Becoming Dr. Grey: Chapter 29—Breaking Through

SORRY, ALL–IT LOOKS LIKE EITHER I OR MY EMAILER INCLUDED THE WRONG LINK IN THE EMAIL. MY BAD! 

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 29—Breaking Through

CHRISTIAN

My breakfast meeting is with Fairlane, LLC. We had come to a preliminary agreement, subject to change upon further investigation. As such, I’ve come to the meeting with a different agenda. Allen is a bit shocked at my change of tact, but I’ve been able to review Fairlane’s position and realize that I’m in more of an advantageous seat than I originally thought. The initial meeting goes well into lunch.

“This isn’t what we agreed on, Grey,” Fairlane Sr. declares. “Is this how you do business? You change the terms right at final negotiations?”

“Is this your first time at the dance, Fairlane?” I ask. “How many years has your company been struggling—barely breaking even until you’ve finally seen red for the last few years? This is why they’re called final negotiations. At this point, both sides have reviewed all of the pros and cons and they are ready to make a final deal. I have reviewed our positions, and while you have cornered a healthy share of the telecommunications market share, you don’t know what to do with it. There’s nothing wrong with being a family-owned business. Hell, I’m a family-owned business, but you dug in too deep and you waited too long.

“As much as I would like to meet your requests, I’m in the business of making money. I’m not a charity. Yes, GEH will be acquiring your assets, but more importantly, we’ll be acquiring your liabilities. You know how far in you are, I don’t have to tell you. I also don’t have to tell you that even with the change in my offer, you’re not going to find a better deal. The publicly-owned companies—even the smaller ones—are going to rip you apart until there’s nothing left of what you built. If you don’t believe me, you can approach them after this meeting is over.”

“You’re asking me to shed a quarter of my staff, Grey!” he hisses. “Some of these people have been with the company since it started!”

“There are too many redundancies and you know this,” I rebut. “I made it perfectly clear at the last negotiation that the terms may be subject to change after evaluation of the documentation that you submitted for review, did I not?”

“You didn’t tell me that you were going to cut a quarter of my staff!”

“Did I not make the point clear that terms were subject to change?” I ask the question slowly and firmly, hitting my hand with my fist to reinforce my words. Although many companies have tried this on me before—present company included—no one will ever be able to justly accuse me of shady negotiations or unfair business practices.

“Yes,” he answers reluctantly. “Yes, you did.”

“When I received your payroll report, there are people on your payroll where I don’t even know what they do! How did you expect me not to scrutinize every single expense that we were going to be responsible for? Is that why you waited until the last possible moment to submit that report?”

“I just don’t want to see my people lose their jobs! That was the whole idea of going with a privately-owned company!” he nearly shouts. Allen can see where the conversation is going and why I made the decision to cut a large chunk of Fairlane’s staff. This man is paying people obscene amounts of money to do nothing and wondering why he’s in the red. It won’t be so under GEH.

“No one will lose their jobs before the holidays, but these redundancies and these unnecessary positions will be gone after the new year. Your son can stay on as president if he wants…”

“How kind of you,” Fairlane Jr. shoots. I turn my glare to him.

“If he wants,” I say, my eyes never leaving his, “but the company will be run as a fully-functioning subsidiary of GEH with all operating decisions coming directly from Grey House.”

“I’ll just be a figurehead, then,” Fairlane Jr. hisses.

“You’ll be running the company. It will just be under Grey House’s direction.”

“That means someone else will make all the decisions.”

“You need someone to make all the decisions, young man! That’s why you’re in the position you’re in now!” I declare. “Ask your father how likely he would have been to get an offer as healthy as the one I’m giving him with the information he gave me three days ago. Ask him how likely any of those companies he keeps throwing up to my face would be likely to give him even a fraction of the protection and guidance that I’m offering him based on the condition of this company right now, the financial representation that he gave me before this week, and the liability and payroll information that I’ve just discovered.” I turn to Fairlane Sr. “And you have the nerve to be offended that I’m changing the terms?” I stand and button my jacket. “Why don’t you and your son go somewhere and have lunch. Find somewhere quiet to talk. I’ve given you my proposal.
You have an hour to let me know if you accept.”

I walk out of the conference room without another word. Allen is hot on my heels. The interrogation starts as soon as my office door closes.

“You know that I pay attention, Chris, and you did lead him to believe that his employees would keep their jobs,” he says, flatly.

“And they will,” I respond, taking a seat at my desk, “until after the holidays. No, I don’t like firing people. I try to keep as many employed as possible, but there’s a specific reason that man is not barking louder than he is and why he didn’t walk out of negotiations.” I reach into my desk drawer and pull out the final report given to me three days ago and hand him two key documents—first, the Letter of Opinion of Value. Allen examines it carefully.

“This is not the same report I saw,” he laments.

“That’s because the first came from an analyst of their choosing. This one came from an analyst of my choosing. We already knew that the numbers would be different because no matter how objective the third party, they’re still going to sway on the side of the company who acquired their services—even if it’s subconscious. These numbers are drastically different, and that was reason enough to go over the expenses again and I found this.” I hand him another report.

“The Payroll Expense Report?” he asks, confused. “How could payroll possibly cause such a large discrepancy?”

“Because of these ridiculous positions. Look at this.” I flip through some of the pages and go straight to some of the highlighted positions. “What the hell does a full-time entertainment director do at a telecommunications firm? An on-site acupuncturist? Free fucking doggie daycare? The list goes on and on. I thought this shit was a joke until I saw that some of these people make six digits and have been for years! It’s no wonder his company is failing. They spend a mint on research and development—a necessary expense—but they spend more on executive massages. Who was giving the massages, high-priced call girls? I have no idea how he justifies these expenses and I don’t know how he thought GEH would approve them. Why the hell did I have to spend three hours of my day negotiating corporate facials and pedicures? These ‘perks’ are the first things that go when your company is failing, but he wants to keep his family and friends employed, so he tried to slide it in under payroll expense. I don’t appreciate being played for a fool and he better be glad I didn’t just walk out on negotiations.”

“Why didn’t you bring this to my attention sooner?” Allen asks. “He’s obviously not acting in good faith.”

“Because I just saw it last night,” I tell him. “This had the same implications of those damn miscellaneous subsidiaries. It could have been just as disastrous. Nothing’s illegal, but it’s just as careless. I wasn’t going to let that happen.” Allen examines me. “What?”

“Did you and Jewel have a spat?” he asks.

“Not that I would readily answer that, but why would you ask me that?” He shrugs.

“I don’t know, it just seems like you were a little more diligent than usual to find issues with this company and you had a little extra time on your hands, not to mention you seem a bit frostier today than you have been in the last week or so since she’s been home from the hospital. I was just wondering if something had happened and did I need to be ready to take cover.”

I hate that someone besides Butterfly knows my disposition well enough to be able to spot the slightest change in my temperament. I took special pains to prevent whatever frustrations I may be feeling at home from coming out during these negotiations. Now my head of legal—and wife’s best friend—has hit the nail on the head and I really don’t want to share this moment with him.

“Allen, I can guarantee you that this is all about wanting to be completely prepared for this meeting and not wanting anyone to slip anything past me. Fairlane knew that when it came to payroll, I would be concentrating more on redundancies and higher management, which is why a lot of these six-digit perks were classified as ‘maintenance.’ I always make a final comparison before I go into negotiations, and yes, it’s usually done the day or the night before because I want my findings fresh. You just never witnessed a U-turn like this one before, so I understand your line of questioning as all of the negotiations that you’ve sat in on have been fairly smooth. Had the numbers not been so drastic, I may not have found it—but I did. It’s that simple. Any other questions?” He pauses and shakes his head.

“Nope, nothing else. I’ll look these over and follow your lead.”

“Good to know.”

A little over an hour later, we’re back in negotiations with the Fairlanes and he makes one of the biggest elementary mistakes in the business.

“I’ve spoken with Penberry and Closky, Inc. They’ve made me an offer that will allow Fairlane’s staff to stay intact.” I entwine my fingers and rest them on the table. He’s bluffing and I know it. He may have spoken with P&C, but they definitely haven’t promised to keep this ridiculous staff on—assuming there was full disclosure. If there wasn’t, Fairlane will find himself right back in this spot once he gets to final negotiations. What’s most important here, though, is that he is well aware that P&C is one of my biggest competitors. He’s playing to my ego, or at least he thinks he is. Ego may have played a very small part in my success—okay, scratch that, maybe not so small. It is not, however, the secret of my success. Intelligence and cunning got me to where I am today, and Fairlane is about to find out just how badly he’s played this hand. P&C will get his signature, rip his company apart, and leave him and Junior for dead on the side of the road. If that’s what he wants, it’ll serve him right.

“Is that so?” I ask, coyly. Junior’s mouth turns up in a smirk while Fairlane relaxes back in his seat. They think they’ve got me. I close my portfolio and stand up from the table. “Very well. I hope you find their offer and plans for your organization satisfactory. Mr. Forsythe?” Allen rises to follow me out of the conference room. I can actually smell Fairlane sweating from way over here.

“Wait, Grey!” he calls out just as I’m about to breach the doorway. “You don’t have a counteroffer?” Oh, just what I was waiting for. I turn around and put my portfolio on the table.

“As a matter of fact, I do,” I tell him. “The price drops by two million and workforce by up to 6500 by the end of the first quarter.” Junior frowns and slams his hands on the table.

“You’re dropping the price now?” he nearly roars. “And 6500—that’s one-third of the employees. How did we go from one-fourth to one-third?”

“Ask your father,” I say calmly. “You can always feel free to take the offer from Penberry and Closky. After all, they said they would keep your staff intact.”

“This is ridiculous! Dad, let’s just take the other offer.” Junior’s got a lot to learn about acquisitions. Let this be his first lesson. Go ahead, Dad, take the other offer. Fairlane ponders the decision—or pretends to. Junior is extremely impatient. “Dad?” he urges, like the petulant child that he is. Fairlane’s eyes dart from his son to me.

“Why 6500?” he asks to his son’s horror.

“Dad…!” Junior protests. His father throws a threatening look at him.

“Well,” I say, opening my portfolio to the dreaded report. “There will already be several redundancies, you’re aware of that. It can’t be avoided. Most companies have dining rooms, company gyms, things of that nature we can deal with. GEH will not be paying for facials and pedicures that run into six-figures yearly. Your employees will now have to find somewhere else to get their pedigreed pooches groomed, and paid personal shoppers have never been offered by GEH, so they certainly won’t be covered under your acquisition contract. I can go on if you like.” His eyes widen as he realizes that I have completely called him out on his little game of hide and seek.

“These were benefits for our employees,” he tries to explain. “Every company has perks.”

“Um-hmm, and when you were a successful, thriving organization, you could afford these kinds of perks. You’re not that company anymore. What’s more is that without going beyond due diligence, there’s no way that I would have known you had these things hiding under maintenance and professional fees. You tried to pull a fast one on me, Fairlane, and I don’t like that at all. I don’t bluff. I don’t have to. I have no problem walking away and letting you take your chances with Penberry and Closky if that’s what you want. So you can either accept the counteroffer I’ve given you or you can take your nearly falsified documents and take your chances with the public companies. Which is it going to be, because my time is valuable and I don’t want to waste any more of it.”

He sighs heavily. He knows he’s beaten. He doesn’t want to wade in public waters any more than I would, but I’ll let this fish go if he thinks he’s going to pull one over on me.

“I’ll take the counteroffer,” he says, defeated.

“Dad! No!” Junior pipes in, but Fairlane doesn’t acknowledge his protest and neither do I.

“You know that my contracts are loaded with termination clauses, so if there’s something else that I might find that’s going to piss me off, you might want to tell me about it now,” I caution.

“No. No, there’s nothing else,” he says, resigned to his fate.

“Dad!” Junior presses. “You’re just going to let him do this? This is supposed to be my legacy and he’s tearing it apart!”

“He knows he’s not going to find a better deal…” I begin.

“I’m not talking to you!” he yells at me and it takes everything in me not to lose it… but I lose it a little bit.

“To be the president of a company, you’re pretty damn stupid!” I nearly growl at him.

“There’s no need to talk to my son that way, Grey!” Fairlane chides.

“I’m not talking to your son,” I say, throwing a glance in his direction and then quickly back to Junior. “I’m talking to the presidential-hopeful of one of my subsidiaries, and you may want to take a lighter tone with the man that’s about to be your boss!” His face pales a bit, but he’s still visibly angry.

“Unless you’re a flaming idiot, you know exactly why I’m displeased and you should be asking why I’m not telling you and your father to take your failing company and get the fuck out of my building. You may have sentimental value here, Mr. Fairlane, but that has absolutely no impact with the business world. Even at the reduced price, I’m buying this company at a loss and you know it. So either you sit down and sign the contract with your father or feel free to leave. I can still run the company without its current president.”

“He knows, Grey,” Fairlane says. “Georgie, do you want in or do you want out?”

Georgie sits there, glaring from his father to me and back to his father. “I want in,” he says reluctantly. Georgie will only be in for a year. During that time, he won’t be privy to any of GEH’s internal structure and information. He will only be responsible for the operations of the Fairlane LLC, subsidiary and only to the degree that I allow him to be. Acquisitions are often kind of hostile because top officers and positions are usually terminated in redundancies. This kid is even more hot-headed than I am, and I can’t have that.

“If you’ll excuse me, gentlemen, my attorney and will return shortly with the new contracts.” I turn around and walk out of the conference room. Again, Allen is hot on my heels.

“How long does he have?” Allen asks.

“A year, and he already knows it,” I say, walking into my office.

*-*

I’m sitting at my desk reading up on what we should be doing now that Ana is about to be in her eighth month. I was a bit of a shark at the meeting with Fairlane LLC. I wasn’t willing to give any concessions. In the end, they agreed to my terms and left with their tails between their legs. Neither of them should be upset about it. They’re going to be independently wealthy and except for some ridiculous positions that were costing their company out the ass, Fairlane LLC is going to remain intact for the most part. Still, I can only imagine the anguish that must come along with saying goodbye to your “baby.”

So, back to my own baby—or babies, I should say. I never told Butterfly that the day the doctor confirmed that she was pregnant, I printed out a pregnancy to-do list. I’ve been secretly making sure that she or we were doing everything on the list, except for the month when I foolishly didn’t speak to her. I still feel like shit for that exercise.

I glance over the early steps—first trimester instructions, like eating well, take your prenatal vitamins, and stop drinking alcohol. There were other things in the first and second trimesters that were met with unequivocal “no’s” on my checklist, such as joining a birth club, hiring a labor coach, and circumcising my son. Then there were other things that I just kind of laughed at because I wrote “we’re rich” next to them, like making a baby budget, doing some financial planning, and considering top baby costs and how to save.

Right now, the tasks that are catching my eye are childbirth classes, which we really should have done in the second trimester; choosing a doctor for the babies—I’ll have to ask Mom about that; and a possible baby shower for Butterfly. We won’t actually need one, but it’s something that I know she will enjoy. I pick up the phone and dial my mother.

“Dr. Trevelyan-Grey,” she answers all professional.

“Hi, Mom.”

“Well, hello, Christian. How are you, son?”

“I’m fine. Did I catch you at a bad time?”

“It’s never a bad time to talk to my baby,” she coos. “What’s new?”

“Is Ana near you?”

“No, why? Are you looking for her?” she asks.

“No, I just wanted to make sure that she wasn’t near you. I wanted to talk to you about something.”

“Okay. Is everything alright?”

“Yes, everything’s fine,” I assure her. “I was just looking over this ‘to do’ list and it mentions a baby shower. I wouldn’t have any idea how to plan one of those things or even when to plan it. Do you have any experience in this area?” My mom chuckles a bit.

“There’s a specific reason why you don’t have any experience in this area, Christian,” she says. “It’s because the women in her life are supposed to plan that.”

“Hence, I am coming to you,” I reinforce. She chuckles at me again.

“Okay,” she says. “I’ll get with Mandy and we’ll most likely get with Marilyn and toss around so ideas and… we’ll get back to you, okay?”

“Thank you, Mom,” I say breathing a sigh of relief.

“You’re welcome, son. You know, a baby shower is not something to get yourself all worked up about…”

“I know,” I tell her. “It just seems like one of those ‘rite of passage’ type things and I just don’t want her to miss out on anything that’s supposed to be part of the whole experience.”

“I can understand that,” she says. “So, I’ll talk to the ladies and let you know what we come up with.”

“You’d better bring Maxine and Allen in on it, too. There will be hell to pay if Mr. Forsythe is not in on the planning with this party.”

“Oh, of course. I’ll make sure they’re included as well.”

“I need to impose on your kindness one more time, Mom. I need you to recommend a good pediatrician for the babies.”

“Oh, that’s easy—Dr. Nahabedian.”

“Nada whoda what?” I ask. She just spits that out like she was saying Jones or something. It causes her to laugh heartily.

“Rada… Na-ha-be-di-an,” she says, slowly. “She specializes in infant care. I’ll send her information with Ana.”

“Um, okay. Just find a way to give her the information so that she doesn’t think I’m doing it behind her back. I’m not, I’m just trying to get a jump on some things.”

“No problem,” she says in that comforting Mommy voice. “Now, when do you plan on returning my father-in-law?” I chuckle at her demands.

“Tomorrow or Sunday, Mom. I’ll let you know,” I assure her.

“Thank you. The house seems a little empty without him.” I know how she feels. If we don’t find him a kidney soon, we may not have him around much longer, and can’t see that happening. “Allison, I have to go.” Allison? “My daughter-in-law just stepped into the room with a stack of reports and a look on her face like the building is on fire somewhere.”

“Well played, Mom. Talk to you later.”

I sit and ponder my grandfather’s situation. All week, he and Uncle Herman and I have been spending evenings getting to know each other better… after Butterfly’s doctor’s appointment on Monday; most of Tuesday evening, minus the time Butterfly spent giving me that fantastic blowjob. Wednesday had to be our most significant day. That’s when Uncle Herman and Pops shared some of Dad’s childhood with me. It appears that my father was always in some kind of trouble as a boy—nothing intense like my problems, fighting and such… just young boy mischievousness. He and his brothers set the garage on fire one day. Pops put it out just in time before the entire structure collapsed. I have a feeling that my grandfather is full of many more stories like this, and I’d like to hear more of them. So yes, I’ll send him back to my mom because she obviously misses him, but I do plan on stopping by the manor more often to spend some time with him.

“Seattle General,” the efficient voice on the other end answers.

“Childbirth education, please,” I request.

“One moment, sir…”


 

ANASTASIA

This was a busy ass day; I mean busy as fuck! I discover that when Marilyn got to the mansion, Ben greeted her with a check—a pretty big one—for the sale of her Camry. She came running into the house to find me.

“Is this mine?” she said upon locating me with my face in a plate of food.

“I don’t know, what is it?” She showed me the check while I was still chewing a mouthful of toast and eggs. “Well, that’s a company check and my husband’s signature, made out to you, so I would say yes, that’s yours.”

“Good grief,” she breathed, covering her mouth.

“Is something wrong?” I asked.

“Are you kidding me? He sold my ratty car for that much and I get to keep the money and the new car?? What the hell could be wrong?”

With her newfound wealth, she insisted on purchasing her own clothes, and boy did she purchase! She’s big into long pencil skirts and sleek pant suits with short jackets. I would have pegged her more of a short skirt girl, but I was wrong.

After the shopping, I go into Helping Hands to print out our reports for the licensing board and the printer was intent on jamming and eating the damn thing every time I tried to print it. By the fifth time, I’m freaking out and running to Grace’s office with a stack of papers, hoping to put together the pages not mauled by the printer, only to discover that the report is not due until Monday. After nearly losing my mind with a few other projects that I have in the hopper—including Project Country Club—I have to rush off to my appointment with Ace.

We, of course, go over my feelings about Christian making the decision for me that I wouldn’t be doing the interviews and my reaction to it. He’s not very happy with what he calls my passive-aggressive response. According to him, my reaction and subsequent planning are just forms of hiding from this issue and letting my anger come out later in my actions. I tell him that I will take his opinion into consideration, but that I don’t agree. He’s met my husband before and he knows that coming head on at Christian with anything is about as effective as running face first into a steel wall! I made my feelings known and I let it go. Christian is the one that appears to have a hard time with letting go because he said some things to me that he knew he shouldn’t have. We agree to put this one on the shelf as we are clearly not going to come to a common ground with it.

We visited how much of my memory is returning. I remember bits and pieces of just about everything as far as I can tell. People may just start talking about an event and I’ll either recall it immediately, or it just starts playing out in front of my eyes like a movie. The bits and pieces that I have slowly begin to fill in when I’m able to relax my body and mind. I remember asking Christian “You’re going where?” and my memory just started filling in backwards from his trip to Detroit, or Michigan, I should say. I don’t think he ever made it to Detroit—just that town where the prison is located and he discovered that Myrick wasn’t really Myrick. I wonder what’s going on with that situation these days?

Of course, the final order of business is the close friend who has forsaken me. I’ve been wracking my brain trying to figure out why Val isn’t speaking to me. There’s nothing that I can recall that I’ve done to her that could possibly warrant us not speaking anymore. We’re like sisters! Well, we were like sisters, and now she’s not speaking to me? She didn’t even come to Thanksgiving dinner or to the Adopt-A-Family Affair. What could I have said or done that was so horrible the she doesn’t want anything to do with me anymore? After we’ve torn apart the issue as much as we can, we call it a night and I go back to the manor where a masseuse from Miana’s is waiting for me.

During my de-stressing massages that the doctor recommended after a session with Ace, it all comes flooding back to me—Val’s comments about marriage and weddings and mine and Maxie’s rebuttal questions during my birthday weekend and the total downward spiral that followed; feeling completely humiliated when she decimated me in front of everyone later that night; her horrible treatment of me every time we ran into each other thereafter. I remember feeling sad and forlorn wondering why she had treated me that way, but now, I’m just angry. In fact, I’m livid!

I sit in my office going over the pieces of my family tree as I continue to consider the truth of the situation that is Valerie Marshall. I had a life-threatening accident and my life will never totally be the same with this brain injury. If there was anything that would be worthy of wiping the slate clean—of remembering how important someone is to you—I would say that it would be a near-death experience. But, no, she still wants to act like I’ve done something so horrible that she can’t even stand to be in the same room with me. I finally come to the conclusion that everybody is right. There’s nothing missing. I’m not forgetting anything. She just flipped on me for no reason, and I remember deciding that I would stay out of her presence right before I had that accident.

She’s said some horrible things to me with no provocation. And all I’ve tried to do all of this time is avoid confrontation.

Fuck you, then, you bitch!

I’ve known Valerie Marshall to be self-centered and self-absorbed, but never when it came to our relationship. We were college roommates. I even remember her transformation after that asshole roughed her up a bit and broke up with her—hence, our little trip to Green Lake Park. She always had my back and I always had hers, but now out of nowhere, I’m nothing. I’m less than nothing! No problem, Marshall. Eat shit and die!

Well, maybe I don’t feel that strongly, but I feel strongly about this whole thing. She knows damn well that money hasn’t changed me, and as far as security is concerned—and despite my ill-thought-out blowup at Christian, hasn’t this last episode proven that I need protection? Hell, even Chuck couldn’t save me from the crazy ex-sub who T-boned my car, so now what?

I thought it might be that I was having babies, getting married and moving on with my life, but that doesn’t fly either because Maxie is doing the exact same thing. All of the things that she said we used to do that we don’t do anymore; I wouldn’t just stop. She could talk to me about anything and we would have straightened it out, but no, she went all bipolar on me for no reason. Fine, have it your way, Marshall.

“What are you doing?” His voice startles the shit out of me. Christian is standing in the doorway of my office, looking like he, too, had a long day, but not as forlorn as he looked when he left this morning.

“Besides still being confused about Valerie’s behavior, I’m going over the latest hits on my family tree. Apparently, I may have an aunt or two that I didn’t know about. Luckily, Veterans Affairs has no hereditary illnesses on file for my father and even though my mother’s records are limited, there’s nothing significant that I need to worry about with her either. So I think we’re safe with any possible illnesses being passed down to our babies.”

“There’s not much from my adoption besides what I’ve already told you,” he says. “None of my family ever came forth to claim me before the adoption, so I don’t know them and I don’t know anything about them. I haven’t had any health problems besides the emotional issues, and we know where those came from.”

“Well, for the most part, it looks like we’ll be okay as far as bloodlines go,” I say closing the program. “Now we just have to protect them from external factors that could ruin their lives.” I sigh and fold my arms.

“That’s easier said than done,” he says, rubbing my arms. “This is still getting to you, isn’t it?” I look at him, then shake my head.

“It’s the not knowing, Christian,” I lament. “She’s fucking horrible and I don’t even get to know why. She’s always been a huge part of my life—a huge part! She was supposed to be our children’s godmother…”

“Any thoughts for a replacement?” he asks. I shake my head.

“Some small part of me hopes that she’ll come around someday soon. If I choose someone else, I feel like I’m putting the final nail in the coffin—like I’m completely giving up hope and as shitty as she is right now, I just can’t do that yet.” He squeezes my arm.

“I hope you’re right, Butterfly,” he says. “I can see how much this bothers you.” I shrug and shake my head.

“I’m letting it go, Christian,” I tell him. “I said that I was doing it before, I remember that. After looking at things with a fresh eye of someone who had absolutely no clue what happened, and then having the memory of everything rush back to me, I know now that I had nothing to do with this, and I’m letting it go… again.”

“Well, I can’t say that I’m unhappy about this, Butterfly,” he says. “It’s exhausting watching you beat yourself up for something that you didn’t do.”

“Well, fret not, because I won’t be doing it anymore,” I say, shrugging the whole thing off. “Out of curiosity, have you ever thought about looking for your family, Christian? Your biological family?” I ask cautiously. He examines me for a moment.

“Why would I want to do that?” he asks flatly. “They didn’t look for me.”

“Well, I wasn’t expecting a reunion or anything like that. Maybe… just to know where you come from…”

“I know where I come from,” he says cutting me off. “I come from Detroit from a crack whore who committed suicide because she couldn’t face the life she had created. I’m not angry about it anymore. It’s just the reality of the situation. When I was hungry, abused, suffering from malnutrition and dying, nobody came for me. When I sat lost, confused, and lonely with my mother’s dead body for four days, nobody came for me. When an angel named Grace Trevelyan Grey put out a notice that she and her husband Carrick were going to adopt me if no one came forward, nobody came for me. It’s been 27 years and nobody came for me. I don’t need to know who these people are. My family is all right here—my mother and father, my brother and sister, my grandfather and my uncle, and my wife and children. I don’t need to know who those people are.”

He says the entire speech with conviction, but no malice, and I know that he’s absolutely right. He doesn’t need to know who those people are.

“Okay,” I say without pressing the issue.

“That’s it?” he says with a frown.

“That’s it,” I reply. “My only concern would be if someone showed up again claiming to be your brother or sister, like Myrick did. Besides that, if you don’t need to know, I certainly don’t need to know.” I can see the wheels turning is his head.

“I’ll cross that bridge if I ever get to it again,” he says dismissively, and I know that the conversation is over.

*-*

At dinner, Christian announces that his mother has asked for her father-in-law to return to their home. I think everyone is trying to get in what time they can with Pops, most likely because even though no one says it out loud, we all know that he’s dying. The way Christian talks, I believe he thinks he can find Pops a kidney before it’s too late. We all know that Pops won’t take a kidney illegally and the only way for him to move up on the UNOS list is for his condition to deteriorate. Unfortunately, if that happens, he won’t last long enough to get the kidney. In fact, he’s confided in me that his doctor says that he may not even survive the surgery.

Luckily for me, in the two semi-sessions that we’ve had in secret, he doesn’t talk about dying. He talks about living—about his children and his late wife; the vacations they’ve taken and the good times they’ve had; watching his grandchildren grow and meeting the grandchildren that he didn’t know that he had; hoping that he’s around to see his great-grandchildren make their appearance and how happy he is that he and Herman came to Seattle. His dignity therapy has nothing to do with coming to grips with his death and everything to do with appreciating his life. He has no regrets and he intends to spend his last days surrounded by love and happiness. You can’t ask for more than that.

Christian has vowed to make more trips to his parents’ house to see his grandfather more often. I’m certain that he knows Pops is in his last days. I’m just not as certain that he has accepted it.

“I registered us for Lamaze classes at Seattle Gen today,” he says while I’m wrapped in his arms later that night.

“You did?” I ask. I’m surprised. I had thought about it, but I didn’t think he would do it. Other people will be there and Mr. Grey doesn’t play well with others.

“It’s coming close to the day. I just… thought it would be a good idea. I’m sorry I didn’t ask you first. I hope you don’t mind.” I smile as I cuddle into his arms.

“I think it’s very sweet,” I tell him. “I would have done it myself, but I didn’t know how you would feel about it. Thank you. I’m really looking forward to going. When is our first class?”

“Monday night,” he says. “It’s the least crowded, so it was the one that was easiest to get into on such short notice without having to name drop—although when I signed up, I ended up name-dropping anyway,” he laughs.

“Well, we gotta do what we gotta do,” I say with a yawn.

“Yes, Mrs. Grey, and right now, you and my children gotta sleep.”

No problem at all, Mr. Grey, I think to myself as I drift off to sleep.

*-*

Apparently, Grace has made it pretty clear that she plans to reclaim her beloved father-in-law today. Pops loves the attention and it feeds right into his celebrate life mantra. Luma is here bright and early to help him and Uncle Herman get packed. I wonder if Christian is aware that Luma has a thing for his uncle? The jury is still out on whether or not the feeling is mutual. I’m in my office when I hear the two-way communication system come to life.

“Yes?” I say into the intercom.

“Anah, con you meet meh at de aquatium?” It’s Keri, and she doesn’t sound good.

“Which one?” I ask.

“Atlantis.” Definitely doesn’t sound good.

“I’m on my way.” Is something wrong with Chuck? She sounds close to tears. I make my way to the entertainment room and she’s standing there fully dressed, coat and all. She walks out to the covered lounge when she sees me and I follow her. She is obviously upset. I noticed that over the last few days, she had been a little distant from Chuck—not cold, just a bit distant. Has something happened?

“Keri, what is it? What’s wrong? Are you okay?” I ask as I walk over to her. She’s sitting on the sofa now and when I get closer to her, I can clearly see that she’s been crying.

“Keri, what is it? What’s wrong?” She wipes her eyes and looks up at me.

“Ah’m leaving, Anah,” she says through her tears. “Ah’m gwine back to Anguilla.”

“Why?” I ask in horror. “Has something happened at home?” She shakes her head.

“No. No. Eet’s Chatlez.” And her accent is much heavier. She must be very upset.

“Did you guys have a fight?” I ask. She shakes her head again.

“No, weh don fight,” she says. “Him won’t take de medicine… an him hutting. I can’t stand it anymoah.” She starts to weep again.

“Have you told him how this makes you feel, Sweetie?” She nods just as Chuck wheels himself onto the covered lounge.

“Him tell de doctah yestadey dat him tek de medicine!” She’s talking really fast, now. “Him not tek de medicine! Him tek nutting! Him groan and moan all night and him tek nutting! I tell him, ‘Chatlez, you hutt, take de medicine.’ I cty, ‘Chatlez, tek de medicine!’ Him tek nutting!” Hot tears burn a trek down her cheek as Chatlez rolls over to us.

“There you are,” he says to Keri, before he gets to us. “Your things are packed. You’re leaving?” He rolls around to Keri and looks at her face. “What’s wrong?” She weeps harder.

“I con’t tek it anymoah, Chatlez!” she weeps. “I con’t watch you die!” Chuck looks like someone hit him.

“What are you talking about? I’m not dying, Keri…”

“Dat’s watt it f-feels like! In heeyah!” She bangs on her chest to show the pain in her heart. “I con’t tek it! I con’t see you suffah anymoah! I don wan to leave you but I con’t tek it! I con’t w-watch! I go back to Anguilla! I ptay foh you! I ptay foh you ev’y night, Chatlez, until you get well!” She covers her face sobbing.

“You were just going to leave?” he asks in disbelief, his voice sounding like a broken child. “Without telling me? Without saying goodbye?” Keri doesn’t answer. She just continues to sob into her hands. “Don’t go, Keri,” he says softly, but there’s still no response. Chuck locks the wheels on his wheelchair and swings himself onto the sofa next to her, pain etched into his face—both physical and emotional.

“You don cayah!” she wails. “I cty an I beg an you don cayah! Ev’yboty tell you, ‘tek de medicine!’ Yoh doctah tell you ‘tek de medicine!’ Yoh ftiends tell you ‘tek de medicine!’ Yoh sponsah tell you ‘tek de medicine!’ I tell you ‘tek de medicine!’ I cty an beg ‘Chatlez, please tek de medicine,’ an you don cayah!”

Finally! This has to do it. If this doesn’t do it, nothing else will.

“Please, Baby… please, don’t go,” he beseeches her, trying to move her hands from her face.

“Noh!” She fights his attempts to grasp her hands. “I con’t watch dis! I con’t watch! Me dead out, doods! Ah eh able!” Okay… um… okay.

“Please, Keri…” He gently pries her hands from her face while she continues to cry. “Please…”

She stops for a moment, just enough to look up at him, then she sobs again—deep, painful sobs from her soul.

“Me dead out, choonks,” she cries. “Me dead out!”

“Sssshh,” he soothes, wrapping his arms around her and allowing her to cry into his shoulder. “I’ll take the medicine, baby,” he promises. “I’ll take it. The pain was getting to be too much anyway, but this…” He rubs her back gently. “I’ll take the medicine, Keri.” She weeps in his arms and I’m tempted to leave as this is a private moment now, not to mention the fact that I’m fucking freezing because I didn’t bring a coat. I’m wearing a long cable-knit sweater with leggings and booties, but it’s not warm enough to keep this cold out.

Just as I’m thanking my lucky stars that Christian doesn’t know I’m out here like this, he, Gail, and Jason all come out of the sliding doors. Jason stands in Chuck’s line of sight and hands him the bottle of pills. I can’t see his face, but I see that he’s still hesitant to take them. He says something to Jason, who opens the bottle and pours one pill into the cap. Chuck takes the pill and puts it into his mouth, swallowing it quickly. They’re only ibuprofen, Chuck. The most they’ll give you is a stomach ache!

“I took it, Keri,” he says. She pulls her face up to look at him. She looks over at Jason—surprised to see him standing there, much less holding the bottle of medicine. He nods to her and she turns back to Chuck. “I’ll take them when I’m hurting, I promise. I won’t put you through this anymore… please, don’t go…”

His face is wet and I at first I don’t know if the tears are his or Keri’s until I see his eyes—glassy and pink. I’ve never seen Chuck cry before. Keri takes his face in her hands.

“Don put yuh tru dis, choonks,” she says with a shaky voice. “No moah! No moah!” Chuck shakes his head.

“No more,” he says, just above a whisper. “No more.” She brings his face to hers and kisses him deeply just as Christian brings my large wool coat over to me and wraps it around my shoulders. God, the warmth is so welcome. I was so cold. Chuck and Keri have forgotten that they have and audience and Chuck pulls her closer to him, sinking into the kiss, then wincing dramatically in pain.

“Choonks!” Keri exclaims, then I realize that “choonks” is either some variation of his name or something that she calls him.

“I took the medicine, Keri,” he says quickly, sitting back on the sofa in obvious pain. “I took the pill.”

“Okay, okay,” she says, nodding feverishly and gently rubbing his chest.

“Please… don’t leave…” He’s trying to breathe through the pain.

“Me no go, choonks,” she says, kissing him sweetly on his cheeks. “Ah no go.”

“Come on, Chuck, let’s get you inside.” Jason comes around to the front of the sofa. “Can you put your arm around my neck?” Chuck nods and sits up a bit, putting his arm around Jason’s neck. “On three, okay? One, two, three…” Chuck winces terribly as Jason helps him rise from the sofa and helps him back into the wheelchair. I always wondered how they convinced him to use a wheelchair instead of crutches and I’m only just realizing that crutches require upper body strength that he doesn’t have right now.

Jason gestures for Gail to walk with a very concerned Keri while he wheels Chuck inside. Christian keeps me back for a moment. When they have cleared the door, he moves to the front of me. His gray eyes are sharp—not piercing, but brooding—and he looks taller than nor… oh shit!

“You and I will have words about you being out here without a coat, Mrs. Grey.” Uh-oh…

“I didn’t do it on purpose,” I reply. What happened to my voice? “Keri was going to leave without telling him. He would have been devastated. I followed her out here. I just… it just slipped my mind. I didn’t do it on purpose.”

“We’re going inside, now, Anastasia,” he says, unmoved. “I’m going to get you some soup and some tea to warm you up and hope you don’t get sick. There’s not much that you would be able to take if you caught a cold, or worse yet, pneumonia. There are still a lot of questions about the safety of antibiotics during pregnancy and…” He closes his eyes and steeples his hands over his mouth. I can tell that he’s counting. Mr. Grey is not pleased with me one bit, and it’s probably best if I just keep quiet for now.

He takes a deep breath and drops his hands before opening his eyes. Now, they’re piercing.

“Mrs. Grey.” That’s all he says as he holds his hand towards the doors in an “after you” gesture. I close my coat around me and walk inside. Why did it suddenly get colder again?


 

CHRISTIAN

“Boss, there’s a bit of a crisis down here,” Jason says when I answer my cell.

“What’s up?” I ask concerned.

“It looks like Keri is about to fly the coop.” Fly the coop? Does he mean…?

“You mean like getting the hell away from Charles for a day or fly the coop completely, like go back to Anguilla?”

“I mean her shit is packed and Chuck has been rolling around looking for her. Gail found her on the back patio by the aquarium. Ana’s out there now and it looks like she’s trying to talk Keri back from the cliff.” Oh shit. If the pain doesn’t drive him to drink, Keri’s untimely departure sure fucking will. We’ve all got to do whatever we can to convince her not to leave or this is going to be disastrous.

“I’m on my way,” I say walking towards the nearest staircase.

“Boss, bring a coat for Ana.” I frown. I thought he said she was already outside.

“What?”

“Ana needs a coat. She’s outside without a coat!” She’s WHAT!?

“Okay,” I say and end the call before I burst into a tirade of profanity in Jason’s ear. She’s eight months pregnant outside in the freezing fucking cold with no goddamn coat? What in God’s name is the matter with her? Does she want to catch fucking pneumonia? What in the hell is she thinking?

The entire time I’m cursing out loud at no one, I’m moving to the front of the house to the main door to get her coat and mine, then to the back of the house and to the lower level to the French doors by the aquarium. I must have moved with the speed of Mercury as Jason looks at me strangely when I get down there.

“What did you do, teleport?” he asks, frowning.

“How long have they been out there?” I ask.

“Not long,” Gail says, “Just a couple of minutes, maybe.” She’s standing there shivering. She should be! It’s fucking freezing.

“It’s about this,” Jason says, holding Charles’ prescription. “I know it is. It has to be.” I shake my head and lead the charge out to the patio. Ana looks at me just as the three of us walk out. First, I see alarm, then relief evident on her face. Don’t relax just yet, Mrs. Grey. Keri sounds like she’s speaking some other language completely as Jason gives Charles one of his pills. It’s about goddamn time! You’ve got my pregnant wife out here in the fucking freezing cold trying to keep your girl from leaving your stupid ass… I break the mental tirade as I wrap Ana’s coat around her. She obviously welcomes the warmth.

Keri and Charles share tender moments just before his face folds in excruciating pain. Serves you right, you dumb fuck. Jason helps him back into the wheelchair and takes him into the house while Gail and a distraught Keri walk behind them. I capture Mrs. Grey before she gets away. She tries to explain that she didn’t purposely come outside without a coat, but I’m hearing none of that. I try to explain to her how badly she put herself and the babies at risk, but I’m filled with so much fury that I can’t form my words fast enough. It’s not the kind of fury that makes you want to break something; it’s that concentrated frustration you feel when you can’t say what you mean and you can’t do something about the situation at this very moment.

I can do nothing but shut up and count, but the longer I count, the longer we’re still out here in the fucking cold. For the first time, I know how it feels to really want to punish a petulant child, but you can’t really do it for a lot of reasons—the first is obviously the well-being of the child. So I gesture to the door to get the “child” out of the damn cold and focus on warming her from the inside out.

The short elevator ride to the main floor is silent, and I lead her by her hand to the island in the kitchen.

“Ms. Solomon, is there any of Mrs. Taylor’s chicken soup available?” I ask as I remove Ana’s coat.

“It’ll take a few minutes, but yes sir,” she answers.

“Christian, I’m really not hungry,” Ana protests. I throw a glance at her that silences her quickly. Ms. Solomon looks between the two of us and quickly assesses the situation.

“If I may, as a compromise, may I suggest chicken and saffron consommé with tortellini? It’s a nice warm bowl of chicken consommé with a few tortellini noodles, not a lot, and sprinkled with a spray of saffron.” Ana looks up at me as if asking for permission.

“How long?” I ask.

“Five minutes,” Ms. Solomon says. I nod and she proceeds to prepare the consommé. Ana has taken a seat at the breakfast bar. She starts fidgeting with her fingers, paying closer attention to her nails than she ever has. I don’t care if she pouts from now until Christmas! I’m so displeased with her right now that I don’t quite know what to do with myself. She starts rubbing her hands together and that only fuels my displeasure and I can tell that she’s still cold.

“And you thought it was a good idea to stand outside with no coat,” I chide quietly.

“That’s not why I’m cold,” she says, glancing over at me. I’m not moved.

“How do you know?” I retort. I’ll have none of your smart mouth, Mrs. Grey. You were wrong.

A few minutes later, Ms. Solomon turns around and hands her a large mug with a delicious smell wafting from it and cinnamon sticks in it. To Ana’s questioning eyes, she informs her that it’s ginger tea with lemon, honey, and a hint of cinnamon. Ana sips the tea, then curls her hands around the mug. I almost feel the warmth flowing through her bones. She now concentrates on the cup of ginger tea, not raising her eyes at all.

“Can I get you something, Mr. Grey?” Ms. Solomon says. I shake my head.

“Thank you. No. I’m more concerned about Mrs. Grey right now.” Ms. Solomon nods and turns to finish the chicken consommé. Ana still doesn’t raise her head. Normally, I’d try to coax her to talk, but right now she can be as contemplative as she wants. I’m working on dealing with my displeasure that she could be so irresponsible. Ms. Solomon sets a dish of consommé in front of her that looks so delicious, I decide that I would like a bowl myself. I sit and watch her drink her consommé and her ginger tea without a word. While we’re eating, Keri walks into the kitchen looking exhausted. Now Ana raises her eyes.

“He’s asleep,” she says. “The pehn was so bahd, him go right teh sleep aftah de meds kick in.” She goes right to the refrigerator and takes out the orange juice.

“You said he had a doctor’s appointment yesterday?” Ana asks. Oh, aren’t you just the chatty one all of a sudden. Keri nods.

“Him tell de doctah he take de meds. Him not take de meds at all! De doctah want to know why him lungs sound so bahd. Doctah refill his pehsciption for meds him not even tekin!” Her hands are flailing in the air and she’s very passionate.”Ev’yboty tell him take de meds. Ev-y-bo-ty tell him take-de-meds! Noh! Him noh! Noh! Noh take de meds!” Okay, now she’s very angry because this is the choppiest I’ve ever heard her speak.

“Well, what did the doctor say?” Ana says, sipping her tea and not making eye contact with me.

“Him lungs shood be fine!” she declares, taking a glass from the cabinet and filling it with orange juice. “Him ribs tek long time, but him lungs shood be sttong!” Oh yeah, she’s angry. “Doctah say, ‘you shood be doin’ bettah. Are you sttessed?’ Him sttessed cuz him hutting all de time!” She takes huge gulps of her orange juice.

“So he’s asleep now?” I ask.

“Like bebbie!” she says, clapping her hands on the word. “Him not sleep dis hahd since he leave de ‘ospital!” I think she’s particularly angry that he allowed him to suffer this long. She sits at the breakfast bar next to Ana and drops her head on her arms on the counter. She begins to weep again. Ana has finished her consommé and abandons the small amount of ginger tea remaining to tend to the weeping Keri. While I sympathize with how Keri feels, I’m more concerned with Ana, who at this moment will turn her attention anywhere but to me. I take this moment to steal away from the kitchen and leave her to tend to Keri.

I’m not as furious as I was before with her lack of concern for the babies or sense of self-preservation. She can’t do that again. She can’t be so careless or flippant about her health. I’m in the gym before I know it, changing into shorts and sneakers to work off the residual frustration. I know that she cares about our babies. I know that she wants to be around to take care of them. I know that this is not the worst thing that she could have done, but the way that she’s acting—it’s like she doesn’t know how serious it was for her to be standing outside in the freezing cold with no coat. Hell, Jason is the one that called me and told me to bring her a fucking coat. It wasn’t just me!

I’m pounding on that treadmill for I don’t know how long, perturbed that she’s acting all bruised because I wanted her to eat some soup to warm up before the cold set in. I stop running and let the sweat just run down my face for a minute. She can have her little moody moment of petulance, but she’s going to know just how serious what she did really was and how badly it could have ended. I’m not being unreasonable and I know I’m not, but she’s not even slightly repentant for standing in the brittle Seattle winter air with no coat—eight months pregnant with twins! She was repentant outside, letting me know that she didn’t do it on purpose, but when I got her inside, wanting to get something warm inside of her, she starts acting all bruised like I was berating and mistreating her. It almost infuriates me all over again, but no. That’s going to get me nowhere and it’s certainly not going to drive my point home. She can’t be this careless and that’s that; no ifs, ands, or buts about it. I go to the showers to steam and wash off what’s left of this frustration so that I can get my grandfather delivered back to my mother’s house before she sends the militia over here to get him. I will deal with the defiant Mrs. Grey later.


 

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

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

Love and handcuffs!
Lynn x

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I’m Sorry, But There Will Be No Chapter This Week

First of all, allow me to thank everyone that participated in the Open Discussion. It was very educational and I truly enjoyed it. I learned a lot talking to all of you and it was fun interacting with everyone (including CG and Ana). Please feel free to continue the discussion on that thread.

Unfortunately, there will not be a chapter this week because there is quite a bit going on in BG’s World and I have to handle a few things. So, Ana and Christian will be back at you next week for more of the relationship that you love… and love to hate.

Love and Handcuffs!
Lynn X

CG is not happy… (Open Discussion)

logolistener_lead

YOU MIGHT WANT TO READ CHAPTER 28 BEFORE YOU READ THIS OR PARTICIPATE.

So, I know y’all gone think I’m crazy (and yes, I know that’s not proper English), but I told you that these people were alive and well and living in my head. Once I started to read the comments and they went from “Wow, that was really interesting” to “Ana’s a drama-loving, combative, defensive, etc., etc.,” Ana and Christian have now planted themselves on either shoulder screaming in my ear “What the hell, BG?” So, I’m like “Wait, wait, calm down, don’t get upset…”

Now Ana’s standing there with her arms crossed over her baby bump, tapping her stiletto-clad foot on my shoulder blade impatiently asking “Where did she get that from?” “When did I say that?” “What the hell brought that on?” Christian, on the other hand, is leaning on my head with his feet crossed at the ankles, bending down and whispering in my ear, “You’re going to fix this, right?”

On the third hand, I’m looking left to right at both of them expecting me to make everything rainbows again like, “Dude, people have opinions. I may not agree with them, but they’re still opinions–what am I supposed to be making right?”

So, while I’m sitting here trying to figure out what these two want me to do, Christian (yes, Christian) came up with a very logical question:

jamie-dornan-fifty-shades-of-grey-set-101314-1-640x426CG: Every time my wife and I have a difference of opinion, does that mean that it is necessary for people to pick sides?  Does there ALWAYS have to be a “right” person and a “wrong” person, or can there just be a disagreement? When Ana and I don’t see eye-to-eye, it’s either Ana’s wrong and I’m right, or Ana’s right and I’m wrong. There’s never just “Hey, they don’t agree.” 

Even when we were arguing with my family, we stood together against something that we didn’t want. There was chapter after chapter after chapter–day after day after day–of family love, unity, overcoming obstacles, breakthroughs, hot sex, human concern for friends and family… and then we get one chapter–ONE CHAPTER–of a disagreement between me and Ana and all of a sudden, my wife is drama-loving and hormonal and crabby and defensive and bitchy and… SERIOUSLY? SERIOUSLY?  

So I guess what I need is for someone to explain to me how real couples fight so that the husband is not always accused of being insensitive or inconsiderate when the masses don’t agree with him and the wife is not always being accused of being a hormonal, selfish drama queen who doesn’t care about her husband’s feelings or responsibilities when the masses don’t agree with her.

 There are some times when Ana is really wrong. You all have seen them. There are some times when I am really wrong. God knows, you all have seen them. This is one of those times where we just didn’t see eye-to-eye. Our opinions didn’t match. It happens in real life–or at least I THOUGHT it did. Maybe that’s where I need someone to explain this to me, because you guys know that I’m new at this whole relationship thing.  So please, make me understand why one of us is right and one of us is wrong when all we did was disagree. I really need someone to explain that to me.

ANA: And I would like to know how I became the crabby, hormonal, disagreeable, drama-loving bitch when all I did was walk away!

BG: (in a scolding tone) Ana…

ANA: No! I deserve to know! When my husband said that he didn’t want me to do the interviews, I went to my corner. Yes, I pouted, because I wasn’t happy that he didn’t consult me about it–but I didn’t berate him, I didn’t nag him, I didn’t say another word about it. I took his decision as final and I went on with what I had to do. Yet, because I wasn’t doing cartwheels and throwing parties because of his decision, I became the bad guy and I want to know where that logic comes from! 

BG: (twisting my lips in contemplation) Fair enough. I can’t argue with that. 

And there you have it. Christian and Ana both have logical questions about why my readers felt the way they felt about their behavior…

Ana: And none of that “Ana is always…” or “Christian is always…” bullshit! That shit drives me nuts when I see it!

BG: (horrified) Oh, good God, Ana!

CG: No, she’s right. That drives me apeshit, too. If you can’t explain your point of view without that “generality” shit, save it. Feel free to use specific examples to allow us or someone else to rebut, but those blanket comments about my actions or Ana’s behavior… no. Unacceptable. 

BG: (now folding my arms and tapping my toes impatiently) Any other rules? 

Ana: Just the usual–don’t insult me or my husband. 

BG:(rolling my eyes) May I continue now? 

CG: Be our guest.

(After a long sigh…)

So Her Highness and the Master of the Universe have spoken. The floor is yours. Open discussion below, and I will take part.

 

For the record, I was about to go to bed. I read a few comments and decided on an open discussion. The introduction into the open discussion was supposed to be a paragraph of about three sentences when THOSE TWO PEOPLE UP THERE hijacked the post. When I tell you that they are alive and well and living in my head, you might want to believe me. 

Love and Handcuffs!
Lynn AKA BG

Becoming Dr. Grey: Chapter 28—Difference of Opinion

Val’s story is important to me. I will reveal what’s going on with her when I’m ready and not a moment sooner. That is all.

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

Apples and RocksChapter 28—Difference of Opinion

CHRISTIAN

“Excuse me? They want what?” I haven’t even had a chance to open my computer completely when Elva McIntyre from Public Relations calls to drop a bombshell first thing Thursday morning.

“Exclusives. All of them. They all want to be the first to interview Ana since the accident and to put her face on the covers of their magazine or their television shows. We won’t even get into the ones that claimed they’ve already contacted Ana for radio spots.”

“No, by all means, get into them,” I protest.

“KIRO Radio claims to have contacted her. KKNW Higher Wellness Radio is chomping at the bit to talk to her—even if it’s only for a few minutes. I have no idea what KTTH wants with her. They’re a conservative station and I can only assume they just want a bit of the publicity. Her accident couldn’t possibly be conducive to their goals.”

“But if they have an agenda to push, she would be prime for it on a live show.”

“What agenda could they possibly want to push?” McIntyre asks. “The woman just came out of a coma where she almost lost her life.”

“Yes, and she’s married to one of the richest men in America who could very well be involved in some controversial things. What better way to get to me than through her? She’s also assistant director of a charity known to house, shelter, and assist battered women to get away from their abusive husbands. Religious fanatics are just waiting to take a bite out of her for ‘breaking up marriages’ instead of finding ways to ‘help’ the husbands while keeping the families together.”

“Don’t you think you might be reaching a bit here, Mr. Grey?” she asks. “New Day Northwest wants her, too. You know they pride themselves on good entertainment and human interest pieces.”

“I think it’s a bad idea,” I tell her. “You say that I’m reaching, but someone is always out to get me and you know they are. Ana is a target just because she’s married to me. Look what landed her in that hospital bed in the first place.”

“Sir, at the risk of overstepping, you can’t expect her to live her life waiting for the Boogeyman to pop out of every corner. Quite frankly, you shouldn’t either. She’s a natural with the cameras, you’ve seen it yourself. She knows how to handle herself. The decision is ultimately up to you. I’m not trying to convince you to let her do the interviews. I’m just saying…”

“Yes, and I’ve made that decision. This is a bad idea and I’m going to discuss this issue with Anastasia.” The line is quiet for a moment.

“Very well, sir. Would you like for me to release some kind of statement to the ‘suitors’ to inform them that Mrs. Grey won’t be appearing on their shows?”

“Prepare something, but hold it until I speak to my wife.”

“Yes, sir, I’ll get right on it.” I end the call. Why wouldn’t Ana tell me that she was being courted by the press? Had she intended on doing the interviews without telling me? I won’t jump to any conclusions. I dial her cell number.

“Hi. It’s pretty early for you to be calling. Is everything okay?” she asks when she answers.

“Yes, everything’s fine. Are you busy?”

“Just looking over some things. I was going to call you and ask you about the building where my office is. What were you going to do with it now that I’ve closed my practice?”

“That building is yours,” I tell her. “It has been ever since we were married. It’s part of the contract when we renegotiated your rent earlier this year.”

“Renegotiated my eye,” she laughs. “You sent Marilyn to Montana with a never-ending free lease. I thought Brettenton was trying to pull the wool over my eyes. How did a lease turn into ownership and I not know it?

“Did you look at the lease?” I ask.

“I didn’t have to,” she says. “Al showed up with Marilyn and I asked him to look over it for issues or discrepancies. That’s when he told me who owned Brettenton and the deal with the lease.”

“There were apparently parts of the lease that he failed to share with you,” I caution.

“Well, yes, but you were my fiancé and he works for you. I didn’t think there was cause for concern… was there?” she asks uncertainly.

“The fact that you had to ask that question means that you should have been more careful before you signed the lease.”

“I never signed the lease,” she corrects me. “First of all, it was for 100 years. I didn’t know what that was about, so no way in hell I’m signing that. Second, I discover that my fiancé owns the building and has now declared my location a rent-free zone. Isn’t the lease a bit redundant at that point? Did you have intentions of suing me for failure to pay?” And now I’m confusing her, which is not my intention.

“Of course not,” I say matter-of-factly. “Forget that whole conversation. It was completely unnecessary. What the lease actually said was that you didn’t have to pay rent for the suite and that in the event of our marriage, the building would be gifted to you. If we didn’t get married, I would sell it to you for a dollar.” I can imagine her frowning.

“A dollar? That’s odd, don’t you think? Why not just gift it to me either way?”

“Because, as my wife, I can gift you anything I want. Not so if we’re not married. There has to be some kind of consideration for it, even if it’s just a dollar.”

“And that’s why you’re the businessman,” she says. “So, to what do I owe this call? I know you had a reason for it before I ambushed you with questions about the building.”

“Yes, I did, actually. I’ve just been informed that some of the local networks, radio shows and such have been trying to get you to agree to appear on their shows and publications. Do you know anything about that?”

“Well, I know about a few radio shows, but I had no idea about any publications or television shows or anything.”

“That would be because they took the proper steps and notified GEH’s publicity department. That’s usually how these things are handled when they’re legit. So, some of the radio shows did attempt to contact you?”

“Yes, they’ve contacted me by email from the old information on the Network Therapy website. I haven’t responded to anybody because I haven’t had any time and I haven’t had a chance to talk to you about it yet.”

“Well, since you’ve closed your practice, why not just remove the information from Network Therapy?” I ask. “We live a more exclusive life, Ana. It might be dangerous to have your information out there that way.”

“Hm.” That’s all she says.

“What?” I know there’s something behind it.

“You called me Ana. What’s the issue?” Shit. Again with the transparency.

“I don’t want you to take this the wrong way, but I would have liked to have known the moment people were seeking you out for interviews.”

“I don’t see a problem with the situation,” she retorts. “I haven’t responded to anybody. I didn’t tell anybody I was doing anything. I haven’t even made a decision yet.”

“Made a decision?” I ask, slightly horrified. “Are you honestly considering talking to these people?”

“I talk to the press all the time, Christian—since before we got married. I don’t see what the problem is.”

“The problem is that in a live interview, they can ask you anything they want and you don’t have the luxury of being able to escape. They can decimate you and then sit there and watch while you squirm in the seat.” The line goes quiet.

“When have I ever embarrassed myself with the press?” she asks defiantly. “When have I ever had a slip of the tongue or did anything unprofessional, even when they attacked me about being a gold digger or tried to find out the sex of the babies? Even when I was horribly deformed and bruised after Harris beat me and they shoved cameras in my face outside of the shopping center, did I once—once—every lose my cool?” Maybe not, but you’re losing it now.

“I’m not trying to upset you,” I say, attempting to diffuse the situation. “I’m just saying that live interviews are a bit different than someone shoving a mic in your face on the street. Remember the press conference after the trip to Anguilla?”

“Yes, I do,” she answers quickly. “And I should be asking you that question, or did you forget that I handled myself well that time, too, when that vicious Prada-clad blonde tried to make it appear that I couldn’t buy my own labels if I wanted them? I was living in a condo at the time that she couldn’t afford if they doubled her salary. Yet, she tried to make it look like I couldn’t be fashionable without you. If I remember correctly, she became my first sacrificial lamb.” She does have a point. That was not a good example.

“I’m only trying to impress upon you the importance of realizing that a sit-down interview in front of a microphone with a time slot to fill is a bit different than the impromptu interviews you’ve been doing so far. For the most part, you control the length and the content of the impromptu interviews that you’ve done. It’s not the same on television and even on the radio. You can’t just get up and walk away.”

“But I can refuse to answer a question that I feel is too intrusive or inappropriate,” she argues. “I know who I am and I know not to put my foot in my mouth.” I can’t believe we’re actually having this conversation. Ana can’t be this naive that she doesn’t know that the media is full of predators and she’s ripe for the picking. One way or another, I’m squashing this idea before it goes any further.

“In your current condition and in light of recent events, I don’t think it’s wise for you to do any interviews. Anything that they would want to do or ask would have to be screened by GEH anyway and they usually don’t like their hands tied in terms of what they are allowed to say. I don’t want to see you upset or hurt. It’s just not worth the trouble.” The line gets quiet again, and it stays quiet for quite some time. Did she hang up. “Ana?”

“Fine,” she says flatly. “I won’t do any interviews.” I pause for a moment. She’s pissed.

“I just think we should let PR handle our statements from here on out,” I respond. “That is their job, after all.”

“I said I won’t do any interviews, Christian. Anything else?” Is she dismissing me?

“Am I keeping you from something?” The line is quiet again and then I hear typing.

“As a matter of fact, yes,” she says, her voice sharp and professional. “I have two abused wives that need counseling this afternoon. I also have a meeting with someone from the Department of Early Learning to help me better understand the Washington Administrative Code as it applies to the Center’s licensing requirements to operate as a daycare center and preschool. Before that, I have a meeting with the planning committee to solidify our proposal and outline of the educational services that we would like to provide. This wasn’t required for the GED prep classes or for tutoring, but it will be required if we hope to obtain any accreditation. I was going over my bullet points and making sure that all of my information was intact when you called to inform me of your displeasure with the idea of doing any interviews, which I have already agreed not to do.”

I am now talking to Dr. Steele—wasn’t really fond of her when I first met her and don’t really care for her when she makes an appearance like this.

“Very well, Anastasia. I won’t keep you any longer.” I emphasize her name to drive home the formality she has chosen to use with the call. It has no effect whatsoever.

“Excellent. Have a nice day!” she says in the syrupiest sweet voice she can muster before ceremoniously ending the call.

And there you have it. The saying goes, “Happy wife, happy life,” and my wife is definitely not happy. I don’t know how to make her understand that any situation can become a time bomb. I’m not just being paranoid. I’ve seen it before and I don’t want to see it happen to her. I better wait before I tell McIntyre to release that statement to the interview hopefuls. She’ll think I had killed the idea before I even spoke to her about it.

She didn’t call me for the rest of the day. There has been more than one occasion when she didn’t call all day, but for some reason, today’s silence was louder than usual. I didn’t get any calls that anything was wrong, so when the day is over, I just close up shop and go home. When Jason and I arrive at the gate, there is a black Lincoln MKS attempting to gain access. Jason calls the booth and gets Williams.

“What’s going on… Oh… Okay, hold one sec…” He turns around to me. “It’s Mr. Wilson. He says that he wants to speak to you if that’s okay.” Fred… he’s a friend of the family, so of course I’ll speak to him. He probably wants to talk about that inappropriate granddaughter of his.

“Absolutely. Allow him in. Is Ana here?” Jason asks Williams.

“Not yet, sir.”

“Call Lawrence and find out if they’re on their way or still at the Center.” Jason nods and informs Williams to let him in and follow guest protocol. Both vehicles drive up the driveway and we pull up behind Fred’s Lincoln.

“They’re about ten minutes out, sir,” Jason says and I nod. He drops me at the portico behind Fred’s car and Windsor comes out of the front door and opens the passenger side doors. Fred’s wife, Adelaide, steps out of the front seat and none other than Fred’s overheated granddaughter steps out from the back. She’s completely unrecognizable from the Vegas call girl wannabe I saw on Saturday night. Dressed in respectable jeans and boots and a parka, she almost looks like a teenager—not the unscrupulous harlot that came on to my wife while I was sitting there watching. I walk right past her to Adelaide.

“Adelaide,” I say, taking her hand and kissing it gently. “You’re looking beautiful as ever.”

“Always the charmer, Christian,” she says, with mirth. “I had the chance to speak with Grace and Carrick at the Affair on Saturday, but I didn’t get the opportunity to talk to you and Anastasia. Please forgive me.”

“No apologies necessary,” I respond with a smile. “I think we were all a bit… distracted on Saturday night.”

“Indeed,” she says with a knowing wink. “Is Anastasia here?”

“Not yet, but she’ll be here momentarily. Please, come inside.” I gesture to the door and usher her inside along with her deplorable granddaughter. Fred stops at the door and shakes my hand.

“I apologize for the unannounced intrusion, Christian,” he says.

“Nonsense. You’re old friends. You’re always welcome,” I gesture inside. Windsor takes everyone’s coat and I lead the Wilsons to the formal living room.

“May I offer anyone something to drink?” Windsor asks. “Coffee or tea? Soft drinks?” We all opt for coffee except for Courtney, who asks for water. We chat a bit about everything and nothing while we wait for Butterfly and the refreshments.

“As I mentioned during our talk, Christian,” Fred begins, “I can’t dictate my granddaughter’s tastes and preferences, but I won’t stand for insolence.”

“I was horrified when I heard,” Adelaide adds. “I realize that Anastasia is a grown, attractive woman. However, I can imagine that the situation made her very uncomfortable.”

“Yes, it was a bit disarming,” I admit without making eye contact with the little wretch, not that I could anyway. She hasn’t raised her head the entire time she’s been here and the only time she’s spoken was to ask for water. “Ana was not at all pleased with the advances and was even a bit embarrassed in front of her best friend.”

“I don’t see why. He’s gay, too,” Courtney mumbles. Now I turn my gaze to her.

“What did you just say?” Fred asks her.

“Nothing, Grandfather,” she says, chastised, but that’s not enough for me.

“You’re right,” I say in a tone that makes her raise her eyes to me. “Her best friend is gay—a gay man, in fact. He found what you did very distasteful as well. Because my wife is an obviously straight woman and was in a public place—a red carpet event where the guest list is highly scrutinized—the last thing she expected was to be ogled by someone of the same sex parading back and forth past our table in a ridiculous costume. Finding yourself in such a position is quite uncomfortable and very embarrassing, especially when you are least expecting it. So yes, my wife with whom I am very much in love and of whom I am extremely possessive was highly embarrassed in front of her gay best friend and her husband by your inappropriate behavior! Any questions?” I’m doing my best not to hiss at this little trick. The fact that she is a woman does not excuse what she did and does not make her any less of a predator and a competitor as far as I’m concerned.

“Way to get off on the best foot, Courtney,” Fred scolds.

“Oh, no, she ruined that opportunity on Saturday night,” I shoot, glaring at her. “I apologize, Fred, Adelaide. When it comes to my lovely wife, I have no filter,” I tell them.

“No apologies needed,” Fred says. “I couldn’t have said it better myself. There’s nothing like snatching away a trust fund and threatening to send you back home to your parents to make someone act like they have some sense. I brought her here so that she could become cultured, not so that she could act like an uncouth dog in heat!”

It’s clear to see that Fred is having a problem with his granddaughter’s homosexuality. I couldn’t care one way or the other. Man or woman, gay or straight, young or old—if you come on to my wife, you are the enemy. “I can’t choose who she loves, especially with these kids nowadays, but I won’t have her disrespecting the wife of one of our dearest friends and think that it’s going to go unpunished.”

Just as he finishes his statement, I hear Butterfly enter the house. She walks into the grand entry looking a bit uncertain, no doubt wondering who the Lincoln belongs to. Windsor takes her coat and briefcase, and Fred and I stand when she enters. She looks really beautiful in a black skinny leg pantsuit with a red blouse and high heels. I watch her carefully and she’s having no difficulty walking, so I’m assuming that the heels aren’t giving her problems yet, even though she is in her third trimester now. She looks around the room at the unfamiliar faces before her eyes rest on Courtney. It takes a brief moment, but she realizes who she is and her eyes narrow before she remembers herself.

“Hello,” she says to our guests as she enters the room.

“Ana,” I put my hand in the small of her back and lead her further into the room, “this is Fred and Adelaide Wilson. They’re old friends of my family.” Her gaze softens after the introduction and she extends her hand to Adelaide.

“Mrs. Wilson, it’s very nice to meet you,” she smiles pleasantly.

“Addie, please,” she says, taking Ana’s hand. “You’re just as pretty as Grace described you.”

“Thank you,” she says with a blush. She turns to Fred.

“Fred, Anastasia. It’s lovely to finally meet you in person.”

“Friends call me Ana, Fred,” she says extending her hand to him. “The pleasure is all mine.”

“You already know their granddaughter, Courtney,” I say, gesturing to her. Butterfly looks at Courtney, then takes a seat on the sofa behind her.

“I know of her, yes,” she says, coldly. Hmm, take no prisoners.

“Fred and I were extremely humiliated when we heard what happened,” Adelaide begins. “What Courtney did to you was immeasurably inappropriate and we don’t want you to think that we condone it for one moment.”

“Just so that you know, Ana,” Fred interjects, “we’re not bigots. We would feel this way had she made inappropriate advances to Christian, too. We and the Greys have been friends for decades, almost as long as Carrick and Grace have been in Washington. They’re very dear to us, and we would hate for anything to smudge our friendship.”

“I understand, Fred,” Butterfly says. “You can only teach them the best that you can and be an example. The rest is up to them.” Adelaide raises her eyebrows.

“You’re wise for one so young,” she says. Butterfly smiles sadly.

“I wish I could say that it came naturally… or easily,” she says, her voice maudlin. Adelaide’s eyes fill with sympathy. I don’t know if they know Butterfly’s story, but she looks at Butterfly as if she can relate to suffering.

“That which does not kill us…” she trails off.

“Indeed,” Butterfly concurs. After a few moments of silence, Fred takes the floor again.

“Well, as I was telling Christian when we arrived, we didn’t mean to descend upon your home uninvited, but there’s something that Courtney needs to say to you both.” Butterfly’s eyes roll, but no one notices but me. She focuses on her hand and her rings while Courtney speaks.

“I really did have too much to drink that night,” Courtney begins. “I know that I should have known better or I should have told my grandmother or my grandfather. There’s no excuse for my behavior and I’m very sorry. Although I am not ashamed of my sexuality…” She throws a pointed look at her grandfather before she continues. “… I sincerely apologize for being so forward and disrespectful. I hope you can forgive me.”

Butterfly stands quickly, more effortlessly than I’ve ever seen since she’s been pregnant.

“Thank you,” she says, her answer short and crisp. “Your apology is accepted.” Fred and Adelaide have both risen with Butterfly. “I’m sorry, I don’t mean to be rude,” she says to Fred and Adelaide. “It’s been a terribly long and trying day for me and I have a little work that still needs to be done before the night is over. Please, feel free to stay as long as you like, but I’m going to have to excuse myself.”

“Oh, no, it’s perfectly alright, dear,” Adelaide says. “We intruded on your home.”

“No intrusion whatsoever,” Butterfly replies. “We’ll have to get together for lunch or something when we can have more time to talk and get to know each other.” Adelaide smiles.

“I’d like that very much,” she says sincerely and Butterfly returns her smile.

“How about we pencil in one day next week?” Butterfly says. Adelaide looks very pleased.

“That sounds wonderful!” Adelaide says. Butterfly pulls a business card from her pocket.

“As soon as you know what your schedule looks like, give me a call.”

“I’ll call you later this evening,” Adelaide replies.

“Perfect!” I’ll be goddamned. She’s networking! “Why don’t you bring Courtney along? You’re never too young to learn, right?” She turns a pointed glare at Courtney, no warmth whatsoever, before she turns back to Adelaide. “We’ll make it a real ladies lunch,” she adds.

“I think that’s a splendid idea,” Adelaide says, conspiratorially, throwing a knowing wink at Ana, who responds with a cat-caught-the-canary smile.

“I’ll look to hear from you tonight. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I really have to get to work.” She turns to Fred. “Fred, again, a pleasure. We’ll all have dinner. I’d love to get to know two of Grace and Carrick’s closest friends.”

“You’re enchanting, Ana,” Fred says, kissing her hand.

“Careful, my husband’s standing here.” They both laugh heartily. “You two have a good night, and please drive carefully.” She turns to me. “I’ll be in my office.” She calls to Windsor as she leaves the living room. He brings her briefcase and she’s gone, just like that. Shit, that was frosty. And when did she start carrying a briefcase again?

“I have a feeling that she’s someone that I wouldn’t want to cross,” Fred says, with a smirk.

“I have a feeling that she’s going to be a valuable ally,” Adelaide says, with a smile.

I have a feeling that it’s going to be a long night.


 

ANASTASIA

He doesn’t want to see me be upset or hurt. That’s bullshit and he knows it. I hadn’t even decided to do the interviews. I hadn’t even had an opportunity to give the matter any additional thought with everything going on with Helping Hands—and if I did decide to do the interviews, that would be the only reason why I would do them! I don’t know if he’s afraid that I’m going to say the wrong thing or if he’s trying to treat me like a frail little broken child who’s going to freeze up in front of the cameras and can’t make solid decisions. Part of me is really pissed and the other part of me is feeling very vengeful.

On top of everything else, he wants to get sarcastic and act all wounded because I won’t be a good little girl and smile pretty for his demands.

I don’t so much care that he doesn’t want me to do the interviews. I already knew that he wouldn’t immediately be on board with it and that he might take some convincing if I did decide to move ahead with them. What’s pissing me off is that he systematically shot down everything I said because he had already decided for me that I wasn’t doing the interviews. His reasoning was so shabby that in the end, I don’t know if he was just putting the kibosh on the whole thing or if he was making things up. First, he acts like I can’t handle myself in public, and then he proceeds to make it look like I was the helpless poor little pregnant lady who couldn’t deal with the big bad reporters. When none of that worked, he made it clear that he would most likely sabotage any interview that I agreed to because he would likely refuse to approve any questions beyond recipes and shoe size as unacceptable.

I’ve told him that I won’t do the interviews, so I won’t. After I have completed my call with my beloved husband, I compose an email and send it to all three radio stations.

After consulting with my husband, I have decided not to proceed with any interviews at this time. Hopefully, in the future, I will have the opportunity to discuss my experience and my charity, Helping Hands. Please accept my apologies.

Sincerely,
Dr. Anastasia Steele-Grey
Assistant Director, Helping Hands

So that’s that.

I’m looking at the report for the planning meeting and getting angrier and angrier that it seems like my husband wants me to be the good little wifey and follow his demands. Granted, I told him that I would do what he asks and I will, but I won’t be silenced this way. I can’t get any additional funding or exposure for the Center if I just lie down and keep quiet like he wants. So I won’t be doing media appearances, but I won’t keep quiet.

**Marilyn, I need you in my office, please.**

I spend a few more moments looking over my bullet points before Marilyn gets to the office.

“You ready to go, Bosslady?” she asks as she walks into my office.

“Almost. I have a project for you.” She sits down and pulls out her iPad. “I want you to get me a comprehensive list of every country club within a 50-mile radius.” She frowns.

“Country clubs?”

“Country clubs. I have a plan.”

“I… would really like to know what plan you have that involves country clubs.”

“Christian got word that the radio stations wanted to interview and he just called a moment ago to drop the ax. I didn’t even have a say-so in the matter. It was ‘no’ and that was it.”

“Did he tell you why?” she asks.

“He tried, but he failed miserably,” I tell her. “I can somewhat understand why he wouldn’t want me to do any live public appearances. One wrong move and you’re dead. They like to back you into corners, ambush you, ask you private questions, lead you into a false sense of security, then make a sharp left turn and drop some bomb on you. He treated me like I didn’t already know this! He completely acted like I was helpless, like I had absolutely no idea that this is what they do and I couldn’t handle it if they did. Everything I said to him fell on deaf ears and he just totally pissed me off. So there went any opportunity that I had for exposure for the work and new projects that Helping Hands is doing.”

“So where do the country clubs fit in?”

“I have to do it the old fashioned way,” I tell her. “I have to pound the pavement.” She frowns. She has no idea what I’m talking about. “I’m putting the word on the wire that the Greys are looking for country club membership.” She shrugs and starts typing into the iPad. She still doesn’t get it.

My business cards with my new contact information showed up this morning and not a moment too soon. I take a few out of the box and put them in my pocket, then I start putting my documents and laptop away so that we can head to Helping Hands. “Marilyn?”

“Hmm?” She says raising her head to me.

“Everywhere we go—our wedding, red carpet events, the Faces of Abuse release party—I was always behind Christian. I was being introduced to so many people that I was never expected to remember. You know why?”

“No, why?

“Because they weren’t my contacts. They were Christian’s. I went into the parties as Mrs. Christian Grey. Nobody knew who Dr. Anastasia Steele-Grey was and few people cared to know. I understand that I have no notoriety as Anastasia Steele—a face of abuse, only as Mrs. Christian Grey. That was fine for a while, but it’s not anymore. I’m more passionate now about what I’m doing. I’ve closed my practice to focus on it and on raising my children. This is what I had in mind when I went to school, when I spoke to that career advisor in my sophomore year. This is what I had been looking for all this time and I didn’t know it—when I was doing my internship, when I volunteered at the community center—this is what I was looking for. I’ll be damned if I’m going to hide my candle under a bushel now that I’ve found it.” A small smile plays with Marilyn’s lips.

“Then let’s make it happen, Bosslady.”

*-*

It was a long day—a productive day, but a long one—and I’m exhausted. I still have some numbers to go over and I want to clean up my final report before we submit it with our documentation tomorrow to the licensing board. We have everything we need and I don’t see any problem getting accredited. We’ll have to hire more specialized staff for some of the things that we want to do, but that won’t be a problem. Donations are still coming in, thank God, and I intend to make sure that’s the status quo. No more depending on a few generous—and sometimes, not so generous—benefactors. Helping Hands will be a force all its own by the time I’m finished with it.

“Ana, you have been a Godsend,” Grace had said after the planning meeting. “The Center has never had this kind of momentum, this kind of purpose. We’re even getting more volunteers. It’s simply amazing what you’re doing for these people. I can’t begin to know how to thank you.”

Ben’s phone rings and I hear him tell someone that we’re ten minutes away. Something’s going on at the house. I sigh heavily. I’m way too tired for any drama and I hope that’s not what’s waiting for me when I get there. I just want to finish my report for tomorrow, get something to eat, and go to bed!

There’s an SUV in the portico. Company? Ugh!

Windsor greets me when I get to the grand entry. He takes my briefcase and helps me out of my coat.

“Who’s here?” I ask him.

“Friends of Mr. Grey,” he says, gesturing to the formal living room. I can’t see who it is yet. “Call me when you need this,” he says raising my briefcase slightly.

“Thank you.” I straighten my clothes, take a deep breath and walk into the living room. Who do I find there but an older couple and the melon hussy from the Affair. What the hell is she doing in my house?

Once I greet the older couple, Fred and Adelaide Wilson, I learn that they’re old friends of Christian’s family and the melon hussy is their granddaughter. Fred and Addie, as she prefers to be called, voice their shared dismay upon learning about the melon hussy’s behavior. I’m pleased to see that they are genuine in their contrition, although they aren’t the ones that should feel this way. Courtney—aka the melon hussy—extends her rehearsed apology once her grandparents have stopped talking.

article-chiquita-06121I have nothing to say to this girl and she has nothing to say to me. In fact, her presence is pissing me off. It’s obvious that her grandparents threatened her in some way, prompting her to give me that half-hearted botched-up apology. She didn’t even raise her head to look at me when she said it. What is she—22, maybe 23 years old? If she had her way, she would still be running around like the half-dressed, Chiquita-banana-wannabe, low-class hooker that she was at the party.

I loathe insincere apologies. She’s being forced to do this. She’s not doing on her own free will because she feels badly about what she did. I need to get out of this room before I say something I’ll regret. I accept her half-hearted apology and proceed to excuse myself. As Addie and I are saying our goodbyes, a stroke of genius hits me. I immediately suggest lunch with Addie so that I can pick her brain and make my first beneficial acquaintance. To add a little sugar to the pot, I suggest that she bring Courtney to the lunch so that we can begin to beat this little… misguided girl into shape. Addie immediately picks up on my meaning and agrees wholeheartedly. I’m thrilled to have made my first connection, and I have plans for the melon hussy. I guess I should be thanking her for coming on to me after all.

I have jazz streaming from the surround sound in my office as I begin tweaking the reports for tomorrow. I shoot off a text to Marilyn that I’ve made my first connection and that she and I going shopping tomorrow before I have my session with Ace. It’s time for Mare to acquire that “being seen” wardrobe we discussed, and there are a few pieces that I need as well. I was able to put together the black suit last minute, but now I’m going to need a few more items for what I have in mind.

Addie calls me about an hour after I escaped to my office. We set a date to have lunch next Wednesday to discuss things and decide what to do with Little Miss Melon.

I take off my glasses and pop my neck when I’ve finished the last of my reports. I’m going to need an iPad, too, it seems. There are a lot of little details that I need to be on top of and I can’t lug my laptop out every time I need to correlate or gather information. When the occasion calls for it, I can put information in my iPhone and upload it to the Cloud. I don’t want to be one of those people where my personal assistant knows more about my life than I do, although to some degree, I already know that’s going to happen. I completely forgot that I’ve got an appointment with Dr. Culley after my session with Ace until she reminded me.

I take off my glasses and run my fingers through my hair. I’m famished. The work is done and it’s time to find sustenance. I close my laptop and walk towards my door only to run into Christian just as I’m about to exit.

“You look very nice,” he says.

“Thank you,” I answer flatly.

“How did your meetings go?” He wants to make small talk.

“Very well,” I reply. “I got some very useful information and I just finished our final report. We shouldn’t have any problem getting accredited. With any luck, we should be able to start classes in the spring.”

“That’s good news,” he says, a hint of pride hiding in his voice. “Did you need me to talk to anyone? Maybe I can push the application through a little faster…” Of course, you can, Mr. Grey. Thanks, but no thanks.

“No,” I say stoically, “I think we’ve got it under control. Thanks anyway, though.” So now we stand there for a moment, trying to ignore the elephant in the room. I won’t rush him, though. I’ll let him think about where the conversation goes next.

“You made quite the impression on the Wilsons,” he says. I raise my eyebrows.

“I did?” I ask, somewhat surprised. “I didn’t say much.”

“You didn’t have to,” he says. “Your attire, your demeanor, and the few words you did say spoke volumes. Adelaide is quite anxious to get to know you better.”

“Yes, we’re having lunch on Wednesday,” I tell him. His brow furrows.

“Wow, you work fast.” I just shrug. “You’re networking. I recognize the techniques.” Trying to call me out, Grey?

“The Wilsons told me that they were friends of your parents. I just want to get to know them,” I respond.

“And that’s it?” he asks. I shrug again. “You know, that fundraising committee of Mom’s has been around for a while, too. Maybe you would want to get to know them.” Now, he’s just being sarcastic.

“I doubt that any of those women want anything to do with me,” I say, flippantly. “After all, I snagged the prize of the greater Seattle area. I will forever be persona non grata to the mothers and the daughters.” He raises one eyebrow at me.

“Do you want to talk about this?” he asks. Oh, now you want to talk?

“About what?”

“About the radio spots.”

“You don’t want me to do them. I said that I wouldn’t. What’s left to talk about?”

“You’re clearly displeased about it,” he responds, speaking in a business tone. Now, I’m being handled. Okay, Grey.

“What does it matter?” His brow furrows momentarily, then the impassive face returns.

“Of course, it matters, Anastasia,” he says flatly.

“Apparently it doesn’t, Grey,” I respond, my voice as impassive as his. That got his attention.

“Any particular reason why I’m Grey now?” he asks. Is he being sarcastic or is he really that obtuse?

“For the same reason that I’ve become Anastasia,” I respond folding my arms. The slight change in his expression lets me know that he didn’t realize that he was calling me by my formal name. He apparently just falls into it when he’s displeased or frustrated with me.

“I really think it was a bad idea to do the interviews,” he says.

“And you made that perfectly clear, so why are we talking about this again?”

“Because you’re clearly not happy about it,” he replies. “You’re walking around giving off this untouchable vibe. You’re pouting…”

“Pouting!” I say, surprised. “I’m pouting!” I almost want to laugh. He has never been so far off the mark during our entire relationship. “Mr. Grey, I can guarantee you that whatever it is that you think I’m doing or I may be doing, pouting is definitely not it!”

“Then what is it, Mrs. Grey?” he retorts. “I make it clear that it’s a bad idea—and why—for people to be shoving microphones and cameras in your face right now, and you’re acting like a crabby, bad-tempered child!” Flame on!

“Oh, spare me,” I counter. “You didn’t even give me any options. You made the decision for me and that was it. I didn’t have the opportunity to weigh the pros and cons of the situation. Poor little billionaire wifey—sit down and do what you’re told. If you think that’s what’s going to happen in this marriage, you’re mistaken. I will not have my opinions or my common sense dismissed because the all-knowing, all seeing Christian Grey thinks he knows what’s best.”

“That’s not fair, and you know it,” he says. “I never claimed to know everything, but I do know this. I’ve been dealing with the media long before you and they are vultures. They will chew you up, spit you out, and leave you for dead. It has nothing to do with your perception of my omnipotence. It’s the truth. And yes, my wife was recently in an accident that left her in a coma for two weeks and nearly cost her life. Do you think they’ll look at that fact and proceed with caution? No, they’ll squeeze that story for every juicy detail that they can get. They’ll exploit the fact that one of my exes was the assailant and most likely do or say anything to upset you or piss you off just to get a reaction out of you, and the worse the reaction, the better for them and for their ratings.”

“And that’s what I’m talking about. You don’t give me one ounce of credit! I’m surprised you let me out alone. Oh, wait, you don’t. I have to have an escort every time I leave the house!” I knew that statement was unnecessary the minute it left my lips. I know why I need an escort when I leave the house, but it’s out there now, and Mr. Grey’s reaction is swift and sure.

“Are you serious?!” He’s mad now. “Are you seriously barking about the measures that we take for your safety?”

“First of all, sir, dogs bark—not me! Second of all, no, I’m not barking about measures taken for my security. I am, however, extremely irritated that I hold an advanced graduate degree, the general public is required to call me Doctor, and yet you seem to feel that I’m incapable of playing with the big kids!” We’re yelling at each other. We never yell at each other. The last time we had any kind of disagreement that was this heated was the fundraiser fiasco, and hell if I’m going to be the helpless little damsel when this conversation is over.

“Anastasia, need I remind you that you had a really bad experience with an extremely pushy and insensitive attorney a few months ago? The only reason why you weren’t splattered all over the internet and national media regurgitating all over that woman is because someone cared enough to preempt the footage. Do you think these vampires in the media are going to be so kind if you have a similar incident?”

And now, I’m floored. In order to drive his point home, he brings up one of the most humiliating moments of my life—one of the worst things that has ever happened to me. I couldn’t leave the stand, but I can walk off a set and he knows that, but he uses this moment… this moment… to prove his point. I can almost feel my insides shaking, but I’m cool as a cucumber on the outside.

“Point. Taken. Mr. Grey,” I say coolly. “I’ve already told you that I won’t do the interviews. Clearly, I am incapable of handling the media. You have made your point… again. Remind me to focus on your prior mistakes and point out your worst moments the next time we have a conversation like this.”

I’ve had quite enough of this conversation. I walk past him toward the door and he catches my arm as I pass. I’m taken aback—he’s not hurting me, but the fact that he’s physically preventing me from leaving has me a bit stunned.

“Oh, no, Anastasia,” he says, “You’re not walking out on this conversation. That’s not how it works. You don’t get to throw cutting words and walk away just because we have a difference of opinion.” A difference of opinion? Is that what he considers this—a difference of opinion? I look at his hand on my arm and I just want him to remove it.

“Christian,” I say calmly, “please release my arm.” He pauses for a moment, his brow furrowed. Then an unknown emotion crosses his face. I don’t what it is—maybe a combination of disbelief, shock and… insult, I think. He swallows hard and without moving his eyes, his hand drops from my arm and so do the unknown emotions. There’s nothing left but insult. Yes, definitely insult. Gray eyes pierce through my armor and send a slight chill down my spine. Without a word, he turns around and leaves the room, leaving me in the space with the lingering anger and indignity he obviously felt moments ago.

I can’t believe what just happened! He belittles me and the fact that I tell him to let go of my arm insults him? You’ve got to be kidding me! Fuck this shit! I need food and sleep. If you can’t take it, don’t fucking dish it out!

“Where’s Christian?” Uncle Herman asks when I come to the dinner table alone.

“In his office? In the gym? Out driving? I don’t know. Unfortunately, I can’t answer that question right now, Uncle Herman. I have no idea where he is.” I take my seat and put my napkin on my lap. I’m starving and I want to eat. I’m thrilled when Ms. Solomon serves up pork chops with apples and onions, mashed potatoes, and a squash medley. I tear into my food like it’s my last meal.

“Slow down, Ana,” Chuck teases, “nobody’s going to take it.” I raise my eyes to him and swallow the mouthful that I’m chewing.

“It’s been a long day and I’m starving,” I tell him.

“Obviously,” he continues. Conversation continues around the table. I learn that Chuck has a doctor’s appointment tomorrow for follow-up and Keri is going with him. I’d like to be a fly on the wall for that visit. I’m not saying much because I’m too busy shoveling food down my throat. Halfway into my third pork chop, I finally stop. God, I’m stuffed now, but I feel so much better than the ravenous beast that sat down at the table several minutes ago. What I wouldn’t give for a Sancerre or a Cabernet Sauvignon right now. I notice the room falls bone quiet as I’m sipping my spritzer. I look over my shoulder and find Christian standing in the hallway from the kitchen.

“Oh, don’t stop talking on my account,” he says, sharply. “I don’t want to be accused of detaining anyone else.” A few frowns go around the table as nobody knows what he’s talking about—except me. I glare at him for a moment, slightly humiliated again, but more angry than not. I wipe my mouth with my napkin and throw it into my plate before picking up my spritzer and marching wordlessly out of the room. I won’t stroke his ego, but I won’t accept his insults and wisecracks, either.

I’m aching for all of the things that I can’t have right now—a glass of wine, a burger… again, a hot shower. I have to settle for lukewarm, chocolate, and a refill on my spritzer from the mini-fridge. I make my own fire and snuggle into the blankets with my body pillow. I don’t think about him at all. I just go to sleep.

*-*

Something’s pulling my hair. Well, not pulling it, but I feel something in my hair… playing in it maybe. I open my eyes and see that the fire has died, quite some time ago it appears. I still feel exhausted. The light from the tiniest crack in the drapes lets me know that it’s morning. The alarm didn’t go off, so it can’t be that late. God, I slept like the dead. I think I slept too well. Emotionally and physically, yesterday wore on me. I’m too tired to get up, but I know that there’s a lot to do today and I can’t just lie here. I groan audibly at the thought of having to emerge from my cocoon. I don’t want to face the day, but I don’t have much of a choice.

His hand gently strokes my hair and I open my eyes. Did he sleep here last night? I wouldn’t know. I was too tired. He kisses my hair and I feel him lean his forehead on my head.

“I’m sorry,” he whispers. “I shouldn’t have said those things and I’m sorry.” I don’t respond immediately and he keeps stroking my hair. “I was insensitive to say those things and to bring up what happened in the courtroom. It was very unfair and I won’t do that again.”

“Okay,” I respond barely audibly.

“I still feel the same about the interviews,” he admits. “I truly, truly feel like it’s a bad idea to do them. I’m sorry, I can’t change the way I feel.”

“I didn’t expect you to change the way you felt,” I tell him. “That’s why I said I wouldn’t do them.”

“I wasn’t trying to belittle you, Butterfly,” he continues. “I know that’s what I did, but I wasn’t trying to.”

“I know you weren’t trying to, Christian, but when you have a point to make, you have to think about the context. Some of the things you said were very harsh and they were pointed low blows. That’s never good. I was only trying to defend myself and my position…”

“I know, Baby. I know,” he says kissing my hair again. “I never thought you couldn’t handle yourself. I’ve never looked down on you, Ana. I respect you immensely, you have to know that. I’ve just seen how ugly these situations can get and I’ve even seen it happen to you. I just don’t want a replay.” I, of all people, know that Christian can get very passionate about making a point and I guess I should give him a little leeway when it comes to that, but he has to consider who he’s talking to. I’m not a battle to win or someone to be conquered. I wasn’t pleased with his decision, but I accepted it and he just kept going because I wouldn’t take it with a smile.

“Tell me what you’re thinking, Baby,” he says when I’m too quiet for too long.

“I just don’t know how to handle these types of disagreements with you,” I tell him. “I can’t even categorize what happened between us yesterday. I feel like my opinions and feelings were ignored and dismissed. Not only did you want me to accept it, but you wanted me to do it with a smile. When I wouldn’t do that, you became vicious, condescending, and insulting…”

“And then I made you run,” he interjects. “I’m sorry that I did that.” I roll over to face him.

“Oh no, you didn’t make me run,” I correct him. “I left. I didn’t run. There’s a big difference. Running is escaping the situation at all costs, with or without resolution. Leaving says that I’ve said all that I have to say and I’m getting the hell out of here before I say or do something that I’m going to regret.” He examines me for a moment.

“Okay,” he says. “You didn’t run.” His gaze changes a bit. I don’t know what I’m seeing, but it doesn’t alarm me so I don’t freak out.

“My whole life is different than it was a year ago,” I tell him. “I can’t come and go as I please. Everything is so much more intense. I’ve lost a friend. I feel like I need permission to breathe. I’ve given up my practice completely, and now what I have is the charity and my family. Some changes are great and some—not so great, but I try to take everything in stride and understand the reasons for what may be going on in my life.

“You say that you respect me, but you wouldn’t even hear me out. There was no compromise, Christian. You had made the decision before you called me yesterday and you can’t tell me that’s not true. You didn’t call me to talk about it yesterday. You called me to tell me ‘no,’ to put the little wife in her place.”

“Ana…” he protests.

“Yes, I know, you weren’t trying to belittle me, but that’s how I felt when I got off the phone with you yesterday. It wasn’t even that I had decided yea or nay on the radio spots. It was that you never gave me an option. I don’t know what upsets me more—that you made the decision for me or that you don’t give me any credit.” He drops his head and sighs heavily.

“I do give you credit, Ana,” he says, his voice slightly defeated. “Like I said, I respect you immensely.”

“Then trust me to make the right decisions,” I say poignantly. “I know how to avoid conflict and I know how to leave a bad situation. You said that you don’t want me to do the interviews and I won’t do them, but I know how to walk off a set or refuse to answer a question if someone puts me in a bad place. I also have my own claws if someone tries to attack me. I was held to a certain set of rules in the courtroom. It was a decidedly unpleasant experience that if I had a choice, I wouldn’t have subjected myself to. The two situations are apples and rocks and it was unfair to compare them.”

“I know, I know,” he laments. I still don’t feel like he understands how I feel, but I won’t continue this conversation because it just sounds like I’m berating him. There is one other issue that needs to be addressed.

“What was the whole insult-sensitivity thing about me asking you to let go of my arm?”

He raises his head quickly and glares at me. He sits up in bed facing me. It’s only just now that I see he’s completely dressed.

“I didn’t insult you about that!” he defends. “I didn’t say anything.”

“That’s right,” I say, now sitting up in bed to face him. “You didn’t insult me. You were insulted. Why?” I stare at him and wait for an answer. He glares at me for a moment or two more before he runs his hand through his hair.

“I don’t know,” he says, lowly.

“Yes, you do,” I protest.

“No, Ana, I don’t!” he retorts. “I don’t know why I felt insulted by the request. I just did!” Well, at least he admits that part.

“From the comment that you made when you came to the dinner table, I was thinking that you thought I felt like you were trying to restrain me.” He sighs.

“That could be it,” he admits shaking his head.

“You’re right.” He raises the same insulted gray eyes to me that he did last night. “And don’t look at me like that! I did feel like you were trying to restrain me and I didn’t like it. Instead of going all batshit, I simply asked you to let me go. If I was wrong, now is the time to say so.” He shakes his head again.

“I didn’t want you to leave,” he says. “I didn’t want you to run away from what I felt was a very important conversation. I didn’t squeeze your arm or snatch your arm, I just held it. Yes, I may have been stopping you from running away, but I wasn’t preventing you from leaving and I certainly wasn’t restraining you. Like you said, there’s a difference.”

“Well, I need you to know that when we’re having a heated conversation, it’s probably not a good idea to try to stop me in that way. I will try to be more mindful of when the conversation is and isn’t over, but I need you to know that is not a method to be employed when I’m trying to walk away. Most likely, I’m trying to prevent the conversation from completely going south, and grabbing—or holding—my arm is incendiary to that situation.” He pauses for a moment and considers my words.

“Duly noted,” he says, without malice. “I can see how it would be.” Thank God for that! I didn’t need this to be another fight, but he did need to know how this makes me feel.

“Good,” I say with a heavy sigh. Geez, my day hasn’t even started yet. I note that he looks quite conservative in a gray Mad Men Brooks Brothers suit with a black tie with gray stripes. I should probably get up and get dressed myself. There’s a lot to do today.

He surprises me by closing the space between us and capturing me in a deep, emotional kiss. I feel his urgency and anxiety, prompting me to touch his face. His response is immediate. He takes me in a strong embrace and bends me over his lap, never breaking our kiss. His lips are bruising, his tongue intense and coaxing. He’s pouring every uncertain emotion into this kiss and I feel them. I feel them all. He whimpers when our lips part and I gasp a huge breath of air.

“I hate when we fight!” he breathes heavily against my cheek.

“So do I,” I gasp, still trying to catch my breath. He kisses me feverishly again, on my cheek, my ear, my neck, until he makes his way to my lips again. He feeds on the kisses for a few more moments before he breaks the kiss again and places his forehead on mine.

“I have to go,” he says, slightly breathless. “I have a breakfast meeting.”

“Okay,” I breathe. He kisses me gently once more.

“I love you,” he says softly.

“I love you, too,” I reply. He sits me up on the bed and takes a last, longing look at me before leaving our room.

I sit on the bed for a little while longer, pondering what I’m going to wear today and what all needs to be done before I have the urge to go to the landing over the grand entry. After checking to make sure that no one will see me in my nightshirt, I look over the balustrade down at my husband, who is wrapping a scarf around his neck and slipping into his black wool coat. He looks so distinguished—he always does. Even in casual clothes, he always stands straight and carries himself like a soldier and a gentleman.

But not today.

Today, he still looks distinguished and knightly, but his shoulders are slouched a bit and he appears to be carrying the world on his shoulders. He pauses with his gloved hand on the door knob and lets his chin rest on his chest for a moment. After a heavy sigh, he opens the doors, walks through it, and closes it behind him.


 

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

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Becoming Dr. Grey: Chapter 27—Handle with Care

Thank you all for your well wishes for my family and for my son and his new wife as they begin their life journey.

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…

Handle with careChapter 27—Handle with Care

ANASTASIA

I take a moment to admire my butterfly fish in the Atlantis aquarium. I have to admit that I’m glad that Christian had the aquariums installed, particularly this one. It’s my refuge when I want to escape whatever demons or issues may be chasing me. No one bothers me when I’m down here except Christian, and even then, only when necessary. I named my fish Marty, after the zebra from Madagascar. I found out that there actually is a butterfly with similar markings as my butterfly fish, and it’s called the Zebra Heliconia. Of course, these days, my mind wanders mostly to Disney and other cartoons, and the first thing that came to mind is Chris Rock’s voice and that crazy zebra. Thus, Marty was born… or named, I should say.

I think she knows that she’s my favorite, because she’s so calm when I first spot her. But if I stand here for a while, boy does she begin to perform! Swimming in and out of the ruins, coming over the glass and literally waving her tail like a dog. I’ve heard that fish only have a three-second memory span, but certain studies have shown that the memory span of a fish is more like five months. Marty proves that point, because I’m certain that she knows who I am—or she at least has some idea. I spend a few more moments with Marty before I head back towards my office.

I’m just about to clear the opening from the entertainment room to the community bar and I hear Chuck and an unknown male voice. After just a few moments, I ascertain that the voice is Chuck’s AA sponsor. From what I can tell, Chuck had contacted him to try to get him to make Keri understand why he couldn’t take the meds. Unfortunately for Chuck, his plan backfired, because the sponsor tells him that it’s okay for him to take the meds and that he was surprised that Chuck had gone this long without taking them.

I want to interrupt them, but I also want to hear what the sponsor says about the meds. Having never been in his position, I’m fairly certain—but I don’t know for sure—that Chuck’s fears are unfounded. I normally wouldn’t eavesdrop on such a private conversation, but this time I feel it’s necessary. I find out from the small portion of overheard conversation that I was right all along.

“Time isn’t the only thing that heals your wounds, Charles,” his sponsor says. “Being of sound mind, able to relax, and free of pain is also critical to your recovery. You obviously have a great support system here, but you have no idea how much you’re hindering your progress by sitting here in needless pain.”

Chuck mumbles some kind of protest, but his sponsor cuts him off.

“There are some pretty strong painkillers out there, but for what you went through, ibuprofen 800 is the lightest thing that they could possibly give you short of an aspirin. They gave it to you because you have nothing in your system and it’s likely to give you an incredible amount of relief because your system is clean. Of all the gateway drugs there are, ibuprofen is not even close. You’re hurting for no good reason and you’re hurting the people around you because they have to watch this—again, for no good reason. I don’t know if this is some kind of macho bullshit to test your pain threshold, but dammit, you need to take those pills.” That’s all I need to hear. I take a few steps away from the doorway, then walk back loudly to make my presence known.

“Hey,” I say upon seeing Chuck. I frown at his appearance. He looks awful. “Chuck, what’s wrong?” I ask without acknowledging our guest.

“Nothing,” he grunts, in obvious pain. “Ana, this is Kevin. He’s… a friend of mine.” I extend my hand to Kevin.

“Anastasia Grey,” I say with a smile. He returns the smile and a shake with a “nice to meet you,” and I turn back to Chuck. “Where’s Keri?”

“She’s around somewhere,” he says, still struggling with pain. I sigh heavily and shake my head.

“And you’re in pain,” I say, finitely. He raises his eyes to me as if I’ve let the cat out of the bag. “You can’t hide it anymore, Chuck. It’s written all over your face. And from the looks of things, it’s getting worse, not better.” He says nothing and moves his eyes from mine. Now, I’m getting angry.

“For Christ’s sake! Take the damn medicine!” I hiss before ceremoniously marching out of the room toward my office. What a hard-headed asshole! When I get to my office, I can see someone sitting in my parlor. That’s strange… Nobody usually sits in my parlor without me. As I move closer to the door, I see the back of a head—beautiful locs cascading down her shoulders. As I get closers, I see blank eyes staring at a fireplace with no fire.

“I can get a fire started if you like,” I say to Keri. She nearly jumps out of her skin and I immediately regret interrupting her quiet time.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you,” I apologize.

“It’s allight,” she says, recovering quickly. “I was just tinking.” She turns back to the fireplace and she’s actually staring at nothing.

“Are you okay?” she sighs.

“I just nehded ah moment to mahself,” she replies. This doesn’t sound good.

“What’s the matter?” She turns glassy eyes to me.

“Chatlez in so much pehn,” she confesses on the brink of tears. “It’s wuhse, Anah. It’s wuhse now tan it twas befoh. I don know why, but it’s wuhse! Him sittin’ dere huttin’ and him won take de pills and I can’t keep watchin’ dis!” You can hear the island in her very heavy when she starts to get upset. “I jes had to get aweh from it foh ah moment.”

“Did you guys have a fight?” I ask. Part of me is hoping that they did, because if Keri gets fed up, maybe then Chuck will listen.

“Noh, I jes nehded to be out of his space foh ah minutt,” she replies, dropping her head. “I’ve been sittin’ heh tinkin’ about me kids back home.” Her kids? She didn’t tell me she had kids! Why is she here and her kids are back home? I get quiet and my brow furrows.

She’s a teacher, you idiot.
Oh… yeah, those kids.

“Would you like to call someone?” I ask, feeling a little foolish and a lot helpless. Keri smiles.

“Noh,” she replies. “Noh one will be able ta tell me what going on wit all me kids. Besides, dat ovahseas call vety expensive. Believe me, I knoh!” Isn’t she sweet? She’s currently staying in a mansion bigger than most hotels and she’s worried about the cost of a phone call. I chuckle a bit.

“Don’t ever worry about cost with me,” I say, resting my hand on her shoulder. “One of the worries that the Greys simply do not have is money.”

We sit and talk for I don’t know how long about anything except Chuck, and Keri starts to lighten up a bit. The sun has just disappeared over the horizon, and I light a fire to keep us cozy. We talk more about Anguilla and the customs there, how a lot of them are different than the customs in the States, but they are still similar in a lot of ways. I’m very comfortable having Keri around. She has a good spirit and I feel like I can trust her. It almost takes the sting out of losing Valerie’s friendship—almost. Too bad she’ll have to go back to Anguilla, but I’ll be sure to keep in touch when she leaves.

“You must beh soh excited foh de bebbies,” she says. “Not long now, right?”

“Not long now,” I tell her. “They might even be born before you have to go home.”

“I hope soh,” she says. “Not in a huwwy to have childjen of mah own, but I love bebbies. Dey so sweet and innocent and I love to watch dem groh.” She gets a faraway look in her eyes. “Most of mah kids, I have dem since dey staht school. Dey in tird, fort grade now. I like to watch dem groh.” She smiles widely when she talks about home. I have finally gotten her to relax when I hear the two-way come alive. Great… somebody’s looking for me.

“Yes?” I call into the air.

“Oh. Ana.” It’s Chuck. Yes, Ana, you called, right? “I was looking Keri. Is she with you?” Oh, that’s right. There are two people in this room. Keri must have been entered into the security system. I look over at her and she rolls her eyes, but doesn’t answer. She’s really coming to the end of her rope with this thing. Last week when we got home on Friday, she would have run to his side. Today, she won’t even answer him on the intercom.

“Yes, she’s here with me,” I respond. “I’m cleared to go back to Helping Hands tomorrow and Marilyn’s taking care of some other things for me, so Keri’s here helping me sort some things out.” He’s quiet for a moment. We’ve been in here for quite a while and I know that he’s not accustomed to not seeing her for long periods of time.

“Oh. Okay,” he finally responds. He sounds like a disappointed child. “I’m… going to the kitchen to find a snack or… something.” Keri simply says nothing. She’s obviously being worn down by this whole thing.

“Okay. Did you need something, Chuck?” I ask him.

“No, I’m fine. I just wanted to know where she was. I’m going to go find something to snack on.”

“Keri, did you want to say anything?” I ask.

“No, I’m fine,” Keri says quietly. Chuck ends with a final “Okay” and that’s it. I’m wondering what’s going to happen next. The fact that she doesn’t run to his side, even after he’s looking for her says a lot. They’re usually inseparable.

“I don’t knoh how much longuh I can take dis tohment!” she whispers sharply. “He could end his pehn todeh… todeh! And he won do it!” I don’t know what to say. I’ve talked to him about taking the pain meds. Keri asks him daily to take them. Christian has gone so far as to get into an argument with him. Jason knows Chuck’s history, so I don’t know how much he has talked to him. He was even talking to his sponsor today who was not only telling him that meds are not only harmless, but probably necessary for his recovery. I tend to believe that he may be right considering the fact that Chuck’s pain is getting worse for no apparent reason.

We hide out and talk for just a little while longer, but we both realize that we can’t hide forever, so I eventually convince her to locate Chuck and just to try to be strong. The only thing is I don’t know how much strength you’re supposed to display when you continuously have to watch someone suffer.

*-*

I am only too thrilled to be going back to Helping Hands on Tuesday morning. Christian allowed me to sleep in, no doubt hoping that I would forget. It was fine, though, because I usually go in the afternoons anyway—after I saw my patients. So, since I’m doing baby steps, the afternoon is still a good idea. I immerge in a Ripe cable-knit gray turtleneck maternity sweater paired with a black, knee-length maternity skirt by 7 for All Mankind. Jessica Simpson knee high Joline black wedge boots complete my ensemble and I’m ready to go.

I join Marilyn down in my office for a quick review of the day before we leave. There’s a lot I need to be brought up to date on, so my plans are pretty much in limbo until I take a look at what’s happened since I’ve been away. I grab my gray wrap maternity coat and we head for the door. As I pass Atlantis, I stop in for a moment to look in at Marty. Marilyn taps me on my shoulder and brings my attention to Keri sitting alone outside on the sectional in the covered lounge by the pool area. It’s cold out there! Granted, she has a little protection on the covered lounge, but it’s still cold out there. She doesn’t react when I open the door.

“Keri?” I say walking over to her. She raises tired eyes to me. She doesn’t look like she slept much last night.

“Oh, Anah,” she says, exhaustion evident in her voice, “Hi.”

“What are you doing out here? Did you and Chuck fight?” She shakes her head and closes her coat around her.

“It’s de sehm ting, Anah,” she says, weary and defeated. “Ev’yday it’s de sehm ting.” She gives no further explanation, and I know it’s those damn meds again. I don’t even want to address this shit anymore. I take her hand and nearly yank her off the sofa… sitting out here in the goddamn cold!

“Come with me,” I order her.

“Wheh ah we going?” she asks, nearly running behind me to keep up with my angry steps. The elevator opens and I pull her inside with Marilyn close behind.

“I’m getting you out of this house… again!” I say as the elevator opens on the main floor. I hear no protest from her, but I can feel her hesitance. So, I go to the kitchen where I know I will find Gail.

“Two things,” I begin when I get there. “First, choose one of the libraries downstairs. We’re going to convert it into an office for you. You’re the house manager now and that’s going to involve more details running a house of this size. It’s only going to get busier when the twins get here.” Gail’s eyebrows furrow in bemusement.

“Um, thanks, but… I like working up here on the counter. I’m closer to the kitchen, which seems to be the center of the house. Once the twins get here, the libraries are pretty far away from the nursery.” I twist my lips.

“Good point. You can work where you want, but your office will be one of the libraries until we can look at the blueprints of the mansion and find somewhere in the house to build it closer to the center—fair enough?” She nods.

“Fair enough.”

“Good, now, second. I need you babysit Chuck for the afternoon. Keri is going to Helping Hands with me. She needs to get out of this house and away from the situation for a while.”

“Got it,” Gail says without hesitation or protest. She’s on the same page as I am with Mr. I-Won’t-Take-My-Meds downstairs. I understand that he doesn’t want to do anything that’s going to cause him to relapse. I can understand his fear and trepidation, even though I can’t imagine what it’s like to suffer from an addiction. However, when everybody—everybody… your friends, your lover, your doctor, your sponsor—can all see your pain and tell you that it’s okay to take your pills and you still refuse, now you’re just being stubborn, selfish, and stupid. So be it, but I’m getting Keri the hell out of here.

“My puhse!” she protests.

“You won’t need it,” I tell her, still dragging her to the front door. “You’ll be with me, I’ll buy you lunch, and if you go down there to get it, you’ll tip him off.”

“We won tehl’im?” she asks.

“No, we won tehl’im!” I say, mimicking her accent and causing her to giggle. I’ve slowed down my pace by the time we get to the front door, so we just walk out hand in hand. Ben is waiting in the portico with one of the Audis. His eyes light up when he sees Keri.

“Put it on a leash, Ben!” I order, remember his stare-fest at Chuck’s house while Keri was doing yoga. He immediately drops his head and opens the door for us. I let Keri get in first and slide into the backseat with her so that Casanova Lawrence can see me glaring at him in the mirror. I’m angry with Chuck right now, but that doesn’t mean that I’m going to feed his girlfriend to the dogs!

“Oh, Ana, it’s so good to have you back.” Niecy gives me a sincere hug when I walk into Helping Hands. She’s one of the relief workers in the shelter portion of the center. “You look really well. How are you feeling?”

“I’m feeling very well, Niecy,” I say with a smile. “Just glad to be back. It seems like ages since I’ve been here. There’s a lot of activity, more than I remember. What’s going on?”

“Oh, that’s right. You haven’t been here,” she says. “There’s been a lot of changes. Improvements, that is. I’m surprised that Grace didn’t bring you up to speed.”

“We haven’t had time to talk about the center,” I tell her honestly as we start to walk to the offices. There are a lot of people here! I really want to know what all is happening. “I was only released from the hospital just before Thanksgiving and I was anxious to host this year, so there wasn’t much time for anything else.” She nods.

“I got it. My parents came into town for Thanksgiving and as much as I love them, I couldn’t wait until they left.” We laugh and I only just realize that Keri’s just looking around in awe.

“Oh, where are my manners? Niecy, this is my friend, Keri. She’s staying with me for a while and I wanted to show her where I spend my days. Keri, this is Niecy. I can’t really explain what she does here except to say that… she’s pretty much Superwoman because she does everything.” Niecy giggles at my description before turning to Keri.

“Hi, Keri,” she says, proffering her hand. “It’s very nice to meet you.” Keri takes her hand and smiles widely.

“It’s vety nice to meet you, too,” she says. Niecy gasps, still holding Keri’s hand.

“Your accent is lovely,” she says. “May I ask where you’re from?”

“Btitish Vuhgin Islands,” Keri says, proudly. “Anguilla, neah St. Maahteen.”

“I’ve never heard of Anguilla, but I’ve always wanted to go to St. Martin,” Niecy says. “I bet it’s beautiful there.”

“Oh, it’s vety beautiful,” Keri proclaims. “It’s home to me, but you should go sometime… enjoy de island hospitality.”

“Thank you. Hopefully I will soon,” Niecy smiles. “Now, as for you, Dr. Grey, let’s get you settled in so that I can bring you up to speed…”

So apparently, the rush of donations that came from my impromptu interview turned into an exponential phenomenon while I was in the hospital. People were giving en masse when they discovered that I was in a coma from being T-boned after coming from the volunteering at the center. It was like a fundraiser on steroids. I can’t say that I’m happy that I was in the accident, but I’m thrilled that something this good came from something so horrible.

Several people greet and hug me on my way to my office. I can see some of the changes along the way. It looks like we were able to set up more classes for adult education and tutoring. I see a room with smaller children and I don’t know if it’s daycare, a reading circle, or some kind of kindergarten or preschool. The funding must be insane if we’ve actually expanded into pre-K education! I’m very shocked to find that when I get to my office, my desk is currently occupied.

“Ethan?” I ask, bemused. He raises his head.

“Ana!” he says with a smile, standing and coming towards me with his arms outstretched. “You’re back. Had I known you were coming in today, I would have had this all cleared away.” He hugs me gently.

“What are you doing here? What’s going on?” I’m still completely confused. Was he standing in for me?

“Grace asked for my help,” he says, releasing the embrace and going back to my desk to type some things into his laptop. “The donations were coming so quickly that she couldn’t keep up with them. She needed help managing the influx and outflow of cash. When you guys got the big donation, it was in one lump sum so it was easier to manage. Now, it’s coming from everywhere! If you weren’t a celebrity before, you sure are now!” I had no idea. It looks like we won’t have to do any fundraising for a while, but a few of those appearances that I mentioned may actually become a reality.

“Well, don’t rush in getting up,” I tell him. “I’m going to have Niecy show me what these donations have done so far and whenever you’re ready, I’d like to get an idea of what we’re looking at financially so I can see what our prospects are. Have you already reviewed the information with Grace?”

“No, actually your timing is perfect. Our meeting is set for about an hour. That’s why I commandeered your office.”

“Good, so I’ll see you in an hour. Grace’s office?” He nods. I return his nod and leave the office with Niecy and Keri.

There is so much going on. We are trying to get the licensing for a possible day care center and pre-school. Until then, the children that I saw are just a play group that sometimes becomes a reading circle headed by a few of the relief workers and some newly-acquired volunteers. Grace uses Christian’s security resources to do background checks on the volunteers and workers before she allows them to work with the children.

As the Center was already crisis intervention and has now taken on the process on a larger scale, Grace has also employed one of GEH’s security companies to beef-up security around the grounds and the center. While I was out, one of those Damon Johnson types showed up demanding to see his wife, and the police had to be called. We had always considered this a possibility, but it wasn’t a problem before now. With the newfound publicity, the need for more security—trained to handle aggressive assailants—has become a necessity. Just this moment, I decide that I’m going to hold self-defense classes for women after I have the twins.

In the hour before the meeting, I learn that we are currently hiring to fill positions involved in offering services for job placement, counselors and life coaching, outside counseling, clothing and food services, and residential assistance. We have more space in the dorms now as more rooms have been converted to living quarters. We have now opened all of the space in the Center and all of the rooms will be utilized for some purpose or another. I can see other things in preparation, but you can’t quite tell what they are, yet. Keri stays in the room with the children when she offers to read to a group of them for a while. Most likely, it helps to fill the void of her not being able to be with her own children in Anguilla. I double-back with Niecy to Grace’s office for the meeting with her and Ethan.

“There’s so much to get you caught up on, Ana,” Grace begins when I come into the office. “We’re aiming to be licensed as a daycare and learning center. This means that we’ll be able to begin a Head-Start and preschool program.” She shows me the blueprints of the rooms that will most likely be used for that purpose. She has already begun some of the minor renovations on the space, but nothing bigger yet. “I put a suggestion box in what will soon be the dining room and asked the clients what they would like to see at the center. We got a lot of ideas and we hope to bring many of them to life.”

She proceeds to share the ideas with me, and I have to admit that a lot of them are very good. Grace has been quite the busy little bee since I’ve been away. Ethan goes over the verified donations with us, which go well into six digits. Quite frankly, that’s pretty freaking awesome for a month!

Our meeting runs well into the late afternoon when I realize that Keri is here with me and hasn’t eaten lunch yet! I go in search of her and find her right where I left her—still entertaining the children. I watch her from a distance just beyond the door. She is wonderful with children. She’s quite the natural. She’s currently on the floor playing with building blocks with some of the smaller kids. They are lost in their own little world of fantasy and make-believe.

I look a few feet to the left and there’s Ben, standing against the wall staring wistfully at Keri. I see an immediate problem with this scenario. Chuck is not going to be ill forever and if he sees Ben staring at his woman like that, there’s going to be a huge issue—and I do mean huge. However, I have another problem right now. Ben is my current PPO. Why is he standing in there with Keri? Did he know where I was all this time? Did he know that I was safe or did he just assume? I quietly move away from the door and go in search of Ethan. I need a little help teaching my lust-struck security a bit of a lesson.

“Why do you want me to do that?” Ethan asks when I tell him my plan.

“Less than a month ago, someone tried to kill me. The only reason she didn’t succeed is because the man who this guy is filling in for threw himself in front of a speeding car to protect me. Although I should, I don’t expect Ben to be as diligent as Chuck because we don’t have that type of relationship yet, but he should at least know where the fuck I am when I’m not at home—not just the building, but exactly where I am. So just give me a minute or two and just go in there and ask, ‘Hey, where’s Ana,’ okay?”

“Okay,” Ethan says in that uncertain tone. I pat him on the shoulder and head off towards the dorms.

“Ana, I haven’t seen you in ages!” Helen embraces me warmly when I get to the dorms. I don’t think I’ve seen Helen since before I got married.

“How have you been?” I ask when she releases me.

“Well, my mom’s been sick, so I had to cut my time down here at the center.”

“Oh, I’m really sorry to hear that,” I tell her. She nods and starts walking.

“Thank you. She’s in hospice now, so… you know how that is.” I immediately think about Pops.

“I can imagine.” We’re quiet for a moment.

“So, I know you haven’t seen the dorms yet. We’ve only got a few more rooms ready so far, but they’ve really come in handy with the other services Grace wants to offer…”

She shows me around to the newest rooms and introduces me to a couple of the relief workers hired while I was out. Grace is going to expand the shelter services to not only house women and families escaping domestic violence, but also displaced women and children just trying to get on their feet again. I think it’s a wonderful idea. You don’t want to be at your last resort to be able to get some help. Sometimes, you might be at that point in your life where you just need a little push—just a bit of a hand up, not necessarily a handout. That’s what this program will offer. I’ve toured the new rooms that are going to be used for that purpose and Helen has filled me in on some of the additional services that we’ll be offering. Helping Hands is transforming right before my eyes and I better get prepared for it.

Just as we are moving into one of the community living areas, my phone vibrates. I look at it and it’s Chuck. I guess it couldn’t last forever. I excuse myself from Helen and answer my phone.

“Anastasia Grey.” There’s a pause. “Hello?”

“You honestly didn’t know it was me?” he asks. I pause, too.

“Chuck?” I say feigning surprise. “No, I didn’t know it was you. I didn’t look at the phone. I just swiped it and answered. What’s up?”

“Nothing. I’m just trying to locate my girlfriend.”

“Well, she’s here somewhere. The last I checked, she was in the reading circle with the children. I had a meeting with Ethan and Grace before I came over to check out the dorms…”

“Ethan?” he questions. “He’s volunteering, too?”

“No, there’s been a massive influx of donations since my interview, and the fact that I’ve been in the hospital made them grow even more.”

“Really?” he truly sounds interested.

“Yes,” I say. “The dorms are expanding to allow for lodging for women and children who just need some help getting back on their feet. We’re trying to get licensing for daycare and food services. There’s going to be counseling and placement…”

“So all of that space that’s been dormant all this time on the east side of the building is going to be used now.” He’s been paying attention. I’m impressed.

“Yes!” I tell him. “There’s so much that we can do with it now that we’re trying to decide what’s the best use of the space.”

“You know that big room in the center with all the windows that looks out onto the courtyard? That would be perfect for the daycare center,” he says. “If the funding allows for it, you can turn the courtyard into a park/play area kind of thing.” I’m nodding while he’s talking.

“Good thinking. I wonder if there’s a door on that room that leads to the courtyard…”

“Yes, there is. That’s what made me think of it.” Again, I’m impressed.

“How do you know all this?” I ask.

“It’s my job to know all this,” he says. “Empty space in a building that big is a nightmare. People can hide in there because no one uses those rooms on a regular basis. Empty space with an exterior access door is even worse.”

“But the ‘exterior access’ only goes to the courtyard,” I protest.

“Still, an opportunist would find a way.”

“Under that assumption, wouldn’t it mean that room probably wouldn’t be a good idea for kids?”

“On the contrary, unless they are the specific target, children are usually a great deterrent for a would-be assailant—not to mention, they are wonderful alarms.” I laugh inwardly thinking of mugger or something trying to sneak into the courtyard door and being greeted by a gaggle of frightened, screaming toddlers.

“Chuck, when you’re here with me, how do you handle my whereabouts?” I ask, seriously.

“What do you mean?” he asks.

“I mean, like, you knew about parts of this building that I didn’t know about until today. When I was seeing patients, there were two ways into my office and you always sat guard at one of them while Mare had her eyes on me all day…”

“You’re not seeing patients anymore?” he asks.

“No, I closed my practice last week.”

“How did I not know that?” I can hear his frown.

“You’re off-duty. You would have found out when you’re back.”

“I need to know these things before I’m back on duty so that I can prepare for contingencies.” That’s why I miss having him around.

“Okay, I’ll keep that in mind. We’re getting off the topic, though. My point is that it was easy to track me in my building. How did you keep up with me in this place?”

“Lots of things,” he says. “I know your patterns. I know that you’ll only be in one of a few places at any given time—your office, Grace’s office, the community room, or the teaching room. If you went to another part of the building, I found another post…”

“You have posts?” I ask. Who gave him posts?

“Okay, if you’re in a building that big, unless you plan on putting a guard in every room, security has to be able to cover a lot of space at once. When you and Grace shared an office, the area right by the break room was a perfect spot to hang out. When you were in the community room, I was either there or by Hank’s desk…” Hank is the night guard posted near the back door. “When your office moved to the other end of the hallway or if you were in the teaching room, I was in the teaching room or loitering somewhere nearby.

“I’d love for you to think I’m omnipresent, but I also had other eyes. For instance, when you went off into the dorms, I knew those women were in delicate positions and they didn’t want some strange man wandering around even if he was your security. So I posted myself outside those doors and down the hall a little bit. You know, they should have another guard or something down there—concealed carry preferably. There’s nothing to stop some lunatic from getting in there if he wants to get to his wife and kids.”

“There is,” I say as an afterthought, then add, “Grace has hired one of Christian’s companies to do security.”

“Where is this line of questioning coming from?” he asks.

“Nothing. I just wanted to know,” I tell him. “When I moved, you moved, and I was just wondering how you did it.”

“It’s my job, Ana. It’s that simple. Is Ben not doing what he’s supposed to do?” I sigh. You have no idea what Ben is doing, Chuck.

“It’s just weird trying to get used to someone else. Like I said, he’s not you…” and lately, you’re not you either. I want to argue at him about those damn pain pills again, but I know it’s futile. “I gotta go. I have to see a man about a horse. I’ll tell Keri to give you a call as soon as I get back around to the community room. We’ll be home soon. I’ve got to feed her.”

“Feed her?” he asks.

“Yeah, I got so caught up with the meeting and all the changes going on here and she got so caught up with the kids that we both forgot about food… but I ate before I left. She didn’t.”

“Yeah, she gets like that sometimes,” he says.

“Have you seen her around kids?” I ask.

“No, I haven’t had the chance.”

“She is so in her element,” I tell him. “It’s like she goes into her own little world and she actually becomes one of them. It’s something to see.”

“Yeah, I can imagine.” His voice gets a little wistful. I hear Ben off in the distance asking someone if they’ve seen me. It only took him all of half an hour to find me. The place isn’t even big enough for it to take that long.

“Okay, really, I have to go. Man. Horse. You know…” I jest.

“Yeah. Listen, don’t bother her. I’ll just see you guys when you get back, okay?”

“Okay,” I say as Ben turns the corner into the dorm community room. “We’ll see you later.” We end the call.

“Was this Where’s Waldo?” Ben asks, when he has my attention. I frown.

“What?”

“You couldn’t tell me that you were going off into the dorms so that I could know where you were?” he asks, affronted. Oh, no the hell he is not giving me attitude.

“So basically,” I begin, keeping my voice controlled for the moment, “when I’m ready to move around, I have to come and tell you?”

“I’m not saying that you have to check in with me, but it would be nice to know where you are,” he reinforces, his tone somewhat scolding. That’s it. To hell with control. He’s gotten a bit too comfortable in a short period of time and has forgotten that—first and foremost—no matter how friendly I am, you have a job to do. All this time, I’ve been trying to put him in the place of Chuck and even though I keep saying that he’s not Chuck, it’s only at this moment that I truly realize that he is not Chuck and he never will be.

“Oh! My apologies, Mr. Lawrence,” I say, rising from my seat and folding my arms. “I didn’t know that it was my job to know where you were during the course of the day. I thought it was the other way around.” My voice is sharp. I have now become Dr. Steele—yes, Dr. Steele; that firm, ball-busting bitch that kicks “Just call me Ana” to the fucking curb. Dr. Grey is nicer than her, so Grey has to sit this one out. He notices the change in my tone immediately.

“Okay, maybe that came out the wrong way,” he says. “Let’s forget that I said that…”

“No, let’s not,” I retort. If he’s busy following a piece of ass around, just like Harris did when he lost David, that puts me at risk. To that end, Mr. Lawrence and I need to have a serious chat. “You see, I did know where you were, and I went about the business of doing my job, which is the business of this charity and this center. True, I may not be getting paid for it, but it’s still my job. While I was busy doing my job, you should have been doing your job—which is watching my back. Instead, you were busy watching Chuck’s girlfriend’s ass.”

Realization dawns and his face changes. Yeah, you want to come at me with both guns? Let me show you what a real double barrel feels like.

“Let me tell you just how serious this is for me. I’ve asked you more than once to stay away from my friend’s girlfriend. You look at her like you want to mount her right where she’s standing and if she saw you gawking at her like that, she would most likely feel quite uncomfortable. I can’t make you stop—you’re a man, she’s a woman. You’ll have to take that up with Chuck, but I won’t hesitate to tell you that I feel very personally about this issue because that man saved my life!” I hiss the last few words hard and quick as this is the last I plan to say about it.

“The bigger issue is that while you were in there Keri-gazing, you had no idea where I was. The last man who lost sight of his charge was fired for it, blamed me, assisted in my kidnapping and brutally beat me. We all know what happened to him.” Ben’s expression changes as does his stance. He’s less relaxed and his back is straight. I’ve got his attention.

“Am I saying that you’re going to get fired and die like Harris? No, but I am saying that my safety should be your number one concern and I need to know that’s where your head is.”

“You’re right,” he says, looking me square in the eye. “I’m very sorry. I had no idea where you were and that’s completely unacceptable. I hope you’ll forgive my carelessness. It won’t happen again.”

“That’s all I ask,” I reply. “You’ve got a whole lot of cargo here that you’re responsible for. I depend on you to watch out for me.”

“Yes, ma’am.” And we’ve moved to ma’am. Actually, that’s fine with me if I’m sure that he’ll do what needs to be done.

“One other thing. My husband is your employer. By extension, I’m your employer. Don’t ever get so comfortable again that you think you can check me about anything. You can ask me a question and you can voice your concerns, but the only person allowed to check me is my husband and even he does so very carefully and only in context.” Take that however you want, but watch your tone with me, Ben!

“Yes, ma’am. Again, I apologize. I was out of line,” he says very formally. I nod.

“We’ll keep this between us. No one else needs to know.” He nods.

“Thank you. I really appreciate that.”

*-*

The ride home from the Center was much different than the ride in. Ben is as quiet as a zombie while the children have breathed new life into Keri. She’s animated and youthful and vibrant, nothing like the beaten woman I rescue from the pool area. When I went to fetch her before we left the center, she was holding someone’s baby. The child had to be just a few months old and just like she was with the toddlers and the blocks, her attention focused solely on this child. The mother had gone to the dorms to retrieve something and one of the relief workers assured her that Keri was trustworthy as she had been sitting with the children for most of the afternoon.

Keri was lost in the child’s eyes when I got there. She was singing some beautiful song about a dodo or something—it sounded a bit like French, but she had some other language mixed in there as well. As far as I could tell, the song was talking about a crab eating you, but it sounded so beautiful that the little baby girl listening was mesmerized the entire time that she sang to her. When I came to get her, she refused to leave until the mother returned. Even when the relief worker offered to take the baby, Keri declined.

“Noh!” she said, firmly. “She ttusted de chile to me. She will retuhn, I will give de chile back to heh.” I couldn’t argue with her. We sat for about ten more minutes waiting for the mother while Keri sang the dodo song. When Mom returned, the little angel was fast asleep.

“Keri, what was that song that you were singing to the baby?” she smiles.

“It is a song Mahmah sing to me when I was a bebbie… Dodo Titit. It chenged a lot troo de yehs. Some say it’s Haitian. Uddehs say Cteole. I just knoh Mahmah sing de song.
Dodo, ti titit manman l
Dodo, ti titit papa l
Si li pa dodo, krab la va manje l
Si li pa dodo, krab la va manje l…”

“I thought the song said something about crabs eating you,” I say. Keri laughs.

“You speak Haitian?” she laughs.

“I speak French,” I tell her. She nods.

“Ah, you hehd de Cteole. Mahmah say by de time she hehd de lullaby. Some wehds may be Haitian, some wehds may be Cteole, some wehds may be God only knows, but it put us to sleep, which is de only ting dat mattehs!” We laugh again. She’s so much fun when she’s not burdened down with the cares of Chuck.

“You seemed so at home with the children,” I say. She smiles.

“I used to bebbysit when I was a teenageh. I bebbysat most of de childjen I teach. Dat’s what make me want to teach. Deir so helpless. Dey need someone to care foh dem.” I see now that it’s not just a job for her, that she really cares about her kids.

“It must be hard to let go, like if they move away or go to another school.” Her lips flatten in contemplation.

“Yes, it can be deefecult, but you knoh change must come. Nuttin’ stays de same. Dey can’t be bebbies fohevah. Dat would not be good.” She sounds so matter-of-fact when she says this. I nod as she reminds me to cherish every moment with my babies as you don’t know how long you’re going to have. I rub my stomach gingerly.

“No, I suppose they can’t.”


 

CHRISTIAN

I didn’t check on Butterfly today as I didn’t want to harass her on her first day back to work, so to speak. I’m a bit dismayed that she didn’t call me either, but she probably got caught up in whatever was going on at the center. When Jason and I get back to the house, we find Charles sitting in the family room flipping through channels. He doesn’t look like he’s in pain, so I wonder if he finally gave in and took the medicine.

“Hey, Chuck,” Jason says, questioning, “Had to get out of the suite?” Chuck nods.

“I’m waiting for Keri,” he replies. Keri? Where’s Keri? “She’s with Ana,” he says, answering my thoughts.

“Oh, she went to the center,” I say taking off my coat.

“As far as I can tell,” he says. As far as he can tell… what the hell happened here today?

“Did you guys have a fight?” Jason asks. Yes, inquiring minds want to know.

“No, we didn’t fight,” he says. “She just needed some fresh air.” His facial expression tells me that there’s more to that story, but I don’t press the case.

“Hopefully, we’ll be seeing them any second,” I say looking at my watch. It’s after 6pm. I was sure Butterfly would be home before me.

“Well, hello, gentlemen,” Gail says, coming out of the kitchen with Mariah and Celida. Now how did they get here before I did? I was sure that Luma and I left the office around the same time. Gail greets her husband with a kiss, eliciting a giggle from the girls.

“Luma’s here?” I ask.

“Not yet,” Gail replies. “She brought the girls over after school. She had some seminar that she wanted to attend after work and she asked if I could keep an eye on the girls. I didn’t think it would pose a problem…”

“Oh, no, it’s no problem. We might as well get used to it, right?” I say, smiling down to the girls who smile widely back up at me. “So, ladies, what’s for dinner?”

“Chicken pot pie,” Mariah exclaims. “Ms. Solavan let me help.”

“Ms. Solomon, Mariah,” Gail corrects her gently.

“Ms. Solmolan,” she says sweetly.

“So-lo-mon,” Gail says, bending down to her.

“So-lo-mon,” she repeats. Gail smiles.

“Very good,” she encourages and Mariah smiles.

“Did you help, too, Celida?” I ask. She nods and moves behind her sister a bit. She’s very withdrawn. She doesn’t talk unless she’s prompted by Mariah, and that’s going to be a problem in developing her social skills. I squat down to her level.

“Celida, are you afraid of me?” I ask her softly. She shakes her head, but still cowers a bit behind Mariah. “Can you come to me?” I ask. She doesn’t move.

“Go ahead, Celida,” Mariah encourages. Celida emerges from behind her sister and shyly walks over to me. I gently take her little hands.

“Do you remember my name?” I ask. She nods. “What is it?”

“Mr. Christian,” she says is a voice so small that I can barely hear her.

“One more time, I couldn’t hear you.”

“Mr. Christian,” she says only slightly louder. I nod and smile.

“That’s very good, Celida,” I tell her. “You have such a pretty voice. I like when you say my name. So when you see me, you can say, ‘hi, Mr. Christian,’ and that’ll make me smile, okay?” She nods and smiles happily.

“Okay,” she says, shedding a bit of her shyness.

“Very good,” I say, smiling back at her.

“Well!” I hear a familiar voice from across the room. “Do you see this, Keri? There’s a very pretty girl holding hands with my husband.” Celida giggles freely why Mariah takes the opportunity to be noticed.

“Hi, Ms. Ana!” Mariah says, waving wildly. Butterfly gasps, mocking surprise.

“And there’s another pretty girl in my kitchen!” she says, smiling widely. “Come, both of you pretty girls give me a big hug.” Both of them dash towards Butterfly, but Celida stops before leaving to whisper conspiratorially, “I’ll be back, Mr. Christian.” It pleases me that this is probably the most I’ve heard her say without being prompted.

Butterfly envelopes both girls in her arms and they are all smiles and giggles. “Oh, what a wonderful surprise. I have two of my favorite girls in the world here with me. Are you staying for dinner?”

“Yes!” they say in unison. Anyone who knows them would swear that they speak with the same voice.

“That makes me so happy,” Butterfly smiles.

“Come, now, ladies,” Gail prompts. “I need my helpers to help us set the table and get dinner out.”

“Okay!” they say in unison again. They each kiss Butterfly on opposite cheeks and run to Gail’s hand. As if she has remembered a horrible malfeasance, Celida stops short and looks at me—still squatting down to her level. She runs to my arms and kisses me quickly on the cheek before running back towards the pantry with Gail and Mariah.

I’m stunned.

I reach up and touch my cheek. It’s feels like a tiny little angel just sprinkled fairy dust in the spot.

“Christian?” I guess I contemplated a little too long as Butterfly’s voice brings me out of my stupor. I shake my head and stand.

“I don’t think a child has ever kissed me,” I say. She scoffs good-naturedly.

“Well, you might as well get used to it,” she chuckles. “You’re about to have a daughter.”

“Keri?” Charles emerges from the family room.

“Chatlez,” Keri say sweetly. “How do you feel?”

“Better now,” he says a bit wistfully. Oh man, he’s gone. Keri smiles and walks over to him. “I missed you.” She smiles wider at his sentiment and kisses him gently on the cheek. “Come, tell me about your day.” A look of pleasant surprise sweeps across her face.

“It was wondehful,” she begins as they walk—and roll—into the family room together. Jason and I share a knowing look and smirk before he disappears in the same direction, most likely down to his suite. I take Butterfly in my arms.

“Hello, beautiful,” I say before planting a kiss on her lips.

“Hello, yourself. Good day?”

“Blissfully uneventful and boring,” I tell her. “The same old mergers and acquisitions; a few status update meetings; no fires, floods, or hurricanes—that’s a good day.”

“Glad to hear it, Mr. Grey,” she says as we walk towards the elevator, my arm still around her.

“How was your day?” I ask.

“Busy!” she says. “An enormous amount of individual contributions has come in as a result of my calamity.” I frown.

“As a result of your calamity?” She nods. “I don’t think I like the sound of that.”

“Well, maybe I shouldn’t have put it that way. When people found out that I was in the hospital right after that little impromptu interview, they started sending in donations—so many that Grace recruited Ethan to help keep track of the incoming funds and the expenditures because her little spreadsheet wasn’t doing it anymore. There’s a lot going on and a lot more to be done.” Come to think of it, I do remember Jason showing me an article about people being concerned about her when she was in a coma.

“Really?” I’m somewhat surprised by people’s ability to actually become human. I knew there were donations, but not so many. “I was wondering where Mom got the money to hire security.”

“Now you know,” she says as we step inside the elevator. I push the button for the second floor and once the car begins to move, I feel the electricity of being in this confined space. When I look over at her, she’s gazing up at me through her eyelashes. I push her against the wall and kiss her hungrily, rising to an immediate erection. When did we last have sex? Before the weekend, I think. God, I need her now.

I’m glad there’s no one on the second floor when the door opens, because we are tearing at each other and Athena’s Spear is violently pulsing inside my pants. I stumble into our bedroom ready to rip every piece of clothing off of her.

“I need you!” I groan.

“No,” she protests. “Not now. We don’t have time. People are waiting for us for dinner…” It’s like a knife to my gut.

“Anaaaa?” I whine, taking her hand and placing it on my throbbing erection while I grab her ass with my other hand. She squeezes hard, causing me delicious torment. I groan deep and kiss her again as she rubs my aching shaft roughly through my pants. She undoes my fly and pushes her hand into my pants, heat and friction working me into untamed passion. Fuck, I’m dying here. She said “no,” but her hand is wrapped around my naked rod—skin to skin, nearly causing me to choke on air. It’s unbearable. It feels so good. She pulls my dick out of my pants and strokes, deep and hard, up and down, her hand relentlessly rolling around the head. I can’t help but stroke against it, panting hard as I feel my orgasm slowly start to creep up my legs. She uses my precum to lubricate my shaft and torture me further. It feels remarkable.

“Fuck! Baby!” I growl, as my head falls back, and now I realize that I’m against the wall. I don’t know how I got here, but I’m not complaining. My mouth is open and I’m panting. I’m so fucking horny, I’m going to blow right here!

“Ana!” I warn as I feel my hips and balls tightening. She softens her stroke and I’m able to take a few deep breaths. She skillfully undoes my belt and button with her free hand and my pants fall down to my ankles. She tightens her hand like before and pulls, licking the skin on my neck and pulling and pushing my poor little dick right back to the frenzy she left it in moments ago.

“Baby!” I gasp. “Baby!”

Right on cue, she drops down and takes my erection in her mouth, sucking hard and deep.

I don’t stand a chance.

I’m shaking and twitching like a possessed man. She is drawing every bit of my seed out of me like a vampire sucking life’s blood. Instinctively, I grab her head and push so that I can further fuck her mouth. She responds by grabbing my ass, tightening her lips, and pushing me further down her throat. I cry out as my balls feel like they are erupting into orgasm again and ride out the pleasure she is ringing from me.

Her hand caresses the tightening and extremely sensitive skin on my testicles, not to mention her delicate finger stroking the muscle right at the base of my dick that is pulsing and squeezing and pushing the semen out of me. I’m holding my breath as she satiates me. I couldn’t breathe if I wanted to. When she’s certain that she’s swallowed every drop I can give, her lips stroke back up to the end of my dick, causing me to gasp loudly until she releases my tender head with a “pop.”

I’m panting like a thirsty puppy as she rises to her feet. My hands are on… something, closet door knob, a table—something. I don’t know. I just know that if they weren’t there, I’d be on the floor by now. She provocatively wipes her lips with her forefinger and thumb.

“Better?” she says sweetly. I can only nod, my breath still temporarily evading me. She chuckles a bit. “I’m going to brush my teeth. You freshen up and we’ll go back to dinner.” I nod again. I don’t even see her leave. I hear the water running in her bathroom and figure I had better get myself together. They’ve probably already started dinner without us.

I pull up my pants and go into my bathroom. Shit, she gives the best head I’ve ever had in my life! Then again, it could be that I love her and although now may not be the time to contemplate this, I can’t think of one of my prior subs—not one of them—that could suck a dick as well as my wife can. That’s saying a lot, because without being too vulgar, I can say that I’ve known some very talented ladies, but none of them holds a candle to Butterfly’s skills.

I splash a bit of cold water on my face as I’m sure that my skin is flushed and I probably look like a fresh beet! Once I dry my face, I check my clothes to make sure that no evidence or remnants are visible anywhere. All is well. When I come back into the bedroom, Butterfly has finished and is standing there waiting for me.

“Ready, Mr. Grey,” she says with a coy smile. I pull her against me and kiss her passionately, my tongue exploring her mouth and searching for possible remnants of my essence. She’s a little loopy when our lips part.

“After dinner, I’m going to eat that pussy so good, it’s going to make that astronomical blowjob seem like child’s play.” She gasps quietly and I’m sure that she knows I plan to make her come with the force of an erupting volcano. “Yes, Mrs. Grey, I’m quite ready.” She swallows hard and walks out of our bedroom toward the elevator. Yes, Butterfly, your mouth may make me weak from release, but my words can still make you squirm with anticipation.

To my surprise, when we step off the elevator, everyone is only just now starting to move toward the dining room. Pops and Uncle Herman have already made their way into the dining room with Gail and the girls. Jason and Charles are both still in the family room.

“See? I knew it. You owe me fifty bucks,” Charles says to Jason, holding his hand out.

“Shit!” Jason says. “I was sure I was gonna be right about this one.” I frown. What were they betting on? I look down at Butterfly, who looks back up at me, puzzled at first. Then, right before my eyes and in about three seconds, she goes through a variety of emotions. First, her cheeks flush, but only briefly. She’s embarrassed. Next, she frowns a bit, but only slightly. She’s a bit perturbed, further proven by the fact that her eyes narrow, but again, only for a second. She’s putting together what she saw and heard and most likely comes to the same conclusion that I do.

These assholes were betting that we were up there fucking.

She purses her lip, sucks her teeth, and her lips rise on one side in a devilish little smirk. Oh, shit. Something that she’s about to do is about to make somebody really uncomfortable. I thought these idiots knew to avoid her wrath, but apparently…

Butterfly does a sultry stroll right over to Charles’ wheelchair. Placing her hands on either armrest, she bends down right in his face. When he quite uncomfortable with the proximity, she purrs,

“You should probably give him back twenty-five.”

She stands up straight and puts her hands on her hips. Charles frowns at first and Butterfly’s gaze never leaves his. Suddenly, his eyes pierce and grow wide. In a move of perfect genius, Butterfly glares at him and simply sucks a bit of air through her teeth without moving another muscle.

And now, he gets it.

“Oh, TMI! Keep it, man,” he says, handing the $50 bill back to a howling Jason. Butterfly snatches the bill from his hand and shoves it down her shirt, most likely into her boobs, before turning to glare at Jason. He stops laughing immediately, failing miserably to hide his mirth.

“I’m going to have to have my eyeballs and brain scrubbed,” Charles comments. That’s what you get for betting on our damn sex life, but apparently, poor Charles doesn’t know when to quit.

“Get a really good picture of it, Chuck. In fact, let me help you. Remember the disappearing pancake in Anguilla?” Charles turns white. I don’t think any of us can forget the disappearing pancake, but I have to say that I’m pleased that she’s remembering small details.

“Oh, ew,” he mumbles and I try not to laugh out loud.

“I hope it ruins your dinner,” she says to him as she marches from the family room into the kitchen, pleased that she has left him thoroughly uncomfortable. Jason’s smirk is not as firm as it was when she began, either. Still firm, but not as firm.

“Why does that gross you out so much, man?” Jason asks. “That’s just a man and a woman doing what men and women do.”

“Because,” Charles begins, “that’s like him and… my sister!” Again, trying not to laugh out loud…

“But we were just talking about it a minute before they walked in the room!” Jason points out. Hello? I’m standing here—am I invisible?

“Yeah, but it’s different when she’s right here in my face!” Charles protests. Okay, enough of this conversation.

“Gentlemen,” I say extending my hand in an ushering motion. “Shall we join our women for dinner.”

“I think I’m gonna puke,” Charles says as he wheels himself toward the kitchen, Jason close behind. I’ve learned that while I like to work behind the scenes to get things done, Butterfly is an out-in-the-open humiliator. If you make her feel uncomfortable out in the open, she will strip you of your dignity right where you stand, hence that handful of reporters known as sacrificial lambs. That’s why she’s always one-upping someone and never finds herself on the backfoot. I think poor Charles may have forgotten that.

I laugh to myself and join everyone in the dining room for dinner.


A/N: If I failed to mention it, my new daughter is from Montego Bay, Jamaica. Listening to her talk makes it a whole lot easier to try to write Keri’s accent. 😉

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

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

Didn’t She Say She Was Going To Publish?

Didn’t She Say She Was Going To Publish?

open-text-book-question-mark-pen-drawing-icon-white-background-30529978It’s 2016 and the question keeps coming to me…

“When are you going to publish?”

I’ve seen many of my fellow authors publish–both traditionally and self-published–and I keep saying that I’m going to get it done. Yet, life keeps finding ways to throw obstacles, issues, and stumbling blocks in my way by means of family crises, health issues, money, time, change of jobs, etc.

I looked at my original draft and realized that it’s so close to FSOG that E. L. James would have rights to get an injunction against me. So I’ve been editing it ever since. There are two huge problems with that.

First (which would probably be second), I never seem to get a copy of it that is acceptable and ready for publishing. That’s becoming a vicious cycle.

Second (which should probably be first), once it’s published, my original baby is dead. Just like “Masters of the Universe” may have copies floating around on someone’s hard drive and among die-hard E.L. James fans, it’s not on any site and it’s not being updated. Why? Because it’s been published. Once I definitely hit that button to “upload to Kindle,” the story has to come down off of the blog. There’s no more updating it. There’s no more weekly chapters… it’s done. Once Miles is in print, Dr. Steele dies… and I think that scares me most of all.

I had one of my oldest readers unsubscribe today. She wasn’t mean or nasty about it all. She was truthful. She said that she was no longer interested in the story because there was too much drama and it had strayed from the original characters. It did get me thinking, because I had a similar experience.

When you’ve written about the same people for so long (in this case, it will be three years on Valentine’s Day), you realize that there’s only so much you can put people through before you have to start focusing on other aspects around them and other characters around them. Look what I’ve done to these people:

We started with Christian’s usual tragic backstory that didn’t really spill into this story as much except to indicate why he is who he is and why the Pedobitch is in his life anyway.

We added Ana’s tragic backstory, which is continuing to spill into this story in so many ways and taking on a life of its own as it’s constantly hiding in the background waiting to blow up.

We’ve got Ana kidnapped by her psycho ex-boyfriend;
Ana’s been beaten by one of Christian’s disgruntled ex-employees;
Christian nearly starves to death pining away for an angry Anastasia;
Christian almost loses his best friend and his girl in Anguilla;
Ana decides to help someone with dignity therapy only to find out that it’s the same person who recorded her beating and after watching the damn thing, she clocks out for three days (or was it four…);
Christian and Ana both are stalked by a psycho asshole–the son of the man who tormented Christian’s childhood and many of his nights as an adult–claiming to be Christian’s brother;
The same asshole orchestrates a break-in of Ana’s condo and the stealing of her gun;
That same gun was used to shoot Jason, who actually took a bullet for Christian because the psycho blonde Pedophile couldn’t live without him;
Psycho mom Mini Morton is not worth the air that she’s breathing, but keeps harassing Ana for a relationship now that she’s dating a billionaire and when Ana finally gives in, she discovers that she was right all along and it’s a lost cause.

All that and I haven’t even finished with the drama that was Book II and what’s happened to them in Book III… you know–hacker, amnesia, fundraiser fiasco, psycho Val…

At this rate, my main characters will be stressed to death by 35! At some point, you have to step back and start to focus on different storylines and how they relate to the main characters–which means that the main characters may not always be the focus, or that a storyline may drag on until a point is made, or it may end prematurely because the point is made very quickly. You have to constantly come up with fresh material to keep readers happy and engaged, and if you don’t, you lose your readers. Unfortunately, sometimes if you do, you still lose your readers.

This is not a complaining post, because I completely understand this dynamic. I went through the same thing with Grey’s Anatomy. I was watching the series for 12 or 13 seasons, and then I saw all of the original characters start to fade away. When I looked up, most of them were gone off the series. When the main person that I was watching the series for was killed off the series, I didn’t want to watch it anymore. So I completely understand when the story takes a turn that someone may not like and they decide that it’s not for them anymore.

I also understand that after a while, the characters do have to change as well as the storylines in order to keep the story fresh and new. So I may go back and check what’s going on with Grey’s Anatomy.

~~Patrick Dempsey

“I’ve enjoyed [making a movie] it immensely, getting back to something that has a beginning, middle and end,” Patrick Dempsey said. “It’s just a completely different approach. With Grey’s, you’re just grinding it out. In this instance, you take the time to get through things.”

~~Private Scandal Murder

 

Like Shonda Rhimes, however, I also understand that there may be a need for new stories, like How To Get Away With Murder and Scandal and Private Practice. To that end, I’ve decided unequivocally that the first story that will be published this year is the love story about Devin and Jordan. That’s a fresh story straight from the imagination that ends much differently than it begins. For those who may not be familiar with it, you can find a taste of the story in the Lemon Drop post. That’s only one of the love scenes. I’m working on a blurb for it right now, and I’ll try to get it posted to see if it draws interest at all.

I hope I haven’t disappointed anyone with this decision, but if I have, c’est la vie. If my writing chops are worth anything, this story will be worth reading, too. If they’re not, then I’ll find out soon enough. Either way, I’m not ready to kill Dr. Steele just yet…

Love and Handcuffs,
Lynn X