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 20—More Normalness!
It’s about 7:30 when I get home. I didn’t have a chance to get everything done that I had on my agenda, but I didn’t want to stay at Grey House all night. I have Jason drop me at the front door. When I get inside, the house is quiet.
“Hello?” I call out from the grand entry. No response. If Butterfly were in the bedroom, she would have heard me as the suite is right at the top of the stairs and the door is actually visible in the two-story grand entry.
I make my way to the kitchen. Dinner is in the oven—chicken Cacciatore over pasta, still warm. It smells wonderful. I take my plate, some flatware, and a bottle of wine to my study. I had hoped to find Butterfly in her office, but she’s not there when I get to mine. The light is still on and after I put my dinner on my desk, I go inside.
I don’t spend much time in her office. I think this is the first time I’ve actually been in here since we’ve moved in. It looks like her… like a shrink’s office, but… not. I touch her mouse pad on the laptop and the screen comes to life. She didn’t lock it, but then again, why would she? It looks like she was looking at recliners, nice ones.
She wanted a damn burger. I wonder if she’s still salty about me saying “no.” I’m not going to let her eat a burger. I don’t care how mad she is with me—no burger. She thought she was dying the last time she ate a burger and now she has the nerve to want one.
I go back to my office and sit down at my desk. My office is a real man’s space, a powerful man’s space. With dark woods and dark brown marble, I have to say that it’s totally alpha male. I take a wine glass from the bar and fill my glass. I enjoy a quiet and comfortable dinner alone while I finish the work I didn’t complete in the office.
It’s quite some time later when I turn off my computer and take my dishes back to the kitchen. Gail must have cleaned because the lights are all turned down now and the house really feels like a tomb now. I climb the stairs to the bedroom, taking off my jacket and tie along the way.
I find my wife sound asleep on her side of the bed in a camisole and a pair of black satin sleep pants. A tall non-spill tumbler of ice water sits sweating on a coaster on her nightstand. Ice water has become a necessity for her during her third trimester as she gets quite parched in the middle of the night. Another necessity is the pillow between her knees. The twins require a pillow as well. They sleep more soundly when she has the pillow under her stomach, which is poking out from under her camisole. I strip down to my boxer briefs and relieve myself before I climb into bed behind her, wrapping my arm around her and resting my hand on our children. She whimpers quietly before falling back into slumber, and I follow her in no time.
The alarm wakes me at 6:00 sharp. I reach over and Butterfly is already out of bed. What the hell? I get out of bed and go to her bathroom. I can tell by the temperature of the room that she was in here not long ago. It’s still steamy. I keep searching and find her in her dressing room, sitting at the vanity fussing a bit with her hair. She doesn’t see me when I enter and I stay a bit out of sight and watch her toil with trying to hide her semi-bald spot. With the rest of her hair being so long, no matter what she does with it, it falls off her face and there’s no way for her to cover the spot with it. Her frustration is palpable and she sighs heavily and slams her brush down on the vanity.
It’s time to make my presence known.
She’s slightly startled to see me as I come up behind her, making eye contact with her in the mirror. Subconsciously, she pulls her hair over her shoulder so that it covers the spot where it has only just started to grow back. I kneel next to her and remove her fidgeting hands from her hair and put them in her lap. Brushing the hair back off her shoulder, I kiss her gently on the cheek, moving up to the somewhat bald spot that she keeps trying to hide and kissing it several times. Her shoulders fall, the tension from moments ago flowing out of them. Maybe it’s surrender, I don’t know.
I pick up her brush and gently work the slight tangles out before using her comb to make a precise part down the center of her head. I meticulously style her hair in two long braids on either side of her head and fasten the ends with two ponytail holders. I bring the braids forward so that they fall over her shoulders and the spot with no hair is barely visible at all. I kneel behind her as she admires her reflection, smiling softly and fondling her braid as it drapes down her breast.
“My little Pocahontas,” I say softly as I stroke her hair and kiss her head. She looks into my eyes in our reflection.
“Thank you,” she says, gratefully. I smile tightly, more distressed that this small patch of missing hair is causing her so much angst.
“You’re welcome, beautiful girl,” I tell her, kissing her again on her head. “I have to go shower, okay?” She smiles widely, her big beautiful blue eyes filled with gratitude.
“Okay,” she says before bringing my hand to her lips and kissing it reverently. Although the gesture is so warming, I know that she’s tormented about what people think of her when they see this bald spot. We’ll have to do something about that.
I take a quick shower and dress in jeans and a comfortable sweater with a pair of casual Oxford shoes. Butterfly comes out of her dressing room similarly dressed—maternity jeans and a sweater with a pair of sneakers. She must have been suffering from wardrobe indecision.
“You’re going to work?” she asks.
“Yes,” I reply.
“In that?” She frowns, pointing to my overly casual attire. I chuckle light-heartedly.
“I’m not working the entire day,” I tell her. “I have some errands to run and I won’t be in the office too long. In fact, I’ll be home early and maybe I can help you with some of what you need to accomplish.”
“How do you know I have anything to do?” she folds her arms.
“Because I know my Butterfly and it’s the day before Thanksgiving. We’re going to have a house full of people in our new mansion for four days and there’s probably more things on your to-do list than you have time to do.” She pouts her lips.
“I hate you,” she lies.
“No, you don’t.” I kiss her lips and lead her out of the bedroom and to the elevator.
“Um, I want to buy Marilyn a car,” she says out of nowhere. I frown. A car? Why?
“I’ve closed my practice, Christian.” Whoa! That caught me off guard.
“Why? I thought you loved your practice.”
“Well, since the accident, I’m having a bit of a problem with recall. I thought it would be more important to focus on my own recovery than with someone else’s. I only had a handful of patients that were draining more than I needed, and I want to focus on the needs of Helping Hands without spreading myself too thin. The twins will be here soon and… it was just the right thing to do.” I shrug.
“Well, I can’t argue with that logic,” I respond. “Are you sure you’re going to be okay with that?”
“I’m more than okay with it,” she says as the elevator door opens to the first floor. “One of my patients felt that I was her own personal psychiatrist and I had no right to quit. Those apron strings definitely needed to be cut!” I pause and examine her.
“Do I need to put this character on the watch list?” I ask. I twist my lips.
“I don’t think so. She’s quite self-centered, but I wouldn’t label her as violent or dangerous.” I nod, but I still might need to look into this person who didn’t want to let go.
“So why the car for Marilyn, just out of curiosity?”
“She’s going to remain my personal assistant and I’m going to have her running my errands and taking care of most of the things I can’t. She was just driving to downtown Seattle, now she has to cross the bridge. I’d like for her to have an expense card, too, for her own expenses and for anything I need her to pick up for me… oh, and a new phone, because that little Android she has drives me batshit! It’s gotta be like four years old!” Everything she’s asking for makes sense, and if it means that Butterfly will be more at ease, I’ll buy the girl a house. They’re all tax write-offs anyway.
“What did you have in mind?”
“She likes the Hyundai Sonata.” I purse my lips and nod.
“That’s a pretty reliable car—good specs, nice reviews, good mileage. Any particular color?” Butterfly ponders the question.
“I’ll have to ask her, but I think she likes the gold one. I’ll find out for sure and let you know.”
“I’ll get her a card on the Amex account and she can get the phone from there.”
“Thank you, Christian,” she says, hugging me and kissing me on the cheek just as we enter the kitchen.
“Good morning,” Gail greets as we walk in. “Oh, Ana, your hair looks darling like that!”
“Thank you,” she says with a wide smile. “Christian did it.”
“Did he?” Gail says in that “well, well, well” tone that she has.
“Yes, Mrs. Taylor, I did,” I say proudly. “Is there anything wrong with me braiding my beautiful wife’s hair?”
“Not a thing,” she says in a knowing tone with a smirk. “Eggs and bacon?”
“Sounds good,” I say as Butterfly hands me a steaming cup of coffee. Good God, it’s delicious.
“Mrs. Taylor, the grocery delivery should be here by 11:00. Thankfully, the turkeys will already be thawed.” Around the corner from the pantry, I think, comes a woman in her forties—maybe, black hair tied up in a bun in black slacks and a white blouse.
“Ms. Solomon, this is Mr. Christian Grey. He’s the man of the house. Mr. Grey, this is Regina Solomon. She’s one of the additional cooks hired on the staff. You’ve already met Mrs. Grey.” She nods to Butterfly and turns her attention back to me.
“Mr. Grey, pleasure to meet you, Sir,” she says in a tight, professional voice, her hands clasps together in front of her as if she’s waiting for instruction.
“Ms. Solomon,” I nod. “I hope you like it here.”
“Thank you, Sir,” she says with a small smile before shifting her eyes back to Gail.
“Yes, make sure that there’s plenty of room in the pantry for the dry goods and the turkeys can go in the Subzero over there with the rest of the perishable items. I’ve already made room. The prepared items can go in the Subzero over there…” Gail goes off giving Ms. Solomon instructions for the mountain of food expected to be delivered to stock up for this weekend. Butterfly quickly takes over and cracks two eggs in a frying pan, beginning to scramble them quickly.
“We have two cooks now and you’re cooking breakfast?” I scold
“Actually, we have four… and they’re just eggs, Christian. Keep your shirt on.” The eggs are scrambled soft and plated with bacon, cheese, salt and pepper and buttered toast before I have a chance to protest.
“Mrs. Grey, I could’ve done that for you,” Ms. Solomon says, rushing back into the kitchen.
“It’s no problem. Ms. Solomon,” Butterfly says, handing me the plate. “Mr. Grey is going to need to get going soon. Besides, you had your hands full with instructions from Mrs. Taylor.”
“Well, it’s just that… in your delicate condition…” she stutters and Butterfly smiles warmly.
“Thank you for your concern, Ms. Solomon. I’ll be fine and I promise not to overdo it.”
“Ah, yes, someone else to be concerned about my lovely wife!” I smile triumphantly as I shovel the delicious fluffy eggs into my mouth.
“Oh, God, you’ve made another ally,” Butterfly says, shaking her head.
“Well, can I get you anything, Mrs. Grey?” Ms. Solomon asks.
“Yes, please. There’s fruit salad in the bowl in the refrigerator. I’ll take some of that, and a big bowl of ice cream.” I frown and look at her.
“Ice cream… for breakfast?”
“Yes,” she hisses. “I didn’t get my burger last night so I’m having ice-cream for breakfast!” She says the entire thing through her teeth.
“Yes ma’am one big bowl of ice cream for Mrs. Grey please,” I say all in one breath while stuffing more food into my mouth. The kitchen is quiet for a few moments while Ms. Solomon gives Butterfly her fruit salad and proceeds to scoop out her ice cream. Gail comes into the kitchen and frowns at Ms. Solomon, who has a quick but silent conversation with Gail involving eye signals and hand gestures and nothing is said. Gail proceeds to fry more eggs and in a moment, Jason is scrambling into the kitchen sliding into his suit jacket.
“Why didn’t you wake me, Love?” he says, kissing Gail on the cheek.
“I did,” she says in confusion. Jason must have slept like the dead. “Ms. Solomon, this is Jason Taylor, my husband and Mr. Grey’s personal security. This is Regina Solomon, dear. She’s one of the new cooks on staff.”
“Ms. Solomon,” he says with a nod. “Forgive me if I’m already a bit familiar with you. I’m in charge of the background checks for the residential staff.”
“Not a problem, Mr. Taylor, I’m accustomed to it. It’s nice to meet you, sir.” She’s very professional. I can see why Butterfly chose her. She hands Butterfly her ice cream and a spoon. “Mrs. Grey.”
“Thank you, Ms. Solomon,” she says and digs into the ice cream.
“Is that ice cr…?” Before Jason can get the words out of his mouth, Gail has silenced him with a series of half-words and grunts and a pointed glare. He purses his lips like a scolded child as she puts a plate of food in front of him.
“Eat your breakfast, dear.” He quickly starts to swallow his food as he is trying to fill his mouth with food so that there won’t be enough room for his foot. I can’t help the small chuckle that escapes my lips.
“Hi everybody,” Marilyn breezes into the room. “Ana, the adjustable beds will be delivered on Friday. I know Chuck’s coming tonight and Mr. Grey will be here tomorrow, but it’s the best I could do and I had to name drop to get that.”
“God, I hate that!” Butterfly hisses.
“What, name dropping?” I say with a frown. “I do it all the time. That’s how you get things done.”
“I see that, I just hate it,” she says. “If someone wants to spend their money in your establishment, why can’t we all get the same treatment?”
“That’s a very noble thought, Butterfly, but that’s not the way it works. How do you think I got the Bentley for our wedding when Tamara couldn’t?” I say. “Unfortunately for most, status does mean something.”
“God!” she whispers, disgusted. “That’s why people don’t like the rich. They think we’re all stuck up and entitled, and this fact just reinforces that theory.” Butterfly goes back to her ice cream.
“Ooo, is that ice cream?” Nobody caught Marilyn in time. Butterfly just glares at her while she stares at the ice cream. “Can I have some?” She sounds like an eight year old and I nearly choke on my coffee trying not to laugh.
“Did you have hamburger last night?” Marilyn frowns.
“Um… no, I had chicken,” she answers confused.
“Good, then you can have some of my ice cream.” Ms. Solomon gets another bowl for Marilyn, who is still sporting a very confused expression.
“Mrs. Grey couldn’t have a burger for dinner, so she’s having ice cream for breakfast,” I inform Marilyn.
“You wanted a burger!?” she says, turning appalled eyes to Butterfly. Now it’s my turn to grunt and do hand signals. Marilyn immediately gets the message.
“Okay. I get it. No burgers for Ana. Burgers bad. Ice cream good. May I enjoy my ice cream now?” Ana says sarcastically. Nobody answers and Marilyn quickly tears into her ice cream, also avoiding Jason’s prior near-collision with foot-in-mouth disease.
“I’m leaving now, dear,” I say, kissing a once-again salty Butterfly on the cheek. “Ms. Solomon, more ice cream for Mrs. Grey, please,” I add before leaving the kitchen.
“Jason we need to make a stop,” I say when we get to the car.
“Where to?” he says.
“A mall.” He turns around in the seat.
“A mall?” he repeats.
“Yes, a mall. Hurry up and drive. If you hurry, we’ll beat the rush and the paparazzi.”
“Yes, sir,” he says uncertainly as he starts the car.
My impromptu shopping spree was a blazing success, and I make it to the office before 10:00 to wrap up what business I plan to do before Thanksgiving. I haven’t decided if I’m coming in on Friday or not. I did that last year and things didn’t go well with Butterfly and the harpies at Miana’s. Luckily, this year, the treatments and technicians will all be coming to Grey Crossing and the spa downstairs. The fitness room has also been temporarily converted to spa space so that the ladies can have their privacy. Around noon, an angry Jason comes storming into my office and starts talking before I get a chance to ask him what’s wrong.
“I just talked to Chuck’s brother,” he says. “I know I was out of line, but I wanted to know why he hadn’t come to see Chuck. I thought it was financial, so I was going to offer to fly him out as a surprise for my boy. Do you know what that sonofabitch said to me?” Sonofabitch… okay.
“What?” I ask.
“He said, ‘I’m not going to fly across the world every time Chuck gets into a drunken rage and crashes his car.’ I almost fucking lost it, man. When I asked him when he last saw his brother, he said over ten years. That’s when I snapped. I said, ‘Obviously, because he’s been sober for about thirteen!’” Jason barks. He’s pissed. I wonder if he’s told Charles about this conversation.
“Does Charles know that you spoke to his brother?”
“No,” he laments. “He’s down as the emergency contact. I didn’t know they hadn’t spoken in over ten years. Chuck didn’t mention it. It gets worse,” he says, rubbing his forehead.
“Worse, how?” I ask. How could it be any worse than this?
“I started rambling on about Chuck’s recovery and how good he is and how diligent he is about not taking a drink. I might as well have been talking to this man about the color of bricks. When I realized I was talking to a wall, I just stopped and asked him if he knew who I was. His answer was ‘one of his friends, I suppose.’ So I tell him, ‘To answer that question for you, I’m his boss, and no—I’m not an alcoholic. We are both highly-paid private bodyguards and personal security for one of the richest, most high-profile couples on the west coast, mostly likely in the country and probably in the world.’ I told him that Chuck wasn’t drunk when he had that accident. He was protecting Mrs. Christian Grey from a psychotic, jealous woman who aimed her car directly at theirs in an attempt to kill Mrs. Grey. I told him that his brother that he hadn’t spoken to in ten years could have died not because he was drunk driving, but because he courageously wrapped his body around Mrs. Grey’s to minimize her injuries.”
“What did he say after that?”
“Nothing, the line just went quiet,” he says.
“Did he hang up?”
“No, he just got quiet. After I got tired of listening to dead air, I apologized for taking up his time and assured him that I wouldn’t call again. Then I hung up the phone. If he bothers to talk to his brother at all, he’ll let Chuck know.”
“Jason, you don’t know what happened between them,” I tell him.
“No, I don’t,” he says, “but having been a victim of a near-death experience more than once myself, I know that it changes you and it changes the people around you. I would think that at some point in your life, you might want to bury the hatchet with the people that are important to you, but then again, that’s only me.”
Yes, Jason, unfortunately that is only you. Butterfly, too, had a near-death experience and I recently learned that my brother, who hasn’t missed a Thanksgiving in the 27 years that I have been a Grey, won’t be joining us this year because his catty ass girlfriend and one of my wife’s former best friends still doesn’t want to be in the same room with her. I don’t know what’s going on with that woman and I really want to nail her to the wall because not only is she affecting my wife, but now she’s also affecting my extended family.
“The bitch is letting Sophie come over for Thanksgiving if you can believe it.” My facial expression must have let him know that this is unbelievable news. “Yeah, I know, hell has officially frozen over.”
“She’s surrendering a major holiday? You’re fucking kidding me!”
“Oh, there’s an ulterior motive,” he tells me. “I think she needs a sitter, but also, she knows that we’ll be having dinner at Grey Crossing and ten will get you twenty that she’s hoping to get in.”
“Get in?” I ask. “God, she’s about as bad as those harpies that showed up at my mother’s house last year.”
“Yeah, I may never get Sophie on a holiday again, but that bat isn’t getting into Grey Crossing. I’m meeting her at the gate.”
“She’s not going to like that,” I laugh.
I’m tying up a few loose ends and preparing to go to Boeing field. I text Butterfly for Marilyn’s choice of Sonata and what she plans to do with her Camry. She texts me back confirming that Marilyn likes the gold and hadn’t thought about disposal of the Camry. I inform her that someone will be bringing a Sonata by the house by day’s end and to have one of the staff park her car in the empty parking bin. We’ll sell it for her and she can keep the proceeds. I then call Hyundai of Kirkland and arrange to have a gold 2014 Hyundai with all the amenities delivered to Grey Crossing. My last call is to American Express to have an expense card cut for Marilyn. I’m just about to wrap it up and wish Andrea a happy Thanksgiving when Jason stops me at the door.
“Sir, there’s someone here that you need to meet.” I frown at him.
“Okay, who?” He steps aside, the bear of a man that he is, and there is a petite blonde standing behind him.
“Hello, Mr. Grey,” she says softly. She’s familiar… very familiar.
“I’m sorry, do I know you?”
“No, sir, but you knew my sister.” I still can’t place her.
“Please, come in, sit down.” I gesture to a seat and she nods, taking the seat dutifully. Jason closes the door and stands just inside. I take the seat next to this mystery woman and examine her closely.
“You look familiar,” I confess.
“Yeah… I know,” she replies, dropping her head and fidgeting with her fingers. “My sister left after her first year of college. She dropped out and just disappeared without a trace. She never seemed happy. She was restless, discontent. She wanted to be free. She wanted to spread her wings and be more than a little town said she could be. So she just left and didn’t say a word. It was like she dropped off the face of the earth… and now I know why.”
She raises her eyes to me, and now I’m certain that I know her. I can’t stop staring until I figure it out. Those eyes are familiar to me—same, but different. A different color maybe? Yes, a different color… the same eyes, but a different color. Where do I know her from?
She’s fallen silent as I examine her face and try to figure out who she is. Blue eyes… brown, they should be brown. Suddenly, I feel a chill—a bitter, freezing, cutting chill slicing through my body like somebody is fucking standing on my grave having a coffee break.
“We always dreaded this call,” she sighs, “but we knew that we would get it.”
Naomi! Naomi has an identical fucking twin and she’s sitting two feet away from me in my goddamn office. A fucking twin!
“You identified her as Naomi. Why?” she asks.
“That’s…” I can barely find my words. “I… she… that’s her… she told me that was her name.” I finally get a sentence out of my mouth.
“I’m Vera Moore, Mr. Grey. Her name is Vernetta. She was named after my grandmother, and I was just named after her.” She folds her hands in her lap. “She was only twenty minutes older than me, but you would have thought she was God. She was Netta, and I was Netta’s sister.” She swallows hard. “I spent my whole life in Netta’s shadow. Nobody knew who I was. Nobody cared, but I never blamed her. I loved her. I still love her.” She sighs and brushes away a tear.
“I dyed my hair in high school. We’re identical, but everybody could tell us apart. She was the social butterfly, the popular one, and I was Netta’s little sister. I finally kind of got my own identity when I went blonde, though.”
She stands and walks over to the window. She’s nothing like her sister—her frame, her carriage, her voice, nothing. Nothing’s the same except for her eyes and even those weren’t the same.
“How did you know Netta?” she asks. “The coroner said that you wanted her body if nobody came to claim her. That’s how I found you.” She turns back around and Naomi’s eyes bore right through me. A few short days ago, I looked into this same face—pale and lifeless. Now, it is staring back at me looking for answers.
“We were very close for a very short amount of time,” I tell her. “I’m sorry, she told me that she didn’t have any family.”
“That doesn’t surprise me. She gave you a fake name,” she says, sadly. “How did you know about West Virginia?”
“That part, she told me,” I confess. She had a whole new identity by the time she met me. Even her background check was rewritten. Maybe she took on someone else’s identity. That’s the only way her background check could have checked out.
“Her picture was in the local paper,” she says. “I think it was her driver’s license. She still looks the same as she did the last time I saw her. It was a really simple ad—“do you know this woman?” and a number to call. It was like she was looking for bail or something. My brothers and sister were hopeful, but the minute I saw it, I knew.” She shakes her head. “I knew that whatever she was trying to catch had finally meant the end of her.”
You have no idea how right you are.
“I think Nao… Vernetta was still chasing that thing that made her drop out of college,” I say. “No matter what she had, she always wanted more. She had a thirst that couldn’t be quenched. It turned out to be too much for me. She wanted something that I couldn’t give her, so eventually, she left me.” I’m not going to tell this girl that her sister was a submissive and she wanted a relationship and I wasn’t willing to commit. If she ever hears that, she won’t hear it from me.
“He said she bled to death,” she says, begging for me to tell her why. I tell her what I can.
“She had an accident. She ran a red light and hit another car—hard. She left the car and fled the scene on foot. I think she panicked. By the time she sought medical attention, it was too late. She probably walked to the nearest hospital, which may or may not have been that close to the scene of the accident. I think she was just scared and she didn’t know what to do… and it turned out to be catastrophic.”
“Why didn’t she just come back home?” Vera weeps.
“She couldn’t,” I tell her. “She was chasing something bigger than her, so big that she cut all ties, changed her name and left everything that she knew and loved. She was like Icarus flying too close to the sun. If you told her not to, she just flew closer.” I drop my head, recalling how disobedient and rebellious she was. We were together for such a short time, but she left a huge impression on me, even more so now that she’s gone. “I thought I knew her… but it turns out that I didn’t know her at all.”
“Do you think she ever caught was she was chasing, Mr. Grey?” Vera asks, her eyes hopeful. “Do you think she’s finally at peace?”
No, I don’t. I think she left this world in pain and torment and whatever hell or limbo she’s in now, she’s still being tormented.
“I don’t know,” I lie, “but at the very least, she’s not running anymore.” That’s the only comfort I can give her. She pulls a tissue from her purse and tidies her face as much as she can.
“I’m going to take her home, now,” Vera says. “She’ll be laid to rest with family, for what it’s worth.”
“Does she have more family… alive?” Vera nods.
“We’ve got two brothers and another sister. My dad passed away before we started high school. My mom is suffering from advanced Alzheimer’s. She keeps calling me Netta…” she starts weeping again, but quickly composes herself. “There’s a lot of extended family. I just don’t understand this. She could have come home…”
“She had ambitions too big for home. Don’t torment yourself trying to figure out what could have prevented this, Vera. No one knew, and now, what’s done is done. We have to deal with it and move on.”
“That’s easier said than done, Mr. Grey,” she says. “Have you ever lost anyone close to you?”
“As a matter of fact, I have,” I retort, flatly. “My mother died when I was four. I was adopted very shortly thereafter. I wish I could tell you that it gets easier, but it doesn’t.” Her face falls immediately and now I’ve made this grieving girl feel badly. Way to go, Grey.
“I’m sorry, I had no idea.”
“There’s no way that you could,” I say. “I don’t mean to be rude, Ms. Moore, but I do have an appointment that I can’t reschedule. Is there anything that I can do to help—transport or final arrangements? Anything?” She shakes her head.
“It’s enough that you would have given her a proper burial. We’ll get home okay.” She puts her purse on her arm and takes a few steps towards the door. “Even though it didn’t work out between you, I can only hope that she was someone special to you for you to want to do something like that for her… even if only for a short while.” I can’t answer her. I can’t tell her who Naomi… Vernetta was to me. She’ll have to remember her as she was when Vera last saw her. “Goodbye, Mr. Grey.”
“Goodbye, Ms. Moore.” She turns around and Jason escorts her out of the office and to the elevator. I run my hands through my hair. I’m shaken, stirred, and rattled. A dead girl just walked into my office—a girl who is dead because of me, directly because of me! She sat here and showed me who she could have been had she stayed in school, had she never come to Seattle… had she never met me! I want a drink in the worst way right now. I feel my insides trembling, my own personal earthquake.
“Sir?” I turn my attention to Jason, my trusted friend and bodyguard who basically just threw me into purgatory.
“What. The fuck. Was that?” I growl at him.
“I know, right?” he replies.
“No, Mr. Taylor, we’re not sharing a moment here! I want to know what the hell you were thinking!” He’s a bit horrified.
“I just… sir, I thought you really needed to meet her,” he defends.
“You did, did you?” I ask, my fist clenched at my sides. “You thought it was a good idea for me to look into the twin eyes of the dead, cold face that I identified about a week ago on a slab in the morgue? The same face that met her demise because I couldn’t give her what she wanted? That almost murdered my wife and children? What in God’s name made you think that was a good idea?” I’m nearly yelling now. “Then you parade her in here with absolutely no warning like she’s my long lost relative showing up for a family reunion! Have you lost your fucking mind? Have you truly lost your goddamn senses?”
“No, sir,” he says, his voice truly chastised. I don’t think he really thought it would be this bad. “She said that she would be taking Ms. Adams… Ms. Moore home in a couple of hours. I thought you… would want to talk to her before she left.” He’s floundering. I’ve never seen him floundering. I want to explode. I want to destroy something, to hurt someone, but Jason is floundering.
I count. I don’t know how high I count or how much time passes, but I count. I count and I keep counting until my rage subsides; until my personal earthquake stops shaking; until my nails stop digging into the hands that soon have to operate Charlie Tango. I raise my eyes to my bewildered bodyguard.
“Don’t you ever fucking let something like this happen again,” I hiss. “You’re my friend, but it’s your job to make sure that I don’t get blindsided by things like this! I have to fly a helicopter in less than an hour. Did you forget about that?”
“No, sir. I didn’t think. You’re right, I’m sorry. It won’t happen again.”
“I fucking well hope not, because if another one of my ex-submissives turns up dead and her twin sister shows up in my office, it’s a goddamn bad day in the neighborhood!” I shake my head in a vain attempt to rid my mind of what just happened. “The car, please!” I bark.
“Yes, sir,” he says and walks out of my office. I roll my eyes and proceed out behind him. I mutter something to Andrea and walk to the elevator. He must have taken the stairs, because he’s not out here. Just as well. Goddamn lookalike pedophile aunts and nieces and murderous, dead, submissives with identical twin sisters—my life is a fucking Greek tragedy! I step into the elevator and press the express code, hoping that with my luck, the goddamn thing doesn’t plummet to the ground floor!
“Christian! It’s good to see you again!” I must admit that Keri is a very pretty woman and I can’t help but wonder how long she plans to stay in the states. I’ve landed Charlie Tango at the fire department and paid the fee to have an ambulance transport Charles from his home back to the landing site. It’s less than a mile, but it’s highway robbery what they’re charging me.
“Hello, Keri. It’s good to see you, too. Are we all ready?”
“Yes! I can’t wait!” She seems giddy. Charles comes rolling out of a room in the back of the house.
“Sir!” he says, surprised. “I didn’t expect you.”
“Who did you expect?”
“Ana, maybe… some of the guys.”
“Well, that would have been a little difficult.”
“I can imagine.” No, you can’t.
We get him situated in the back of the ambulance and I ride with him and Keri while Jason rides in the front seat with the driver.
“There’s a couple of things I failed to tell you, Charles,” I tell him during the short ride to the fire department.
“What? Besides that my carriage is an ambulance?” he chuckles.
“Something like that. Your carriage is not actually the ambulance.” We pull up into the parking lot and I point to Charlie Tango.
“The whirly bird!” he exclaims. “You’re taking me to the mainland in the whirly bird?”
“I’m taking you to the mainland in my helicopter, yes. There’s a condition, though.”
“What’s that?” he asks.
“You have to ride Medivac.” He frowns.
“I don’t get it.”
“The only way that I could get clearance to land here was to tell them that my helicopter is a certified Medivac and that I was transporting an injured patient for treatment. So I have to transport you like a Medivac.” The penny drops.
“You mean I have to be immobilized on that hard board and shit?” he whines.
“Yes, you do. You do have a choice, though.”
“And what’s that?”
“There’s a helipad on top of Escala. That’s where I’ll be landing. The converted Audi is waiting there for us to take us to Grey Crossing. That same Audi—very comfortable, I might add—can come and get you and take you straight to Mercer. So, your options are waiting here for the Audi and then ride the ferry back to the mainland—and hour and ten minutes from here to Mercer Island, about 55 minutes of that spent on the ferry. Your other option, seven minutes on Medivac and 15 minutes from Escala to Mercer. Your choice.”
“Medivac it is. Let’s go.” He answers in less than a second. Jason has already retrieved the backboard and straps.
“We won’t need to put you in the immobilizer, but we will need to strap you onto the backboard.” He nods as the driver and Jason help him onto the backboard. He winces in pain as they get him situated. “Charles, did you take something for pain?”
“I’m fine,” he grunts. I furrow my brow.
“In the future, whenever you’re being transported, you need to make sure you’ve taken something for pain.”
“I’ll be fine, really,” he replies and I just shake my head. As Jason and the driver secure a wincing Charles to the backboard, I look over at Keri who is wringing her hands and looking nervously at Charlie Tango. I walk over to her and touch her elbow and she nearly jumps out of her skin.
“Are you okay?” I ask.
“I’ve nevah been in a helecuptah befoh,” she confesses, and I can tell she’s terrified.
“It’s perfectly safe, I can assure you,” I tell her. “I’ve been flying her for many years now. We’re old friends.”
“You fly heh?” she says, and it’s weird to hear someone else call Charlie Tango “her.”
“Yes, I do. It’s the fastest, least painful way to get Charles to the mainland.” This is not convincing her, so I try another tactic. “He saved the lives of my wife and children. I owe him a huge debt. You are very important to him, so I personally guarantee your safety. I promise I won’t let anything happen to you, because doing so would be a disservice to Charles. I need you to trust me.” I hold my hand out to her and she takes it.
Charles is secured to the flat seats in the back of my EC155. I help Keri into the cabin.
“Buckle her in as close to Charles as you can get her.” I tell Jason and he nods once. He’s been more subdued than usual since we left Grey House, for good reason. More than once, Charles has had that silent conversation with his eyes with Jason as well as me, but neither of us gives anything away. This is going to be an interesting ride.
The trip to Escala was so quick, no one had time to get comfortable, or uncomfortable. Keri even exclaimed, “Was that it?” Glad to have gotten you here in one piece, Madam.
During the ride across the bridge, however, Charles looks absolutely miserable.
“Charles, please,” I hear Keri whispering to him. “Just take one. It’s too much, please Charles…”
I see Charles might need some coaxing to take his pain meds.
“When we get back to the house, talk to Marilyn and find out what beds they were trying to get this morning. See what you can do about getting them there sooner than Friday.”
“Yes, sir,” he answers, robotically, most likely still smarting over his earlier faux pas.
There’s a lot of handshaking and smiling when we get back to Grey Crossing. The security staff basically greets Charles with the same reverence shown to Jason when he left the hospital after taking Elena’s bullet. He soon forgets his pain and gets caught up in the camaraderie of being around his colleagues again. I think being here at Grey Crossing will be very beneficial to his recovery.
The house is buzzing with people just after Christian and Jason leave this morning. There’s a bit of Thanksgiving decorating going on to make the house look more festive and less… museumish! There are horns of plenty, harvest baskets, dried corn and harvest wreaths all over the place. Spiced candles, pumpkins, acorns abound and beautiful tall vases in fall colors filled with wheat stalks.
The dining room has been revamped with two large banquet tables sporting fall runners, festive place settings and harvest centerpieces. A separate natural wood table that seats ten will serve as the children’s table. It’s funny… I’ve never had a children’s table before…
I love and hate that I’m so pregnant the first year that I get to host Thanksgiving in my new house with my new husband. Love it because I get to feel my babies moving and count down to their debut; hate it because there’s so much that I have to do and I don’t have the strength to do it.
“Make sure that there are extra linens in all of the guest bathrooms,” I hear Gail instructing the new housekeeping staff that we hired yesterday—a few men, but mostly women. That was quite the experience. I try to trust my judgement when it comes to people because my instincts are hardly ever wrong. I also try not to be such a hard ass, but when it comes to the staff that is going to have access to my home, there’s no such thing as “giving someone a chance.” They have to be impeccable. They have to be trustworthy and have unshakable references. I can’t risk having another Ginger Creepy Guy working in our home.
At first, I observed the interaction of the candidates with Gail. She had already interviewed them and screened them down to the twenty or so that showed up yesterday. Not that I don’t trust Gail’s judgement, but I know all too well that a person is very likely to send their representative to the interview and someone else is very likely to show up for the job.
A word to the wise… never try to psyche out a shrink.
There was a plethora of people that actually made it to the final stage—two, real-life English butlers, a retired Beverly Hills concierge, a young woman who claimed to have been Bryan Forbes’ maid—recently unemployed due to his death. That never checked out. One lady seemed to be perfect for the job, too perfect in fact. She knew everything that there was to know about AnaChris including my early graduation from college, my birth father’s name, and the address Christian lived at as a toddler in Detroit. I don’t even have that information. I don’t think Christian does either. I asked Gail how Single White Female managed to make it to the final interview. She informed me that this was why Christian wanted me to make the final decision because this nutcase didn’t reveal herself at all until she met me. Needless to say, with her NDA securely in hand, I had her escorted off the property and added her immediately to the “watch” list.
Some people weren’t as transparent as SWF, but just left a bad taste in my mouth—the young, clean-cut guy who undressed me with his eyes; the older gentleman who was actually perfect for the job except that he was a bit of a snob acting as if he was interviewing me. I won’t need to tell him that he wasn’t chosen because I’m certain that he simply won’t return.
Then there was the young brunette who was the picture of decorum in the group setting, but turned into a predatory whore when we were alone. She was a raging nymphomaniac just oozing sex. She kept touching me and each time, her touches became more exploratory, more intimate. It was like she was testing her waters to see how far I would let her go. She was highly inappropriate, implying ménage à trois, not so subtly referencing her sexual prowess… I mean, damn! At least wait until you actually get the job before you reveal your ulterior motives, you slut! She took a bit too many liberties when I spoke to her alone and quite frankly, I wouldn’t trust her around my husband.
Although we are extremely casual with Gail and Jason, that’s a different relationship than what will be with the rest of the staff. I’m certain that Christian will expect a more professional and respectful demeanor from anyone that we hire to work in our home. I discovered that the most professional candidates were the older ones, those in their forties mostly. I would have liked to have chosen some of the younger people—those closer to mine and Christian’s age—but either their references seemed shady or they said something or acted inappropriately. I have to say that I was happy that there was much more security on site and visible while the interviews were taking place. I think Christian planned it that way so that those who weren’t hired were not tempted to come back to the property without an invitation.
“Mrs. Grey?” I hear my name being called over the estate’s intercom system. I engage to intercom from a panel on my desk.
“There’s a delivery for you, ma’am,” one of the new guards inform me. I thought there were supposed to call Gail for deliveries… unless it’s the recliners, then they were supposed to call Marilyn.
“Food or furniture?” I ask.
“Neither, ma’am. It’s personal.” I frown and look at Marilyn, who looks up from her tablet long enough to shrug and go back to what she was doing.
“Has it been checked?” Should I be concerned? I’m not expecting anything personal.
“Yes, ma’am, but there was no need. We were expecting it.” Huh? What were they expecting that I wasn’t?
“Um, okay, well bring it to my office,” I instruct him.
“It’s kind of a big box, ma’am. You might want to start with it in the front of the house and then decide where you want it after you see it.” Oh, for Christ’s sake…
“Okay. The living room?”
“Yes, ma’am.” I get up from my desk and the planning and instructions for the new staff to go investigate this “kind of a big box.”
He’s right, it’s pretty big. I get closer and the box is from Claire’s.
“Claire’s?” I exclaim is disbelief. “I didn’t order anything from Claire’s! I didn’t even know Claire’s delivered.” I look over at Marilyn.
“Don’t look at me. I didn’t know Claire’s delivered either.” I shrug and rip the tape off the box.
“What in the world…?” I open the box and it’s full of colored material. “What is all of this?” I begin to remove the colorful pieces and realize that I’m holding headbands. I start to rummage through the box and find headbands, head scarves, and wraps of every color and variety—beautiful colors and fabrics just bursting out of this box! I look up at the guard… I still don’t know his name… and he’s handing me a small envelope. I open it and there’s a card inside:
I don’t think you need it, but I hate to see you feeling bad about yourself.
If you need to, use these. You’ll make them beautiful.
“Dammit!” I exclaim as the tears start to fall. He must have bought every headband and head scarf in the state of Washington!
“Christian,” Marilyn says in an obvious tone.
“Who else?” I say weeping. I reach into the box and pull out a jewel-toned deco headband that will go absolutely perfect with my Pocahontas braids. “How does it look?” I ask Marilyn after I get it situated over my forehead.
“It’s adorable,” she says, laughing at my calamity.
“This man doesn’t know how to do anything small,” I say, wiping my eyes with a CTG handkerchief that I always keep handy. I immediately remember him drying his eyes with one of these when I awoke in the hospital. He was right, I use a lot of these lately, but so far, they’ve been happy tears or meaningless tears—nothing heartbreaking.
“Where would you like them, ma’am?” the guard asks.
“Upstairs in my dressing room,” I tell him. “Put the box on the island in the middle of the room.”
“Yes, ma’am,” and off he goes.
“I bet you Claire’s had to close and restock the damn store,” I tell Marilyn when we get back to my office.
“What a strange purchase!” she observes. “Headbands?”
“Not so strange,” I tell her. “I was trying to do my hair when he came into the dressing room this morning. I was trying to hide the bald spot.” She nods.
“I was getting a little frustrated… a lot frustrated… and he came in and did this.” I fondle my braids.
“That man worships you, Ana,” she says, smiling. I sigh.
“I know… I feel the same way about him.” I spin my chair and look out the window. “I was terrified when I woke up,” I say, rubbing my babies who have now become quite restless. “Can you imagine waking up, not knowing where you are, not seeing anything familiar…? All I saw was this guy—an incredibly handsome guy, but still this guy I didn’t know. I’ve always appreciated good looks, but I’ve never just been bowled over loopy by them. I wasn’t this time either. I recognized that he was attractive and just moved on, but for some reason I was immediately drawn to him. It was like I couldn’t be without him… I couldn’t breathe without him. Whatever was going on, he had to be a part of it and I didn’t even know who he was! It’s hard to explain…”
“Well, you’re doing a pretty good job,” Marilyn encourages. I glance at her and laugh, then turn my attention back to the landscape of the grounds.
“He’s my everything,” I tell her. “I mean, I know my babies are everything, too, but my babies are here because of him. I can’t wait to be a mom. I can’t wait to see him with his children. Our life is going to be perfect. No matter what comes at us, our life is going to be perfect.”
“You have a lot of faith for what you’ve already been through,” she says and I can tell that she’s remiss to say it.
“That’s because whatever happens, I know we’ll be okay as long as we’re together,” I say with certainty.
“I don’t mean to be a negative Nancy, but… how can you be so sure?” It’s a genuine question.
“I don’t know, I just am,” I tell her. “It’s strange, too, because three months ago when I found out that I was pregnant, I was terrified. I didn’t want to bring new life into this horrible world—jealous, murderous pedophiles; psycho kidnapper ex-boyfriends; vicious teenagers who beat you within an inch of your life; mothers who rip away you peace of mind and are willing to sell your soul for a dollar. We’ve still made it through all that. Even now, with everything else that threatened to tear us apart—my shrinking and running away; Brian and ex-lovers trying to come between us… or trying to kill me; the hackers, the fund-raising fiasco; that horrible man that tortured Christian on the loose somewhere; best friends who turn their backs on you and insult you for no reason—everything dictates that we should be afraid or worried, but I’m not. For one thing, I trust my husband. He’s a wonderful man, a brilliant businessman, and he’s going to be a magnificent father. He’d give a vital organ to keep me safe and I know he would, so I trust him implicitly—with my life.”
“That’s a lot of faith to put in one person,” she says. “Not that I don’t think he’s worthy of it. Like you said, he’s a really great man. In all honesty, he’s one of the best men I’ve ever known… him and Ray… and Gary. I just feel a bit of pause in putting so much faith in one person, you know?” I feel her resistance and I almost want to ask her if we’re still talking about me here, but I don’t. I try to guide the conversation in a direction that’s part conversation and part advice.
“Don’t get me wrong, I still have my own mind. I’m level-headed and I know how to make good decisions, but there are times when I know I need to revert to my husband. For instance, he’s more knowledgeable on matters of security, so when he tells me that certain things have to be done certain ways, I have to revert to his knowledge and do it. He’s had security ever since he’s been Grey Enterprises Holdings. I’ve had security for maybe a year. I know that he wants to shit bricks every time I do one of those impromptu interviews. Yet, I know that he’s been very obtuse towards the press, so I try to offset that because you can’t make the press your enemy. I don’t let him lead me around by the nose, Mare, but I do have a lot of faith in him and in our happiness.”
“Oh, Ana! I wasn’t suggesting…” I put my hand up to silence her.
“I know, honey,” I say with a smile. “I know when you’re full of shit.” That lightened our mood a bit. The intercom fires up again and security is asking for Marilyn at the front gate. Just as she excuses herself, my cell rings. It’s Chuck.
“Anah, it’s Keri,” she says.
“Hello, Keri, what’s up?”
“We have a few more tings tan we tought. Charles refuse to be witout his X-box, his blanket, his favorite slippuhs…” She’s naming things off and you can tell she’s a bit exasperated. “You know sick men ah much like bebbies!” I laugh heartily. We actually sent two of the security guys to Bainbridge earlier to help them get things together. Now, I imagine that they’ll need a moving van to bring all of the things that Chuck simply can’t live without. Luckily, I already planned for this contingency.
“I’m sending a moving truck—not the huge one, but it should be big enough. Tell the ’bebby’ that he has that much room to fill and once he’s done, he’ll have to live without his other toys.” She sighs and laughs lightheartedly.
“Tank you, Anah. You’ve offehed so much already, I didn’t know how to ask.”
“You can ask me anything, Keri. Please, don’t hesitate.”
“Tank you so much,” I can hear her smile. “I’m going to go back to de bebby now.” We both giggle.
“See you this afternoon,” I say before ending the call. The moment I end the call, I get a text from Christian about Marilyn’s Sonata and what she planned to do with her Camry. I have to ask her, but after texting Marilyn to confirm the color, I text Christian back to let him now that she’s partial to gold. Apparently, her new car will be here before she leaves. She’ll love that!
A/N: There was a commenter who said that Keri sounded a bit slow. I’m trying to get the written look of the accent right and I would gladly accept your help in that area. Just click the “contact me” link and let me know how I can email you.
If “Anne Crowe” is still one of my readers, please email me. Your email address bounced. 😦
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 🙂