This is a work or creativity. As such, you may see words, concepts, scenes, actions, behaviors, pictures, implements, and people that may or may not be socially acceptable and/or offensive. If you are sensitive to adverse and alternative subject matter of any kind, please do not proceed, because I guarantee you’ll find here. You have been warned. Read at your own risk.
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 25—Actionable Behavior
I had the foresight to retrieve my father’s phone right after the call from Mia. I had a feeling that my mother would try to pester him throughout the night. Even if she wanted to reconcile and apologize, my father deserved a good night’s sleep. I left a note on his nightstand that his phone would be on the wraparound desk in the hallway if he wanted it.
That’s where it stayed all night.
I’m almost afraid to join my family for breakfast. Nobody except Elliot is going into work today and I think we’re all just going to hide out at the mansion… hiding out from Mom. Last night’s call from Mia has everybody wanting to ask Dad what’s going on and I think the only person who has a clear picture of the situation besides Dad is Butterfly—and she’s mum, for good reason.
When I get to the table, Valerie and Elliot are already there. He’s not taking the day off because he wants to make sure their house is finished before Mia’s wedding since he and his wife will be taking a vacation. That blessed and hellish event is just about a month away, so he doesn’t want to let the grass grow under his feet.
“Our house is going to rival yours when it’s finished, Bro,” he says, shoveling eggs into his mouth. “We don’t have the space that you do, but the view is about the same—plus, you have the ‘go big or go home’ mentality. We just want classy and elegant.” I put my hand over my chest in mock insult.
“Was that a shot at me, big brother?” I ask. “Are you saying that I’m not classy and elegant?”
“Please,” Valerie interjects. “Of course, you’re classy and elegant, but our class and elegance is more like little impressive hills and prairies; your class and elegance is more like Mount Rushmore.” She raises an eyebrow at me as she sips her herbal tea. I shrug. I can’t argue with that logic.
“What can I say?” I reply as Gail places a large plate of pancakes in front of me. Oh, this looks like heaven. I couldn’t eat much yesterday and could only peck at dinner since I tried to pickle my insides the night before and into the early morning hours. Now, I’m fucking ravenous.
“What did I miss?” I hear Butterfly say as she makes her entrance. The pancakes taste like life and merry-go-rounds and happy endings, and I’m temporarily separated from the conversation going on at the table until I hear Butterfly mention Freeman’s name.
“What about Freeman?” I say, covering my full mouth as I speak.
“Apparently, he’s not so adverse to having money and being rich,” she says. My brow furrows.
“Oh?” I press, still chewing my food. She nods as she puts warm scrambled eggs and bacon on her plate from under the dome covers on the table.
“It appears that the discovery of his assets for the divorce are falling right in line with a very ill-placed audit,” she announces as she pours juice into a glass from a carafe. I scoff a laugh, drawing attention to myself, but I’m not really sure that I want the family to know that the audit was my idea. I mean, I’d rather the whole thing look like Karmic justice.
“Serves the fucker right,” I say, pretending to declare it under my breath while cutting more of the pillowy pancakes. “How the hell did that come about? And what does any of this have to do with being rich? Is he rich?” I shovel more food into my mouth and maintain eye-contact with my wife. I haven’t lied—I’m just seeing what she knows. She shrugs dismissively.
“He’s not rich like us,” she clarifies, “but from the assets he’s been hiding, he’s pretty fucking well off.”
“Who’s well off?” My Dad’s voice cuts through the room like thunder. We all momentarily look at him like a unicorn, hoping he doesn’t self-destruct, but Valerie is the first person to remind us that we need to act normal, even though having my father at our breakfast table without my mother is nothing close to normal.
“Ana was just telling us about the surprises your brother has been hiding,” she says, taking another sip of her tea.
“My brother?” he says, frowning. He takes the seat next to me and Gail brings fresh pancakes to the table. “God, those look good,” he says.
“Dig in,” I tell him. “Butterfly was just telling us about Freeman’s hidden assets.” Dad’s hand freezes as it hovers over the fresh stack of hot buttery pancakes.
“Hidden assets?” he asks, looking at Butterfly, who’s chomping away on crispy bacon and nodding.
“Apparently,” she begins after swallowing, “Your brother has been very smart with his investments over the years, such that he has much more squirreled away than Nell knew about, including houses and bank accounts abroad.” Dad’s eyebrows rise in suspicion as he puts two pancakes on his plate and pours syrup over them.
“Haven’t the proceedings just started?” he asks. “It takes forever to find something like that in discovery.”
“They didn’t find it in discovery,” I interject. “The asshole is being audited,” I nearly giggle.
“Audited?” Dad says in surprise.
“Yeah, at the same time that Nell’s attorney is in the discovery process,” Elliot adds. “That’s bad luck in spades.
“That’s not bad luck,” Dad says. “That’s Karma.”
“And she’s one beautiful bitch,” I add, then look over at my father. “Sorry, Dad.” Dad chuckles.
“This is one of those times where I have to agree with you, son,” he says, taking a mouthful of pancakes. “Oh, that’s really good,” he says, shamelessly talking with his mouth full.
“Well, it turns it out that’s not all he’s hiding,” Butterfly says, taking another bite of her breakfast.
“Oh?” Valerie questions. “What else?” Butterfly swallows before she says,
And my Dad nearly chokes.
I’m banging on his back to make sure nothing gets lodged in this throat, but he raises a hand to tell me that he’s fine. After taking a few healthy swallows of water, he turns to my wife.
“A what?” he asks, his voice a bit strained.
“A girlfriend,” she repeats. “He’s leasing a car—a Cadillac or something, I can’t remember right now—and she’s the one driving it around the metro Detroit area. That’s how they found her.”
“Fucking shit, really?” Elliot pipes in. Goddammit, this couldn’t have turned out better had I planted a woman to say she was fucking him!
“He really is a piece of work!” I exclaim, frowning. “Think about it—he’s so fucking sanctimonious about what everybody else is doing and he’s walking around doing this shit?”
“That’s Freeman,” Dad says, digging back into his breakfast. “He can quickly tell you what the hell you’re doing wrong, but can’t see his own flaws for shit.” I can tell Dad is getting bitter—he already spent the night in a bed not his own—so I quickly change the subject.
“So, what’s the plan for the day? It’s clear that everybody except our esteemed brother is hiding out…”
We talk about what we plan to do for the rest of the day. Life and business goes on and none of us plan on shirking our responsibilities. We’re just going to handle those responsibilities from the comfort of the Crossing. Dad will be using my den while Butterfly and I work from our respective offices. Valerie will be making some decorating decisions for their new home and as far as we know, business everywhere else will continue as usual.
At least, that’s what we thought.
“Sir,” Jason comes into the dining room somewhat on alert.
“What is it?” I ask him.
“Sir?” He then turns to my father. “Mr. Grey, your wife is here.”
I roll my eyes before I know it, and Dad wipes his mouth and tosses his napkin on the table. A collective sigh is heard ‘round the room as my father shakes his head. I take a deep breath. He knows that I can’t turn her away. He’ll have to do it, if that’s what he wants.
“Okay,” I say and nod to him. He nods back and leaves the room.
Breakfast is officially over.
“What do you want to do?” I ask him. He twists his lips.
“Can’t hide forever,” he replies.
“Apparently, not even for one night,” Elliot says. We both throw a look at him. He raises his hands in defense. “I’m just saying, okay?” he defends. “I get it, but still… give a guy a chance to cool off.”
“Apparently, you’ve forgotten New Year’s Eve,” Valerie chides gently. Realization comes to Elliot’s face.
“Touché,” he says, and kisses the back of her hand. “I don’t mean to eat and run, but you guys know I have to get to work.” He wipes his mouth and stands.
“Making a clean getaway?” Dad asks him.
“That, too,” he admits. “Love you, Dad.”
“Love you, son.” Just as he thought he would escape, Mom comes rushing into the dining room like she’s trying to catch my father before he leaves. Elliot is trapped, facing off with my mom. She clearly hasn’t slept, even though she has tried to hide her tired eyes with makeup.
“Leaving so soon?” she says, her voice sad. Elliot puts his hand on her arm.
“I have to go to work, Mom,” he says sympathetically, “and even if I didn’t, I’d still be leaving. This is between you and Dad.” He kisses her on the cheek. “Love you, Mom.” He leaves before she can protest. Almost on cue, Butterfly, Valerie, and I all stand and proceed to leave the room.
“I guess I can really clear a room, huh?” Mom says, her voice bruised this time. I don’t have the strength to respond. She sent me into nightmares, for God’s sake. I had to have an emergency phone session with Dr. Baker yesterday. Butterfly, as I can see, is in no hurry to engage either. Once again, it’s Valerie to the rescue.
“We all love you, Grace,” she says diplomatically. “We love you both, but if Carrick wasn’t here right now, you wouldn’t be here either. It’s just like Elliot said—this is between the two of you, so the rest of us are going to leave.”
I don’t wait for the go ahead to leave. I quickly get the hell out of Dodge. Butterfly and I both head for the elevator to go downstairs while Valerie makes her way to the stairs back up to the room she and Elliot share. I think my wife and I both hold our breath until the elevator closes behind us before we shake our heads and look at each other.
“She doesn’t look too good,” Butterfly points out.
“She looks like Dad did when I saw him yesterday,” I say. I was trying not to sound like “Dad didn’t get any sleep and now it’s her turn,” but that’s how it came out anyway. Butterfly sighs.
“This is not a good place for the family,” she says.
“No, it’s not,” I say as the elevator doors open to the ground floor, “but at this point, only one person can change that.” She nods.
“You know where I’ll be,” she says resigned, before kissing me on the cheek and heading to her study.
As hard as I try, I don’t get much done during the course of the day. Dad came to talk to me after his conversation with Mom and apparently, it didn’t go very well. He says they didn’t argue, but he’s still going to be staying here for a while—how long, he didn’t say, and I’m not going to press him about it. I need a break from my mother, and apparently, my dad does, too, but I can’t help but feel sorry for her. I’m her son, not her husband. Me taking a break from her is a whole lot different from Dad doing it.
Dad has also apparently secured the services of one Dr. Grey, M.D. while he’s staying here. He hasn’t really talked to anybody about his grief… he was depending heavily on Mom for that and now, she’s a bit distracted. He didn’t want to dump on Uncle Herman and now, he has no one else and refuses to confide in a stranger. So, Butterfly, it is. I have to say that I think this football outing is coming right on time.
Speaking of which, nightfall finds the four of us along with two of our security detail—Chuck and Jason—comfortably on the fifty at CenturyLink Field. Jason has assured me that Rossiter will certainly not be in attendance at tonight’s festivities, so Butterfly and I and our fathers settle in to enjoy the game.
The Bears are hustling for sure and they’re certainly quite proud of themselves, but they’re celebrating way too early and don’t hustle enough.
Wilson put a damper on the Bears’ party with two rushing touchdowns and the first part of the game is a display of senseless slaughter—five possessions and the Seahawks score every time. The score is 31-0 by half-time, Seahawks favor. I’m wondering why the Bears even bothered to show up.
But the best play of the night has to be Cutler’s massive fuck up. The Bears’ quarterback is standing there like he’s waiting for a bus while his teammate is calling plays. So, once the ball is snapped to his ass, he’s surprised! What does he do? He sends the ball sailing through the air to the wide receiver, Josh Morgan, who’s shuffling around at the one-yard line. Easy touchdown, right?
Good ole Cutler wasn’t paying attention to the two Seahawks hovering around his wide receiver and when he shoots the ball down the field, Jeremy Lanes effortless leaps in front of the stunned Bear and picks off the pass for a Seahawks turnover.
And the crowd goes wild.
Dad and Ray leap to their feet, yelling like teenagers at Jeremy Lane’s interception right at the Bears’ two-yard line and the subsequent 42-yard run across field. That man does so many fake-outs during that stretch, all I could think was “Sweet Feet.” Even Butterfly got into the fun, screaming at the cornerback to run his “tight ass” up the field. I could get jealous, but why bother? It’s not like she’s leaving me for him. Either way, the Bears did everything they could to stop him, but were left dumbfounded when he leapt in front of Morgan waiting at the goal line for an easy touchdown, and took that pigskin damn near back into enemy territory. Morgan somewhat redeemed himself, taking Lane down at the 43-yard line, but did he have a choice? Either way, Bears fans are cursing all over the country tonight.
I should have known that we weren’t going to get out of that game unscathed, though. Somebody somewhere has a GPS on my colon or something, because if there’s a camera in the general vicinity of me and my wife, it will find us. And what fucking camera finds us?
The goddamn KissCam.
Butterfly just giggles and points to it. When I look up and see that we’re front and center on the CenturyLink Field Jumbotron, I realize that my fucking manhood and honor are at stake and on display for everybody to see. I grab my wife out of her seat, bend her over my lap, and plant a passionate kiss on her lips that has her clawing at my hair.
And once again the crowd goes wild.
After a lip lock that lasts for several moments, I pull away and gaze down into her eyes.
“Showoff,” she breathes.
“Whatever do you mean?” I ask, before closing in on her again. After a few more moments, the crowd begins to chant, and when I focus, I realize that they’re chanting, “Get a room.” I tear my lips away from my wife to see that we are still on the Jumbotron. I laugh out loud and peck her on the lips again, finally letting her up and sitting her back in her seat. The crowd is cheering once again, and I shamelessly stand up and take a couple of bows while my wife shakes her head and hides her face. Dad and Ray are both laughing at my poor wife’s discomfort, and I put my arm around her and kiss her on the cheek to comfort her. She playfully smacks at my chest, scolding my impishness.
And soon, we’re back to watching the game, if you can call it that. The Seahawks score a field goal in the third and the Bears prevent a shutout by scoring a touchdown in the fourth quarter, losing the game with an embarrassing 34 to 6 final score. Dad and Ray rise to leave with the rest of the crowd, but Jason signals for us to wait.
“I called for backup,” he informs me. “With the Jumbotron display, I figure the press will probably be present, but we have to wait for a minute. The guys were detained.” I frown.
“Detained? By what?”
“By whom… the cops.” Now he’s got my attention.
“Why? What did they do?”
“Speeding,” he informs me. I twist my lips and he puts his hands up in surrender. “Sir, I’ve had this conversation with every member of our staff. According to Chance, he wasn’t going more than five over the limit. Nobody on our staff ever does. Ben is with him, and he confirms it. So, I don’t know if this is some rookie cop with a bug up his butt or some guy trying to make his quota, but we got a ticket.” I shake my head.
“Just pay the damn thing,” I say. I seem to remember us getting one the other day, but I think we had an emergency or something, I don’t know. Nonetheless, I’m not going to let a stupid fucking speeding ticket ruin our day. “Did you guys enjoy the game?”
“Boy, did I!” Dad says. “It was just what I needed! I haven’t seen a game that great in years. I don’t get to many live games anymore, you know.”
“Maybe we should look into some season tickets, Carrick,” Ray says. “The wife doesn’t want to see the games and I don’t get to see my friend Brian much anymore since I moved from Montesano…” and off our Dads go talking about the game and hoping to secure some season tickets if it’s not too late. I look at Butterfly, who is smiling at her father.
“I know he misses Brian,” she says, sadly. “They’ll always be friends, but it’s just not the same since…” and she trails off. I think she feels guilty for coming between her father and his best friend.
“That’s not your fault,” I tell her.
“Isn’t it?” she says, looking up at me. “I could have tried harder, done something to discourage him before the situation got completely out of hand. True, I didn’t encourage him—I didn’t make him think he had a chance. But I didn’t work hard enough at nipping that situation in the bud—at Daddy’s wedding, when I should have done it. I guess I thought… I hoped the situation would take care of itself.” She sighs heavily. “Nonetheless, it’s water under the bridge now.” She looks at Dad and Ray laughing heartily at some joke or something one has told the other, and she smiles.
“When one door closes, another one opens,” she says softly.
“Here’s hoping,” I confirm.
Ray joins us for dinner at the Crossing before going home to his wife and son and the rest of us turn in for the night. Saturday brings a whole new barrel of issues to face.
“Fucking hell,” I say to myself as I read the latest Google alerts on a certain asshole. I call Jason on his cell.
“Come to my study.”
“Yes, sir.” I end the call and scroll through Rossiter’s latest interview, if you can call it that. I don’t know if he just started talking shit in a bar or something or if he actually sat down with somebody, but this bit of news has pictures and everything. A few moments later, Jason comes into my office.
“Close the door,” I tell him. He closes the door behind him and crosses the space to my desk. I turn my laptop to face him. He looks stoically at the article where Rossiter details an altercation with Grey’s “goons” to keep him from the football game last night so that my wife and I could “suck face” all over the Jumbotron. This doesn’t look good at all and I need to act fast.
“Can he prove that anybody in my camp touched him?” I ask. Jason shakes his head.
“Nope,” he says. “You don’t want the details, but no, he can’t.” I nod.
“No, I don’t want details, but you’re certain that he can’t prove it—no hidden cameras, no forensic evidence…”
“Sir, he can’t prove it… at all. I can guarantee you, he knows why he was confronted, but he can’t tell you who confronted him.”
“Good.” I dial Allen.
“I take it this is about your friend, Judd,” he says when he answers the phone.
“You’re quick. First thing Monday morning,” I tell him. “I want a lawsuit filed against him for slander and for libel.”
“I had a feeling,” I hear him sigh. “Is he lying?”
“Do you know if he’s telling the truth?” I retort.
“I’m your attorney, Chris, I need to know,” he counters.
“If he was or wasn’t, I wouldn’t tell you over the phone.” He sighs.
“Does Jewel know?” I roll my eyes.
“Again, I’m not discussing this over the phone and I guess I should have just invited you to dinner. How’s five o’clock? Bring the husband.” He sighs again.
“Have my godchildren awake and ready for several sympathy hugs. I mean it.” He ends the call. I sigh.
“I need to tell my wife.” Jason nods and leaves the room. “Activate two-way communications.” Ding. “Locate Anastasia Grey.”
“Ana!” I hear water running.
“Mmm, what’s the likelihood I can join you?” The water stops running. Dammit.
“Nil, my love. I’m just getting out. What’s up?”
“How soon before you’re decent and bringing that sexy ass downstairs?”
“I don’t know, about an hour or so? I was going to grab the twins after I got dressed.”
“Let the nannies grab the twins. I need you to get dressed and come to the study. There’s something we need to discuss.” She’s quiet for a moment.
“Is everything okay?” she asks.
“We have a little development. It’s delicate, and I need you to come down so that I can bring you up to speed.”
“Understood. I’ll be down as soon as I’m dressed.” I know I had to choose my words wisely. The wrong choice of words would have led to a hundred questions. “Delicate” and “bring you up to speed” translated into “can’t tell you over the intercom” and “important business that you need to be aware of.”
“See you in a minute, baby,” I say, trying to keep the tone light. “End two-way communications.”
A few minutes later, Butterfly is sitting across from my desk, her mouth hanging open and eyes wide as I inform her of Rossiter’s accusations and what led to them.
“I don’t know what to say,” she says, standing from her seat and beginning to pace. “I mean, are these guerilla tactics really necessary?” I shrug.
“I got a restraining order against the guy, but I couldn’t get a gag order. We’re going to be doing a prime-time interview pretty soon. We can’t have him running off at the mouth. She looks at the picture again.
“Did they really rough him up that badly or is this picture retouched?” she asks.
“I don’t know,” I tell her. “I told them to send a message, not beat the hell out of him. Maybe this was the message.” She sighs.
“Well, of course I won’t say anything, but I don’t know how I feel about this,” she confesses.
“I just wanted you to know, baby,” I tell her. “Allen and James are coming over for dinner. I’m filing suit against him for libel and slander.”
“But it’s not libel or slander,” she protests. “You did have him attacked.”
“But he can’t prove it, and until he can, he can’t go spouting that stuff off on national media. It’s damaging to my reputation and it’s putting the safety of my family at risk.” She shakes her head.
“You’re treading a thin line, here, Christian,” she warns. I come from behind the desk and gently grasp both her arms.
“Baby, when it comes to my family, I will tread whatever line is necessary. This man sat in a room and subjected you to a very unprofessional and uncomfortable situation and when he was called to task on it, he blamed you for it. Then, he’s been running his mouth to anybody who’ll listen and the first opportunity he got to corner you in public, he did, and subsequently attacked your father. He didn’t know that your father was a Marine and was going to whip his ass. As far as he knew, he was attacking an elderly man in public, and he had no problem doing that and continues to blame you for his behavior. We have a restraining order against his ass and he still won’t shut the fuck up. Tell me again what fine line I’m treading?” She looks up at me with uncertain blue eyes.
“When you put it that way…” she says, her voice trailing off.
“Look, baby, I know you’re being faced with a huge moral dilemma right now. I only told you because I want you to be informed and not to be ambushed by information. You don’t have to carry the burden of the morality of it. I will. Okay?” She looks up at me and sighs.
“No, we’re in this together. If the big ape can’t keep his goddamn mouth shut and his fucking hands to himself, then guerilla tactics it is. My morality is just going to have to deal with it.” I kiss her on the forehead and pull her into an embrace.
“That’s why I love you,” I tell her. “Not all the time, but sometimes, drastic measures are necessary.”
“I know, I know,” she says. “I may have to take some drastic measures of my own with this licensing thing.” I pull her back and examine her face.
“What do you mean?” She sighs.
“This Gloria Felton bitch,” she hisses. “Nearly twenty letters and this cunt won’t budge! And I know that she’s behind this, because I can tell by the personal tone in the responses. One of them even hinted at refusing to do personal favors even for Washington’s elite.” I roll my eyes.
“You gotta be fucking kidding me.” I shake my head.
“I wish I were,” she says. “What this cow doesn’t understand is that she’s hurting the community trying to get back at us. I know that I can easily buy my way into just about anything, Christian, but we’re trying to legitimately make a positive mark on the community while she’s clearly pushing a personal agenda.”
“Well, you know you have unlimited resources at your disposal to push back,” I remind her. She nods.
“I know. I just… I truly want to exhaust every avenue before I go steamrolling into the capitol ‘Grey style.’ It’s so important that our credibility remain intact so that we can be taken seriously. I will not allow Helping Hands to become another one of those socialite, token charities with no value. Although Grace seems to be suffering from a bout of temporary brain damage, she’s put a lot of work into this organization and I won’t let that go to waste.” I kiss her forehead again.
“You’re a good woman and a good person… but you say the word and I can have an investigation crawling up her ass in seconds.” Butterfly shakes her head.
“That’s fuel to her fire, Christian,” Butterfly protests. “She’ll just go public with accusations of expected privilege. That’s why I’m sending the letters. I’m building a case. I have all the documentation that we’ve done every single thing she’s required of us. It’s more than enough proof that she’s not only being unreasonable, but she’s harassing us.” I nod.
“How much longer are you going to wait before you do something?”
“Not much longer. I’ve only got a couple more letters before I get to twenty, and she doesn’t even know that her snazzy responses are just adding to my paper trail. I’ve compiled so much documentation, it reads like a volume of encyclopedias. I have a file drawer with nothing but this shit—not a file, a file drawer.”
“Damn.” This is worse than I thought.
“We should have been accredited months ago, Christian. It’s getting out of hand.”
“Well, why don’t we go and snuggle with two little bundles of happiness to try to put us in a better mood? We’ll have plenty to talk about when Allen gets here.”
“I’m all for that,” she says, putting her arm around my waist as we walk towards the door.
“So, you did have him assaulted,” Al asks. We’ve convened to the outdoor patio after dinner to get as many particulars as possible. In attendance are James, my husband, Jason and Chuck, myself, and Al, of course.
“I don’t know the particulars and I don’t need to know, but I requested a message be sent to him and apparently, one was,” Christian responds. Al looks up at Jason, who nods.
“He may not need to know, but I do,” Al says. “Everything you tell me is privileged, but I need to know what I’m walking into. We’re filing a suit against this man for telling the truth.”
“We’re filing a suit against this man for defamation of character. I or no one on my team has been arrested. He doesn’t have any proof,” Christian protests. “Let him press charges if he has any proof. Otherwise, he needs to shut the fuck up. He should have shut the fuck up in the first place or he wouldn’t have been in this predicament.” Allen turns back to Jason.
“No way whatsoever he can legally link it to us. He couldn’t even identify who attacked him,” Jason says.
“The whole cloak-and-dagger attack? Burn the clothes when you’re done?” Al describes.
“Pretty much,” Jason confirms.
“Too much information,” Christian protests.
“Chris, get over it,” Al retorts sharply. “You don’t get to enjoy the comfort of anonymity and plausible deniability while I’m getting my arms elbow-deep in shit because of something you ordered! I’ll keep your ass clean, but your hands are going to get dirty, Mr. Grey!”
My friend is getting angry. I shift uncomfortably in my seat. He turns his attention to me.
“Did you know about this?” he asks.
“I just found out this morning,” I confess.
“And?” he prompts.
“How do you feel about it?”
“Conflicted,” I admit. “Do I like the fact that we’ve effectively resorted to uncivilized, goon-like behavior? No, but the guy is a fucking asshole. He’s gone unchecked for a month now, and the longer he goes on, the more brazen he becomes. He wanted attention for that horrible tattoo on his arm—he got it, and now he’s blaming me for the attention. We get a restraining order against him to keep him from physically attacking us in public, but he can say whatever he wants to say without consequence? About me? About my family? My children? Don’t I have a big enough target on my back without this blowhard uselessly flapping his lips and making my existence more difficult?”
The patio has fallen silent while I go on a rant about the headache and inconvenience this asshole’s presence and commentary has brought to my life. I didn’t really realize it until now, but I hate this fucker and I don’t care if Christian and Jason and the rest of the team take turns putting their foot in his ass every day if it will make him shut the fuck up.
“I lied,” I say, folding my arms and crossing my legs. “I’m not conflicted. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and if that fuckturd keeps talking, I’ll go beat his ass myself!”
“Well,” Al says after a long silence, “I guess the Queen has spoken.”
“So… what? She doesn’t get a hard time, but I do?” my husband protests. I can see my best friend folding his arms in my peripheral.
“You give her a hard time,” Al challenges. “Go ahead, I dare you. I double dare you.” I raise my eyes to my husband who turns his gaze to me and immediately raises his hands in surrender. “She didn’t ambush me; that’s why she’s not getting a hard time. I’m cuddling with my husband on what I think will be a lazy Saturday morning when I get a call from my esteemed leader telling me that I have a fire to put out from something that I’m discovering on one of the least reliable news sources in the entire state. And then the whole Mission Impossible of the situation tells me that it’s true and you’re sitting here like Sargent Schultz—‘I know nothing, I see nothing…’”
I burst into hysterical laughter as my friend imitates the character from Hogan’s Heroes who always turned a blind eye to bad activity when he was supposed to be guarding POWs. The situation was very much in need of levity at the time, but it very quickly takes on a serious tone again.
“My wife and I will most likely be doing an exposé interview within the next week or so,” Christian continues. “I need that suit filed first thing Monday morning and I need to be on somebody’s camera while coffee is brewing.” I roll my eyes.
“Good God, this is a fucking nightmare,” I lament.
“He’s got all weekend to plant his seeds,” Christian retorts. “On Monday morning, I’ve got to come back with something more than ‘nuh-uh!’”
“We’re doing a full-length, prime-time interview. The lawsuit will be filed, and the gag order will be in place—can’t we address it then?”
“No, we can’t,” Christian informs me. “My silence on this matter is the same as an admission of guilt. He gave me what I needed by going public with what happened. Somebody beat his ass—that’s obvious. He can’t prove that I had anything to do with it and he’s going on media and social media saying that I did it. The responses to his Twitter posts alone are enough to prove defamation of character. I got him! I’m going to let him yap all weekend long and give him enough rope to hang himself. Then, on Monday morning, I’m going to drop a bomb on his ass.”
“He’s right, Jewel,” Al says. “Judd has been nonstop on every medium that can support him, and people are coming back en masse calling Chris names and issuing threats. It’s nothing more than we seen before, but now, it’s directed. It’s someone who has had access to you guys. I may not be 100% in favor of these tactics, but the man is out of control. He caused his own problems, he keeps stirring the pot, and then he refuses to take responsibility for his actions. He’s got to be shut down one way or the other and while I would like for the methods to be completely legal…” He throws a look at my husband, “you gotta do what you gotta do.”
“You’re preaching to the choir here,” I say. “I’m just so tired of cameras. We were supposed to be doing one more interview…”
“Well, don’t worry. I’ll do this one alone. You can stay tucked safely in the comfort of our home and I’ll take care of the big bad wolf.”
“Sounds good to me,” I sigh.
We awake with the sun Monday morning, and Al is the first soul on the steps of the court house when the doors open. I’m preparing for a long day and just finishing my breakfast when a very flustered Marilyn comes marching into the dining room.
“What’s the matter?” I ask, my brow furrowed.
“We just got stopped by a cop on steroids!” she says, looking from me to Christian and back to me.
“We?” he asks.
“Me and Carol,” she says. “Well, Carol,” she corrects. “I was in front and she was following me. I look up and she’s slowing down, so I slow down, too. She pulls over, so I do, too. I open the door to go to her car and see what’s going on, and I see the cop walking up to her car. He sees me and bypasses Carol‘s car to get to mine. He tells me ‘Move along’ all snooty and shit. I’m like, ‘We’re together.’ He gets all nasty and tells me that I could be cited for obstruction, so I close the door, start my car, and pull forward about twenty feet. I’m on my phone calling Jason, because you guys told me not to go anywhere alone and before the call picks up, this asshole is banging on my window. I roll the window down and ask if he’s trying to break it. He demands to know who I’m calling and he’s screaming at me. So, I screamed back at him that I’m calling backup because he’s got my bodyguard detained and I’m not allowed to go anywhere without her and since he’s in no position to offer me a job for disobeying my employer, he should go on back there and do his, whatever it was. I don’t know what the fuck I said that scared the shit out of him, but he tells me to put the phone down and wait and that Carol would only be a minute. Then, he marches back to the car all ‘Bad Boys’ and a few minutes later, we’re back on our way. Before you ask, I think Carol got a ticket. I don’t know why, but she went to see Jason as soon as we got here.” Christian frowns.
“Were you speeding?” she twists her lips and turns to me.
“Bosslady, was I speeding?”
“Little Old Lady Caldwell here? No. She was probably going too slow.” Christian’s lip forms a thin line and he rubs his chin. “What is it?”
“Either I’m imagining things, or my people have been getting more tickets than usual,” he says. “It could be that time of the month or year and I’m just more in tune to it…”
Jason interrupts Christian’s sentence with one word and a look. As my husband leaves the room with Jason, Marilyn takes his seat next to me and steals a piece of toast from the small stack on the table. She’s clearly bothered.
“What’s wrong?” I ask her.
“That cop,” she says, chomping on dry toast, “he was a real asshole. He was all, ‘move it along unless you want a ticket, too.’ At first, I didn’t say anything. I didn’t know what was going on. I didn’t stop because I was trying to be difficult, Ana. I stopped because I needed another guard. He was downright panic-stricken when he saw me on my phone. I don’t know what the hell he thought was going on, but he scared the shit out of me the way he was banging on my window! I was like, ‘what…’”
Christian comes back into the dining room, his expression intense.
“The ticket was for driving too slow… two miles too slow, and I’m not crazy. Five tickets in five days.” He pauses and pulls his phone from his pocket.
“A ticket a day?” I say, frowning. He texts someone and raises his head to me.
“No, five tickets in five days. Not a ticket a day. One on Wednesday, three on Friday, and one so far this morning. This is not coincidence. Something’s wrong.”
“What do you think it is?” I ask. He shakes his head and looks at his phone again.
“I have no idea. Jason’s looking into it. We haven’t gotten five tickets in a year, let alone five in five days.” He taps a text into his phone again.
“Could it be quotas like you said? Or a gung-ho cop? Mare said the cop that stopped them was really cocky.” Christian shrugs.
“I don’t know. We have to see what Jason finds.” He swipes his phone and puts it to his ear. “Yeah?” He knows who that is. He didn’t answer with his usual, gruff, “Grey.” His face tightens like he just got bad news. Oh fuck, what is it? “Ballsy son of a bitch, isn’t he?” Do I even know what this is about? Marilyn and I both look at Christian, waiting to see what’s going to happen next. “Right here,” he says, after a pause, then takes his phone from his ear and swipes the screen. “You’re on speaker.”
“Jewel?” my best friend’s voice calls from the phone. I frown.
“Yeah?” I reply confused.
“Good. I just want as much of an audience as I can get.” There’s a short pause before he says, “No, you don’t hold the phone.”
“Faggot fucker,” a gruff voice says on the other line.
“You figure that out all on your own, you ugly asshole?” Al retorts. “Now, say what the fuck you want to say!” There’s another short pause before the barking starts.
“Grey, I don’t give a fuck what you think you’re doing with this shit, but you’re not gonna get away with it!”
Judd. Judd fucking Loser. What the fuck?
“I see you’ve met my attorney,” my husband says casually. “This encounter can only mean one thing. He must be serving you your summons and gag order as a result of your weekend activities.”
“You’re fuckin’ full of shit, you fucking asshole!” Loser barks. “You send your guys to rough me up, then you try to sue me for tellin’ the world what the fuck you did?” Christian laughs.
“You should know that all of my calls are recorded, but I’ll tell you this. I don’t know what kind of trouble you got yourself into, but I do know that you’re good at blaming other people for it—just like you blamed my wife for you sitting in a place of business with a pussy in her face; and then, you blamed me for you sexually harassing women at your job. Now, you’re conveniently blaming my staff for some beatdown you got at the hands of God knows who for God knows what. What happened, Rossiter? Did you get caught climbing out of bed with somebody’s wife?”
“Ha ha, keep talking, asshole. If you think it was bad before, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet! I’m ‘bout to make your life a miserable fuckin’ hell—and I can get bodyguards, too!”
“You do that, Juddy-boy, but you should probably know that summons that my attorney served you for slander, libel, and defamation of character comes with a gag order. Violation of that gag order is contempt of court. Contempt of court carries fines and immediate jail time. Not only that, couple that with current and any future violation of a certain protection order, and you’re looking at definite jail time.” I hear silence on the line again.
“You think all that money gives you the right to do any fucking thing you want to anybody in the world, don’t you, you piece of shit?” he hisses. “You probably never made an honest dollar in your goddamn life!”
“I’m sure I don’t know what you’re talking about, but I’ve got you, asshole. I’ve got you right where I want you, and I’m going to ride your ass all the way to the end. You wanted to be famous, you got it. You picked the wrong piece of shit to fuck with and I’m about to show you exactly what an honest dollar can do.”
“That’s enough of that,” Al says. “You’ve got a press conference in an hour in front of Grey House.”
“Gimme that!” I hear Judd bark. I hear a really short scuffle, then a grunt, another grunt, a muffled buzzing noise, then a thump.
“I said you don’t hold the fucking phone!” my best friend’s voice says from a little far away. “One hour, Grey House,” he says again, closer to the phone.
“Oookay,” Christian says, uncertain. “What just happened?”
“That asshole just tried to take my phone,” Al replies.
“And what did you do?” I ask. “Did you hit him?”
“No,” he responds. “I tased him. I’m not trying to fight that gorilla, but I’m leaving before he gets up.”
“Good idea,” Christian says. “I’ll see you at the office. Drive carefully.”
“I always do,” Al says.
“No. Really. Drive carefully.” Al is outside in the open air now.
“Any particular reason? Something I should know?”
“I’ll tell you when I see you. Just drive carefully.”
“Okay,” Al says before he ends the call. Christian looks at his phone.
“No doubt it’ll be live,” he says, before bending down to kiss me. “Just scan the channels. I’m sure you’ll see it.”
“I’m sure I will, too,” I sigh.
Somewhere around the 11:00 hour, Keri, Gail, and I are all in the family room with the twins in tow, all six televisions tuned in to news programs and channels—local and national. Marilyn and Chuck are also in attendance—Marilyn on her tablet and Chuck on his Mac, looking for possible webcasts.
“It’s like waiting for the announcement for nuclear war,” Gail says, her voice low. I shake my head.
“Well, it is a declaration of war, so to speak,” I tell her. “This thing has gotten way out of hand. I have no idea what this guy is trying to prove. What was the purpose of his gesture in the first place? All this just to get a rise out of me? And once he saw that this stagecoach was beginning to run out of control, something didn’t click in his head that he should probably cease and desist? What drives you to make the conscious decision to antagonize the wife of the richest man in the state? One of the richest men in the country? The world? What is this exercise all about?”
“Maybe he was hoping to push Christian to the point where he could get some kind of payout from him,” Gail says.
“Yeah,” Marilyn chimes in, “and instead, he finds himself on the receiving end of a lawsuit. How does that feel, Skippy?”
“Showtime.” Chuck’s voice causes a silence to fall over the room and our heads all rise to the monitor in front of us. Chuck subsequently switches the other monitors not showing the headline to the same news channel—the headline being, “Christian Grey Responds to Judd Rossiter’s Allegations of Assault.” It must not be on the wire yet that he has filed a lawsuit against the asshole. Hold on to your pants, America.
There’s a picture of the front doors of Grey House, as I’m certain that my husband plans to escape inside once he’s made his statement to the press. A cluster of reporters stand around what looks to be a makeshift area for the press release. There’s no podium or anything—just a clear space with a few microphones on stands in a small half circle forming a small barrier. Different reporters are giving commentary on the different stations as we wait for my husband to immerge from wherever he plans to immerge and, of course, speculation is running wild about what he plans to say—from a full confession of attacking the asshole to an independent action on the part of someone on his security team with Christian disavowing any knowledge of the action. Nothing along the lines of, “Wasn’t me.” Boy, are they in for a surprise.
I’m nearly ready to piss my pants waiting for him to get on with this thing, but I’m certain that he’s getting some briefing and instructions from Vee. I know that without it, my husband is very likely to get on camera and say, “Fuck you, and fuck you, oh, and fuck you, too. I’ll see you all in court.” Vee is trying to help him say that a little more diplomatically… you know, without alienating the whole of Washington and every member of the press.
After what feels like a damn eternity, my husband finally exits the glass doors of Grey House along with his attorney and several members of his security staff. It looks like he’s changed clothes from what he was wearing when he left this morning. He’s now wearing a solid black suit tailored to fit him like he was sewn into it and a crisp, white linen shirt and a charcoal tie when at first, he was wearing a gray suit with a baby blue tie. Even his hair is tamer than I’ve ever seen it in my life. Part of me is asking, why did he change? The other part of me can clearly see the image he wants to portray, because that look is so sharp that he can cut someone with that suit.
His gaze is fixed and he doesn’t make eye contact with anyone as he makes his way to the cluster of microphones. He holds an unusually large manila envelope in his hand and stands silently, waiting for the crowd to hush as if he’s about to reveal the cure for cancer. When they do, he turns his attention to the envelope and reveals its contents. Cameras flash madly, but only for a second or two. My eyes widen and my mouth gapes and Gail gasps.
“Wahs datta pum-pum?” Keri asks, pointing at the screen. Chuck’s brow is furrowed as he clearly can’t believe what he just saw.
“Yep,” he says, “that was a pum-pum.” My husband just revealed a super-sized picture of Judd Rossiter’s bicep vagina tattoo. I don’t know whether to be impressed or horrified.
“Did you get it?” he asks the now silent crowd. “Did you see it or did you get a chance to blur that? I know that most of you are live. Those of you present, get a good look at it. Do you find it offensive that I have the audacity flash this on television? First thing in the morning while women and small children could be watching? Ladies in attendance, get a good at it. Should I put it away? Should I be considerate of your sensitivities of this display? I should be ashamed of myself for showing you this, right? I should have the decency to consider my audience before I display something like this, right?” He hands the photo to Allen who puts it back inside the envelope.
“Well, maybe one of you in attendance can explain to me why my wife doesn’t deserve that same respect. This entire thing—this whole three-ring circus—is because that is what stared her in the face in close proximity for two hours! I don’t know what he was trying to prove. I don’t know if he thought it was cute. I don’t know if he thought it was funny, but we’re just overreacting, right? It’s her money, right? It’s the fact that she’s wealthy—she’s supposed to get special treatment. Who is she to believe that she shouldn’t have to sit and look at a bare vagina staring at her on a man’s arm? She’s nobody special, right? How dare she think she deserves the common, basic respect of any other woman in the city!”
His undertone indicates that he’s getting a little agitated even though he maintains a statue-like cool. I should have gone in with him.
“Yet, many of you watching think that she should have just sat there and said nothing; that it’s her sense of privilege that made her speak up about the lewd display to which she was being subjected and not the fact that, as a lady, she didn’t deserve that; that even now, we should just shut up and let this man continue to slander and scandalize us every chance he gets simply because he refuses to take responsibility for his unprofessional and explicit behavior.
“You go on social media hiding behind screen names and profiles spouting threats, sanctimonious judgments, and pseudo-opinions about something you know absolutely nothing about, thinking that a dollar soothes all our ills and since we have so much money, we feel no pain—that we don’t feel the daggers that are thrown at us every single day by people who wish us harm simply because of who. We. Are.
“You praise this bully, this predator, this uncouth goon that you should want to keep far, far away from your wives, daughters and sisters. You fuel his fire and encourage his bad behavior, contributing to the theory that because he’s an everyday citizen he should be able to just flap his trap as much as he wants to and we rich folk should just sit back and roll around in our barrels of money and be happy with ourselves and shut the hell up. Well I say no. I say that we deserve to be treated like human beings no matter how many zeros are behind our net worth.
“How many of you have wives? How many of you would stand by and allow your wife to be disrespected, to be treated like a common piece of trash? Would you let some goon sit with this in your wife’s face for hours? How about you? Would you? How about you?”
He points to various people in the crowd as he asks each question.
“I didn’t think so… But I guess I should have, huh? If I had I wouldn’t be standing here accused of attacking some idiot over the weekend. I wish I had attacked him. I wish I could stand here and tell you that had the privilege of personally giving him those black and blue bruises he’s sporting right now for what he did to my wife and for what he continues to do to my family; for what he did to my father-in-law when he was just trying to enjoy a baseball game with his daughter; for the hundreds of death threats on the lives of my children that are being filtered through my office, my emails, my business website; for just generally being a pain in the ass… yes, I wish it was me! But no, I stand here being blamed for something I didn’t even get the pleasure of doing.”
Technically, it’s not a lie. He gave the order, but he didn’t touch him. My husband takes a breath to compose himself and continues.
“Upon discovering that I was being accused of attacking the man who has been the bane of my family’s existence for the last month, my legal team spent the weekend gathering necessary evidence and drafting legal documentation to file suit against Mr. Rossiter. This morning, a summons has been served on Judd Rossiter that I, my family, and my company are filing a lawsuit against him for slander, libel, and defamation of character for an undisclosed amount. A gag order has also been issued and served since this is now an open and ongoing case, and parties will be added to the lawsuit as evidence continues to be gathered—which means either he shuts his mouth or he’ll be in litigation for eternity!” He puts emphasis on the last word. Someone from the crowd just has to shoot a question at him before he gets a chance to say anything else.
“Mr. Grey, Mr. Rossiter never said you attacked him. He said that you had some of your ‘goons’ attack him. What do you say to that?” Christian clears his throat.
“Mr. Rossiter implicated me in his attack. And as a result, my children are being threatened. My family’s lives are in danger now because of what he’s saying, so please forgive me if I fail to get all the details exactly right, Mr. Reporter,” he retorts sarcastically.
“I’m sorry that my facts aren’t exactly up to par as you feel they should be, but I was having breakfast with my wife and my two infant children when I learned on a podcast on Saturday morning that I apparently attacked this man. I’m in the process of dealing with my own family catastrophes when I discover that apparently, I’m at the basis of somebody else’s! Maybe Mr. Rossiter should identify which of my ‘goons attacked’ him so that I can include them in the lawsuit!”
My husband’s eyes are piercing now and he has that look that dares another soul to speak. Another soul does not… yet.
“I’ve already filed a restraining order against this man because he attacked my father-in-law at a baseball game, and now this? I don’t know he’s pissed off now, but all of his woes don’t come at the hands of ‘Grey.’ I’m a businessman, not a common thug, and his defamatory remarks are a direct blow to my character and to my business image and I won’t stand for it. It’s one thing when he’s standing on a self-constructed, imaginary soapbox, spouting ill-conceived opinions about difficulties brought on by his own bad behavior. It’s quite another when he tears an upstanding citizen’s character down by accusing him of illegal activity with absolutely no proof.”
“But isn’t it true that you have an outstanding conviction against you for assault, Mr. Grey?” another reporter states proudly, like he’s pulled some kind of coup.
“Yes,” Christian replies without hesitation. “It’s true that two years ago, I assaulted the drunk driver who ran into my car, pushing me into oncoming traffic and nearly costing me my life. Yes, an officer was present, I was taken into custody, and required to do community service and take anger management classes. That’s a matter of public record.”
Just like that, Mr. Coup’s sails has been deflated.
“So, you’re saying that there’s no truth to Rossiter’s statements that you had him assaulted to shut him up?” someone else asks.
“I’m saying that if he has any proof whatsoever that I or anyone in my camp put their hands on him besides the incident at the baseball game when my father-in-law was defending himself and my team was protecting my wife, then he needs to produce it and it better be in court and not in the media, because I’m going to sue him so hard and so long that if he ejaculates into a condom, his sperm better have representation.”
Oh… that was pretty.
“My infant children are receiving death threats because he got into a barroom brawl or a lover’s quarrel or whatever trouble his big mouth got him into this weekend and now, he’s trying to blame it on me! Exactly how many enemies has this man made? He’s got sexual harassment charges crawling out of the woodwork, and that’s my fault, too, I hear. Apparently, I found various women in the Seattle area and planted them at his job right at the precise moment to say that he harassed, accosted, or acted inappropriately with them. Oh, I must have held him down while he got that tattoo of a woman’s crotch on his arm, too. That was really classy. This is absolutely absurd, and any medium, and news outlet, any high blog that chooses to spread this garbage should be ashamed of themselves, and from this moment on, I have a full legal team and a full research staff dedicated to nothing but sniffing out the libelous and slanderous perpetuation of this crap and taking it straight to litigation. I’ve got money to burn, and by the time I’ve dragged every rag through court for infringing on my family’s peace and safety this way, I will at least feel somewhat vindicated for our pain and suffering even if I lose!”
And there’s Papa Bear Grey again. The crowd falls silent as he marches away from the cluster of microphones, running his hand through his once-neatly-coifed hair, his restraint clearly holding on by a thread. Jason is by his side, shielding him from any other questions as it’s clear that if anyone comes near him, he’s going to snap. I want to go to him, but I know the paparazzi are everywhere and I wouldn’t get to the bridge, let alone to the front door of Grey House.
We all sit there silently for a moment as the reporters on the television clamor to try to get a final question in to my husband. I’m looking for my phone, but can’t seem to remember where I put it. He looked like he was going to blow any second. I know that look. He’s going to break something. He’s going to break something soon. I need to talk to him, to try to calm him… where the fuck is…
Gail slams my phone into my hand from wherever it was hiding and I quickly press the speed dial for my husband’s number. It seems to take forever to connect. The line finally picks up, but he doesn’t say anything.
“Breathe, baby,” I say.
“I can’t come home right now,” he growls. I know what he’s saying in that one sentence.
“I know,” I reply.
“There’s a lot to do,” he hisses.
“I know, baby,” I say, trying to soothe him.
“I… it… FU…” and the line goes dead. I sigh heavily. I already know what’s happened. Most likely, he’s in the elevator, and his phone has met the wall and is now on the floor in pieces. He had to break something… it was the phone. I sit there staring at my phone, waiting for it to ring. A text from Jason, something. Someone tell me that he’s okay.
It takes forever… fifteen infernal fucking minutes.
**He needs to settle. Andrea has already ordered another phone. It’ll be here by the end of business today. I’ll keep you posted. **
It’s from Jason. I have no idea what the hell was happening that it took him fifteen fucking minutes to text me. I want to ask a hundred questions, but I know that it won’t do any good, so I stick to a one-word response.
A/N: Pictures of places, cars, fashion, etc., can be found at https://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/raising-grey/
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