Raising Grey: Chapter 71—Chain Reactions

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 71—Chain Reactions 

CHRISTIAN

We put Chuck and Keri on a plane to South Dakota yesterday to be present for the case today. Butterfly was not happy to see either of them go as Chuck is her detail and Keri is her nanny.

“I feel like my limbs are being cut off one by one,” she says. “My detail, my nanny, my PA…” I had forgotten that Marilyn had taken some time off as well in light of recent developments. I can imagine Butterfly feels a bit rudderless. Thank God Harmony’s here and has agreed to help Gail with the twins.

We haven’t discussed anything that happened Saturday night. I’m not sure how to approach the topic or even what needs to be discussed at this point. After talking to Jason, I somewhat understand the “Cinderella” concept, but how do I voice my displeasure with the way she spoke to my mother? Is this one of those situations where I should just “butt out” since it really had to do with the Center and wasn’t anything personal? It became personal, though—the comments that she made. However, had she said these things at Helping Hands in the course of her job, would I feel the same way? Am I only feeling this way because these things were said in my presence?

She was talking about her professional stance, and the position that my mother put her in by revealing to Adelaide that Courtney was still in town. To Mom, she was trying to help a friend, but to Butterfly, this was a professional betrayal.

I should have stayed out of this.

“You going in this morning?” I ask my wife who has been silent at the breakfast bar.

“Yes,” she says coolly. “I have new employees starting today and I should be there. And I have to figure out what’s going on with my calendar because I’m like a fish out of water without Marilyn.”

“Do you want to meet for lunch?” I say, attempting to offer an olive branch. She looks over at me.

“I’ll… let you know,” she replies uncertainly. “The morning is kind of heavy…”

“I’ll wait,” I interrupt. “You say what time.” She pauses for a moment, still gazing at me.

“Okay,” she says softly. “I’ll call you, then.” I give her hand a squeeze and kiss her on the forehead.

“I’ll see you later, then,” I say, and she nods.

*-*

“Kavanaugh wants nothing to do with you,” Lorenz says at the executive meeting that morning. “He’s shutting down any attempts from this camp to contact him.”

“Well, there’s always a hostile takeover… buy him out,” I suggest.

“Yeah, he thought of that, too,” Ros says, “so he’s not selling.” I nod. My lips form a thin line.

“Fine,” I say. “We’ve got plenty of Kavanaugh’s stock. Start dumping it.” Lorenz frowns deeply.

“Are you crazy?” he asks. I turn to him.

“Do you remember my interview, Lorenz?” I ask. “You’ve seen my portfolio—controlling interests or substantial participation percentages in 28 industries comprised of 419 subindustries in 165 countries on all seven continents. Kavanaugh is one subindustry in one industry in one country on one continent. This is only one of my holdings. It’s his entire life. He doesn’t want a financial and industrial powerhouse to bail him out when he’s on a proverbial dingy with a hole in it about to sink simply because the bailout is coming from me, well then let his ass sink. Start dumping stock 2% at a time. Once the NYSE and the NASDAQ reports that information, he’ll be lucky if he can still be considered penny stock.”

“Christian, this sounds dangerously close to insider trading,” Ros warns.

“Far from it, Ros,” I tell her. “It’s only insider trading if I use inside information not available to anyone else to further my position or unload a disadvantage. This is not inside information. It’s public knowledge that he’s on the skids. ‘Pump-and-dumps’ do it all the time. They buy low, drive up the price, watch the trends, and when it looks like it’s about as high as it’s going to go, they drop it. I’m an investor, and I see an opportunity to save my investment that’s very crappy right now and getting crappier by the second. I’m throwing him a life preserver and he’s kicking it back to me. He’s only looking at one side of that investment coin and that’s the fact that I don’t have enough to do a hostile. And he’s right, I don’t. However, I do have enough to make other investors sit up and take notice if I start dumping my shares.”

“There’s going to be no coming back from this,” Lorenz warns.

“There’s already no coming back from it,” I tell him. “He’s made it clear that he wants no part of my golden parachute. So be it. If I were so shrewd as to drive the price down, make him open sales again and gobble up the market before anybody else, guaranteeing at the very least a hostile takeover, he’d poison pill the company before I got my hands on it. I can tell when a company is on that final spiral down the drain, and Kavanaugh already has his feet in the grates—he just doesn’t think anybody knows it.”

I raise an eyebrow at Lorenz whose expression confirms that he agrees with me.

“Someone can still reach in and save him, and it doesn’t have to be me, but when and if they do, they’re going to be dealing with a company that’s worth at least one-third less than it is right now if not even less than that. Start dumping the stock. If I’m wrong and it turns around for him and the investors are making money, by dumping 2% at a time, I’ll still have a portion of my investment left. So… let the market decide.”

I wave the whole thing off. Buying Kavanaugh Media would have been a personal coup, but nothing more. I’ve got enough money to use C-notes to wipe my ass for the rest of my life. I don’t need this shit.

“And what’s going on with Kate Kavanaugh?” I ask. It makes me nervous when people just disappear.

“It appears that the Kavanaugh Princess is hiding out in the Hamptons with young Kevin… at least we think Kevin’s with her. You know her career is tied up in Kavanaugh Media and shortly, there’ll be no Kavanaugh Media. So, unless she has an endless money pot stashed somewhere, she’ll be looking for a job soon.” Ros replies.

“Make sure we keep our eye on her… just in case.” Lorenz nods.

“Excuse me, sir. Mr. Welch is in the lobby and says he needs to talk to you immediately.” Andrea’s voice surprises me as she never interrupts when I’m in a meeting. “He has Ms. McIntyre with him.”

Oh shit. Mac. What the hell is going on?

“I’m going to have to take this meeting,” I say to Lorenz and Ros. “Alex and Mac usually isn’t good news. Have we covered everything?” Lorenz looks at Ros, who nods.

“For now, it seems,” he says. “I’ll keep you posted.”

“Good man,” I say. “Send them in on your way out.”

I pop my neck as Ros and Lorenz leaves preparing myself for whatever the Gruesome Twosome have to tell me. I know it’s bad when I see their faces. Alex is serious, and Mac is a bit somber.

“Okay, out with it,” I say. Don’t beat around the bush, just give it to me. Alex closes the door and Mac drops a gossip rag on my desk.

“Tell me what I’m looking for here,” I say. “I really don’t feel like combing through stories of back woods women having babies by Elvis, aliens, and Michael Jackson.”

“Bottom left hand corner,” Mac says taking a seat. Alex stands behind her. I look at the bottom left corner of the tabloid.

Incarcerated Socialite to Write Tell-All Book of her Ordeal

“What?” I ask horrified. “I thought the law was written as such that she couldn’t exploit her crime for profit!”

“If she writes it as a fiction novel and changes all the names, she can,” Mac informs me.

“She’d have to change the events, too,” I nearly screech. “That woman molested children! It wouldn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out who she’s talking about in her story—just a really good critical thinker, and I’m not just talking about my experience. One of those kids killed himself!” I suddenly want this woman to just disappear from the face of the earth.

“You’ve confirmed that this is true?” I ask them both. “This isn’t just some nasty rumor?”

“It’s confirmed, sir,” Alex says. “She’s been corresponding with ghost writers, publishers… even attorneys to make sure that she’s following the rules to get the book published.”

“And they’re going to publish this garbage.” It’s a statement, not a question.

“Are you kidding?” Mac says. “Like you said, it won’t take a rocket scientist to tell who the characters are, even if she changes the names and events. A tell-all about Christian Grey and other possible prominent members of Seattle society? Right after you do an exposé of you and your lovely wife and your lovely life? Her timing is perfect—for her, that is. Depending on what she puts in that book, she can blow your image of your happy home right out of the water. But there’s so much more at stake here…”

“You don’t have to tell me,” I say. The damage that can be caused by the implications of this book are nearly fucking endless.

“So many pictures,” Alex laments. “So many boys…”

“Exactly,” I sigh. “We don’t even know if we found them all. Decades and decades of that shit—the embarrassment, humiliation, and pain this could cause is endless.”

Hasn’t she caused enough fucking heartache? What the fuck is she after? Before she died, Aunt Tina told me that Elena was corresponding with people, trying to get responses. What is she really doing? She can’t possibly hope to profit from this. Her only chance of release is escape. What’s really going on?

“Why is she trying to get attention?” It’s a rhetorical question.

“How did this story hit the mainstream?” I ask.

“There’s no telling,” Mac says. “She could have done it, it could be a publicity leak—nobody’s paying attention right now, but they’ve got their breach. All they need from this point is momentum.”

“And me visiting the prison would be momentum,” I observe.

“I’m so glad you figured that out on your own,” Mac exclaims. “I could just see you in my mind’s eye flying to the prison to ruffle some feathers and all you end up getting is a front-page spot.”

“Okay, so,” I stand from my desk and clasp my hands, “I’m open for suggestions on how to proceed with this because you know me—I’m ready to run in like a bull in a China shop.”

“We could get an injunction,” Mac says, “but we’d have to know what was in the book before we could do that.”

“So, an injunction’s out. Next plan?”

“Get in touch with the warden,” Alex offers. “He knows you, if I recall.”

“Yes, we’re acquainted,” I remark, remembering the very uncomfortable circumstances I arranged for Mrs. Lincoln after I discovered that she was responsible for the false accusations of sexual misconduct against my wife. “Anything we can do about her possible publishers and ghost writers? Make this endeavor look unattractive?”

“Here’s the thing about writing, Christian,” Mac says. “Once something is out there—articles, print, pictures, books—it’s out there. It’s so much easier to undo something someone said, even on television, than it is to undo the backlash of the written word. Any attempts to make something like this look unattractive would only have the opposite effect because believe me, no one is more aware that the pen is mightier than the sword than the person holding the pen.”

“So, I basically have no recourse now outside of talking to the warden?” I ask appalled. “He can’t possibly be ignorant to this, and he hasn’t done anything yet!”

“It’s very likely that he’s not,” Mac replies. “Why he’s not doing anything is yet to be determined.”

I scroll through the contacts on my computer and locate the information for Ronald Holstein. After going through a million transfers, I’m finally connected to his receptionist who, upon hearing my name, informs me that he’s unavailable but that she could take a message or patch me through to his voicemail. Since I’m not really sure if he’s aware of what’s going on, I leave a professional message on his voicemail to contact me as soon as possible no matter what time.

“So, now we wait,” I say.

I just got the damn Pussy DJ off our backs and now this? Jesus, it never ends!

*-*

I’m irritated when I get home as Holstein didn’t return my call, and surprised that Butterfly is already there since I’m home a little earlier than usual.

“Hey,” I say. “You’re here early.”

“So are you,” she says matter-of-factly. She’s sitting in the family room with a bowl of popcorn watching old movies like she’s been kicked back for the entire day.

“Is everything okay?” I ask, sitting next to her.

“I would really rather not talk about it,” she says. “I’m sorry I didn’t call you for lunch, but I was terribly distracted.” I nod.

“I have some news,” I say. She picks up the remote and silences the television. Placing the popcorn on the seat next to her, she brushes off her hands and sits up straight, like she’s preparing herself to go into battle.

This must have really been a pretty fucked-up day.

“Elena’s trying to write a book,” I spit out. She rubbernecks to me, her expression horrified.

“What?” she gasps. “I thought… I thought criminals weren’t allowed to profit from their crimes. I mean that’s the only thing she could possibly be writing about.”

“There are ways around it,” I tell her. “There’s no law against her writing a book. If she changes the names and events and it becomes a work of fiction, she’s in the clear assuming that no one can determine that she’s talking about real people—but everyone will know that she’s talking about real people. Conspiracy theorists and bloggers and motherfuckers with too much time on their hands may even be able to match her story with timelines and events and point a compass to specific people…”

“Like us,” she says.

“More than us, Butterfly, we were all over the trial. We’ll just be her anchor. Think of all those boys and their families. Some of them are adults and have families of their own, and if you remember, at least one that we know of didn’t make it. This woman has no fucking scruples!”

“And apparently absolutely nothing to lose,” Butterfly says flatly. I thought I proved that she did have something to lose in our last conversation, but maybe I wasn’t firm enough. We’re silent for a moment, and then my wife drops a bombshell on me.

“I’m considering leaving Helping Hands,” she says calmly. My turn to rubberneck.

“You’re what?” So much for not wanting to talk about it.


ANASTASIA

I can barely decipher what’s going on with my calendar. Marilyn has a lot of shorthand going on here and several reminders for her to do certain things. I really should have taken a better look at this thing last week when I wasn’t all a-flustered from the weekend’s events, but c’est la vie. I may have to draft someone somewhere to help me with this mess, but we’ll have to see.

I shoot a text off to Marilyn simply saying that I hope she had a nice Thanksgiving and I hope she’s taking care of herself. Every call I’ve tried to put in to Gary has gone straight to voicemail. I’ve left a few messages for him but stopped after the third one. After having that treatment from my father when he didn’t want to speak to me and then from Christian when he escaped to Madrid, instant defer to voicemail calls leave me with a very icky feeling to the degree of stirring up remnants of the Boogeyman. How about I choose not to do that to myself.

In an attempt to make sure that my friend hasn’t fallen to an ill fate, I recruit the assistance of the rest of the Scooby Gang to try to contact Gary. I only tell them that it appears that there has been a break-up and Marilyn is with her parents right now. None of us have had any luck contacting him.

Marilyn hasn’t returned my text either and I deduce that they’re both still radio silent. I just hope that she has me listed somewhere as an emergency contact so that someone will know to inform me if something really bad happens.

Ebony is doing well in the day care center and I’m hoping that we can convince her to put some of her other skills to use in the Center. God knows we need them in the worse way. We have a few new employees on the cleaning staff as well. We’re planning to end the contract with Sherwood and Clean It Up for You in January. So, we want to have a core team in place by that time and hire additional staff as needed.

Another development we’ve had since the interview is the outpouring of support from the community as well as the influx of donations right in time for the holiday season—clothing, non-perishable food items, cash and pledges, even additional volunteers. I’ve been able to get some applications from various sources for people who may be able to fill the many positions we’ll be needing to fill since we finally received our accreditation. I wasn’t kidding when I told Christian that my morning would be full—even fuller than I thought with me having to do my own administrative work. That must be why I was totally bowled over by the voice that greets me in the middle of the morning.

“Ana?”

I raise my head to see Addie standing in my office door. Oh, dear God.

“Addie!” I say, standing quickly from my seat and nearly knocking it over. “Please, c… come in.” Come all the way in and close the door behind you!

“I…” She timidly walks into my office. “Your office… it looks really different.”

“Yes,” I say, gesturing her further into the office and closing the door behind her. Sweet Jesus, this is a disaster. “I was able to make some changes with… all the different things that have been going on. We’ve finally gotten our accreditation, you know. There’s a lot that needs to be done in such a short time.”

“I’d…” She takes a seat in the Zen sitting area. “I’d like to make a donation… if I could.”

“Addie… that’s so kind of you.” She reaches into her purse and hands me a check. I don’t really focus in on the amount, but I see a whole lotta zeroes. “Addie, this is so generous.”

“It’s the very least I can do,” she says, lowering her head. “I turned that child away—ready to feed her back to the dogs that she came from. You’ve worked miracles with her.” I sigh.

“I didn’t do anything, really, Addie,” I tell her. “Courtney did all the work on her own…” and if she sees you here, the work may all be undone.

As if the fates heard my lamentations, my door flies open and in marches a distraught Courtney. She never enters my office without knocking when the door is closed. I know why she’s coincidentally here now.

“G… Grandmother!” she says, her voice more horrified than anything. Oh, shit. Addie stands and turns to her.

“Courtney!” she breathes. “Yo… you’re so… beautiful.” Courtney never takes her eyes off her grandmother but begins to frantically wring her hands. Addie takes a step towards her, but Courtney takes a step back, the dams bursting immediately and causing massive waterfalls down her cheeks.

“I’m sorry,” Courtney says, her voice full of tears, “I’m sorry, Grandmother, for the horrible person that I was and the terrible things that I did…”

“Oh, Courtney…”

“I’m sorry… that I hurt you… and that I hurt Grandfather… but you hurt me, too.” She weeps. Addie looks a bit horrified.

“You said I was worthless… nothing… you said I was better off dead…”

“Courtney!” Addie exclaims. “I did not say that! I would never say that!”

“Spare parts!” Courtney cries accusingly. “You said I was worth nothing but spare parts!”

Addie stands guiltily looking at her granddaughter.

“I felt like the world would be a better place without me. I was horrible and awful and even my spare parts were worthless. Maybe that’s how I made you feel… maybe I made you feel like you’d be better off dead and that’s why you made me feel that way. It’s a horrible, awful, wretched feeling and if I did that, I swear to God that I’ll never do that to anybody else as long as I live!” Courtney cries.

“Court…”

“I didn’t change my ways because of that,” she sobs, cutting off her grandmother. “I changed because I didn’t want to go back to Chuktapaw. I didn’t want to end up in a dead-end life like my mom! She has no hope! No future! And she doesn’t want to change! She wants to stay in that rat-infested lean-to that she’s lived in with that low-life man that she’s been with for years and she’s going to die there, and I don’t want that to be me!

“Somebody showed me that I was worth something even when I thought I wasn’t… even when you thought I wasn’t. Ana could have let me rot in that shelter, answer ads to be a stripper, but she and Ms. Grace took pity on me—after how I treated her, the things I said to her! She took pity on me… somebody thought I was worth something…

She weeps harder and Addie doesn’t speak. She must know that Courtney is just reloading.

“But I don’t care how horrible someone is to me. I’ll never in my life ever make them feel like they don’t deserve to be alive. I’ll walk away forever and never speak to them again before I ever make them feel like the earth would be a better place without them!”

“Courtney…” Addie says finally, “your mom is gone.” Courtney’s eyes pierce.

“What?” she asks incredulously. “When?”

“June,” she says.

“How?”

“Some rare virus,” Addie says. “I didn’t get the details. I didn’t even know she was sick.” Courtney purses her lips and clears her throat.

“Hence, my point,” she says nodding through her tears. “My mom’s gone, and nobody cared. Nobody knew. Nobody felt anything, not even me. Not even now, I don’t feel anything. I didn’t wish her dead and it’s tragic that she’s gone, but I knew,” she says, her voice still cracking, “I knew that’s how she would die. That’s how I would have died, and you were okay with that.”

“I was not okay with that, Courtney, I was hurt…”

“But that’s not what you said!” she wails. “I hurt you! I accept that and I’m sorry. I knew I would get money when you died, but I didn’t wish you dead! I never wished you dead!” she sobs. “I didn’t expect for you to account for what you said or how you felt. I just couldn’t deal with it. I couldn’t look at you and know that you felt that I was nothing more than an organ donor. I can’t change the things that I did and the way that I treated people, but there’s enough bad crap going on in the world and enough bad memories in my head to not subject myself to any new agonies.”

She straightens her back even though the tears continue to fall.

“Things have changed for me, Grandmother,” she says. “I found a life that I didn’t know I could have—a real life, with real people and purpose! I see a future beyond dollar signs. All I could see before was money and what I could do with it, and now I see so much more…

“I found somebody who loves me, who doesn’t care that I’m broke, who’s not looking for the next big trust fund. I had to find me first, but once I did, she saw what I couldn’t see. She helped me see that there’s so much more to me. I’m in school now. I want to help kids—troubled kids, kids who don’t think anybody understands them. She helped me see that I could do that. I didn’t think I could, but she wouldn’t let me give up… and now, I’m on my way. And I love it, and I love her, and she loves me!

“I have friends and people like me, and I can be myself—not what I think people want me to be. I don’t hang out with any of the ‘cool kids’ anymore, because just like I was a bad influence on them, they were a bad influence on me.

“Mrs. Franklin died. Did you know that?” she asks but continues talking before Addie can answer. “I didn’t go to her funeral. I didn’t know who would be there, but her daughter—Harmony—we’re friends. I’ve been talking to her and helping her through this time as much as I can. Mrs. Franklin’s children… they’re horrible. They’re worse than I ever was and old enough to know better, and now Harmony has to deal with them. I’ll never be like them again, but Harmony is good people, and I’ll be there for her…”

Courtney is rambling on and on and on about the person that she has become, and I realize that this is something that she needs to do. We let her talk and talk through her tears for a solid twenty more minutes until she’s physically exhausted. I catch her before she collapses on the floor in tears and help her to the seating area where she crumples onto the sofa and continues to weep.

Addie tentatively moves next to her and takes Courtney’s shuddering body in her arms. Her own tears flowing from her eyes, she expels a string of apologies, telling Courtney how much she loves her and never stopped.

Now is my cue to leave. I’m emotionally exhausted myself.

I leave my office and close the door behind me. When I raise my head, Grace is standing there with her arms folded, a triumphant smirk on her face.

“Don’t give me that look,” I say, firmly. “You were still out of place and you still meddled where you shouldn’t have. You got lucky. This could have been disastrous.” She still smirks at me.

“But it wasn’t, was it?” she says haughtily and turns away, beginning her victory stroll down the hall.

“Grace!” I call, my blood boiling. She turns to face me, ready for battle.

I’m not.

“I love this place,” I say closing the space between us, “but you know that I don’t have to do this. You know I’ve worked hard with Courtney and I respected her wishes because just like Addie, she was traumatized. You threw that out the window like it was nothing because you felt like it. I’ve built up her trust and you could have destroyed that because you thought the outcome should be different. You could have undone everything I did, everything she did, and you walk around haughtily flexing your plume because the situation happened to work out this time without any consideration for the damage you could have caused. I know that I’m only second in command, but if you ever undermine my authority like that again, you can find yourself another second.” She folds her arms, frowning.

“Is that a threat, Anastasia?” she confronts. Oh, dear God. She does want a fight. She can’t see for the life of her that she could have undone all of my hard work, and nor does it matter to her. I sigh a scoffing sigh and cover my face with my hands shaking my head. That’s it. I give up. I can’t put in this kind of work to have someone look at it like it’s nothing.

Nothing. That’s what it is.

“Absolutely nothing.”

I didn’t know I verbalized the words until I hear myself say them. I shake my head and walk away. I can’t even go to the nursery to see my babies because I didn’t bring them with me. I need alone time and my office is occupied. I walk to the other side of the building to the empty rooms that will soon be classrooms and activity rooms. I sit at one of the tables with the lights out and focus on my breathing…

In with the good air, out with the bad…
In with the good air, out with the bad…
In with the good air, out with the bad…

I don’t know how long I sit in that room meditating, but when I emerge and go to my office, the coast is clear. I go inside, closing the door behind me. I don’t think about anything. I just move, closing my laptop and putting it in its bag, packing small personal items into my messenger bag—nothing dramatic. I take a little time to scribble a note on my notepad. I know she’ll come back looking for me.

Dear Courtney,

I’m sorry if this situation caused you any grief. However it turns out, please know that I didn’t engineer this meeting. I hope you don’t feel like I’ve betrayed your trust and that we can still be friends. Please continue to stay in the condo for as long as you need to, and if you choose to leave, just let me know.

Anastasia

I fold the letter, seal it in an envelope, and write Courtney’s name on it in large letters. I put on my coat, pull my purse out of my desk drawer, and put my laptop bag and messenger bag over my shoulder. I snap off a piece of tape and tape the letter to Courtney on my office door. I retrieve my briefcase, walk to the door and turn out the lights without looking back, closing the door behind me.

I look carefully up and down the hallway and, spotting no one, I leave the office and quietly make my way to the service door and the parking lot behind the Center. I type a text to Chuck, then I remember that he’s not here with me. He’s in South Dakota in court with his family. I copy the text to Ben’s number and inform him that I’m in the parking lot and ready to go. Moments later, he comes out to join me.

“Is everything okay?” he asks when he gets into the driver’s seat of the Audi.

“Yes,” I lie. “I’m just ready to go home.”

*-*

“Why are you thinking of leaving Helping Hands?” Christian questions.

“Because my opinion is no longer respected or valued,” I reply.

“Baby, don’t you think that may be a bit dramatic?” he asks.

“I certainly do not!” I retort. “Do you see the progress Courtney has made in the last year? Even you have to say that’s remarkable. Do you know what kind of work it took to get her there? Do you know how hard I had to work to gain her trust—to get her to confide in me? She was living in squalor and I had to convince her to move into my condo. You can look at her face and see that she’s a completely different person than the girl we met. Even her showdown with Mia—it was extremely emotional, and it showed just how much she had grown, evolved. It took forever to earn her trust and she only asked one thing of me—not to tell her Grandmother that she was still in Seattle. I tried everything I could to convince her to talk to her Grandmother and she. Was not. Ready, and Grace just dismissed her wishes, my promises, all the work she had done, everything.”

“You guys are still fighting about that?” he asks.

“No, were not,” I say finitely. “We’re not fighting about it because one, she dismisses anything I say about the situation and two, she engineered a meeting between them.”

“Really?” he asks, his eyes wide. “How did that go?”

“I don’t really know!” I reply perturbed. “Courtney flipped the fuck out, sobbing and rambling for about half an hour, telling her grandmother how worthless and awful she made her feel. Things that Courtney was feeling that I didn’t even know came out in this meeting. She was devastated. She talked and wept until she collapsed in exhaustion.”

“Then what?” he questions, his mouth hanging open in awe.

“Addie hugged her, they were crying, and I left the room,” I finish. My husband’s head snapped back.

“Okay, what happened after you left?”

“Grace is standing outside with this smug I told you so look on her face, and I’m trying to explain to her that situations don’t always turn out that way. They could end up disastrous if you don’t handle them carefully.” My mind immediately goes to Stoley and to Ace’s shark tooth. “I tried to get her to understand that things could have gone astronomically wrong and she totally dismissed me—smugly, too!”

“But baby, can’t you just count this one as a win? I mean, all’s well that ends well, right?”

“NO!” I yell. “How can you two not see this? This was a four-way stop where the traffic lights don’t work, and everybody went forward at the same time! They were just lucky they didn’t crash and end up splattered all over the street! Somebody has to be out there to direct that traffic and that’s what I was trying to do, and she totally disregarded me. She disregarded everything and she’s proud of it. She told everybody to just drive, and the accident did happen. I’m just waiting to see if there are any survivors.”

“Baby, don’t kill me… but… could it be that you’re angry because my mother was right?” he asks.

“No, I’m angry because your mother was wrong!” I correct him. “What she did was the equivalent of playing Russian Roulette and the gun just didn’t go off. Instead of breathing a sigh of relief that her brains didn’t end up splattered all over the wall, she’s doing a taunting victory dance that the bullet happened to be in a different cartridge.

“But here’s the thing,” I say, moving the pillow from my lap and putting it back on the sofa, “I don’t have to be right. I’m just not going to be in a place where someone doesn’t respect my authority or wishes. She hired me because I’m a doctor—a professional, licensed psychiatrist. Then she completely ignored my professional recommendations on a case that was mine—a case that I had cultivated and groomed personally for a year—and then she gloated about it and she taunted me, and she disparaged everything I said. I can’t work like that. I can deal with being wrong, but I can’t… and won’t… work like that.”

I stand up and walk out of the family room, not because he doesn’t agree with me but because he and I shouldn’t be fighting about this. I won’t argue with him anymore about things that happen between me and his mother at the Center, assuming I go back to the Center.

“I’m not walking away angry,” I call back to him through the kitchen. “I’m just walking away… okay?”

“Fair enough,” he says after a pause.

I don’t even change out of my pajamas on Tuesday. I deliberately spend the entire day playing with my children, eating junk food, and watching romance movies with Harmony while deliberately ignoring my phone. Harmony plays hooky from school, too, because tomorrow, she has to go to Carl’s office and face off with her mother’s children for the reading of the will. She asks if Christian and I will come with her. I promise to be there and told her that we would have to approach Christian when he gets home. As it turns out, he knew about it before I did and had already planned to attend.

So, D-Day comes, and we put our war clothes on and head to Carl’s office. Harmony wears a turban so that her shaved head won’t be the topic of discussion. I’m not looking forward to this meeting, but Harmony admits that she’ll be glad when this is over so that the vultures can get their money and go away forever. She’s certain that she’ll never see them again unless they try to get her out of the house. In fact…

“I’ve decided to put the house up for sale,” Harmony says as Jason parks the Audi and we exit


CHRISTIAN

“Are you sure about that?” I ask her.

“I’m positive,” Harmony replies. “Not only are there just too many memories for me to stay, but it’s just too big. I know Momma only put the place in my name so that they wouldn’t put me out the moment that she passed away and to give me some time to figure out what I would do next. I’m certain she won’t mind. I like having space, but it’s way too much space. With the money from my trust alone, I’m sure that I could find a really nice place—maybe even downtown somewhere not so set apart from the rest of the world.”

“What are you going to do with the money from the sale,” I ask, “if you’re going to use your trust to buy a new place?” She shrugs.

“Replace the money from my trust,” she says. “I’m not going to spend the whole trust on a place. Maybe I’ll just rent something in town until I sell the mansion. Let’s face it, I’m a twenty-something girl in a big ass mansion out in the suburbs all by myself. I have all the makings of a recluse while I’m fighting off my brothers and sisters. The sooner I get away from the house, the better. I’m going to hold on to it long enough for Momma’s estate to be properly disposed of and then as soon as it’s done, I’m finding a real estate agent.”

“Would you be interested in a downtown penthouse?” Butterfly and Harmony both snap their heads over to me.

“Would I!” Harmony says, her interest piqued. “You know of one available?”

“I do,” I say, and my eyes shift to Butterfly’s.

“You’re selling Escala?” she asks in disbelief. I sigh softly.

“You love your condo,” I begin. “It had great memories for you, and I don’t have a problem with that. Escala… not so much.”

“Escala? Are you serious?” Harmony says. “You have a penthouse in Escala?”

“Yes, I do,” I say. “I’m having a few renovations done to it, and if you can wait until they’re done and I’ve gone through it to make sure that there’s nothing remaining that I want, we can negotiate a fair price and you can take it with all the furnishings.”

“That would be perfect,” Harmony says. “How long do you think the renovations will take?”

“Everything should be ready by the new year,” I inform her. The playroom will have been converted back to a regular bedroom by then and all of the BDSM paraphernalia removed. “You can stay with us until then if you don’t want to go back to the mansion.”

“Yes, please,” she says. “I’m thinking that I’ll just have to go on and dismiss the staff,” she adds as she steps onto the elevator. “I’ll give them some kind of severance once I hear what Mom has done and decide who I’d want to come with me… and who would want to come with me.”

“You can’t have Windsor,” I tell her.

“I figured as much,” she laughs as the elevator rises.

When we enter the office, all of the siblings have already arrived. They look at Harmony in distaste and with narrowed eyes and all I can think is that Paige and Theo sure don’t look like they’ve recently spent time in jail.

The receptionist leads us to the conference room and we all take a seat at the large conference table—the siblings on one side and Harmony, myself, and my wife on the other.

“Why are there strangers at the reading of my mother’s will?” Ilsa says haughtily.

“They’re only strangers to you and I want them here, so they’re staying!” Harmony claps back, her voice so sharp that no one else dare question our presence. There’s a fierce stare-off between Harmony and Ilsa, but Harmony doesn’t stand down. I’m a little entranced waiting to see which of them is going to blink first when I’m jolted from the spectacle by someone calling my name.

“Christian!” Carl greets me, surprised. He enters the room and shakes my hand. “I’m sorry, I didn’t expect to see you. I’m glad someone could be here for Harmony.”

“Thank you, Carl. This is my wife, Anastasia.” He smiles at Butterfly.

“Mrs. Grey,” he extends his hand. “A pleasure to meet you. Thank you for being here.”

“Ana, please,” she says. “So, it’s okay that we’re here?”

“It’s absolutely okay,” Carl confirms. “In fact, it’s welcomed. Please, have a seat.” He moves to the head of the conference table. “Everyone, please sit. Let’s get started.”

“So, all he saw was the guy and the tart sitting at the end of the table?” Ilsa hisses to Paige. What the fuck!

“Watch it, you bitter, cantankerous, old bat!” Butterfly shoots across the table, and all eyes turn to her. Ilsa gasps and literally clutches her pearls.

“How dare you!” she exclaims, appalled.

“How did you know that I was talking about you?” Butterfly asks matter-of-factly. “Was it the bitter part, the cantankerous part, or the old bat?” As if they could, Ilsa’s eyes widen further and she gasps again. “If you can’t take it, don’t dish it out,” Butterfly adds and Paige scoffs.

“Young people these days have no respect for their elders!” Paige hisses.

“Says the woman who waited for her mother to die, then showed up and asked for her diamond earrings back!” Butterfly barks. Now it’s Paige’s turn to gasp. “You don’t think I saw you examining your mother’s body jewelry—for your precious earrings, you grave-robbing, greedy ass vulture? You don’t know the meaning of the word respect, so you certainly won’t get it from me!”

Paige’s gasping is audible, like she’s having an asthma attack.

“Are you gonna die, Paige?” Harmony asks. “You might want to hold off until you at least find out what you’re getting.” Paige’s performance ceases and her evil glare is now turned to Harmony.

“I want them removed!” Ilsa barks at Carl. “I will not be treated this way at the reading of my mother’s will!” Them? Who is this them of whom you speak? I haven’t said anything to you yet, Ms. Daisy!

“It’s like she said, Ilsa,” Carl says, “If you don’t want anybody throwing adverse comments about you, don’t throw adverse comments about them. It’s a simple concept—a variation of The Golden Rule, you remember that? We learned it in Sunday School.”

Ilsa is even more appalled than she was before.

“Now, can we get started, or would you rather throw more insults across the table?”

“I didn’t insult anyone. I simply spoke the truth.”

“That woman,” Carl says, pointing at my wife, “is a highly-regarded member of the community, just like your mother was. She’s a doctor, a respected businesswoman, and a philanthropist well known in many social, business, and professional circles—more well-known than you are if for nothing else but her philanthropic work alone. So—Ms. Ilsa—calling her a twat simply because you don’t like the fact that she’s young, rich, and beautiful is the furthest thing from the truth! Now, shall we get started?”

Ilsa’s already prune-like face shrivels up even more as she absorbs Carl’s words, but she says nothing else.

“I have here Tina’s last will and testament. It’s quite detailed as to the disbursement and disposition of her estate and reading it will most likely take all afternoon. To that effect, I have a video that I will present before we proceed.”

Carl pushes a button on a remote and a screen descends from the ceiling against the wall behind him, much like the hidden screen in my office. Everyone in the room sits silently as we await whatever presentation we are about to see. The lights dim only slightly and after several seconds, the screen comes alive.

The setting is the second-floor library at the Franklin mansion, and Tina sits comfortably in a large chair in her shawl with her afghan over her lap.

All of the women gasp, including my wife.

“My name is Ernestina Eloise Franklin. I am of sound mind and not-so-sound body, and this is my last will and testament, recorded September 14, 2014. A written, signed, detailed, and notarized version of my will is currently in the possession of my attorney, Carl Richardson. This informal recording is for my family.

“I don’t know how many of you have gathered for the reading, but I assume that at least the immediate children will want to know what my will contains. Unless one or more of you have preceded me to the afterlife and nobody bothered to tell me, I know you’re all here, so let’s get right to it, shall we?

“My written will is solidly eighteen pages of very small print. I won’t put Carl through the tedious process of having to read the whole damn thing as I’m certain that each of you would much rather I just get to the point. So, without the hitherto’s, whitherto’s, therefores, and whatnots, this is what my will says.

“Let me start by saying that none of you get to contest it—none of you! I’m fully aware that the only person that I’m not allowed to disown is my husband, and he preceded me in death. Don’t make me disown any of you post-mortem. Trust me, I found a way to do it.”

The siblings all look at each other while Harmony never takes her eyes off the screen. I don’t even think she’s paying attention to her mother’s words; she just gazes lovingly at her mother’s image and barely takes a breath.

“You all have houses—sprawling mansions on huge estates afforded to you by the fortunes you acquired from me, Daddy, or your profit sharing from Franklin Steel. Some of you even have vacation homes and timeshares in exotic locations. To that end, you don’t need another house, but Harmony does as she doesn’t have one. On that note, Franklin House and the contents therein are to be passed down to Harmony.”

She must have made this tape before she did the quit deed. This, however, is no surprise to anyone in attendance.

“I have various other investment, ventures, stock options, mutual funds, CD’s, and the like in my portfolio. Carl has compiled individual portfolios for each of you to indicate how these investments will be divided among you. The particular numbers and dollar amounts are in my written will, but I guarantee you that the amounts in your portfolios are accurate. You may consult with Carl—or your own private attorney—concerning the disposition of these various assets. They can be transferred, or they can be liquidated—the choice is yours.

“My current liquid assets including all bank accounts, CD’s, the family trust and cash on hand total approximately $62 million. This does not include Harmony’s trust fund, which she has not yet received. The amounts will be divided as follows:

“All of my estate expenses are to be settled first—funeral costs, hospital bills, any outstanding debts or claims against the estate. The remaining members of my house staff are to receive $200,000 each. This will be considered severance pay should they decide they do not wish to continue under the employ of Franklin House upon my passing.

“Each child will receive $500,000 to distribute among their families—children, grand-children, etc.—as they see fit. Those funds will be disbursed to whichever of your descendants that you indicate. My grandson Damien’s share will be given directly to him as well, as his mother preceded me in death. Harmony, as you have no children, your $500,000 will be put into a separate trust for your future descendants. I hope you don’t think me cruel or think that I’m trying to force you to have children. I just want to be sure that, in that eventuality, your children have something as well. I think 40 is a good age to decide if you’re going to procreate. So, if by that age, you haven’t decided to have any children, the $500,000 is yours to use as you see fit.

“Once all expenses have been settled and the disbursements executed as requested, the remainder of my liquid assets are to be divided evenly among my five surviving children, the disposition thereof to be overseen directly by my attorney, Carl Richardson.

“As for the distribution of the family business, each of you will retain your voting shares in Franklin Steel. My shares will be divided as follows:

“Harmony, since you don’t have any shares yet, you will get 60% of my shares. Ilsa, Theodore, Jonah, and Paige, the remaining 40% will be split among you. If my calculations are correct, that means that the five of you will now have equal voting shares each. If you have sold any of your previous shares, that’s not my problem.”

There’s a whole lot of scoffing and gagging on the other side of the table as had Tina’s voting shares been split evenly among the children, each of the siblings would have had much more than Harmony—significantly more, in fact.

Each sibling currently holds approximately one-sixth, or just over 16%, of the Franklin family voting shares… every sibling except for Harmony, that is. Tina held the other one-third. Had she split her one-third five ways, each sibling—Harmony included—would have gotten 20% of her shares. With the shares that the current siblings should already have in their portfolios, that would have put each of them at over 23% of the voting shares each, leaving Harmony with less than 7% for herself. I can imagine that Tina spent quite some time calculating the value of her shares and comparing them to what each of her biological children had to arrive at the calculations she reached. If each of them held on to their voting shares, they will now each have 20% of the Franklin Family voting shares.

It’s obvious that several of them are displeased with this outcome. Jesus, they’re worse than Freeman.

“If you pay attention to my body, I shouldn’t have had a single piece of jewelry on me—not a diamond, not a piece of platinum, not even my wedding ring. Why? Because you can’t take it with you… right, Paige?”

Everyone looks over at Paige, who doesn’t seem surprised that her mother singled her out.

“Yes, Paige, I remember what you said. Each time you asked me for those diamond earrings back—12 times over the last several years to be exact—and I told you that I loved them so much that I wanted to be buried in them. Well, Paige, I lied.

“You bought those earrings and gave them to me for my 50th birthday. I wore them at that party and I never wore them again. They’re huge, they’re gaudy, they’re highly overstated and unattractive and you bought them for yourself! You made this big production of giving them to me in front of all my friends only to ask for them back six months later. Well, here’s what’s going to happen now.

“Christian, I’m assuming that you or your lovely wife has accompanied my Harmony to this reading…”

Okay, I’m a bit in shock, as are each of Tina’s children… including Harmony.

“If you haven’t, not to worry. Carl will apprise you of this portion of the will. All of my jewelry—all of it—is to be sold at auction and the proceeds donated to charity. That means every. Single. Piece of it, and I’ve already had it inventoried. I’d like for you to oversee the disposition of the jewelry and assure that the final donation be forwarded to Grace or Anastasia at Helping Hands.”

Paige gasps when she hears the fate of her beloved earrings… or so she thinks.

“Paige, your earrings aren’t part of that inventory… because they’re already gone. I donated those gaudy things to Habitat for Humanity four years ago. I have no idea what sum they rendered, but you can rest easy knowing that some poor family now has a home because of your generosity.”

So, this is priceless. She’s had her heart set on getting those earrings back for years, to the degree that she examined her mother’s body in the casket to see if they were there. She even has a charge of breaking and entering against her to get those earrings back, and they weren’t even in the house. They’ve been long since gone. I can’t help but laugh out loud when I hear this. She throws a look of death at me when she hears me chuckling and I give a sinister look right back, the one that I give cocky CEO’s or opposing board members when they think they want to challenge me. I can see her get a chill right down to the bone.

“I have various other knick-knacks and small items that will be distributed according to that multipage document I had to sign to keep you vultures from picking my estate apart like a rotting carcass. You’ll each get a copy of it to read at your leisure, but unless you are that interested in what’s going to happen to the damn fountain on the front lawn or the rubber ducky I used to play with as a child, I think you’ve pretty much heard what you we’re primarily interested in.

“So, there you have it. My fortune is yours now, you greedy, heartless leeches! You’ve got what you wanted—except for your precious earrings, Paige. Now, go away and leave my Harmony alone! I know that none of you have had a single kind word to say to her! Be gone with you all and leave her in peace.”

The screen goes black, and Harmony releases a held breath. I’m sure she had no idea that her mother had recorded her will, and this was more than a bit of a surprise to her.

“Carl’s going to see to the distribution of the will. Carl has the inventory of the jewelry. Carl is going to tell us what we get from the portfolio. Whose side are you on?” Jonah accuses. “You two are in cahoots to get the biggest chunk of the estate?”

“I’m on Tina Franklin’s side, sir,” Carl hisses, “as you have well known for decades. I’m the executor of her will and that’s what I’m doing—executing it! Now, you’re free to contest Mrs. Franklin’s will if you like. Just know that Ms. Harmony’s trust is untouchable as is the house. So, Harmony will have her fortune and the home, and you’ll simply be jeopardizing your and everyone else’s share of Ms. Tina’s fortune. Now, what would you like to do… sir?”

“A video will… indeed! I don’t think my mother did that without coercion for a moment! You’re not fooling anybody! Either of you!” Jonah barks. “I’ll have you disbarred for gross misconduct…”

“Oh, cut the shit!” Carl exclaims, causing the entire room to glare at him.

“You can’t speak to me that way…”

“You’re in my office—I can speak to you any way I damn well please!” he hisses, and the room falls silent. “I’ve been your parents’ attorney nearly since the day I passed the bar. Ever since the moment I met you—all of you—you’ve all been a bunch of insufferable brats! Uncontrollable, never satisfied, entitled little vermin who have run around the entire time I’ve known you asking, ‘What’s in it for me?’ ‘Where’s my share?’ You’re like those goddamn seagulls in that cartoon, running around screaming, ‘Mine! Mine! Mine!’

“Your. Mother. Was dying. For months! And none of you—not one of you—could be bothered to even come and say goodbye. This woman sat on the floor at her feet and wept in her lap, more times than I care to count! She’s had to battle crooked house staff, a greedy ex-husband, you—all while watching her mother deteriorate day after day. And you have the audacity—the unmitigated gall—to harass and besmirch the one person who stayed by her side and cared for her until she took her last breath when you didn’t even make the effort to show up? How dare you!” He growls the last words, and four stunned siblings continue to stare at him in awe and silence.

“Thurgood Franklin was my friend,” Carl continues. “And when he passed away, I made sure that his affairs were in order and that his wife taken care of, and you all know that because you were there. Now, Ms. Tina has passed away—also my friend—and because her spoken will is not to your liking, not only do you attack the one person who lovingly and painstakingly took care of her, but you also have the audacity to sit in my office and try to accuse me of misconduct? I’ve been your parents’ attorney for so many years that I’ve lost count! Your selfishness and greed have taken over your senses, and you should be ashamed of yourselves. I’m sure that Thurgood and Tina are thoroughly ashamed of you!”

For the first time since I’ve seen any of them, Tina’s children all look a bit contrite.

“Your mother. Is gone,” he continues. “She’s dead. She’s not coming back, and I think I shed more tears at her funeral than all of you combined. And I’ll tell you one thing that’s really going to piss you off. If I had my way, none of you would have gotten a goddamn dime! I told her more than once not to leave any of you anything, but she didn’t listen to me. You are her children, and she felt that you were entitled to it, but she made it clear that she was going to have her last say before any of you got a nickel.

“So, if you want… please, go ahead and contest the will. You’ll hold it up, but when it’s done, your proceeds will be divvied up between all of the remaining siblings… all of them!” Including Harmony, you assholes.

“You’ve heard your mother’s verbal rendition of the will. The printed rendition is exactly the same, with a little legal jargon thrown in. Do what you choose with that information. I have all of your contact information and you’ve heard what you’re getting. I swear to have the will executed and have the proceeds disbursed as soon as humanly possible just so that I never have to see any of you again. Now, get the fuck out of my office.”

He turns away to try to compose himself. Four siblings sit stunned, staring between each other and back at Carl—waiting for the punchline, I guess. After several moments and no one moving, Carl glances back over his shoulder to see the siblings still sitting there stunned.

“Are you all deaf?” he yells as he whirls around to face off with them. “Do you need a map? Or should I arrange for an escort for you? Get the fuck out!” He points to the door and stares at Theodore. It’s a standoff. One of them had better move.

Theodore stands, straightens and buttons his jacket, and with a last glare at Carl, turns and leaves the room.

Without moving his pointing arm, Carl turns his glare to Jonah, who repeats all of the gestures of his brother and leaves. Ilsa and Paige are out of their seats before Carl can turn their glares to them. I see them hovering outside the office waiting for Harmony when Carl puts his arm down, drops his head and sighs mournfully. Harmony stands, and I stand with her.

“My friend is dead,” he says, his voice low. “Over forty years of camaraderie and memories reduced to this. She and Thurgood are the main reasons I went into law in the first place. She’s the reason I stayed. I’m too old for this.” He raises glassy eyes to Harmony.

“I’m going to carry out my friend’s wishes and get this will executed as soon as humanly possible. I’m going to have her liquid assets divvied up and have millions of dollars distributed to four ungrateful, greedy, hateful ass children who don’t deserve a fucking dime!” he barks loud enough for the vultures in the hallway to hear him. “And then I’m out. I’ll be available if you ever need a consult or advice, but I’m not doing this anymore.”

“Carl!” Harmony says, her voice heavy with concern. “Don’t do this! Don’t leave your profession—what you worked so hard to achieve—because of them.”

“It’s not just them!” Carl retorts. “Do you think this is the first time this has happened? It certainly won’t be the last. People don’t have hearts anymore! They’re just walking, talking shells filled with evil and greed. People have come into this office for will readings and gotten into fist fights. Your loved one is dead! You’ve lost a part of your family! These people lost the woman who carried them for nine months, went through incredible hell, pain, and suffering to bring them into the earth. Paige was breech—she ripped your mother’s body apart so that she couldn’t have any more children. Tina nearly died trying to get her here and they couldn’t even say ‘goodbye?’ Did you know that, Paige?” he yells out into the hallway, and Paige moves away from the doorway and out of visibility.

“None of them have any conviction! Hell, they’re not even mourning. They’re sitting here more upset that she left you the house than they are that she’s gone and she’s never coming back! Who does that?” He falls into his chair.

“My last moments with your mom… she cried, and she asked me what she did wrong. She asked me what she did to cause her children to hate her so much. She talked about how she did her best to raise them and to make sure that they had everything that they needed their entire lives, and that they deserted her and left her to die alone. She thanked God for you, though,” he adds. “She knew that as long as you were around, she wouldn’t die alone.

“She was tired, Harmony. She was bone tired, and she waited until that deed was filed, and she let go. She didn’t take her last breath that night when she went to sleep and didn’t wake up. She took her last real breath when I told her the house was yours. She smiled and sighed deeply. Then she closed her eyes and said, ‘thank you.’ She was still alive after that, but it was all mechanical. She was already gone—already content to go home.

“She loved you so much, Harmony,” he says, his voice cracking. “She never regretted one minute of having you in her life. She understood what you were going through as a teenager, but she was immensely proud of how you turned out. If you take nothing else from this horrible experience, please take that.”

Tears are flowing from Carl’s eyes and Harmony, along with my wife, is openly crying.

“Thank you, Carl,” she whispers through her tears. “That’s the most precious gift I could ever receive.” Carl nods and composes himself.

“I hate to dismiss you this way, child, but I need to hurry and perform my last act as an estate attorney. My friend is gone, and I have no reason to do this anymore.” Harmony nods and takes his hand, giving it a firm squeeze. “If you need me…” he adds. She nods again and turns to leave. Butterfly puts an arm around her and Harmony returns the gesture. I think, at this moment, they’re holding each other up. I shake Carl’s hand.

“You’re a good man,” I say. He nods and purses his lips—his form of “thank you,” I think, as he fights to keep from completely breaking down. I quickly fall in step behind Butterfly and Harmony as they both watch the floor to avoid bumping into anything. They don’t make eye-contact with any of the siblings as they exit the office. Jonah moves to speak, and I throw a look of death at him.

Say something and I’ll knock your fucking dentures out!

I see a visible chill run through him as he takes a step back and clams the fuck up. As we’re waiting for the elevator, I hear Carl’s disembodied voice speaking through the intercom to his assistant—the siblings still hovering around her desk.

“Mrs. Andreini, please get the ball rolling on the Franklin file immediately. I want it executed and closed as soon as inhumanly possible. Also, close my door and get those people out of my office. Call the police if you have to.”

“Yes, sir, Mr. Richardson.”

The elevator comes, and we don’t wait to see the outcome. I usher the ladies inside and push the button for the first floor, leaving the siblings behind us as the elevator doors close.


A/N: 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.

There has been yet another development where if you feel the need to talk to fellow readers about personal issues, you need a sounding board, you want to vent about something in your life, please feel free to visit the link on the left in the menu entitled “Do You Need To Talk.” No subject is taboo. I just ask that you approach the link with respect for those who have concerns as well as those who respond. You can also get to the link by clicking 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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95 thoughts on “Raising Grey: Chapter 71—Chain Reactions

  1. naturallyblonde1221 says:

    great chapter

  2. asunder73 says:

    Grace’s interference is NOT a success story. There could be ripple effects.Shite could still go down… And hopefully, no-one at the center finds out, because Butterfly could lose all their clients’ trust AND the review board would have better grounds for professional misconduct. They could even lose their hard-earned accreditation and face lawsuits behind Grace’s crap. THIS is the mother who handed her son over to a pedophile I always use to picture. Busybody, interfering, smug bitch.

    • falalalynx says:

      Good morning Asunder73,

      I couldn’t agree with you more. Grace has always been an enigma to me. Even in the original version of this family. Okay she’s a great pediatrician. But she so failed her child. I have tried to see how she could ‘not’ know or suspect something was odd about what Elena was doing but I can’t reconcile it in my head. But this interference with Ana’s patient/client is beyond the pale. Maybe there will be a positive outcome between Addie and Courtney but there is irreparable harm to her relationship both professionally and personally with her daughter-in-law. I wouldn’t want to work with her. There’s no telling what she’s about to do. Peace, Falala

      • asunder73 says:

        Do we even know if she’s a really great paediatrician?

      • seralynsmom says:

        I’d just like to add a couple cents here. From personal experience I can tell you that it is very possible to not know your child is being hurt by someone close to you. It happens all the time. It isn’t due to negligence, it isn’t due to being an absentee parent. It’s simply the fact that nothing about that person’s behavior would ever clue you in. I was in foster care for three years in my late teens. My foster mom was great, better than my own mother. She was generous, kind, loving. Little did she know, her own husband was molesting their two adopted daughters and it didn’t come out until their older sister came to live with us and he made the mistake of approaching her as well. The only indication that anything might have been wrong was the second oldest girl’s behavior. But see, her behavior wasn’t uncommon for a child taken from a bad situation and adopted. Kids like that tend to lash out. She cling to him while acting out at times toward her mom. That was the ONLY indication that something was off. Nothing could have prepared us for what came to light. I found out, that he molested those girls while I was right. Fucking. There. It was why I was asked if he’d ever touched me. We were on a night fishing trip and I’d fallen asleep in the car and while I was asleep, he hurt them. There is no guaranteed behavior to show a kid is being hurt. Some act out, yes, but others…they just go about life normally. They clam up and there are times you’ll never know it happened to them until they decide to speak up. It isn’t cut and dry “how could they not have known, they had to have seen something” because a good deal of the time, you don’t. Grace and Elena’s situation isn’t anywhere close to what happened with James and his mom and their close family friend. That’s what I like about how Lynn did that. She showed that there are two sides of the coin. One side are people who would never in a million years believe for a second someone they know and care for could ever be that person, the other side is knowing full well and turning your back on it.

        The first thing my foster mom did the moment she found out what her husband was doing? She called the police and had him arrested. She called social services and let them know what was happening because no only were they adopted, but I was a foster child under her care. Then she filed for divorce and circled the wagons.

        While Grace’s actions piss me off to no end, I genuinely believe she had no clue what had happened between Elena and Christian and was genuinely mortified and upset that she didn’t see it. She blamed herself for that, as parents often do. I didn’t see anything at all fake about her reactions when it came to that. I was upset in the original when all she did was slap Elena but I think that was more to do with EL making that just a side plot than anything else. Besides, at that point what else could the Greys truly do? He was an adult, the statute of limitations was up. The only thing they could have done, and I wish EL had had them do so, was gather intel and see if she was still doing it but again, that was more EL’s fault than the character’s.

        As for Grace being a good pediatrician or not, she wouldn’t have gained the status she has at the hospital if she wasn’t. I think she is a good doctor, I think she just lets her status and stuff go to her head. It’s kinda like a mild case of god complex. She thinks because she is who she is she can do what she wants, that she can use her name—the one linked not just to a husband who is a successful lawyer, a son with a successful construction company, or a son who is one of the richest businessmen in the world, but that she built up herself by being a good doctor—and do whatever she wants and no one will say her nay, until Ana. Guaranteed she isn’t used to not getting her way and that’s the real issue here.

      • asunder73 says:

        Just because Grace is a paediatrician, it doesn’t make her a brain surgeon, or a therapist… if she pulled that crap with another doctor (say in her hospital), she would be put up for review or malpractice. She’s treating the people at the center like her own personal Guinea pigs… after what was revealed in her own experience, one would expect her to be more cautious, not less.

      • seralynsmom says:

        I’m not saying she isn’t wrong here. She’s been wrong on a number of occasions and needs a severe reality check. I was simply trying to tell you why I can see her not realizing what was happening with Elena and Christian. It’s a separate issue from her behavior these last two chapters. What happened to Christian doesn’t have anything to do with how good a doctor she is or isn’t, or her butting her nose in where it didn’t belong.

      • falalalynx says:

        Good question. It’s always been assumed I think. Isn’t she the head of the Pediatrics dept. All the staff at the hospital speak highly of her. Yeah that’s what that opinion is based on.

      • falalalynx says:

        Dam Ash I just read your reply and my heart broke. I thought I has gotten myself under some kind of emotional control. sigh Now I’m a basket case again. sob! Peace, Falala

      • I was just saying basically the same thing to Ashley that you just said about Grace and how Christian turned out.

      • Junebride says:

        Hi, Falala, hope you are doing better.
        Agree with you. Being a doctor, pediatrician no less, she should have noticed something going on with Christian and how he changed. As far as interfering, that’s her field, Grace should have known better than to meddle. Hope all ends well.
        xxxx

    • S. Hodgson says:

      I’m feeling the same way as you. If Grace wanted to orchestrate a meeting do it at her house not in public.

    • Yes! Yes! And yes! Give that girl a gold star!!! That’s what I’m saying!!!!

  3. Sophia says:

    Great chapter, thank you.

  4. falalalynx says:

    Goddess,

    OMG! And the times they are a changing.

    Peace, Falala

    • falalalynx says:

      Good morning,

      I had to step away last night . My heart was hurting and my head was churning. I’m trying to bring some kind of order to my thoughts.

      I thought I was reading it wrong about Elena’s go at being an author. And I am using that term very loosely. This can not prevail. Christian is right. It’s about more than what happened to him. All her victims will be revictimised. THIS MST BE STOPPED! grin I am sure between our Goddess and Christian and Jason and Welch ‘something’ some kind of justice will befall her. evil grin Go team!

      I have no respect for Grace anymore. Not a drop. I can’t express how wrong wrong wrong she was. If Ana doesn’t slap that smug smirk off her face I’d be happy to do it. I’m not sure there will ever be redemption for her in my view. There is no excuse for what she did. And on top of it all this is truly sad for Christian. He is caught in the middle. sigh Just what he doesn’t need.

      Christian you brilliant man. What a great idea for Escala. I love when the random puzzle pieces fit together so well. Well done my Goddess.

      Carl you dear sweet man. What an amazing friend and lawyer you have been. I bow to you sir for services above and beyond. Please stay in touch with Harmony. She needs all the friends she can find.

      This chapter was emotionally exhausting. I want to wrap all those I care about up in a big hug, lock the doors and keep all of our collective boogiemen at bay. Stay strong everyone.

      Peace, Falala

  5. Darcy says:

    Wow that was emotionally exhausting!

    Thank you, excellent chapter! 💙

  6. Darla says:

    Great chapter

  7. seralynsmom says:

    Damn man, when you want to make us emotional you throw down the gauntlet. Poor Carl, to care about someone so much to just watch it all crumble around them and the vultures come calling—he’s right, it’s time to retire. I don’t know how any estate attorney can handle that shit. I’m glad he got to say his piece though. Got those assholes to shut up for once didn’t it? Lol.

    Tina was a beautiful, caring, intelligent woman and it hurts to know that one of the last things she thought before she passed was “what did I do wrong”? Those four have a lot to answer for, unfortunately it doesn’t look like it’ll be now. But karma, she’s a real bitch…

    I wanted to knock that smirk off of Grace’s face. The worst part? If it weren’t for Ana, where would the center be now? She just out everyone in jeopardy simply because she wants to be all I told you so?? She has her good moments, but I’ve seen her be a truly callous bitch on too many occasions to ever truly like her. She thinks that she can do whatever she wants in the name of “for the greater good” and consequences be damned. She’ll never learn. Even if she apologizes and says she gets it this time, she’ll do it again. And frankly, she cannot use her premenopausal diagnoses as an excuse because she was doing it long before that too, we saw that with Ana and Christian’s wedding. Even before that really. She will never learn, never. Maybe it is best Ana leave Helping Hands. I just hope with her gone, it doesn’t fall to pieces.

    I was proud of Christian this chapter. He’s learning, growing, and it showed. He realized he should have just stayed out of it and his questions weren’t anything more than a way to understand her feelings about the situation. He also let Ana walk away and that’s good. Previous Christian would have gnawed at that bone until it exploded. I’m also proud of Ana, she realized her limit and stepped away. It’ll save a lot of moments in the future, stop a lot of arguments. Lol. They’re married, arguments happen.

    That moment with Courtney and Addie was tough as hell, had me crying. Grace got lucky this time, and we still don’t know the end result so she may have still caused damage that could have been avoided if she’d just left well enough alone. Courtney was Ana’s responsibility, technically a client—sorta. Grace had no right. I can only hope that Courtney and Addie’s relationship is on the mend with that confession and break down and that’s it wasn’t damaged further. Seriously, I want to smack Grace. That moment outside Ana’s office?? Totally reminded me of the showdown between Ana and John. Grrrrr

    • seralynsmom says:

      Oh! Almost forgot! That shit with Elena!!! I hope to god they can get it stopped. I’m almost betting it’s one last ditch effort on her part to get CG to notice her. Seriously though, they need a damn vacation. Can someone shank the bitch in the showers???? *whispers* bad Ashley, you’re not supposed to show your evil side in public.

    • falalalynx says:

      {{{Hugs hugs hugs hugs}}} That’s all I’ve got right now. Love you daughter of my heart. Peace, Falala

    • I couldn’t be an estate attorney. I’m sure that people acting this way with this stank ass attitude is not new, so I have no idea how he dealt with it all this time.

      Unfortunately, I know people have passed on wondering, “What did I do to deserve this?” But I gave her Harmony so that the transition wouldn’t be so difficult.

      As a person, Grace is generally good. I just felt like making her this perfect matriarch was just too pretentious for words. As we can see, she has a lot of faults (like most human beings), but between me, you, and the lamppost, I could never understand why Christian was SO screwed up if he was rescued at 4 years old and had at least 11 years of a happy, loving life and supportive family before Elena got a hold of him. Maybe there’s something that I missed in translation. I can understand a kid having nightmares and even having some emotional problems from the treatment he received, but he was completely and totally screwed up—absolutely 50 shades of fucked up—and I never understood how it was THAT BAD if he supposedly had all the love and support he had after he was adopted. But that’s just me…

      So, bearing that in mind, I do feel the need to have Grace be the matriarch with some selfishness and flaws thrown in, because I seriously think there’s something that she missed when it comes to Christian.

      FYI, I WROTE it and I wanted to smack Grace! She’s the perfect example of someone on the outside looking in who has no fucking clue what they’re talking about but will quickly throw a can of kerosene on a powder keg, then go, “Well, I didn’t think it would explode!”

      • seralynsmom says:

        I’m not saying she isn’t fallible or shouldn’t be. No one is infallible, everyone is human. Do I think that she AND Carrick set Christian up to become a victim?? Likely. But honestly?? I’m surprised Christian wasn’t more fucked up than 50 shades. The reason I love Christian so much is that I empathize with him greatly. I know what it’s like to have something happen when I was a child and that fuck up the rest of my life. I was a happy, loving kid, until one day I wasn’t anymore. Until one day the shit I was going through pushed me to the brink. Honestly?? I’m surprised Christian didn’t self harm, I’m surprised he didn’t attempt actual suicide, I’m surprised all he did was fight and drink.

        I can’t and won’t say that Grace and Carrick should have known something was wrong when he began to change after he started spending time at Elena’s. I can also see why he was so fucked up despite the life he was living. When you feel like a freak, when you’re treated like a freak, it consumes you. Utterly.

        But frankly, I’m done trying to explain the way I feel about it. It’s not you, please don’t think that, it’s just one of those bad days. The ones where you’re tired for no reason and everything causes anxiety and grief.

      • Yeah, I read you had a whole lot going on there, Ash. I understand… especially when a topic REALLY hits home. (I may not say much about my experience in THIS arena, but there’s a whole lot there, and it’s a bit too painful to share)

      • Dee says:

        I know right, he would have had all those years of support before Elena. I’m guessing it’s because they never pushed for treatment with his touch issues. They walked around on eggshells with him, afraid they would damage him more. That’s why I have such a hard time seeing why Grace didn’t question his sudden turn around in attitude. I mean isn’t that Abuse 101. It’s part of her everyday assessment in children and it should have been the first thing that crossed her mind and certainly later when he started withdrawing from the family. What do you think?

      • This is where I am. I’m not implying that everyone or anyone should have known something was going on with Elena. Keep in mind, when it came out, all parties involved felt like, “How did I not know this? I should have known this. I could have stopped this.”

        When Elliot found out, he was like, “Shit, she tried to do the same thing to me. I should have known this…”

        When they told Grace, she broke down and cried in the library: “This is all my fault…”

        Carrick cried more than once: once at Christian’s breakfast bar in PDS, and again when they found the pictures in Elena’s library.

        Even Mia walked over a SOFA to get to Elena’s ass when she found out what that bitch had done.

        It’s a painful truth that this kind of thing can happen in not-so-plain sight all the time, and often does… sometimes for prolonged periods of time.

        My point was that I couldn’t understand how all the love, care, therapy, and concern that Christian supposedly got from age 4 to age 15 still left him SO FUCKED UP that nobody could get to him but a BDSM pedophile. I understand that extreme childhood issues can cause deep damage that has long-lasting effects. What I don’t understand is that in the original books AND subsequently in my story as well (the backstory of course based off the original), he displayed absolutely NO IMPROVEMENT, besides talking when Mia came along, over the course of 11 years until a pedophile shows up and beats him and fucks him. I can’t – and won’t – understand the concept behind that part.

  8. Connie gould says:

    Very good chapter I was hoping Elena was long dead I guess it’s true what they say evil just won’t die I love your story and can’t wait for the next chapter

  9. Stuart says:

    The takeaway: “I don’t have to be right. I’m just not going to be in a place where someone doesn’t respect my authority or wishes.”

    It doesn’t get any simpler than that!

    Great chapter BG. Thanks!

    • falalalynx says:

      I love your clarity. Well said. Good morning darlin. Peace, Falala

    • I say that all the time when people want to argue with me… I don’t have to be right, but I won’t be disrespected.

      • Junebride says:

        Agree with you.

        As far as Christian being so fucked up, I also agree with you. The only thing I can think of with the pedophile (sorry can’t stand to even say her name… lol, can’t stand the woman) that since he couldn’t go out with girls his own age, she gave him the outlet he was looking for, but paying a very high price for it. Now, I think she wants for Christian to go see her in jail and try her hand one more time, but that’s just me. Who knows what’s in that perverted mind of hers that Christian will do to stop her from doing what she says she’ll do. We’ll just have to wait for Goddess….

  10. Vamomoftwins says:

    Wow what the hell is up with Grace? What a bitch! When Carl was talking about Tina was asking what she did wrong to have such ungrateful kids, that made me tear up. Glad I don’t have anything for my twins to fight over when I go!

  11. Dee says:

    Can you believe Grace! She has got to be one of the more piss- poor doctors ever written about. I’ve felt this way about her character since reading FSOG. I mean her son was molested for years and she didn’t have a clue, and allowed Christian, practically a baby when he came to her, to dictate his treatment of his haphephobia. Now here she is telling a psychiatrist how to do their job. Doesn’t she realized that she put the facility’s reputation on the line as well? How can anyone trust Ana If this had backfired? How do we know it still won’t. Just because feelings were made known and apologies given doesn’t mean it’s over. I don’t blame Ana one bit, Grace does not respect her.
    I’m glad Christian decided to be a husband in this instance and not Mr. Fix-it. She needed her husband to listen, and he did.

    I hope the drama is over for Harmony with the reading of the will. Carl finally got his say to those nasty siblings and boy did he deliver! That was really nice of him to give Harmony insight as to how Tina felt about her.

    Elena… you have to admire the evil genius of the woman, or should I say your evil genius with this character, it’s like she takes a lickin’ but keeps on tickin’, LOL. I bet the Kavanaugh’s are helping her, Kate or the dad. I can’t wait to see how Christian slaps her ass around this time! I love it when you bring back these dastardly characters for another smack down. Don’t they know by now that Christian is Master Of The Universe?

    Thanks for sharing.

    • falalalynx says:

      Hello Dee,

      Your idea of Elena and Kavanaugh joining forces is absolutely frightening. But which one, the father or Kate? Oh lordy yeah this an awful thought. shhhh don’t give the Goddess any ideas. She doesn’t need any help coming up with evil awful trouble all on her own. grin
      Peace, Falala

      • Dee says:

        Hello Falalalynx,
        You are absolutely right, she doesn’t need any ideas. She is a master in that department. She takes these characters and weave them into the most amazing plots, dialogs,and conversations, I’m in awe of you Goddess.

        I also enjoy you take Falalalynx on each chapter, it’s quite entertaining!

    • Dear God, I felt the same way about Grace in the books! Did you read “Darker?” When she accused Ana of being a gold-digger? Bitch!

      I live vicariously through smackity-smacking bad guys. It keeps me from dismantling real people… even when they deserve it. 😉

  12. asunder73 says:

    How much of Grace’s success comes from her do-gooder busybody charities and Christian’s generous donations?

    I’m not saying she’s incompetent, but I’m sure there are other paediatricians just as capable, if not more so, because they are not overscheduled.

  13. seralynsmom says:

    I’d like to just say something here. I’ve already kinda said it to a reply to a comment but I noticed theirs wasn’t the only one to mention this.

    Grace’s behavior has been horrid this entire fic, not always of course but sometimes, but I’d like to share some personal things here to show you just how easy it is to not see…

    I’ve been involved, indirectly and directly, with two cases of child molestation in my life. The first, was my uncle by marriage. My aunt, back when I was in my early teens, decided to run a daycare out of her home. As annoying as my aunt can get (man the woman can talk your ear off omg) she is one of the kindest, most gentle people I know. She loves kids, always has.

    My uncle, he used to make me nervous, but not anything I could put my finger directly on. It had always been that way ever since I was little. He had NEVER (as far as we know) done anything to warrant my feelings toward him. Until one day, my aunt found out that he touched a child in her care. She had to shut down her daycare and he went to prison for a year. There wasn’t anything to show her he would ever do that, she couldn’t have predicted it. I can and will never blame her for what happened. The stress and heartbreak of learning what her husband did even caused her to miscarry their little girl…maybe it was for the best but you can’t ever say that to a grieving mother because that’s cruel.

    Cut to a number of years later. After a lot of shit in my own life I found myself in the foster system. I was placed into the care of a family. Husband, wife, their three adopted children—siblings, two girls and a boy. I’d lived there nearly three years before it came to light that the husband was molesting the daughters. Nothing would have ever given him away if he hadn’t approached their older sister when she came to live with us. Nothing. He was good at hiding it and the girls never showed any behavior that would give it away, except the second oldest acting out at times but she was early teens and an adopted child. Lashing out tends to happen in those situations. We never would have seen it. It wasn’t our fault, he was just that good at hiding it. Hell, he even molested them right under my own nose. We had been out fishing and I fell asleep in the car. He molested them right there while I was asleep ffs.

    The reason I’m saying this? Because I wanted to show you that it’s not always clear something is wrong. No matter how much we want to look at these parents and go “how could they not see?” Or “if it was me I’d know” we can’t truly. Because it’s never a 100% guarantee that we will know. That we will see. All Grace and Carrick knew was that Christian was changing for the better. They had no indication that it could be anything other than the hard labor he was supposed to be doing. Grace had no clue that her friend lived a secret life, no clue that she might hurt her son. Hell, Christian wasn’t even the first if I remember right (in this fic anyway). And sure, maybe sometimes it’s that we don’t see because we don’t want to, like in the situation with James, but a good bit of the time it’s not seen because there isn’t anything blatant, in our face to show us.

    Don’t get me wrong, I hated the way the situation was handled in the original fic but I still never blamed the Greys for what happened. There just wasn’t anything to tell them what she was doing. Though I do think had they tried harder and not let him dictate how they dealt with his haphephobia that crap with Elena might not have happened, but then again—it might have. She was a predator who liked hurting young boys (in this fic). She saw Christian as something she wanted and she went for it, his issues just made him easier prey.

    • Dee says:

      Hello Seralynsmom,

      I agree with the majority of what you are saying but being in the healthcare industry myself I just can’t see for the life of me how Grace could have missed this. With the way the story was written there is no way a trained professional, especially one that lived him day in and day out would not have explored a 360 degee change in behavior. That is rather blatant I think.

      As a doctor she knows one the most important things for a human being is touch. I agree with you she did not handle that well, letting him dictate his treatment or lack there of in this department. When he hit puberty the fighting started, this should have raised some flags in both her as a doctor and Carrick as a male.

      Yes Elena was manipulative, but she was superficial as well. Grace believed that Elena giving Christian a bit of labor was the cure after seeing numerous doctors and suddenly she has the key to his issues, I don’t think so.

      • seralynsmom says:

        My aunt was a Nurse at the time her husband hurt that child. I don’t think any profession should be exempt from not seeing what’s in front of you to be honest. It’s happened before, in real life. Teachers, doctors, psychiatrists, etc have had things like this happen to them and around them and not seen it. Elena May have been superficial but she wasn’t stupid. She may have had Christian’s backing on the salons but she was still an astute businesswoman, otherwise they wouldn’t have remained as successful as they did. Even Christian wouldn’t be able to save a sinking ship if they’d failed because she was inept. That’s the thing about abusers, they are just regular everyday people that you would never think could do that. Grace saw a friend, someone who asked her if she could help out. She saw a woman who listened to her cares and woes and sought to help her. When it began working, I guarantee the only thing running through Grace’s mind was the fact that he wasn’t fighting anymore, wasn’t getting into trouble. And maybe, just maybe, she wondered for a second why it was that Elena was able to make these changes while she and her husband hadn’t been able to for the years they’d been trying but I doubt she thought for a second it was because her friend was having an inappropriate relationship with her son. Because whose mind really goes there first?

        I guess we’ll all just have to agree to disagree because I don’t feel Grace is at fault for not seeing what was happening. I don’t feel she should have seen it either despite her profession and how much she may or may not have been trained to see it. People don’t tend to look for those types of situations in their own home lives, they watch for them in strangers, but can absolutely be blinded to them at home. Same as a cop whose partner is beating their wife. They’re trained to see it, they’re trained to watch it, but when you’ve been around someone for that long, you think you know them.

        How many people have come out and said these words “I didn’t think they were that type”?? A man is arrested for murdering multiple women over a span of decades. All his friends, family, neighbors are questioned and they all say “he was such a good guy, I never would have guessed”. Why? Because they thought they knew him. They saw what he wanted them to see. Elena was the epitome of a predator. Grooming those boys, making them think their families would hate them if they ever told. Look how many years she maintained control of Christian. How many years he honest to god thought she’d helped him and that because he wanted it there was nothing nonconsensual about it? It took Ana to teach him, an outsider with a different perspective. Someone who wasn’t close to either party.

        For Grace and the Greys (because let’s face it, if she should have noticed they all should have. Especially Carrick as a lawyer), it’s merely a case in can’t see past your nose. Elena was a friend. A manipulative, snake good at covering her tracks. Christian was the troubled youth that they’d finally run out of options for. She offered help, they accepted, Christian began to change, and they breathed a sigh of relief. So maybe I’m wrong, maybe it was just willful ignorance on their part, but again…who actually looks at a situation like that and their first thought goes to—that bitch is molesting my son?? Trained professional or not??

      • seralynsmom says:

        Also, who knows what was said between them? For all we know, Grace did question it. Maybe she asked Elena what it was that she was doing that got Christian to change so much and Elena gave her some very believable story and Grace never questions it because Elena is her friend. It happens all the time. That’s the reality of this world. Bad guys hide in plain sight, their monstrous deeds lurking behind the shadows only brought to light if someone finally outs them. They didn’t even learn that Elena was molesting others boys until Christian finally admitted what she’d done was wrong and decided to have Welch investigate it. Otherwise it’s very likely no one but Elena and the boys she hurt would have ever known.

  14. S. Hodgson says:

    Excellent chapter. Lots of e celebrate drama along with the curveball of Elena’s book. That was shocking considering I thought we put the wicked witch to rest a while ago 😜. The ending was beautiful. Tina gave as good as she could then her attorney sealed it.

    I won’t blame Ana one little bit leaving after Graces breech of privacy. Just because Addie is a friend doesn’t mean she can disregard someone’s expressed wishes. That’s exactly what she did. Hopefully any lawsuits won’t be filed for this security breech but we’ll see what happens.

  15. Tina says:

    I had the same problems at my father’s funeral we were not even allowed to go to the house and get some nice things to remember him by by the time we were able my youngest sister had access to the house and nearly striped it bare. My husband and I was thinking of buying it but my sister had gone in and striped it even the nice kitchen cabinets only pipes and bare walls remained. Thanks for the very good read and I look forward to the next installment and link.

  16. Teri says:

    Great chapter! People are assholes. You hit the nail right on the head…

    My friend lost his partner to AIDS in the early 1980s. My friend didn’t give it to his partner. His partner was a lovely man who could not come out to his family. When he went to Canada for a family reunion, he knocked boots one night with an old lover from college — which is where he got AIDS. The day of the funeral, my friend returned from the cemetery to his home….where his partner’s parents and family decided to change the locks.

    My friend called the police and his lawyer and had his lover’s family removed for trespassing. They thought since their grandson, son, brother died…they would take possession of ‘his’ house…which was not his house. The frosting on this shit show was he left a will acknowledging he was a kept man by my friend. He had nothing except his clothes which he left to a homeless shelter. He left pictures and moments to his partner. He borrowed against his life insurance, paid for his funeral, arranged for his final bills to be paid, and paid for the excessive gourmet buffet which his family enjoyed after the funeral.

    When it went to court…because the partner’s family put a lien against my friend’s house…they were shocked to find out the grandson, son, brother knew he was dying from AIDS and was grateful his partner did not abandon him to die alone. The kicker is…the partner’s family expended airfare to fly to the U.S for the court dates, and for the hotel rooms, and for the drivers and Lincoln town cars they needed for transport. They truly embarrassed themselves in court — the judge threatened them with contempt of court if they didn’t shut up, and leave. He signed restraining orders for my friend against the partner’s family.

    I repeat myself —

    PEOPLE ARE ASSHOLES.

  17. asunder73 says:

    Let’s pretend for one moment that the people in question were NOT Courtney and her grandmother (Grace’s long-term friend). This is important.

    Imagine that Client A was an abused wife and Subject B was the abuser. Assume that Client A had some other problems, but finally, in a fit of rage, Subject B stomped a hole in her arse, fanny… whatever floats your boat. Bottom line is that A&B are toxic to each other.

    Both have discussed their issues with a licensed therapist (see how I said “licensed”) and the therapist has determined that both parties should stay apart for the time being for her clients’ mental health…

    Now say a busybody, Lady Bountiful do-gooder bitch who only really knows one of the parties somewhat well, decides to reunite these two parties, cause she knows every damn thing since she founded the place…

    Did she do the right thing?

  18. asunder73 says:

    I had a moment, thinking about Grace and Freeman… and their similarities. Yeah, it’s a stretch, but Carrick married a pretty entitled woman. That’s all I’m going to say about that.

  19. falalalynx says:

    Oh boy! My head is spinning. It’s kind of difficult trying to read this today with all the time tripping not in order of response that is the comment section. You certainly got a lot of us talking Goddess. grin Passionate writing brings forth passionate replies. Just goes to show how much we love what you give us Goddess.

    Damn Ash your fingers must be numb by now. And you do all your writing on your phone? I was going to discuss Grace with you more but I read that you are tired so I’ll just let it go. {Hugs} lovie.

    I know this isn’t technically a cliffie but I am soooo looking forward to the next Ana Grace meeting. grin

    Peace, Falala

  20. Loveme says:

    Great chapter BG! Lord have mercy, how in the world did Grace become that chick. I could maybe see how she could handle the situation like that if she wasn’t a dr. She should know better than handle delicate situations like that. Quit Ana, Quit! You don’t need that and staying with her acting like that is bound to bleed into famiky life. CG is learning and maturing, chapters ago that interaction would have turned into days/weeks of silent treatment…maybe he’s actually learning from JTs advance. Speechless on Tina’s kids – hope they aren’t based on you real life experiences…never have I heard of such craziness. How could Tina have raised those dumb, heartless, no class, greedy clowns.

  21. valentinesgenie says:

    That was rough I was sitting here tearing up thinking oh God I wouldn’t want my children to be like that or family period .It made me sad and to know this stuff really happens in real life with some families is heartbreaking but as usual amazing work see you next time take care…

  22. valarie says:

    Okay I am in the medical field, so I am going to put this out there. We are taught to look for certain behaviors abuse, and sudden changes in personalities is one, and also for drugs and alcohol abuse. Grace should have suspected something and checked in on her son to see what was going on. Carrick and Grace as Parents of a teenage son earlier, should have talked to him about sex and his touch issues. Really he was a teenage boy. Duh! Remember they did have Elliott.
    Grace can be a bitch when she wants to be. She has that God complex and we all know it. That’s why she went behind Ana’s back instead of approaching her about it.
    What can I say about the reading of the will. Carl is on point (Goddess). People loses their humanity and compassion over money. The more money involved the less compassion and humanity. Have you ever seen a middle/lower class family fight over money or a will? No, because there is nothing to gain. So they give in to the grief and compassion and lose.
    Elena just want to stick it to Christian/Anastasia and they Grey. She don’t have anything to lose. Emotional Chapter Lynn

  23. jjgoldmann says:

    Since Kate’s father wouldn’t sell to Christian of even talk to him, Christian is dumping his shares of K Media, which in turn will crush his numbers most likely in the market and make his stock drop. Christian is a sneaky SOB but brilliant.

    Elena from jail is writing a tell all book. Holy shitballs even changing the names there is a chance that people would get figure out he is one she is talking about. Will the warden help Christian? The warden wouldn’t be avoiding Christian would he?

    Grace was doing a victory dance because she got Addie over to Helping Hands and both Courtney and her grandmother apologized to each other. Ana was not pleased at all at Grace’s interference. And now Ana is thinking about quitting her job there. .

    The reading of Tina’s will turned out to be Tina explaining what each of them would get. That was priceless that Tina got rid of those earrings that Paige had given her years ago, I LMAO at that one. When Ilsa open her mouth insulting Ana, Ana gave it right back to her and was finally shut down by Carl, Tina’s attorney. Carl was fantastic and very emotional since both Tina and her husband were close friends of his and now he is quitting and retiring for good from his practice. It was also awesome that Carl was thrilled that Christian and Ana were there for Harmony. Love that Tina mentioned both of them in her video. By did Tina know her greedy children and told them just that but still let them more than they deserved.

    How are Chuck and Keri getting along in South Dakota?

    Thank you for another fabulous chapter.

  24. Lori says:

    Wow! What a chapter and the comments and discussions following it make for intreguing reading. I have to agree with Ana for being upset at Grace. Putting Courtney’s picture in that presentation was very underhanded and, I think, a way to undermine Ana. I feel Grace resents Ana’s influence and success at Helping Hands which was always her baby and this is her passive aggressive way of getting back at Ana. I think Grace may also be harbouring some resentment towards Ana in that she was able to help Christian confront his demons when Grace didn’t even see what was happening at the time!
    Awesome writing. Thank you.

  25. Junebride says:

    I have loved reading all these comments and everyone’s views, you have been unbelievable. For those who went through such hurtful circumstances, I feel for what you’ve been put through and pray that you are able to begin healing. May God bless you all.

    Excuse my language barrier if I said something wrong.

    • Don’t worry, sweetie. I don’t think you’ve said anything wrong. 😉

    • falalalynx says:

      Junie!

      There’s my friend. Language barrier?? What language barrier? Ooohh I understand you. Does that mean you speak crazy too? COOL! giggle I was wondering when you would show up to the party. I was looking for you. I think you have missed the heavy debate. grin It was huge and went on and on. Ah the passion. grin And it wasn’t even about sex. lol

      Peace, Falala

      • Junebride says:

        Hi, Falala, thanks for looking out for me/missing me. I was reading, just I was down and couldn’t think straight. I am better now.
        xxxxx

  26. falalalynx says:

    Good morning everyone,

    So this has been bugging me. Goddess, and Ash and anyone else who this has stirred up unhappiness within maybe don’t read. grin Especially Ash and of course Goddess it’s your space so please feel welcome to do as you like. grin

    Falala clears her throat. I call this VERY NARROW FOCUS.

    I want to take out of this story that Grace is a doctor.
    I want to take out that Christian is a very successful man.

    Here’s my point. As a mother of three grown men this is why I have huge difficulty with Grace being unaware with regards to Elena. I call them bright flashing warning signs.

    She dresses like a Domme.
    She’s always asking after my child.
    She freaks out my oldest son who always makes himself scarce when she comes around.
    She acts like she knows my child better than I do.
    She fawns all over him.
    He is subdued around her.

    If any of my boys had come home after a session with this person I would know something was up. After a beating they wouldn’t move as freely due to the damage inflicted. I know this from personal experience. My parents were heavy users of physical discipline. It takes days and days to recover.

    If one of my boys would leave every time this person came to the house my alarm bells would go crazy. I would watch and observe and be on high alert.

    In the original story which the Goddess carried over as a partial framework for her story Christian is sent to many different doctors but they all seem to fail him. Christian’s problem with touch is spotchy at best. It’s only his torso and even that Mia can invade whenever she chooses. So as a parent I would have worked with him until there was some success with this issue. But Grace the parent fails to do so. She ‘respects’ his boundaries? ???? He’s four. He needs to be touch in a positive and loving way. And she leaves him floundering and ripe for the likes of Elena. Christian should have seen over and over that being touched was a loving part of a family. Yet Christian fails to do so. Then Christian begins to get into trouble and starts fighting at school. This is blamed on his hormones or is it testosterone? and touch issues. sigh Yeah no I’m not buying it. Because the topic is so sketchily written I don’t have a clear picture of this but my take away is Grace was too busy being the mover and shaker in society to be the mother her troubled son was so in need of. So along comes Elena and she takes him off her hands. And tada Christian straightens out. Miracle of miracles. No questions ask. Yeah again no the mother in me screams no no no absolutely NO. I would have had sooo many questions.

    Now if I add back into my thoughts that Grace is a trained professional and a pediatrician is her specialty it’s even harder for me to believe. It doesn’t add up. I don’t like Grace. I never have.

    So I have to look at this as a plot device because I know there are loving family members and professionals out there that do miss the signs. But in my opinion Elena came with this huge arrow above her head pointing out her creepiness and I feel Grace failed Christian as his mother as surely as Ella did. But hey I could be completely full it too. grin

    Peace, Falala

    • Hey, if you look at my responses, they all say that she should have known something… or at the very least, Christian’s progress should have been much further (farther?) than it was in the 11 years that he was with this oh-so-loving family before Elena got her hands on him. I had to keep the story somewhat in line with the original, but I’m right there with you on Grace.

      • falalalynx says:

        Oh hey my Goddess,

        You know I wasn’t arguing with anyone I hope. I’ve read and reread all the responses a couple of times. I was just trying for better clarity, like lovely Stuart, during my explanation. And given that my opinion is derived from what is it three sources I am sooo easily befuddled. grin

        Your other thread, Do You Need to Talk, has been like a siren call to me. But then I read how bringing up bad experiences can upset others causing them to relive or think about something they would much rather forget and I have 2nd 3rd and 4th thoughts. And I continue to argue with myself. I might help someone. I don’t want to spread the darkness. It’s ugly. It could be freeing. People will look at me different. They won’t want to associate with me because of all my issues. I’m a freak. NO NO NO I’m a good person. I love cats and dogs and babies should always be loved and sunsets are god gifts to the spirit and rain restores my soul and when my cat purrs to me its angels singing to my heart. It’s a dilemma isn’t it? I am so thankful you have touched my mind. You are the biggest gift under the Christmas tree. Peace, Falala

      • Girl, yeah, I know. I was pretty much just saying that I agree with you. 😉

    • Valarie says:

      I am in the medical field, and I can tell you that you are so right on point with Grace! If you read my comment will see what I am talking about. Carrick and Grace BOTH failed Christian.

  27. falalalynx says:

    full OF it Falala OF it too. I’m always forgetting words. sigh Oops. sorry

    • Dee says:

      Yes, yes, yes! I feel the exact same way but could not articulate it as well as you! You are my hero😘

    • Junebride says:

      Oh, Falala, we think alike, you just explain it better. Thank you!! Also, she was always asking Grace about Christian, unlike the other two children. Neon lights flashing!!!!

      I forgot to mention, my language barrier is because my native language is Spanish, although I have spoken English much longer than Spanish, but sometimes they get crossed… lol Even at home, we speak English or sometimes Spanglish (a mixture of Spanish and English).

      Like they say, you hit the nail on the head…. Thanks!!

      • falalalynx says:

        Junie, Well no wonder we understand one another so well. giggle I’ve lived a great deal of my life in the southwest, Phoenix, Tucson and Guadalajara. My favorite neighbor was Mrs. Alvarez. She was from Chihuahua. She taught me how to sing in Spanglish and to make tortillas by hand. giggle She helped counter the Castilian Spanish I was being taught in school with Mexican Spanish that I heard on the street.

        Peace, Falala

  28. Camille Henley says:

    I wrote this long review and it disappeared.

  29. falalalynx says:

    I’m losing my mind with worry over you I guess. grin What ‘CAN” I do to help you? Oi! Not kind. grin These silly typos are getting embarrassing. Peace, Falala

  30. Ann Shearer says:

    Thank you so much for this chapter sweetheart, what a great start to my day, its brilliant thank you x 😉

  31. Junebride says:

    What about if you write/type it on Word in the future and then copy and paste here. Save it every so often. Just a thought…

  32. VRBMariposa says:

    Damn that chapter was off the hook!!! I loved the emotional speech from Carl, who apparently felt more for Tina then her own kids. Not sure what is going to happen at Helping Hands, but they are about to get a huge donation; loved how Paige got hers… LOL!!! I understand how Ana feels regarding Courtney and Addie; damn Grace. Thanks for the entertainment. It was amazing as always. 🙂

  33. Deborah Dibenedetto says:

    Excellent chapter.❤❤

  34. Wakeska says:

    Pobre Tina. Siempre es la misma historia con los hijos y padres. La mayoría se olvida de ellos en la vejez pero quieren el beneficio después de muertos. No merecen nada.

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