It is with a very heavy heart that I dedicate this chapter to one of the very first people who followed my story when I posted it on Fanfiction in 2013. He was one of my first friends and followers on my author’s page on Facebook, and he stayed until his last. I discovered that Vip Mehta passed away a week ago and even though we never met in person, it’s hard to say goodbye to one of your “day ones.” Please keep his wife and son in your prayers. I couldn’t imagine this kind of loss in my life.
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 59—It Is What It Is
I’ve just opened an email from Broadmoor that has been copied to me from Marilyn that they have narrowed the choices down to two couples that would like to sponsor us, asking if we have any objections. That, I have to say, was a tense conversation, too. Not the country club—we’d settled and agreed on that already, but Marilyn. Watching her in action, I see why Bronson couldn’t keep up with her. After talking to her, I’m surprised that Garrett could tame her at all.
“I realize that it was a tense situation when Anastasia was in labor,” I say to her the first opportunity I get to speak to her after the twins are born, “but I will thank you not to take that tone with me that you did over the phone while my wife was being transported to the hospital.”
I had caught her on the lower level of the Crossing headed towards Butterfly’s office. She raised her head from her tablet to hear what I had to say, but swiped the tablet to closed its contents and concentrate on our conversation once I had stated my piece.
“Duly noted,” she says, squaring off with me, “And I will thank you to do the same.” I raise a shocked eyebrow at her.
“Excuse me?” I say, taken aback by her brazenness. She folds her arms defiantly and her brow furrows slightly.
“Did I stutter?” she asks, clearly. “Did you not comprehend the words of your own request?”
“It was not a request,” I say.
“Good. We understand each other, because neither was mine,” she retorts. I’m completely appalled by her reaction. The only other person who has ever squared off with me like this is Anastasia, and I fell in love with her. As I have no intention of falling in love with this woman, she needs to recognize exactly who the fuck she’s dealing with.
“Ms. Caldwell, you seem to forget that you are currently in my home where you are employed and enjoy a very generous salary, I might add. In fact, I purchased the vehicle that you currently drive and I pay the bill attached to the expense account of the credit card that you use so liberally. One could say that the fact that you take these liberties in speaking to me this way could place you in a very precarious position.” She doesn’t take down to the veiled threat. She doesn’t even flinch.
“And make no mistake, Mr. Grey, you can have that card and that vehicle back anytime you like if you think it gives you purchase to treat me like one of your peons.” Her eyes are sharp as she speaks to me and I can hardly believe she’s taking this tone with me. “I’ve worked for Ana for several years and in that time, she has never barked at me. I will not extend that privilege to you, either, especially since my boss assures me that I don’t work for you.” She turns to face me head on and closes the large gap between us to about two feet.
“I don’t want to have a showdown with you,” she says, impassively. “I don’t have a problem with you. I never have. I see no reason to start now, but I won’t be treated like some subservient nobody because you think I’m one of those people who should bow down to you. Ana never treated me like that, which is why I’ve stayed with her for so long. I don’t work for you, I work for her and if that situation is going to change, I will tender my resignation and I’ve already made that clear.”
I’m shocked to hear that revelation. She would rather quit than work for me, go figure.
“I will treat you with the respect that I would treat any other human being and my boss’s husband, the same as I always have. Nothing has ever changed between us; anytime you’ve ever tried to bully me, I gave it right back to you, even when Ana left and went to Montana. Don’t expect it to change because her last name is Grey, or because I have an office in your home, a car that you purchased, and card that you pay for. I didn’t ask for any of those things, and I can give them all back.”
I’m at a crossroads here. I want her to show me the respect that any other employee would show me, but she’s right. She’s not my employee. And who am I kidding? I don’t want respect; I want reverence—that level of regard that has a small sprinkle of fear in it—and she doesn’t have that for me. In fact, the respect that she has for me only extends as far as it does for Butterfly. It has nothing to do with who I am or my station in life. I could be Ray for all she’s concerned, and she probably has more respect for him than she does for me.
“It appears that we’ve come to an impasse, Ms. Caldwell,” I say, flatly.
“It appears so,” she responds. “So how do you suggest we handle it?”
We stand there momentarily squaring off with one another, staring at each other. Of course, she blinks first, and I take a victory thinking this is the end of the game, until she says, “Well?”
Hmm… no reverence.
The last thing I want is for Butterfly’s long-time personal assistant to quit because of a disagreement with me. Priming a personal assistant is very difficult. It takes a long time for them to learn your schedules, your personal preferences, your idiosyncrasies. Now is definitely not the time to upset that delicate balance. I would be pissed to beat the damn if Andrea quit because of a disagreement with Butterfly.
I’ve noticed that during this conversation, we’ve reverted to calling each other by last names when we had long since dispensed with that formality, especially since Marilyn often attends social functions with us in a friendly capacity. I’m certain she took her cue from me, when I began calling her Ms. Caldwell. Now, she stands there, defiant, with her arms folded and we focus on each other, waiting for a response, neither of us noticing that Butterfly had joined us in the hallway until she speaks.
“Is everything okay?” she says, looking from Marilyn to me and back at Marilyn, cradling one of our children in her arms, I don’t know which one.
“Well, I don’t know,” Marilyn says, briefly turning her gaze to Butterfly and then back to me. “Is it?”
I note from her stance and from something she said earlier that she has already had this conversation with Butterfly. I don’t know how that ended, but I’m certain that Butterfly made it clear that she doesn’t work for me. I can’t be angry at that because it’s true, and right now, I need to remember that. Though I may want it, the whole world doesn’t bow down to Christian Grey, even though I might think they should. There is a level of respect that I should expect from the people around me, and I can admit that Marilyn has shown me that respect, only swaying from that program when I snapped at her or attempted to belittle her. The world may be my oyster, but not all of its inhabitants are at my beck and call.
“Yes,” I say impassively. “Marilyn and I were just coming to an understanding.” My use of her first name is clearly an olive branch that she recognizes immediately and accepts with a curt nod of her head.
“Thank you, Christian,” she says, professionally. “I’m glad we had this talk.”
“As am I,” I say with a nod before walking back to my office.
That conversation was last week and we have since declared a truce. As I read the email she sent to me, I see that it was originally sent to Butterfly’s email. Apparently, some of her emails are routed to Marilyn for handling, which is a good thing since we’ve got our hands full with the babies. I’ve seen the background checks on these choices. I’m impressed with them. I respond to Butterfly that if she has a preference, I will agree to either couple.
I’ve also sent pictures of the twins to Gada with scanned, signed copies of the releases from Butterfly and me to use our pictures in her ads. I don’t expect to see us on billboards anywhere, but I suspect a picture or two will show up on her website or in a display at another babymoon. Neither of us have a problem with that.
The birth announcements hit the circuit last week and the requests for interviews and exclusives have been pouring in. Mac is screening the requests and deciding if Butterfly should do some appearances on her own or if we should do one or two together. We haven’t approached her with the idea yet. Quite frankly, we don’t really know how. I made such a big deal about not wanting her to be prey for reporters and people wanting to get to me through her that I don’t know how to explain my complete 180 on this matter. I figure I would let Mac explain it to her—that I was pretty much bludgeoned with reason until I gave in, but for some reason, I just don’t think that will go over well since she tried to explain this to me herself and I refused to give in to the degree that she had to come up with another way to get exposure for herself.
So… I plan on being in the doghouse once we explain this to her.
I’m hoping that my presentation of her push gifts may help me stay out of the bow-wow residence, though. I will shamelessly use the gifts to soften her up, then tell her about the plan to shove her in front of the cameras myself, taking full responsibility for the decision. No use in making Mac the fall guy… er, girl.
I hear the clicking of her heels on the marble as we speak. Might as well get it over with.
I stand from my desk and meet her in her office. It’s been two weeks since she delivered and she couldn’t wait to get back into high heels, but she compromised to not wear sky highs until after her six-week check-up just to keep my heart rate under 150 beats per minute. When I get to her office, she had just sat down at her desk and she looks worn. I know that she’s just finished a task none of us were looking forward to, but it had to be done and she was the person of choice to assist with it.
“Hey,” I say, walking into her office as she removes her gloves.
“Hey,” she says, her voice low and soft, sad.
“How’d it go?” I ask, as I stand next to her desk.
“Not good at all,” she says. “They were both just crushed. I don’t know how he’s going to deal with this. He didn’t say a word on the whole ride home. I think he’s on autopilot, but I don’t know how healthy that is. You should have seen him, Christian. It would have broken your heart.”
“I can’t even imagine,” I say, taking her hand in mind and kissing the back of it. I sit on her desk and she tells me the story of Chuck taking his beloved Keri to the airport to catch her flight back to Anguilla. She stayed as long as she could. Her visa expires tomorrow. She has to stop herself from crying several times as she tells me how Keri wept getting on the plane and Chuck stood at the window until well after the plane was out of sight. Even I have to admit that the tale was pretty heart-wrenching.
“Did the twins behave while I was gone?” she asks. I nod.
“About as well as two-week-old twins can,” I tell her. “Gail and I handled it okay. They should be waking soon, though. They had bottles a couple of hours ago and have been asleep ever since. We’ll handle it if you’re too wiped out.” She shakes her head.
“No, I could use some snuggle-time after the day I’ve had.” I sigh.
“Well, after hearing that, I’m a bit remiss to say what I have to say,” I comment. Her brow furrows.
“What?” I don’t want to wait. No use in having her get happy, then be mad again. Just rip the Band-Aid off…
“You know Mac agrees with you that we should control how information is released to the public about us and about our lives,” I begin.
“Yes?” she says expecting.
“Well, she also agrees with you that you should do some appearances on some local radio and talk shows to help keep the vultures at bay… hopefully put some of these rumors to rest…”
“And you still don’t agree,” she says impassively.
“Well… actually…” I rub the back of my neck.
“You agree with her?” she asks incredulously. Oh, boy… Alpo, here I come.
“Um, yeah?” I comes out like a question.
“Why?” she squeaks.
“Well, she battered me with facts, pummeled me with reason, and ran me over with logic! I didn’t stand a chance!” It sounds like a reasonable explanation to me until it comes out of my mouth. The look on Butterfly’s face can’t be explained. It’s some terrifying mixture of horror and disbelief and incredulity and something else.
“I did the same thing! Why couldn’t you believe me when I was doing that?” she accuses, her voice still incredulous.
“Because you’re my wife!” I defend, my voice as high as hers. “I can’t hear that shit when you’re saying it! All pregnant and needful and swollen and helpless and… stuff!” This argument is not working! She’s looking more and more horrified with every word coming out of my mouth.
“Helpl…” I think she’s stunned. Oh shit. What do I do? The next thing I know, she scoffs out an incredulous laugh. “You stupid boy!” she exclaims. “That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard! Go to the corner!”
I’m honestly stunned by her command so… I go stand in the corner.
After a beat, I hear, “You idiot! Get your ass over here!” I walk over to her like a child going to the principal’s office. “Do you realize all this shit was for nothing?” she scolds. “Goddamn Courtney and these fucking country clubs…?”
“Well, actually, it sounds like Courtney made a turnaround and Mac said the country club was a good idea.”
“In what way?” she accuses.
“She’s says it makes us more approachable,” I say. “Well… I haven’t been approachable, you know that.”
“No shit!” she says, walking around her desk. “God, Christian. Things could be so much easier if you would just listen to me. It’s like we went all around the mulberry bush to get to the same point we could have gotten to months ago.”
“I know, I know,” I lament, knowing that this was coming before I started this conversation. At least she’s not moping over Chuck’s situation for the time being.
“Yeah, of course you know, after Vee tells you. What’s so different about what she said and what I said?” I sigh.
“Nothing,” I say, feeling like a scolded child.
“Yeah. Yeah, nothing,” she says, frustration lacing her voice. Not anger, just frustration. She makes to move around me, and my defense mechanism kicks in. She’s not really mad. She’s frustrated with me. I can understand that… but don’t let her get to “mad.”
I snatch her hard against me and take her mouth with mine, my tongue lapping slow and languidly inside her mouth, caressing hers. She moans one long, guttural sound that stirs deep within me while her arms hang to her side. Don’t let her get to “mad.” I’m an idiot. I know I’m an idiot… a stupid boy, just don’t be mad. She’s loopy when our lips part.
“I’m still mad at you,” she breathes heavily, her lids barely open. No you’re not, but I accept the challenge.
“Then I’m not doing this right.” With one hand splayed across her back and the other firmly grasping her nape, I bend my knees and crouch down so that I’m eye-level with her. Grinding our torsos together, I hungrily take her mouth again, pressing her hard against me with each lap of my tongue. She meets my hunger, grasping my biceps and feverishly returning my kiss, groaning deep and primal in her chest.
“Still mad?” I growl against her lips.
“Li’l bit,” she chokes. I wrap her hair around my hand and pull hard, exposing her neck to me. She gasps at the force and I feast on her neck, tasting her and bruising her, lifting her off the ground so that she has to wrap her legs around me. I have to fight the urge to grind my pelvis into her, but our bodies are as close as they can be as I endlessly lick, bite, and kiss the skin of her neck and chest and she thrusts her hands into my hair. As I slow my assault, tenderly kissing my way back to her jaw and cheek, she’s breathless… and seems to be tamed.
“How about now?” I breathe in the corner of her mouth.
“No,” she pants softly, “not now,” and my lips cover hers again.
He looks like a damn zombie. He’s white as a ghost, and I do mean white as a ghost! All of the color is gone from his face. He stood at that window for so long, I thought he was going to jump out of it.
He hasn’t said a word. I don’t even know how he can see to drive. Even behind those sunglasses, I can see that the tears haven’t stopped falling. He’s in serious pain and he won’t let it out. Well, I guess he’s letting it out the only way he knows how.
“Do you want to talk about it?” I ask him. He just shakes his head. “You know I’m available if you ever do, right?” He nods, but still says nothing. For the entire thirty-minute ride back to the Crossing, he doesn’t say a word. He’s clearly tormented. I want to ask him why they didn’t just get married. They clearly love each other too much to be apart, but I figure that it’s none of my business and I would just be twisting the knife since she’s already gone.
When we get back to the house, he lets me out at the front door and takes the car to the garage without a word. I wonder when he plans on moving back to his place in Bainbridge? I really don’t want him to be alone like this right now.
On another note, I’m glad that I’m starting to feel a little like my old self again. I still get a bit of a flutter in my stomach and I still miss having my babies there from time to time, but the belly wrap, essential oils, and breastfeeding are really working wonders on my stomach in just two weeks. The belly wrap is also helping me with my posture. It was a bit skewed while carrying the babies, but now, I’m able to walk a bit straighter than before. I catch a glimpse of my reflection in Atlantis after I get off the elevator and I still have my round hips and these huge tits. I wonder how much of these I’m going to keep after I start yoga and Krav Maga again.
I’m melancholy all back over again as I pass the guest quarters and remember that there’s no Keri there. I’m going to miss her colorful conversation and personality, and Chuck is going to be tormented without her love.
Just as I’m trying to digest how to ease my friend’s heartache, my bonehead husband tells me that he has finally come to the same conclusion that I did nearly three months, several fights, and a whole lot of unnecessary security measures later! I feel like I’m walking through the goddamn Twilight Zone! And how did he come to these conclusions? Because Vee told him!
Vee told him!
I literally wanted to pop him upside his head like a twelve-year-old and leave, so instead, I just decided to leave… or I tried to…
My God, that man kissed me until I thought my thighs would explode! Jesus, I don’t know what’s going on between us lately, but the energy and the electricity are brutal! Our connections are almost scary and he can almost make me come with just his voice. We end every night sucking face… every night! We get up at 2 or 3am like clockwork to feed the twins, then go back to bed by 4:30 or 5 every morning sucking face again! I made him come that one night and there hasn’t been an ejaculation since, but there have been intense connections and kissing… lots and lots of kissing!
The bleeding from childbirth has almost stopped and I would venture to say that, by this weekend, it’s going to be gone. I agreed not to wear sky-highs until the six-week check-up, but I plan on bringing out the four inches when the bleeding stops!
So now, I guess we decide what public appearances I’m going to be doing and when. God, he’s such an arse! Why did he have to make everything so fucking difficult? He better start listening to me and I’m going to start being more firm about what I know or feel is right because I was too much of a damn pushover for this one. I know that Christian was and is a high-profile businessman and that puts our family in a precarious position, but I told him then and I’ll tell him again. He doesn’t give me enough credit! I’m not some flighty piece of arm candy that doesn’t know what I’m doing. I’m smart, dammit, and he’s going to make me have to prove it to him just to spite him!
Christian garners my attention by calling my name when he’s walking into my office. I’m sitting at my desk, doing nothing in particular, just marveling over the fact that I can cross my legs again. His face is troubled and I frown deeply when I see it.
“What is it?” I ask.
“Al and James are on their way over along with Gasko and Bianchi,” he says. I frown. Gasko and Bianchi, should I know who these people are? Noting my questioning look, he continues, “Alon Gasko is from Accounting and Hagen Bianchi is from Finance and Budgeting. The audit on Edwise has been completed.” His expression is still dark.
“So…” I say expecting.
“So, we’re going to have a meeting about it… tonight.”
“Tonight?” I reply. “Can’t it wait until tomorrow? We can meet at GEH, can’t we? We’re almost about to have dinner!”
“Apparently the findings are so delicate the we can’t wait until tomorrow. We’re going to have to act on them now.” I sigh and sink back into my seat.
“That can’t be good,” I lament.
“Uh, no I don’t think it is.” I throw my hands up.
“This man will never stop being a fucking ache in my ass, will he?” I say, rising from my chair. “I swear, I broke up with him years ago and all I wanted him to do is just go away and he keeps coming back like a bad fucking rash!” I lean against my desk, frustrated.
“Let’s just see what they have to say before we jump the gun,” he says, walking over to me stroking my arms. I look up at him skeptically.
“They’re on their way to our house, Christian,” I remind him. “It’s nearly dinnertime on a Thursday night. That gun has fired and the other horses have already started around the track!” His shoulders fall.
“I know, I know. I’m just trying to keep my wits about me here. If this fucker causes us one more goddamn moment of grief…” He trails off.
“Well, whatever was about to trip off your tongue, get ready to enforce it because here it comes,” I tell him. “Activate two-way communications… Where will the meeting be?”
“In my den, I think,” he says.
“Connect to main kitchen,” I say.
“Yes?” Ms. Solomon’s voice comes across the intercom.
“Ms. Solomon, please prepare a coffee service for eight and bring it to Christian’s den in the lower level… and some dinner pastries or coffee cakes if we have them.”
“Yes, ma’am,” she says. Geez, I hate that ma’am shit. I know it’s necessary sometimes, but I still don’t have to like it. “End two way communications,” I say grumpily. “What do you know?” I ask him, putting my sweater back on over my ensemble—hip hugger skinny jeans and a soft white blouse with another colorful belly wrap and sweater that incorporated the same colors as the wrap. This was my first time out of the house since the twins were born and I tested my “heel” feet in a pair of black suede booties with a nearly three-inch pump heel. They feel great and I feel great in them. I know that Christian is watching my ass while I’m walking away from him and down the hall to his den. “Come on, Grey, out with it. What do you know?” he sighs.
“Not much,” he says, snapping out of his ass-induced haze. “Just that whatever they’ve found is going to require swift action which is why they don’t want to wait to give us the results.”
“I just bet,” I hiss, walking into the den.
“He what?” I say in disbelief, my coffee cup suspended in disbelief, trembling as Christian’s accountant, Alon Gasko, relays the ugly truth of Edward’s business dealings to me, now my inherited mess.
“I would venture to say that Edwise has tentacles in all 35 of the listed racketeering crimes of the RICO act,” he says after he had just begun to name only a few of the illegal activities uncovered by the internal audit.
“Was he going for a goddamn record?” I ask as Christian stills my cup, removing it from my hands and placing it on the table between the sofas that the seven of us occupy, Jason having joined the meeting as well.
“Keeping his options open,” Al says, sarcastically. “You know how he loves his options.” I roll my eyes at him.
“This is big, Mrs. Grey,” Hagen Bianchi from Finance says. “With this many branches on this tree, he has to have a network.”
“Which means if the vermin haven’t started crawling out of the woodwork already…” James begins.
“We should start seeing them any minute now,” I finish, bitterly.
“Like hell, we are!” Christian declares, standing swiftly to his feet. “We just had newborn twins. My wife is about to be more in the public eye than she ever was before. The fuck if I’m going to have some back-alley businessman or some low-life dirty-dealing conman show up now trying to give us the fucking shakedown because this asshole handed her this bullshit in a settlement. He wants to play games; he’s fucking with the right sonofabitch!”
“Christian,” Al warns, “you have to be careful with this. We have no idea who we’re dealing with.”
“That’s exactly why we have to jump on this shit now. We can’t afford to lose nerve—and contrary to current popular vote, Mr. Forsythe, they don’t know who they’re fucking dealing with!” He pulls out his blackberry and dials. “We need to be in touch with the United States Attorney General tomorrow morning,” he barks into the phone. “Yes, we need to turn over everything that we have on this fucker’s company as quickly as we can… No, let them see to that… Let me know as soon as it’s set up.” He ends the call.
“Christian, slow down,” I say, rubbing my scar.
“We can’t slow down, Anastasia,” he says. “The sooner we get this ticking time bomb out of our hands, the better! We show that we want nothing to do with it, we replace all of the assets and give it to the proper authorities to do what needs to be done. There’s nothing else to say about it!”
Okay, that’s enough of this shit. I won’t have him dismiss me like this. This is the same thing he tried to do with the radio and television spots only to piss me off and come to the same conclusions that I did three months later.
“Yes, I’m not arguing with that point, but you can’t make that decision,” I say sharply. He glares at me.
“Our family may be in potential danger!” he snaps. “What the fuck do you mean I can’t make that decision?” Oh no the hell he didn’t!
“Because it’s not your fucking company!” I retort, my eyes sharp and my voice just as loud, my hand pressed hard against my now throbbing scar. All of the men in the room fall silent. “Do I get to speak now?” I ask.
“Yes,” Christian says impassively, meeting my gaze. I take a deep breath and let it out.
“I agree with you,” I begin, “that the money taken from the company needs to be replaced, that we need to restore the business to its original state before the audit and turn it over to the US Attorney General exactly as we found it. Let them see to investigating and disposing of the company and the assets. But you are failing to recognize two very key points. First—which should be second—do not make these blanket decisions without so much as even throwing a glance in my direction to consult me for my opinion or my permission on what should happen to my company.” I stand in silence and wait for his acknowledgement.
“Duly noted,” he says in a clipped business tone. “My apologies.”
“Second—which should be first—you can’t turn this company over to the AG. I have to.” His face distorts and he’s about to protest. “This business was never absorbed into GEH!” I say firmly. “I allowed you to oversee the audit because it was easier. You have the more seasoned business mind, but you don’t have the authority to turn this company over. It’s not yours. I know it may feel like it is, but it’s not yours. It’s mine. If you report it, you’ll be turning me in!”
His face turns white as he realizes the implications of what I just said. He won’t be the person turning over the information for the company to the proper authorities so that they can take the ball and handle the situation from there—that would be me. He would just be a whistle-blower.
“Shit!” he runs his hand through his hair. “Well, that was almost a major fuck-up,” he says. I look at the room full of men who were just about to let him go quietly into that good night and shake my head.
“I assume that was Alex that you were talking to,” I say, folding my arms, now feeling like I’m regaining a bit of control over the situation. He nods.
“Yeah, he’s, um… going to get in touch with his contact at the AG’s office, but he won’t be able to do it until tomorrow.”
“I figured as much. We need a few copies of the results of that internal audit. We need to know if we’ve shaken any hornets’ nests. I may not know a whole lot about the ins and outs of this thing, but I know how people work, gentlemen. David most likely was one man in a network of many, but he didn’t have any real power because if he did, we would have known it by now. He certainly wouldn’t have had that bad comedian of an attorney representing him in his criminal and civil trials. He would have settled this issue out of court without the fanfare and I would’ve gotten a cashier’s check from some benefactor or some offshore account somewhere. He definitely wouldn’t have let his cash cow fall into the hands of a woman scorned. This company has been in my hands now for about a month and a half and nobody has contacted us about a sudden hiccup in cash flow or any convenient ‘business arrangements.’ Based on our original calculations of his net worth, what does it look like he laundered through the business in cash only—maybe seven or eight million or so?”
“At least,” Gasko says, a bit taken aback.
“So you know that the actual cash flow through the business had to be exponentially higher than that. I take it that if we’re talking RICO, we’re covering gambling, extortion, bribery, corruption, maybe even to low-man Mafia just to scratch the surface, right?”
Six men stand there staring at me like an alien just walked through the room. I’m beginning to become highly perturbed.
“Keep up! Keep up!” I shoot, snapping my fingers. “Can somebody answer me?”
“Um… uh… yeah,” Bianchi chimes in, opening a portfolio he’s carrying. “At least that—securities fraud, embezzlement, evidence of possible counterfeiting… We haven’t traced any other sources, but there are enough red flags to trigger an investigation.”
“That’s all we need,” I say, standing from the sofa and walking over to Christian’s piano, leaning back against it. “Don’t ruffle any more feathers. Close up shop tomorrow. Pad lock those doors—I don’t want anybody in or out of that building, including Edwise Security. Whoever is in there tonight, get them out. Christian, can you please get one of GEH’s security teams in there to secure the premises within the hour?” Christian is still glaring at me like he doesn’t know who I am. “Christian?” I say sharply.
“Um, uh…” He’s dumfounded. I turn to my back-up.
“Jason?” I ask.
“I’m on it,” he says, and gets on his phone.
“While you’re at it, call Alex and tell him that I need him to report to me about the AG, and I need him to call the IRS, too. I’ll need to make appointments to meet with someone from both offices hopefully as soon as tomorrow.” Christian makes to protest. “And before my husband has a fit about me just delivering babies two weeks ago, please find out if there’s any way that we can video conference or if it’s not too much trouble, a representative can meet us here, but if not, I will go to a local office. This is just that important.” I turn my gaze back to Christian as if to say, “Fair enough?” He does a slight nod in agreement. I turn back to the group of stunned gentlemen and glare at Al.
“You, of all people, shouldn’t be surprised,” I say, pointing to him. “I have a Ph.D. and while I wandered aimlessly looking for a major, you know I minored in busianess and finance.” Al puts his hands up defensively.
“I didn’t say a word,” Al says.
“How did I not know that?” Christian nearly squeals.
“I’m a shrink and my husband is a brilliant businessman. When have I ever needed it?” I ask. The room falls silent again. Even Jason is silent on the phone for a moment before he continues his conversation. “Moving on, whatever we’ve uncovered so far hasn’t ruffled any feathers. Let’s keep it that way. We have no contacts and no information. We seal the books; we close the reports; we turn the whole thing over to the proper authorities, including the employees. We don’t know who knows what or who is or was involved up to what level. Our story is the plain and simple truth. I inherited the company as a settlement in a lawsuit. Before we merged the company into our major corporation, we performed an internal audit to determine its financial soundness. The audit revealed money trails and income streams that had questionable beginnings and endings, setting off major alarms and throwing up several red flags. Rather than delve deeper into a situation with which we are unfamiliar, we sealed the books immediately and now are turning the entire company over to the proper authorities. Al, you have the list of assets that you liquidated to generate the cash that we donated to Helping Hands, right?” Al nods.
“I do, it’s in the audit report.”
“Good. Did the cost and expense of the audit exceed that amount?” I ask. He shakes his head.
“No,” he says. I nod.
“So I take it that his dirty dealings haven’t brought in any cashflow since we took over the company.”
“If they have,” Bianchi interjects, “the amounts have been nominal. But David’s not there to oversee it, so we don’t know what they are.”
“So, if GEH had absorbed the company, we would’ve had to pay for the internal audit anyway, since the company appears to not even be making enough honest money to sustain itself,” I conclude.
“It would appear so,” Gasko says.
“Having said that, we’ll deduct the cost and expense of the internal audit from the amount that we donated to Helping Hands and infuse the difference back into the company as owner equity—no gain, no loss. Put a little bow on this mess and hand it right to the AG and the IRS exactly how we found it. Let them sort it out.” The men begin to nod.
“That appears to be the best course of action,” Bianchi says.
“Um, there’s going to be another issue,” James says, after having been quiet for a while. All attention turns to him. “You’ve already mentioned fraud, but those servers have a lot of evidence of long-term identity theft… mostly of the elderly and deceased, but if you can believe it, even of some children.” I laugh loud and incredulously.
“This fucker is some piece of work,” I say. “This is what comes from being rotten to the core and going unchecked throughout the entire course of your life. He has committed some horrendously heinous acts in his life that have gone unpunished and for that reason, he lived his entire life thinking he was untouchable. He’s committed more crimes and unconscionable acts before he turned thirty than some career criminals have done in their entire lives. Whatever time he doesn’t spend in a Washington correctional facility, he’s going to spend in a federal prison. Jason, include the FBI in that list of people that we need to contact. James, can you generate some kind of report on the identity theft information?”
“I already have,” he says. “The original files have to remain unaltered, but I’ve saved the information on a few flash drives for you. I can have them here tomorrow.”
“Thank you. Early, please. As soon as possible. I’d like to see the information before the FBI does.” He nods.
“You’ve got it.”
“He’s an idiot for not incorporating. He might have gotten some small amount of protection from the corporate umbrella.” I say, shaking my head.
“Maybe not,” Christian says, “he might have had to deal with the SEC.”
“Only if he took the company public,” I say. “And from what they said earlier, he might have to deal with them anyway. He better hope not a penny of his laundering leads to terrorist activities, because he’ll be looking at violations of the PATROIT Act with that one.”
“Eeeeww,” Al exclaims. “I forgot about that.” I rub my hands vigorously through my hair.
“Well, gentlemen, I think we’ve handled all the government agencies that we can handle in one night. If you’ll excuse us, I need to speak to my husband.”
The only person that makes a move is James. Everyone else looks at Christian as if I’m speaking some foreign language. I’m still scratching my head and haven’t noticed that everyone’s feet stay firmly planted until I raise my head. I look over at Christian who also looks at me like I’ve grown two heads and I immediately catch the drift.
“I see,” I say frostily. “Well, when you boys are done with your meeting, I’ll be in my office.” I throw an ice cold glare at Christian before I stand tall and walk out of his den.
Sitting at my desk, I immediately start going through my emails. Almighty Mr. Grey has responded to Marilyn’s copy of the email that Broadmoor has narrowed down our sponsorship choices to two—the Mallorys and the Kennedys. I type in the names of each person into Google, individually and as a couple. I want to see who has a stronger internet presence and involvement in the community. By far, the winners are the Kennedys. Josephine Kennedy is highly active in children’s charities while the couple together are avid supporters of medical research, having lost a child to leukemia. They are extremely active in the community in terms of volunteer work and fundraisers, and not just red carpet events, although there are more than a few pictures of them at black tie affairs. Given the choice, I would say that the Greys would much rather be attached to the community active Kennedys than the seemingly dormant Mallorys. I compose a quick response to Ilene Claiborne at Broadmoor informing her as such before I move on to compose an email to Marilyn.
To: Marilyn Caldwell
Subject: Get Ready to Cram, The Shit’s Hit the Fan
Date: Thursday, February 6, 2014 18:18:09
From: Anastasia Grey
Well, I hope you’ve had time to rest, because it’s about to get crazy in your life.
Yes, I know that I said I would be taking it easy until the doctor cleared me to go back to work after my six-week check-up, but we’ve got some major shit about to hit the horizon. Grey Almighty somehow finally agrees with me that I should be doing some public appearances since Vee has become our publicist instead of just GEH public relations. We will discuss how many ways that has pissed me off at a later date. However, that means that you will have to start coordinating very closely with Vee for dates and times, all of which will be approved by me, not the almighty Mr. Grey. Again, another issue we will address at a later date. So you know your calendar is going to be full.
In addition to that, you are going to be manning some pretty hefty calls over the next few days or weeks or whatever (I don’t know). Most likely, three to five government agencies will be blowing up my phone in the days to come so I will need you to be on your toes. Mr. David has handed me a hot mess that appears to be steeped in illegal activities and I’m turning the whole thing over to the proper authorities, hopefully as soon as tomorrow. So as you can see, we’re going to have our hands full. I need you here bright and early so that we can get the ball rolling on these things. I’ll see you in the morning, Wonder Woman.
Dr. Anastasia Steele-Grey
Assistant Director, Helping Hands
I’m just finishing typing the email to Marilyn and moving on to my next task going over what my calendar would look like under normal circumstances when Christian comes forcefully into my office—not loud, just a little more boisterous than usual, just as I expected he would.
“Would you like to tell me what that was all about?” he says, a bit demanding.
“Yes,” I say, raising my head to him. “I want you to get Allen or legal or whomever you need to do it to draw up an amendment to our prenuptial agreement removing me as part owner of GEH.”
What the fuck kind of bug crawled up her ass and died?
I look around the room at the five other men who each stares at my wife as she saunters out of the den, Gasko and Bianchi no doubt examining that voluptuous ass as it disappears behind the door before turning back to me and donning confused masks.
“Your wife was a business major?” Gasko inquires, surprised.
“Minor,” Al corrects him. “She graduated premed with a minor in business and finance since she had already taken so many classes.” Gasko raises an eyebrow at him.
“How do you know so much about Mrs. Grey?” he says, suspiciously. Al glares at him, then turns a questioning glance to me, pointing at Gasko as if to say “Don’t he know?”
“Allen and my wife have been best friends for nearly fifteen years,” I say dismissively, watching the mask of realization come over Gasko’s face. “Business and Finance?” I say to Al in disbelief. He sighs.
“Ah, yes, one of the many hidden faces of Jewel,” he replies.
“Jewel,” I hear Gasko say under his breath to Bianchi with a chuckle and Al just rolls his eyes.
“He calls her ‘Jewel’ because he’s been calling her that since she was fourteen, before I was even around. You do not get that privilege. Are we clear, Mr. Gasko?” I nearly hiss at him. Gasko suddenly becomes uncomfortable and sits up straight in his seat on the sofa.
“Yes, sir, Mr. Grey,” he responds. I turn back to Al.
“These many face of Ana,” I say to him, “I’m not going to wake up and find that Serial Killer Ana or Lorena Bobbitt Ana is lying next to me, am I?” James scoffs a laugh. He’s the only one in the room brave enough to do so, besides Al.
“Not that I know of,” Al says, a bit sarcastically.
“So who the hell just left the room?” I ask.
“Oh, that was just Pissed Off Ana—no mystery there. You’ll have to go find out what’s wrong. Before you do, you might want to go over what happened immediately before she left.” I look at him confused.
“What happened?” I ask. He shrugs.
“She basically asked us to leave and nobody moved,” Jason chimes in.
“I moved,” James says with a shrug. I scratch my head.
“I don’t know. I’ll go talk to her,” I say. “I guess you all should be prepared to be here tomorrow just in case. At the very least, plan to be on call. James, I know you have a job you have to attend and you can’t be at my beck and call, but if you could make yourself as available as possible, I’ll forever be in your debt.”
“Will do,” he says with a nod. The gentlemen all exchange pleasantries and make their way to the door.
“Alex will contact all the necessary agencies first thing in the morning and correspond with Her Highness as soon as he gets feedback. I told him to keep you in the loop as well.”
“Good man. Now let’s go see what has Her Highness off her perch…”
“What?” I say incredulously as I examine my wife’s impassive face. She must be kidding. “What are you talking about?” She walks around her desk and leans on it, facing me.
“I’m saying that I don’t want to be part owner of your company if it means that I’m going to be treated like the ‘little woman,’” she says flatly, her arms folded. I frown.
“Where is this coming from?” I ask her. “Are you having another fit of hormones or something?” She laughs, but her smile doesn’t reach her eyes.
“Well, you know how hormonal we little women can be. In the meantime, have the papers drawn up and I’ll sign them whenever they’re finished.” She moves to walk back to her seat. There’s no malice in her voice. It’s eerily calm and matter-of-fact.
Yes, I am,” she says flatly. “I’m clearly just a figurehead, if that. I’m only a partial owner in word, not in deed. The only way that I could get you to back off from my company was to get you to realize that actions on your part would be to my detriment. The fact that the company is legally mine wasn’t enough for you to just back off and let me handle it. After I made that clear and handled the situation with skills that you didn’t even know I possessed, you still acted like you didn’t want to give me credit for knowing what I was talking about. Likewise, I gave an order to people who are supposed to be under my employ as much as they are under yours considering that we were talking about my business, not yours. When we concluded talking about my business, I adjourned the meeting with people that I also thought were supposed to be under my employ as much as yours, and they all looked at me like I was some strange, exotic bird. When I looked to you for support, you had the same look in your eyes like ‘Who the hell is she?’
“I could tolerate that from them, because maybe they haven’t been informed yet, but I can’t tolerate that from you. You treated me just like the little woman in front of the Big Boys Club like I needed to go run off and do my knitting or clip recipes or coupons or something while the ‘menfolk’ run the business. I felt like the girl standing on stage in her underwear in the auditorium full of teenage kids and I couldn’t get out of that room fast enough. You disparaged me and belittled me in front of those men…”
“I didn’t say anything!” I defend.
“That’s what did it!” she confirms. “They were waiting for you, and you said nothing! I can’t walk into GEH and start throwing around orders without anyone knowing what my authority is; you have to tell them. You invited them into our home to discuss my company, but didn’t see fit to tell anyone that I had any authority! We’ve been married for nearly eight months, Christian… nearly eight months! I’ve been part owner of GEH for that long and nobody knows?”
Boy, when she says it like that, it sounds pretty bad.
“The fact that you haven’t seen fit to make any kind of announcement about this before now speaks volumes—nothing in the staff meetings or department head meetings, a company conference, a luncheon, a memo, an email, nothing! Half of the employees at GEH don’t even know who I am! I don’t expect to come in and start running things, but I do expect to say something to someone and they do what I ask. The fact that no one knows—not even a few key people in management positions—indicates that you are clearly not ready to release the reins of your baby in any way, shape, or form, but I’m not going to have you demean me while you come to grips with that.”
Well, I feel like shit now. She’s absolutely right. What’s worse is that this immediate catastrophe could have easily been avoided had I just given a quick nod to the men in the den before Butterfly raised her head. The meeting would have been adjourned, everyone would have been dismissed, and Butterfly wouldn’t have been the wiser. Then I could have fixed it later, notifying everyone that Butterfly is part owner of the company and that her instructions must be followed as if they were mine. Instead, I stood there glaring at her like someone was taking my favorite toy from me while everyone in the room except James was waiting to take their cues from me—hence, the “you boys” comment.
“I’m…” I run my hands through my hair. “I’m sorry. You’re right. I should have handled this better.”
“Don’t be sorry, Christian,” she says, without malice. “Think about what this really means. I don’t want you to appease me. I never asked for part ownership of GEH. I told you that you were crazy in the first place, but I thought you were doing it because you wanted us to be a team, because you wanted me to be… involved in some kind of way.” She actually had to search for the word. “Now, I see that you were just doing it as some kind of grand gesture. I don’t want that. I never wanted that. It was never about your money or what you could give me and if that was what this was about…”
“Of course, that wasn’t what this was about!” I hiss. “How could you think that?”
“What am I supposed to think?” she asks. “GEH is partially mine in word, but not in deed? I’m an owner when it suits you, like when you need me front and center for Fairlane, but not when it’s time to make a decision, like now, or heaven forbid I want to give someone an order. No doubt, Alex has been instructed to cc you on everything that happens with the IRS, FBI, and the AG, right? Don’t bother responding. I already know the answer.”
I think I’m more bothered by the fact that she’s so cool and impassive with this discussion than I am that the fucking nickels keep dropping.
“Ana, give me a break here,” I say, a bit defeated. “I’ve been a one-man band for years, here, and I’m trying to get this right…”
“I’m giving you more than a break, Christian. I’m giving you an out. No hard feelings.”
“Don’t you see I don’t want that!” I say, quickly closing the space between us and clutching her arms. “I don’t want an out! I didn’t make you part owner of GEH as some sort of grand gesture or to just put you in front of people like a trophy. I did it because I want the company to be a joint accomplishment from now on. I don’t want it to be about you and me—I want it to be about us!”
I don’t know if I’m saying this right, but I feel such frustration rising up in me that I just release her arms and turn away from her, thrusting both hands in my hair. She’s right, GEH is my baby, my life’s work. I’ve never trusted her in the hands of anyone without my scrutiny, and now, I have to take a chance on Butterfly. True, she won’t be doing anything or making any decisions without me—not that I would worry even if she had to—but I’ve never placed my life in anyone else’s hands, not since I was four years old. I always kept the smallest part of myself tucked away, hidden just for me. Now I realize that this is the last little piece of me, my ultimate baby, that I want to share with her. Even the twins are a joint collaboration. But GEH… she’s mine.
And she doesn’t want it.
“I won’t take this if you can’t give it to me freely,” she says, almost as if she’s reading my mind and trepidations. “I don’t care what you think you want or what statement you’re think you’re trying to make. It’s just stuff to me if your heart isn’t in it, and I don’t need it. You need to think about that for a while. Take as long as you need, but until you’re sure, I’ll use the resources only to the degree that I’m getting this Edwise shit taken care of and that the company is responsible for our security, but that’s it. I refuse to go through the motions. I don’t need to be in the loop anymore unless our peace and safety is in danger like it was with Robin Myrick. I don’t need any additional information that you don’t need to give me.” I turn around to face her.
“Ana…” She holds up her hand to silence me.
“It’s insulting, Christian,” she says calmly. “You’ve placated me and I don’t want that anymore. I’m not angry. I’m just disappointed, and I don’t want that anymore. So please, just decide what you want and do what you’re going to do. Now, I don’t want to talk about this anymore because there’s really nothing else to say and if we keep talking about it, it’s going to become a fight. I’m hungry and I want to eat dinner now. I’m going to check on the children and I’ll meet you upstairs.”
She walks past me and out the door, leaving me in a somewhat stunned silence standing in her office. I’ve just had my ass handed to me in the politest way possible. She read me completely right and she was spot on in everything that she said. I feel like I’m losing a grip here. I’m just not sure on what. There’s no great catastrophe happening. The world is not slipping into the ocean before my very eyes; no volcanoes erupting around me or earthquakes causing buildings to crumble to the ground, but there’s a sinking feeling of doom inside of me that I can’t seem to place and it’s scaring the shit out of me.
The good news is that she’s not mad. She hasn’t dismissed me or shut me down. That shit is for the birds and I just wasn’t having that. Her words replay profoundly in my ears, though…
Just decide what you want and do what you’re going to do.
She’s resigned. It is what it is. My wife has never been a weak woman, but I have viewed her as fragile in the last several months. Lately, I’m seeing more and more of the woman I used to know—the woman I met in the community center. She’s coming back into her own, that pre-pregnancy, pre-accident tigress full of fire and strength, and I have to re-adapt. I’ve become so accustomed to being her shield and protector. To some degree, I know that’s still my role, but Ana has never been helpless. For months, I’ve seen her body and delicate condition and I’ve known that she needed protection, but she never saw it. She was still the same Ana, just in a different body and was never truly able to see her limitations. For months, she’s been trying to spread her wings and stretch her legs—even when she pistol-whipped Monster Bitch.
Now, that physical limitation is gone, and she’s healing.
She’s seeing her opportunities to fly and run now—with the public appearances I previously forbade, the country club membership and its possibility of connections, and exposing Edward David’s corruption. She’s on a roll, and nothing I can do or say will stop her, not that I want to. She’ll roll me over and leave me where I stand, just like she was willing to do with Judge HammerAss a couple of years ago, and she’s proven it by handing my Jewel back to me with no malice.
“Here. Take your ball and go home. If you don’t want me to play with it freely, then I don’t want to play with it at all.”
… Which is right, because if I really don’t want to give it to her without condition or doubt, I’ll only end up resenting the decision later. I love her dearly, but I hate it when she’s this right.
I smooth my crazed hair and head for the elevator to join my wife for dinner.
A/N: In 1993, Lorena Bobbitt became famous for cutting off her husband’s penis while he slept. There are two versions of the story. One says that she discovered that John Bobbitt, her husband, was cheating on her and she came home and “dismembered” him. In another version, she claimed that she was a victim of domestic abuse for quite some time and that she just snapped when she lopped off his little soldier. Both versions indicate that domestic abuse was at the “base” of the attack. Either way, she took off with his dismembered member in the car with her and threw it in a field. After realizing what she had done, she called 911. They found the dislodged dick in a field and reattached it to his body. She ended up being acquitted and he went on to be a porn star.
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