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 48—Some New Slates… Not All Clean
“Christian… please…” I pant, breathless and wanton in his arms. I’m sitting on his lap, my back to his front; my arms tethered over my head and around his neck by the fur-lined leather cuffs; my breasts pushed eagerly into his skilled hands; his fingers and thumbs pinching my elongated aroused nipples while his hands mold and stroke my mounds. My fingers are thrust into his hair, both hands pulling, fighting for reprieve or release as I writhe against his body. He pushes into me—slowly, gently, deliciously deeply, each stroke burning against me and causing me to beg him to put me out of my misery.
“Please, Christian… please…” I beseech him, breathless and at the height of my pleasure. I’ve come so many times… in his mouth, on his hands, even with his words. My body has been pushed to the limits of orgasm and the vibrations have long since lulled the children to sleep. I’m now ready to follow, but my insatiable husband is intent to draw the pleasure out as long as possible and make this last orgasm one that I won’t soon forget. Each time I feel the quickening in my loins, he slows his stroke just enough to stop the climax but draw out the pleasure. This last time, I whine in defeat, my body falling limp in his lap as I can’t hold out any longer. This evasive orgasm has exhausted me and as wonderful as he feels inside me, I can’t take anymore.
Noting my surrender, he gently sucks and nips my neck where his face has been buried all this time, supports my weight against him and begins to push into me again, faster than before and causing the heat to rise quickly in my core.
“Christian, no… please…” I beg. I can’t do it again. I can’t take anymore—so many orgasms and he won’t let me have the last one. I can’t…
“So beautiful…” he whispers in my ear as the igniting pace continues. I try to fight it. I can’t tolerate getting right there and then…
“Christian…!” I choke, almost crying. This will be painful if he stops now. I swear I’ll cry and cry if he… I feel him growing inside me, getting harder, thicker—God, he feels so good…
“Christian…!” My breath feels like it’s being snatched from my body! I feel like I’m slipping, falling into… into what? I don’t know… He’s holding me tight against him, his arm wrapped protectively around my body and the babies, his other hand now clasped on my thigh, his fingers digging deep into the tender meat, holding my leg open so that he can drill ever deeper into me—slowly, sensually, searing…
“Christian…!” I gasp, high-pitched, choking on his name. This will be torture… frightening… the very edge of heaven and sanity.
“Breathe, baby,” he says, his voice deep with his arousal, his orgasm hiding just behind his quickly slipping control.
“Oh… oh my God… Christ… ian…” I’m losing it. I’m completely losing it and my body is becoming one giant, pleasure-filled ball of mush.
“Hold on, Baby,” he growls into my ear. Hold on to what? “Here it comes…”
I never get the answer to that question as the orgasm that rips through me in the next several moments is strong enough to register on the Richter Scale. I can only wheeze and shiver violently through it as my fingers clench mercilessly in my husband’s hair.
“Fuck! Yes! Fuck! Yes! Fuck! Yes! Fuck! Yes…” I hear his cries echoing in my ears as he holds me solidly against him, my insides vibrating, clenching, and pulsing around him as he stills, repeatedly and endlessly throbbing and emptying inside of me…
“Earth to Ana…”
With a deep shiver, I snap out of my recurring daydream—a delicious replay of Friday night’s sexual excursions that left us breathless and useless, but sexually charged for the entire weekend. We had but to look at one another and the heat was on again. The weekend was full of passion and orgasms, but the last one on Friday night—or early Saturday morning—was one for the record books.
“I’m sorry, Mare,” I say quickly, trying to regain my composure.
“Don’t apologize, the look already tells me where you were,” she says playfully. “You’re the first couple I’ve ever heard of asked to leave Lamaze class for excessive fondling.” I giggle with her. It’s true that last night, the instructor suggested that we should probably wait until next week’s class as our public displays of affection were making the other couples feel a bit uncomfortable. We don’t know if we’ll be going back to Lamaze anyway, as we think we’ve garnered all that we can in the classes we’ve attended. Also, it appears that word has gotten out that AnaChris is attending Lamaze class on Monday nights and suddenly, our once tiny class is a bit crowded.
“I was just reminding you that you have an appointment at Broadmoor before you head home to prepare for tonight.”
That’s right. I need to meet with Ilene Claiborne to ask how the selection process is going for our sponsors. I haven’t heard anything just yet and I’m hoping that we can be members before the babies are born. It will allow me the opportunity—I hope—to meet some of the other members before I go on hiatus from the public eye for a while.
I’m on my way out and I see Courtney’s ever present form running around the Center doing God only knows what. I can’t get it out of my head that she might be living here since Ace said something last Friday. I know it’s impossible without me knowing, but I just have to ask someone if they ever see her leave.
“Yeah, she leaves around six in the evening or so,” one of the guards tells me while looking at the logs. “It looks like she comes back pretty early in the morning, though, except last Thursday and Friday—she came back around noon both days. Otherwise, she’s here five or six AM… including Sunday.” I twist my lips and nod, thanking him for the information. I know that I’m supposed to be receiving reports on her concerning her comings and goings from our security team, but I haven’t looked at them since I scared her shitless with my gun and realized that she was all hot air. Anyway, the logs will have to wait for a couple of days because after I go to Broadmoor, I’m going to celebrate the new year with my family and friends.
“This is a… somewhat unusual request, Ana.” Ilene is a bit taken aback by my wish to receive the information on our potential sponsors. I thought about what Christian said about being able to choose our sponsors and I think he’s right. If anyone should have the final say-so in who’s going to sponsor us, then it should be us.
“Ilene, please let me know if I’m overstepping my bounds here, but the members vie for the opportunity to sponsor us. Why don’t we get the chance to choose them, too? I mean, at the risk of sounding a bit elitist, they get the opportunity to vet us… shouldn’t we have to opportunity to vet them as well?” She nods, contemplating.
“I see what you mean and I completely understand. The issue is that I don’t know how the members would accept that. After all, you are asking to become a member of our club. As such, one or two of our members have to sponsor you. We count it a privilege that the Greys would like to become part of our organization. However, the members wouldn’t take too kindly to knowing that we’re picking and choosing over who gets to sponsor you.”
“But isn’t that exactly what you’ll be doing?” I ask. “Surely, more than one member or couple will want to sponsor the Greys. Won’t you be choosing a couple? What will be your criteria? What will qualify one member over another member to become our sponsors?” She falls silent. I’m not familiar with the selection process and I’m really not that interested. All I know is that if by some freak of bad coincidence, Judge Hammerstein or that snotty-ass president from the Meet-and-Greet become our sponsors, Christian and I will both be more than a little unhappy. “All I’m asking is that my husband and I become part of that selection process. I’m sure that if you get down to three to five or even ten serious candidates, that you wouldn’t be remiss to share with us at least their names and the communities where they live. They would know that information about us.” Christian and GEH can do a lot with just that amount of information. Ilene contemplates my request.
“That doesn’t seem like an unreasonable request,” she says. “Once you become members, that information would become available to you anyway in the member directory, so I don’t see any harm in it.”
“Thank you, Ilene. I really appreciate it and I’m sure that my husband will, too.” We have to be careful who we attach ourselves to. Christian and GEH have extensive resources to make sure that we won’t somehow be connected to the latest Ponzi scheme, fraud ring, or sex scandal through mere association. While I’m sure that I will enjoy the exclusivity allotted to me through country club membership, I’m also sure that Christian and I don’t want just anybody’s name attached to ours. Luckily, now, I can go home and get ready for Food and Libations this evening with one less concern on my shoulders.
I can’t seem to shake the thought of my wife’s supple skin. She’s so responsive and she just melts when I touch her. I took her home from that cursed party on Friday night and the first thing I did was feast on that delicious fruit between her legs. She was so ready, I barely got her into the bedroom and onto the bed before I ripped those panties off and just dove in, right under that sexy ass red dress and between those hot black stockings.
It’s almost like I can taste her right now. Jesus, her thighs against my ears and her swollen body in my hands… I’m getting hard again just thinking about it.
Her first orgasm came in no time and I just had to have more and more of her. It was like I couldn’t get enough. I massaged her G-spot and sucked that clit and a few minutes later, she was crying out again. It still wasn’t enough. I stuck my finger in her ass, my thumb in her pussy, and licked that clit some more and away we go a third time. This was all before we even took our clothes off.
I stripped her naked and after an ass fuck, a titty fuck, and a tongue bath complete with a tossed salad, I tried to let her rest, but I think something that I said to her even made her come! Something cheesy about caressing her with moonbeams until her skin tingled and sparkled with lunar dust or some shit… I don’t even remember! All I know is that her reaction was so hot that I had to have her again! And God, that last session… it lasted for an eternity. I didn’t want it to end. Every time she started to quiver around me, it’s like my heart fell because I thought it was going to be over. I slowed my stroke to prolong our pleasure, to lose myself in her warmth, her feel, her smell, her taste… to float away to that other world that she takes me where time and space doesn’t matter…
She is Shambhala…
When I felt her surrender, no longer able to withstand the intensity of what I was doing, I lamented that the journey had to end, but knew at the same time that our climax would be explosive and outer-worldly. I poured myself into her, body and soul, and we achieved soul-shattering orgasms that ripped us to shreds in the wee hours of Saturday morning, but rejuvenated us for days to follow.
Now, I sit in my ivory tower, caressing the picture of her playfully looking over her shoulder at the camera and imagining my fingers touching her alabaster skin. No one person has ever had this much power over me. Screw Helen of Troy… she’s Aphrodite, Athena, and Gaea all rolled into one. I made her forget all about those cruel assholes at that party on Friday night.
But I sure as hell didn’t forget.
I look at my Hublot watch and it’s now just past 1:00pm on New Year’s Eve. I’ve taken the advice Butterfly doesn’t know that she gave me and became the monster that these assholes expected me to be. Fifteen of Fairlane LLC’s seventeen divisions has been dismantled and sold and I’m waiting on word of the last two. I wanted to have the entire thing out of my possession before midnight so that the sale could be offset against the purchase in 2013 in the same fiscal year and I wouldn’t have to recognize so much of a capital gain in 2014. That still may be the case as I only have two divisions left to sell, even though depending on the time of the sale and the value of the dollar at tax time, 2014’s money may not be worth as much as 2013’s money. Nonetheless, I turned Fairlane’s betrayal into a “two-day-only” rummage sale and made a goddamn killing! Fifty-seven years of saving your pennies; sleepless nights; blood, sweat, and tears; divorces; hopes and dreams; negotiations; compromises; hard work; projects and patents; and plotting and scheming down the drain all because you didn’t know who the fuck you were dealing with.
Part of me is considering holding on to one useless division of the company so that Georgie can still be under my control as the president of nothing. I might consider that although his particular contract is GEH as an executive, not as the package with Fairlane LLC, so he belongs to me anyway. I can hardly wait to see Fairlane’s faces when he discovers that I’ve sold his once prized possession to some of the most ruthless names in the business with no provisions for retention. He’ll be lucky if any of those jealous, catty bitches have a job by Monday.
Take that, you fucking amateur bastards!
“Go home, Andrea,” I say as I leave my office, closing the door behind me.
“Goodnight. Mr. Grey.”
“Goodnight. Goodnight, Luma.”
Jason and I are back on Mercer in no time as no one appears to be out and about today. Everyone is probably waiting until nightfall to let the revelry begin. Butterfly and I will be entertaining Food and Libations at that time. Mom and Dad are having the “older” generation over at Grey Manor for cocktails. They’ve even invited Chuck’s parents since they’ll be alone for the New Year. Just as Windsor takes my coat, I feel my phone buzzing in my pocket. It’s a text… from Welch.
** Check your email. **
I don’t usually get texts from Welch, so when I get one that says “Check your email,” I don’t hesitate to open my email. The subject line grabs me immediately:
For Your Eyes Only—Open in Private
Oh, shit. I quickly make my way down to my office and open the email. There’s no body. Just an attachment—an mp4 file. I fall back in my seat and sigh heavily. I hate shit like this. I’ve heard horror stories about rich executives getting anonymous pictures or recordings of their faithful and loving wives in the throes of passion with some starving artist or actor or author or some other penniless motherfucker who doesn’t have an empire to run, so he can concentrate on wooing rich wives who…
Not my Butterfly. Not my Ana. She’s faithful to infinity—I have no doubt that there’s no one in that special place but me. So let’s see what the fuck this is.
I download the file attached to the email and open it. Sure enough, it’s a bar somewhere. I can’t make out where it is, except that it’s dark and the cameraman is walking to the door about to go inside. It’s a large, wooden, green door and when he opens it, the atmosphere is alive with activity—not too many people, but lively enough where everyone is engrossed in their own conversations or engagements. The cameraman makes their way to the bar and I see a familiar face.
It’s Aragon, sitting at the bar, nursing a drink.
The cameraman takes the seat next to him and orders a gin and tonic. I realize from the voice that the cameraman is Welch. What the fuck? He’s taking a big chance doing this!
“Come here often?” Welch says. Is he serious?
“Why? You lookin’ for a date?” Aragon responds sarcastically.
“Something like that, but I’m sure you already know that I’ve found who I was looking for.”
“Yeah, I know who you are. You here to bump me off?” Aragon says mockingly.
“We both know that would be fucking useless,” Welch retorts. Good answer!
“And impossible,” Aragon adds.
“Not impossible, but that’s beside the point.” The bartender returns with Welch’s drink. He tosses $10 on the counter, but doesn’t take the drink.
“I’m here for only one reason. You need to know that Mr. Grey is a businessman—a legitimate businessman. He makes his money through mergers and acquisitions. He has no shady dealings, no backdoor businesses, no under-the-table schemes. He recently found out that some of his miscellaneous subsidiaries had some shady dealings; he shut them down immediately. Mr. Grey is shrewd, intelligent, and difficult to intimidate, but he’s not crooked. His interest in Anton Myrick is strictly personal. The man tormented him during a time when a child shouldn’t even know the meaning of the word. He’s been fighting those demons his entire life and those closest to him can still see him fighting some of them even now. For whatever reason, he decided to unleash his crazy son on my boss and as a result, that son is now in federal custody no longer enjoying those creature comforts he had while in witness protection.” Aragon’s eyebrow rises, but Welch keeps talking.
“Myrick’s not done and we know he’s not. We don’t know what sadistic hatred he has for this four-year-old boy that survived his cruelty and became a successful businessman and billionaire, but whatever it is, his lies and manipulations continue to wreak havoc on my boss’s life. So while your boss might be looking to settle a score for what appears to be a pretty serious betrayal, my boss is looking to lay an old ghost and demon to rest permanently. The minute we find that bastard—and one way or another, we will find him, because now he has a score to settle with us—there won’t be a reason to worry about him anymore. My question is does my boss have a reason to worry about you?”
“You’re taking a big chance coming here confronting me like this,” Aragon says, looking him in the face. My sentiments exactly.
“I’m not taking a chance at all,” Welch retorts. “This is what I do.”
“So your boss is taking this chance.”
“No, he’s not. He runs his company and I do what I do. He doesn’t ask me questions. That’s why I get paid the big bucks. I clean up the mess and if something goes down and I can’t fix it, I take the fall.” Shit, I didn’t know that.
“One of those,” Aragon says, and I hear slight respect in his voice.
“One of those,” Welch responds.
“Loyal to the end…”
“The bitter end,” he reinforces.
“So tell me, Mr. Welch,” Aragon says, turning to face him, “exactly why should I believe anything you’re saying?”
“You shouldn’t,” Welch says, without pausing, “and I really don’t care if you believe me or not. My only concern is if I have to tell my boss that we need to be on the lookout for your colleagues.”
“You’re a very blunt man, Mr. Welch.”
“It doesn’t do any good to beat around the bush, does it? You came for answers, we gave them to you, but you weren’t straight with us. So again I ask, do we need to be on the lookout for your colleagues, Mr. Aragon?”
That got his attention.
“Shrewd, too, I see,” Aragon says. “How did you know?”
“It’s my job to know,” Welch says.
“Fine. I see no reason at this time for your boss to be on any alert. We’ll see what the future holds.” Well, that doesn’t make me feel any better, you fucking asshole.
“So, no worries of Khartoum’s head in his bed when you get back to Detroit?” Aragon laughs.
“So dramatic,” he says. “No, no Khartoum’s head.”
“Or his brother’s dick and balls?” Son-of-a-bitch… Aragon turns to him.
“You are quite informed, Mr. Welch.”
“I told you, that’s my job.” Aragon laughs again.
“I’ll give your regards to Sunset,” he says, knowingly before taking a swallow of his drink.
“And I’ll give yours to Ratzinger.” Aragon’s neck turns to Welch and his face turns stark white. Who’s Ratzinger?
“How the fuck…?” It’s the first time I’ve seen any chink in this man’s armor. There’s total silence between them for a full 30 seconds and from the look on Aragon’s face, I assume they are looking at each other.
“We are on. The same. Team!” Welch says forcefully. “We want. The head. Of the same. Man. Don’t make an enemy out of an ally.”
Aragon’s expression changes. It’s contemplative, then cooperative. He nods.
“I’ll let Mr. Russo know,” Aragon says.
“Same team,” Welch repeats. Aragon nods again.
“Same team,” he concurs. “Make sure that your boss lets us know if he does see Mr. Myrick and he’s unable to finish the job,” he says, bottoming his drink.
“Oh, rest assured, if he sees Mr. Myrick, the job will be finished,” Welch says with finality. Aragon smiles.
“Then, like I said, my boss will be pleased.”
“Make sure that if your boss finishes the job that he sends us some kind of notice as well, but not the usual presents, please.” Aragon scoffs a chuckle.
“Duly noted.” He proffers his hand and they shake on it.
They’ve struck an agreement! I can’t believe it! This man is worth his fucking weight in gold!
“I’d love to stay and chat, but I have to go and give this news to my boss,” Welch stands and I can tell by the movement of the camera that he’s standing.
“I thought you said he didn’t know that you were here,” Aragon says.
“He doesn’t, but he will now. He needs to stand down. You made a reference to his wife. He’s most likely loaded every weapon they own and he’s probably having her fitted for Kevlar as we speak.” Well, it’s not that serious… although…
“Oh, for fuck’s sake, give me a break,” Aragon protests. “This shit happens all the time. It’s like… poker. I’ve got two Jacks and a six—what do you have?”
“Only you’re fucking with a civilian!” Welch retorts, lowering his voice. “Your boss kills people and sends body parts. My boss takes over companies and sends flowers, both with the same message—‘sorry for your loss.’ I told you, I do the dirty work and half the time, he doesn’t even know. He doesn’t have to, because his business dealings very rarely ever fall that way. But on the rare occasion that they do, I and my special team, we take care of that. So, yes, I’m going to go and tell him that everything’s okay now before he puts his wife and children in a goddamn bomb shelter.” Aragon sighs and shakes his head.
“You know, his reputation is a whole lot bigger than he is,” he says.
“And I’m part of that reputation. So keep your mouth shut.” Welch warns.
“So who I really need to be watching out for is you,” Aragon replies.
“And my many invisible minions,” Welch adds. “Remember, same team. I’d like to know the most recent information you have on Myrick’s whereabouts. As you can see, our intel is shit, but we had no reason to believe that he wasn’t locked in that hellhole before now.”
“I’m still not 100% sure that I should trust you,” Aragon says.
“Sonofa…” Welch exclaims. “I want this fucker dead. He’s a major fucking inconvenience for me!” he says through clenched teeth.
“Will you keep your goddamn voice down?” Aragon says, looking nervously around him.
“I don’t give a fuck who hears me! They don’t know who the hell I’m talking about!” Welch retorts. This gesture is enough for Aragon to tell him what he wants to know.
“As far as we know, he’s married with a family. We don’t know where they are, though.”
“With a family?” Welch exclaims, horrified. “You mean Myrick, Jr. wasn’t just one bad mistake?” Aragon shakes his head.
“Junior has at least two other brothers and a sister… and there’s a wife, all in police protection.”
“Oh, fuck me sideways. So basically, there’s a whole brainwashed family out there who most likely believes that my boss is the cause of this asshole’s miserable life, because there’s no way he singled out one son and the rest of them didn’t get the story.”
“Look,” Aragon leans in to Welch, “I probably shouldn’t tell you this, but I don’t give a fuck anymore. Ant told my boss this story a long time ago… way before he had a mark on his head. He had a sweet little set up in a trailer park in Hamtramck. About eight girls, his own little ring—drugs, too. He’d bring the drugs, he’d get the Johns, he had a good little thing going. One of the girls had a kid, only the kid was eight—always givin’ Ant a hard time, so Ant would belt him once or twice, give him a ‘souvenir burn’ as he called it with the cigarette butt and send him on his way. One day, the kid stole his drugs. He beat the hell out of the kid, but he never gave the drugs back. Turns out the kid dropped the drugs in the house somewhere and his mom found them, smoked them all and died.”
Is he talking about me? Is he talking about the crack whore?
“So as the story goes, the kid called the cops, told the cops all about Ant’s prostitution ring and blamed him for his mother’s overdose, and had him thrown in jail. This is why Ant and his kid are so eager to get back at your boss.”
What the fuck? What the ever-loving fuck? I was four!!! I stayed there with my mom’s dead body for as many days! I didn’t know to call the goddamn cops! I didn’t even know who the goddamn cops were!
“That’s not how it fucking happened!” Welch nearly yells, voicing my outrage.
“We know that now,” Aragon replies. “We’ve seen the public records trying to track Ant down.”
“Well, if you already know that, then why the fuck are you here?” Welch accuses. “Why would you read that shit and then think my boss would want anything to do with that fucker but his goddamn head on a platter? You’ve read the police reports! You’ve seen the public records! You even heard the fucker brag about ‘souvenir burns’ on his goddamn skin! He was four years old! He was a baby, for God’s sake! And you come here and threaten his wife? And all you’ve got to say for yourself is ‘I’ve got two Jacks and a six?’”
Welch is losing control. I think he’s feeling some of his own helplessness right now. Aragon is looking a bit rudderless, but still manages to stand his ground.
“I don’t apologize for what I do, Mr. Welch,” he says, flatly.
“I just bet you don’t,” Welch says, rising from the bar, leaving his drink that he never touched. “If you ever get any good intel on this fucker, please let us know—that is, if you think we deserve to know, and if you think there should be any justice in the world for that four-year-old child who still sports those souvenir burns on his chest and back. You know where to find me.” The view of the camera turns to the door and is soon outside walking through the parking lot, then into Welch’s car.
“I’m going to find this fucker’s family. I should be at Central at your house by the time you see this.” And the screen goes black.
I sit there for a moment,. staring at a blank screen. I don’t know whether to be relieved or disgusted. This fucker is telling people that I had him arrested! Strangers! Hardened criminals! That I was twice as old as I really was, that I was the direct cause of my mother’s death, and that I had him arrested for it! He’s probably told it so many times that he believes it himself! I know his son believed it—probably his whole goddamn family. Fucking hell, I’d hate me, too!
I don’t even know what to do right now. These people could be anybody… anywhere. They could be one of the families Butterfly is helping at the Center; or one of the people who participated in my PSA earlier this year. Hell, they could even work for me. I run both hands over my face and through my hair. We just can’t take too much more. My babies are due to be born in a month and I just want to get on with the business of living my life. There has to be any easier way to enjoy wealth and happiness without waiting for the other shoe to fall every time I look around.
I stand up and go over to the door. After making sure that the coast is clear, I make my way over to the secret wall and enter Security Central. Welch is there with Jason, Chuck, and Lawrence, and I come face to face with a picture on one of the screens that I could have gone my whole life without ever seeing again.
“You found him.” I say flatly, looking at an aged picture of the fucker who haunted my dreams for decades.
“No, but I’ve identified his family, so it’s a start,” Welch says as I stare into the eyes that used to give me such a chill. Now, they just look empty and cold staring back at me from a five-year-old mugshot. Knowing what I know now, I no longer feel any of the innate fear that hid in the dark recesses of my mind. I only feel anger and the searing need for revenge. There’s another feeling there… I can only label it as betrayal. How could I feel that this monster owes me anything? Ever owed me anything but to die a lonely, miserable death? But I did… and I do. I feel like he owed me at the very least one day feeling the tiniest bit of remorse for what he put me through, for what he did to me, but no. He finds a way to blame me for his plight in life—the four-year-old boy who was unfortunate enough to be the child of one of his drugged-out hookers. How dare I overcome the circumstances that he thrust upon me and left me in, much less become a successful businessman and wealthy billionaire. Now his bone to pick with me is no longer imaginary because I have done to his son what he claimed I did to him all these years—foiled his plans and put his ass behind bars.
Who else is going to come out of the woodwork at me now?
“What do we have?” I ask impassively, waiting to see what the rest of this family looks like. Jason and Welch look at each other and Welch begins typing into the computer.
“Sylvia Pettigrew,” he says as an average brunette pops on the screen. Pretty—I can’t place her age, though. “Myrick’s wife, 44 years old. They’re separated. They’ve been separated since just after their last child was born. She fled witness protection a year ago, but Robin Myrick is her son, so she’s been to see him. She signed the logs as Evelyn Chancellor, but since her identity was already known, they let her in to see him. My sources say she left the medium level facility in a gray suburban, also rented to Evelyn Chancellor, and returned to a nearby motel. She checked out the next day and took a flight to Deerfield, IL. She lives and works there as Evelyn with two of her children—Mayson, her 12-year-old daughter, and Oliver, her 9-year-old son. Robin is their oldest, but there’s a son between them that doesn’t belong to Myrick.”
“The plot thickens,” I say.
“Not necessarily,” Welch corrects me. “They didn’t get married until just before the daughter was born, so there appears to be a long period of separation in there.”
“So what about this middle son?” I ask.
“Twenty-one, active military. All records indicate he deployed just before 18 and never came back—totally distanced himself from his family.” My brow furrows.
“Special forces?” I ask. Welch shakes his head.
“Nope. Army Specialist, up for Corporal. Nothing in particular, just making his way through the ranks. He has the earmarks of a kid who couldn’t wait to get away from home and hasn’t looked back since.” I nod.
“Problems with not-so-dear-old-not-quite-dad?” I ask. Welch shrugs.
“Could be,” he says. “If Myrick was a part of Robin’s life for so long, and Myrick had the kind of impact that he had on Robin, but this kid—Scott Weldon—hasn’t come looking for you yet, chances are that Myrick didn’t have the same impression on Weldon that he had on Robin.” I nod. That’s encouraging.
“So this woman… Evelyn or Sylvia…”
“Sylvia,” Welch says.
“They’re estranged.” It’s a statement that should be a question.
“From what I can tell, yes, they are. Without any information on Myrick, though, I don’t know, but…” he trails off.
“But what?” I ask.
“I really think they’re… she’s… bait,” he says. I frown.
“Bait? What do you mean? How so?”
“Sunset has known about you for years. He could have had you any time, sir. You didn’t become relevant or important until you went to Ionia. Then all of a sudden, his consigliere is flying across the country to see you. Silvia, Robin, probably even Mayson and Oliver… they’re all methods of sniffing Myrick out, bringing him out in the open. You may be an ally—an extra gun, so to speak, but you’re bait, too. However they can get this guy, they’ll get him. All I can say is when you see him coming, duck.”
“So, what do we do about Sylvia? Do we question her?” I ask
“We won’t get anything out of her. I can guarantee you that she’s been questioned to the wall. Plus, we don’t know how deep Myrick’s line runs. Did she believe it? Did she think it was a crock of bull? I have a hard time believing that Myrick sold Robin on his story and nobody else. So we definitely have to tread lightly with this group.”
“So what good is knowing who they are or where they are if they have no information on Myrick and Myrick is not with them?”
“Finding out who’s watching her,” Welch responds. “We already know that Sunset’s people are watching her. Who else and where will they lead us?”
“How much of this is need to know?” He examines me and knows that I’m asking about what I can tell my wife. I’ve already put her on high alert because I couldn’t hide carrying my gun.
“You can tell her whatever I’ve told you,” he replies. “When I stop telling you, it’s no longer ‘need to know.’ I can’t imagine her being this much ‘in’ the know and we just cut off her line of information.” I nod.
“I was left feeling a bit uncertain about that conversation with Aragon,” I fish.
“Never let your guard down. It’s just not a good idea, but for the most part, I say you’re fine. Go back to business as usual.” Well, that’s good news. We have enough boogeymen in our lives; we don’t need to be hiding from any more.
I’m going over the menu and the last minute things that have to be done for Food and Libations tonight. The last F&L was my birthday and I really want to forget that. Here’s hoping there’s nothing in the water to make Maxie, Phil, Gary, or Al go batshit on me tonight.
“Bacon wrapped glazed pork loin, creamy avocado pasta, cheesy spinach balls, loaded baked potatoes, oven-baked asparagus, veggie kabobs, chicken kabobs, fried corn, candied peaches, mini key-lime pies…”
“And a partridge in a pear tree,” Gail sings from behind me. I raise my eyes to her. “I’m sorry, I couldn’t resist. That’s a lot of food.”
“And that’s not all of it,” I tell her, handing the menu to Ms. Solomon. “F&L is a taste sensation. You’ve done this before—not a lot of huge portions…”
“… But a lot of variety, yes I know. You’ve decided not to cook this time.” It’s a statement, not a question. I take a seat at the breakfast bar.
“I trust you and Ms. Solomon,” I tell her. “Truth is, the closer we get to D-Day, the harder it is for me to do the things I normally do. I’ll probably just do my potatoes…”
“You don’t trust me to do them?” she asks, mocking injury. I chuckle at her.
“Of course I do and you know that. I just want to feel useful doing something for my party.” I hand her my list of desserts. “I hope I don’t fall asleep in the middle of the damn thing.” She sits on the stool next to me.
“The twins will be here soon,” she says. “We’re going into a countdown once the New Year rolls in, so to speak.”
“I know,” I say, my voice betraying a mixture of lamenting and impatience.
“Are you scared?”
“I’m terrified,” I tell her. “Not so much for the pain. I’m ready for that… just remember the worst pain that I’ve ever felt and multiply that by a hundred.” Gail frowns at me. “I’m under no misconception, Gail. I know how bad this can get. I have to prepare myself for the absolute worst and just get ready for it. There’s certainly no need to sugarcoat labor.”
“I guess not,” she says. “I wish I had some words of wisdom for you, but I’ve never had children, so…” She shrugs. “Um, I think we do need to talk about my new duties, though,” she adds. I sigh.
“I know, but I have no idea what they’ll be right now,” I tell her honestly. “I’m so new at this and I have no idea how I’m going to need you. God, I’m so glad we didn’t hire an outside nanny. I’d have no idea what to look for!”
“Maybe we should go on the internet or something… research what a typical nanny’s duties are. I know they aren’t all expected to just raise the children.”
“Actually, that’s a good idea,” I tell her. “We couldn’t end up any worse off than we are now. Ms. Solomon, can you do without us for a while?”
“No problem,” she replies. I follow Gail to her office, which used to be the informal dining room that we never used. Christian’s old desk fit in the space perfectly, and it actually looks like it was made for this purpose.
“Now tell me, this office really did turn out to be a good idea, didn’t it?” I say. She rolls her eyes.
“Yes, Ana, the office was a good idea thank you,” she says in one breath. I chuckle.
“You’re welcome,” I say from the other side of her desk and pop open my laptop.
We spend some time going through the duties of a nanny and discover that a lot of the job involves household management tasks that make life easier for the parents. She already does most of the items on that list or she has tasked them out to other members of the staff. So I guess where she’s going to come in most handy as a nanny is being my very personal baby assistant. A lot of the tasks that are listed the related directly to the twins are tasks that I plan to perform myself, but I’m going to need help, particularly because I’m having twins and also because I plan on going back to work once I’m cleared by the doctor after the babies are born. Some days, they’ll be coming to the center with me as we’ll be licensed for day care any day now, but not all the time and definitely not when they’re newborn.
We had apparently been researching the matter for longer than we thought, because Ms. Solomon came in search of us to let us know that everything was nearly finished and I may want to get started on my potatoes. I look at my watch and realize that we had been working on this project for nearly two hours. The good news is that we are both a little clearer on what should be expected of Gail. The bad news is that we have to put in a little double-time to get caught up on everything now, and I had wanted to take a nap before F&L. I guess we’ll play that one by ear.
I’m standing in my underwear after a short shower looking at my wardrobe in dismay. I have no idea what I’m going to wear tonight. Nothing fits right and I’m determined not to buy anymore clothes until after the babies are born. I have maternity clothes that I haven’t even worn and it’s too late for some of them. Wealthy or not, that’s just too many clothes for one person.
“Now there’s a lovely sight to see.” My lamentations are broken by my husband’s husky baritone voice. I turn my head to him, holding my stomach like the babies will run away if I move my hands. “You look sorrowful,” he says, approaching me carefully. I nod.
“Nothing fits anymore,” I say, less of a lamentation and more of a point of fact. “It doesn’t make much sense to go out and buy anything else this late in the game, but I’m not really sure what else to do.”
“Butterfly, you buy whatever you want,” he scolds. “You have to feel and be comfortable until these babies are born, so I won’t hear of ‘what makes sense.’ What makes sense is that you are as comfortable in your clothes and skin as one can possibly be sharing such intimate space with two other human beings.” He stands behind me and kisses my shoulder, looking at my maternity wardrobe. He reaches in and pulls out an electric blue cold-shoulder shirt and a pair of white leggings.
“Wear your hair down,” he says, moving my hair and kissing my short spot. “No flower, no headband, no scarf.” He kisses the spot before each no. “I want you free, comfortable, and beautiful in your home.” He kisses the scar where they stitched my ear and I shiver. “And I may feel the need to kiss you there again before the night is over… and I want no restrictions.” His voice is seductive and commanding, and I’m standing here in soon-to-be-drenched underwear.
“Okay,” I reply, my voice hopelessly breathy.
“Good girl,” he says rewarding me with a delicious kiss on my lips. “Now hurry and get dressed. Our guests will be arriving soon.” Yes, Your Majesty. My husband always has a way of making me feel like the princess at the ball. I slide into the ensemble he has chosen for me and it fits perfectly, hugging me like a warm glove yet not too tight. He wants my hair down.
The only way for me to do that is to brush it and ignore it. If I think about it too much, I’ll obsess over my not-quite-bald spot all night. I pass a brush through my incredibly long hair several times before I deliberately turn away from the mirror and leave my dressing room. I’m really going to have to get this hair cut after the children are born. I mean, it seems strange to do it while they’re still growing inside me—I don’t know why, but once they’re born, I need to get a good foot whacked off of my head and I’ll still have long hair. Christian will be traumatized, but hell—it’s my head. Maybe I’ll start slow… six inches, with layers…
“I didn’t know what to bring since you can’t really partake in any libations,” Al says, the first to arrive as usual. “It’s New Year’s Eve and I have no idea what the tradition is for pregnant women on this day. Of course, the internet was no help…” He hands me a bottle of champagne and a bottle of non-alcoholic sparkling white grape juice.
“This is perfect, Al,” I say, putting the bottles in a nearby wine bucket. “I’m just ready to have some fun with my friends.”
“You’re dressed already?” he asks. I nod. “That’s unusual.”
“I didn’t do as much cooking this time around. It’s harder to stand on my feet for long periods of time.”
“Oh, no, really?” he laments. “None of the famous Jewel garlic potatoes?”
“Oh, no, we’ve got the potatoes,” I correct him. “That’s the only thing I did make.” He smiles widely.
“In that case, my life is complete,” he says definitively. I make myself comfortable in one of the large chairs Christian has had set up in the lower level entertainment room.
“So how’s it going, Jewel? We didn’t really get a chance to talk at Christmas.” He sits in the chair next to me.
“Same as usual,” I tell him. “I feel twice my normal size; I haven’t even been able to do yoga in about three months or so… something like that. Christian had to find something for me to wear tonight because I’m certain that I have a distorted view of how I really look.” I sigh heavily. “Look at my face, Al. My cheeks look like I’m storing nuts for the winter! I’ve never been more than a size six on a bad day. Now my body’s being stretched and bent and battered all to beat the damn. I’ll never get the body back that I had before. Look at my thighs!” I squeeze my thigh with both hands. “That’s just wrong! You could feed starving children with all this meat! And my hands…” I hold my hands out to him. They have been particularly swollen lately. “I had to take off my wedding rings yesterday because my hands might explode like sausages.”
“Does Chris know you took your wedding rings off?” he asks, examining my hands. “You’ve got a slight bit of swelling, but I think the whole sausage thing is in your head.”
“It’s not in my head!” I tell him firmly. “I could barely get them off when I woke up this morning. I started to panic. And no, my beloved control freak doesn’t know I’m not wearing my rings.”
“Yes, he does.” His voice startles the shit out of me. I didn’t even know he was down here.
“Goddammit, Christian, where did you come from?” I snap, snatching my hands away from Al.
“The elevator,” he retorts. “Let me see your hands.”
I don’t want to show him. He’ll give me some kind of disease or something I’ve never heard of—swollen handaphobia or something and try to put me on bedrest until the soccer players are born.
“Anastasia,” he says in that tone that tells me that I better show him my hands. I roll my eyes and sigh, reaching my hands out to him and waiting for a verdict and some unrealistic referendum which I’ll refuse to follow. He examines my hands closely—backs and palms.
“Yes, they are swollen,” he confirms, “but Allen is right. You’re exaggerating with the whole sausage thing.” Huh? No quarantine? You’ve got to be kidding me. I only just now notice that my rings are the tip of his baby finger of his right hand. Good grief, my man has large hands… and long fingers. I didn’t realize how big they were until my rings were on his finger.
He gently massages my fingers until I almost want to fall asleep again, then effortlessly slips my rings onto my finger. He tests the fit, taking the off and putting them on again, until he’s satisfied.
“Your hands swell more when you’re asleep,” he informs me. “So take them off at night, and wait for an hour after you’re awake to put them back on.”
“I’m going to forget them half the time,” I lament.
“So I’ll remind you,” he says, kissing my hand before leaning in to my ear. “Your rings are a hard limit for me, baby.” When his eyes meet mine, there’s an unknown caution there—not a threat, just an indication that I should take his words seriously. I nod silently. Though I have a valid reason for taking them off, I don’t know how I would feel if he wasn’t wearing his ring.
“What if they hurt?” I ask him. That is why I took them off in the first place, although his explanation about my hands swelling more when I sleep makes perfect sense now.
“Then let me know,” he says. “I’d rather have them sized than to see you without them.” Sized?! Oh, hell no. The cow Anastasia will not be having her rings sized up because her fingers are too fat! Absolutely not!
“I’ll take them off at night,” I say, spinning them on my finger and testing the fit. They don’t hurt. They’re not even tight. Maybe he’s right. Maybe I’m exaggerating. Oh, God, I’ll be glad when these babies are born!
“How do you know so much about the swelling, Chris?” Al asks innocently. Christian is about to answer when an unconscious scoff escapes my throat.
“Something you want to say, Mrs. Grey,” Christian asks, with a bit of a sharp glare. Oh, don’t give me that, Grey!
“Oh, nothing,” I say, matter-of-factly, “except that you’ve probably read every baby book in print, and you’re still reading. He probably knows more about my pregnancy than I do!” I say, turning to Al. “I don’t have patience to read all that stuff. I follow doctor’s orders; I do whatever research I can on whatever may be happening at the time—like the effects from the accident and when I had that awful spell with my blood pressure, but him? He’s going to be Dadzilla!”
“I just want to be informed,” he says, his voice a little slighted. Oh, you’ve got to be kidding me. I thought I was the emotional, hormonal, pregnant person out of the two of us.
“Oh, stop being so sensitive,” I chide. He doesn’t respond. He can’t be that bruised. “I’m sorry,” I add, my voice soft.
“It’s okay. It’s no big deal. I’m going to see if anyone else has arrived,” he says, heading to the elevator.
“I can do that, Chris,” Al says, spotting Christian’s attempt to make a getaway.
“No, it’s cool. I’ll be back.” And he’s gone off around the corner.
What just happened?
Al looks at me as if to read my thoughts and shrugs. I sigh and shake my head. Suddenly, I feel like a big block of lead, like I could just collapse on the floor and just lie there. We fought last New Year’s Eve… over Brian, of all things. Why should this year be any different?
“He should be sending people down any second,” I say to Al. “I’m going to make sure the food is on its way down.”
“So, you’re both going to make a getaway and leave me here,” he accuses.
“I’ll send James down to keep you company. Besides, you’re used to this.” He twists his lips at me.
“Go on, Jewel,” he says, his voice accommodating. I turn and walk towards the other end of the entertainment room. “The elevator’s that way.”
“I know, that’s why I’m going this way. More than one way to get to the first floor,” I reply without turning around. I exhale deeply when I finally get to the small corridor of the rear access stairway that I never use. I lean against the wall—all 900 pounds of me—and try to gather my thoughts. Something is so wrong about this night. I feel so lost, so adrift for some reason. Is it because I made Christian feel slighted? That’s part of it, but that’s not all of it. My chest suddenly hurts—like heartburn, but not. I really didn’t mean to hurt his feelings. I wasn’t trying to be vicious. If anything, I was ribbing him a bit for being a total thorough control freak. Instead, I chased him out of the room.
But that’s still not all of it.
You know what it is.
I lean my head back on the wall and close my eyes. That hollowness is welling up inside of me and I don’t want it to consume me.
You know what it is.
Yes, I know what it is, but I don’t want to admit it. How long has it been now? Four years or so, I think… Maybe five, I can’t remember right now…
I had ditched them all, all of them, and made a special dinner for my man. It was New Year’s Eve, after all, and I had plans for us that night.
Coq au Vin…
I waited all night for him. When midnight struck and Dick Clark was the only man in my apartment to keep me company, I knew. I knew then that he was fucking around on me, but if he would just come home and tell me that it wasn’t true, I would believe him. I would gladly believe anything he told me and blindly love him until the end of time… if he would just come home…
But he didn’t.
I saw my friends first, the ones I had ditched the night before to be with this loser… this loser that never showed up. They did, though. They showed up the next day with a potluck brunch. I was a sucky friend, but they showed up with brunch—and mimosas, so many mimosas that I didn’t know my name all afternoon. Al confessed quite some time after the break up that he had seen Edward leaving a nightclub with one of his most recent flavors. He knew that I was alone because it was just after midnight. He didn’t come to see me because that would mean that he would have to tell me that he saw my boyfriend wrapped around some bitch. Instead, he rallied the troops the next day and fed me and got me drunk, made me forget my troubles just for a while. Then Val made me swear that no matter who I was dating, we would never spend New Year’s Eve apart again.
So I swore…
And here we are… spending New Year’s Eve apart.
I try to breathe through the imminent tears I feel, but it’s no use. I feel them burning a trek down my cheek and onto my shirt. I feel silly after how badly she’s treating me lately. I really should just fucking forget her, the cow.
She was your closest girlfriend and sister. Don’t beat yourself up for not being able to dismiss her, especially during this time—where you normally are surrounded by family and friends.
I shouldn’t dwell on this. I can’t change it… why is this so hard?
Don’t forget. I’m just as much in the dark with this as you are. Give it time. It’s only been two months—heart hurts usually take a lot longer that than to heal.
And thus, my usual voice of reason has no words of comfort for me… just… wait.
My shoulders shake as my body is wracked with pain. I cover my mouth so no one can hear my mournful cries. I don’t want sympathy right now. I want to be alone. No, I don’t want that either. I want Val.
“What is it, Jewel?” Al asks when I finally emerge from my hiding place. Chuck and Keri have joined him and they, too, gaze at me awaiting my answer. At first, I say nothing. I just go to the bar, sit on one of the stools and put my head down on my arms. I can’t even drown my sorrows in a bottle of wine.
“Jewel?” He’s behind me now, his hand on my back. It just makes me want to cry all over again.
“How crazy am I that she treats me like crap every time I see her and I miss her so much?” I lament, raising my head to look at him. “This is just not right. This is the opposite of right. This is wrong in every way. She was supposed to help me decorate my nursery and pick out cute maternity clothes. She was supposed to hold my hand when I mourned getting fat, not call me a cow. She was supposed to be my wingman. I could never see a day and time when we would be apart. No… this is very wrong. This is very, very wrong.” I shake my head, looking at my hands in my lap.
“You’re right, Jewel. This is very wrong, but we can’t make her tell us what’s going on. We tried and she shut us both out. Hell, I got shut out by association. How do you explain that?” I sigh heavily.
“I tried. I tried to hate her. I tried to forget her. I tried to ignore her. I tried everything. The truth is, I love her. I love that woman like she was my own flesh and blood. Not knowing what really set her off—not being able to identify the point of no return—that really hurts. As God is my witness, if I could fix whatever is wrong… take back whatever I said or undo whatever I did, I’d do it in a heartbeat. Our disagreement was not big enough for us to sever ties, not by a longshot, and it certainly wasn’t big enough for us to hate each other. This is just really, really wrong. Something is really, really wrong, Al, and I would pay any amount of money to know what it is and make it go away.” I rub my face vigorously to chase away the impending tears.
“I miss my friend,” I say. “I know what everybody thinks I should feel because of what she says to me and how she treats me, but I don’t care. I miss my friend, and I don’t care who doesn’t like it and who thinks I’m crazy. I miss my friend so much that sometimes, it aches, and I can’t tell anybody because nobody understands.”
“Hey!” Al says clearly affronted. “You don’t think I miss her, too? I mean just because I don’t have the same machinery as the two of you doesn’t mean that I don’t have definite feelings about the matter, Jewel.” And now he’s mad at me, too.
“I didn’t mean it that way; you know I didn’t. I was just trying to say…” And the sobs take me over before I can finish my sentence. I feel horrible that Val and I aren’t friends anymore. I tried to pretend that I didn’t, but I do. I hate it. It’s that simple, and if anyone anywhere feels as badly about anything as I do about this particular situation at this moment, then I’m sending up a prayer for them because this is torture on my soul.
“Come on, now,” he says, putting an arm around me. “I didn’t mean to make you cry. I was just saying that I feel the same way, that’s all.” I can only nod. I can’t even talk about it anymore. I haven’t spent New Year’s Eve without Val for years, and this year, I’m bringing 2014 in with no Val. It’s unacceptable for more reasons than I can name.
“What’s this?” I hear Christian’s voice and he’s caught me crying. I can’t look at him right now. I can’t explain this all over again. What sucks is that I can’t even get wine-drunk to semi-ease the pain. A few moments pass and I feel his hands on my knees.
“I’m sorry,” I say to him without raising my eyes. “I didn’t mean to tease you.”
“Is that what this is about?” he asks incredulously.
“Yes… no… well… part of it…” I can’t finish a sentence. I hear him sigh.
“Can I get you something, Baby?” he says. He sounds so rudderless.
“A shot of tequila,” I choke through my tears, wishful thinking. He rubs my thigh.
“Can I get you something else?” he says a bit firmly, and I can see him in my mind’s eye rolling his eyes at me or pinning me with the Grey glare. I just shake my head without moving my hands from my face and continue my cry. What I want, even you can’t get me, my love. I want my Valerie back… my Valerie, not this body-snatching, sadistic, bitchy doppelgänger that has taken over her body. Al is still rubbing my arm and Christian won’t leave my side. I’m assuming he’s standing in front of me.
“I can’t stand to see you cry,” he says. “I just want to make it stop.” You can’t stop it, Christian. This is hurt that I’ve been holding in and ignoring and it’s not going to go away. Even if I never see her again—especially if I never see her again—it’s not going to go away. I feel like someone cut off a body part and I’m bleeding to death. We were supposed to celebrate my wedding. We were supposed to celebrate the birth of my children. We were supposed to celebrate David’s demise, her and Elliot buying a house, maybe having some kids someday. We were supposed to celebrate maybe her becoming a Grey. Now, it all seems like a distant memory and a virtual impossibility.
A/N: Shambhala is a very intriguing concept in the Buddhist Kalachakra Teachings. I found that it has a few different interpretations depending on who you ask. To that end, I won’t desecrate the meaning by trying to interpret it. However, I will give you Christian’s meaning/concept when he’s referring to his wife. You will notice that Christian constantly refers to his wife as “ethereal,” and as I was writing what he was feeling in this instance, he made it perfectly clear to me that the world “Nirvana” wasn’t going to cut it this time. I didn’t know what to do.
Having studied Buddhism for a very short time, I’m only minutely familiar with some of the concepts—not familiar enough to consider myself even a beginner in this topic. However, in my eyes and heart, when Christian says that Ana is “Shambhala,” he’s feeling very spiritual about their connection and about what she’s making him feel in his soul and spirit; so this term refers to his perception of her in terms of ultimate enlightenment, tranquility, peace, happiness, love, and beauty.
Please feel free to share your knowledge of the concept of Shambhala in the comments.
We’ve already talked about Aphrodite and Athena. Gaea is Mother Earth.
Khartoum is the British racehorse from the Godfather—when the movie producer refused to give Don Corleone’s godson the part in the movie, he awoke to find the head of his prized British racehorse in bed with him.
Pictures of places, cars, fashion, etc., can be found at https://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/becoming-dr-grey/
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Love and handcuffs 🙂