Becoming Dr. Grey: Chapter 55—Resolution

I thought I had addressed the “Marilyn” situation adequately in my response to comments in the last chapter, but maybe I didn’t because people are still responding as if they never read them. Maybe they did read them, but are just so dug in to their opinions that my point of view when I wrote her reaction was of no consequence. So, I’ll try to quickly explain it a different way. 

I don’t know where you guys work and I’m not passing judgment on anyone. However, in this instance, Marilyn handled it a hell of a lot better than I would have. In MY world—in my REAL world, I mean—if my boss’s husband felt like he could disrespect me for any reason, even if I am a peon, I wouldn’t have waited and gone to my boss. I would have been unemployed and swiftly looking for another job. Not only that, I would have walked up the front of him, down the back of him and dropped those goddamn keys at his feet. Then I would have let HIM tell her why I left. 

I’m a true believer that the moment you open the door to allow someone to walk over you and disrespect you, that door never closes. So for those readers who still feel that Marilyn should lick shit out of Christian’s ass because he bought her a car at Ana’s request and he’s her boss’s husband, let me inform you that you will be sorely disappointed in the chapters to come. SPOILER ALERT! There’s a moment in this chapter where it may look like Christian has gotten the upper hand on her, but don’t get it twisted. He hasn’t.

Someone commented about if Christian gave Andrea permission to give it back to Ana… but Marilyn made it a POINT to illuminate that Ana has never disrespected Andrea. And just so that there’s no misunderstanding, allow me to clarify: just like Marilyn went to Ana to request that Ana talk to her husband, best believe that in this story, Andrea would do the same thing if she felt disrespected by Ana after working for Christian for all the years that she has. 

I hope you continue to enjoy the story.

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 55—Resolution

CHRISTIAN

I’m supposed to get her to my parent’s house by 3:00 today, but she’s said probably twenty words to me in three days. She’s not not speaking to me. She’s just not going out of her way to speak to me. She’s not cold to me; she’s just not warm to me. I think she’s packed and unpacked her hospital bags three times in as many days and refolded the clothes in the children’s room five or six times. She’s made a list of a few things that she’s sure she’ll need once the babies are born. I’ve convinced her to hold off buying them and she looked at me like a stranger, but only for a moment. I think because it would require concentrating too much energy on focusing on me. I’m completely out of my element here. I’m not going to allow her behavior to make me change my mind because I really believe I’m doing the right thing for her and the babies, but whatever she’s done with my wife, I wish she would bring her back.

I haven’t seen the henna belly since last weekend. I don’t even know if it’s still there. It’s still faintly on her hands, so I suppose it’s still on her belly. She sleeps in a nightshirt every night, cuddled protectively around her belly. I’m still allowed to put my arm around her when we sleep, but she doesn’t move all night. I get the feeling that she’s not comfortable and I don’t want that. I don’t want to sleep in one of the guest rooms because I don’t want her to think I’m shunning her. By the same token, I don’t like the fact that she’s emotionally shunning me.

I didn’t sleep at all last night. Our connection isn’t there and I couldn’t get comfortable. I ended up spending the night in the sitting room looking out at the night sky and the lake thinking about… stuff. The evenings of my discontent have returned. All I need now is for those damn nightmares to show up again and the circle will be complete.

The sun has risen and I go to the bedroom to check on her. She’s sleeping peacefully, still protectively cuddling our children. The bruising from “the slap heard ‘round the world” has healed and she’s just as beautiful as ever, not that she wasn’t before. I want to touch her face, but I don’t want to disturb her. Still, I can’t resist. I lean down and place a tender kiss on her lips. She smiles slightly in her sleep, but doesn’t stir. I take some solace in the gesture and head down to the gym to work out until the pain in my muscles dull the ache in my heart.

The ride to my parents’ house is virtually silent and thankfully very short. She spent the entire day in the twins’ room doing God only knows what. She couldn’t have been packing that damn bag again—those ­bags, I should say. I’ll be honest and admit that I had about four bags packed to make sure that she and the twins would have everything they needed in case of emergency. She unpacked the bags and thinned them down to three, then unpacked them again and thinned them down to two. She unpacked them again and tried to get them down to one, but threw in the towel at two and left it at that. Maybe she gave it another go, I’m not sure.

Her only words to me during the ride were to ask me why we were having a family meeting. She’s concerned about Pops’ health and worried that we may be gathering to discuss the next steps in his care. I assured her that I didn’t know, but whatever it is, Mom thought it was important enough for all of us to be there. She also graced me with her lamentations about having to deal with Valerie’s presence, but I assured her that Elliot could not get away from a prearranged bid meeting with an important client, so she would be spared the attack of the barracuda. My poor attempt to make her smile falls so dead in the water that it doesn’t even make it across the bridge. I decide to keep my wise cracks to myself and deliver her as promised.

Despite the large number of cars parked in front, the house is eerily quiet when we step inside. Leona is there to take our coats and informs us that everyone is in the back den and the dining room. I allow her to walk ahead of me and open the dining room door.

“Surprise!”

Delivered as promised. Mom. Mia, and Amanda have planned a baby shower for Ana, which is why I had to convince her to wait before buying the things on her list.

“You guys!” she exclaims. “It never occurred to me… I hadn’t even considered… I mean, we’re so…”

It’s so cute that she’s so speechless. Too bad I can’t enjoy it.

“It doesn’t matter that you’re rich,” Mia says, ushering her into the room of chattering ladies. “Your family and friends are supposed to throw you a shower anyway. Now sit down and let’s play silly games…”

I take notice that there are no men at this shower. Good. I back slowly out of the door the same way that I came in and run right into Leona.

“Oh!” she says. I’ve startled her and almost cause her to drop her tray of hors d’oeuvres.

“I’m sorry,” I say, steadying her tray before the finger foods all become casualties.

“It’s quite alright,” she says sweetly, “I’ve got them now. Did you need something, Mr. Grey?” Her kindness almost takes me by surprise until I remember that she has a thing for me. Then I look in her eyes and realize that it’s just kindness.

“No, thank you,” I say, walking around her and back the way we came in. I stop in the parlor briefly, then play with the idea of looking for Dad or visiting with Pops or Uncle Herman. Then I realize that I really just want to be alone. I don’t want to work, talk to anyone, or concentrate on anything—I just want to be alone. It’s too cold to go to my treehouse, so I go to my old bedroom instead. Of course, five minutes in there and I’m thinking about the last time I was in here… with Butterfly… making love in this bed, and Elliot and Val and Jason all walked in on us.

Well, enough of that shit.

I make a quick escape to somewhere I never thought I’d escape to again—the old music room. It’s been a while since I’ve been in this room. I’ve avoided it since I moved out, but I don’t want to disturb anybody by going to Mom’s parlor, and this room is on the other side of the house. I walk inside and there’s Elliot’s guitar, Mia’s cello, and my beloved baby grand. I run my fingers across the top of it. I begged Mom to keep it here, right where it always was. She never moved it and I don’t think I ever played it after I moved out. I open the top and caress the keys—middle C, E, G… I play few chords. Is it still in tune? Does she keep it tuned after all this time?

I feel a bit of comfort mixed with melancholy as I slide onto the familiar leather stool. I close my eyes and let my fingers glide mindlessly, song after song after song. I don’t pay attention to the particular songs playing, just the fact that the perfectly acoustic room is filled with the sound of the little hammers hitting the strings and nothing else. Nothing else occupies my mind, but the music… yet the chords still make my heart bleed. Minor chords are sad chords and for some reason, my hands and mind can’t stay away from the minor chords.

Pictures attempt to form in my head as the music tries to take shape—a storm, a whirlpool, stars—but nothing really materializes. Faces of no one in particular, expressions that can’t be made out… a dancing couple? A dancing bear… I don’t know.

Rain… a waterfall… the ocean?

The moon… a space station… a comet? No, a shooting star… a black hole?

Snow-capped mountains… no, clouds… the tops of skyscrapers?

Nothing materializes, just fuzzy blobs of gray imagination wrapped around warbling musical notes that are drearily depressing and oddly comforting.

One tune seems to flow into another… and another… and another… My fingers effortlessly play with no instruction from my brain whatsoever. I don’t even know if the two are connected as I can’t string together a coherent thought—just random not-quite pictures of partial past memories and possible future shattered hopes. It’s almost like I’m dreaming—a heart-breaking soundtrack playing behind scenes of… what? I don’t know. I have no idea.

My ears don’t hear the music anymore. It’s in my head, swimming around and echoing through my cerebral chambers in the weirdest way—saturating my gray matter until it flows out of my ears and fills the room instead of the other way around. My head feels heavy with the weight of the notes and the task of carrying this tune to the corners of the music room, so I let it lull, my chin in my chest so that my aching neck can rest.

Another ache… just what I need.

The deeper notes are a balm to my eardrums, like the last lullaby before a sedative takes hold and dulls the never ending pain of a terminal disease. I’m lulled into the comfort, sadness, and the familiarity of the darkness until the soft, melodic sound of her voice nearly sounds alien to me:

“Please don’t play anymore…”


ANASTASIA

I obediently stayed away from my responsibilities at Helping Hands. I have learned that the awful Hyde woman has taken a plea of some sort on the charges against her for beating her husband and son and for attacking me. Apparently, she was expecting her family to go to bat for her, which they were willing to do against her unfortunate husband and stepson. However, when she attacked the wife of billionaire businessman Christian Grey, they hung her ass out to dry. It had something to do with her father either doing some kind of business with Christian or afraid that Christian would put him out of business, I don’t know which. Either way, when Big Glenda discovered that the money in her mattress was cut off and she didn’t have a pot to piss in or a leg to stand on, she took a plea and turned herself in. She only got probation for my attack, but she got hammered for her husband’s burns. As a result, she’ll be a guest of the Washington State Department of Corrections for a while.

Jack and his son were able to go back to the house and retrieve their meager belongings. He wants nothing from his wife—no alimony, none of her money, nothing. He’s afraid that if she’s forced to pay him anything, it’ll lead her back to him and he wants nothing to do with her. Once she was safely locked away on Friday morning, he went straight to court and filed for divorce on the grounds of mental and physical cruelty.

I was glad to find out that Thelma and little Jimmy suffered no permanent damage from being in that house, either. Getting out and getting into a healthier environment is mainly what saved them. When I last saw her, Thelma had put on a few pounds and was looking for an apartment for her and Jimmy. Now, I discover that apparently, Mr. Radcliff has had a “come to Jesus” moment and wants his wife and child back. I don’t know how I feel about that. I mean, it’s not up to me whether or not he deserves to have them back, but ultimately, the goal is for the family to be reunited. Yet, his selfish pride is what got them here in the first place. We’ll just have to see how that turns out. They’re all in the system now. There’s no way the state is going to allow her to return that baby to unsafe conditions.

Now I find out that Grace wants us to meet at Grey Manor this afternoon for some kind of family meeting. Family meetings usually mean bad news and I don’t need any more bad news. Marilyn inadvertently made me feel like shit for abandoning my responsibilities at Helping Hands right when the Center is about to get its accreditation. I don’t know what she expects me to do. Hell, she had to ask me for permission to stand up to my husband and she doesn’t live with him! I’m trying not to feel resentful. I really do understand that he doesn’t want me to be hurt. I do, but I still feel like I just don’t have any control over my own life and I really hate that. It’s hard for me to find the words to tell him that, so I just find myself staying to myself and trying to fill these empty days with things to do. I made a list of the things I’ll know we’ll need but haven’t already gotten before the babies get here—like a breast pump. Dr. Culley advised that I should start pumping colostrum because the twins with both need it when they are born and I won’t be able to give it to both of them at the same time the moment they are born. So I need to start storing it now.

He tells me not to buy anything!

What the fuck? Mr. “Go-Ahead-Buy-Two” is telling me not to buy anything? My due date is five weeks away and twins tend to be born early and he wants me to wait?? Oh, I’ll wait. I’ll wait until Monday when he’s not here, then send Marilyn or order everything online.

I spend the day in the twins’ room, making a Fuzzlewuzzers for Mackenzie and Michael. I’ve decided to make them unique sock-bunnies. I know they’ll want to chew on them, so the material and stuffing has to be sterilized before I give them to the babies. Mackenzie’s sock-bunny is fuzzy purple and white with buttons for eyes and on the chest and a bow on her ear. Michael’s bunny is purple and yellow with purple and orange sock legs and black button eyes. They were adorable after I took the pictures then realized that I will have to remove the buttons as they will present a choking hazard. Oh well, I’ll put them back on when they’re older… if they want them.

“Do you know what this meeting is about?” I ask Christian as he maneuvers the Audi S8 across the bridge towards Bellevue.

“I don’t know,” he says noncommittal, “She just said we need to be there at three.”

“Do you think it’s about Pops?” I ask. “His condition hasn’t gotten any worse that I know of, but it hasn’t gotten any better either.”

“She didn’t mention it,” he says flatly. “I can’t see her letting us walk blindly into something like that.” I shake my head.

“If it’s a family meeting, that means it’s a good chance I’ll have to deal with Valerie’s awful attitude.”

“No, no Valerie,” he says. I turn to him.

“Oh? Why not?”

“Because,” he pauses, “Elliot has a bid meeting with a client that’s only going to be in town today. He couldn’t get out of it. So you will be spared the company of the barracuda.” He chuckles nervously. I glare at him. Christian is good at concealing, but he’s horrible at lying. I guess I’ll just have to see what’s going on myself.

When we get to his parents’ house, we’re greeted by bitter-pill-swallowing Leona, only she’s a lot friendlier than she was before. She tells us that the family is in the back of the house, but Christian is puttering around like he wants to chat with the help! Fine, you do that. I walk ahead of him towards the dining room and nearly get shocked into labor. The Greys, Maddie, Gail, Luma, Keri, Marilyn, Mandy, Maxie, and several people from the Center are all crammed into Grace’s dining room and den for a surprise baby shower. I’m speechless! I’m stumbling over my tongue because I really didn’t think rich people had baby showers. I’m not being a snob or anything—it’s just that I thought that a shower was to help the couple with the expenses of having a baby. Christian and I certainly don’t need any help, but this is a wonderful surprise! No wonder he didn’t want me to buy anything yet. I turn around to tell him what a terrible liar he is, but he has already made his getaway. Well, at least we’re not making end of life plans for Pops—that would really suck. And even though I still miss her, at least there’s no sour-faced Valerie! I’ll talk to Mr. Grey about his horrible lying skills later.

It’s an absolutely wonderful shower! Presents are stacked up to the ceiling and we play these ridiculously fun shower games. The girls have to draw a baby on a paper plate and I tell you the submissions are utterly ridiculous. I laugh so hard I’m afraid my water will break. Mandy is a master at the “Don’t Say Baby” game. Everybody is given five clothespins. If you catch someone saying “baby,” you take one of their clothespins. Mandy was covered in clothespins. “Place the Baby on the Mom” was one of the best. These women had me carrying my twins in my hair, on my butt, on my feet, somewhere else altogether not even on me. Grace had poor little Mackenzie in my purse.

The one game I had never seen before was the “Guess The Baby” game. All of the ladies brought baby pictures of themselves and we put the pictures in a basket. Everyone tries to guess which picture is of whom and the one who guesses the most wins. Even though I wasn’t playing the game, I easily picked Maxie out of the basket—not only because I’m so familiar with her features, but also Mindy looks just like her.

“So how are you doing, Ana?” Maxie asks. “You’re in the countdown now and sitting at home is probably driving you batshit.” We’re eating Tiramisu and drinking sparkling white grape juice after opening an insane number of presents.

“Trying to keep myself busy. I’m going to start storing colostrum, so thank you, Mia, for the new wave electronic breast pump.” I nod in her direction and she smiles and waves gleefully. “I’ve been nesting quite a bit. I know it’s early, but I think I’m being thrown into it because I took off work so early.”

“I think you’re being thrown into it because those babies are on the way and you’re in denial,” Sammy, one of the workers from the Center, says. Her comment elicits a laugh from the group of women.

“No denial here,” I tell her. “I’ll be glad if they make their appearance early. While I love them dearly, I’ll be much happier when they’re on this side of the vajayjay!” More laughter from the girls as we devour desserts and talk about their prior pregnancies and childbirths. I look through my presents again and there are things that were on my list as well as things that I hadn’t even thought of. Of course, I knew I would need a breast pump. Mia got one of the most expensive contraptions on the market, I think. I’m going to need a class just to learn how to use it. Then there are the matching onesies, T-shirts, booties, caps, and receiving blankets. There are only two children and they’ll only be able to fit this stuff for about three months tops, but I’m sure there’s enough stuff here for five kids for a year!

Then, of course, the lovely ladies thought of me—nursing bras and tank tops and six-week panties, which are just oversized panties meant to be worn and thrown away after the six-week recovery period is over as they will probably have some staining from bleeding and discharge that won’t come out. I hadn’t even thought of that.

Then, of course, there are the cute little clothes and diapers and Diaper Genies, diaper bags, twin strollers, baby rattles, teething rings, baby towels, washcloths, and bedding, baby hygiene products, bottles, nipples, health care items, and as Gail would say, and a partridge in a pear tree! There’s so much stuff here, I have no idea how we’re going to get it all home, but I can say that I couldn’t have gotten a nicer surprise and just like that, I feel decompressed all over again, just like I did when I came back from the babymoon.

*-*

Luma and I are talking about Mariah and Celida over coffee while Gail and Grace looks on. The shower has winded down and most of the ladies have gone home now. Grace’s staff is cleaning up after the party and I can hear Mia giving someone instructions off in the distance. Celida’s social skills are slowly developing, but she’s having a bit of a hard time since she’s always following Mariah around. Contrary to popular belief, Mariah is not the strong one. She just more outspoken. She’s codependent on Celida and that relationship helps to hold her together and give her purpose. The girls are seeing a child psychologist right now as this is not healthy behavior for either of them. Luma has taken pains not to speak about their mother or father and unfortunately, that’s not the best plan for them. Although they’re young, they were old enough to know their parents and now old enough to know that they’re gone. Ignoring that fact will only make a bad matter worse. Celida was already withdrawn and this may only further complicate matters.

We’re just about to talk about Luma and how things are going in her life. I’m anxious to know if she and Herman have made any progress or if she’s just keeping things quiet for now since Pops is so sick. Just as we open the floor for the conversation, Carrick steps into the great room.

“Grace?” He gestures for his wife to come over to him as if the conversation is private, but he doesn’t necessarily speak in hushed tones. “There’s bleeding in the West Wing.”

Bleeding? Oh my God!

“What?” Grace asks incredulously. What is she waiting for? Go find out who’s bleeding.

“Bleeding in the West Wing. It’s been going on for hours!” he repeats. Grace leans in slightly to her husband.

“Have you been drinking, Cary?” she accuses.

“Yes, I have. I had a few drinks while I was watching the game.” That explains it. “And there’s still bleeding in the West Wing.” Grace is silent for a moment, then realization dawns.

“Oh no,” she finally laments. “What do you think brought this on?”

“I don’t know, but this has got to stop,” Carrick says. “How was he when they got here?”

“He seemed fine,” Grace replied, “but I really couldn’t tell because he was in and out in a moment.” He? Are they talking about Christian? Is Christian bleeding somewhere? I struggle out of my seat and shamelessly jump into their conversation.

“I’m sorry,” I interrupt, “I don’t mean to intrude, but I do. Are you talking Christian? Is he somewhere bleeding?”

“Yes,” Carrick replies.

“No!” Grace snaps at her husband, rolling her eyes hard before turning her gaze back to me. “Ana, down at the end of the hall behind the stairs, you will see a wide staircase of five steps. Beyond that is a door of what is apparently a not-so-soundproof music room. Christian is in there and, from what my husband is trying to say, he may have fallen into some old, unhealthy habits.” I frown.

“You got all that from what he said in an inebriated haze?” I ask. She sighs and throws and intolerant glare at Carrick again.

“Unfortunately, yes,” she says to me. “I’m sure we don’t have to remind you of Christian’s childhood—how difficult it was for him to overcome his feelings of depression and the aftereffects of his abuse…”

“Yes…” I’m listening.

“He spent the most time in the music room than any of our children. When he was consumed in his angst, the most warbling sounds of darkness came wafting out of that room for hours. It takes incredible talent—and incredible pain—to make a piano sound the way that he does. Elliot called it Bleeding in The West Wing.” Her eyes narrowed toward Carrick again, who seems unmoved by her displeasure.

Bleeding…
Depression…
Warbling…
Darkness…
Piano…

“Piano.” I say aloud. “He hasn’t played the piano in months… at least not that I know of…” I look at Grace, then Carrick. “End of the hall?” I ask.

“Yes, dear,” Grace says.

There isn’t a single light on in this room. I can’t see a thing. I can clearly hear this tortured music playing that reminds me of medieval knights scavenging war grounds for possible survivors. It’s horrible and it makes me want to cry. I reach for the walls on the side of the doors and flip the light switch there. A chandelier comes alive above a baby grand piano, and there’s Christian. He doesn’t stop playing. He doesn’t know anyone has entered the room.

I can’t make out the song that he’s playing, but it sounds of impending and eternal sorrow and dismay… like death. That’s what it is. It sounds like death and isolation and loneliness… bleeding, just like Carrick said. It’s like the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse have descended upon this room and are occupying the corners, each with a cigarette and a drink, examining him—holding court and infusing him with their separate brands of hopelessness…

… And he fits right in.bob3

There’s an impenetrable bubble around him, dark and pressing his shoulders down, making him appear… shorter? Smaller? No… burdened, like Quasimodo—bent over with the horrible growth protruding from his back, causing great agony and preventing him from standing upright. The tune changes again without a pause from the prior to the next, and this song is even more morose than the one before. My stomach burns and the twins stir in massive discontent. I grab my belly to still them. I can’t stand it anymore.

“Please don’t play anymore…” I say, my voice barely above a whisper as that’s all I can muster, the melancholy in the room choking me to death. He stops immediately, frozen momentarily in place. I walk over to the piano and he closes the top and rests his hands in his lap. I don’t know what to say. The last time I’ve seen him even close to this was… was… was when I went to Montana.

“Can’t you and Mom work something out where Mom brings the work to you?” he asks, his voice high and hopeless. “I just don’t want anything to happen to you,” he adds, running his hands over his face, then through his hair before resting his elbows on his piano, his palms on his forehead. “You gotta understand that. If you can’t, then I don’t know what else to do.”

“But you can’t put me in a box, Christian,” I protest, sitting on the bench next to him. “It just doesn’t work that way.”

“I’m not trying to put you in a box,” he says. “I never could! I know that! But don’t you see where this puts me?” His voice is beseeching. “I love you more than life—don’t you know that? Haven’t I shown you that? Haven’t I done everything in my power to prove to you that I would give life and limb for you? Literally?” His voice is high-pitched and squeaking, full of desperation. I don’t answer, because I know he’s not finished.

“You told me yourself that your shrink was willing to risk his license to call me and tell me about your condition—about the stress you were suffering and the fact that you needed to decompress. I take you on a babymoon and we have a wonderful time reconnecting and learning about the babies… and the henna…” His voice trails off and he shakes his head.

“Then the day after we get back, you get attacked by that She-Devil!” he barks. “I can’t stand it! I can’t take it! You’re too fragile right now! I know you’re strong, but right now, you’re too fragile and if something happens to you…” His fingers dig deeper into his hair and his scalp. I’m afraid he’s going to draw blood soon. He needs this. He thinks I’m the fragile one, but the truth is that when it comes to my safety and the safety of the twins, he’s more fragile than I am. I have to give him this. I mean, I have given him this, but it’s come at a price and I know it.

I stand from the stool and turn around to face him. He has a sheen of sweat forming on his forehead and his knuckles are turning white. I slide my fingers over his hands. It takes several moments, but they finally relax. He allows me to move in front of him and remove his hands from his hair. I place them on either side of my belly, hoping that his presence will serve to calm his children a bit. When I gently put my fingers in his hair and begin to massage his scalp, he lays his head on my belly and sighs contentedly. The children calm almost immediately. God, I hope they’re not like this when they’re born or I’ll never be able to get them to settle on my own.

“I’m going to start storing colostrum. Dr. Culley says now is a good time to start,” I say softly. After a pause, I ask, “Do you know what that is?”

“Mmm-hmm,” he responds quietly. Okay, still awake.

“Mia got me this funky new breast pump that does all the work for me, so it shouldn’t be as hard as I thought it would be. Getting it started might be a little difficult though.”

“Okay.” He doesn’t sound tired, just reserved, his head resting content on my belly as he rubs both sides. I lift my shirt from the bottom and pull my maternity pants to below my belly. The henna is fading, but it’s still orange and still prominent on my skin. He sighs and outlines the patterns. One of the children shifts and settle and I know that they’ll both be asleep soon. He responds to the movement with a soft smile and a kiss on the top of my belly. I sit on his lap on the piano bench, straddling him. He caresses my belly and the henna with his thumbs, his fingers spread wide on either side of my belly, placing gentle kisses on my skin. His eyes are closed as if he is savoring this moment. I push my fingers into his hair again and massage his scalp as I kiss his hair and forehead. There are no words, just Christian bonding with the belly. He bonds for several moments—kissing, caressing, snuggling. I almost forget where we are until…

“Thank God! Has the deceased been laid to rest now?”

Carrick’s voice disturbs our moment as he walks into the music room with a drink in his hand. Grace chides him quietly with an elbow to the side.

“Cary!” she hisses, scolding. He shrugs.

“I’m just saying, a few more moments of that parlor music and I was going to want to see the body to pay my respects!” he says. Okay, he’s had a few.

“I think we should be going,” I say, rising from Christian’s lap and straightening my clothes.

“Stay,” Grace coaxes, “I don’t get to see you as much anymore. I miss our talks.”

“We’re… going to work something out, Grace,” I tell her. “I know that the licensing will be coming through soon and I don’t want to put all of the work off on you. I’ll still be working closely with you to make sure that we’ll get everything handled in time for the accreditation. I’ll be logging into my work computer from home, but for the next several weeks, I’ll be working in my pajamas. We’ll talk, don’t worry.” She smiles and Christian squeezes my hand.

“Well, that’s good to hear,” she says. “There’s word of a meeting sometime in the next few weeks.”

“You’ll have to Skype me in, then—sans the pajamas. I’ll find a respectable blouse or something.” I pull Christian’s hand. “Come on, Undertaker. There’s a lot of stuff to get to the car.”

“Oh, no worries about that,” Grace says. “Drill Sargent Mia made sure that was taken care of before she and Ethan headed back to Seattle. You’re all set.”

“Good, ‘cause I want some alone time with my wife!” Carrick says, giving Grace a smack on her behind, eliciting a yelp from her.

“TMI, Dad,” Christian says, moving closer to me.

“Says the man that was just fondling his wife’s pregnant naked belly on my piano stool!” Carrick quips. I roll my eyes and give a Grace a kiss on the cheek.

“Goodnight, Grace,” I say as I drag my husband from the music room.

*-*

He’s sitting on the edge of our bed watching the glow of the fire when I come into our room in my nightshirt after my shower. Gail helped me put all of the shower gifts away and, yes, I did unpack and repack one of the suitcases with some of the new items I had received. I even managed to get a small bit of colostrum pumped, which is a huge accomplishment as far as I’m concerned—but I could only stop at a small bit, because it hurt like hell! I’ll have to try again tomorrow. He briefly looks over his shoulder at me when I enter the room, then looks back at the fire.

“We need to talk,” I say sitting on the bed on top of the covers.

“Yeah,” he says, looking down at his hands, then back up at the fire. Neither of us says anything for a long time. We both just sit there watching the fire.

“My world was shaken to its core when I visited that prison in Ionia and that bastard wasn’t there,” he finally begins. “He had haunted my dreams incessantly for over twenty years, and I needed to look him in the eye and tell him that his days of terrorizing me were over now that his son was on the wrong side of the Feds. Then I looked into the face of a complete stranger and all my nightmares came rushing at me at once.” He drops his head, shaking it at the same time. “All I could think of was getting home to you and making sure that you were safe. When I stepped off that plane…” His voice cracked as his words trailed off.

“Christian…” He holds up his hand to gently silence me. I swallow hard and let him finish.

“When I stepped off that plane and saw Cholometes, and Jason tried to tell… to tell…” He chokes back a sob, but doesn’t break down. “Every bad thing that could have happened to me converged on me all at once. I literally thought I was dying. My chest hurt and I couldn’t breathe. My legs didn’t work. Nothing mattered. I had to get to you… to see for myself… the worst thing that could have happened and I wasn’t even here.” He finally sobs for a moment and I want to comfort him, but he keeps talking before I get the chance to move.

“Sixty days,” he chokes. “They told me that I may only have sixty days left with my entire reason for living—longer if I chose to keep you alive as a human incubator for the babies. I was sick to my soul with the thought… as much as I love them, us without you was just unthinkable and I couldn’t even wrap my mind around the concept.

“And then my mind went back to the other times I failed to protect you—when David vandalized your car and when he and that psychotic asshole kidnapped and beat you, may his soul rot in hell!” He speaks the last words with such venom that it actually sends a chill through my body.

“Then I think of the things that I couldn’t protect you from—Cody Whitmore raping you; that vicious attack in Green Valley; the emotional torment you suffered at the hands of Mini-Morton and the walking Moonshine Still.” Mini-Morton? Is that what he calls my mother? I have to cover my mouth to prevent the giggle as this is a very serious topic, but I can’t avoid the laughter that wants to escape. The prior solemn tone of the conversation is not far behind, though.

“My mother has worked for Helping Hands for many years,” he admits, “but it has never gotten the publicity it has since the PSA… and you. A lot more people—more volatile causes—are finding their way to the Center and I just can’t see you get caught in the crossfire. Just like with the accident, I didn’t know anything had happened to you until I saw you—and yes, people were fired for it. I was hotheaded and had my own lightening quick experience not twenty-four hours later, so they ended up getting their jobs back, but Lawrence is still on probation, because he didn’t handle the chain of communication correctly at all!”

I sit with my hands folded in my lap, waiting for him to finish. His back is hunched over like it was while he was sitting at the piano and I know he’s laboring through the previous burdens again.

“When Radcliff came to the Center all fired up and ready to take his wife and son, I was there. I could protect you had he stepped wrong—though I think Mom may have sent him to the hospital before I had the chance to react,” he laughs through his tears. “But when that big bitch put her hands on you… all those people there and nobody could stop her. There were upwards of five to seven GEH guards there and an active police report, and no one could keep that woman from hitting you so hard that the entire side of your face was swollen!” He’s grinding his teeth and hissing as he speaks.

“All of these precautions I have in place to protect you and someone was still able to get to you. Thank God it was nothing more than a slap as it could have been so much worse, but when these things happen, I don’t look at Jason or Chuck or Lawrence or Bronson or any of these people. I look at myself. failed you. couldn’t keep you safe. If I want you to change your habits or not do something that I think will jeopardize your safety, it’s only because I need to regroup and figure out what to do. My original plan wasn’t working… and you’re pregnant! You move slower and you don’t have all of the self-defense tactics in your arsenal that you normally have! Fairlane tried to hit me and I swerved right out of his way. I’m certain that under normal circumstances, you would have done the same thing with Monster Bitch… but the circumstances aren’t normal.”

He drops his head and finally the load appears to have lifted off his shoulders. He sighs heavily and finishes his thought.

“I know that I can’t lock you up or keep you at home or prevent you from doing what you want to do. I just want you to be safe. I need you to be safe.”

And he’s done. There’s nothing else to say. He has to know that he can’t protect me from everything, and for some reason, bad luck seems to follow me and I won’t let it stop me from living my life. Nonetheless, until these babies get here, my husband needs peace and sanity… and I need to cooperate. I have to give him what he needs so that he can keep his wits about him. He’s not asking too much, and he’s only asking because he loves me. I crawl over the bed behind him and rest on my knees. I gently stroke his hair again and he leans into my hand. His spirit calms a bit and I can feel the tension lifting.

“Lay with me,” I whisper as I caress his hair. He sighs and looks over his shoulder at me. I pull my nightshirt over my head and toss it on the floor, my body naked underneath. His gray eyes never leave mine as I remain kneeling naked behind him. He stands and removes his T-shirt and boxer briefs and I examine his silhouette in front of the crackling fire. He’s beautiful—masculine and vulnerable at the same time. I scoot back on the bed and lay on the pillows, holding my arms out to him.

“Lay with me,” I say again. He crawls into bed, both of us on top of the covers, and wraps his arms around me. I cradle his head in my arms and he kisses and fondles my bare stomach, almost like a child needing the closeness of his mother, but with the sensuality and need of a husband touching his wife and drinking in her essence. He kisses me several times for several minutes, caressing the henna on my stomach, smelling my scent, and occasionally sighing a soft moan of contentment until we both fall asleep.

*-*

I can’t tell what time it is when I open my eyes. I know that it’s Sunday morning and I can see just a small peak of sunshine in the sitting room. Christian and I didn’t move all night. His head is still cradled in breast and he’s wrapped around me like a vine. My leg is over his hips for maximum comfort and my fingers are still in his hair. I sigh heavily when I think about our conversation last night; how scared he must have been on the trip to the hospital after my accident and the agonizing days that followed, not knowing if I would ever wake up. His obsessive control-freak tendencies must be on very high alert after learning that someone got close enough to hit me. Not only that, but he found out after I got home from seeing the evidence on my face… after everything else that has already happened.

He stirs a bit in his sleep and with the slight movement, I feel his morning wood right between my legs at the magic spot. In this position, there’s nowhere else for it to go since there’s a whole lotta belly between us. Yet, he lays in a way such that he’s somewhat under my belly and our pelvises meet perfectly. If I move my hips just so, I get a delicious friction right at the opening of my vagina.

Mmmm, that feels good… and it’s making me very hot.

I lean down and kiss his forehead and his temple gently, running my fingers through his hair in an attempt to rouse him. He moans softly, but he’s so gone, it might take an earthquake to wake him.

I can improvise that.

I roll my hips to maximize the friction on his delicate head, attempting to get the angle to edge him a bit, but he has me pinned to his body and I can’t pull back far enough. I yearn to kiss him, but his head is down where his lips are brushing against my belly. The constant friction, however, is making me hotter and wetter and is making him grow.

“Mmm,” I moan quietly as he gets stiffer against my core. Apparently, this is one biological function that doesn’t need his coaxing. I’m working myself into a hot, drenched frenzy just with the head of his hardening shaft and apparently, the wetness gives way for the little soldier to find his way into the tunnel. I gasp as he slips inside me and either the gasp or the feeling of having his hard penis inside of a warm, wet vagina causes my husband to wake right up. His gray sleepy, searching eyes look up at mine and I gaze right back at him. Though I was temporarily shocked into stillness, I begin to move again, rolling my hips as much as I can on the head of his dick. His breath catches in his throat. His arms tighten around me and his fingers dig into my skin.

“Ana…” he breathes, not moving at first, gazing into my eyes as my core squeezes the head of his cock. My fingers tighten in his hair and I will him to give me more. I need more. He chokes out a gasp and pushes himself up on the bed—and up into me—so that he can tightly grip my ass and more easily reach my lips. I gasp hard in my chest as he fills me and just stays there, my hands now on his shoulders and my lips open, panting.

“You feel so good,” he whispers with his eyes now closed, his dick throbbing inside of me, my arms pinned between us. I almost can’t stand it.

“Love me,” I pant, “please…”

He pushes slowly into me, a delicious stroke from the side, my leg over his hip granting him uninhibited access to my wetness. My God, it’s like immediate fire! He pulls out just as slowly, almost to the head, and slides into me again—a delicious, slow, rhythmic glide, in and out, in and out, in and out. As the burn gets hotter, deeper, he grips my ass hard, pushing me into him almost violently each time he slides hotly into me, then releasing the grip as he pulls out. The feel of his fingers sinking almost painfully into my cheeks is pleasingly blinding. The entire time, he’s searing my lips and tongue with probing, lapping kisses to the degree that I can barely breathe.

The slow, torturous rhythm goes on forever, the burning and pleasure from the friction of him filling me becoming almost unbearable. With my arms pinned between us, I can’t pull his hair… I can’t move. I can only cup his face, now coated with a gloss of sweat from keeping this steady, burning pace that has us both on the brink of cosmic eruptions. His sensual sounds tell me that he won’t be able to hold much longer, but he won’t let go until I give in first. The slow stroke keeps me hanging right there on the edge for several minutes until my wordless whines beg him to put me out of my misery.

Holding my ass open and fondling my rosette with his long, skillful finger, he doesn’t change his rhythm, but the fire in me roars untamed and laps hard and hot at my rising passion. I hear sounds coming from me that I haven’t heard before—high-pitched moans with each stroke like the cries of a wounded animal weakly begging for help. I can’t stop them; I can’t control them. Each delicious stroke combined with his fingering my open ass and lavishing delicious kisses on my lips and tongue have me wound so tight and right at the breaking point until…

“Uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuhhhhhuhhhhhuuhhhhuhhhhuhhhh!”

I whine from my chest, the high-pitched cry bouncing off the walls of our bedroom, my lips still brushing against my husband’s as he holds me against him, my ass open, never changing his stroke.

“That’s it, Baby,” he croons, “Let me feel you come. Let me feel it… God, it feels so good around me…” He fights to maintain the rhythm as I ooze deliciously and hotly through my orgasm. He doesn’t change a thing, and the intensity is so fucking blinding that my muscles all lock around him… my legs, my hands, and of course, my pussy.

“Ah! Ah… A-na!” he chokes as I feel him holding me open and pulsing into me, his balls emptying their contents hot and hard.

We both lie there, stiff in orgasmic clutches, barely breathing as our juices mix. The room is filled with the sound of choking and panting once we have both finally finished our release after nearly forever. Once our breath has returned to us, only the sound of our tender kisses can be heard.


CHRISTIAN

I can honestly say I’ve never felt so fucking helpless in my life as I did last week. I only wanted to do what was best for my wife and family, but it seemed like I was only making things worse. I’m still in new territory here and I don’t know how to explain that to her. I love her so much and her safety is so important to me, but I’m beginning to sound like a broken record even to myself.

I found myself slipping back into that dismal depression I felt when I was a boy. I’m fully aware that you can’t have everything your way. Not even all the money in the world can make that happen, but when you’re doing everything in your power to do the right thing and something still goes wrong, you find that you have to adjust. At the risk of sounding crass, even insurance companies expect you to do everything in your power to protect a damaged asset from further loss after a catastrophe. This wasn’t a catastrophe and I wouldn’t say my Butterfly was “damaged,” but if I were to classify her as an asset, she is the most valuable thing with my name on it at this time and that bruise on her face was more than just a scratch! That crazy bitch paid no attention to the fact that she was hitting a pregnant woman! That thought still gives me the shivers.

All I know is that everything I did was met with resistance and coldness and isolation. That’s what I started to feel inside. No matter what I may say about assets, Butterfly is not a thing. She’s not a company to be bought or sold or an object to be placed on a shelf, put on display, and taken down when I want to play with it. She’s my wife; my life-mate, and when we don’t connect, it hurts. So yes, I found myself back in the same hopelessness I felt as a teenager and almost felt the need to reach out to John Flynn. It’s not that Dr. Baker isn’t helpful; it’s just that the need for the familiar was so overwhelming that it nearly took over my entire body and mind.

I don’t know what I said or did that finally got through to her, but I’m glad that it did because that’s a road I don’t ever want to travel again.

I go back to the dentist on Monday and I’m lucky that Fairlane’s punch didn’t connect. It was very likely that I would have had to get this fucking splint tightened again and if further damage had been caused, I may have had to wear it for another month. I would have sought that fucker out and knocked out a few of his teeth. Instead, the loose teeth have re-stabilized enough that the splint can come off and as long as I don’t get into any more prize fights, I should be fine.

Butterfly has been working from home and doing pretty well this week in keeping up with what’s going on at the Center without actually being there. Marilyn has giving me the cold shoulder since our talk last week and I’m not sure if I should confront her about her behavior or let sleeping dogs lie. After all, I made my point and to my knowledge, Butterfly wasn’t awakened that day until she was ready and although she was not a happy camper when I got home, it appeared that she didn’t go into Helping Hands either. As far as I can see, mission accomplished.

Chuck appears to be doing great in his physical therapy. This is good since it appears that he’ll be back on his feet by the time the babies are born—something that gives Butterfly great joy—not so good because we are all seeing the day when Keri will soon be going back to Anguilla. Having someone by your side during your worst time and then having them ripped away is not an event you easily get over. I think I see some therapy in Chuck’s future. We may want to talk to him about seeing Dr. Baker or Ace… or someone of his own choosing.

It most likely doesn’t help much that we put Nelson and Maddie on a plane back to South Dakota on Friday since his physical therapy has been going so well. He didn’t take it as hard as I expected. He says it’s because he doesn’t feel so alone now. He’s found his family and they are just a few states away. He can talk to them and see them anytime he wants to. Chuck says he caught a glimpse of Joe boarding the plane after Maddie and Nelson. Whether Joe saw Chuck or not, he doesn’t know, but Chuck just allowed him to board the plane and he and Keri left the airport without incident.

The following Monday, I see Radcliff again. It turns out that he was suffering some side effects from the contaminants in the house. Like Thelma and the baby, his symptoms became much better once he was out of the environment, but he still had to be treated for exposure to some things—oxygen treatments and a run of antibiotics. The color has returned to his skin, though, and he’s temporarily moved to a motel that he can afford while he looks for a suitable place for his family.

Pride is a strange thing. It can consume you and cause you to do some pretty dumb shit. This man not only put his family at risk by not only keeping them in a cold house with no food, but he wouldn’t allow anyone else to provide for them and as it turns out, the living conditions were inherently unsafe and potentially deadly. They truly could have died in that house—not in the abstract or in the long run… froze to death or starved to death. No, they were actively being exposed to toxins, including carbon monoxide. They really could have died in there!

I suddenly feel the urge to be near my wife. I close my laptop and take the elevator to the first floor where I know I’ll find her in the family room in her recliner. As it turns out, Dr. Culley would have put her on maternity leave anyway had I not done it a couple of weeks ago as it appears the babies have dropped and she’s having the worst time walking. Now, she’s restricted to our bedroom, the family room, and her office. I won’t even let her come to the dining room if she doesn’t have to and miraculously, she doesn’t argue with me. As walking and moving are extremely uncomfortable for her, sex is out of the question, so I’m working out every day and just making sure she’s as comfortable as possible. She’s just over 36 weeks and the doctor says that the babies can be safely born any day now, so we are officially on baby watch.

I dare not tell her that stomach appears to have gotten bigger in the last week or so.

“Hey, Butterfly,” I say as I join her in the family room.

“Hey, yourself. You’ve finished working?”

“Yeah, I think I’ve done enough for tonight.” I rub my eyes. “I may need to get some glasses for that computer. My eyes are getting tired.”

“Well, make sure it’s not just that you’re tired and have been looking at the screen too long,” she warns. “I wear mine sporadically these days and before you ask, it was even before the maternity leave, so my eyes must be getting better.” I shrug.

“Could be. It’s not impossible. What are you watching?”

Bicentennial Man,” she says, “one of those highly underrated movies that I love so much.”

“Robin Williams,” I say.

“Yeah,” she says. “Have you seen it?”

“No. I know of it, but that’s one of the ones that got by me,” I tell her. “How is Thelma and Jimmy Radcliff doing?” She raises her eyebrows at me.

“Fine,” she says. “Marilyn’s last update is that Thelma’s found a place for them and that James isn’t giving them a hard time about child support.”

“Is there any talk of visitation yet?”

“I don’t know. I didn’t ask.” I twist my lips.

“He came to my office again today.” She’s quiet and expecting. “He looks better. He’s taking meds for the symptoms he acquired from living in the house. He was able to go back to work with an explanation from the doctor about what was going on. He’s staying in a motel right now, something he can afford while he’s trying to save.” I scratch my head. I don’t know why I’m telling her this. I think she’d just as soon see the man jump off a bridge. I’m not 100% sure how I feel about him. “He’s no longer suicidal…”

“Suicidal?” she interrupts. “You never told me he was suicidal.” I frown.

“Didn’t I?” I ask. She shakes her head.

“No, you didn’t.”

“Oh. Yeah, he was. That’s why I got involved. That day he came to my office, he came to find out how Thelma and the baby were and to say goodbye.”

“Are you sure that wasn’t just a ploy, Christian?” she asks. I shrug.

“You’re the shrink,” I say. “If someone gives you an idea that they want to kill themselves, are you going to take it as just a ploy?” She nods.

“Duly noted. So what happened?”

“Nothing really. He was floundering when he first came in and before he left, he just told me to tell his wife and kid that he loved them if he didn’t see them again. I saw the same hopelessness in him that I…” I trail off.

“That what?” she asks. I never told her that I felt this way. I didn’t really know that I felt this way until I talked to Radcliff and saw it in him, but I had a purpose. I had my company.

“That what, Christian?” she presses.

“That I felt when you went to Montana,” I say quickly. I don’t look at her when I say it. I don’t want to see her face or the pity that I know I’ll find there.

“I didn’t know you felt that way,” she says softly.

“Neither did I,” I admit, still without looking at her, “not until I saw it in Radcliff when he left my office; heard it in his voice. She’s all he had—her and the baby. Then he had his job and they sent him home because he was sick and wasn’t sleeping… or eating… and living in a toxic waste dump. Anyway, I had my company… but I had already had one psychotic breakdown and I was well on my way to a second, so yeah… I saw it.” My voice goes down at the end and I hear her swallow hard.

“So… um… James… Radcliff…” She’s eager to get the topic off of me.

“Yeah, I’m not sure he would have had the strength to kill himself in the light of things, but hindsight being 20/20, I believe that he either would have gone back to that house and wasted away or gone to sleep and wouldn’t have woken up… you know, with the carbon monoxide…”

“Yeah, I know,” she says.

“You know he’s trying to find a place for them now,” I say. “The house is condemned. The land is worth nothing. I don’t even know if I should help him monetarily.”

“Why are you on the fence?” she asks.

“I don’t know if he deserves it,” I say. “I’m at a crossroads. They were our adopted family, but he was the direct cause of their calamity.”

“Do you think he’s not capable of change?” she asks. “That’s not a trick question. You’ve been around him more than I have. Thelma and that baby are my main concern.”

“I don’t know. Everybody is capable of change. Look at me.” I finally make eye contact with her. She’s frowning. “Ana, you know I was a different man when we met. Nonetheless, I can’t get past the fact that he allowed this to happen to his family. It was cruel and selfish to the highest degree, but for every sucker that I see get second chances… I mean, if I deserve a second chance, doesn’t he?” I run my hand through my hair. “I want him to deserve what I want to give him. I want him to earn it, but I don’t know how he can and I don’t know how to turn away a man who just wants to do right by his family even though he’s done wrong all this time…”

“I know you’re new to this, so I need you to listen to me,” she says. “You can’t take on their problems. You help where you can. You do what you can, and then you have to let the rest go.”

“He could be me, Ana…” I say, just above a whisper.

“He could never be you!” she retorts. “You would sell a body part before you would ever let me or the twins go without. So don’t ever compare yourself to him. I know you see your prior suffering in him, but he could never be you. On the other hand…” She cups my face in her hands. “He’s an asshole. I’ll give you that, but I know you. I know you have a way of making people work for what they get. Remember that he’s a very stubborn, very prideful man. While you can empathize with his plight, remember how much courage it takes to lay a lifetime of pride down and ask for help, and how much more it takes to actually accept it. Talking the talk is one thing; walking the walk is something altogether different, so try not to be too hard on him, only hard enough.”

Sometimes, her wisdom scares me, but that’s one of the reasons that I love her so much.

“Can I watch Bicentennial Man with you?” I ask. She smiles.

“Of course, but you might have to bring the ottoman over. The load has gotten wider in the last week or so.” I gasp. Did she just… “You’re sweet, Mr. Grey, but I’m carrying the load. I know it’s wider.” I smile at her and push the ottoman closer to her.

“Would you like some snacks or anything from the kitchen, Mrs. Grey.”

“No, I just want you.” I sit on the ottoman and put my arm around her in the recliner.

“I don’t care how wide the load gets, Mrs. Grey. I’ll love you forever.” I plant a longing kiss on her lips.


A/N: For those who may not know, Quasimodo is the Hunchback of Notre Dame. 

Christian’s maudlin playlist:
Nothing Like Us—Justin Bieber
Here Comes Goodbye—Rascal Flats
Sad Song for Broken Hearts
How Do You Heal a Broken Heart—Chris Walker
Where Do Broken Hearts Go—Whitney Houston
Didn’t we almost have it all—Whitney Houston
Isolation—Lucas King
Sad Piano Music—Lucas King
Gone—Lucas King

You can find the songs along with pictures of places, things, and fashions on my Pinterest page 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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Becoming Dr. Grey: Chapter 54—Poking an Angry Bear

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 54—Poking an Angry Bear

ANASTASIA

You could hear a rat piss on cotton right now. The whole world has gone silent and I see nothing but this Amazon bitch who just slapped the blood into my mouth. At least I think she slapped me. She could have hit me with a sledge hammer for all I know, it happened so fast. It fucking feels like it could have been a sledge hammer. That’s gonna leave a mark.

“Shit just got reeeeal,” Marilyn sings.

“I may be short, but this piece of steel makes me ten feet tall,” I say.

“That’s so…” she begins.

“I didn’t say you could speak!” I growl, and when I say growl, I mean literally growl. A demon’s voice comes out of my mouth. Her eyes sharpen. “I told you to leave and you didn’t, so you’re mine now, ‘cause you just bullied the wrong bitch.”

“Shoot her,” I hear Jack Jr., whisper.

“You hear that?” I tell her. “He’s the only reason your brains aren’t splattered all over that wall behind you and he wants me to shoot you. Sit down.”

“And if I don’t?” she taunts. As the “t” leaves her lips, I hit her in the head with the butt of the gun. She grunts loudly.

“Now we’re even! The next time it’ll be a bullet. Now sit down!” There goes the possessed voice again. “On the floor, on your hands, and don’t move!”

She can’t believe I’ve hit her. She first put her hand over her bruising temple then raises angry eyes to me.

“Don’t make me say it again,” I hiss menacingly.

“You might miss,” she hisses back.

“I don’t miss,” I retort. “Marine’s daughter, shooting since 12. Wanna try me?” I press the steel to her forehead again. She narrows her eyes and slowly glides to the floor. She’s graceful for an eight-foot, 400-pound bear. “Cross your legs, hands under your ass.” She crosses her legs and puts her hands under her thighs. Oh, no, bitch. I know that trick.

“I said under your ass. It’s as big as a fucking semi; I’m sure you can find it.” Her eyes narrow further and she moves her hands under her ass.

“Restrain him,” I tell the guards. “I know somebody has cuffs or something.”

“Zip ties, ma’am,” somebody says.

“Make it happen,” I say without taking my eyes off Le Amazon.

“Mrs. Grey, please stand down,” I hear some unfamiliar voice say. “We can subdue her.”

“You’re too late. She’s already subdued,” I say impassively. Get the fuck away from me. She never should have had the opportunity to hit me.

“Ana…” I hear Grace’s voice now.

“Grace, get the police back here and get Jack and his son to the dorms so that they can get a good night’s sleep… for a change,” I instruct her. Jack rises from the sofa and walks with his son towards Grace.

“See ya ‘round, Jack,” she says, spitting his name in a condescending manner.

“No, you won’t,” he says. She turns her gaze to him.

“You brave all of a sudden, Jack?” she jeers. Jack actually laughs.

“Look at you!” he chuckles. “She’s all of 5’4” and she’s got you sitting on the ground like a dog!” I’m actually 5’2”.

“She’s got a gun,” she says with disdain.

“And after this, so will I,” he says definitively. “You’re nothing but a walking, talking slab of meat and you’ve been bullying me and my son for years. Take your goddamn gorilla and get the fuck out of my life. I’m getting a restraining order against you tomorrow and if you come within 100 feet of me or my son, I’m going to fill you full o’ lead.”

I’m still looking at her and I don’t see Jack talking to her.

“Good night, Glenda,” I hear Jack Jr., say in a mocking tone. Glenda? Like the good witch, Glenda? Well, if that don’t beat all.

“Somebody get me a goddamn chair; I’m pregnant.”

*-*

It’s about 8pm when I get home. Marilyn wants to come in with me because she pretty much knows what’s in store for me and she doesn’t want me to face it alone. I send her home and tell her to meet me here tomorrow as I have a feeling we will be redoing my schedule.

“Grace, you’re going to have to do without me,” I say after the police cart Glenda Hyde and her driver away. She frowns.

“You mean for a while?” she asks. I shake my head.

“I mean, do without me,” I say. “Christian’s going to blow a gasket when he sees me. I’m certain he’s going to demand that I don’t deal with this anymore. I know him and I can’t blame him. I don’t necessarily agree with him, but I don’t blame him. If one thing—any one thing—had gone differently tonight, my babies could have been hurt; I could have been in jail… That woman had no fear. My daddy taught me to never pull my gun unless I intend to pull the trigger. Tonight, I actually thought that at some point, I was going to have to. She hit me so fast, I didn’t even see it coming! I don’t even know how she hit me. Was it open-handed or a fist? Was it a punch or a slap? Was it backhanded or front-handed? I have no idea. If this goes to court, all I’m going to be able to say is that she hit me. And she hit me hard enough to turn me from east to west!”

“That’s no reason to quit, Ana,” she says almost pleading.

“I know that and I’m not quitting, but my face hurts so badly that I don’t even want to see it. When he sees it, he’s going to make me sit down, and I’m not going to fight him.” She sighs.

“I need you, Ana,” she says. “We’re about to get our accreditation and licenses. The fact that we had a licensed mental health care professional in an executive position…  You can’t leave me.”

“John is going to have to come in more often and pick up some of the slack. He was going to have to do it anyway. I’ll do what I can from home. I won’t leave you high and dry—I promise, but after this, I’m getting grounded. We both already know it.”

“Are you ready to go, Mrs. Grey?” One of the unknown guards asks. I nod.

“Has anyone called Mr. Grey?” I ask. They all look at each other. “I’ll take that as a ‘no.’ Has anyone reported to Taylor?” The same blank looks. I sigh. “Well, that works out well for me. I’ll at least be able to get into the house and tell him what happened. Not so well for you guys though, because somebody’s getting fired.”

“Excuse me, Ma’am?” one of the guards say to me. Tread carefully, Ana.

“You guys did everything you could,” I tell them. “There were minimal casualties except for the face…” I gesture to my sore, swollen cheek. “Nobody left in a body bag. I say that’s a good night. But the boss’s wife is coming home with a shiner or close to it, and nobody told him. Do you see how this could be a problem?” They look at each other and then back at me.

“I’ll explain what happened,” I continue. “I’ll do my best. Everything moved so fast, but you guys know him… somebody’s going to pay. When he pulls you guys in, make sure your stories correlate. I’m already in trouble, so don’t try to spare me, but don’t make me the scapegoat either, because that’s going to piss him off more.” I sigh and they all look like they know they’re headed to the gallows. “Thank you all, really. I’ll make sure he knows you were on your game as much as you could be.” I turn to leave. Please don’t let there be any Robert Harrises in this group.

“Mrs. Grey?” I turn around and several of them are suddenly standing in a group. “It’s been a blast.” My heart hurts suddenly and my eyes burn. No Robert Harrises.

“I won’t let him fire you,” I say, “any of you. I’ll beg if I have to…”

So now, I’m walking in to face the firing squad. The shit that happens to me just doesn’t happen in real life. Nobody in the world goes through the shit that I go through. If I’m honest, I want to be quarantined for a while. Today was too much for my psyche. All I could think the entire time I was waving my gun at that bitch was that something was going to happen to my babies.

Windsor looks at me like an alien when I get in but says nothing, ultimate professional that he is. Yeah, I know it looks bad. I take a deep breath and go to the kitchen. Jason is there with his wife and she’s helping the staff get dinner ready. His eyes swell to the size of saucers.

“Fuck! What happened to your face?” he barks. I’m actually afraid to answer him. I’m stunned into silence. “Fuck! Fuck!” He starts pacing the floor.

“Ana, what happened?” Gail asks next while Ms. Solomon silently retrieves a chemical ice pack from the pantry and pops the center to activate it. I’m trying to tell them what’s going on but the words aren’t coming out of my mouth.

“Goddammit!” Jason pulls out his blackberry. “Where the fuck is Ben?” Oh shit, I forgot.

“He’s at the hospital with Thelma and Jimmy,” I tell him. “This wasn’t his fault.”

“Oh, I got an answer!” he shoots. “So can you tell me how this happened?” I try to say something again, but nothing comes out. I don’t know where to start. “Great—that means ‘long story.’ That means I should fucking know and I don’t! Fuck! Fuck!” He starts dialing his phone,

“Stop yelling at her, Jason!” Gail scolds.

“Oh, I’m just the warm-up!” Jason informs her. “The main event is down in his office, battling with his own monsters from today!” He turns back to his phone. “’Hi Jason.’ Don’t fucking ‘Hi Jason’ me! What the hell happened to her face?” He is mad. That means Christian is going to be furious and I’m not going to be able to save anybody’s job. I’ll be too busy trying to save my own ass.

“I gathered as much. Gimme the short version!” Jason is silent for about 30 seconds, then slowly turns incredulous eyes to me. A few seconds later, he covers his face with his hand before it pushes back to his hairline.

“Debrief tomorrow, 0800 at GEH Security Central. All of you need to be there. Prepare to grovel for your fucking jobs.” He ends the call. By now, I’ve broken eye-contact with him and put the ice pack on my face. I hear him sigh.

“Come on,” he says. “I’m not talking to him by myself.”

“Why do I feel like I’m talking to my father?”

“I don’t know how else to handle this right now,” he says, “but we need to go downstairs because the longer we wait, the worse it’ll be.” I sigh and follow Jason to the firing squad.

Christian’s face turns stark white and his eyes are slate gray and accusing… angry? I don’t know, but I feel like I’m twelve.

“What in God’s name happened to your face?” he asks. He turns to Jason.

“Disgruntled spouse,” he says. Christian glares at him, then back at me.

“Somebody hit you?” he asks, appalled. I nod. I think she hit me. I didn’t see it coming.

“I need some answers. They’re not coming fast enough,” Christian demands. “Some abusive husband hit my wife. I need to know what’s going on.”

“It was a woman,” I say meekly.

They’re both stunned into silence and turn slowly to look at me.

“A woman did this?” Jason asks.

“No, a man with a pussy did this!” I hiss. “She was seven fucking feet tall! I feel like she hit me with a sack of rocks!”

“How many times did she hit you?” Christian asks.

“Once! That was enough. She spun me around on my feet.”

“What the fuck was security doing?” he asks.

“Subduing her seven-foot boyfriend,” I declare. Christian scoffs.

“This is a goddamn horror movie!” he says, flailing his hands in the air. “This shit doesn’t happen in real life!” My sentiments exactly. “Wait a minute. I thought you said this was a disgruntled spouse…”

“It was,” I say.

“So how could she be there with her boyfriend?”

“Hell if I know!” I retort. “Glenda Hyde. She comes from money somewhere and she’s a fucking bully. Beats her husband and stepson. Stepson—13—shows up this morning, beaten all to hell and dirty from living on the street since I don’t remember how long. The  father shows up after a hit on Missing Persons with a burn straight across his body like a sash. I swear to God; it looks like my brand—oozing and festering.” I shiver at the thought of it. “We call the police. We make a report. As soon as they leave, she shows up with her boyfriend. The semantics of their relationship are irrelevant here. All you need to know is when we told her to leave, she hit me. It was lightning fast—nobody saw it coming or had time to react. She didn’t escalate or anything. She just laughed and hit me. By the time it was all over, security had restrained her boyfriend and she was about to eat my Beretta!”

“What?” Christian barks. “Did you shoot her?”

“No,” I reply.

“Too bad,” Jason says. I roll my eyes at him.

“So why didn’t you tell me about this?” Christian asks Jason.

“Because I just found out,” he replies.

“How is that possible? I thought you guys had a protocol when something happens to her.”

“We do, but Ben is still at the hospital with Ms. Radcliff.”

“Who was second on the communication tree?” Christian asks.

“I don’t know. I’d have to ask Ben.”

“Ben probably didn’t tell anybody,” I tell them. “I made him chase Thelma so that she wouldn’t get on the bus with the baby. I emailed this to you,” I say to Christian.

“So this is Ben’s fault…” Jason says.

“No, this is nobody’s fault!” I snap. “It’s my fault, okay? I should have left the Amazon woman alone! I should have let the police handle it.” I drop the ice pack on the desk in my frustration and realize a moment too late that it was the wrong thing to do because Christian now gets a good look at my face. He just stares at me for a minute.

What? Are there little people running out of my face?

I put the ice pack back on my cheek. It turns out the hit got nowhere near my eye, but she blew my cheek the fuck out.

“You said she came from money. Where do they live?” Just like that, Christian has slipped into business mode. Not sure I like how easily it came just then.

“Um… Redmond.”

“Okay, not that much money, but money. What was her name again?”

“Glenda Hyde.” He shakes his head.

“Not ringing any bells.” I pull out my phone.

“Marilyn got a picture of her and her henchman. We knew you’d want to put them on the ‘list.’” I open the gallery and show him the picture. He examines it for a moment.

“Somebody married her?” he exclaims. Well, that’s a bit unkind. “That’s Glenda Shetland. We used to call her Monster Bitch. You got into it with Monster Bitch?”

“More like Glenda Clydesdale. You know her?”

“Everybody knows her. She was constantly victimizing kids smaller than her. Now she’s taken it into adulthood, huh?”

“In the most brutal way,” I say. Christian hands me back my phone.

“I need to talk to my wife alone,” he tells Jason. Here it comes.

“Debrief at 0800 tomorrow,” Jason says.

“Yeah, okay.” Jason leaves and closes the door behind him. Christian walks back to the front of his desk and sits down in front of me. He touches all five fingertips to the other hands and ponders for a minute or two… too long. I don’t speak while he thinks. I need to let him come to whatever conclusion he’s going to come to without my input. An eternity later, he looks up at me.

“I’ve made an executive decision,” he says.

“I figured you would,” I reply. He looks at me and there’s a glint of displeasure in his eyes.

“You are officially on maternity leave,” he says. I raise my eyes to him.

“Maternity leave?”

“Yes. You have disgruntled spouses, abusive fathers coming in there that you have to deal with. You’re the first point of contact and you have to deal with this shit head on. You’re putting yourself at imminent physical risk as well as our babies. I try not to be unreasonable because I know that you can take care of yourself, but you are a month from your due date which means that those babies can come any day now and you have to watch your blood pressure. I don’t see how shoving a gun down Monster Bitch’s throat facilitates that, Anastasia.”

He’s firm on what he’s saying and his biggest bargaining chip are the babies, which I knew it would because it has to be.

“I’m officially taking you off of your duties as assistant director of Helping Hands until after the babies are born and you are released by your doctor to return to work. If you fight me on this, Ana, I’m going to call Dr. Culley. We just got back from a goddamn babymoon. All that rest and relaxation undone in one afternoon.” I sigh.

“I won’t fight you on it, Christian,” I say softly. His brow furrows.

“You won’t?” he asks. “You agree?”

“I didn’t say I agree. I said I won’t fight you on it.” He sighs infinitesimally.

“Good, because I was dealing with one of those disgruntled spouses today, which is how I found out about Radcliff’s house. But I have to tell you about it later, because I have to process all this stuff.” He falls back into his chair and says nothing else. I’m assuming I’m dismissed. I stand up, take my ice pack, and walk silently out of Christian’s office.

It didn’t go as badly as I thought it would. I thought he would tell me that I can’t work at Helping Hands at all. He just put me on mandatory maternity leave.

Mandatory maternity leave.

It’s kind of what I wanted, so why do I want to cry?

I take the elevator upstairs to the second floor and go to our bedroom. I don’t turn on any lights. I just lay in the bed with my ice pack. I’m sick of this thing now. Nobody’s going to see me anyway. I take it off my face and put it on the nightstand. I put my arms around my babies and imagine that I can feel the henna on my stomach. Once I’m comfortable, I can feel the tears burning in my eyes and I just let them fall. These are cleansing tears. I’m crying because Christian forced me into maternity leave, because I wanted him to force me into maternity leave and because I didn’t want him to force me into maternity leave. I’m crying because of what happened to Jack and his son, and because I was scared shitless when I was pointing that gun at that Amazon cow. I just cry and cry and cry, rubbing my henna until I fall asleep.

*-*

My head hurts.

My scar is throbbing; my face is throbbing; my head is killing me.

I went to bed without dinner last night. I slept straight through. I have no idea what time it is, but the sun shining through windows that normally don’t allow light in lets me know that it’s definitely after 8:00 and I definitely slept more that twelve hours. I feel like I’ve got a hangover.

Yeah, that would probably be because an Amazon bitch tried to kill us yesterday and we went to sleep without eating anything.
Do you have anything constructive to say? Anything?
Go take a shower and get some food. There may be some pain killers in your future, too.

Yeah, that’s productive, I guess.

My head weighs a ton. My head weighs a ton. My head weighs a ton. Did I mention that my head weighs a ton? I’m barely able to roll over and see a small tray on the nightstand.

Fruit salad, cottage cheese, orange juice, two Tylenol, what appears to be Gail’s famous tea bags… and a single red rose.

Did he come to bed last night?

I eat the fruit and cheese offering and take the Tylenol with the orange juice. Hopefully, they’ll kick in by the time I get out of the shower…

Somewhere around ten o’clock or so, I make it down to my office. Marilyn has to be here by now. I drag my ass into my office and it’s empty. No Marilyn. Oh, well. I don’t know what was on the agenda for today anyway. I sit down at my desk and lay my head down, the tea flat on the side of my face. I’m lying there for a few minutes when I hear a familiar voice.

“Wow, you look like you’ve had a rough night.”

She’s here after all. Did she just get here?

“Thanks,” I say with no malice. “How long have you been here?”

“A while,” she says, setting her laptop on my desk and pulling a chair up across from me. She just sits there expecting.

“What?” I ask a bit sluggishly. I think I got too much sleep.

“I know that the last few days have been pretty harrowing for you, and by no means am I trying to make it any worse, but I need to talk to you about something.”

“What’s up?” I lift my head.

“Have you found occasion to call Andrea and make a request of her?” My brow furrows.

“I don’t know what you mean,” I say.

“You know, like giving Christian a message or locate Christian for you or maybe even to remind him of the appointment or pencil something in on his calendar… Any little thing that you requested of her or maybe of Luma.” I pause.

“I’ve rarely had occasion to request anything from Andrea or Luma,” I tell her. “Maybe to locate Christian or give him a message, yeah, I’ve probably done that.”

“But you’ve never outright ordered them to do something or not to do something…” I frown.

“Of course not!” I declare. “Why would I do something like that?”

“Then would it be too much to ask for you to tell your husband to extend the same courtesy to me?” she beseeches. “I realize that he’s got a lot on his plate ruling the world and everything, but I’m never rude or belligerent to him, and I would appreciate if he would extend that same respect to me that I extend to him!”

Oh, hell.

“What did he say?” I lament. I wait for her response, but none comes. Apparently what I said or how I said it causes her to rethink her tactic. After a long silence, I look up at her and see sympathy in her eyes. It almost makes me cry.

“What did he say?” I repeat, trying to overcome the pitiful look she has in her eyes towards me right now.

“He was just really rude, Ana,” she says. “I knew there would be some kind of laying down of the law after what happened yesterday, but he had no right to speak to me the way that he did when I walked into the house this morning. He barked orders at me like I was the janitor at GEH, telling me not to bother you and to leave you alone until you woke up; telling me not to give you any kind of tasks that required you to go to Helping Hands; demanding that I change your schedule and remove any appointments that involve going to the Center. It was like I work for him, not you. If that’s the case, then I think I should tender my resignation, because I can’t work for him.”

I shake my head. I can barely fight my own battles with Christian. I can’t fight anybody else’s.

“You don’t work for Christian. You work for me. And when he gets like that with you, you have my full permission to give it right back to him. I don’t condone him treating everybody like they’re at his beck and call, like they’re peons in his little world, and I won’t stand by and let him treat you that way either. But to be honest with you, I don’t have the strength to fight him. If he treats you like less than a human being, give it right back!” Her eyes widen.

“Really?” she says surprised. “You won’t be mad?”

“Honestly, I’d welcome it,” I tell her. “I have no problem whatsoever with Christian exercising his authority where his authority should reach. I do have a problem with him thinking his authority should reach everywhere! That’s just not the case, and I just can’t clean up the mess every time he does something like this. So yes, if he disrespects you, give it right back. Let him know you’re not going to accept it. I don’t have a problem with it.” She sighs.

“Thank you, Ana,” she says. “The only reason he treats me that way is because I won’t say anything back. And the only reason I won’t say anything back is because of you. You know I won’t go overboard, but I just want the right to defend myself. You’re sure it won’t cause you any problems?”

“If he says anything to me about it, I’m going to tell him to take it up with you and he can’t fire you because you don’t work for him, just like I can’t fire Andrea.”

“He was all haughty, saying that you wouldn’t be going into the Center for a while and that you would confirm that when you woke up.” She opens her laptop.

“Well, he’s right about that,” I tell her. “I’ve been placed on early maternity leave until after the babies are born.” She frowns. “What?”

“I guess I’m a little confused,” she says.

“About what?”

“His orders were specific… no Helping Hands—well, at least no going to Helping Hands…”

“Yes?”

“So, this is the referendum until after the babies are born,” she continues.

“Until after Dr. Culley releases me to return to work, yes,” I confirm. She shakes her head, still frowning. “What is it?”

“It’s going to cause a problem if I say it, Ana,” she warns.

“It’s going to cause a problem if you don’t,” I retort. She folds her hands.

“What’s going to be different after Dr. Culley releases you than right now? What’s so different with the situation right now that won’t be so in two months?”

“I won’t be pregnant!” I state obviously.

“Exactly!” she declares. “Did he say why he didn’t want you going to the Center? Was it because Goon Girl hit you? Was it because of the danger? Was it because of the stress?”

“I would think it was because of the stress,” I say.

“But he didn’t say specifically,” she retorts. She’s right, he didn’t say. “Remember that you told me to tell you this. I wanted to keep it to myself.”

“Go ahead,” I say, anxious to see where she’s going.

“We all know that your husband is the ultimate control freak. I expected some kind of demand to be handed down in terms of this situation, but not this. I expected maybe for him to tell you cut back, but I didn’t expect for him to tell you to stop altogether, and I certainly didn’t expect you to agree to it. People depend on you, Grace most of all! The Center is about to get its accreditation. You implemented most of the programs and put the plans in place to make that happen. You did all the work; you know all the moving parts and now, you’re just going to drop it and run—right when it’s about to come to fruition.” Her voice is drenched with stunned awe and disappointment.

“I think my biggest confusion lies in the fact that whatever dangers are facing you now will still be facing you after you have the babies. So what’s the thrust here?” I narrow my eyes.

“What are you getting at?” I demand.

“Do you really need me to say it?” she asks.

“Yes, I need you to say it!” She shakes her head.

“No,” she says. “No, you talk to your husband. You find why he says you can’t finish what you started at Helping Hands. You already know what I’m thinking and I’m not going to verbalize it because you mean too much to me and I’m not going to risk this relationship. If he has your best interests at heart, then so be it, because in the end, that’s really all I care about. But that’s going to be a discussion that the two of you have, not the two of us! If you’re going to accept his demands, no questions asked, then it’s none of my business—which is what I implied in the first place—and all I need you to do is tell me what my next instructions are. A lot of your life revolved around Helping Hands, but not all of it, so we’ve got other things we can talk about.” I sigh. That was a Marilyn Caldwell dismissal. When and if she’s ever ready to tell me exactly what she was getting at, she will. In the meantime, it’s a closed subject.

“Okay, so what’s next?” I say, almost dreading the question.

“Well, as far as I know, His Majesty was doing the background checks on the potential Broadmoor sponsors. I don’t know how that has turned out yet, so I’m sure he’ll talk to you about it. With your permission, they’ve narrowed the choices down to two couples. I guess we’ll have to wait to see what comes up.” She hands me her iPad and I review the information on the two couples. Nothing stands out immediately about either of them. The names don’t ring any bells. I shrug.

“I guess I’ll just have to wait until Christian tells me if there’s anything to be concerned about.”

“Speaking of which, what’s the verdict with the rest of the goods for the Radcliffs?” she asks. I frown.

“The verdict?” I ask. “In what sense?”

“I’ve done the inventory,” she says. “What do we plan to do with the rest of the stuff?”

“Why did you do an inventory?”

“Christian…” She trails off. “You don’t know what I’m talking about.” I shake my head. “Oh, hell. This day just keeps getting better and better. Yesterday, Christian asked me to do an inventory of the things that you two had planned to give the Radcliffs—whatever you hadn’t given to Thelma yet. He said he was going to talk to you about it and apparently, he hasn’t talked to you, yet.” I twist my lips. He did mention it, but we never finished talking about it.

“Probably sidetracked by the events at the Center,” I say non-committal. “I’ll ask him about it if he doesn’t bring it up… If I remember.”

“And what should I tell the three news outlets who have contacted me this morning about a statement concerning your holding an unarmed woman at gunpoint last night?” she asks matter-of-factly. I am remarkably unmoved by her revelation.

“Turn that over to His Highness and Vee at GEH and let them handle it,” I say.


CHRISTIAN

Have you ever had one of those days where no matter what you do, your thoughts are determined to run completely amuck and no matter how hard you try, you can’t string two of them together to save your life? That’s what’s happening to me today. I’ve got a business to run, but I’d do better to put a sign on my door that says “gone fishing.”

Where do I start?

Talking to Marilyn was a stellar moment this morning. I can just hear her now whining to Ana about professional courtesy and talking to her like a subordinate. I guess she’s forgotten who bought her that shiny new car she’s driving. I know I haven’t heard the last of that conversation.

Fast forward to the debriefing with the stooges this morning on my so-called security staff. I won’t begin to describe my horror as I listened to the details surrounding the assault on my very pregnant wife. It turns out Butterfly slugged her back with the butt of her gun and held her there until the police arrived. She could have been arrested for assault herself, but the previous police report, her badly swollen face, and the commanding size of Gorilla Girl over her all constituted self-defense along with the many eyewitnesses to the incident.

All of these idiots have been temporarily suspended with pay for being such incompetent idiots and allowing this beast to get to my wife in the first place, except for Bronson. It turns out that he really can’t cut it and I had to let him go. Lawrence has been placed on disciplinary probation for not following protocol and passing the communications torch when he took Thelma and Jimmy to the hospital. I don’t care if it was an emergency and he was in a hurry. The moment there was a crisis, Helping Hands should have been swarming with GEH security detail, and I certainly should have known that my wife was assaulted before she showed up at home with a purple face.

I simultaneously get hit with the information that news outlets are circulating that Butterfly pulled her Beretta on Shetland last night and that the Fairlanes are in the lobby kicking up enough dust to cause a sandstorm. I decide to let the Father and Son Fairlane stew for a moment while I handle the media mess that is Shetland.

“I assume you already have contact information for one Mrs. Glenda Shetland-Hyde?” I say to my head of PR.

“Have we met?” she says, handing me a document across my desk and crossing her legs. I open my phone and dial her number. “Christian! You’re calling her?” I just glare at her.

“Glenda Shetland, please.” I say when there’s an answer on the other line.

“May I say who’s calling?”

“Vince Fields from Seattle Sez. I was wondering if she wants to make a statement about the domestic abuse charges against her.”

“One moment…” and there’s silence.

“Christian, this is not a good idea!” McIntyre hisses. I ignore her and wait for this Neanderthal cunt to get on the phone.

“This is Glenda Shetland,” she says on the other line.

“Is this really how you want to play this, Monster Bitch?” More silence.

“Who the fuck is this?” she barks.

“Christian Grey,” I respond.

“Christian Grey… what the hell do… Grey… Grey!”

“Yeah, Grey! That sawed-off doll that you viciously slapped last night and now claims that she pulled her gun on you for no reason was my very pregnant wife!” I hiss.

“Oh, really?” she says. “Well, she did pull her gun on me and I was unarmed.”

“You’re also twice her size and had just beaten your husband and stepson to the point where you were wanted for several counts of domestic assault and one count of assault with intent to maim, you Cro-Magnon cavebitch!” She gasps.

“You are so crass!” she seethes.

“Oh, you can’t be serious!” I shoot. “You’ve been a bully ever since we were kids and you still haven’t grown out of it. You’ve just gotten older and bigger, and now, you’ve picked the wrong one to fuck with.”

“Oh, I’m not worried,” she retorts. “My father will deal with you.”

“Your father,” I nearly laugh in her ear. “Tell your father to call me directly as soon as possible and let me know personally how he plans to deal with me. Make sure you leave nothing out. I’ll be waiting for his call.” I end the call.

“Her father,” McIntyre says.

“That’s what she said.”

“What about her father?”

“Her father’s going to deal with me,” I reply, folding my hands on my desk.

“Her father,” McIntyre repeats, “her father as in Mark Shetland? As in Shetland Rubber Mark Shetland?”

“One and the same,” I respond.

“Oh, this should be good,” she chuckles.

“Still think it wasn’t a good idea?” I ask. She shakes her head.

“You enjoy this shit entirely too much,” she says. “What about Fairlane? That’s going to be a PR nightmare.”

“Do what you can. You know what happened at the Meet-and-Greet. Since the word is obviously out, start spreading our own poison-pill damage control.”

“You got it,” she says, standing and walking to the door. I pick up the phone and dial the extension to Legal.

“Allen Forsythe.”

“The Fairlanes are here,” I tell him.

“I’ll be right there.”

*-*

“What the fuck is this, Grey!?” Fairlane Jr., has burst into my office with Jason hot on his heels and his father following meekly not far behind. He is fuming, breathing like a bull. Al sits silently to my immediate right and my eyes are pinned to the computer like I’m engrossed in the most interesting thing I’ve ever seen.

“To what are you referring, George?” I say calmly, without lifting my eyes from the computer screen.

“You know what I’m talking about you piece of shit!” he shoots. “Fairlane Electronics sold to Rosedale, Inc; Fairlane Shipping sold to Aarland Freight; Fairlane Manufacturing sold to Lansing LTD; There’s nothing left but Fairlane Communications, and only a fraction of that! Our people are being laid off left and right! You promised only one-third staff reduction by the end of the first quarter—Fairlane has lost more than 75% of its original staff in less than two weeks! You broke our deal, Grey! We’re going to sue those designer pants right off your ass!” I look up at him unmoved, then at his father, who has stayed decidedly quiet all this time.

“Nothing to say, Fairlane?” I ask Fairlane, Sr., noting that he won’t make eye-contact. This only throws fuel on Junior’s fire.

“Don’t you fucking ignore me, you scheming son of a bitch!” he spits.

“Scheming,” I say, turning my gaze back to Junior and folding my hands. “Now there’s a good word. Tell me, George, how was my behavior scheming? I legitimately bought a company and I legitimately sold it, which I never said I wouldn’t do.”

“Stop calling me George, you slimy bastard! This wasn’t part of the deal and you know it!”

“Deal,” I say as if testing the word out. I type the word into Google and read back the definition. “’An agreement entered into by two or more parties for their mutual benefit.’ Mutual benefit… you wouldn’t know anything about that, would you, Georgie?”

“I didn’t come here for a goddamn English lesson, you fucking snake! You broke your word! Your breached your contract! I’m going to sue you until Grey Enterprises is nothing but a goddamn memory!”

“You can’t sue me, because I was never dealing with you in the sale of the company in the first place. You advised your father, but when it came to signing, you only signed that you would come along for the ride as the president.”

“I’m told I’m not the president anymore!” he barks. “So that contract has been breached all by itself.” I shake my head and turn to Fairlane.

“You had this man as the president of your company and he doesn’t know anything about business?” and clearly, neither do you. He stands silent. I turn to George.

“Any idea why your father’s so quiet, George?” I ask flatly. I already know the answer.

“It’s Mr. Fairlane, you fucking asshole! And I’m doing all the goddamn talking!” He slams his hand hard down on my desk. Jason and Williams are hot on him with that show of aggression. Jason not-so-gingerly pushes George back from my desk. George glares at him with death in his eyes.

“You might not want to provoke that bear too much, Fairlane,” I warn, putting mocking emphasis on the name. “He took a bullet for me last year… in this very room. Any signs of aggression towards me or him are seen as overt threats and will be met with as much force as necessary.” Fairlane breaks his glare with Jason and turns narrowed eyes to me.

“Someone tried to kill me in this office last March,” I say, standing up. “Walked right in with a group of workmen and lay in wait until I was alone. Aimed a stolen gun at me and fired. That man dove in front of me, knocking me out of harm’s way and taking the bullet himself. My wife—that beautiful woman that was ridiculed and ostracized all night by your wives, dates, and female employees at the Meet-and-Greet—witnessed the whole damn thing.”

His eyes widen and Fairlane Sr., finally makes eye contact with me. I don’t know if their surprise is because Butterfly witnessed the whole ordeal or because I’ve let the cat out of the bag that I know what their women were doing. My expression remains impassive.

“That speech she gave about scars? You can inform your coven that although they tried to leave her with another one, they were unsuccessful. As you all can imagine, I took very good care of her, but I can guarantee that a lot of them are nursing wounds that aren’t going to heal anytime soon.”

“You did all this because someone at a party hurt the little woman’s feelings?” Now he’s just egging me, but it’s too late for that.

“No,” I say coolly. “You did this to yourselves. I’m doing what I’m doing because you and your father are ignorant assholes. I’m doing what I’m doing because what you two attempted was really stupid; more than that, it was disrespectful. It was bad business in every way, shape, and form. You sold me an apple—plucked from the tree with maybe a bruise here and there, but still functional. Then the moment you signed the papers, you shot that bitch full of infectious bacteria and then handed it to me like it was some sort of prize. When I took it, maggots crawled out all over me and my wife, and you expected me to take that shit lying down. But you didn’t know that you were dealing with a bigger cutthroat than you. I’ve got proof, Fairlane, including but not limited to that memo you sent out to your department heads the day you signed the deal.”

Both men pale and George isn’t standing so tall against Jason anymore. I tell security to stand by and they move to the side.

“Sit down,” I order. Fairlane sits, but George remains defiant.

“I don’t work for you,” he growls. “I’m not president of the company anymore, remember?” I fold my arms and smile.

“You’re right, you’re not, but you do still work for me. You’re an employee of GEH as an executive of Fairlane LTD—a company that doesn’t exist anymore. I sold the company, but you didn’t go along with the package. You should have read your contract, Georgie. You signed separately with GEH, because I knew you were going to be a problem. If you decide to break your contract, I could sue you for a penny and still break you on punitive damages—especially after I prove what you and your father did to the company you sold me after you sold it to me. You tainted the assets after I bought it.

“So go ahead and try to go nose to nose with me on this and see if any judge in the country would see it your way, but know that I will sue you for every dime GEH gave you—your expense accounts, your salary, and that hefty signing bonus. That’s a lot of money to have accumulated in such a short period of time, and don’t think I haven’t kept an eye on your spending. And once again, if you look closely at your contract, Georgie, once your position becomes obsolete—which it has—I can put you in any available position for any pay I so choose. Oh, yes, you would still have to be at an executive-type level, but I can find many ways to make that unattractive and uncomfortable, the least of which is money. I and my wife are the only officers of this company, so I can’t even be voted out.

“Your ass is mine, kid, and you are beyond being on ‘tenterhooks’ right now. So if I were you, I would tread really lightly with me at this moment and sit. The fuck. Down.”

Georgie glares at me and slowly—very slowly—sits down in the seat next to his father. I walk around and stand in front of my desk.

“Since day one, I’ve been trying to warn you that you’re in the big leagues, now—that you have no idea who you’re dealing with. You still had to show me that your bat was bigger. You rebutted me and fought me every chance you got. You two employed some of the most elementary tactics I’ve ever seen the entire time I’ve been in the business. Never mind that you were trying to pull several over on me. It was insulting that you would employ such amateur techniques with any hope of getting away with them. It would be laughable if it wasn’t so goddamn pathetic. Now, you come marching into my office like you still have a bone to pick with me when you never realized in the first place that you may have carried a big stick, but you were too small to swing it.”

Both gentlemen sit quietly in front of me, Fairlane with his legs and hands crossed, looking anywhere but at me, and Georgie breathing fire and no doubt plotting my demise.

“You want to know the real reason why your father’s so quiet, Georgie? The real reason? Because he doesn’t have a leg to stand on. He knows that I can sue you and your family for what you did to me and get every dime of my purchase price back either in judgements, damages, and legal fees, or in just keeping you in litigation for the rest of your life. I haven’t completely disregarded that option, but I’ve made so much money off the garage sale that was your life’s work that the sting isn’t so bad anymore. I nearly made my purchase price back on your electronics division alone.

“What’s so sad is that I had every intention of rebuilding your company. That’s what I do… I take sick companies and I make them well again. The only ones that I sell are the ones that are dying… Or the ones where the chief officers really piss me off. But you know what? If you really sit down and talk to your father and he really tells you the truth, he would tell you that he got exactly what he wanted, didn’t you, Mr. Fairlane?” He looks up at me with a panicked look in his eye. I’m about to reveal something to his son that he doesn’t want him to know.

“Something wrong, Mr. Fairlane,” I ask. “You suddenly don’t look well.”

“Um… no… um…” he stutters. I continue.

“You see, his only concern was that he never wanted his company in the hands of GEH, but I was giving you the best deal. So when he convinced you and the rest of your lemmings to make the company as unattractive to me as possible the day that he sold it to me, he wasn’t banking on the fact that I’d chop it up and sell it off like pieces of the Berlin Wall. He wasn’t expecting that each division would lose 75% of their workforce in a matter of weeks, because your retention agreement was with me, not with those companies that bought the divisions from me.

“I had no demands, just a purchase price, and no company like redundancies or unnecessary staff.  I went to the highest offering the best prices in the industry, many of them known for massive staff reductions upon acquisition—companies, in fact, that I saw you purposefully avoided—and unlike you, I made full disclosure of the staff that they were getting when they purchased the divisions.

“Most of all, Georgie, your father didn’t expect to find you out of work. He was hoping I would ship you off with the company. So, yes, he got exactly what he wanted. He’s sitting on a nice mountain of Grey money, and his once-failing, now-defunct company is not in the hands of Grey Enterprises. But now, he has to look at and live with all the casualties and opportunity costs of his decisions. I got that about right, Fairlane? Did I leave anything out?”

Fairlane is looking a little pale and breaking into a sweat now , but his son is too busy blaming me for their current state of affairs to see it.

“Don’t try to turn this around on my father, Grey,” he says with vicious coolness. “You dealt dirty business; just own up to it.”

“Dirty business,” I say, shaking my head. “Isn’t that the pot calling the kettle black? I guess you can swing that big stick after all, because you’re batting a thousand, but it’s all bullshit. Exactly how much of the purchase price did you get, Georgie?”

George suddenly falls quiet. And in that moment, it hits me, like a freight train. Suddenly, I am overwhelmed with delight that I must contain until I confirm what I just discovered.

“You didn’t get any of it, did you?” I say incredulously. His stone expression tells me all I need to know. “Oh my God. This is classic. You have no idea, do you? You’re just a natural born asshole. You weren’t part of the plan at all!” The glee bubbles up in me and I can’t contain it. In all the years I’ve been in business, I’ve never seen anything like this before. “Gentlemen,” I gesture to my security. “You might want to flank this man, because he’s about to get pissed.”

“Grey…” And that’s the only voluntary word Fairlane Sr., has spoken since he walked into my office.

“Oh, no, you played your cards, and now it’s my turn.” I turn back to George. “Your father isn’t protesting enough because once he saw that his company was failing, he set it up for martyrdom and you were the virgin sacrifice.”

“What!?” George barks. “What kind of fucking bullshit are you spitting now?”

“Earlier, when I mentioned your coven and that memo… On the day of the sale, your father sent a detailed memo to every department head, manager, and executive in the company to be communicated to the employees—except you, it appears. They all had a mission—make Fairlane LTD look as undesirable as possible, up to and including destroying my wife at the Meet-and-Greet. You didn’t need the memo because you’re an asshole anyway, so he was just counting on you being yourself.

“They almost succeeded, but they didn’t expect for my wife to be as strong as she is or for me to put her happiness before the dollar and negate their attempts. Nonetheless, overall, his tactic worked—too well. He didn’t expect me to sell off the pieces. He expected me to see what a lemon I bought and unload it as soon as possible. Had I done that and kept the company intact, then he would have had some small hope of maintaining a piece of the original contract with the new buyers, including securing a place for you. What he didn’t know was that after that very well-positioned display by you and your cohorts, my rummage was underway before the ink was even dry registering Fairlane LTD as a GEH subsidiary.”

At that moment, I burst out in hearty laughter. I can’t even contain myself anymore.

“My God, this couldn’t have gone better had I planned it this way!” I exclaim jovially. “You assholes stepped knee-deep down into your own shit, and you come barging into my office further making a fool of yourself because you had no idea what he was doing,” I tell Georgie, gesturing to his father. “You wonder why I was giving you English lessons; it’s because I was sure that you were being facetious… sarcastic at best. No, you were clueless, which is way better,” I snicker. “So every time you mention dirty dealing and breach of contract and slimy business practices, you better look in the mirror… or better yet, look over at Daddy!”

I can hear his teeth grinding a few feet in front of me and being able to judge body language like I can, the moment his fists clench, I know what’s coming. I don’t have the chance to say anything, I only have time to react—right cross. I swerve just in time to miss his swing and come back with a solid left to his gut. He doubles over in pain and his father leaps from his seat to his son’s aid. I sort of feel a little remiss about suspending the guards over last night’s incident now, especially if Monster Bitch moved half as fast as this asshole did just now.

Jason and Williams are on top of him immediately, but it’s too late. He can’t even breathe.

“What was that for, Georgie?” I hiss. “Can’t stand the truth?”

“D—Dad,” he coughs, “tell ‘im… tell ‘im… it’s a lie.”

“George, I’m… I’m sorry,” Fairlane says. “Junior lifts horrified eyes to his father, still doubled over in pain.

“D—Dad…” he says, his voice broken, “no…”

“I thought I could fix it, George,” Fairlane says. “Even after the price cut, he had the best deal… the best!”

“Dad!” Junior says, finally finding his breath! “You sold everything! You sold Mom’s tears! All those years! You sold me!

“I didn’t know!” Fairlane beseeches his son’s understanding. “I didn’t mean to!” he says, clinging to Junior’s arm. Junior snatches his arm away and glares at his father in disgust. After several moments, he proceeds to the door, his hand over his still-aching stomach.

“I’ll expect you at work tomorrow, Fairlane,” I say to his retreating form. He slowly turns around and makes eye-contact with me.

“I don’t care what you do to me, Grey, but I won’t work for you.” He turns around and leaves my office, closing the door behind him.

“Well, I’d say that’s game, set, match. How’d that work out for you, Mr. Fairlane?” I say. Fairlane Sr., glares at me, then turns and leaves through the same door his son just exited.

“Well, that was quite the show,” Al says, having not said anything throughout the entire meeting.

“Tell me about it,” I respond. “Get the three-day voluntary resignation letter ready for Georgie. Get with Payroll and Accounting. Tally up his expense accounts. I want every dime of GEH money he’s spent recuperated including the gas in that company car he’s driving.”

“Will do,” he says, rising from his seat and exiting after the Fairlanes. Jason and Williams look warily at me.

“Lawrence’s probation stands. He should have followed protocol. So does Bronson’s termination. He can’t cut it. Bring the others back and wipe their records clean,” I say.

*-*

The house is dead quiet when I get back. Windsor takes my coat when I get into the house and informs me that he hasn’t seen Mrs. Grey all day. I noticed Marilyn’s car is gone so I know that she’s not working. I check our bedroom first. Nothing. I take the elevator to the family room—nothing there either. Gail is in the kitchen with Ms. Solomon and other members of the staff. She informs me that Butterfly did stop in for more tea earlier, but has long since gone to parts unknown. I check her office, the aquarium, the spa, her parlor, the theater, even the gym and still nothing. It turns out that the person with information on her whereabouts is Keri, who informs me that she is in the backyard.

The backyard??

It’s dark and cold! What the fuck is she doing in the backyard?

I fetch a coat from the mudroom and trek out to the backyard to retrieve my wife. I find her in a warm coat, scarf, earmuff and gloves, wrapped in a heavy tartan blanket around her legs sitting in a chaise with a large fire roaring in a fire pit off in the grass that I didn’t even know we had near the boat house. I sit in a nearby chaise that I can only assume was previously occupied by Keri.

“You should have some tea on your cheek,” I say softly.

“I had it on all day,” she says, wrapping her blanket tighter around her legs. “Nobody’s gonna see me anyway.” She adds the last part as a murmur that I’m not sure I was supposed to hear.

“Have you heard about Glenda Ste… Hyde?”

“Yes,” she replies.

“I talked to her father.”

“And?”

“She’ll leave Jack and the boy alone. She’ll retract her statements about you and most likely take a plea.” She nods.

“I’ll tell Grace,” she says, turning her gaze back to the fire. She’s going to be a tough nut to crack.

“I… um… fired the guards from last night, but I ended up hiring them back. I can see how something could happen so fast that they had no time to react.”

“Oh?” She turns a questioning eye to me.

“The Fairlanes came to my office today. Junior almost got one in on me, but I was too fast for him,” I chuckle.

“Really?” She’s not amused. “So, you didn’t get hit.” It’s a statement not a question.

“Almost, but no. He did, though.”

“By you?” she asks. I nod.

“Yes. Once. Gut punch.”

“Hmm, so are you going to take time off now… because you had to defend yourself?”

“I’m not pregnant,” I say. She nods.

“Hmm… of course not.” She turns her gaze back to the fire.

“Butterfly, why are you being like this?” I sigh. She turns her gaze back to me.

“You hand down the law and I take it,” she says impassively. “Whether I want to or not, I take it. Whether I agree with it or not, I take it. What more do you want me to do?”

“I just want you to understand why I feel this way,” I reply. “These conditions are just not good for you…”

“For me, or for me and the babies?” she asks. What kind of question is that?

“Both!” I say, obviously.

“But conditions will be better once the babies are born?”

“Well, yes. It’ll be less stress on your body, less risk of complications, high blood pressure…” She turns her eyes back to the fire before I’m done with my statement. “What the hell am I missing?” She looks back at me.

“Tell me this,” she says, her voice still portraying this eerie calm. “How is it okay for me to carry my gun, stay locked and loaded with intent to shoot to kill, and be on the lookout for mob henchmen or this monster that terrorized you as a child, yet when I get struck by an abusive spouse at my job, the idea that I had to pull my gun to defend myself is unthinkable? Now, all bets are off and I’m grounded from the one thing that I put everything else aside to do. If you can help me reconcile those two things, then I’ll be fine with this. If not, then don’t ask me to understand. I’ll comply, but I won’t understand.”

I just stare at her. I don’t have an answer. All I know is that her being at Helping Hands puts her directly in the line of fire of angry spouses who are abusive to women and in this case, men also, who seek refuge in this place. Some of them will go through whomever they have to go through to get to those spouses, and that includes my wife. It’s a regular hazard of her job. Coming face to face with Anton Myrick is a possibility, not a definite hazard.

“Myrick is not an imminent danger…”

“Neither is anyone at the Center!” she protests.

“The danger is more imminent than Myrick!”

“So what about after the children are born?” she asks. “The Center will have child care and I’m going to have the twins there with me some days. What then?”

Yes, what then indeed.

“It’s just not good for you right now. Can’t you see that?”

“No, Christian, I can’t,” she says with no malice. “I completely understand that you’re upset about what happened. I don’t understand why you pulled the plug on me. I knew that you would, but I don’t understand why. I closed my practice for Helping Hands and now I have no Helping Hands. So I guess for the next month, I’ll just concentrate on waiting until my babies are born and then see what happens next.”

“Ana, you make it sound like you have nothing else.” She frowns at me like I’m completely missing the point then turns back to the fire.

“Christian, I really want to be alone right now,” she says, and now I feel like I just took a gut punch. I stand up and walk back to the house. Raking my hands through my hair, I go down to my office. I’m only trying to keep her and the babies safe. Why can’t she see that? I know that the Center is important to her and I didn’t tell her to stop completely. I just asked her to hold off until after the babies are born. Without taking off my coat, I pull out my blackberry and dial a number.

“Hello, Christian.”

“Hello, Dr. Baker. I hope it’s not too late.”

“No, it’s not. Is everything alright?”

“Do you have a moment? I really need to talk,” I say.

“Okay, what’s going on?” she asks.

“Doctor/patient privilege, right?” I ask before I say anything.

“Of course,” Dr. Baker says.

“My wife was at the Center yesterday. As I’m sure you’ve heard because it’s all over the damn news, she had to pull her firearm on an abusive spouse. It was a woman—but not just any woman. This woman is nearly seven feet tall and proportionately wide and was abusing her husband and stepson currently in hiding at the Center. My wife is 5’2”. This woman hit my wife so hard with one blow that the entire left side of my wife’s face is swollen and bruised from temple to chin. So yes, my wife subdued her with her Beretta and held her there until the police arrived. I, of course, didn’t learn about any of this until I saw my wife’s face.”

“Ooohheeewww,” she says.

“Yeah,” I reply. “My reaction was definite. No more Helping Hands until after the babies are born and the doctor clears her to return to work. She’s pregnant with twins; it’s already a high risk pregnancy; we’re trying to watch her blood pressure and keep an eye out for pre-eclampsia. Between her losing her memory and nearly dying, the cyber-attack on my company, her batty-ass friend who’s acting like a reprogrammed fembot, the interruption of our honeymoon, figuring out we were pregnant when she blew chunks all over the defense attorney at the trial of that bastard who kidnapped her which had resulted in yet another brutal beating, nearly seeing me shot to death by that psycho blonde pedophile, the complete and utter alienation of her mother, running to the hills of Montana before our wedding, having to relive this Green Valley shit all over again—it’s been one hell of a fucking year!! And that’s not even everything!” I finally take a breath and Dr. Baker is completely silent on the line.

“I’ve met a lot of damn ‘Ana’s’ since we’ve been together,” I continue. “I’ve met Tiger Ana, Mistress Ana, Marine’s Daughter Ana, Submissive Ana, Passive-Aggressive Ana, Sensual Ana, Caretaker Ana, Take-No-Prisoners Ana… but I think the Ana that I’m dealing with now is the one that I dislike the most.”

“And who is that?” she asks.

“Complacent Ana,” I tell her. “This is the same Ana I met after that last punishment—somewhat resigned to her fate, but neither here nor there when I try to get her to talk about it. That ‘yes, Master’ undertone in her conversation, but she pretty much allows me to draw my own conclusions by stating the obvious—by taking that ‘Yes, Sir, you’re right, Sir’ mentality and she knows I hate that shit!”

“I don’t understand,” she says. “If you lay down the law, one would expect for you to expect compliance…”

“But not because I’m barking an order at her,” I clarify. “I want her to understand why I feel this way, but when I try to talk to her about it—about how I feel about her health and her safety—it sounds to me like…” I don’t even want to say it.

“Like what?” Dr. Baker presses.

“Like she thinks I’m trying to draw some kind of distinction between her and the babies.” There. I’ve said it. It was clearly implied in her conversation and if I confront her with it, it’s another fight that I don’t want to have. I fall down in a nearby seat and thrust my hand in my hair, resting my elbow on my knee. Why can’t I act irrational and emotional without everybody thinking I’m selfish or I’ve lost my mind? I want to stomp and yell and say how unfair it is for me to be treated this way when all I’m doing is acting out of concern for my family, but somehow or another, I’ll be the bad guy if I do. Suddenly, I feel very self-conscious.

“I’m sorry I called, Dr. Baker. I wanted to say these things out loud, but really, there’s nothing you can do to help me with this.”

“What are you going to do?” she asks.

“I don’t know, but if you come up with some good ideas, feel free to text me. Goodnight, Doctor.” I end the call and toss my phone on the floor.


A/N: Just in case it’s not obvious, Shetlands and Clydesdales are both equine breeds (horses). Glenda’s maiden name is Shetland, which is a pony that officially only gets to be about 3.5 feet tall (about 107 cm). Ana’s statement about Glenda “Clydesdale” would be a reference to a breed of one of the largest horses in the world, getting to average 6 feet tall, but the largest of which stood 19.3 hands or nearly 6.5 feet tall—which is pretty damn huge for a horse.

You can find the songs along with pictures of places, things, and fashions on my Pinterest page at https://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/becoming-dr-grey/

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

Love and handcuffs 🙂 
Lynn X

Becoming Dr. Grey: Chapter 53—So Much For Decompressing…

Happy Birthday to my baby girl, Ember. You guys may know her as Bria and someone called her Baby Goddess or Little Goddess or something like that… my memory sucks. Nonetheless, she’ll be 22 tomorrow, so this chapter is dedicated to her… and to any mom or dad who had to do something scary to protect their child from hurt, harm, or danger. 

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 53—So Much For Decompressing…

CHRISTIAN

Jason and I are in my office after the department head meeting Tuesday morning. Many people were surprised to hear that we would not be absorbing Fairlane as planned, but chalked it up to another of Christian Grey’s idiosyncrasies. They will surely find out the reasoning from those department heads who did attend the Meet-And-Greet a few weeks ago. Personally, I don’t intend to spend any more time on the topic than necessary.

We’re reviewing the background checks of our potential sponsors from Broadmoor. With the exception of a few facts that may cause some red faces should they become public, we’ve found nothing criminal or particularly scandalous. We’re laughing among ourselves about a slightly unusual fetish of one Mr. Rollins when Jason is interrupted by a call on his cell.

“Taylor.” He listens for a moment and frowns. “What does he want?” Oh hell, what now? “One second.” He raises his eyes to me. “James Radcliff is in the lobby.” I sigh.

“And?” I hiss.

“He wants to talk to you,” he says. “He’s not causing any trouble and front desk says he looks pretty bad.” I frown.

“What the hell does he want?” Jason shrugs.

“I don’t know, but he wants to talk to you. They say he’ll leave if you ask him to, but he’s saying ‘please,’—his words, not theirs.” I twist my lips and roll my eyes. I don’t want to talk to this fucker. His starving wife and child said all he could say to me. I sigh, irritated.

“First floor conference room,” I tell him. “I don’t want that fucker in my office. I want him as close to the front door as possible.”

*-*

He looks pretty bad was an understatement. This man looks like total fucking hell. I’d almost feel sorry for him if his family didn’t look worse when we visited them at that hovel he called a home.

“What can I do for you, Mr. Radcliff?” I ask gruffly when I enter the conference room with Jason and two other members of my security team. He raises his head from the table where it was buried in his arms. He’s been crying and he looks like he hasn’t eaten in several days. Did he lose his job after all? He’s dressed in that same uniform he was wearing when I last saw him—worn, but not dirty or unkempt.

“Mr. Grey,” he says, his voice cracking. He clears his throat and starts again. “Mr. Grey, thank you for seeing me.” I furrow my brow and come further into the room.

“I’m a very busy man, Mr. Radcliff. What can I do for you?” He looks down.

“I don’t blame you,” he says. “I was a real asshole the last time we met, so I deserve how you’re treating me right now. I deserve everything.” He clears his throat again. “I won’t take up much of your time and I know I don’t have a right to ask you for anything but… can you tell me how my boy is doing… and my Thelma?”

I frown harder. Your boy? Your Thelma? If you had your way, they’d both be dead! Now, you have the nerve to come here asking about them? My expression must be of total disgust, because he drops his head again.

“I knew this was a bad idea,” he says, his voice broken. “It’s just… I got nowhere else to go. I can’t eat. I can’t sleep. I think about ‘em all the time. It’s only been a week or so, but it seems like forever. I go to work and I come back to that cold, empty house… and I realize what I put ‘em through. I’m ashamed and I got no right to ask… but I love her. I really do. I know you wouldn’t know it ‘cause I let my pride be more important than their safety, but I love her… and I feel like I’ll die without ‘em.”

Okay, so what the fuck do you want me to do?

“I don’t know how your wife and child are doing,” I tell him. “I work here, not at the Center. You would have to go there to find out.”

“I can’t go there,” he says. “I got nothin’. I’m no better off than when she left. I can’t give her anything… a warm safe home, food, clothes…”

“I thought you said you were still working,” I accuse.

“I haven’t been paid, yet,” he says. “My first paycheck is Friday. Even with one paycheck, I can’t put things together like they need. And no, I didn’t come here looking for money. I just wanna know how my family’s doin’.” I roll my eyes.

“I can call my wife if you want and find out how they’re doing,” I offer. He shakes his head.

“No… I don’t want her to know. I don’t want her to think… that I’ll come…” He shakes his head. “She’s… they’re better off where they are.” His voice cracks again.

“I’m not sure what else you want from me,” I tell him. “There’s not much more I can do than that.” I still have a hard time mustering up sympathy for this guy after seeing the condition of his wife and child.

“I was just hopin’,” he says, standing to his feet. “I won’t take up any more of your time.” He walks to the door and security steps aside to let him pass. “You can do one thing for me.”

“And what’s that?” I ask.

“Just get a message to her.” I thought he said he didn’t want her to know he was looking for her. “Tell her that I’m sorry and that if she don’t see me no more, I really do love her.” He leaves the conference room with his skull cap in his hand.

I know that tone. I know it well. I felt it when Butterfly left. I wanted to die. I really wanted to die. If I didn’t have my staff watching me like a hawk and my company to keep me occupied, I’m not sure I wouldn’t have resorted to more drastic measures. He doesn’t have anything—just that job that he should be at right now because it’s business hours. He didn’t ask me anything but how she was doing and to give her a message…

“If she don’t see me no more…”

He’s saying goodbye.

“Stop him,” I say.

“What?” I turn around to face a frowning Jason.

“Stop him,” I repeat. “Bring him back. Now!”

Confused, Jason walks out of the conference room and has to go outside to catch Radcliff before he leaves. A few moments later, the two men walk back into the conference room, bringing the cold in with them.

“Have a seat, Mr. Radcliff,” I say, gesturing to the chair.

“Jim,” he says, taking the seat and not raising his head. Yes, this is definitely a different man than the one I met a few days before Christmas.

“Get Jim some coffee and some food from the cafeteria,” I tell Jason.

“I ain’t hungry,” he says.

“You need to eat. You look like shit,” I tell him before turning back to Jason. “They can wait outside. Close the door.” Jason frowns. “I assume your very capable security staff searched him before setting him in my conference room.”

“I ain’t got nothin’!” Jim retorts. I turn back to Jason.

“Coffee? Food?” I repeat. He looks at me uncertainly.

“Yes, sir,” he says before reluctantly leaving the room with the other two security detail. I turn my attention back to Jim.

“I don’t like you,” I say, taking the seat across from him. “I think it’s a horrible thing you did making your wife and newborn child live in filth, famine, and squalor—and for what? I have a very hard time getting past that and you have to tell me why I should.”

“I don’t know why you should,” he says, firmly, confused. “You called me back…”

“But you came here first!” I retort. “You expected something from me. I want to know what and why!”

“I don’t know what I expected,” he hisses as he pushes away from the table and stands, pacing to nowhere. “You’re my only connection to Thelma. I need to see her… I don’t know… I need to…” He wrings the skull cap in his hands. “I don’t know what to do without her, man,” he confesses, near tears again. “I don’t have no direction. I’m lost. I don’t know what’s going on with my boy. I rather be dead than live like this.”

I know.

“So what do you plan to do?” I ask. “You sure as hell can’t bring her back to the same conditions she left. She’s probably sharing a suite with four other families right now if she hasn’t already found a place of her own. Whatever the case may be, I can guarantee that it’s the Taj Mahal compared to where you had her.”

“Did you bring me back here to beat me over the head, ‘cause I already know all this shit!” he barks.

“No! I brought you back here to make you look for a reason to live, because right now, you don’t have one!” I bark back. His face falls and he sinks back into the seat and says nothing. “I used to be you. Don’t let the money fool you,” I say. “No, my wife wasn’t living in famine and squalor, but my pride almost cost me everything. I thought I knew it all; I was making all the decisions… even decisions that we should have been making together. One of those decisions was more than she could take and she left me. Yes, I thought I would die, but I had my company to run and I had people around me that wouldn’t let me fall completely into the abyss. I did the same thing you’re doing… I didn’t eat, I didn’t sleep, I just worked. I worked and I refused to think about her. I wouldn’t let anybody talk about her. I became this evil phantom, floating around bringing dismay with me everywhere I went. I was a horrible shell of a man, worse than before I met her.”

“You’re married now, what happened?” he asks.

“She came back to me,” I tell him.

“What did you do to make her come back?”

“I didn’t do anything,” I tell him. “I later found out that her best friend and my head of Legal told her what I had become and she felt sorry for me. That’s not going to happen with you. Thelma’s not going to look at your sad, pathetic state and fall at your feet. Why aren’t you at work?”

“I was,” he confesses. “The boss said I looked like shit and told me to go home and get some rest.”

“So that’s a day’s pay you’ll be missing,” I say. He shrugs.

“What does it matter?” he laments.

“It matters if you hope to get your wife back,” I retort. “That is why you’re here, right?” He raises sad eyes to me and begins to cry.

“I don’t know why I’m here, man,” he weeps, “I just miss my Thelma.” Oh, fuck. This is just what I need. Jason comes back into the room at just this moment. Thank God! I gesture at this blubbering idiot with disgust and Jason looks from him to me, confused. He walks over and places the food on the table next to Jim and proceeds to the door. He throws a look back at me for approval and I shoo him out of the room.

“Okay, dry up. I can’t deal with this shit from people I do like,” I say once Jason is out of the room. How the mighty have fallen. This once prideful, bullying bastard is sitting at my conference table drying his tears with napkins from my company cafeteria.  “Eat,” I command him. He removes the top from the plate and tears into the sandwich. I can smell the soup from here—clam chowder. He tucks into like a man on death row. “Not hungry, huh?” He raises his eyes to me and swallows the bite he was chewing.

“I guess I am,” he admits before taking more of the soup. Mmm-hmm.

“So what are you going to do now?” I tell him. “You obviously want your wife back, so what are you going to do?”

“I don’t know,” he admits. “Can you teach an old dog new tricks?”

“For your sake, you better hope so,” I say. “Let’s start by identifying the problem. What’s the problem?”

“I had my wife and son living in a shack with no food or heat.”

“That’s a result from one of the symptoms. What’s the problem?” He frowns.

“Well, that’s why she left me,” he says.

“No, that’s not why she left you,” I say. “If the two of you were doing the best that you could and all you had in the end was that shack with no heat, she would have found a way to make it work. She loves you. That’s not why she left you. Try again.” He puts his spoon down and takes a sip of his coffee before closing his eyes.

“It was cold. They were hungry. We didn’t have any food… no clothes… no furniture…”

“All symptoms,” I repeat.

“Would you let me work through this, please?” he snaps. I cross my hands on the table and remain silent. “She woulda stayed… she did try. She called the welfare office. She called the utility helpline… she called your wife…”

You’re getting warmer.

“I wouldn’t let her try. I didn’t want their help. I wanted to do it myself. I wanted to take care of my family, myself.”

“But you couldn’t do it,” I interject, “so you allowed them to suffer and nearly die as long as you could feel better about not accepting a handout.”

“What’s a man got if he can’t provide for his family?” he retorts, desperately.

“Apparently, nothing,” I say. “Even less if he doesn’t accept the help of someone else who’s attempting to provide for his family while he’s down on his luck. No one was trying to strip you of your manhood, Jim. That’s why these agencies are here. Yeah, there are those who live off of them for life, but you obviously weren’t going to be that guy. Hell, you got a job. You just needed something to help you make it to your first couple of checks. How did you expect for your wife and child to survive that long in those conditions?”

“I wasn’t thinkin’,” he says.

“That’s a cop out,” I accuse. “You were thinking. You were thinking about yourself! You had the wherewithal to come off of your job at lunchtime and drive all the way back to your house to make sure that my wife and I were not going to bring any goods to your house or provide any assistance to your family and you’re going to try to pull that bullshit on me?” He sits there, chastised. “You need to take responsibility for your actions and your selfishness and find a way to fix what you’ve broken. Stop copping out with this I don’t know bullshit and stand up and be that man you tried to be when you bullied your wife… and tried to bully mine! Otherwise, you can finish your soup and sandwich, take your coffee and get the hell out of here because I’m wasting my time with you!”

“No… no, please help me. I’ll do anything to make this right,” he begs.

“Well, first of all, you need to examine yourself, because if you don’t see the problem, you’re going to be right back where you started from in a week, a month or a year. Give it time, but you will be right back there, and nobody’s going to help you, then. Nobody wants to help you now! Thelma’s got all the help she needs. You’ve got a job. You can move into a one-room studio or boarding house and no one would care. Pay your child support, get your bi-weekly supervised visitation and call it a day!”

“Oh, God,” he laments, burying his head in his arms on the table again. “I’m a selfish asshole,” he says, his voice muffled. “I didn’t want to be one of those welfare families depending on the state, so every time she tried to get some help, I headed ‘em off. When they called, I told ‘em we didn’t need ‘em. When they sent letters, I threw ‘em away. When they showed up, I sent ‘em away…”

“Don’t I know it,” I remark.

“… But it’s true, Mr. Grey,” he wails. “I wasn’t thinkin’. I wasn’t thinkin’ about how they would survive. I just knew that if we held on a little while longer, I would be able to take care of ‘em. They seemed like they were doing alright. I didn’t know she took food from the hospital or begged from the neighbors. I didn’t know they were starving until they were starving…”

“How could you not know? What were you eating?” I accuse.

“I got a meal here and there, but I could go longer without food than she could. I’m a big man…” Not anymore.

“Have you looked at yourself lately?” I ask. “You’re considerably smaller than the first time I saw you just before Christmas.” He looks down at himself and shrugs.

“Explains why the boss sent me for a drug test,” he says, his voice defeated. I roll my eyes.

“You’ve got to accept some fucking help. You can’t even take care of yourself. Yes, you need to be self-sustaining and be able to take care of your family, but you have to build something first and you can’t even do that right now. You look like utter shit. You need to get your health back and maintain your job while you’re doing it. How do you plan on accomplishing that?”

“Well, I was going to get my gas turned back on Friday when I got paid,” he says. That’s a start. I nod.

“You need to see a doctor. You look sick, like something else is wrong…”

“Well, maybe the drug test will show something,” he says.

“A drug test only tests for narcotics. Are you on any narcotics?” I ask. He shakes his head.

“Where would I even get the money for some shit like that?” he says, hopelessly. I sigh again. I’m going to help this fucker against my will. I feel like I have to.

“We adopted your family this past Christmas—not just your wife and child, your entire family. You’re going to accept some help because you need it. You’re not going to make it without it. We still have most of the shit we intended to give to you including the gift cards if Butte… Mrs. Grey hasn’t given them to Thelma, yet. At this point, would you have a problem accepting those things?”

“I don’t know, Mr. Grey,” he says. “It’s not my pride this time… well, maybe it is a little. It’s just that… I don’t know if I’m worthy this time. And that house… that house isn’t worthy of the rats that live in it.”

“Well, that’ll never do,” I say. “You can’t hope to bring a baby back to those kinds of conditions, but remember, this isn’t about you. This is about your family.” He nods. “Are they worthy?”

“More than anything,” he whispers. He’d better be glad I believe him.

“Jim, I’m going to give you a purpose. I’m going to make you earn your family back. You have to show me that you are worth my time and effort and then you have to show them that you’re worth their love and trust. You drop the ball this time and you can take a leap into the deepest part of the Pacific is far as I’m concerned. Thelma has already shown you that she’s not putting up with your shit and she loves you. I’m even less tolerant than she is.”

“I’ll do whatever I have to,” he says. “I let ‘em down once… I can’t do it again.”

*-*

Butterfly is rubbing off on me. I heard her say that the ideal situation would be for the family to be reunited and I didn’t want to hear it. Now this fucker has showed up at my building again… this time, in desperate need of my help. The Alpha Male in me wants to kick his ass and send him on his way for what he did to Thelma and little Jimmy. The husband and father in me knows how lost, lonely, and sick I would be if my Butterfly took my beans and left me.

Like I said, Butterfly is rubbing off on me.

I call my doctor and ask if he could see a new patient on short notice, cash pay, of course. I let him know that the man is somewhat emaciated and I’m concerned about his health. He agreed to run whatever tests Jim would consent to and charge it to my credit card. Can’t send him back to Thelma a piece of a man.

My next call is to Marilyn to find out how much of the merchandise for the Radcliffs we still have in our possession or waiting to be delivered. She’s going to get back to me later with an inventory, but indicates that she may need to talk to Butterfly about what may have already been given to Thelma. I ask her to try to hold off talking to Butterfly if she can as I want to talk to her, first. I need to explain my motives in case she wants to chew me out like I did her about Courtney.

My final call is to Elliot. I grovel a bit to get him to go over and inspect the Radcliffs’ house. Rats can be taken care of with an exterminator, but I need to know if this is an undertaking worth pursuing or if we should just start over. I don’t give him much detail except the address and that the key is under the mat—not that he’ll need one. The walls are so thin that the big bad wolf could probably blow the house down. He agrees to go on over since I sound so desperate. I’m not desperate. Maybe a little eager, but not desperate.

Around mid-afternoon, I’m trying to figure out how I’m going to approach this topic with Butterfly when I get a call from the front desk.

“Mr. Grey, your brother is on his way up and he is breathing fire.”

“Why?” I ask, my brow furrowed.

“We didn’t get a chance to ask him. He whizzed by us and said, ‘If you have to call the cops, call them, but I’m going up to see my brother.’” What the hell is wrong with Elliot? I hear the ring of the elevator and Elliot’s gruff voice talking to Andrea.

“Is he in there?” he asks.

“Yes, but please let me announce you,” she says. I know the request has fallen on deaf ears because he walked right past security.

“Thank you, he’s here,” I say before ending the call. My office door slams open loudly and Elliot is standing there breathing like a bull.

“Christian, somebody lives there??” he asks, storming into my office.

“Hello, Elliot, what the fuck?” I retort.

“Have you been inside that place?” he nearly shouts.

“What place?”

“That cesspool you sent me to!” he barks angrily.

“No, I haven’t. That’s why I asked you to check it out!” Elliot rubs the back of his neck. Oh, this is bad.

“You better be glad you haven’t been in there, because I was ready to chew you a new asshole!” he scolds, pointing at me from across the room. “Algae, fungus, and mold visible all over the house; loose asbestos in the attic; paper thin walls with holes so big you can see the studs—which, by the way, are suffering from massive decay. Corrosion all over the kitchen and bathroom. There’s no running water, probably because the pipes are frozen.

“We had to wear gas masks because—on a whim—I brought the carbon monoxide detector in with me and it went nuts! It’s no wonder since the furnace and the hot water heater are under four feet of ice. We couldn’t even get to the basement—it’s a frozen swimming pool down there! Rodents and roaches everywhere and that’s the least of your problems. I’m surprised he still has a pest problem in there as cold as it is.

“The foundation is destroyed, which I could tell just walking up to the place because it’s actually leaning! That place should be condemned! I’ve already reported it unsafe and irreparable to the city, and it’s going to take a HazMat team to remove the debris once it’s demolished, if not before! They may find the fucking Loch Ness Monster in that goddamn basement once they thaw that fucking petri dish—grown ass men running out of the house because rats are frozen on the surface!”

“You’re fucking kidding me!” I say, thrusting both hands into my hair. Elliot’s ire is immediately extinguished by my reaction.

“What’s going on here, Christian?” he asks. I close my eyes and shake my head, sighing heavily.

“I can’t tell you,” I say. “I’ll be betraying a confidence if I do. How soon can the city get rid of that house?” He shrugs.

“I don’t know how long it usually takes. I turn it over to the city and I don’t look back. Is somebody living in that house, Christian?”

“Elliot, what part of I can’t tell you is unclear?” He’s angry again.

“Mmm-hmm. Well, tell whoever you can’t tell me about to get the hell out of that house now and go see a goddamn doctor! It’s a wonder they’re not dead already—and make sure they burn anything they may have taken from that house, including the clothes they’re wearing! They’re probably a walking mold incubator. And kindly warn me the next time you intend to send me and my guys into hazardous conditions that could possibly cost us our lives or health!”

And with that, he storms out of my office. He has a right to be mad, but I didn’t know what he was walking into or I wouldn’t have sent him over there. I pull out my blackberry and call Jason.

“Sir?”

“Send two out guys to locate James Radcliff and tell him not to go back to his house. Put him up at the Fairmount for the week and settle the bill in advance. Give him a few hundred dollars and tell him to call me on my cell as soon as he gets settled in.” There’s silence on the line for a moment.

“Yes, sir,” he says before ending the call. I sit at my desk, staring out the window. How can I feel sorry for this fucker? Doesn’t he deserve whatever he gets? He had his wife and son living in this mess and now he’s stuck in it. Shouldn’t I let him stew in his own brew?

Shouldn’t I?

“Shit!” I dial Butterfly’s number.

“Hey, handsome,” she answers the phone. I want to take solace in her voice, but I have to tell her…

“Hey, baby. You busy?”

“Never too busy for you and what’s wrong?” I’ll never be able to hide anything from this woman.

“What makes you think something’s wrong?”

“Cut the shit, Christian,” she says. Okay…

“Thelma and Jimmy Radcliff… how is their health?” There’s a pause.

“As well as can be expected for living in a cold house with no food. Where is this coming from?”

“Just go with me for a moment, okay?” I reply. “Have they seen a doctor for a thorough examination?”

“Have you forgotten your mother works here?” she asks.

“No, but Mom can’t run tests in the center cafeteria.” I retort. She sighs.

“I don’t know. I don’t think so,” she replies. “They’ve only been here for about two weeks. Grace did a preliminary examination of Jimmy and nothing seemed amiss. Please tell me what’s going on.”

“I will, but you have to let me finish,” I tell her. “Have they shown any strange symptoms? Has Thelma complained to you about anything out of the ordinary—or too often about anything ordinary?”

“No,” she replies.

“Headaches, dizziness, nausea, trouble breathing?” She sighs.

“The baby had a cold or something that he couldn’t shake for a minute, but he seems fine now.” I shake my head. Better safe than sorry.

“Radcliff’s house is unsafe,” I tell her. “Not just unsafe like just too cold for the baby; unsafe like hazardous toxins and they could have all died in there.”

“What?” she gasps. “How do you know this?”

“I can’t tell you right now. I’ll tell you everything later. Just make sure they get to the doctor as soon as possible and get a full work-up—blood work, lab tests, oxygen saturations, everything.”

“What are we looking for, Christian?” she asks, desperately.

“Exposure to mold, asbestos, common household toxins, carbon monoxide poisoning…”

“Oh my God,” she mumbles. “As if this woman hasn’t been through enough. That bastard really would have let them die in there!” Yeah, she’s not going to be real happy to know that I’m helping that bastard. How does this woman function being everything to everybody? I’m exhausted with just this one guy and now, I feel like I’m responsible for him. I almost want to defend him right now. What the fuck is this? “Christian, you’re quiet.”

“Yeah, I’ll talk to you later, baby. I’ll tell you everything, I promise. Just get the Radcliffs to a doctor… today, please.” There’s another pause.

“Okay… I love you.”

“I love you, too, Butterfly.” I end the call and walk over to the window. My mind wanders to a hundred different scenarios of what could have happened to me or who I could be if one thing had turned out differently in my life. What if my mother hadn’t been a crack whore? And my deadbeat father—wherever his ass is and whoever he may be—had stuck around to take care of us. Would I have had a more normal early life? Or would my crack whore mother have been Thelma Radcliff? What if she had never met the pimp or got on drugs? We would have been poor, but I wouldn’t have been abused—burned at the age of four, probably before that. I wouldn’t remember. That’s why I detest smokers right now. It’s not even allowed in my building, not even on the roof.

My mind wanders to a million more what ifs before it’s all said and done. What if I had never been discovered in there with my mother? What if I had never been adopted? What if I had never met Elena? Or Ana? The list goes on and on…

“Sir?”

I whirl around to see Jason standing in my office. He startled the shit out of me. When did he get here?

“I have Haskins on the line. He’s with Radcliff. He wants to talk to you… and it’s nearly six o’clock, sir.” Six o’clock? Fucking hell. I take his cell from his hands as I go to the desk to gather my things.

“Hello.”

“Mr. Grey, I have Mr. Radcliff.”

“Put him on.”

“Mr. Grey, what’s going on? These guys are telling me that I can’t go home.” I sigh.

“Jim, I think it’s about time you call me Christian,” I say. There’s a pause.

“Okay, Christian. Why can’t I go home?” he asks again.

“I had my brother inspect your house. He has reported it to the city as uninhabitable for humans.”

“Unin… what… that’s my house! I come to you for help and you take away my house? The only thing I have left?” he accuses.

“Jim, you said it yourself, you can’t bring your family back to that house and now we know why!” I retort, trying to keep my anger in check. “That house is leaning—visibly. I noticed it when I came there with my wife. Ever wonder why?”

“No, but I’m sure you’ll tell me,” he says, irritated.

“There’s no foundation!” I reveal. “The studs and support beams are decaying! Once that frozen rat pool you have in the basement thaws in the spring, that house is going to crumble like the Twin Towers—excuse the morbid comparison!” It is pretty damn morbid, but he needs to know how serious this is.

“What?” Now, he’s paying attention.

“Any really bad cold symptoms that won’t go away?” I ask. “Sniffling? Wheezing? Difficulty breathing? Really bad headaches that don’t let up? Unable to get out of bed in the morning?” His prolonged silence tells me that he’s had at least one of the symptoms I’ve named.

“Your house is infested with mold and fungus and there is a carbon monoxide leak. It’s not worth the cleanup or repair. It would be cheaper to demolish the place.”

“That house is all I have left,” he protests. “I coulda sold it to developers or something for the land…”

“My brother assures me that a HazMat team will have to remove the debris once the structure is demolished. The land is worthless, Jim. No one would buy it.” I hear him sigh on the other end. “You need to burn those clothes that you’re wearing and get new ones. And I hope there was nothing too important in that house to you, because everything is contaminated now and has to be destroyed.”

“No,” he says in slight dismay, “nothing of any real value. The only things of value to me is… well, never mind.” He sounds even more defeated than he was before.

“I’ll see if there’s any value in the land and grant you something for it. I’m calling it a grant, Jim, because I don’t expect the funds back, but I do fully expect you to use the funds to secure residence suitable for you and your family. I don’t expect it to be much, so if you need to use it as a down payment for another place or as a security deposit to rent a place is up to you, but I don’t expect for you to spend it frivolously.”

“I understand,” he says, his voice low. “Much obliged.”

“You may want to inform the doctor about the condition of the house,” I tell him. “It may affect the outcome of any lab tests he may have run.”

“No need,” he says. “He warned me when I told him about the basement. He’s already testing for a lot o’ stuff. We’ll see what hap…” Then he gasps.

“What is it?” I ask.

“Thelma! Jimmy!” he exclaims, terror in his voice.

“I’ve already informed my wife,” I tell him. “Jimmy had some symptoms early on. He’s doing better now. They’ll get to the doctor to make sure there’s no permanent damage, but the fact that they’ve been removed from the conditions fares well for them, I assure you.” I hear him sigh heavily on the other end, then he starts to weep bitterly. Oh, fuck, not again…

“Dear God, forgive me,” he keens. “Please forgive me…”

And now I feel like a heel.

“Jim…”

“I’m a fool!” he yells. “I’m a goddamn fool! How could I be so fuckin’ blind? Goddammit!!” He’s falling apart. “I could have lost them! Forever!”

“But you haven’t,” I try to convince him. “You still have a chance. They’re still here, but you’ve got work to do.” I hear him sniffling and weeping. “Pull yourself together, Jim. They’ll be fine.” He whimpers a bit more.

“I… I have to go,” he says.

“Where are you going?”

“I don’t know!” he snaps. “To the store, to my room, to church… I don’t know. Just let me go, man.” I have to hope he’s not going to do anything stupid, but I can’t keep him on the phone.

“You’ll contact me tomorrow.” It’s a statement, not a question.

“Yeah, yeah,” he says and hands the phone back to Haskins.

“Covert surveillance on him,” I tell Haskins. “Report to Taylor for further instructions. Just make sure he doesn’t do anything drastic.”

“Yes, sir. Goodnight, sir.” I end the call and take a few frantic paces before turning to face an expecting Jason.

“What was I supposed to do?” I ask, throwing my hands in the air. “Exactly what am I supposed to do?” His expression changes and he twists his lips a bit.

“Exactly what you’re doing, sir,” he says, his voice resigned.


ANASTASIA

Thelma almost took Jimmy out of here on foot to get him to the hospital for testing. She wasn’t waiting for a doctor’s appointment and I had to send Ben after her to take her to the emergency room. We have plenty of security here if anything happens and I’ll just stay here until he gets back. Hopefully, it won’t be too late and if it is, I’ll have Bronson and Marilyn take me home. Speaking of which…

To: Christian Grey
Subject: An Apple A Day
Date: January 7, 2014, 15:17:16
From: Anastasia Grey

My Love,

Thelma has taken Jimmy and they are off to the ER at Seattle Gen. Upon hearing of the conditions of the house, she refused to wait for a doctor’s appointment and almost took the baby on the bus. I sent Ben to take them to the hospital and wait with them until they are done. There is plenty of GEH security here, so I didn’t see a problem in that course or action. I hope you agree. If they haven’t returned by the time I’m ready to go home, I’ll have Marilyn and her guard take me home.

At first, I took our conversation last night with a grain of salt and made a note to talk to Marilyn. However, after an extensive talk this morning and a brief breakdown of her duties and responsibilities, I think you should actually consider replacing her security detail. If he truly feels that she’s a handful, then he’s not the man for the job. I don’t intend to get anyone in trouble, but as you well know, not everyone is cut out for every kind of work. It appears that Marilyn shares his opinion that he’s unable to keep up with her. She compares him to Charles Bronson and calls him “Chuckie” behind his back. That’s not a healthy relationship. She needs someone with more energy who can change gears at a moment’s notice. Imagine Andrea having to do everything that she has to do for you from a mobile office with no assistant. She needs someone who can keep with that.

Just keeping you abreast. I’ll see you when I get home.

Yours Always,
Dr. Anastasia Steele-Grey
Assistant Director, Helping Hands

I no sooner press send on my computer when Marilyn and Courtney come running into my office like the place is on fire.

“Ana! Come quick!” Marilyn pants. “There was a hit on Jack… in Missing Persons… his father is here!” I get out of my seat faster than I moved before I was pregnant.

“Where is he?”

“In the community room,” Courtney says. She sounds panicked.

“Where’s Jack?”

“Upstairs in the dorms.” I sigh heavily.

“Courtney, got get Jack. Bring him down. Make sure that he knows he doesn’t have to leave if he doesn’t want to.”

“He’ll come,” she says. “It’s not his father that he’s afraid of.” I nod.

“That’s right. Bring him down. Marilyn, get security in there just in case. Is he alone?” She nods.

“No sign of the Wicked Witch of The North Pacific.” I nod.

“I’ll go talk to him.” I reach into my purse and pull out my Beretta. I load the magazine without putting a round in the chamber. I hope I won’t need it, but I can’t be too careful, especially since I sent Ben with Thelma and Jimmy. I put the gun in the waistband of my maternity pants. One of the children protest with a kick—I have a feeling it’s Mikey.

“Settle down, killer,” I tell him. “I’ll get some kind of holster after this.” Marilyn frowns at me.

“Do you really think you need it, Ana?” she asks.

“Ben’s not here…”

“But so many other people are,” she protests. I shake my head.

“Unknown element. No Ben. No Chuck. The gun comes with me.” I brush past her and into the hallway.

We walk to the community room and security is already there. There’s a man—not really short, but he still looks very small for some reason. I walk in and start toward him. He removes his hat and gets to his feet—about 5’10”, red hair… he looks really frail.

“Ma’am, is my boy okay?” he asks without introducing himself. He’s wringing his hat nervously and he looks worried sick.

“Yes, sir, he’s fine,” I reply. He sighs heavily and drops his head. He looks like he shrinks at least a foot, like he was carrying boulders on his back. “Please, have a seat, Mr….”

“Hyde. Jack Hyde,” he says proffering his hand. I shake it.

“Anastasia Grey. Please.” I gesture to the seat he just vacated and sit next to him.

“There’s a lot of security in this place,” he says. “They wouldn’t let me in until I told them who I was.”

“As you can imagine, there are a lot of abused families here, Mr. Hyde. We have to take precautions.”

“I get it. Please call me Jack. Everybody calls me Jack.”

Okay, Jack. Call me Ana. Your son was in bad shape when he got here. We’ve had to contact Child Services.” He drops his head.

“Am I going to jail?” he says. I frown.

“Well, I don’t know. Did you do that to him?”

“Dad!” Jack Jr., sees his father and runs full tilt towards his father. Jack stands to his feet and pushes his hands out in front of him to halt his son.

“Jack, no!” he warns. Jack Jr., stops in his tracks, crestfallen. Then his dismay transforms immediately to anger.

“What did she do to you now?” Jack Jr., demands.

“Nothing, son. I just had a little accident,” Jack replies.

“Bullshit!” Jack retorts. “What did she do to you?” he screams, angry tears burning a trek down his face.

“Jack!” his father scolds.

“What did she do to you?” he screams again. Courtney comes up behind him and he throws his arms around her, weeping. Courtney embraces the young boy and looks at me questioning, her eyes begging me to make the situation right. I turn back to Jack Sr.

“Jack, you asked me if you were going to jail. Why?”

“Because I didn’t protect him,” he says. “Isn’t that just as bad?”

“Somewhat… but not if you’re being abused, too.”

“I’m… I’m not being abused,” he says. “If you have to take me to jail, I understand, but… what’ll happen to my boy?”

“If for some reason, you were unable to take care of him, he would go to foster care until it could be determined what would happen to him.” He shakes his head.

“We have to go back,” he says with terror in his voice. “She’s knows where he is. She said if I didn’t come and get him that she would.”

“No!” Jack Jr., cries. “No! I’m not going back and you can’t make me!”

“I’ve made it clear to your son that he doesn’t have to go back,” I tell him. “He’s in danger of imminent harm, and he doesn’t have to return. He’s told me that these bruises come from his stepmother and that she’s doing the same thing to you. All we need is for you to confirm it.” He looks at me in utter terror and back to his son.

“We have to go, Jack,” he says, his voice shaking. “We have to go.”

“I’m not going back, Dad,” Jack Jr., says.

“We have to go back,” Jack says, swallowing hard. “We have to go back before she comes up here. It’ll just be worse if she comes up here!”

“I’m not going back, Dad,” Jack Jr., says. “I’ll go to foster care. I’ll go to the police. I’ll run away. I’ll do whatever I have to do… but I’m not going back! I don’t have to go back! I’m not going!”

“We have to go back!” Jack Sr., says frantically. “She’ll find you and take you away from me if we don’t go back!”

“She can’t do that,” I interject. My voice is an intrusion into his thoughts. It’s like he forgot I was in the room. “If she takes your son away from you without cause or permission, that’s kidnapping and that’s a federal crime.” His eyes are full of terror.

“What?” he asks incredulously.

“She can’t take your son from you without your permission or without cause, but if you make him go back, the State can and will take him away from both of you.” He looks from me to Jack Jr., to Grace and back to me again.

“She can’t take him away?” I don’t think he heard anything else I said.

“Not unless she wants the police on her tail for the rest of her life,” I tell him, “and I have a feeling that young Jack is not going to keep quiet for her anymore.”

He looks at me like I just hit him and falls back down in his seat, panting like he’s out of breath.

“She… she…” He really is panting. I look to his son.

“Dad?” He breaks from Courtney’s hold. “Dad?”

“Careful, Jack!” I say, remembering his father’s reaction when Jack Jr., ran towards him. Jack Jr., falls to his knees in front of his father who, as I can now see, is hyperventilating.

“Go get a paper bag from the cafeteria,” I say to Marilyn.

“I’ll get it!” Courtney says, and she’s gone in a flash. I turn back to the father and son.

“Dad. Listen to me. Breathe. Please breathe.” That’s not going to help him. He’s going to pass out soon. His son has no idea what’s happening and this is all he knows to do. Courtney must have been moving like Mercury, because she’s back in a flash with a paper bag, opening it quickly and handing it to me. I crinkle the opening around my hand.

“Hold this over your nose and mouth, like this.” I demonstrate for him and he weakly puts the paper bag over his nose and mouth. “Now breathe in and out, into the bag.” He follows directions and it takes a while, but after several moments, he’s breathing normally. When he gets the air back into his lungs, he collapses in tears.

“We can’t go back, Dad,” Jack Jr., tells his father.

“She can’t take him away from me?” he asks and I shake my head. “She always said she could take him away. I was trying to find some kind of way to fight her, but she’s got the money and I don’t. And she’s a strong woman… she’s like Nurse Ratchet or something! She wasn’t always like that. It’s like one day she just turned into the Jolly Green Giant, only not jolly—more like a big, angry, Amazon! Nothing I did was right. It was like she hated the sight of me. Then she started hitting me. Then she started hitting my boy…

“I tried to leave her once. She headed us off before we even got on the bus—her and her driver.

“Her driver?” I ask.

“He’s her lover,” he says, wiping his tears. “I’m no fool. She’s angry with me for not being him.”

“I don’t understand,” I say, looking precariously at Jack Jr., now sitting on the floor, not the least bit surprised by anything he’s hearing. “If she’s in love with someone else, why doesn’t she just divorce you instead of putting you and your son through this?”

“She has too much to lose,” his voice is still cracking. “There’s no prenup. She thinks I’ll take her money. I’ve told her many times that I would sign anything she wanted and to just let me go. She doesn’t believe me. So she torments me… and now she’s tormenting my son. But… you’re saying… she can’t take my son?”

“No, Jack, she can’t take your son. Even if you died tomorrow, no court in the country would give him to her,” I assure him. He shakes his head, presses his chin to his chest, and begins to weep again, bitterly.

“I’m sorry, Jack,” he sobs, clinging to his son’s hands. “I’m sorry. I didn’t know. I’m so sorry, Jack… I’m so sorry.” His body shakes with his anguish.

“Dad…” His son’s eyes fill with tears. “I didn’t know either. Please, Dad…” He watches his father sob uncontrollably and I see anger behind this young man’s tears. He raises his eyes to me, determined.

“I see men go to jail for beating women!” he declares. “Can’t she go to jail for what she did to us?” His voice is firm and strong—determined, more commanding than I would expect from a 13-year-old boy.

“Yes,” I tell him. “Yes, she can.” He turns back to his father.

“We need to put her in jail, Dad,” he says. “She needs to go to jail. She needs to pay for this!” His father’s weeping subsides, but he doesn’t raise his head. Jack Jr., turns back to me.

“She’s horrible!” Jack Jr., says. “She does terrible things to me and my dad. She doesn’t deserve to be free.” He rolls up his sleeves to reveal multiple bruises, both old and more recent. I nearly gag. He looks like he’s been whipped repeatedly—with a fucking bullwhip or something! What kind of monster does this to a child?

“I’ll do whatever I need to do. I’ll tell whoever I need to tell, but she has to pay!” He looks over at his father. “Show her, Dad.” I look over at Jack Sr., is still holding his head down. “Show her!”

Jack Sr., nearly jumps out of his skin, the poor, timid little man. He sighs heavily, then opens his coat and lifts his shirt, flinching painfully. He has the worst burn across his chest and part of his stomach that I’ve ever seen. It’s bubbling and festering and very new—today or yesterday new. I don’t even know how he’s sitting here. I gasp loudly, shaking hands flying to cover my mouth to prevent me from vomiting. A tear escapes before I can stop it. I feel the burning of the brands again.

“Ana?” Marilyn is by my side in moments. With one hand over my mouth and one on my chest attempting to fend off the imminent return of my partially digested lunch, I fight to control my breathing.

“Ana?” Marilyn’s concerned voice does nothing to calm my churning stomach.

“Get Grace… Call the police,” I choke. “Call the police, now!” I dash out of the community room and make it to the bathroom in just enough time to lose my lunch. Everything that was in my stomach, including water ends up in the commode and nearly on the floor.

“Ana!” Courtney’s voice is behind me. I feel my hair being gathered to the back of my head and I continue to empty the contents of my stomach into the toilet and cry miserably between the horrible wrenching and regurgitations. I hear some things going on around me, people coming in and out, but I just lay my head on the toilet seat and cry. My stomach finally appears to have stopped its violent contractions and dry-heaving and I just lean against the wall out of breath. I feel a cold cloth across my face. I open my eyes and I’m surprised to see Courtney tending to me.

I’m completely out of breath and wondering if I’m also delirious.

“Yeah, I know,” she says, rinsing the cloth and coming back to me on the floor of the stall. “I’d think I was hallucinating, too.” She wipes my face again—all over this time. She cracks open a bottle of water and hands it to me. “Rinse,” she says. I take a healthy mouthful of water and rinse the awful bile residue out of my mouth. I try to repeat, but the taste is still there.

“Do it again,” she says. Good fuck, is she reading my mind? “Really good this time. Skip that ladylike crap. Your makeup’s already shit.” Well, hell. I rinse this crappy warm water through my mouth really good and spit. Rinse one more time, not as thoroughly, and spit. Okay, basically gone—not completely, but basically. I turn around to her and she’s holding a salt shaker.

What are we going to do, make a wish?

“Hold your hand out,” she says. Oh. The Amazing Dr. Grey forgot about the magic of salt. I hold out my hand and she shakes a little less than a dime-sized amount of salt into my hand. I lick it out of my palm.

Taste gone.

I look over at her.

“Trying to get on my good side?” I say, sarcastically. She shrugs noncommittal.

“Maybe,” she says. “I just know about hangovers. The vomiting is still the same,” she says, throwing the water bottle away. “We should get back out there. The police are most likely here by now.” I nod and look at my reflection in the mirror. I look like hell. I tie my hair in a knot and forget it.

“You’re still hot,” she says, matter-of-factly. I turn to look at her like, “Seriously? You’re saying that? Now?”

“Hey, I know what got me here. Nothing’s changed. I’m still bi-sexual. You were hot that night and you’re hot today. Love the henna. You ready?”

She said that shit almost in one breath. I roll my eyes.

“Yes,” I snap like a petulant child. She nods once and holds the door open for me. When I get out there, I realize that more time has passed than I thought. The sun has gone down, the police are already here, and Grace is dressing Jack’s burn because he refuses to go to the hospital.

“Jack,” I say sitting next to him while Grace finishes up, “you should really go to the hospital. It may set up infection and you might need antibiotics.” He shakes his head.

“I can’t,” he says. “I can’t risk running into her right now.” He’s scared shitless.

“Your safety is guaranteed at the hospital, Mr. Hyde,” one of the policemen says. He shakes his head.

“No,” he says. “I have to get out of here. I have to find someplace safe for me and Jack.” I look at Grace.

“We’ll take care of you, Jack,” Grace says. “I’ll be honest and tell you that there’s nothing to stop her from getting in here, but if she does, she’s going to regret it.” She sits on the other side of him.

“I won’t press you right now, but if you start to run a fever, I’m going to take you to the hospital myself.” She crosses her legs facing him. “Marilyn has taken pictures of your bruises and we’ve recorded little Jack’s bruises earlier. We’re going to get restraining order against your wife tomorrow. In the meantime, you two will stay here tonight.”

“What about school for Jack?” he says.

“We’ll have to work that out, too,” Grace says.

“I think we’ve got what we need, Mr. Hyde. We’ll issue a warrant for her arrest and have someone pick her up. I’m going to tell you though, sir. She’ll make bail and she’ll be back out. I agree that you should stay here until you come up with a game plan. These are good people.” Jack Sr., nods and with a few more exchanges, the police leave.

We’re all talking about what needs to be done next and where Jack and his son can escape to and we’re all stunned to silence by the fact that Jack Jr., has turned white as a sheet. I follow his gaze and see someone looking in the window from the parking lot.

Okay.

I send three of the guards out to see who it is.

“Jack, is that her?” I ask him. He nods. “Tell her to come in,” I yell at the detail. They nod and go outside. Jack and Jack Jr., both look like they want to escape.

“Don’t run,” I say. “Jack, sit here next to your father.” A trembling Jack Jr., sits next to a trembling Jack Sr., and we wait for his abusive wife. In walks two of the biggest people I’ve ever seen in my life. This skyscraper bitch has to be 6’8” and her “driver” is just as tall, easily 350-380 pounds each. What the fuck? She’s a good foot taller than this man. How the hell did he fall in love with this?

“You called the police, you piece of shit?” she barks when she walks in, cursing at Jack like nobody else is standing in the room. “Get up and let’s get going!”

“He’s not going anywhere with you,” I tell her.

Jack, some bitch is talking to me telling me you’re not going anywhere. Is that so, Jack?” she asks matter-of-factly. “Is that so, Jack? This little bitch telling you what to do now, Jack?” She says his name with such disdain. Stay calm, Ana. This witch is nothing but a bully.

“Yes,” he says, slowly. “That’s so. I’m not leaving.”

“Really now?” she laughs. “You’re just making it harder on yourself, Jack. You know you can’t go anywhere. I’ll always find you, Jack. So you might as well get your ass up and let’s go.”

“I said we’re not leaving,” Jack says and nothing else.

“You fucking piece of shit! Stop wasting my goddamn time and get your fucking ass outta that chair before I snatch you a new asshole!” There’s the magic words.

“He says he’s not going with you and you’re trespassing, so you need to leave,” I say calmly. She turns a threatening glare to me.

“I’m not talking to you, doll!” she hisses.

“I’m not your doll, and I’m talking to you. You’re trespassing and you need to leave!” I retort. She turns a smirk to me which turns into an all-out guffaw.

“Is she for real?” she says to her seven-foot boyfriend. “She can’t be for real,” she laughs. “I’m trespassing, huh? That’s what I’m doing, huh?” She looks over her shoulder at her boyfriend and they share a condescending laugh. When she turns back to me, I’m not really sure what happens. All I know is that I feel like I got hit in the face with a bag of sand.

Sonofabitch, that hurt!

I’m a full 180 degrees in the opposite direction of where I was facing waiting for the stars to dissipate. This bitch just hit me! This huge Amazon She-Ra bitch just hit me! A few second later, the stars dissipate, I hear scrapping, voices, and laughter around me, and I taste my own blood. Somewhere in the confusion, I hear, “Am I still trespassin’, doll?” followed by that hideously condescending laughter. I look over my shoulder and she’s actually bending over laughing at me. It takes about three seconds to see that while she’s laughing at me, three guards have her boyfriend subdued to the ground and two more are making their way to her.

Oh, no. This bitch is mine.

I make that 180 degree turn right back around to face her and her laughter stops immediately. It could have something to do with cold steel pressed against her forehead, one in the chamber, and my finger on a hairpin trigger, pissed the fuck off because I don’t like the taste of blood.

“Yeah, bitch… still trespassin’.”


A/N:  You can find the songs along with pictures of places, things, and fashions on my Pinterest page 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