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…
Season 5 Episode 28
“Hey, Baby Boo, if you make me a batch of those chocolate truffles, I’ll do the dishes for you.” Sophie’s eyes light up.
“Deal, Dad!” she says. She opens the refrigerator and produces a healthy bowl of truffles, handing them to her father. Jason’s mouth falls open.
“You little sneaky mouse,” he says, and Sophie giggles.
“Are there any more leftovers, Sophie?” Christian asks from the counter. “I’d love more of the coq au vin.”
“Yes, Uncle Christian, there’s leftovers of everything.”
“May I have a doggy bag?” he asks.
“Me, too,” I chime in. “The tart is basically a memory, now, but I’d love servings of whatever you’ve got left.”
“C’est un sac gastronomique, Oncle Christian,” Sophie corrects. Christian and I both raise a brow at her.
“Tu peux parler Français?” I ask in awe. Sophie puts her finger and thumb together.
“Un peu,” she admits. “I’m learning at school; some on my own on the internet.”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah. Don’t take all my food, you gluttons!” Jason warns.
“Pipe down, you blow hard,” Christian says. “Besides, it’s not your food, it’s Sophie’s food. Don’t worry, we’ll leave some for you. And while you’re balking, give up some of those truffles!”
“Not a chance!” Jason retorts. “I bartered for these! I earned them! Get your own, you loafer!”
“You haven’t washed a single dish, yet!” Christian protests. “Who’s the glutton now?”
“But I will, so stay away from my chocolates!”
Sophie giggles at two grown men fighting over her food as she artfully crafts foil swans just like they do in the fancy restaurants and fills them with servings of what’s left of dinner while Christian and Jason bicker about the chocolates. I have to tear Christian away from the brawl and scoot him out of the apartment, bidding Gail goodnight and offering my apologies to a giggling Sophie for her Uncle Christian’s immature behavior.
When we get to the elevator, Christian pushes the button for the second floor. My brow furrows.
“You don’t want to put the food away?” I ask.
“Oh, I intend to,” he says with a nod. Catching his meaning, I laugh.
“And here I was wondering how I was going to maneuver a midnight kitchen run.”
“She was very happy with the outcome last night,” Gail says as we sit at the breakfast bar the next morning.
“Well, the food was really good,” I reply. “It’s not like we had to lie about it. Those foil swans went right up to the suite last night. We ate our leftovers and watched TV.” Gail and I laugh.
“I thought Jason was going to get downright violent over those chocolate truffles,” she laughs.
“Tell me about it!” I say with mirth, “Two grown men fighting over chocolate.”
“That’s okay,” Christian says coming into the kitchen. “I know he’s bringing some of those chocolate goodies to work today and if he doesn’t share them, he can’t have any more Christmas cookies.”
“Are you serious?” I gasp a laugh. “Christmas is nine months away! How are you even going to remember that?”
“Oh, I’ll remember,” he says. “The minute I smell that goodness baking in the air, I’ll remember.”
“Oh, this is ridiculous,” I say. “I guess we’re going to have to bribe Sophie into making a batch of those truffles every week or we’re going to have civil war here!”
“That works for me,” Christian chimes in shamelessly. I smile to myself, then shake my head.
“Shalane is really doing a huge disservice by keeping Sophie from going to Italy!” I hiss. “She’s a natural talent, and now she wants to go to the motherland of Italian cooking where she can learn the background behind the food and take advantage of the culture and her mom is trying to hinder her. She can’t do much else for the girl while she’s locked away. Why wouldn’t she do this?”
“I don’t think she’s concerned about all that,” Christian says. “I think she’s concerned about her own selfish things and hurting Jason. Maybe she wants to make Sophie beg some more.”
“That’s just ridiculous!” I snap. “That girl could turn out to be magnificent and this is her chance to help her and she won’t do it. What a despicable human being.”
“Talking about my mom?” Sophie says, surprising us all and coming around the corner from the family room and into the kitchen. We’re all in stunned and ashamed silence because none of us expected her to still be here.
“Pumpkin, what are you still doing here?” Gail asks.
“We’re running a little late,” she says. “I think Dad was in a sugar coma.”
“He ate ‘em all?” Christian exclaims, dismayed, and Sophie shrugs. “No Christmas cookies! Not one!” he declares finitely. I sigh.
“Sophie, I will pay you to make those truffles once a week,” I declare. Her eyes widen.
“Once a week? Really?” she asks.
“Yes, because if you don’t, these two are going to kill each other over those chocolates!”
“Sure,” she says. “They’re so easy to make. And, yeah, my mother’s a… word that I can’t use.” Sophie puts her bookbag on the counter and goes to the refrigerator. She opens the Subzero and stops.
“You didn’t… like the food?” she asks me and Christian. I frown.
“Why would you think that?” I ask.
“The swans aren’t in here,” she says sadly. Christian and I laugh immediately.
“No, Sophie, we loved that food… so much, in fact, that it never made it to the refrigerator.” Sophie’s brow furrows.
“You ate it for breakfast?” she asks.
“We ate it for an after-dinner snack,” Christian clarifies. “Boy, that would have been a sight to see… two grown billionaires in their pajamas eating mashed potatoes in bed with their fingers!” Sophie bursts out laughing.
“You ate with your fingers?” she giggles.
“I didn’t feel like coming back downstairs for utensils,” he explains. Satisfied, and still giggling, Sophie removes the orange juice from the refrigerator.
“Sophie,” I say tentatively, “since you already know what we were talking about, I want to ask you a question. I know that I asked if you wanted to help decorate the villa, but… I don’t want to make you feel badly about… you know, helping to decorate it and then not getting to see it.” Sophie’s eyes widen.
“Please, let me help you decorate the villa, Aunt Ana,” she beseeches. “It may be the closest I get to Italy this year. Please?” I sigh. I hate that she’s going through this.
“Of course, you can, Sophie,” I say. “I just didn’t know if you would still want to.”
“I still want to,” she says, “even if I don’t get to see it in person.” I try not to shake my head.
“You’re such a grown-up girl,” I say. “You surprise me every day.”
She giggles into her orange juice and I catch a glimpse of Jason out of the corner of my eye. He is fuming, and I’m not really sure why. I inconspicuously elbow Christian, but he has the tact of a goat sometimes and rubbernecks his head right over to Jason.
Jason sees the possible problem brewing and comes out of his hiding place. What the hell was he doing eavesdropping back there anyway?
“Ready to go, Baby Boo?” he says in his normal voice. “I’m sorry we’re going to be late. I told Jeff I would take you to school and then I dropped the ball. Too many chocolates, I guess.”
“Stingy hog,” Christian says under his breath before finishing his coffee. He stands and kisses me on the cheek. “Love you.”
“Love you, too,” I reply. “Drop the word to those loafers not to get too comfortable. I’ll be back to bring some hell next week. I just need to make sure the center is running okay.”
“Will do,” he says, walking past Jason.
“I’m ready, Dad,” Sophie says. She finishes her orange juice and puts her glass in the sink.
“Bye, Momma Gail,” she says, kissing Gail on the cheek.
“See you after school, Pumpkin,” Gail replies.
“Bye, Aunt Ana!” she says, dashing past her Dad.
“Bye. Sophie,” I say to her retreating back. Jason falls in step behind her, and I suppose Christian will find out why he’s fuming.
It’s business as usual at the Center. Courtney informs me that things are still touch and go with her grandfather, and she’s not hopeful that it’ll change any time soon, but that he has agreed not to harass her as long as she doesn’t do anything to hurt Addie. She had already written off the relationship, so nothing that he said to her had any merit as far as she was concerned. So, in her own words, she’s no better off than she was before and no worse.
Ebony didn’t come in today. She hasn’t missed a day since I hired her, so this gives me cause for concern. She’s not answering her cell phone, and I don’t want to send someone to her address on file simply because she missed a day of work. I’ll just have to wait and see how things pan out.
Marilyn didn’t come in today either. She and Gary went back to her doctor to see if her condition needs any further intervention since she’s unable to keep food down.
There were a couple of residents who needed to chat today and work through some fears and problems, but besides that, like I said, business as usual.
I left the Center a couple of hours early to go to my annual checkup with Dr. Culley, my OB/GYN. After the usual pap smear and the regular barrage of tests, she informs me that since I’ve stopped breastfeeding, my normal periods should begin again in about a month or so.
Christian has made it home by the time I get there and he’s down in his study working on God only knows what. I’m hoping that I don’t have to roll through GEH again and rattle some cages, because I don’t have a problem doing just that if my husband turns into a bear again. However, it looks like the same old thing for him—business as usual.
I go to my study to get a look at the blueprints for the villa. Pop’s death last year put everything on hold and to be honest, so much has occurred in the nine months since that date that I haven’t given any thought whatsoever to the place. Who’s been taking care of it? Has it just laid vacant all this time? I would imagine that someone is looking after it just like they are his other properties when he’s away—which, by the way, I’m still not sure of all of them after the years we’ve been together. I think there’s one in New York, one in Hawaii, and a ski resort somewhere, but I’m not sure. I’ll have to ask him one day.
I never even got to look at the Villa last year. I don’t even know if the link to the virtual tour is still available. I know I have the floor plan and blueprints though. That’s somewhere to start. I open the file where I saved the basic floor plan.
Holy cow, Batman.
Is this right? This can’t be right!
“Christian!” I bellow.
“What?” My husband comes barreling into my office a few moments after I call him. He looks anxious. Sorry, didn’t mean to startle you, but…
“The villa, Christian,” I say. “This place is bigger than my house!”
He glares at me for a moment. Then he puts his hands on his hips.
“Woman, you just screamed like you were being attacked and it’s about the villa?” he asks incredulously.
“It’s got 14 bedrooms, Christian! What the fuck am I supposed to do with 14 bedrooms?”
“Rent ’em out!” he snaps. “Invite the homeless to stay! Open a museum and charge admission for all I care!” he adds, throwing his hands in the air. “Woman screaming bloody murder. Scared the shit outta me!” He leaves the room mumbling and fussing at no one.
I didn’t mean to startle him, but fuck. Fourteen fucking bedrooms? What a colossal waste of space! Fourteen bedrooms for two people. It’s going to cost a fortune to decorate this place and then we’re only going to stay there for two weeks out of the year… and not every year! Damn straight, the family’s coming. I thought this was going to be fun. I’m going to have to move fast—real fast. And I have to find someone to decorate this damn place overseas! For fuck’s sake. I would have started this last year had I known. I get up and stomp into Christian’s study.
“Is this place at least empty?” I ask.
“For the most part, yes, Anastasia it is,” he says without raising his head.
“Don’t Anastasia me!” I bark. “I’ve got to find a decorator overseas—or one that we plan to fly overseas—that can decorate a 14-bedroom villa in two and a half months. Don’t you think you should have told me?” Now, he raises his gaze to me.
“We’ve owned that villa for longer than our children have been alive,” he retorts coolly. “Forgive me if I thought you already knew by now.”
Probably a hundred snappy comebacks attack me at once about the crazy couple of years we’ve had and how the last thing on my mind would be the floor plan of a villa a million miles away. As soon as the comebacks pop to mind, my thoughts get all jumbled like they often do with a three-second funnel…
I should be grateful; he bought me a villa.
This asshole could’ve told me it was 14 bedrooms.
I’m being petty I should have fun with this.
How the hell am I supposed to decorate all this space in three months!
We’ll have our own space to relax in while we’re in Italy. It’ll be so romantic.
I’m not even going to be there! Who the fuck is going to oversee this shit?
I know I do the bobble head and at the end of the three-second funnel, all I get is, “Get the fuck outta this room.”
So, I do.
I march my confused ass back to my office and slam the door. I drop back down in my seat and look at the blueprints on my laptop screen… forlorn. I hope the virtual walk-through still works, because if it doesn’t, I’m completely screwed. I have to find a decorator that’s willing to decorate the home… overseas… without me being there… and it has to be someone that somebody in the family knows or else they have to be vetted and that could take a fucking month.
I drop my head in dismay on the laptop and groan my displeasure. After I lament for a moment or two, I realize that I have no time to waste if I want to get this damn thing decorated before June. I really can’t be mad at Christian, but I can… but I can’t… but I am. Had I known what I was dealing with, I would have chosen paint colors, textiles, and flooring long ago. Now, my only option is to choose a style and run with it. I click the link for the virtual tour and, thank God, it still works.
I can get a feel of what the villa looks like, but not what I’m really working with since the rooms are all full of this Metro-Euro-Contemporary-Americano-Modern whatever this crap is so I can’t even get a good look at the walls or the floors, only the layout. This whole first-person tour thing is not really working for me. It’s the whole 3D, virtual reality thing instead of watching a movie, which gives you a better feel for the space. It just looks like a big ass house that I need to decorate.
So, yeah, I’m screwed. I groan again, retrieve my cell and call Elliot.
“Montana, what’s the word?” he answers.
“Help me,” I groan.
“Well, you sound sorrowful,” he says. “What’s up?”
“Did Christian tell you that he bought me a villa in Italy?” I say.
“He may have mentioned it, yeah,” Elliot says.
“We’re taking a Roman vacation in June,” I tell him. “I don’t know when we’ll end up in the villa, maybe July. I have to decorate it before that!”
“Okay, well, three months, that’s good time,” he soothes.
“Elliot, the damn thing has 14 bedrooms.” The line is quiet for a moment.
“Fourteen?” he nearly shrieks. “What the fuck are you going to do with 14 bedrooms?”
“My sentiments exactly!” I concur. “You know Christian’s motto—go big or go bigger!” I can almost see Elliot rubbing the back of his neck.
“What are you gonna do?” he asks.
“I was hoping you could help me with that part,” I admit. “Know any designers—good and discreet designers—who are willing to take on this overseas job with a bottomless budget and decorate my villa for me?”
He’s quiet again.
“Come on, Elliot, you gotta know somebody,” I reply.
“I know a few that might be able to do it. Getting them is going to be the problem. Spring is right around the corner and they’re in high demand right now.”
“Elliot, when I say bottomless, I mean bottomless,” I tell him. He sighs.
“Will there be any blasting, demo, and rebuilds?” he asks.
“Not that I know of, but even if there was, we wouldn’t do it now. We don’t have time,” I reply.
“There’s always time. Why don’t you know?”
“When’s the last time I’ve been to Italy, Elliot?” I ask. “I haven’t seen this place. I’ve only seen virtual tours and blueprints and you know how helpful those are.”
“So, you’re actually going to need someone to go over there and do a walkthrough—probably a designer and an architect…”
“Not an architect,” I tell him. “Whatever we can’t hide is just going to have to wait.” He’s silent again.
“There’s always Gia,” he says. “Where I or Christian are involved, she’ll jump at the chance.”
“Gia who? Oh, wait… Gia Mateo? The Mrs-Grey-Hopeful that decorated his boat? How about, ‘no?’ How about, ‘hell, no?’”
“Your pickings are kind of slim, Montana,” he says. “Short notice and they’ve got to drop everything they’re doing to fly overseas and check out your villa in one of the busiest decorating seasons of the year. Do you realize what you’re asking?” I groan inwardly. Of course, I realize what I’m asking… the impossible.
“What about the guy that helped decorate the crossing?” I ask. “What was his name?”
“Aaron,” Elliot says. “He was going to be one of my suggestions, but he’s a hot commodity.”
“Be that as it may,” he interrupts, “he may still be unavailable, and you’d have to go with Gia.”
“I thought you said you had some others,” I quip.
“Those are two of the best and I trust them,” he counters.
“You trust Gia?” I accuse.
“Yes, Montana, I trust Gia. We used to fuck, but that’s not why. She’s good at what she does; she’s a consummate professional; and she dare not cross the Greys—any of us.” I think that last part was for me.
“She’ll be a last resort,” I say.
“She may be an only resort,” he replies.
“Call Aaron first,” I say. “Let him know that I have a huge, profitable job for him, but let me explain what it is.”
“Okay,” Elliot says with skepticism, “but you might want me to put in a call to Gia, too.”
“Aaron, first,” I insist. “I have to go now. I’ve got to lament over blueprints and textiles some more.”
“Talk to you later, Montana.” I end the call.
Gia Mateo. I’ve never met her, but in my head, I’m seeing a busty blonde or redhead with way too much makeup and really tight clothes. A woman you would definitely want to keep your husband away from… and who won’t be decorating my villa if I have to pay Aaron three times his normal fee!
I don’t even know what to look for in terms of style for my villa, so I begin to shut everything down. No use in beating myself over the head. I haven’t talked to Marilyn all day and she promised to give me an update on her doctor’s appointment today. Did she get bad news? Is she hiding? Only one way to find out.
**Hey Mare, come see me in my office when you get a chance. **
Either she’ll come immediately, or she won’t come at all. So, I continue getting things together, clearing my desk, and shutting down. Maybe she’s not home, yet. Maybe she decided to spend the night at Gary’s. Maybe…
“Hey,” Marilyn says as she enters my office.
“Hey,” I say, after shutting down my laptop. “How goes things?”
“Okay, I guess,” she says, noncommittal. Hmm, not sure how to interpret that.
“I was expecting you to tell me how the doctor’s appointment went,” I say. “Mine went fine. I’m not pregnant,” I jest. Marilyn laughs weakly.
“I’m sorry. I just forgot,” she says, coming further into the room. She seems a little depressed, not as bad as before, but not particularly happy.
“Is everything okay?” I ask. Maybe the doctor gave her some bad news.
“Not great, but as well as can be expected,” she begins. “As it turns out, the meal replacement shakes and smoothies kind of helped to get me back to where I needed to be. I’m not there, yet, but I’m coming out of the danger zone since I haven’t lost any more weight. Since I’ve gotten over the possible risk of just wasting away, the doctor says that now is a good time to get a structured dietary plan. So, I’m now seeing a nutritionist to whom I have to report every week. She will report to my doctor every week, and if we don’t see some significant improvement, then I may have to be hospitalized before my vital organs start shutting down.”
“Are you still at risk for that?” I ask.
“Not that we can tell, but we’ll have to see.” She replies. I nod.
“He’s back at his place for the night,” she says.
“He’s not running, is he?”
“No,” she says with uncertainty.
“You don’t know,” I say.
“No, I don’t think he’s running.” I examine her.
“You’re not running, are you?” I ask. She raises her gaze to me but doesn’t answer. “I thought this was what you wanted.” She sits on the chest in front of my desk.
“Have you ever felt a pain that was so bad and so deep that you would do anything not to feel it again?” she asks.
“I have,” I say. It made me afraid to love for half a decade. “You’re afraid.”
She turns her gaze from me, sighs heavily, and nods.
“Mare, what you were doing to your body—starving yourself and not eating—that wasn’t healthy, and that wasn’t normal. But this, what you’re feeling right now, this is totally normal. I felt this way when Christian returned after he left me and went to Madrid. I love him endlessly, but when he came back, I sat waiting for several days for the other shoe to drop… for something horrible to happen and he leaves me again. I couldn’t get comfortable. I couldn’t let him touch me. I couldn’t let him love me… I couldn’t trust him with my heart anymore. Things were perfect and then… they weren’t.”
It hurts just thinking about that time of our lives let alone talking about it.
“How long did it last?” she asks. I sigh.
“It’s hard to say,” I reply. “I was still uncertain when we went on our Australian cruise. We had to talk to people… therapists, friends… we had to learn to trust each other again.”
“That’s exactly what this is,” she says, drawing her knees up to her chest and wrapping her arms around her legs. She looks like she’s shrinking, but I can’t say for sure that she is.
“I love him so much,” she says, looking off into the distance. “I want to be with him, but I’m so afraid that it I get comfortable again, it’s all going to crumble and I’m going to back where I started from. I’d be better off alone than to let that happen.” There’s a revelation.
“Would you rather be alone?” I ask. She shakes her head.
“No,” she replies, “I want Gary.” I stand and walk over to the front of my desk.
“Then it’s a chance you have to take, Mare,” I tell her. “Nothing lasts forever, you know that, but we live our best lives and we glean what happiness we can from it while we’re here. A wise woman once told me that as long as we’re alive, the fear of something going wrong—the monsters—will always be there. We have to decide if we’re going to let the monsters run our lives.” I sigh.
“Mare, the foundation of my entire world was shaken… shattered when Christian left. Hell, I damn near leapt off a cliff, for God’s sake. When he came back, I was scared frozen. I didn’t know how to let him in. It took a while for things to get back to normal and took a while for me to understand exactly what I wanted. I knew that we were never going to get that perfect, untarnished love back because it was now stained with reality. So, did I want to build from where we were or did I want to let go?
“That’s the first question that you have to answer for yourself. Do you want to start from where you are right now and build on love from there, or are you too hurt and too afraid and you want to let go? And Mare, there’s nothing wrong with needing to be with yourself, by yourself, to find yourself again if that’s what you need to do. But you’re going to have to ask yourself if you want to do that without Gary, because honestly, you weren’t doing so well without him.”
“I already know that I don’t want to be without him,” she confesses. “I know it.”
“Well, then you’re going to have to face up to your fears and fight the monsters,” I reply. “Yes, it’s scary, and it won’t be easy. Anything we have can change in the blink of an eye. Do you sit and wait for the monsters to gobble you up, or do you grab those sons of bitches by the throat and you show them who’s boss?” I ask, using the same words Laura used with me about the Boogeyman. Mare takes a shuddering breath.
“I’m going to bed,” she says as she stands. “This entire thing is exhausting.”
“Have you been sleeping?” I ask.
“With him, yes. Tonight will be by myself. We’ll see,” she confesses.
“Did you eat?” I press.
“Yes, Bosslady,” she says. “I’m on a strict ‘or else’ regimen with my doctor and I really don’t want to end up in the hospital.” That’s a healthy attitude.
“Have you decided if you’re going to talk to someone?” I continue.
“Gary and I have an appointment with a counselor tomorrow,” she says. “I have an appointment of my own on Thursday. And before you ask, I’m going to meditate now before I go to sleep.” I laugh.
“Okay, okay, I’m pushing too hard. I just worry about you, Mare,” I admit.
“I understand, and I appreciate that. One way or another, I’ll be fine,” she says with a weak smile before leaving my office.
One way or another.
She hasn’t fully decided to take Gary back… or at least she hasn’t fully settled into the idea. I can’t blame her. As much as I love him, it took me months to settle back into “happily ever after” with Christian.
“I’m sorry I didn’t call yesterday,” Ebony says when I get to Helping Hands in the morning. “I was hiding. I had a little scare this weekend. It was a false alarm—very silly on my part but it sent me into hiding for a moment. I’m sorry. It won’t happen again.”
“If you’re ever frightened or whatever might be going on, please let me know. I’m sure we could help you, Ebony.”
“I believe you,” she says. “It’s just… old habits are hard to break. I saw someone that I thought I knew, and I thought they saw me and… It was all just a silly misunderstanding. I’m very embarrassed about it.”
“Well, we don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to, but again, if you need me…”
“I know,” she says. “Thanks.”
I’m tying up a few loose ends in the afternoon when a number comes across my cell that I don’t recognize.
“Dr. Anastasia Grey,” I answer.
“Ana! Hey, it’s Aaron,” he replies.
“Aaron, hi! Thank you for calling me back,” I say.
“You sounded a little desperate on my voicemail. What’s up?”
“I am,” I admit. “Aaron, I have a huge project that you probably won’t even want to do, but I have to ask you first before I go somewhere else, and since you did such a great job on the mansion…”
“Okay, way to scare me off before I even hear about the job,” he jests. “What’s the job?”
“My husband has purchased an Italian villa on Lake Como,” I say. He whistles.
“Abroad!” he says. “Near George Clooney?”
“I don’t think so,” I say. “Christian doesn’t like attention and being near George Clooney would definitely draw attention.”
“Well, exactly where is your villa located?” he asks. I pull up the email with the blueprints.
“Sala Comacina?” I say, a question instead of a statement.
“Hmm, you’re not that far from him… about seven miles,” he says. Well, I hope he keeps the paps on his end of the lake.
“So, can you do it?” I ask.
“I can do it, I just have to figure out how,” he says.
“Well, at this point, it’s either you or Gia Mateo…”
“That bitch?” Aaron nearly squeals. “No. She’s mediocre at best, she steals ideas from other designers, and she gets most of her jobs through her pussy. No. Hell, no. Italian villa for the Greys? The fuck if I’m letting her get that prestige piece.”
“I don’t know, Aaron. This is a big job in a little bit of time.”
“How big and how little?” he asks.
“Fourteen bedrooms, 1210 square meters, two months, two and a half tops,” I reply.
“Shit!” he exclaims. “Any blasting?”
“You and Elliot asked the same question,” I say.
“That’s because it’s going to be exponentially longer if we have to take out walls.”
“Well, no. I won’t approve knocking out walls. I haven’t seen the place and you have to tell me what you can do with the bones.” There’s silence.
“You haven’t seen the place?” he says.
“No,” I reply. “It’s in Italy, so I’ll be totally dependent on you!” I hear him scoff.
“Make no mistake. You know I’m going to charge you out the ass for this, right?” he says.
“Yep,” I reply without hesitation. “Mr. Grey will pay for it all.” Serves him right. I hope this is what he expected buying a 14-bedroom Italian villa sight unseen. I sure hope he trusts the real estate agent that oversaw the purchase and we haven’t bought a money pit.
“Ah, to have money to burn,” he says. “I’ll see who I can delegate my current projects to and I’ll be looking for a flight out this weekend. Should I go commercial or will Mr. Grey be flying me out on his private jet?”
“It’ll have to be commercial,” I tell him. “I’ll have my assistant make arrangements for a Saturday flight. I don’t know what the villa looks like, so I’ll have her make nearby accommodations as well.”
“Sounds like a plan, and don’t call that bitch, Gia—not even for suggestions!” he reinforces.
“Jesus, Aaron, did she steal a boyfriend from you or something?” I ask. Aaron laughs.
“I can see why you would assume that,” he says. “I’m straight as an arrow, baby, but I will turn into Elsie de Wolfe at the flip of a coin when it comes to decorating and I can get catty with the best of them. Ask anybody in the industry. She got to where she is on her back and off other people’s ideas.”
“That wreaks of bitterness,” I point out. “Has she ever stolen anything from you?”
“She tried,” he says. “When I saw her using the design, I didn’t even confront her. I filed an immediate cease and desist and prepared for a civil battle. When she discovered that I wasn’t going to negotiate, she paid me off and stopped using my design. Now, she’ll take a design, tweak it a bit and put her own spin on it, then say it was hers. Since she’ll have all the design work for her design, you can’t nab her on it. They could smell her coming a mile away at NeoCon and the AD Design Show. She’s gonna cross a real cutthroat one day and they’re going to give her what for. We work too hard to get here for some thieving, whorish infringer to come and steal our designs.”
He’s pretty passionate about this.
“Well, I’ll take your word for it. I’m forwarding the email with the blueprints and a walk-through and I’ll have travel plans for you by the end of the day. Would you prefer to fly morning or afternoon?”
“Morning,” he says. “I’ll lose a day and a half flying to Europe. Oh, and tell Mr. Grey that I’m not after your ass, just your money.”
“What?” I ask in horror.
“Tell him,” he reinforces. “He’ll know exactly what you’re talking about. Talk to you soon!” And he ends the call.
What the hell was that about?
“Sir, Ben informs me that the police are at the front gate.”
Jason has called me on my cell. I’m in my office looking over the final details of a merger that we’re planning on completing this week when I get this unwelcome interruption.
“Did they state their business?” I ask.
“No, sir. They won’t do it until they speak to you.” Without knowing why they’re here, I can’t turn them away. I just hate it when they’re all secretive. I don’t like cops anyway and they don’t like me.
“Let them in,” I reply.
“Would you like for me to accompany you, sir?”
“No,” I say, “not yet, but keep an eye on things.”
“Yes, sir.” I end the call and ponder the situation. I have no idea why they’re here… asking for me. I don’t want to alarm my wife, so the best thing to do would be to just go and see what they want. I stand from my desk just in time to hear the two-way communication system come to life.
“Windsor here, sir. Detective Burns and Groomer here to see you.”
“Show them to the living room and stay with them there. I’m on my way up.”
I take the south staircase that leads to the front of the house and immerge near the formal living room. I see two detectives—one guy in that stereotypical trench coat and a woman in a dark designer pants suit—standing in the living room and looking around at their surroundings.
“May I help you?” I ask when I enter the room.
“Christian Grey?” the guy says.
“We have some questions for you about Greta Ellison.” Oh, shit. Showtime.
“Who?” I say, my brow furrowed.
“Gre-ta El-lis-on,” he repeats slowly and sarcastically. I’m already pissed that the guy didn’t reintroduce himself. He told Windsor who he was. He didn’t tell me. So, he’s already starting this meeting off with hostility. I chuckle-scoff in his face.
“I heard you the first time, Skippy,” I say with mirth and equal sarcasm. “I just don’t know who you’re talking about.”
“That’s odd, because we have evidence of a background check you did on her a little while back.” He shows me a picture of Ellison. I study it for a moment.
“Oh, her,” I say in fake surprise. “A little while back?” I frown. “You mean like three years!”
“Oh, now you remember,” he comments.
“You showed me a picture,” I reply. “I don’t keep every girl’s name on the tip of my tongue that I planned to fuck.” I turn to Windsor. “Did you see a badge?” I ask.
“Yes, sir,” he says.
“Thank you,” I say. Windsor nods once and leaves the room. The guy raises his brow at me.
“Is that what it was, Mr. Grey?” he asks. “You planned to fuck her.”
“That’s exactly what it was,” I reply, unoffended.
“You do background checks on all the women you plan to fuck?” he probes.
“Considering the fact that I don’t plan to fuck anybody else but my wife, the answer to your question would be ‘no,’” I say matter-of-factly.
“Let’s try this another way,” he says.
“Yeah, let’s,” I counter, folding my arms. You set the tone. I’m just following your lead. He glares at me.
“Those were your words, Mr. Grey, not mine,” he defends.
“No, they were not,” I retort. “I said planned to fuck—planned… past tense. You said plan. Those were your words, Detective, not mine.” Seeing that I’ve thrown his words back at him, he regroups.
“Were you in the practice of doing background checks on women with which you had planned…” he stresses the word, “… to engage in a sexual relationship?”
“I certainly was,” I reply. “I’m a very important man, Detective. I can’t blindly interact with just anybody, especially on a sexual level. Women are very unscrupulous…”
“As are men,” the female detective retorts. I turn my gaze to her.
“Well, I wouldn’t know. I don’t fuck men,” I reply calmly. Her cheeks redden a bit.
“Women are unscrupulous,” I repeat. “When it comes to men like me, there’s always somebody looking for a payoff or a lawsuit. I had to be very careful with whom I interacted.”
“Doesn’t sound very romantic,” she shoots.
“It wasn’t,” I inform her, “and I didn’t care. I wasn’t offering romance and I wasn’t looking for love. I was looking for a clean, stable, steady fuck, because I may be an asshole, but I’m a monogamous asshole.”
“What happened with Ms. Ellison?” the guy asks.
“She obviously didn’t work out,” I reply.
“Because I found a better fuck,” I reply. He raises his brow.
“You do background checks on all your women? Did you do one on your wife?” he asks.
“Yes, I did.”
“Does she know that?” the female asks.
“Yes, she does. She was the better fuck.” I stare at her while that answer sinks in.
“Better?” the guy asks.
“The best!” I stress, still staring at the female, who purses her lips and rolls her eyes. “Why are you asking me all these questions?”
“We’ll be asking the questions here, sir…”
“Well, you won’t get any more answers until you tell me what this is about. All I know is that you’re asking about Greta Ellis, and I have no idea what this has to do with me,” I say firmly.
“Ellison,” he corrects.
“Ellis, Ellison, Bueller, I don’t care! What does this have to do with me?” I shout.
I look over the detectives’ shoulders and my wife is descending into the living room.
“You’re scaring the children! What’s going on?” she demands.
“Well, I have two of Seattle’s finest standing here interrogating me about my personal life and I have no idea why. They’re asking me about background checks, including the one I did on you.” She does a mini-head-bobble and turns to the officers.
“Are background checks illegal?” she asks surprised.
“I hope the hell not! I run at least a hundred background checks a year! I run a multibillion-dollar, multi-national company!” I bark.
“Christian!” Butterfly scolds again. “Keep it down… the twins!” she adds firmly.
“It depends on what you do with the information,” the guy replies to my statement.
“He married me!” Butterfly counters. “I had one done on him, too.” The guy appears impatient and a bit perturbed.
“Mrs. Grey, if you’ll excuse us…” he says. Butterfly’s glare sharpens and her brow furrows deeply.
“I beg your pardon!” she retorts, putting her hands on her hips, clearly affronted. “Are you trying to dismiss me from a room in my own home?”
The tone of her voice catches us all off guard and now, she has forgotten about frightening the children.
“I most certainly will not!” she says, folding her arms and rolling her neck angrily. “You’re asking my husband personal questions about our life in our home you’re scaring my children and you haven’t told him why,” she says all in one breath. “I’m not going anywhere.”
Making her leave right now would make it appear that I have something to hide from her, so I let her stay and hope that she doesn’t react when she finally hears that this is about Greta Ellison.
“We were just talking to your husband about his ex-lovers. You may find this conversation uncomfortable,” the female cop says. Butterfly chuckles.
“Ex-lovers?” she says with mirth. “You want some coffee? You may be here a while.”
She-cop is taken aback by my wife’s candor.
“You know how many lovers your husband has had?” she asks.
“Yeeeeaaaahhh,” my wife answers as if it’s obvious, which it is.
“And you’re okay knowing that?” Butterfly’s head bobbles a bit again.
“Are you a virgin?” she asks the female cop.
“No,” she replies, somewhat offended.
“Neither was my husband when we met, Cagney,” she replies, pointing her thumb at me. I have to hide my smile at the nickname. Again, neither of them introduced themselves to us, so they get whatever nickname we call them. Cagney rolls her eyes again.
“We can always finish this conversation at the station, Grey…” and now I’m Grey, “you would just have to come with us,” the guy informs me.
“Uh, no I don’t,” I reply. “You don’t have a warrant, I’m not under arrest, and you don’t have probable cause. So, either you tell me what this is about, or you can leave the premises… now.” He closes his notebook.
“You’ve been prepped,” he accuses.
“No, I haven’t,” I reply. “I’m a billionaire with a misdemeanor charge. Look me up. I know the drill.” I fold my arms. “So, do you tell me what this is about, or do you leave?”
“I don’t understand why you’re being so hostile, Mr. Grey, if you have nothing to hide.”
And now I exercise my right to remain silent.
“Oh, pleading the fifth, now, huh?” he taunts.
“Activate two-way communications,” my wife says into the air. I look down at her as the intercom comes alive. “Locate Jason Taylor.” There’s silence for a moment.
“Jason, will you please come to the formal living room? We’re having a bit of a problem with two detectives here.”
“On my way. End two-way communications.”
“Who’s Jason?” the guy asks and now, neither of us are speaking. “Oh, now they’re both silent.” A few moments later, Jason enters the room.
“Ma’am? Sir?” he says, “what seems to be the problem?”
“Cagney and Baretta here are asking me personal questions and they haven’t told me why,” I begin. “They say it’s about one of the girls I did a background check on three years ago before I met my wife, but they won’t tell me what it has to do with me. For all I know the girl is laid-up somewhere fat and out of shape with two kids in a loveless marriage. Since they won’t tell me what this is about and they don’t have a warrant for my arrest, I asked them to leave, which they refuse to do.” Jason’s face looks distastefully at the detectives, then at me.
“Cagney and Baretta?” he asks. I shrug.
“They didn’t think I deserved to know their names,” I inform him.
“We told your butler…”
“You didn’t tell me!” I interrupt him. He glares at me.
“I’m Burns, she’s…”
“I’m no longer interested, Baretta!” I cut him off again before turning back to Jason. “I told them to leave,” I repeat.
“Detectives, I’m Jason Taylor. I’m head of security here at Grey Crossing. I’m sure you know the protocol. If you don’t have a warrant, I’ll see you out.” He gestures to the grand entry.
“We’re not leaving until we get some answers… Mr. Taylor,” Baretta says in a condescending tone.
“That’s fine,” Jason says, unfazed. He pulls out his phone and swipes the screen. “I’ll just make a quick call to the chief at headquarters and tell him that two of his detectives are on private property without a warrant harassing one of Seattle’s most prominent citizens and refusing to leave after you’ve been asked at least twice, subjecting yourselves to criminal trespassing charges and the department to a possible lawsuit…”
“For scaring my babies!” Butterfly chimes in. Cagney suddenly looks a bit uncomfortable.
“You have the number directly to the chief of police,” Baretta says skeptically. It’s a statement, not a question. Jason turns his phone around for the detective to see.
“On. Speed. Dial,” he says, his voice low and firm. “And in the interest of full disclosure, detectives, nearly every inch of this property is under audio and video surveillance.”
He points to the chandelier in the ceiling, indicating that there’s a camera inside. Baretta looks at Cagney and then back at Jason, who has now taken the stance and is waiting for the detectives to make a decision.
“A missing person’s report has been filed on Greta Ellison,” he says finally. “No one close to her has seen her since just after the new year.” I look at him expecting, then gesture my hand for him to continue when he doesn’t.
“Did you hear me, Mr. Grey?” he asks.
“Yes, I heard you,” I reply. “I’m still waiting for you to tell me what this has to do with me.” He narrows his eyes at me.
“We’re questioning every person of interest in this matter,” he replies. My eyes widen.
“Person of…?” I look over at Jason who doesn’t react. “Person of interest?” I ask, turning back to Baretta. “I did a background check on that woman three years ago. That makes me a person of interest?” I ask incredulously.
“No, the fact that she was authoring a book—an exposé—about Seattle’s elite makes you a person of interest,” he says. I furrow my brow in perfect pretend confusion.
“She was writing a book?” I ask. “What could she possibly say about me? I met with her for maybe 30 minutes sometime in… 2012. She doesn’t know enough about me to write a book.”
“She wasn’t the source—she was the writer,” Cagney says. I look at her expecting, the same way I looked at Baretta early.
“Waiting for the punchline here,” I say when I get no further information.
“Someone with a great personal knowledge of you was feeding her information, Mr. Grey,” Baretta says. “She was a ghost writer.”
“Was,” I say. “Is she dead?” I ask.
“I don’t know… is she?” Baretta retorts.
“You’re the one who’s talking about her in the past tense, Detective,” I shoot back calmly. “If you haven’t confirmed that she’s no longer with us, then you may not want to talk about her in the past tense. And while you’re standing here wasting time on me, why don’t you talk to her source? Wouldn’t they have more information? Maybe she’s gone into seclusion or something to finish this so-called book.”
“Her source is currently indisposed,” he replies. I frown again.
“What?” I say incredulously. “Who is it?”
“Okay, so since you want to play cat-and-mouse to try to find out what I know without telling me what you know, let me answer all your questions.” I begin counting on my fingers. “I don’t know where Greta Ellis is, who she was talking to, what she was doing, or what she was supposedly writing. Nobody has any permission to write anything about me—biographical or autobiographical. If I see anything with my name or any characters that even resemble me, there’ll be court orders and injunctions, and someone will be buried so deep in litigation that there’ll be nothing left to do but read the eulogy. Now, since I have nothing else for you and you have nothing else for me, get out of my house!”
“Mr. Grey, the source is Elena Lincoln. I’m sure you remember her! And the girl’s name is Ellison,” Baretta says perturbed.
“Haven’t you figured out yet that I don’t give a fuck what the girl’s name is?” I reply, gesturing for emphasis. “I don’t know where she is. I haven’t spoken to her in years. And Elena Lincoln? For fuck’s sake, are you serious? I saw that in the tabloids! I thought that was a bunch of hearsay. No reputable publication printed it. The places where I saw any mention of it was right next to, ‘I’m having Michael Jackson’s post-mortem love child.’ Why would I think that held any salt?
“And isn’t there a law somewhere that she can’t profit from her crimes? Doesn’t that fall under this category? She can’t write about anything but her crimes! That book would never get off the ground. No publisher in their right mind would touch it. That’s real? She’s really going to try to do that? So, what did she say about me that has you on my doorstep right now?”
“That’s classified, sir,” Cagney says.
“Is it?” I ask. “Well, then we’re back to the cat-and-mouse-game, aren’t we?” I say folding my arms.
“Wait a minute,” Butterfly says. “Ellison… I remember that name.” My head snaps over to my wife. Where are you going with this, Butterfly?
“You do?” Cagney asks, her interest piqued, and now Butterfly has everyone’s attention.
“Yeah,” she says, turning to me. “Wasn’t that the girl who accosted us in the Market?”
I try not to let the detectives see me breathe a huge sigh of relief.
“Oh… yeah…” I say in honest recollection. “I forgot all about that.”
“Accosted you?” Cagney asks.
“Yeah,” Butterfly replies. “We were at Pike’s Market—it used to be a weekend haunt of mine before the Paparazzi started following me everywhere…”
Butterfly tells the story casually like she’s talking to a couple of old friends, complete with a couple of tangents about what she thinks we bought that day. I couldn’t be prouder of her performance.
“Anyway, we’re walking to the car with our goods and there she is with all her wares on display.” She laughs and gestures to her breasts in a way that imitates triple-G cups.
“She’s telling my then-boyfriend…” she gestures to me, “… how much better than me she could be for him and various other sexual propositions, and he pretty much blew her off, told her to get lost, and we went on to the car. I was a bit miffed because I didn’t like the fact that random girls… well, girl… was walking up to us in the Market basically offering herself like she was some of the fruit there on the stands! I remember saying something like she’d fuck him right there on top of the oranges if he let her. She had this gross underboob thing going on where her shirt was really short, so you could see the bottom of her breasts. That is so tacky! Who does that in public…?”
And the Oscar goes to…
“Mrs. Grey, Mrs. Grey,” Cagney says, an attempt to break her tangent, “had you seen Ms. Ellison any time after that?” Butterfly gets a confused look on her face, then shrugs and shakes her head uncertainly.
“I don’t know,” she replies. “I could’ve. I mean, I couldn’t pick her out of a crowd. All I remember was her tits!”
Cagney has rolled her eyes so many times listening to my wife that I swear they’re going to get stuck that way.
“You need to talk to Lincoln,” I interject. “If this girl is writing her story, then Lincoln knows where she is.”
“Unfortunately, Mrs. Lincoln suffered a stroke… around the same time that Greta Ellison is reported to have come up missing.” My mouth falls open, mocking disbelief.
“Well, isn’t that convenient!” I exclaim. “I don’t believe that for a second,” I say. “That woman has balls bigger than mine. She has a heart of stone and I‘ll bet my fortune that she’s faking. You better keep an eye on her.”
“Well, as you can see, we can’t really talk to her,” he says. “It was all over the news.”
“Well, I have a multibillion-dollar company to run, so I’ve got bigger fish to fry than to be concerned about a woman who’s spending the rest of her natural life behind bars and deserves to be there. But you can best believe I’ll be keeping my eye on the news, now, because I don’t believe this stroke shit for a second! If she could figure out how to get somebody on the outside to write this story for her, she’s up to something. Like I said, you better keep an eye on her.” I certainly am.
After several moments of silence, something else suddenly dawns on me.
“Wait a minute,” I say, pondering parts of the conversation. “You said that she’s writing a book about Seattle’s elite and that makes me a person of interest?”
“That’s what I said,” Baretta says.
“Seattle’s elite,” I repeat. “Are you also going to be questioning Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, Steve Ballmer, Paul Allen, Gabe Newell?” I ask. “Any judges or senators on that list or am I the only lucky bastard you get to harass today?”
“We have several people that are going to be questioned,” he replies.
“All members of Seattle’s elite?” he doesn’t answer. “You guys really drew the short straw, didn’t you? Who the hell did you piss off to pull this detail?” I laugh out loud. “I mean seriously,” I say around my laughter, “this is your plan of action? You’re going to walk into affluent homes in the greater Seattle area with absolutely no evidence, throw out conjecture and suggestion, and hope somebody trips over their tongue and tells you something about this girl? You have nothing else but that she disappeared supposedly sometime after her meal ticket became ‘indisposed…’” I use the finger quote around the word while saying it mockingly, “and now, you’re going to go to the private homes of the most influential people in the state, trying to bully them, upsetting their wives and scaring their children—and you have absolutely nothing concrete to go on?“
I’m laughing hysterically now, my laughter partially in relief, but mostly because it’s really very funny that they have absolutely nothing to go on and they’re knocking on my door. I thought they may have found some substantial piece of evidence that pointed them to me besides a three-year-old background check.
“I hope you guys have a really good retirement plan that doesn’t involve the police department,” I say, my voice mirthfully mocking. “The governor’s office is about to be flooded with calls on you two, one of which will most likely come from me. She was a guest at my wedding, for Christ’s sake!
“How many people do you intend to send over the edge today? My advice is that if you want to find any substantial evidence or leads, or if any of the people you’re questioning had anything to do with this girl’s disappearance, you had better rethink your strategy, because you’re headed down the wrong road… backwards!
“I want you out of my house now. I have nothing else to say to you. If you want to talk to me in the future, get a warrant or contact my attorney, Allen Forsythe. He’s in the GEH directory. Jason?” I gesture to Jason to show the detectives out and put my hand in the small of my wife’s back to lead her out of the room.
“Mrs. Grey?” Cagney calls as we’re walking away. “Do you really feel safe with this man knowing that he could possibly have something to do with this girl’s disappearance?”
Oh, dear God. If they only knew. Butterfly stops in the grand entry and turns around to face the detectives.
“You know, you guys may get a little further with this investigation if one of you pretends to be the good cop,” she says, matter-of-factly, before turning around and walking out of the room with me. When we bend the corner and are out of sight of the detectives, I turn around to face my wife, still walking backwards. I hold my hand up in front of her. She smirks at me and we clap hands in a victorious high five before joining our children in the den.
A/N: I think I made a reference to Cagney and Lacey before in reference to female cops where we don’t know their names. Baretta was another cop from a cop show back in the 70’s.
I don’t think underboob really became a thing until 2016 and for my story, Greta had underboob going on around 2012 or 2013. Again, creative license.
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