Raising Grey: Chapter 58—Nobody Messes With the Greys

This is a work of 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 it 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 58—Nobody Messes With the Greys

CHRISTIAN

My head of legal may have taken the day off today, but I don’t always enjoy such luxuries. He and my wife were enjoying breakfast when I left this morning while I have three meetings before noon, not to mention that three of Pops’ classic cars are on their way out west today and I had to make sure they were properly insured and secured for the trip. I had my personal shipping department make the special arrangements to get them safely on the west coast. If all goes as planned, they should be here by the end of the week.

Smalls has sent me an organized listing of the remaining items in the storage facility and in each of the bins. Unfortunately, it took the entire weekend to organize and identify everything and another day to get the cars into their own units. It turns out that we didn’t need to arrange for another unit considering that three or four of them would be empty once the cars are shipped. Smalls made the executive decision not to put the cars in a unit by themselves since his team was working endlessly to get the items sorted and someone would always be there anyway.

I have Luma and Andrea come and help me decipher all the items. There’s so much stuff! Antique furniture—the good stuff—china, knickknacks, keepsakes… Uncle Herman is going to have a bit of a job on his hands. This turned out to be a massive undertaking. Had I not had the resources that I do, it would have taken Uncle Herman years to sort it all out and would have cost him a fortune.

“There’s a lifetime worth of stuff in those storage bins,” Uncle Herman says when I talk to him on Tuesday afternoon. “Six lifetimes, in fact… at least!”

“Where do you think you’d want to start?” I ask. I hear my uncle sigh.

“I have no idea,” he admits. “The jewelry and investments Dad had in that safe deposit box are worth a fortune. The brothers are all at a point where we’ve made our fortunes and lived our lives, not to mention the money tree Dad left us in his life insurance policy. So, I’m just thinking that I’ll split the items in the safe deposit box among his grandchildren. That’s been a daunting task in an of itself right there.”

“Well, at least one of his grandchildren has made his fortune, too, so you don’t have to worry about me,” I say.

“Well, maybe something personal,” Uncle Herman says. “A keepsake from your grandfather, maybe a family heirloom or something… or something nice for Ana?” I smile at my uncle’s generosity.

“I think that’s a great idea, Uncle Herman. Thank you,” I reply. He sighs heavily.

“You all accepted me so warmly,” he says, his voice thick with emotion. “You didn’t even know who I was. It had been years since we talked to Rick. Years. You would have been completely within your rights to be assholes just like Freeman… but you didn’t. On your wedding day—your day—you accepted me and my father into your heart as if we had been here all along. Your love and kindness never faded, never failed. You invited us to everything, made us feel at home…”

His voice cracks as he tries to explain how he—and probably Pops—felt when they first got here.

“My father was so happy,” he says through his tears. “He was so happy to be here, so happy to see Rick and his family. And you guys were so wonderful to us,” he sobs. Now I know how it feels to just want to hug someone and can’t.

“We were secluded in Detroit… it was just me and Dad in that big house. Stan was so busy trying to take care of his family and… well, you already know about Freeman. The grandkids were in school or in college, just trying to do their thing and live their lives, too. Not really time for an old dying grandpa. It sounds cold, I know, but Dad understood that’s just the way it is sometimes. But when we got here…” His voice trails off again and he takes a moment to compose himself.

“Gracie was wonderful—checking in on Dad all the time and asking me if I needed any help, getting a nurse set up to come by the house and help out so that I could have a break. And Luma… oh, Luma, how could I not fall in love with that woman? She was at his side nearly every waking moment. I don’t know how she did it with her job and the kids, and she took care of me, too. She held my hand and listened when I cried about knowing that I was losing my Dad… losing my very best friend…”

He sobs again. I don’t dare interrupt him. Seeing those manifests that I emailed to him has opened the floodgates and he just needs to let it out.

So, I let him.

“My family is so important to me,” he continues, still crying, “my children, my nieces and nephews—Freeman, too. Asshole that he is, he’s still my brother, and if he were to ever see the err of his ways, I would be right there for him in a heartbeat… we all would—Stan, Rick, and me—even though it’s hard for us to admit it right now. And even Shannon, my children’s mother. She gave me three beautiful children and I was a heel for what I put her through, but she stuck in there with our children… and she forgave me. Our marriage didn’t survive it, but she still forgave me, and that’s what’s most important.

When I came out here and saw all of you… and saw Anastasia… and she looked just like my Shannon, it was a sign that I was home. Shannon was everything that was good and right in my life and I fucked it up. But Ana showed me that Shannon wasn’t the end of my rainbow… that not only could her beauty be found outside of my little mourning circle, but also her kindness and her love… and like an angel falling from heaven as the manifestation of all those things—love, beauty, kindness, and my rainbow—here came Luma… to hold me up during the worst time of my life, one of them anyway.

“I… I just want to say that you are the true meaning of family,” Uncle Herman says, trying to pull himself together. “This whole story could have been so different… but thank you, Christian… Thank you for being my family. I’m proud that you carry the Grey name, and if you take some of these keepsakes—these mementos, whatever you like—to give to your wife, or pass down to your children, or keep for yourself, I would be so honored, and I know my dad would, too.”

Well, how can you turn that down?

“I’m the one who’s honored, Uncle Herman,” I tell him. “I come from unimaginable beginnings, and to be welcomed into a family like this is more than anyone could hope for. I’m sure my wife would love to have some things to pass down to our children and items to take a place of honor in our home.”

“That would make me very happy. I’m sorry I dumped on you, Christian,” he says.

“Uh-uh, Uncle Herman, don’t you dare,” I chide gently. “This is what family is for. It took me a long time and a good woman to understand that, but now I know. I’m here… we’re all here… for whatever you need.”

“I know, son,” he says softly. “A good woman…” he adds contemplatively. “Yeah.”

I suggest to Uncle Herman that we get the emails of all the grandchildren and send the list of things that are up for distribution. Anything that anyone wants immediately, they can have. Any unsolved disputes will be handled by a live “wheel-decide” so that no one can say that any favoritism is at play. We’ll have one once a week via Skype or video chat until everyone gets something. There will, of course be other factors that decide who’ll get what, like if someone won “wheel-decide” last week, they may be eliminated from the next week’s raffle and so on.

“We can start deciding who will get what by the weekend,” I tell him. “This will give my guys a chance to come home and spend some time with their families. They’ve been in that God-forsaken place since just after we left.”

“Oh, Lord! Yes, bring them home by all means!” Uncle Herman says.

“I’ll have a member of my shipping clerks here tweak the spreadsheet with all the items in storage and be in charge of tracking who gets what and where it will need to be shipped. Hopefully, everyone will get something they want, and they won’t be too much left to… dispose of.” I choose my word wisely. I can’t imagine throwing any of Pops’ things away.

“Yeah, I know,” Uncle Herman says, noting my hesitance. “I know exactly what you mean.” I nod as if he can see me.

“I’ll get the word to my guys to close up shop for now,” I tell him. “I’ll have them prepare to go back next Monday to start distributing anything that someone has laid claim to.”

“Good deal, Christian. Thanks for helping me with this and… thanks for listening to me blubbering.” I chuckle a bit.

“Anytime, Uncle Herman. Anytime.”

I end the call and call down to the shipping department with instructions of what I’ll be needing and to send someone up to discuss the requirements with me this afternoon. Then I call Smalls and tell him to shut down shop for the week and come home. I could hear the relief in his voice even though he tries to hide it. I inform him that I want the same guys on the job next week—no substitutes. These people have been privy to a very private part of my life and I don’t want anyone else handling the situation.

I’ll also know who to hold responsible if anything goes awry.

New locks are placed on the storage units in the facility and Smalls is given travel arrangements for his team to come home. It’s easier and faster to get them commercial flights home than it is to send the jet.

“We’ve begun a second search of the house, sir,” Jason says, as he and Barney step into my office later that afternoon. “I’ve got every entrance covered and believe it or not, there were a few trap doors we needed to make sure were inaccessible. We never would have found them without the blueprints.”

Thank God for those, I think to myself, and immediately remember Alex referring to himself as God.

“What about any leads to where the recordings and videos were stored?” I ask.

“If there’s any evidence of any recording activity that we didn’t find last week, we’re not finding it now, either,” Jason says.

“To be honest, Mr. Grey,” Barney interjects, “that stuff went to someone’s IP address. It’s like having the low-tech cameras that monitor your home and the footage is sent directly to your phone. Either your boy Jeeves has footage saved to a hard-drive or to his phone or in the Cloud somewhere, or that footage is just gone.”

I sigh. There’s no use in ransacking Tina’s home anymore if we’re not going to find anything.

“You’re sure we’ve removed all the listening and recording devices from her home?” I ask. They both nod.

“Yes, sir, the house is definitely clean,” Jason says.

“Okay,” I cede. “Make sure that team leaves her house spotless—today. Get a professional cleaning team in there if you have to. Make sure there’s a full security detail at that house until further notice. Harmony will be able to hire her own later if she wants, but right now, there’s too much on her mind.”

“There’s something else, sir,” Jason says as Barney leaves. I raise a brow at him. “Our guy on Carter says that he left his job for lunch and is waiting for a rendezvous at the Fairmont.”

“Is that right?” I ask. No doubt, to touch bases with Roger. “Any way we can get eyes and ears on that?”

“We’re already on it,” he says. “I’ve sent back-up with a bug—a tie cam—and a date to stay close to Carter. Roger’s guy has a room at the hotel to keep suspicion off him. He’s already in the restaurant waiting for him.”

“Why didn’t he stay on Roger?” I ask. “The worm might give him the slip!”

“Intelligence indicates that Roger called this meeting. He’s running out of options and unless he contacted his cohort while we weren’t looking, Carter doesn’t know the gig is up yet.”

“Well, that’s going to be a bit of a revelation, isn’t it?” I laugh. “Can you explain the date thing? I can’t imagine our guy can pay much attention with a date present.”

“Renshaw and Gallows… definitely not a couple,” he clarifies.

“Oh,” I reply. “Can we get a live feed, or do we have to wait until it’s over?”

“I can check,” he says, typing into his phone. I can’t help but wonder what Butterfly is doing right now. Did she work at home again? She could have stayed home because Allen was there. He certainly didn’t come in today—not even late. So, I imagine that he’s still relaxing at the Crossing.

I scan my “tips” resources online while I’m waiting for Jason and see that Sheldon Manufacturing is now courting Capito Industries. I laugh to myself. Sheldon is maybe fair to midland on the corporate map, and this acquisition is sure to drag him down into the trenches. I could warn him off Capito, but I decide against it. First off, if that worm Capito stays out of my business, I’ll stay out of his. Second, every company needs to do its own due diligence before they make a deal. I did mine; Sheldon better fucking well do his, too, though Capito is probably smarter on what to avoid now.

I wonder if Sheldon is sympathetic to his plight? You never know what someone is into… but that’s none of my business.

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I really miss my wife. Maybe it was that sentimental conversation with Uncle Herman, I don’t know, but I suddenly have the urge to talk to my Butterfly. Just as I’m reaching for my phone, the wall opens behind me and the monitor comes alive.

I guess my Butterfly talk will have to wait.

“Showtime,” Jason says with a remote in his hand. “Roger hasn’t gotten there yet, but Renshaw says that Carter just got a call and he should be there any minute.”

The screen comes alive with a picture of who I assume is Kenneth Carter sitting at a table alone in the oyster bar inside the Fairmont Olympic. He’s eating prawns and calamari—with his fingers—like he hasn’t a care in the world. Where did this guy come from?

Use a fork, you caveman! You’re in a public place… where other people are trying to eat.

“Oh, we’ve got a real winner here,” I say aloud, watching him shovel prawn cocktail and handfuls of calamari into his mouth like he’s eating at a college bonfire.

He’s an average-looking guy, I guess, nothing menacing or remarkable. Yet, Harmony is fragile with one very fatal flaw. She’s starving for the love and attention that she didn’t get from her bio-dad, and she’ll latch onto any member of the male gender that’ll show her said attention. She can’t be saved from that—she has to save herself, or she’s going to fall into the same traps with guys like this for the rest of her life, especially with her money.

“Let me know when he’s done with that cocktail,” I say. I can’t watch the uncouth any longer.

“Sir,” Alex sticks his head in the door. I wave him in. “I’ve got the preliminary family tree for Mrs. Franklin,” he says pointing to my laptop. “I emailed the tree, but here’s some additional information that came in.”

“Anything alarming?” I ask as I take the manila envelope from his hand.

“Not particularly,” I say, “although Harmony’s biological father—who is now technically her nephew—has a string of gambling debts. He’s in deep to a really bad guy. I wouldn’t be surprised if he came after the family for a piece of the pie… or revenge.” I raise my eyes to him.

“You know who he is?” I ask. Alex half shrugs.

“Somewhat,” he says. “I mean, I don’t hang in his crowd, but I know of him.”

“Do you know of him enough to make him stay the hell away from Harmony and Tina?” I ask. “Or I should ask does he know of you.”

“Not of me, but I know some people,” Alex replies.

“Well, talk to whomever you need to,” I say. “He wants to collect from his mark, he can do that, but he stays the fuck away from Tina and Harmony. Make it happen.”

“Yes, sir,” Alex says as I remove the contents of the envelope.

“Sir?” Jason says, garnering my attention. When I raise my head, he’s pointing the monitor. Roger is taking a seat next to Carter. Roger still looks like he was on the wrong end of a prize fight. The background checks will have to wait.

“Jesus, man! What the hell happened to your face?” Ken asks, examining Roger like an alien. “Are you missing a tooth?” 

“I had a run-in with an asshole,” he says. I chuckle at his description. He’s the asshole, here—taking advantage of a dying woman and her grieving daughter.

“Look, I got you all the information that I could about Tina’s fortune. You know what she’s worth and how she plans to distribute the money once she’s gone. Now, what can you do with it?”

“What do you mean what can I do? You’ve given me absolutely nothing! You haven’t given me anything concrete,” Ken retorts. “I agreed to help you if I could get something on my bitch of a wife, but you haven’t given me anything I can use on either one of ‘em! Poor little Harmony crying over her dying mommy—no men coming in and out of the house, nothing to use for blackmail, I can’t even hack into the accounts. I don’t have any bank account numbers, no credit card information… You’re in charge of the finances. How can you not have access to this stuff?”

“I’ve lost all my access,” Roger bites. “You told me you could do this! You told me you could clean them out before and after that old bat was dead if I got you access to the house. Now, you’re telling me you can’t? You had audio and visual. What the hell else did you need?” 

Had?” Ken says. “What do you mean hadWhat the fuck happened, Roger? We don’t have the videos and shit anymore? And what do you mean by you lost your access? What the hell is going on—and what the fuck really happened to your face?” 

Grey happened to my face!” Roger snaps. “I’ve been fired! I don’t know who said what to whom, but I’ve lost everything! I’ve lost access to the accounts, access to the house, and the bugs have all been discovered—every last one of them. Grey and his men came sauntering in there last week and swept the place of everything I planted! Everything! There’s nothing left! I don’t even have access to that backup dummy fund where I was stashing my nest egg because that’s in her name, too! Nothing, Roger! I’ve got nothing!” 

“Wait a minute. You’re telling me that your slosh fund was in the old lady’s name? Why the hell did you do that? Why didn’t you move the money?”

“I was going to move it—after she died. If I did it then, there was no suspicion, but if I moved it before then, there could be questions. A large sum moved around after her death—not so obvious.”

“And now you don’t have any of it,” Ken says in disbelief. “And Grey did that to your face?” he asks. 

“No, he had his minions do this!” Roger retorts, “but trust me, he could have done it himself.” Ken scoffs. 

“Figures,” he remarks as he stands and shakes his head. “I met his wife—last week while you were being raided for all that surveillance equipment that I’m never going to get back—tiny little, bad-ass bitch that I’m not fucking with. You’re on your own. I’m out of this shit.”

“Wait, you can’t just leave me hanging like this! I wouldn’t have even done this if it wasn’t for you! I was going to get a cut of something from the old lady! I know I was. Now, I’ve lost everything because of you and you’re just going to leave me?”

“Where the hell were you last night?” Ken asks, leaning on the table and getting in Roger’s face. “Where the hell were you when that couple was on primetime network TV blowin’ shit up? Both of ‘em—gats and shotguns, just blowin’ shit up for fun. Where the fuck were you?

“That woman came to my fuckin’ job—strapped in one o’ those goddamn gats she was shootin’ on TV last night. She told me to leave Harmony the fuck alone and now her husband—or whoever—done beat da fuck outta you! You got a tooth missin’, man… a fuckin’ tooth. You know what that means? That means somebody hit you hard enough to dislodge part of your skeletal structure. Hell, no! Hell, no! I’m not fucking with these two. Why the hell didn’t you tell me that Christian Grey knew this family? That’s key information that I needed to know before I decided to step into this endeavor!”

“I didn’t know she knew the Greys,” Roger retorts. “But, hell, it’s not far-fetched. The rich know the rich.”

“And who else does she know?” Ken snaps. “Oprah Winfrey? The Walmart Family? The goddamn President? Lose my fucking number, Roger. If you mention my name in any capacity, I’m going to completely disavow knowledge of you. I mean it, man, you’re on your own.” Ken turns to leave.

“They already know about you,” Roger calls after him and Ken stops. “I told them everything about you. They know that you helped plant the bugs. They know that you were listening in to get blackmail evidence on Harmony.” Ken turns around slowly.

“But you didn’t tell them about you skimming money off the expense accounts,” he says, “or trying to convince the old lady to make you Power of Attorney so you could clean her out and put her out of her own house. They didn’t know about any of that, huh?”

Ken and Roger face off for a moment, two pussies trying to show which one is the bigger fish.

“Then I suggest you leave town,” Ken says coolly, “because if Grey comes for me, I’m coming for you, you little snitch.”

Roger’s ashen face reveals who’s the bigger fish. I watch as Ken stares at Roger for a moment, then leaves the bar. Roger pulls at his collar and looks around to see if anyone else caught the exchange. How he doesn’t see my guy recording him, I’ll never know, but he obviously didn’t. I guess he and his “date” must be putting on a good show. He stands and scurries out of the bar and I hear my guy notify someone that he’s headed in their direction.

I wonder if Ken paid for lunch before he left?

Part of me feels sorry for the guy. He’s pretty much lost everything he had—by his own fault, of course—and now, he’s pissed off his accomplice who also wants a piece of his ass. What happened to his weekly paychecks? Was that money locked up in the fraudulent account, too? Maybe that’s what he’s living off now, because he sure can’t be staying at the Fairmont for free and unless he has a family hiding somewhere that we don’t know about, he didn’t have any expenses. So, he hasn’t lost everything; it probably just feels like it because he lost a lot. Maybe I should just leave the man alone…

Naaaaaahhhh!

“Show’s over,” I hear someone say, and the screen goes black.

So, as it turns out, Roger and Carter’s plan was not well thought out and very elementary. They were trying to find a way to get Tina’s money, but they were also trying to find some evidence of Harmony cheating before the divorce is final.

“Hmm,” I say, looking at the documents for the Franklin background check. “Rats from a sinking ship.”

“Indeed,” Jason says. “Stay on ‘em?”

“Of course,” I confirm. “I don’t trust either one of them. Now, I’ve got to worry about a loan shark or some shit.”

Aunt Tina has no living siblings; four living children between the ages of 60 and 75; ten grandchildren between the ages of 25 and 45—one of which is Harmony’s bio-dad, Damien; and only two adult great-grandchildren in their 20’s. She also has four living nieces that haven’t been in touch in years and seven great-nieces and nephews that we can find—probably more. We haven’t even number great-great-nieces and nephews who may be around the same age as Harmony or as Tina’s great-grandchildren. These people are going to swarm Harmony like the attacking crows in The Birds. Jesus! If she wasn’t getting the house, I’d tell Harmony to leave town.

“Mr. Grey,” Andrea’s disembodied voice breaks my train of thought.

“Yes, Andrea?”

“Angenette Morello is here from shipping. She says you’re expecting her.” Who the hell is Angenette…? Oh! Yeah.

“Yes, send her in.” I put the information back into the manila envelope and put it in my desk drawer. “Alex, see what other information you can get on Tina’s family. This is good but check further down one generation—great-great-nieces and nephews. See if we can get detailed background checks on…”

My sentence trails off when the shipping clerk walks in. All legs, tight skirt, and tits damn near busting out of her blouse, oozing the vibe of the slutty secretary that’ll fuck you on your desk.

Slutty secretary 1

What the fuck is this? I told him that this was a personal and sensitive matter, and this is what he got from that? To send an undercover hooker to my office?

“Wait outside,” I snap. Jason and Alex move to leave.

“Not you two,” I say as Angenette gives me the come-hither look. “You.” I point to her. “Wait with my receptionist.”

She smiles and turns around, walking out the door that she just came in. Jason and Alex both turn disbelieving glares at me as I furiously call down to my shipping department.

“Ship…”

“Who the hell did you send to my office?” I hiss into the phone.

“One… one of the best clerks we have, sir. You said this was important.”

“Get your ass up here, now!” I bark into the phone as I slam it down into the carriage. What the fuck? I told him this involved my family! I’m a married man with twins! There might be a need for a member of my family to speak to this clerk and he sends a fucking sexpot up here? What the fuck does he think he’s doing?

Quickly finding my footing, I go back to what I was saying to my security personnel

“Alex, see if you can get background checks on Tina’s children and on Harmony’s biological mother and father. You know this is time-sensitive, so pull out all the stops and get me all the information you can. We’ll worry about the others as the need arises. As for Roger and Carter, keep your eye on them and see what they do for the next few days—close surveillance.”

“Are we still looking to have a sit-down with Roger?” Jason asks.

“From the looks of things, I don’t think we could get anything useful out of him. I just want to see what he does.” Jason nods and I hear the elevator ring. This must be my soon-to-be unemployed head of shipping and receiving.

“What are you doing up here?” I hear him ask as his voice gets closer.

“I came to help Mr. Grey with his manifests,” Angenette says, her voice a bit shaky. I tilt my head to look out my door and she’s pulling at her skirt.

“No wonder he called me pissed off,” I hear him seethe. “Where’s Georgie?”

Just as he asks the question, I hear the elevator ding again.

“Mr….” I hear another female voice say. “Am I late?”

“You might be,” I hear him growl. “Have a seat over there. You… If I get fired because of your little stunt, you’re going with me, and I don’t care who your aunt is!”

Hmm, this is an interesting little soap opera playing out here. I hear a knock on my open office door. Jason rises and opens it further to reveal my very nervous head of shipping and receiving.

“Come in,” I say sternly. He steps nervously into my office. “Bring her with you.” He gestures behind him and a completely different woman walks into the office—clothes still way too tight, but a little more presentable than she was a moment ago.

“Well,” I begin, folding my hands on the desk in front of me, “your attire is still a size too small, but it appears that your skirt has lengthened two inches and you found use for that button at your bosom.” Angenette drops her gaze and I turn mine to my head of shipping. “Is this how your clerks dress on the shipping docks?” I bark.

“No, sir,” he replies. “She… well, first, she works in the office. And… no… she wasn’t dressed like that when she came to work this morning.” I turn back to the clerk.

“Had those clothes on tap for just such an emergency, Ms. Morello?” I ask. She doesn’t answer. She keeps her gaze to the ground and I can tell that she’s utterly humiliated. She should be.

“Um, sir?” Is he still talking? “Sir, she’s not the clerk I sent up here.” I raise my brow. This is interesting.

“Oh?” I ask. I had a feeling when I heard a second female get off the elevator, but I wasn’t sure.

“No, sir, I sent Georgina Tanner. She’s in your lobby now.” I turn to Ms. Morello.

“And why did you come?” I ask her. She doesn’t respond. “Your refusal to answer me is only going to piss me off, Ms. Morello. Your barely on the edge of the dress code—which you were not when you presented yourself to the happily married CEO of this company a few moments ago.” She still doesn’t speak. I see—if you don’t admit to anything, it didn’t happen. Not in my company. “Who is your aunt?”

That got her attention. Her head shoots up like a rocket and her mouth flies open, but nothing comes out.

“Who. Is. Your. Aunt?” I ask again. She drops her gaze again and doesn’t reply.

“Evangeline Simpson,” my department head says, “the employee relations HR liaison.” I nod.

“I see.” I stand and walk out to Andrea’s desk. “Andrea, see if Evangeline Simpson in HR is in today and get her up here now.”

“Yes, sir.” I stand at Andrea’s desk while she calls down to HR. While I’m standing there, I turn around to see another young woman sitting near the elevator with a tablet on her lap and scrolling through her phone—attractive as well, but much more appropriately dressed.

“Ms. Tanner?” I say. She raises her head quickly.

“Yes?… Mr. Grey?” she questions as she stands. “I’m sorry if I was late, sir, I just went to the ladies’ room…”

“It’s not a problem. I’ll be a few more minutes, then we can chat about what I’ll be needing,” I reply, gesturing for her to take her seat. She nods.

“Yes, sir,” she nods and sits. I go back to Andrea’s desk.

“Ms. Simpson is in a meeting right now, sir. I told her it was urgent…”

“Call her back,” I say. Andrea dials the number again.

“Ms. Simpson?” she says. I extend my hand to take the phone. Andrea hands it to me.

“Ms. Simpson, if you can answer the phone, that meeting is not that urgent. You have two minutes to be in my office and if you’re not here at the two-minute-one-second mark, I’ll show you just how urgent this is.” I turn to Andrea.

“Set a timer,” I say, just before I replace the receiver on the cradle. Andrea pushes a button on her watch and I lean against her desk and watch the elevators. We’re completely silent the entire time. You can almost hear the traffic outside several floors down. Moments later, the elevator dings and a well-dressed woman in a gray suit nearly tumbles out. She catches herself when she sees me and straightens her stance.

“Time,” I say, looking dead in her eyes.

“One thirty-nine, sir,” Andrea says.

“Thank you, Andrea. Ms. Simpson, in your entire employment, how many times have I called you to my office?”

“Once,” she says, “I think.”

“Exactly. So, when the owner of the company that you work for—the man that signs your checks—tells you that he needs to see you now, you make haste and get to the executive floor just like you did just now and maybe your entrance will be a little more graceful next time.” I gesture to my office and let her walk in before I move, because I know what’s going to happen when she clears the door.

Sure enough, she stops short right there inside the door when she sees her niece standing there. Had I walked in right behind her, I would have bumped right into the back of her.

“Ms. Simpson,” I say, reminding her that she’s blocking the door. She walks in and stands next to her niece, whose gaze is still downcast. Jason closes the door when I enter.

“Your niece, Ms. Morello, has taken the ‘admit nothing’ stance, but I must say that’s not going to help her in this situation,” I say as I take my seat behind my desk again.

“With all due respect, sir, I’m not certain why all these people need to be present for this meeting,” Ms. Simpson retorts confidently.

“With all due respect, Ms. Simpson, we’re short one person,” I reply. “You’re here because this is your niece, and I’m assuming from what I heard in the lobby that your position has somehow solidified her position in this company. Is there any truth to that?”

Not certain where I’m going with this line of questions, Ms. Simpson answers carefully.

“Well, I did recommend her for the position,” she says, cautiously.

“I see,” I reply folding my hands again. “So, the other reason you’re hear is because your niece has broken several GEH policies, and since she refuses to speak for herself, I’ll be glad to bring them to your attention.

“I called down to shipping and asked for a shipping clerk to handle a very serious matter that had to do with my family. I was very surprised to see Ms. Morello show up at my office dressed the way that she is.”

“But sir, her clothes are fitting, but she’s not dressed inappropriately,” Simpson argues.

“That’s where we disagree.” I stand and open the door. “Andrea…”

Andrea's outfit chapter 58My PA comes in wearing a mustard blouse and a fitting pencil skirt.

“This is fitting, Ms. Simpson—neat, professional, appropriate,” I say, gesturing to Andrea. “That is bursting out at the seams,” I say, pointing at her niece. “This is the other person that should be in this meeting, because that woman stepped off the elevator, two less buttons fastened than she has right now with her breasts hanging out and that skirt at least two inches shorter than it is at the moment.

“My wedding made national news last year. Yet, she checked in with my receptionist—who announced her—and she proceeded to present herself to me and these two gentlemen with her goods on display like the cafeteria special! When her boss asked what she was doing here, she replied that she was coming to help me. When I ask what she’s doing here, since her boss didn’t send her, she suddenly becomes mute.

“I heard him say in the lobby that she would be fired if, and I quote, her little stunt cost his job and he didn’t care who her aunt was. So, I asked who her aunt was, and she became mute again. So, once again, I’ll ask if your position somehow solidifies her position.”

“Well,” Simpson is fishing for words. “No, as I said, I just recommended her for the job.”

“Hmm,” I say, “you should be more careful of your recommendation in the future. Not only did she present herself to me inappropriately in a very common manner, but she’s on the executive floor without clearance or permission. She was not sent to assist me. Ms. Tanner was. I’ve yet to ascertain how or why she even knew I needed assistance and why she took it upon herself to come to my office. As she has nothing to say in her defense the points are all moot, now.”

“Um, Mr. Grey,” Simpson begins, “please, if you would, consider that this is Ms. Morello’s first offense of any kind and allow the reprimand to fit the situation.” I raise my brow at her.

“Oh, I intend to allow the reprimand to fit the situation, Ms. Simpson, but you’re mistaken. This isn’t her first offense. Her first offense—insubordination—was committed when she somehow became privy to classified information given to her supervisor and took it upon herself to act on it. Her second offense—breach of security—was committed when she came to the executive floor without permission. Her third offense—dress code violation—is obvious. However, her fourth offense is the biggest one of all.” I grab the picture of my wife and my children and turn it around for them to see.

“Do you see this?” I say. Simpson looks at the picture, but Morello doesn’t raise her gaze.

“Look at it, Ms. Morello!” I snap. “This part is personal!” Her head shoots up and she looks at the picture of Minnie, Mikey, and my beautiful Butterfly.

“Do you see that?” I seethe. “That is my whole life. Why, in God’s name, would you think I would risk that for a one-time romp with a woman who presents herself on a platter to a man she’s never even met?” She drops her head again and falls silent.

“And then there’s that,” I say, placing the picture back on my desk and folding my hands again. “When I try to get some answers from her regarding her behavior, she has nothing to say. I guess she thinks her silence will protect her and I have something to prove, but you’re about to find out how wrong you are.

“GEH is built on talent, knowledge, innovation, and trust. You have proven to be untrustworthy and as all administrative staff are at-will employees, your employment with GEH is terminated immediately. I cannot have untrustworthy staff in this establishment.”

Morello gasps but still doesn’t say anything. If I hadn’t heard her say something moments before she came into my office, I would think that she couldn’t speak.

“Mr. Grey!” Simpson protests, “there must be someway we can discuss this—some kind of agreement that can be reached…”

“I don’t need to reach an agreement with her or with you. This is non-negotiable and even if that weren’t the case, she doesn’t speak. As her representative, you can help her gather her things and get out of my building. And if you have a problem with that, Ms. Simpson, I’ll process your resignation with her termination.” Simpson falls silent and throws a nasty glare at the nearly-submissive Ms. Morello. I can tell that she’s not, but she surely would have had a lay-person fooled.

“No… no, sir, that won’t be necessary.” Good to hear it, Ms. Simpson.

“Ms. Morello don’t forget that you’ve signed a non-disclosure agreement that’s even effective after your employment ends, and I will prosecute for breach.”

She doesn’t say anything, but her aunt jerks her arm and snatches her towards the door. Morello leaves first, nearly leaving her aunt behind. Simpson falls in line behind her.

“And Ms. Simpson?” I say. She turns around to me as she’s walking out. “Don’t ever play that posturing shit with me again. Are we clear?”

I can see her swallow.

“Yes, sir,” she says humbly and scrambles out of the office behind her niece. The elevator is still at the top floor when Ms. Morello calls it. As it opens and they step on, I can hear Simpson hissing at her niece.

“I can’t believe you came to his office without permission dressed like that! You nincompoop!” She continues to argue at her niece as the elevator closes. My head of shipping and receiving stands there looking at me, awaiting his fate.

“You can go,” I tell him. “Leave Ms. Tanner, please.” I can visibly see him sigh.

“Thank you, sir,” he says as he scurries out of my office.

“I thought we did background checks on these people,” I complain.

“Well, sir, character flaws don’t normally come up on background checks,” Alex defends. I shake my head.

“You two get to work on the assignments I gave you. I’m going to be wrapping this day up soon. I’ve had enough.” They both leave without another word.

“Andrea, send Ms. Tanner in… and come in with her.”

I’m not taking any chances.


ANASTASIA

“Wow, Ana, that special was amazing,” Courtney says when she drops off her reports after lunch. “I see you guys in a whole new light now.”

“New in what way?” I prod.

“Well, I always knew that Christian could be psychotic when it came to you. A little visit to the ladies’ room proved that point to me. But dude, power couple doesn’t even begin to explain you two. You strolled around GEH like the Commander-In-Chief—the women all hate you, by the way—then, you sit in your condo like the Queen on the Throne, even though you’ve got this beautiful mansion on Mercer Island. Thanks for maintaining my anonymity, too. And then the shooting range! Good God! Christian may be intimidating, but you’re downright terrifying! Who in their right mind would even consider crossing you guys?”

Those are significant statements considering that she already knows who we are pretty personally, though one statement has really piqued my interest.

“Why do you say the women all hate me?” I ask.

“The ones that do look at you in the special have a serious beam in their eye,” she says. “I’m one of those people who pay that kind of attention to people—particularly to women because… well, I’m gay,” she shrugs. “Nobody would look you in the face and reveal how they felt, but when you passed by and they caught a glimpse of you, none of them did the ‘hey, boss’ wife’ thing where they kind of mentally acknowledge your presence but then go back to what they were doing. They all paused, and some even glared and rolled their eyes.” I sigh heavily.

“If you caught it, someone else caught it,” I lament.

“Yep,” she confirms, “haters, profilers, and lesbians everywhere most likely picked up on that immediately.” She crosses her legs. “Ana, you’re the envy and hated cow of straight and bi-sexual women and gay men all across the country—probably the world. You landed a hot, sexy billionaire and you’re a tasty little morsel, too… smart, independent, and you’re packing heat. Those who didn’t hate you before hate you now, and those who did hate you hate you even more, but make no mistake. They’re going to fucking respect you, because they fear you, too.”

“Get outta here,” I say in disbelief. “It was just a couple of guns at a firing range.” She laughs heartily.

“Is that all you saw?” she says. “Just a couple of guns at a firing range?” She leans back in her seat as if she’s about to school me.

“I don’t know what happened before you took to the range, but you were pissed, and we could tell,” Courtney begins. “You’re standing there like a miniature member of the SWAT team, blasting shit to bits, and your body doesn’t even shake from the recoil. Trust me, I know. I love my Vick endlessly, but I adore your tits.”

I can’t believe how comfortable this woman is talking to me this way. Then again, yes, I can. We were introduced when she came on to me at a social event when I was 92 ½ months pregnant.

“Jesus, Courtney,” I laugh, shaking my head.

“It’s true. That already tight little body was solid as a fucking rock and even a shotgun didn’t make you budge. The control was sexy as fuck, but scary as hell. I don’t know who you were picturing when you were destroying those targets, but I’m glad that it wasn’t me!”

I was picturing grip boy who also apparently adores my fucking tits!

“And then you’re floating through Grey House in 14-inch stilettos that would cause even the most seasoned runway walkers to faceplant after the first three steps. You didn’t look like a woman trying to be a man in a man’s world, and you didn’t look like a hooker trophy wife trying to prove she had everything under control. Trust me, I’d be the first person to call you out if you did…”

And she would, too.

“You looked like a confident businesswoman who holds the reins and knows who she is and trust me—the hater bitches came off looking just like hater bitches. They sneered and snarled, and they rolled their eyes and they were as transparent as plexiglass. What’s more, you held your head tall and pointed out key things in the organization, like you knew what the hell you were talking about. You looked like a million bucks, but you weren’t this Vanna-White-in-an-evening-gown bitch walking around showing the world what you have with a dramatic flourish like ‘look at all my shit.’ It was like these heifers didn’t even exist and you were just going about the business of being you.

“And then here comes Christian, all silent, sexy power sitting there like ‘try me if you dare…’”

“Hey!” I interject, and she knows what I’m aiming at.

“Look. Do you know a hot, voluptuous, sexy woman when you see one?” she asks, folding her arms.

“Well, yes, but…”

“And you don’t have to lick her clit to know, do you?” she asks matter-of-factly, causing me to gasp damn near all of the air out of the room. “Likewise, I don’t need to suck a dick to spot male sex appeal.” She raises her brow at me and I’m just staring at her incredulously like “who the fuck are you.”

“Now, where was I? Oh, yeah. Hot morsel babe, sex-on-a-stick husband, both independently filthy fucking rich, smart and resourceful, oh… and they can blow your fucking balls of with their couple o’ guns.” She mocks me on the last few words. “You spit out these two gorgeous nuggets with these large inquisitive eyes that melt your heart and then you sit them on your lap and bounce them on your knee and cuddle them in front of the screen. And they just sit there and giggle and coo and win over the hearts of America.” She shakes her head. “Either you’re painfully modest or totally fucking obtuse to the power that your family has over the hearts and souls of men and women all over the world.”

“Thank you, oh, guru,” I say sarcastically, closing my laptop. “When you’ve got something to say, that filter just flies out the window, doesn’t it?” She shrugs.

“I can’t help it,” she says. “Besides, I don’t need a filter with you. You know me better than anybody, except maybe Vick. You saw me at my worst and you know all my bullshit… you’re the closest thing to a real friend that I have.” Her voice cracks a bit and she clears her throat. I’ve learned that Courtney will avoid showing weakness at all costs.

“I am your friend, Courtney,” I clarify. She shrugs again and drops her head.

“I didn’t want to assume…” she says, her voice trailing off.

“You’re living in my condo, Court,” I laugh.

“I’m a bad person.” Oh, shit. I stand from my desk and walk around to her, grasping her by the arms.

“You were a bad person,” I clarify again. “You’re not anymore, can’t you see that?”

She shakes her head without raising her eyes.

“How can you not see that?” I ask incredulously. “You’ve changed from the person that you used to be…”

“Do people really change?” she asks, finally raising her eyes to me. “Can they?”

“You fucking well did!” I retort. “You were in here on Christmas Eve reading Horton Hears a Who to a bunch of homeless children—doing the voices and all! Would the Courtney who came on to me at the Adopt-A-Family Affair had done that?” She shakes her head, then she pauses.

“Wait a minute,” she says, her brow furrows. “You weren’t here on Christmas Eve… were you?”

“I was here for part of the day, remember?” She shakes her head again.

“But you weren’t here when I was reading to the kids. I remember that.” I smile softly.

“I was just about to leave,” I tell her. “I think I had told you to go find something to do and get out my face.” She’s still bemused.

“You… saw me?” she asks. I nod.

“Which further drives home my point,” I tell her. “You were reading to those kids not because you thought someone was looking or because you wanted attention. You were doing because you wanted to…”

“I had an ulterior motive,” she admits. “I would have shoveled shit to avoid going back to Chuktapaw, and that’s the God’s honest truth.”

“So, you had motivation… to do better, to be better, and Courtney… you have. You were a rotten person,” I confess. “You were a horrible human being. You didn’t think about anybody but yourself and what you wanted, and you didn’t care who you hurt in the process. People were nothing but pawns to you and you used them to get ahead, including your grandparents. I wanted nothing to do with you because I felt like you were irredeemable. I didn’t care if you ended up in Chuktapaw, Hatchawatchie, Tuscaloosa…”

She laughs through the tears she couldn’t hold back, and I’m glad to bring a little levity to the conversation.

“In one short year,” I tell her, “less than one, you’ve proven to be indispensable. You have skills and knowledge and abilities and ambition that I would only hope to find in one person. And your determination not to be the person that you used to be will guarantee that you’ll never be her again.” I pause for a moment to let that soak in.

“Is that why you won’t see your grandmother?” I ask. “You think you haven’t changed?”

She looks at me, frustrated. Then, the frustration falls, and she sighs, resigned.

“Okay, Ana, here it is, unfiltered,” she says. “No matter how much changing you do, you can’t undo the hurt that you’ve done to people. You can’t take away the pain that you’ve caused. The wound might heal, but you’ve caused that pain and you can’t take it away.” Tears slide down her cheeks. “And they can’t take away the pain they caused you, either,” she sobs. Her shoulders shake as she cries, and I don’t know if she hears, feels, or sees me closing in for a hug, but she puts her hands up as a barrier to stop me.

So, I stop.

She reaches over to the Kleenex box and pulls out a few to clean her face.

“The way I felt when my grandmother was about to put me back on that plane, I never want to feel that way again. The things she said to me… the way she looked at me…” Courtney shakes her head while she’s talking. “Never again.”

So, it’s self-preservation. She’s certain that if she sees Addie again, all that animosity is still going to be there and she’s going to be subject to the same abhorrence she received when she last saw her grandmother.

“I know what you’re thinking,” she says, her voice cracking again, but she quickly recovers, “but it’s not just about me. What my grandmother said to me was horrible. I don’t think those words in that context should ever be said to another human being… ever. But for that sweet, kind, selfless little old lady that would give you the shirt off her very back to be pushed to that kind of limit to say something that horrible to her own flesh and blood… I can’t imagine what she must have been feeling. I’m a terrible, terrible monster to have pushed her to that limit.” Now, I close the space between us and place my hands on her cheeks.

“Courtney…” She moves to push my hands from her face. “Courtney!” I reinforce, refusing to release her cheeks. Her eyes fix on mine.

“You’re not that monster anymore,” I say firmly. “Do you think I would be wasting my time on that bratty little entitled bitch that walked into my office last year? Do you?”

She tries to drop her head, but I won’t allow her.

“With all the shit that I got on my plate, that I’ve had on my plate all fucking year, do you think I would’ve given two bits of a shit or a fuck about you if you were the same know-it-all, haughty, selfish, heartless person that you used to be?”

I’ve got her attention.

“My husband cornered you in the ladies’ room, threatened your life over me, but you knew that he wasn’t your biggest concern. You almost got your head blown off in this very office over a tissue, do you remember that? And now, you’re staying in my condo—going to school and studying to be able to help troubled kids; organizing grant proposals and researching funding. We need you around here when a year ago, nobody wanted to be in your presence, and you still don’t think you’ve changed?”

She sighs. She can’t argue with me.

“You’re a lot wiser than I gave you credit for, but now, you have to forgive yourself. You can’t keep punishing yourself for this. You drove Addie to say those things to you, and she did, and it hurt you down to your soul. Isn’t that punishment enough?” She sighs again and brings sad eyes up to my face.

“She had high hopes for me,” Courtney says. “She only wanted the best for me and I let her down. Now, I’ll never see my grandma again.”

“It doesn’t have to be that way…”

“She wants it that way,” she interrupts. “And it’s better. I don’t want to hurt her again, and that’s what seeing me will do. And… I don’t want her to hurt me again.” She sighs again.

“You’re right,” she says. “I’ve hurt for awhile and I’ll work on forgiving myself, but that’s the best I can do.”

“That’s all I’m asking, Court, that you give it a try.” She nods.

“I… um… I have to get to class,” she says with a weak smile. “Can’t wait to see what the next year holds.” She walks over to the door.

“By the way,” she adds, “I know when to use my filter.” She quickly leaves my office before I can stop her. I would love for Addie to see how far she’s come, but I’m not going to push it. If I do, the results could be disastrous.

*-*

By the end of the day, I still haven’t heard anything from Christian about any of the background checks from the interviewees yesterday. Granted, it’s only been one day. Employment background checks are probably more detailed than the checks we do for others.

I’m shutting my computer down and getting ready to head to the nursery to get my children when I hear a woman frantically calling my name from down the hall. Oh, dear God, what now?

“Ana! Oh, my God, Ana!” Harmony comes running into my office just as I’m packing up to leave. She can barely breathe. Oh, God… Did Tina pass away?

“Are you okay?” I ask, grasping either of her arms. “What is it?”

“I… I had to tell someone. You won’t believe it!” Well, I know it’s not Tina’s death.

“Sit, Harmony, sit,” I say, guiding her to one of the Zen sofas. “Catch your breath.” She takes a seat still clinging to my forearms.

“Ana! I just talked to Carrick. He got a call from Ken and that roach that’s representing him. They just left his office. Ana… he signed the papers! I’m free! It’s over!”

“Get outta here!” I say, my surprise genuine. Jesus Christ! Was that exposé really that terrifying. “Did he give a reason for the sudden change of heart?”

“I don’t know. Carrick said that Ken kinda freaked out when he heard that his name was Grey. Obviously, nobody wants to mess with the Greys…” Obviously. “But then Carrick said something about not wanting any trouble and not wanting anybody breathing down his throat. Carrick said he was acting strangely and he had to ask if Ken was coerced or doing anything against his will. I wouldn’t care if he had a gun to his head. He signed the papers and he is out of my life! Woohoo!!!”

She leaps from the sofa dancing a jig around my office. I can’t help but laugh aloud at her unfettered display of joy.


A/N: What is “Wheel Decide?” Check out www.wheeldecide.com

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

The new question and answer thread is always open for questions about the story. be sure to read it and please adhere to the rules when asking questions. You can find it on the left, second from last in the menu our you can click HERE.

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

 ~~love and handcuffs

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Raising Grey: Chapter 57B—Christian and Ana’s Interview

All of the same disclaimers apply. Have fun and enjoy…

Chapter 57B—Christian and Ana’s Interview

<The interview opens with the camera panning into the large wrought iron gates of Grey Crossing>

MARIA NARRATING: Here in the exclusive neighborhood of Mercer Island, Washington—a ten-mile island reserved for the crème de la crème—Christian and Anastasia Grey enjoy the trappings of wealth and luxury afforded to only the most elite of high society.

<Cut to and pan various rooms of the Crossing while Maria narrates>

Aptly named “Grey Crossing,” this beautiful home boast 13,721 square feet of pure opulence and elegance complete with a full staff on hand at all times, sure to turn even the most discerning among us green with envy. From the marble-floored grand entrance to the Grecian formal dining room to the splendid luxury infinity pool, there’s no question that Mr. and Mrs. Grey enjoy only the best of the best. However, neither of them spends their days lazing away by the pool eating truffles and sunbathing. No—to get the full picture of who the Greys really are, you have to look outside the gates of Grey Crossing.

<Film rolling quickly in reverse of the opening wrought iron gates>

The best place to delve to begin this story would be here at the glass tower known as Grey House—world headquarters for Grey Enterprises Holdings, Incorporated.

<Cut to a pan of Grey House from the front door and up the glass building against a partially-cloudy but sunny sky>

Easily one of the most fascinating people in America and arguably, the world, master businessman and entrepreneur Christian Grey started his company just over a decade ago and within a very short time, became a financial and industrial powerhouse. Revered and respected by many, Christian runs his company with the wisdom, effectiveness, and efficiency of much more experienced captains of industries. Underestimating his shrewdness because of his youth has been the downfall of many unsuspecting rivals.

<Cut to Christian having a conversation with Allen in the glass boardroom>

He prides himself on choosing the best of the best to run his company beside him, recently securing a highly sought-after executive to extend his impressive repertoire.

<Cut to Ana strolling confidently through the lobby towards the elevators>

Gone are the days of the haughty businessman and his “trophy wife,” now being quickly replaced by what we can clearly see as “the power couple.”  Grey House is a state-of-the-art smart-high-rise that boasts sleek lines, opulent design, open work spaces with lots of natural lighting, sophisticated systems that ensure the most efficient processes, and lots… and lots… of security.

<Pan through various work areas of GEH, then the front lobby desk showing a visitor being checked in, then cut to several of GEH’s security team lined up in black suits, the camera panning across each of them quickly>

In fact, GEH probably boasts the most stylish security squad in the country, but don’t let the good looks fool you. Hailing from various backgrounds including military and special training, GEH’s security team prides themselves on proficiency and effectiveness. These gentlemen run a tight ship, working as a synchronized team and utilizing some of the most sophisticated security protocols and equipment in existence.

Facial recognition software and hardware prevents unauthorized persons from accessing any area beyond the main lobby, allowing for the continual tracking of the location of any GEH employee as well as all visitors while on the premises. And speaking of visitors, if you don’t have an appointment, forget about it.

<Maria continues to narrate as Christian and Ana show her through various departments of the building, giving a quick synopsis of the activity occurring in each area>

Mr. Grey seems most at home in his seat at the helm of GEH in its executive offices. After a tour of the impressive organization, I sit down to have a short tête-à-tête with the head and founder of Grey Enterprises Holding, Inc.

<Christian is seated in a large white chair in his office while Maria sits across from him on one of the white sofas>

MARIA: I won’t ask that cliché question “To what do you owe your success.” I can imagine that’s pretty old and, at this point, redundant. So, I guess I’ll just ask what made Christian Grey the Christian Grey?

CG: Well, nobody wants to know the rags-to-riches story—you’ve heard that already, many times and from different people, and not all that interesting. Even though my story is a story of rags to riches, it’s old news. If you don’t know the tale already, you won’t hear it from me.

I wasn’t old enough to drink when I started my company with a small loan and an idea. I was both exhilarated and terrified to be branching out on my own. My parents were horrified that I dropped out of college—Harvard, no less—to follow this pipe dream as my father called it, but I was… exhausted.

MARIA <frowning>: Exhausted? Before you started your business?

CG <nodding>: Yes. I was Christian Grey. I was the orphan from the streets of Detroit who was granted a silver spoon—and there’s the rags to riches story I was trying to avoid. <He shrugs> Yet, it’s a terrible burden. It’s even more of a burden, I think, than to be born with that silver spoon in your mouth, because you’re expected to be grateful, and not to step wrong—to take advantage of the opportunity given to you and to do your very best to be perfect, or at least that’s the way I felt.

MARIA: And were you perfect?

CG: Far from it. I gave my parents hell, not because I was a bad kid, I just had a rough start and I didn’t know how to respond to certain things. So, when I came to my parents and told them that I was dropping out of Harvard after everything else that had already occurred in our lives, my father wasn’t hearing it. He was having no part of it, he was totally against it, and he was ready for me to either return to Harvard or move out. And he had every reason to feel that way—who in their right mind throws away the chance at a Harvard education?

MARIA: So, you didn’t resent your father for not supporting you.

CG: Absolutely not! At the time, I wished he would have had more faith in me, but as time progressed, I understood why he didn’t. But then there’s always that drive to make your parents proud and I was already on the uphill climb with that battle, so I had no other choice but to succeed. Yes, the odds were very much against me. Nonetheless, I followed that pipe dream, and my instincts paid off and helped get me to where I am today.

MARIA: Well, we see the obvious wealth and power and people easily see and paint you as a tyrant, and economical dictator. So, when you reference where you are today, exactly where are you today, Christian?

CG: One-hundred percent self-made billionaire whose name commands respect with many in the business world and strikes fear in many others. How did I get to where I am right now? Raw grit—pure unmitigated drive and determination and a learned and complete lack of fear. Do I want to find myself homeless and broke? No, but I understand more than anyone that you can lose everything with one wrong move. Hell, today, you don’t even have to do anything to lose everything. All you have to do is blink and not see something coming.

To further answer your question, GEH has controlling interests or substantial participation percentages in 28 industries comprised of 419 subindustries in 165 countries on all seven continents, including funding to one of the scientific research stations in Antarctica, and that’s just our for-profit endeavors. I haven’t calculated our impact and involvement in philanthropic work. Am I cocky? Absolutely. It takes pure brilliance and unshakable will to build what I built and be able to flaunt that success without anyone being able to take credit but me—and my competitors know it. Yes, I have an amazing executive team, and I wouldn’t be able to function without them, but GEH—the brain child—that’s mine. I’m not afraid to lose a battle or three. I’m not afraid to sacrifice the small things for the greater good, because sometimes, lost battles result in ultimately winning the war, and there’s always a war going on, Ms. Sanchez.

MARIA: And what’s the war right now, Mr. Grey?

CG: Oh, make no mistake—there’s always a war. When you are in a position of power, someone’s always looking to get that position. Now, if there’s another position available that’s like your position, then you may be safe because both of you can be in that position of power. However, if yours is the only position of power available, make no mistake—they’re gunning for you.

Immediately, however, we’re fighting domestic threats. I’m cutthroat with my business—mercilessly brutal and unapologetic about it. I’ll show up to negotiations for a hostile takeover with a virtual Samurai sword, walk into the room with my weapon hidden, but end up swinging two-thirds into the meeting. I’ll walk out of that room with a signed contract in hand, with high-handed, puffed-up executives lying across the boardroom table and slumped over in chairs bleeding from vital organs and left to die.

I proclaim this with no small amount of caution. I know that people are going to be gunning for me. They were gunning for me before and they’ll be gunning for me after this program airs. But no man worth his salt became great by being afraid—cautious, yes; wise, of course; prudent, no doubt, but afraid? Not a chance. A coward dies a thousand times before his death, but the valiant taste of death but once.

MARIA <raising her brows>: Shakespeare!

CG: I’m well-read, and I did go to college for two years before I dropped out, although Shakespeare was required reading in high school.

MARIA: So, you mentioned the threats being domestic. Care to elaborate on that?

CG: Close to home, where they think I’ll be weak due to my emotional involvement. We have media personalities attacking us for no reason, just looking for the next sensational headline at our expense, no offense…

MARIA: None taken.

CG: False accusations against me and my wife, perpetuated solely to destroy our reputation and careers; internal assaults on my company that I’m not allowed to expound upon at this time; physical attacks on my wife and her family—you saw those on the news and they’ve left devastating effects on us. We bounce back, yes, but none of these attacks have left us unscathed.

Yet overall, none of these people have succeeded. Some of them just go away. Others go down as flaming failures—but they just keep coming. For every failure, there’s 20, 30, a hundred more behind them waiting for their shot at the Greys. Everybody wants the dream—to be financially secure enough not to be worried about the future—but many are spitefully angry with those of us who have achieved it. They want to take what we have or destroy us completely. What sense does that make?

MARIA: Maybe they feel like you’ve taken something from them—like you owe them something because of who you are and what you have… or what they feel you’ve done.

CG: They all feel that way! They all feel like I should divvy out what I’ve earned to them in one way or another—frivolous lawsuits, false accusations, Grey babies that aren’t Grey babies…

I can count on one hand—one hand—the number of people who may have had cause to feel that I had wronged them and came after me in some way for it. Not only did they fail, but their accusations were unfounded. Everyone else just has some delusional reason for wanting to bring me or my family down. I’m in this business to make a profit—to take sick companies and make them well again or to pull the plug on those that are hopelessly dying; to expand my interests and make sure that GEH remains the international powerhouse that it is in the most ethical manner imaginable. But I don’t pull punches. There’s no slight of hand when you see me coming. I conduct business like a businessman and if you get my iron fist, it’s because you earned it and you know it. So, these personal attacks on my family for business reasons or whatever reasons they are, they’re going to stop because we’re pulling out all the stops from this point forward.

MARIA: You haven’t been pulling out the stops to this point?

CG: We have, but apparently the message hasn’t been clear enough.

MARIA NARRATING<pan to Christian overseeing a meeting of his department heads with Ana sitting in the seat to his immediate right>: Christian Grey has unequivocally thrown down the gauntlet. He’s fearless in his business dealings but appears to be an even more formidable opponent if you cross him in terms of his family. With a net worth of more than 14 figures, he commands the boardroom with little effort, and is the quintessential example of self-made power and success. <animation of several magazine covers featuring Christian including Forbes, Money, Time, Entrepreneur, and People>.

The jewel in his crown, Dr. Anastasia Steele-Grey.. Dr. Grey is a successful psychiatrist in the Seattle area who put her career on hold to become assistant director for Helping Hands, a Seattle-based charity that helps displaced families and victims of domestic abuse.

Image result for Genie FrancisHeaded by Dr. Grace Trevelyan-Grey—Christian’s mother—the charity hopes to soon offer continued learning, tutoring, and early learning classes for displaced families as well as members of the community. Helping Hands was featured in a public service announcement last year known as “Faces of Abuse” where many local celebrities, civic leaders, and everyday citizens confessed to being abused at one point.

<Portions of the “Faces of Abuse” campaign play>

HH Resident: They actually have security, so I feel safe bringing my kids here. Dr. Ana started a self-defense class after she had her babies. I can’t do all the stuff that she does, but I can handle myself pretty well after taking her classes, such that I’m not afraid anymore.

MARIA NARRATING: Dr. Grey confided that her aim in her chosen profession was to help others overcome frightening and adverse situations in their lives. Dr. Grey experienced her own trauma as a teenager, fueling her desire to assist those who need it most at a time when they’re most vulnerable.

<Scenes of Anastasia and Grace assisting families at Helping Hands>

However, in the hallowed halls of Grey House, it’s quite a different story. Armed with a minor degree in business and finance, Anastasia is hardly merely the “boss’s wife” in these walls. Walking through the lobby, it’s easy to see that she—like her husband—is also revered and respected. Having been gifted half of GEH as a wedding present, she takes her responsibility as part owner very seriously. She rightfully walks around like she owns the place, but I wanted to be sure that this wasn’t an act for the reporter. So, I randomly chose a department that I felt the boss’s wife would have no reason to frequent.

When I ask her to take me to Quality Control, she laughs. I mistake it for nervousness. I’m soon to realize how wrong I am. A short elevator ride later, we find ourselves in the Quality Control department. Here, Anastasia is giving me a brief rundown of the different products in testing and I’m already astounded by her level of knowledge of simply what’s on the floor.

AG: Mr. Braxton…

<A gentleman in conversation with someone at one of the stations raises his head and, upon noticing Anastasia, excuses himself and joins the ladies in the middle of the room>

I’m sorry to interrupt you, Omar. This is Maria Sanchez. You may have heard that she’s doing a human-interest piece on myself and Mr. Grey. Maria, this is Omar Braxton. He’s the head of our quality control department.

MARIA NARRATING: Omar is friendly and accommodating, and after we talk for a short while, Ana decides to flex her GEH muscles a bit.

AG: Omar, that information that I gave you about that transmitter a while back—you never got back to me on the final findings. I know it was pretty cryptic, and I know we saw some anomalies, but did it help break any codes? Were any of our questions answered, particularly the biggest one?

<Omar’s face lights up and he’s become quite animated>

OB: Like you wouldn’t believe! Breaking codes is an understatement. I’ve had an entire team working on those figures since you brought them to our attention. It’s amazing how the slide of a number or three can make such a huge difference, but it did… all the difference in the world. We never would have caught that without running those extra tests. I’d really like to show you the data… <looking over at Maria> … when you have a moment.

AG<smiling>: Of course. We understand. There’s just been so much going on, I haven’t had a chance to get in here and ask you about it. I’ll set up a meeting as soon as I can to go over your findings.  I’d love to see your progress.

<They smile at each other before Anastasia and Maria move to another area>

AG: Proprietary information. You understand.

MARIA NARRATING: Of course. I won’t lie. I was hoping to catch the queen snoozing at the switch. I should have known something was afoot when my request to visit QC was followed by a giggle.

Having seen Anastasia outside of the corporate world in her natural habitat at Helping Hands, so to speak, I wanted to get an idea of who she was before she was the glamorous and sophisticated billionairess we see now—not that she wasn’t sophisticated before, but she wasn’t always a billionairess. Imagine my joy when I find out that she still owns the condo where she lived before she met Christian. I would have expected the space to be vacant, maybe a college space like a small apartment or a loft that was shared by a group of struggling students.

Not in the slightest.

Anastasia’s condo is large, spacious and beautifully decorated. I asked her if she had remodeled it once she was married, and she assures me that it’s in the same condition she left it in when she moved out to live with Christian in his penthouse at Escala downtown, complete with a very masculine guestroom—which we’ll get to later.

<Maria walking towards the camera while she addresses the viewing audience>

MARIA: So, here we are in Ana’s pre-Christian condo overlooking Elliot Bay. It’s obvious that she’s no stranger to posh surroundings as exhibited by the stunning décor and open floor plan, semi-gourmet kitchen with stainless steel appliances, and a view of Mt. Rainier that was certain to attach a heavy price tag to this property. As it turns out, Ana secured this property for a steal from a divorced wife trying to unload it—that “steal” nonetheless resulting in a 7-figure price tag.

<Cut to Maria and Ana sitting across from each other in Ana’s living room>

MARIA: So, Ana, tell me—how does a girl from Montesano suddenly find herself a businesswoman and half-owner of one of the largest corporations in the world?

AG: Well, I’m no Christian Grey. I was somewhat catapulted into this situation. It’s kind of like a baby bird being slapped out of the nest and either you fly, or you die. When my husband first told me that he was making me part owner of GEH, I thought he had lost his mind. Yes, I minored in business and finance, but that’s only because I knew that fresh out of med school, I wouldn’t have enough money to hire business managers, financial planners, and accountants and such once I was ready to start my practice. So, I took some business classes and one thing led to another and boom—minor in finance. I never in a million years would have thought that I’d be even partially at the helm of a multibillion dollar conglomerate.

MARIA: How did this come about? I mean, did he just come home and make the announcement?

AG <rubbing the side of her head>: It was somewhat like that, but there was so much more involved. It’s kind of gray when I try to put it all together, but I remember that I had inherited—for lack of a better word—a company as part of a settlement. We had intended to absorb the company into GEH. However, closer examination revealed that it wouldn’t be prudent to do so. While we were sorting out the particulars of disposing of the company, the precariousness of my position with GEH came to a head and that’s when we decided to make it official. I was a figurehead up to that point, and not even that. The story is far too long and tedious for me to repeat it, but let’s just say that the transition was anything but seamless.

MARIA: Were you met with resistance? <Ana ponders her answer for a long while> Animosity? Resentment? Jealousy?

AG <sighing>: Those are strong words and remember, I’m a psychiatrist. So, words mean a lot. Amazingly, I can’t really put into words what I was met with because I’m not inside anyone’s head, but I can tell you what I think it felt like.

Imagine being part of an organization where you have a clearly-marked figurehead. Strong, powerful, knows exactly what he wants, successful, he gets things done—there’s no doubt who’s in charge. He’s “take no prisoners” and you don’t cross him. Suddenly—out of nowhere, literally—you’re getting marching orders from the little woman who is not only in actuality a petite woman but has already been pegged a gold digger. Now imagine being on the receiving end of those feelings when you’re trying to get something done. <Maria blanches>

MARIA: How do you do that… not mince words and still remain so politically correct? <Ana scoffs>

AG: It’s a blessing and a curse.

MARIA: So, tell us about Ana before Christian.

AG: You mean besides what’s splattered all over the tabloids?

Independent, driven, self-sufficient. I had my own practice, and it was successful. I even had a waiting list. I was doing volunteer work as well, but it wasn’t really satisfying. That’s because I wasn’t in the right place and I wasn’t contributing what I felt I needed to contribute, so I had to move on.

MARIA: Someone’s going to ask, so I’ll ask first. You speak like this was no big change for you, but your life wasn’t nearly this extravagant before Christian, right?

AG: You mean the life of a billionaire’s wife? Of course, not, but I wasn’t a pauper, either. This condo is decorated exactly as it was when I met Christian. <She gestures around the room> Nothing has changed except that I have a friend staying here so that it doesn’t fall to disarray. But look around you.

<Pan of various rooms and décor of the condo>

Does this look like the digs of some poor struggling woman waiting to be rescued?

I drive Audis now, but when we met, I was driving a current-year Chrysler 300. I was a fashionista, just like I am now, although my shoes may not have been Louboutins. I hadn’t dated anyone for four years and I wasn’t looking to date. When I met Christian, I didn’t know who he was and when I found out, I didn’t like him. I wanted him out of my presence as quickly as possible and I tried to do that, but he was persistent. One thing I learned about Christian Grey. When he wants something, he doesn’t give up easily if at all.

MARIA: It almost sounds like you loved him against your will.

AG: I did! I wasn’t looking for any kind of relationship, least of all with Christian Grey, but look what happened.

MARIA: Is it really that simple? Is it really just look what happened or was there more to the story?

AG: There was quite a bit more to the story. Most of the story was plastered over the news—in trials and kidnappings and attacks and accusations… bitter lies and just plain hatefulness. We couldn’t get any peace. I’ve always considered myself just a regular girl, you know—no frills, nothing special… just me. Suddenly, I become half of AnaChris and everything about me was different. It was like…

<Anastasia pauses here, trying to find her words>

I just got lost in the whole billionaire-ness of it all, and it wasn’t that it went to my head. It was just that I wasn’t me anymore. Suddenly, I had to justify every decision I was making—from what I was wearing, to who did my hair, to what I was driving, to the precarious timing of my pregnancy.

MARIA: Okay, but besides the obvious wealth and dollar signs, where did the ‘more’ come in? <Anastasia frowns>

AG: The more?

MARIA: Yes, the ‘more.’ You said that there was more to the story than just look what happened. <Ana sighs>

AG: Christian is nothing if not cautious and thorough. I was in a position to cause him distress, and I wanted nothing more than to just be out of it… by any means necessary. Our relationship was no accident. How we came into each other’s presence may have been chance, but the events that followed were anything but. Everything that occurred to lead us to become a couple was planned, and believe me, he’s not ashamed to admit it.

It wasn’t that way at first. He wanted me out of his hair and I wanted out of his hair. But one action led to a series of events that, in the beginning, I felt weren’t supposed to happen, but now I feel they were destined.

MARIA: Forgive my bluntness, Ana, but you’re speaking in riddles. <Anastasia shrugs>

AG: Well, you must know that I have to be careful what I say. Before I expound on how this particular portion of our lives played out, I have to talk to Christian first.

MARIA: Are you afraid of how he’ll react? <Anastasia raises a brow> Okay, let me rephrase. Are you concerned that his reaction would be less than favorable?

<Anastasia leans back in her seat, placing her fingertips delicately under her chin>

AG: I’m always concerned about Christian’s reaction, not because I’m anxious that his reaction may be less than favorable, but because I don’t want to be the deliberate cause for his duress. My job is to be his helpmate, his life-mate, to love him and bring him comfort and solace. I can’t effectively do that if something that I’m doing is a source of angst, now can I?

My husband has always been a very private person. There are parts of our personal lives that the public will never know, just like there are parts of everyone else’s personal lives that are not subject to public scrutiny. So, yes, I will need to discuss with my husband how much of this story will be revealed during this segment.

MARIA<nodding>: That’s fair enough. So, let’s move on to this Judd Rossiter thing. What can you tell us that won’t put you in a bad position?

AG: Nothing, unfortunately. It’s an open case and there’s a gag order. I’m afraid that anything I say could compromise the proceedings or definitely put me in contempt of court. I’ll just say that I know when to keep my mouth shut <an obvious shot at Rossiter>

<The setting changes to the backseat of the converted Audi>

MARIA: So, how have your relationships changed, Ana? How do your friends feel about the new life you lead? Was it a rough transition? Did you have to make new friends?

AG<sighing>: It had its bumps every now and then. It’s no secret that my sister-in-law was battling a brain tumor shortly after my husband and I married. That was a trial for us all because she was my friend before she was my sister-in-law. But she came through it with flying colors, thank God, and she’s doing better than ever. That was probably the biggest transition we had to deal with in terms of friendships. My core support circle is the same as it was before I got married. It even merged a bit.

MARIA: Merged? Do elaborate

AG: People who had been dating got married, and people who weren’t dating each other started dating. As you know, my friend Valerie whom we were just speaking about married my husband’s brother and became my sister-in-law. As for making new friends, my husband’s sister Mia—I would consider her now part of my core group of friends along with her husband, Ethan. I have friends at Helping Hands… so, yeah, I’ve met more friends, but my core friendships have remained the same. The original group call ourselves the ‘Scooby Gang.’

MARIA<chuckling>: Why the ‘Scooby Gang?’

AG: It’s simple, cute, unassuming, maybe a little naïve because the Scooby Gang never fought, and we’ve had the occasional tiff or falling out, but we always find ourselves back at the core again. When the chips have really gone down, there’s never been a time where we haven’t been there for each other. We’ve had segments in time where something may have gone down that we weren’t aware of, but when the situation was revealed, we all came together like we usually do. I don’t know if you remember that when I was kidnapped, it was my best friend Allen who made the call to arms with Christian.

MARIA<nodding>: I do remember that. So, what’s the makeup of the Scooby Gang?

AG<smiling>: Without getting into detail, there’s me, of course. Then, there’s Allen, Valerie, Maxie and Phil, and Gary.

MARIA: So, there’s six of you… like a real-life episode of Friends. 

AG<making a face>: Yeah, we’re… friends, of course, but… well, there are more people that are in the core by default, like Marilyn and James… even Christian and his brother Elliot…

MARIA NARRATING<while Anastasia continues to explain the ‘core’ dynamic>: I could tell that she didn’t necessarily agree with the comparison to Friends even though she didn’t really protest. She just went about the business of illustrating how different from Friends her inner sanctum really is.

MARIA: So, do you get to see your friends as much as you used to?

AG: Not as much, but that’s because of life events on the part of all of us. Most of us were single before, and now, we’ve all coupled-up or married. Two of the couples have had children <she raises her hand>, we’ve had career changes, health issues… you know, life events. But what I love about our friendship is that the minute someone says, “I need you,” or “Hey, let’s get together,” we’re together or have a party or F&L planned within a couple of hours.

MARIA<grinning>: FNL? What is that, Friday Night Live?

AG<laughing>: No! Not FNL, F-and-L… Food and Libations. I love to cook. When I was a single girl in that beautiful condo with that gorgeous kitchen and open floor plan, at least once a month and usually more, I and my friends would come together for Food and Libations. It was usually on a Saturday night. I would cook, and they would bring the drinks—libations—whatever they wanted. We socialized and caught up on the week’s events, and they would clean up. That’s why you saw the other bedrooms at the condo. In case someone drank too much, they could crash. Allen is my right arm; he has been for 14 years. So, he has a permanent room at my condo and a key.

MARIA: Does he have a permanent room at Grey Crossing?

AG<rolling her eyes>: Everybody has a permanent room at Grey Crossing. Have you seen the size of that place? What can one nuclear family do with all that space?

MARIA NARRATING: All that space indeed…

<Cut back to the opening gates of Grey Crossing from the beginning of the interview and pan to various rooms as Maria narrates>

Eight bedrooms, double-digit bathrooms—not including the staff’s apartments on the lower levels—a gourmet kitchen, two-story formal living-room and Grecian dining room, a ginormous family room, several outdoor patios on multiple floors, and an outdoor dining room and barbeque kitchen and a small private beach in the backyard leading to an enviable view of Lake Washington, and we haven’t even scratched the surface.

Two working elevators, a fully-loaded workout room, an infinity pool with jacuzzi, a private spa, and an outdoor sauna and shower; a theater room that would put some theaters to shame; a lush parlor for her and a decked-out den for him as well as his and her offices with posh furnishings and an aquarium in between.

And speaking of aquariums…

Full-wall aquariums greet you not only at the entrance to a massive entertainment room on the ground floor, but also in the private spa where Mrs. Grey goes to have her beauty treatments every now and then.

And Ana was correct when she mentioned room for everyone at Grey Crossing.

<Cut to shots of Valerie and Elliot in the dining room, and Elliot later in the family room>

Christian’s brother and sister-in-law are a regular fixture at the Crossing, a bit of a home away from home, you could say. And good luck sneaking onto this estate uninvited. The Crossing is equipped with all of the state-of-the-art security devices as Grey House and a few extras including a combination location and two-way communication system.

We could spend another hour just touring the beautiful rooms, furnishings, and amenities of the gorgeous estate, but we’d much rather talk to the couple who call it “home.”

<Cut to Anastasia and Christian on the sofa in the formal living room with Maria sitting on the opposite sofa>

MARIA: So, let’s get to the question that everyone wants to ask. How did a local psychiatrist land Seattle’s most eligible bachelor?

CG and AG<simultaneously>: Well…

<They look at each other and Anastasia gestures to cede the floor to Christian>

CG: Let’s start by clarifying your question. She didn’t land me—I landed her. People think that there’s some formula to this—there isn’t. My life is and always has been very private, so although I had interactions before, they weren’t plastered all across the news. This one only became news because my wife—then girlfriend—was kidnapped, but we very much would have preferred to keep our relationship private.

The truth of the matter is that when the right person comes along, all bets are off. There’s no amount of conniving, scheming, hoping, wishing, praying, or plotting that you can do that can make you be that one. There has to be an emotional and physical connection and at some point, there has to be a willingness on the part of both parties to engage.

In our case, this was truly cosmic intervention. We hated each other—unquestionably, undeniably, and unequivocally. She correctly had me pegged as an arrogant, egotistical, narcissistic donkey’s butt and she made it no secret… and she wanted nothing to do with me. I thought she was a pompous, stuck-up, headstrong, disagreeable female and I wanted nothing to do with her. She had my fate in her hands and I resented it. I tried to bully her, and she was having none of it. She pretty much told me what I could do with myself and where to go and stormed out… and I fell in love.

So, if you ladies want to know the answer to the age-old question “how to land a billionaire,” call him names and tell him the truth about his crappy behavior, and then leave him to marinate in it and refuse to speak to him… but know that if you’re not the one that supposed to end up in his life, you may end up landing a restraining order and jail time as opposed to landing a billionaire.

<Maria looks at Anastasia, who simply shrugs>

AG: I told you, I wasn’t looking for love, and even after I met him, I wanted anything but a relationship with him. You know how the boys in grade school would kick you or hit you or tease you if they liked you? <Maria nods> He was worse. He tormented me. I thought he hated me and I certainly could do without him.

MARIA: So, how did you end up crossing that thin line between love and hate?

CG: It was… tricky.

<Maria cocks her head at Christian, waiting for the rest of the tale>

CG: My life was very private before I met my wife. I did have relationships, but they were very structured and very formal. From my side, they were very dispassionate, very unemotional. Although they were monogamous, they were only a means to an end. The women involved were legally sworn to secrecy. Believe me, there are legally binding non-disclosure agreements all over the state of Seattle.

MARIA: What if one of these women decides to come forward with this information? Like if they felt as if they had nothing to lose?

CG: Well, first of all, everyone has something to lose. They just don’t know what it is until they lose it. In all honesty, I can say this—it’s no secret that I’m a powerful man. If you come after what’s near and dear to me, to any man, he’s going to come at you with all he’s got. Do you really want that? In terms of the legal system, I’m a businessman. I’ve never had a board of directors—I am the business. Wherever I was, the business was—in my building, in my cars, in my penthouse, in my shower, on my private jet—you get the picture? I discuss and conduct business in all those places. To that end, any information heard or discovered in any of those places is protected business information including the color of my underwear, and the language of the contract is such that revealing that information is a punishable criminal act.

MARIA: Oh, come on, seriously?

CG: Corporate espionage.

MARIA: Revealing the color of your underwear is corporate espionage, Christian?

CG<shrugs>: They should have read the contract. So far, no one has been brazen enough to attempt to breach a signed NDA, but should they try, they’re in for a rude awakening because they’ll most likely find themselves in cuffs. All I can say is that if they would like to test that theory, they can try.

MARIA: What about you, Anastasia? How do you feel about this whole NDA thing?

AG<shrugs>: I never signed an NDA. Our relationship is far from dispassionate, quite emotional, and to hell with structure.

MARIA: Well, alright, then. So, Christian, why were you so secretive about your relationships?

CG: I have a lot to lose. My reputation is at stake. People wanted to easily paint me as a playboy or they wanted to marry me off. I wasn’t serious about anybody. I really couldn’t afford to be half of a whole until I was half of a whole.

MARIA: And that happened when Anastasia was kidnapped.

CG<sighing and taking Ana’s hand>: Yes. Nothing else mattered then but getting her back. I didn’t know where she was. I didn’t know if she was hurt; what he was doing to her. I didn’t know if I would get her back alive or at all. <Holding his head down> I couldn’t see past the moment. I could only see getting her back, and I had to make sure that people paid attention. So, that’s why I put my face to the plea. <A clip of the plea plays silently as he speaks> At the time that we had recorded the call for help, we hadn’t gotten any clues yet except who took her, so we didn’t know where they were or what the next move was.

MARIA: Then there was the daring helicopter rescue. What were you thinking, Ana?

AG: I honestly don’t remember most of it. It’s partially because of the trauma and it’s partially because of my later accident where I’ve lost some of my memories. I remember the gunshots and I remember the lights of the hospital. Then I remember going home. The rest of it is kind of a big fuzz. I remember the smell of mildew and the feeling of hopelessness…

<Anastasia trails off>

MARIA<reaching over and squeezing Ana’s hand>: Well, we don’t want to take you back down that road again. I think we’d all like to know when you first realized that you were in love.

AG<she and Christian are looking at each other>: It just happened. We were in my apartment and I remember thinking this can’t possibly be happening this fast.

MARIA: You’re smiling, Christian.

CG: I didn’t feel that way.

<Anastasia’s glaring at him>

It was happening for me. I didn’t know what it was at first, but it was happening, and I knew it was.

<Anastasia’s glare softens>

MARIA: Who said it first?

CG: That’s why I didn’t feel the way she did. She said it first. I felt it first. I felt it long before she did. I would go so far as to say that I think she was still hating me when I first felt it.

AG<amazed>: That can’t be right!

CG: Oh, I think it was. The first time you said you loved me, you were asleep in my apartment. By that time, I was deeply in love with you, but I hadn’t said it yet. You said it again in your sleep, this time in your apartment and I said it back, but you were still asleep. The first time you said it to me awake was the third time you had said it to me.

AG<in awe>: Are you kidding?

CG<shaking his head>: And the first time I said it to you while you were awake was the second time I had said it… that I know of.

AG: You said you knew… while I still hated you. How could you have known? I mean, before me? How…

CG: Honestly, I think I loved you as far back as when Allen and James came to pick you up from the community center.

AG<stunned speechlessness>: Wha…?

<Maria watches in gleeful anticipation>

CG: I was still trying to figure it out <Christian laughs>

MARIA: This is so adorable. So, this totally shoots down the whole gold-digger theory…

AG<still stunned>: Huh?

MARIA: Well… you know there are still the hangers on with the gold-digger theory that Ana was looking for a billionaire and snagged Christian and got pregnant to keep him and… you know the rest.

CG: Once again, I say, Anastasia didn’t chase me, I chased her. Anastasia didn’t even want me. Anastasia didn’t even like me. When she says that she hated me, let me tell you… she hated me! She saw me at my worst… my very worst. As it turned out, she was on a disastrous date saying goodbye to the same guy that later kidnapped her. She had a little too much to drink and I made sure that she and her car got home safely. The rest is history.

MARIA: Now, how did you end up getting to her exact location that night?

CG: I shamelessly stalked her on her date. Then I sent a bottle of wine to her table to apologize for being such a jerk. I just wanted to make my presence known. I didn’t know she was breaking up with the guy.

AG: It’s a long story, but I had already broken up with the guy. He was asking for another chance.

MARIA: Needless to say, you said, “no.”

AG: Needless to say.

CG: Anyway, we fell in love because I pursued her. I had to have her. We’ve always been completely open and honest with each other, even about our secrets…

MARIA: Secrets… Elena Lincoln.

CG: Yes, Elena. I can’t talk about her too much. She was a mistake in my life that lasted for many years. I can’t begin to tell you the effects she had on me and my family. I just can’t talk about her. I can only say that my wife is slowly undoing the damage that woman has done to me. <Anastasia smiles>

MARIA: How so?

CG: It’s very personal, but she’s doing it by loving me… unconditionally, flaws and all. She’s undoing all the bad and replacing it with good. It’s scary and sometimes painful, but she chases all my monsters away.

MARIA: Wow, that’s very deep. Ana, does he do anything like that for you?

AG<Her voice incredulous>: Are you kidding? He’s my ultimate protector. I fear nothing with this man around. Nothing. I feel like if there’s anything that he can’t do, he’ll find a way to get it done. I and my children have nothing to fear as long as he’s alive.

MARIA: Those are big shoes to fill, Christian.

CG: I’m up to the task.

MARIA: So, you mentioned early on that you were secretive about your relationships because of your reputation. Couldn’t the details of a past relationship still ruin your reputation?

CG: Yes, they may damage my reputation, but here’s something to remember. I have enough resources right now to retire every member of my family including my infant children. Me going after someone for damaging my reputation could destroy them completely, but how much would it really hurt me? The most that anyone could ever hope to gain by trying to expose me in any way would be homelessness because I would spend all of my energy on injunctions and gag orders. By the time they had any hope of collecting anything from me, we would both be dead. That’s the big and the little of it. If anyone tried to do anything to ruin my reputation, I would adapt. If they tried to do anything to harm me or my family, just know that I’m coming at you with everything that I have. It’s that simple.

MARIA: I can understand that. Now, we may not be able to talk about the relationship with Lincoln, but can you elaborate a bit on the attempted murder?

CG <sighs>: Not really. It’s not because I can’t talk about it. It’s because I don’t know what the hell happened. To this day, I’m still not sure what was going on. I really thought I knew, but I don’t. The woman is some kind of crazy—that’s all I know.

MARIA: Ana, this is your area of expertise. Care to elaborate?

AG: Well, this is delicate territory for me, but since the case has already been decided, I can offer a bit of opinion. From what I saw, long story short, all of her actions were justified. In her eyes, everything she did was justified—it didn’t matter what it was, she was justified in doing it. So, she went about the business of doing what she wanted to do, and the court didn’t agree with her. There’s just no other way to explain it.

MARIA: But why did she want to kill Christian?

AG: She said it in the courtroom—to free him from me.

MARIA: I don’t get that.

AG: You and me both. Neither did the jury.

MARIA: So, let’s back up a bit. Before the wedding… you left for a while.

<Christian drops his head>

AG: Yeah, I did.

MARIA: Why?

AG: Because I was having a hard time dealing with rejection.

CG: I wasn’t rejecting you.

AG: I didn’t know that.

MARIA: How do you know that now?

AG<shaking her head>: I still don’t. <Christian raises an amazed gaze at her> The heart is fragile. He knows that now more than ever. <Christian drops his head again> My man disappeared for several hours, and when he returned I heard, “Let’s not get married,” and that’s all I heard. I couldn’t take it, so I left. I left to try to clear my head and deal with the heartbreak that I was feeling. There was a bit of back and forth—he found me, we fought, we talked, he left, he kind of fell apart. I came back and saw what it was doing to him. We talked again. He told me that he didn’t say, “Let’s not get married.” He said, “Let’s not get married right now.” I understood what he said the second time. The problem is that I still only heard, “Let’s not get married,” and I saw all my dreams dying.

CG<barely audible>: You still feel that way?

AG: We’re married now, but that’s still what I heard.

<Christian wraps his arms around his wife>

MARIA: So… you made it down the aisle and you go on this lovely honeymoon, and it’s cut short…

AG: Yes, crazy ex-boyfriend decides that he wants his speedy trial right in the middle of our honeymoon. We’re sure that he planned it. You saw how that turned out.

MARIA: It’s my understanding that during that case, you discovered that you were pregnant with your children.

AG<grimacing>: You understand correctly. There was an unfortunate incident involving the defense attorney that prompted me to take a pregnancy test.

MARIA: An unfortunate incident… care to elaborate?

AG<her eyes wide>: No.

MARIA NARRATING: At the request of our hosts, we move the interview to their spacious and well-equipped family room. Though they looked quite majestic in the formal living room, our couple is much more relaxed in this setting.

MARIA: Okay, Ana, let’s move to something that I hope is a little more palatable than the last few moments of our previous discussion. I know that one of the main reasons for your appearance today and other appearances before now is centered on the allegations of sexual harassment against you. Just a quick synopsis. Someone made an anonymous call that you behaved inappropriately with a patient and that opened an investigation into the allegations. Tell us about that.

AG<straightening her posture>: Yes. The medical profession is based largely on trust. People trust us with their bodies. In my case, they trust us with their minds. It’s a huge responsibility, so accusations like this must be taken very seriously. Of course, I was devastated when I heard that someone would even think I would do something like this. But when I saw who the victim was, I knew it was a personal vendetta.

MARIA: Are you allowed to reveal who the victim was at this point?

<Christian slowly raises his hand>

MARIA: Yes, Christian? Who was the victim?

<He sits there in the same position>

MARIA<horrified>: You??

<Christian nods>

AG: My sentiments exactly. I was anonymously accused of sexual misconduct with my husband.

MARIA: Dear God, how did that come about?

AG: Well, we’re still trying to get to the salt of the matter. Anything that we say about the person who made those calls would be pure conjecture. Even though we have our theories, those claims are anonymous for a reason… to make sure that the accusers—valid accusers—are protected. The problem is that the system also protects those who just want to throw smut.

I’m going public with the accusations against me because not only were they totally untrue and unfounded, but they were completely ludicrous! And the way that I was treated at that inquisition that they called a hearing was preposterous and the most blatant display of unprofessionalism I had ever seen. They dragged in people from my past—colleagues, patients—they chose completely irrelevant questions even down to questioning my attire. They locked me in a room for hours without my phone, my purse, or any type of timepiece with a guard who never said a word to me the entire time, like I was a common criminal.

They subjected me to this board of stuck-up elitists who all looked down their nose at me and refused to refer to me by my title. All doctors themselves, they all knew how offensive it is to strip a doctor of her title. So, as a continuation of their emotional warfare, they all called me “Mrs. Grey” instead of “Dr. Steele-Grey,” no matter how many times I corrected them and informed them that I still had my license.

I could go on forever about how unjustly I was treated by the board, and quite frankly, I’m lucky that I escaped that witch hunt with my license still intact. I’m not some pompous, pampered little doctor-person who got her little feathers ruffled because the big bad men didn’t pat me on my head. <Anastasia feigns baby talk> I just want to see people treated more fairly when they’re required to present their cases in situations like this. Even killers get a right to a fair trial—I was convicted before I even stepped in that room on zero evidence and a rumor.

So, my campaign is not to toot my own horn and proclaim that they’ve hurt the feelings of the great Anastasia Grey. My purpose for going public is to hopefully appeal to others who may have experienced this kind of treatment. When the board was confronted about this incident, they swept the whole thing under the rug like nothing happened. So, how many other people have been subjected to this?

My voice is loud because I refuse to remain silent about this, but two voices are better, four is a lot louder, The more, the better, of course. So, how many people within the sound of my voice has been treated unfairly by this board or knows someone or of someone who has? If this is you, you can reach me at my office at Helping Hands. Yes, we have security screening, but it’ll be worth it if we can shed some light on this situation.

MARIA: So, you’re looking for a class action?

AG: It’s more like a call to action. If I’m the only person who was treated this way by the board, well then, I’m just one person. This is my battle to fight and mine alone and we don’t have to worry about other people being treated this way. However, if this is the usual treatment of people who are accused of this kind of action, then we need some kind of investigation—maybe an examination of the archaic ideals of the board and possibly replacing its members.

MARIA: Are you up to that job, Ana… possibly being a member of the board?

AG<her eyes wide>: Oh, God, no! I don’t want someone’s fate in my hands like that. With everything I’ve been through, they don’t even bother picking me for jury duty!

<Christian laughs>

MARIA: So, if the board approached you, would you turn them down?

AG: First, I highly doubt that the board would ever approach me, but second, I’ve never even given the concept any thought. I just want people to be treated fairly. I don’t necessarily have to be the one to do the job in order for that to happen. And third, to answer your question—no, it’s not something that I want. I have no dreams or aspirations whatsoever of being on the board.

I felt like the views of the board were quite antiquated in the questions that they asked me and the way that they treated me. I have no problem with the traditional values being part of this process. In fact, I support it. However, I feel that the board and its members and guidelines need to incorporate more of the forward-thinking concepts that define the passing of time as well as modern medicine and practices.

I seriously felt like I was in that movie, “Twelve Angry Men,” and I was the accused awaiting the verdict. I left those proceedings, went home, and waited for them to tell me that they were stripping me of my license. Had I done something wrong, I could do nothing but hang my head in shame, but I really, really did nothing wrong. So, I think something needs an overhaul here, and if I remain silent, it’s not going to happen…

MARIA NARRATING: The seriousness of the conversation is interrupted by cooing babies in the background, Christian gestures to someone to come forward.

MARIA: Oooohh, this is such a treat!

CG: Hello there, Minnie Mouse! <Christian takes his daughter>

AG: How’s Mommy’s handsome man? <Anastasia takes her son>

MARIA<brimming with excitement> Please! Please! Introduce us!

CG: Well, this redhead beauty is Mackenzie and that handsome prince is Michael, and these are the heirs to the Grey estate. <Mackenzie looks adoringly at her father>

MARIA: Is she a daddy’s girl?

CG: She’s definitely a daddy’s girl.

MARIA: And what about Michael—is he Mommy’s boy?

AG<examining Michael>: I don’t know. Mikey is laid back. He likes everybody. Mackenzie is more expressive, so while I can tell that she loves Mommy, she coos more at Daddy.

<Watching Mackenzie do just that while Christian makes faces at her>

MARIA: Most Moms say that parenting comes naturally. Is that how it was for you?

AG<twisting her lips>: I think that’s a broad statement, Maria. I don’t think parenting comes naturally to anybody; that’s why some children are taken away from their parents. I think the connection that you feel while carrying a little life around in your body for nearly a year can’t help but to extend to the living breathing human being once they’re no longer in your body. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case.

<Cut to the scene of Anastasia in the rocker in the nursery with her back to the camera nursing Mikey and singing to him>

AG<while the scene is still playing>: I can’t speak for anyone else. I can only speak for myself. The moment I discovered that I was pregnant, all I wanted was to love and protect my babies. I was afraid that the world would gobble them up and mistreat them, and I knew that the only way to prevent that from happening was to nurture them, shield them from what harm I could and prepare them for the world ahead. It’s a frightening and daunting task, but it’s also one of the most rewarding experiences of your life. Minnie’s first smile and Mikey’s first babble… I can’t even describe the feeling that comes over you when you witness the smallest milestones.

<The scene continues for a few moments more, the only sound being Anastasia serenading her baby>

<Cut back to the family and Maria in the family room>

MARIA<with a broad smile>: Minnie and Mikey… was that intentional?

AG: Yes and no. We mulled over our children’s names, each of us making suggestions about what we wanted to name them.

<Cut to a picture of Minnie and Mikey each in their Minnie and Mickey Mouse swim suits earlier that summer>

I had always had my son’s name picked out since before I was even pregnant, and Christian insisted on naming the girl after me.

MARIA<frowning>: But her name is Mackenzie…

AG: Her middle name is Anastasia. I drew the line at the first name. One “Anastasia” is enough! <Christian shrugs>

MARIA<laughing>: I see. Well, I can say that they seem to be two well-behaved babies.

<Cut to scenes of Christian playing with Mikey; Keri rocking Minnie to sleep; Anastasia playing an animated game of peek-a-boo with her son; Christian bouncing his daughter on his knee while she laughs gleefully>

AG: I’ll be the first to tell you that my children are blessed. They have a lot of people around them that love them—their mom and dad, two wonderful nannies, their grandparents, godparents, aunts, uncles, and friends… We have quite the village for these two.

MARIA: You realize that you’ll probably come under scrutiny from traditional moms because of your nannies.

AG: Even traditional moms have babysitters. Mine just happen to live with me. We have two children and there are two of us. We both work, so we need help. Even if we had one child, we’d still need help. You saw the nursery at Helping Hands—my children go to work with me every day. I personally come and feed them at lunchtime and I check on them several times during the day. There’s also a day care at Grey House. So, if I need to spend the day there, my babies can come with me there. My nannies are at my disposal, so if I decide that I want the babies to stay home, they can stay in the comfort of their own space. I won’t allow people to guilt-trip me about having help with my twins when I have such a busy life.

MARIA: Christian, how did you feel about having nannies to help with the children.

CG: I suggested it. While there was a condition with both of us that nannies wouldn’t raise our children, we both agreed that we would need help. It would be unrealistic not to seek that help since we readily had the resources. Mrs. Taylor had already been in my employ for several years and was delighted to help out, and Ms. Illidge has been a friend of the family since before we were married. Her qualifications stem back to before we even met her. Circumstances landed her in our laps and we couldn’t be happier with the outcome.

We get to spend time with our children, watch them grow, love and nurture them without having to worry if they’re in good hands when we’re not around. Make no mistake, my wife and I raise our children. Our nannies are back-up.

MARIA<nodding>: Very well said, Mr. Grey. So, Ana, on the topic of parenting, Ray Steele… he’s adopting you. <Anastasia nods> You’re 28. <She nods again> Why now?

AG: It’s long overdue. My father has done the honorable thing by me for as long as I can remember—even years before. He’s the only father I’ve ever known, and he’s never made me feel unloved or unwanted. Whenever he was able, he was always there for me.

MARIA: Whenever he was able? <Anastasia sighs>

AG: I won’t smear anybody because it’ll get me nowhere, but my father and I were kept apart for a long time. We did what we could to stay in touch, but it was hard.  I know my father. If he had the foresight that he does now, if he had any idea that forever was not really forever, he would have adopted me when I was a child—before all the hardships and nightmares that I suffered because we were forcefully ripped apart and kept from each other.

MARIA: You’re talking about your mother.

AG: I’m talking about my childhood. Daddy adopting me now is closure for us both on so many levels, I can’t begin to explain them all to you. Everybody has their theories and some of them are correct, but the bottom line is that I love my Daddy and he loves me. We just want to make it official.

MARIA: Ray has a son of his own. You’ll have a brother soon.

AG: I already have a brother. The adoption is just a formality.

MARIA NARRATING: As you can see, the Greys have a strong and enviable sense of family. Christian is fiercely loyal to those he loves, and Ana makes it no secret that she’ll go to the wall for the ones she holds dear.

On the flipside of this wholesome, loving family picture is a fearsome twosome with a hidden talent, so to speak. We’re here at the West Coast Armory where Christian and Anastasia have decided to showcase yet another aspect of their personalities. I could easily see Christian in this setting, but I was surprised by what I discovered about Anastasia.

So, here’s this tiny woman in black jeans and a black, long-sleeved muscle shirt with a three-foot ponytail hanging out of a fitted baseball cap looking every bit a miniature SWAT member in safety gear for the shooting range and some of these firearms are bigger than she is.

MARIA: Not that any of us would really understand, Ana, but tell us what you’re working with here.

AG: This is a Mossberg 500, 12-gauge, pump-action shotgun. Now this is normally a pretty big gun…

MARIA: It’s still a pretty big gun compared to you.

AG<laughing>: Well, not as big, because it’s been modified with the Mossberg Flex system. In laymen’s terms, the huge deer hunting stock has been replaced with a pistol grip, the larger barrel swapped out for a shorter barrel and the camo fore-end removed and replaced with this tactical fore-end, which is better used for home defense. Trust me, in its original form, this gun is probably as long as I am tall. Now, the pistol grip takes about four inches off the length of the gun, and it makes it easier to handle. You can hold it comfortably in your hand and shoot from the hip.

A double-barrel does a lot of damage and the recoil can be really insane. I took a dare once and pulled both triggers of a double-barrel when I was about 22 and dislocated my shoulder. Got a pretty nasty cut on my hand, too.

Where a double-barrel allows you to shoot two rounds, you would have to pop out the shells and manually reload. A pump action, on the other hand, allows you to pop out the shell and reload immediately, which is crucial in an emergency. So, more rounds, more opportunities to hit your target, but I rarely miss.

<Cut to scenes of Anastasia in gear and goggles, pumping the Mossberg and hitting the targets every time>

MARIA NARRATING: She’s definitely proficient with this firearm and with others as we discover during the course of the day. Though Christian’s an excellent shot <cut to Christian in goggles firing off his Glock and shredding a target several feet away while Maria continues to narrate>, I was quite stunned to discover that Ana is a more precise marksman than her husband. While he truly decimated his target, enough to strike fear into any aggressor, Ana put twelve rounds nearly perfectly into the same bullet hole.

<Shot of Anastasia standing with feet apart, wearing headphones and goggles and firing her Glock rapidly in front of her>

That’s impressive.

Me, on the other hand, not so much.

<Cut to Maria in gear and Anastasia showing her how to hold and fire the Mossberg>

I’m proud to say that I hit one target, but that was after firing off about nine rounds and taking at least 10 seconds to ‘pump’ the gun after each discharge. I think I’ll leave this to the experts.

<Cut to Anastasia and Maria standing on the open gun range>

MARIA: Now, Ana, with gun violence on the rise, you won’t have immunity from the criticism that you’re promoting acts of violence by glorifying the use of weapons. How do you respond to that?

AG: I can’t be held accountable for the behavior of every gun owner in America. My father is a Marine. He trained me in knife throwing, self-defense, and the proper way to handle and discharge a firearm, as you just saw. I’m responsible with my guns. They’re well-maintained and kept under lock and key when they’re not on my person. I’m adequately licensed to carry my weapons and they’re all legally registered. I’m not contributing to the wretched state of affairs where illegal guns make it into the hands of lunatics or, worse yet, children, and mass or accidental shootings occur.

MARIA: Yes, but what about your children?

AG: What about them? As I said, our firearms are always under lock and key when they’re not on our persons, so my children are in no danger of our guns. And for the record, when they’re of an appropriate age, they’ll learn to shoot, too.

MARIA: There are those who are going to say that the safest gun is no gun at all. Look at the countries who have successfully banned guns or have very strict gun-control laws. Violent deaths in those countries are exponentially lower than here in the United States and sometimes nearly, if not completely, nonexistent.

AG: To be honest with you, Maria, I would love to live in a country and an environment where this wasn’t necessary. I would love to raise my children in a society where they didn’t have to worry about one day having to defend themselves or their home with a deadly, projectile weapon. Unfortunately, I have no intention of moving to the UK, Australia, Japan, or Germany anytime soon. It’s a lovely concept, but unfortunately not feasible for my family at this time. We live in a country where we not only exercise our constitutional right to bear arms, but also—unfortunately—some of us abuse it. I’m not one of those people who abuse that right, and I will not be held accountable for those who do. As for those countries who have successfully implemented gun-control laws—bravo! You got it right. As for America, I don’t know what to say about that. I’m not speaking for the entire country, but in my mind’s eye, I can see law-abiding citizens turning in their firearms while gang members and criminals retain theirs, leaving us vulnerable and defenseless… a country even more gripped in fear than we already are. It would be a 24/7/365 version of The Purge. It’s sad and unfortunate that guns fall into the wrong hands, but I feel that it would be completely counterproductive to remove guns from the right hands, and that’s my opinion.

MARIA: That’s a lovely speech, Ana, but you know that you’re still going to come under fire, don’t you?

AG: Let ‘em come! I use my firearms for recreation on the gun range, or for self-defense, and that’s all. When they see me brandishing my gun in public or using it for any illegal means, then I may feel some conviction from naysayers. In the meantime, I’m exercising my second amendment right to bear arms in America and I apologize, but I’m not going to try to sway to opinions of the portion of viewing public that feels like I shouldn’t be able to do so. When and if America bans guns, I as a law-abiding citizen will turn in my firearms. Until that day, I will continue to take advantage of my right to be a responsible gun owner. Those who don’t like it and want to put me in judgement, c’est la vie, I can’t hear you.

MARIA NARRATING: Very powerful words. And, there you have it. If you’re looking for a scapegoat, you won’t find it here. Mrs. Grey stands firm on her rights and refuses to be held accountable for the unscrupulous acts of others. You have to admire her gumption.

<Back at the Crossing in the family room>

MARIA: So, Christian, I’ll direct this to you. If you wanted one thing to be a major take-away from this segment, what would that one thing be?

CG<sighing heavily>: Good grief, we’ve covered so much, I don’t know that there could be one takeaway.

For starters, it needs to be known that I and my family will no longer be a target, not that we ever were. In terms of our physical well-being, my wife and I are both very well-trained in self-defense. In addition, we are both licensed to carry concealed weapons. This information is only pertinent should you get past the several military-trained men that protect us.

Now, we’ve had other attacks on us—financial, emotional, attacks on our character, things of that nature. These attacks will no longer be tolerated either. In the end, we’re still just people. We just want to live our lives.

I’ve worked hard to become the man that I am. Nobody handed me anything. I didn’t have a trust fund from Daddy to start my business. I had a loan that—like any other businessman—I had to repay, with interest. I took that loan and parlayed it into a billion-dollar corporation and somehow, that’s a bad thing. Well, too bad. I’m sorry that hurts the feelings of people who for whatever reason think I don’t deserve what I have or I owe them something. I owe no one but creditors, the IRS, and my family to take care of them. Know that anybody who comes at me, my family, or anything that I’ve worked for and love, I’m coming back with both barrels loaded.

My wife and I were a chance meeting. We were the last person on each other’s radar. Her formal impression of me was that I was an egotistical, narcissistic bastard and she put that in writing, so let me tell you. If she was trying to woo or trap a billionaire, that’s a very strange way to do it. I’m ashamed to admit that my first intention was to destroy her. As you can see, fate had other plans for us.

Once and for all, she was not ever and never will be a gold-digger. She didn’t “make it big” when she met me. She was financially well-off before she became Anastasia Grey.

Hopefully, this answers those questions of the prying minds and the ignorant, unless you just choose to remain ignorant. And if you see us out having dinner, at the park with our kids, at the grocery store, leave us alone. I’m not the President of the United States and we deserve some kind of little bit of a normal life. I get that you’re curious, but we don’t deserve to be abused because of your fascination.

MARIA: I couldn’t agree more. I have to say that when we first discussed doing this interview, I didn’t know exactly what to expect. I mean, you have your theories and so you prepare yourself for what you think may happen, who you think you may meet, or who may be presented to you because everybody has a person or persona that they present to everyone else, but the real part of themselves, they keep private. We often shield the real person from the public, so that you really don’t know who you’re dealing with in front of the camera. But I will have to say that it’s been a pleasure speaking with the two of you, getting to know your family and your children, getting to see what you do on a day to day basis and being able to show the viewing audience that it’s not necessarily what they think. It’s really hard to humanize someone, especially when all you’ve ever seen of them or known of them is dollar signs. When all you know of someone is money, that’s all you see is money—you don’t see the human being.

<Slow motion news clips play of every scene Maria describes>

We saw the protector in full glory carrying his damsel from the hospital, her face shielded by a jacket after she had suffered the brutal beating during her kidnapping.

We can probably name every sacrificial lamb whose career has fallen at Anastasia’s hands.

We were all broken hearted when Christian announced that Anastasia was “the one” at the first press conference we had ever seen him in addressing his personal life.

And each milestone—and heartbreak—since then, we’ve been with you every step of the way… in the trials, with the announcement of the pregnancy, with the Faces of Abuse campaign…

From the fairytale wedding to the mourning of a loss of a patriarch, we’ve all felt your pain, your tears, your happiness and your frustration.

<Cut back to Anastasia and Christian holding their children, and Maria looking into the camera>

So, I humbly thank you very much for allowing me to introduce and present to the world the human beings that are Christian and Anastasia Grey. Thank you, and goodnight.

<Fade to black>


~~love and handcuffs

Raising Grey: Chapter 57—A Whole Lotta Doors Openin’

Many of you may not know this, but I lost the use of my right hand for about a week. It was a terrifying experience, but believe it or not, my biggest concern (not the only concern, but the biggest) was that I wouldn’t be able to write anymore. I soon found out that wouldn’t be an issue even without the use of my right hand, but thank God, 95% of the function has come back. Thank you to those of you who knew and expressed concern. I really appreciate it.

So, I may have been a bit unclear in the last chapter. Christian wants Ana to redo his office at home, not at GEH. He was using his office at GEH as an example, because it has glass walls and is mostly white and there’s a lot of light in there. His office at home is very dark, very oxford, and very cave-like, and he wants her to brighten it up like she did hers—but maybe not as bright.

This is a work of 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 it 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 57—A Whole Lotta Doors Openin’

CHRISTIAN

“Have you heard anything from your ex?” I ask Harmony, knowing but not revealing that Butterfly paid him a visit last week.

“No,” she admits, “which is a good thing. We would only fight since we have nothing else to discuss. I’ve got enough on my plate these days. The housekeeper and the cook said that Roger tried to call and get some information on what was going on.”

“What did they tell him?” I inquire.

“Nothing,” she says. “They don’t like him either.” I nod.

“Why doesn’t that surprise me?” I say. My phone buzzes and it’s a text from Lanie.

**Burtie’s stoked about the car. Sweet ride! Where did you find it and how much? **

“Lanie’s texting me about the T-bird,” I tell Dad. He frowns.

Lanie?” I raise my head.

“Nollie.” His mouth forms the “ah” word.

“I keep forgetting.” I turn my attention back to my phone.

“Excuse me for a moment,” I say as I shoot a text back to her.

**It’s free. It was Pops’ car and Uncle Herman and the brothers want to give it to Burtie. **

I’ve already excused myself, so I step out of the conference room and dial Lanie’s number.

“Does it run?” she asks when she answers the phone.

“Look at it!” I reply. “What do you think?”

“Who’s going to drive it out here?”

“I don’t want to put cross-country mileage on a car like that. He can if he wants to, but we won’t. We’ll have it shipped with the others.”

“Others?” she asks.

“There are three more—all classics. Dad’s getting one and Uncle Herman, so we’re shipping those two out here. The Mustang is staying in Detroit with Uncle Stan.” After a pause, she asks,

“So, they each got a car. I take it this was supposed to be my sperm-donor’s car.” I almost choke on air hearing her call Freeman her “sperm donor.”

“The brothers decided that this was the car that Freeman would have wanted the most,” I confirm.

“Stellar!” she exclaims “This is going to burn his butt so badly. Burtie will love that!”

“How is he doing?” I ask. She sighs.

“He’s better… still dealing with some anger and disappointment, and the scars don’t help. He’s scheduled to have the first of three reconstructive surgeries just after Thanksgiving. I suggested that he wait until after Christmas, but he just wants to get it done.”

“His father deserves to rot for that,” I seethe.

“On that, we agree, cousin,” she concurs.

“How’s Leo?” her tone changes immediately. I can almost see the sparkles in her eyes through the phone.

“Wonderful as always,” she exalts. “I don’t know how I ended up with such a wonderful man, but I’m glad I did. He’s looking out for Mom so well, and you know she’s still dealing with her feelings for my lecherous, no good, vicious, cheating father. I mean, really, it’s bad enough that he’s a horrible person all around and that he looked down on her, but to cheat on her, too? It’s probably best that I never see him again because I won’t be responsible for my actions.”

“Well, just stay out of Detroit. God knows I do,” I add. I see Al step off the elevator and I know it’s time to get back to Harmony.

“I’ve got a meeting to get back to. I’ll make arrangements for the shipping right away. Text me an address.”

“You got it.” We end the call as Al approaches.

“Chris,” he greets. “Let’s get this party started.”

“Do you know you’re the only person who regularly calls me Chris?” I say as we walk to the conference room.

Aunt Tina and her attorney are on Skype on a large monitor on the wall when we enter the room and Harmony is talking about the way the house is being run—how much more peaceful things are now that Roger is gone and how even the staff seems happier with Windsor.

“You can’t keep my butler,” I interject, and everyone chuckles a bit.

“Harmony will be making the decisions on the staff from now on,” Aunt Tina says. She looks at ease, more at ease than I’ve seen her in the last few days—probably because that dreadful buzzing isn’t in her ears anymore. “Christian, this is my attorney and old friend, Carl Richardson. Carl, this is a very close friend of my family, Christian Grey.”

“Mr. Grey, a real pleasure,” Richardson says. He’s a much older gentleman, obviously an Oxford blueblood or some other Ivy league type who only has clients like Aunt Tina, and not because he needs the money.

“The pleasure is mine, Mr. Richardson,” I reply. “You know Harmony, and if you haven’t met, this is my father Carrick Grey. He’ll be representing Harmony in the divorce.

“We’ve met,” Richardson replies. “In court… kicked my ass once or twice,” he jests.

“You’ve given me a run for my money, Carl,” Dad responds mirthfully. Whew! At least that relationship is cordial.

“And this is my friend and the head of my legal department, Allen Forsythe-Flemings.”

“Ah, new blood,” Richardson says. “Very nice to meet you, Mr. Forsythe-Flemings. I dabbled here and there in the law of the concrete jungle. How’s the corporate world these days?”

“Cutthroat as ever, Mr. Richardson,” Al replies, with a nod.

“I see no harm in dropping the formalities,” Richardson says. “We’re all on the same team. Is that okay with you gentlemen?” Al nods and I concur.

“Yes, sir, I think that would be just fine,” I reply.

“Good. Now, let’s get to the business at hand. I hope you all don’t mind, but I don’t mince words and Tina’s well aware of that. We’ve got quite a bit of ground to cover and not a lot of time to do it. Tina has five living children, including Harmony, 17 grand-children, and innumerable great-grandchildren because she hasn’t even met them all. Her parents and siblings have all passed on. She was diagnosed with cancer years ago and it became aggressive within the last 18 months. Since the diagnosis, she has seen each child once except for Harmony who kept in touch when she left home and eventually became her caretaker and Ilsa, who visited her twice, once to request a loan that she yet to repay.

“Tina doesn’t have much time left now. None of us know exactly how much, but she has made it clear that she wants to live these last days in comfort without having to worry about her assets.”

Harmony wipes a tear from her eye from the reference to Aunt Tina’s death and Tina nods gently, signaling Carl to continue.

“Her will is complete and will be filed with probate court after this meeting. Through a court injunction that will be served in the next three business days on each living sibling, none of Tina’s assets—money, jewelry, personal belongings, automobiles, etcetera—can be commandeered or claimed until the reading of the will, which will outline the proper distribution of the assets.”

“Smart move,” Allen interjects. Dad is nodding, too.

“What exactly does that mean… in laymen’s terms?” Harmony asks.

 meme“It means that once Tina passes, your sisters and brothers won’t be able to show up at the door and say, ‘I want my daddy’s records.’” Dad says. Harmony frowns.

“No, Dad,” I shake my head at him. Harmony would have absolutely no idea what that means.

“It means,” Allen says, stifling a laugh, “your brothers and sisters won’t be able to lay claim to any of your mother’s assets until the will tells them exactly what they’re getting without being held in contempt of court. It also means that you won’t be able to dispose of or claim anything that doesn’t have your name on it.”

“I’m… not really concerned about the stuff,” she says, her head down.

“But you will be once she’s gone,” Dad says. “Certain things will have significant sentimental value.” Harmony sighs and nods, never lifting her gaze. It’s clear that the very last thing she wants to discuss is where her mother’s material possessions will go once she passes away. This is the very reason she needs protection right now, because she’s clearly not going to protect herself.

“To expedite that process, the reading will be scheduled for two weeks after her passing since all affairs are already in order except one… the house.”

Tina made reference to the house being left to Harmony, so I don’t know how that could be considered a loose end at this point.

“The house is one of her assets, and by strict interpretation, Harmony would have to leave until after the will was read. Tina has already expressed that the house will go to Harmony. As such, I will be filing a quitclaim deed today, turning the house over to Harmony immediately.” Now, Harmony raises her head.

“What?” she asks, stunned. “Mom?”

“Don’t argue with me, child,” Aunt Tina says softly. “The house is going to be yours when I’m gone. If you take it now, they can’t come and put you out.”

“But Mom…” Harmony protests weakly, “… your house…”

Your house,” Aunt Tina corrects her. “Are you gonna put me out, Baby?”

“Moooom!” Harmony says, appalled.

“Then it’s still my house as long as I’m living. When I’m gone, what use do I have for it? Can you tell me with total certainty that your beloved siblings won’t try to come and put you out?”

Of course, she can’t. And just like that, the fight is over.

“How long does it take for a quitclaim deed to file with the county?” I ask.

“Usually about a week,” Allen announces. “If there’s no other claim to the property like a lien or a mortgage…” He looks at Carl who shakes his head.

“No one else has any claim to my home but my dearly departed husband, who paid for that house with his blood, sweat, and tears, for me… and my ungrateful lot,” Aunt Tina laments.

“Well, then, you should be able to go get a copy of your deed in about a week,” Allen tells Harmony. She nods in resignation. It’s going to be necessary, or her siblings will steamroll her.

“What if her sisters and brothers try to bully their way in anyway?” I ask. “They can claim that they don’t know…”

“I can almost guarantee that Tina’s children will all be calling me within the next 4 – 5 days,” Carl says. “Those court orders that each of them will be receiving will direct them to contact me. They all know who I am, so they’ll know this is legitimate. When they call, I’ll substantiate what the court orders say and simultaneously inform them that Harmony is now the owner of the house. I can’t guarantee they won’t show up on the doorstep, though.”

“I’ll take care of that,” I say.

“Also,” Carl continues, “Tina will be prosecuting Roger for embezzlement and misappropriation of funds as well as a civil suit for invasion of privacy. We’re hoping that your team can determine if the audio/visual equipment that you located lead to recordings that can be used in court.”

“If they haven’t been destroyed, we’ll find them,” I assure Carl.

“Can I get in on that? He invaded my privacy, too,” Harmony asks.

“Well, the prosecution will definitely need you,” Carl says. “We’ll be taking Tina’s deposition as soon as possible as these things have a way of getting stuck in the legal system for a while, and her testimony…” he trails off. Aunt Tina will most likely be dead by the time this thing gets to court.

“Bearing that in mind,” I ask, “won’t the civil trial have to wait until after the criminal trial?” Please, understand what I’m asking without me having to spell it out for you.

“The estate will continue with the suit,” he says, and nothing more. Thank you!

“Where is Roger now?” Dad asks.

“I have my team keeping an eye on him,” I reply. “He lived in the house, so he’s just holed up at a hotel right now.” Dad purses his lips.

“Didn’t you tell me that he was in cahoots with the husband?” Dad asks.

“That’s what he said,” I confirm.

“But we need proof,” Dad concludes.

“Roger’s word won’t be enough, but it might get a warrant to search the guy’s house,” Carl says.

“That’s a slippery slope, fellas,” Allen interrupts. “Invasion of privacy is tort law, not criminal. We can’t get a search warrant for something like that.”

“We can if we can convince a judge that we think they were in this whole thing together,” Carl says. “If we can get proof that he knew that house was bugged, you leave it to the court to determine the level of guilt. We just get the evidence. It’s like raiding someone’s house for drugs and finding illegal firearms or some other illegal activity. You don’t ignore the evidence for one case because it doesn’t point to the other.” Good point. Another pin to put in my day.

Get the cars to the west coast.
Talk to Jason about full security for the Franklin house.
Find out where the footage is for the surveillance Roger was doing.
Find some way to tie Kenneth into the gig.

“Harmony, when is your next court date if Kenneth doesn’t sign the papers?” Carl asks.

“Just after Christmas,” she says, and she sounds utterly exhausted. It’s not even lunchtime yet.

“That would definitely be a load off if he would just grow some balls and let go,” Dad says. Harmony shakes her head.

“Not likely,” she laments. “I’ll probably be stuck with this fucker in one way or another for the rest of my life! Sorry, Mom.”

“No apologies necessary,” Aunt Tina says. “He’s an asshole. I knew something was wrong when you brought him home.”

“I really should’ve listened to you,” Harmony says.

“Don’t worry about it, baby,” Aunt Tina says. “You live, and you learn. Learn from this, baby… please.” Harmony nods, wiping another tear.

We bang out a few more issues that must be sorted before Aunt Tina and Carl disconnect to put this operation into effect. I have Andrea summon Jason, Alex, and Barney to the conference room once that part of the meeting is over. Harmony still looks a bit stunned.

“You okay, Harmony?” Dad asks. She shakes her head as if shaking off a thought, then nods with her eyes closed.

“I’m not dense,” Harmony says. “I knew Mom was going to leave me some money—we all knew. I was just going to buy a little house somewhere and just be happy. I had no idea… the Big House… Jesus. What am I going to do with all that room?”

“I’m sure you’ll think of something,” I tell her. “Something that will make you happy and that will make Tina proud.” She doesn’t look convinced. “Why don’t I order us some lunch?” I add, pressing the button to summon Andrea once more.

“I can’t stay,” Harmony says, rising from her seat. “I have an appointment in about twenty minutes and then, I have class this afternoon.”

“Appointment?” I ask concerned. “Is everything okay?”

“Yes, everything’s fine,” she assures. “I’m starting therapy today.” She raises her eyebrow and twists her lips in a knowing manner at me. I immediately remember our conversation about her overly amorous behavior with me and the need to talk to someone about her somewhat automated responses to attention.

“Ah, good on you. I won’t keep you, then, but I will tell you that security is going to be increased at your house and it may include a thorough inspection of the grounds, so I’ll have Taylor get in touch with you.” She nods as she puts her purse on her shoulder.

“Thanks again, for everything,” she says as she turns to my father. “Carrick, I’ll of course be in touch.”

“Drive carefully,” Dad says as Harmony leaves the conference room.

“I just talked to Lanie before the meeting,” I tell Dad. “Burtie’s really excited about the car, so we’ll arrange for them to be transported within the next few days.”

“Sounds like a plan,” Dad says, rising from his seat as well. “I have to be going, too. I have a lunch date with my wife and then I have court this afternoon.”

“Will you guys be coming by to watch the special with us tonight?” I ask.

“I think we’re going to sit this one out, son,” my father says. “I think I want to spend some time alone with my lady this evening.” I nod.

“Duly noted, Dad. I’m sure Butterfly will understand.” I shake his hand and he leaves just as Jason, Alex, and Andrea are entering.

“Andrea, can you order us a lunch spread from the deli? A tray or two and an assortment of sandwiches—any preferences, guys?” I ask the other gentlemen in the room.

“I’m not picky,” Alex says.

“I can do anything from the deli,” Allen pipes in.

“Me, too,” Jason concurs. “Make sure they throw some corned beef in there.” I nod at Andrea and she leaves.

“So, we’ve got some marching orders, gentlemen,” I say, swiping my phone. “Tina’s attorney is securing injunctions to serve on her children to keep them from picking the house clean after she dies. She’s also deeding the house to Harmony with a quitclaim… like immediately.” I fire off a text to Smalls to get the Coup, Fairlane, and T-Bird moving out west to Seattle and California respectively. Uncle Herman will have to handle the titles once they get here.

“We’re going to need to get a lay of the land as soon as possible,” I continue. “Once those vultures get a whiff of what’s happening, they’re going to descend on Washington like fighter jets. Alex, if you can do some kind of quick family tree for me, that’ll be great. I mean, quick and dirty. We’ll do background checks later and only if needed.” Alex is nodding and typing into the phone. “And Alex, I need that family tree to go as far as possible—any adults, including great-grandchildren, nieces and nephews, whatever you can find quickly.”

“When you say quickly, how quickly do you mean?” he asks.

“I’d like an initial report in 24 hours,” I say. He nods.

“That won’t be much, but it’ll be a start,” he replies.

“Lay of the land,” Jason says. “We’re doing full house security coverage?” I nod.

“Nobody in or out without permission, just like Grey Crossing,” I confirm.

“Do they have any kind of monitored security system?” he asks. “We didn’t check for that when we were there.”

“I would say, ‘No,’ but you’re going to find out what they have and tell me what you can do within a few days and then within a longer span of time, but we need to get some tighter protection over there soon.” He sighs and looks at Alex.

“Any chance you can get me a floorplan of that house?” he asks. Alex sighs heavily.

God to the rescue,” he says and starts typing into his phone. I wouldn’t go that far, Alex. On cue, Barney and his second come strolling into the room.

“Good, just who I wanted to see,” I say, turning my attention to Barney. “What information have you gotten on the devices that we retrieved from the Franklin home?”

“Not much, sir,” he says. “Short-range stuff that looks like the data may have been going to a cell phone or somewhere in the Cloud. I would say the Cloud with the number of devices that we found, but to where, that’s harder to say since the signals aren’t active anymore.” Shit! We won’t be able to get any information without getting it directly from the source.

“There’s nothing we can find out?” I ask.

“The feed is gone, sir,” he says. “And this stuff is so low tech, there’s no guarantee we could have traced the feed even before we killed it.” I sigh.

“This guy is going to get away with it,” I lament.

“Not if we shake him down,” Jason says. I shake my head.

“That information can’t be used in court,” I say. He frowns.

“What are you trying to do?” he asks.

“Criminal prosecution for embezzlement and misappropriation of funds, civil for invasion of privacy,” I reply.

“Then yes you can,” he says. “The rules for chain of evidence for civil court are much less stringent than those for criminal court. Ask him,” he says, pointing to Allen. I look up at Allen.

“What?” he asks when the room falls silent.

“Pay attention, oh head of legal,” I say sarcastically. “Chain of evidence for civil court? Shakedown Roger for information—do we have to go through all this again?”

“I’m sorry… Christian… I…” Something’s wrong. I just noted that he only calls me Chris, and now Christian?

“What is it?” I ask.

“I just got a text from Chocolate…” Yeah, something’s wrong. I know who Chocolate is, but he doesn’t call him that in public. “He… somebody’s died. I don’t… I can’t… I need to call him…”

“Go! Go! Use my office,” I say, shooing him out of the room. He won’t move. I stand to my feet and walk over to him, nearly lifting him out of the chair.

“Go, now,” I say, my voice softer. “Find out what’s wrong.” I gently usher him to the door. “Andrea!” I call as I open the door. She comes around the corner and I gesture to Allen who’s walking slowly not taking his eyes off his phone. I close the door behind them once he gets to Andrea and turn back to Jason.

“I guess I’ll have to take your word for that one,” I tell him.

We come up with a plan for security for Tina’s house and I call Windsor to get Tina prepared for the invasion. Jason will have the team do a thorough sweep of the entire house based on the plans that Alex was able to secure and identify rooms that we didn’t hit when we were looking for bugs. It’s a big house and we’re hoping that we may have missed some that might still have an active signal, but the team is fairly certain that we got them all.

“Where’s that asshole now?” I ask, chomping on olives, coleslaw and deli sandwiches.

“He’s been at the Fairmont all this time,” Jason says. “Living with Mrs. Franklin, he hasn’t had any expenses. So, he can certainly afford it.”

“Not to mention he’s been skimming off her money all this time,” I add.

“Uh, yeah, there is that,” he says.

“We need to arrange a conversation with him, but it needs to be private.”

“I don’t know how we can,” he says. “He’s not in the house anymore, so we don’t have that kind of control over him. Short of kidnapping him, I’m not sure what we can do.”

“We need to see if we can get some more information from him,” I say. “There has to be a way and we need to find it.” There’s a knock at the door and Andrea sticks her head in.

“A message for you, sir,” she says.

“Is it private?” I ask.

“No, sir. It’s from Mr. Forsythe,” she says stepping into the room. “He said that he had to leave due to a family emergency and he’ll touch bases with you later.” I nod.

“Thanks, Andrea,” I say. She nods and leaves the room.

“Who do you think passed away?” Jason asks, and Barney’s interest is piqued.

“I can’t even begin to speculate,” I reply. I should probably let Butterfly know that there will be some news from Allen soon, but I don’t know what exactly.


ANASTASIA

“My husband has given me the daunting task of redoing his office,” I say to Marilyn after we’ve looked in on the volunteers and how they’re doing with Courtney.

“You’re probably the best candidate,” she says. “Nobody knows him better than you.”

“Have you seen his office?” I complain. “It’s like the Oxford Black Hole!” Marilyn tries to suppress her giggle.

“No,” she snickers, “I can’t say that I have.”

“Dark brown marble flooring, huge oak desk with black leather chairs, imposing bookshelves all around the room with wood darker than mine, dark wood ornate deep tray ceilings and a huge marble fireplace—also dark—sitting between the only two small windows in the room… small compared to mine. He even has black-out glass on the French doors that lead to his den!”

“Yikes,” she replies. “Was he trying to hide?”

“I don’t know, but he looks in my office, sees the ‘light,’ and suddenly, he wants to see it in his office, too.” Marilyn frowns.

“He wants his office to go from ‘Oxford dark’ to yours?” she asks, astonished. My sentiments exactly.

“No, he claims he doesn’t want it as bright as mine but not as dark as it is. Then, he tells me I have carte blanche. That means, ‘You do all the work and then if I don’t like it, I’ll keep it for a while because you did it, then change it when I’m ready.’ Bullshit. Tell me what you want in that room. And if you can’t tell me what you want, tell me what you don’t want, or I’m not touching a thing in that space. It can stay Oxford Black from now on.” Marilyn laughs.

“Are you sure you’re not pregnant?” she jibes. I look over at her.

“Don’t start, Mare,” I warn. “It’s a tender topic for you, so I haven’t approached it, but I haven’t forgotten about it.” She purses her lips.

“Point taken,” she says, with no malice. “You have Ebony Carson arriving in about fifteen minutes, and Jewel Lawson later this afternoon…” she says, drawing our attention to the interviews this afternoon and quickly changing the subject. I look at Ebony’s resume. She’s way too qualified for a job babysitting preschoolers and babies, but you never know what someone’s story is. This is why I agreed to interview her. I want to get in her head, see what the deal is and why she’s looking for a job beneath her skill set. Depending on the circumstance, we may be able to put her knowledge and abilities to use elsewhere.

Grace walks into my office as Marilyn and I are preparing for the interview. We agreed to have them here since my office is bigger. She falls onto one of the sofas.

“You look tired,” I say. “It’s barely past lunchtime.

“Just weary today,” she says. “It could be the whole menopausal thing… you know symptoms come and go at will.” I raise my brow.

“You can call it a day if you want,” I tell her. “Marilyn, Courtney, and I can handle the interviews and you can go home and have a bubble bath and a glass of wine, try to relax… maybe that’ll help?” I suggest. She sighs heavily.

“I’ll do the first interview and see how I feel,” she says. “Maybe this will pass. If it doesn’t, I think I’ll take that bubble bath.” I smile and put my hand on her shoulder.

“Your health is most important, Grace,” I remind her.

Ebony is delightful. She’s bubbly, knowledgeable, resourceful, and admits that she’s hiding from an abusive ex-boyfriend in prison back east. She blanches when we mention the background check. I tell her that it’s customary for all volunteers and potential employees, and she expresses her concern that it may tip her ex off to where she is.

“If he’s in prison, how can he hurt you?” I ask.

He’s in prison,” she says. “His… colleagues aren’t. I don’t know who’s watching and waiting for something to show up and tell them where I am.” I sigh.

“We deal with this kind of thing all the time,” I tell her. “If anything happens, just let us know. That is why we’re here in the first place.”

She sighs heavily and agrees to the background check, but I can tell that she’s not totally convinced. I ask for the name of her ex so that we can be on the lookout, but she doesn’t want to reveal it.

“It’s going to be difficult looking for potential threats if we don’t know what we’re looking for,” I tell her. She shrugs uncertainly.

“Can I think about that?” she asks. “That’s just… a can of worms that I so don’t want to open.” She drops her head. “This happens every time I apply for a job somewhere. I try to tell the truth because I want people to be careful in their checks. The moment they hear that I may have trouble following me, they suddenly lose interest. I have a degree in child psychology that I can’t use because I have a psycho ex in prison in New York who may or may not have someone following me. It’s doubly hard because I’m black, so I’ve already got something to prove. I could be a school teacher, a guidance counselor—there’s so many things that I could do, but people are afraid to hire me when they find out about Ge… my ex-boyfriend.”

That was enough of a slip and I hope Marilyn caught it and wrote it down, because I may not remember. Ge-something in her background—I’ll have to ask Christian the best way to handle this.

“We are a center for at-risk families, Ebony. Give me a chance to see what we can do.” She smiles, but I can tell that it’s forced.

“Yeah… sure,” she says, and I can’t tell what’s hiding in her tone. Disbelief? Defeat? Frustration? I have no idea. Nonetheless, we end the interview and shake hands before she leaves.

“What do you think is behind all that?” I ask.

“I don’t know, but she certainly has a past,” Grace says. “What’s exactly with this ex-boyfriend that she came all the way across the country to get away from him? And what colleagues would be looking for her? Is he in a gang? Drug affiliated? The mob?” I shrug.

“I hope that’s what the background check will tell us,” I say. “Did you catch the slip of the boyfriend’s name?” I ask Marilyn.

“All I caught was ‘Ge,’” she confirms. “That could be anything, Bosslady.” I sigh.

“I don’t know how to proceed with this,” I admit. “Is it too complicated for us to get into? I mean, isn’t this what we do—help at-risk women and families make a fresh start? We’d take her on if she showed up running from said boyfriend as a resident… why not as an applicant for a job?”

“Why does it sound like you’re trying to convince yourself?” Grace asks.

“Because I am,” I admit quietly. “I’m not ashamed to say that I’m not as fearless as I once was. I’m battling some new insecurities—not about myself, but about situations and circumstances. This thing could have two many outcomes to name, ranging from nothing at all to complete and total disaster. Do I step out on faith and react like the fearless woman I was before my life took a serious left turn, or do I err on the side of caution and run away from this situation admitting that we may be biting off more than we can chew with a psychotic boyfriend hiding in the wings?” Grace sighs.

“You’ve got a point there,” she says. “We haven’t taken an oath to help every wayward soul that crosses our doorstep, you know.”

“Okay, but she came to us for a job. Would we react this way if she came to us for help?”

“Probably not, but we would limit how deeply we got involved in her situation. Hiding someone out and providing them a safe haven until we can help get them to a better place is one thing. Digging into their past and possibly opening Pandora’s box is something else entirely.”

I seriously don’t know what to do. My instincts are going in all sorts of directions.

Help this poor girl—at least give her a chance.
Avoid this situation—you have no idea where it’s going to lead.
Could helping her lead danger to the Center?
Who is Ge and why won’t she at least give us a name?
Is this some small-time drug dealer or neighborhood gangster that just has her scared to death or was this some kind of high-profile case?

I immediately type her name into Google to see if anything comes up.

Ebony Carson.

LinkedIn profiles, Facebook profiles, Instagram profiles—more than I can count, but nothing that comes up that could probably be attached to some large gang case or mob case. I don’t know what I expected to find typing a name that common into Google.

“I’ll have to see what Christian can find on her. Then I’ll decide if we should dig deeper, run with what we have and hire her, or leave well enough alone and drop the whole thing. It’s too… open to make a decision right now. Fair enough?” Grace nods.

“It seems logical. I can’t give a definitive answer right now myself with so many unanswered questions.” She stands. “Can you handle the other interviews? This one was a bit more than I was prepared for and I think I’m going to take you up on that bubble-bath suggestion.”

“Yes, by all means, go take care of yourself,” I encourage her. She nods.

“I’m afraid that means we probably won’t be at the house for the viewing party. I know I was the one who suggested it in the first place…”

“Think nothing of it,” I tell her. “It was a good idea and I’m glad you did suggest it. I’m sorry you won’t be able to join us, but I understand. Go home. Rest.” She nods and leaves without another word. Before I can catch my breath from the huge indecision set before me, my phone comes alive with Love All the Hurt Away. It’s melancholy when I hear that song now. I waited so long to hear it while he was in Madrid that I almost didn’t assign it to him again when I got the new phone. I’m considering changing the ringtone to something else, then I realize that I’ve pondered the situation for too long and I better answer before he hangs up.

“Hello?”

“Butterfly are you busy?” he sounds in earnest.

“Between interviews. What’s up?”

“I just thought you should know. Allen left here about half an hour or so ago, I’m not sure. He was very distracted during a meeting and said that he got a text from James about somebody dying.”

“Somebody dying?” I ask, sitting straight up. “Who died?”

“I don’t know,” he says. “He went to my office for some privacy and then he left. We were still wrapping up details about Tina and Harmony’s situation and he wasn’t even paying attention.”

“Well, I don’t have any missed calls, so he hasn’t called me yet. He didn’t give you any clue who had passed away?”

“No, he just said that James said someone died.” I don’t know what to do here. If he hasn’t called me yet, he’s either deep in whatever he has found out, or he hasn’t found out anything yet. Should I call him and find out what’s going on?

“I just told you so that you wouldn’t be blindsided when he calls you. I think you should wait for his call. He’s probably trying to get details as we speak,” he says as if reading my mind.

“He has until I’m done with this next interview and then I’m calling him. That’s what friends do, Christian,” I inform him. He’s silent for a moment.

“Okay.” And that’s all he says.

“While I have you on the line, I need some guidance.”

“Really?” I can almost see him perking up on the other end of the phone.

“Yes. I’ve sent over some information on candidates to Alex for background checks. One of them is for a young lady named Ebony Carson…”

“Ouch. That’s a somewhat common name. He’s going to get a thousand hits on that name.”

“Well, he’s got a date of birth and a social security number. Here’s my dilemma. She’s hiding from a psycho boyfriend in jail in New York. She’s afraid for us to proceed too deeply into her past as our prying may tip off her ex and his ‘colleagues,’ as she put it, as to her current location. I tried to get some information on the ex, but all I got was that he’s currently incarcerated and his name starts with ‘Ge’ like ‘G,’ ‘E,” and I only got that because she nearly slipped and said his name. She doesn’t want us to have that information, either.”

Well, she’s going to get a thorough background check and this guy may come up as a person of interest anyway.”

“I hope so,” I admit. “I don’t want to bring any trouble down on the Center, but neither Grace nor I am sure where to go with this one. Of course, we’re a Center to assist at risk women and families, but we don’t want to bite off more than we can chew by inadvertently welcoming in a gangland snitch or something and end up bringing down the wrath of Al Capone or some shit.”

“Don’t take any unnecessary chances, Butterfly,” he warns. “I know you want to do good, but you can’t save the world.”

“I’m not trying to save the world, Christian. I just want to make sure that I’m not turning away someone that needs our help who can really be a great asset to us at the same time. I also don’t want to invite danger into our little safe haven here.”

“I understand both of those… the latter more than the former. I say err on the side of caution—that’s always my motto.”

“But… once again, I don’t want to see the Boogeyman where he’s not there.” Christian falls silent.

“Yes, there is that,” he concurs. “Why don’t we wait and see what Alex comes up with. The guy could just be some small-time hood that has her scared shitless and she just doesn’t want him to know where she is.” I nod as if he can see me.

“I hope you’re right. I’ll wait and see what Alex says. By the way, we’ll probably be two short for the viewing party. Your mom left a few minutes ago. She wasn’t feeling very well.”

“Hmm… Dad already told me that they weren’t going to be there, but he said so much earlier. He said he just wanted to spend some quality time with his wife.”

“Well, I hope she feels better by the time he’s looking for that special moment. She was kind of worn down when she left.”

“Are you sure she wasn’t just setting you up to ditch tonight so that she wouldn’t feel bad about it?” he asks.

“I don’t think so,” I respond. “It’s not impossible, but she was looking a little worse for wear and I suggested that she leave. She insisted on sitting in on Ebony’s interview to see if the feeling passed, but it didn’t. She said that the interview was more than she thought it would be and went home. I’m not going to dwell on it because I really don’t care. They can spend time alone if they want—it’s no big deal.”

“We may not have Al and James either. We don’t know how serious their situation is,” he reminds me.

“Well, then everyone will just have to tell us what they think of the segment when we hound them tomorrow,” I say with a shrug. I’m really looking forward to watching the segment as a spectator instead of with that watchful “Where’s the Boogeyman” eye, and I won’t let anything spoil it for me. I don’t care if it’s just me and Christian in the viewing room—I really want to see it in a relaxed state of mind this time.

“Well, good, then. There are quite a few things I need to put into motion before I can leave the office, but I promise I won’t overstay. Don’t be late coming home.”

“I won’t. I love you.”

“Love you, too.” I end the call and look over at Marilyn. She’s daydreaming.

“Earth to Mare,” I say. She looks over at me and snaps out of her trance. “What’s up?”

“Same thing,” she admits. “I’m going to have to face this soon, I’m just…” She trails off. “Not today… just, not today.”

I twist my lips but say nothing. I also agreed not to give her shit about it… today.

“So, who’s next on the interview circuit today?” I say, looking down at the resumes in my hand.

*-*

“He was more rudderless than anything, Jewel,” Al says to me. We’ve both made it back to the Crossing, and James is having a beer and conversation with Chuck, who’s sipping on a soda. I’m in the kitchen being utterly useless and picking at the fruit salad that I didn’t know would be part of tonight’s spread.

“When he sent me the text, I couldn’t even read it,” he says. “I knew I had to get to him because he wasn’t going to be able to tell me what was going on. He got a message from some guy in Arizona, but the message was cryptic.”

“Isn’t that where his mother lives?” I ask, popping a strawberry slice into my mouth.

“His entire family is down there. We weren’t even sure who called him, and we certainly weren’t sure why. But, Lord, when we found out…” We both look over at James who is continuing a more than civil conversation with Chuck.

“He looks pretty calm,” I point out.

Now,” Al stresses. “He was fit to be tied earlier. I had to put that magic touch on him to calm him down.” I giggle at his terminology.

“Why would he be so distraught about that news?” I ask. “Not to suggest that anyone should be glad that someone died, but…” says the woman who popped champagne when I heard that Edward David had hanged himself.

“It wasn’t that,” Al says. “I’m sure had this news been presented to him differently and the aftermath not been what it was, we would have seen quite the alternate reaction. First off, family didn’t call him—some stranger did. When they spoke to him, they initially made it seem like he had lost a loved one. Here he is preparing himself for the news that his mother or another immediate family member had died only to find that the one who did kick the bucket was the woman who had abused and raped him for years.”

Around five o’clock this evening, Al finally touched bases with me to tell me that he and James would definitely be at the viewing party as the “somebody who died” was none other than Debra Perkins—the live-in babysitter and not-so-honorary “aunt” who had a penchant towards young boys and molested James and other lads for several years in the basement of his mother’s home.

“Did anybody ever find out what that woman did?” I ask.

“His mother knew,” Al says in a deep, accusing voice. “She knew all along. I could tell when we went down there. I could see it in the way Debra avoided Chocolate and his mother pretended not to notice. I could tell in the way his mother snarled at me and tried to treat me like shit, but I wouldn’t let her. I could see it in the way that she looked at Jimmy…” He says the word with disdain, and I’m certain that someone else called him that while they were there. “She wouldn’t acknowledge that I was there as James’ companion and she kept referring to Debra like she was some old flame. That woman… Jesus, she just… I can’t even talk about her. That is still his mother.

“When he finally discovered who died, he was livid. He asked his mother who the fuck called him to tell him about that bitch’s death—his exact words. She started going on about his language and some shit about having more respect for the only woman he ever loved that way. James. Lost it. When I tell you he lost it, I mean he completely lost his shit. He blasted his mother out so badly about never believing him when he told her that Debra raped him. He accused her of feeding little boys to her like you feed ‘Puppy Chow’ to a dog. He let her have it for never accepting him for who and what he was and proudly informed her that he and I are now married. I could hear parts of her conversation and I heard her say that our marriage wasn’t real, and God doesn’t recognize it.”

I sigh. I’m surprised to find that a mother who would turn a blind eye to children being raped in her home would also turn out to be a homophobe. I know what the Bible says about homosexuality and as a Bible believer, I’m a firm proponent of “To Each His Own.” I just don’t get how you can clearly see and openly criticize homosexuality but turn a blind eye to pedophilia and rape, especially if one of the victims is your own child. She’s lucky James didn’t turn out to be a fucking serial killer!

“What did he say to that?” I ask.

“He said that it didn’t matter if God recognized it. We recognize it, the people who love us recognize it and now, so does the state, and that’s all that matters. He asked her how many boys she fed to Debra before Debra finally died. He asked her why she played blind to what Debra was doing and why she let the witch do it for so many years and in her own house. He told her that she may not have touched a single boy but that she’s just as guilty as Debra because not only did she do nothing to stop it, she facilitated it. He asked her how it felt to rape her own son for several years, and the conversation stopped right there.

“He was so upset that he cursed her as a woman and a mother and told her to never call him again. He had been carrying that for years and years and years and she knew it and never even acknowledged it. This was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I don’t know if he’ll ever recant what he said to her, but I know that he meant every word.”

He takes in a deep breath and lets it out like he’s trying to control himself.

“Boys didn’t tell. Most boys still don’t. They hide in that shame and try to pretend it never happened, but it follows them for the rest of their lives. They caught her… they caught her red-handed and still pretended it never happened, that James was just in the basement fucking his adult babysitter. And this… bitch… has the nerve to talk to him like he wasn’t there. Like this never happened to him.” Al shakes his head and closes his eyes. “He’ll be healing from that for life, and now all these years later, she calls him with news acting like his first love died. ‘Your rapist keeled over. Come back to Hell and honor her.’”

Al is so angry that he’s trembling. I grab his hands and try to help douse his fury. He holds his head down in a vain attempt to calm himself, but his curls are shaking terribly. I’m so focused on my best friend and brother that I don’t see James walking up beside him. He slides his arms protectively around his husband’s waist and gently kisses his temple several times. Al doesn’t release my hands but leans slightly into the kisses of his love.

“It’s over now, Allie,” James says softly. “It’s really over. She can’t hurt any more boys now. She’s walking hot coals in hell as we speak paying for the pain she caused on Earth several times over.”

Al lays his head on James’ chest. James gently cups his head and kisses his hair, and Al’s grip loosens. Christian chooses that moment to come barreling into the house like a freight train but stops cold when he sees the display at the breakfast bar. Al and James don’t react to his arrival, and Al is still gripping both my hands.

Christian pauses for a moment, then holds both hands up and open nodding at me, signaling that he’ll be ten minutes. I nod, and he goes back the way he came, most likely to the elevator to go to our room and freshen up.

Al finally loosens his grip and wraps his arms around himself so that one arm covers James’ arm around his waist. Silent tears stain his face as he appears to disappear into his husband’s embrace. We sit there for several minutes before Val and Keri appear in the family room with my babies.

My babies.

I rise from my perch at the breakfast bar, leaving James to comfort his husband. I know some may think it should be the other way around, but I know how Al feels. I know the feeling of wanting to wrap my fingers around the neck of the selfish and disgusting bitch that hurt my man and watch her die slowly and the anguish of knowing the pain that he must have felt at the times when he felt his most helpless.

Luckily, I don’t have to share the pain of him having to deal with a heartless mother through it all. I’ve got Carla, but that’s a whole different story.

“Give him to me,” I gently coax Keri. I need my son… my boy…

“Boys didn’t tell. Most boys still don’t…”

Keri puts my son in my arms and I look at his sweet face. Dear God, please don’t let that kind of harm come to my babies. I’ll kill a bitch that ever tries to harm my babies… ever!

I kiss Mikey solidly on his forehead and coo at his sweet, cherubic smile. I don’t know how much time I spend lost in my baby, but Christian has joined us, and Al has become his usual jovial self again.

“So, my Jewel is about to be a star,” he says. Let’s get this party started. Boss, I don’t pull punches, so I’ll tell you now. I feel a sick day coming on tomorrow. I’m in need of libations tonight.” Christian laughs.

“Will you also be needing your usual accommodations, sir?” Christian jests, referring to the guest room that’s always prepared for him. Al pauses.

“The night is young. I’ll keep you posted.” This means that unless James objects, we’ll be having additional house guests tonight.

“Okay, people,” Gail says garnering everyone’s attention. “Food and entertainment await. Let’s make our way to the theater room. The show will be starting in a few minutes.” We all start to file toward the theater room and Christian puts his hand in the small of my back.

“Is everything alright?” he asks. “Who died?”

“Debra,” I whisper. “The woman who…” I gesture my head towards James and Christian’s mouth forms an “o.”

“Al was busted up about that?” he asks, bemused.

“There’s a lot more that I have to tell you about it… after the party, okay?” He nods.

“Okay, baby.” He kisses my forehead, then kisses Mikey and we walk into the theater room.



UNKNOWN

Grey Crossing. That goddamn place is a fortress. That fucker doesn’t deserve all that money and comfort. What the fuck did he do—have a few garage sales with other people’s hard work and suddenly he’s the fucking bee’s knees. Bullshit. He’s nothing. He’ll find out soon enough just how worthless he really is.

Grey House. What kind of pretentious, over-compensating bullshit is this? Big, powerful man has a big glass building in downtown Seattle named after him. How fucking cliché can you get? None of this is nothing I didn’t already know, but seeing it spread out live and in living color shows just how much of a fucking joke he and his family really are—like the rest of the world really cares about this shit. Look at my mansion. Look at my really big building. Look at my money and power. You are truly a sad little man.

Now, we’re getting to the meat of things. That’s a pretty little wife you’ve got there. She’s fucking beautiful. Hmmm, half owner of Grey Enterprises Holdings, Inc—that must be some dynamic pussy. I guess it must be. She fucked his weak ass and pulled out twins.

“I was Christian Grey. I was the orphan from the streets from Detroit who was granted a silver spoon—and there’s the rags to riches story I was trying to avoid.”

Orphan from the streets of Detroit—you pretentious little fuck. I took something from nothing and clawed my way to the top… Is that the story, Grey? Like fuck you did. You had shit handed to you and you took what you wanted. If your going to be a thief, at least be an honest thief.

One-hundred percent self-made billionaire… Kiss my ass! You’re hiding behind those fucking dollar signs, but you can’t hide forever.

giphyI drag off my cigarette and take a swig from my bottle, watching this asshole parade his money and woman and his presumed power all over the screen. He doesn’t even have the common sense to appear humble. He’s taunting his enemies and challenging his adversaries to try something. Why? Because he thinks his money will protect him. He’s fucking laughable!

And that hot wife with that big ass—she must’ve been chasing the money. Everything else in his fucking life is so ostentatiously overexaggerated and huge, his dick must be the size of a baby carrot. No way in hell he can land all that ass with a carrot dick.

“They actually have security, so I feel safe bringing my kids here. Dr. Ana started a self-defense class after she had her babies. I can’t do all the stuff that she does, but I can handle myself pretty well after taking her classes, such that I’m not afraid anymore.”

Aw, the sexy little bitch can throw a fist or two. Isn’t that special? And why am I not surprised that she’s the stereotypical charity wife? Nothing else to do but spend hubby’s money and pretend like she cares about worthy causes. Figures. I was surprised when that accident didn’t take her out last year, though. I was sure Grey was about to lose the supposed “jewel of his crown” when that car was T-boned. I swear, she must have fucking magic surrounding her. She was beat all to hell when she was a kid; she was kidnapped; her car was nearly split the fuck in two with her in it, and she’s still walking around like a fucking bug landed on her shoulder and she just brushed it off. I want to be mad at her, too, but every time I look at her, all I want to do it fuck her.

Hmm, she’s got her own place. Sublet my ass—she’s got a real dick squirreled away in there for when she feels the need to really be fucked. I’ll be your real dick, baby, show you how it’s really done.

This whole pretentious display is getting on my fucking nerves and I don’t even want to watch it anymore. I turn off the television and open my file on his ass—information that I’ve been gathering for years.

Yeah, I know about his adoption and his rich family, but I don’t give a fuck about them.

Every time I turn around, it’s Christian Grey bought this; Christian Grey did that; Christian Grey donated this; Christian Grey, philanthropist; Christian Grey, husband and father; Christian Grey, entrepreneur and billionaire; Christian Grey, most eligible bachelor lands girl next door, Christian Grey, Christian Grey, Christian fucking Grey!

Christian Grey, liar!
Christian Grey, coward!
Christian Grey, thief!
Christian Grey, fucking no good piece of shit!

His last adversaries disappeared without a trace—except for one. My guess is that they “sleep with the fishes,” and the one, he didn’t make out too well, either. That won’t be me, though. You thought you had problems before, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. I’m going to bring you to your knees, you little shit!


A/N: “I want my daddy’s records.”—It’s a black pop culture reference to an old episode of Sandford and Son. Fred donated some records to a music society of some kind, but when the artist died, the records became valuable and Fred wanted them back. The music society wouldn’t give them back, so he had to find a way to get them. Younger people may or may not know the reference, but it became a catchphrase with some of us old fogeys. I’ve included the clip on my Pinterest page.

FYI, the person talking at the end of this chapter is not the same person who was talking at the end of “Becoming Dr. Grey.”

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

The new question and answer thread is always open for questions about the story. be sure to read it and please adhere to the rules when asking questions. You can find it on the left, second from last in the menu our you can click HERE.

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

 ~~love and handcuffs

Fifty Shades Golden: Chapter 14

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 it here. You have been warned. Read at your own risk.

Explicit details of sex and BDSM scenes from here on out. Some may be hot while others may not be to your taste… and not necessarily CG with Ana together. Proceed at your own discretion, but don’t say that I didn’t warn you.

Fifty Shades Golden

Chapter 14

Briana Evigan 14

GOLDEN

About a week after Blondie invaded my office, I get a call from Trey.

“Mistress, if you’re available, I need to see you tonight.”

“I’m at the club. I have another client…”

“Crimson?”

“Yes.”

“I’m here, too. I’m not appropriately dressed…” which meant that he was still in his work clothes.

“I’ll be done in an hour. Meet me at the house.”

“Thank you, Mistress.”

So, here he is, and I must say, I’m beating the hell out of him and he’s only flinching and barely that. His mind is way somewhere else. He’s not in subspace; he hasn’t had an opportunity to get there yet. Wherever the fuck he is, though, he’s going to have to come back here to me or I can do some serious damage.

He’s like leather tonight. The usual techniques are doing nothing to break him down. I even resort to some heavier artillery—canes, snake whips, leather straps… I even try to break him down by striking the most tender parts of him—between and behind his thighs, behind his knees, over his shoulders… Nothing’s working.

The only way to break Trey down is his joystick. He’s Sampson in the playroom, but his strength and weakness isn’t in his hair, it’s in his dick. His back is striped like a candy cane and I can’t break him down this way, so I stop with the carriage lunge whip. If I keep going, it’ll only leave open wounds that’ll smart later, but do nothing for him now. That doesn’t serve me or him in our current capacity.

It’s late now and we’ve been at it for quite some time. It was around the six o’clock hour when he called me. A few minutes later, and he wouldn’t have gotten me. I, of course, don’t take calls in session, and I don’t like to rush. As instructed, he came to my house and waited for me, even though it took longer than I thought. Blake informs me that he sat as still as a statue in the parlor for forty minutes until I returned.

I worked Laciter over quite badly in the observation room at Crimson tonight. I had stopped frequenting that club for a while until I learned that Blondie has effectively been banned from the scene, partially because of me and partially because of her own reputation. I’m told that she brutalized one of her submissives so badly that the girl had to be hospitalized. She chose to leave the scene and having nothing to lose with bad bruises on her face, the girl spread the word of Madame Petra’s clear and unleashed brutality. Not only did Blondie quickly lose her submissives, but she also lost her standing completely in the community and with the clubs.

To that end, it’s easier for me to see my clients at Crimson again instead of traveling to the clubs further away—unless I feel so inclined. That’s where I was when I got the call from Trey. I had a client before him, but he was willing to wait. Neither of us wants our situationship on public display, so he agreed to meet me here once I was finished with Laciter.

Now, here he is, having taken acrylic paddles, whips, crops, and floggers to nearly every exposed part of his body and he hasn’t even broken a sweat.

“Wait here,” I say from behind him and await his acknowledgement. It’s not like he can go anywhere. He’s chained to the ceiling. Nonetheless, it’s the principle…

“Yes, Mistress,” he says obediently, his voice a tad labored. He’s carrying quite a load today. I go over to my toy drawer and open it. The Fleshlight won’t do tonight, we need something else. As I’m pondering which toy to use, the strangest thing comes to mind…

“Mistress, I have a confession.” Blake comes to me while I’m having my breakfast on Friday morning the week just after the ball. He rarely has anything to confess that I don’t already know, so when he says this, I pay attention.

“Sit,” I say, gesturing to the chair across from me. “Talk to me.”

“I paid Mrs. Lincoln a little visit.” I set my coffee on the table.

“Why… why in the world would you go see Mrs. Lincoln?” I ask.

“Because no matter how many times you caution her, she still doesn’t seem to understand. I thought she might need a little persuading.” He says coolly. He scrolls through his phone and slides it over to me. A video begins to play. At first, it’s shaky and dark, and then it’s clear. It’s a bedroom, quite elaborate, with a figure sleeping in the bed. I can see it very clearly.

Another figure goes over to the sleeping figure. He covers her mouth just as she wakes, and he puts his finger over his mouth in a silencing motion.

“I’m going to move my hand,” the masked man says, and I immediately recognize Blake’s voice speaking in an American accent. I didn’t even know that he can do that. “If you scream, I’ll leave, but before I do, I’m going to break your neck. Do you understand?”

Frightened blue eyes look back at her assailant and she nods quickly. It’s Blondie.

“Good,” he says, and he moves his hand from her mouth.

“Are you really foolish enough to think you can make her heel?” he asks, caressing her blonde tresses. She’s clearly—and rightfully—confused.

“Don’t you know who she is? Don’t you understand the power that she wields? Do you have any idea at all who you’re dealing with? Do you have any idea how many powerful people kneel at her feet, and you’re trying to disturb that balance?”

He gently touches her cheek and she visibly shivers. I can see the moment realization dawns in her eyes. There’s a mixture of fear and resentment there now. She clearly thinks I sent him.

“No, Mistress,” he says the word with utter disdain, reading her reaction just as I did, “she doesn’t know that I’m here. She has no idea. So, if I snap your neck and leave, she’ll be just as surprised as the rest of the world to find out you’ll no longer be a nuisance to her.” He cocks his head and examines her. “Should I do that? Hmm?” he asks as if he were talking to a cashier at a sales counter about a scent of perfume. “Should I give her that gift?”

“Why?” Elena asks, her voice more breath than sound. “Why would you want to kill me?”

“That’s the wrong question, Mistress,” Blake corrects her. “The appropriate question should be why do I want to eradicate this problem. Once you understand that question, the next question should be. What. Problem.” He silently gazes at her and waits for an answer.

“I… don’t know what you mean,” she says, so frightened that I’m certain that she has pissed on those satin sheets.

“Sure, you do,” he says, his voice almost accommodating as he places his fingers under her chin to gently lift her face to his. If you didn’t know better, you would swear that he was spending tender moments with a lover. “Think hard, Mistress. How many ‘she’s’ are you attempting to destroy, or are there really that many? I have all night if you need to think about it.” She shakes her head and swallows hard.

“I’m…” She swallows again. “I’m not trying… to destroy her,” she says.

Mistress,” Blake purrs, and the way he says it makes my skin crawl. There’s no reverence whatsoever in the way he’s using it. He’s mocking her. He might as well be calling her lizard or maggot or something equally as disgusting. “Humor me, then. What’s the purpose of your exercise? First, you dangle a tempting little carrot in her face, then you become angry when she bites it. Then, you expose her to a narcissistic troglodyte in a public setting, failing to exercise any discretion for your station or hers. Now, she’s feeling a bit of concern for the influential people in her life who like for their private lives to remain private. However, your attire and behavior at the ball as well as the behavior of your tactless husband has given her reason to believe that you have thrown caution to the wind and that your actions and lack of discretion may pose a problem for those previously mentioned influential people.”

“Let me assure you,” Elena says, her voice shaking, “I’m more than aware of the importance of discretion, and I would never… say anything out of line to cause any… discomfort or… or problem.”

“Oh, but you already have,” Blake taunts, “or have you so quickly forgotten your spouse’s disrespectful behavior towards her that evening? It’s no secret. Several people saw and heard you, notwithstanding any further rumors you spread that evening. Who can undo that damage, Mistress?” He’s closing in for the kill, and now I’m certain that there are bodily fluids on those sheets underneath her.

“It was harmless locker-room talk, I swear!” she blurts out, confirming that she did spread some type of rumors about me at the ball that night. I’ll never find out what all she said, and neither will Blake, no matter how he frightens her. She’s beginning to fall apart, and he can tell, but he’s not quite finished with her.

“Speaking of troglodytes, where is your frosted groom? I would have liked to talk to him, too. It’s quite the late hour for him not to be sharing the marital bed with his betrothed.” Elena stiffens.

“He’s… away.” Blake doesn’t react.

“Indeed,” he says. “Poor Mistress, who is there to revere you?” He strokes her hair in a way that should be comforting but causes her to shiver. “Sleep now, Mistress.”

I don’t see what he does next, but his hand moves quickly and she’s out like a light. He turns off the bedside lamp and retrieves the recording device, and the video ends.

“Is she hurt?” I ask.

“No,” he says. “She just… slept well.”

I look over at Trey, still hanging from my ceiling, still tense as ever, and think of the last time I saw Elena at one of the clubs. I think it was Fantasy and she hadn’t been banned yet. I felt the need to bring Jesse with me that night for some reason and I’m glad I did. I had told her many times to stay the fuck away from me. Apparently, even after Blake’s visit, she still didn’t get the message. The woman has a death wish…

She’s in black latex Domme garb from head to toe. Those heels have to be six to eight inches high. Her corset has her waist cinched in so tight that I swear she looks like she can’t even breathe. Her hair has been freshly cut and dyed and is sitting on top of her head like a glowing bob halo. Her crimson red lipstick and vamp makeup is highly defined, and I must admit, she looks fantastic.  

She marches over to me with purpose, pulled up to her full height—plus some—and fearless. Someone should have warned her…

“You’ve crossed the line this time, you little counterfeit poser,” she hisses when she gets to my table. Jesse moves to subdue her, and I raise my hand to stop him. She throws a glance over at him, clearly not recognizing the threat that he poses to her. She knows that he doesn’t have a gun in here and that I won’t risk fighting her in the club

“That’s right, sit down, puppy,” she barks. “This conversation has nothing to do with you.” I see the vein pulsing in Jesse’s head.

“I’m not a sub, bitch,” Jesse seethes. “I will leap from this seat and beat you down where you stand and swear that you leapt at her first.” I said that I wouldn’t fight her. I never said anything about Jesse. Elena’s mouth falls open.

“You would strike a lady?” she nearly growls.

“I don’t see a lady!” Jesse retorts. “Now, state your business and leave. I thought you were told to stay the fuck away. Maybe you’ll adhere to those instructions if I choke you until that stitched-up ashen-white face turns blue!”

She tries to pretend like his words don’t unnerve her, but she’s clearly shaken. Nonetheless, she’s still pretty brave when she turns her attention back to me.

“You’ve gone completely mad!” she accuses through her teeth. “How dare you send someone to my home! My home! I could end you in so many ways for this!” She looks over at Jesse. “Was this the Neanderthal you sent to assault me in my sleep?” she hisses. “You can’t take a few harsh words, you sappy little pussy? You send thugs in the middle of the night to do your dirty work? And you call yourself a fucking Domme? You’re shit! You’re nothing! You can’t stand on your own two feet or fight your own battles! I don’t know why I even bothered with you in the first place. You’re a waste of my fucking time! You’re such a goddamn disappointment. Here I thought I was dethroning the next big thing when the entire time, I was just sparring with a scared little girl. You make me ill!”

She should have quit while she was ahead.

I sit back in my seat and cross my legs, shaking my head at this pathetic excuse of a woman.

“You should have listened,” I say, definitively. “You should have fucking listened.” Her brow furrows as I settle into my seat.

“I tried to tell you before you fucked with me, before you made me a goddamn enemy, to watch your step. I warned you more times than I can count that I knew people that you didn’t want to meet, and that you didn’t want to piss me off. I waved that red flag in your face so many times that I surprised even myself with how many times I warned you to back the fuck off. But you—the great Mistress Lincoln, the impeccable Madame Petra—you couldn’t get a clue if it fell out of the sky and shit on your head.”

Her blue eyes pierce fiercely at me, but it only emboldens me. You want to go head to head, bitch? Bring it. I’m ready for you, now.

“Do you really think that if I was out for your ass, if I really wanted to fucking destroy you, that I would have aimed at your measly little salons?” I taunt fiendishly. “Do you think that little of me, that I would pull the rug from under your little pick-and-peel palaces? That’s not where your heart is, Elena. That’s where your money is. There are so many other ways I can torment you if that was my goal. Yeah, your salons may have been a death blow once I brought you to your knees in other ways and you were pulling what’s left of your blonde hair out by its gray roots, but that wouldn’t be where I started. That wouldn’t be the opening fucking act. That’s like firing a warning shot. I fired several warning shots at your blind, deaf, and dumb ass when I kept telling you to leave me the fuck alone, that you weren’t in my league.”

I lean forward on the table now that I have her attention and remove my sunglasses. I’m wearing the cat-eye contacts, so I know they’re a bit unnerving as I glare at her.

This is where your heart is, Blondie. This is where you feel your power. I’m the biggest threat to your center—your very core—and you’ll do anything in your power to get rid of me, but will you sacrifice yourself in the pursuit? Because that’s what you’re really doing. Every time something happens in your sorry little life or your little bubble gets shaken, you come sauntering over to me having a goddamn temper tantrum like a fucking toddler. Your status, your standing, your very existence all seem to be precariously teetering on my presence. But know that my success, my greatness doesn’t have shit to do with you!

“You dabble in the art of sadism, Blondie, but pain is my forte. Agony is my masterpiece. I have a knack for it, and the taste is exquisite—or did you forget that I get off on watching people squirm? I already told you that I don’t do women, but if you want to be the first female to suffer at my hands, that’s fine. I’ll oblige. I’ll make you writhe just like the rest of them. The only difference is you won’t enjoy it!”

I growl the last few words at her and see the same shiver that Blake’s voice elicited from her on the video I watched last week.

“Who do you know that can come into my home undetected, film me while I’m sleeping, wait until I wake, and tell me not to fuck with you, then leave without a broken bone or a bullet in their skull? Hmm?” I taunt, and her eyes widen.

“F… film me?” she says, now quite visibly shaken.

“Yes, bitch, film you,” I confirm. “And to answer your fucking questions, no, it wasn’t him,” I say, gesturing at Jesse, “and no, I didn’t send the guy. You did. You talk too fucking much and your words fell on the wrong ears. I didn’t know that little visit occurred until after the entire thing was over. You say that other people are doing my dirty work, you might be right about that, but not at my command. They clean up my messes before I even see them. It’s called respect and reverence and I don’t even have to pay for it.

“I know your game now, and I can play it better than you ever will. You wanna play with me? Let’s fucking play. You have your minions, you little blonde bitch, and I have mine. Yours are pretty and like to crawl around on the floor with leashes around their necks in the hopes of garnering your attention, approval, and trinkets. Mine are in powerful positions everywhere; they gag for the pain that I inflict, and they show up in the bedrooms of my enemies at night and leave them unconscious. Contrary to your prior deduction, I’m not a scared little girl. I’m a sadistic bitch with my hands on the proverbial leashes of several powerful people, each of whom can bring you to your goddamn knees and don’t you ever fucking forget it!”

All the color has left Elena’s face and she looks as if she’s going to pass out right there in the middle of the club across from my table. You’ve underestimated me yet again, you stupid cunt. I’m going to make sure that this is the last time you make that mistake.

“I won’t tell you to stay away from me again, because you don’t listen, so hear this. The next time you approach me, don’t say anything. Just expect a fucking fight. And know this, Lincoln—I will fight to the death. Oh, and tell that creepy ass husband of yours not to try to contact me again or I’ll bury you both in the same fucking grave. And don’t think the clubs are going to save you, because if you feel so brave as to approach me at one of the clubs, all bets are off. I’ll make sure that all of the clubs that I frequent know that!”

I glare at her for a few more moments to drive my point home before I don Trey’s Luxuriator sunglasses, cross my legs again and put my lollipop back in my mouth. Stretching my arms out over the back of the booth, I glare at her through my sunglasses. I’ve thrown down the gauntlet, Blondie. The next move is yours.

But the final move will be mine.

The final move indeed. That poor bitch won’t know what hit her when this class-action lawsuit is over and if I put my mind to it, I can find some other ways to torment her as well. A small smile graces my face when I finish my trip down Memory Lane, and my eyes fall on just the tool I need to break Trey’s resolve.

He’s tense—wow, that’s an understatement. He’s tighter than a fan belt! If his muscles were any tighter, his bones would be breaking. Swedish massage is often used when muscles are tight and need to be brutally broken down. I’m certainly not going to give him a massage and even if I were, that type of massage in his Sampson area would bring the man to tears and render him useless for weeks.

I’m sadistic, but I’m not fucking insane.

However, he does need a merciless massage and I have a toy that I don’t use because its intention is to bring the show to a magnificent finish very quickly—the Hot Octopus Pulse III Penis Massager. It’s a magic little thing that fits in the palm of your hand, but when you put it on a dick—flaccid or erect—magic happens, and the best part… it’s hands free!

I take it from the drawer and walk back over to my subject.

“It’s been a pretty bad day, huh, Chopper?” I say softly. His gaze is fixed in front of him, but my voice brings his eyes to me. His pupils dilate and his biceps flex and contract. He usually needs a little pain with his pleasure. Today, he needs some pleasure with his pain.

*-*

The battle is fierce, but the Pulse III is winning. He can’t keep quiet. The stimulation from this vibrator is scientifically tested and medically proven to bring maximum stimulation and produce positive results even to men suffering from erectile dysfunction.

In other words, he’s getting the sensual electronic stimulus of his life!

“Uh…” he groans sensually as the Pulse digs deep into his loins and pulls out the ultimate pleasure. I punish him—or reward him, who knows which it is at this point—with a whack on his already striped back with the flogger. His resolve is broken now, and he groans loudly at the strike, his dick flexing violently.

“Ah!” he cries out… and again, repeatedly, though I’ve only hit him two more times.

It took one hell of a beating to get here, but his legs bend and his thighs flex, showing me that deliciously pulsing muscle right at his anus, firing that luscious juice through his beautiful cock. I watch the streams squirt out far as he grunts painfully, an orgasm physically ripped from his body after a couple of hours of torture. He can’t do another one. I’m good at what I do, and I know that his body can’t take it. That beautiful dick pulses over and over, giving every offering that he has in one magnificent swan song.

He grunts and shivers and shakes, pulling on the leather cuffs that have him restrained to the ceiling so that his legs can open wider. He’s puffing and panting and coming like it’s his last time ever. I’m mesmerized by the sight. My God, that gorgeous cock, veiny and angry and giving and giving and giving. At one point, I cup his balls and gently caress the muscle behind his anus, just so that I could feel it pulse under my fingertips.

I thought the man was going to cry.

Finally, the symphony is over, and he falls helpless and limp, hanging from the cuffs in the ceiling. I spring into action, removing the cum-splattered lining from the floor and replacing it with a microfiber blanket. I release the pulley that has him attached to the ceiling and slowly lower him to the floor and the microfiber blanket. He’s totally spent, completely out of breath.

He’s multi-orgasmic, but not this time.

I undo the leather cuffs and lay his hands gently on the floor. He’s laid out flat on his stomach, his skin flaming in multi-shades of red, from pink to deep maroon, nearly crimson. We didn’t break any skin, but his back, butt, and legs look like he was at the worst end of a fight with a tiger. I kneel down next to his head.

“Chopper?” I say his name softly while stroking his hair.

“Hmm?” he responds without opening his eyes.

“Call Blake if you need him,” I instruct. “He’s in the same place.”

You’d be a fool not to.

“Hmm…” he replies, unable to say much more. I have to go for a cooldown… now. For some unknown reason, I’m all nerves.

It takes ten minutes of Tupac and gold-laced vodka to bring my nerves to heel. Trey makes sure that I have a steady flow of that alloy-infused elixir. And speaking of Trey…

“Blaaake…” his weak, sing-songy voice wafts up the stairs once my nerves have finally calmed. It’s been a long time since I’ve had a submissive or client that was so tense, I couldn’t break them. I literally—literally—had to break Trey to get him to release what was holding him. Not just his resolve… I had to break him. It can be a bit unnerving.

The pain I inflict serves a dual purpose—it helps to release the endorphins in the subject while satisfying the sadist in me. Unless I hate you or I’m getting you back for something—revenge or what have you—blindly inflicting pain with no response and no result does nothing for me. I like the control of making you feel; the power of being on the other end of the stick. That’s why I don’t do mindless fucking or mindless whipping.

This is the first time that he’s used Blake’s services. Part of my curiosity wants to watch. The other part of my displaced nerves wants to cook.

I choose the latter.

If he gets the full aftercare treatment, he’ll be 30 minutes. I believe he should take a bath, but I know that he won’t. He’s been down there for 10 already, so unless Blake does something that he considers inappropriate, he’ll be at least another 20.

I chop a few redskin potatoes while allowing my raw chicken to warm. When the water is boiling, I add the potatoes—skin on—and turn my attention to the chicken. The vegetable oil is already warming when I season with seasoned salt, lemon pepper and black pepper. I coat a few pieces in flour and put it in the hot oil to fry. I already have green beans picked and snapped in the refrigerator, so I add them to a saucepan of already boiling water as well.

I quickly set the dining table—one chair with a memory foam cushion—and go back to the kitchen to turn my chicken.

The potatoes are finished as are the green beans. I pour them in separate strainers and check my chicken again. I allow the water to seep from my beans as I pour the potatoes in a bowl and add cream, butter, salt and pepper. I whip them partially with a mixer, just enough to thoroughly mix the ingredients, but keep nice chunks of potato in the mix. A pat or two of butter and a few slivered almonds and the green beans are complete.

One last turn of the chicken and I can remove it from the oil. I take covered dishes of potatoes and green beans out to the table and come back to the kitchen. I remove my chicken from the oil and place it on a draining tray. I uncork a bottle of white wine and put it in the ice bucket I just filled, taking the bucket out to the table as well. Nearly twenty minutes has passed, and still no Trey.

He opted for the full treatment—maybe even a bath.

I go back to the kitchen and put my chicken on a small serving tray. This time when I enter the dining room, Trey and Blake are standing there both in their shirt sleeves. Blake’s are rolled to his elbows and he’s still wearing his vest. He’s carrying Trey’s jacket, vest, and tie over his arm.

“Sit, here, please, sir,” Blake says, pulling out the chair with the memory foam cushion. Trey looks at him, then at me, and takes the seat that Blake is offering. Blake places his clothes on a chair in the corner and turns back to me.

“Thank you, Blake,” I say.

“Mistress,” he nods and leaves the room.

“Mistress… I didn’t know you cooked,” Trey says. He still looks a bit spent, but much better than he did when I left him in the dungeon.

“Don’t get used to it,” I warn. “This helps me relax. You just happened to be present for it.” I pour him a glass of white wine before I take my seat. “This was… an unusual session for us,” I say, filling my own glass.

“Yes, it was,” he agrees, filling his plate with the sides.

“What happened today?” I ask. I don’t make eye contact with him. I put chicken on my plate and proceed with the mashed potatoes. It sounds like a question, Chopper, but it’s not. Tell me what happened.

“I…” He trails off.

“You weren’t yourself,” I complete, putting green beans on my plate before moving my silverware and placing my napkin in my lap. “Tell me what happened.”

“Where do I start?” he mumbles.

“Start with the situation that had you standing in my playroom like petrified wood,” I say, finally bringing my brown eyes to his grays. He sighs and shakes his head.

“Why do I even try?” he laments, and I’m not really sure what he’s talking about. Nonetheless… “For the last few weeks, I’ve been acquiring the harvesting rights for several North American lumber yards…”

He tells me the entire story about locking down the lumber trade as much as possible so that Caldwell Lincoln’s lumber empire would be dependent on a relationship with Grey Enterprises Holdings. I get all the dirty details about the Rockford asshole being ready to tuck tail and run at the mention of Lincoln’s name and the warnings that he has given him to “grow a pair or quit.” Trey makes it a point to tell me that he has not been and really currently isn’t interested in being the next lumber king, but once I told him about Lincoln’s inappropriate behavior towards me, all he could think of was bringing this fucker down, but in a way so that he couldn’t readily get back up. It’s profitable for GEH per se, but the entire gesture is more as tribute to me.

Bring the man’s entire empire down… That’s some impressive ass fucking tribute!

He continues by telling me that Lincoln got wind of what he was doing—and how could he not? You’re locking down all his North American interests. Anyway, he shows up at GEH demanding an explanation or… something. He got the fight that he was looking for, which wasn’t much for a physically fit 30-something-year-old man versus a middle-aged, average-build silver fox. Trey admits that he taunts Lincoln about having slept with his wife while Lincoln was making families across the world, but to no avail. The news angered him, but still not enough to produce a worthy opponent in hand-to-hand combat.

“So, this development caused you to tighten up the way that you did?”

“The whole thing caused it,” he admits. “I want him to go away, and his little dog, too. He’s constantly throwing himself in my face like he’s a big fish when he’s nothing more than a guppy swimming in an ocean of sharks, of which I’m only one! He’s lazy, cocky, and arrogant, and he doesn’t have shit to back it up with. He brings his blowhard ass to my building, looking for a showdown, and then when he gets there talking his usual shit, he can’t back it up! I hit the man three, maybe four times, and he was done. He released the goddamn Kraken and didn’t have shit to feed him!”

He’s angry again. We can’t have that.

“Have a drink, Trey. Eat,” I command. He gulps down his wine and takes an inhuman bite of his chicken. When the taste hits his tongue…”

“Wow,” he says with a mouth full of chicken, “this is really good.”

“Thank you,” I say, eating more of my dinner. “You’re surprised.” He nods.

“I am,” he says, his mouth still full. “I pegged you for more of the pampered type… Mistress,” he says with a shrug. I nod.

“Understandable misconception,” I say pouring him another glass of wine. “A girl has to be able to take care of herself, just in case.” I put the wine back on the table. “Tell me, without losing your temper. Why didn’t you just beat and fuck a sub tonight? I’m sure it would have served the purpose. You needed a testosterone release…”

“Because I didn’t want to touch a sub,” he interrupts, uncharacteristically. “I would have hurt her—really hurt her. I didn’t want that.”

So, he’s into inflicting pain, but not into being brutal. Definitely not a sadist.

“You may want to try to release some of that testosterone first when you find yourself that wound up. Certain techniques only work so many times.” He frowns.

“You mean like jacking off?” he says. Ugh… that sounds so… common.

“No,” I reply, dryly, “like an extreme workout, to take the edge off.” He scoffs, then chuckles. “Something funny, Trey?”

“I apologize, Mistress,” he says, his voice filled with mirth. “Something someone said to me recently about ‘the edge’.” He waves the comment off and takes another healthy bite of his chicken, quietly moaning his satisfaction once again.

“Tell me about Rockford,” I say. “He was cocky enough when I met him. What happened?”

Dinner and two bottles of wine later, I know way more than I wanted to know about Trey, including the fact that the submissive that Elena defaced was the same one that he had been fucking for months and then ceremoniously dismissed—the beautiful black girl that Elena had paraded in front of me as her latest acquisition. Why would anybody want to deface a beautiful, exquisite-looking woman like that? And Trey fucked her for months, so she must have been a sweet piece of ass. Like I said, that woman isn’t sadistic—she plays at sadism, but she’s not the real thing. However, she is psychotic!

Hours later, the Trey that I know has returned and is ready to go home. He’s much more tranquil and his breathing is even, his shoulders relaxed. He stops at the door and I’m showing him out.

“I’ve never stopped to talk to my submissives,” he says. “I beat them, if I so desire, we fuck, they leave. They serve a purpose for me—to release stress and get me off.” I laugh.

“Which is exactly what I do,” I say with mirth.

“Mistress…” He trails off. That one word and that tone speaks volumes.

“This is why you’re clients, Trey,” I remind him. “We serve a completely different purpose in each other’s lives altogether. Had you left here carrying the same burdens you had when you arrived, what’s my purpose?”

He raises his brow and twists his lip, nodding in agreement.

“I enjoy what I do, but I also provide a service. Anybody can make you come, Trey.” I raise a brow at him. The corner of his mouth curls and he takes my hand.

“Thank you,” he says softly, bringing my hand to his lips and placing a soft kiss there. “Goodnight, my Mistress.”

“Goodnight, Trey,” I say as he releases my hand. “Drive safely.” He nods and walks out. I close the door behind him. Blake immerges from his hiding place and heads to the dining room to clear the table.

“Full treatment?” I ask as he stacks the plates.

“Yes, Mistress,” he replies. “No bath. His welts were deep but did not break the skin. He took quite the lashing.”

“That, he did,” I confirm. “Was he terribly uncomfortable?”

“He was, just a bit,” Blake says. “He’s a man’s man. He won’t take that treatment often, but he wouldn’t have gotten off the floor had he not. The testosterone release sucked what was left of his energy and he had no strength left to fend off the pain. He would have slept there. I tend to believe he tried and fail to get up a few times before he gave in and called for help.”

“I tend to believe you’re right,” I say, taking the wine bottles from the table and following him into the kitchen.

“Mistress, leave this to me. You’ve had a long evening. Please… retire. You need to regroup as well.” I have to admit that I do feel the effects of the evening beginning to descend upon me. I tiptoe and kiss Blake on the cheek.

“Goodnight, Blake,” I say.

“Goodnight, Mistress.

It seems like I had just closed my eyes when I hear my phone ring. What the hell?

I look at my phone. You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.

“It’s late, Trey,” I say, trying not to sound as irritated as I am. What I hear next makes me sure that I must still be in a sleeping/dreaming/hallucinating kind of state. When he repeats it and explains the situation, I sit straight up in my bed throwing the covers off me.

“Blake!” I yell instinctively, getting more information from Trey as I stumble out of bed. Once I get all the information that he can give me for now, I turn my attention to Blake.

“Blake, I need Christian Grey’s background check, please,” I say as I go to my dressing room. I remove my robe and quickly don the first bra and panty set that I see. I snatch the nearest pair of jeans from the shelf. I haven’t worn jeans in forever and these fuckers are painted on. No matter, I don’t plan to be there long. I grab a warm cashmere sweater and slide into a pair of stilettos. I snatch a warm Italian leather bomber jacket from its hanger and exit my dressing room to see Blake standing there with the file I requested. He’s also in his robe, pajamas, and slippers, waiting expectantly.

“Thank you, Blake. I’m sorry I had to wake you at this hour…” Then it dawns on me. Blake has a home of his own. I called his name out of habit, but he should have left by now.

“Blake why are you here?” I ask. “It’s not a problem, of course, but… why?”

“Going home was too much of a trial for me today, Mistress,” he admits. “I may need to chat with you about that at a later time, but right now, you seem in a hurry. Is everything alright with Mr. Grey?”

“No, Blake, unfortunately it is not.” I take the background check from him and open to the first page. I dial the number listed for his penthouse. It rings a few times before a gentleman answers the phone.

“Grey Residence,” he says crisply.

“Hello, is this Taylor?”

“It is,” he replies. “To whom am I speaking?”

“This is Anastasia Olivet,” I reply. “I just received a call from Mr. Grey. He’s in jail.”

“Excuse me… what, ma’am?” My sentiments exactly.

“Your boss is in jail in Kirkland,” I clarify. “He’s been accused of attacking Elena Lincoln and I’m going down there to alibi him out. From the small timeline he gave me, he came straight to me after he left you, and we were together until he went home and was arrested. His whereabouts can be accounted for several hours before, during, and after her attack.” Taylor sighs.

“I’ll call his attorney,” he says.

“Good idea. I’m on my way to the Kirkland Jail…”

*-*

“Ms. Olivet, I’m Detective Nathan Hughes and this is my partner, Detective Rita Bhingman.” He extends his hand to shake mine and I oblige. In my line of work—and play—I have to make a judgement of character in the first 30 seconds of meeting you. This one was easy. Nate is the good cop, Rita is the bad. Her attitude is oozing off her the minute she enters the room. I don’t make the mistake of proffering my hand to her before she proffers it to me, and I already know that she won’t.

“What do we need to do?” I ask. “I’d like to get Mr. Grey out of here as soon as possible.” Rita examines my attire distastefully.

“You his lawyer?” she asks in a condescending tone.

“No,” I reply. “I’m his alibi. Like I told your desk sergeant, I am an attorney, but not Mr. Grey’s… yet.” She says nothing. “I’m courting him,” I add.

Hughes raises his brow at me, causing me to roll my eyes.

“Not like that, you imp!” I retort. “Do I strike you as a woman who needs to court someone?”

“Well, like what?” Bad Cop retorts. I laugh in her face.

“You did hear the part where I’m an attorney, right?” I say cockily before folding my arms and sitting back in my seat.

“Ms. Olivet, if you don’t mind telling us,” Hughes chimes in, “why was Mr. Grey at your home last night? It’ll go a long way in validating his alibi.”

“It was a social call—well, mostly social,” I tell him. “For the sake of discretion, I’m not inclined to give you all the dirty details, as they’re not needed to substantiate his alibi…”

Yes, Mr. Officer, I beat the hell out of him for a couple of hours and he couldn’t even move for about 20 – 30 minutes, let alone give that plucked, bleached cow the beating that she so rightfully deserves.

“However,” I continue, “I can tell you that he arrived at my home around 6:30—I’ll have to check with my butler to get the exact time—and he was there until nearly midnight. Among other things, we talked shop, discussed quite a few topics. He mentioned that he may be seeking new legal counsel,” I turn to Bad Cop. “That’s why I’m courting him.” I turn back to Hughes. “He’s a billionaire. I’m sure he has one of those trackers in his car. Why don’t you check that?”

“That’s convenient,” she says. “A nice little tidy package.” I glare at her and shake my head.

“You all have this routine down very well,” I say, turning back to Hughes and pointing between the two of them, “she’s acting like a real bitch.” Her glare sharpens at me.

“It’s not an act,” he says, but I don’t think he meant to say it out loud. Her head snaps to him and I don’t bother hiding my giggle-snort.

“I don’t like women like you,” she declares, glaring at me through narrowed eyes.

“Women like what?” I hiss. “You don’t even know me; you just think you do. I come sauntering in here in my jeans, Italian leather jacket, and high-heeled shoes and you’ve already got me pegged, huh, Bhingman? You have no idea who I really am and if you did, it would wipe that smug look right off your face. I have all due respect for law enforcement. Believe it or not, we’re on the same team—I only want to see justice done, but don’t think for one second that you’re going to walk in here and bully me because that, my friend, is not going to happen

“You don’t like me because we’re just alike and you can’t strongarm me. Or I should say that you’re trying to get to where I already am. You’re a woman in a man’s world, overcompensating and trying to be a badass. I’m not overcompensating, detective. I am a badass. While you’re putting on this act and charade pretending to be more than you are, I just let the real me shine through. Let the fucking chips fall where they may, because what you see is what you get!”

“Maybe you wouldn’t be so goddamn cocky if you spent a couple of hours in a holding cell with a few real badasses,” she threatens.

“Go ahead,” I reply, folding my arms, unshaken. “I’ll sue your fucking dog for its fur—and win!” And that’ll be the least of your worries. Apparently, Hughes grows weary of the face-off, rolls his eyes and stands.

“We’re done here. Ms. Olivet, you’re free to go.” He heads to the door and Bad Cop is still leaning over the table glaring at me.

“Bhingman!” he says, causing her to flinch. “We’re done here!”

She straightens her back and leaves the room, never breaking her gaze from me until she’s out of sight.

Yeah, she’s a real pill. I know the type—no kids; divorced once, maybe twice because her dick was bigger than her husband’s. I stand and grab my jacket, then go in search of the ladies’ room.

After relieving myself and washing my hands in a surprisingly clean ladies’ room, I don my leather jacket, fluff my hair, and touch up my lipstick. Trey might as well see something desirable when they release him.

As I’m leaving the restroom, I can hear Hughes and Bad Cop… Bhingman, having a heated discussion. I’m standing next to a large beam, just out of sight of them where I can hear the entire conversation.

“Overcompensating,” she seethes. “I’ll give that bitch overcompensating. Five minutes in a room with no cameras and I’ll wipe that smug look right off her fucking face!”

I love that people look at me and underestimate my ability to beat your fucking ass.

“Knock it off, Rita,” he retorts. “We’ve got bigger fish to fry. Grey is clearly not the person who beat that woman all to hell and now we’ve arrested him. We’ve got problems.”

“No, we don’t,” she says, firmly but dismissively. “We were doing our jobs. We were following a lead, a definitive lead given to us by the victim. If we’ve got the wrong man, that’s Lincoln’s problem, not ours.” He sneers incredulously at her.

“Are you outta your fucking mind?” he retorts. “We pulled this straw! We have to find out who beat the shit outta Elena Lincoln and she doesn’t want us to know who did it, which means that it was probably somebody close to her—most likely her fucking husband or a slighted lover. That’s why she pointed us at Grey. Now, we pull him in which brings us face-to-face with an attorney who, although she’s sexy as hell, has the biggest cojones I’ve ever seen… even bigger than yours, if that’s even possible…”

She doesn’t like that reference, not after I just handed her her ass in the interrogation room. I hadn’t thought about it possibly being Linc that beat Elena like that. What the hell did she do to make him want to land her ass in the hospital? Is he even in town? I’ll need to present that possibility to Christian.

“That prissy little wannabe cunt doesn’t have cojones. She’s got sex appeal and she uses it on suckers like you to get what she wants. She’s fucking him, I can guarantee it, and if she is his airtight alibi, that’s why.”

“Who cares?” Hughes accuses. “Who the fuck cares if they’re fucking? They’re both single and unattached. If they were doing the horizontal mambo, who the hell would care? And it wouldn’t matter anyway. If they were fucking, shearing sheep, or playing goddamn Yahtzee, he’s got an alibi. What the hell is your problem with her? Pretty women make you nervous?”

Powerful women make her nervous, and yeah, probably pretty ones, too. Bitch might want to lick my clit.

“There’s nothing about that glorified whore that makes me nervous,” Bhingman sneers. “She’s no better or different than a perp to me. She brought her ass in here and spilled her fucking guts, just like everybody else that gets in that room.”

“She didn’t spill shit to you except everything that Christian Grey had already told us. She confirmed his alibi… almost to the letter, and now we have to let him go. And if you don’t think that man is going to find some kind of way to make us pay for dragging him down here and locking him in a piss-ridden holding tank with a bunch of common criminals, you got another think coming. I hope you’ve got some kind of plan B, Officer Ratched, because he’s going to fucking fry us.”

As he angrily stomps away from her, I conspicuously fold my arms and lean against the beam where she can see me. She huffs and clenches her fists a few times before turning around and making eye-contact with me. Still trying to get her pound of flesh, she strides purposefully over to me.

“You two think you’re getting away with something!” she hisses. “I know he had something to do with what happened to that woman! She broke his arm and he’s pissed. Only pure rage could have produced the results we saw last night. Whoever did that to that woman is a fucking monster, and I’m going to make them pay!”

“Well, I wish you luck,” I retort, “because you’ve got the wrong man in custody. Anybody with a bone to pick could have done this to that crazy bitch and trust me, she’s made a lot of enemies as of late. While you’re throwing innocent men in jail, the real culprit is out there on the street, maybe even looking for another victim!

“She said Christian Grey did this to her. Unequivocally, Christian Grey! Those were your words. Does he look like he’s been in a brawl… before you put him in an infested holding tank?”

Shit, I hope they didn’t see his back.

“Did he have any bruising or scarring on his hands? Scratches on his face? DNA evidence under his nails? Any indication whatsoever that he put his hands on that woman, or anybody, for that matter?”

He fought with Caldwell Lincoln earlier. Was there any bruising from that? Did anybody even check?

“Has anyone tested that blonde fabricator for evidence that Christian Grey touched her within the last twenty-four hours? Even been near her for the last twenty-four days? He’s got a restraining order against her! She broke his goddamn arm—there’s an open case! You didn’t think for one second that this might be revenge for her current predicament?

“She declared that she was attacked—has anyone collected the proper evidence to haul a prominent businessman from his penthouse apartment into a precinct and throw him in a dirty cell or were you just too damn gung-ho to be concerned with proper procedure, chain of evidence, probable cause, and the fucking law… detective?”

I can’t believe what a botched-up job they did collecting evidence. Based on the events of his day, they could have locked him down on some circumstantial shit, and they didn’t even bother. They can’t do it now; he’s alibied out.

Oh, she’s mad now. She closes the space between us as if to intimidate me, but I don’t scare that easily. You’re on the job, bitch, and more than anything, I want you to hit me, so I can ruin your fucking life. Apparently, she musters an ounce of common sense.

“You’ve answered your questions,” she hisses. “Your presence is no longer required. You can leave now.”

“I’m waiting for my potential client,” I hiss back.

“Wait in the lobby,” she says, between clenched teeth.

“Or what?” I retort, my jaw just as tight. “Woof, woof,” I add, reminding her that her schnauzer could end up in litigation. Her eyes narrow and she’s about to reload.

“Drop it, Bhingman,” I hear someone say from behind me. Bad Cop glares at me for a few more moments and I glare right back. She clenches her fists again, cuts right and breezes past me. I roll my eyes. She has no idea just how minor league she is to me. I turn around just in time to catch the voice from behind me gazing at my ass. I raise one eyebrow at him when his gaze makes it to my face. He clears his throat.

“Ms. Olivet,” Hughes says. “Mr. Grey should be ready momentarily. If you’ll come with me…”

About twenty minutes later, Trey comes out of the holding area still in the clothes he was wearing when he left my house. His hair and face are scruffy, and he looks murderous. He freezes when he sees me, his expression unchanging. He looks into my eyes for a few tense moments, then proceeds to fasten his watch as he walks toward me.

“Did you bail me out?” he grunts as we proceed to the exit. He looks at his watch. I already know that it’s nearly two in the morning.

“No,” I say, walking out into the night air, my stilettos clicking on the concrete steps. “I confirmed your alibi. Didn’t they tell you?”

“No, they just said I was free to go.” He runs his hands over his chin then through his hair. He’s walking beside me as I walk to my car. “Where’s Taylor?” I shrug.

“I don’t know,” I say, pressing the key fob. He examines me carefully—top to bottom this time and back up to my face.

“I need to shower,” he hisses, “and shave… and fuck!” He starts looking around as if he’ll fuck the first approved orifice he sees.

“Well, I can’t help you there,” I say. You want to get your ass beat and come, I can accommodate you. You want to fuck, you’re on your own with that one. “What are you looking for?”

“A taxi,” he hisses.

“Oh. Yeah. Christian Grey leaving the police station at two in the morning with a five o’clock shadow in a taxi. That’s not newsworthy at all. Get your ass in the car.” He narrows his eyes at me, but undoubtedly sees the logic in what I’m saying and walks to the passenger side of my Range Rover.

Trey is silent for the first few minutes of the drive back to Seattle. He’s brooding… or contemplating… or plotting, I don’t know which.

“Two police stations within ten minutes of my house and they bring me all the way the fuck out here,” he growls, his first words since he got in the car.

“You live in Seattle. This happened in Kirkland,” I tell him as I turn onto the 520. “I heard them talking. They’re sure it’s someone close to her and they think it might be Linc.”

“That fucker is probably on a plane to Calcutta somewhere,” he hisses, “most likely to hide out in a cabana or between some bitch’s legs until his bruises heal. He did this shit and he wants me to take the fall for it, hoping he can get his business back. I just wanted to hurt his ass before, but this is war. I want blood now.” I sigh.

“Somebody’s going to have to put the bayonets down or this is just going to be a huge bloodbath,” I sigh. I can see him glaring at me from the passenger seat.

“Says the woman who singlehandedly engineered a class-action lawsuit from something that never really happened!” he snorts. I raise my eyebrow and sigh. He’s got me there.

“Elena’s not a sadist,” I say. “She’s a masochist. She deliberately seeks out ways to get hurt and then she makes it worse on herself. She’s a reverse strategist, plotting her own demise and she doesn’t even see it. She won’t see it until she ends up dead somewhere.” I shake my head.

“I won’t lose any sleep if she does,” he hisses, and turns his gaze out the window.

Well, this night was a complete fucking wash. I worked hard to bring this fucker to some type of docility and now, he’s right back where he started from.


A/N: The Pinterest board for this story can be found at https://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/fifty-shades-golden/.

The new question and answer thread is always open for questions about the story. be sure to read it and please adhere to the rules when asking questions. You can find it on the left, second from last in the menu our you can click HERE.

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~~love and handcuffs

Raising Grey: Chapter 56—Back In The Saddle

This is my five-year anniversary on WordPress. That means that five years ago today, I decided to take my readers and get the hell off FanFiction and leave all their haterade behind. I lost a few readers since then, but I’ve gained more. Thank you all for hanging on for this wild ride with me.

There most likely will not be a chapter next week as I’m splitting my time between preparing to publish and updating, and I have to work next Saturday. We’ll have to play those working weekends by ear.

This is a work of 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 it 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 56—Back In The Saddle

CHRISTIAN

“It came this morning,” Alex says, placing a bottle of 1964 Glinlivet Winchester single malt scotch on my desk. I’m just getting into the office on Friday morning and this is what greets me.

“It’s been scanned, and the bottle has been chemical-tested and tamper-inspected. It’s clean and intact.”

“Who’s it from?” I ask. He twists his lips.

“You should probably read the note. It’s been tested, too.” He hands me the note and I’m remiss to take it. He lays it out on my desk so that I can read it.

Mr. Grey,

I am not a man of apologies and I hope you can understand and respect that. I will concede, however, that my employee ghastly misspoke when he met with you earlier this week. You and I want the same thing—to rid ourselves of a certain pebble in our respective shoes. To that end, we are not rivals with nor subordinates to one another in any way.

What my employee was intended to relay is that it would be appreciated if my organization knew when you plan to visit the area. As you know, this problem has escaped solution to date on more than one occasion. As such, an unexpected visit may tend to flush out certain attempts at contact and possibly make an agreeable solution to our shared problem more viable. The notification is only a means to a mutual end, nothing more.

Please accept the enclosed token as a gesture of goodwill along with the sworn promise that, no matter what the prior implications, no harm will come to you or your family at the hands of my organization. You have my word. 

Russo

“Get the fuck outta here,” I say out loud. “So, how good is the word of a gangster?” I say, looking up at Alex. He shrugs.

“I don’t know, but I will say this. Aragon is his gopher—his messenger boy. Maybe a bit more than that, but I think you get the idea. He’s not going to make a move without his boss’ approval and when he left here, he was pissed. If Sunset had given him the go to take you out, he would have come back here and done it himself. I’ll also tell you this. With his organization and ability, he can’t afford attention. He’s got enough of that already. A hit on Christian Grey, billionaire and international businessman?” He whistles. “That’s way more attention that he wants. What’s more?” He picks up the bottle of liquor partially wrapped in high-end paper that previously came in a high-end box, “he’s certainly not going to try to wipe you out with a $25,000 bottle of single malt scotch made 50 years ago, sent with a letter with his signature on it, which can most likely be traced by its purchase. Take it how you want but, in my experience, he definitely means this as a peace offering.” I look at the bottle in Alex’s hand.

“Well, I ain’t drinkin’ it,” I say, looking at the note on my desk again.

“What should I do with it?” he asks. I really don’t know.

“Put it in the safe with the note,” I tell him. “Seal them both in plastic. I don’t know what else to do with it right now.” He nods and takes the bottle and the note with him before leaving my office. I mean really—what are you supposed to do with a $25,000 bottle of whiskey and an apology note from a gangster? What’s the protocol here? I’m not fucking versed on Mafia Etiquette 101.

I suddenly feel the need to watch Goodfellas or The Godfather or Casino or something.

“You got a love note from a gangster?” Jason says walking into my office.

“It appears that way,” I reply. Jason shakes his head.

“You pretty much tell his consigliere to fuck off and get lost and in response, he sends you a prized bottle of whiskey and a letter he personally signed.” He whistles.

“Should that mean something to me?” I ask.

“Yeah, it means that we should keep security tight,” he responds, “not crazy, but tight.” He takes a seat. “You were never in any danger of Sunset. I knew that. His messenger boy, I wasn’t so sure… until now. The way that he spoke to you on Tuesday, he didn’t have any fear of you, but he was upset that you didn’t have any reverence for him. That hothead could’ve taken you down in a minute. That was my concern. Now, Sunset is guaranteeing your safety. You’re not now, nor were you ever, in any danger from his organization. But make no mistake—you’re still in danger.”

“Why?” I ask. “From whom?”

“You’re bait, Boss. That’s what you’ve always been. You took down that asshole’s son. Russo is hoping that he comes for revenge himself. And when he does—when he rises from his hiding place—that’s when they plan to get him. But he knows that Myrick isn’t coming anywhere near you if you’re 50 guards deep. So, he wants you to do what you’ve been doing all along in the hopes of luring Myrick in. You’re in no more danger than you were before, but you are still in the same danger.”

“That’s why I want to find this fucker,” I tell him. “I need this to be over in the worst way. I need this man and everybody associated with him out of my life and I swear to God, the minute I see him coming, I’m going to put one right between his eyes.” Jason examines me.

“I believe you will.”

“Believe it!” I confirm. “He’s a dead man if he comes anywhere near me or my family, so he had better shoot first. Keep security as it is and find that asshole. You military geniuses come up with some way to smoke this bitch out. I’ve had enough of this shit. I don’t care what laws we break just find his ass!”

I knock something off my desk in my anger and begin to count. Jason has left the office by the time I’ve calmed down enough to get my day started.

*-*

I’ve wrapped up a meeting with my M&A team and decide to head down to the cafeteria for a late lunch. I order a grilled chicken sandwich and an endive salad and cranberry juice. When my food is ready, I plan to head back up to my office, but I spot Marlow toiling over some papers.

“What’s got you so perplexed?” I ask as I approach the table and put my tray down.

“The future,” he laments. I frown as I take a seat.

“Care to elaborate?” I say as I take a welcome bite of my chicken sandwich. He shrugs and sighs.

“Truth?” he says. “I’ve finally started getting some kind of social life, but this is my last year of high school, and I really have to start planning what I’m going to be doing. I really wanted to go away to college, but I want to stay close to GEH…”

“GEH can follow you wherever you go,” I tell him after I swallow my food. “We’re worldwide remember?”

“It’s not the same. You know that,” he says. “You’re my mentor. I’ve learned a lot from you and there’s more that I have to learn. I can’t get that hands-on experience that I want and need if I’m at school in Georgia or New England or upstate New York somewhere, but I must admit. Having GEH on your resume makes you look really good to the ivy league schools.”

At least he’s thinking big.

“But I’m finally making some friends… people that don’t look at me funny or treat me funny or try to meet you.” He rolls his eyes. “People who don’t think I’m not black enough… or too black. Girlfriends…”

“Girlfriends?” I ask. “Plural?” He shrugs.

“Nobody steady, just people I see. That’s why it’s plural. I haven’t settled in on anybody being a girlfriend and they know that. I’m no Tiger Woods, don’t get me wrong, but I have a few.”

“I hope you’re using protection,” I say, tucking in to my endive salad. Marlow twists his lips.

“Have we met?” he asks. “Do you really need to ask that question?” I didn’t, but nonetheless…

“Then there’s Mom and Maggie. I’m the man of the house and I’m just not comfortable leaving them alone yet…”

“Scratch that off your list,” I say. “You told me that your mom was seeing someone, and you can’t stay home and be the man of the house for the rest of your life. You’re going to have to be the man of your own home one day. Besides, your mom still has security details since that crazy ex-husband of hers isn’t dead yet.” I take another bite of my sandwich.

“That’s easier said than done,” he says. “Mags is still so young…”

“Stop making excuses,” I interrupt, my mouth full. “Choose the college that’s best for you. Remember this, though,” I swallow my food. “Washington has some good local colleges if you just want to stay in the state. You’ve got U-Dub, Washington State, the directional colleges, Seattle Pacific…” He nods.

“Yeah… I really think that’s what I want to do, for a lot of reasons. I’ll have plenty of time to travel. Now’s just not the time for me.” I raise a brow at him.

“Don’t get too attached,” I tell him. “You’re young, and life is going to take you in a lot of different directions. Working for me is going to take you in a lot of different directions. Your roots aren’t set yet—you have no idea where you want to go. Don’t cling to one thing too much until it’s time… and it ain’t time yet.”

I finish my lunch and talk to Marlow a bit longer about his plans. He knows that he has an ongoing internship here with me, and I’m priming him to do big things in GEH someday, but he’s going to have to decide exactly what he wants to do with his future. He may decide that he doesn’t want to work for me, and that’s fine—as long as he’s successful and doesn’t take any of my trade secrets to other companies.

I’m just getting back to the office when Andrea informs me that Smalls is on line two. I had completely forgotten about Pops’ storage bins until this moment as I was totally preoccupied with getting Windsor over to Aunt Tina’s, making sure that the covert watches were on Kenneth Carter and Roger Servant—yes, I discover that is really his last name—and pondering the “make-up” gift sent to me by one “solar” gangster in the Detroit area. I point to my office, indicating that I’ll take it at my desk.

“What do you have for me, Smalls?” I ask.

“We’ve identified the cars and gotten them all started. I’ve taken better pictures of them and sent them to your uncle at his request. He says that he wants to do a little research on them before sending the deets to you and his brothers. We were able to catalogue the items that were in the storage units with the cars and we’re working on the other two. We’re trying to put the cars in units by themselves, but it may require securing another unit for the extra items that were stored with the cars.”

“Talk to Herman about that,” I advise. “See if that’s something that can be done. How soon before we get the rest of the items catalogued? This is going on much longer than I expected.”

“End of the day, maybe,” he says. “It may go into Monday, unless you want us to work on Saturday.”

“I had no intention of you being here this long as it is. Wrap this up as soon as possible and let us know what’s in those units so my father and brothers can dispose of it how they want.” Money isn’t an issue, but it’s beginning to cost me more than this trip is worth for that crew to be there cataloguing items that should have been done in a couple of days. Now, he’s saying they may be there over the weekend.

“Yes, sir,” he says, noting my agitation. “I’ll get it done.”

“Thank you,” I reply before abruptly ending the call. This shouldn’t be taking this long. One storage bin, then two, then riddles, then four, then cars that won’t start, then six. Now, we have to work through the weekend. Geez, this is ridiculous. Do I have to fly back to that hellhole and get this done myself?

*-*

I’m at my dad’s house looking over his shoulder at his computer monitor. Uncle Stanley asked that we all be together when he called with details about the cars, so I came straight here after work. Williams brought me out to the Manor while Jason went back to the Crossing to have the past due conversation with my wife that he and I had discussed last week. I wanted to go home with him, but he assured me that my presence wouldn’t really help the situation right now and told me to go to my father’s but come home immediately after. He thinks that Butterfly will understand. I’m not so sure based on the report that she’s currently decimating a heavy bag and has been for a couple of hours now. However, remembering a black eye from my first encounter with that delicate little flower and a heavy bag, I take Jason’s advice and go to my father’s.

“He’s being dramatic,” Dad says about Uncle Stan as we wait for his email. “Just send the damn email and let’s get this going.”

“You know Stan,” Uncle Herman says, “Not many opportunities for the spotlight. He’s going to take advantage of this one…”

The brothers continue to rib their youngest sibling when Uncle Herman’s phone rings.

“Stan, come on, man. We don’t have all night,” Uncle Herman answers. Simultaneously, Dad’s email shows an incoming message. He opens it and they begin to examine the contents as Uncle Herman puts Uncle Stan on speaker. Dad opens the email and clicks on the attachment. It’s a PowerPoint presentation.

“PowerPoint, Stan?” Uncle Herman scolds. “This is what took you so damn long?”

“Trust me, brother, you’ll see that it’s worth it,” Uncle Stan says. They start the presentation and pictures of the first car begin to scroll over the screen. The first one is the Mustang—1969 Mach Fastback, cherry red with a white stripe with black leather interior.

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“God,” Uncle Herman says, “that’s even prettier than I thought it would be.”

Picture after picture scrolls over the screen of this classic automobile, completely refurbished. The stats for the Mustang appear on the screen once 16 or so pictures from every angle stop scrolling—4-speed transmission, 4-barrel carb, clean like it was brand new—even the engine. Current value, $28,500.

“Shit,” Dad says. “And there’s four of them?”

“I take it you guys just saw the Mustang,” Uncle Stan says.

“You take it correctly,” I reply.

“Well, sit back, gentlemen. There’s three more.

“Excellent presentation, Uncle Stan,” I say, knowing that his brothers are a bit too dumbfounded to speak.

“Thank you, nephew,” Uncle Stan replies. “I’m glad somebody appreciates my work.”

“Shit!” Dad exclaims. “It can’t be!”

We look back at the screen to see what has Dad all a-flutter. A black cherry classic comes across the screen and I can’t tell you anything about it except that it’s really old.

“Is that a Coup?” Dad says in awe while pointing at the car on the screen. “That’s not a Coup, is it? Is that a five-window Coup?” Uncle Herman looks at the screen and examines the vehicle.

“We have to wait until the end and see,” Uncle Herman says.

“Yeah, Rick, that’s a Coup,” Uncle Stan confirms. Dad puts his hand over is mouth. About nine pictures of this classic vehicle with shiny chrome accessories and black leather scroll across the screen and my dad doesn’t even blink.

1932 Ford Five-Window Coup,” Uncle Herman reads when the pictures are done. “Yeah, that’s what it is.” Automatic transmission in the floorboard, 350-crate engine with a dual carb 671 blower and estimated 600 horsepower. Current value, $78,000.

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“Shit,” Dad hisses and he’s silent for several moments. “That’s the first model car me and Dad ever put together.”

“Really?” Uncle Herman says in awe. “Then it’s yours. Any objections, Stan?”

“None here,” Uncle Stan replies.

Dad looks over at Uncle Herman and simply covers his mouth again. His eyes are glassy, and he’s struck dumb for a moment.

“Thank you,” he whispers when he finds his words. “Thank you so much.”

“I’m certain Dad would have wanted you to have it,” Uncle Herman says. “It’s too much of a coincidence.”

Dad just nods, hiding his face from me and Uncle Herman. It’s no doubt that he’s crying.

“Give us just a minute, Stan,” Uncle Herman says, reaching over to the computer and pausing the PowerPoint. It takes a little more than a moment for Dad to pull it together, but he does, and I can tell that he’s still fighting with his emotions.

“You’re a pussy, Rick,” Stan teases, trying to lighten the mood when Dad stops crying.

“Fuck off, Stan,” Dad jibes back, reaching for the mouse and clicking to continue the slideshow. Next, we see a blue and white, square convertible straight out of American Graffiti.

“What is that?” Uncle Herman asks. “’57 Chevy?”

“Chevy, Herm? Seriously?” Dad chastises. “Dad’s rolling over in his grave.” Uncle Herman raises his brow. I know he wants to comment that Pops isn’t in a grave—I can see it all over his face—but he gets the idea. Technically, he is, he’s just been cremated before he was interred.

“Blasphemy, Herm, it’s a Fairlane!” Uncle Stan chides.

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“A Fairlane?” Uncle Herman laughs. “Do you know I actually thought those cars were jokes?” he adds.

“You’re kidding, right?” Uncle Stan says mirthlessly.

“No. You remember the movie The Adventures of Ford Fairlane? I thought that was just the guy’s name. I didn’t think the car was real.”

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“And you call yourself a Ford man,” Uncle Stan retorts. “Dad really is rolling over in his grave now.”

“Okay, it’s a car, Stan. It’s not the solution to world peace or the cure for cancer. Lighten up…”

As my uncles argue the attributes of the Ford Fairlane, I continue to watch the slideshow until the specs sheet pops up. It’s not as cherry as the other cars, but it’s in amazingly good condition. It’s a colonial white 1959 Ford Fairlane/Galaxy 500 Skyliner with a retractable hard top, original police interceptor 352ci V8 engine with 300 horsepower, and a 3-speed automatic transmission. It has blue tuck and roll seats and comes complete with a white leather steering wheel; red, white, and blue aluminum hub caps, and wide whitewall tires. Current value, $39,000.

Uncle Herman finally cedes the argument to Uncle Stan, informing him that he wasn’t bad-mouthing the car. He just didn’t know that it was a real car. As it turns out, Uncle Herman likes this car more than the other two cars he’s already seen. He says it reminds him of making out in the back seat at the park.

TMI, Uncle Herman.

“Now, that’s pretty,” Dad says. Our attention is drawn back to the computer screen and the final car.

“That’s a T-Bird,” Dad says. “I’d know that car anywhere. That was my first car.” Uncle Herman looks at Dad.

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“Do you think Dad meant for you to have this one?” he asks. Dad twists his lips.

“I don’t think so,” he says. “Look at that car. That’s a kid’s car. Besides, I prefer the Coup.” I look at the pictures of the truly pimped-out Thunderbird scrolling across the screen.

“What makes you think that’s a kid’s car?” I ask Dad, curious.

“I’m not saying a 16-year-old kid, but a responsible twenty-something. Look at it,” Dad says, pointing to the screen. “It’s probably in better condition than when it first rolled off the showroom floor—black exterior so black, it looks like it has six clear-coats on it. Purple lighting kit—purple, gentlemen! White leather interior with purple piping. This car would scream overcompensation for anybody over 40 years old.”

“I have to agree with Dad,” I interject. “I’m a young billionaire, and that would scream overcompensation for me, and not in the penile sense that I’m sure my father means it.

The gentlemen all laugh as we continue to observe the 21 pictures that Uncle Stan compiled of the Thunderbird. Pops must have really liked purple—purple suspension, purple-accented engine, purple trim, and when Dad said purple light kit, I don’t think he knew the light kit is inside and outside the car. To me, this car would scream overcompensation at any age.

“It’s a beautiful car…” Dad says, trailing off, his voice having that but tone to it.

“Yeah,” Uncle Herman says, his voice carrying the same tone.

The specs sheet is way too much to read on this one, but skimming through it, I catch that it’s a 1964 Thunderbird convertible retractable with a 5.0 coyote 430 horsepower upgradeable engine and a 6R80 transmission. There are too many upgrades in this car to even mention and Dad’s right—it most likely looks much better than it did when it rolled off the showroom floor. It’s a classic car, but it’s been completely modernized without losing its classic appeal. Current value, $95,000.

“Hmm…” Uncle Herman says and trails off.

“What is it?” Dad says, examining my uncle’s expression.

“Four cars,” Uncle Herman says. “Four sons.” Uncle Stan makes a disbelieving “pst” sound in the phone. Nobody says anything for several seconds as Uncle Herman drops his head in contemplation.

“I’m not giving him one of those cars,” Uncle Herman says finally. The other brothers know who he’s talking about and they both remain silent as Herman raises his head. “Call me a terrible person, but I’m not giving him a car. That may have been Dad’s original intention, but I don’t think he’d want me to do that now.”

“What do you plan to do, keep the extra car?” Uncle Stan asks. Uncle Herman shakes his head.

“What am I going to do with two classic cars?” He scratches his beard in contemplation.

“Sell it?” Dad suggests.

“No way in hell I’m selling Dad’s car.” He continues contemplation. “If Freeman were to pick one of those cars, which one do you think he would pick?”

“He’d want that T-Bird, hands down,” Dad says. “The other cars are nice in their own right, but that T-Bird—he’d physically fight us to get that car.” Herman nods.

“Then the T-Bird goes to Burtie,” he says. “Any objections?”

“Yeah, Burtie,” Dad says in that “Eureka!” kind of way. “Freeman’s going to piss tar. That’s gonna eat him up! Yeah, no objections here.”

“You got my vote,” Stan says, “but can I keep the Mustang?”

The brothers laugh.

Dad, Uncle Stan, and Uncle Herman wrap up the call and I make a mental note to call Lanie and talk to her about Burt getting Pops’ T-Bird. Once I’ve sent myself reminders to arrange the shipment of the three cars to their respective locations—two to Seattle and one to California—I notice that my father has disappeared. I wander the house looking for him a bit, then find him outside in the backyard on the infamous advice bench. I exit the French doors and begin walking over to him. Even in the dark, I can tell that he’s crying—weeping in fact, as his body is shaking pretty violently.

“Dad?” I say, concerned as I approach cautiously.

“I miss him,” Dad chokes. “I miss him so much. I never thought anything could hurt this badly. God, it hurts so much.” His body shakes with sobs as he mourns.

I sit down next to my father. I don’t know what to say to comfort him because although I’ve filled my time with so many other crises and issues to the degree that I haven’t thought much about Pops, I miss him, too—especially in quiet time. I wipe a tear that has escaped from my eye and sit next to my father.

“I know, Dad,” I say, trying to steady my voice. I hate to see my father cry. His breakdowns have been huge—deep, heart-wrenching weeping and mournful sobbing fits. I saw him cry once before like this—at my breakfast bar at Escala when the full realization of what the pedophile had done to me finally sunk in and he hadn’t done anything to prevent it, not that he could have. He was broken just like he is now; just like he is anytime he has to handle something that deals with Pops. I can imagine that this is how I would be if something happened to him.

I put my arms around his shoulders and try to comfort him. It has the opposite effect. He crumbles into a ball and nearly falls off the bench, his sobs more woeful than before. He’s utterly grief-stricken and I have to catch him before he hits the ground. I sit there, holding and crying with my father on a chilly fall night, as he weeps the cries of the truly broken.

*-*

I’m exhausted when I get back to the Crossing. I don’t know how Butterfly deals with everyone’s emotions all the time like this. Just dealing with Dad has completely wiped me out. Then again, I can imagine that my wife doesn’t fall into crying fits when she deals with people either.

I can tell the house has just shut down. The sink is still damp—Ms. Solomon’s last wipe-down before bed. I wonder how Windsor is doing at Tina’s. I must say that his absence was felt when I came in the door tonight.

I go to the kitchen and retrieve a cranberry-apple juice from the refrigerator. Brandy has been my go-to drink on hard nights and I think I need to lay off for a while. I take several large swallows of the refreshing drink before walking into the dark family room and falling onto the sofa like a sack of potatoes. I’m so tired. Crying is exhausting.

I fire off an email to Lanie with a picture of the Thunderbird, telling her to show it to Burtie and ask if he wants it. She’ll see it in the morning.

I’m just laying my head back on the sofa when the lights come on. I look around the room to find Butterfly in her recliner with the remote to the lights in her hand. Why in the hell is she sitting here in the dark?

“I couldn’t sleep,” she says as if in answer to my question. “You’re late.” She stands from her chair and walks over to me, her face falling as she approaches. “And your eyes are swollen. You’ve been crying! Why have you been crying?” She stands protectively over me, and I simply evade the question.

“I’ve convinced my father to get grief counseling,” I say, “He hasn’t really dealt with Pops’ death completely and it’s becoming too much for him to handle.” She frowns, but quickly recovers.

“I imagine so,” she says. “With Grace’s breakdown so soon after Burt’s funeral, he hasn’t had time to grieve the loss or recoil from it. That has to be pretty rough on him… and you.”

I raise my gaze to her and the light hurts my eyes, so I deflect my gaze and she sits next to me. The truth is… I’m just tired. I’m tired of being the know-all businessman. I’m tired of being the problem-solver. I’m tired of being the rescuer, the righter of wrongs, the “make-it-all-better” guy. I’m tired in so many ways that I can’t even explain how many ways that I’m tired. I’m the fix-it man, the “find-the-bad-guy” man, the “chase-away-the-Boogey” man—and when my Dad started crying, all I could do was cry with him. I feel the pain of loss like he does… but not. I miss Pops… a lot, but my dad is still alive. The great Christian Grey can’t pull out his trusty Amex Black and fix this one. I’m just tired. Some days, this fucking superman cape is hard to wear, and today, I’m just tired.


ANASTASIA

How do you deal with your own crises when everyone else’s crises seem so prevalent? Marilyn, Harmony, Christian, the world… is this innate in my nature or a result of being a shrink? I came home in speechless tears yesterday, wailing on a heavy bag until every part of my body ached, and finally accepted the fact that I’m suffering from PTSD brought on by the shock and pain of Christian’s disappearing act but most likely aggravated by all the bad things that have happened to me—who wouldn’t have PTSD after living with Carla and all the subsequent bad shit that has happened to me? After a long soak in a very hot jacuzzi tub, I go to the family room to wait for my MIA husband and to ponder my situation and course of action in darkness and silence. When he gets home, he looks like shit, and he’s been crying.

Who can ignore that?

Suddenly, my problems which had been consuming all my thoughts seconds before didn’t seem so prevalent anymore. Get him undressed, get him to bed, massage his scalp until he falls asleep. We’ll tackle whatever this is in the morning. It’s too late to deal with it now… though his fingers were tapping madly on his screen in the dark and I’d like to know what that was about. Nonetheless, not two minutes after the scalp massage begins, he’s fast asleep—hard—on my stomach. I fall asleep shortly thereafter.

He’s snoring hard when I climb out of bed and come to check on the children. Keri and Gail are preparing them for their morning bath, and I decide that today is probably another good day to spend with the twins. Jason let the contractor in to get started on the shelves and painting of my office, and I almost instinctively call Marilyn to discuss… whatever, until I remember that she’s off until Monday on a mission to check her attitude. I’ve decided that if she ever gets her shit together, I’ll put her on the task of finding out who’s real and who’s fraud on my family tree. If she doesn’t, well, who the fuck knows what’s going to happen.

I forgot to tell Christian that the contractor was coming to do my office today. It’s just a matter of revamping the shelves behind my desk and doing a little paint. Maybe he’ll be finished before too long. In the meantime, I go to the kitchen and prepare breakfast for us—pancakes, bacon, sausage, eggs, buttery and cheesy grits, coffee, juice, and toast. I load it onto the food cart and go to the elevator.

He seems to be stirring a bit when I open the door. That’s good. I really didn’t want to have to wake him for breakfast. He says that he had planned to go for a run, but upon seeing breakfast, admits that a change of plan never hurt. He’s in better spirits this morning as we eat in bed, telling me about the contents of Burt’s storage units, including four very expensive classic cars, one of which prompted another seriously emotional breakdown from Carrick.

During the course of the conversation, he tells me that he sent an email to Lanie last night about one of the cars, which answers my question about the typing in the dark. He also informs me of the olive branch he received from a certain Detroit gangster. Jason’s theory of the situation, as explained by Christian, put a few of my fears to rest, but still makes me feel quite uneasy about the situation at hand—a situation that really hasn’t changed from a week ago.

“I agree to the current security situation,” I tell him, “but shouldn’t I know what this asshole looks like? In case he approaches me to get to you?”

A visible chill goes through my husband as he agrees that I should be able to identify Myrick.

“I’ll get you information on him before the end of the day,” he says. We finish our breakfast, then indulge in a shower and a midmorning quickie before we go and get our children.

“Jason told me that I have PTSD,” I tell him as Minnie plays with a plush toy in my lap and Christian entertains Mikey on the playmat.

“How do you feel about that?” he asks, raising his eyes to me. I sigh.

“In light of my reactions to certain events and the trauma that I experienced through all this, I tend to think he may be right,” I admit, avoiding eye-contact with my husband. I can feel the air suddenly become a bit thick.

“So… what now?” he asks.

“Right now, we’re going the talking route,” I reply.

“To Jason?” he asks. “Jason’s going to be your shrink now?”

“To anybody,” I tell him, “to whomever will listen when I hear the voice of doom. And I wonder why my shrink didn’t think of this… PTSD, I mean. We could have formulated a treatment plan by now.”

“You know very well why he didn’t approach you with that,” he replies. “You became borderline violent the last time someone suggested that you were suffering from it, and I’m sure you told him about it.”

“Yes, but if that really is what I’m suffering from, avoiding the diagnosis isn’t going to help anything,” I protest.

“So, now, you do realize that the man is ‘damned if he do and damned if he don’t,’ right?” Christian points out. God, I hate when he’s this fucking logical.

“Maybe he did tell me,” I admit, “in so many words, just not outright. He sure didn’t hesitate in calling me suicidal.”

“What?” Christian says sharply enough to make the babies jump. Minnie’s looking at him like, “What the hell, Dad?” while Mikey gives him a “Dude, seriously?” stare.

“Okay, he didn’t say that I was going to kill myself. He just called me a shark’s tooth.” Christian squints his eyes and furrows his brow in confusion. “You had to be there; I can’t explain it. He’s trying tough love on me, but as a professional, I really don’t think it’s working.”

“Is that why you destroyed the heavy bag yesterday?” he asks, pulling his wandering son closer to him on the playmat. I nod.

“I’m not sure if what he was saying really helped me, but it pissed me off. I’m beating myself up enough for not being able to snap my fingers and overcome this situation without also being beat up by my shrink.” He nods.

“So… now you just talk.” It’s a statement, not a question.

“Well, there are two professional treatments for PTSD—psychotherapy and medication. Hopefully, I’m not so bad off that I need medication…”

“Do you think you are?” he asks. “I mean, you are a professional.”

“I’m also not objective. This isn’t happening to someone close to me, this is happening to me. So, I’m not really the one to ask about that, but I’m a huge proponent of psychotherapy, as you already know. So, I’m going to go with cognitive processing therapy and prolonged exposure.”

“Okay, and those are…?” he asks.

“CPT is going to help me understand and deal with exactly how events changed my way of thinking and my feelings. ‘Something bad happened and the Boogeyman is coming to get me’ is not a logical thought process. That’s where prolonged exposure—or talking to whomever will listen—comes in. That’s where I keep talking about situation and about my thoughts and my feelings so that I can gain some control over them and they’re no longer upsetting. I’m going to start journaling again, too, for those times when no one is there to listen.”

“Butterfly, I’ll always be there to listen,” he says somberly.

“No, you won’t,” I say. “What if it’s 11 o’clock in the morning and you’re in a meeting? Or it’s the dead of night and I wake from a bad dream? There are going to be those times when I have to have my journal, and the people around me who claim to love me are going to have to understand that they might be mini-therapist throughout this time. It’s that simple.” He nods.

“You got all this from your conversation with Jason?” he asks.

“I got some of this from my conversation with Jason. The rest I had to get on my own.” He nods but says nothing. “What is it?” I prod.

“I want…” he starts but trails off, sighing and shaking his head. “I want to say or do something that’ll make this all go away. I know I’ve apologized numerous times, but had I known… had I had any idea that this…” He trails off again unable to finish his sentence. He doesn’t look at me while he’s talking. He looks at Mikey, and I’m afraid that he’s going to start crying again. The funny-not-so-funny thing about crying is that once the damn bursts, it’s hard if not impossible to plug it again.

“One thing that useless shrink of mine did make me swallow,” I say softly while stroking Minnie’s hair. “Once something has happened, it’s happened. You can’t undo it and you can’t take it back, but it’s important not to live in it. You have to move on—promise to do better and not make the same mistakes. There’s really nothing else you can do. It’s a tough commitment as memories are hard and sometimes impossible to erase, but sometimes, what’s done is done, and we just have to find a way to let go and move on. And I’m trying… I’m doing my best… You should, too.”

He raises his eyes to me and they’re glassy, but no tears fall.

“I’m sorry, Butterfly,” he squeaks, dropping his gaze again.

“I know,” I say. “I forgive you. Forgive me, too… and yourself.” He doesn’t respond.

Forgetting is the problem, not forgiving.

*-*

I never realized how large my office was until it was empty. It’s pretty ginormous. Apparently, I must have felt the need to fill every bit of space in here when we first moved in, because you would never know that there was so much room in here until it was empty. It could also be that the imposing wood shelves are gone, replaced by a stylish and delicate glass shelving system on a greenish-gray backdrop. The space is brighter and lighter, and I’m glad that Luma and I chose natural textures and fibers to outfit the room.

We spend Saturday with our babies, but Sunday, I spend putting my office together. Between the house staff and some of the security personnel, the furniture is organized in a couple of hours and the boxes are unpacked. I meticulously decide what stays and what goes in terms of décor, books, and accessories. It’s time to get rid of the large, chunky pieces and the books that I never read that can also be donated to the Center.

My office at home is a bit sleeker than the office at work. Although the chunky, space-hogging furniture has been replaced with natural straw rugs, a wicker coffee table and ottoman combination, natural fiber light fixtures and lamps, and a woven basket or box here or there, the glass shelves have been filled with contemporary metal, steel, and glass décor as well as strategically placed books with white or bright earth-tone colors—including my new set of journals. Soft, textured curtains with stylish drawbacks line the bookshelves while Antigua Froth rolling shades allow the light to bathe the room from the floor-to-ceiling windows.

The once almost-mission-style seating area has been transformed with the round wicker coffee table that holds four white incognito triangular ottomans, flanked by two white tufted chairs with a matching chaise across from them. The chairs and the chaise are arguably the bulkiest pieces in the room and would normally look out of place as they are made for a more formal setting. However, the wicker coffee table with the white ottoman cushions help to tie the tufted furniture, straw rugs, and other natural fibers together. The combination is eclectic and amazingly compatible at the same time.

I take a moment or two to admire my work once everything is in its place, and I’m loving the fact that I can have my retractable shades open to half-mast and watch the sun setting over the lake. When it appears that my work is done, I take some time to break in my new set of journals. Meditation and yoga are still on the menu to help keep me grounded, but when I’m floundering, it’s going to take the journals and talking.

I start my first entry by describing how I felt the day I realized that my husband had left me. Even now, I’m not really sure when that happened. I know that he left on that Wednesday night after he found me with Liam in the community room, but I don’t know if I knew that he left me that Friday when he wouldn’t answer my calls after two days of trying or that Sunday when I realized he had blocked my cell number. They were both harrowing days for me. I remember feeling like the bottom was falling out from under my world that Friday, and then actually feeling that bottom fall away that Sunday. So, I elaborate on both days.

I move from my desk onto the floor of the sitting area and use the coffee table to write on. Before I know it, I’m pouring my heart out about the bridge and the window seat in the nursery. I wipe away a tear or two when I remember how I felt sitting in that window and waiting—and hoping—for an Audi. I remember giving up hope and trying to focus on the twins… but not, because I still sat in that window. I still sit in it now sometimes, only I have no idea what I’m looking for when I’m looking out that window, watching and waiting.

I remember losing my senses and driving to that lookout point with a bottle of whiskey. That was truly a dumb thing to do. So many other bad things could have happened and I’m only just now realizing how tragic that whole thing really could have been. Then the whole disaster at the hospital and nearly ending up in the psyche ward. Geez, that would have been a stellar gossip-rag headline! I still don’t know how we managed to keep my fall out of the press.

I keep writing, because I can’t seem to find the appropriate words to describe the pain that I felt during that time—seething, burning, agonizing, unbearable, abysmal, like someone was slowly cutting off my limbs with a dull butter knife—nothing seems to adequately capture the way that I was feeling. It was one of the darkest times of my life. It seems so long ago and yet, it feels like yesterday. That’s why it’s so hard to let go… because it hurt so badly.

A gentle knock on my open office door causes me to raise my head. My husband is looking around the room in awe, and I’d forgotten that he didn’t know what kind of transformation had taken place in this room.

“You did all this in one day?” he asks incredulously.

“It was more like four days,” I say, closing my journal and deciding that there were no more synonyms for excruciating that I would find tonight. “I, um, took a page from Grace’s book… picked my colors, picked a look, and ordered the furniture. It wasn’t as hard as planning my office at work.”

“Your office used to look so… full. Now, it doesn’t. It looks more open and… airy.”

“You’re struggling to be PC. Let me help you. My office was sophisticated—neat, professional—but it was cluttered… chock full of stuff. Now, it looks more relaxing, more inviting.”

“Yeah,” Christian says, still looking around the room in awe. “It’s… brighter in here…”

“Less encumbering,” I assist.

“Yeah,” he replies before bringing his gaze to me. “You missed dinner.”

I figured it was kind of late, but not that late.

“I was journaling,” I admit. “The first entry, it… sets the tone, so to speak.” I arise from the floor and close my journal. Walking behind my desk, I put it on the bookshelf with the others.

“What did you do with all your books?” he asks. Not about the furniture, not about the huge makeover of the bookshelves, the books. He’s searching for conversation.

“I’m donating them to start a library at Helping Hands,” I say, turning around to face him. He nods, still looking around the room.

“Can you do my office?” he asks. My eyes widen. What?

“You want your office to look like this?” I ask, amazed.

“Yeah,” he says. “Well, no,” he retracts, shaking his head quickly like he’s shaking off a bad thought. “My office at work has various colors and a lot of white—sleek lines… it doesn’t look like the space is closing in on you, but that’s because of the corner office and the glass walls. The only windows in my office are behind me, and I can’t really see them. You’ve made it look like Sunday morning in here, literally, and that’s a lot to say after nightfall. My office has all the Oxford-ness—the heavy woods and dark atmosphere…”

Jesus, I don’t think he understands what must be done to lighten that room and still stay in sync with Christian Grey. The room is all dark. The natural lighting is almost nonexistent. He has a large, dark marble fireplace sitting between the only two medium-sized windows in the room. We would either have to rip out the fireplace or cover it with lighter marble. Does he ever even use that fireplace? If we decide that we’re not going to use it, we have to cap off the gas line. Demo, capping, too much trouble.

The fireplace stays.

We would need to get rid of the chunky furniture and the big, imposing chunks of architecture. Keep some of the bookshelves and lose some? The window coverings would have to be pale or non-existent. The bookshelves would have to be painted or completely rebuilt, just like mine. We’re definitely not ripping up that flooring, but there would need to be some area rugs to break up that dark marble.

And light! He needs more light. It would need to be track lighting or recessed lighting, and track lighting tends to look so damn tacky.

Recessed lighting with solar bulbs…

“That’s a massive undertaking, Christian,” I warn. “Your office is completely dark, and to lighten it, the space would end up totally different than it is now. Lighting changes, textures and materials, we still want it to look masculine…”

“You had an idea in mind for how you wanted your space to look. I don’t expect for my transformation to take a week. It’s okay if it takes a month or two—although I’d like to be able to use my space…”

“Which means that no work can begin in there until we have a solid idea…” which is what I did in my office. We could utilize the French Doors between the den and the office to take advantage of the natural light from the den…

“Let me give it some thought,” I tell him. “I’m sure I can come up with something that you like… as long as you give me time.” He smiles.

Take all the time you need.”

That’s exactly what I intend to do.

*-*

“Dad is coming to my office today with Harmony,” Christian says at breakfast on Monday morning. “We’re having a powwow today about the divorce and whatnot.” I raise my brow.

“Do you have some kind of plan in mind for her loser husband?” I ask, chomping away on eggs benedict.

“We’ve got plans, but I don’t know how they’re going to play out just yet,” he says. “This entire thing made me consider all the people who have something to lose—or gain, from Tina’s death. Windsor called me yesterday and apprised me of how the house was run before Roger left. It was… not a happy place to work. He’s finding proof that Roger was skimming off Tina’s money when it came time to pay bills or buy groceries or necessities for the mansion, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. His cash cow is completely dead, and if she so chooses, Tina can totally sue for embezzlement.

“Not only that, but the moment the doctors announce time of death, Tina’s children that currently have no time for her, along with nieces, nephews, and any other relatives who come up out of the woodwork, are going to swoop in and try to clean her house out, if they don’t try to put Harmony out of the house completely. So, we need to do something about that. To that end, Allen will sit in on our meeting and we’re going to Skype with Tina and her lawyer at Tina’s house to come up with possible solutions.” I shake my head.

“Shouldn’t her will take care of all of this?” I ask. “I mean they can’t just come in and start laying claim to her shit if she has a will.”

“Yes, they can,” Christian corrects me. “If they show up at that house and push Harmony out of the way, who’s to stop them from physically taking whatever the fuck they want? They’re Tina’s children, too. So, we’re trying to make sure that there’s a way that we can legally prevent them from doing something like that. Once we get that in place, my security team will take care of the physical part.”

“Geez, what a mess,” I comment. “If our children behave this way when we’re gone, I’m going to come back and haunt them for eternity.” I finish my breakfast and take a drink of my coffee. “I’m going down to my office now, and don’t worry. I’ll be going into Helping Hands a little later today. We have some new volunteers and some interviews that need to be conducted for key positions to get ready for the new semester next spring.” I give him a kiss.

“Since I’ve been deemed your new interior decorator, I want you to think about colors and textures that make you comfortable—or uncomfortable. I’m going to do this how I think you’ll like it, but a bit of your input might help.”

“Do whatever you want, Butter…” he begins.

“Oh, no, Grey,” I interrupt. “You’re not going to put all this off on me. Colors or textures that you definitely don’t want in the office. That’s all I need since the task seems so daunting.” I kiss him again, on his forehead this time, and head down to my office. “Have a good day, Dear.”

Courtney emails me that she and the staff are getting the volunteers sorted while Grace is preparing for the interviews that we have this afternoon. We’re still waiting for background checks on two of the applicants, but we see no harm in getting the interviews out of the way since the preliminary background checks are already done. Security will, of course, be a little beefed up, but not so that those who aren’t in the know would see anything different than usual.

We’ve decided that an inhouse maintenance team is definitely the way to go. So, we’ll be doing a hiring campaign for that. Our cleaning contract with Clean It Up for You is up for renewal in January and we’ll look to be filling positions for a handyman and staff around that time. To that end, we’ll need to review the proposals soon submitted for insurances by the various benefits coordinators that Grace and Harmony spoke with last week.

I must admit that I’m almost excited to let that Sherwood cow know that her days are numbered. As far as I’m concerned, her company never did come up to the expectations they should have after they dropped the ball charging us for areas that they never cleaned. Handing them their walking papers will be one of life’s little joys for me.

Our special airs tonight, so we’re having Vee and Josh over to view it along with Al and James, Val and Elliot, Grace and Carrick, and our usual household suspects. Mia took a pass on the whole “gathering” thing, opting to watch it from home as did Dad and Mandy.

I review the refreshment menu with Ms. Solomon, which will include gourmet chicken tenders, a loaded-potato-wedge bar, a nacho bar, a variety of popcorns, concession stand candies and treats, and a drink bar—alcoholic and non-alcoholic. We’ll be viewing it in the movie room, of course. I watched with such a critical eye the first time that I’m somewhat looking forward to seeing the finished product this time with a more relaxed mindset.

At about 11am, shortly before I’m preparing to head to Helping Hands, there’s a knock at my open office door. I raise my eyes to see Marilyn standing there awaiting permission to enter.

“Come in,” I say, clasping my hands on the desk in front of me. Her stance and demeanor show that I’m not dealing with the haughty woman that was kicked out of my office on Thursday.

“You finished it,” she says, looking around the office in awe. “The whole thing… in one weekend.”

“Yes, I did,” I confirm, with no malice.

“Without me,” she adds softly. “I thought you’d be kind of rudderless without me.” Her voice has a tinge of regret.

“I am rudderless without you, Mare,” I admit, then sigh heavily, “but life has to continue.”

“I don’t know what was going on last week,” she begins. I do—you’re pregnant. “It just felt like the world was closing in on me.”

“Did you take a test?” I ask. She shakes her head.

“No… not yet.” So, you still choose to put it off—not my business. I will address the part that is my business, though.

“You have sick time,” I remind her. “You’ve probably accumulated at least a year at this point. I don’t keep up because you never take time off. Take it when you need it.” I pause, and she says nothing. “There’s also this thing called the Family Medical Leave Act. It assures that if you need an extended period of time off for a medical purpose that your job will still be waiting for you when you return…”

“I was a bitch,” she interjects without raising her head. “I know that you would never fire me unless I did some really crazy shit. You promised me job security and I believe you. I was just being a bitch last week… and I’m sorry.”

That’s all that needs to be said.

“And now,” I continue, “you can see that I won’t disintegrate if you have to leave for a while.” We both chuckle. “It’ll be hard without you, but not impossible, as long as I know you’re coming back.”

“‘Only death could keep me from it,’” she jests, quoting Nettie from The Color Purple. Death or motherhood, I think to myself. “Right now, I really need to work.”

“Good, because we’ve got interviews today and new volunteers coming in at Helping Hands. I also have a project for you that could take some time.”

“I could use the distraction,” she says, pulling out her iPad. I really want to lecture her on the dangers of waiting to get medical attention while she’s pregnant no matter what her decision will be. Nonetheless, I decide that it’s still early and we can put it off a little while longer, but not too long.


A/N:I have noticed that on my last three chapters, there was no link to my Pinterest page. I have rectified that situation. My apologies…

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

For those of you who are also muscle-car-heads like me, there is another Pinterest link so that you can get a closer look at those beautiful classic cars. https://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/classic-cars-for-raising-grey-chapter-56/

The new question and answer thread is always open for questions about the story. be sure to read it and please adhere to the rules when asking questions. You can find it on the left, second from last in the menu our you can click HERE.

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

 ~~love and handcuffs