more domestic fish. This is the smallest of the aquariums and as you can see…” She opens the door next to the aquarium and the décor changes drastically—from neutral tans and light browns to dark marble, posh leather chairs, dark wood wall-to-wall shelving, opulent light fixtures and intricate ceilings. An impressive executive desk sits majestically near the end of the room in front of a marble fireplace flanked by two windows with bronze-colored mini-blinds and leather window seats. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that we have wandered into the domain of Christian Grey. “…It connects Christian’s office with mine.”

I had completely forgotten that we were talking about the aquarium. I stand on my toes and, sure enough, I can see into Ana’s well-lit office through the fish tank.

“Whose idea was that?” I ask.

“His, of course. At Escala, my office is above him, so we don’t see each other when I’m in there.” She opens the dark French doors to reveal another room off of Christian’s office.

“This is the end of the tour,” she says. We are now in a den, well-lighted but still muted by the rusty caramel colored décor—leather chairs, sofa, walls, ceiling, and desk. Yes, another desk.

“Why does your husband have another desk in here? There’s one in the next room!”

“Don’t ask me,” she shrugs. “He didn’t decorate my parlor, I didn’t decorate his den.” We walk through the rooms back to her parlor where she quickly takes a seat on the sofa. “That was a bit of a workout for me, Lynn. I’m more tired than I thought I would be.” I sit on the sofa next to her and try to stretch my feet in my high heels.

“Yeah, I really hate to admit it, but Jason was right about these shoes. They’re very cute, but not as comfortable as I would like. But honestly, we covered a lot of territory in this place.”

“Oh yes,” she says, leaning back on the sofa. “I lose count of how many bathrooms and bedrooms we have—multiple dining rooms, patios and balconies everywhere, boathouses and aquariums and saunas. Speaking of which, would you like to join me for a massage and a soak? I’m sure we could both use it.”

“Now you’re talking my language!” I say as we both struggle to get off the sofa. After all, I’m fat and she’s pregnant.

*-*

“Well, ladies and gentlemen, there you have it. Grey Crossing with all of the amenities fit for a king and queen… and two little heir-apparents soon to join the Grey family. I hope you enjoyed our little tour and that you will stick around for the many tales that will unfurl as our family lives and grows in love. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I’m going to partake in that mineral bath in the private spa…

Love and handcuffs!!!

Becoming Dr. Grey: Chapter 17—A New Day Awaits…

“Making someone irrelevant is the best revenge.”
My “Allen”

I think I’m going to use that in my story somewhere, but in the meantime, I’m going to take the advice of a very wise man and try my best to focus on the many readers who responded with encouragement as well as the ones who didn’t respond who actually do enjoy my story and respect my characters as well as my right to defend myself. There is an Author’s Note at the end that will hopefully clear things up for everyone else from here on out.

A bit of a spoiler—there is a bonus chapter that goes along with this chapter. It’s an INTERACTIVE CHAPTER (yay!), and is solely a walk-through of the new house. I’m in the story (yes, ME—Lynn) talking to Jason, Ana, and Gail as we take you on a tour of their fabulous new home. If you would rather just look at the pictures, they are on Pinterest. There’s also a video of the house with a brief description of each room if you would rather see that. All of the info is in the beginning author’s note of Chapter 17B—My Visit To Grey Crossing. Enjoy!

My new disclaimer:
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. If something that I say displeases you, please, just leave. If you don’t like this story or me, please don’t spoil this experience for everyone. Just go away. For the rest of you, the saga continues…

 

Chapter 17—A New Day Awaits…

ANASTASIA

There’s a knock and the door opens and my heart nearly skips a beat, hoping that it’s Christian, but it’s not. It’s a beautiful black man with green eyes, dressed very casually. Good God, he’s gorgeous! Is this Al’s boyfriend?

“Hello, Ana. I’m glad to see you’re awake.” Shit, it speaks! His voice could melt butter.

“Hi.” My voice on the other hand couldn’t stop a fly. He chuckles as he crosses the room.

“I’m Dr. Lourdis Avery. Everybody calls me Ace.” He extends his hand to me and I take it.

“Do I… know you?” There’s the mouse voice again. He reminds me a bit of Christian, only… different.

“I’m your therapist,” he says in a honey-smooth voice. Boy, I sure can pick ‘em, can’t I? I look over at a salivating Al who mouths “Holy shit! That’s Ace?” then fans himself dramatically. Ace follows my gaze and Al is the picture of decorum when Ace turns around.

“Christian called me and told me that you’re having problems remembering the last two years or so.” Christian called him. He does care about me, but where is he? “I know that means that you don’t remember me either and if you’re more comfortable, you can speak to the hospital psychiatrist. However, it may help that I know your history…”

“No, no, it’s fine. I’ll talk to you. It’s better that you know me and you can help me recall some things.”

“Recall some things?” he asks.

“Yes. My discussions with my family have been triggering a few memories. For example, I remember that I used to facilitate group therapy sessions. That’s apparently where I met my husband, but I don’t remember that part. I remember a fateful dinner with my ex-boyfriend, but I don’t know how it ended. I can see Christian smiling at me a lot, but I can’t identify places. There are more, but I think you get the idea.”

“Yes, I get the idea. Where’s Christian?” The eternal question.

Out for some air,” I say, a bit sarcastically.

“Okay, do I want to know what that tone means?”

“It means that I think he’s avoiding me and I don’t know why,” I reply frankly. Al sighs heavily. Well, if you know something, best friend, tell me. Otherwise, he’s avoiding me.

“Okay, why do you think he’s avoiding you?”

“It could be any number of reasons,” I tell him. “All the crazy shit I heard, I don’t know how anybody in their right mind would want to stay with a woman with so much damn baggage. Couple that with the fact that I don’t remember who he is and we may have to start all back over? Yeah, he’s avoiding me—probably trying to find a way out of this shit.” Now Ace sighs.

“Ana, before I say what I’m going to say, I have to ask who you want to be in the room for this session.” I look around at all the people in the room and I don’t know who should stay.

“We should all leave,” Daddy says. “This is your psychiatrist. You don’t need an audience.”

“I concur,” Al says as he leads the charge. “We’ll stay right outside, okay?” I nod at him as he, Daddy, and Mandy leave the room.

“Good, now.” Ace turns to me. “Ana, your husband is passionately in love with you…” so I’ve heard. “This man has gone toe-to-toe with me more than once about your care and the man that I’ve come to know over the last year would not desert you doing this time. Something is going on, I don’t doubt that, but if I were a betting man, I’d bet the ranch on Christian and his love for you. Don’t give up hope, especially now. It’s all that you have to hold on to when you can’t remember your past and don’t know what your future is going to look like. Understand?” A tear escapes my eye and without knowing anything about this guy, I already know why I chose him as my therapist. I nod. “Now, where do you want to start…?”

I jump in with the analytical parts of what I might know concerning my memory loss and more so, how to deal with rebuilding my life if my memory doesn’t return completely. After talking about it for quite some time, he asks if I’m resolved to the possibility that I may not regain my memory and may not remember Christian again. I don’t know how to answer that question. I think I’m more afraid of him walking away and all my memories of this wonderful man come back one day… after he’s gone. I’m so emotionally raw right now that I don’t know how to answer his questions and I end up becoming a babbling idiot.

“I think we should let the things that you’ve heard today marinate, Ana. It’s quite a lot to absorb and you can’t be expected to do it all in one day… no matter how anxious you are to remember.” I reluctantly agree as I have no idea how long we’ve been talking… and still no Christian.

Ace leaves the room and my family comes back in. Al takes his seat next to the bed and Daddy and Mandy settle in on the sofa with Harry.

“How did it go, Jewel?” Al asks.

“We mostly went over coping techniques if I don’t get my memory back,” I reply.

“He doesn’t think you’ll get your memory back?” Daddy asks.

“I’m just covering all of my bases, Daddy,” I tell him. I don’t want to admit that I suspect there won’t be a “Mrs. Grey” when this is all over. “What happened to my condo?” I ask.

“Nothing,” Al answers. “It’s still there. You haven’t decided what you want to do with it yet. It’s a terrible market to sell and after that break-in, you haven’t wanted to sub-let it.”

“Break-in?” I’m lost.

“Psycho blonde? Your gun?” Oh, yeah, that. There’s another knock at the door, and again, my heart races… and in walks Dr. Hill.

“Son of a bitch!” I exclaim shamelessly. Dr. Hill stops in his tracks and I just shake my head. I’m flustered to no end. Where the fuck is Christian?

“Am I interrupting something?” the doctor asks.

“No, it’s just been a trying day as you can imagine,” Al covers for me. I’ll say.

“Is there any word on my tests?” I ask. He frowns.

“Not yet, Ana. It takes a moment for the results to come back. It shouldn’t be too much longer,” he responds.

“Results?” I ask. “I’m still waiting for the tests!”

“Um, Jewel, they performed the tests while you were sedated. I’m sorry, I should have told you.” I twist my lips.

“Oh, okay. Well, at least that’s covered,” I say as I settle back down into my bed. “I’m awake now. Do I still need these leg squeezie thingies?” I ask concerning the compression devices.

“We’ll see,” he says. “I’d like you to keep them on for another day if you don’t mind. If they’re too uncomfortable, we’ll take them off and see about moving you around a bit.”

“They’re too uncomfortable,” I confirm. “My legs are getting that twingy too-much-heat feeling and I really want them off.” He writes something in my chart.

“Okay. I’ll get the nurse to remove them for you.” I nod. Good! “I’d like to ask you about your episode earlier today if you don’t mind.” I shrug.

“Fire away.”

“When you were apologizing to your husband earlier, what happened?” Dr. Hill asks.

“He and Al were telling me about… a big mistake that I made. It was almost disastrous for our marriage. He tried not to tell me, but I insisted. Just as he was finishing the story, I thought about how careless I had been and I really felt bad, so I apologized, but… for some reason, I just felt sick and hopeless. Then I remember being at a house outside somewhere and he had asked me what was wrong. All I could do was scream that I was sorry. Even my babies were screaming ‘I’m sorry…’”

“Were you screaming at the house?” he asks.

“Yes,” I say. Isn’t that what I just said? “I was saying I was sorry. I don’t remember anything after that.”

“Ana, did you know that you were screaming in the room, too?” In the room? In here?

“I was?!” I’m horrified. What they must think of me!

“This is actually a good thing,” he says. “With each breakthrough—painful or not—you’re regaining more and more of your lost time. I wish I had known this sooner.”

“Why?” I ask him. He seems remiss to answer me. I see Al purse his lips.

“It would have assisted in your treatment plan,” he says flatly. Did he forget that I’m a psychologist? I didn’t forget how to read people.

“What aren’t you telling me, Dr. Hill?” I ask.

“Exactly what I am telling you,” he responds. “I don’t know what courses of action to take if I don’t have the proper history.” He throws a look at Al. “The fact that your earlier outburst came from a possible recollection of something that happened in your past as opposed to something that happened in the room at that moment was crucial information that I didn’t have. Had I known that, I may not have sedated you. I may have attempted to walk you through that memory and bring you down naturally. Instead, I assumed that you were having an anxiety attack as a result of the shock of the situation and something that happened immediately, and I sedated you. As a psychologist, you have to see what a great opportunity we missed here.”

Great, another missed opportunity. I’ve had enough of this situation already and I’m just getting started. I feel exhausted after the conversation with Daddy, Mandy, and Al, then the session with Ace. I just want to sleep, let all of this information sink in—two years of tragedies and life-changing events all covered in one afternoon. Sacrebleu!

“Does anybody know where my husband is?” I say in a small voice. It’s been hours and he hasn’t come back or called or sent word or anything. The hell he went out for some air. Out for some air is like twenty minutes, an hour tops. The sun has gone down and I haven’t heard a peep from him, and nobody seems to be rushing to get him or find out where he is. “If he doesn’t want to deal with this, will someone please just let me know and put me out of my misery?”

The defeat I hear in my voice makes me want to cry. I’m looking down at my hands fighting back the tears and the deafening silence causes me to raise my eyes. All eyes are on Dr. Hill.

“I’ll… see if I can find him,” the doctor says and hastily leaves the room. I frown. I want to ask what that was all about, but right now, I just want Christian.

“Jewel?” I bring my eyes to Al’s and drop them again. “What is it, Jewel?”

“I don’t know,” I lie. I know exactly what it is. All the stories and the flashbacks, the few short agonizing hours he’s been away… I love this man. I love him further and deeper than the recollections that my family has given me. I know it. Deep down inside of me from that place in my soul that first created our babies, I love this man. With my whole heart, I love him.

Could it just be infatuation with all the wonderful and horrible things I’ve heard? How he’s held my hand through so much hell and never gave up on me even though I would have given up a long time ago—the vision of a rich knight in shining armor that every woman wants and I can actually have it if I convince myself to love a man that I barely know?

No. No, it’s much more than that. I love him. I truly love him. I know what love is and this isn’t infatuation. This is the real thing. I wrap my arms around my stomach and I feel my babies move. They’re restless. It’s like I’m a human jungle gym. I try to rub my stomach to calm them, but they’re having none of that. When nothing else works, I start to sing:

Goodnight, my angel
Time to close your eyes
And save these questions for another day
I think I know what you’ve been asking me
I think you know what I’ve been trying to say
I promised I would never leave you
And you should always know
Wherever you may go
No matter where you are
I never will be far away

Goodnight, my angel
Now it’s time to sleep
And still so many things I want to say
Remember all the songs you sang for me
When we went sailing on an emerald bay
And like a boat out on the ocean
I’m rocking you to sleep
The water’s dark
And deep inside this ancient heart
You’ll always be a part of me

“Who… told you about that song?”

His voice stops my lullaby and my head shoots up to see Christian standing there. He’s looking glorious in a T-shirt and jeans with a leather jacket and sneakers… and I feel like a troll. Everyone has left the room except Allen. Instinctively, I touch my face to wipe the tears I know are there. He examines me cautiously and I know—he didn’t go for air. He left. His change of clothes isn’t the giveaway, his eyes are.

“Where did you go? Why did you leave?” I question him.

“I didn’t. I mean—I went to change clothes and eat… other than that, I’ve been here the whole time.”

“No you haven’t,” I accuse. “You weren’t here. I didn’t see you.”

“I was in the hospital,” he tells me. “The doctor didn’t want me in the room with you. He said I upset you too much and that it wasn’t good for your recovery.”

“Then fire the damn doctor!” I cry.

“He tried,” Al defends. “He was persuaded against it since you have the best doctor on staff.”

“Not if he thinks keeping me away from my husband is what’s best for me!” I wail. I’m trying to control myself, but my emotions are going haywire. If Christian doesn’t want to see this through, I understand. I just want him to say so. And if the damn doctor is the cause for him staying away, then I want his fucking head on a platter.

“This is why he told me to stay away, because you can’t get upset…”

“I’m not upset with you! I’m upset with him!” I bark. Almost on cue, Dr. Hill comes rushing into the room with two other men.

“Mr. Grey!” he hisses almost immediately.

“How dare you tell my husband to stay away from me!” I shriek before he has the chance to say another word. “Have you lost your mind?!” Dr. Hill is stunned. This is the loudest I have spoken since I’ve been in the hospital.

“Ana… Mrs. Grey!” he says chastised, eyes wide. “I… I’m sorry. I was just trying to keep you from getting upset. It’s very, very bad for you in your condition… very bad.”

“And you thought keeping my husband away from me was going to facilitate that?” I scold through my tears. “I’m not upset with him! I’m upset with this fucking situation! I’ve lost years of my life, and you take away the one thing that can ground me in the here-and-now! Where did you go to medical school—Sesame Street?!”

“Okay, baby, really. I need you to calm down.” Christian puts his hands on my arms. “Breathe with me, baby. Breathe with me.” I’m too angry to breathe. I want to clock this damn doctor upside his fucking head! “In through your nose, out through your mouth. Please, baby, he’s right about one thing. You can’t get upset. You have to stay calm for yourself and for the babies. Please, Butterfly, in through your nose, out through your mouth.” I focus my glare on him, and mimic the breathing. Butterfly… that’s so beautiful. A strange calm comes over me and now I’m just sniffling as I throw my arms around him and bury my face in his neck, still weeping.

“Make him leave,” I sob. “Make him leave right now, please.”

“Ssshh. Sshh, it’s okay, Butterfly. Don’t cry. I won’t leave you again, I promise, okay?” His words are so comforting and his touch is healing to my aching heart.

“O… kay,” I sniffle in his neck and pull him closer to me.

“Clay, can I speak to you outside for a moment?” I think Al is talking to the doctor. Sweet fuck, he knows him! “I think your friends should come, too.” I don’t raise my head to see what happens. I just need the comfort of Christian’s strong arms right now. He rubs my back and rocks me, still speaking comforting words in my ear. I can only assume that they’re gone when I hear the door close. Christian tries to release me.

“No. Please. Not yet… please,” I beseech him. He holds me tighter and cradles me in his arms.

“Oh, baby, I’m so sorry,” he croons. “I didn’t mean to scare you. I was just doing what the doctor wanted. I won’t let him do that to us again, okay?” I just nod and cry in his arms.

*-*

Visions of all kinds are shooting through my head—an arrogant asshole on the other side of the room staring at me like I’m a piece of meat; a business card on my windshield with an apology artfully scribbled on the back; a kiss that sunk a thousand ships from a copper-haired god in a palace in the sky; wine that tastes like rich, plump grapes from heaven; a kind woman’s face smiling at me, then a scowling face with a shock of blonde hair and fire-engine red lipstick; being handcuffed to a bed and the nauseating scent of mildew; standing in the water in an island paradise at night; camera flashes while my husband holds me close to him in some kind of conference room; dancing with my father in a green ball gown and tux; watching a wedding with a winter motif; roses—lots and lots and lots of roses; a cute little cottage in the mountains; a wild-eyed blonde woman with a gun; a beautiful green-eyed black man and an equally beautiful black woman with long hair; watching scenery go by quickly from a domed car of some kind; my daddy and Harry; dancing with a bunch of people—male and female; a splendid wedding dress gliding across a dance floor; the Eiffel Tower; the Acropolis; Whistles! Whistles! Whistles; David sitting at a table in a suit glaring at me; vomiting all over some lady; an ultrasound picture of two tiny beans; Guilty; six men looking hungrily at me over a dinner table; I’m sorry; Sex—lots and lots of sex; so much sex that I can barely make out the other visions; my wrists in leather shackles and insane tightening in my core.

I need to be touched. I need to be kissed and loved; I’m aching for it. I need it so much. My body groans so loud that I can hear it.

“Baby. Baby…”

Oh, God, I’m on fire. My hands are in the grate and he’s fucking me. My wrists are in fur and leather cuffs and he’s fucking me. My wrists are tied with his blue tie and he’s fucking me. Bent over the sofa, on the roof of a sports car, in a parking garage…

“Baby, wake up!”

My eyes shoot open and I’m back in the hospital. Christian is in bed behind me, spooning me. I’m sweating… good God, am I sweating! When he said that we had sex often, he wasn’t kidding. Apparently, I like to be tied, because that shit was hot as fuck! Thank God we’ve gotten rid of the compression devices or I’d be in torment right now.

What am I saying? I am in torment!

“What’s wrong, Butterfly? Are you okay?” I reach for the collar of this lovely gown he’s brought me and undo the top two buttons—an attempt to get some air. It works, but only a bit. He turns me over on my back and looks into my eyes.

I want him. Holy cow, I want him so badly. A shadow passes over his face and he licks his lips.

“Baby… don’t look at me like that,” he warns. I know exactly what he’s talking about. I’m starving and he’s a nice big rack of lamb right now.

“I’m sorry,” I breathe, “I don’t… mean to, I just…” His lips cover mine and he kisses me tenderly, passionately. I groan into his mouth. I can’t help it. I try to keep my hands off of him because if I touch him, it’s over. I won’t be able to stop. He breaks the kiss and moves down my jaw to my neck.

“I want you so much,” he groans, and the words go right to my core.

“I want you, too,” I breathe, unable to control my raging hormones. He raises his eyes to mine, then proceeds to pull my gown over my breasts. “Christian! No! Not here! We can’t!”

“We won’t, Baby,” he says and clamps his lips around my nipple.

“Ah!” I breathe before I can help myself. I have to be quiet. I have to be quiet. He torments my nipple deliciously before moving to the other. They’re so sensitive! Every touch sends a jolt of pleasure right down there. I’m losing control, now. As much as I’m trying not to, I want to scream. His other hand pinches and tweaks my neglected nipple and I feel the rise. Shit, I can’t stop it.

“Christian!” I whisper earnestly. “I can’t keep quiet!” He groans on my breast and the vibration is too much. A few more seconds of the merciless massage and my clit starts to pulse, then explode in orgasm. His free hand travels quickly to cover my mouth as I whimper in pleasure, my head spinning out of control and my vagina thumping wildly. My body is trembling and I’m beginning to come down as he quickly replaces my gown and takes his place behind me, stroking my hair and calming my trembles. Not a second later, the night nurse comes into the room.

“Is everything okay?” she asks, expecting.

“She had a nightmare,” Christian says, holding me and still stroking my hair. I clasp my hand in his to secure the image of the poor frightened wife trying to breathe through her terror when I’m really the wanton, orgasmic wife trying to breathe through the aftershocks. Boy, did we pull that off quickly!

“Mrs. Grey?” the nurse asks, for confirmation. I just nod.

“Please,” I breathe, “I don’t want to talk about it.”

“Okay, ma’am, sir. Just push the button if you need anything.” Believe me, he did!

She closes the door behind her and he kisses my neck gently, repeatedly.

“Better?” he croons in my ear and I nod.

“What about you?” I whimper.

“Don’t worry about me, baby. I’m waiting to get you home… when you’re ready… so I can love you right.” Oh, my God, does he know the right things to say.

“Is that how you made me fall in love with you?” I ask and he freezes. Rip the bandage off…

“I don’t know,” he answers. “I don’t know how you fell in love with me.


CHRISTIAN

“How do you not know?” she asks.

“It happened so fast, Butterfly,” I tell her. “We were both a little stunned.”

“Why do you call me Butterfly?” she asks. I sigh.

“Because you rose from the ashes of what happened to you in Green Valley,” I tell her. She shivers a bit. “You became a beautiful, remarkable woman in spite of what they tried to do to you… and you turned that horrible scar into a beautiful tattoo.” She frowns.

“A tattoo?!” she says, surprised. “A tattoo can’t cover that thing!”

“You didn’t cover it,” I tell her. “It’s incorporated into the tattoo.” She rolls slightly to look at me.

“How…?” Her eyes are questioning the impossibility.

“Stay right here, baby,” I tell her. She nods and I remove my blackberry from the charger. “Pull up your gown for me.” She moves her gown and turns her back more to me. Her body is so sexy, even in granny panties. I have to pull them down on her butt a bit and raise her gown to her shoulders to get a good shot of the entire tattoo. The ink is still magic, even now. She squirms and whimpers a bit as I touch her back and it’s everything I can do not to make love to her this very second. I take a few pictures of her back, kiss it gently, then pull her panties up and her gown down. I put my arm back around her and the beans and show her the pictures. She gasps.

“My God! It’s beautiful. When did I get this done?”

“Last year,” I tell her. “You and Allen disappeared for a weekend and when you came back, you had this. I was senseless with worry, but then I saw that you really needed this and it turned out so exquisite, I couldn’t be mad.” She looks over her shoulder at me. “You didn’t want me to touch it or see it at first, but we were making love and I reached around you and…” I trail off.

“Yeah, that was the whole point.” She sounds defeated.

“It made me love you more,” I tell her, and glassy blue eyes meet mine. “It made me want to find the bastards who had done this to you and make them pay. I showed you my scars,” I tell her as I pull my T-shirt up and reveal the burns on my chest. She gasps again as she gently fingers one of them.

“Christian! When did this happen? How old were you?”

“Four… three… I don’t know,” I stumble over my words. “We compared our scars and you gave me a massage. No one could touch me before you and even now, no one can touch me like you do.” The glassy blue eye produces a tear that rolls gently down her cheek. “You sang a song to me while you massaged me—Love All The Hurt Away…” I brush the tear from her cheek.

“Aretha Franklin,” she says softly. I smile.

“It’s our song,” I tell her. “It was your ringtone for me before your phone was destroyed. It’s the song that we danced to at our wedding.” She reaches over and strokes my cheek with her knuckles. She brings her hand around to my lips and I use them to caress her fingers.

“How could I not love you?” she asks. That’s one of those double-entendre-type questions that I dare not answer.

“What?” I ask.

“I knew that I loved you almost the moment I set my eyes on you, even though I didn’t know who you were. I don’t know… I think my soul called to you… Everything in me called out to you even though my mind is asleep. Those hours you weren’t here were torture. I didn’t know what to do. I thought it was too much for you…”

“It’s never too much for me!” I interrupt her. “I’ll never leave you. I can’t breathe without you. If you turned me away, I would still come and find you. You’re my whole life, Anastasia. Please, believe me. Please don’t ever doubt me… it would kill me…”

“I’m sorry. I’ll never doubt you again.” She turns around to face me and takes my face in her hands. I wrap my arms around her and pretend that she remembers who I am. “I love you, Christian.”

“Don’t say that,” I tell her, “don’t say that just for my benefit…”

“No,” she whimpers, her voice tortured. “I love you. I know I do. I’m sick without you, sick to my stomach. I was so afraid that you wouldn’t come back, that you didn’t want me, I didn’t know what to do…” Her voice squeaks as she speaks. “Please, tell me that you believe me. Please, please, tell me that you believe me. I’ll make you believe me…” She kisses me with so much passion that I nearly forget we’re in a hospital bed. Fucking hell!

“I believe you, baby,” I breathe, when our lips release. “I believe you.”

“Thank you,” she kisses me again. “Thank you,” and again. “I love you so much,” and again. “Mon cheri.…”

Oh hell… how am I supposed to resist that?

*-*

Butterfly’s memory mostly comes back to her in the coming days, though still not completely. We go down the hall to see Charles later in the week and he’s more than a bit forlorn that Butterfly’s memory of him has to slowly come back to her while she’s visiting. Most of it returns, I think, while she’s in the room, but she admits that there are still some gaps.

“All I can remember is seeing your body come at me and then… nothing,” she tells him as Keri still sits on the edge of his bed holding his hand. I can’t help but wonder how long she’s going to stay and what the nature of their relationship really is. How did she find out that he was even in the hospital? Is she on his emergency contact list?

“It was reaction,” he says. “I saw the car coming the second we hit the intersection and I knew that I wouldn’t be able to avoid it. I didn’t have time to think, so all I could do was cover you and the babies, and then, like you said… nothing.”

“I don’t know how to thank you,” she says, her eyes filling with tears. “I can’t begin to tell you how grateful I am… how much this means to me…”

“You do remember that we’re friends… right?” Charles asks, hopeful. Butterfly smiles.

“It’s coming back to me slowly—not completely, but parts of it. Those people who are close to you never leave your heart,” she says, grasping my hand and looking up at me from her wheelchair before she looks back at Charles. “You’re in my heart.” He smiles contentedly as Keri possessively strokes his hair. Don’t worry, Keri. I had the same fears, too, once upon a time. “I even remember you,” Butterfly says to Keri, who turns a bemused eye to her.

“You do?” she asks in amazement.

“An island somewhere, I can’t remember the name of it. Angora? Something. I remember you asking me if Chuck could dance.”

“Yes! Yes!” Keri says enthusiastically. “Dat’s how we meet!”

“And that obscene banana split,” Charles laments.

“And the candy,” I add.

“Oh, my God, how could I forget all that damn candy?!” Butterfly says and we all laugh. “How is Ma?” Keri smiles sadly.

“You remembeh Ma,” she says. “Dat tis a good ting. Ma is Ma. She still happy, but tired… vety tired. I tink she miss heh good man.” Butterfly frowns at this news and I’m a little confused.

“She’s not sick, is she?” Butterfly asks concerned.

“No… not sick, just tired. She miss heh good man.” Butterfly sighs and drops her head.

“Why doesn’t she just go to her man if she’s missing him?” I ask Keri. She smiles at me.

“I tink she try. I tink she ready to go to heh good man.” So what’s the problem? Butterfly looks up at me with sad eyes.

“Her husband, Christian,” she says softly while touching my hand. “He’s dead.”

“Oh,” I say softly. “I see, now.”

“She live good life. Happy life—I tink she want heh good man back now,” Keri says, and Butterfly nods.

“I wish I could see her one more time,” she says, “but I know that it’s not a good idea for me to travel in my condition, and I certainly couldn’t indulge in that famous rum punch of hers.” She smiles sadly. “If you see her again, tell her that I said hello and I’ll never forget our talk.”

“I will,” she says with a sincere smile. They chat for a little while longer before we leave to allow Charles to get some more rest.

“Chuck is in love with her,” she says as I push her back to her room.

“I know,” I respond. “I can see it in his eyes…”

By Saturday, after having been in the hospital for more than two weeks, she finally gets to come home. She has to go through some physical therapy, but not much. She remembers enough to know where she is and what she’s doing, but things are still coming back to her. She was none too fond of finding out that she and Valerie weren’t speaking and vowed to get to the bottom of it. I’m not looking forward to that. Val came to the hospital almost every day to make sure that she was okay, but stood her ground and wouldn’t come into the room to see her. I still don’t understand that.

I try to distract us both from unpleasant thoughts taking her to our new home. Introducing her to the Mercer house is going to be fun.

“Are you ready, Butterfly?” I ask as Ben and Jason gather her things from the hospital room. In true Butterfly fashion, she donates her many flower arrangements to the hospital for the children’s ward and any other room that needed brightening. No fear, there’s enough flowers at the house to start a garden! Charles will be released tomorrow, but he insists on going back home instead of coming to stay with us at the Mercer house. I want to make up for holding him responsible for the accident at first when it was clear after the investigation that the entire situation was completely out of his control.

“You said that girl came out of nowhere and she was gunning for me,” Butterfly had said when I explained what happened with Naomi. “Chuck couldn’t have prevented that if he tried, Christian. There was absolutely nothing he could do.” 

She was not happy to hear that I was going to pay for Naomi’s last rites if her family didn’t come forward. It was almost a fight.

“You’re what?!” she had asked in horror. 

“She doesn’t have any family,” I defended. 

“She tried to kill me, Christian…” 

“Yes, and she died in the process,” I retorted. Her eyes narrowed. 

“You said that she was only your submissive for less than two weeks. Was it more than that?” she accused. “Did you have feelings for her?” 

“Yes,” I admitted, and she gasped. “Sympathy. You taught me that.” Her face fell at the revelation. “She was alone. She had nobody. She thought she found what she wanted and needed in me and I wasn’t it. After being with me for only ten days, she still never got over it after nearly two years. Even though this affects you personally, as a psychologist, I’m sure you can see how deep that goes… how damaged and affected she had to be by our failed relationship to hold on to it for so long and take such drastic and unreasonable measures. I’m not asking you to empathize with this girl because I know that you are literally incapable of empathizing with a monster, but underneath that monster was a heartbroken, delusional, disenchanted girl who couldn’t see clearly.” She examined me for a moment, conflicting feelings apparent in her ocean-blue eyes. 

“It sounds like Elena to me. What’s the difference?” 

“Elena set out to hurt people,” I explained. “Her disillusions and disappointments are a direct result of all the people that she hurt on purpose for so many years. And that’s why she’s in the situation she’s in now, rotting in jail most likely for the rest of her miserable life. Naomi was looking for something that she never found. She set her hopes on something that she couldn’t have. As far as I know, she never hurt a fly–but when she set out to hurt you, she paid the ultimate price.” She paused again, still fighting with what she knew and what she felt.

“Would you have paid for her last rites if I had died?” she had asked.

“Absolutely not!” I had replied. “I probably would have paid to have her body impaled and displayed in the town square!” I barked. She nodded.

“Then, since you only have to pay for one funeral, I guess it might as well be hers. I guess it’s both tragic and karmic how that worked out, isn’t it?”

And that’s the last we’ve said about it. I’m waiting to see if anyone claims Naomi’s body and then I’ll lay her to rest. Only someone as caring and unselfish as my Butterfly could possibly be okay with that in the end. The rest of my family thinks I’m crazy, but they didn’t know the nature of our relationship and even though everything is out in the open, I dare not tell them that Naomi was one of my rejected submissives.

“More than ready,” Butterfly says, bringing my thoughts back to the here-and-now while sliding gingerly out of the bed and testing her legs. She’s been walking around without a problem for the most part, but she’s still wobbly from being in the bed for so long.

“Whoa! Wait for me! We had an agreement, remember?” I say, coming over to her and taking her around the waist.

“Yes, I remember, sir,” she says, deliberately stressing the word, and I get a twinge in my balls.

“You know what you’re doing.” It’s more of a warning than a statement.

“Yes, I do,” she assures me in a voice that makes me want to get the hell out of here… and fast.


ANASTASIA

I live here? I can’t live here! This is so extravagant and over the top and… beautiful!

“Oh my God. Christian! This is unbelievable!” I say once we get out of the car after driving up a very long tree-lined driveway and through two huge wrought iron gates after passing a guard booth and a young gentleman who tells me that it’s good to see me. I return his pleasantries, but hell if I remember who he is. We walk through the portico to a set of very tall double doors.

“Welcome home, Mrs. Grey,” Christian says in a voice that’s so seducing, I almost forget about the nearly 14,000-square-foot mansion before me. He opens the doors and I walk through to a full marble grand entry with a curving staircase just to my right. This is breathtaking! I can’t believe it’s so beautiful… and it’s mine!

“The house is very large, to say the least,” he says as Jason brings in my things from the hospital. “I can take you on a tour of it now, or we can wait until after you’ve rested.” Bed? He must be out of his mind!

“I’ve been resting for sixteen days—that’s long enough! I want to see my home!” He chuckles slightly.

“Then it’s a good thing I suggested those sneakers to leave the hospital,” he says, pointing at the gorgeous pair of Balenciaga royal blue leather Arena sneakers, not even due for release until next year.

“’Suggested?’” I ask incredulously, folding my arms and looking at him, expecting.

“Okay, insisted… I thought we had this conversation.” His gray eyes pierce mine and I immediately recall visions of the Red Room.

“I’m just saying,” I back-peddle. “It wasn’t a suggestion.” I feel a bit chastised and I don’t think I like it. Noting the shift in the air, he walks over to me and strokes my arms.

“Don’t be cross,” he says softly, “I only want what’s best for you. I nearly lost you—I’m going to be more possessive and protective than ever. I’ll try to put a rein on it, but please understand why I feel that way.”

“I will if you can understand that I can’t be smothered… or bossed around. I’m trying to find my way, here…” I feel rudderless, lost. I’m in a house that I don’t recognize with a life that I only partially remember and a husband who wants to treat me like I’m 12 years old. How did I live like this? He drops his head and sighs heavily.

“I’ll try, Anastasia,” he breathes, his voice pained. I don’t think I like that, either. I examine him for a moment. He looks a little tired. He’s still absolutely gorgeous, but his stance… For some reason, he should be… taller.

“You don’t call me that,” I say softly. He raises his head slowly and his eyes meet mine. “You don’t call me ‘Anastasia.’”

“No,” he shakes his head. “I mean, I do, but… rarely.”

“Why did you say it then?” I ask. An unknown emotion falls over his face.

“I don’t know,” he says. “I think I’m just tired…” He trails off.

“No,” I contradict, “you’re not just tired. You’re also overwhelmed and frustrated, and like me, a little rudderless.” He drops his head again.

“Did I ever tell you I hate shrinks?” he says softly.

“Many times,” I say, cupping his cheek and recalling that he has said numerous times that he hates when I shrink him. He chuckles a bit without lifting his head. “But this is not Dr. Steele talking. This is Mrs. Grey looking at her exhausted and verklempt husband and making an observation.” He chuckles again.

“Verklempt?” he repeats.

“Yes, verklempt. Maybe not to the point of tears, but highly frustrated and overwhelmed.” A few moments later, I discover that I was wrong. He is to the point of tears, and he shows it by crumbling into himself and crouching down low, leaning on his knees, weeping.

Holy cow, Batman! How did this happen?
Congratulations, Doctor. You’ve now turned the only person that you’ve viewed as Superman all this time into a weeping mess!
Shut. The fuck. Up. You haven’t been here for a long time. Don’t show up now trying to be all helpful, assuming that’s what you’re trying to do!

Silence.

“Christian!” I say, putting my hands on his shoulder and back while he sobs. “Christian, please…” I don’t know what to say, how to make him stop, and he shows no signs of stopping. “Christian, come.” I hold my hand down where he can see it. He takes it like a helpless toddler and rises gracefully to his feet, still weeping. I swear he’s the most graceful man I’ve ever seen. All of his movements are so fluid, almost like a ballerina—except that one time on the beach in Anguilla when he thought I had left. Strange how things come back to me at the most inopportune times.

He allows me to lead him across the grand entry into what looks like the formal living room. It’s amazing. Beautiful ivory or marble columns greet you as you step down into an impressive space decorated with exquisite furnishings in cream, brown, and various shades of white and tan. An accent loveseat in a dusty shade of black breaks the monotony of muted tones with pillows that pull the entire room together. A quaint dinette set accents the two-story windows with doors that lead to the patio—the entire wall and the two opposite corner walls offering a magnificent view of the lake behind the house. I’m trying not to be swept away by the grandeur of it all while my husband is a crying mess.

I lead him to the large sofa and sit down with him. He sobs deeply, holding me as close as my pregnant belly will allow. His hand is strewn across the babies and they react violently, kicking and moving like they would break out of their amniotic prison right now if they could. I know that babies can feel bad vibrations and energy and that must be what’s going on now, because these two are intense!

I put my hand over his and start to move it over my belly in an effort to calm the babies. It’s not working. In fact, it’s making things worse. I’m confused. How can this possessive, controlling man be reduced to a mountain of goo in seconds like this?

You did this to him.
Didn’t I tell you…?
Shut up and listen! He was an island before you, a content billionaire and a content Dom, living in his ivory castle, running the world and minding his own business—remember?

I do remember. He was an arrogant, pompous entitled asshole who thought the world owed him something. Then one day…

One day, it all changed. You made love and things were never the same. You showed him tenderness and emotion and it took him a long time to deal with those things—to be able to accept those feelings and return them, and you’ve been a trying bitch sometimes!
Hey!
I’m not done yet. You’ve been unreasonable, unforgiving, spoiled, and he still loves you because he knows that deep down inside, you’re a good person. You can’t hide from me. You’ve worked on a lot of your shit and so has he, but it’s been a bumpy fucking ride. That man loves you more than life. That’s why he’s crying. So let him cry.

I hate it when the Bitch is right, and how dare her call me a bitch!

I look down at my beautiful man, weeping inconsolably into my chest. I sigh and relax into the sofa, wrapping my legs and one of my arms around him, leaving the other hand free to play in his amazingly soft hair. His weeping seems to subside a bit, but he doesn’t stop. So I just sit there stroking his hair and humming a song gently, hoping to ease some of his pain and calm the soccer match going on in my womb…

I awake to Christian planting soft, open-mouthed kisses on my cheek and neck. When did I fall asleep? How long have I been asleep?

“Christian?” He was crying the last I remember. I was singing that song… our song. His lips move to my ear and he gently nips my earlobe. Fuck! I gasp as a jolt of electricity shoots right down to my sex. Hell… he’s good.

“Christian, wait. Are you…?” His mouth covers mine and I’m locked into one of the most sensual kisses I’ve ever felt. Oh God, is this real?

I melt into him, moaning into his mouth and grasping his hair. My temperature rises immediately and all I can think of is…

“I need to love you,” he breathes when our lips part. “I need you, now!” He’s desperate, hungry. His mouth caresses my ear and neck and starts to travel down my chest to the exposed part of my breast. I hold my head back to try to withstand this primal urge, the heat and passion emanating from both of us. “Baby… I need you…”

“Yes… please…” I pant, unable to take it anymore. He rises from the sofa and effortlessly lifts me in his arms. Damn! He must be as strong as an ox! He sprints through the grand entry and up the stairs, carrying me like a weightless piece of paper. He bursts through another set of double doors into what I assume is our bedroom—dark chocolate walls and heavy drapes to block out the light; beautiful vintage furnishings and a large, luxurious bed. I don’t have time to take in the exquisite beauty of the room before Christian lays me on the bed and quickly begins to undress me. He’s absolutely ravenous! I don’t think he could control this if he wanted to.

“I thought I lost you,” he whimpers, his face in my neck as he releases my bra. I swear, I don’t remember him removing any of my clothes, it went so fast! I think he was wearing a suit—gray with a linen shirt—but he’s out of it in record time and lying behind me, both of us naked. He’s everywhere… all over me. His mouth and hands are kissing, licking, touching every inch of my body. I’m dizzy with need and desire.

“Christian…” I gasp. He’s too much for me. I’m overwhelmed by his need, his hunger… his pain.

“I would die without you,” he chokes, pulling my leg over his hip. I feel him between my legs, large and hard. I try to prepare myself for him, but it’s no use. When he positions his head at my opening, I stiffen and gasp. He’s big. I remember sex with him, but I don’t remember him being this big. He pushes his head into me—slowly and gently. He groans deeply when he breeches my core, but stops, breathing raggedly.

“Relax, baby,” he says, softly. “I’ll go slow. It’s been a while… for both of us.”

“Okay,” I respond, trying to breathe deeply and relax. This is my husband. We’ve had sex before. Once he’s inside, I’ll acclimate to his size. He pushes in further and it seems as though I tighten around him.

“Oh, fuck,” he groans softly, his breath quickening. I’m still taking deep breaths, trying to adjust to him.

“Christian,” I breathe, “just do it!”

“Baby, I can’t,” he says, holding me tight to him. “You feel so good. I almost want to come right now.” Oh, I can’t take this shit. I hold my breath and push down hard against him. Fuck, he’s big! He groans loudly and mournfully, digging his fingers into my hips.

“Ana!” he calls out, his voice tortured. Now, he’s filling me completely. I still, breathing heavily at the fullness. I thought he was in as far as he could go, but he pivots his hips and pushes further still. With that thrust, he hits that spot and…

“Oooooohhhhh!” I moan, throwing my head back. Fucking hell!

“Baby, yes!” he hisses, and angles himself so that he is partially between my legs. I’m lying half on my back and half on my side with my leg still over his hip and he’s thrusting into me, his hand cupping my cheek as he looks into my eyes.

“I love you, Mrs. Grey,” he whispers as he thrusts into me. “With everything in me, I love you…” and I know that he means it. I feel his fear from when I was unconscious and his relief mixed with anguish at this moment. I want to cry as I gaze into his gorgeous, loving, and frightened gray eyes, but I fight the emotion.

“Let it out, baby,” he soothes, still pushing into me, still loving me. The levee breaks and my soul is weeping as much as my eyes. His fingers push into my hair, pulling my face to his as he kisses me repeatedly on my tear-stained cheek. I don’t know why I’m crying. I only know that I’m so full of emotion—his and mine—that I can’t stop. He continues to love me, slow and deep, and I begin to feel the burn. My cries become whimpers as my body starts to tremble. I’m reaching for something… anything to keep me grounded… to keep me from floating away from this place.

He catches my wildly flailing hand and entwines his fingers in mine, holding it down on the bed and using it as leverage to pull me to him each time he thrusts. Yes… yes, that’s what I need.

“Chri… Christian… I love… you…” I can barely get my words out. My body is mush and my brain is useless. I can only lay here and allow him to consume me.

“I know, baby,” he whispers, having regained his composure and now ripping every bit of pleasure from me that he can. “Come for me, baby.” Oh, God, he’s magnificent. I don’t remember this… how can I not remember this? I feel the tightening in my core and I know I’m going to explode any minute.

“That’s my girl,” he coaches. “Feel it, baby. It feels so good…” His voice is like honey wrapping around my body and coating me in warm pleasure. My legs start to tremble as I feel my orgasm approaching in my thighs and pelvis. Just when I can’t withstand any more, he closes his mouth over my neck and sinks his teeth into the tender meat just above my clavicle. I detonate around him, the fire of my climax threatening to burn us both alive. He’s barely moving inside of me now, but I can still feel him thrusting, then pulsing as he pins me to him.

“Ah! Ah! Oh, yes, Ana, baby!” he groans as he buries his face into my neck and his wildly throbbing member deep inside my core. Oh, God, it’s magnificent and it keeps going on and on and on! “Baby, yes! Give it all to me!” He coaches as my muscles continue to clamp around him coming violently. Suddenly, I think I’m confronted with every orgasm he ever gave me. My pussy is thumping feverishly with each flashback and I whimper as she burns with pleasure and I lie there, helplessly pinned to the bed and forced to ride it out. He holds me there in his grasp, unable to escape until the convulsions in my core finally subside. I can barely breathe, and he stays nestled inside of me as he gently kisses my cheek over and over again, proclaiming his love for me.

I must have fallen asleep again, because it’s nightfall when I awake this time. Christian is lying next to me on his side, wide awake and watching me sleep. I turn my eyes to him. How long has he been watching me?

“I thought I lost you,” he says softly. Isn’t that how this all started? “I don’t remember getting to the hospital when I got off the plane. I barely remember getting to your room.” He takes my hand in his and entwines our fingers again. “You looked so frail and helpless. Your whole face was bandaged except for one of your eyes. They had cut your hair… here.” He gently strokes the area on the side of my head where there’s barely any hair. “You needed stitches—a lot of them. You nearly lost your ear.” He kisses the back of the hand that he’s holding. “They reminded me of your advanced directives and all I could think of was to spend as much time as I could with you in the next sixty days in case…” He swallows hard. “In case you left me.”

Yes, the advanced directives. I remember those. Maxie tried to have me committed and I had Al draw them up for me in case I couldn’t make my own decisions.

“They said they would… keep you alive for the babies, but…” He trails off again. “I never left that room. For twelve days, I never left that room… not once. If you were leaving me, if you were going to die, then I was going to have every moment of those last sixty days with you.” He wipes a tear from his cheek. “You talked to me sometimes… only twice, I think… and you laughed at me once when I read you ‘The Gingerbread Man.’” I laugh thinking about this rich billionaire CEO sitting in the room with me reading “The Gingerbread Man.”

“You read me nursery rhymes?” I ask. He nods.

“My mother brought them,” he says sadly. “I never read them a child, and I promised that I would…”

“Learn them with our children,” I finish the sentence for him. I remember this. “We saw Dumbo… and Bambi…”

“… And CinderellaThe Jungle Book and Tarzan. We saw Pocahontas first so that I wouldn’t be so creeped out by Grandmother Willow because…”

“… She’s on the back of the door of the nursery,” I finish again. He smiles at me.

“I just wanted those last moments with you,” he says. “I would share them again with my children, but I would share them first with you.”

“Oh, Christian…” I use my free hand to caress his cheek. I love him so much.

“I never want to feel that way again,” he says, his eyes begging me to understand. “I never want to feel like I’m losing you ever, ever again.” At that moment, I know what I need to do.

“I’ll do whatever you ask,” I assure him. His gaze doesn’t change. “Anything. Whatever you ask, I’ll do it.” I can only hope he doesn’t want to lock me away forever. I really want to get back into the swing of things with Helping Hands as I recall most of what I was doing there. After this last tragedy, I don’t see the sense in keeping my practice open anymore. Whatever the case, for right now—for this moment—I have to do what he says. I have to bring him some peace from his last ordeal.

“I know you will, baby,” he says, kissing my hand twice. “We’ll come to an agreement that works for both of us.” I smile widely.

“Okay,” I nod.

Once we’re out of the bed and dressed, Christian shows me the elevators on either side of the house. It’s going to take me a couple of days to find my way around this place. To that end, Christian has actually purchased me a new phone, moved all of my contacts, pictures, and ringtones from the Cloud, and installed an app that has a map of our house on the phone and tells me where I am. Who needs a map of their own house? This place is ridiculous!

Our home is stunning. It’s everything I could have possibly hoped for. It’s more than I could have hoped for! There’s so much to see, but right now, I only want to see food!

I wander around following the “red dot” until it leads me to the kitchen. There are fabulous aromas coming from this beautiful gourmet kitchen and the lovely blonde woman standing at the stove. Just as I’m about to excuse myself for interrupting her, memories of her come flooding back to me—making my cheesy garlic potatoes, food and libations, her wedding on an island, my wedding to Christian…

“Gail…” I say wistfully. She spins around, surprised by the sound of my voice. She covers her mouth and begins to weep immediately. She opens her arms and I run into her embrace. This is my friend, and I’ve missed her.

“I didn’t think you would remember me,” she sobs in my arms.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t at first, but it only took a moment. The people you love never leave you.”

*-*

Gail informs me that Thanksgiving was supposed to be at our house, but Christian called the whole thing off once I had the accident. That made me exceedingly sad and I immediately went in search of my husband that Sunday morning to inquire why he would deny me the chance to cook in that gourmet kitchen and to entertain in this magnificent house—if you can call it that—which we have purchased and decorated with the purpose of entertaining friends and family. I mean, look at it. The place is huge and several areas are decorated specifically for entertaining. We even have more house staff being interviewed this week that will most likely start on or around Thanksgiving. After running his hands through his hair and unsuccessfully trying to convince me that it’s not a good idea for me to host Thanksgiving after just coming out of the hospital, I vow to take it easy for the most part, but refuse to let him tell me that we can’t have Thanksgiving at our house, which I soon discover has been named Grey Crossing.

Hmmm… oh well.

The first thing I do is call Marilyn, which I discover I’m the last to know, has to have clearance before she’s allowed onto the grounds. Mr. Grey and Mr. Taylor are going to have to give me a list of rules or I’m never going to keep up.

“Wow, Ana, this place is something else!” she says, admiring the high ceilings and marble floors and columns.

“I know,” I tell her. “I’m still getting used to it myself.” I lead her the long way through the formal living room and dining room, the gourmet kitchen, the family room and then through a back hallway that leads to the east wing. This area houses my parlor, Christian’s den, and both our offices.

“Whoa!” she exclaims when she gets to my office and sees the warm, but opulent décor and the aquarium that connects Christian’s office to mine. “Mrs. Grey, you have arrived.”

“That I have,” I giggle, gesturing her to one of the comfortable chairs in front of my desk. She sits down and takes out her tablet, awaiting instructions.

“So, Thanksgiving is going to be here at my house, so there’s a lot to do. I need to put together a guest list and I need to see what staff will actually be in the house to assist.” She raises her eyes from her tablet.

“Christian agreed to this?” she asks in disbelief. I nod.

“Reluctantly, yes, but only if I take full advantage of my resources, which is one of the reasons you’re here. I need to download my Helping Hands schedule so that I know what the week looks like, but for the life of me, I can’t remember my password. In fact, I can’t remember any passwords… to anything.”

“And you thought this was a waste of time,” she says with a smile and taps into her tablet. What’s she talking about? “Christian changed your number, I see.”

“Yeah,” I reply. “At first, I thought it was a huge inconvenience, but since I’m going to be making some changes, it may be best—for privacy’s sake, if nothing else…” My phone buzzes while I’m talking and it’s a text from Mare.

“Click on that link.” I click on it. “Type in contingency1018.” I follow directions and a password manager opens. “There’s all your passwords—to everything, including your old phone.” I scan down the list and they’re all variations of the same word with different numeric extensions. Of course… and now they’re all coming back to me now.

“What made me think I wouldn’t need this someday?” I ask Marilyn.

“You said that you were never likely to forget your passwords, unless a boulder fell on your head.” She smiles sadly. “The boulder fell, boss.”

“I guess it did,” I say, returning her sad smile. I open my schedule for Helping Hands. “Oh, no way in hell I’m going to be able to keep this schedule this week,” I tell her. “How has Grace been getting on without me? Has anyone been helping her?”

“The volunteers have been pitching in pretty well and I do what I can as she needs me. John has been handling the counseling on his own, though.” I frown.

“Who’s John?” I ask. Without missing a beat, she begins to type in her tablet and I get a new email. I open it and up pops a picture of an attractive older gentleman.

“John Flynn,” Marilyn begins. “He used to be Christian’s psychiatrist before Christian fired him. He’s very well acquainted with the Grey family, which is why he gives some of his time down at the Center like you and Grace.”

“Christian fired him.” It’s more of a statement than a question.

“He misinterpreted something that you said and it resulted in a huge blowup between you and Christian.” Just like most things these days, a little coaxing is all it takes to cause the memories to all come flooding back to me.

“Oh, I remember now,” I say, looking at the judgmental, arrogant asshole staring back at me. “We buried the hatchet, didn’t we?”

“At your wedding reception, I think.” Yeah, that was it. I remember him stumbling over an apology in his irritating English accent and me trying to figure out what the hell he was saying. I’m not saying that all English accents are irritating, but for whatever reason, his irritates me.

“Well, I see that quite a few people see me at the Center,” I observe while thumbing through my schedule. “Nothing’s actually set. Everything’s kind of jumbled. Why is that?”

“Because you just get to things as you can,” she responds. “It all works out in the wash.” I nod.

“Well, even I know that I won’t be able to maintain this schedule, what with trying to do Thanksgiving this week and just getting out of the hospital. I promised Christian that I would take it easy, so I have to be very careful about what I do, which reminds me…” I take a deep breath. “I’m closing down the practice, Mare,” I tell her. She looks at me.

“Really?” she says and I nod.

“I’m not helping these last few patients more than anyone else could, and I need to concentrate on other things. It won’t be hard to get new patients if I decide to come back to the practice, but right now I need to concentrate on recovery, I want to focus on Helping Hands, and I’ll have the children pretty soon. I know that the few patients that I have are on indefinite hold, but I’ll need their contact information so that I can let them know that they need to seek treatment elsewhere. I’ll use my memory loss and recovery as the reason for my departure.”

“Mrs. Hightower is going to be tough to sell on that,” she warns.

“I know, but I think everything happens for a reason and it’s time for Mrs. Hightower to stand on her own two feet. I’m not saying that I had a near-fatal accident so that I could drop her as a patient, but if it wasn’t this, it would have been something else. It would have been the babies or Helping Hands or something. She’s my last full-time patient. She’s going to have to let go.”

“Well, I wish you luck on getting her to understand that,” Marilyn says. She’s right—Annabelle Hightower is going to try every trick in the book to get me to keep her on as a patient, but my mind is made up. I’m going to spend my time with the charity, raising my children, and loving my husband. I want to get to know my life again—my family and friends—and I want to enjoy my new house. The few patients that I have left are not enough to keep the practice open. I can go back anytime, but for now, this is the best decision for me and my family.


A/N: I had a few people unsubscribe after the last post. I normally send out a campaign to unsubscribers asking if it was an accident. I didn’t do that this time because I clearly saw that one of the people was someone that I was THRILLED to see leaving, so I figured that both of them were unwanted elements. To that end, if you didn’t get an email, the system might have removed you by accident. Please let me know.

I know I say “Thank you” a lot and I hope it never gets old. I didn’t have time to respond to every post, but I just want you guys to know that I appreciate every single word of encouragement. I want to thank YOU for being there for me during the one time when I TRULY felt like throwing in the towel.

Although you guys know that it’s in my nature to defend myself, I’m going to work harder on ignoring and deleting insulting and condescending comments and passive-aggressive shots taken at me disguised as something else… although I do reserve the right to slice somebody up every now and again. I was seriously considering walking away from what I love because certain people wanted to critique the way I behave. Having said that, I’m going to make this clear to my dissenters…

I am 46 years old. I am etched in stone. I am who I am going to be until the day that I die. I’m not going to change. What you see is what you get and if you don’t like it, I DON’T CARE! So if you don’t like what I say—either in my story or in response to people who decide to say stupid shit—then get the hell off my page!

I’m getting old and very set in my ways and there’s nothing you can do to make me change, so go shake that proverbial finger at somebody else! I’m a grown ass woman; if you want to go SCOLD somebody, you go and scold your children—you don’t come over here trying to scold ME!

Don’t come over here trying to compare yourself to me and getting all butt-hurt because you swung at me first and I swung back harder.

If you have a problem with me talking about MY story and MY characters, and MY MY MINE MY MINE MINE MY MINE, you can get YOUR ASS off of MY PAGE!

If you don’t like what my readers say because they have the audacity to defend me, then you REALLY need to get the hell up off my page, because I’m NEVER going to silence someone who comes to my defense.

There are so many different ways and reasons that you can “get da hell out mah house” if you don’t like what you see over here—please, pick one!

I already know that I can be a loud-mouthed, egotistical, windbag, big, black woman. Having said that, there’s nothing that you can tell me about myself that I don’t already know. If you need any reminders of how to behave when you step on my front porch, you might want to go look at the Author’s Note at the beginning of chapter 42 of Paging Dr. Steele on Fanfiction, because I think there may be a couple of you who may have forgotten who I really am. Here’s the link just in case you might need a refresher course because what you don’t understand is that these “zings” that I do over here are shy and retiring compared to what I used to do on Fanfiction. So if you want THAT BITCH, she’s back! 

If you still insist on typing shit to me, know that the moment I can catch a whiff of the scent of bullshit on your email/private message/contact me/comment, it will be deleted. That usually takes 1-3 sentences. And don’t come at me with “Well, if our opinions don’t agree with yours…” because that’s bullshit, too. There are plenty of dissenting opinions on my page that haven’t been zinged or deleted. Why? Because these people knew how to voice their displeasure without disrespecting my story, my characters, or ME! So if you want to come on over and be UNCOOTH in your opinion, go right ahead and see what happens to your “opinion.”

GOD that felt good!

She baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaack!

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

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

Love and handcuffs 🙂 
Lynn X

Becoming Dr. Grey: Chapter 16—Coming Out of the Dark

I’m not a medical professional. Please don’t chew up the chapter because it doesn’t match what your medical degree or certificate has taught you.

If you feel like reading it, there’s a bit of my opinion in I Have To Admit… They’re Winning. 

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

Chapter 16—Coming Out of the Dark

ANASTASIA

I don’t know how long we sit there like that before there’s a light knock at the door. I turn my attention to the door to see a brush of dusty blonde hair and brown eyes peak around it.

“Al…” I breathe. He steps cautiously into the room. My best friend—I don’t remember my husband, but I remember my best friend. I feel a slight twinge from that. I look over at him and he squeezes my hand.

“It’s okay,” he says, and I swear he read my thoughts. That’s creepy. I look back over at Al who silently pulls a chair next to my bed. He sits down and it’s clear that he doesn’t know what to say.

“Al?” I say softly, and the color returns to his face.

“He said…” he chokes, “He said you lost your memory. I didn’t know if you would remember me.”

“I’ve only lost the last couple of years, I think,” I tell him. “I haven’t asked any questions because I’m a bit afraid to know the truth right now. I’ll wait until after all the tests are done, then I’ll ask.”

“You’re pregnant,” he says, by means of informing me.

“Yes, I know,” I laugh nervously, “and married apparently.” I look over at Christian.

“Apparently?” Al says, “You don’t remember that?” He points to Christian. I laugh. Same old Al.

“Subconsciously, yes, I do…” I begin.

“You do?” Christian asks, surprised. I nod.

“I’m drawn to you like I’ve never been drawn to anyone before. I… ached when you left the room. I’ve never felt this connection with anyone, not even Eddie.”

Eddie?!” Al nearly yells. “How far back did you go?” I shrug,

“I don’t know,” I tell him. “I’m honestly afraid to find out.”  Al shakes his head.

“You called the double-dicker Eddie. You’ve gone back kind of far.”

“Allen,” Christian says, “don’t scare her.”

“Too late,” I inform him. “I was afraid when I woke up and didn’t know where I was.”

“So much has happened, Jewel,” he says, his voice sad. “It’s been many years since you’ve called that man Eddie and right now, you don’t even dare say his first name.”

“Which one?” I shoot before I know it. I shake my head. “I remember the break up, so…” I trail off.

“Thank God,” Christian says, low enough that he doesn’t think I hear him. I look over at him.

“I don’t remember our life together,” I lament. “I want to, but I don’t right now. The fact that Al is not snarling at you means that we must have a good relationship.” There’s a slight twinge in his eye. Something’s wrong.

“Allen works for me now,” he says. I look over at Al.

“Is that how we met?” I ask. Al shakes his head.

“It was the other way around. It’s a really long story.” Al says. I look from him to Christian.

“There’s something else,” I observe. Christian nods.

“We were touch and go for a moment a little while back,” he admits. “There was something going on with the business and I was completely consumed with it. That left very little time for my lovely wife.” I examine him for a moment.

“That didn’t go over well with me, did it?” I ask him.

“No, not well at all. We… stopped talking for a while.”

“How long is a while?” I ask, frowning.

“About a month.”

“A month?!” I nearly screech. “Are you serious? I didn’t talk to you for a month because of your job? I really am a bitch!” That’s just ridiculous.

“No, Butterfly, it was more than that. We got it all straightened out now, so there’s no need to worry about it.” My brow furrows.

“Was there another woman?” I ask timidly.

“No!” he answers immediately. I turn to Al. “No, Jewel,” he confirms. I turn back to Christian.

“Why wouldn’t I speak to you?” I ask, almost forlorn. What happened that I wouldn’t speak to my husband for a whole month?

“I…” He’s hesitant and I know it must be something really bad, so I prepare myself. “I wasn’t speaking to you.” I shake my head in shock.

“Well, at least that’s not gone,” Al says, and I deduce that he’s talking about my head shake.

“You weren’t…” Why the hell wasn’t he speaking to me?

“Are you sure you want to hear this right now? There’s so many other things we can talk about…”

“Yes!” I yell. This can of worms is open and now I want to know what’s inside. Christian sighs heavily.

“You don’t see your patients much anymore, just a handful. In case you’ve gone back this far, you don’t volunteer at the community center either.” I don’t remember any community center. “You spend most of your time now as assistant director of a charity called Helping Hands. My mother is the director…”

He takes the next few minutes and describes to me how I convinced his mother to allow me to meet with a group of donors to try to pry some more money out of their hands and boy, did I give it a class-A effort… or more like a classless-F effort. As he’s describing my attire and behavior—as a married, soon-to-be mother of twins—I feel myself shrinking more and more into the bed. He talks about how hurt he was.  His words are so gentle and because of his pained expression, I know that he’s down-playing it for my benefit. He talks about how his mother reamed us both a new asshole—me for being such a classless twit and him for allowing the situation to deteriorate so far. I feel like shit. I want to fucking disappear. It would have served me right for him to leave me. I’m lucky all he did was stop speaking to me.

“Shit!” He exclaims as he reaches under my arms, wraps his arms around me and drags me up the bed so that I’m sitting more upright. He comes as close to me as he can and he’s gently stroking my face while looking deeply into my eyes, examining me. What just happened?

“She hasn’t done that in a while,” Al says, and I’m wondering what they’re talking about.

“I knew I shouldn’t have told you,” Christian says, shaking his head. “It’s too much and I should have waited for it to come back to you.”

“It may never have come back to me,” I admit, my voice small. As much as I’m hoping for the opposite, I’m a doctor and I know that I may never regain the last year… or two… or three… or whatever I’ve lost.

“That probably would have been best,” he laments, still stroking my face.

“What… just happened?” I ask, not sure I really want to know this either. “Why did you freak out? And what haven’t I done in a while?” He and Al look at each other, then back at me.

“Shrinking,” Christian says softly. Shrinking? What the…? “When something becomes too much for you, you shrink. You make yourself small. You go into yourself. It’s your way of dealing with things… or not dealing with things, I should say. Ace helped you stop doing it so that you could move forward with your life, but now…” His words trail off and I gaze into his beautiful gray eyes, his pupils now constricted.

“I’m shrinking again,” I finish his sentence. The shrinking shrink… how ironic. He nods.

“I really think you need to talk to Ace, baby,” he says softly.

“I need a whole lot more than that,” I say, unable to hold my tears back. “I don’t remember my life! Our courtship! Our wedding! Conceiving our babies! I could have lost you because I was busy shaking my pregnant ass for a bunch of strangers! Who does that?!” I’m screeching now, and Christian is trying to calm me down. I’m rambling on about God only knows what before I see people coming into the room. Christian is still trying to calm me, but it’s like I have no control over my emotions. I’m scared, I mean really scared. I don’t know who I am. I don’t know what’s going on with my life. I don’t know what’s happening. I’m terrified out of my wits. Now, I see Christian backing away from me and some uniformed person taking his place… a doctor? A nurse? An intern?

No… no, please don’t leave me. I’m sorry! I’m sorry I was such an insensitive twit. Please…

“I’m sorry! I’m sorry!” I say, reaching for him. I see a big house and the morning sky; black cars driving up a gravel driveway. He exits one of them and my heart sinks… and my babies begin to move frantically. I’m going to be sick. I’m going to die. My chest hurts.

“I’m sooorrry!” I cry, reaching for him. Just as he reaches for me, someone in a dark suit holds him back. No. No, let him go. Let him come to me. I need him…

“Please! Please!”

“Ana!” His voice is tortured… and everything goes black.


CHRISTIAN

She doesn’t remember me.

She doesn’t remember us.

I feel like my chest is going to cave in. I feel the walls closing in on me. She doesn’t remember me. She doesn’t remember me at all.

“Boss?” Jason’s voice pulls me out of my maudlin. “Is everything okay?”

“She’s… she’s awake,” I manage to choke out.

“She is?” he exclaims. “That’s good, right?”

“She doesn’t remember me.” His silence speaks volumes. I raise my eyes to his face and see a myriad of emotions—sorrow, sympathy, pain, confusion, pity.

“She… what?” I run my hands over my face and through my hair.

“She doesn’t remember me. Near as I can tell, she’s somewhere in 2009… or 2010. It seems like small bits of things might be coming back to her, but nothing substantial.”

“What do you mean?” His voice is heavy with concern. I sigh as I take out my blackberry.

“She didn’t remember that she was pregnant, but once she realized it, she knew that they were twins… and she recognized my handkerchief.”

“That’s something, Boss. That means you’re not completely gone,” Jason tries to comfort me. What if she doesn’t want to remember me? What if this is her brain’s way of protecting her from me?

“I need to call Ace,” I tell him. “Would you call Allen and Ray? I’m sure she would want someone familiar near her right now.”

“Is she shunning you, Boss?” he asks. I shake my head.

“No. Actually, she’s quite the opposite—confused, but warm, the exact person you would expect her to be if she didn’t know I was such an asshole.” I dial Ace’s number and put the phone to my ear.

“Lordis Avery.”

“Ace, it’s Christian Grey.”

“Christian, hi,” his voice is cautious. “You’re calling me. I assume there’s a change in Ana’s condition.”

“There is. She’s awake,” I tell him.

“And there’s a pause. What’s wrong?”

“She doesn’t remember me,” I tell him… and there’s another pause.

“Amnesia?” he asks, puzzled. I nod, feeling a bit choked up before I realize that he can’t see me.

“Yes,” I manage, without sounding too pathetic. “As far as I can tell, she’s somewhere in 2009 or 2010 maybe, before me but after David.”

“That’s a strange way to describe her location,” he says.

“What do you mean?” I nearly snarl.

“You described where she is in terms of who she was with, not in terms of any other significant moment in her life. I just find it strange.”

“Well, excuse me for being a bit selfish!” I yell into the phone. “My wife that I adore dearly and has been unconscious for several days awakes and doesn’t know who I am! Forgive me if I couldn’t find a more suitable gauge for you!”

“Christian, I’m sorry,” he says immediately. “Of course, this is a very trying time for you and my remarks were insensitive. I hope you will forgive my callousness.” Motherfucking shit son-of-a… I want to be mad, but that’s one of the most sincere apologies I’ve ever had in my life.

“She needs to talk to a shrink. She needs someone familiar. I recommended you.”

“Christian, if she doesn’t know you, she certainly doesn’t know me right now…”

“I know that, but you know her. She wanted Maxine because she thought Maxine was still treating her. I explained that it was you and why and she agreed to talk to you.” He sighs.

“I have a full day, but I get there as soon as I can. Same room, right? They haven’t moved her?”

“No, she hasn’t been moved. She’s in the same room. I need to get back.”

“Christian, I really am sorry. It’s the shrink in me—I’ll try to put a leash on it in the future,” he reinforces.

“Fine,” I say, hearing the defeat in my voice before ending the call.

“Boss?” Shit! I forgot Jason was still in the room. He scared the hell out of me!

“Yes?”

“Allen is on his way. I gave him as much of a heads-up as I could so that he’s not ambushed by the situation when he gets here. Do you need anything? Something to eat? A change of clothes?” I think the last part was more of a suggestion than a question. I scrub my hand over my face.

“Bring something for Ana, something comfortable—her long white Victorian gown, she likes that one… and the throw off the sofa in the great room. She’s very fond of that. Oh, bring some socks for her feet. It gets cold in here and those hospital socks are horrid. Bring her body wash… the Chanel, no… the lemongrass… Bring them both…” Jason puts his hand on my shoulder.

“I got it, Boss,” he says, silencing me. “Ben and Chance are here if you need anything.” I nod and go back to the room with my wife.

I’m not pleased at all by the sight that greets me. This fucking doctor is sitting on the bed, damn near in my wife’s lap. Since when do they get that damn cozy? I waste no time in getting him the fuck off that bed. Get away from my wife, you fucking vulture!

He describes the accident and Butterfly’s condition, speaking completely in doctor terms and I wonder if he’s doing it just to spite me. Even when he explains it so that I can understand, he doesn’t forego the opportunity to touch my wife. I almost want to slap him senseless when he takes this haughty attitude and tone to describe how much he likes my wife and would gladly take her home with him… were he not gay. Fucker! I don’t care if you are gay. You still don’t have permission to get all cozy with my wife!

“You’re very possessive, aren’t you?” Butterfly’s voice brings me out of my train of thought as Hill leaves the room. Oh, my dear, you have no idea. I tell her a very small bit about our life and that we need to do a better job of protecting her. We’re sitting so close and she’s so vulnerable. I don’t want to rush anything but…

“I want to kiss you.” Shit! Did I say that out loud?

“I think I’d like that.” Did I hear her correctly? Oh God, I can’t resist. I close the space between us and her lips taste like sweet honey. My ravaged soul is soothed by the simple act of kissing her. I bring her closer to me, feel her warmth, and absorb her aura. She pushes her hand into my hair and I’m transported—to all of the times we made love, all of our tender or passionate kisses. I’m hungry for her. I can’t stand it. My tongue explores her mouth, remembering its familiar taste and feel, consuming her. I’m ravenous! I could gobble her up in one bite!

Control yourself, Grey. You’re in a hospital and she doesn’t know who you are. You might scare her.

“We have to stop,” I say, reluctantly wrenching my mouth from hers, but still holding her close to me.

“Okay,” she breathes, her fingers still tangled in my hair. Fuck, I want to kiss her again, and she’s just as affected as I am. Control, Grey… control.

“You’re irresistible,” I tell her by means of an apology. She’s afraid and so am I. Neither of us knows what to expect.

Allen comes into the room and we both attempt to analyze what’s happening and where in time Butterfly actually is. I thought I would lose the lining of my stomach when she called that fucker Eddie. God help me, I don’t know how I’m going to get through this.

Somehow, we wander to the month that we weren’t speaking and I swear to God and everything holy, I wish we hadn’t. Butterfly completely lost it. She starts shrinking and then she starts screaming. I don’t know what happened, but when she started wailing that she was sorry again—like she did the day we found her at the Mercer house—my heart starts burning in my chest. I tried to bring her out of it, but it was like she couldn’t hear me. When that doctor came in and snatched me from her side, I almost hit him. If Jason hadn’t been there, I would have. She’s reaching for me and pleading with me and they won’t let me get to her.

“Let them work, Christian!” Jason hisses in my ear, and it’s the only thing that keeps me from launching myself at her, rescuing her from whatever fear has her paralyzed and pleading.

“Ana!” The word is barely audible, but I’m crying from my soul. Her eyelashes flutter and in moments, she’s out like a light. What the hell?

“She’s pregnant! What did you give her?” I demand.

“A sedative! She’ll be fine! What happened in here?” Dr. Hill is just as demanding.

“We were just talking,” I hiss. “I don’t know what happened!”

“What were you talking about?” I refuse to answer. He turns to Allen.

“It was nothing, really,” Allen tries to appease him. “She just had a bad reaction to some of the things we were talking about. No one did anything wrong.” Hill tilts his head like he’s losing his patience.

“I don’t know what’s going on or what happened, but she was screaming ‘I’m sorry’ to you.” He points his finger accusingly at me, “and she needs rest, so you need to leave.” What the fuck?

“She’s been resting for days and you can’t keep me from my wife!” I protest.

“My patient needs rest!” he reinforces. “She’s been awake for an hour… maybe! I come in here and she’s screaming bloody murder! I don’t know what you said to her, but the very last thing she needs to be doing in her condition and mental state is apologizing to anyone for anything! Whatever happened in here that nobody wants to tell me is interfering with her care. Now, she’s had another traumatic experience and she needs rest or she won’t recover.”

“I won’t. Leave her. Alone,” I growl at him.

“Chris, I’ll stay with her,” Allen says, his usual way of playing peacemaker. I’m getting this fucking doctor off her case. He’s too damn close and I don’t know why. I look from him back to Hill.

“Get her records together. I’m getting another doctor,” I announce.

“You do that, and any other doctor worth anything will tell you the same thing. She can’t be upset right now because she is extremely fragile. Whatever tactic you used that you thought might bring her back to the here and now might have set her back even worse. So you go ahead and get another doctor if that’s what you choose to do, but right now, she’s under my care and I need you to leave!” He can’t just throw me out of her room this way! She’s my wife!

“Chris… I’ll stay,” Allen says again. I am fuming. I want to strangle this man with my bare hands. If he thinks he’s going to be able to keep me from my wife, he has another think coming.

“Boss…” Jason’s coaxing me to leave, too. I brush past him and out the door, straight to the nurses’ station.

“Anastasia Grey, room 4217. I want another doctor,” I say to the nurse on staff. She looks at me as if I’ve spoken a foreign language.

“Excuse me, sir?” she says, like she can’t understand what I’ve said.

“My wife, Anastasia Grey, is in room 4217. I want another doctor on her case. Dr. Hill has formed some sort of unhealthy emotional attachment to my wife. I don’t know how or why, but I want him off of her case as soon as possible. I don’t want him treating her anymore.” She sighs.

“Mr… Grey, is it?” she says. Is she stupid? Didn’t I just say my wife was Anastasia Grey… twice? “Dr. Hill is one of the best doctors on staff, sir. I can guarantee you that your wife is getting the best possible care. It would be unwise to…”

“I’m not interested in your opinion of Dr. Hill,” I cut her off. “I said I want another doctor for my wife. Now what do I need to do to make that happen?” She glares at me.

“That’s a very difficult thing to do, Mr. Grey. Most of the doctors on staff are remiss to take over a patient after another doctor has been treating them for several days, particularly from Dr. Hill. He’s tops in his field, sir. I’m sure if you would just…” And I’m tuning her out. She doesn’t seem to hear me and I’m quickly losing my patience, what little bit I have, that is.

“Lady, my name is Christian Grey. My mother is on staff here and I’ve practically funded at least three wings in this hospital. Are you honestly telling me that I can’t get another doctor for my wife?” Realization dawns in her eyes, but when she speaks, her voice is unmoved.

“I’ll get the head of neurology for you, sir, but I can’t make any promises,” she replies.

“Yeah, you do that,” I say, rolling my eyes before leaving the nurses’ station. Allen is standing outside of Butterfly’s room when I return. “You said you wouldn’t leave her,” I accuse.

“I haven’t ‘left’ her. She’s fast asleep and she’s just on the other side of the door.” His voice is firm and I’ve just about enough of people taking that tone with me. He closes his eyes and takes a deep breath. He lets it out and brings his eyes back to mine.

“I can only imagine how hard this must be for you,” he begins. “The love of your life is on the other side of that door and she can’t remember you or your life together. I get it, Chris. I really do, but you’ve got to dial it down a bit. It’s not going to help you or Jewel for you to lose your temper.” He’s blaming me? I didn’t do anything wrong.

“I asked her if she really wanted to talk about that. I knew it was a bad idea. You were there… I tried to deter the conversation…”

“I know,” he interrupts me. “That’s why I told him nobody did anything wrong, but you have to understand that the patient is their first priority, not you. Even though you are her husband, if they feel like you’re doing something to jeopardize her care, they can have you banned from the hospital. We both know that would not be good for Jewel.” I don’t want to listen to reason right now. I just want to be with my wife, and I feel like this doctor is the only thing standing between us right now.

“Go easy on Dr. Hill, Chris. He’s a good doctor.”

“How would you know?” I hiss. He sighs.

“We used to date.” They used to what? “It was a long time ago. I knew he would be here and I asked him to look out for my friend. If he’s a bit over-protective, it’s because of me. I’m sorry. Please…” Why is this so important to him?

“Why do you care so much that I go easy on this doctor? There are other doctors…”

“Not as good as Clay,” he says. “He’s one of the best in his field and I know it, and not because we used to fuck.” Ouch, TMI. “He’s the best you’re going to get and my Jewel—your Butterfly—deserves the best. Please!”

I turn away from Allen and walk down the hall without a word. I’m too damn conflicted to hear anything he has to say. I’m suffering—badly—and everyone wants me to be level-headed. I go to the private family lounge and fall down onto the leather sofa. How can he expect me to stay away from my wife?

“Boss?” Jason comes into the room and breaks my train of thought. “I thought you might want an update on the information from the accident.” Yes, yes, give me another task, something to occupy my mind.

“What’s going on?” I ask him. He sits next to me and pulls out his phone.

“They’ve found the owner of the car that hit Ana’s. It’s a guy named Mylo Stevenson. He has no significance to you or her that we know of. He was arrested on a warrant a few days prior from a previous DUI and was in county lock up the night of the accident. He still is, so he obviously wasn’t driving the car. The police talked to him and he swears that he doesn’t know who had his car or who caused the accident. He would have been a good suspect for it had he not been in jail already, so he thinks somebody might be trying to set him up. To that end, we tried to find out who would have had access to his apartment or his keys and found his girlfriend, Hillary Walker.” He thumbs through his phone and pulls up another picture. Nope, still no one of any importance to me.

“Walker has no prior convictions of any kind, lives in North Seattle, nothing remarkable about her that we can see. We have her under surveillance, but we’re pretty certain that she wasn’t the person driving the car.”

“How are you certain?” I ask him. He taps into his phone and pulls up a picture.

“Alex sent me this. It’s the view from one of those traffic cameras that track your speed.” The picture is of Butterfly’s Audi and the black Chevy that T-boned her. There’s a woman hanging out the passenger side of the vehicle. We knew this part.

“What’s different?” I ask.

“What’s different is the view that we were able to get from the security camera from the office building across the street. It’s Maldstrom, LTD. They were only too happy to assist, and quite willing to sign an NDA.” Of course, they were. They’ve been trying to get into bed with GEH for years.

Jason pulls up the video surveillance from Maldstrom’s outside security cameras. There’s a very clear view of the street. Charles and Butterfly clearly had the right of way. The Chevy was driving at a normal rate of speed and just as Butterfly’s car was proceeding through a green light, the Chevy picks up speed and hits her in seconds. It couldn’t have been timed more perfectly. The cars are in a mangled mess and the driver of the Chevy stumbles out and limps down the road in the direction that she came. However, there’s a clearer picture than the one from the traffic camera.

“She’s hurt,” I observe.

“Yes, she is. She’s hurt pretty badly.” He thumbs through his phone again. “Alex reached out to his contacts to find out if any young women were hospitalized with injuries conducive to an auto accident that night. Of course, Her Highness came up first, but a few others came up as well.” She looks familiar. That’s fucking creepy. That means I know this woman and whoever it is, she came after my wife, right in the wake of this shit with my company.

“Who came up?” I ask. I’m weary and I don’t even want to bark at him for withholding information. He shows me a list of six names, none of them familiar to me. “I’ve got nothing,” I tell him.

“We didn’t either, until we visited the women on this list. Two of them died, four are still in serious but stable condition. Those four were confirmed to have been in accidents in other parts of the city. The last two were undetermined. One has already been buried. One is still in the morgue.” He scrolls and shows me the picture of the last woman still in the morgue.

“Fucking hell! Are you sure?” I ask him.

“The only way to be absolutely sure is to identify her body,” he says. I shake my head.

“Go back to the video,” I instruct him. He plays the video again and I watch the assailant stumble from the car. I replay the video a few more times and there’s no doubt in my mind.

“Why is she still at the morgue?” I ask.

“Nobody has come to identify her,” he answers. It’s been nearly two weeks.

“That’s because she doesn’t have any family,” I confirm with a sigh. “Take me to the morgue.”

*-*

“What happens to her if no one claims her body?” I ask the young morgue attendant.

“Well, they can be donated to science to be used as cadavers. It’s too late for organ donation and she would have been a good candidate, but we couldn’t find a next of kin. Other than that, they’re usually held for a while and then cremated and placed in an indigent grave.” I shake my head. I feel responsible. I damn well should.

“She doesn’t have any family,” I tell him. “I’ll claim her body. See to it that she has a proper burial.”

“Um, sir, there’s some forms that need to be completed and, well, you have to pick the funeral home that you want her to go to. We have to wait to see if any family claims her before we can release her to you since you’re not next of kin…”

“No one’s going to claim her!” I hiss, then I sigh. He’s just doing his job. “How long do we have to wait?” He looks uncertain.

“Let me get my boss, sir, if you don’t mind,” he says. I nod.

“I don’t mind.” He leaves the room and goes in search of his boss. I turn around and look into the blank face of the brown-haired beauty before me. She was once very lively, and quite psychotic. Now, she lies here lifeless. Even though her body is shrouded, I can tell that she’s much thinner than she used to be.

“I’m sorry, Naomi,” I say to the lifeless form on the slab in front of me. “I couldn’t save you. I couldn’t give you what you wanted. You knew that.” I drop my head. Did she? Did she really know that? I sent her away and then married the love of my life, got her pregnant and started a family immediately. I didn’t even give Naomi a chance, but I didn’t want to. I didn’t feel that way for her and she tried to trap me—tried to make me what she wanted. She contracted with me under false pretenses and the moment I saw what she was up to, I dismissed her. She was my last sub before Ana, the last of Elena’s girls.

Elena. Did she put Naomi up to this? Did she cost this girl her life and nearly cost the lives of my wife and children? God, I hope not. If that’s true, there’s no telling who’s still under her spell. How do I find out without giving that bitch any hope that she can affect me?

“Sir?” I turn around to face the gentleman that must be in charge. “What can I do for you?”

“This young lady is not going to be claimed. She doesn’t have any family here that I know of and… I know her well.” He looks at the paperwork.

“You’ve identified her as Naomi Adams, 27 years old,” he says. “How do you know the deceased?”

“We were very close once,” is the only answer I can give him. “If you still want to try to locate her family, she’s from West Virginia. All I ask is that if you don’t locate them, please release the body to me so that she can receive a proper burial.” He nods.

“That’s not a problem, sir. Can I please have your name?” He opens a chart and prepares to write.

“Christian Grey.” He looks up from his chart.

“Christian Grey?” he says, as if to confirm that’s what he heard. I pull out my business card.

“Yes, Christian Grey. Here’s how to reach me if you can’t find her family. How long does that usually take?”

“Uh, usually a couple of weeks, sir. If we find someone, we give them additional time to come and claim the body. If they don’t come, then you can have her remains.”

“And if you find no one?” I ask.

“Then you can claim her remains,” he says. I nod.

“I’ll have my people see if they can find her family. I’m fairly certain there won’t be any, but if anyone wants to claim her and bury her properly, I think they should be given that opportunity.”

“Yes, sir,” he concurs. “I completely agree.”

“Will you keep me posted?” I ask.

“Yes, sir. I’ll let you know if anything happens.” I nod and shake his hand.

“Thank you…” I wait for a name.

“Rodney, sir, Rodney Graves—I know, fitting name, but everybody just calls me Rodney.”

“Rodney. Thank you.” I turn back to the woman on the slab. “Goodbye, Naomi. I’m sorry.” I turn to leave. “Rodney, one more thing. Can you tell me the circumstances of her death?”

“From our investigation, she died from exsanguination. She suffered blunt force trauma that broke her rib and punctured her lung as well as ruptured her spleen. She was bleeding internally and needed immediate medical attention. She could have survived it, but she didn’t get to the hospital in time. By the time they had gotten to her, she has already bled a good portion of her blood content and as I understand it, when they opened her up, it all gushed out. She was goner before they made the first cut.” I nod.

“Thank you, Rodney. I thought it would be something like that.” He frowns.

“How would you know, sir?” I look over at him.

“She was in a car accident the night that she died. She tried to kill my wife.” Why did I tell him that?

“Sir?” He catches me from leaving. “If you don’t mind my asking, why would you care about her burial if she tried to kill your wife? And how would your wife feel about that?” I hang my head.

“Because like I said, she doesn’t have any family, and everyone deserves a proper burial. As for my wife…” My wife—the woman that I love who doesn’t remember me. “I don’t know. I’ll have to cross that bridge when I get to it.” I turn to leave. “Keep me posted?”

“Yes, sir,” he says finally. I nod and leave.

“Take me to Escala,” I tell Jason when we get in the car.

*-*

I have no idea how long I stay in the shower. I want the scalding water to wash away the images of Butterfly reaching for me in the hospital bed and me not able to get to her. I want to lose the images of Naomi lying cold and dead on a slab in the morgue. Both women met these circumstances because of me. Do I destroy everything I touch?

Searing hot water has now run cold on my back and I finally decide to lather up and clean myself. As I rinse the shampoo out of my hair, I stroke the spot where she touched me, where her fingers were tangled and she returned my kiss—hot and passionate. It aches not to have her here. All those nights I mourned her absence. Now she’s awake and she doesn’t even know me. I don’t know which is worse.

I turn the water off and lean against the cold tiles. I don’t know how to feel right now. I want my Butterfly back and I may have lost her forever. Whatever comes from this, however she comes out of this, I’ll take her. I’ll take her however I can get her, but will she have me?

My skin is nearly numb when I step out of the shower, both from the intense heat and from being waterlogged. I mindlessly dry my hair and skin and reach for the first thing I see after I brush my teeth and shave—a T-shirt and jeans. I’m tired. For the first time in days, I’m really tired. I’ve been granted a reprieve from the fear that she wouldn’t wake up. Now, I have the fear that she’ll never truly know me again, not like before anyway.

How do I make her fall in love with me again? I don’t know how I did it the first time. I love her so much; I can’t stand being without her. The thought of seeing her energizes me and makes me quickly slide into my socks and a pair of sneakers. It’s dark now, but I’m her husband. Visiting hours don’t apply to me, unless that asshole Hill is still on duty. I grab my Italian leather jacket and walk out of my bedroom.

“Would you like some dinner, Christian?” Gail’s voice stops me in my tracks. Dinner. When is the last time I ate something? I don’t remember… Butterfly would be so angry with me.

“Yes, I would,” I say, walking over to the breakfast bar. She places a plate of pot roast with steaming potatoes and carrots in front of me, a very healthy serving. It smells divine and I dig in immediately, groaning appreciatively as she places a wheat roll with butter next to me.

“Would you like something to drink?” she asks. I look up into her sympathetic eyes. Jason must have told her about my day.

“Do we have any soda?” I ask, and I almost sound like a child.

“Yes, we have cola. Would you like some?”

“Please… thank you,” I say, shoveling more food into my mouth. “I can drive myself back to the hospital… if Jason wants to stay home.”

“No such thing,” she says, placing the glass of ice-cold cola next to me. “I know the rest of the staff is working in shifts. Once he takes you back to the hospital, I just ask that you let him come home if you decide to stay.” I nod, my mouth still full of food.

“Okay,” I answer, trying not to choke on the delicious beef and potatoes.

“Slow down, Christian,” she scolds. “There’s more if you want it.” I smile at her. She wants to take care of me. I’m grateful for that, I have to admit. It helps to ease the pain of being without my Butterfly.

*-*

“I came to talk to you earlier, but you had left.” The head of neurology has met me in the private family lounge on the fourth floor. “I was about to leave for the night when I heard that you had returned.

“Yes, I… have some concerns about the doctor treating my wife,” I tell him.

“Yes, I know. Dr. Hill. He’s one of the best, Mr. Grey.”

“So everyone keeps telling me,” I say. “I’m not concerned about his ability to treat her, Dr. Hunt. I’m concerned that he may be forming an unhealthy attachment to her. I’m the first person to tell you that I’m very protective of my wife, even more so in her current state. However, I found him sitting in her bed very close to her when I came into the room. He was very familiar with her, touching her when he really didn’t need to, and then he admitted that he would wrap her up and take her home with him if he could. Yes, he did make it a point to highlight his sexual preference before you tell me that there’s nothing to worry about, but I still feel like there is some kind of… obsession of some sort involved. He came into the room and my wife was visibly upset. He ceremoniously kicked me out without cause! He made an assumption based on what he saw with no facts whatsoever, and kicked me out of my wife’s room! I even had a witness that I hadn’t done anything wrong!”

“I heard,” Hunt says. “Doesn’t your witness work for you?”

“He’s her best friend first,” I snap. “If I had done anything to upset her, he would have put me out before Hill had the chance!”

“I see. Can you tell me what happened to upset Mrs. Grey?” I sigh and recount the story that we told Butterfly.

“I tried to discourage her, but she was hell-bent on hearing it. I couldn’t lie to her, and I tried to leave the worst parts out, but before I knew it, she was screaming ‘I’m sorry’ just like the day I found her at the Mercer house.” His brow furrows.

“Wait a minute… what?” he stops me. “What did you say?”

“I didn’t want to tell her…” I begin.

“No, about the Mercer house.” The Mercer house? Oh!

“Oh, yeah. When everything came to a head, she was hiding at the unfinished house on Mercer Island—well, it’s finished now, but it wasn’t at the time. We tracked her there and went to get her. When we got there, she looked like hell and I asked her what was wrong. She just kept screaming that she was sorry.”

“Did you tell her this?” Hunt asks. I have to think about it. Did I tell her? I shake my head.

“No… I left that part out on purpose. I didn’t want to upset her any more than she was already.”

“I wish you had said this, Mr. Grey,” he says, sitting forward on the sofa. “Mrs. Grey may have been regaining a part of her memory. That may have been a flashback.”

“Shouldn’t Hill have known that before he kicked me out of the room?” I accuse.

“Did you tell him what you were talking about?” he asks. Of course, I didn’t tell him. He’s ready to run me out of town on a rail and “wrap my wife up and take her home” to him and his husband. Why would I tell him?

“I’ll take that as a ‘no.’ That’s not a good idea, Mr. Grey. If you keep information from us, we can’t help your wife.”

“I understand that, but he had no right to put me out of my wife’s room.”

“Mr. Grey, wouldn’t you want your wife to get the best care possible?”

“Yes, I would,” I reply.

“That’s what Dr. Hill was trying to do. He couldn’t assess what was going on at the time, so he had to make the decision that he felt was best for his patient. You must understand that.” I pop my neck.

“Fine, but I need you and Dr. Hill to understand this. I will not now, nor will I ever, do anything to jeopardize my wife’s recovery. She’s my whole life, and she’s carrying my children. Everything that I live for is in that room right now. I will not be dismissed from my wife’s room again, especially if she’s crying in agony and distress. If you can’t understand that, I will remove her from this hospital and fly in a neurologist from Switzerland if I have to.” I’m trying not to get emotional, but I will not be dismissed from my wife ever again.

“I can understand your concern and angst, Mr. Grey, but we will need a compromise from you as well. You can’t withhold information pertinent to your wife’s treatment. If you had a disagreement, that’s fine. If there was a breakthrough that causes a violent reaction, we can deal with that—but we have to know these things. Our best possible outcome can only be achieved if we work together.” I still don’t like the guy and Hunt hasn’t addressed Hill’s unhealthy attraction—or whatever it is—to my wife.

“I don’t know about this, Dr. Hunt,” I tell him. He shifts in his seat.

“You have my personal guarantee that your wife will get the best and most professional care this hospital can afford her. I’ve spoken to Dr. Hill once to get his side of the issue. Now that I have gotten yours, I’ll speak to him again. We need to work together to make sure that Mrs. Grey recovers as much as humanly possible. This little disagreement may be a blessing in disguise if it turns out that her anxiety attack came from a breakthrough.”

“Is that what it was?” I ask. “An anxiety attack?” He frowns at me.

“Nobody told you?”

“I was kicked out of the room, remember?” I state matter-of-factly. He nods.

“I’ll see what’s going on. Dr. Hill is still in the hospital. He’s on call tonight.” He stands and walks to the door. “Oh, and Mr. Grey?” I raise my head. “If you called Switzerland to get the best doctor, they would probably refer you to Dr. Hill. He’s number three on four continents. Numbers one and two don’t practice anymore.” I’m not impressed.

“If he tries to put me out of my wife’s room again, I’ll go with number four,” I say impassively. He nods once.

“Understood.” With that last word, he nods. Jason comes back into the room.

“You can go home, Jason. I’m not going anywhere,” I tell him.

“I think I’ll stay and be sure, if that’s okay with you,” he responds.

“Trying to make sure I don’t kill the doctor?” I ask. He nods.

“Bingo,” he confirms. “If you don’t get in to see Her Highness tonight, there will be hell to pay.”

“Do you know what’s going on?” I ask him.

“She’s talking to Allen and Ray right now.” Ray’s here? That’s good, I guess.

“So I guess we just wait, then.”

“You don’t want to go in?” Yes, I want to go in, but to be honest, I’m afraid. I don’t know if she was really having a not-so-pleasant breakthrough or if I really upset her. So, right now…

“I’ll just wait.”

So I wait… and wait… and wait… forever it seems. I don’t know how much time has passed. I don’t dare look at a clock to see how long my wife has been awake and hasn’t asked for me. It’s like a cold, sharp knife cutting through my sick, diseased heart. Jason has long since left to check on… hell, I don’t know. I finally put my forehead in my hands and let the tears fall. I don’t know what the future holds. My wife is alive, thank God, but she has no idea who I am.

She must know who you are! Do you think she’d kiss a stranger like she kissed you?

I don’t know. I certainly hope not. I don’t think so… but it doesn’t erase the fact that she still hasn’t asked for me. She doesn’t need me, or doesn’t want to be around me right now. I want to weep, but I’m just too tired to do it.

“Boss?” It’s Jason. I didn’t even hear him come in. Did I fall asleep? I raise my head slowly. It hurts like hell from the damn crying. My face is still wet, so I didn’t fall asleep. When I’m able to focus my eyes, I see him standing in the door with Hill. What, are you his bodyguard now? I look at them both without saying a word. Hill is the first to speak.

“Mrs. Grey is asking for you.”


ANASTASIA

I open my eyes and Al is sitting next to my bed. What happened? When did I fall asleep?

“Al?” I croak. My throat hurts and they still haven’t removed these damn compression devices.

“Jewel, hey,” he says, putting his tablet down and moving closer to my bed. “You’ve been out for a while.”

“What happened?” I squeak. “Where’s Christian?”

“He went to get some air,” he tells me. Went to get some air—I’ll just bet. He’s probably plotting his escape. “Someone else is here to see you though.” He gestures to my left. I turn my head and see…

“Ray!” I exclaim. “When did you get here?” His face falls a bit.

“I’ve… been here, baby. I live in Kent now,” he answers, and I know I’ve missed something—but I’ve missed a lot, haven’t I?

“Really?” I say, struggling to sit up. My side hurts a bit and I can’t really move with the babies and the legs and stuff. Al helps me sit up and fluffs my pillows. I hold my arms out to him. “Please come and hug me, Ray. I’ve missed you so much.” He slowly makes his way over to me and hugs me gently. I realize that since he lives in Kent, we probably see more of each other now. Why did he move to Kent? Was he worried about me? Has Christian been unkind to me and no one wants to tell me?

“Ray…” I say his name as he releases me, and something doesn’t feel right. The energy… it’s all wrong. Something’s very wrong.

“What is it, Jewel?” Al asks, examining my facial expression, no doubt. I look from Ray to Al and back to Ray. No… no… that’s not right…

“That’s not right, is it?” I say. He and Al examine me closely. “I don’t call you ‘Ray’ anymore, do I?” His eyes light up and he shakes his head.

“Dad…” I try the word and it doesn’t fit. “No…” I say, shaking my head. It doesn’t feel right. Then the word flows through me like warm cocoa. “Daddy,” I say softly. “It’s Daddy… isn’t it?” I look up at Daddy and he’s trying unsuccessfully to fight his tears.

“Yes, Sunflower,” he chokes and squeezes my hand. Oh, I like Daddy. I like Daddy so much.

“Sit, Daddy. Tell me why you moved to Kent. I know that I should know already, but this little bump on the head is causing me problems.” Daddy sighs, but doesn’t sit.

“I’ll have to show you, Annie,” he says softly and walks to the door. In walks this beautiful blonde woman with a baby in her arms, no more than six or seven months old I would say. Whose kid is this?

“Annie, this is Amanda. She’s my wife.”

Okay… I just stepped into a vortex. There’s a young twentysomething girl standing next to my dad and he’s saying that she’s his wife. What’s more is that she has this kid in her arms which I’m assuming is hers and now my Daddy has to take care of him. What the hell is going on here?

“What?” I say, shock and dismay evident in my voice. Amanda’s eyes, which were smiling a moment ago, immediately fill with tears. Her bottom lip starts to tremble and I quickly feel like shit for my initial reaction. She gives the baby to Daddy and takes a seat on the sofa near the door, tears still flowing freely down her cheeks. Oh God, please help me. I’ve lost all grips on reality here.

Daddy brings the baby over to the bed. He gazes fondly at the chubby little guy… at least I think it’s a boy. He looks down at me with his eyes filled with love.

“This is your little brother, Harry,” he says softly. Okay, I’m certain that I’ve fallen into the fifth dimension now. This girl has a baby and you name him after my dead bio-dad. What the hell has happened over the last couple of years?

“I… wha… who…” I can’t even form a complete sentence. I know my family wouldn’t lie to me, but how do I digest all of this?

“Would you like to hold him?” he asks. Not really, but how do you tell someone you don’t want to hold a baby?

“Okay,” I relent. Daddy adjusts little Harry in my arms. When I look down at him, my father’s eyes stare back at me. He’s beautiful. He’s absolutely beautiful.

“Daddy,” I breathe. “He’s yours. He looks just like you…” The wonder in my voice breaks the tension in the room immediately.

“Yes, Annie, he’s my son. Mandy and I got married shortly after we found out. We were married on New Year’s Eve… at Escala.”

“What’s Escala?” I ask. Everybody frowns.

“That’s your home, Jewel,” Al pipes in. “You live in the penthouse.” The penthouse? That can’t be…

“I thought I lived in a house,” I tell them.

“A house? Where?” Al asks.

“I don’t know,” I tell him. “I just remember Christian asking me if I was okay, and there were cars driving up a long driveway—gravel, I think… it was unfinished. The house was really big, like an estate or a manor or something… and then… I was saying that I was sorry.” Al shakes his head.

“We’ll have to ask Christian about that one. Maybe the Mercer house?” Al says to Daddy. Shut the front door!

“Mercer?!” I exclaim. “As in Mercer Island?” Where your play money has to be in six digits just drive over the bridge?

“Yes, Jewel. You own a house on Mercer Island. It was under construction, but it’s complete now. You were supposed to move in last weekend, but…” He trails off.

“I had an accident,” I finish the sentence for him. Where’s Christian? I feel a bit rudderless right now.

“So…” I’m choking on my words and looking at the beautiful baby in my arms that has been introduced to me as my brother. The only way that I’m going to get my life back is to jump right in with both feet. “Harry?”

“That’s a really long story that you already know,” Daddy tells me, “but I’ll tell you again.” I look over his shoulder at a weeping Amanda. She’s holding her head down and trying not to make any noise. She raises her head slightly and sees me looking at her. I can tell she suddenly feels subconscious.

“May I please use your bathroom, Ana?” She barely chokes the words out over her tears. She’s polite if nothing else.

“Yes. Please, take all the time you need,” I say with as much kindness as I can muster. She can’t be all bad if Daddy married her. My dad may be older, but he’s no fool. She scrambles quickly to the restroom after a rushed “Thank you” and closes the door behind her.

“I didn’t mean to upset her, Daddy. I was just shocked,” I say as a means of an apology.

“It’s okay, Sunflower,” he says, patting my hand. “It’s kind of hard because… you two are kind of close.” I drop my head in my hand.

“Oh, shit! And I looked at her like some kind of alien,” I say shaking my head. “No wonder she’s crying a river.”

“She’s been worried sick about you ever since the accident,” Daddy says. “I tried to prepare her for the fact that you may not know her, but she was so excited that you were awake that I think she didn’t hear me.”

“She seems like a nice girl, Daddy, just… so young…”

“We had that conversation, too, Sunflower. She’s 13 years younger than me and we love each other very much. I moved to Kent because Mandy has a house there and I could be closer to you.”

“What about the house in Montesano?” I ask, clearly knowing the fate of my childhood home.

“I wanted to sell it, but I didn’t have the heart to do it. We agreed that it was time to move on, but I just couldn’t let go. Fortunately for me and unfortunately for him, George Bayliss and his wife split up. So, he’s renting the place indefinitely so that he doesn’t have to try to find a place and doesn’t have to move so far away from the kids.”

“Yes,” I say, “unfortunate for him, but the house is in the hands of someone you trust.” I look down at Harry and don’t give it another thought. “I need to hear as much as you guys can tell me. I don’t want to live in the dark and my whole life for the past two years or so be nothing but surprises. Let’s rip off the bandages and get this going.”

“That may be a bit much for you, Jewel,” Al says. “The last time a bandage was ripped off, you had to be sedated.”

“And it may happen again,” I caution him, “but I refuse to tiptoe through what appears to be important events in my life. So as a shrink, I say the best thing that we can do is get on with it.” He sighs and nods at me. Amanda comes out of the restroom, looking only marginally better than she did when she went in.

“So where do you want to start?” Al says. I have to think about this.

“Um, the last thing I can clearly remember is going to some meet-and-greet at Val’s job and one of those leeches she works with hanging over me like a dirty dishrag.” Daddy frowns and Al whistles.

“Good grief, Jewel, that was three years ago!” he says in awe.

“Well, it’s not like I remember it happening yesterday, but I remember it happening.”

“Do you remember meeting Bethany?” he asks.

“Who’s Bethany?”

“Okay, do you remember the double… er, Eddie crashing ‘Food and Libations?’” I shake my head.

“Nope, don’t remember that either.”

“Do you remember the community center and the group sessions you facilitated?” For some reason, I’m getting pictures of people in a circle. I can only assume this must be the group sessions, but there’s nothing concrete about it.

“I’m not really sure… I think I remember a little something.”

“Um, I’m going to… go get a cup of coffee or… something,” Amanda says, trying to escape the room.

“No… please stay,” I coax her. “You’re part of my life, too, right?” She chokes out a laughing sob.

“You threw me a wedding!” she says, tears streaming down her face. “You saved my life… and my son’s life…”

“I did?” I ask, surprised and she nods. I pat the bed next to me and she sits down, trying to contain her tears. For the next hour… or few… Amanda, Daddy, and Al begin to dissect what has been my life for the last two years. I’m amazed to hear about mine and Christian’s courtship, our engagement, our break-up, and our wedding through the eyes of my family. I’m horrified to hear that Eddie… um, David… actually kidnapped me, but happy to hear that he’s rotting in jail for it and I will soon be holding the deed to his company.

Maxie and Phil are married, too, and Maxie just had her baby. Christian proposed at their reception.
Al is in love with a beautiful black man named James.
Marilyn and Gary are dating—Marilyn and Gary… wow! Could two people be more different?
Val is in love with Christian’s brother. The fact that Val is in love period is amazing to me. Al is uneasy when he talks about Val and I have no idea why.
I’ve confronted my mother and cut all ties with her, and her drunkard husband has kicked the bucket. Boy, I wish I could remember that part.
Apparently, I’ve blown the whole Green Valley thing out of the water. What they did is all out in the open and there have been several arrests. Whitmore Sr. killed himself and Cody came to confront Christian… or me… and I sent him back to Green Valley with a broken nose and missing teeth. Most of them are in jail now awaiting trial.
Christian was almost killed in March by a psycho obsessive blonde pedophile. She ended up shooting his bodyguard and best friend, who was the suit holding him back just before I went nighty-night. Oh—and she did this shit with my gun. We’re still awaiting her trial date.

There seems to be quite a bit more to cover, but I didn’t freak out and I didn’t have any anxiety attacks. Al reveals that Christian and I hated each other in the beginning to the degree that I called Al and James to come and rescue me from the community center one night after a huge altercation with him. Apparently, he’s the reason that I don’t do the group sessions anymore. I can’t believe that. It had to be more. I wouldn’t let one man stop me from helping people who really needed it. There must be more.

Where is that one man, by the way?


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

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

Love and Handcuffs!
Lynn x


I Have To Admit… They’re Winning.

I Have To Admit… They’re Winning.

So, I spent a lot of time this week thinking about whether or not I would respond to a couple of comments that came at me in terms of how I respond to people who say mean things. Y’all know my first reaction–what the hell? So at first, I decided to just not say anything. Then, I started an author’s note that just said “I deleted your comment without reading it,” because I did delete one comment without reading it. It came from “Mystery Reader,” so I immediately saw “Fanfiction Guest Troll” and didn’t read it. Then I proceeded to go through my emails and private messages and contact me’s only to find that there were about five to seven responses that said something on the lines of I need to stop zinging people because they have an opinion.

At first, I went past them and tried not to pay attention to them because seven people out of 2000–what’s that, like 0.35%? Not a big number, right? But then, I got a message from one of my long-time readers (that I’ve most likely lost now) that I read about four times. She didn’t say anything particularly cruel or insulting. I felt like she took a couple of shots, but nothing that was really cruel. I had to think about my response because I didn’t want it to come off as a zing, but I did want to address what she said.

The more I responded to what she said, the more I felt hurt and I will admit that I cried a bit (please don’t tease me). It wasn’t because she said anything particular hurtful–even though some of the things that she said were blatantly incorrect. It’s because I have a degree in business and I know the power of surveys. I know that a survey represents a certain percentage of the population that didn’t speak up. I know that these five to seven people represent a certain percentage of readers who feel the same way–like I should just shut up and stand there “like a man at a mark” and let people throw darts at me.

That’s the part that hurts.

Everybody that came over here is fully aware of what happened to me on Fanfiction. Unless they were directly referred to the blog by someone, everybody that came over here knew that I left Fanfiction because the insults were brutal and very personal–I know none of you that were there could ever forget the string of racial slurs!

She even suggested that I purposely make my readers attack people that say bad things to me. What the hell is that? Although I did say a lot and none of it was disrespectful, I knew that there was really nothing I could say to get through to her. She had already besmirched me defending myself, so if I defended myself against her, what good would it do? If she’s still subscribed and she reads this, I can actually see her saying to herself, “Yep, I knew she was going to do that! Now watch her people attack me!” …I can’t win!

I realized that it was a losing battle, so I just thanked her for her prior support, gave her some other story suggestions, and ended the email.

I thought coming to my own forum would at least free me from some of this. I thought that if I couldn’t get away from the people who still wanted to attack the story or the characters or the writing that I would at least be able to escape the naysayers who thought that I should shut up and take it, because these people followed me from Fanfiction and they saw the abuse that I was taking over there. The fact that I had a long-time reader of more than two years see that, know that, and then say that she has lost passion for my story because I still won’t take this crap–let me tell you, that really hurts.

If people who attack my story and my characters have long-time, once-faithful readers feeling like I and the people who defend me are the bullies, then they’re winning. She stopped and told me. How many people just left? How many people have just quietly unsubscribed because they feel like I am bullying the people who are actually bullying me?

How many people won’t even read this?

I’m not looking for sympathy. I’m not even trying to garner support. I just wanted to make my feelings known on my forum. I may take a step back from this for a while, I don’t know, because to be honest, they are winning.

AND PLEASE! DON’T ATTACK THE GIRL, BECAUSE IF YOU DO, THAT’S GOING TO BE MY FAULT, TOO!

Lynn

Becoming Dr. Grey: Chapter 15—A Long And Winding Road

So, we’re starting today on a good note and a not-so-good note. The good note first…

Mini-Me read all of the comments and asked me to thank everyone that wished her a Happy Birthday. I particularly liked all of the Baby Bronze, Bronze Jr., Little Bronzie, Princess Bronze references and variations thereof. I thought those were really cool, so thank you all, really!

Now, to the not-so-good note…

There were comments talking about how selfish and whatnot Ana was when she was lamenting about that changes that have and inevitably will take place in her life. Some people were pretty passionate about it, saying things like “Why wouldn’t she be thinking about Christian at a time like this?” and I thought to myself, “Damn! What exactly did she say??” I was like I wrote the damn thing and I don’t remember writing anything that made her out to be a selfish, catty little brat–I even had somebody call her “Whiny Ana,” and I’m like “What the fuck is this?? What the hell did I write??”

So I went back to read my own shit to see what the fuck I wrote that ended up in Ana being thrown under the goddamn bus, and you know what I found? Nothing!!! Abso-fucking-lutely nothing! I found a weary, scared, confused pregnant woman who has gone through so much shit just during the course of her pregnancy that one insensitive reader actually had the nerve to ask “When are you going to make Ana lose those babies? If she carries them to term, your credibility is shaky?” 

WHAT THE EVER-LOVING FUCK?!?!?

Do NOT tell me or suggest that my character should lose her babies ever. Fucking. Again. If you are of that opinion, you would be best to keep it to yourself. I DO take that personally. That’s cruel and I don’t want to hear it again.

Those of you who feel that Ana is selfish for her inner-lamenting that her fucking life–which has already been through the 9 Circles of Hell–is about to be turned topsy-turvy yet again and she’ll probably never get the feeling of being “just Ana Steele” ever again, well congratulations Mother Theresa. You get the sainthood award for implying that you wouldn’t react the exact same way. I, on the other hand, am not so pure and perfect and must be the most imperfect person alive because if it were me, I’d be having a hissy fit, too. Hell, I’d be running around stomping like Rumplestiltskin! 

I hope I don’t lose readers for this, but that fact that people are constantly slapping labels and unrealistic or CRUEL assumptions on my characters drives me fucking nuts!!!

Rant over!

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

Chapter 15—A Long And Winding Road

CHRISTIAN

The plane lands at SeaTac and I’m just waiting for the all-clear to disembark. I need to hold my wife in the worst way. Right now, she’s the only thing that’s grounding me and I hope my parents don’t mind, but there will be some fucking in that house tonight.

I dial her phone to hear her sweet voice and it keeps going to voicemail. I finally decide to leave a message, thinking that maybe she left her charger at Escala and is unable to charge her phone at my parents’ house.

“I’m in Seattle, baby. In case you charge your phone, know that I love you and I can’t wait to be in your arms. See you soon, Butterfly.”

When I end the call, I see that Jason’s phone is going crazy. I assume that he hasn’t spoken to his wife in a while and she’s really giving him what for. We get the all-clear to disembark and I nearly run out of the plane and down the stairs… but there’s no car waiting. Why isn’t there a car waiting? I turn around to find Jason and he’s bungling down the stairs I just descended. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear he’s in a bit of a panic.

“Sir, please,” he says, his voice weak. “We need to get a car, now.” I frown. I know this, but what’s wrong? Why isn’t he telling me?

“What’s wrong, Jason?” I ask, concerned. “Is it Gail?” He shakes his head slowly before raising his glassy blue eyes to mine.

Jason with glassy eyes?

“There’s been an accident, Sir.” He can barely get the words out of his mouth. Spit it out! “We need a car, Sir.” I examine him for a moment before the reality suddenly hits me like a wrecking ball.

Ana… my Ana…

I feel my knees buckle under me and suddenly, flashes are going off everywhere. Am I dying? What’s going on? My Butterfly… I come back to myself and Jason is literally holding me up. I see Welch and, of all people, Cholometes nearly running towards me in the crowded airport.

“Is she…?” I can’t say it. God, please, no…

“I haven’t heard, Sir. I only know that there’s been an accident.” My legs can’t hold me up. I truly feel like I’m dying. I have to walk, but my legs won’t move. “Sir, the cameras… paparazzi…” I don’t care about the damn cameras. I’ll give them a story—billionaire dies of a broken heart upon hearing of the death of his lovely wife and two unborn children. How’s that for a headline?

“Please…” I squeak. “Somebody tell me…” I can’t hold my head up now.

“Sir, she’s alive,” I hear Welch’s voice. “The babies are fine, but she’s unconscious. We need to go, now. We need you to walk or we’ll have to carry you.” I straighten my legs and try to remember what Jason said about Butterfly being my weakness. Opportunists all over the world will see this and target my wife. I allow Welch to lead me out of the thronging crowd and into a car—what car, I don’t know. The moment I’m in the back seat with Jason and the car clears the airport, I’m overcome with chest-wrenching sobs.

My Butterfly… my beautiful Butterfly. How did this happen? What happened? What condition am I going to find her when I get there? Cholometes is here, so it must be bad. Jason puts his hand on my shoulder and I swat it away. I want my Butterfly! She’s lying in a hospital unconscious carrying our beautiful beans. What am I going to do if I lose her?

“Sir, I need you to try to compose yourself,” Jason says as we approach the hospital. “We don’t know what’s going on yet and you can’t fall apart. She’s going to need you to be strong.” I’m trying to hear him, but my heart is breaking, shattering into pieces scattered all over the floor. I do my best to pull it together, to put on my CEO persona until I can get to my Butterfly. Hiding the shuddering breaths is the hardest part.

Of course, the vultures are there when we get to the hospital. I must look like death when I emerge from the car because all of the chatter stops and there isn’t a flash in sight. I walk briskly with my head down into the hospital and I am greeted by someone in a suit the moment we get inside.

“Mr. Grey, I’m Rick Haven, head of Public Relations for the hospital. We’re all very sorry about this tragic event. If you’ll follow me, I’ll take you to the doctor treating your wife.”

“Where is my wife?” I ask, not recognizing my voice.

“She’s in intensive care, but please, let the doctor tell you what’s going on. I’m not the expert…”

“I want to see my wife!” I growl. His brow furrows.

“Sir, I highly recommend that you talk to the doctor first.”

“Look,” Jason jumps between me and Haven, “You’re going to have a PR situation on your hands that you’re not going to be able to handle if you don’t take this man to his wife right now. Have the doctor meet us there, but he needs to see Anastasia Grey. Imagine if this was your wife.” I need Jason’s diplomacy at this moment because I have none. Although it’s something that he’s not readily known for, it came in handy right then.

Haven twists his mouth and nods at Jason. I hate that his name is Haven. It’s too close to heaven and that doesn’t bode well right now. He starts to walk away and I fall in line behind him. I feel like he’s walking like a goddamn undertaker and I want him to move faster and get me to my very alive wife. She’s unconscious and no one will tell me what’s happened. Is it because it’s as bad as it can be or because no one knows? He starts walking briskly while talking on the phone to someone that I think is Ana’s doctor.

Somehow, we end up on the fifth floor. I don’t know how. There’s a waiting room just to my right and it’s full to the walls. I step inside and everybody’s here–Ray and Amanda; my entire family, including Uncle Herman and Pops; all of Ana’s friends… even Valerie. Valerie’s here… she must be…

I feel my knees go weak again and it’s James who catches me this time. Please, God, if you can hear me… please don’t let her die.

“Christian,” James whispers in my ear. “You have to be strong, man. She needs you to be strong right now.” I look at him, trying to garner some hope, but all I see is pity. This doesn’t help. It’s everything I can do to stand up straight and get my legs to work. I continue the walk down to Ana’s room. There’s a doctor and a few interns in the room who all turn to me when I walk into the room. The doctor quickly makes his way over to me.

“Mr. Grey, I’m Dr. Hill, Mrs. Grey’s doctor.” Butterfly is behind the curtain and the voices are hushed as I approach.

“What’s happening?” I manage to ask.

“She’s in a coma, Mr. Grey,” the doctor says. “She has some internal bleeding, but we were able to control that quickly with no complications. She has several lacerations on the side of her face and lot of bruising. Her head went through the passenger side window and she suffered a traumatic brain injury. There’s no way to know exactly how much damage has been done until and if she wakes up.” until and if… “She’s suffered what is known as diffuse axonal injury. Her brain literally bounced around inside of her skull, causing increased intracranial pressure. She hasn’t required any surgery yet, but if we don’t see significant improvement in the next 48 hours, we’ll have to perform a ventriculostomy. You’ll see that she’s had to be intubated, but for right now, she’s non-responsive.”

“I…” I can’t breathe. “I need you… to slow down a bit and explain a few things.” I’m trying to prepare myself for what’s on the other side of that curtain. I wish I could take my heart and soul and leave them at the door, because the pain I feel right now will be nothing compared to the complete anguish that will overtake me when I see my wife. “Diffuse oxial…”

“Diffuse axonal injury,” he corrects me. “Think of shaken baby syndrome. When a baby is shaken back and forth, his little brain bounces against his skull causing injury or death. The good news is that Mrs. Grey’s brain is not so small. The bad news is that she was shaken pretty badly. Right now, the extent of her injuries is the increased intra… brain swelling. These things usually go down with time and if not, the ventriculostomy will assist with that.”

“What’s a ventriculostomy?”

“We would make a small hole in Mrs. Grey’s skull and insert a catheter to drain some of the fluid. It’s not necessary yet. The intubation will supply oxygen that her brain needs and hopefully it won’t come to that, but I just want you to be prepared. We haven’t seen any bleeding, but due to the severity of the impact, the diffuse axonal injury, and the fact that she’s currently in a coma, we’ll keep an eye on it over the next several days to be sure there aren’t any bleeds.”

“She’s going to be like this for that long?” I ask, my heart breaking with the thought.

“We don’t know. Unfortunately, with TBI’s, it’s a huge waiting game. This is the hardest part. A lot of what happens next will depend on your wife.”

“She’ll fight,” I whisper. “She’ll fight for our babies…” Our babies! What about our babies? I turn a horrified eye to Dr. Hill, asking the questions that my lips can’t form.

“The babies are fine,” he says. “They were shaken a bit and we’re monitoring them closely, but they currently seem no worse for wear. We’ll do everything that we can to keep them safe and healthy inside Mom.” He sighs. “Now comes the hard part, Mr. Grey… seeing your wife.”

How is this the hard part?

“She most likely won’t look like herself,” he warns. “She’s suffering from extensive swelling and bruising and she’s got more stitches that we can count. Her hair has been shaved on the right side, but only the panel right above her ear and a few other patches to accommodate the stitches. Her ear was nearly ripped off and that took the most work. She’s going to have some scarring when the wounds heal, but mostly back near her hairline, ear, and neck and possibly one above her eye. You’ll want to prepare yourself.”

At this point, I don’t care if she looks like a gargoyle! Just let her live!

“Please let me see my wife,” I tell him. The interns leave and only the doctor and a nurse remain with me and Jason. He pulls the curtain back and there’s my Butterfly. My beautiful Butterfly. Even swollen in pregnancy, she’s dwarfed by this huge bed and the many machines helping her breathe and keeping her nourished. Her face and head are wrapped and only her left eye and cheek are exposed as she has a tube in her mouth and the tape is covering her lips.

“Hey, Baby,” I say softly as I sink into the chair next to her bed. “I can’t leave you for a minute, can I?” I chuckle through my tears. I stroke her hand gently. I’m afraid to touch her. “How could this happen? Where the hell was Davenport?” I look at Jason, who looks at the doctor. His brow furrows. “Her security?”

“Oh! The driver?” He was driving? This is his fault? “He’s still in surgery.”

“Surgery?” Jason gasps.

“Yes. He had to be extracted from the vehicle. He covered Mrs. Grey with his body and took the brunt of the impact. She would have been a lot worse off if it hadn’t been for him.”

“What about the other driver?” Jason asks. “Is he here, too?”

“No one else came in, but you’ll have to ask the police, sir. I don’t know all of the details of the crash.” Jason runs his hand over his face.

“Boss, I have to go… he has a brother…”

“Go. Go. I… want to be alone anyway.” Jason nods and leaves the room.

“Mr. Grey, I think you should know. Your wife has advance directives,” the doctor says. Shit! I forgot about that. Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! My heart sinks immediately. “They indicate that if she is non-responsive, she wants all heroic measures ceased after…”

“Sixty days, I know,” I lament. Two months. Two more months…

“Sir, there’s something else. With her being pregnant, we would keep her alive until the babies are born if you so desire–even if it’s more than sixty days… as there are other lives to consider.”

“Dr. Hill, can we please cross that bridge if we get to it?” I say, my voice shaking.

“Of course, sir. I’ll leave you alone now.” I hear him leave the room and I turn around and face my broken Butterfly. The grief is more than I can take. My chest feels like an 18-wheeler is permanently parked on it and I can barely breathe.

“I wanted you to be safe,” I breathe through my tears. “We caught Myrick only to find that his pimp father is not the fucker in jail. He’s in witness protection, too. They did a real bang-up job with Myrick since he was able to clean out several companies and tried to get mine, too. Now we have to find out where this asshole is, and I’m not sure he wasn’t behind this attack.” She’s completely motionless. Nothing is moving but her chest—not a flutter of an eyelid, not a wiggle of a finger, nothing.

“I’ve seen this in movies and I’ve heard about it on television, but I never thought it would happen to someone I love,” I say as I brush my tears away. “I always thought that my money and my power, my prestige and my security would keep anything like this from happening, but how do you predict a car accident?” I lay my head on the bed next to her. I’m aching inside—the burn is almost unbearable.

“Please come back to me, Butterfly. Fight, Baby, please. Fight for our family, for our children…” I don’t want to say it, but I can’t help it. The words will burn me if I pretend they’re not true. “Fight for me,” I breathe. “I’ll die without you… fight for me… please…”

*-*

My head hurts. I don’t remember crying this much since… ever. If my tears could wake her, she would have been doing a samba down the halls by now. Several people have come in and said something or other, told me that I should go home, offered to take shifts. I have to be here with my family. I’m realistic. I don’t know how long I have with her, and if I only have two months, I’m going to be right here by her side the entire time. I’m not leaving. I’m living here in this room until the New Year if this is where my Butterfly will be.

I’m coherent enough to hear what happened when Jason comes back into the room sometime in the early morning hours. Some unknown vehicle T-boned the car as Charles and Ana were driving through the intersection. They were on their way back to Escala from Helping Hands when I called to tell her to go to my mother’s house. The accident happened moments after I ended the call.

The other driver hit the driver’s side of Ana’s Audi. Charles wrapped himself around her as much as he could and took the brunt of the impact. Because I insist on top of the line safety features, neither of them died instantly. Charles’ injuries could have been much more substantial. As it stands, he’s suffering from a broken leg, broken ribs, a punctured lung, internal bleeding, burns from the airbag, and like Ana, extensive facial injuries. They had to use the Jaws of Life to get him out of the car. He’s out cold, too, but he didn’t hit his head.

All I can think is that I want my Butterfly back. The sun has risen and set and risen again and there is no change. Her CT-scan and MRI on the third day show that the swelling in her brain is going down… but she’s still in a coma. She won’t need the surgery, but she still hasn’t regained consciousness. The nurse let me give her a sponge bath which made me feel so much better—touching her and taking care of her.

I haven’t bothered watching the news at all. I don’t know what’s being said or even what’s being done in the investigation of the accident. I’ve just finished cleaning her feet and just covered her when there’s a knock at the door. Ray sticks his head in and waits for me to give permission for him to enter. I think I do, but I continue to take care of Butterfly, now rubbing the balm over her belly to help her skin stretch without the scarring. I keep her covered and take a few moments to feel my children kicking inside of her—the only other movement I’ve seen from her body in three days. Our little soccer players… that’s all it takes for me to break down again.

Still wearing the clothes I wore in Detroit, I weep over my wife and babies. I’m dying on the inside. Wherever she goes, I want to go with her. How will I raise our children without her? How will I ever be able to tell them how remarkable she is? She’s one of a kind and there will never be another one like her. How will they ever know that if she’s not here with us?

“Christian,” Ray says, putting his hand on my shoulder. “I know it’s hard, son. We’ve got to believe that she’ll be okay. She’ll come out of this. She’s a fighter. She doesn’t know how to give up.”

“I don’t know… what to do!” I weep while holding on to the bed rail. “I don’t know… what to do! I always… know what t… to do. I don’t…. know what to do!” I sob bitterly.

“Just hold on, Christian,” he says. “That’s all you can do. Hold on for Annie and those babies. She needs your strength. She feeds on it.”

“I can’t be strong!” I wail. “I’m nothing without her! Nothing!” I’m weeping so hard that I don’t hear more people come into the room.

Suits. Police detectives. I’d know them anywhere.

“What did you find?” I wail at them. “Who did this? Where is he?” I’ll tear him apart with my bare hands, slowly!

“Why would you think it was a man?” One of them asks.

“Was it a woman?” I scream.

“Mr. Grey!” the other one says in a scolding tone.

“I want to know who did this!” I sob. “Look at her! I want to know who did this to her!” I’m losing control. Ray grabs my arms and Jason rushes into the room with Lawrence.

“Christian! Calm down! You’re going to have a stroke!” Ray’s voice calms me only minimally as I turn back to my wife, kissing her hand gently as my tears fall on her skin.

“This is Officer Lowery and I’m Detective Hague. We just want to ask you a few questions.” My head is swimming and I don’t care what they ask as long as they find out who did this to my wife. Ray walks to the chair on the other side of Butterfly’s bed and takes a seat. Jason and Lawrence just stand by the door. I don’t say anything. I just continue to kiss Butterfly’s hand.

“Is there anyone who has any grudges against you, Mr. Grey?” Duh!

“Throw a rock in the air and let it land. You’ll hit several,” I say calmly.

“Do you think this was deliberate?”

“Have you caught the person who hit my wife’s car?”

“No, that’s why we’re asking the questions.”

“Well, unfortunately, I don’t have a clue if this was deliberate or not because I don’t know who did it. I know that whoever did it deliberately fled the scene, because you don’t have them in custody and they’re not in this hospital.”

“Where were you at the time of the accident?”

“In Michigan,” I respond.

“Michigan?”

“Yes, Michigan,” I repeat.

“How do you know what time the accident was?”

“My head of personal security behind you informs me that your colleagues say that the accident happened right after I got off the phone with my wife telling her to go to my mother’s house.”

“So you were on the phone with Mrs. Grey.” It’s a statement, not a question.

“Right before the accident, yes.”

“Who can vouch that you were in Michigan?”

“The two bodyguards standing behind you, the pilot and air attendant on my private jet, the flight plan to and from Detroit and if that’s not enough, check my cell phone and you will see calls to my father, mother, and Anastasia, all while I was still in Detroit. I know that can be traced. And one more thing, you can also check the visitor’s log at Ionia Prison and while you’re at it, you can talk to the warden.”

“What in the world was Christian Grey doing in a prison in Michigan?” One of them asks.

“Finding out that the man who made my life a living hell before Grace Grey adopted me is not the man in the cell though he should be. There’s some patsy there in his place!”

“Hmm. Airtight alibi. How convenient. Who were you looking for, Mr. Grey?”

“Anton Myrick. He’s on the prisoner’s list, but that’s not him in the cell.”

“And conspiracy theories, too. Tell me, Mr. Grey, do you have any life insurance policies on your wife?”

“Of course I do!” I hiss. She’s worth billions. How stupid can they be?

“For how much?”

“I don’t know,” I say, irritated. “I have to ask my accountant. What does this have to do with what happened to my wife?”

“You tell me, Mr. Grey. We’d like to know if this has anything to do with what happened to Mrs. Grey, too.” Now I’m confused. My neurons aren’t firing like they normally do, I know. I’m weak, I’m exhausted, I’m in emotional and physical pain and I just can’t put two and two together with what this guy is trying to say.

“Okay, that’s enough!” Ray is out of his seat and standing in front of me. “How dare you come in here while this man is grieving over his wife and children with this shit?”

“Mr. Steele, we’re going to have to ask you to calm down…”

“And officer, I’m going to have to ask you to leave!” Ray demands. I turn back to my Anastasia. Whatever’s going on, Ray will handle it. Wake up for me, Baby, please wake up, I silently pray as I gently stroke her face.

“You can’t make us leave!” one of them declares.

“Yes, I can, and here’s how. You’re in a private hospital room grasping at straws and bullying a distraught man to make a name for yourself. Do you have any concrete evidence that you are charging this man with the attempted murder of his wife and my daughter?” Charging me with… oh, that’s ridiculous! Ray must be mistaken.

“We’re just trying to get to the truth, Mr. Steele,” one of them barks.

“That’s sounds like a ‘no.’ Now, my daughter names her husband as her decision maker if she becomes incapacitated and me if he becomes incapacitated. As he is clearly distraught right now, that makes me next in charge and I’m telling you that you aren’t speaking to me, to him, or to anyone else in my family without legal representation! Now, unless you plan on arresting one or both of us right now, it’s time for you to leave. You’re not going to pin this on anyone in our family, least of all her doting husband, while the real criminal is running around free on the streets. Now, take your witch-hunting asses and get the hell out of here and don’t come back unless you have some news about who did this to my daughter!” Ray’s voice is full of the rage that I can’t conjure right now.

“We’ll be back, Mr. Grey!” one of the officers hisses.

“Don’t waste your time. He won’t be talking to you!” Ray shoots.

“Yes, I will, officers,” I say, silencing everyone in the room, “when you come back to tell me who did this to my wife,” I weep. I drop my head on the bed next to my love. “Please come back to me, Butterfly,” I sob, “please come back…”

I honestly don’t know how many days have passed with my head laying on the bed next to Butterfly crying and praying and hoping that she comes out of this. Somewhere during the time, Jason has brought me two changes of clothes, Gail has brought me food, everyone has cycled in and out of the room several times begging me to leave and get some air and I just ignore them. The Mercer house is finished and I don’t want to see it without Butterfly. It’s our home and if we’re not going to it together, I’m not going there alone.

The swelling and pressure in her brain has gone down significantly, which is a good sign and the doctors have taken her off of the breathing machine. She still has the oxygen going into her nostrils to keep her blood saturations up, but she’s no longer intubated… and she still won’t wake up. Though my mother thought it was a strange request, she has brought me every Disney and children’s book she owns and I have sat for hours reading them to Butterfly. She promised that she would teach me who the characters were and I promised that the beans and I would learn them together, but since I don’t know how much time I have left with her…

“Run, run, as fast as you can! You can’t catch me! I’m the Gingerbread Man!” I read, imitating a voice that I imagine the Gingerbread Man would have. Once I get to the end of the story and see how the Gingerbread Man met his demise, I frown.

“The fox eats the Gingerbread Man?” I ask aloud, now looking at the cover of the book. “That’s the whole story? The fox eats the Gingerbread Man?” I shake my head. “I don’t know if I want the beans to read this one, Baby. There’s no moral, no plot, no nothing. He just gets eaten.” I look at her and there’s a slight twist in her face.

Oh my God, is she having a stroke?

Just as I’m about to react, the other side of her face reacts and I see it! As clear as day, I see it! She’s smiling! She’s smiling at me! Don’t panic, Grey. Just… just…

I look at her face and the slight smile that reaches her eye. She’s beautiful. Even with the bruising, she’s absolutely beautiful, and she’s smiling at me. That means she can hear me! I get as close to her face as I can.

“I love you, Butterfly,” I say softly. “You’re my whole world and I’ll be right here waiting for you the moment you wake up. I love you with my whole heart and everything that I am. Get well, Baby. I’ll be right here.” Her smile lasts for a few more moments before her face falls back to a normal, resting state. For a moment, I thought I may have imagined it, but I know that I didn’t. She was with me if only for an instant, and she has given me hope that she’ll come back to me.

*-*

“It’s been nine days, Boss. You really need to get out of this room.” Nine days. Only nine days? That’s both a good and a bad thing. At its worst, I have 51 days left with my Butterfly. At its best, time isn’t flying as quickly as I thought it was, and the longer she’s out, her chances for a full recovery drop more and more.

“Any news on anything?” I ask him.

“The media are making up all kinds of stories, so be prepared—conspiracy theories about life insurance policies, revenge plots, some of them say she’s already gone…”

“I don’t want to hear what the media is saying…”

“Well, I brought you this. I don’t know if you want to see it or not, but I brought it anyway.” He hands me a little piece of paper. It’s a small article from what looks like one of the gossip rags:

“Prayers are going up and vigils are being held all over the city for the Grey family and for Seattle’s sweetheart, Anastasia Grey. Pictured here leaving a baby boutique last Wednesday, Mrs. Grey is rumored to have suffered severe, possible life-threatening injuries when a vehicle crashed into her Audi just one day after this picture was taken. Mrs. Grey had just told reporters about her charity work with Helping Hands and how she planned to continue to help people until her ‘body doesn’t work anymore.’ Let’s pray that this is not Ana’s swan song, and that there will be plenty more work for her to do for those needy families at the Help Center. Thoughts and prayers go out to Christian Grey as he stays vigil by her bedside until she regains consciousness. We’re rooting for you, AnaChris!”

“Well, that was surprisingly beautiful,” I say, stroking the picture of Butterfly in her swing coat outside of the baby boutique. “I want to know if anyone has found anything out about what’s happened to my wife.”

“We’re following a few leads, sir, and the police are about as useful as a wet tissue. No one will give us any information, so we called in a friend. They can see from the traffic camera that it was a black Chevrolet that hit the car and that it was a woman that was driving it–she ran the red light. There’s no way to tell if the hit was deliberate or if she was just drunk, speeding, or not paying attention. Gerald sends his regards, by the way. He says he’ll do what he can to follow good solid leads and find out what happened. His hands are tied since he not on this case, and you know about you and cops…”

“So you’re basically telling me that they’re not going to investigate who did this because they want it to be me?” I say with no surprise.

“Pretty much,” he replies. I nod.

“Well, thank God we’ve got Gerald,” I say, turning back to my Sleeping Beauty. Without him, I’d have no faith in the police whatsoever. “Anything on Myrick, Jr. or Sr.?”

“Well, Junior is facing all those charges now, so he’s in protective custody in a federal facility now. His future in witness protection is unclear, but your boy Cholometes has the hotline on him. He’s been invaluable, especially since the accident. Senior, not so much. Because he hasn’t broken any laws or anything, we can’t get anything concrete on where he is. We just know that he’s in the program and that’s it.”

“Do we think he had anything to do with what happened to Butterfly?” I ask.

“We have no idea what happened, so there’s no way to tell.”

“How’s Charles?” I ask.

“He’s in and out. They have him on some pretty strong pain meds and he’s remiss to take them, you know… AA and all. He’s giving the nurses a really hard time because the pain has him grouchy as a bear, so all they can do is try to keep him comfortable. He’s had a constant visitor since he’s been here.”

“I know, his brother.”

“No. Keri… the island girl from Anguilla,” he corrects me.

“You’re shittin’ me, really?” I exclaim and Jason nods.

“Language!” The small voice comes from my right and scares the shit out of me. It was Butterfly! I look over at her and she looks the same that she has for the last nine days. I look at Jason, my questioning… did she speak? His eyes show the same amazement as mine when he nods to confirm that I wasn’t hearing things.

“Get a doctor! Get a doctor!” I breathe frantically. Butterfly is waking up! “Baby? Baby? Can you hear me? Please say something… open your eyes, blink, squeeze my hand… please, Baby… please…” I beg and beg, but nothing—not a flutter, not a word. “Please, Baby… please…”

“I heard her, I tell you. We both heard her!” I hear Jason’s voice as he comes bursting through the doors.

“Okay, Mr. Taylor, just let me look.” Some guy who is not Butterfly’s regular doctor asks me to move so that he can examine her. He takes a pin light out of his pocket and shines it in her eyes. Then he does something where he moves her head from side to side while the nurse holds her eyelids. Then he does something with his fist on her chest and her body rises, but falls back on the bed. When he’s done, he takes her chart from the bed and reads it, makes some notes and replaces it.

“I don’t want to get your hopes up, Mr. Grey. She hasn’t changed much, but she has changed. She’s moved a little higher on the Glasgow Scale from what I can see. What did she say?”

“She…” I feel like I’m going to collapse again. I can’t get my words out. I want her to wake up… now!

“She said ‘language,’” Jason answers for me. “Mr. Grey was cursing at the time.”

“Were you angry?” the doctor asks with a frown. Jason snickers a bit. What’s so fucking funny?

“No, he was just talking,” he answers. “Mr. Grey is fluent in three languages—English, French, and profanity.” That broke the tension a bit and I let out a breath.

“Does she normally chastise you on your profanity?” he asks. I shake my head.

“No. I don’t think she’s ever checked me on my language. She was bossy when we first met, but never anything about my language… except when I called her ‘Ms. Steele…’”

“Dr. Steele…” she mumbles. There she is again!

“You see!? I’m not crazy! She’s talking!” I exclaim. He nods.

“This could be good or bad,” he says. “She could be coming out of the coma and she’s reacting to outside stimuli. She reacted to the sternum stimuli, and the cornea examination rules out extensive brain damage. We don’t know how much damage she has suffered since she’s been in this state for nine days. The longer she’s in this state, the worse the prognosis. However, people sometimes get a burst of energy and show improvement right before they expire. I’m not trying to frighten you, Mr. Grey. I just want you to be completely informed.” My heart drops into my stomach. Scratch that, it drops into my shoes. That’s not what I wanted to hear.

“I appreciate your candor,” I whisper and turn back to my wife. I heard her sweet voice… twice, and it could be the beginning of the end. I sink down into the seat next to her bed and lay my hand next to her hand. I don’t want to talk anymore. I just want to be here with my Butterfly.

I begin to sing the words to a song I heard a little while ago while I was in Detroit. I hadn’t heard it before, but when it came on the radio, I immediately thought of Butterfly. I’ve been singing it every day since the accident:

For all the times I wore my self-pity like a favorite shirt
All wrapped up in that hurt
For every glass I saw, I saw half empty
Now it overflows like a river through my soul
From every doubt I had, I’m finally free
I truly believe

God gave me you to show me what’s real
There’s more to life than just how I feel
And all that I’m worth is right before my eyes
And all that I live for though I didn’t know why
Now I do, ’cause God gave me you

*-*

The evening and the morning were the twelfth day and I am weak with despair and from not eating. I think I ate something on Friday or Saturday, but I don’t know. I haven’t changed my clothes since the last doctor gave me the news that Butterfly might actually be dying. She hasn’t spoken again since that day or responded to me reading to her. The room is exploding with flowers and my only thought is that although it’s actually quite pretty, I wish that she was awake to see it.

The staff comes in and turn her occasionally so that the blood flow to the beans isn’t hindered, and now they’ve put the compression devices on her legs to help promote circulation. They’ve removed the bandages on her face and her sutures have long since been removed. The scarring is not too bad—near the hairline and one above her eye like the doctor said. She looks a little weird with one side of her head shaved, although a cute little layer of fuzz has grown over it, except right in the spot where the sutures were.

I’m looking out of the window and trying to come to terms with the idea that I truly may lose my wife. My emotions swing back and forth between numbness and complete hopelessness and anguish. Whenever someone comes into the room trying to coax me into leaving, I completely ignore them. I have no idea what’s going on at Grey House, what’s happening with the Myrick devils, what’s going on with the police investigation, what’s being said in the press, what’s going on in the outside world whatsoever. Everything is a blur—one hellish, colorless, empty, painful blur that represents what my life will be without Butterfly.

I try to think about our children. We haven’t even named them yet. We decided before all of this happened that I would get to name the girl and she would name the boy. My only request was that she didn’t name him Christian. She still hasn’t chosen a name, yet.

My hands are cold and I have no idea why. I flex and relax my fist to try to get some circulation going. The police came back to the hospital to try to get some answers or to get someone to roll, but nobody budged. I didn’t even acknowledge their presence once it was clear that they didn’t know who had hit Butterfly’s car. They went on and on about getting to the bottom of the truth and what could happen to me if they found out that I was involved and going easy on me if I came clean… I think I fell asleep on Butterfly’s hand somewhere during their rant because I don’t even remember when they left.

I don’t think I’ve ever felt so hopeless in my entire life—not when she was kidnapped, not when she ran away to Montana, not even when the crack whore’s pimp came at me with the cigarettes. I don’t ever remember feeling disparity and forlornness that went this deep. There’s nothing I can do about this, nothing I can do to change this. All of my money can’t make this right, can’t fix this….

“Ugh!” She’s making sounds again. They’re music to my ears, but they no longer give me hope. I turn around to look at her again and I’m almost dizzy with amazement at what I’m seeing.

She’s squirming! Her eyes are open and she’s squirming!

“Ana!” I nearly yell as much as my parched throat can get her name out of my mouth. “You’re awake! Thank God, you’re awake!” I almost trip over my feet to get to her bedside. I can’t think clearly or even see straight. My Butterfly is awake. Thank God! Oh, thank God! “How do you feel? Are you in pain? Is your vision okay?” I’m touching her cheek and her hand, so happy that I can finally see those beautiful blue eyes staring back at me, except…

Something’s wrong. Something’s really wrong.

“Um…” That’s the only word that comes out of her mouth. Can’t she speak? She was speaking to me when she was unconscious. Has she been out for too long? Has there been brain damage after all? Why can’t she speak?

“Ana?” I call her name with hope. Baby, say something. Are you in there? She’s looking at me like she’s seen a ghost, like she…

Oh my God.

She’s stares blankly at me for several moments and I stare at her, willing the obvious to not be true.

Please, God, no… Oh, God, please, no…

I drop my hands and back away from her bed. How could this be? I stayed by this bed for twelve days. I hoped, I cried, I prayed, I sang to the babies and read to her. I died a thousand deaths… a million deaths waiting for her to wake up… and now… this?

She opens her mouth and speaks the words that confirm my fears and crushes the last bit of hope I held…

“I’m sorry,” she says, sadly, “I should know you, shouldn’t I?”


ANASTASIA

I open my eyes and I don’t recognize where I am. What the hell happened? I have to focus a bit and then I realize that I’m in a hospital room. My throat hurts like hell. My head is wrapped and it’s throbbing like you wouldn’t believe. What day is it? What time is it? What happened?

“Ugh!” I grunt as I try to sit up. My back is stiff and my arms hurt. My legs feel like lead. What the hell? I can’t move!

I look down and my legs are wrapped in these contraptions of material and foam of some sort—not casts, but just as restrictive I can imagine. The room is bursting with flowers, probably from the Scooby Gang, but I still don’t know what happened. I try again to sit up, but it seems impossible.

“Ana!” a voice next to me gets my attention. I turn to see an unkempt figure nearly falling over himself to get to me. “You’re awake! Thank God, you’re awake!” He scrambles next to my bed. “How do you feel? Are you in pain? Is your vision okay?” His hand gently brushes my cheek. I’m so confused. What’s going on?

“Um…” I don’t know what to say. I’m confused, really confused. I don’t know which question to answer first, but I have a barrage of my own questions—like where is my father…? and Allen…? and who’s the hot guy?

“Ana?”

I guess my eyes are asking the wrong questions, because he freezes and examines me, then backs away slowly after removing his hand from my cheek. A myriad of emotions flash across his face and his lovely gray eyes, and even though he looks like he hasn’t slept in a week, he’s absolutely gorgeous. Once the gauntlet of emotions stops, his expression relays sheer and utter pain. He’s crushed, and I think I know why.

“I’m sorry,” the look on his face speaks volumes. “I should know you, shouldn’t I?” He nods, his eyes quickly filling with tears. For some reason, I just want to hold his hand and comfort him, but it occurs to me that something is very, very wrong. “Ooooh, this is not good.” I say, slapping my hand to my forehead. I run my hand down my face and as my fingers pass my lips, I feel cold metal on my left hand. I pull my hand back and turn it over and gasp loudly when I am blinded by diamonds. Is this a joke? Is this some kind of fucking joke? What the fuck is this?

Hot Guy is staring at me cautiously, obviously afraid to approach me again. I see the agony in his eyes—piercing, nearly white, and strangely comforting.

“Who are you?” I ask, my voice shaking. He swallows hard.

“Christian Grey,” he says, trying to hide the tremor in his own voice.

“No… who are you… to me?” I ask. He’s the only person in the room. My father’s not here. Al is not here, but he is and he looks like he’s about to cry. He drops his head, gorgeous copper curls falling over his forehead. When he raises his head, tears are streaming down his cheeks and he raises his left hand to show me a beautiful art deco band on his ring finger. I’m stunned.

Hot Guy is my husband?

“We’re… married?” I breathe. He nods. I sink into the bed. How could I forget that??

“I… get to have sex with you?” I ask. It’s really the first question that comes to my head. He chuckles a bit through his tears.

“Yes,” he coughs, “and often.”

“Wow…” I breathe in awe. He laughs again as he pulls a handkerchief from his inside pocket and wipes his face. I didn’t know men still carried those, but it looks familiar on him. I stare for a moment, remembering something to do with that handkerchief. It’s monogrammed—CTG… Christian Trevelyan Grey. He stops wiping his face and stares back at me. “You give those to me a lot, don’t you?” His eyes light up as he cautiously takes a step closer to me.

“Yes,” he whispers. “You cry a lot since…” he pauses. Since what? What happens that makes me cry all the time? I sit up and my back is stiff; I can barely move. It must be from the accident. I try to sit up more and straighten and…

“What the fuck??” Wiggling in my stomach! What the hell? Oh my God, what is this? What is this? I’m frozen to the bed and Hot Guy dashes to my side. I’m panicking! He’s touching me! I have weirdness in my stomach! I can’t breathe! I can’t breathe! God, help me!

He’s sitting next to me on the bed. He pushes the button for the nurse and quickly grabs my hands. He places them flat on my stomach, his hands on top of mine.

Holy cow, Batman. No, really… I’m as big as a holy cow, Batman.

“…Since… the pregnancy,” he softly finishes his thought from earlier. His voice has changed and again, it’s strangely comforting. My breath begins to regulate and his eyes soften. I see it, plain as day… he cares for me, deeply.

“Mrs. Grey, you’re awake.” A man in scrubs and a lab coat comes in and I assume he’s my doctor. “How do you feel?” I can’t form my words. He called me Mrs. Grey.

“Steele?” I say, and Hot Guy… Christian’s face falls. “I’m a… doctor… too?” It came out more like a question. I didn’t quit, did I? He nods quickly.

“Yes,” he says, his voice betraying his pain again. “You’re Dr. Steele-Grey or Dr. Steele in the office, but everywhere else, it’s just…” he trails off.

“Just Grey,” I say softly. Some of the hurt oozes out of his eyes and he nods.

“Mrs. Grey, you had problems remembering that you’re a doctor?” the doctor asks. I… don’t know how to answer that.

“She doesn’t remember a lot,” Christian chokes. The doctor looks from me to Christian, and back to me. Noticing our hands still lying on my stomach, he asks, “You don’t remember being pregnant?”

I shake my head, feeling helpless. He looks at Christian.

“She doesn’t remember you?” he asks. Christian shakes his head. The doctor purses his lips and looks back at me.

“What’s the last thing you remember?” the doctor asks me. Jesus, I don’t know. What am I supposed to remember? “What was the last thing that you were doing before you woke up in the hospital?” I think hard.

“Chicken… wine… with my friends… at my condo…”

“Food and libations,” Christian says. How did he know?
Of course, he knows, he’s your husband, you moron.
Help me out, here. I’m floundering! We’re pregnant! I’m married! I need you!
Settle down. I’m not going anywhere. It’ll all come back to you. Just relax and talk to the doctor, and Hot Guy.

She’s always so fucking verbal and now she wants to go all mystical and radio-silent on me. Fucking Bitch!
You love me though.

“Ana?” I’m pulled out of my inner conversation by the doctor’s voice. “Is he right? Food and libations?” I nod.

“Yes,” I choke. How long? How long has it been?

“Do you have a significant other?” the doctor asks. My eyes widen as I look at my ginormously swollen stomach and the hunk of gorgeousness that refuses to move his hands then back at the doctor.

“Obviously!” I say to him in disbelief.

“No, I mean from what you remember. Not from what you’re seeing now.” I close my eyes and think, and his face comes to me—brown hair, beautiful brown eyes, standing all cocky like he always does, looking at me in that knowing way. Then out of nowhere, the picture morphs into that smirk he had when he was sitting at dinner with that ho, the night I kicked him out of my apartment. Then it morphs again, and he’s scowling, sitting at a table in a suit, looking like he would kill me with his bare hands if he could.

I shake my head hard, trying to rid myself of the images of his face in my mind. I almost panic again as I feel something pinching my wrists—hard and metal. Christian’s finger gently strokes one of mine and I’m immediately brought out of this… daydream/nightmare. It’s calming and soothing, and I take a deep breath.

“I’m sorry… there’s no one,” I say, knowing the words will hurt Christian. I just don’t remember him. I remember…

“David,” he says, his voice full of disdain. I raise my head and look at him, stunned.

“He… we…” this man doesn’t just care for me. He loves me, powerfully. I can feel it. I know it. I examine his eyes and they transform again, like he’s looking through me. I can’t remember him, but suddenly, I can’t be away from him. “We broke up… years ago… I’m sorry, that’s all I remember.” I don’t know that I’ve removed my hand from my stomach and placed it on his cheek until he covers it with his and leans into it. For a brief moment, all is right with the world.

“Ana, do you want to talk to someone in psychiatrics?” the doctor asks tentatively.

“Maxie?” I ask. I would only want to talk to someone I knew.

“You…” Christian interjects. “You don’t see Maxine anymore.”

“What!?” I don’t see Maxie!? What happened? “She’s my mentor! She’s my friend! What happened?” He squeezes my hand.

“Calm down, Baby. She’s still your friend. She was too close to the situation and couldn’t help you further, so you found another psychiatrist. His name is Lordis Avery.” Lordis Avery? That’s a strange name. My face must look a fright. “You call him Ace.”

“Ace?” I ask. That’s strange.

“Yes. He’s a good doctor and he has helped you with a lot. Would you like for me to call him?” I’m still confused, but apparently, this Ace is my shrink now. So, I nod.

“How… much time have I lost?” I ask them both. The doctor looks at Christian and nods. He turns back to me, his face tortured.

“I don’t know exactly how much time you’ve lost, but you’ve been a part of my life for over a year, coming up on two. You and David broke up about four years before we met, so… you’re somewhere in between there.” I’m coughing. He can’t be serious! A year… at least? Oh God. I’m hyperventilating. I see the doctor coming towards me and Christian moving away.

No… please… don’t go…

I hold on tightly to his hand. It’s familiar, the only familiar thing in this room right now. Don’t leave me… please…

“Ana, I need you to calm down,” the doctor says softly. “Breathe with me, slowly.” Slowly? Is he kidding? He’s lucky I’m breathing at all. “Breathe with me, Ana, or I’ll have to give you a sedative.” A sedative? Hell no! I’ve already lost a year.

Then, breathe, you dingbat!

I mimic the doctor, taking slow, deep breaths. I’m whimpering and it doesn’t seem to help. He’s trying to make me focus, but it’s not working and a wiggle in my hand brings my attention to Christian. His tortured expression touches me and my breathing calms immediately. He’s afraid… for me and the babies…

Babies!

“Twins!” I say to him, swallowing hard. His face morphs again and the corner of his mouth rises just a bit before it falls again. He nods.

“Yes,” he whispers. The doctor nods.

“I think this is just a temporary setback, but I’d like to run some tests if you don’t mind—nothing that should harm your babies.” I look at the doctor, then at Christian.

“Christian?” I ask, waiting for his opinion. I’ve lost count of how many times his face has morphed. You’re my husband. These are your babies. Of course, I want your… opinion? Permission? What should I do, Christian?

“Yes,” he says. “Let them run the tests. We need to be sure that you’re okay.” I nod.

“Okay. What tests are we talking about?” The doctor explains the tests that he wants to run, from MRI’s to CT scans to full-on physical and neurological exams. Didn’t they do this stuff when I got here? And how did I get here anyway?

When the doctor has finished with his explanation, Christian stands and moves towards the door. I feel a sudden surge of panic the closer he gets to leaving. “Christian?” My voice sounds more desperate than I intended. He stops and turns to look at me. Where are you going? Why are you leaving me?

“I’m going to call Ace—tell him that you’re awake and see when he can get down here,” he says softly. Oh… okay. Does he have to leave the room for that? Maybe he needs to be away from me—from this situation—for a while. I sigh.

“Don’t… don’t be too long.” I try not to sound too melancholy. His smile is soft, but sincere.

“I won’t,” he replies before leaving the room. I watch the door that he just exited like he’s going to come back any second. I feel lonely and lost without him… and cold. Why do I suddenly feel cold?

“I’m sure this is temporary, Mrs. Grey,” the doctor tells me. “We can honestly just do a few brain scans to make sure that everything is okay and leave it at that.” I shift my gaze to him.

“A minute ago, you wanted to perform every test known to man. Now you’re satisfied with just a few scans?” I narrow my eyes at him. He sits on the side of the bed, holding my chart against his chest.

“The human mind is a very complex thing, Mrs. Grey…”

“Ana,” I correct him. As hot as Christian is, I feel more comfortable with the familiar right now, and Ana is more familiar.

“Very well, Ana. The human mind is a very complex thing. It’s intelligent not only because of how we think and what we retain in terms of knowledge, but it also has the uncanny ability of protecting itself and the entire body in times of trauma. The mind will realize that the body needs a break and shut down completely… or it may just shut down partially. It’s my opinion—and many scholars would hang me for this—that there is no such thing as complete and permanent amnesia. Somehow, someway, the smallest part of your mind holds on to the familiar. With you, it’s more than a small part. The way you’re staring at that door, you cling to that man. It’s my understanding that a few minutes ago when you awoke, you didn’t know who he was. As attractive as Mr. Grey is, I can’t believe that’s completely physical.”

I look down at the jewelry on my hand… beautiful diamonds and… white gold? Platinum? It’s not silver. I know silver and this is not silver. Wow! There’s a lot of carats on my left hand. Either this man saved every penny he had to buy this ring or we are loaded! By the size of this private room with enough flowers to stock a greenhouse, I would say that it’s the latter.

“So you’re saying that you think this is temporary and I don’t need all of the tests for dementia and Alzheimer’s?” I ask him. He nods.

“Do you know how you got here?” he asks. I shake my head.

“I have no idea.”

“Would you like for me to tell you or would you rather wait for your husband?” My husband… hmm. He’s just as foreign to me as this doctor is, but I’m drawn to him without even completely knowing who he is. He is beautiful—very easy on the eyes—but it’s more than that…

“I want to wait for Christian,” I say with a sigh.

“Wait for Christian for what?” He’s walking back into the room just as I finish the thought. His eyes are fixed on the doctor—I still haven’t gotten his name—sitting on the edge of the bed.

“The doctor was going to tell me how I got here. He asked if I wanted him to tell me or… if I wanted to wait for you.” His face softens at my confession. He comes over to me and takes my hand, giving me a small, soft smile. His gaze turns back to Dr. Whatever-His-Name-Is and he looks at him expecting. The doctor stands from the bed and Christian smoothly slides into the seat he just vacated.

“How are you feeling?” he asks me.

“Stiff. Confused… to say the least,” I respond sadly. He strokes my hand with his thumb and, for a moment, we are the only two people in the room. The doctor clears his throat and begins to speak.

“You had a car accident, Ana,” he begins.

“Mrs. Grey,” Christian corrects him firmly. He turns his questioning gaze to Christian.

“I… asked him to call me Ana,” I tell him, shyly. He looks at me, then at the doctor, then back at me before nodding hesitantly. The doctor continues.

“You were hit straight on. Someone T-boned your car. It’s completely totaled. We’re deducing that you didn’t see it coming. Your body must have been in a totally relaxed state because you didn’t sustain any broken bones in the impact. You had some internal bleeding, which we were able to control without harming your babies. The sequential compression devices on your leg are to promote blood circulation and to make sure you don’t get any blood clots. You have a small scar on your right side from the surgery, but even though the situation was very serious, the surgery was minimally invasive.

“You’ve been unconscious for several days,” he says, his voice softening. “Though you came in looking like you’d been in a prize fight, most of the contusions and bruising have healed, except for this, I’m afraid.” He points to his head. I sigh heavily. Brain damage is never good. “Your medial temporal lobe suffered from impact injury during the accident, your hippocampus more specifically. This is why your memory has been affected.” That’s not good. If my hippocampus is injured, this memory loss could be permanent.

“Can you please explain this in terms so that the one person in the room who’s not a doctor can understand you, Dr. Hill?” Christian’s voice is cold and firm. Dr. Hill, so that’s his name. I find it strange that he didn’t introduce himself, but if I was out for several days, he probably feels like we know each other already. Dr. Hill looks over at Christian, his brow furrowed. He’s confused by Christian’s demeanor.

“Certainly,” he says, walking to the other side of the bed. “May I?” he asks for permission to touch me. I nod. “The temporal lobe is here,” he shows Christian the area just above my left ear. “The hippocampus is in the temporal lobe, right about here, but further in. They’ve suffered damage during the accident. It’s completely possible that you could regain your memory with time as the damage heals.”

“Or completely possible that I don’t regain it at all,” I say knowing full well that could happen, too.

“Yes, unfortunately, that’s a possibility as well,” he says. “I recommend the scans we talked about before we move on with any more detailed testing.”

“How long before we know if this is permanent?” I ask, almost begging. “How soon could I possibly get my memory back?”

“I’m sorry, Ana, but there’s just no way to tell. It could come back during the course of the day. I could take several years. It may not come back at all. It’s a waiting game, and no one knows how long it takes.” I sigh heavily and nod. He squeezes my shoulder and makes some notes in my chart.

“Are you normally this cozy with your patients, Doctor?” Christian asks curtly.

“Only with the ones I like,” he answers, just as coarsely. “She’s very pleasant and I’m not ashamed to say that I’m fond of her. I’ve heard wonderful things about her from you and her family and under different circumstances, I’m sure that she’s someone I would love to know. I’d wrap her up and take her home with me if I could, but I don’t think my husband would like that very much.” He returns Christian’s glare and I realize that my husband is very possessive. I’m flattered, but Dr. Hill is offended. He turns his attention back to me. “Let me know if you have any questions, Ana. I’ll order those tests immediately.” He smiles tightly at me and leaves the room without another word.

“You’re very possessive, aren’t you?” I say softly to Christian, who is still scowling at the door. He turns his attention back to me.

“I’m very… fond of you, too. A lot of people are. I just want to make sure that you’re safe. I’m… sorry, Ana.” His voice is strained.

“For what?” I ask confused.

“I promised to protect you… and I didn’t. I’m sorry.” He hangs his head and I know there’s more to the story than I’ve been told.

“Someone is after me?” I ask softly. He raises his head.

“I don’t know, Butterfly. We have reason to believe that the accident… wasn’t an accident.” I shiver at the thought. Someone wanted to kill me? And my babies? I finally ask the question that has been burning in my brain.

“Are we rich, Christian?” He looks at me as if to say “poor little lady.”

“Baby, rich doesn’t begin to describe it,” he answers. My eyes widen.

“Richer than Oprah?” I ask. He nods.

“Several times richer than Oprah,” he responds. I whistle and look at my ring again.

“Wow. That explains this,” I say, softly. “Am I a pampered bitch?” I ask cautiously. He smiles and shakes his head.

“Not at all,” he says, stroking my cheek gently. “Pampered… just a bit. I want to make sure you and the babies are happy. A bitch—not in the slightest. Almost everyone loves you…”

Somebody doesn’t,” I say while touching the bandage on my head.

“We’ll find out who did this, baby. I promise. They’ll pay for this, don’t you worry.” He strokes my cheek again and a surge runs through my body. I’m having flashes of our bodies together—hot and passionate—in an extremely large bed, his gray eyes gazing at me just like they are right now. I feel my skin flush under his fingertips and my breath catches in my throat. His pupils dilate and he almost looks like he wants to turn away, but I will him not to. Please… please don’t…

“I want to kiss you,” he says, his voice thick with wanting, yearning.

“I think I’d like that,” I respond, unable to recognize my own voice. He slowly closes the space between us and our lips meet. My breath is snatched away instantly as his tender lips caress mine. I raise my hand to his chest and almost instinctively snatch it back, but he envelopes me in his arms, gently holding me against him while his lips explore mine.

I want more. I need more.

My hand travels to his hair and he groans softly, parting my lips with his tongue before probing gently. Oh, God, I feel need and want and heat rising inside of me and I’m having a terrible time controlling myself. What’s happening to me? Am I just some wanton slut who sleeps with strange men?

He’s not a strange man, he’s your husband. Remember? Twins? Mrs. Grey?
Yes, I know that, but I don’t remember him as my husband. So right now, he just some strange man that I’m attracted to… or drawn to… on a cellular level… damn, it’s hot in here!

He pulls himself away from me slowly, breathing heavily and pressing his forehead against mine.

“We have to stop,” he breathes heavily, his hand possessively around the back of my neck. I’ll say we have to stop! Good God, I feel like such a slut.

“Okay,” I pant, my eyes closed, attempting to catch my breath.

“You’re irresistible,” he groans. “I thought I lost you.” He opens his eyes and looks at me. “Well, physically anyway.”

“I’m not gone anywhere, Christian,” I say softly. “I’m right here.”

“I know, thank God, I know… but you may never come back. You may never remember me.”

But I will… I have to. I need you so much. I don’t know why, but I know that I need you.

“You won’t leave me, will you?” I squeak, afraid that the fact that I can’t fully remember who he is will be reason enough for him to turn away. I’m terrified. I don’t know what has happened to me in the last year or so and now I’m lying in a hospital bed after someone has obviously tried to kill me, pregnant with twins, and not a clue as to what to do next.

“I won’t leave you, Butterfly. Even if you don’t remember me, if you never remember me, I won’t leave you.”

“I have to remember you,” I say, my chest tightening as if it were in a vice. I know that I have to remember him. I need him.

“Give it time, baby,” he says softly, while cradling me in his arms. “It’ll come back with time. I know it will.” I don’t hear conviction in his words and I realize that he’s feeling the same grasping hope that I am.

Please let me remember. Please let me remember…


A/N: I know that the “coma” storyline is one that tends to last longer, but I really didn’t want to drag it out.

I’m going to say this again. I don’t want to lose readers, but if keeping you means that you think you can insult my characters or question MY credibility because I won’t do something cruel to one of them based on YOUR opinion, I don’t mind losing you. You just read a chapter where Ana had an accident so bad that she lost her memory, but she STILL DIDN’T LOSE HER DAMN BABIES! So now what? 

These people are a part of me–when are people going to understand this? EL James gave us the original story, a wonderful platform, and a great cast of characters. However, the person that I call Anastasia Steele-Grey is not the same person that she calls Anastasia Steele or Anastasia Grey. As they have developed over three books in the Dr. Steele series, these are my people now–they just carry the original author’s names. To that end, YOU CANNOT INSULT MY CHILDREN… SO PLEASE, STOP!!!

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

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

Becoming Dr. Grey: Chapter 14—You’re Going Where?!

So my beloved daughter whom I love ever so much BLACKMAILED me on Facebook into posting a chapter for her 21st birthday (Love you, Nooka. Happy Birthday!). So this will have to be my compromise. I can’t promise a bonus chapter because you guys know that the chapters have to be edited and ready before they get posted. A bonus chapter right now would put a horrible rush on me, so as a compromise, I’m posting this week’s chapter early as a present to my baby. This, of course, means that the wait between chapters will be longer this next week, so if I can get the next chapter edited as a bonus chapter, I’ll do it… but please don’t pressure me. I can’t make any promises that will happen. The next chapter is a very KEY chapter to the story–the whole story–and it has to be right.

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

Chapter 14—You’re Going Where?!

CHRISTIAN

I’m sitting on the GEH jet waiting for takeoff and pondering how I find myself taking this trip. The events of the last two days—hell, the last several months—have led to this possible conclusion… more unanswered questions, more secrets to be revealed, more mysteries to unfold. I’m only one person—how can I be surrounded by this much fucking chaos?

Tuesday morning…

“He hasn’t moved since yesterday, sir,” Welch tells me. “We’ve gathered all of the evidence from the computers and based on the destinations of the funds transfers from the other occurrences, if he got one year for each of the charges he could rack up, he’d still be in jail for the rest of his life.”

“If the fucking police would do their jobs for once,” I hiss.

“Well, your favorite person is taking it straight to his sources the FBI. He’s says he’s keeping copies to be delivered to my sources in other agencies and to be leaked to the press in case Myrick’s involvement in the case that has him in witness protection is so important that the evidence comes up ‘misplaced.’ There’s no way he’s going to avoid prosecution on at least some of these counts. Each occurrence is airtight on its own. Together, he’s lucky if he sees this side of prison ever again.”

“For his sake, he better hope he doesn’t,” I say. I’m making it my personal mission in life to make sure he never has another peaceful day for as long—or as short—as he lives.

I filled my day with more meetings and closed on another acquisition before ending the day with still no positive ID on Myrick. Butterfly and I filled the night with Disney and popcorn and I must admit that Jungle Book and Tarzan really did make me feel better before falling asleep in her arms. I was just about to give up hope on catching this fucker when I get the most fabulous news around lunchtime on Wednesday.

“He’s moved the money,” James informs me. “We followed the wire transfers from a branch in Ferndale, Michigan and we’ve found his accomplice there.”

“Alex and Brian have taken the liberty to contact someone at the corporate offices of Comerica and inform them of the illegal transfer and the delicate nature of the situation, including the fact that the FBI is involved in a possible ‘sting’ on the account holder,” Barney continues. “Once he was able to verify the transfer and the fact the worms are still filtering money to the account, he was more than happy to assist us.”

“This is excellent! Who is this person?” I ask.

“A bank manager in Ferndale named Alice Witherspoon. She’s been doing this with him for years! It’s amazing that she hasn’t gotten caught by now.”

“Not to me,” I say with my usual cynicism. “I’m only too acquainted with police incompetence.”

“Only… this has the nothing to do with the police,” James points out.

“Yeah, well…” I wave it off.

“You really don’t have a high image of law enforcement, do you, Christian?” I turn to look at them.

“I’m sorry,” I say sarcastically. “It’s a byproduct of always being a considered a suspect when I need their assistance. Apparently, being wealthy is a crime in the state of Washington.” James shakes his head.

“Well,” Barney says, “the bank manager is currently being detained until the police arrive. Comerica Corporate ensures discretion as this is still an ongoing investigation. They’re also allowing the worms to continue to transfer the money to the two accounts until Myrick is apprehended on this end.”

“Two accounts.” It’s more of a statement than a question.

“Yes,” he continues. “The lion’s share is going to a larger account under the phony corporation. A smaller amount is being routed to a second account. We assumed it was the payoff account for your hackers.” Oh, yeah. As they aren’t a factor anymore, I forgot about them.

“How much time is…” Before I get my statement out, Jason interrupts me.

“Sir! We have visual identification of Robin Myrick!”

My heart starts palpitating and I can feel the sweat beading on my brow.

“Where?”

“He’s leaving an apartment building in the perimeter. He’s blonde now.” Why do they all go blonde? “We have the three-mile sting set up. What would you like to do?”

“Follow him. Find out where’s he’s going. Barney, James, keep me posted.” I walk out of Data Central with Jason close behind. “What are we waiting for now?” I ask.

“I think all we need is Cholometes’ or Alex’s word that the FBI is going to move forward and we can apprehend him.” I’m dialing Welch before he even has his words out of his mouth.

“Sir.”

“Welch, Myrick’s on the move. What’s going on with the takedown? Please believe me, I’m more than willing to take matters into my own hands.”

“That won’t be necessary, sir. The FBI has actually been looking for him since he fled witness protection about a month ago. He’s not required to stay in the program, but they do like to ‘persuade’ you not to exit without fulfilling your civic duty. Since they have this bit of information, any deal he could cut with them is now void. Since you have his location, they can pick him up now—on criminal charges, this time. Make no mistake, he’ll negotiate a deal with them if he can, but he has so many charges against him that he’ll probably only be able to talk his way out of ‘life.’” I have to take what I can get, but that fucker has to know that it was me who caught him and not the FBI.

“We’re tailing him now,” I inform him. “He’s on the move. Can you let your contacts know that we’re tailing his location and movements?”

“Yes, sir. I’m sure they’ll let me know as soon as they know where he’s going,” Welch says.

“Can you give me a minute with him before they apprehend him?” I ask.

“I can’t guarantee that, sir, but I’ll see what I can do. If you’re in a public place, don’t assault him or they’ll take you into custody, too.”

“Understood.” I end the call just as the elevator gets to my office.

“You may want to get to the car, sir,” Jason says. “He’s packed and looks to be on his way out of town.”

“Shit!” I hiss as we scramble back into the elevator.

*-*

“You’re not going to believe this,” Jason says as we exit the car in the parking lot at SeaTac.

“What is it?”

“We’ve established where he’s going and what alias he’s using to travel. He’s so fucking careless that we didn’t even have to use our equipment. One of the guards looked right over his shoulder.”

I’m waiting.

“He’s going to Nepal—Kathmandu, to be exact.” Of course, he is.

“I thought they were meeting in Cancun,” I tell him.

“So did I, but apparently, he’s going to Kathmandu.”

“He could live like a king in Nepal,” I say. “No extradition treaty with the U.S. and with the money he’s taken from me and several others, he could live out his lifetime and several others in Kathmandu. With the right connections, he could set up shop there and never get caught.”

“That’s not all,” he says as we cross the street and weave through travelers loading and unloading at the curb. “He’s using the alias ‘Victor Grey.’” I freeze where I stand.

“You’re fucking kidding me,” I nearly growl.

“I’m fucking not,” he says solemnly. You steal my money. You steal my peace. And as you’re leaving town, the final twist of the knife is to steal my name.

“Is the FBI here yet?” I ask.

“FBI ETA is about 10 minutes, but there’s always someone here to stop him from getting on the plane.”

“That’s not my concern,” I say as I push through the doors. “Where is his flight leaving? Which gate?”

“This way—Cathay Pacific.” Two designer suits go running through the airport as we won’t be able to stop him once he gets pass the TSA checkpoint. We know that he just got here and has to check his bags. With the money he’s stolen, I don’t even know why he bothered to pack. Luckily for us, we’re both extremely fit and we get to his location before he even exits the line from checking his bags.

“FBI is in place at the checkpoint, sir,” Jason informs me. “Some are heading this way. Whatever you want to say, you better say it now.” I smile to myself. The takedown is about to happen, and I’m going to be here to see it. To the dismay and disapproving looks of some of the travelers, I position myself at the beginning of the line and stand there with my feet at shoulder width, hands clasped, and staring directly at Myrick. When he raises his head, he makes direct eye-contact with me.

Checkmate.

He smiles as if he has the upper hand and proceeds to check his bags and get his boarding pass.

“You know, it’s faster to do that online, or in my case, have someone do it for you,” I say smoothly.

“Oh, someone did do it for me, dear brother. You did,” he says with a wide smile, while waving his boarding pass. “Thanks for the tic. You’re always a day late and a dollar short. I’m getting on a plane now. I have your money, and there’s nothing you can do about it. Coming to see me off?” He begins to proceed out of line and in the direction of the checkpoint.

“Oh, I wouldn’t say there’s nothing,” I say calmly. “Your problem is that you continue to underestimate me, and I don’t blame you. It’s my fault. I listened the heart of a beautiful and kind woman and I let you get away. I won’t make that mistake twice.”

“Yeah, yeah, I’ve heard all this macho alpha bullshit before,” he says, turning to face me and waving me off. “’You’ll rue the day you ever ran into me.’ ‘I’ll make your life a living hell,’ blah, blah, blah. I’ve heard it before from you and puffed-up blowhards just like you. It’s getting a little old. Any last words before I board my plane? Sunnier climes await.” Just over Jason’s shoulders, I see the jackets with the yellow lettering, the wool coats and suits and I already know that Myrick’s escort is here. It’s frightening how close he got to getting away. If the FBI hadn’t listened, I’d be going to prison for killing this man.

“Oh, on the contrary, I think you’re headed somewhere else,” I inform him with a smile. On that cue, FBI suits start swarming in from every angle. Myrick looks around and smiles.

“I think these guys might disagree with you, and you might want to step back. They don’t like it when people get too close to me.”

“Oh, you’re right about one thing. I do want to step back.” I take a step back and three of the FBI agents flank Myrick. He’s still smiling when they cuff him until I walk back towards him.

“You’re wanted for 116 counts of fraud, embezzlement, and extortion in 14 states,” I say just above a whisper. “The FBI doesn’t take too kindly to people in witness protection committing white-collar crimes.” His face falls and his skin turns white. He wants to struggle, to run, but he allowed them to cuff him and now, there’s nowhere for him to go. I lean in close to his ear.

“Just in case you manage to weasel your way out of this one, let me make something clear. The first time, I set you free. As a result, you tried to have me killed, try to steal from me, even stole my name Victor Grey, and threatened the safety of my wife and children. Now, I’m turning you over to the authorities. Try again… come at me once more… just once. I swear it will be your last time… your last anything! That’s a promise.” I pull back and glare into his eyes.

“I’m related to a key witness in the Sunset case!” he says to one of the agents, trying to bargain his way out of the mess he’s in. He wasn’t even a witness! He was being protected by association.

“Which doesn’t offer you immunity!” the agent responds. He looks from face to face until his eyes rest on mine.

“That’s okay,” he says with a shaky voice. “My father will get me out of this. He did it before, he’ll do it again.”

“You have a lot of confidence in your Dad. Last I checked, he’s still locked down for a long time.”

“Check again,” he says calmly. “You shouldn’t believe everything you hear, Grey, or in this case, everything you see.” The agents lead him away and start to read him his rights, and I suddenly get a sinking feeling. I should have had this fucker killed when I had the chance. He’s making my life a living fucking hell.

“Dad, I need you to email me all of Anton Myrick’s prison records—everything you have and anything you can get your hands on. I need it as quickly as possible,” I say into the phone when my Dad answers.

“Well, hello to you, too, son…” Dad begins.

“Dad, please, I’ll apologize later! Just get me the fucking information, fast!” I end the call and look at a quickly approaching Jason. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing, yet, but you look like you’ve seen a ghost,” he says.

“I’m about to,” I sigh. “Get me a pilot and get the jet ready, now!”

Present…

So now I’m on the jet about to fly back to the last place on earth that I ever wanted to visit, and I realize that I haven’t told Butterfly that I leaving yet. I pull out my phone and dial her number.

“Hey, baby.”

She sounds tired and I want to hear about her day, but I know that we’ll be taking off any minute and I have to get out what I need to tell you.

“Hey, Butterfly. I don’t have much time. I’m on the GEH jet.” There’s a pause on the line.

“You’re what?” she exclaims. This is certainly not good news for her.

“On the jet,” I reconfirm. “There is some information that I have to check out. I think everything I’ve been told up to this point has been wrong.” I feel a chill going through my body. If this man could possibly set up some shit like this, it’s going to be hell on me and my family if he’s actually free, especially when he finds out that I orchestrated his son’s demise.

“How did this come about?”

“It’s such a long story and I don’t have time to tell you right now, but I promise that I will. Butterfly, I’m going to Detroit.”

“You’re going WHERE?!” she nearly yells into the phone.

“Detroit, baby,” I tell her. “We apprehended Myrick today. If what he has implied is true, then this isn’t over. I have to go and find out for myself before the news of his arrest makes it to the east coast.”

“Christian, don’t go,” she pleads. “I don’t feel good about this. Something’s going to go terribly, terribly wrong if you go. I feel it in my bones.” She’s terrified and I hate to put her through this.

“I have Jason with me and I promise, I’ll be careful. I won’t take any unnecessary chances. I’m mostly going on a fact-finding mission and that’s it. I swear nothing’s going to happen to me, baby. I swear.” The captain’s voice comes over the speaker’s letting us know that we’re about to take off. “I have to go Butterfly.”

“Christian, please…” she’s begging.

“Baby, I have to do this, and I can’t talk anymore. We’re about to take off.” She immediately starts to weep.

“I love you,” she breathes through her tears.

“I love you, too,” I say before quickly ending the call. I bury my face in my hands and silently curse the day these men were born. On top of everything she’s been through, everything I put her through, I made Butterfly cry. I feel like shit.

“Did you call Gail?” I ask Jason as the plane taxis down the runway.

“Yes,” is his one word reply.

“Good,” I say, never removing my hands from my face.


ANASTASIA

Son of a motherfucking goddamn fucking ever-loving fucking bitches and bastards from hell!!!!

“He’s going to Detroit! Why the fuck is he going to Detroit?” I wail from the back seat.

“He’s going WHERE?!” Chuck exclaims from the driver’s seat of my car.

“Detroit!” I scream, all rationality flying right out of the window. “He’s going to goddamn motherfucking Detroit!” There’s nothing good about this. Nothing at all. I don’t care that they’ve caught Myrick. I don’t care that the hacker situation is over. This is ghastly wrong. There’s nothing good about this, nothing at all!

“Why the hell is he going to Detroit? Why didn’t Jason call me?”

“I don’t know, but he’s going!!” I scream, my cries turning to hiccups. Chuck pulls the car to the side of the road.

“Listen to me, Ana. I need you to calm down. This is not good for the babies. I need you to breathe. If you don’t, I’m driving this car straight to the emergency room.” I look up and his blue eyes are looking right at me. I try to breathe, but I’m too upset. “Breathe with me, Ana,” he says, and his coaching helps to calm my breathing. “I’m getting you home right now,” he says as he puts the car in gear and drives us back to Escala.

“I take it she’s heard,” I hear Gail say as Chuck carries me into the penthouse.

“Yeah, she’s heard,” he says, and the next thing I feel under my body is our soft bed.

“They take trips all the time, Ana,” Gail tries to comfort me. “They’ll be fine.” I forgot that Jason is with him and Gail is probably no happier about this than I am. I can’t share my feelings with her. It will only make her worry.

Something horrible is going to happen. I just know it is.

*-*

I wake the next morning and I’ve been divested of my coat and boots though I’m still wearing my clothes from yesterday. My head feels like lead and the beans are quite upset with me for not eating dinner last night. I roll out of bed and strip on my way to the en suite. After relieving myself, I stand under the water and attempt to let it wash my troubles away. It’s not the hot shower that I truly need, but the lukewarm water will have to do for now.

My long hair and I have become friends, now. Christian loves it so much that at this point, I would only trim it a few inches, but I wouldn’t dare cut it off. He’ll even style it for me if I’m having a bad hair day. It’s cloaked around me when I get out of the shower after I’ve wrung it, and it’s surprising easier to dry at this length since I can lay it over my shoulder. The hair closer to my scalp presents a bit of a problem, but no more than it did when it was shorter. These days, I just tie it in some sort of knot and go.

I get dressed in my silk butterfly maternity shirt, a pair of black pants and my black suede fold-over high-heeled booties with the zipper on the side—no make-up today, I don’t really need it.

“Are you feeling any better, sweetie?” Gail asks when I sit at the breakfast bar. I put my head down.

“Not particularly,” I respond. “May I have some orange juice please?”

“That’s all you want?” I can hear the concern in her voice.

“No, I’d like a dozen scrambled eggs and two loaves of toast, but for right now, I need orange juice so that I can take these Tylenol.” She chuckles a bit.

“Just eggs and toast?” she says with mirth as she pours me a glass of orange juice.

“Bacon or sausage, some hash browns… don’t be shy with the helpings, either.” I hear the glass placed on the counter next to me. I raise my head slowly to pop the pills into my mouth, and drink half of the orange juice down. It helps instantly with a bit of the throbbing.

“Ana, they’ve gone on many trips before. Nothing bad has ever happened before, except for a lost business deal or something.”

“They’ve never gone to Detroit,” I protest. “Absolutely nothing good can come from my husband going to Detroit. I’m telling you, I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I have a horrible feeling of impending doom. I’m not just being a naysayer. It’s not the pregnancy hormones. It’s not because Christian left town and it’s not because he’s going to Detroit. I’m not being dramatic. I’m telling you that I have a horrible gut feeling and I’m going to do my best to flood my mind with positive thoughts because I don’t know why it’s there.” I rest my head in my hands.

“I hope you’re wrong, dear,” she says. “I think we’ve had just about all we can take this year.”

“Hear, hear!” I concur.

“I have to keep my gut feelings at bay sometimes,” she says. “When Jason and I started dating, I was slow to get too involved with him. Let’s face it—he’s personal protection for a high-profile billionaire with a lot of enemies. I didn’t want to get my heart involved. Companionship, yes. A good time every now and then, maybe. More than that, I was afraid. The job is just too high risk, but then years went by and nothing really happened but empty threats and failed attempts and I thought I was just being too cautious.” She puts the hash browns on a plate while the sausage finishes and starts the toast.

“So I let my guard down. I married him because I love him and there didn’t seem to be a reason why we couldn’t share our lives together. I’ve been blissfully happy since I’ve married Jason. Not happier than I was with Doug, maybe just different. The love you have for one doesn’t compare with the love that you have for the other. They’re just different, but he’s a remarkable man and I’m blessed to have him. Everything looked like it was going to be okay, and then, there was the shooting…” She trails off and I know that this is difficult for her to discuss.

“I’m sorry, Gail,” I say. “I didn’t mean to bring up bad memories.”

“It’s okay,” she says. “It’s not like I don’t think about things like this all the time.” She shakes her head as she plates the rest of the food. “I’ve just learned to keep the monsters at bay.” She puts the plate of food in front of me.

“I don’t know what Christian is doing in Detroit. I don’t know what’s taken him there. I do know that he’s a very smart man and he’s not prone to making foolhardy decisions or dumb mistakes. You have to trust him, Ana.”

I do trust Christian, it’s the rest of the world that I don’t trust.

“Thank you, Gail,” I tell her. “I’ll do my best.”

*-*

“Christian, I’m trying to understand what’s going on here and you’re not making this easy for me,” I tell him when he finally calls me around 11am. That’s 2pm Detroit time, so I’m a bit perturbed that it took him this long to contact me when he flew out last night. He didn’t even call me to let me know that the jet landed safely.

“I’m sorry, Butterfly. I just didn’t have time to explain to you what was going on. Then, things were moving so fast with the FBI involvement and all these cryptic messages I keep getting…”

“What cryptic messages?” I interrupt him. He sighs heavily.

“Myrick said something to me that left a really bitter taste in my mouth.”

“So, you saw him.” It’s a statement, not a question.

“Yes, I saw him,” he confirms. “The FBI apprehended him and let him know that being involved in what I now know is ‘the Sunset Case’ doesn’t make him immune to the law. To that, he responded that his father will get him out of this. When I told him that his father can’t do anything from behind bars, he told me to check again—that I shouldn’t believe everything I see and hear.” I’m still confused.

“Let me see if I’ve got this straight. You allowed the rantings of a desperate and clearly delusional man who has been manipulating you and stealing from you for the last several months send you across the country to a place that you swore you’d never visit again voluntarily? For what?” I’m trying to keep my temper at bay, but it’s slowly rising and fighting against me.

“He was in witness protection, Ana,” he informs me. Okay, now he’s got my attention. “That’s why we couldn’t find him! That’s how he faked his death! That’s why he could move around and not be spotted because he had fifteen different aliases that we know of! Witness relocation is random—how the fuck does someone who clearly thinks he’s my brother and has an ax to grind end up in witness protection in Seattle?” I’m pondering the situation and, although I know nothing about witness protection, I know that the relocation is random and that he shouldn’t be in Seattle.

“Okay,” I sigh, “so something is fishy, but he’s back in police custody and they know what he’s done. He’s no longer a guest under their hospitality. He’s a prisoner now. I still don’t understand the trip to Detroit.”

“He’s related to a material witness. He’s not the material witness. That person is still in hiding.” I gasp loudly. I see what he’s getting at.

“His father,” I breathe.

“Exactly,” Christian confirms. “Why would I allow you to lock me up in prison for an undisclosed amount of time if I’m your key witness in bringing down a major drug lord?

“Anton Myrick’s been in jail for years, but his son has been in protective custody. I’m not going to testify if you put me in jail, so you’ve got to get me out. I can’t leave my son exposed because they can use him to get to me.” The wheels are turning very quickly.

“His son is in protective custody and he can’t be protected if he’s in jail. Drug lords have friends in high and low places,” he says.

“That means that we both need to be protected, which means that the man in the jail cell…”

“…Can’t be Anton Myrick.” He finishes my sentence. I sigh and drop my head.

“When will this be over?” I lament.

“I don’t know, Butterfly,” he says, and I can hear the defeat in his voice. “Every time I think I’ve taken away an obstacle, three more pop up in its place. That island is sounding better and better.” I can see him in my mind’s eye running his hands through his hair.

“So are you going to see him? Is that why you’re there?”

“Yes. I need to see for myself that this is not the man in the jail cell. He set all of this in motion. He’s the one that caused all of this to happen. He planted those thoughts in Robin’s head that I was his brother, that I was the cause of all of their problems. He wanted all of this to happen. If that’s true, then he’s sitting back somewhere lying in wait, preparing to strike and I have no idea how he’s planning to do it.”

“How would you know if it’s him or not, Christian? You haven’t seen him in years!” I say.

“Oh yes, I have,” he corrects me. “That man has haunted my dreams for the last 25 years. I could pick him out of a line-up in the dark if he had plastic surgery and changed ethnicity!” I guess that’s means he’ll recognize him.

“How will you get in to see him, Christian?” I ask. “If he’s protected by the feds, they’re not going to let you just walk in there and prove that he’s not Anton Myrick.”

“I’ve got friends in high places, too,” he replies. “I’m waiting for the okay to see him now.” I sigh.

“What happens if he’s truly is the man in the cell?”

“Then I come home and rest easy.”

“And if he’s not?” He sighs.

“Then I come home and amp up security,” he responds.

“Christian, no,” I lament. I’ve already got Chuck attached to my hip. I know there’s going to be at least one more when the babies get here–probably two. I’m going to be a circus sideshow!

“There’s no other way, Butterfly. After 25 years, this man has infiltrated my life and is causing all kinds of discord and problems. Who do you know that holds a personal vendetta against a four-year-old? How could I possibly have been the root of this man’s problems so much so that he turned his son into a weapon to come after me after all these years?”

“This is truly never going to end,” I murmur, accepting my plight as Mrs. Christian Grey.

“Please, don’t give up on me, Butterfly,” he begs. “You’re all I have left…”

“I’m not giving up on you, Christian, I just…” I sigh again. “I have to adjust, that’s all.” Adjust my whole life, that is… my entire way of thinking… everything I thought my life would be as the wife of a billionaire… just… everything.

“I’ll make it up to you, baby. I promise.”

“I know,” I respond, my voice lacking conviction.

“I have to go, baby.”

“Okay.” I don’t have much else to say.

“I love you.”

“I love you, too.” We end the call and I just feel like the bottom has fallen out from under everything I knew. I should have known that catching Myrick would open several cans of worms. It just couldn’t be that easy. I sit back in the chair and lay my head on the headrest, watching all of life’s simple freedoms run out the door and far away from me. Thank God I have an appointment to see Ace tomorrow. I really need to unload on somebody.

Maybe Val is right. Maybe I have changed too much. I’m so damn untouchable that in a minute, none of my friends are going to be able to come within ten feet of me. Will I be able to live like that? I’m accustomed to coming and going as I please and doing what I want. I know there will be some restrictions, not only because I’m Mrs. Grey, but also because I’ll be a mother soon. But what will those restrictions entail? Either the paparazzi is following me or the boogeyman is after me, or Christian has to know my every move. My friends with regular lives have to be tired of dealing with that just to spend time with me.

Would I want to go back to the life I had before? I wasn’t unhappy. I just needed a few changes in my life—but the life I had before had no Christian. That thought is unbearable. I rub my stomach to draw that extra strength I’m always looking for.

“Bean One and Bean Two, things are not going to be quite like we thought they would.”

*-*

That afternoon, I throw myself full-on into the activities and duties at the Center. There’s more that I can get involved in than I thought and I’m only too happy to participate. I come to find out that we’ve begun a reading circle with younger children. I just sat and watched as they learned to read with each other and listened to one of the volunteers read at story time. I am pleased to see that Luma brings her girls to the circle while she volunteers with the families in the shelter. This is a new development, which is why I didn’t know about it, and she only volunteers after the children get out of school so that it doesn’t interfere with her job as Christian’s assistant’s assistant.

“Ana, what did you do?” Grace comes into the classroom with her laptop. I frown.

“Is something wrong?” I ask, trying to stay quiet and not interrupt the reading circle. She gestures for me to come into an empty classroom.

“Donations have been pouring in for the last two days!” she says, bringing up our website as well as the account for the Center. “They’ve been coming from everywhere! All across the state! Most of them make a reference to your interview?” The last part is a question instead of a statement. I frown and shake my head.

“What interview?” I ask. “I didn’t have an interview!”

“Well, that’s what they say.” She clicks on one of the comments attached to a $50 donation. “Anastasia Grey could choose to do whatever she wants as the wife of a billionaire, yet her choice is to help the less fortunate on a regular basis by donating her time and her salary to a help center. Talk about putting your money where your mouth is.”

She clicks on another one. “I’m so glad that Seattle’s elite doesn’t have another one of those useless trophy wives. We should all take a page from the book of Ana Grey. Beauty, brains, and compassion. Christian really hit the jackpot with this one.”

“Let me see that,” I say, turning the laptop to me. There they are—hundreds of donations ranging from $5 to several thousand from leaders of the community, housewives, students, blue-collar workers, you name it. “How did this happen?”

“I thought you could tell me,” Grace says. I open a new window and Google “Anastasia Grey Interview.” What looks like a YouTube video pops up of me outside the baby boutique yesterday in my white swing coat.

“Is that what they’re talking about?” I ask. Boy, Myra was right! Talk about using the spotlight to your advantage.

“Let me see.” Grace clicks the video and I start talking about helping needy families this holiday season. Some reporter is commentating and then the camera goes back to me.

“Dr. Grey is very particular about where the donations come from and where they go. She wants to make sure that all of the programs get the funding that they need to be able to continue and to benefit the families that use the services. She also wants the respect of the community—a charity by the people, for the people, so to speak. That’s why she doesn’t mind getting her hands dirty… digging in and doing the hard work. I respect her for that. I strive to be as dedicated as she is, which is why more of my time is dedicated to Helping Hands than to any other project, even my private practice.” Grace looks up at me.

“You said that?” she says, her eyes glassy. I shrug.

“I guess,” I respond. I don’t remember what I said. I was just talking.

“That’s one of the nicest things anybody has ever said about me and the Center,” she says, humbly.

“Well, it’s true, Grace. You have a practice—you’re a pediatrician—and you dedicate so much time and energy to this place. I don’t know how you do it, but’s it’s amazing. I know you wouldn’t let the place go under instead of taking help from Christian and me, but I also know that you do everything in your power to have this place be self-sufficient. They’re always following me around, shoving a camera in my face. All I’ve done is marry a rich man. How about we redirect the focus to something more important?”

“My son is a very lucky man,” she says with a big smile. “He has married the perfect girl for him.”

“Yeah, I tell him that all the time,” I jest, attempting to make light of the situation.

“Speaking of which,” she closes her laptop. “I’m told by Cary that he’s gone back to Detroit in search of that man.” I nod.

“Yes. It’s a long and detailed story,” I confess. She covers my hand.

“I can guarantee that whatever he’s looking for, whatever he finds, it’s going to be very disturbing. Nothing good can come from this quest even if he finds all of the answers that he’s seeking. The man was horrible—unfeeling and cold. He was hideous and cruel to Christian and had I known at the time that we were questioning him that he was the one who had tortured Christian, I would have publicly flogged him myself and then had him arrested.” There’s fire in her voice when she speaks of this, and I can only imagine the picture of this frail boy—one that she has come to love as her son—when the burns and scars were fresh on his tiny little body.

“He’s going to need you more than ever, Ana,” she says, her eyes filling with tears. “I can almost guarantee that his night terrors will return, and…” She chokes on a sob and I squeeze her hand to silence her.

“I’ll be there,” I promise her. “I’ll be there for him, Grace. We’ll work through it together. We’ve done it before, we’ll do it again. He’s stronger now,” I say in a soothing voice. “He’s overcome so much just since I’ve known him, and if his worst fears return, he’ll overcome those, too. I’ll be there, Grace. I promise.” She nods and collapses in tears on the table. I just hold her hand, rub her back, and let her cry for that poor four-year-old bruised and broken boy who just flew back to Detroit to find answers.

It’s been a long day, and I haven’t heard from Christian again. I turn out the lights in my office and Chuck and I head for the car to head home. We’re talking about the donations to the center and the obvious effectiveness of the impromptu interview when “Love The Hurt Away” starts to play in my messenger bag. I scramble to get it out of my purse.

“Christian?” I answer.

“Ana, where are you?” His voice is hurried.

“I’m in the car. What’s going on?”

“I’m at the airport in Michigan. I’m about to board the jet. Ana, I was right. The man in that cell is not Anton Myrick.”

“Are you sure?” I ask. “It’s been twenty-five years…”

“I’m positive!” he reinforces. “When someone looks you in the eye and brands your skin, you don’t forget what they look like!” You’re telling me! “He didn’t even know who I was. That’s not him. I’m telling you, that’s not him!”

Okay, okay, that’s not him.

“I want you to go to my Mom’s house until I get there,” he tells me. “I’ve locked his son away. I don’t want him coming after my family. Please go to my mom’s house. Please don’t fight me on this…”

“I won’t fight, Christian,” I tell him. “We’re on our way to Escala now. We’re almost there. I’ll grab some things and we’ll go. Is that okay?”

“Yes. Yes, that’s fine.” The relief is evident in his voice.

“Get on that plane and get back to me,” I beseech him. “I need you.”

“I’ll be there before sunrise, baby.” I nod.

“I love you, Christian. Please be careful.”

“I love you, too, Butterfly. I’ll see you soon.” I end the call, holding the phone tightly in my hands.

“What is it?” Chuck asks.

“He… um…” Breathe, Ana, breathe. “He wants me to go to his mother’s house. The man in the prison is not Anton Myrick.”

“Shit!” Chuck hisses. “That’s a whole new barrel of mess.”

“Yes,” I sigh. “I told him that I would get some things from Escala and then go to his mom’s house.

“Okay, we’ll do that. Try not to be too long, okay?”

“I won’t.” We’re almost home—just at the corner of 4th Avenue and Stewart—when I look over and see Chuck coming at me in a bright haze, then… nothing.


CHRISTIAN

I’m doing my best not to leave a puddle of sweat in this seat as a wait for this monster to come into the room. I waited all day for clearance to see this fucker and it was truly like it took an act of Congress to get it done. I try not to remember him as the man who had so much control over me as a scared little boy; the man who dragged me from the closet, tied my hands and feet, and held me down while he taunted me with lit cigarettes before he put them out on my chest; the man who got my mother strung out on crack and ultimately killed her with that shit. I’m going to face him as a man now, a grown man. I’m going to look him in the eyes and confront him for the horrible shit that he did to me. Except…

What is this?

The guard walks in with this gray-haired man who sits down at the table in front of me. I examine him thoroughly—his eyes, his frame, his bone structure. As a child, I may not have remembered these things, but he never left me alone. For twenty-five years, he never left me alone, so I remember these things now. He’s considerably shorter, but that could be because I was about two feet tall the last time I saw him. This isn’t right.

“Anton Myrick?”

“Yeah, who wants to know?”

“Grey. My name is Grey.” There’s not one bit of recognition in his eyes. I would say that he has no idea who I am. This could be an act, but I would bet my fortune that this is not Anton Myrick. I don’t know if I want this to be him to put my mind at ease or if I don’t want this to be him to show that my instincts aren’t completely wrong.

“Do you know who I am, Mr. Myrick?” I ask. He sits back in his seat.

“Can’t says I do,” he says, clasping his hands in front of him.

“I may have the wrong person. Do you mind if I ask you some questions?”

“Fire away,” he says nonchalantly.

“Your hair is gray. What’s your natural hair color?

“Brown.”

“You ever dye it?” I ask.

“I’m an old man, son. Men didn’t put bottles to our hair in my day unless they were a little funny.” He does that hand wiggle I’ve seen before when older people are discussing homosexual men.

“How old are you, Mr. Myrick?”

“Sixty-five.” Sixty-five?? That would have made him forty when I was four and I’m certain that Myrick was not that old.

“Why are you in here?”

“Drug charge at first,” he says. “Then I beat somebody up, then anoddah one, then anoddah one—hell, I don’t even know how long I’m going to be here.” His eyes are the wrong color.

“Are you wearing contacts?”

“What for?”

“So brown is your natural eye color.” It’s a statement, not a question.

“Yeah, what’s this all about?” He’s getting restless now.

“Ella Fields,” I reply, and still no recognition whatsoever.

“Ella Fields?”

“Yes, do you remember her? It would have been a long time ago.” He looks like he’s truly going through his mental Rolodex to see if he remembers her.

“I remember a Ella Williams from some years back, but can’t says I know a Ella Fields.” Physical description doesn’t match and this guy doesn’t even send off alarm bells in me much less bring up bad vibes of the monster who abused me.

“Ella Williams, where is she now?” He scoffs.

“Hells I know,” he says. “Last I heard, she married some black man, spit out a coupl’a kids. I don’t know where she is now.”

“Why are you saying you’re Anton Myrick?” I ask.

“Because that’s my name.”

“Do you have a life sentence or something?” I ask. “Nothing to lose?” He just looks at me frowning. “Fine, Mr. Myrick, have it your way. Here’s your final test. Ella Fields was my mother. We lived in a trailer park about twenty-seven years ago. I was four at the time. Any of this ringing a bell yet?”

“No,” he says hesitantly, shrinking a bit in his chair.

“She was a young woman, very young, long brown hair. She was a crack addict. She used to sell her body for money and drugs. You were her pimp. Still no recollection?”

“W… What’s this about?” he says, his voice quivering.

“I’m telling you what this is about, Mr. Myrick, since that’s your name.” I stand and remove my tie, handing it to Jason. “Ella Fields was my mother. I’m her only child. My name is Christian. Christian Grey! It used to be Christian Fields, but you probably wouldn’t remember that since you only ever called me ‘you little shit!’”

I’m unbuttoning my shirt as I tower over him, this helpless looking little old man that was convinced to say that he’s someone else.

“My mother overdosed on drugs and killed herself to get away from you. You came in and found her dead, kicked the shit out of me with a pair of combat boots and left me there for four days with her decomposing dead body!” I snatch open my shirt and lift my T-shirt up to my neck.

“Do you see this?” I hiss at his cowering frame. “These are cigarette burns! I’ve got several on my back, too. You did this to me when I was four years old! Four years old!” I bark.

“F-f-four?” he’s stutters.

“Christian!” Jason brings me back to my senses and I look down at the shivering, shaking, little man who looks like he’s pissed his pants.

“No problem. We’re done here,” I say coolly, never taking my eyes off Myrick while I button my shirt and tuck it back into my pants. Jason bangs on the door, calling for the guard while I lean down close to the little actor.

“The next time you decide to play the role of another prisoner, you might want to know about all of his crimes first.” He’s shrinking away from me with tears in his eyes. I don’t feel any sympathy for this man—none whatsoever.

“Christian, let’s go,” Jason says, tugging forcefully at my arm.

We move quickly through the jail, through each checkpoint and guard station until we get to the front window. While we’re retrieving our phones and identification, the warden greets us at the door.

“Did you find what you were looking for, Mr. Grey?” He says in a cocky, self-assured tone.

“Oh, I found exactly what I was looking for,” I tell him, looking him square in the eye. His self-assured smugness slowly slides off his face as I stare at him. By this time tomorrow, he will know exactly who I am and why I was here. He will also know that he fucked up in pushing that old geezer in my face and trying to pass him off as the man who has haunted my nights every day of my life. For once, I don’t have the desire to play the stare game. I leave him there uncertain as Jason and I make our way off the premises.

I don’t say a word as we get into the car and wait for the gates to open to signal our freedom. The gate slowly slides open, and Jason guides the sedan onto the two lane road and away from the prison. I’m wound so tight that I can barely think. I immediately call Butterfly and tell her to go to my mother’s house until I can figure out what we’re going to do next. I explained to her earlier about my theories and why I was here. Finding out that I’m right is a bittersweet moment—sweet because my instincts were correct, and bitter because I don’t know what this fucker is up to or where he is.

The FBI can’t be this sloppy to put someone in the goddamn cell that doesn’t even look like Myrick. What took all day? Why didn’t they just say “no” to my request and save us all this headache? My theory is that they weren’t prepared; that the right hand didn’t know what the left hand was doing and that the contact here in Ionia had no idea whatsoever that I was even on the way, much less that I was responsible for the takedown of the prisoner’s son in Seattle. Most likely, Myrick is holed up or hiding out somewhere in witness protection like his son, and Robin is expecting for Myrick to use his pending testimony in the Sunset Case as a bargaining chip for Robin’s freedom. The problem with that thinking is that he has most likely used it as a bargaining chip for his own freedom.

I never even looked into Myrick’s charges myself. I always had Dad do it. I never thought of the FBI angle at all. Even now, I’ve flown off to Detroit to discover that the man in the cell wasn’t Myrick. I haven’t even examined this angle.

“So you knew all along that guy wasn’t Myrick?” Jason asks.

“From the moment he sat down.”

“So why all the theatrics?”

“In case someone was watching… and I know that they were,” I respond.

“Why didn’t you just go to the warden?” I look at my head of security like he has two heads.

“Because he’s in on it,” I tell him. “There’s no way they have a man in this jail and the warden doesn’t know that he’s not Anton Myrick. They’re all in on it and I just needed to get out of there before they have me locked up and saying that I’m someone else.”

“What do we do now, boss?” Jason asks.

“We get the hell outta here. Call whoever you need to call and get that jet on the runway.”

“Already there, Sir, waiting for your go-ahead and you just gave it to me.” He dials a number—the pilot, I assume—and gives the okay to get that bird in the air. In the meantime, I call Welch.

“Sir.”

“Myrick Sr., have we attempted to locate his whereabouts?”

“No, sir. From the intel from Mr. Grey, we always assumed that he was in Ionia. That’s not the case?”

“No, that’s not the case. I have no idea who’s in Ionia, but it’s not Anton Myrick. It was the worst switcheroo I’ve ever seen. We need to get any information that we can on the Sunset Case in Detroit, Michigan, then we need to use it to find out where Anton Myrick is. He’s in witness protection, too. Robin was being protected because of him.”

Whoa,” is his only reply. “I’ll get on it, sir.”

“Good. Oh, and Welch?”

“Yes, sir?”

“I want you to clean out the attorneys,” I tell Welch. Jason frowns.

“Sir?” Welch questions.

“I am officially making an example of anybody who fucks with me. By the time the Myrick story hits the mainstream media, anybody who has crossed me will know that I’m coming for them—starting with those fuckers that tried to screw me over with that goddamn prenup. Now make it happen! I want their stocks, bonds, bank accounts, retirement funds, Christmas club accounts, everything! If they’ve got nickels hiding in a jar on a shelf in a hut in Zimbabwe, I want ‘em! I want those fuckers looking for work in the Thrifty Mart by Monday. Am I clear?”

“You’re gonna make a lot of enemies, sir,” Jason warns.

“I’ve already got a lot of enemies,” I bark. “I’ve been too easy on the fuckers up to now. That’s why Dodd and Myrick thought it was okay to pull this shit!” I turn my attention back to the phone. “You haven’t answered me, Welch.”

“Consider it done, sir,” he says without hesitation and I end the call.

When 911 happened and I awoke to the news that two planes had crashed into the World Trade Center, I remember my world tilting on its axis for so many reasons. I was wondering who could be so brazen or desperate or angry or suicidal or hateful to do something like this… to crash a plane into a building. Most of all, I thought about all those people—all those people who were going to die that day.

Not once did I think that the buildings would come crashing down that way. I’m not sure that the people who did this thought that would happen. I think the collapse was just a fucking bonus for those monsters. Although the tragedies happened hours prior to when I actually saw them, for me, they were happening right then, live and in living color before my very eyes. The news spoke of thirteen more planes that were unaccounted for. I had no idea what was going on.

My first thought was that I couldn’t understand why a plane would be flying that low in the first place, a commercial jet no less. I didn’t have enough time to process the news about the first plane when I heard about the second plane because, again, these things had happened hours before I awoke and got the news. As smart as I am, I was still confused, but suspicious when I heard that the second plane had hit the second tower. By the time the news of the destruction of the Pentagon reached me, I knew that we were under attack.

I didn’t know if there was any rhyme or reason to whomever was attacking us. I just remember feeling like one of those missing planes was going to come through my window and get me at any second. As illogical as it might have been, I expected to see the nose of a 747 headed straight for my dorm—right into my bedroom window aimed right at me. I was at Harvard, and I wanted to go home—to my family. I remember being worried about Mia, about Elliot, about my mom and dad…

…and about Elena.

I have that same feeling now, like one of those planes is aimed at my home and my wife and children, and it’s going to hit any minute. I don’t know what we’re going to do. The new house will be a fortress. They’ll be safe there, but what about until the house is finished? I don’t want them at Escala, that’s all I know for sure. I want them safe. They have to be safe.


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

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Love and Handcuffs!
Lynn x

Becoming Dr Grey: Chapter 13—The Game Is Afoot!

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

Chapter 13—The Game Is Afoot!

CHRISTIAN

“Well, you gentlemen look like three bags of hell. Did you sleep well?”

Dodd, Cross, and Rockland look like pure shit when I see them around mid-morning. Welch and Cholometes are absent—resting somewhere or taking care of other matters as are the night team, and I am here with our guests of honor along with Jason and the two operatives that have been by our side since this operation began. None of them are tied to the chairs anymore, but I’ve got a feeling that’s unnecessary now.

“I’d like to wrap this up, if I may,” I say to them like I’m conducting a business meeting. I take off my jacket and toss it in a chair. “Just so that you know I’m serious…” I give Cross the same kick that I gave Dodd, two days ago and punch Rockland in his throat.

“If you fuck with me today, I will bite!” I hiss. Both men are gasping for breath while Dodd’s head just lolls in front of him. I point to him and look at Jason. “Is he dead?” I ask, annoyed. Why is there a dead man in the room?

“No, he’s just taken all he can take,” Jason says. “Remember, he spent two nights with us.” I nod.

“Well, let’s see if these two are going to be our guests for another night.” Rockland’s eyes widen and Cross is only just being returned to an upright position. He’s groaning miserably as I place a chair in front of them and turn it around backwards.

“Now, I’m going to ask you guys some questions. Do you think you’re ready to answer them or should I give you more time to ponder that?”

“We’re… ready,” Rockland says weakly. I turn to Cross.

“You?” He nods, still trying to catch his breath. “Good. Now some of these, I already know the answer, so careful how you respond. Let’s get started, shall we? How do you talk to your boss?”

“Text. Email,” Cross chokes. “Phone only rarely.” Good answer.

When do you talk to your boss?”

“When he has instructions or we have updates,” Rockland says. “Emails are for regular communications. Texts are for emergencies…”

These two spill their guts for the next couple of hours informing us of how to get into their systems, crack their codes, find their worms, and trace their footsteps to every victim they’ve ever hit. They give us everything but government secrets. Luckily for them, Barney already established that they have no idea where Myrick is until after all operations go to Bagstop or they might have spent another night being persuaded by the Ops team. Later that afternoon, we have a plan and set the trap. Communication starts with Cross and a text as it always does in normal operations. Cross was so kind as to display the phone screens on one of his monitors so that we could see what’s being said.

**You were right, Boss. Doddy’s been compromised. He’s spilled the beans. He basically told us yesterday that Grey was right in his face. They know who you are, but they don’t know who or where we are. We had to lay low until the coast was clear.**

**Shit. There goes our inside man. It’s too late to find someone else now. We need to pull the operation.**

**Why? Just because Doddy’s not in on it anymore doesn’t mean anything. They don’t know who or where we are. We can drain this fucker clean and they’ll never find us, can’t we?**

**Feeling ambitious are we, Nick? Without Dodd, we don’t know if they’re getting any closer to us or not, so we have to pull out. He may not know how the system works, but he knows how to reach you and it’s only a matter of time before they find you, too.**

**Shit, I didn’t think of that. What do we do? I’ve got plans for my share and I have no intention on that snitch motherfucker costing me my money. His loss. We’ll split our share two ways instead of three.**

**Fine. Roc knows, too?**

**Yeah, he knows.**

**Where is he?**

**Probably back in Spokane by now.**

**Good. I’ll be in touch. Stay by the phone.**

“What now?” I ask.

“He’s going to get in touch with Roc to verify what I said.” I’m expecting a call from James to tell me that he has tracked the asshole, but there’s nothing. I have to wait for him to contact Rockland. I don’t have to wait long. Rockland’s phone starts to buzz.

**Roc, respond.**

“Showtime,” I say as I hand him the phone.

**Yeah, Boss?**

**Have you heard?**

**About that chickenshit Dodd? Yeah, I know. What the fuck do we do now?**

**We close up shop.**

**Aw, shit, really? We didn’t get close to where we wanted.**

**We’ll hit him again. Right now, we have to close up. Redirect the worm to Bagstop and I’ll start shutting down. You know where to meet me.**

**What about Dodd’s share? Do me and Nic get to split it?**

**I don’t care what you do with it. I’m sending the agreed upon portion to the payout account as planned. You do what you want from there, but I expect to see you at the meetup in seven days. This project is far from over.**

**You got it, Boss.**

“Where’s the meetup?” I ask.

“Cancun,” Cross replies. “No matter what the authorities do, they can’t get to him or us unless they liaise with the Federales. It’s almost impossible.” Of course, I know this. Cancun is perfect if he can get across the border. All you need is a passport.

“Tell the team at Rockland’s to divert the worms to Bagstop,” I tell Jason. “Make sure they follow the instructions that he gave them specifically. I don’t want any mistakes.” Jason nods and makes the call. Moments later, my burner rings. It’s James.

“We got him,” James says, “and you’re not going to believe this.”

“Don’t play with me. We don’t have time.”

“He’s still in Seattle.” Fucking hell! He’s been right under my fucking nose all this time.

“Goddammit!” I exclaim, almost throwing the burner across the room.

“What it is, Sir?” Jason says, frowning.

“He’s still in Seattle,” I growl. I turn to his little crew. “Did you fuckers know where he was all this time? We’re wasting all this goddamn time and you knew where he was, didn’t you?” Dodd is conscious now, but only barely. He woke somewhere during the interrogation and hasn’t said a word since. Welch has joined us again as well.

“No! No! I swear we never knew where he was!” Rockland, the one who always seemed so strong, is nearly begging for his life. Cross just looks like he’s going to piss his pants. James is yelling on the phone for me to get back on the line.

“Christian! You’ve got to talk to him. The information we have will only take us so far. If you want a precise location, you need to talk to him.” I turn to the three of them.

“Who the fuck tapped my phone?” I ask. Dodd and Cross both point to Rockland. I snatch him out of the seat and drag him to the wall and Jason and Welch protest.

“How did you fucking tap my phone? How easily can he find me? Tell me everything or I’ll leave you locked up in this room with these men for the next six days!” He turns pale and starts talking.

“It’s a tr-tracker… a simple one, the same one that the government uses. I could hack your phone if I called and kept you on the line long enough,” he stammers.

“Did you know where I was? Did he know where I was?” I hiss.

“Y-yes… I knew, but he didn’t. I would just… tell him what he needed to know. It was… my insurance policy.”

“What about my wife? Were you tracking her, too?”

“Be careful how you answer that,” Jason warns. “If you lie…” and he trails off.

“I tried…” he admits. “I only got her office, I never got her cell… so… I couldn’t.”

“My family! Speak up, you lousy fuck!” He tried to track Butterfly. I don’t care if he lives or dies.

“Only some old email address for your brother!” he exclaims. He’s scared for his life and rightfully so. That would explain the pictures he got of me and Elliot.

“Does he know where I am right now? Can he track my phone?”

“No… just… just me.” I push him over to Welch.

“Tell him how to turn it off,” I hiss. He starts talking to Welch, who’s talking to the team at Rockland’s house.

“Sir,” Jason hands me the phone back.

“What?” I nearly bark into the phone.

“Can you call him?” James asks.

“I’ve never had his number that he knows of. If I call him, it’ll tip him off that we have his whole team.”

“We need to get in touch with him somehow,” James repeats.

“Do we have any contact information for that asshole, even old information?” I ask Jason.

“I told you. He’s going to get in touch with you,” Jason responds.

“How can you be so sure?” I ask.

“He will,” Cross finally speaks. I look over at him. “He used to comment all the time that he was going to tell you it was him all along. He wants to see your face. He’ll get in touch with you. He might even meet you.” Well, isn’t he helpful? I get back on the phone.

“Just work with what you’ve got. I’ll be in touch.” I end the call with James. “You,” I say, pointing to Cross. “Respond.”

“To who?” he asks afraid.

“Your boss,” I say. “He told you to stay by the phone and he hasn’t responded. How long does it usually take him?” He thinks about it as I toss the phone at him. He fumbles with the phone, then starts the text.

**Boss, what’s wrong? You told me to stay by the phone.**

There’s a long pause before any response. I’m just about to believe that we’ve been found out when the asshole responds.

**Nothing now. Redirect the worm to Bagstop. I’ll divvy the money. Meetup in seven days. We regroup and hit him again.**

**If you say so, Boss. I still think we could have hit him for more.**

**We could have, and we will. For right now, meetup in seven days.**

**Got it.**

“Redirect his worm,” I say to Welch and he nods. “He was waiting for you.”

“How do you know?” Cross asks.

“This, you idiot!” I point to the line that says Nothing now. “If you hadn’t responded, he would have known that you and Tweedle-Dum over there are together. Now he thinks the coast is clear.”

“I told you that you had no idea who you were dealing with,” Dodd mumbles.

“But you did, so shut up,” I threaten.

“The worms have been redirected,” Welch says. “He’s starting to cycle the money from the main account into smaller ones. The signal is fed right into a portal in Ferndale, Michigan. I think we have our bank insider.”

“Get on it, but don’t move before I talk to him,” I respond.

“Now comes the hard part… waiting for him to call,” Jason says.

*-*

I’m in my office trying to act normal, but twitchy as hell. I called Butterfly last night and told her that I needed to stay where I was while we worked out some answers to some of the questions and that meant that I couldn’t come home. I didn’t want her feeling like she did when I was gone all of the time, so I assured her that I loved her and talked to her until she fell asleep. The problem… I didn’t sleep. My phone is now unhackable thanks to James and Barney, since we know who the culprit is and we were able to disconnect his link. They’ve now done something to hack-proof my phone, at least temporarily I’m told, and the only tap on my phone is being read by Barney and James.

The day seems to drag by as I pretend to be interested in what’s happening in various meetings. I go by to see Butterfly at her office for lunch as one more moment without her is going to send me stir crazy. We just sit on her sofa and talk and kiss while I tell her what I can of what’s happening. She’s very understanding and I want to tell her all of it, but for her own safety I have to keep quiet.

Since Cross and Rockland have redirected the worms, they are expected to go radio silent. That works out well since they are currently still with the Ops while we track down Myrick. I received an email from Human Resources this morning notifying me of a phone call and an email from Dodd to be followed up by a certified letter that he is submitting his resignation. Apparently, he is tired of his hard work and ideas being overlooked and has accepted a more lucrative offer elsewhere from someone who promises to reward him for his talents. I’ll just bet you have. Welch has already informed me that since Black Ops had to be involved that we will most likely never hear from these three again once they’ve outgrown their usefulness. He refuses to tell me if that means they will be “taken care of” or dropped off in Iceland somewhere and quite frankly, I don’t care.

The visit with Butterfly refreshed me and the ride back to Grey House was tolerable. Just as I get off the elevator and go to my office, my phone rings. It’s unknown. Please be Myrick. For God’s sake, please be Myrick.

“Grey.”

“Well, hello, big brother. Long time, no see.” Asshole.

“Big Brother, my ass!” I hiss. “I showed you the DNA report and I’m not your fucking brother!”

“No matter. You’ve paid a fortune to find me, and here I am. Don’t bother trying to trace the phone. It’s completely blocked—unless you know someone from the FBI.” Cocky ass little fucker, of course I do.

“Why the hell are you doing this to me?” I yell. I’m losing my patience. Jason comes bursting into my office and sees me on the phone.

“Temper, temper, Mr. Grey. Anger never got us anywhere, now did it?” he taunts.

“Apparently, it got you where you needed to be,” I shoot.

“No, that was persistence, coupled with a bit of good old-fashioned arrogance and underestimation on your part. Thank you for that. You helped me right along.” Self-important, over-confident son-of-a-bitch. I get a glimpse of Jason and he’s on the phone.

“You’re a little too certain of yourself, asshole. I will find you one day and I will make you pay.”

“You see, that’s what I’m talking about,” he says calmly, “that untouchable attitude that you have. I’m about to disappear with several million dollars of your money and you can’t even be humble about it. That’s pennies to you, and you can’t even say ‘Robin, you got me this time. You were the better man.’ No, you’re still walking around like you’ve got the upper hand. ‘I will find you and I will make you pay.’” He mocks me. “Yeah, sure, Grey, if you say so, but it won’t be today.” His confidence is making my teeth itch.

“You should be very worried…”

“No, you should!” he interrupts me. “Do you think I’m the only one? There’s a line of ‘em out there, Grey, a whole damn line! For you to be such a cocky, self-important bastard, do you have any idea how many people hate you? I mean, really—it’s easy picking. I could throw a dart and find several people who would want to see you fall. I could put an ad on Craigslist or a random post on Facebook and get hit after hit after hit of people who want to take you down. Sure, they’re just usernames at first, but then after you talk for a while, there’s a real person behind that username with a real ax to grind and they want to grind it right in your ass. This was way too easy. You have powerful people who would love to see you fall and not-so-powerful people who would sell their souls to be a part of your demise. How could you not attempt to exercise some level of humility when you’re walking around with a target on your back, you pompous, arrogant asshole?”

“It’s like you said, a few million dollars won’t hurt me one way or the other,” I change tact since I see the anger is switching places.

“Oh, but you’ll be thinking about it,” he retorts. “The long lost brother from the father that you hate that took you for millions. And this is not the end—I’ll be back for more and you can’t even stop me. You tried for months and you couldn’t even find me. I found you.” He laughs.

“You’re not my brother, asshole,” I say calmly. “You may have taken a few of my pennies, but that sick sperm donor of yours really pulled a fast one on you. Tell me, how does it feel to know that the man you idolize was thrown in jail for being a pimp and a crack dealer, and he led you to believe for a couple of decades that it was because of a four-year-old boy? Come on, you’re an adult now, you’ve got to know that was bullshit.”

“He told me you would do that,” he says calmly. “You’ve already proven that you’ll allow anybody to take responsibility for your mistakes—that you’ll let anybody take the fall for you. Tell me, exactly how old were you when you killed your own mother?” What the…?

“What in the hell has that fucker been feeding you?” I ask, appalled. “My mother overdosed when I was four! That fucker left us in the house for four days! I was left with my mother’s cold, dead body for four days! That asshole burned my chest and my back with cigarettes! I still have the scars! I had nightmares for years after what he did to me! I used to be angry when I thought about you, but I feel sorry for you! You idolize a monster, and he’s grooming you to be just like him!”

“Don’t you patronize me, you pretentious fuck!” He’s losing it… and fast. “I’ve still got your money and there’s shit you can do about it. You’ve always tried to convince me that my father was the bad guy and I knew you were wrong from the very beginning…”  I turn to Jason, who holds up the index finger to me, so I keep talking.

“You keep believing that,” I say, calmly, cutting him off. “Your father is a vicious, brutal, abusive, drug-dealing monster and you’re going to be just like him. You’re a petty thief, sneaking in back doors and picking pockets. Yeah, you got a few million from me, but that’s because my pockets are deeper. But guess what? That doesn’t change what you are. You’re no ‘righter-of-wrongs,’ no ‘Robin Hood’ seeking to make the crooked roads straight. You’re a common criminal, creeping around corners and picking off those who you think are weak. That’s okay. Take your little pennies and run. That’s going to be your legacy. ‘Boo hoo hoo, my crack pimp daddy said this billionaire was my brother, so I’m going to take his toys.’ Be my guest. Take what you want. Just know this—I want you out of my life. I made the mistake of leaving you alive and giving you the chance to walk away, but you didn’t do it. You lived because of the kindness of the woman I love, and you abused that opportunity. So when I find you—and I will find you—I’m going to finish the job.”

“You are so delusional!” he laughs. “Don’t you know I was the one who helped Lincoln get your girlfriend’s gun? Don’t you see how much power I have over you and those around you? I orchestrated the premature announcement of your wife’s pregnancy before you guys even wanted anybody to know! Right now, I’m still draining your account and you’re talking shit! Man, you’re more pathetic than I thought.”

“That’s okay, Robbie Boy, go on and believe that. Everything you’ve tried to do so far to ruin or end me has failed, and you think this is going to succeed? Be my guest, take what you want. I’m so rich I can print money. There’s always someone to jump in front of the bullet for me and all you did was make another enemy because you shot the Man of Steel. There’s always a way out for me, or solution or someone to make the problem go away. Do you know there’s insurance that covers this kind of thing?” I laugh.

“It’s the principle, Grey. I got you!” I scoff.

“Many people get me, Myrick! You’re not the first and you won’t be the last. That’s one of the reasons that I am who I am today. People keep getting me and I bounce right back. Yeah, they bask in their victory for a while, and then they get pissed again because ‘that cocky motherfucker is still strutting around.’ I’m still going to strut, Myrick. When this is over, you’ll be like one of those little woodland creatures that come and grab one of your apples, but you still have hundreds of apples left on the tree.” Jason gives me the magic nod.

“Don’t give me that shit, Grey! You’re so angry about this, you could spit!”

“Yeah, I would throw some more pennies at you, but—sorry, I don’t carry change. Are we done?”

“Twelve million, Grey! And counting!” He’s still trying to egg me on, but we know where you are now.

“Clink, clink, jingle, jingle. Are we done now?”

“You son-of-a-bitch! You think you’re so fucking high and mighty…” and now he’s ranting. I tore that cool exterior down and made him think that he didn’t get to me even though right now, I’m burning on the inside. Unfortunately for him, he has to get the last word. He’s a petty thief and a petty man.

“Yeah, we’re done. Enjoy your life while you can. Your happiness will be very short-lived, I promise you.” I end the call. “Talk to me.”

“Henderson and Rainer,” he says. “James put a tracker on it, but if it’s a burner, he may have already thrown it away. We’re setting up a perimeter, but I don’t know if we had enough time to put it into place, yet.” Shit!

I’m in the elevator almost before he finishes his sentence. In moments, we’re down in Data Central.

“We still have him, sir,” Barney says, pointing to a map of the south side of Seattle and a red blinking dot. “As long as he keeps that phone, we’ve got him. So we need to make him as soon as possible.” Jason is on the phone as we speak.

“The perimeter is set, sir. The guys have a picture of him as well as progressive pictures in case he’s changed his appearance. I’m in satellite contact with all of the team leaders.” My hands are sweating. They can’t lose him. I have to know the moment he moves. So I sit and wait…

And wait…

And wait some more…

“He’s not going anywhere, Christian,” Jason says in my ear. I’ve sat in Data Central all day. I haven’t moved or eaten or done any work. I’ve just sat here waiting for someone to tell me that they’ve spotted Myrick.

Nothing.

“I’m going home,” I tell Barney before leaving Data Central and going back up to my office.

“He hasn’t moved, sir. I can guarantee it,” Jason says. I try to take some comfort in that, but it doesn’t help. We drive back to Escala where I have dinner with my wife, then go to my study for the rest of the evening.

I can’t fail. I’m doing this for Butterfly.

And for myself.

I can’t fail.


ANASTASIA

I thought that taking care of him and making love to him this weekend would have made Christian loosen up, but I was wrong. He’s wound tighter than ever! I don’t know what to do for him. We’ve got to get this Robin Myrick situation under control or he’s going to blow a gasket.

He’s been keeping me out of the information loop for the last two days, insisting that the less I know, the better. To me, that means that Myrick’s two little hackers and Christian’s in-house spy are probably floating face down somewhere under the ice and I don’t need the gory details. I justify anything that Christian has to do to catch this bastard because he tried to have Christian killed in March when he facilitated giving that batty blonde bitch my gun.

Speaking of which, I haven’t heard a thing about her. I wonder if she has tried to contact Christian at all. I know that he would tell me if she did, unless he didn’t want to upset me. I’m sure the news of my pregnancy has gotten to her by now. She’s probably glued to the television for anything Christian Grey, even though it’s clear that he doesn’t want her. I can’t blame her, though. If she received even one one-hundredth of the affection that he shows me, it’s no wonder she’s batshit.

Wednesday, I decide that I need to do something today besides sit around and lose my mind. Chuck is a little uneasy about my decision, but I tell him to let Christian and Jason know that I’ll be doing a little bit of baby shopping for Mindy, after which I will be dropping by Maxie and Phil’s to see them. Christian balked about safety and Robin Myrick until I told him that I would trust him to take care of Ginger Creepy Guy, but that I had no intention of letting that asshole run my life or keep me holed up in the apartment.

Give him a task. It always works.

With newfound conviction to keep his wife safe, he turns his focus away from my little shopping trip and back to finding Ginger Creepy Guy.

I make a stop at the little boutique that Christian and I went to where the owner and the customer asked us to sign their gossip rags. I promised the owner, Myra, that I would think of her first when it came to all things baby.

“Ana, it’s wonderful to see you again so soon!” she greets when I walk in the door.

“Hi, Myra. I’ve had a little delivery—not mine of course. My friend had her baby—a little girl, and I’d like to get them something really nice.”

“Hmm, brand new baby, I would say do a little girl gift basket. We have some already made, or you can choose some items that you like and I can build a basket for you.”

“Really?” I squeal. “That sounds fantastic!”

“Great! So what’s your choice—pre-made or construct one?” she asks.

“Let’s look at the pre-made ones first.”

I follow Myra to the area where she keeps the gift baskets. They are utterly adorable—baby blue and pink everywhere and the baskets are really nice. I choose a few that I like, but one just doesn’t seem to be enough and two just seems… I don’t know, over-the-top a bit, I guess. No one basket has everything that I want and two baskets just seem gaudy. I opt to build one and put all of the necessities inside. The problem is that all of the baskets look too small for my purposes, so we opt to use a tiny baby-carrying basket instead of a gift basket. It’s white, about 14 inches by 14 inches so it will do nicely.

Next, we set to the task of loading up the basket—bibs and bottles, booties; rattles and baby hair accessories; keepsake boxes; teething rings and blankets; bath accessories and stuffed toys. I also decided to get the New Mom basket, with bags of gourmet chocolates and biscotti, chai and herbal teas, exotic bath oils and lotions, a CD of soothing music, candles, and a bath pillow. Hopefully this will help to remind Maxie how much she enjoyed the spa.

“We’ve got company, Ana,” Chuck says as I’m about to pay for the baskets. They’re not unruly, but a few reporters have gathered outside.

“Oh, I’m so not in the mood for this,” I whine. What’s so special about us? I mean, I know that Christian is a billionaire, but money makes you famous? I just don’t get that! We’re not movie stars or even really public figures. We try to keep our private lives private. I know Christian is a really big deal in the business world, but the color of Bill Gates’ underwear is not news, so why should his be? What’s the fascination?

“You’re a real Cinderella story, don’t you know that?” Myra says. “I mean I know that you weren’t all poor and things when you met Christian, but he’s Seattle’s Prince Charming, so that makes you Cinderella. Everybody wants to see you all move into the castle and have babies and live happily ever after. We live vicariously through you! Then there’s always going to be those mean stepsister types who are waiting for the ax to fall so that they can step into the position. Face it, Honey, there’s always going to be some kind of tiny obsession with AnaChris. Find a way to use it to your advantage.” She shrugs.

Use it to my advantage. Hmmm…

“I want to go to Maxie’s, but I don’t want to lead the troops there,” I say looking at Chuck.

“We might want to postpone this trip for another day, maybe?” he asks. I shrug.

“Let’s see what happens,” I close my coat over my baby belly and prepare to go outside. It’s a chilly November afternoon and I don’t want to be out in the cold too long. The handful of reporters that found me at the boutique spring to life when I exit, Chuck behind me carrying two wrapped baskets.

“Shopping for the baby, Ana? Do I see pink in that basket behind you? Does that mean we’re expecting girls?” Le sigh…

“I think I announced late last week that a friend of mine had a baby, which is why I was at the hospital. I hardly think I would be buying a gift basket for myself,” I laugh.

“So are you saying you’re not having girls?” One of them asks.

“There’s a fifty-fifty chance,” I respond, giving nothing away.

“Where’s Christian? We haven’t seen a lot of him lately,” someone in the back questions. I look behind me, in my purse, down my coat…

“I seem to have misplaced him,” I jest. A small wave of laughter goes through the group. “Really, though, I must ask why that’s a common question when you guys see me alone. Am I not supposed to go out in public without him? I’m just asking,” I say with no malice. The group falls a little silent because nobody really has the answer to that question. “Well, it is Wednesday, so most likely he’s at work. He did that before we were married, so he’s probably still doing that now. My schedule may have lightened up because I’m pregnant, but we know Mr. Grey is still driven to succeed, so I would say that’s the answer to your question.” I smile and the cameras flash away.

“You look beautiful as always, Ana. Who are you wearing?” a lady reporter asks. I shrug.

“I honestly don’t know what this coat is,” I laugh, closing the cream wool swing coat around me. “I think I got from Macy’s or Nordstrom… I don’t remember right now. I got it because it’s retro and I love all things retro. Plus, it looks like something I saw Olivia Pope wearing.” Another wave of laughter.

“What about the boots?” she says. “You have to know who those are. They’re gorgeous!”

“Oh, the boots are Michael Kors,” I say showing off my brown Tamara high-heel boots. “I won’t be able to wear heels much longer, so I figured I’d get some wear out of them before it’s too late.” I smile again. “Well, I’m off to see my friend now. As you all must know, a brand new mom doesn’t get around much.” I smile and wave and head for the car while the cameras are flashing. Then Myra’s words come back to me.

Use it to your advantage. I pause as Chuck is opening the door for me.

“At the risk of sounding cliché, I really want to ask that everyone who reads something about me or follows me or hates me challenge themselves to do something a little extra for someone this winter. It’s cold outside, people are hungry, homeless, lonely, and cold. A lot of people are suffering from abuse or depression. I may be Cinderella going to my castle, but I don’t forget how it felt to sleep in the cinders.” The group falls silent again.

“What are you doing this year, Ana? Anything in particular?” one of them asks.

“Oh, I’m doing a lot of things,” I respond. “Christian and I will be taking part in the Greater Seattle Adopt-A-Family Affair again this year. We’ll also be delivering food and toys to a few local homeless shelters as long as my body is up to it. Particularly, most of my time and energy goes to Helping Hands, the charity that I support the most. It’s been around for quite some time, but it just hasn’t gotten the kind of exposure that it needs.”

“That’s the charity that your mother-in-law heads, the one that was the subject of the public service announcement earlier this year, wasn’t it?”

“Yes, it is,” I confirm. “Dr. Grey spends countless hours developing programs and organizing food and clothing drives, securing educational opportunities and tutoring for abused and displaced families…”

“Displaced?” someone interrupts me. “Is it a shelter?”

“Yes. Part of it has been expanded to be a shelter—a safe haven, if you will, to assist a handful of families in making a very tough transition. It’s pretty costly and can be very time-consuming, which is one of the reasons why she and I donate our salaries back to the center.” This earns an approving nod from many of the members of the group.

“So, you guys don’t just donate money to the center?” one of the ladies asks again, and I notice the crowd is getting a bit bigger. “I mean, wouldn’t that just be easier?” I twist my lips a bit as if in contemplation and do that side-to-side uncertain nod.

“Yeah, it would, but Dr. Grey is very particular about where the donations come from and where they go. She wants to make sure that all of the programs get the funding that they need to be able to continue and to benefit the families that use the services. She also wants the respect of the community—a charity by the people, for the people, so to speak. That’s why she doesn’t mind getting her hands dirty… digging in and doing the hard work. I respect her for that. I strive to be as dedicated as she is, which is why more of my time is dedicated to Helping Hands than to any other project, even my private practice.”

“That’s very honorable, Ana. Do you really get down there and do as much these days since you’re pregnant?”

“It’s my one true pastime,” I counter. “As assistant director, I have to oversee many of the programs, too, as well as offer counseling and direction when needed. I have a few success stories from Helping Hands, so I’m very proud of what we do there and I plan on staying a part of it until my body doesn’t work anymore.” I laugh again and decide that this ends the current interview with Dr. Anastasia Steele-Grey. “I’ve really got to get going, you guys. My friend is going to be asleep by the time we get there.” I wave at them and get in the car.

“Nicely done,” Chuck says as we’re driving away.

“Oh, Ana, these are adorable!” Maxie says as she examines the items in the baby basket. I’m now sitting in her big, comfy pregnancy chair while she sits on the sofa with Mindy lying beside her. “I can see her little feet in this already,” she says playing with the booties.

“I thought so, too,” I tell her. “They make the cutest little things for babies.”

“Oh, yes, they do!” she says going through the items in the basket. She squirms a little on the sofa.

“What’s wrong?” I ask.

“I’m wearing a shaper,” she says. “You know, that post-pregnancy belt that helps you hold up your enormous flabby stomach.”

“Yes, I do. I already have three of them.” She turns her gaze to me.

“Vain much, Ana?” she laughs.

“No. Christian bought them for me three weeks ago. He thought they were the during pregnancy belts—you know, the ones that help support your back…”

“Ooohh,” she says with a nod.

“So now I’ll have three of them for after I have the babies.”

“What about the ‘during pregnancy belts?” she asks.

“Oh, I have those, too.”

“Geez, Ana, how many do you have?” I roll my eyes.

“You don’t want to know!” I exclaim. “Ever send Phil to the store for tampons?” She laughs immediately.

“Okay, okay. I get it now,” she snickers. “’Is she a mini or a maxi? Did she say pads or tampons? Does she want regular, plus, or super? Wings or no wings?”

“And how many feminine items did you have when he got back?”

“Honestly, about a year’s supply!” she laughs. “Slim, light, maxi pads, panty liners, pearls, pods, petals, you name it, he brought it home.” I nod.

“I have enough belts for a Lamaze class!” I declare and we laugh heartily.

“Well, you’ll have plenty for the next time you get pregnant,” she says and I stop laughing.

“Can you let me have these before you knock me up again, please?” I declare causing her to burst out laughing again.

“I’m hungry. Are you up for some food while the bumblebee is asleep?” she asks. I shrug.

“I can always eat,” I respond and we head out to the kitchen to get something to eat.

“What do I feel like?” Maxie says as she rummages through the refrigerator. “Chicken… cold cuts… ooo, BLT!” My stomach growls at the thought.

“Now, you’re talking!” I exclaim as she removes the bacon.

“So, I know you haven’t had your twins yet, but do you think you’ll have any more kids after this?” Maxie asks as she starts to warm the griddle.

“I wouldn’t be opposed to it,” I respond, removing the meaty tomatoes from the refrigerator. I reach for the chopping board and a knife. “I would definitely want more children if Christian agrees, and if he doesn’t, that’s fine with me, too. I know that he still wants us to do some traveling and things, but let’s be realistic. The world is our oyster. We can pretty much do whatever we want.”

“I think that might be Val’s problem,” she says as she moves the succulent bacon around the grill. I fall silent. “I think she might feel slighted because the rest of us are getting on with our lives and she and Elliot are just kind of… there.” I twist my lips as I slice healthy slices of tomato for our sandwiches. Maxie is not privy to the view of Elliot and Valerie’s relationship that I have. Elliot adores Valerie. The way that he looks at her when he thinks no one is looking, the sweet things he does for her that nobody knows about, how grateful he is that he stood by him through the Kate debacle… He would move heaven and earth for Valerie and I’m not just saying that. I’ve seen it.

“What do you think it could be, Ana? She changed faces so quickly. It’s got to be something.” I shrug.

“I don’t know what it could be, and I have a hard time talking about it,” I admit. “I’m the target of her unmitigated ire and I have no clue why. If she was so angry about what I said about the wedding, why didn’t she lash out at you? I mean, I’m not saying that you deserved it, but we both took offense to what she said and we both made it known. And honestly, she didn’t see anything wrong with asking me if I had cheated on my husband? With his mother in the room, no less?” I shake my head as I neatly lay the tomato slices on a plate and cover them with cellophane wrap. “Her behavior is completely illogical and even my education and experience can’t tell you what’s wrong with her.”

“I just wish I knew,” she says while she pushes the bacon around the griddle, the smell of it filling the kitchen with heavenly aromas. “This is so awkward. I love you both…”

“As you should,” I tell her. “I would never make you choose… although Val might.”

“What?” she said, spinning around in shock.

“The day we were at the hospital, I was in the nursery getting my first look at Mindy. Al was there and I said something to Al about Val—I don’t even remember what it was at this point—and when she heard her name come out of my mouth, the claws came out. She was horrible and I didn’t even know what to say. Al came to my defense—dispelling almost everything she said and trying to get her to lighten up. She effectively wrote him off, too. It’s my understanding that they had a fight right there in your room.”

“Oooohh! Is that what that was all about?” she asks. “I wasn’t in the room, but I was on my way back and when I got there, they were just glaring at each other. Val was extra friendly and talking about the things we would do when I brought Mindy home and Al was just… Al.”

“Well, she was awful to me in the hospital. I made up my mind that I didn’t want to talk about her and that I couldn’t be in the room with her because the sight of me sets something off in her. She’s downright vicious when she sees me, and I can’t take it. You know that I’m usually ruthless when it comes down to people thinking they have the upper hand on me, but Val? I can’t do that to Val. I can’t treat her that way even if she feels that she can treat me that way.”

“I just… I don’t know. I never thought she would be this way to you ever and the shrink in me really wants to know what’s going on with her.” She begins to remove the crispy bacon and set it flat on paper towel to absorb the excess fat.

“Well, I’m hurt, and I unfortunately can’t concentrate on what could possibly be wrong with Val. It’s not like she wants my help or is even concerned about what I think, so my opinion is a bit moot, don’t you think?” She shrugs.

“I won’t keep talking about it. I can see that it bothers you, but the curiosity is killing me, so I’m going to try to get to the bottom of it,” she admits honestly.

“I wish you luck with that Dr. Saunders… Dr. Guest… who are you these days?” She laughs.

“I’m Saunders-Guest,” she says. “I couldn’t bear to be without his name.” She spreads mayo on whole grain bread.

“I know what you mean,” I say, tearing off leaves of fresh, crispy lettuce. “I’m starting to resent ‘Steele’ a bit. I think I’m going to convert to Steele-Grey. His name a bit comforting.”

“I know, right?” she says as she begins to build our sandwiches. “You can get us some drinks if you like.” I go to her refrigerator.

“What would you like?” I ask, examining the virtual grocery store before me.

“Whatever you want. Surprise me.” Hmmmm….

“Apple juice looks good,” I say.

“Oh, apple juice is perfect. It’ll compliment the bacon just right.” I pull two large glasses from the cupboard and fill them to the rim before replacing the juice. Maxie takes the two monstrous creations into the living room where we can keep an eye on Mindy and I follow her with the juice in both hands. She has cut the sandwiches in half and the moment we sit down, I take a healthy bite of half of mine.

Heaven!

We continue our talk about babies and new motherhood. I am only too happy to change the subject away from Valerie Marshall. I feel like she takes up too much of my mind space as it is. I admit that I miss who we used to be to each other, but we’re now at the point where we can’t even be in the same room together. Maybe she’s right. Maybe I have changed too much. Whatever the case may be, I can’t dwell on why she’s acting like a grade-A bitch, so I continue chatting about how Maxie has been feeling, questioning how helpful Phil is during this time.

“Oh, he’s a godsend,” she says. “He’s on a partial paternity leave because he didn’t want to take a total leave of absence, so he’s only working two days a week. When he’s home, oh—he just adores Mindy. He won’t let her out of his sight. He has these crazy conversations with her when he thinks I’m not looking. She can’t understand a thing that he’s saying, but he’s imparting upon her valuable life lessons that he’s just going to have to impart upon her all back over again when she learns to talk.” We laugh again at the mere cuteness of it all.

We have finished our sandwiches and Maxie is clearing our dishes when Mindy starts to stir. I hadn’t held a baby this small since Harry, but I really want to hold her.

“Go ahead,” Maxie invites as she takes the rest of the dishes into the kitchen. I lift the little pink bundle in my arms and she is just scrumptious. She has the reddest little nose and she’s stretching her little hands and yawning as she wakes.

“Well, aren’t you just the sweetest little thing?” I say, holding her in both hands in front of me. She’s just a wonderful little bundle of flush and happiness right here in my hands. “Oh, Maxie, she’s just too adorable.”

“Thank you,” she says as she comes back with a bottle and tests it on her hands.

“You’re not breastfeeding?” I ask. She shakes her head.

“I wish,” she says. “I’m not producing enough and I can’t let Mindy starve. It’s probably for the best anyway, since I’m not going to be a stay-at-home mom. I’m a little sad about it, but who can be too sad for too long around this beautiful little thing.”

“I fully agree,” I say looking adoringly at Mindy. “She is wonderful.” Maxie hands me the bottle and little Mindy tucks into it with purpose. “Wow, she has a healthy appetite.”

“That she does. That’s why I couldn’t breastfeed.” She gently caresses Mindy’s head.

“Look who I found wandering around outside.” Phil voice interrupts our conversation and walking in behind him is my best friend.

“I wasn’t wandering around,” Al says. “I was getting this out of the car.” Al is lugging yet another monstrous baby basket behind him. His is clearly full of designer baby clothes and gift certificates. I will later find out that it contains a couples’ massage, six months of diaper service, and milestone pictures every three months for the next year.

“Wow, you just had to show me up, huh?” I say as Maxie begins to unload the basket.

“I didn’t even know that you would be here!” he says. “You were my next stop, but now I guess I don’t need to do that since you’re already here. And you’re practicing again. I’ll be glad when you have your own little buttons so that I can get some baby time,” he jests.

“Al,” I chide, “you’re just jealous, and green doesn’t look good on you, dear.”

“Hush up and give me that baby,” he demands.

“No. Anyway, she’s not eating yet,” I say as I look down at Mindy’s perfect little puckered lips devouring her bottle.

“That’s an excuse and you know it, but I will get that baby,” he says, turning his attention to Maxie. “So, how have you been feeling? This little bundle isn’t even a week yet and she’s already a celebrity.”

“Tell me about it,” Maxie says. “I have long-lost family coming to town next week just to meet her. I don’t know what makes my baby so special to them, but they’re making the trip.”

“You know you can say ‘no,’ right?” I tell her. “I mean, all those strange people around the baby before she’s a month old… that may not be a good idea.”

“I don’t want to rock the boat,” she shrugs. “I get the feeling that these particular family members are attempting to mend fences.”

“That’s fine, but they don’t have to use your baby to do it,” Al pipes in. “We’ve been around you for a while so our particular germs won’t do you any harm. Who are these people? When is the last time you’ve seen them? What new germs are they bringing to the mix?” I can see the wheels in Maxie’s head turning. “I’m just saying.”

“You might be right,” she says. “Phil’s not really comfortable with them just showing up out of the blue either.”

“You might want to tell them to come another time—when the baby’s older,” I say. “Al’s right. We wouldn’t really be considered a ‘foreign contaminant’ because we’ve been around you the entire time that you’ve been pregnant, but even we shouldn’t be around her every day until she gets a little older. It’s just something to think about.”

“Maybe someone should tell that to Val,” Phil says. He’s walking into the living room after changing out of his uniform into some jeans and a T-shirt. “She’s been here every day since Max and the baby came home. It’s like a vigil.” Al and I look at each other.

“That’s why I was telling you that I think something’s wrong with her,” Maxie says. “I see her every day, and something’s not right.”

“Well, I don’t know what’s gotten into her, but when you figure it out, you let me know so that I can steer clear of it,” I say.

“You’re not even curious?” Phil asks.

“I used to be,” I reply. “In the very beginning when this started, I was curious as to what was going on. I really wanted to know what could have made my friend so changeful in no time flat. As time went on and every time I saw her or heard of her, she was just vicious, I no longer care. I just don’t want to be around her. I’m about to enter my third trimester. All things toxic must leave this place.”

“Here, here,” Al chimes in. “And apparently, her ire is beginning to move because she’s targeting me now.”

“I was wondering where that conversation came from,” Phil says. We all turn to him. “I caught the tail end of their heated conversation this weekend. She ‘confided’ in me—for lack of a better word—that you had turned against her, too. I didn’t call her on it because I don’t know the whole story, but I did know that something wasn’t right in what she was saying. I think she sees you as an extension of Ana, Al, because you guys are so close. So whatever she’s feeling for Ana is going to come out on you.”

“We were all close before this,” I point out. “She’s the one that went all psycho-schizo out of nowhere! We all know that Al and I have more time in, but I never treated anybody differently. I never treated Al like he was the sun and the moon and you guys were the grass. If he had any more insight into my relationship and personal life, it’s because he’s known me longer and he’s m attorney!” I say. “Maxie, when you were treating me, you knew more than anybody!”

“This is true,” Maxie says as she adjusts herself in her position on Phil’s lap. Mindy has finished her bottle and I put her in position for a burp.

“Well, I don’t know what her issue is, but she needs to steer clear of me. She treats Ana like crap, and I’m not going to let her do that to me,” Al says. “Whatever little thing is running over her, she needs to go on and take care of that.”

I turn my attention to Mindy. This particular topic of conversation is old to me. I no longer want to delve into “what’s wrong with Val.” I can’t say that I don’t love her anymore, but like any breakup, you’ve got to know when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em. Mindy gives me a little burp and I adjust her in my arms again. I examine her closely to see which one of her parents she looks like, but it’s too early. Besides the shock of silky brown hair sticking out from under her baby beanie, she doesn’t have any distinguishing characteristics just yet, not like Harry. Harry came out of the womb looking like my father!

Mindy’s tiny little lips pucker again and she’s mocking the sucking action as she begins to slip back into slumber. Isn’t that just like a newborn—feed me and let me go back to sleep! I’m a little jealous of her tranquility. She’s just peaceful and happy without a care in the world. Enjoy it now, little one, for tomorrow your troubles begin.

I’ve completely drifted off to Mindyville for I don’t know how long and I hadn’t noticed that Maxie and Phil left the room until I hear her voice.

“Oh, what? Her Highness is here and now, I have to act differently?” It’s Valerie. The mere thought of my presence is apparently unbearable for her.

“I’m not telling you how to act, Val. I’m just saying that if you get rude and disrespectful, I’m going to have to ask you to leave and I don’t want to do that,” Maxie retorts. “She’s still my friend and she’s welcome here. I won’t allow her to mistreat you and I don’t want you to mistreat her.” And that’s my cue. I look over to Al.

“I know you’re dying to get your hands on this little bundle of deliciousness,” I say to my best friend.

“You’re only handing her off because you’re trying to make a quick getaway,” he calls me out.

“You’re right,” I say, gently placing Mindy in his arms. “I have to go, Al. I have to avoid stressful situations as much as I can. The doctor has warned me about my blood pressure and to have one of my closest friends degrade me the way that she does, it’s just not good for my health.” I struggle to get to my feet. Sure enough, she walks into the room with the guns already loaded.

“Well, I see it’s a bit crowded in here,” she shoots. “Strange, I don’t recall seeing the paparazzi camped outside.” I smile at Al and proceed pass Valerie to the front closet where I left my coat.

“Oh, for Christ’s sake, Valerie, you didn’t even get past the door yet,” Maxie scolds. “Ana, please…”

“It’s okay, Max. I really need to be going.” I smile at her weakly.

“Oh, yes, don’t let us keep you,” Val says, mocking sweetness. “Are you going to run out behind her?” I assume she’s talking to Al since Chuck is nowhere to be found.

“Do you really want to start with me, Sweetcheeks?” Al hisses. “She wants to avoid a confrontation with you, but I’ll wipe up the floor with your ass!” Val falls silent and I focus on Maxie.

“Ana, please don’t go,” Maxie says quietly. “We really need to get to the bottom of what’s going on.”

“I don’t have the strength,” I say, low enough so that only she can hear me. “It’s like you said, you shouldn’t have to choose, and I want you to be able to spend time with all of your friends, even if two of them don’t get along.” I close my coat and kiss her on the cheek. “We had a great afternoon,” I smile. “Thank you.” She smiles sadly.

“Thank you for my gift baskets,” she says, sweetly.

“Stop acting like this is ‘goodbye,’” I say giving her a hug. “I’ll be back another time.” She smiles tightly and nods. I walk out of the house and close the door behind me. Chuck is on the porch waiting for me when I get outside.

“Have you been standing here long?” I ask.

“Not long,” he says, taking my hand to help me down the stairs. “When Valerie passed me, I knew you wouldn’t be long.” I nod.

“You knew correctly,” I say as he helps me down the stairs and into the car, which has been warming for at least the last few minutes. It’s nice and toasty and I feel a bit cuddled in its warmth. I sink back into the seat and think about how much I want to be in Christian’s arms right now. I just want to get lost in him and forget about everything. I need him to hold me, and tell me everything will be alright. My phone buzzes in my coat pocket and I take off the gloves to fish it out.

Speak of the devil!

“Hey, baby,” I say to Christian after swiping my phone. I’m not pleased with what I’m hearing. “You’re what?” It’s not getting any better. “How did this come about?” Stay calm, Ana. Breathe. Be ration…

“You’re going WHERE?!”


A/N: So. Something has happened in the Grey camp, but we have yet to know what it is. Remember that bumpy ride I warned you about? It has actually begun. While Ana was lazing away with Maxie and Little Mindy, shit was popping. Prepare yourselves, you guys. The story is about to take a sharp turn…

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

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Love and Handcuffs!
Lynn x