Please take a moment to say a prayer for all of the victims of and families affected by the tragedy in Paris.
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 19—Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner?
Bean One and Bean Two have spoken. They hate ferries. Lo and behold, Chuck lives on Bainbridge Island. While I love the water and would spend as much time as humanly possible in aquatic surroundings, my children have declared unequivocally that while we share this body, they are having none of this boat shit. Needless to say, I am unbelievably miserable for the entire 45 minutes that we are sailing across Puget Sound. It’s not much better when we hit land either, because after that boat ride, the motion of the car is almost unbearable.
We only drive for about 15 more minutes before we pull up into the driveway of a quaint house on Ferncliff Ave NE. It’s not what I expected at all—a cute little yellow house on a hill. It actually looks like a little starter house for a small family. We drive up a winding driveway to the front door. Ben opens my door and we proceed to the small circular steps at the front door.
“Anah!” Keri greets us at the door and I give her a hug. “It’s goot to see you! You heal?”
“I’m working on it,” I tell her as she invites us in.
Once I get inside, I realize that the inside is larger than it looks on the outside. It’s very nice and cozy. Chuck says he makes more than me and he’s living in this homey little place? He must be sitting on a bundle!
“Chartlez is back in de den,” she says, gesturing us to the den.
“Ben, will you please go make sure he’s decent? I don’t want to walk in and accidentally see ‘Little Chuck.’”
“Will do, Ana,” he says as he wanders off to Chuck’s den.
“How is he doing?” I ask Keri when Ben disappears. She shakes her head and frowns.
“Not vety well,” she says sadly. “He won’t take de medicine. Him hutt, you see it in his eyes, but he won’t take de medicine. Hard to watch him hutt…”
“I can imagine,” I respond.
“Him doing bettah dan he was, but him still hutt.” I nod.
“We would like for you guys to come to our mansion for Thanksgiving dinner, but I have to see if I can convince Chuck first.”
“I would like dat,” she says. “Get around oddah people.”
“Good! Good! Listen, I’ve got a 14,000 square foot mansion. How would you feel about coming to stay with us… again, if I can get Chuck to agree?” Her eyes light up.
“A mansion?” she says dreamily. I nod. “Dat would be fantastic! I could tell everyboty at home dat I stay in a mansion in Ametica.”
“Yes, you could,” I laugh, “but again, we have to convince Chuck. Knowing that you’re on board, I may shamelessly utilize you to get him to say yes.”
“Oh, dat would be tettible!” she laughs. “By all means, do it!” I chat with her for a few more minutes before Ben comes back into the living room.
“No danger of seeing ‘Little Chuck,’ he was less than presentable. He’s fine now,” he says.
“How is he?” I ask.
“Cantankerous,” he responds. I look at Keri and she shrugs. I sigh heavily and go into the den. He’s sitting in a recliner with his leg propped up as high as it can go. He’s facing the back window with a large screen television on his right, but nothing’s playing.
“Hi,” I say when I enter the room. He turns to me and he still has a scar healing across his face. He doesn’t look that bad, but he is still a little banged up. I guess we should have gotten him some of Gail’s miracle tea.
“Hi,” he replies, a little surprise in his voice. Didn’t he already know that I was here? “You look great,” he says sincerely. I smile widely.
“I do?” I ask. I wear a wool cap when I’m outside because my head gets cold fast since I don’t have any hair on one side. Plus, I won’t lie, I’m vain and not quite ready for the world to see my peach-fuzz in comparison to my butt-length hair all over the rest of my head. I haven’t really been around anybody outside of the mansion since I got home from the hospital, so this is a welcome revelation to me.
“Yeah,” he says. “It reminds me of when I found you holed up in that cabin in Montana. I think it’s the same hat.”
“It probably is,” I laugh. He laughs gently, but winces from the pain. It’s time to talk about this. “It’s so good to see you, Chuck. I’ve really missed you.” He scoffs at me and waves me off.
“Come off it,” he says good-naturedly. “I’m just the bodyguard.” I don’t know if he’s kidding or just trying to downplay the situation, but I have to control myself a bit from getting angry.
“That’s not true and you know it!” I say, a little more firmly than I intended. Quizzical blue eyes capture mine. That got his attention. I pull a chair next to his recliner and sit down. “I may not remember everything, but I do remember that you’ve been by my side nearly every day for the past year and a half. I remember that when my husband fired you, you sought me out in Montana and stayed with me until I returned. I remember that during most of my roughest struggles, you were there—even if you just stood by to make sure that I was safe. I remember you pulling a gun on Pedo-Bitch Sr.’s bodyguard while he had one aimed at me. And even though I can’t remember the accident, I clearly remember hearing that…”
I get choked up trying to say my words. When they come out, I don’t recognize my voice.
“I remember hearing that if it hadn’t been for you, I would have died… that you… wrapped your body around mine and took most of the impact. I remember seeing you coming towards me with headlights behind you and I don’t remember anything else. You… you saved my life.” My voice cracks horribly on the last word as I try not to turn into a weepy fool. I’m mostly successful, but a few tears manage to fall. “I don’t know how to thank you, how to tell you how much it means to me that you would do something like that… how much you mean to me… and how glad I am that you didn’t die.” I swallow hard and finally manage to raise my head again. He’s staring at me.
“Thank you, Ana,” he says. “That really means a lot to me.” He sighs and shrugs. “I’ve worked for some pretty high-profile people. I’m one of the best and I know it. Nothing this drastic has ever happened, but usually they don’t get attached; they don’t get involved; they don’t let you get close and you don’t want to get close. From the very first day, Grey told me that you would be different and he was right. I think personable was the word he used. You were never difficult—never stuck-up or entitled-acting like most rich guys’ girlfriends are. You were always kind to everybody you met unless somebody pissed you off. And when I saw that car gunning for us and I knew that I couldn’t move fast enough to avoid getting hit, it was a no-brainer. I had to protect you and the babies—like you were my own flesh and blood.
“I didn’t even think about it. I think it was a combination of panic and reflex. I knew I was going to get it, but I had to do what I could to protect you. I remember your face when I lunged for you and then…” He drops his head. He doesn’t remember the accident either. I think he sees it as a weakness that he can’t recall what happened.
“I look at it this way. If I had died… if we had died… it would have been quick and painless, but we didn’t. We’re still here.” I smile widely and take his hand. He looks down at our joined hands and squeezes mine.
“We’re still here,” he repeats. I sigh. Now the hard part.
“Keri loves you, you know,” I say. He nods without raising his head.
“Yeah, I know. I love her, too.” I can’t believe I just heard him say that!
“Chuck!” I say quietly in a surprised, sing-songy voice.
“Yeah, I know, I know. Mr. Don’t Get Attached is in love with a girl from another country who’s not even an American citizen, so we only get to see each other once in a while… or when tragedy strikes,” he laments. “She’s a good person—not just pretty; she really is a good person with a good heart.” I smile at his confession.
“She’s worried about you,” I confess. “She sees your pain and she says that you won’t take the meds the doctor told you to take.” Now, he raises his eyes to me.
“I’m in recovery, Ana,” he says, making it obvious that this is the reason that he won’t take the meds.
“I know,” I say, squeezing his hand again, “but didn’t the doctor and your sponsor say that it’s okay to take these meds? That they’re not habit-forming?” He looks away, breaking eye-contact with me. “Chuck?”
“Yeah, but…” This is the first time I’ve ever sensed fear from Chuck… ever. “Ana, no offense, but you don’t know how bad it really was and I don’t want to recount it,” he says.
“Believe me, Chuck, I’m not discounting your experience, but I would like to know why you’re punishing yourself.” He frowns.
“I’m not punishing myself…” he starts to protest.
“Yes, you are,” I contradict him. “You’re in obvious pain, and you would rather sit here in pain than to take something to ease the discomfort. Are you taking deep breaths to help heal your lung?”
“Yes, I am,” he answers triumphantly.
“And how’s that working out for you?” He winces at the thought of taking a breath. “Mm-hmm, just what I thought. Do you get out of this room much? Have much company besides poor Keri and your sponsor?”
“Poor Keri?” he asks.
“Yes, poor Keri!” I reinforce. “That girl flew 4000 miles when she found out that you were in an accident. A deaf and blind man would be able to tell that she’s in love with you. She’d spend every moment of her time on American soil in this house in this room if it meant that she could spend it next to you. Don’t make her spend that time watching you make yourself suffer for something you did years ago.” The color drains from his face.
“It ruled me, Ana,” he says with a twinge of helplessness. “I knew that I was going to die and I didn’t care. I remember when I first saw your mother’s husband—the one that died from cirrhosis. I swear I was looking at myself. I couldn’t wait for that fucker to leave.” He drops his head and wrings his hands. “It’s like you don’t have any control over it—like you’re having this out-of-body experience. You can see everything happening, but you can’t do anything about it.”
“How long has it been, Chuck?” I ask him. He sighs.
“Almost 15 years now.” I whistle.
“You started early.” He nods.
“I started drinking when I was 14. I went downhill fast. I was a blazing alcoholic for eight years. My brother only started speaking to me about three years ago. He didn’t come when Jason called him because he was sure that I had been driving drunk. I didn’t bother to correct him. If he doesn’t know me by now, he won’t ever know me. I opened my eyes expecting to see my blood standing there. Instead, I saw Keri—all the way from Anguilla—and my brother couldn’t travel a couple of hundred miles.”
“Stop. Punishing. Yourself,” I say. “Take the meds. They’re not barbiturates. They’re even controlled substances. They’re ibuprofen. Take the medicine.” He just stares at me for a while. “Chuck, whether you admit it or not, you’ve got friends and family right here and we’re not going to let you fall—but we can’t watch you suffer because you’re afraid to let go of the past.” He sighs.
“I love this place, Ana. I really do, but these four walls are driving me fucking stir-crazy,” and now, he admits it. He changed the subject, but he admits it.
“Well, it looks like you can only get out of these four walls once because you don’t even have handicapped access to your house, but guess what? Grey Crossing does!” I exclaim. “We have ramps all over the garages, two elevators that go to all three floors, two very empty private guest apartments with views of the lake that Marilyn is furnishing as we speak and currently, there are only four of us that live in 14,000 square feet. Both of you will be around people that you know. Keri won’t have to spend all of her time waiting on you hand and foot, because there will be others to assist with that. You can both enjoy each other’s company instead of sitting here moping, being maudlin, and suffering. Chuck… please… take the meds and come stay at Grey Crossing. We’ll take good care of you and we won’t let anything bad happen. I promise. Please, Chuck… it’s the very least I can do… the very, very least.” I almost want to cry. If he turns me down, I think I will.
“What about Christian?” he says. “How’s he going to take this?” I scoff and wave him off.
“Please! Right now, he’ll build the Taj Mahal in the backyard if I ask him to. Besides, if you recall, it was his idea for you to move in with us in the first place. You turned him down.” He scratches his cheek, deeply contemplating my offer. “I’m not going to take ‘no’ for an answer, Chuck. I’ve had enough of this macho bullshit. I understand why you’re slow to take the pain meds, but I don’t understand why you have to think about staying in a luxurious mansion with four friends, two of which are eternally grateful to you for what you’ve done.”
“I’d hardly call Christian a friend,” he chuckles.
“I wouldn’t be so sure after what you did,” I retort. “I’m waiting for my ‘yes.’” He sighs.
“You drive a hard bargain.”
“I do… and that’s wasn’t a ‘yes.’”
“Unconditional surrender, huh?” he jests.
“Unconditional,” I concur.
“Fine,” he relents, “we’ll come to Grey Crossing. If I feel like an imposition or uncomfortable in any way, I’m coming back home.”
“Deal… now what about the meds?”
“Baby steps, Ana,” he warns. I twist my lips.
“I’m going to let this go for right now, because I got one concession from you—a big one, but I’m not going to let up on those meds. They will help you.”
“Yeah, we’ll see,” he says.
“So what’s next? Do you need me to have someone come out here and help you get some things together? I’m hiring staff today!” I add the last part with a little swing of my head.
“No shit?” he asks. I nod.
“Fourteen thousand square feet,” I remind him.
“Yeah, there is that,” he says. “I have Keri, though. If she’ll accept help, then yes.” I nod.
“Good call,” I tell him. “You’re a smart man.”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah. Getting across that water is a bitch, though. I’m okay with the ferry most of the time, but right now…” He rolls his eyes.
“Ugh! God, tell me about it. We’ll hire an ambulance if we have to. We’ll work something out so that you’re comfortable.”
“I appreciate that,” he replies.
“So, what do you say? About 3:00 tomorrow? We’ll be starting to prepare for Thanksgiving, so you’ll probably want to be settled in by then.” He nods.
“Sounds good to me, but you better check with Keri. As much as I hate to admit it, she’ll be doing the hard work.” I nod.
“Now. I know that you’re a big, strong, man and all, but I also know that you can’t use crutches with those broken ribs. How do you get around… like to the bathroom?” He points to the corner behind me and I see a wheelchair sitting there. I turn back to him.
“I’m hard-headed. I’ll admit that, but I’m no idiot. It’s the easiest way to get from point A to point B and it’s… not so rough on Keri.” I nod.
“You are a smart guy,” I say with a nod. “There will definitely be some help here in the morning… around ten. They’ll help you guys get everything together, and we’ll arrange transport around three.” He nods and I stand. “I’m going to go fill Keri in and get back home now.” I kiss him on the cheek. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“See you tomorrow,” he smiles and I leave his den. I feel very accomplished as I walk into the living room in search of Keri. I can’t find her immediately, but I do find Ben staring out of a window as still as a statue. What is he looking at? I walk over to him—none too quietly, I might add—to see what’s got his attention.
He’s watching Keri.
She’s on the deck doing yoga in a sweatshirt, yoga pants, and sneakers. It’s cold as fuck, but she’s in her own world. She’s doing some insane stretching, showcasing her impressive figure and ample “accoutrements,” for lack of a better word. She’s extremely flexible and one’s imagination can go quite wild watching her. I’m a straight woman, and I kind of twist my head and wonder how she slides effortlessly in and out of those positions. Ben is salivating. I realize that all the blood is rushing to his dick right now, but damn!
“Ben!” I snap, hissing his name. He turns his head quickly, startled, a little ashamed, as well he should be.
“I was… um… I… was…” Don’t even bother trying to lie.
“I know what you were doing,” I scold. He’s been caught red-handed and he’s trying to back-peddle. He finally just gives up.
“I’m sorry! But did you see her?” He gestures out the window as if to say “What man in his right mind would be able to look at that and not stare?”
“Do you know how long I was standing here?” I chastise. “I didn’t just walk out of the room! I walked out of the room, walked over here, watched you, watched her, and then called your name.”
“See? Even you admit it! Even you watched her for a second!” he hisses quietly.
“I had to see what had you staring out of the window like a thirsty lap dog!” I hiss back. “Now get that under control. They’re staying with us for a little while.” His eyes light up slightly. Oh, hell, no.
“I mean it, Ben,” I threaten. “I like you, but Chuck is my friend and he’s in love with that girl. Now wrap it up, put a cock ring on it, shove it between your legs, do whatever you gotta do with it, but keep it under control. Please! He saved my life. I’ll go a long way for him!” He puts his hands up in surrender.
“Okay! Okay! I got it,” he says, duly chastised. “I was just admiring the view, I wasn’t trying to mount her!”
“Well, forgive me, but it was hard to tell,” I retort, softening my voice a bit, but not too much. “Now please, go bring the car around. I need to talk to Keri, then we can go.” He nods and goes out the side door to get the car. I put my coat back on, grab my purse, and go out the front door to the deck and Keri.
“So, you guys are going to be moving into the mansion,” I tell her. She jumps up and down, clapping like a schoolgirl. “I’m going to be sending some guys over tomorrow at about ten to help you put together everything you’ll need to be comfortable.” I reach into my wallet and pull out one of my cards and a pen. I write my new cell number on the back. “Call me around noon and let me know if you guys will need a small moving truck or if a van will do. I’m very serious. I want you and Chuck to be comfortable, so bring whatever you need, okay?”
“Anah, I don’t know how to thank you!” she says, throwing her arms around me and embracing me tightly. Then she pulls me back and looks into my face. “What about the medicine?”
“We’ll have to keep working on that part, but don’t give up hope. He’s agreed to be somewhere that will make him more comfortable. It won’t be long before we’ve won that other battle, too.” She can’t hide her disappointment. “He has told you about his struggle?”
“Yes, he has,” she says without raising her eyes. “I undehstand, but…” she sighs and shakes her head. “Him hutting, Anah. Him hutting a lot.” I take her hand.
“I know,” I tell her. “We’ll get him comfortable, and then we’ll work on the meds, okay?” She brings sad brown eyes up to meet mine, then nods. “Now go on inside before he comes hobbling out here looking for you. Call me if you need anything and we’ll talk tomorrow.”
“Thank you, Anah,” she says, hugging me once more before going inside. I walk back to the Audi and prepare for the terrible trip across the water. Halfway through the trip, I feel like I’m going to toss my cookies so I call Christian to try to distract myself.
“You don’t sound so good, baby. What’s going on?” he asks a few seconds into the conversation.
“I hate the ferry,” I tell him. “The beans hate it even more.”
“Ooooh,” he responds.
“Speaking of ferries, Chuck has agreed to recuperate at Grey Crossing.”
“How did you pull that off?”
“Old-fashioned schmoozing mixed with a tiny bit of guilt and a hint of bullying. Works every time.” He laughs at me.
“Okay, so what does that have to do with the ferry?”
“In his current condition, he hates the ferry as much as I do. I can imagine it must be really uncomfortable for him. I know there are private ambulance companies that we can hire that will make the ride more comfortable for him. Are you familiar with those at all? I’ve never rented an ambulance.”
“I may have a better idea,” he says. “Let me take care of the transport. What time were we looking to have him at Grey Crossing?”
“I told him that I would send someone there to help them pack what they needed by ten. Keri will call me around noon to let me know what moving accommodations they’ll need. The transport is supposed to take place around three.”
“That’s my efficient Butterfly,” he says. “That’s plenty of time. Let me get started on his transport. What else, baby?”
“Nothing that can’t wait. We’ll talk more later. You concentrate on whatever magnificent plan you have up your sleeve.”
“You know me well,” he jests. “Love you, Butterfly.”
“I love you, too, Christian,” I say with a smile before ending the call. Luckily, talking to him has soothed my stomach and the ride home from there is a breeze.
It’s about three when we get back to Grey Crossing and there are several things that I need to get done. Some of the furniture has arrived and Marilyn is coordinating where it should go. I realize we have overlooked a key piece of furniture that we will definitely need by tomorrow. After a quick internet search, I call the Laz-y-Boy store in Tukwila and ask how soon they could have a recliner delivered if I order right now.
“Well,” the lady on the other line—Kelsey, she said—sounds very snooty, “It could take a week to ten days depending on what you order.” I’m sorry, am I inconveniencing you?
“Okay, so what would determine if I could get a recliner delivered tomorrow?” She scoffs into the phone.
“That would be quite impossible,” she says, her tone even more condescending than before.
“You haven’t even heard what I want yet,” I protest.
“Well, you see, several people have gotten wind of the sale, so we have several deliveries that we have to do in the next couple of days.” And because you think I want to buy a $300 recliner on sale marked down from $700, you don’t have time for me.
“I see. Well, thank you…”
“Yes!” she snaps before hanging up in my ear. Wow! Normally, I’d go about the business of getting the bitch fired, but never mind. I have bigger fish to fry right now. I call the Laz-y-Boy in Lynnwood.
“Thank you for calling Laz-y-Boy, this is Charmaine.”
“Hi, Charmaine. May I speak to a manager, please?”
“Sure, ma’am. Can I tell her what it’s concerning?”
“I would just like to get the best service possible. I have a request that may not be able to be met, but I would at least like to try.”
“I see. Well, would you mind giving me an opportunity to see if I can assist you? I’ll be glad to turn it over to a manager if I can’t.” She’s so much nicer than Kelsey!
“As a matter of fact, I would love to give you the opportunity. I know that what I’m asking may be unrealistic, but hopefully we can come up with an alternative if this is impossible.”
“I’m sure that we can accommodate you. What are your needs, Ms…?” She pauses for my name.
“Grey,” I tell her. “Mrs. Grey.”
“Very well, Mrs. Grey. What did you have in mind?”
“Well, I’m going to be having a houseguest for quite some time and he’s injured. He’s broken both of the bones in his lower leg and he needs to be comfortable and elevated. I already know what I want, but the piece that I’m interested in needs to be delivered tomorrow… early if possible, but I’ll take what I can get.” She has a rapid intake of air that sounds like a hiss.
“Ooo, yeah that’s a bit of a tall order. We had a sale, you know, and there are a lot of people expecting deliveries over the next few days—but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Let’s see what we can do.”
“Well, there’s another catch,” I tell her. “I’m closer to the Tukwila store, but the lady there was mean to me.” She’s silent for a moment.
“Really?” she says, her voice short. “Well, now we’ll really have to see what we can do for you.” She wasn’t pleased to hear that. “What model were you interested in and where will we be delivering it tomorrow?” Oh, I like her!
“I was wondering if you have the Pinnacle Platinum Luxury Lift Power-Recline XR with the 6-Motor Massage & Heat settings in stock. I wanted Midnight, but I’ll take what you’ve got as long as it’s not flowers or wild colors.”
“Let me look for you.” She’s silent for a moment and I hear her typing into the computer. Then, more silence. “Mrs. Grey, did you say the Pinnacle Platinum Luxury…”
“…Power-Recline, yes… with the 6-motor massage… in Midnight if you have it.” Yes, the $2500 luxury recliner, that’s the one I want. I should buy two. In fact… “I’d like that in Midnight and also in blue if you have it.” She tries to hide her gasp.
“You want two!” It’s a statement, not a question.
“If you can swing it, yes,” I respond.
“Oohh-ho-ho, just give me a few minutes. Do you mind holding?”
“Certainly not.” I can tell by her tone of voice that if these chairs are on a boat in the Artctic Ocean, she’s going to find them and get them to my house by tomorrow. Several minutes later, she comes back to the line.
“Thank you so much for holding, Mrs. Grey. I spoke to the manager at the Tukwila store since they are closer to you and they do have both colors in stock in that model.” And we’re back at Tukwila. “She assures me that she can have them delivered at whatever time is convenient tomorrow.”
“Excellent!” I exclaim.
“Now, your sale is actually going to be processed through the Lynnwood store. Do you mind that?”
“Not at all, Charmaine. Please do,” I say with a smile that I know she can hear.
“I do have Kelsey on the line from the Tukwila store. Once I get your credit card information, she will be taking the address information.” Hmm, Kelsey.
“I’m not sure I want Kelsey handling the delivery,” I tell Charmaine. “She hung up on me about twenty minutes ago, before she even found out what I wanted.”
“There must be some mistake,” Kelsey chimes in with that snooty tone of voice.
“Oh, no, I assure you that I would know that ‘I’m-too-good-for-this-job” voice anywhere. I was willing to let sleeping dogs lie until serendipity arranged it such that I get to talk to you again without having to call you directly. I don’t know your background or anything about you, but the way you treat customers is horrible. You treated me like crap before you even knew what a wanted. Had I gone by my initial experience with you, I would have thought that Laz-y-Boy was a stuck-up, elitist company that didn’t want to be bothered with me or my money because it wasn’t green enough. Thank God I called Lynnwood. Now get your manager on this phone because I don’t want you to have any of my information.”
“Ma’am,” she says, her voice shifting from snooty to panic. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to come off as elitist or rude…”
“Sure, you didn’t,” I cut her off, “hence, that short, impatient, and intolerant ‘yes’ you hissed at me when you hung up the phone in my ear before I could even finish saying ‘thank you for your time.’ Your manager, please.” If I didn’t have to deal with her again, I would have had more patience. I didn’t want to have to deal with this bitch anymore at all.
“Ma’am, I really am sorry.” She’s stalling until I accept her apology.
“Can I have you ladies hold on for just a moment?”
“Yes, Mrs. Grey, by all means,” Charmaine says. I put my phone on mute. “Mare!” Marilyn comes running in from the next room.
“What is it?”
“I’m going to strangle a salesgirl!” I tell her making the choking gesture with my hand. “May I please borrow your phone?”
“Not if you’re going to use it to commit a crime,” she says wide-eyed. I cock my head and glare at her. “Sorry,” she says, handing me her phone. Looking at my laptop, I dial the number for the Tukwila store again.
“Thank you, for calling Laz-y-Boy, Janine speaking.”
“Hi Janine, may I please speak to the manager on duty right now?”
“Certainly, ma’am. I’m the manager on duty. What can I do for you?”
“You can find Kelsey wherever she is in the store and take the phone from her!” I snap.
“Excuse me?” She’s clearly confused.
“Please, humor me.”
“Um… okay. Would you… like to hold?”
“I won’t need to. I’ll be on the other end when you get the phone from Kelsey.”
“Oh! Okay. May I have your name?”
“Very well, Mrs. Grey. I’ll… speak to you in a moment.”
“Thank you.” I end the call with Janine and get back on the phone with Charmaine and Kelsey.
“Charmaine, if you could just wait for a moment, I’m going to need your continued assistance.”
“Yes, Mrs. Grey.” It only takes a few seconds for me to hear Janine talking to Kelsey.
“I’m speaking to a customer,” I hear Kelsey say. “I’m just about to get her address for a delivery.” She’s almost begging.
“Kelsey, give. Me. The phone!” Janine orders. After a few moments, “Mrs. Grey?”
“Yes,” I say with a sigh.
“What can I do for you, ma’am?”
“Charmaine, I’m weary of this situation. Will you please explain it to Janine?” Charmaine quickly gives a breakdown of what happened without giving any details of what I bought and neither of them knows where I am.
“Thank you for bringing this to my attention, Mrs. Grey. This is not the first time this has happened, but it won’t be happening again. Has Charmaine gotten your details yet?”
“No,” I answer calmly.
“Charmaine, you can go on and get the card information and I’ll get her address.”
“Okay,” Charmaine says. “Mrs. Grey, we’re not going to charge you for delivery since this has been such an… experience for you, so with tax, your purchase comes to $5,297.61.”
“Fifty…!” Janine starts to exclaim, but catches herself before she finishes.
“You take Amex I assume?” I ask.
“We do.” I give her my card information and name.
“Mrs. Grey, what city do you live in?” Janine asks as soon as Charmaine gives confirmation that the card went through.
“Mercer Island.” They both fall silent.
“Anasta…” She’s repeating my information to herself. The penny drops. “Mrs. Grey, didn’t you just get out of the hospital?” Janine asks.
“Yes, I did,” I confirm.
“Oh my God.” She’s humiliated. “I’m so sorry.”
“While I appreciate and accept the apology, Janine, I’m more than a bit disenchanted right now,” I say calmly. “Yes, my husband is a billionaire. We have a lot of money. We shop at a lot of high-end stores, but when I go inside, unless I’m decked in every piece of Chanel jewelry that I own, these people treat me like crap until they find out who I really am—salespeople who work on commission whose very livelihood depends on me making a purchase. When someone walks into or calls a place of business, you assume that they are there to purchase and it would just be nice if everybody that I encountered gave me the kind of service that Charmaine did without me having to name drop!” I take a breath to compose myself. “I apologize, Janine. You’re getting a bunch of penned-up frustration from a crazy pregnant woman who is just tired of dealing with snooty salespeople. Is it at all possible to have those chairs delivered to my estate tomorrow by noon?”
“Yes, ma’am, it’s entirely possible,” Janine confirms, and I give her the address and my phone number.
“Charmaine, do you get paid on commission?” I ask.
“Partial commission and bonuses, yes ma’am,” Charmaine replies.
“That’s even better. I hope this sale puts you over the top. You deserve it.”
“It does, ma’am. Thank you so much.”
“You’re welcome, and thank you both. Until tomorrow ladies.” I end the call and give Marilyn back her phone, which I was still holding in my other hand. Then, I put my head down on the desk so it will stop banging…
“Montana? Yoo-hoo… Montana?” I hear a voice wafting to me. I open my weary eyes and realize that I’ve fallen asleep at my desk, and the voice wafting towards me is Elliot’s. I don’t know exactly how long I was asleep, but it’s about five o’clock now. “Sleeping in that position is horrible for you, so I don’t mind waking you up.” I run my fingers through my hair and realizing that I nearly bald on one side, I cover it with my hand—like that’s gonna help—and search frantically for my hat.
“It’s okay, Montana,” he says. “We’ve all seen it already. You don’t have to cover it. We don’t care.” He gently moves my hand from the side of my head and holds my hand, his eyes gentle while he smiles kindly at me. I lower my eyes.
“So what brings you here, Elliot?” I ask softly.
“I thought I owed it to you to tell you in person that we won’t be at Thanksgiving dinner,” he says sadly. I raise my eyes questioning him. I want to ask him why, but I already know. I purse my lips to hide my disappointment. He walks over to one of the chairs in the sitting area of my office and sits down.
“What’s going on, Elliot?” I ask, urgently as I rise from my desk and join him in the sitting area. “If anybody knows what’s happening, it would be you.”
“You would think, huh?” he says, dropping his head into his hands and scrubbing them across his face. “It’s not just you, Ana,” he adds, frustration and weariness in his voice. “It’s everybody! It’s everything! She snaps at everybody, including me, and she goes off at the smallest things—ridiculous stuff, like if it’s raining when she wanted sunshine. This is Seattle!” He shakes his head. “One minute, she’s wonderful. She’s my angel and she’s sweet and loving, and the next minute she’s some other woman; nothing dangerous, but she’s… angry and weird.”
This is the most insight I’ve gotten into Val’s behavior since my birthday weekend over a month ago. I’m going to delve as much as he’ll let me.
“I seem to be the focus of her ire, ever since my birthday. Did she say why me in particular?” He raises his eyes to me, questioning. “Yes, this is the shrink asking. This is also Ana who used to be really close friends with this bipolar-acting woman, but mostly, it’s the shrink. I want to know what’s going on, too.” He drops his head again.
“She just keeps saying that you’ve changed,” he says. “You’re not the person that she always knew. She won’t get specific. She can’t even tell me how she thinks you’ve changed. She can only tell me that you’ve changed. Only… you’re not the one who has changed, she is.” He shakes his head. “Do I do this to women?” he asks sadly. “Do I turn them from kind, loving, attractive human beings into evil, spiteful, raging harpies?”
Well, I can’t answer that one.
“Has anything changed in your relationship, like right before my birthday?” He shook his head.
“No,” he said. “We had been looking for a house for a while, but hadn’t found anything we totally loved yet. Now, she doesn’t like anything she sees. They’re all crappy, too small, too far away—from what, I don’t know.”
“Has she met anybody that could affect her personality that you know of? Is she secretive at all? Could she be hiding something?” He shakes his head.
“Val’s an open book,” he says. “I can tell you where she is and what she’s doing at any moment of any day of the week. We have all the passwords to each other’s electronics, email, and social media. I even have the passwords to her work email. She’s totally trustworthy. It’s not another guy or an unsavory influence. I know what it’s not, I just don’t know what it is.”
“Is she depressed at all? Does her mood change during certain times of the day? Could she be pregnant? Could she have been pregnant and lost a baby? Something else traumatic that you might not know of?”
“I don’t think she’s depressed, I’m not sure. There would be no reason for her to be depressed, but I guess she would have to be tested for something like that, wouldn’t she?” I nod. “Her mood changes—if that’s what we can call them—don’t pick a specific time or moment, or person… except you, and now Al. Other than that, they’re very random. Pregnant? No. I’ve asked. That wouldn’t be a problem. We’re in no rush to have kids, but I wouldn’t care if she was pregnant… as long as it wasn’t Kate.” He says the name with pure disdain. “Lost a baby, I hadn’t thought of that, but I’m afraid to ask. I hope not… God, that would be awful.” So he’s not averse to having children, even though they’re not quite ready for it yet, and her losing a baby would definitely be a bad thing.
“Is she suicidal?” I ask as a last-ditch effort. He raises his head and looks at me in horror.
“What? No!” he snaps. I shrug.
“Hey, I’m out of ideas, here. It’s a last-ditch effort.” He sighs and his shoulders drop again, back into that helpless, I-don’t-know-what-the-fuck-to-do stance.
“No, not suicidal, just angry,” he laments. “I’d give anything to know what’s wrong with her… to know how to fix it. She seems so unhappy—not Kate unhappy. It’s different. It’s like… discontent, but I don’t know with what. If I ask her if it’s me one more time, I’m afraid she’s going to leave. I know it’s not me, because she’s like this with everybody. I know I keep comparing her to Kate, but that’s the only gauge that I have. With Kate, it was a gradual change. She slowly started to creep into Bitchdom. With Angel, it hit out of nowhere—BAM! Everything and everybody just irritated the fuck out of her.”
“I don’t know, Elliot. Without being able to talk to her and find out what’s wrong, all I can say is that she needs to talk to someone, professionally. This is not the Val I’ve known for 10 years. Something is definitely wrong, and if I were a betting woman, I would say that it’s not you.” I know I’m probably breaking a confidence here, but at this point, I don’t really care. “Val was with this one guy. She really loved him, but he did a real number on her—not quite as bad as Edward did to me, but bad nonetheless. He’s the one that turned her into a cold, heartless naysayer when it came down to love and men. You brought her out of that. I had never seen her with anybody—anybody—the way she is with you. It’s not you, Elliot.”
“Then what is it!?” he exclaims, ripping at his hair. “I’ve run through every possible scenario in my brain and nothing’s panning out.”
“You’re going to have to find out what it is, Elliot. I think you’re the only one who can. You need to get her to talk to a doctor… and a shrink. Something’s really wrong and if she keeps ignoring it, it could be catastrophic.”
“I know, I know,” he laments. “Sometimes, she just sits and stares at nothing… for a really long time. I’ll ask her what’s she looking at and she’ll just say, ‘Nothing. I was just thinking.’ She was at the hospital every day that you were there—every. Single. Day, so I know that she doesn’t hate you. She only went into the room one time, the night of the accident, before Christian got there. She went in alone, so I don’t know what she said or did. I thought for sure when you woke up that things would be different, but…” he shrugs.
My heart sinks. Val doesn’t hate me… so why is she treating me this way? I sigh heavily and push back the threatening tears.
“God, I want a burger,” I say out loud. Elliot glares at me. What?
“You’re joking, right?” he says, scowling at me.
“No, why would I be joking?” I ask him.
“Because red meat makes you barf!” he informs me.
“What?” I exclaim.
“Haven’t you noticed there’s no red meat in this house?” he asks. “When’s the last time you’ve seen any red meat?” Come to think of it, he’s right. There’s been no red meat in any of our meals. I’ve only been home a couple of days and I haven’t searched any of the freezers or anything, but I haven’t seen any red meat.
“So if I want a burger, I have to go out for one.” He shakes his head.
“I would bet anything that the Minutemen have strict instructions not to let you anywhere near red meat, much less a burger. You had an extremely violent reaction to the last burger that you ate.” I don’t for the life of me remember what he’s talking about. I don’t eat much red meat, but when I want it, I want it.
“So you’re saying that my husband has ordered my security not to let me eat a hamburger?” I say, my tone irritated. Elliot sighs.
“Montana, listen to me. This is not one of my brother’s control-freak moments. Red meat is truly not your friend. You were grounded for a whole day because that burger made you sick—vomiting, fever… You didn’t know you were pregnant yet and you and Al went out and got some burger from some little joint and you almost died.”
“Maybe it was that burger,” I say, trying to plead my case.
“You couldn’t even look at blood sausage on your honeymoon, from what I understand…”
“Well, blood sausage is disgusting!” I exclaim. “Who in their right mind would eat that crap?”
“A lot of people like blood sausage, Montana, but that’s neither here nor there. Dad was grilling steaks—outside—over your birthday weekend and you went praying to the porcelain god.”
That, I remember.
“Oh… yeah… shit!” I hiss.
“Methinks she remembers!” Elliot proclaims victoriously. He stands up and kisses me on the forehead. “Nobody’s going to get you a burger, little sister,” he says. “Thanks for the talk. We’ll try Christmas, okay?” I look up at him sadly, remembering that he won’t be with us on Thursday.
“Find out what’s going on with her,” I beseech him. “It won’t be easy, but you’ve got to find out.” He nods.
“See you later, Ana Montana,” he says with a sad smile.
“Bye, Lelliot,” I respond as he leaves my office. Marilyn must be gone already since she hasn’t come back into the office. I dial my husband’s number.
“Darling, we have a little problem…”
“You want a what?!?” I listen in dismay as my beautiful pregnant wife tells me that she wants a hamburger. A hamburger! “Do you remember what happened to you the last time you ate a hamburger?”
“I was told that it was a little harsh…”
“’A little harsh?’ Who told you that shit? It wasn’t a little harsh—it was violent!”
“Yeah… that was… the word that was used,” she admits.
“I’m sure it was!” I bark. “You were completely grounded for two days and you didn’t stop feeling the effects for four! You were talking about suing the restaurant! If you did manage to get a burger in that house, the smell of it would drop you before you had a chance to get it to your mouth!”
She falls silent for a moment. She’s trying to see if I will break.
“No, Ana. No. Absolutely not. No hamburger! No red meat of any kind. Thanksgiving is two days away. You’ve got Black Friday after that, the Adopt-A-Family Affair on Saturday, a houseful of guests for the entire weekend… no! No hamburger. Don’t try to convince me. Absolutely not.” I’m putting my foot down. I can actually hear her pouting through the phone. No means no.
“Christian…!” she whines.
“No, Anastasia!” I say finally. “You can be mad at me all weekend, but I’d rather you be mad at me than to suffer the cramps, crying, and fever you suffered the last time you ingested red meat. Are we clear?”
“Fine!” she says sharply and ends the call… and now she’s mad at me. Oh, well… I call Jason.
“Call my house and let your wife and the security staff know that anybody who lets Anastasia within ten feet of red meat will be filing for unemployment tomorrow and I’m not kidding.”
“I think they already know that, sir…” he begins.
“Tell them again,” I warn him. “You know how persuasive she can be and she’s trying to get a burger.”
“A burger!?” He’s just as horrified as I am.
“Yes, a burger. Apparently, her amnesiatic craving is more powerful than her sense of self-preservation.”
“I’m on it,” he says, and ends the call. She’s got Charles and Keri moving in tomorrow, new staff starting as well as the preparations for Thanksgiving dinner that she is certain not to leave for the staff, I’ll be damned if she’s going to add fever, cramps, and crabbiness to all of that… and I don’t care how bratty she acts!
Speaking of Charles and Keri, I’ve arranged with the Bainbridge Island Fire Department to allow me to land my helicopter there to transport them to Seattle. I explained about the life-saving efforts of my wife’s bodyguard and our attempts to make him as comfortable as possible to facilitate his recovery.
They didn’t buy that.
So, I told them that my helicopter was also a certified Medivac and the only reason that we were using it was because of Charles’ several broken bones, severe medical condition and extreme discomfort with the ferry. They finally gave in after that bit of information. I realize that they still weren’t obligated to accommodate me, but had they not accommodated my request after I informed them that I and my helicopter were certified for Medivac, I would have called the press. As I have to register a flight plan every time I move Charlie Tango, I was running out of time and Boeing Field is not very happy with and sometimes won’t approve last-minute flight plans. I haven’t told Butterfly or even Charles that we will be airlifting him out of Bainbridge Island, but he knows to be ready for transport by 3pm and I’m sure that he’s preparing himself for a very bumpy ride.
My other project for today involves getting as much information on the Sunset case as I can in an attempt to find out what Myrick, Sr. is up to. After discovering that his father couldn’t save him from his fate as all of Myrick, Sr,’s favors were most likely being used to keep himself out of jail, Robin pled to most of the charges against him and now they are trying to determine if he will see blue skies outside of the “yard” ever again in his life. Supposedly, they have him in protective custody—protective from whom, I’m not sure… his father’s enemies, me, all of the other people he stole from… who knows? Forgive me if after my last experience with a supposedly incarcerated Myrick, I have absolutely no faith in the penal system.
For this reason, I have also discovered that Cholometes has not returned to Montesano and doesn’t plan to anytime soon. According to his logic, my crackpot security team was so effective in keeping Ana safe while I was “gallivanting around the ghetto” chasing old ghosts that maybe he should just stick around a bit. His purpose now is trying to find the latest danger threatening a woman who is near and dear to him. While I would normally welcome all the assistance that I can get, his presence is a particular thorn in my side because he wants my wife. To that end, I don’t want or need his help and all I want is for him to carry his ass back to Montesano.
He tried that whole “I’m gonna tell Ana on you” thing again with the Naomi situation. Of course, he discovered that Ana’s assailant and I were once involved and that even though she’s dead now, our involvement was most likely the reason for her attack on Anastasia. He has also discovered that I have made arrangements for Naomi’s last rites if no family can be located. I’m so weary of this man and his attempts to sway my wife’s affections. She’s already made it clear to him—both of us have—that nothing he can do is going to break our bond or destroy our love. She even made him personally swear to her that he would protect me, probably the last thing in the world that he wanted to do, yet he still has some kind of displaced hope that he’s going to be able to win my wife away from me. So when he called my phone telling me that he was going to expose “Naomi Confidential,” I had a three-word answer for him that he’s still trying to figure out:
“So tell her.”
Nothing more. I didn’t tell him that she already knew. Why bother? He tried to shake me, telling me that I was playing it cool to throw him off and accusing me of either trying to have my wife killed or of being personally responsible for her near-death experience. I couldn’t argue with him on that second accusation, but he couldn’t beat me up any more than I’ve already punished myself about it, so it was pretty fruitless. When he still couldn’t get a rise out of me, I asked, “Are you going to tell her?”
“Maybe,” he said, still hoping for a reaction.
“So tell her,” I repeated, just like I said the first time. When he went back into the spiel of how I was going to lose my wife when she found out, I just hung up the phone. Like I said, I’m weary of his presence and his attempts to get my wife’s affections, so tell her. Be my guest, just stop calling me.
Back to the Sunset case…
I thought Sunset was a place—a street, maybe. As it turns out, Sunset is a person. His real name is Marcus Del Russo. Myrick found himself in the big time in the Detroit drug trade. How he got there is unclear, but he was one of Del Russo’s people. This happened not too long after my birth mother died. All this time, I thought he was a small time punk—junkie and pimp—when all along, he had bigger ambitions. I don’t know when he found time to play Daddy to his screwed-up offspring and poison his mind against some four-year old kid who he didn’t even know that long. I guess it’s that whole thing about never taking responsibility for your own actions. He had to blame somebody, why not the “little shit?”
Anyway, somewhere along the way, he got deep into Del Russo’s camp and became privy to some very pertinent information—key people and connections, patterns and actions, drop locations, pick-up spots, “distribution centers,” everything the insiders knew. So, when one day in between one of his many stints in jail, he was arrested attempting to acquire an extremely large drop from an undercover cop, he decided to turn state’s evidence instead of face charges for conspiracy to distribute.
From what I can tell, he couldn’t have chosen a worse opponent.
Del Russo is a melting pot—part African American, part Caucasian, part Mexican, part Puerto Rican. To that end, he has connections with every branch/facet of the drug trade in Detroit and surrounding areas, but his reach goes much further than that. He has direct contacts in the Mexican cartel; most of his supply comes directly from Colombia; and he even has veins directly into the Miami drug trade. This man is not small-time. He’s a huge fish and the information that Myrick has access to makes him an extremely valuable asset to the FBI and many other law enforcement agencies that have been trying to nail this guy down. He’s bigger than Capone.
Now for the really scary part—the peaceful name. Most people have street names or aliases that would strike fear or respect in the mind of the listeners—T-Money, Bossman, God, Butcher, Killer, Shark, who knows? Apparently, Sunset is no different. Sunset strikes extreme fear into the hearts of small-time dealers and junkies in Cass Corridors as well as in big-time distributors and competition from Delray to the Michigan suburbs. Mention of Sunset’s name will either get you instant protection or instant death—you don’t fuck with Sunset.
He’s ruthless and maniacal. Age, sex, disability—doesn’t matter to him. If you’re in the game, you accept the rules. He’s rumored to be personally responsible for up to 2500 deaths—personally as in with his own hands. His two signatures kills are Colombia neckties done with barbed wire or complete castration with your family jewels being sent back to your family. If you received a beautiful and expensive gift box in an even more beautiful and soothing gift bag with a lovely picture of a sunset on it, you most likely didn’t want to open it.
And this is the person Anton Myrick chose to piss off. Nice… very nice.
I’ve decided that this is one book that I’m going to close until it comes smacking me in the face again. If that fucker wants me, he’ll know where to find me. I’ll be cautious. I’ll be prepared if he wants to tango, but fuck if I’m going to live my life waiting for him to make his move or worrying about what he’s going to do. My team found his son, they’ll find him, too. If they don’t, he’ll find me—and I’ll be ready for him. Right now, at this time in my life, I’m focusing on my wife’s recovery, our growing family, our new home, and spending the holidays with the people that I love…
… Something that, only two short years ago, I looked upon as a task. Because of her, I now look forward to it.
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 🙂