Grey Continued: Season 5 Episode 12

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 12

CHRISTIAN

“Yeah, get mad because I left you there and made you walk home, but rape? Please!”

Is this fucker actually saying that he didn’t rape my wife? That she made all this shit up? Is he seriously sitting there on the stand spouting this shit? I’m so angry that I feel the bench shaking. It takes a moment to realize that it’s not me.

“Boss?”

Jason’s earnest whisper causes me to look over at him, and I see my wife… shaking so violently that she’s causing the entire bench to shake.

“Ana?” I reach over and put my hand over her clenched fist, but she doesn’t respond.

“Ana?” I say louder. She raises her gaze to me. Her blue eyes are pale, paler than I’ve ever seen, and the whites are becoming more and more bloodshot by the second.

“Mrs. Grey?” I hear a voice calling her and I think it’s the judge, but I’m too busy trying to figure out what’s going on.

“Jesus, Ana, what’s wrong?” I ask. I’m flailing. Now, Ray has made his way over to us and he’s trying to assess the situation.

“Annie?” he says. “Sunflower, talk to me.”

“Mrs. Grey, you’re disrupting these proceedings!” the judge says.

“With all due respect, your honor, I don’t think she can help it!” I snap at him before I know it. When I look back at Butterfly, Jason is examining her eyes and Ray is still trying to get her attention. She’s shaking more violently now and still hasn’t uttered a sound.

“Is she epileptic?” the judge asks. I can’t think to answer.

“No, sir, your honor,” I hear Al say, “but she suffered a severe head injury in a car accident a little over a year ago.”

“It appears bad luck seems to follow her everywhere.”

That was Whitmore’s voice, the only thing that could cause me to take my eye off my wife. I see the devil when I see this man. I see Edward David multiplied exponentially because what he did, he did to a 15-year-old girl. At this moment, I’m wondering if it’s as easy to get to a fucker in prison in Nevada as it is in Seattle.

“You need to shut up,” the judge says in an uncharacteristic moment while pointing his gavel at Whitmore. “Bailiffs, clear the courtroom. Fifteen-minute recess.” He pounds his gavel and everyone except our party has left the courtroom in 60 seconds. Whitmore slow-steps pass us in the shackles, smiling down at my convulsing wife who probably doesn’t even know he’s walking by.

She’s shaking even more violently now, and I don’t know what to do. My first instinct is to lay her down, so I ask for help getting her into a prostrate position. When I do that, her heels click madly on the wooden bench and I realize that her head is going to do that, too. Jason removes his jacket and tries to make a pillow for her with it, but that doesn’t help. I kneel next to her and hold her head in my hands.

“Baby, can you hear me?” I ask, helplessly. She doesn’t respond. Her eyes are tight, and she’s shaking violently.

“Get paramedics in here,” the judge says. I can’t do anything but hold her close to me and let her shake.

*-*

It’s been forever since we got here. I mean, truly, forever. We’re at the University Medical Center waiting to hear the verdict on my wife. Since we came in through the emergency room, there’s nothing we can do but sit here and wait. Since they had no idea what was wrong with her and she doesn’t have epilepsy coupled with the fact that she has a previous serious brain injury, they did a quick evaluation, gave her muscle relaxers and immediately took her to get an MRI and a CAT scan.

And now, we wait. For hours and hours and hours, it seems, we wait.

Court has long since adjourned for the day and the entire entourage is now here in the waiting room. I tried to convince Ray to stay in court, to be my eyes and ears, but he was having none of it. No matter how I pleaded, he just said,

“Give it up, Grey. I’m going with my baby girl.”

Allen reluctantly agreed to stay in the courtroom along with James, Marilyn, and a few members of our security staff. However, Jason, Chuck, Mandy, Ray, and I have been painstakingly waiting all afternoon and evening for some word on Butterfly. Every time that door opens from the back, I’m waiting for some doctor to come out and tell me what’s going on with my wife. It’s agony, because that door opens a whole fucking lot. When I feel like I’m finally going to lose my mind…

“Family of Anastasia Grey…”

We all stand at once until everybody realizes that we can’t all bum rush the doctor.

“Ray?” I say, gesturing for him to come with me to see what the doctor has to say. We walk over to him and I almost can’t bear to hear what he might say.

“She’s fine,” he says, and I feel like my chest is going to cave in. Most doctors introduce themselves first, but I’m glad he led with, “She’s fine.”

“I’m Dr. Carver, I’m the head of neurology. We’ve run several tests on Mrs. Grey. We always want to eliminate the worst-case scenarios and we were able to do that quickly. It appears that she had a severe panic attack, honestly one of the worst I’d ever seen, but considering her neurological history and what you’re telling me that she’s going through right now, I’m not at all surprised.”

“Is she… is she awake or… what’s happening now?” I don’t know what to ask.

“She pretty much slept all afternoon,” he says. “She may be awake all night, but right now, the only thing wrong with her is that she’s hungry as a bear… her words, not mine.” I sigh heavily and thrust my hands into my hair, trying desperately not to collapse onto the floor in relief.

“When… can I see her?” I say, trying to remain calm.

“Right now,” he says, “Come with me.”

He leads me and Ray through the big doors that I had been watching all evening and down the magic hallway where all of the doctors and nurses had disappeared for hours during my agonizing wait. A turn here and a turn there and we’re in a big community room with beds separated by curtains. My wife is in the last bed on the end.

Well, I don’t like this at all.

The television is playing, and she has it set on the news channel, no doubt looking for some news about the trial.

“It’s limited coverage,” she says. “Either not much happened in the case today or nobody got a picture of me being carried or wheeled from the courthouse… or however you got me out of there.” It bothers me that she doesn’t remember.

“Nobody got pictures,” I tell her. “Unless someone in the courtroom said something, no one even knows.” She nods and mutes the television.

“Can I go now?” she asks the doctor. “No offense to you, doc, but the very last place I want to be right now is in a Las Vegas hospital.”

“It’s hard not to take offense to that, Mrs. Grey,” he admits.

“Do you know why I’m here?” she says flatly. “I spent weeks in a Las Vegas hospital when I was a kid. Nobody came to see me. Nobody cared. I don’t want to be here.” Dr. Carver smacks his lips.

“Oookay,” he says. “I’ll get your discharge papers ready. Make sure that you see your own doctor about this when you get back to Seattle.”

“Will do,” she says and throws the covers off.

“Do you need help, Sunflower?” Ray asks as she retrieves the plastic hospital bag with her things in it and Dr. Carver leaves the room.

“Thanks, Daddy,” she says. “I’ve got it.” Ray nods in that helpless but accepting way that I feel right now.

“Do you want to talk about this?” I ask.

“Not here,” she says as she shamelessly steps into her panties while Ray and I watch.

“I’m going to step out and give you some privacy,” he says, kissing her on the forehead.

“You changed my diapers, Daddy,” Butterfly protests.

“That was almost 30 years ago, Sunflower. You’re a grown woman now. I’m going to step out and give you some privacy.” And he leaves. I turn back to Butterfly.

“He told me that you were hungry. What would you like to eat?” She pauses as she pulls on her skirt.

“Roberto’s,” she says, pulling it up and zipping it in the back. My brow furrows.

“What’s Roberto’s?” I ask.

“Greasy Mexican food. I want carne asada fries with everything, two fish tacos, two California burritos, and two chicken quesadillas.” She snaps her bra in the back and proceeds to stuff it with tissues. At first, I’m wondering what the hell she’s doing and then I realize that she has no breast pads. I pull out my phone.

“Sir?” Jason answers.

“Butterfly is being discharged. I need you to find a place called Roberto’s and place an order for pick-up…”

“It’s 24-hours. He can have it delivered to the hotel,” Butterfly interrupts stoically, still getting dressed.

“I’d rather someone pick it up to make sure that it’s right,” I tell her. She shrugs as she buttons her shirt.

“Whatever works,” she says, searching the bag for her shoes.

“I’ll text you what she wants,” I tell him and quickly compose the text while he’s still on the line.

“Mexican food,” he says as he reads my text. “Does she want Corona, too?” Hell, she might. I turn to ask her just in time to hear her shoes clicking out of the little curtain pod. She has finished dressing just enough to be presentable with her shirt hanging out of her skirt, has taken her things in the plastic bag and is now headed for the nurse’s station. Shit.

“We’ll get something from the minibar,” I say, ending the call and rushing behind my wife who is walking with purpose.

“Excuse me,” she says when she gets to the counter.

“Yes?” the nurse behind the desk answers.

“I don’t mean to be rude, but I have to get out of here. Dr. Carver is discharging me, and I just need the papers. I’d like to have them now, please, or I’m leaving AMA.” The nurse is a bit taken aback.

“It… wouldn’t be AMA, ma’am. You just wouldn’t have your discharge papers.” She shakes her head.

“Fax them to the Waldorf,” she says, throwing her free hand up and proceeding towards the exit.

“Ana!” I call out to her, but she keeps walking. I turn to the bemused nurse, just as bemused as she is.

“Can you do that?” I ask. She shakes her head.

“Not without a written release from her,” she replies cautiously.

“Butterfly, they need you to sign something!” I call out. She waves her hand again and disappears around the corner.

“We’ll figure it out later,” I say to the nurse. “Thank you.” Once again, I shuffle to catch my wife who simply follows the exit signs and finds herself in the waiting room.

“Ana, are you okay?”
“Jesus, you scared us!”
“Jewel, you’re going to give me a stroke.”

“I’m fine,” she says coolly as she’s putting her coat on. “I didn’t mean to scare you all, but I need to get the hell out of here.”

Our party falls silent, most likely seeing her earnest and waiting for instruction. Jason isn’t here and I’m assuming he went to get the food. While I’m trying to see what the transport plan is, Butterfly and I make a startling realization at the same time.

Paparazzi. Just outside the door.

Butterfly gets a determined look on her face and I know that it’s showtime.

“Shit!” I hiss as she takes off towards the exit.

The automatic doors open, the flashes go off, the questions are flying at her and she does not stop. Anybody who gets in her way is going to get bowled over and I think they know it.

She is hauling down that sidewalk towards the parking lot. It’s like she doesn’t even hear or see these people around her. And if anybody gets in her way, may God have mercy on their souls.

She doesn’t need protection. She’s got a force field around her right now that says if you come near her, she’s going to kick you in the balls. Even her hair is bouncing with purpose, and the way that she’s striding in those stilettos, they might as well be track shoes.

“Butterfly, do you even know where you’re going?” I ask, taking long strides to keep up with her.

“I’m walking towards cars,” she replies. “I’m assuming my chariot is somewhere in there.” I sigh again and take out my phone.

“I see the flashes, sir,” Jason answers.

“Good. Be quick before she runs out here and jumps on a bus,” I warn.

“Don’t tempt me,” she replies.

“Jason?” I plead.

“To your left, sir,” he says. Like a ray of light from heaven, the black SUV pulls up in front of us. Butterfly doesn’t wait for me. She opens the front door, climbs inside and closes the door behind her. I’m surprised, as is Chuck, so he and I and Mandy and Ray just scramble into the back.

“Who’s going to get my food?” she asks.

“We’ll pick it up on the way,” Jason replies.

*-*

I don’t ever think I’ve seen my wife eat that much food. I’ve heard a reference to it—Chuck talked about the mountain of food that she ate in Anguilla when we had that fight, followed by the looting of the candy store, but I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen her eat this much. She doesn’t eat too fast, but she does eat it all, finishing her meal with a 32-ounce Dr. Pepper.

I just order salmon from room service and eat at a safe distance.

When she has finished her mound of Mexicana, I finally approach with caution.

“Do you want to talk now?” I ask. She shrugs.

“What is there to talk about?” she asks. “That fool raped me, and all this time, I just thought he wasn’t admitting it. I had no idea this is what was going on.”

Okay, I have to admit I’m a little lost.

“He still didn’t admit it, Butterfly,” I say, nonplussed. I don’t know what she’s getting at.

“And he’s not going to,” she shoots, angrily. “He’s never going to, not even to himself. When he came to GEH all cocky and shit, I thought he was just being an asshole… which he was of course. I had no fucking idea this is what was going on the whole time! Fifteen-year-old me didn’t get it at all, but damn near 30-year-old me—the one with the degree and the specialization in human mentality—yeah, I get that shit loud and clear now!”

I’m glad we’re in the penthouse, because she is having a fucking meltdown.

“Please forgive my ignorance,” I say calmly. “I need you to let me in on it. He’s a rapist. We know it. What am I missing?”

“You don’t understand, Christian,” she says, her voice laced with some unknown emotion—dread, fear, I don’t know, “Cody. Whitmore. Really. Doesn’t. Think. He raped me,” she says slowly. “He really felt like he had a right to do what he did to me, and when Stephen and I confronted him, he really felt like I was lying. Don’t you see what this means? There’s no telling how many other girls he did this to, and I know there were more by Carly’s reaction when I confronted her and Pamela Whitmore’s reaction on the phone. Jesus, how many times has he done this after he became an adult? He probably used what they did to me to keep girls quiet! The man is a serial rapist! He has to be! Thank God he’s locked up, but what’s going to happen once he’s free?”

She leaps from her seat at the table and the carnage of empty Mexican take-out trays so swiftly that her chair falls hard to the floor behind her with a thud.

“What the fuck is wrong with these people?” she seethes. “His father knew! He knew! He paid to shut me up! Was I the first? Was I the last? Was I somewhere in the middle? How could he walk around all cocky and shit knowing that his son was this fucked up? And Pamela fucking Whitmore—is she fucking clueless or delusional? And she had the nerve to call and threaten my children with that monster that she raised?”

She’s coming totally unglued, and justifiably so. How in God’s name can that fucker believe he didn’t rape her? Of course, he raped her! Is he suffering from that same shit that Lincoln claimed she had?

“He really thinks I lied on him,” she shrieks. “He really thinks he’s the victim here, and that’s why all this shit happened! Take one sexually depraved, mentally unstable, teenage lunatic and add one blindly obsessed, entitled, radically misguided, boneheaded bitch and you’ve got the teenage version of Natural Born Killers! And she’s procreated! Dear God in heaven!”

She falls on her knees with her fists clenched in front of her, cursing at the floor.

“He’s a sexual deviant! A fucking psychopath!” she wails. “Even his Daddy knew! That’s why he paid to shut me up. I can’t stand the fact that he’s breathing the same air that I breathe. It’s bad enough thinking that he lied about the rape all these years, but to know that he actually thought it was okay! He thought he was entitled! They almost killed me, fucking killed my baby, because he thought he was entitled. Fucking hell! You fucking miserable bastard!!!!”

She screams her dismay to anything or anyone that can hear her, and now I have to stop it. I can’t stand it anymore.

I fall down on my knees in front of her and gather her firmly in my arms. She fights me violently at first, but I have a strong grip on her and I’m not letting her go.

“No! No! It’s not fair!” she shrieks as she uselessly struggles in my arms. “It’s not fair. I hate him! He deserves to die! I hate him! It’s not fair! It’s not faaaaaaiiiiiiiiiirrrrr!”

Realizing that she’s not going to get away from my grasp, she screams and cries before her head falls limp on my chest. She’s mumbling something through her tears, but I just hold her there for an eternity, my head resting on hers as she weeps bitterly.

*-*

I didn’t get much sleep last night. I knelt on the floor with Butterfly until my knees were numb. She wailed for so long that I thought she would have another panic attack, but she didn’t. She just cried until her voice was gone, then she whimpered for several more minutes until she was exhausted, and I gladly carried her to bed, holding her and watching her as she slept.

I would gladly spare her all this pain and the realizations that we’re making as the trial proceeds. It was pretty damn dirty for Larson not to tell us that Whitmore had gotten a plea, too. Springing that shit on us at the trial wasn’t cool at all. I can only assume that he thought that Butterfly may not show up if she knew that Whitmore would be testifying. She had already confronted Madison-Perry, so it wouldn’t have been a big deal for her to have seen that witch on the stand, but Whitmore? Maybe he was going for shock value. If that was the case, that shit fucking worked in spades.

Maybe that’s what he was referring to when he said, “Expect anything.” Asshole.

I spent most of the night at the piano once Butterfly fell asleep. It was too late to call Seattle once we got back to the hotel, so we didn’t get a chance to speak to the twins. I can’t help but wonder how Ray feels watching all this. He tried to rescue her, but Carla wouldn’t let him do it. Now, she has to relive all this stuff in front of an audience and even make new discoveries like the shit she just discovered about Whitmore.

He’s not going to be rehabilitated in prison, because he hasn’t accepted what he’s done, and quite frankly, no one else knows. He’s just going to be punished for his part in the beating, and that’s all. I need to see if there’s anything else that can be done about his punishment while he’s in the custody of the Nevada Department of Corrections…

I got a little sleep on the sofa, but I’m awake again a couple of hours later to give instructions to the rest of the entourage, as we are so lovingly referred to in the press. I won’t subject Butterfly to anything she can’t deal with and I think going to court today after yesterday’s episode may be a bit much.

I’m still in a T-shirt and sweats when I sit down at the table with Ray, Allen, and Jason that morning. We’ve had breakfast brought to the room and we’re discussing what may happen in court today.

“It’s getting on time for us to get going,” Ray says. “Don’t you think you should wake Annie so she can get dressed and get some breakfast?” I sigh.

“Yesterday was really bad, Ray,” I inform him. “She came home and had another breakdown. I don’t think she’s going to make it to court today…”

“Oh, yes, she is.”

My thought is interrupted by Butterfly’s voice. I turn around and she’s fully dressed and ready to go.

“And you had better hurry and get dressed, or you’re going to be left behind,” she adds.

“Baby,” I protest. “I don’t think it’s a good idea after what happened yesterday.”

“I’m not going to let them win, Christian,” she says. “I have to see this through. I can’t stop now.” I put my hands on my hip, drop my head and sigh.

“Butterfly, in all honesty, you and courtrooms just don’t get along,” I say in frustration. She rolls her eyes.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah—Fainting, Regurgitating, Convulsing Grey. I get it, but I’m still going. Are you going with me?” I look at Jason and Ray, roll my eyes and shake my head.

“Give me ten,” I say, before going back to the bedroom.

*-*

My wife is beyond untouchable this morning. She hasn’t shut me out, but it’s crystal clear that today, she’s facing this mess with her beautiful rack stuck straight out and taking this shit head on. She’s wearing a three-piece gray tweed pants suit with black leather gloves, a small black clutch, and black Louboutin suede stilettos. I briefly protested about her wearing no overcoat and she informed me that we weren’t in Seattle and her tweed suit jacket was heavy enough.

When the Audis pull up to the courthouse stairs, she sees that the police already have the press restrained. So, she leaps out of the car and begins her sprint up the stairs, surprising everyone—including the press.

“Shit, go!” I bark at Jason and Chuck, who dash out of the Audi behind her. I sigh heavily and prepare for my ascent.

“What’s that about?” Ray asks when we get out of the car.

“She’s had enough of this,” I tell him. “I hope this doesn’t go on much longer.”

“I hope not either,” Al says, joining us. “She’s rebelling. There’s going to be no controlling her shortly.”

There’s no controlling her now.

As we begin to ascend the stairs, I hear various cracks from the press:

“Jesus, how the hell can she run like that in those damn shoes?”

“I’d be a track star if I could move that fast.”

“What is Anastasia Grey running from today?”

“She’s running from you!” I say to the person who asked the last question. “It’s one of the worst times of her life and she still can’t get any peace. What do you expect?”

I just couldn’t take it anymore. We’ve got a damn reporter in the courtroom. They know what’s going on. What more do they fucking want?

“Christian?” It’s Mac. She’s right behind me with a firm grip on my elbow. My first inclination is to snatch my arm from her, but no need to give these fuckers a show. I turn away from the assholes and finish my ascent to the courtroom, taking the stairs two at a time.

We’ve apparently missed the rest of Whitmore’s testimony while we were at the hospital. I don’t think we would have wanted to hear it anyway. However, when we get into that courtroom, I’ve got a fucking earful for Larson.

“Exactly when did you plan to tell us that Cody Whitmore got a deal, too?”

“It was a last-minute decision, Mr. Grey,” Larson says. “It turns out that Carly Madison-Perry had no idea who Vincent Sullivan was, so she couldn’t testify to his presence, intent, or state of mind. We needed someone who could. He’s arguing diminished capacity. We needed someone that was present at the beating that could tear that defense apart. He had a viable defense just by the violence of the act alone…”

“Except that he was the first one that burned her!” I retort. Larson sighs and drops his head, then raises it again.

“You missed the second half of Whitmore’s testimony,” he says. “He destroyed that defense that Sullivan was a terrified participant. Whatever Sullivan says today is going to be highly overshadowed by the picture Whitmore painted. He had several character witnesses yesterday, but none of them chipped away at the picture of this kid who was willing to do anything to be one of the cool kids. I’m telling you, Whitmore was our star witness.”

“I thought she was your star witness!” I accuse, pointing at my wife. Larson deflates again and doesn’t respond.

“You said it was a last-minute decision. How last-minute?” I demand. He swallows.

“Monday morning… right before trial,” he confesses.

“It’s Friday,” I point out. “You had time to warn us. We might have avoided what my wife went through yesterday. How can we possibly trust you now?”

“I don’t trust anybody in this place,” my wife says impassively while gazing at Larson. “Let’s get this done.”

She takes a seat without another word. I glare at Larson before moving to sit next to my wife.

“Mr. Grey,” he calls out. I turn to face him again.

“I know the system has failed you in the past, but that’s because no one did anything. I’m doing something now, sir. Please, trust me. Trust the system to work this time.” I pause for a moment.

“I’m not the one you have to convince… counselor.” I glare at him for a few more moments, allowing my words to sink in before taking a seat next to my wife.

The prosecution concluded its case yesterday with Whitmore’s testimony and the defense began its presentation with the character witnesses for Sullivan that Larson mentioned. Today, the witnesses continue to stream in, one of which is a current girlfriend who testified that Sullivan still has nightmares about what happened that day. Her testimony was deflated when it was discovered that she and Sullivan broke up six months before his arrest, so she couldn’t really attest to the possibility that he still has nightmares.

Larson is going at the character witnesses with extreme gusto now, apparently more determined than ever to convince Butterfly that he’s really on her side and doing what’s best to win the case. I don’t doubt that he is. I just want to see it done with as little pain and inconvenience to my wife as possible. After three witnesses and two hours of listening to Sullivan’s accolades, Butterfly stands and leaves the courtroom before the fourth witness is called. I stand and walk out behind her.

“Butterfly!” I catch her as she’s walking towards the lounge area looking at her phone. She stops and raises her gaze to me. “Are you okay?”

“No!” she says firmly. “That asshole was the first to burn me! The pain was so bad that I passed out and didn’t wake up for three weeks! He scarred me for life! The hell if I’m going to sit there and listen to the whole of Nevada talk about how fucking great of a guy he is!”

“Baby, I understand,” I say, keeping my voice calm, “but the way that you left looks bad to the jury. You have to go back in there.”

“I told you, Christian, I don’t trust anybody in this place anymore,” she says. “I can’t fathom how anybody who has any idea what’s in that video can sit there on that stand and talk about how fabulous he is; how he’s such an asset to the community; how great a friend he is; how kind he is… I can’t stand it anymore. This great fucking guy left me with two grotesque burns on my back and only stopped because he thought I was dead! No! I’m not listening to this shit anymore. I can go to the bathroom, or to the lounge, or outside to the fucking car and talk to my children or read emails or scroll through Facebook—anything but listen to any more of this shit!”

“They didn’t see the video, baby, but the jury did…”

“And now the jury is being inundated with all these testimonials about how wonderful he is, everything he’s done for the poor and the sick…” She says the last part in a mocking tone. As she’s ranting, the courtroom doors fling open and out runs Larson, Ray, and Al, followed by a few others headed towards the bathrooms and lounge. I look at Al questioning and he mouths the word “recess.”

“Annie, are you okay?” Ray says, approaching us quickly. Butterfly just stares at her father without answering. After waiting for a response, Larson chimes in.

“Dr. Grey, it’s almost done. Please, come back into the courtroom.”

“No!” she barks. “I trusted you and you let me get ambushed in there! You facilitated it! I had no preparation whatsoever for that bastard being in the courtroom much less finding out that he got a deal. And now I have to sit and listen to people praise the man who could have killed me?”

“You’re a miserable bitch! You should be ashamed of what you’re putting Vince through!”

It only takes a second for everyone in our group to look to the left at some woman who’s throwing this insult at my wife. I didn’t even get a good look at her, but I thank the heavens for fast reflexes because I literally have to catch my wife in midair as she lunges at this unknown female with both hands. Jason is a second too late, but right on time to hear me growl,

“Get this woman away from my wife now!”

The entire ordeal probably didn’t last twenty seconds as the horrified instigator is being ushered away from us by our security.

“Watch the video, you stupid bitch!” Butterfly yells after her. “It’ll probably be on YouTube next week! Then you can see what Vince put me through!” I roll my eyes and shake my head as I hold my flailing wife hurling harsh words after the woman.

“Anastasia, have you lost your mind?” I ask forcefully, and out of nowhere, she stops flailing.

“Put me down,” she says calmly.

“No, Anastasia, you’re acting crazy,” I say.

“You’re going to see just how crazy I can get if you don’t put me down,” she says, still eerily calm.

“Put her down,” Mac says, coming out of the courtroom. I look at her and then at the back of my wife’s head before I slowly put her down. She straightens her jacket and puts her Jackie O’s on as she marches to the stairwell. I move to follow her, but Mac stops me.

“Let her go,” Mac warns. I look at Chuck.

“Go!” I hiss and he runs behind my wife. Ray is right behind them before I get the chance to say anything.

“She’s done,” I hear Mac say and I turn to her and the questioning glances of Marilyn and Amanda.

“She’s just pissed, as well she should be,” I reply.

“No, she’s done,” Mac says, then turns to Larson. “Whatever you have to do to win this trial, you have to do it without her. She’s done.”

“I don’t understand,” I say, pushing my hands through my hair. “She was lights and sirens to get in here this morning, and now she’s done?”

“Christian, yesterday she was confronted by her rapist in a surprise attack and now today, she gets to hear about how the guy who disfigured her back, left her in a coma, and contributed to the death of her unborn child is being treated unfairly by her and the court,” she says flatly. “I’ll come up with a press release for what just happened, but we need to decide what we’re going to do now because she’s quite possibly not coming back.”

I sigh heavily. We’ve turned our entire lives upside down to see this thing through. One of us has to. Chuck and Ray are with her now. I have to represent her in this courtroom. I have to. I look at Larson.

“You have to do what you have to do without her, but you better do it, because this damage is going to be irreparable if you don’t.” I say nothing else to him and walk back into the courtroom.

*-*

The longer I sit here listening to the Vincent Sullivan Parade of Good Deeds, the more I want to leap across this half-wall and choke the bastard. I can understand why Butterfly couldn’t listen to this anymore. It’s enough to make you gag! However, the final character witness before lunch gives me—and the jury—something more to chew on.

His name is Owen Carey. He went to school with Vincent Sullivan. He knows a lot about Sullivan, and the defense thought that Owen was going to sing all the accolades of the witnesses before him. However, once he took the stand and started talking, his tune changed, and Drake had to treat him as a hostile witness.

Owen, as it turns out, is Sullivan‘s on-again-off-again gay lover. The girl who testified earlier—Regan—wasn’t his girlfriend. Regan was his beard.

Owen had been waiting for his in with Sullivan since high school. They weren’t dating back then, but they hung around the same people. They and their gay friends would rate the guys in high school by who was the most “fuckable.” Even though Owen wanted Sullivan, Sullivan had his sights set on someone else.

“Vince wasn’t afraid of Cody Whitmore. Vince was in love with him,” Owen said. “He would’ve done anything Cody asked as long as it meant that he could be near him.”

Now, this could have gone either way, had the next thing not happened.

“Oh my God, Owen how could you!”

The court has to be brought to order as Vincent Whitmore cries out in despair of his gay lover’s betrayal.

Now, if anybody in this courtroom is like me, none of us cares that he’s batting for the same team. What’s more important is that his entire defense is based on the fact that he participated in this ritual because he was afraid for his life. If there’s any truth to what Owen says, how can you be deathly afraid of someone that you secretly covet?

Once Drake saw that his defense was heading south and ceased questioning, Larson goes in for the kill, drawing out all the juicy details of Sullivan and his sexual tendencies. I wouldn’t know why he was doing it until later.

“You show up as a character witness just to destroy his character and defense. As much as I would love to believe you, why should I? How do we know that you’re just not another scorned lover looking for revenge?” Larson asks as he wraps questioning.

“I don’t know. Maybe I am,” Owen replies. “Most likely I am, but that doesn’t change the fact that Vince was in love with Cody Whitmore. He probably still is. He could have testified against Cody and put Cody away. Instead, he let Cody do it to him. That’s love. And if you don’t believe me, check out my Facebook. I’ve got an album called Throwback Thursday with all kinds of pictures from GV High back in the day. You’re sure to find a couple of candid shots of Vince making googly eyes at Cody when he wasn’t looking.

“I don’t know anything about this Anastasia girl, and I didn’t pay any attention to what happened to her. I can’t give you any info on that because I didn’t keep up with it and it didn’t affect me… sorry, but shit happens, excuse my language. But I can tell you about Vincent Sullivan, and he followed Cody Whitmore around like a sick puppy. I don’t know exactly when this burning thing happened, but the closer to the end of the school year it got, the more he followed Cody around until Cody’s friends had to tell him to back up.”

Jesus, this fucker had female and male admirers. My girl didn’t stand a chance.

The last person to testify before lunch was Sullivan’s psychiatrist who painted the case of how someone can be coerced to violent and even deadly acts if they feel that their own life is in jeopardy. I noted how he painted this picture very vividly and clearly, but I’m not sure from his testimony that he’s convinced that Sullivan was afraid for his life. Even in cross examination, he kept referring to a “deep-seated fear,” but to me, he never confirmed that Sullivan committed this act because he was afraid for his life.

I attempt to call my wife at lunch to ascertain where she is and if she’s okay, but her phone is going straight to voice mail. Shit! Jason informs me that Chuck checked in shortly after they left, indicating that he has taken her and Ray to the interactive aquarium somewhere on the east side of town and will soon be taking them to lunch somewhere. She is not answering her phone, and besides texting his wife to tell her that he was okay, Ray isn’t either.

God, I want to talk to her so badly, to tell her about the surprise witness and the fact that the shrink didn’t fully uphold Sullivan’s claims. I would normally check my emails and see if anything is afoot at GEH, but I can’t even do that right now. I really want to talk to my girl…

**I love you. I’ll tell you what happened when I see you. I hope you feel better. **

As it turns out, Sullivan’s entire defense was his character witnesses—one of whom turned on him—his shrink who really didn’t solidify his defense, and his own testimony, which we’re about to hear now.

“Vincent, there’s no denying that you took part in this horrible act. You’re on the recording assaulting this young woman in a most violent way. Can you tell us how you came to be a part of this ritual?” Sullivan drops his head.

“I knew the girl from one of my classes,” he says. “She… was nobody. She wasn’t that attractive. She wore cheap clothes. She didn’t have any friends. She didn’t stand out at all—just some poor Plain Jane in the wrong place.

“I hung around with all of ‘em—Kevin, Brian, Rich, Will—we weren’t best buds, but we hung out. I got wind that they were going to a bonfire over at one of the ranches on Wigwam. Of course, I wanted to go.”

“So, you’re saying that you didn’t find out about the bonfire until the day that it occurred?” Drake asks.

“No, I knew about it sooner, earlier that week, and so did Owen! There were a lot of people talking about it, how Carly had a surprise show planned and it was supposed to be such a big night. Her family was swimming in money; I thought she was going to have a rock band there or something.”

“When did you learn differently?” Drake presses.

“Two days before it happened,” he says, his voice low. “I still didn’t know the whole story, but I knew that they were planning to punish somebody for something. Carly was known for doing shit like that… but Owen was right, and since our relationship is over, I guess I don’t have to keep it a secret anymore.” He throws a glare at Owen.

“I did want to be around Cody,” he admits. “I knew he was with Carly, but I just wanted time alone with him. I knew I could’ve turned him if I had the chance.” Drake clears his throat.

“What made you think you even had a chance with Cody Whitmore?”

“How do you think half of them figure out that they’re gay?” he says. “Do you have any idea how easy it is to turn a straight boy gay? Yeah, some of them realize that they were born that way, but the other half has to be introduced. They don’t just wake up one day and say, ‘I want dick.’ Just like there are gateway drugs, there’s a gateway here. We don’t all follow the same path to get here, but some of us were led through that gate.

“There’s a whole lot of ‘straight’ men out here that are closet gays and you don’t even know it. If Owen hadn’t opened his big mouth, you wouldn’t have known about my sexual preference. And I’m not gay, I’m Bi!”

“So, what does any of this have to do with the evening in question, besides the fact that you wanted to be around Cody Whitmore?” Drake asks.

“The day before the bonfire, we were all hanging out at lunch…”

“We?” Drake asked.

“A bunch of us. I couldn’t tell you who all they were. I can tell you that it was me and a few others that I’m not going to name, girls and guys, and Cody and Carly. That’s when she told us what she had planned. She mentioned the brands, but I had seen college guys get brands from their frats. My brother has one, so I thought it was no big deal. I thought it was going to be one brand on her ass or something. I didn’t find out until I got there that it was going to be more.”

“You knew the day before. Why didn’t you warn Anastasia or tell the police? Your brother?” Drake says.

“Carly singled me out,” he says. “Either she could tell that I liked him, or she already knew. I believe she thought I was competition, and since I knew what they were going to do, she deemed me her handler. I told her I didn’t want to do it; I didn’t want to be part of that shit, but she started taunting me—saying that I would go tell my brother, that if I wasn’t there and I didn’t do it and somebody found out, she would know who told.”

“She threatened you?” Drake asks.

“Not in so many words, but she was planning a bonfire where she was going to brand a girl in front of a crowd! What more would she do to me if I didn’t do what she told me?”

“And what about Cody? Did he threaten you?” Sullivan shakes his head.

“Cody was cozying up to me and I really thought he was feeling me. Carly saw that; I know she did. What better way to make sure that I wasn’t a threat than to make me part of the crime? Cody kind of smoothed things over, told me that it wasn’t going to be a big deal, that it would just be a little mark for her to remember her place. He made me feel at ease, so I agreed. But Owen was right about something else. I wasn’t afraid of Cody, but I was scared shitless of Carly Madison.”

There are several more minutes of talking about Carly and her plan, how things transpired that day, claims that Cody and Carly never let him out of their site because they thought he would tell somebody what they had planned. He paints this whole good-cop-bad-cop picture of the teenage Bonnie and Clyde all the way until they got to the branding.

He claims that he didn’t know that they had hit her over the head and kidnapped her. How did he expect for her to arrive, in Cinderella’s pumpkin carriage wearing glass slippers? He maintains that he was afraid for his life, even though he can be seen as one of the boys viciously—and sometimes gleefully—kicking, beating, and pissing on my wife, and when it came time to brand her, he didn’t hesitate until she wasn’t moving anymore.

His scared shitless performance is pretty good, but I never bought it from the beginning. Knowing what I know now, it doesn’t jibe at all with his account of his state of mind.


 ANASTASIA

Daddy, Chuck, and I return to the courtroom and slip back in unnoticed, taking seats in the back instead of on the front row. I catch a portion of Vincent Sullivan’s defense testimony that he was afraid of Carly and, as it turns out, in love with Whitshit. I guess Amber Whitmore was right. He is gay. Part of me can understand being afraid of Carly. I was terrified of her for years after what she did to me. The other part of me is screaming that his ass is full of shit.

Figures that he would be in love with Whitshit. I never saw that coming.

“What were the brands, Vincent?” Larson asks when he moves to cross-examine.

“Excuse me?” he says, a little taken aback.

“Let me rephrase, what did you brand into that young girl’s back?” Sullivan swallows.

“Cody told you…”

“And now I’m asking you,” Larson interrupts. “What did you brand into Anastasia Steele’s back?”

“It was… letters,” he says finally.

“Letters?” Larson says. “Just letters? What were they, your initials?” Vincent clears his throat.

“No,” he says.

“Let me help you.” Larson says. He retrieves a remote and pushes a button. A large screen monitor comes alive with side-by-side pictures of my back, one at 15 with fresh, oozing brands, and one from a couple of years ago where the scars are incorporated into the garden. They must have introduced these into evidence while we were at the hospital and Whitmore was testifying.

“Do you remember now, Vincent?” he asks. “Do you remember the letters now?” He walks back over to the table and retrieves a long, metal object. Oh, fuck, is that what I think it is? Did somebody keep those fuckers all these years?

“Do you remember taking a white-hot branding iron like this one…”

Like this one… thank God. That’s not the original weapon.

“… From a burning bonfire and pressing it into that young girl’s flesh? How about this one?” He retrieves a second iron and I can only assume that he has a replica of the “W” and the “H” that Sullivan burned into my back. “Do you remember now…?”

“Yes, I remember,” Sullivan says through his teeth. Now isn’t the time to get froggy, dude. You’re on trial.

“What were the letters?” Larson asks again.

“W and H,” he replies.

“And what were they supposed to spell?” Larson asks, but Sullivan doesn’t answer. “We’ve got three of the letters right here in our face on her back, Vincent. What were they supposed to spell?”

“Whore!” he spits out. The room is silent for a moment.

“Did you think Anastasia Steele was a whore?” Larson asks calmly.

“I didn’t know her,” he replies.

“You didn’t know her,” Larson says, “but you personally executed the first two letters of the brand. Were you going to do the entire brand before you thought she was dead?”

“Objection, relevance,” Drake says.

“How is this not relevant?” Larson asks.

“He didn’t do the rest of the brand,” Drake says. “He’s not on trial for what he would have done.”

“It speaks to state of mind and intent,” Larson asks, “but the answer probably is irrelevant now!” He’s pissed.

“Objection is overruled. Continue, Mr. Larson.” He turns back to Sullivan.

“Were you going to do the entire brand before you thought she was dead?” he repeats.

“I don’t know,” Sullivan replies.

“Let’s try it this way. Were you the one assigned to do the entire brand or was someone else going to take over after your first two letters?” Sullivan just shakes his head uncertainly.

“You stood there holding the second brand after someone said that they thought she was dead. Were you going to do the third brand before Carly Madison pushed you out of the way?”

“I… no… I… no, I wasn’t,” Sullivan stutters.

“I see. So, you were afraid for your life… afraid enough to brand her twice, but not enough to finish the job,” he taunts. “You really thought that she could kill you, but not this helpless and bound young woman that you all had beaten the hell out of, is that it? Just a little ‘mark’ on her butt, you said? Only you didn’t burn her butt, did you? And it wasn’t a little mark, was it?” Larson pauses.

“No…”

“It was supposed to be five!” Larson declares firmly. “Five brutal, vicious, and permanent burns… on her back! Your brother’s fraternity brand is permanent. What did you expect?”

“I don’t know…”

“You never intended to leave ‘a little mark’ on that woman! You leaned into that brand! You pressed that hot metal on her back while she screamed in agony, her skin searing the entire time until she passed out!

“You were with your friends; they were all going to the bonfire, even after they knew what was going to happen; and Cody smoothed things over when Carly scared you so badly. So, what you’re basically saying is that you were peer pressured into kicking, spitting on, urinating on, and burning a young girl—an act that would land her in a coma for three weeks and result in the death of her unborn baby. Is that what you’re saying?”

“I was scared!” Sullivan retorts firmly. “I was scared for my life! Everybody knew who they were—who their parents were. Everybody knows the power they had. Yeah, here’s a little nobody they wanted to make an example of, but they were ruthless, and we all knew it! They owned that school. They made an example of anybody they wanted, and nobody stopped them.  I was scared shitless that if I didn’t go along with them, I was gonna be next.” Larson’s eyes narrow, and now it’s them again. Didn’t he say a minute ago that he wasn’t afraid of Cody?

“You were scared,” he says. It’s a statement, not a question. He walks over to the evidence table and retrieves a picture.

“Imagine how terrified she was,” he says, shoving a picture in his face. I can only imagine that it’s one of the pictures of me, 15-years-old and black and blue. Vincent doesn’t even look at the picture. He sits there silently glaring at Larson for several moments.

“What’s the matter?” Larson says. “Can’t look at her? Weak stomach? Too gruesome? It’s your handiwork—don’t you want to see your masterpiece?”

“Objection, your honor,” Drake says.

“To what?” Larson says, whirling around to Drake. “Did he deny what he did? We all have to look at pictures of this nearly dead beaten and broken 15-year-old girl why doesn’t he?” He says the last part all in one breath. He seems to be getting a little emotional.

“I’m going to overrule your objection, Mr. Drake, but Mr. Larson, get on with it,” the judge cautions.

“No worries, your honor,” Larson says, shooting a glance back over to Sullivan. “I’m done with show-and-tell for now.” He puts the picture back on the evidence table and walks over to Sullivan.

“You said they made an example of anyone they wanted. You’ve seen them do this before?” Larson asks.

“Objection,” Drake declares. “The parties he’s referring to are not on trial here, and it’s hearsay.”

“No, but Mr. Sullivan is, and he says he was afraid for his life, so let him tell us why,” Larson retorts.

“I’ll allow it,” the judge says. “Proceed, Mr. Larson.” He nods and turns back to Sullivan.

“Mr. Sullivan, do you need me to repeat the question?” Larson asks.

“Carly had a different target every week,” Sullivan says. “Slip a mick in somebody’s Coke and then watch ‘em trip out through fourth hour; running a scavenger hunt with somebody’s car parts on the football field; taking pictures of girls naked in the locker room and posting ‘em around the school—stupid shit like Carrie at the prom! But this? This was the first time I had seen anything like this in my life! If I hadn’t already pissed, I would have pissed my pants.”

“Oh, we’re weeping for you,” Larson cracks. Surprisingly, there’s no objection or chastisement.

“Do you know why Cody Whitmore appeared in court yesterday? Because, as you recall, he knew who you were. He testified that you almost begged him to be a part of ‘the little party.’ But you know who didn’t testify? Carly Madison-Perry. She was supposed to, but she had no clue who you were. Cody was only too happy to fill in the blanks, and from your own testimony, you were very fond of Cody, but scared to death of Carly. So, now, you expect for the court to believe that you were in mortal fear of a girl who had no earthly idea who you were?”

“She does know who I am,” Sullivan seethes. “She knows exactly who I am!”

“’She was nobody,’” Larson continues, reciting Sullivan’s description of me. “’She wasn’t that attractive. She wore cheap clothes. She didn’t have any friends. She didn’t stand out at all—just some poor Plain Jane in the wrong place.’ Your description sounds very personal for someone that you didn’t really know. What made you analyze her in such detail?”

“That’s just how she appeared to me,” Sullivan says, “nobody special, nothing much.”

“Nobody special,” Larson repeats. “Nothing much… yet Whitmore wanted her, and not you.”

Whaaaaaat the fuck…

“Who did she think she was, wandering into the school with her nothingness and her nobodyness and sleeping with the guy that you had been lusting after for so long? How dare she get a piece of Cody before you did, right?”

Fucking hell! Could it be? Could this be true?

“Why did you have to burn her in the back? Of all the people there, why did it have to be you?”

“Carly told me to,” he says, his voice cracking.

“Did she?” Larson accuses.Did she really… or did you want to show Cody that you could do it? Did you want to get her back because she had Cody first? You didn’t know this girl—you said it yourself. How could you do something so personally vile to someone you claim you didn’t even know? That’s the worst kind of criminal, someone who could viciously attack another person they don’t even know. Is that who you are?”

“Stop! Stop!” Sullivan cries, ripping at his hair and weeping. “I was scared! I was scared!” He buries his face in his hands and cries. Larson just looks at him.

“I don’t believe you, Vincent,” Larson says calmly, while shaking his head. “Not because I’m here seeking justice for this crime, but because there are too many inconsistencies—with your witnesses, with your account of the events leading up to the attack, with everything. It’s not adding up. The only thing we have that’s telling the 100% truth is that video and those pictures. Somebody in this room is lying, Vincent… and I think it’s you. No further questions.”

Damn, that was a slam dunk. Whether he wins or not, that was a three-pointer from behind the foul line and nothing but net.


A/N: Natural Born Killers was a Quentin Tarantino/Oliver Stone movie made in 1994 about a Bonnie and Clyde couple that went across the country committing mass murders and leaving only one witness alive to tell the tale of the massacre. If you are familiar with Quentin Tarantino’s work, you know this was some pretty intense and sick stuff. So, I can only say that if you never seen it before, you just have to watch it understand Ana’s reference.

For those who may not know, “nothing but net” is a phrase coined by the NBA maaaaaaaaaaaaaaany years ago—like waaaaaay back in the nineties (lol). It actually came from a McDonald’s commercial where Larry Bird and Michael Jordan are having a shooting contest for a Big Mac and fries. The food has long since gone cold by the time the ridiculous and impossible contest is over, but the term “nothing but net” lived on to describe a “swish,” which is when a player scores and the ball goes through the net without touching the rim, making that satisfying “swish” sound because the ball touches nothing but the net.  

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

Pictures from the trip to Las Vegas can be found at https://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/grey-continued-las-vegas/

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 on the menu or 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, or 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

Grey Continued: Season 5 Episode 11

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 11

CHRISTIAN

She doesn’t fool me one bit.

Neither of them does.

Carla is delivering a reformed, make-amends performance worthy of sainthood and Butterfly is falling for it hook, line, and sinker. Once Carla’s testimony is over, we adjourn for the day and Butterfly needs a nap. I send her back to the hotel with Chuck, telling her that I want to quickly check on one of my local interests. I don’t know if she bought it, but she doesn’t argue. I don’t want to go to Las Vegas, then go all the way to Summerlin for the stop I need to make just to have to come all the way back to Las Vegas.

The houses in the area are modest, but tidy. It’s certainly a far cry from the sprawling homes in Green Valley. Jason rings the doorbell. When there’s no answer, he knocks persistently.

“No comment. Go away,” she yells through the door.

“Open the door, Carla,” I demand. There’s silence for a moment, then I hear a chain lock and a deadbolt. She opens the door and she looks even smaller than I remember—even smaller than Butterfly. Is that possible? Her eyes rise to my face and her expression is bemused at first, right before all the color leaves her face.

“Why… Is she…?” She appears to be holding her breath and first, I just stare at her. It takes a moment for me to realize what she couldn’t ask.

“Anastasia’s fine,” I say flatly. Carla gasps in a breath, stumbling forward a bit as her knees appear to give out from underneath her. Jason’s innate sense of chivalry kicks in and he catches her as she stumbles out the door. She appears disoriented for a moment, but quickly recovers and straightens, somewhat pushing Jason away.

“I’m fine… I’m fine,” she says, the color returning to her face. If I didn’t know better, I would swear she was embarrassed. “Would you like to come inside, or do you just want to give it to me from there?”

Is this woman crazy? Does she think we’re here to pay her more money? Does she think she did us a favor by throwing herself in front of the bus?

“Give you what?” I nearly hiss, trying not to lunge at her.

“Whatever verbal or physical lashing you have for me,” she says, matter-of-factly.

“Oh, you’re very good at playing the victim,” I retort, not falling for this reformed Carla act for one second. She rolls her eyes, but not in irritation. If I had to guess, I would say that it was more in resignation.

“Okay, I see you’re going to give it to me here,” she says with no malice, shifting her weight as her shoulders fall in a gesture of defeat as she looks at me expecting. I shake my head.

“What’s your game, Carla?” I demand. “Ana’s been hurt by this shit enough. I won’t stand by and allow you to victimize her any further. So, tell me what the hell you want.” She sighs again.

“I would say, ‘nothing,’ Christian, but I already know that you won’t believe me.”

“You’re right, so what do you want?” I hiss.

“Nothing,” she says, and nothing more.

“Carla, I don’t know why you’re dragging this out. Let’s just get this done and over. How much?” She sighs and folds her arms across her body. With her head cocked to the side, she remains silent.

“Out with it, Carla. How much… or are you holding out for Anastasia?” She sighs again, and is now leaning against the door frame, still in silence. She looks at me, unblinking, unaffected. I can’t help but wonder how practiced that look is—not because I think she’s up to something right now… just because it’s so fucking perfect. I look at Jason.

“Give it to her,” I tell him. He reaches into his jacket and pulls out the check I had drafted, now in a sealed envelope. She doesn’t move to take it.

“What’s that?” she asks, her arms still folded.

“A check with a lot of zeroes on it. Take the money and don’t bother Anastasia.” She shakes her head and glares at me, now in what looks like disgust. She stands up straight, putting her hand on the door.

“Are we done?” she asks, looking at me and not Jason or the check.

“Take the money and go away, Carla,” I seethe. “You’ve had your moment of fame. There’s no way in hell I’m going to allow you to use this as an opportunity to weasel your way back into Ana’s life just so that you can hurt her again. Take the money and stay away from my wife.” She drops her gaze to the floor.

“Christian,” she says, before raising her eyes to mine. “You’re trespassing. Please, get off my porch.” With that, she closes the door quietly, and I hear the chain and the deadbolt engage.

To say that I’m stunned is an understatement. She turned down the money without even knowing how much it was. There was no fight in her—none of the arrogant little sawed-off opportunist that visited Seattle a couple of years ago and left my wife a weeping mess. I still can’t help but wonder what her angle is.

“Sir?” Jason interrupts my contemplation. “Could it be that she really doesn’t want anything?” Hell, no. This bitch is up to something.

“For her sake, I hope so, because if she does anything to hurt my wife, I’ll bury her ass right next to her husband.”

“You won’t have to,” her muffled voice says from the other side of the closed door. Jason raises his eyebrows at me. I turn and walk down the stairs and off her porch.

“Keep an eye on her while we’re here. I don’t trust her,” I tell him before we get into the car.

*-*

“How was your visit?” Butterfly asks when I get back to the hotel about an hour and a half after we left the courthouse. It looks like she fell asleep right on the sofa, still in her clothes from court. I drop my coat in a nearby chair.

“You know, don’t you?” I ask examining her expression.

“Of course, I know,” she says matter-of-factly. “Did she take the money?” I pause before I sit.

“No, she didn’t,” I say taking the seat where I put my coat. She nods.

“I had a feeling she wouldn’t,” Butterfly says, sitting up.

“Don’t be fooled, Butterfly,” I warn. “She’s up to something.”

“Maybe she is, and maybe she’s not,” she says. “If she’s not, then we’ll get done with this trial, we’ll go home, and she’ll leave us alone. If she is, taking that money wouldn’t have served her purposes. Money runs out, and if she needs more money, it would serve her better to be in my good graces. Taking that check from you would have been the opposite of productive if that’s what she’s trying to do.”

“Are you thinking about letting her into your good graces?” I ask honestly.

“I don’t know what I’m thinking,” she says, folding her arms. Oh, shit. “I do know this, though. That’s not the same woman I grew up with—either time. She’s not that good an actress. Whatever she was, whether it was the wholesome mother who loved me and put me first in her life, or it was the selfish bitch who ignored, fed on, or profited from my pain, she was that person 100%. She never half-steps—she’s all in. Neither of those people were on the stand today. Nonetheless, one flawless testimony of the absolute, pure, and unmitigated truth is not going to redeem what she put me through.

“Notwithstanding all the crap that I endured; I needed my mother. I needed her love, I needed her care, I needed her attention. I just needed her to see me, to really know me, and she didn’t. She didn’t know anything about me. She didn’t know my favorite color, my worst fears, my hearts desires… she didn’t even know what I wanted to be when I grew up. Most of all, I just wanted her to hug me… just hug me and show me that I’m still a person. Do you have any idea how it feels not to be hugged for years?”

I maintain a passive expression, but the inner me raises a brow at her as if to say, “Seriously?”

“I’m sorry,” she says immediately. “That was selfish of me.” She sighs heavily. “Life is gonna be hell for her now in Green Valley.”

“She doesn’t live in Green Valley anymore,” I say. Butterfly’s brow furrows.

“She doesn’t?” she asks. I shake my head.

“She lives in Summerlin now,” I inform her. “It’s an affluent neighborhood—not as affluent as Green Valley, but affluent.”

“Did she sell the house in Green Valley?” Butterfly asks.

“Most likely. She’s working as a CNA. The property taxes alone on that place was probably more than she made in a year.” Butterfly thinks for a moment.

“Summerlin,” she says. “That’s west, right?” I nod.

“Yes,” I reply, “very west.”

“Doesn’t she work in Boulder City? Or is she working somewhere else now?” she asks.

“You’re assuming I know,” I say, testing her knowledge.

“I know you know,” she replies, expecting. I raise my brow at her.

“Yes, and yes,” I reply. “Yes, she’s working somewhere else and yes, it’s still in Boulder City. She was at a nursing home before. Now, she’s at a rehab and hospice facility.” Her brow furrows again.

“Jesus, they have those together?” she asks. I nod.

“Apparently,” I reply.

“So, either you walk out of there or your carried out,” she mumbles. “I don’t remember this place much, but it’s a bit of a stretch from Summerlin to Boulder City, isn’t it? If I remember right, Summerlin is like northwest Vegas, and Boulder City is southeast on the other side of Henderson. Did I get that right?”

“Yeah, you’ve got that right,” I say. “It’s about the distance between Seattle and Tacoma,” I tell her.

“What the hell did she do that for?” Butterfly asks.

“She probably wanted to get as far away from Green Valley as possible,” I reply.

“There are other places that she could have moved to on the other side of Henderson. All she had to do was cross the freeway—it’s like a whole other world, but without knowing her motives, it’s a moot point.” Butterfly falls silent for a moment, and I’m pondering my approach, but I’m halted by her next words.

“Don’t lie to me again,” she accuses. I freeze and consider my response.

“I didn’t lie to you, Anastasia,” I correct her. “Carla is local, and she is totally and completely in the very center of my interest right now.”

“Yes, but you know as well as I do that you made it appear that you were going to check out a business interest. I knew the moment we left the courtroom that you were going to see Carla. So, label it whatever deception you want, just don’t do it again.”

Busted. She’s right.

“I’m sorry,” I say, with no additional retort. “The last thing you need from me is dishonesty, especially now.”

“Very true,” she replies, running her hands across her forehead once, then resting her chin on her palms. I stand and walk over to her, waiting for permission to sit next to her. When she doesn’t protest, I sit and put my arm around her.

“Your favorite color is blue,” I begin, and she looks over to me. “Your worst fears have to do with this place—that these monsters would come for you, or that they would raise children that would turn out like them and then exist in a world with your children.

“Your heart’s desires when you were young were to travel to exotic places one day and to see the world. When you got older, they changed. You wanted to help people. You wanted to make sure they didn’t go through the same thing that you went through and if they did, you wanted to make sure that they knew that they weren’t alone… that someone cared, and someone was there to help them.

“You didn’t know what you wanted to be when you grew up. You didn’t find that out until later when your guidance counselor suggested psychiatry, and you saw that that would be the way to realize your second heart’s desire.

“I can’t take the place that she should’ve filled, but I can love you with everything, and I can show you that you are more than a person—that you are life to at least three people and very likely more than that. And even though I do know how it feels not to be hugged for years, I can’t imagine being deprived of that feeling now… especially from you. You have the opportunity to give that love that you didn’t get in your teenage years to two beautiful little humans, to nurture two little lives and turn them into great people, and you’re off to a damn good start.”

She stares at me for a moment with those guileless blue eyes before crawling to her knees and planting a warm, deep kiss on my lips. I wrap my arms around her and feel her pushing me backwards, so I lie down on the sofa, taking her with me and allow her to do what she wants with me.

*-*

“What did she do last night?” I ask Jason over coffee in the morning, curious about Carla’s activities.

“According to surveillance, she sat on her back deck all night and cried. She went inside a few times to refresh a warm drink, but she sat on her patio for the entire night.” I twist my lips. It’s going to take a lot more sad nights to match the tears you’ve ripped from my Butterfly, you worthless cunt.

“I had two more guys fly in this morning,” Jason says, “to replace the guys that watched Morton last night. They’ll rotate for twelve hour shifts so that everyone is sharp.”

“Good man,” I say finishing my coffee. “Let’s round everyone up and get to the courthouse.

Our entourage is getting better. We’ve learned how to pace ourselves to keep up with Butterfly as she’s sprinting up the stairs to the courthouse. The press no longer tries to get pictures of her. They’re lucky if they can even get a video of her.

She seems a bit more amiable when she enters the courtroom today. We take our seats and the regular pomp and circumstance ensues while the defendant, judge and jury arrive. Then the prosecution calls its next witness.

As it turns out, there were other officers that asked questions about the case in the beginning, but all trails ran cold since George Sullivan was the lead officer on the case. So, even though the other officers testified about working the case, none of them ever had any concrete evidence or leads to follow. I often wondered how George Sullivan was able to bury everything so thoroughly, or if he had a partner at the time. How was it possible that even other officers couldn’t find any evidence? Hell, I didn’t even know that there were other officers involved. Even Sullivan himself said that he was the only officer on the case, but that’s probably because there was no one else assigned to the case and no one else had any evidence. I guess it’s pretty easy to bury a case when there’s an entire community involved in the cover-up.

As Sullivan is claiming diminished capacity, he had to be examined by the state’s psychiatrist as well as his own. It’s not to establish that he was crazy at the time of the attack, but that he felt that he was in imminent danger or fear of his life when the incident occurred.

While the state’s psychiatrist doesn’t dismiss that Sullivan was afraid of some type of retaliation, he doesn’t appear to have been afraid for his life. It was more likely that he was trying to fit in, which he admitted to in relation to his participation in unrelated events.

After lunch, court is back in session and…

“The state calls Amber Whitmore to the stand.”

Butterfly’s eyebrow rises, but she shows no other emotion. No doubt she, like many other onlookers, would wonder why the state is calling Amber Whitmore to the stand before Madison Perry or why she’s been called to the stand at all. A while back, when I knew we would be going to trial, I let Larson I was aware that she knew something about the attack and that’s why she left. I told him about the conversation that we had when I talked to her a couple of years ago and she responded to tell her brother and father that their secret was “safe” with her and to leave her alone. I told him to do what he wanted with the information. Apparently, he subpoenaed her.

“Permission to treat this witness as hostile,” Mr. Larson asks.

“Granted,” the judge says.

“That won’t be necessary,” Amber says matter-of-factly. “You’ve got me here now; I’ll tell you what I know.”

“That’s good to know, Ms. Whitmore,” Mr. Larson says, and Amber nods once. “Why are you here today?”

“Because you served me with a subpoena,” she replies.

“You’re not here to share what you know about this case?” he asks.

“At the risk of sounding callous, Mr. Larson, I could have gone my entire life hearing nothing else about this case or this place. I’ll tell you what I know because you’ve threatened me with contempt of court if I don’t. So, let’s get on with this so I can go home.” She folds her arms.

“Very well, then. How was your relationship with your father and your brothers?”

“My relationship with Landon was just fine. With Cody and my father, it was strained at best,” she replies.

“Who is Landon?” Mr. Larson asks.

“My oldest brother,” she replies. “He was rarely home throughout his senior year.”

“And why do you say that your relationship with Cody and Franklin Whitmore was strained?”

“Cody was an entitled jerk,” Amber reveals, “and he was my father’s favorite child.”

“Objection, your honor, speculation,” Drake interjects.

“The witness is only explaining the relationship as she saw it,” Mr. Larson retorts.

“Then she must make it clear that she’s stating opinion and not declarations of fact,” the judge says. “Sustained. Continue.” Mr. Larson rolls his eye.

“Ms. Whitmore, why did you say that Cody was your father’s favorite child?”

“Because from what I could see, Cody could do no wrong. Cody was caught out after curfew and brought home by the police more times than I could count. Anybody else caught out that many times would have been taken in for repeated violations, but not Cody. I don’t know what happened with the arrest records or the tickets that he was supposed to get, but the next thing I knew, he got that Jeep. No more arrests, because he was in a car instead of out loitering somewhere with his friends.

“What did that say to me? Get caught out after curfew, get a car—but only Cody, because the first time I got caught out after curfew, I was grounded for a month.”

“I see,” Mr. Larson says. “Is there anything else that made you feel like Cody was the favorite?”

“Too much to name—what do you want to know?” Amber asks.

“Let’s talk about the day you knew anything about Anastasia Steele,” Mr. Larson says. Amber scoffs.

“Well,” Amber begins. “Let’s see. I’ll have to start that with Carly Madison…”

“Objection, your…”

“I’m only talking about their relationship I’m not accusing her of anything I can’t even mention her name?” Amber blurts out all in one breath.

“Counselor,” the judge says, “give the witness an opportunity to respond before you object to it.”

Chastised, Drake takes his seat.

“Continue, Ms. Whitmore,” Mr. Larson says. Amber rolls her eyes.

“If I were to speculate,” she begins, throwing a glare at Drake, “I would say that Carly was at our house more than she was at home. Sometimes, she would just be hanging out at our house just waiting for Cody to get home, and my mother and father let her do it. If Cody was considered entitled, Carly was much worse. There were even times that my mom would call her parents to tell them that Carly was spending the night. I don’t even know what the context was. How do you possibly get away with spending the night at your boyfriend’s house at least twice a week when you’re 15 or 16?

“What’s more, she slept in his room! It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know what was going on, but apparently, her parents—and mine—were okay with this kind of behavior.”

“What does that have to do with Anastasia Steele?” Mr. Larson asks.

“When Anastasia and her father showed up accusing him of raping her, that was the first time I had any idea who she was and even I thought it was a bunch of bull. Girls all over the school were drooling all over him, and he had ready and willing pus… coochie delivered right to his doorstep. Why would he need to go and rape some girl?”

“Did something happen to change your mind?” Mr. Larson asks.

“A whole lot happened,” she says. “I remember one night a bunch of kids showed up at our house. I thought they were going to some kind of party because they were all wearing dark clothes. Carly laughed when she saw me, thinking I wanted to tag along—which I didn’t. My brother told me that it was way out of my league anyway. I recognized the flunkies that usually hung around my brother and his girlfriend, but Vincent stood out to me that night.”

Vincent Sullivan raises his gaze to her, looking at someone else in the courtroom for only the second time—the first one being his brother. Drake is at the ready with his objection, I’m sure.

“Why?” Mr. Larson asks.

“Because it was unusual,” she says. “He never hung out with this crowd that I knew of, and I would have known… because I liked him.”

“You liked him how?”

“He’s very attractive,” she replies, “and for a while, I thought he was gay, but I found out that he wasn’t. He had a girlfriend. That made him off limits, but I still liked him, and I could pick him out of a crowd. I started having second thoughts that night because if he was one of the people who hung around my brother…” She trails off.

“You didn’t like your brother’s friends?” Mr. Larson asks. Amber shrugs.

“It wasn’t that I didn’t like his friends. I didn’t want to be around anybody who hung around my brother. It’s like I told you, my brother was a jerk. I don’t know if he’s still a jerk because I haven’t talked to him in several years, but he was a real jerk then. You know what they say—birds of a feather flock together, and I had no desire to be in that flock.

“When Cody got home that night, he was wearing a cape over his clothes, and he smelled like he had gone camping. My brother never went camping a day in his life. The next day, it was all over the news about the girl that was found beaten and burned damn near dead, and that Monday, it was all over the school. A little while later, we found out that it was Anastasia Steele and I never put the two together until…” She trails off again.

“Until what?” Mr. Larson presses.

“Summer sucked,” she says after a short pause. “Landon and Cody could come and go as they pleased, but I spent the entire summer on lockdown because of what happened to ‘that Steele girl.’” She uses the finger quotes to illustrate that I was a topic of conversation related to her shut-in. “As a result, I was home when the money transaction took place.”

“What money transaction?” he asks.

“My father handed $750,000 to Anastasia’s father to ‘keep her quiet.’ About what, I never really found out, but I had my suspicions. It was either about the ‘supposed rape’ that I thought was impossible, or it was about the attack. We had heard nothing else about the supposed rape that I knew of and it had happened months before. She had bigger fish to fry with the attack. So, I assumed that it had something to do with the attack.”

“Why didn’t you say anything before?” Larson asks.

“Because I was afraid,” she admits. “I was afraid of my father, but he’s dead now. So, I can tell what I know. I couldn’t wait to get out of Green Valley—to run away from a truth I couldn’t tell. My father wouldn’t pay for my college, so I just left. I got a job and paid my own way through school. I moved to New York, got married, started my own business, and never looked back. None of them attended my wedding when I got married, and I didn’t attend his funeral when he died. I had no intention of ever coming back to Nevada until I got the subpoena and threatened with jail time if I refused.

“I moved away, and I was just glad to be away from it, but it was like it never happened. Nothing happened, nobody said anything—not even Anastasia—I was wondering if the entire thing was in my imagination. Not even the cops said anything. How could the cops not say anything? This was a horrible beating of a young girl in a small upscale part of Las Vegas, and nobody said anything, not even the police. At the time, the only thing that assured me that it wasn’t in my imagination was that the whole town was running scared because nobody knew what happened—or at least, nobody said so. We had crazy curfews. We had to travel in packs, like wolves. The entire thing was surreal.

“When I heard what happened to the girl, I thought her family would go nuts—demanding answers and seeking justice… but nothing… not a peep. There’s no amount of money that you could pay me to be silent if somebody did to my kid what they did to her.

“But you did have a price, Ms. Whitmore. What was it?” Mr. Larson asks.

“He threatened me to shut the hell up, so I did. I paid it, and now I’m speaking. My father was a cold, wicked, heartless man, and I don’t doubt for one second that he was aware of my brother’s involvement before the incident occurred. Or maybe he wasn’t, but he knew that Cody was going to do something. That’s just how they were. The amount of money that exchanged hands that night… I already knew they had paid for that girl’s silence. Now, I know why.”

“No further questions.”

“Your witness, Mr. Drake,” the judge says.

“Ms. Whitmore, weren’t you always jealous of your brother?” Drake asks.

“Yes, I was. I was jealous that he was the apple of Daddy’s eye and that he could never do anything wrong, but more so, I was jealous because my father never abused, mistreated, or ignored him. He saved that for me.”

“Well, if you were jealous of your brother and you have that much contempt for him, why should we believe you today? Isn’t this just another way for you to get back at him for how you felt about him all these years?” Drake continues. Amber laughs.

“That’s brilliant the way you brushed right over that part where I was abused, mistreated, and ignored so that you could focus on the fact that I was jealous, but that’s okay. I really don’t care if you believe me or not. I came to tell my story and I did. Now if you let that little weasel go—you let that little criminal walk—that’s on you, not me.”

“Objection, your honor. Cody Whitmore is not on trial here.”

“Sustained.”

“You’re assuming that I’m talking about my brother,” she says. “I’m talking about anybody that had anything to do with this event—my father, my brother, my mother, any of the people who beat her, the people who watched, the cop who ‘investigated’ the crime, the prosecutors who didn’t dive deeper and demand more evidence and investigation, the parents who were willfully blind to the possibility that their children could have something to do with this: ‘Not my little Johnny, no…’” she says in a mocking voice.

“… Her parents for not being proactive and trying to seek justice on her behalf; the community for not demanding answers to what happened to this little girl in their neighborhood on their watch… Everybody failed her! Everybody’s a criminal as far as I’m concerned. That’s why I don’t live here anymore!” Amber is passionate with her response.

“Since you’re feeling like the neighborhood and everyone else had such a civic duty, why didn’t you do something? Why didn’t you say anything?” Drake accuses.

“To whom?” she asks animated, raising her hands to the defense attorney. “To the ‘investigating’ officer? To some other police officer? To my parents who—as far as I knew—were in on the whole cover-up? Everything I had was hearsay. Who was going to corroborate it—the people who were busy sweeping that shit under the rug?”

“Ms. Whitmore…” the judge warns.

“My mom knew,” she continues, gesturing across the courtroom to a woman about Carla’s age with dark hair, staring at Amber. “I’m sure that my father didn’t let her in on everything, but she heard things just like I did. She knew and she covered it up, too. What was I supposed to do, go to her? I sure as hell couldn’t go to my father!”

“But even as an adult, you didn’t do or say anything. You just left…”

“You’re damn straight I left!” she confirms. “An entire community cover-up and now the kids that did this to a 15-year-old girl are all adults and I’m going to stick around? Hell, no! Lil ole me and my single voice crying out for justice in a sea of piranhas? Who was going to protect me… you?” He pauses for a moment before asking his next question.

“Maybe everyone else in the community was as scared as you to come forward, feeling like something would happen to them, too.” Amber purses her lips and shakes her head.

“Maybe you’re right, but everybody’s hands weren’t tied, sir,” she says finitely. “I was in a bad situation because my family was right in the middle of it, and I was afraid of my father, but no matter how you try to paint that picture, everybody’s hands weren’t tied, and you know that. That’s why we’re here now.”

Drake glares at her, no doubt trying to discredit her testimony, but throws in the towel once he realizes that his crusade is futile.

“No more questions, but I do have an objection, your honor.”

“And that is?” the judge asks.

“I fail to see what this witness’s testimony has to do with this particular case,” he says.

“Mr. Larson?” the judge asks.

“It places the defendant in Mr. Whitmore’s company, very possibly on the date of the attack hours before it occurred—which lends to the level of premeditation and intent as well as to the degree that the defendant also benefited from the alleged cover-up.”

The courtroom is quiet as the explanation sinks in. I was wondering what good Amber’s testimony was going to do myself… until now.

“Do you have any objection to that reasoning, Mr. Drake?” the judge asks.

“No, your honor,” he replies.

“Based on that information, do you have any further questions for this witness?”

“No, your honor.”

“Mr. Larson is this witness excused?” the judge asks.

“Yes, your honor,” he says.

Upon getting official confirmation from the judge that she is excused, Amber Whitmore bolts from the stand and out of the courtroom. No doubt, she’s got her luggage in a rental in the parking lot and is headed straight to the airport. I would if I were her.

There are a couple more testimonies from miscellaneous witnesses, including the dispatcher that took the call from Sullivan and the owners of the property where Butterfly was beaten… Carly Madison Perry’s parents. The state couldn’t charge them with anything because the property had public access and without George Sullivan’s cooperation on the evidence found there, the Madisons couldn’t be charged with anything. Additionally, they didn’t find out until much later that the incident occurred on their property.

Butterfly isn’t so worn out this time when we get back to the hotel, but I hate it that she feels this place is such a prison.

“So, I have an idea,” I say, taking her hand when we get back to the suite. “The days are going to be awful, we know that, but we’ve got to do everything we can to make it through however long we have to stay in this place. So, let’s make the evenings and nights as fun and relaxing as we can.” She scoffs a bit.

“I don’t know how fun we can make this place, Christian,” she says. “I mean, I realize that it’s Vegas and all, but it’s just hell to me.”

“Can I ask you a question?” I say. She shrugs and nods. “Besides the trial, has it really been hell here?”

“You mean besides the Paparazzi and the Twitterpated bitch?” she asks.

“In all honesty, baby, that could happen anywhere,” I remind her. She shrugs.

“So… if you had a bad day back at home, where would you want to go?” She sighs.

“Does this place have a treadmill?”


ANASTASIA

Honestly, that’s all I wanted last night—to exhaust myself on some kind of workout machine. I would have preferred a heavy bag, but that wasn’t an option. So, the treadmill it was. I couldn’t quite recall the workout that I was doing on our six-week-weekend after I had the twins, or I would have done that, but I’m sure I ran a marathon on the treadmill before I showered and quickly talked to my babies before I passed out in bed without dinner.

Knowing that I went to sleep last night with my hair wet—which is an absolute no-no—my inner alarm wakes me to flat iron it with steam. While I’m sitting there toiling with my hair, I’m watching some morning show on television… more like listening to it. Some show called LV CawfieTyme is playing in the background as I straighten my hair. Two female hosts are talking about local news.

There’s a kind of funny story about a guy who just moved into a Las Vegas valley home and decided to test and see if there are thieves in his area. His surveillance camera captured footage of a guy stealing a package off his porch. He shared the footage with the morning show in hopes that someone might recognize him, but only to expose the guy for being a thief. There’s no need to apprehend the guy or the package as the box is filled with dog poop.

The Clarion Hotel and Casino is going to be demolished next week. There’s a detailed diatribe about when it opened and how many people owned it. Apparently, it’s a big thing when one of the casinos is demolished, I suppose.

“Everybody knows, though, that the hottest topic is that Green Valley assault case,” one of the hosts says. I try not to drop my damn flat iron since I know they’re talking about my case, unless there’s another Green Valley assault case in progress right now.

“Yeah,” the other host says. “As I’m told, a Seattle socialite has come back to Vegas seeking ‘justice’ on a group of kids who jumped her 15 years ago.” This bitch actually did the finger quotes around the word “justice.” I have to stop straightening my hair and put the flatiron down before I burn myself.

“What’s with the finger quotes?” the first host—a blonde—asks. “If somebody beat the snot outta you, wouldn’t you want justice, too?”

“There are fights in high school every day,” the second host—a redhead—replies. “I just think this one’s been sensationalized a bit.” The blonde’s eyes widen, and she clasps her hands together.

“How so?” she asks the redhead.

“Well, this happened in 2001—14 years ago. It got a lot of press for a minute, because nobody really knows what happened, but then it died. Then, two years ago, she marries a billionaire and suddenly, it’s front page news again. That’s 2013. What happened for 12 years that it wasn’t so important, and now it is?

“I completely think it’s sensationalized,” the redhead continues. “She’s staying at the Waldorf right now with something like 50 people and she had some woman thrown out because she tried to say, ‘Hi.’ Careful, Vegas. If you bring her an espresso with too little froth or her caviar is room temperature, she might have your restaurant closed down.”

That’s not what the fuck happened, and I should call that station and expose that bitch for slander, but I’m sure it would only make matters worse.

“Um, Peggy, I’m not one to dispute you, but I really want to avoid a lawsuit here,” the blonde retorts before looking down at some papers on the table in front of her. “First of all, the Seattle ‘socialite’ is Dr. Anastasia Steele-Grey, business-woman and psychiatrist…”

“There’s a combination,” Peggy comments sarcastically. The blonde raises her eyes from her papers for a moment.

“Yes, it is, isn’t it? And impressive at that,” she says before looking back down at her papers. “Although all of the members of her party have not been identified, who has been identified are her husband, her father, and her personal assistant, and the party numbers 16, not 50…”

“Well, she…”

“Let me finish, Peggy, and then you can have your comments,” the blonde says. I still haven’t gotten her name yet.

“Well! Excuse me! I thought we were hosting a morning talk show!” Peggy retorts.

“We are, and I’m talking. You’ve given your opinion and what you think are the facts and I didn’t interrupt you. Show me the same courtesy while I give the facts that I’ve found.”

There’s silence for about five seconds before the blonde continues.

“As I said, her party numbers 16, which includes friends, family members, and various members of her security. Concerning the woman who was thrown out of the Waldorf, you’re correct that she tried to speak to Anastasia Grey, but that’s not why she was thrown out of the hotel. The woman who we’ll just refer to by her Twitter handle—Sassyvelmalou—tweeted a derogatory statement about Anastasia complete with a picture because Anastasia’s security asked Velma not to bother her…”

And there’s that picture of me again looking like hell warmed over sitting in the lobby of the Waldorf Astoria while the host is still talking.

“Now, the Waldorf has guaranteed Anastasia’s privacy during her stay for the duration of this ordeal and this woman violated that policy. What’s more, I’ve since learned that Anastasia wasn’t feeling well, which is why her security asked this stranger to step back. The Waldorf has since issued a statement to that exact fact, so I just don’t want to see the show get sued because you may have gotten your facts mixed up.”

Peggy tries to interject, but the blonde holds up a finger to indicate that she’s not finished.

“According to the information I was able to ascertain from public records, Anastasia Grey—then Anastasia Steele—was attacked and brutalized by a mob of teenagers, both male and female, badly burned, and left unconscious and naked in a field. The beating left her comatose and she lost her baby.” She lays the paper on the table and continues to speak as various members of the audience gasp.

“Now, whatever you may think of her, that was brutal and unnecessary. Where I come from, ‘getting jumped’ means three or four girls are angry with you, so they fight you after school. And then somebody gets suspended, may get expelled, and if it was really bad, somebody might be arrested. In all my years on earth, I have never seen anyone get beaten, tormented, and left for dead, and that’s considered getting ‘jumped.’ I’ve reported on supposed gang initiations that were less brutal.

“What was done to that poor girl was vicious, evil, and criminal, and anyone who thinks it was less than that needs their head examined. Oh, and by the way, if I didn’t have the resources to go after the people who wronged me and killed my baby at the age of 15, but after 12 years, I did, I’d go after them, too.”

The studio audience applauds once she’s finished with her information and Peggy sits there looking a bit sheepish.

“I’m not saying that what happened to her wasn’t horrible,” Peggy back-peddles once the applause dies down. “I was just pointing out that as horrible as it may be, it wasn’t pursued until she became a billionaire.”

“Well, there’s an explanation for that, too,” the blonde says. “But I won’t debate it on air. You may want to Google the name George Sullivan.” She clasps her hands over her papers. “You went to Green Valley High, didn’t you Peggy?”

Peggy suddenly falls silent while the first host awaits her answer. Getting none, the blonde continues.

“It was right around the same time Anastasia Steele was there, wasn’t it?” the blonde presses. “Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t you say that you were the class of ’03?” There’s more silence before Peggy responds.

“I don’t know anything about that beating,” Peggy says coolly. Oh, now it’s a beating! “I didn’t hang out with any of those people. My family had just moved to Green Valley the year that happened.”

“I wasn’t insinuating that you knew anything,” the blonde says, matter-of-factly. “I was just wondering what the social environment was like during that time. You see from most of the on-the-street interviews that we’ve done, most people thought it was just urban legend, and now we discover that it’s true. A police cover-up, a girl beaten nearly to death, an entire community and no one has a clue what happened… what was it like being on the inside of that community?”

Peggy throws a hateful glare at her co-host and narrows her eyes. If she doesn’t have anything to hide, why is she so defensive? She was so verbal a moment ago about the temperature of my fucking caviar, and now she’s all mum and I don’t know anything about that beating. She probably knows something. I couldn’t pick her out of a crowd, but she probably knows something, if only by hearsay.

“All I know is that we had strict curfews and our parents wouldn’t let us out after a certain time for months. That entire situation totally ruined my entire school year,” she says haughtily.

“Hmm, is that right?” the blonde says. “I can’t even imagine what it did to Anastasia Steele’s school year.”

The silence in that studio could be heard in space.

“We’ll be back after these messages,” the blonde says before the screen fades to black.

Peggy… her name doesn’t ring a bell, her face isn’t familiar, and I really don’t give a fuck who she is right now. If she’s involved at all, somebody will roll on her ass in hopes of a lighter sentence. She was probably just another one of those entitled cunts at that school who felt like I got what I deserved, or she just didn’t care.

I turn the television to a jazz music station and finish straightening my hair.

*-*

Every day, I’m becoming more and more weary of the dance that occurs as we’re trying to get up these stairs. Today, I nearly pass Jason in my mad dash to the front door. I’m on the morning news shows. They’re using whatever pictures they can find of me. Who cares what they get today?

It’s Thursday, and I’m told the prosecution is calling its last witness today, which is most likely Carly Madison Perry. That’s going to be four days—or three and a half—of nothing but prosecution testimony. Is the defense going to be just as long?

As usual, we take our seats and, Vincent Sullivan is led in, then the judge and the jury and once the movement has stopped, the prosecution calls their final witness.

“The state calls Cody Whitmore to the stand.”

What? What the fuck? What?

Whitshit is escorted into the courtroom in a suit and tie—and shackles!

It does my heart good to see him ushered in like the common criminal that he is, taking the small steps that the shackles allow with the clanging of the chains announcing his arrival.

But why is he here? I thought Carly was testifying against everyone.

He quickly scans the room and does a double take. His eyes dart around to several locations and his face immediately blanches pale. He stops in his tracks as he looks around the room and his two uniformed escorts have to urge him forward to the stand. When he takes his seat, he immediately locks his gaze with mine and his eyes narrow. I glare right back at him.

How’s that tooth, Whitshit?

“State your name for the record,” he’s told once he’s sworn in.

“Cody Elvin Whitmore,” he says stoically.

“Son of a bitch,” Christian whispers. When I look over at him, he’s glaring at Whitshit. I elbow him to let me in on the secret. He leans over.

“He got a deal, too,” he whispers. “He had to if he’s here.” I look back at Whitshit and I can feel my blood beginning to boil.

Son of a bitch. This is what he meant when he said, “Expect anything.”

“Cody, do you remember the events of the afternoon and evening of March 10, 2001?”

“Vividly,” he responds.

“You went to school that day like any other day, correct?”

“Yep,” Whitshit says.

“And tell the court what happened after school.”

“We were going to do a BB that night…”

“What’s a BB?” Mr. Larson asks. Cody turns to me and smiles.

“A bitch branding,” he says, coolly. I feel a chill as I look into his dark eyes. I remember seeing them that night, through the hood and mask, just like I saw hers. They looked right at me, stared into my terrified eyes, laughed at my tears, and tormented me. And now, he’s sitting in the witness stand, jeering at me and taunting me as he tells the story.

I open my mouth and tap my front tooth, the one of his that I know I knocked out and raise my brow at him. That smug smirk falls from his face.

“And how did you know what a bitch branding was, Cody?” Mr. Larson asks.

“I’d heard about them,” he answers.

“Heard about them?” Mr. Larson asks. “From whom?”

“Objection, your honor. Relevance?” The defense pipes in.

“Sustained,” the judge says. “Get to the point, counselor.”

“I’m only trying to establish if this was a regular occurrence in the community, your honor.”

“Careful, Mr. Larson,” the judge says and Mr. Larson nods before turning back to my rapist.

“Cody…” Mr. Larson begins.

“Mr. Whitmore,” Whitshit corrects him.

Mr. Whitmore,” Mr. Larson says sarcastically, “You said that you heard about the bitch brandings—how did you hear about them?” Whitshit smiles and looks at me again.

“People talk,” he says. “You just hear it… around.

“I see. Had you ever been to a bitch branding before this?” Mr. Larson presses.

“Objection! Your Honor, really?” the defense protests.

“Mr. Larson, you’ve been warned,” the judge cautions.

“I didn’t ask if he had ever participated in one. I asked if he had attended one. His presence today already confirms that he participated in one!” Mr. Larson turns an angry glare to Whitshit’s defense attorney.

“You’re treading thin ice, counselor.” Good grief, how many warnings does this guy need? Is he trying to throw the damn case? He better fucking not, or I swear I’ll lose all morals I’ve ever had and hunt him down like a damn dog! He turns back to Whitshit.

“I refuse to answer to prevent self-incrimination,” Whitshit responds with a smile, and the courtroom erupts in murmurs. Sonofabitch! Is this asshole saying that he’s done this shit before? Was it here in Green Valley? Who else is walking around with fucking brands? What the fuck?

“Order!” The judge says as he bangs his gavel. “Order in the court or I’ll have the room cleared.” The courtroom silences after a few moments.

“Does that answer your questions, counselor?” Whitshit says with a smirk.

“Yes, it does,” Mr. Larson says. “And some. Thank you.” Whitshit’s smirk falls again.

“I didn’t give you anything,” he says cockily. “You and I both know that.” Mr. Larson cocks his head at Whitshit.

Mr. Whitmore…” Mr. Larson says his name in that sing-songy way that Mr. Smith says Mr. Anderson in The Matrix, and it makes your skin crawl. I’m sure that Whitshit now wishes he had just let the man call him Cody. “Have you ever heard the term ‘pattern of behavior?’” Whitshit shrugs.

“Why should that mean anything to me?” he says clasping his hands.

“Because you just confirmed one,” Mr. Larson says. Whitshit scoffs.

“How?” he retorts. Mr. Larson turns to the judge.

“He asked,” the judge says, gesturing for Mr. Larson to continue. He turns back to Whitshit.

“You pled your right to silence to prevent self-incrimination when directly asked about bitch brandings. You just implied in a room full of people, including the jury, that you may have…” He turns to the jury and opens his hands in a shrugging manner.

“… Or may not have…” He turns back to Whitshit, “… taken part in a prior bitch branding, a brutal act that now has a name, like hazing. I don’t know how many people in this room have ever heard of that term. I know that in all my years as attorney general, I haven’t. It even has a clever little abbreviation…” He turns to the jury again. “BB,” he says to the jury before turning back to Whitshit.

“So, now, we see that a group of teenagers possibly premeditated an attack on an innocent young girl using an abbreviation that many if not all of you knew. And you just pled the fifth against self-incrimination. Pattern of behavior, Mr. Whitmore,” Mr. Larson finishes. Whitshit turns red with fury.

“I don’t want to testify anymore!” he barks.

“That’s fine,” Mr. Larson says. “You can go back to your cell, but you’ll be forfeiting your plea deal and you’ll have to stand trial. Bailiffs?” Mr. Larson heads back to the table. As the bailiffs move toward Whitshit, he rolls his eyes and sighs.

“Fine! What do you want to know?” he hisses, causing the bailiffs to halt their approach.

“First, I want you to remember that you’re under oath,” Mr. Larson warns, “and just like we found this dirty little secret, I won’t stop until we find every little thing you choose to lie about. Do we understand one another?”

“Objection, your honor, he’s intimidating the witness!”

“Mr. Larson,” the judge warns.

“I’m simply informing him that I will do my job to the best of my abilities should this office discover that he has perjured himself. Do we not warn every witness who sits on this stand against perjury?” he asks. The judge sighs.

“He’s right, Mr. Drake,” the judge cedes, “but get on with it. The witness is already incarcerated for his role in this matter. Can we please get to this case?” Mr. Larson nods.

“You said that you were talking to a group of friends about doing a BB that night,” Mr. Larson says. “What happened next?” Whitshit purses his lips.

“They asked who the candidate was and why,” he says. “I told them it was some little bitch who lied on me about raping her.”

“And who was the candidate?” Mr. Larson asks.

“You mean the bitch?” Whitmore says, stressing the word so hard that it appears to hurt to say it. “Anastasia Steele.”

“Let the record show that Anastasia Steele is now Dr. Anastasia Steele-Grey,” Mr. Larson says, and Whitshit scoffs. I shake my head almost infinitesimally.

I’m a doctor. Despite everything that happened, I’m a doctor. When they picked your ass up, when I knocked your tooth out in my husband’s building, you were still nobody. You didn’t even take advantage of your daddy’s name and the family business, crooked though it may have been. You were nothing and you’re less than nothing now, and you have the nerve to sit on the stand like you’re still running shit?

It’s at that moment that I realize just how small he really is. I mean I knew that he was a small man, but I think this is the smallest I’ve ever seen him—that I’ve ever seen anyone. And this is the man who raped me, who helped to orchestrate one of the most horrific events of my entire life and not only am I much, much more than he is all on my own, but also if he wasn’t in those shackles, I could beat him within an inch of his life.

He’s nothing… absolutely nothing, and it took me this long to see it.

I cock my head and look at him like a strange animal. When I was fifteen, he was Satan. He was all powerful and I just wanted to get away from him and this place. Look at me now and look at him. His life is ruined… totally ruined.

I involuntarily scoff a laugh and the room falls silent with many people looking over at me. I clear my throat and pretend to cough.

“I’m sorry,” I say just below a whisper, covering my mouth to conceal my inner smile that has burst through to my lips. I realize when I refocus that I’ve missed some of the testimony.

“Carly couldn’t wait to get her hands on her,” Whitshit says. “All she wanted was for her to shut the hell up.”

Shut the hell up about what? I wasn’t talking to anybody! Nobody would even listen.

“So, you told your girlfriend that you and Ms. Steele had sex, and your girlfriend forgave you, but wanted revenge against Ms. Steele?”

“Looks that way,” Whitshit says.

“Why?” Mr. Larson asks.

“Objection,” Drake says. “The witness can’t testify to what someone else was thinking.”

“Sustained,” the judge says.

“I’m sorry, I’m just trying to figure out the logic here. You were the one who owed Carly Madison loyalty at the time, not Anastasia Steele. If it were true that, as you and the defense would like for us to believe, Anastasia Steele slept with you willingly, it totally escapes me why any woman—even a teenager—would want to beat and torture the girl who slept with her loser boyfriend but completely forgive her loser boyfriend for cheating on her!”

“Objection! Your honor!” Drake nearly yells.

“What?” Mr. Larson says in actual surprise. “I’m just making an observation.”

“You’re stating an opinion, counselor. Get on with the questioning,” the judge says. I feel a chill go down my spine.

“First of all,” Whitshit says, leaning forward in his seat, “Carly was crazy, and crazy in love with me. The combination turned out to be toxic. That’s why I dumped the bitch…”

“At the altar, I’m told,” Mr. Larson says.

“No better place to drive my point home,” Whitshit says proudly. “And second, it was true.”

“What was true?” Mr. Larson says, his brow furrowed.

“That we had sex. I picked up that little troublemaker at school one day and offered to give her a ride home. Yeah, she was a hot little thing and I could tell nobody else had hit it, so I decided to make my move…”

I can feel my chest tighten. Is he really going to tell this story?

“She got in my jeep and we’re driving around, laughing and talking. She’s giggling and giving me all the signs. I drive to a place where we can have some privacy. We climb in the back seat and we’re getting all hot and heavy, and we finally get into it. Yeah, it was rough breakin’ in a virgin, but it wasn’t my first time. I knew what I was doing.”

Oh, God, is he serious? He must be talking about somebody else, because he’s sure as hell not talking about me.

“Next thing I know, she’s in the back seat cryin’. Probably freaked out because she saw I popped her cherry. Now, I got this poser, white trash wannabe cryin’ and bleedin’ all over my seats when a few minutes earlier, everything was all good! So, I told her to get outta my Jeep. I threw her damn bookbag out behind her and left her standing there. I didn’t want anybody to see us together, and nobody would believe I fucked her anyway…”

He’s starting to blur a bit, but I can still hear him loud and clear.

“Yeah, we had sex, but the next thing I know, she and her father or stepfather or whoever the hell he was are at my house telling my dad I raped her!” He throws his hands up and scoffs in disbelief. “Why would I take from her what I could get from anybody? All the girls wanted me. I was the biggest ticket in school! I was already dating the head cheerleader!”

My muscles are tightening, and my body is starting to betray me. If I wasn’t there experiencing that rape first-hand, I would believe everything that’s coming out of his mouth right now. As if I haven’t suffered enough at the hands of this fucker, he turns to me when he drives his point home.

“Yeah, get mad because I left you there and made you walk home, but rape? Please!”

Oh, dear God in heaven. If I have any more epiphanies in this room, my head is going to burst. He was actually pissed at me for crying in his jeep. Does this fucker really believe he didn’t rape me… that he was fucking entitled to do what he did to me? Jesus, I think I’m going to vomit again.

I see the room shaking and I can’t breathe. Christian is in my line of sight, but I can’t hear anything. His mouth is moving, but I can’t hear the words coming out of his mouth. People are moving towards me, but I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe…


A/N: Of course, the writer would know that Cody was getting a plea before the episode was written. However, the reader wasn’t supposed to know until this episode. I mentioned something in chapter 89 of Becoming at Ana’s last session with Ace about Cody’s plea. If you go back and read, it’s not there anymore. You’re not crazy. I jumped the gun when I put it there. I wasn’t supposed to, so I removed it. Sorry for the confusion.

Twitterpated is a phrase that Owl used in “Bambi” to explain to the young men that the birds were in love. I borrowed the phrase in this episode to talk about the Waldorf guest that besmirched Ana on Twitter. 

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

Pictures from the trip to Las Vegas can be found at https://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/grey-continued-las-vegas/

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 on the menu or 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, or 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

Grey Continued: Season 5 Episode 10

I have realized that portions of the Las Vegas storyline must be done in chunks as the ending of certain chapters will only lead to immense frustration. As such, here’s another chunk of Green Valley. Don’t get used to it, though. I’m certain that I can’t maintain this pace indefinitely.

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 10

CHRISTIAN

She doesn’t know that she’s the most important thing in the world to me. She can’t be serious. I’m here, aren’t I?

It’s this place. It’s this place and this trial and shit. She’s not herself. How could she be? This place is worse than hell for her and this trial is Herculean! I know that’s it. That’s got to be it…

Of course, GEH is important to me. It has to be! But she can’t possibly think that my company means more to me than my family… and the twins! Jesus, does she think that I care more about that company than my own children?

Think about it, genius. She’s absolutely right. Whenever your baby bellows, you come running, no matter what’s going on. Even Ros knew that when she threatened to talk to you about taking the company public that it wouldn’t happen. The only one who’s not accepting that GEH is the most important thing in your life right now is you.

She’s not expecting you to let go of the reins of your baby. She’s just expecting to be a priority in your life when she needs to be.

She’s accepting it. She’s being a team player even to her own detriment. You’re the one in denial.

“Fuck,” I hiss quietly, pushing my hands through my hair. No way in hell I’m going to allow my wife to feel like she—and my children—are not a priority in my life. No way in fucking hell. This is going to take a lot of work.

With no other task to keep my mind occupied, I set out to find something for dinner. She’s taking a bath, so I’m certain that she doesn’t want to go out, and room service is just not going to cut it. As I’m trying to consider what to do next, I get a text from Jason.

**Dinner plans, sir? **

While my wife is in the bath, I text Jason to come to our suite.

“Is everything okay, sir?” he asks when he gets there.

“My wife seems to think that my company is more important to me than her and my children,” I reply as I take a seat at the dining table. Jason raises both brows at me but says nothing.

“And, you think so, too,” I add, dismayed.

“GEH has always been the priority in your life, sir,” he says, taking the seat cater-cornered from me. “For over a decade, she’s been your bedfellow even above your fembots. No offense, sir, but she even came before your family sometimes—I mean, before you were married. With all due respect, I hope Her Highness doesn’t expect that to change.”

“She doesn’t,” I say, shamefully. “It’s glaringly and unpleasantly clear that nothing comes before GEH… but I’m a husband and a father now, and that’s got to change. There’s got to be a compromise.”

“You got a call,” he says. I raise my head and he’s giving me a very knowing look.

“You know me well,” I lament. “It really couldn’t be avoided, and I was only on the phone for fifteen minutes.”

“It doesn’t matter, Boss,” and now I’m Boss. “In this place, at this time, she needs you. She needs you more than she ever has. Even with all these people, they would mean nothing if you weren’t here. You are the leading man; you are front and center. The rest of us—we’re just supporting cast. The show can’t go on without you. So, if for any reason you’re not present, including GEH…” He trails off.

“Duly noted,” I say, rubbing my hand across my eyes, “like you wouldn’t believe.” We sit silently for a moment, then I say, “Five o’clock days, Jason.” I raise my gaze to him, and his brows rise again.

“Really?” he asks. I nod.

“Even I know that it’s going to be impossible all the time, but the late evenings are going to be the exception, not the norm. I’m going to need you to help me with this.”

“How so?” he asks. I shrug.

“I don’t know—give me a ring or send me a text at a quarter to, reminding me what time it is, I guess.” He twists his lips and nods.

“I can do that,” he says. Good… that’s a start.

“Nothing on Drake yet, I suppose,” I comment. He shakes his head.

“I haven’t heard anything from Alex,” he replies. “I’m not really sure there’s much that we can do except make him a bit uncomfortable, unless we find some dirt on him.” I shrug.

“There’s always something to be found,” I reply, “and if not, then we’ll make him fucking uncomfortable.” Even David’s defense attorney didn’t piss me off like this guy. I wouldn’t mind seeing him panhandling for food after what he’s put my Butterfly through.

“Why must every defense attorney I’ve ever come in contact with be such a fucking sleaze?” I ask, mainly as a rhetorical question.

“Well, think about it,” Jason says. “This is the third trial that we’ve been to in as many years. In each of the trials, all the defendants had a little bit of money or were part of a high-profile case. Beat that rap and you can write your own ticket but consider this. What kind of person does it take to defend someone that they clearly know is guilty?

“David kidnapped Her Highness and chained her to a bed. At least five people saw that. We had video of her kidnapping and a voice recording of her begging for help, yet that broad still tried to paint Her Highness as the villain and the indirect cause of her own kidnapping. And let’s not even rehash the defense of the batty blonde bitch who shot me. Seriously, how can we even begin to justify that level of sleazoid?

“And now, we’re looking at a group of kids—now adults—who is looking at, in the very least, manslaughter. We’re going to see some defenses worthy of a Shakespearean tragedy, trust me.”

I’m beginning to wonder what kind of can of worms we’ve opened. This isn’t going to be one clean trial and the bad guys get locked up. This isn’t even going to be one clean trial. Several people have been arrested for what they did to Butterfly. She’s going to have to go through this over and over and over again. Will she even be able to tolerate that?

The only comfort that I’m getting from any of this is that Madison-Perry and Van Dyke have already taken a plea. Which means that they’re already in jail and can help put away their accomplices. I don’t look forward to the next several days of testimony any more than Butterfly does.

“Where is she now?” he asks.

“She’s in the bath,” I say, “boiling off the day, she said. She had two vodka rocks at the bar, and she hasn’t even eaten yet.” I remember promising her a double shot of vodka while we were in court and she sought it out on her own before I could keep my promise.

“So, she’s going to need something with a little weight to it,” Jason acknowledges. “I’ve never known her to be allergic to anything. Have you?”

“Nothing but beef when she was pregnant. What did you have in mind?”

“Something exotic,” he says. “I think you could use some help tonight.”

“I don’t like surprises, Jason,” I warn. He purses his lips and cocks his head at me.

“Have I ever steered you wrong?” he asks. I don’t reply. He hasn’t. “Mm-hmm. Give me half an hour.”

I use that half-hour to reflect on things that need to be done to accomplish this compromise that I need for my family and my company. She’s been spending more time at GEH as of late. She even has her own office now, right down the hall from mine. Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought that any woman would be worthy of having a space like that in my building—half-owner of my company, wielding the same power that I do… not even Ros.

I’m constantly in awe of her—of her strength and her intelligence, how she changed my life so drastically when I wasn’t even expecting it. How I would be absolutely nothing without her right now…

I walk to the en suite and peek inside. Her hair is wet and she’s sitting in the bathtub. She’s facing away from the door just staring out of the window at the night and the lights over the strip. I can almost guess that she’s staring at nothing.

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I quietly enter the bathroom and retrieve a comb from the vanity before kneeling behind her on the floor. Placing a towel on the floor, I realize that her hair still has conditioner in it. I pull her hair from the bath water and, starting with the ends, I gently begin to comb the tangles out. It takes several minutes, but she sits quietly and allows me to proceed. I retrieve the detachable shower head and set the water temperature at lukewarm. She holds her head back and allows me to rinse the conditioner out. I gently wring the excess water from her long tresses and give it another comb through.

“Dinner will be here soon,” I say. She sighs heavily.

“Would you like for me to dry your hair?” I ask. She doesn’t respond.

“Would you like for me to braid it?” I ask.

“Yes, please,” she says softly. Thank God. I thought she wasn’t speaking to me!

I carefully separate her hair into three sections and begin the task of braiding it into a long, beautiful braid. I fasten the end with a ponytail holder and retrieve a bath blanket.

“Come on, Butterfly,” I say, holding it open for her. “Dinner will be here soon.”

I help her stand from the bathtub and she walks into the bath blanket. She wraps it around her body as I use a second towel to squeeze and dry the excess water from her hair. I hear the doorbell and realize that Jason has returned with dinner.

“Come out, soon. That’s dinner,” I say. She nods and I kiss her on the cheek before going out to greet Jason. He has two bags of food when he enters, and I set the table for two.

“What did you get?” I ask

“Indian,” he says as he begins to empty the bags. “Coconut goat, lamb shahi korma, shrimp curry, tandoori chicken, chicken tikka, seekh kabob and shrimp tandoori. I also got some cheese naan and sweet mango chutney.” Everything smells really good.

“The servings are small,” I say. I’ve tasted several cuisines, but I don’t think I’ve had authentic Indian before.

“Trust me, you’ll have leftovers,” he says. “Whatever entrée you choose, take a portion of rice—about the size of a small ice-cream scoop—and put it on the plate first, then put the entrée over it. Take small amounts, Boss. This stuff is rich.”

He shows me what each entrée is, and I taste each one. He’s right, it’s rich… and delicious. The mango chutney looks like orange marmalade and is very sweet, not my preference. I’ll let Butterfly have that if she wants it.

“I know she’s a Cabernet girl, and that she’s had two vodkas already, but A, a Pinot Noir is going to pair best with the richness of the food and B, she’s going to have some good substance with the food. So, she’ll be fine, even though she’s already had a couple of drinks. I was able to secure a decent rosé from the concierge, probably not the million-dollar bottles that you’re accustomed to, but he assures me that it’s not a bad blend.”

I nod. I don’t know how Butterfly is going to feel about the Pinot Noir. However, even though she prefers Cabernet, I know that’s not the only wine she’ll drink.

“Thanks, Jason. I think it’s safe to say that we’re in for the night,” I inform him.

“Then, I’ll see you in the morning,” he says with a nod and leaves the suite. I leave the covers over the food so that it doesn’t get cold. Then, I go back to the room to retrieve my Butterfly.

She’s standing there staring into the bureau drawer at her night clothes with her towel still wrapped around her and her braid falling incredibly long down her back. She’s not moving—she just looks like she’s daydreaming. When I step up behind her, she raises her gaze to me in the mirror. It’s unassuming and has no malice. She’s just… standing there.

I look down in the drawer and remove a flannel shirt. It looks warm and comfortable and I think it’ll fit the mood. I hand it to her and kiss her on the cheek again, leaving her to change.

The rosé is already slightly chilled, not too cold, so I uncork it to allow it to breathe. I retrieve two wine glasses as well as two bottles of Voss from the minibar. I doubt that she was concerned about being hydrated while she was drinking. When I turn around, she’s walking across the living room in her bare feet and button-up flannel shirt.

“I’ve never tried Indian before. I hope you like it,” I say.

“I love Indian food,” she says as she takes a seat at the table, her feet underneath her in the chair. “Mmm, that smells like curry.”

“It is,” I say, “curry shrimp, to be exact.” I put a scoop of rice on her plate.

“You can give me more,” she says.

“It’s very rich,” I tell her, “and we have three entrées.”

“And you can give me more rice,” she says. I shrug and scoop more rice into her plate. She looks at me expecting, so I scoop even more onto her plate.

“Thank you,” she says, taking one of the containers with the entrées. “What’s this?”

“Coconut goat,” I reply.

“Ooooooo!” she sings, placing a respectable amount of goat and gravy over a portion of her rice. “And this?” she asks as I fill her water glass. I look over at the second entrée.

“Lamb shaki something,” I say, now pouring the wine. She laughs.

“Lamb shahi korma?” she corrects me. I shrug.

“Sounds right,” I say, taking my seat and placing some rice on my plate.

She places some of the lamb and the shrimp curry on her plate over the rice, then places some of the loose meats and vegetables on the side. She looks at the last two containers. Opening one, she sees the mango chutney. She puts a small amount on a small saucer and tears off a piece of the cheese bread for dipping. She opens that last one and produces something that looks like moist donut holes covered in coconut shavings. She removes two of them with a spoon and put them on the saucer with the chutney.

“Do you know what that is?” I ask. Jason didn’t tell me. She nods, and I look her expecting.

“It’s gulab jamun,” she says. “It’s kind of hard to explain. It’s a spongy round cake made with powdered milk, filled with a nut stuffing, and soaked in honey syrup. It’s more than that, but that’s the best way to explain it.” My brow furrows.

“That sounds very sweet,” I say.

“It is,” she replies. I shake my head and continue placing entrées over my rice.

“Mmm,” she says with appreciation while taking a mouthful of food. “Thish ish delishish,” she says shamelessly with her mouth full.

“I’m glad you approve,” I say. “I’ll let Jason know.”

“Tell him that I’ll be eternally grateful if he can procure some of these kabobs for lunch tomorrow.”

“Will do,” I say, taking a forkful of the food. It really is very tasty. We eat in silence for a while with Butterfly appreciating her meal, including the rosé.

“I want a copy of my hospital records from here,” she says. “Even as a doctor, it never occurred to me that something with my head had to cause the coma. Of course, it had to—I had two hematomas. There’s a whole lot that could explain.”

“Such as?” I ask between bites.

“Adrenaline tears,” she says. “They may not be adrenaline tears. They may be something else. I rub my forehead… I used to rub fire into my forehead before I started rubbing my scar. Where was the hematoma—was one of them on my forehead? Was that nervous tick some phantom pain that I didn’t recognize like the throbbing I get when I rub my scar? And the fact that I faint when I get really upset…”

“Wouldn’t Dr. Hill have seen any of those things when you had the accident?” I ask. She shrugs.

“Maybe,” she says. “Who knows? I’m not a neurologist, so I couldn’t tell you. If none of them left any scar tissue behind, maybe not, but I still want to know.”

“That’s a good enough reason,” I say, eating more of my meal.

After dinner, we call home and check on the twins. Both children babble incoherently into the phone, which immediately lightens Butterfly’s mood a bit. So as not to be caught too off guard, we have Mac handling the online onslaught of information about the trial, but we take a look at the local news. When the coverage of the story comes on, thankfully, it’s very brief.

“Opening arguments were heard, and testimony began today in the Henderson case of Vincent Sullivan. Sullivan has several charges in the assault of Seattle psychiatrist and billionairess Anastasia Steele-Grey. In 2001, Grey and Sullivan were both students at Green Valley High School. The attack is said to have taken place in Green Valley. Grey and her entourage entered the courthouse this morning in a perfectly choreographed formation that prevented press and even onlookers from getting anywhere near her. Those looking for photo ops were hard-pressed—literally—to even get a good shot of her.

Sources say Dr. Grey testified today along with law enforcement officers, first responders, and the doctor who treated her after the attack. News 13 will keep you abreast of the story as it develops.”

I mute the television and look over at my wife who’s just staring at the screen now. I won’t make love to her tonight. It seems inappropriate under the circumstances.

“What do you want to do?” I ask. She sighs.

“Let’s just go to bed,” she says. She adjusts herself and gets under the covers. It’s way too early to go to sleep, but I’m aware of my wife’s ability to sleep at will and get rid of the day.

I turn off the television and lay next to my wife for hours while she sleeps.

*-*

She’s cold and silent as she gets dressed for court in the morning. Cold may not be the correct word, but she’s very detached… extremely aloof.

She has decided to skip breakfast in case she hears something in the morning that’s going to cause her to vomit again. She has vowed not to skip lunch, however—barf sessions notwithstanding.

We called the hospital to try to get a copy of her medical records that morning. As it turns out, she can get them, but she has to request them in person. As the medical records department is open during the same hours that we’re going to be in court, that’s not going to be an easy task. Also, she’s Anastasia Grey now and she has to prove that she was Anastasia Steele. So, we have to get a copy of her birth certificate and our marriage license sent down here—or go back to Seattle to get it.

We take the same formation when we get to court the next day, but Butterfly warns everyone to keep up with her this time because she doesn’t feel like doing the covert stroll. She prefers to “just get the hell up the stairs.” In the process, she bumps into her father and Allen more than once on the way into the courtroom.

The glasses are off as soon as she clears security and she impatiently waits on the other side of the checkpoint for everyone else to clear. Apparently, she feels that if she can hurry up and get this day started, she can hurry up and get it finished.

We flow into the elevator as usual and other people attempt to get on with us. However, our security purposely stands in front of the elevator doors like sentinels, forming a big wall of man and not allowing anyone else onto the elevator. A few complain that there’s plenty of room for more people, but the bellyaching falls on deaf ears as the doors close.

Butterfly steps off the elevator like she’s alone when the door opens on the eighth floor. She has put on the independent hat and she’s not accepting any tenderness from me. I can tolerate that when she’s angry, even when she felt that she had to put on the brave face at Christmas, but not today. Not now…

“Excuse us for a moment,” I say as I place my hand in the small of my wife’s back and lead her away from our entourage. She has replaced her Jackie O’s by now, but I can still see her puzzled look behind the tinted lenses.

“It is imperative… that you allow me to be here for you,” I say to her questioning eyes. “I have to sit and listen to this—listen to what happened to you… watch what happened to you. It was hell for me sitting through that trial, knowing what David and Harris did to you… but I saved you from that. I couldn’t save you from this. I couldn’t stop this from happening. Yes, I took a call from GEH yesterday, but I’m here for you today. You have to let me be here for you.”

I whisper that last sentence with earnest, and she takes in a quick breath, her expression softening almost to sympathy.

Don’t feel sympathy for me, Butterfly. Just don’t shut me out… please.

Her hand gently cups my cheek and she gazes at me for a moment before she stands on her toes in a vain attempt to reach my lips. I lean down and allow her to plant a tender kiss on my lips. When she pulls away, she gently caresses my cheek and her beautiful blue eyes give me the comfort—and the strength—that I should be giving her. I take her hand in mine and kiss it gently, giving it a squeeze before leading her into the courtroom.


ANASTASIA

I wasn’t trying to shut him out. I was just trying to stand on my own. I felt like I needed him yesterday when we got back to the suite and he wasn’t there for me. I don’t want to fall apart and see that he’s not there for me, so I have to stand on my own.

I didn’t realize that he’s leaning on me as much as I’m leaning on him.

Being able to be there for me and hold me up and rescue me if I need it is what’s holding him together. If I take that away from him, he’ll fall apart. What a predicament to be in.

Ain’t we a pair.

The morning is pretty tame—jurors and Vincent Sullivan enter, nurses and doctors from the hospital testify about my condition, my lack of visitors, how strange they thought it was that nobody cared about me or came to see me until Daddy showed up and slept in my hospital room until it was time for me to be discharged. I’m not completely sure what that had to do with the case in and of itself, but there it was.

Jason got my kabobs for lunch which made me very happy. Daddy called them strange, because they didn’t look like the kabobs that he’s accustomed to. Then, he tasted them… and he ate four of them.

Marilyn tried to eat one, she really did, but it was no use. Ever efficient, Jason got her a strawberry, banana, and spinach smoothie made with almond milk. It seems my husband and I aren’t the only ones who have been keeping an eye on her. Sorry, Mare, there’s no escape. She does, however, seem extremely grateful for the smoothie, and she’s drinking her Gatorade.

The morning was such a breeze, I knew I should have prepared myself for the big boom after lunch, but I didn’t. Nothing in the world could have prepared me for this…

“The state calls Carla Morton to the stand.”

“Who?” I say aloud, completely forgetting where I am.

“Mrs. Grey,” the judge warns, “please refrain from further outbursts.”

I don’t even apologize. I’m too damn shocked to apologize. What the fuck could she possibly have to say?

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The doors open and a woman enters the courtroom, only, it’s not Carla… is it? She looks a bit like Carla, but this woman is more refined. None of that over-the-top, grandiose garb that I’m so accustomed to seeing her in. No—black suit, messy bun with deliberate tendrils framing her face, modest make-up… Even her stride is more contained. You’d think with $100,000 she’d get those brows done, though.

He said it. He fucking said it. Expect anything. What the fuck are you up to, Larson?

“State your name for the record.”

“Carla Louise Morton,” she says clearly.

“Can you tell us your relationship to this case?” She sighs.

“Anastasia Steele-Grey is my daughter.”

“Why are you here today, Mrs. Morton?”

“To tell what I know,” she says.

“Let’s start by making something clear. You’re estranged from your daughter right now, aren’t you?” Mr. Larson asks.

“Yes, I am.”

“Can you tell us why?” he presses.

“Because I was a terrible mother,” she says flatly. “I cared more about myself, the pursuit of my own happiness, and my then-husband than I cared about my child.”

Wha…?

“That all sounds past-tense, Mrs. Morton. It sounds like you’ve seen the err of your ways.”

“I have,” she admits, “but it’s too late, now.”

“You’re still alive and healthy. So is Anastasia… why is it too late?” Carla smiles sadly.

“Some wrongs you just can’t right, counselor,” she says finitely.

Well! Knock me over with a feather.

“So… why the appearance today?” Mr. Larson asks.

“My husband and I helped perpetuate this mess. We helped with the cover-up; we facilitated my daughter’s misery… All of this is because of me. This is the very least I could do, and I do mean the very least.

Who is this woman?

“Why should we believe you, Mrs. Morton? You’ve had plenty of time to come forward. Why now?”

“Why now? Why not now? It’s all coming out anyway.” She shrugs and looks at the jury. “Believe me if you want. Don’t if you don’t. All I can do is tell the truth. If it does any good, wonderful. If it doesn’t, then things won’t be any different than they’ve already been all these years, will they? The same acts of violence will still have been committed against a young girl; the perpetrators—whoever they may be or claim not to be—will have gotten away with it once again, and we’ll all go on our merry way.”

“Are you receiving any kind of reward or compensation for your testimony. Mrs. Morton?” Mr. Larson asks.

“Yes, I am,” she says clearly. I knew it. I knew she wasn’t doing it for free. “I’m receiving immunity from prosecution for anything that may be revealed from my testimony or these proceedings. Yes, I know it’s selfish, but I’m alone and I prefer not to have to live out the remainder of my days in prison.”

Oh… well… that’s… not really compensation. It’s no less than the deal these assholes are getting for turning state’s evidence, and she didn’t burn me with a branding iron.

“Let’s examine that word compensation, Mrs. Morton. You’re a widow, am I correct?”

“Yes,” she says. “My husband died a couple of years ago.”

“You indicated in your deposition that you previously received substantial compensation in relation to this case. Can you tell us in your own words what you meant by that?”

Carla’s eyes go to the ceiling and she looks extremely uncomfortable.

“Let me start by saying that I was never a victim, here,” Carla begins. “I was selfish, and I didn’t take the proper actions at the time. If I had, I could have prevented all of this.” She bites her lip then begins her tale.

“Anastasia came home very late one day. She looked like she had been attacked by wild dogs. She was crying, she was walking funny, and she was bleeding. She told us that she had been raped by one of the boys at school.”

“And who did she say the boy was?”

“Objection,” the defense interjects. “There have been no arrests or convictions in any related rape case.”

“Your Honor, this testimony leads to motive, and she’s not stating for a fact that Anastasia was raped. She’s stating what her daughter told her and the events that followed.”

“Overruled… but tread carefully, Mr. Larson,” the judge warns, and Larson nods before turning back to Carla.

“Continue Mrs. Morton,” he says. “Who did Anastasia claim had raped her that day?”

“Cody Whitmore,” Carla states.

“And what happened following this accusation?” Mr. Larson asks.

“My husband, Stephen, went with Anastasia to confront the boy and his father. They were gone for an hour or so and when they returned, Stephen was convinced that Anastasia had lied. He said that the boy was rich and had a beautiful girlfriend who was there with him at the time. He said that after talking to Cody and his father, there was no reason that he could see that Cody would want to rape Anastasia. He chided her for lying and causing him to embarrass himself in front of the Whitmores, and we all just forgot about it.”

Not all of us, I think as I stare at the courtroom floor, wound so tight that I could break. Christian’s hands gently grasp both my arms, causing me to look over at him. At that moment, the entire courtroom is silent, and several people are looking at me. It’s then that I realize that I didn’t think the words. I said them out loud. I gasp, and my fingers fly to my mouth as I remember that the judge has already cautioned me about courtroom outbursts.

“I’m sorry,” I say, shaking my head and addressing the bench. “I didn’t know I verbalized my thoughts.”

“You’re free to remain for the proceedings, Mrs. Grey, but once again, you must refrain from further outbursts,” he warns.

“Yes, Your Honor. It won’t happen again.”

“Continue,” the judge directs Mr. Larson, and he turns his attention back to Carla.

“So, you say that you all just went about your business after the rape allegation. What happened next?” Carla shrugs.

“Some time after that, a few weeks or so, maybe, Anastasia just went missing. We didn’t know where she was and to be honest, we didn’t care. I was so wrapped up in wanting to belong in a town where I never had any hope of fitting in and, quite frankly, Stephen never liked her. He didn’t have any children of his own and he never wanted any. As hard as I tried to get Anastasia to show him the respect of a father—or stepfather—she was having none of it. It would have been easier for me and Stephen if I had just left her in Montesano with Ray, but…” She trails off.

Fucking hell, they didn’t even want me—not at all, neither of them. She only took me to hurt Daddy. And she wants to know why I don’t want anything to do with her now.

“A few days after Ana disappeared, we got wind of this story. There was this child—a teenager—in the hospital and she had been there for a few days. I didn’t think it could be Ana at first. Why would she be in the hospital? And why wouldn’t they call me? After a while, curiosity got the best of me and I went to the hospital to see if I could identify the unidentifiable girl still in a coma… and it was her.”

“So, you identified Anastasia,” Larson says. She nods, appearing to fight back tears.

“She looked awful, but I knew it was her. At first, I felt sick and worried, but then, the police kept asking me questions… Do I know who did this to her? Why hadn’t I contacted the police sooner since she had been missing? Was she involved in any kind of occult or satanic worship? It was horribly embarrassing! I had no idea what Anastasia had gotten herself into where she ended up in the hospital looking like a piece of over-tenderized beef!” Carla shakes her head.

“I don’t even remember what I told the police about why I didn’t call them, but they bought it. Come to think of it, I talked to the officer who’s in custody now, so…” She shrugs, coming to the same conclusion that I have. She could have told him that she was vacationing on the moon and didn’t give a fuck if I was on Mars at the time and it wouldn’t have made a difference.

“I’ll be honest with you and tell you that I have no concept of the passage of time,” she admits. “Ana’s room was completely bare. It was like, if the hospital staff didn’t have to deal with her, they wouldn’t deal with her, either.”

She’s exactly right. That’s exactly how they made me feel.

“Nobody came to see her. Nobody came to check on her. She was a complete outcast and I was an outcast every time I came to the hospital. I began to resent her for putting me through this—for the label and the looks that I would get for whatever she had gotten herself into. I stopped coming until I got the call that she had come out of the coma.”

I don’t make eye-contact with that woman. I grind my teeth to keep from saying anything, to keep from calling her every unimaginable name I can think of. She doesn’t even have the decency to sound remorseful for her behavior.

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 “I showed up when she came out of it, but I knew that she would be okay, so I didn’t come back after that. Mom of the Year,” she says, throwing up those “peace signs” with both hands like Richard Nixon. We all know that she’s being sarcastic, and this is the first sign of any self-scolding I’ve seen since she started recounting the incident.

 “She was in the hospital for a long time, and I should have known that he was going to come for her…”

He?” Mr. Larson interrupts.

“Ray… her stepfather.”

“My father,” I grumble in my chest, the words coming out like I’m clearing my throat. What are they going to do—hold me in contempt of court for clearing my throat?

“I guess he’s her father now… with the adoption and everything.” He was always my father, you wicked, old, lying witch!

“Anyway, I avoided his calls for weeks. I don’t know how he heard or knew that something was wrong, but he knew. Sure enough, he showed up on my doorstep, demanding to know where his Annie was…”

“Now, we need you to clarify. How did Ray not know what was going on with his own daughter?” Mr. Larson asks.

“I didn’t tell him,” she admits. “He was in Washington; we were here. I never spoke to him. I left him and my life there behind. It wasn’t until he showed up here that I realized that Anastasia had still been talking to him. I had no idea and I didn’t expect him to show up, so I had nothing prepared to tell him. I don’t even know how he got into the hospital to see her since he’s not on any of the records, but I guess them having the same last name—and no one else coming to see her—afforded him some leniency.”

Thank God, or I wouldn’t have had anyone at all, thanks to you.

“I wanted to know what was going on, but I didn’t want to know badly enough to go up there and face Ray… and once he got there, he never left. When he was leaving, it was when Ana was being released from the hospital, and he told me in no uncertain terms that he was taking her with him. All I could see at the time was that I wouldn’t have to deal with her anymore—the funny looks when I came to the hospital or even went to the local grocery store. She was just in the way. This was the opportunity to alleviate that situation, not to mention that there would be one less mouth to feed.

“The rumors kept circulating about what happened to her long after she was gone. She didn’t remember anything. The baby was gone, so there was no way to determine who the father was…”

“You never referenced a baby,” Larson interrupts.

“She was pregnant at the time of the attack, and the baby didn’t survive. They told me the moment I got to the hospital. I didn’t think to put two and two together with the time of the alleged rape. Like I said, I had no concept of time and it didn’t matter enough to me at the time to calculate. It was easier to pretend like it was happening outside of me than to accept that I was involved in any way. Sending her away with Ray removed me from the situation and did away with the problem, or so I thought. The rumor mill was still very active. Many people had no idea what happened to her—myself included—and there were lots of questions… Lots of questions and no answers. Ana didn’t have any answers either, and apparently, that makes everybody uncomfortable

“The next thing I knew, Stephen came to me telling me in no uncertain terms that we had to bring Ana back to Nevada. I protested. I was sure that just like any other rumor, this one would die with time. He was not. I couldn’t understand why he even cared. So, it’s not going to die. What’s the worst that could happen? She’ll become an urban legend. There was no evidence of any kind for any type of investigation. They didn’t even keep DNA from the baby that I knew of, but Stephen was adamant that she had to come back. I stalled and stalled and stalled for as long as I could. Finally, he told me about the money—well, some of it, anyway. As far as I knew, it was half a million dollars. It turned out to be more.

“He told me that our getting the money was totally dependent on Ana coming back to Nevada where she could be watched. He said that she had already fabricated this whole story about the Whitmores and their son, and that Frank Whitmore was more than willing to pay to keep her from spreading any more lies and ruining their reputation in the community. She’s afraid right now, he had said, but when she’s no longer afraid, she’s going to start talking again.

“So, we got in the car and drove straight to Montesano without stopping. We showed up with no warning, because I’m certain that if I had told Ray that we were coming to get her, he would have hidden her somewhere. She cursed and she fought; Ray begged us not to take her back. He even threatened me with state intervention, but we both knew that had he done that, she would go to foster care since he had no legal rights at the time.”

“I’m confused—why was she carrying his name when he had no rights?” Larson asks.

“Anastasia was only a few months old when her biological father died. It was very easy to change her name once Ray and I decided to get together. It was even easier for her to assume her biological father’s name when we got back to Nevada. We put her in a different school under a different name and that was that.” She brushes her hands together as if to sweep away dirt.

“Only… that wasn’t that,” Larson says. Carla purses her lips.

“No, it wasn’t,” she admits. “Whitmore kept tabs on us like we were slaves. He wanted to know what Anastasia was doing every minute of every day. We didn’t even know what she was doing every minute of every day! We didn’t know anything about her grades. We knew nothing about her friends, if she even had any. She would leave at the crack of dawn and not come back until well after curfew. Stephen grilled her a few times, threatening to throw her out of the house. She would just egg him on. ‘I’ll go back to my real father,’ she would tell him.

“We figured out that she had a job at one point, and Stephen tried to get her to turn over the money she was earning, but to no avail. He even turned her room upside-down once looking for it, which wasn’t hard since there wasn’t much in there. Anyway, one day, she left for school and never came back. When after a couple of days, we didn’t see her, we filed a missing person’s report. There wasn’t much that we could do really since she was beyond the age of consent, but Whitmore had a fit, threatening us to produce Anastasia or give him back the money he had given us. Stephen just laughed in his face. That money had long since been gone and not once while Anastasia was back in Nevada for that year or so had she mentioned anything to do with the incident. Either she really didn’t remember, she was scared out of her wits like Stephen said, or she completely blocked the whole thing out, but we never heard another word about it until years and years later.”

“So, Whitmore was harassing you for Anastasia’s whereabouts. What did you do?” Mr. Larson prods.

“I called Ray,” Carla continues. “I told him to tell me once and for all where Anastasia was, and he freaked out, too. He cursed me from here to the Congo for not letting her stay there with him, and now neither of us knew where she was. I still thought he was full of it until he showed up on my doorstep again demanding to know his daughter’s whereabouts. That’s when I knew… I knew that she had run away, and I would probably never see her again. I didn’t know how to feel about it at the time. I wouldn’t allow myself to feel any remorse or regret and I certainly wasn’t going to accept any responsibility for the situation, heaven forbid.” She drops her gaze and shakes her head before continuing.

“A few days later, Ray went back to Montesano with more questions than he had when he got to Vegas. Whitmore harassed us for a few more months, but then, everything just got quiet. The whole incident just faded to black and we all just… went on, doing our thing.” She shrugs nonchalantly.

“So, just for informational purposes, when did you see your daughter again?” Larson asks.

“About three years ago,” Carla says. “There was some kind of alert released in the news and on the internet about this missing woman. I never would have known about it at all, but I was at work one day and one of my coworkers was following the story on her tablet. I saw the ‘call to arms’ that Christian and his lawyer had done, and it was on a repeating loop—they kept saying her name. So, I got to a computer and I Googled it. That’s how I found her.”

“So, we’re talking now at least ten years since you’ve seen your daughter…”

“Yes,” Carla confirms.

“She never tried to contact you. You never knew if she was dead or alive.”

“I was fairly certain that she was okay. If she had died, someone would have contacted me.”

“No one contacted you when she was unconscious in the hospital,” Mr. Larson points out.

“She wasn’t dead, either,” Carla points out. You’re just a real fucking sweetheart, aren’t ya, Mom?

“So, now you know that she’s in Seattle, or that she’s missing from Seattle. What do you do?”

“I tell Stephen that we need to get to Seattle. I knew Ray wouldn’t tell me anything and if I wanted to know what was going on, I had to find out for myself.”

“Mrs. Morton, as far as you knew, Anastasia had been missing for over a decade. Now, it was so important for you to find her. Why?” Carla sighs and rolls her eyes in that way again—that you’re not going to like what I’m about to say way.

“Because I did my research on this stranger and discovered that a really important man was looking for her. By the look on his face, I could tell that she meant something to him. He looked broken and defeated, like he wouldn’t survive another moment without her. Stephen didn’t want to make the trip. He didn’t see the point. I convinced him that if we show up while Ana was going through yet another tragedy and show our support, she might allow us back into her good graces.”

“How did that change his mind and why was it important to you after all these years?” Mr. Larson probes.

“She was dating a billionaire. Wouldn’t you want to be in her good graces?” There are various murmurs and whispers around the courtroom. This was nothing I didn’t already know.

“And when you arrived?” Mr. Larson asks.

“She shunned me,” Carla says. “She wanted nothing to do with me and anyone within five feet of her did everything possible to make sure Stephen and I didn’t get near her. We finally gave up and came back to Nevada.”

“But that wouldn’t be the last time you saw her…” Carla shakes her head.

“No, I saw her again at Stephen’s funeral, then again later that year. She brought me to Seattle to talk. It didn’t go well. She gave me $100,000 and told me to get out of her life forever. That’s the last time I saw her in person.”

“You’ve done some sparring with her in the tabloids.” Carla dons a tragic smile.

Mom of the Year, remember?” she replies.

“And now you’re here…”

“Yep,” she confirms. “Now I’m here.”

“No further questions at this time, your honor.” Mr. Larson takes his seat.

“Your witness, Mr. Drake,” the judge says, and the floor goes to the defense.

“Mrs. Morton, that’s quite the story you have there about the tumultuous relationship that you’ve had with your daughter over the past several years,” he begins.

“Isn’t it?” she replies, unmoved.

“You had nothing to say to the police at the time of the attack; no information for the hospital; you barely even spoke to your own child,” he outlines.

“I think I’ve already established those facts, counselor.” Counselor. She sounds like me… or is it I who sounds like her?

Drake basically rehashes all of the events that Carla has already narrated for the court and many people—Carla and the jury included—are just looking at him waiting for him to get to the point. He soon begins to turn the story to make it look like I was a woman—or girl—scorned and that my whole intention was to trap Cody Whitmore in the first place.

“‘Why should we believe you, Mrs. Morton? You’ve had plenty of time to come forward. Why now?’” he says, repeating the words of Mr. Larson, once he thinks he’s made his point. “Why now, indeed. Your daughter is no longer the helpless little fifteen-year-old girl she wants the court to believe that she was. She’s now a very wealthy woman out for blood because of a plot gone wrong…”

“Objection, your honor. Gross speculation!” Mr. Larson declares.

“Sustained. Counselor, do you have an actual question or are you going to narrate the story for us… again?”

“Apologies, your honor. I’m sure that the court would like to know how Mrs. Morton conveniently failed to see what was happening with her daughter all of those years and now, she suddenly has a clear recollection of every single detail of the incident in question… or at least how it relates to her.” Carla scoffs loudly.

“I didn’t conveniently not see what was going on with my daughter, counselor. I refused to see it. I ignored what was happening. I was voluntarily and selectively blinded to what was going on. If I didn’t see it or accept it as real, then it didn’t happen. You want to make it look like I’m trying to victimize myself… I’m not. I never claimed innocence in this situation. I never claimed anything at all.”

“But you claimed the money when your husband told you to bring Anastasia back to Nevada,” he accuses.

“Of course, I did,” she confirms. “We were getting half a million dollars… as far as I knew.”

“And your conscience didn’t kick in at all when you saw that the father of the same person who allegedly raped your daughter was now giving you what you thought was half a million dollars?” Carla looks at him like he’s from another planet.

“Conscience?” she said incredulously. “Are you kidding? Have you not listened to anything I’ve said, or are you being deliberately obtuse? I had no conscience. All I wanted was the money! If it meant tolerating the little troublemaker for a while, then so be it. I didn’t care about her or what she was going through. She was nothing more than a thorn in my side, a pebble in my shoe. When she disappeared from school, it was good riddance. It didn’t matter to me that the money was coming from the father of the man who may or may not have raped her. His money was green and could spend just like everyone else’s. I was finally about to buy my way into proper society!”

“And did you do that, Mrs. Morton? Buy your way into proper society, that is?” he taunts.

“No,” she says matter-of-factly. “That money slipped through our fingers faster than we could count it. Stephen drank and gambled away half of it in the first eight months.”

“Oh, yes, someone else to blame—a dead man who can’t speak up for himself.”

“You’re right,” she says, flatly. “My husband is dead, and he can’t defend himself against anything I’m saying. Neither can Franklin Whitmore, because he’s dead, too. But I’m sure that an investigation of financial records from 2001 will reveal that there was a large exchange of money from Mr. Whitmore to my husband. Make no mistake, Mr. Drake. I loved my husband very much. I still do, and the only reason I’m making this statement to you now is because he’s not here to suffer for it.”

“Aren’t you just so selfless in your sacrifice?” Drake snarls. “I suppose we are to believe that this has nothing to do with the fact that your daughter is now a billionairess and you went to Seattle a while back after that same daughter miraculously stumbled upon evidence to make Green Valley ‘pay’ for what she experienced, and returned $100,000 richer.”

“This has everything to do with both of those things,” Carla replies incredulously.

What the fuck? Is she throwing her testimony?

“Fifteen years ago, my entire family was bought for three-quarters of a million dollars—most of that money, I didn’t even see, because I didn’t know he got that much. My daughter was raped, brutalized, and terrorized, and I stood by and watched…”

“Objection, your honor. Speculation. There’s no proof or conviction that the victim was raped.” The judge actually looks at the defense like he’s lost his head. His objection is valid, but I’m sure he’s thinking the same thing I am. Everything this woman is saying and all he pulled out of that was rape? He’s really stuck on that rape, isn’t he?

“Fine!” Carla says, clearly flustered. “Remove the word rape! My daughter was victimized in the worst ways imaginable for quite a long time and my husband and I not only stood by and watched it, we perpetuated it and we profited from it. Had it not been for the love of a man who had the determination and the resources to get to the bottom of this, we wouldn’t be here. My daughter would be seeing no justice for any of this. So, yes, the fact that my daughter is a billionairess now is totally the reason why I’m here! Had they not spent the resources to dig these worms out of their holes, that cop who buried evidence…”

“Objection. Your honor, really!”

“Sustained. Mrs. Morton…”

“Call it what you want,” Carla retorts. “Label it whatever is politically correct or whatever is allowable in these proceedings. There’s evidence that was buried, that was hidden, that was never discovered or revealed, that very well may have solved this case and put the perpetrators behind bars over a decade ago. The cop in charge of the case, he’s in custody now for just that reason. State it however it’s necessary for the record, sir…

“There was an alleged cop who allegedly stumbled on a bonfire where my daughter was allegedly brutalized and left for dead after she allegedly slept with the most popular boy in school or was allegedly raped by him. The alleged cop may or may not have been allegedly protecting his little brother who allegedly may or may not have been involved in the alleged attack where my daughter was allegedly left unconscious. What do you want? It doesn’t change what happened to her. Is that enough allegeds for you or am I allegedly in contempt of court now?”

The courtroom is silent while we all wait for Drake to object to the number of “allegeds” Carla used.

“You want to make me the bad guy, you go right ahead!” Carla continues. “I am the bad guy. I was a piece of shit mother who should have protected my daughter, and I failed! She’s my only child. There are no other children. And now, I can’t even get close to her because I fucked up and I’m dealing with that.

“You want to know what that $100,000 was? It was another payoff—for me to get the hell out of her life and not return. Do you know how that feels? At the time, it was, ‘Great! I finally got some cash! I can take a few days off work.’ Twenty-four hours later, it felt like dirt—like the money was burning my soul. I went back to her apartment and tried to give the money back. I begged her to forgive me, but she was having none of it. She washed her hands of me, and I haven’t heard two words from her from that day to this unless it was in the news.

“I’ll never be able to make up for what I did to my daughter. I can spend my life paying penance and I’ll never be able to fix this. That’s my cross to bear and I’m dealing with it. You want to throw me onto the railroad tracks, fine. It’s no less than I deserve and I’m okay with that. You can’t do anything worse than I’ve already done—than I put my daughter through, so what else you got?” Drake shakes his head.

“I’m sure we’re all hearing violins for you right now, Mrs. Morton, but I bet that hundred thousand was a nice consolation prize, wasn’t it?” he says smugly.

“No… it wasn’t,” she says. “I still have that money, every cent plus interest. I haven’t spent a dime of it. It’s still sitting in the bank—a useless fucking reminder that my soul is worth nothing but a dollar, and I have nobody to blame but myself. She wouldn’t take it back when I begged her to please allow me to make amends. So, since she’s my only surviving family, when I’m dead, she’ll get it back then. And if something happens to her before I die, it goes into a trust for the grandchildren that I’ll never meet.”

For the first time since she started her testimony, her voice cracks slightly, but she recovers quickly. This is a side of my mother that I’ve never seen. This is where I get my fighting spirit. She’s determined that no matter how they tear her apart, she’s going to make her point.

“You see, Counselor, in your attempt to discredit me, you’ve missed the entire point. My credibility was shot nearly 15 years ago when I failed to protect my child. I thought I made that clear right after ‘Carla Louise Morton.’ Either I failed in that task as well or you just weren’t listening. What you see now is an irredeemable woman attempting to make right one of her many wrongs. You stand here in front of intelligent human beings, trying to condone the beating, torture, and near-murder of a 15-year-old girl and you’re talking about my credibility and my conscience?

“Let’s just say for the sake of argument that this entire ludicrous picture that you’re trying to paint is correct—that I’m a terrible, wretched human being and these people shouldn’t believe a word that I’m saying.” She turns to the jury. “Let’s operate on that assumption for a moment, shall we?” She turns back to the defense. “Now, let’s assume that the picture that you’re trying to paint of my daughter is totally and entirely true. Let’s just assume that she totally lied about being raped and she willingly had sex with that boy and set him up to father her child so that she could get some kind of payout from his family. Let’s just assume, just for the sake of making your point, that she was the whore that they tried to make her out to be—that you’re trying to make her out to be right now! Let’s just assume that you’re correct.

“At what point in time, counselor, was it ever acceptable for that 15-year-old girl to be brutalized, victimized, beaten, pissed on, spat on, violated, burned, damn-near killed, had her unborn baby ripped from her body, and left for dead? This isn’t the Spanish Inquisition, and nobody made these people judge and jury over anything! So, you tell me—you tell us all while you have our attention. Since when in this day and time does a supposed act of immorality warrant that type of punishment and death? Go ahead, counselor. I’m all ears.”

Whoa! I’m speechless. Carla is on fire. Where was this Carla when I was suffering all those years ago?

“What’s the matter, sir? Cat got your tongue? You need a moment to formulate your response? Well, go right ahead; take your time. We’ll wait.” She folds her arms and glares at him, and I almost feel a small bit of pride at the way that she’s tearing into him right now. I see that same fight that I have when someone comes at me unjustly. This must be where I get it from.

“Nothing? No snappy comebacks? No sarcastic comments? No objections or rebuttals to everything I’m saying? Yeah, I would expect that you wouldn’t have a comeback for that kind of factual assault. You want to paint me to be an untrustworthy monster, go ahead. It won’t be difficult. I’ve already done most of your work for you. You want to paint my daughter to be an unscrupulous slut, well, good luck with that. You want to paint a person who took part in beating, branding, and pissing on a young girl as the victim? Yeah, good luck with that, too. I’d like to see how that turns out. In the meantime, sir, I have to live with what I did and who I was for the rest of my life. If you successfully convince 13 people that this was nothing less than a brutal bullying and hazing ritual that went all the way to the vicious, premeditated murder of an unborn child and attempted murder of my daughter, can you do the same? I’m curious—is being heartless, insensitive, and apathetic a requirement of being a defense attorney?”

Good question.

“I don’t know, Mrs. Morton. You tell me—is it a requirement of being a mother?” Touché, but it doesn’t faze Carla. Without missing a beat, she replies,

“Well, if it is, you and I have got it down to perfection.”

Drake is silent along with everyone else in the courtroom. We’re all waiting to see who’s going to speak first. Carla has set him into a perfect “check” position, and his next move is going to make or break his case. If he doesn’t have one, he should just conclude right now. If he does, it better be good.

He does… and it sucks.

“You just said something very interesting, Mrs. Morton,” he begins. “You referred to the accidental death of Anastasia’s unborn child as premeditated murder. No one—including Anastasia—knew that she was pregnant. Did you?”

Carla shakes her head, a smirk gracing her lips. If I didn’t know better, I would swear I see pity in her eyes.

“Before I answer that question, by a show of hands, is there anyone in this room that’s under any misconception that I was an inconsiderate, insensitive, idiot bitch at the time of this incident? Anybody? Anyone?” She’s waving her hand, waiting for someone to join her.

“Mrs. Morton,” the judge begins, “may I ask your purpose for that question?”

“Your honor, he seems determined to paint the picture of me as untrustworthy and not credible. I thought he, I, and this entire event did that quite nicely, but I don’t think he believes it himself.” The judge’s eyebrow hitches like he’s pondering her statement, then he remembers himself.

“Please, answer the question, Mrs. Morton,” he directs her.

“Gladly,” she turns back to the defense. “You’re trying to leave the image that Anastasia was a slut and that she deliberately got pregnant to set that boy up. To answer your question, no, I had no idea Anastasia was pregnant, but by your own description and innuendo…” She leans forward in her seat and closer to the microphone. “… Somebody knew.”

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New murmurings and gasps fill the courtroom, and members of the jury look at each other in realization as my mother sits back in her seat, her arm bent at the elbow, her index finger thoughtfully on her cheek and her thumb under her chin and her other fingers resting just below her lip. The judge bangs his gavel and demands order while Carla faces off with the defense attorney.

Shut up, Skippy. She’s destroying your case.

“Mr. Drake, would you like to continue?” His Honor instructs once the courtroom has quieted.

“No further questions, your honor,” he says, clearing his throat and showing false bravado as he walks back to his seat. His client quietly tears into him the moment he sits, but he doesn’t react to Vincent’s chastisement. He just looks at his notes like nothing is happening—like his case isn’t falling apart before his eyes and the little woman on the stand didn’t just hand him his ass on a platter.

“You may step down, Mrs. Morton,” the judge says. Carla nods and makes eye-contact with no one as she rises and exits the witness stand. She shows no emotion as she walks proudly in front of the occupants of the courtroom. I don’t follow her as she walks past us and to a seat in the back of the courtroom. She’s under no misconception of how I feel about her, but today, I’m conflicted about my feelings.

“Butterfly…” Christian’s voice interrupts my inner contemplations.

“Hmm?” I respond.

“Don’t let her fool you,” he says, reading my thoughts perfectly. I shake my head.

“I’m not,” I lie. This is not the woman I spent my teenage years with. Either she just put on the Oscar performance of a lifetime, or she clearly has seen the err of her ways and she’s willing to live with the consequences of her decisions, whatever they may be.


A/N: Pictures of places, cars, fashion, etc., can be found at https://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/grey-continued-misadventuresseason-v/

Pictures from the trip to Las Vegas can be found at https://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/grey-continued-las-vegas/

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 on the menu or 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, or 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

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~~love and handcuffs

Grey Continued: Season 5 Episode 9

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 9

ANASTASIA

“Your witness, Mr. Drake,” Larson says. “Your honor, the state reserves the right to redirect.”

“Yes, sir. Mr. Drake?” Drake comes around the defense table and prepares to face off with my wife.

“Mrs. Grey, you said that you’re the executive director of Grey Enterprises Holdings, Inc., is that correct?” Drake asks.

“Yes, it is.”

“What does that mean?” he asks.

“I’m 50% owner of the company and I participate in overseeing and directing the daily operations.”

“I see—the only thing is that executive directors are generally part of a non-profit organization. Is Grey Enterprises Holdings, Inc. a non-profit organization?”

“No,” I answer flatly.

“Then, why do you have a title for an incorrect business structure?” My brow furrows.

“My husband is the CEO of a corporation that doesn’t have a board. Do you want to pull him up here and ask him why he gave himself that title?”

“Oh, so you gave yourself that title?” I fold my arms.

“I’ll be glad to answer that question if you can tell me what it has to do with this case,” I say.

“Well, if you have nothing to hide, Mrs. Grey, it’s an easy enough answer,” he says with a shrug. I sit there looking at him with my arms folded. That doesn’t sound like a reason to me.

“Your honor, can you please direct the witness to answer the question?” he asks.

“In all honesty, counselor, I’d like to know what it has to do with the case myself,” the judge asks.

“It speaks to her character, your honor,” he replies.

“In what way?” the judge asks. Drake has no answer. “Okay, I’ll rephrase. She also said that she’s assistant director of a charity and a psychiatrist. How does being the owner of a company reflect on her character any more than anything else she says she does?”

Drake is still at a loss of words.

“That information is no more relevant than what she had for dinner last night. Please, move on, counselor.” Drake purses his lips and turns back to me.

“Mrs. Grey, for the benefit of clarification for the court, please tell us the nature of your previous relationship with Cody Whitmore.”

“We didn’t have a relationship.”

“No?” he asks. “Part of this case is that your unborn baby was killed during the attack. Do you know who the father was?” He knows exactly who the father was.

“The father was Cody Whitmore.” I reply. Small murmurs can be heard in the court.

“But you said you didn’t have a relationship with him. How could you have been pregnant with his baby if you didn’t have a relationship with him?” I raise my brow.

“Do you want me to answer that? Because I will,” I threaten.

“I asked, didn’t I?” he taunts. You got it, asshole. Wording is everything…

“As I said before, Cody Whitmore offered to give me a ride home from school one day. That harrowing encounter that I spoke of… he then forced me to have sex with him in the back of his jeep in the middle of the desert,” I say succinctly. There are more murmurs in the courtroom.

“Objection, your honor. She’s accusing Mr. Whitmore of a crime for which he has not been convicted.”

“You asked,” the judge says.

“Your honor, she can’t bring conjecture from another case into this one…”

“There’s no case,” the judge retorts. “You repeatedly asked her about her relationship, and she answered your question. Would you rather she perjured herself?” The attorney raises a brow. “Don’t answer that question. Your objection is overruled. Continue.” Drake turns his glare back to me.

“Mrs. Grey, when Mr. Whitmore forced you to have sex with him, did you tell him to stop?”

“Repeatedly,” I reply.

“A simple yes or no will do,” he says in a condescending tone. “Did you tell anyone?”

“I did,” I say, deliberately ignoring his simple yes or no instructions. He shrugs.

“There was never a case. Mr. Whitmore was never arrested. What happened?” I purse my lips. I don’t want to go through this. We’re not arguing the rape case.

“Isn’t it true that you lied when you accused Cody Whitmore of raping you?” he asks. There it is… he said it…

“No,” I say, forgetting about ignoring yes or no.

“Isn’t it true that your father confronted Cody and Franklin Whitmore in their home about this alleged rape and discovered that you were lying?” he presses.

“I…”

“If your own father didn’t believe you, why should we?” he barks. I lean forward in the seat.

“Are you going to let me answer a question or are you going to narrate a story that you weren’t even present for?” I retort. Drake is taken aback, but recovers quickly.

“By all means, Mrs. Grey, we’d love to hear your story. We’re all ears,” he says sarcastically.

“No, you’re all mouth, but I’ll speak whenever you’re ready,” I say.

“Mrs. Grey?” the judge warns.

“Apologies,” I say to the judge before turning back to Drake. “May I speak now?” He smirks at me and gestures for me to speak.

“No, my father did not confront Cody and Franklin Whitmore. My father didn’t find out what happened to me until years later. My mother didn’t even tell him. The man who was married to my mother at the time, now he confronted Cody and Frank Whitmore. And no, they didn’t discover that I was lying, because I wasn’t lying. They decided that I was lying. And remember, counselor, I never used the word ‘rape.’ I used the word ‘forced.’ You put the label on it. Then again, a rose by any other name, right?

“And to answer your final question, I don’t care if you believe me or not. Nobody else did, why should you? The baby’s not here anymore—there’s no DNA. So, there’s no way to tell if the baby was even Cody Whitmore’s. There are two important things, though. There’s a video and there are pictures—lots and lots of pictures. So, don’t believe me.” I turn to the jury. “None of you have to believe me… but believe the video.”

“That’s very convincing, Mrs. Grey, but the fact remains that when your relationship with Cody Whitmore…”

“I was raped,” I interrupt him.

“Objection, your hono…”

“I. Was. Raped!” I bellow. All my cool is gone, and if this fucker says that I had a relationship with that asshole one more time…

“You said it,” I continue furious. “You know that’s what it is. No little box that you try to put it in is going to change that. Your truth is not my truth! I was there! I was present when my virginity was unceremoniously and painfully ripped from me without my consent. The fact that you don’t have a nice little piece of paper or a case or a complaint or a conviction from a 15-year-old girl whose stepfather and mother silenced her for a fee won’t erase or undo the fact that I. Was raped!

“You can hold me in contempt of court. You can throw me in jail. You can fine me. You can do whatever you see fit, but what you’re not going to do is call what that man did to me a relationship. I was raped—and they can try him for it and convict him of it, or they can forget this conversation ever happened, but it doesn’t change the facts! Sex without consent is rape, and I was raped… Your Honor!” I turn to the judge on the last two words before turning my gaze back to Drake.

“Your honor?” Drake says, as if Butterfly had said nothing.

“Counselor, you purposely opened this can of worms. Now you need to deal with it. The witness answered your question about the ‘relationship…’” He physically does the finger quotes around the word relationship, “… that she had with the person in question. If there’s something unclear about the answer, you may ask for clarification—which you did, and you received it. She has made an accusation and the court may choose to act on those accusations, but you can’t make her change her answer. Objection overruled.” Drake rolls his eyes.

“Did your alleged rape have anything to do with this case?” Drake probes.

“Do you want me to answer that?” I say, folding my arms and crossing my legs. “I’ll gladly answer that question if you really want me to if for no other reason but to hear you bark another objection.” Drake looks at the judge.

“Your move, counselor,” he says.

“Yes, Mrs. Grey, answer the question,” he replies flatly. I cock my head at the counselor.

“If you ask the 15-year-old ostracized teenager who was hit over the head, thrown into the trunk of a car, spit on, ridiculed, beaten, fearing that they were going to throw her—bound—into that bonfire and burn her alive, she wouldn’t have an answer for you. She was screaming for her life, begging for her mother, and asking what she did wrong. She had no clue what was going on.

“However, if you ask the educated M.D. and psychiatrist sitting in front of you now, well-trained to identify the psychopathic mind, able to look back on the incident with 20/20 hindsight and knowing who perpetrated the act—well, she would give you a whole-hearted ‘yes,’ that her rape had everything to do with that attack!”

“Ob…” I cackle loudly at the beginning of his objection.

“You. Asked!” I abruptly and loudly interrupt his objection. “You should be objecting to your line of questioning if you don’t like my responses, counselor, and not my responses!” Drake looks at the judge.

“She’s got a point,” the judge says. “Mr. Drake, a bit of advice. You can direct your questions any way you see fit as long as it’s not in contempt of this court. You cannot, however, direct the answers of the witness because they answer ‘yes’ when you want them to answer ‘no.’ Your continued objections because you’re not getting the answers that you wish for will drag this case out for weeks and justice will not be served. That is why we’re all here, right?”

He narrows his eyes at the judge like he’s going to leap over the bench at him I’m shocked that he has that much hutzpah… or stupidity, whichever fits.

Drake turns his attention back to me and proceeds to ask me the same questions over and over again. He just rewords them, but they’re pretty much the same. I repeatedly tell him that I didn’t see anybody that night. I saw several figures in black outlined by a bonfire. I heard Carly Madison when she got in my face right before she slapped the stars out of me. I couldn’t identify anything through my tears or through lights being shined in my face and afterwards, through my eyes being swollen shut. After a while, I just begin to give him monotoned answers until he finally changes up a question on me.

“So, you have no idea who hit you, who burned you, who raped you…” Good grief, is this guy the defense attorney for Whitshit, too? He must be, because it’s imperative to him that I slip up on that rape accusation, which has nothing to do with Sullivan.

“Ah, ah, ah,” I interrupt him. “I know who raped me—that came first, but who hit me, who kicked me, who burned me? No, I had no idea from my recollections of that night except Carly Madison for certain. For all I know, it could have been you.”

He recoils a bit at my accusation, then he laughs.

“Mrs. Grey,” he says, his voice filled with mirth, “are you now insinuating that I was part of the attack that night?” He looks at the jury as if to say, “She’s lost her marbles.”

“I’m not insinuating anything, counselor,” I say, folding my arms again and sitting back in the seat. “It’s like I said, I have no specific recollection who attacked me that night because I couldn’t see. So, for all I know, it could have been you… but you’re not in the video.” There’s a pause and an eerie silence follows for a few moments.

“Well, you couldn’t see… maybe I was there,” he taunts.

“Were you?” I ask coolly, resting my elbows on the armrests and entwining my fingers together. “Because if you were, you’re occupying the wrong chair.”

My final words roll out with a low, vicious gravel and I stare at him intently, waiting for him to throw his next question at me. Instead…

“No further questions, your honor,” he says.

“Mr. Larson?” the judge says.

“Redirect, your honor,” Mr. Larson says, and the judge nods.

“Dr. Grey, it’s clear that you didn’t see anyone that night. However, your description of what happened was very thorough. Yet, when the police asked if you remembered anything, you said that you didn’t. How is that possible? Did the video jog your memory?”

“I… remembered… everything,” I say slowly. “I didn’t remember it immediately upon awaking, but I remembered. Every kick, every spit, every stream of piss—the ones that hit my back, my chest, and the ones that went into my eyes and mouth,” she spits with disgust.

“I told my mother that I didn’t remember. I told my father I didn’t remember. I knew who had done this. I could hear their voices. They were taunting me and tormenting me. They were celebrating! But what good would it have done to tell? No one believed me, I was nobody! I was nothing! No matter what happened to me, nobody believed me. I almost died, and nobody would believe me if I told them what happened. If I had died, no one would have mourned me but my best friend and my father. There probably wouldn’t have even been a funeral!

“Tell somebody… for what? For what? I tried once to tell the truth and look what it got me. I told what happened before and look what happened. Where did it get me? Damn near dead at a bonfire where a bunch of teenagers beats me beyond recognition while countless others watched! They already thought I was dead, you heard them. If I tried again, they might really kill me. I was nothing! I was no one! Nobody believed me, nobody ever believed me! Why would I say anything after that? What good would it do?”

I look over at Drake.

“Then he has the nerve to accuse me of practiced regurgitation? Is that something he made up, because I’m a doctor—an MD—and I’ve never heard of it. I’ve heard of self-induced regurgitation, which usually involves a finger. I’ve heard of involuntary regurgitation, which you usually have no control over, but practiced regurgitation? Yeah, my Ph.D. didn’t cover that one, so I may have to go Google it!”

I wonder if that phrase sounds as ridiculous to everyone else now as it does to me.

“And by the way, I don’t have to practice regurgitation with that video because I lived that horror, and anybody who can look at that without some kind of physical or emotional reaction has a heart made of steel and a stomach lined with it!”

Drake isn’t fazed at all by what I’m saying. He doesn’t even bother to look at me. He’s probably heard much worse. He just looks down and scribbles something in his legal pad. I scoff, cock my head, and gesture to Drake to prove my point.

“My mother wasn’t even there. If nobody else in the world believes you, isn’t your mom supposed to believe you? Even after she got all that money, she didn’t believe me. You would think that after that kind of confirmation that something wasn’t right that something would have clicked in her head and she would have realized that I was telling the truth, but no. If anything, it made her treat me even worse for making her look bad in proper society!

“So, I lied. I was a non-person, and nobody was going to believe me anyway. So, I told everyone I didn’t remember, including the police. They questioned me and questioned me… No, they interrogated me—George Sullivan, in fact.”

“Objection—an open case, your honor,” Drake says.

“Sustained,” the judge says. I sigh.

“You said the police interrogated you,” Mr. Larson says.

“Yes,” I say. “I don’t know what I’m allowed to say, but this officer kept at me from the time I woke up in the hospital to the time my father took me back to Montesano. I was gone for months—starting a new life, and when they came and brought me back to this hell, there he was.” I gesture violently with both hands.

“I couldn’t get into any of the schools in Henderson, because I was so damn untouchable. They came up with whatever reasons they wanted to, but they wouldn’t let me in, and I sure as hell wasn’t going back to Green Valley. I went to a completely different school in a completely different district under a completely different name, and he still found me. He asked me at least eight times over the next year and a half if I remembered anything, and I gave him the same answer every time.

“Then my boyfriend came down here and shit started hitting the fan… And that’s when I knew.”

“Knew what, Mrs. Grey?” Mr. Larson asks.

“What they won’t let me say,” I reply matter-of-factly. “What he’s going to object to if I mention his client’s brother’s name and what he’s currently being charged with. So, I may not be able to say that, but I can say this. George Sullivan found me no matter where I was. I didn’t leave a forwarding address or a phone number when I ran away from Vegas. I just ran… but he found me. My daddy didn’t even know where I was, but George Sullivan did.

“For the first few years, he called me repeatedly trying to find out if anything had come back. No, nothing, I would tell him. I was trying so hard to push the entire situation as far back into the recesses of my mind as I could get it. It wouldn’t do any good for me to speak up. Nobody cared, just this one diligent cop from Henderson… right?”

“What did you do, Mrs. Grey?” Mr. Larson asks.

“I lived in fear,” I reply. “My father taught me to shoot… well! I can hit a mosquito off a soda can at 20 feet, and I still lived in fear. I had a total meltdown when George Sullivan called me three years ago and told me that someone was looking around in my alias. I was afraid they were looking for me again. He was afraid someone was going to find out what really happened.”

“Objection,” Drake says. “She can’t speak to the state of mind of someone who’s not here to confirm or deny.”

“Sustained,” the judge says. I roll my eyes.

“It doesn’t matter,” I say.

“It does matter, Mrs. Grey,” Larson says. “That’s why we’re here.”

“No, it doesn’t,” I say raising my eyes to him. “They can’t hurt me anymore. But I will tell you this. If anybody believes me or not, I know they’re listening. George Sullivan nearly went into a rage when my boyfriend came down here and started sniffing around. He threatened me—threatened me to call him off—pretending that he was protecting me all this time.” I scoff. “Protecting me… that’s rich.” I shake my head. Mr. Larson sighs.

“That’s all I have for this witness, your honor.” Mr. Larson says.

“Redirect, Mr. Drake?” he says.

“No, your honor,” Drake replies. Thank God! I’m ready to get out of here.

“Very well. It’s later than I thought, but we’re going to take an hour recess for lunch and resume testimony this afternoon. Court is in recess until 2:30pm.” He bangs his gavel and the jury is led out of one side of the courtroom while Vincent Sullivan is led out of the other side. Christian says something to Jason as I make my way over to our group. He holds the half-gate open for me and gently grasps both biceps the moment I pass through the gate.

“Are you okay?” he asks, examining my eyes intently. “What do you need?”

I can’t lie to him. I’m not okay. This whole thing is driving me nuts and I’m a nervous wreck… and it’s nowhere near over. So, I ignore the first question and answer the second one.

“A double-shot of vodka,” I reply. He envelops me in his arms and embraces me warmly.

“When we get back, I promise,” he says. I sink into his chest and just stand there for a while. I wish I could just stay like this and not have to deal with this crap, but…

“Jason is retrieving our lunch. It’s already downstairs. Come on, let’s go eat.” I nod and reluctantly pull myself away from my husband’s chest. He cups my cheek again and gazes into my eyes, raising his brows. I nod once and we proceed to the door.

“Mr. Grey?”

It’s Mr. Larson. He catches us just as we’re stepping away from the seats. He allows the people closest to us to file out of the room before he speaks.

“I want you to know that I was only doing my job when I contacted you about Mrs. Whitmore. I don’t regret that, and I’d do it again.”

My husband glares at him, but says nothing. He’s holding my hand firmly and I can tell that he wants to say something, but he doesn’t. This is the wrong place and time for you to bring that shit up.

“But… for how I behaved when we first met,” he continues, “sir, I am sincerely sorry. I truly hope you’ll accept my apology.”

My husband is clearly taken aback by his statement. I can tell that the anger is knocked right out of him and he’s a bit confused.

“Maybe one day, I’ll explain my reaction to you. Just know that I’m sorry, sir,” he says before he turns back to the prosecutor’s table to gather his things. I look up at my husband and he gazes back at me questioning. I don’t know how to take this either, so I just shrug.

“Mr. Larson,” he says. He has just finished stacking his materials and he turns around.

“I accept your apology,” he says, proffering his hand to Mr. Larson, who nods once and accepts the shake.

“Thank you,” he says, his voice low.

“Now, fry this guy,” Christian adds.

“Beyond recognition,” he confirms. “I’ll nail his ass to the wall.” Christian nods and releases his hand, then opens the gate for Mr. Larson to exit.

“Have a good lunch, Mr. Grey, Dr. Grey.” He steps out and leaves the courtroom.

*-*

We lunch on Capriotti’s subs, chips, and sodas, and although they are quite tasty, I’m hoping this isn’t what our lunch is going to look like every day. I can’t tolerate much more than this anyway on my nervous—and recently emptied—stomach. However, I ask Jason if he can find somewhere close that may deliver kabobs or chicken wraps or something else light, just in case I have another bout with practiced regurgitation. He vows to get on it.

I notice that Marilyn only sips on a Gatorade and a meal replacement shake for lunch. I also notice Christian’s reaction to her lack of real sustenance, but he doesn’t press the matter, probably because he’s too concerned about me. It doesn’t get past me that she didn’t eat anything at dinner yesterday either.

I feel like I’m headed to the gallows when we go back to the courtroom. The only good news about this whole thing is that I don’t have to testify anymore. We’re seated, Vincent Sullivan is seated, and the jury comes back in…

And Mr. Larson calls his next witness to the stand.

“The state calls George Sullivan to the stand.”

George Sullivan 02

The murmurs begin immediately. George Sullivan is led in through the same door that his brother Vincent came through moments ago. For the first time since he’s been in the courtroom, Vincent raises his head and a disbelieving gaze to his brother. George takes a seat on the witness stand and is sworn in. He’s wearing a dark blue suit just like his brother, and they’re sporting matching bracelets courtesy of the Department of Corrections.

I know that he’s about the same age as Jason, maybe only a couple of years older, but he looks older than my dad. He’s got the whole gray sideburn thing going on with the rugged thinning gray beard look. He would be attractive for an older gentleman… if it wasn’t for that whole obstructing-justice-evidence-tampering thing.

Vincent is just as horrified as I am surprised to see George on the stand. He’s going to testify against his own brother? After everything he’s done to protect him?

“State your name for the record, sir,” Mr. Larson says.

“George Randolph Sullivan.”

“And your current address?”

“Currently the Clark County Detention Center.”

“Mr. Sullivan, can you tell the court what your occupation was on March 10, 2001?” Mr. Larson asks.

“I was a police officer in the city of Henderson,” he says.

“And what’s your relation to this case, Mr. Sullivan?”

“I was the first officer on the scene of the attack,” he replies. Mr. Larson raises a brow.

“The first officer?” he asks. George Sullivan clears his throat.

“The only officer,” he clarifies. Mr. Larson nods.

 “Were you responding to a call of a disturbance?” he says.

“No, sir.”

“Was there an emergency or crime in progress that you were immediately aware of?” Mr. Larson presses.

“No, sir.”

“So, what brought you to this particular gathering?”

“I saw the fire from the street,” he says. “It’s illegal to open burn anywhere in Clark county.”

“That’s not what he told me,” Christian whispers to me.

“Did you expect him to tell you the truth?” I whisper back.

“So, what happened when you saw the fire? Did you investigate?” Mr. Larson continues his questioning.

“Yes, I did,” George Sullivan says.

“And then what?”

“As soon as I drove up to the fire, everybody ran away.” Mr. Larson retrieves another document from the evidence table.

“Your honor, the state is entering into evidence exhibit 104,” Mr. Larson says and hands the document to George Sullivan. “Mr. Sullivan, can you please tell the court what you’re holding?”

“It appears to be the police report from March 10, 2001,” he replies.

“Can you please read the highlighted section to the court,” Mr. Larson says. George Sullivan sighs.

“’There were several school age children surrounding the victim. When I arrived, they dropped her and ran away. Upon closer investigation, I discovered that she was unconscious and unresponsive.’”

“What did you do after that, Mr. Sullivan?”

“I called for paramedics,” he says.

“And then?”

“And then they came,” George Sullivan answers, his voice dripping with sarcasm.

“Let me rephrase my question. Was the victim naked?”

“Yes.”

“Did you try to cover her?”

“No.”

“Did you attempt to administer CPR?”

“No.”

“Did you do anything at all to assist Anastasia Steele in any way when you saw her lying nearly lifeless on the ground?” Mr. Larson presses. George Sullivan sighs heavily.

“No.”

“Did you check for a pulse…?”

“You asked me if I did anything to help her. I said, ‘No,’” George Sullivan snaps. Mr. Larson pauses.

“So, I just want to make sure that I have this correct, Mr. Sullivan,” Mr. Larson retorts firmly. “You saw her naked; you saw the burns; you saw the bleeding; you saw the bruises. You were still an officer of the law at the time, and you did nothing. Correct?”

Ouch! Double ouch!

“Correct,” George Sullivan nearly growls.

“How long did it take for the paramedics to arrive?”

“It’s Henderson. Three minutes, maybe?” he says.

“Are you asking me or telling me, Mr. Sullivan?” Mr. Larson says.

“About three minutes,” he replies.

“And how did you know where to tell them to come? Did you see an address? Did you know where you were?”

“The GPS in my squad car,” George Sullivan replies.

“So, you went back to your squad car to call the paramedics,” Mr. Larson presses.

“Yes.”

“Did you call for backup?”

“No.”

“Did you collect any evidence?” There’s a pause.

“I refuse to answer to avoid self-incrimination.”

And here we go. He satisfied his subpoena by showing up. He can corroborate what evidence they may have, but any of the circumstantial or uncorroborated evidence that can possibly be used against his brother, he can plead the fifth.

The judge has to call order to the courtroom, because several separate conversations have ensued.

“You’ve already said the perpetrators ran from the scene. Did they leave their cars behind? Did you gather any license plates?”

Of course, he did. He confessed that to me when he was trying to get me to call Christian off, but of course…

“I refuse to answer to avoid self-incrimination.”

“You show up at a bonfire where a girl is being brutalized beyond recognition. It’s your duty to protect and serve, sir. If you couldn’t do it, then you should have stepped down and let somebody else do it who could. You could look at that young girl and do nothing? You can even look at this now and feel no conviction for your actions, or lack thereof?” George looks over at his brother and his gaze softens before he says,

“I refuse to answer to avoid self-incrimination.”

Even now, he’s throwing himself on his sword for his brother. It would be admirable had I not been the girl at the receiving end of the brand.

“Thank God you didn’t work in my jurisdiction,” Mr. Larson seethes.

“Objection, your honor,” Drake says.

“Sustained. Counselor?” the judge warns.

“I have no further questions for this witness, your honor,” Mr. Larson says, his voice dripping with disgust. “It’s not like he’s going to answer them anyway.”

“Your witness, Mr. Drake,” the judge says.

“Mr. Sullivan, did you positively identify any of the teenagers who fled the scene that night?”

“I did not.”

“Did you personally examine any evidence that placed any perpetrators at the scene that night?” George Sullivan ponders the question.

“I did not.”

“Did any witnesses come forward to you with any information about the attack?”

“No.”

“When she was conscious, did Anastasia Steele give you any information about her attackers?”

“No.”

“Did you ask Anastasia Steele any time after the attack if she knew who her attackers were?”

“Yes.”

“Did she tell you?”

“No.”

“No further questions for this witness.”

The bailiff leads George Sullivan out of the courtroom, and he stares at his brother the entire time with sad eyes. I don’t know what to feel right now—anger, betrayal, sympathy… what the fuck, who cares?

The next witnesses to be sworn in were the paramedics. This is the first time I’ve heard this part of the story.

“I expected to find a full-on crime scene,” one of the paramedics explains, “or the area taped off or something, cops walking around checking things out… I only saw one guy. He walked right from his car and took us over to where she was. I thought she was dead. I wondered why he called us instead of the medical examiner. When I saw that she was still alive, we got to work.”

“What did you do?” Mr. Larson asks.

“We put a halo on her first, and then we had to get her onto the backboard. We couldn’t roll her over because her skin was hanging off her back. She was in really bad shape. I’ve seen people cut from cars with the jaws of life with less injuries than she had. Everywhere… just everywhere. She was bruised up and swollen all over. She smelled heavily of urine. Her hair was matted and sticking to her face and head. We had to put the IV in her foot.

“Like I said, we couldn’t roll her over to transport her. We put clean, wet gauze on her back before we covered her with a sheet and transferred her to the stretcher. It was pretty cold, and she was already at a risk of hypothermia. We had no idea how long she had been lying there, so we did try to cool the burns. The officer said he had only been there moments before he called us, but she was freezing.

“We had her face-down on the backboard, but we couldn’t put her face in the pillow, or she would suffocate. Rolling her on her side was too risky because she could roll over on her back. So, we had to fashion a head rest for her, like a massage table, so that she wouldn’t suffocate or get hurt further in transport. I called in a hot response priority 2 emergency—non-responsive female, approximately 16 years old, evidence of multiple blunt force trauma—and we got her to the ER.”

“Can you tell the court what ‘hot response’ is?” Mr. Larson asks.

“Lights and sirens,” he responds.

“What happened when you got her to the hospital?”

“Well, you know how those teams are. They want to roll you out and get you into trauma as quickly as possible, but we had to stop them and explain to them how we had her rigged in the ambulance…”

Drake didn’t have many questions for the paramedics. He asked them the same ridiculous questions that he asked George Sullivan—was anybody else at the scene when they got there; did they see anything; blah, blah, blah. Now it’s time for the doctor to testify. His story pretty much picks up where the paramedics left off…

“We couldn’t just yank her out of the ambulance, but we didn’t have any other way to transport her but to roll her onto her side. We could prop her body forward a little on pillows and stabilize her neck on the halo the same way. Then we just held her in place until we got her to the examination room.

“The paramedics told us that they took no pictures of her at the scene—that there was only one cop there and they thought he was waiting for backup, but he never touched the girl. For liability purposes and possible chain of command and evidence, we took pictures—before and after we cleaned her up.”

“You cleaned her up before you treated her?” Mr. Larson asks.

“We had to. We couldn’t see the scars or bruises except for those awful second-degree burns on her back. We couldn’t see who she was but cleaning her up didn’t help much. She didn’t have any fingerprints on file, no DNA. We had no way to identify her.” Mr. Larson goes to the evidence table and retrieves another document.

“Your honor, the state is entering into evidence exhibit 119,” Mr. Larson says and hands the document to the doctor. “Doctor, if you could, please tell us the extent of Ms. Steele’s injuries as indicated in this report.” The doctor clears his throat, pulls a pair of reading glasses from his pocket and put them on.

“The patient suffered from multiple contusions all over her body.” He reads a little more. “She had five broken ribs, a collapsed lung… two dislocated shoulders, a badly sprained ankle, several cuts and scrapes of unknown origins.” He flips the page.

“She suffered from two hematomas—acute subdural and epidural, the second of which caused the coma. Both hematomas were treated in the hospital. She had three second-degree burns on her back, and she was pregnant—approximately five weeks. The fetus ejected before she came out of the coma.”

Jesus, I had subdural and epidural hematomas? How did I never know this?

“How long was Ms. Steele in a coma?”

“Three weeks,” the doctor says.

“And what happened during those three weeks?”

“We were waiting for the police to come up with a missing person’s report, but nothing came up for days. One officer came almost every day, asking if she had regained consciousness. I thought it was pretty strange that he didn’t ask for any evidence.”

“Objection, your honor,” Drake says.

“Grounds?” the judge says.

“The doctor is testifying to the issue of whether the police collected evidence. He doesn’t know what they did or didn’t collect.”

“Your honor, the doctor is only stating that the police didn’t ask him for evidence,” Mr. Larson interjects. “The police would have had to consult with the attending physician or the parents before collecting evidence from an unconscious minor.”

“He’s right, Mr. Drake. Objection overruled. Continue, Mr. Larson.”

“Doctor, were you finished with your answer?”

“Well, only that we waited a week before we washed her hair in case they wanted evidence. After that, we had to wash it. It was putrid.”

“What happens next?” Larson asks.

“We wait,” the doctor says. “A couple of weeks later, this lady shows up and says she’s the girl’s mother. She gives us the name Anastasia Steele, shows us her birth certificate, and she’s Carla Morton. We asked why she hadn’t come forth sooner. She indicated that she thought the girl had run away. A few days after that, Anastasia wakes up. We had already released whatever findings we had to the police. That was pretty much the extent of our involvement except to make sure that she recovered—physically, that is.”

“Can you tell us what you mean by that?” Mr. Larson asks.

“You didn’t see this kid,” the doctor says. “I’m not a psychiatrist. I didn’t know what to say to her. Her mother had showed up and while I could suggest care, I couldn’t do anything without permission. This girl was messed up pretty bad. Had that been my daughter…” He trails off shaking his head.

“This kid was messed up pretty bad,” he repeats. “We could make sure that her body was healed. We couldn’t do anything else.”

The doctor finishes the story of my healing, indicating that I was discharged to Daddy and that was the last he had heard about it. Drake only asks if he’s certain about the length of my pregnancy, to which the doctor replies that in his professional opinion, I was five weeks pregnant.

I am exhausted, and I want to go to bed. Had he not called a recess until tomorrow, I would have walked out.

We gather outside of the courtroom and prepare for the building exit. Knowing the formation my family is going to take to keep me from being hounded by the press, I have to make an announcement before we get on the elevator.

“I want to thank every single one of you for making this trip. I couldn’t do this without each and every one of you.”

“You’re welcome, Annie.”
“Of course, Ana, we love you.”
“Sure thing, Bosslady.”
“Don’t mention it, Jewel.”

*-*

Home, sweet home… at least for the moment. I’m stepping out of my shoes as soon as we walk into the suite. I look back at my husband and he’s looking at his phone and frowning.

“Shit,” he hisses and sits down at the dining table, swiping his phone and putting it to his ear. “Lorenz… what happened?”

Lorenz? Did he say Lorenz?

“When did that happen?”

Jesus, they’re going to bother him while he’s here? Seriously? This is like one of the most stressful and most important moments of my life, and they can’t give him this time to be with me? I’m utterly surprised that these fuckers didn’t call him while I was in Labor and Delivery with my goddamn twins!

“Christian,” I say, intent on letting him know that I’m displeased with them contacting him unless the building is burning the fuck down. He’s listening intently on the line, his expression impassive, but he doesn’t acknowledge me calling his name.

What the fuck?

This is my time and, dammit, I want my time. I need to decompress from the shit that happened in court and I need his moral support more than ever. And now, I find that I have to share him with GEH during this time? These fuckers got my Christmas. They’re not getting this time.

“Christian!” I say more forcefully. He turns an intense glare to me that unnerves me a bit.

“This is my time, Christian,” I say firmly, my voice relaying a confidence that I had a minute ago but has faltered a bit with that glare.

“I just need a few minutes to get this straightened out,” he says, just as firmly.

“Why can’t they handle this on their own?” I say, trying not to whine. “We’re not on vacation…”

“I just need a few minutes,” he says again, his irritation rising. I can hear Ros through his phone, and she hasn’t stopped talking, so he must have muted the phone.

“God, I’m so tired of them not being able to make a decision without you!” I’m whining now. “This is my time and I need you!”

“Anastasia! I only need a few minutes!” he shouts, and I do mean he shouts.

He doesn’t wait for me to answer him. He turns his attention right back to the call, unmuting it so that he can interject with a question. If I respond to that, there’s going to be a fight. I know it, and I’m sure that he knows it, too.

I gaze at him in horror for about five seconds after he starts talking again. Then, I turn around and leave the room. I pick up my purse and shoes and march out of the suite, closing the door behind me.

I suddenly deflate once I leave the room. I suddenly feel… useless… no, meaningless. I probably shouldn’t, but I do. If there’s one time where I feel that I should take precedence over anything else, it’s now.

I can’t even lift my head. It’s like a boulder came out of nowhere and knocked all the wind and the fight right out of me. I watch the carpeted floor as I walk to the elevator. I mindlessly push the button and listen for the “ding” that’ll take me away from this floor. I don’t hear it, but the doors open, and I step inside, pressing the button labelled Sky Bar.

I put my shoes on while I’m in the elevator. I want to throw a temper tantrum. Part of me feels like I’m being unreasonable. The other part of me feels like my feelings never count. I’m supposed to understand, and the fact that I hurt or don’t like something doesn’t matter, whether it’s reasonable or not.

The elevator opens and I exit to a bar with floor to ceiling windows and an enviable view of the Las Vegas Strip, that is, if I didn’t totally resent being here. Fuck it, I need a drink.

I have to go to that courtroom every day and put on the strong façade, pretending that this stuff isn’t ripping me apart from the inside out. I have to listen to them portray me as a wanton slut at fifteen who was asking for it from Cody Whitshit and deserved to be tortured by a gang of ruthless, vicious teenagers. I have to relive the agonizing loneliness I felt and the bone-trembling fear that I was going to die that night; the feelings of wishing that I had died that night instead of having to stay here with the people who called themselves my parents.

All those horrible feelings are coming back to me. They’re rushing in on me—in the morning when I get up to get dressed to go to the courtroom; when I walk into the courtroom; when I have to sit and listen to this garbage—and today, I’m barely holding on by a thread.

As I sit here sipping my vodka rocks that Christian promised me when we took a break for lunch, determined not to get drunk since I must be in court again tomorrow for yet more abuse, I’m slowly—and finally—coming to grips with the fact that I and our family will always come second when it comes to GEH. Part of me feels that it shouldn’t be that way, that I and the twins should be first and foremost on his list of priorities. The other part of me feels as though things are just as they should be.

GEH was always his first real love. He built that company on nothing but a loan and an idea, and he’s become one of the most powerful men in the country—arguably, the world. Of course, he would want to nurture it and make sure that it remains well and profitable. Even I put everything in my life on hold to go down there and bang out some of the problems in the company.

As logical as that sounds, I still feel the churning in my stomach and the sinking and burning that comes along with ultimate rejection. I’m sensible; I know that’s not what’s going on, but I can’t ignore it… I’m undeniably jealous that she gets first billing.

I refuse to let the tears fall that burn my eyes right now, but the Bitch is inside bawling her eyes out and having a full-on temper tantrum.

“You look like you could use a friend.”

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A deep, smooth voice with a British accent breaches my thoughts, and I look over to see a very handsome black man sliding into the bar stool next to me.

What am I supposed to do? I could use a friend, but I really don’t want to engage some stranger. I can’t even think of a snappy comeback right now, but…

“Oh, the silent type, I see,” he says as he gestures to the bartender. “Can you make a bramble, mate?” he asks. The bartender nods and proceeds to mix gin with lemon and something else. I’m not really paying attention.

“It helps to talk,” he presses while the bartender mixes his cocktail. I sigh.

“I hope you don’t take this as me being rude, but I’m very married,” I say, looking at him only long enough to make my statement, then turning back to my drink.

“I gathered as much,” he says. “That rock you’re wearing can probably be seen from a space station.” The bartender brings his drink and sets it in front of him. “I’m not trying to bed ya, love. Like I said, sometimes, it helps to talk.” I push the short part of my hair behind my ear.

“That’s very kind of you, but I’m not in the practice of talking intimately to strangers.” He nods and takes a drink of his bramble.

“Well, talking to strangers is how you make friends,” he says. “Do you live here?” he asks, apparently still trying to break the ice.

“No,” I reply. “I’m here on business…” so to speak.

“What type of business?” he presses.

“That’s one of those intimate details that I’d rather not share,” I reply. Part of me wants to call Chuck for help. I shouldn’t have left the floor without him anyway. The other part of me is glad that he’s not here macho-ing up on this guy. I’m not really sure I could even tolerate it at the moment.

“I see,” he says, taking another healthy sip of his drink. “Well, I’m on vacation. I’ve always wanted to come to Vegas, to see what all the fuss was about. It’s pretty—lots of lights and things to grab your attention, but besides that, I’m afraid it’s not much.”

I could have told you that.

“My name’s Roland,” he says. What’s yours?”

“Anastasia,” I reply, not really sure I should have given him my name, but my innate good manners kicked in before my brain could tell my mouth to stop.

“It’s nice to meet you, Anastasia,” he says, lifting his drink in a salute. I just nod. I don’t have the strength to beat them off with a stick every time they approach me, especially not today. If I tell you that I’m married, that should be enough. Even though I know it’s not for some people, it’s enough for me.

I continue to sip my vodka rocks until it’s gone, then I ask the bartender for another. Roland is still chattering about something, but I’m only half paying attention—something about the shows on the strip and the cost of everything in Vegas, I’m not completely sure. I’ve already decided to leave the bar once I’ve finished my drink… I’m just not in any hurry to finish my drink.

At that moment, the bartender comes back to us with a second drink for Roland. Okay, I’m not drunk—he didn’t order a second drink.

“What is this?” Roland asks.

“Another bramble, sir,” the bartender replies.

“I… didn’t order this,” Roland protests. “I intended to, but I didn’t order it.”

“It’s compliments of the gentleman at the end of the bar.”

We both look to the end of the bar to see who ordered the drink for Roland.

“Very intense looking bloke,” Roland says. For some reason, his accent makes me think of Australia. We had our moments, but the trip was fun overall. I wish I was there now instead of here.

“I think he’s trying to get me to leave,” Roland says, his voice smooth. I raise my eyes to the “bloke” at the end of the bar and calmly turn back to my drink, taking a small sip.

“I think he is, too,” I say, pushing the short part of my hair behind my ear before turning to look at the handsome black man. “That’s my husband.”

Roland raises a brow at me, then looks at Christian. He raises his fresh drink to Christian again and nods before turning his attention back to me.

“It was nice talking to you, Anastasia,” he says, his voice still honey smooth. “I hope that whatever situation has you feeling and looking so defeated is rectified soon.” I purse my lips and fight back the tears that threaten to fall.

“Thank you,” I say, just above a whisper without raising my gaze from the glass. He stands up and walks away. I take a moment to compose myself, quickly wiping away the tear that falls just as Roland leaves the bar. I feel and hear him take the seat next to me.

“What’s his name?” he asks, with no malice. I look over at him briefly and he’s looking at me with kind eyes.

“Roland,” I say, taking another swallow of my drink before staring back into the glass.

“He’s attractive,” he observes. I don’t answer. “What does he do?”

“I don’t know,” I reply, without looking up from my glass. “I’m sure you’ll find out though.”

“Okay,” he says. “I guess I deserved that. You can’t be angry with me for wanting to protect what’s mine,” he adds. I look over at him.

“No, I guess I can’t, can I?” I say before turning my gaze back to my drink.

“You two talked for a little while. He doesn’t know who you are?” he asks.

“He did the talking,” I say, still staring down into my drink. “If he knows who I am, he didn’t let on.” He sighs.

“I protect what’s mine, Butterfly. GEH is mine, too,” he defends softly.

“I am very aware of that,” I reply, still coming to grips with the fact that no matter what happens, GEH will always be first. I’ve been jockeying with GEH for position for quite some time now. It’s high time for me to realize that’s a battle I’m not going to win. I’m not angry about it, just a little disappointed. Had I accepted it sooner, I might not have felt so forlorn at Christmas. It’s my own fault. How could I expect him to change just because he married me?

“You know you’re important to me, don’t you?” he asks. I nod. I know.

“You know that you and the twins are the most important things in my life, don’t you?”

What do I say? Do I lie to him? Of course, I know we’re the most important things to you, more important than your precious company that you’ve poured years of hard work, sleepless nights, and blood, sweat, and tears into to get it to where it is today…

“You don’t know?” he says after I’ve taken too long to answer. I shake my head as if to shake off a bad daydream. He turns his stool to me and leans his arm on the bar.

“I would give it all up for you. Don’t you know that?” he asks with earnest.

“I would never ask you to do that,” I emphasize, evading the question.

“But you know that I would,” he reiterates, waiting for me to acknowledge his confession. Maybe it’s the stress of the case, or maybe it’s the alcohol, but I can’t hold the tears back anymore.

“Sometimes, I don’t,” I say, my voice soft with tears falling down my cheeks. “The business that you’ve built provides us with an incredible life. It provides me and the twins with everything we could possibly hope for, possibly ever need… but I still feel like I come second to GEH. Isn’t that the most selfish thing you’ve ever heard?”

I bury my face in my hands and cry silently. I don’t want to draw attention to myself. If he doesn’t do what he does, how can we live the life that we live?

“How can this be?” he says earnestly, but quietly as he puts his arm around the back of my seat. “How can you possibly not know that everything I do, I do for you and the twins?”

“That’s not true,” I say, turning my tear-streaked gaze to him. “The twins and I benefit greatly from what you do, but you would do it whether the twins and I were here or not. I’m not asking you not to do it; I’m not asking you to change at this point. I know it would be impossible. I’m just trying to find a way to deal with this discovery…”

“What discovery?” he interrupts.

“That GEH always comes first!” I say firmly. “You say that we come first, and you may even think that, but it’s not true. I’ve always known that; it just didn’t affect me like it does right now. The only reason that I’m feeling extra sensitive at this moment is because I need you. I selfishly want all of your attention while I’m trudging waist-deep through bullshit, and I’m not going to get it. If anything of any importance happens at GEH, she’s going to get it first and I just have to stand in line!”

My voice is getting louder and I don’t want to make a scene. I stand from my seat and scurry out of the bar. I see Chuck standing to the right of the entrance as I brush past.

Of course, he is. I wonder how long he’s been standing there. Probably as long as I’ve been in the bar.

I’m not running away from the conversation. I just don’t want to have it in the bar.

I uselessly try to wipe the falling tears from my face in the most unladylike fashion and begin to search my purse for a tissue or something when I see a handkerchief in my peripheral. I take the hanky from my husband and attempt to dry my face. It’s completely illogical for me to feel this way. I know where I stand, and most days, I can deal with it, but today, I’m insanely jealous.

“I can’t believe that you don’t know you’re the most important thing in my life,” he says, his voice low. I don’t raise my gaze to him, and I don’t respond. Like I said, I know where I stand.

When the elevator arrives, I see an extra set of feet enter with us and I know that it’s Chuck. He wasn’t with me when I came down the elevator, so they most likely tracked my phone. We ride in silence until we get to our floor, and Chuck wordlessly leaves the elevator headed to the security suite. Christian moves in front of me, unlocks the door with the card key, and holds it open for me. I walk in and drop my purse on the nearest surface before taking a deep, cleansing breath and shakily releasing it.

“I call Downtime,” he says, his voice even. I turn to face him, glaring at him in disbelief.

“You’re calling Downtime now?” I ask.

“Yes,” he says. “We need the rules of Downtime, right now.”

I almost want to decline, but I know that would be a huge setback in so many ways. He removes his jacket and tie and tosses it onto the sofa. Then he comes over to me and unbuttons my shirt and pushes it off my shoulders. He reaches around me and unzips my skirt and lets it fall to the floor. He takes my hand and helps me to step out of the skirt, still crumpled on the floor, and leads me to one of the large chairs. He sits down first, then gestures for me to sit on his lap.

I roll my eyes inwardly, but I’m too tired to resist at this point. Still dressed in my underwear, shoes, and stockings, I take a seat on his lap. He removes my shoes and then adjusts me so that I’m somewhat cradled in his arms. It takes no time at all, and I’m in a submissive state of mind. My body relaxes and my mind rests and releases the tension of being second in line and of being in this place.

He strokes my arm with one hand and the outside of my thigh with the other, and we just sit here for several minutes in total silence. The sun has already set, and I have no idea what time it is. I’m just sitting here in the lap of my Dominus enjoying the moment, however long it lasts.

“Tell me why you feel that you’re not the most important thing in my life, Pussycat,” he says softly, and the words flow easily.

“Because I’m not, Sir,” I reply effortlessly. “Your company is more important. It always has been, and it always will be. Even when you left me and went to Madrid, you took your company with you. When I left and went to Montana, you came home and threw yourself into your company.

“No matter where we go, no matter what vacation we take, there has to be somewhere that you can set up and work. You may spend one day and maybe a night on your boat, but there’s an office on your boat. She tags along with us wherever we go. It’s so second nature to you that you may not even see it, but I do. I see it loud and clear; I know it’s true, and you just have to let me accept it.”

I hate that I have to be more self-sufficient, especially right now. I want to be the center of attention; I want everyone around me to have the sole purpose of making me forget why the fuck I’m here, but the truth is that the world doesn’t rise and set on me even when I feel like shit and I want it to be that way. And in this case, GEH will always be in the shadows, or maybe I’m in the shadows of GEH. Either way, she’s a bedfellow; it’s a reality and I just have to deal with it.

“I hate that you call it she,” he admits.

“Don’t you?” I ask, and I don’t need an answer. I already know.

“It’s like I’m cheating on you and that’s not what’s going on.”

No, it’s not. She’s the wife. I’m the mistress. She was here first and she got your name before I did. It’s a fact of life, and I’m not trying to change it anymore.

“Tell me what you’re thinking,” he beseeches gently.

“You’re not cheating on me,” I reply truthfully, “but I know my place. It’s just that at this moment, I don’t like it.”

“This is going to become a real point of contention for us,” he laments. “Yes, my company needs me, but I need you…”

“And I need you,” I reply, “I just have to learn how to share.”

He sighs. He doesn’t understand that I’ve accepted my fate even if I don’t entirely like it. I can live with it… sometimes. Other times, I just have to tolerate it. As much as he loves his company and he devotes time to it, he can’t admit the fact that it has first pecking order over me. I don’t want to say me and the twins, because I would hate to think anything has pecking order over his children. So, I choose to be willfully blind to that little detail.

“I’m going to prove to you that’s not true,” he says. “I’m not going to be that guy where you think my company is my life and you’re not.”

I know that he’ll try not to be that guy, but when his baby bellows, he’s going to come running, as well he should.

“You don’t have to prove anything to me,” I say, growing weary of the conversation. “May I get a glass of wine, please, Sir?” I ask.

“No,” he replies. “You had two vodka rocks already. You’ll have a hangover.”

He’s right, but I’ll need something if we’re going to continue this conversation and since he’s said that I can’t have a drink, I’m not going to continue this conversation.

I fall silent and allow him to talk about how he’s going to reprioritize his life. I hope that doesn’t mean that he’ll neglect GEH in an attempt to prove a point to me. It’s like I said, I’ve accepted my fate and I know my place, and more often than not, I can deal with it. It’s during those times that I need him that I have a hard time swallowing that pill.

“There was an unexpected situation that would seriously take too long to explain…”

There’s always and unexpected situation that would seriously take too long to explain. It’s the nature of the beast.

“It was time-sensitive, but I had to take the time to listen to what was going on. It was so urgent that neither of them bothered to email me. They couldn’t call, because they knew that I was most likely in court. So, they texted me… both of them! The decision had to be made quickly.

“There were two options—both options were extremely costly, but each option had its own set of circumstances and consequences. Ros and Lorenz were divided on which option was the best, and honestly, for good reason. No matter which option we took, there were huge opportunity costs involved, some of them involving tangling with foreign governments. I’m not trying to keep you out of the loop, but again, this is way too detailed to have to explain again…”

He didn’t have to explain that part. If there was a situation that had three members of the executive team with their level of experience at odds on how to solve it, that information was way over my head anyway.

“I had to be the deciding factor. There was no other way, and even I had a hard time deciding which course of action would be best. Even the time that I took to get back to them was critical.”

“Did you make a decision?” I ask.

“Yes, and even now, I’m not sure that I made the right one,” he admits, “but we had to do something. We couldn’t wait any longer. Under any other circumstances…” He trails off. “It was a difficult decision for me,” he admits. “I know it was impossible for them.”

I sit on his lap for a few more moments, reviewing yet another reason in my mind to put on my big girl pants.

“I’d like to take a bath now, Sir,” I request. I need to soak or something.

“You don’t want to sit with me anymore?” he asks. I don’t want to continue this conversation. I get it. I really do.

“I want to boil off this day,” I say, imagining that huge bath full of lemon grass or vanilla, maybe a candle or two…

“Okay,” he says, patting me on the thigh. I stand from his lap and head to the en suite and the huge sunken tub.


A/N: Pictures of places, cars, fashion, etc., can be found at https://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/grey-continued-misadventuresseason-v/

Pictures from the trip to Las Vegas can be found at https://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/grey-continued-las-vegas/

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 on the menu or 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, or 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

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~~love and handcuffs

Grey Continued: Season 5 Episode 8

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 8

CHRISTIAN

The trip to the District Court is… interesting. The I-15 freeway is nerve-wracking to say the least. Traveling down that stretch of road, you just want to close your eyes and pray that you don’t get killed. A six-mile journey takes all of 30 – 45 minutes in rush hour traffic, and we have to hit it coming and going for the next several days at least. I’m silently praying for safe passage. My wife, on the other hand, is sitting next to me silent and stoic.

The courthouse is clean and professional enough, but the distance in between once you exit the freeway reminds me of Detroit. Where Detroit has liquor stores every few blocks, here there are bail bondsmen everywhere you look. Downtown is full of apartments in desperate need of repair and no-tell-motels all over the place—or at least that’s what they look like to me.

At a certain point, you reach the business district that looks like it totally shouldn’t be here—clean lines, high rises, well-maintained streets… which they very well should be with all the construction we kept hitting on the way out here.

The parking is atrocious down here and we can’t afford to get out of town tickets in three rental SUVS, or worse, towed. As such, we have a plan for pickup and drop off at the courthouse. All non-security staff will form a perimeter around me and Butterfly with Ray and Allen in front, James and Mandy on either side, and Vee and Marilyn bringing up the rear. The five members of my security team that won’t be parking the cars will form a five-point star around the eight of us with Jason at the lead, two guards at the rear, and a guard on either side. Butterfly will be duly buried in the middle of several people…

… Which is a good thing.

We can barely get the cars to the curb for fear of running over the Paparazzi’s toes as we pull up.

“Fucking vultures,” I mumble. This is insane and I have no idea how we’re even going to get out of the car.

“Where were all these people when this shit happened to me?” Butterfly blurts out, breaking her silence. “Why weren’t they this fucking hungry for a headline then?”

Oh, shit. She’s already losing it.

Several members of the press have cameras pressed against the glass of the SUV’s, and we can’t even exit the vehicle.

“Baby,” I say, taking her hand and trying to put out the fire before it starts, “remember what we said about the press egging you on.”

“Oh, don’t patronize me, Christian!” she barks snatching her hand from mine. “I’m not out of the car yet! And it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen anytime soon either! These people have no fucking respect whatsoever. We’re trying to get to court, not walking the fucking red carpet!”

Dear God, somebody save me. I’m in a little metal box with a woman who’s getting more and more irritated by the second and my attempts at reason are only making it worse. What’s more, we can’t get out of the little metal box.

Unbeknownst to me, the city of Las Vegas has foreseen this little problem and has prepared accordingly. I can hear someone on a megaphone saying something, but I can’t quite make it out over the throng of people. As the cameras move away from the tinted glass, I crack the window slightly to hear what’s happening.

“Step away from the vehicle. Move away, or you will be arrested for obstruction of justice. This is your final warning.”

That’s right. Butterfly is a key witness in a criminal case. If they don’t allow her to get out of the car, they’re obstructing justice. I look back at my wife who looks through the crack in the window with stunned awe as the press is pushed away from the car. A few moments later, Chuck and Jason exit the car and another security detail takes the driver’s seat.

The door opens and we see Chuck, Al, James and Jason standing there.

“Are you ready?” Jason asks. I look at Butterfly, whose previous anger has completely deflated. She nods, and Ray exits the car first, then Mandy. It’s everyone else’s responsibility to fall in line once Butterfly exits the car, because she’s running to the door the minute she’s out of the car.

I never understood the concept of the courthouse having fifty stairs that you have to climb to get to the door. What’s the purpose of that?

When I step out of the car, I scan this situation before I let Butterfly out. Every fucking local newspaper in the state must be here. We’ve never had this much pomp and circumstance in Washington, and we’ve been to two trials where each of us was a key witness.

The press is neatly pushed away from either side of the car with Las Vegas Metro Police officers in tan uniforms with batons drawn holding them back from blocking our path to the door.

Now that’s what I call protecting and serving!

The cameras are still flashing, but I expect that much. We can’t stop them from taking pictures, but they have to let us through. I lean down into the car and take my wife’s hand.

“Ready?” I ask. She sighs heavily and nods.

She swings her legs out of the car and her Louboutin stilettos are probably the only picture of her that the press gets this morning. She stealthily stands to her feet and everyone quickly falls into formation as those sky highs take the stairs like Rocky. She doesn’t fall; she doesn’t stumble; she doesn’t trip; and she’s shorter than everyone on the peripheral. So, I’m certain that no one got a picture of her.

When we enter the doors of the courthouse, she doesn’t even look like she broke a sweat.

The police keep the press at bay until we all pass the metal detectors and enter the main hallway. Mac has informed me that only one station—KTNV Las Vegas—will have access to the trial. Because the case is so sensational, several media outlets filed for courtroom media access, but only one was granted. Thank God for small favors.

I’m busy checking on my wife to see how she’s holding up when I’m greeted with the last fucking thing I expected to see at this moment. I prepared myself for everything… every possible eventuality. I didn’t prepare myself for this.

Cholometes! Brian fucking Cholometes!

He’s sitting in the waiting area near the elevators looking straight at us. I glance down at Butterfly and she hasn’t spotted him yet. She’s too busy girding herself for the experience ahead. When he sees us, he rises from his seat and begins his approach. I put myself in my wife’s line of sight and I look down at her.

“Prepare yourself, baby,” I say. “We’ve got company.” Her expression hardens.

“Whitshit?” she spits. I shake my head.

“Cholometes,” I reply. An instant look of horror mars her face.

“What?”

The response comes from Ray. Apparently, my voice wasn’t as low as I thought it was. I look over at him and he’s scanning the room.

“What are you doing here, Brian?” he says before Cholometes even reaches us. He slows his approach at Ray’s tone.

“You’re my friend,” Cholometes replies. “I came to support you… and the family.”

By the family, you mean my wife. She has all the support she can get, Colostomy, she doesn’t need you!

“You didn’t have to come,” Ray says firmly. Cholometes ignores the implication.

“It’s the least I could do,” Cholometes replies, “especially after the events of our last encounter.” His words hang in the air. I take Butterfly’s hand. You mean when you outed our lifestyle in front of all her family and friends? Is that the encounter of which you speak?

“My little girl’s got a rough time ahead of her, Brian. If you’re bringing any drama with you, you can take it right back where you came from,” Ray scolds.

“I’m only here for support,” he responds before looking down at Butterfly. “You have my word.” Butterfly scoffs and rolls her eyes.

“Let’s go,” she says to me. I quickly lead her away from the scene without a word to Cholometes. My main concern right now is protecting her as much as I can.

“He doesn’t get within five feet of my wife,” I say to Jason and Chuck as we walk away.

“If he does, I’ll kick him in the fucking balls,” Butterfly growls under her breath as we walk deliberately towards the elevators. The bell rings that the elevator arrives and when the doors open, our group all stream in in formation—except one.

Sorry, Colostomy, no room.

There’s actually plenty of room, but the glare of at least seven angry men may have persuaded him to catch the next car.

The floor is surprisingly quiet when we exit the elevator. There are a few people in corners chatting quietly about… whatever. Butterfly never raises her head. She quietly watches her feet as we walk directly to courtroom 8A.

And now we discover why no one is in the hallway.

There are several people in the courtroom, spread out on different benches. The two benches behind the prosecutor are conspicuously empty. We all file in, and Butterfly still hasn’t raised her head or removed her sunglasses. Upon hearing us enter, Larson and his colleague turn around. Butterfly takes her seat, but I remain standing.

“Mr. Grey,” he says as he approaches the balustrade between us.

“Mr. Larson,” I greet just as stoically. He turns to Butterfly.

“Mrs. Grey, are you ready?” he asks. She removes her glasses finally.

“As ready as I’ll ever be,” she replies.

“Please, be prepared,” he says. “Sullivan is claiming diminished capacity—not that he was insane, but that he was coerced and intimidated… basically that he was too young to understand or unaware of the full impact of his actions.” She twists her lips.

“Why does that not surprise me?” she says a little too calmly.

“They’re going to show the video, and the pictures of your back. Things are going to get very graphic and pretty brutal…”

“Nothing they say or do is going to be as brutal as what they already put me through, so it doesn’t matter, does it?” she replies matter-of-factly. Larson sighs, no doubt noting the same hostility that I experienced in the car.

“They’re going to make you out to be the villain,” he warns.

“What else is new?” she replies.

“I just want you to be prepared for anything. Expect anything. Remember, we can’t mention the rape unless they do,” he cautions. She sighs.

“Mr. Larson, nothing could prepare me for this, but I’ll do my best.”

“That’s all I ask,” he says, finitely. He glances at me again, then returns to his seat.

We sit in the courtroom waiting for an eternity for the proceedings to start, but it’s clearly only about twenty minutes. We hear more people come into the courtroom, but we don’t turn around to see who they are. There’s a guy sitting at the defense table looking at a notebook in a ledger. Clearly, he’s the defense attorney. After a few minutes, a door opens on the side of the courtroom and in walks some guy in a suit and handcuffs. This is obviously Vincent Sullivan, but I didn’t commit his face to memory. I can’t even remember what his brother looks like at the moment.

Butterfly glares at him, but he doesn’t look our way once. Sullivan is escorted to the defense table where the bailiff removes his cuffs. In both of the other cases we attended, both defendants scanned the room, made eye-contact with us and either sneered or jeered at us, but not Sullivan. He’s been coached. He doesn’t look left or right. He looks down or at his attorney—nowhere else.

“All rise. The criminal session of the Las Vegas Justice Court, Clark county is now in session, the honorable Wilson Bates presiding.”

The court stands to their feet as Judge Bates takes the bench.

“You may be seated.”

Judge Bates looks at the file in front of him and sighs.

“I’m not looking forward to this,” he mumbles, almost to himself. I think he forgot he was mic’ ed. What did he mean by that?

“Docket number 807154C-0404, the State of Nevada vs. Vincent Sullivan. Mr. Sullivan you stand charged with assault accompanied with acts of extreme cruelty and substantial bodily harm, battery with a deadly weapon with substantial bodily harm, battery without a weapon with substantial bodily harm, conspiracy to kidnap in the first degree, kidnapping in the first degree, manslaughter for fetal homicide, and attempted murder. You have entered a plea of ‘Not guilty due to diminished mental capacity.’ Do you wish to change your plea at this time?”

“No, your honor,” Sullivan says after a brief conference with his attorney.

“Is the state ready to proceed?” he asks.

“We are, your honor,” Larson replies.

“Is the defense ready to proceed?”

“Yes, your honor, we are,” the defense attorney replies.

“Very well. Bring in the jury.”

The bailiff leads 18 people into the courtroom and the judge has them sworn in. He begins the somewhat tedious task of jury instruction, and it’s at this moment that we discover that the jury will be sequestered, as well they should be. I expected as much. This case is way too publicized already to have them exposed to outside forces while they’re listening to it. I feel badly for them because this is going to go on for a while.

Once he has completed his instructions to the jury, he announces that Mr. Larson will be presenting opening statements on behalf of the State.

“Thank you, your honor, if it pleases the court,” Larson says.

“Yes, sir,” the judge replies.

“Counsel,” he says to the defense attorney, who nods. Then he turns to face the jury.

“Anastasia Steele was a loner,” he began. “She was a good student, but a stranger in a strange land. She was implanted into the affluent neighborhood of Green Valley at 14, but she wasn’t wealthy or even well-off like the other residents of the community. She had come from humble beginnings—not impoverished or even unpleasant, but humble. She was raised for most of her life in the home of her mother and father in Montesano, Washington. However, as fate would have it, her parents split up, and Anastasia would come to Henderson with her mother to reside in the home of her mother’s future husband.

“The following years would not be kind to Anastasia, and one year in particular, she found herself knocked unconscious, kidnapped, bound, and subjected to one of the most brutal and violent hazing rituals in history—the degradation and branding of another human being.”

Larson handles the opening arguments like a seasoned professional. He paints a vivid picture of a young misfit with good grades in an unhappy home. He makes reference to the rape without calling it that, labelling it as the “incident” that sparked the attack.

He gives a chilling recount of how Butterfly was kidnapped while walking home from school, thrown in the trunk of a car, dragged to the bonfire, and then tortured by a group of teenagers.

He outlines a gruesome picture of a vicious mob and a brutal hazing ritual that left a 15-year-old girl in a coma for three weeks while her attackers went home to their beds and slept peacefully with no concern about the young girl they left for dead.

“That night, an officer happened upon the scene of the hazing, causing the participants and observers to scramble, leaving Anastasia Steele naked, burned, beaten, unconscious, bleeding, and left for dead on the ground. Her unborn child was inside of her, his or her little heart beating its final beats, if it hadn’t stopped beating already.”

Butterfly doesn’t react to the description, but various members of the jury are visibly affected by it.

“Anastasia was rushed to the hospital, underwent several procedures—one of which was to remove the remnants of the dead fetus from her uterus—and she spent three weeks in a coma. Meanwhile, the defendant and their co-conspirators who had executed this horrendous event and even recorded the whole thing on video, all went home to their fashionable houses and their comfortable beds, laid their heads on their pillows and slept, night after night. Anastasia was living the nightmare, but her vicious and brutal attack was reduced to nothing more than locker-room talk and urban legend.

“She was rescued from the hell that Henderson was to her, Green Valley, and taken back to Montesano by her father. She was enrolled in school and ready to rebuild her life until the father of one of the defendants paid off her mother and stepfather to bring her back to Las Vegas, where they could keep an eye on her and make sure that she didn’t spill their secret.

“Their secret stayed buried until a few years ago, when a routine background check unearthed a second name for Mrs. Grey—Anastasia Lambert, and that name led to a second set of school records, prompting an in-depth background check which uncovered the police reports and the horrific pictures you will see today of Anastasia’s broken body.

“Anastasia’s husband-then-boyfriend came to investigate the matter, setting off a chain of events that has led us here today. Simultaneously, Mrs. Grey—then Dr. Anastasia Steele—had begun seeing a patient for dignity therapy who, as it turns out, had recorded the video that you’re going to see today. This young lady was dying of a terminal illness and had sought out Dr. Steele to confess her involvement in Anastasia’s attack before she died.

“The video you’ll be seeing is 37-minutes long. It’s quite graphic and very brutal. It plays out like a horror movie. You must sit through the entire thing. We ask that you please prepare yourselves for the gruesome scene that you’re about to see. If any of you have weak constitutions, we will pause the playback while you compose yourself. However, we will resume playback because the video is evidence and you must see it in its entirety.

“As you are watching the video, ask yourself how it makes you feel. How it feels knowing that this is not a movie—this is not a re-enactment–that this really happened to a 15-year-old girl. Ask yourself how it feels knowing that no one felt that anyone should be brought to justice for this—not even the police. Ask yourself how it feels knowing that this could have been your child. Not one of them felt any remorse for what they did, and they don’t feel any remorse now. In fact, they’re trying to get away with it. How does that make you feel that something like that could happen in this day and time in the United States and no one is called to justice for it for nearly 15 years?

“That’s thirty-seven minutes… thirty-seven live minutes of the most vicious attack on a young girl that you may ever see in your life. Remember that Anastasia Steele’s terror and pain lasted more than that thirty-seven minutes. Remember that no matter what you hear in this courtroom, no matter what pictures the defense may want to paint of Mrs. Grey, of her family, and of the alleged assailants, remember what you see with your own eyes. Remember what the video tells you—what you saw.

“You’ll hear testimony from others that may seem circumstantial, but I ask that you consider it in context with everything else that you’ll see and hear during this trial. Let’s give Anastasia the justice that she finally deserves. Thank you.”

Larson takes his seat. The judge then announces that the defense, Mr. Drake, will present opening statements.

“Thank you, your honor, if it pleases the court,” Drake says.

“Yes, sir,” the judge replies.

“Opposing counsel,” Drake says, and Larson nods.

“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I remind you of your instructions, that you must weigh this case on the facts. Although you may find yourself empathizing with the victim, although you must watch the cruelty of the action, you cannot decide this case on emotion. You must decide it on the facts. You must decide if Vincent Sullivan willingly and maliciously injured a young girl and caused the death of her unborn child. That’s going to be hard to do once you see the evidence.

“You’re going to be tempted to sympathize with the plight of a young girl who was victimized by a group of vicious teenagers, because that’s exactly what you’re going to see. No one is disputing that. What has brought us here today is Mr. Sullivan’s role in this act. And this is where it’s imperative that your personal prejudices and biases do not come into play.

“For one thing, we get a vivid picture of a poor young girl just trying to survive in the affluent neighborhoods of Henderson. They want you to believe that this poor little waif was an unsuspecting victim of an unnecessary violent act. While I won’t deny that this act was brutal and unfortunate…”

Unfortunate? What the ever-loving fuck? She was raped by a motherfucker who wouldn’t take no for an answer, and then beaten because she was raped! And he calls that shit unfortunate?

“… Don’t be cajoled into believing the ‘victimized nerd’ persona that’s being presented to you. This girl was a promiscuous opportunist looking to trap a young man simply because his family was well-to-do. This was no innocent that we’re dealing with. This was a young harlot who seduced the son of one of Green Valley’s most prominent citizens, lied on him about it and provoked him and his young girlfriend until a group of unidentified people saw through her scheme and put a stop to it. Did she deserve what happened to her? Did she bring it on herself? I can’t say, but I can tell you this. The prosecution has given you his version—his opinion—of what he thinks happened that night. As jurors, it’s your job to apply the law to this situation to determine Vincent Sullivan’s guilt or innocence.”

So, let me see if I’ve got this straight. You don’t want them to look at her as a poor little waif or a victimized nerd because that would be biased, but you want them to look at her as a promiscuous opportunist and that’s not? I’m confused.

“The boy that she targeted was a popular young man, a well-known athlete… and she was a misfit. She wanted to belong, to fit in by any means necessary, even if it meant trying to trap or blackmail one of the most popular boys in school, and she just played the wrong cards. I’m not saying that she deserved what happened to her, but I am saying that when you play a dangerous game, something dangerous is bound to happen.

“The video you’re going to see is dark. Forensics have verified its authenticity, but most of the assailants are hooded; and the key witness and videographer—God rest her soul—is conveniently deceased. Yet, the prosecution would have you believe that this powerful multibillionairess…” He’s pointing at Butterfly, “… just happened on this information—that an ailing woman with a terminal disease wandered into her office after 15 years with a key piece of evidence to put away several prominent members of our community; that we should now look at this suffering soul whose net worth is probably more than all of us combined and say, ‘Isn’t that so sad and tragic. Poor little rich girl.’”

His voice is so condescending that you can hardly believe that he’s talking about this brutally senseless act of violence that occurred to a 15-year-old girl. Yes, she’s a billionairess now, but this act didn’t happen to a billionairess. This happened to a nerdy teenager—an “A” student who wanted nothing but to graduate and get away from the hell that was an uncaring mother and an emotionally cruel stepfather and happened to be unlucky enough to get raped by the most popular boy in school.

Drake is trying to make Whitmore look like the victim. How can he be the victim when she’s the one who was raped and attacked? She’s the one who was beaten damn near to death. Her baby was beaten to death. How is he the victim?

“’People say believe half of what you see and none of what you hear.’ Those are the words to a song that my mother used to play all the time. What you see… You’re going to see a lengthy video of some kids doing some horrible thing to some other kid. And as that video is playing, some of you may become ill. Why? Because this was your first time seeing it and you were not prepared. This isn’t her first time seeing it…” He’s pointing at Butterfly. “But I can guarantee you she’ll vomit, and I’ll tell you why. It’s called practiced regurgitation. It’s what bulimic women do when they want to expel their food after a binge. They can barf on command. Believe half of what you see and none of what you hear.”

He can’t be serious! His opening statement is to discredit her possible vomiting? I look over at Butterfly and she’s looking at him in utter horror. Is this really where he’s going with this? He’s not talking about Sullivan at all or his defense, only that the jury will have to review the evidence and determine if his acts were willful or malicious. The rest—and remainder—of his opening statement involved downplaying the content of the video, making Whitmore out to be the victim, and painting my wife as a wanton harlot out to snag a rich kid.

One of his final statements is to paint our marriage as her ultimate triumph in doing just that and using her newfound wealth to punish the good citizens of Henderson. For the love of God!

We painfully sit through several more minutes of this bullshit before the state’s case finally begins.

“The state calls Anastasia Grey,” Larson announces clearly. Butterfly takes a deep breath and walks to the witness stand. She’s sworn in and asked to state her name.

“Dr. Anastasia Rose Steele-Grey,” she replies and is told to be seated.

“Dr. Grey, what’s your specialty?” Larson asks.

“I’m a psychiatrist. I’m also the assistant director of the Helping Hands charity in Seattle, and I’m the executive director of Grey Enterprises Holdings, Inc.”

Yes, sir, that’s my baby.

“I’m sure you’d like to get this over with as soon as possible, so let’s just get to it, okay?” Larson asks. Butterfly nods.

“I’ve called you first, Dr. Grey, because I want to set the scene for what the jurors are going to be seeing. I’ll be asking you several questions about the incident. I need you to be as detailed as possible and as succinct as possible. I know that’s going to be hard, but we must get to the facts. Do you understand?”

“I understand,” she nods.

“Tell us, when did you first arrive in Green Valley?”

“In 2000. I was 14.”

“Where were you before you moved to Green Valley?” Larson asks.

“We lived in Montesano, Washington.”

“How would you characterize your childhood, Dr. Grey?”

“It started out really good when we were in Washington. We had a great relationship, but once we moved to Vegas, everything changed.”

“Changed in what way?” Larson asks. Butterfly shrugs.

“It felt like my mother hated me,” she says. “I don’t know any other way to say it. She told my daddy that she was leaving because he couldn’t provide the type of life that I deserved, but when we left, she treated me like I was an imposition the entire time, like all of her problems were because of me. She was unhappy with my dad during the last year or so of their life together, so I thought that if she moved to a new life, maybe she would be happy, and things would change… but she wasn’t. At least she wasn’t happy with me.”

“So, what did you do?”

“I studied hard. That’s all I could do. My clothes were plain; I was poor. I obviously didn’t belong, and Green Valley made sure that I understood that. I resented it. I was happy in Montesano with my simple clothes and my simple life and my travel books. She said I needed to have more, and she brought me here—and gave me nothing but misery.”

“How was school?” he asks. She scoffs.

“School was school,” she says. “Study, do my work, get my grades, go home. I was teased for not having the things that everyone else had, but I tried to ignore it. Home life was much worse, so school and friends weren’t a big deal.”

“Were you abused at home?” Larson asks. She shakes her head.

“Not immediately,” she replies. “They never hit me, but the mental warfare was brutal. Even now, as a mental health professional looking back on it, I don’t know how I survived it.”

“What about your father?”

“We talked when we could, but she did everything in her power to keep us apart. She even had me saying cruel things to him when he called. She’s a miserable soul. To this day, I still don’t know what was going on.”

“Okay, so we’ve established that your home life was pretty miserable, and school life wasn’t much better. Did you have a plan of escape?”

“I was only 14 when we got here. Escape hadn’t even occurred to me. I was waiting for my mother to get what she wanted and stop treating me like crap. Eighteen was four years away. It was obvious that the only way I was going to college was through scholarships, so school it was. I liked school. I liked learning. It was the people that I didn’t care for.”

“So… at the beginning of 2001, you met one of the popular students in school, is that correct?”

“That’s correct.”

“Tell us what happened,” he says.

“Cody Whitmore offered me a ride home from school.”

“Did he take you home?” Larson asks. Butterfly shakes her head.

“After a… harrowing encounter, for lack of a better word, he left me stranded in the middle of the desert to find my own way home.”

“And after that encounter, what happened?”

“I went home and told my mother and stepfather what happened.”

“And?” Larson presses.

“My stepfather and I went to Cody Whitmore’s house to confront him and his father. My stepfather took one look at that house—all that money—and his whole tone changed. We went inside. Whitmore’s girlfriend was there and denied everything. His father wouldn’t hear anything after Whitmore denied everything, and my stepfather didn’t even raise his voice to fight for me. He apologized for disturbing them and we left. He berated me the entire way home.”

“Why do you think your stepfather didn’t fight for you?”

“Because he didn’t believe me,” Butterfly replies.

“And why do you think that was?”

“I can’t speak for Stephen Morton and he’s no longer with us to speak for himself—not that I believe he would—but I can tell you this. I already told you that my mother couldn’t stand me. He liked me even less. He took one look at that house, all that money, Whitmore’s gorgeous blonde girlfriend, and all I heard all the way home was that there was no way in hell that Cody Whitmore would want my ass. It was awful. I wish I had just kept the entire thing to myself or ran away from home… something.”

“I can imagine,” Larson says. “So, let’s get to that fateful day in March of 2001. Can you set the scene for us?” Butterfly’s expression hardens.

“From the time we had confronted the Whitmores all the way to that day, my life was hell. I was an open target for everybody. They were already teasing me, so I thought it wouldn’t make a difference if they were teasing me some more. I was wrong. If I left early from class, someone was waiting to antagonize me. If I stayed over and waited until the halls were cleared, someone was still waiting for me. It’s like they had assignments to get me and they didn’t even go to class until they got me.

“It was little simple stuff at first like gum in my hair, kicking or pushing me on the way down the hall, knocking my books out of my hand, flipping my lunch tray over… just bullying stuff. So, when they were following me home taunting me that day, I didn’t think anything different of it. I wanted them to stop, but what could I do?” Larson nods.

“What happened next, Anastasia?” he says softly. Butterfly closes her eyes.

“I remember feeling something in the back of my head. It was fast—it was like fire… like a hot knife jabbing into my skull. Then I saw… stars or flashes of light or something. I heard ringing… and then, nothing.”

“And what do you remember next?” he asks. She sighs.

“I opened my eyes and it was cold… and dark. I didn’t know where I was at first, but then… I saw the taillights shine in my eyes, and I felt the movement. I knew I was in the trunk of a car.”

She still has her eyes closed. Is she… regressing? Right there on the stand?

“What were you thinking?” Larson asks.

“I was horrified,” she says calmly, a single tear falling down her cheek. “I didn’t know what was going on.” She opens her eyes and looks at Larson. I’m relieved to see that she didn’t regress, but she’s pale as a ghost and she doesn’t look well.

“There’s only one reason to put a live human being in the trunk of a car, and it never ends well. Here I am—a live 15-year-old girl, bound, cold, and in the trunk of a car.”

Her voice is cold and even as another tear streams down her cheek. She wipes the tears away immediately as Larson continued.

“When did you realize what was going on?”

“Not for a while,” she says, her voice failing a bit. “When the trunk opened, all I saw was hoods. I thought I was about to be a human sacrifice in a Satanic ritual. But when they reached into the trunk and pulled me out, I could see that they were… my age—kids. All I could think was, ‘What the hell is happening?’

“Nobody talked to me. They just grabbed me out of the trunk and started dragging me across the grass. My head was still banging from whoever hit me and I couldn’t see anybody. I had tears in my eyes. I was still seeing spots from when they shined the light in my face. I could see the bonfire, though, and I knew it couldn’t be good.” She drops her head.

“I saw some of their faces because they were all wearing hoods, but they weren’t all wearing masks. The two that were wearing masks—I heard their voices. I knew exactly who they were. I begged for my life; I pleaded for them to tell me what I had done wrong…” She grabs the railing of the witness stand. She’s looking for strength, I can tell…

I’ve got you, Butterfly. I’m here. Be strong, baby.

She takes a deep breath and raises her head again. She already looks spent.

“Go on,” Larson says. She begins to worry her scar.

Come on, baby. You can do this.

She clears her throat.

“She got in my face. She said something to me…” Butterfly says.

“Who did?” Larson asks. Butterfly looks up as if to pull strength.

“The one he calls Carly Babe,” she says. She was searching for her words. “She taunted me, she called me a bitch, and then she slapped me. That must have been the ‘go’ signal, because they all came at me after that. The hits were coming from everywhere. They hit me everywhere… everywhere! I don’t know how long this went on. It just seemed like it wouldn’t stop.

There was nowhere to go,” she says, her voice cracking. “My legs and wrists were tied… I tried to roll away… I couldn’t get away. No matter where I tried to roll, a foot or a fist came at me, and they were peeing on me and spitting on me… oh, God…” She whispers the last two words before thrusting her hands into her hair.

“I couldn’t cover my face or my head or my mouth… I just wanted it to stop; I wanted somebody to help me… I called for my mother, but she wasn’t there…” Her words trail off, and she stops for a moment.

“Dr. Grey…?”

“After a while, one hit just ran into the other,” she says. “I was still screaming when the urinating and spitting started, but after a while, I just stopped. I was exhausted and I couldn’t scream anymore. Nobody was listening anyway. Nobody could really hear me. The smell of piss permeated my senses, and I just prayed to hurry up and die. When I felt that first burn, I was surprised that anything could cause more pain than I was already feeling, but I was certain that I was about to get my death wish.”

She’s never explained things to me like this… ever. My stomach is churning, thinking about this ordeal. I know what happened, but I imagined how horrible it must have been from what I’ve learned, heard, and saw. Even now, it’s worse than anything I ever imagine. Larson purses his lips and nods at her.

“Your honor, I like to introduce into evidence state’s exhibit one.” The judge nods and Larson turns to the jury.

“Ladies and gentlemen, you are about to see the video of the night in question. You will first see the taped confession of Melanie Coleman, a terminally ill woman who confesses to recording the video live. Please prepare yourselves.”

I’m not ready to see this again. I’ll never be ready to see this again.

“Please remember that deathbed confessions are admissible and not considered hearsay,” Larson says. “These confessions often occur because a dying person wants to live their final days free of secrets they have been concealing throughout their lives. Know that Ms. Coleman died days after she recorded this confession.”

Larson somberly takes his seat as the video begins to play. A frail woman connected to oxygen declares her name and that she recorded the video on March 10, 2001. She introduces some of the people in the video, including her cousin—Carly Madison—but admits that she doesn’t know most of the assailants.

Today is the day. Today is the day that we send a message to everybody that doesn’t know just how we take care of things in our town. Today is the day that we show that little broke bitch that she can’t fuck with me or my man and get away with it!”

I watch with clenched fists as Carly Madison-Perry and her piece of shit boyfriend, Cody Whitmore, set the scene for the horror that will change my Butterfly’s life forever. I watch the petite young brunette being knocked unconscious and thrown into the back seat of a car.

Ray clears his throat. Amanda gasps.

They were still at the school. Students were everywhere! Nobody did a goddamn thing! Nobody said a thing! Even after the attack… nobody said shit!

There’s a conversation going on like these girls are headed to a slumber party right before the screen goes black… a fucking slumber party!

When the screen comes back, there are about five girls in the frame looking like witches in black on Halloween. They each say some Fuck with us and die type of bullshit before they take my Butterfly out of the trunk of the car. The camera zooms in on her. She’s been crying and she’s absolutely terrified.

I look over at my wife and she’s not paying attention. She’s holding her head down, even turns it away as the video plays, most likely trying to tune it out as much as she can. She leans her head on her hand, blocking her view of the screen. No one looks at her—they’re concentrating, horrified, on the events happening on the screen.

She can’t watch the video. The last time she watched it, she ended up catatonic for several days—but she lived this horror, and she knows exactly what she’s hearing.

The first time I saw this video, I didn’t hear it, but now I do. It’s faint, but it’s heart wrenching. You can barely hear it over the commotion of the vicious crowd—kicking, beating, and desecrating this poor girl—but when you hear it once, it becomes clear, almost like you can’t hear anything else over it…

“Moooommmiiiiiiieeeee!”

“Moommmmmiiiiieeeeeeeee!”

Moooooooooommmmiiiiiiieeeeeee!”

Jesus, my heart is breaking, and Ray looks as if he could leap out of his seat right now.

The video is nearing the end, getting into the worst part of the attack. Women have begun to cry as they hear her screaming for her “mommy.” I’m getting more and more enraged watching the callous, cold, and unbelievably cruel behavior of these monsters as they torture my Butterfly.

When the searing of her skin can be heard in stereo throughout the courtroom, and her wails of agony rip through my ears and heart, that’s when the vomiting begins, and my Butterfly is not immune. Even after having lived through it, her stomach still can’t take it once the video is played again. I want to rush to her on the stand, but I know that I can’t, and the court has actually supplied barf bags for just such an emergency. Five people lose their breakfast and several others are green in the face watching this display.

It seems like it takes forever for the video to finally end, but it was only a few minutes from the branding to the end of the video. Several of the jurors, the onlookers, and my wife are unable to compose themselves once the video is complete. Sullivan is looking down at the desk and Drake is simply examining the condition of the attendees in the courtroom with a bit of concern.

Yeah, asshole. Just because you can watch that shit without blinking doesn’t mean that every other human being can.

It’s music to my ears when the judge calls a brief recess and the jury is quickly led out of the courtroom.

Butterfly collapses in tears on the stand, having fought to hold herself together as the jury is led away. Why is she trying to be strong now? No one—except that fucking defense attorney—would blame her for falling apart during this time. She leans forward on the railing of the stand and weeps until her body shakes. She did the same thing when she had to identify the people in the video last year. I sprint around the balustrade to get to her taking long strides to get to the witness stand.

“No!” she shrieks, jerking away when I touch her without lifting her head. I’m shocked that she won’t let me touch her, but pretty certain that she wouldn’t let anybody touch her right now. Nonetheless, I turn my gaze—and my rage—towards the defense table. Sullivan still hasn’t raised his head, but when Drake catches my gaze, he immediately turns and begins to confer with his client. You despicable, reprehensible…

“Sir,” Jason says, breaking my gaze from the defense table. He needed to, and I think he knows that.

“Get Alex on the phone,” I say, my voice only loud enough for him to hear me. “I want everything he can get on this guy. This is going to be his swan song.” Jason nods, but doesn’t move. Don’t worry, I won’t kill him. I’m more concerned about Butterfly right now.

“My wife needs ice water,” I say, a little louder, my voice still rugged as Satan, “and a salt packet if you can find it.”

“I’m on it, sir,” he says, and turns to leave.

“I knew this would happen,” the judge says and produces a salt shaker from under his lectern, placing it on the side of his podium. “There’s a vending machine down the hall with water in it.”

“Thank you, your honor,” Jason says and dashes from the courtroom.

“Thank you, sir,” I say. “It’s much appreciated.” He nods and leaves the bench, going to his chambers. I take the salt and wait the eternity for Jason to return with the water. I glare at the defense while my wife weeps in the stand.

“Practiced enough for you?” I hiss at Drake. His brow furrows deeply.

“You’re not supposed to talk to me,” he says finitely.

“Why not?” I seethe. “Court’s not in session. There’s nobody here for your performance now!” No matter what he tries to get the jury to believe, he doesn’t believe that she practiced this reaction any more than I do. There’s no fear in his eyes, but he’s a bit dumbstruck. Sullivan continues to stare at the table in front of him like a good little puppy.

“Chris!” Al is in my line of sight almost immediately. “No,” he says, and that’s all he says.

“Come on, son,” Ray says, walking up next to him. “Let’s check on Annie.”

I’m seeing red. I’m seeing death and carnage and mayhem. I’m so sick of this shit. I’m so sick of my wife going through unnecessary stress and pain, and I’m really sick of Nevada and I’ve only been here for less than a day!

But I have to see about my wife.

I tear my gaze away from the not-so-cocky asshole at the defense table and go over to my wife. I move to the opening on the side of the witness stand to get closer to her, to speak to her before I try to touch her again.

“Baby?” I say, gently. “Baby, it’s me.” She throws her arms around me without looking, sobbing on my shoulder.

“I know, Baby,” I say, gently stroking her back. “I know.” She still says nothing but continues to weep.

“We can ask for a recess until tomorrow…” Larson says approaching us, his voice concerned. I’m just about to agree when my little waif squeaks in my ear.

“No… no… I have to do this… I can’t put it off anymore…” and she continues to weep. I blink the tears back in my eyes and look at Larson.

“She’s going to do it,” I say, just above a whisper. “I don’t know what’s going to happen if I get her out of this courtroom and she doesn’t do this today.”

That’s the truth. I really don’t know what’s going to happen. Larson examines me for a while, then nods.

“If you think that’s best,” he says, and he says it to me. I’m a little shocked. I lean in to my wife’s ear.

“Butterfly?” I say softly. She nods feverishly on my shoulder.

“She says, ‘yes,’” I tell him, doing everything I can not to fall apart myself. He nods and walks back to the prosecutor’s table. Jason comes back into the courtroom with two large bottles of water.

“Baby?” I say to my weeping wife. “We gotta pull it together now, okay?” I say. She nods, still sobbing. I pull her back from my shoulder and give her the water. She looks like hell. Her eyes are all puffy; her face looks like it’s going to explode.

Marilyn and Mandy return to the courtroom clinging to each other with Ray right behind them. They look like they’ve been through the wringer, too. I didn’t even know they had left. Ray was just standing next to me a minute ago… wasn’t he? Al looks like he may have shed a few tears himself, but James is clinging tightly to his hand. None of them have seen this video that I know of, and today, they got to see it on a wide screen.

“Ana?” Jason says softly, handing her the salt shaker. She shakes some in her palm and licks it out, letting it sit on her tongue for a while. Her crying has become sniffles, and I hand her my handkerchief to wipe her face. She dries the tears and her face is very red and swollen. Her eyes are so bloodshot that the whites don’t look like they’re there anymore. Jason removes his handkerchief from his pocket and douses it in water, some of it spilling onto the floor, and hands it to Butterfly. She covers her face in the cold, wet cloth and takes several deep breaths to compose herself.

The bailiffs come through with a garbage can and remove all the barf bags, including my wife’s, while she slowly and shakily pulls herself together. When she removes the handkerchief, some of her color has returned, but her eyes are still red, and she still looks like a train wreck.

“Do you want your purse?” I ask. “Your lip gloss?”

“I don’t care how I look,” she says, tying her long hair in a single knot behind her back, the shorter part falling over her shoulders. I stay at the stand with her while people begin to file back into the courtroom.

“Remember, if you feel like you can’t do this…”

“I can do it,” she interrupts me and clears her throat. “I can do it.” I nod and kiss her hand firmly.

“I love you,” I say, cupping her cheek. She swallows.

“I love you, too,” she replies, looking at me with bloodshot eyes. I wet the handkerchief again and wring it dry before giving it back to her with a fresh, dry one from my other pocket. I’m all out of handkerchiefs now. That’s a first.

I stay with her at the stand until the last possible minute when the bailiff tells me that I need to take a seat. I tear myself away from my wife and take my seat behind the prosecution. The same bailiff walks over to my wife and says something. She nods, and the bailiff walks to the door of the judge’s quarters. A few moments later…

“All rise…”

… And court is back in session.

“Mr. Larson, would you like to continue with this witness?” The judge says.

“Yes, your honor,” he says, and he walks over to Butterfly.

“The video says it all,” he says, with sympathy. She nods.

“That it does,” she replies.

“Can you tell the court which of the gentlemen in the video is Vincent Sullivan?”

“Objection, your honor,” Drake says. “With all due respect, the witness has no way of knowing which assailant is Vincent Sullivan if she’s face down on the ground.”

“If it please the court, your honor, I’m getting to how she can tell us which assailant is Vincent Sullivan,” Larson protests.

“I’ll allow it for now. Proceed, Mr. Larson.” He nods.

“Dr. Grey, did you know Vincent Sullivan?” Larson asks.

“I knew of him,” she says.

“How?”

“He was in my biology class. I saw him every day. He didn’t stand out or anything, but I saw him, so I knew who he was. He’s also right next to me in the yearbook. I’m Steele; he’s Sullivan.”

“The defense is right,” he says. “You were face down. How do you know who the people were who are behind you?”

“I watched that video more times than I would like, mostly because even though it happened to me, I still can’t believe it’s real. I still can’t believe that a bunch of kids who aren’t old enough to purchase cigarettes are capable of doing something this cruel.  Unless someone has given us another video of this event, I’ve watched that boy abuse me more times than I care to discuss.”

“So, once again, I ask you, can you tell the court which of the gentlemen in the video is Vincent Sullivan?”

“Vincent Sullivan is the guy that branded me the first two times,” she says clearly. “He’s the one that backed away when he heard that I might be dead.”

“Your honor, the state is entering into evidence exhibits 2 – 54.” Larson retrieves a folder and reveals several pictures of Vincent Sullivan on the night of the attack—stills pulled from the video along with his yearbook picture from 2001 and his current mugshots. Like Butterfly, the images haven’t changed much.

Larson also introduces pictures of a broken and battered Butterfly along with pictures of her grotesquely and freshly burned back, accompanied by pictures of the current scarring incorporated into the garden tattoo.

“Dr. Grey, I have to ask. These are some pretty graphic pictures. I can’t even see how someone could survive something like this and yet, you’ve indicated to me that you haven’t had any work done. I think we’d all like to know just to be able to effectively link you to this incident, how can this person that we see so brutally beaten turn out to be this person that we see today?” She sighs heavily, looks down, then raises her gaze back to Larson.

“I’m carrying permanent scars on my back, in my mind, and on my heart. I guess God saw fit not to have me wear them on my face, too.”


A/N: Criminal cases in Clark County normally initiate in the Las Vegas Justice Center and then move to the District Court. For aesthetic and creative reasons, I mention the District Court, but the descriptions of the courthouse and courtroom are the LVJC.

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

Pictures from the trip to Las Vegas can be found at https://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/grey-continued-las-vegas/

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 on the menu or 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, or 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

Grey Continued, Season 5, Episode 7

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 7

ANASTASIA

I can’t and won’t force Mare to go to the doctor as a requirement of going on the Las Vegas trip, especially since I fucking need her there, but I have a better way to convince her to see the doctor.

We’re sitting in my sparsely furnished GEH office down the hall from Christian’s when I decide to broach the subject with her.

“I don’t mean to make someone else’s phobias your responsibility, but I’m going to share something with you that normally, I wouldn’t, but under the circumstances, I don’t think he would mind.

“It’s public knowledge that Christian is adopted. We’ve both seen what kind of life he had with Grace and Carrick. What the public doesn’t know is what his life was like before he was adopted. Without betraying too much confidence, I can tell you that the first four years of Christian’s life were terrible. He lived in poverty and squalor, and he was often very, very hungry. From the way that he lived, I often wondered how he didn’t die of starvation.”

“Oh, my God,” Marilyn replies, covering her mouth. “I had a vague inclination… hints every now and then that his life wasn’t… ideal before he was adopted, but I had no idea.” I nod solemnly.

“We all know that he can be a bit bossy, but when he pesters you about eating, it’s more out of concern. He intimately knows the feeling of extreme hunger, and he has severe issues with wasted food and people not eating because he knows there are people out there who don’t have food. I would venture to say that my husband would feed the world’s hungry if he could. Most of our leftover food—and anything that’s about to expire when we restock the pantry—goes to food banks.

“Jesus,” she says, shaking her head. “That explains a lot.”

“You should’ve seen Mia’s reception,” I say. “As big as the Grammy’s and four or five choice gourmet meals for every person in attendance. She had a cake that, I think, was two and a half times her height, and she and Ethan cut it with a sword.”

“Oh, dear God. There’s no way you guys ate all that food. Christian must’ve had a cow.”

“Almost,” I say. “Mia had already arranged for all of the leftover food to go to homeless shelters, but my husband certainly had a huge problem before he discovered that.” Marilyn sighs heavily and deflates a bit.

“I just don’t want you to think that we’re treating you like a child,” I say. “You don’t look well at all, and if I’m concerned, I know that Christian is climbing the walls. Seeing you not eating or barely eating when you do isn’t helping.”

“Ana, I’m not doing it on purpose,” she excuses softly. “I actually miss eating some of my favorite foods, but my stomach just won’t let anything stay down.”

“Then, we need to start with a visit to your doctor and then to a nutritionist to see if we can work you into eating something more. Whatever is causing you not to be able to eat is going to have to stop, or you’re going to cause yourself some serious physical harm… and my husband is going to have a stroke trying to feed you.” She laughs somberly.

“Well, we don’t want that, but I’ve been to the doctor. She says there’s nothing wrong with me,” she says.

“Well, we’re going again,” I say, “and we’ll let her know what we think about the nutritionist, then we’ll go from there.”

Marilyn agrees, and I can tell that it’s reluctantly, but she has to know that things are only going to get worse before they get better if she doesn’t start eating soon.

Since the trip is next week, Marilyn manages to secure an appointment to go in to see the doctor on Wednesday. I ask if she minds if I go, too, and she allows me to go with her. I sit in the lobby while she’s being examined, but we both go into the office to talk to her doctor once the exam is complete.

“Well, Marilyn, there still aren’t any complications from the termination, but I can see why your family and friends are concerned. You’ve lost about twenty pounds since the procedure.” I turn a surprised gaze at Marilyn. Twenty pounds is a lot when you’re something like three percent body fat if that.

“I was thinking that we could get her in to see a nutritionist to help her to eat the right foods to put the weight back on,” I suggest desperately.

“In theory, that’s a good idea, but a nutritionist isn’t going to be much help if she doesn’t eat,” the doctor says. “I’m prescribing Pedialyte and Ensure just so that you can start getting some nutrients into your body…”

“Pedialyte?” Marilyn gasps. “Isn’t that for babies?”

“You’re not eating,” the doctor retorts. “You’ve got to get something into your body, no excuses. And Marilyn, this is prescribed, that means that you have to do it.” The doctor looks over at me and I nod.

“You can also do protein-rich smoothies, then work your way into lighter foods to get your stomach accustomed back to digesting more. You’re currently at risk of developing refeeding syndrome if you haven’t already since your body has been severely malnourished for the last few weeks. That could affect all of your major organs and, if not treated properly, it could even be fatal.”

That gets her attention.

“I can’t force my body to hold food down, Doc,” she complains. “What am I supposed to do?”

“It’s going to be trial and error,” the doctor tells her. “You’ll do the meal replacements that I suggested, and then you start introducing lighter foods into your diet to see what you can tolerate. Your only other option is to be hospitalized and put on a feeding tube.” Marilyn rolls her eyes.

“Okay,” she says with a heavy sigh. “I’ll do my best.”

“Nobody’s telling you to eat a five-course meal,” the doctor advises. “That could actually do more harm than good right now. Do the meal replacements—try others if you like, Weight Watchers, Slim Fast, even the protein bars are good. Introduce food slowly, but introduce food, Marilyn. That’s probably why you can’t keep anything down—you’re trying to move too fast. And yes, you still have a nervous stomach brought on by stress. I know it’s easier said than done to remove stressful situations from your life, but you need to get started on it. Do some yoga or meditation. Seek out therapy or religious guidance…” Oh, fuck, wrong word.

“Okay, thank you, doctor,” I say, standing to my feet immediately to rescue Marilyn from having to hear about religious guidance. “Just for my own knowledge, she’s safe to travel, isn’t she?” Marilyn and the doctor both look at me.

“Did you have any reason to think that she wasn’t?” the doctor asks. Uh-oh, time to play dumb.

“Hey,” I say with a shrug, “I’m an M.D., too, and you just threw a term at me that I’ve never heard. I know that malnutrition and starvation can be very detrimental, but I’ve never heard of that refeeding thingy situation you were just talking about. You see that my solution was to take her to a nutritionist.”

“Oh, that,” the doctor says. “She should be fine. I can’t say what flying will do to her stomach in terms of motion sickness, but traveling won’t hurt her any. Just make sure that she gets her meal replacements—and at least a light soup of some kind—when she gets to where she’s going.” I nod.

“Is there anything that I—or we—should know about that refeeding thing? What to do or not to do?” I ask.

“Besides keeping an eye on her, I would say no. Honestly, the very best thing for her would be to take it easy—rest and try to recuperate from whatever has her in this state.” Yeah, tried that, didn’t work.

“Would some type of vitamin supplement help right now?” I press. The doctor ponders the thought.

“A women’s multivitamin would help,” she says. “Maybe even a prenatal vitamin. You want to look for something with magnesium, calcium, potassium… I also recommend sports drinks with high electrolytes, like Gatorade. If you find yourself weak, fatigued, light-headed, having trouble breathing or swallowing, you need to get to the hospital immediately.” Marilyn nods and stands to her feet.

“Thank you, doctor,” she says. “I’ll do everything you said.” The doctor nods and we leave the office.

“No knowledge of refeeding syndrome,” Marilyn says when we get back to the car. I frown.

“What?” I ask.

“You said that you had no knowledge of refeeding syndrome,” she says. “You’re a doctor, and if I remember correctly, your boyfriend-now-husband starved himself for five days when you two were fighting. You starved yourself for four when you were kidnapped. How is it that you have no knowledge of refeeding syndrome?” That’s an easy answer.

“I don’t remember a lot of the details, Mare, but I do remember that both times that we were rehydrated and refed, we were in the hospital. We were both on IV’s for at least 24 hours, and we both had soup as our first meal the moment the doctor said that it was okay to eat. Neither of us were on voluntary or involuntary starvation for two months, and as soon as the following day, we were both eating solid food with no problem keeping it down. There was no need for anyone to explain refeeding syndrome to us because we were directly under a doctor’s care, and no—I’m not familiar with every disease and syndrome there is out there. I’ve never heard of refeeding syndrome, but it does explain why you can’t keep all of your food down.” I can still tell that she’s looking at me skeptically.

“None of this had anything to do with being concerned if I could go to Vegas or not.” It’s a statement, not a question, and I’m not prone to lying.

“Truthfully, yes,” I reply without taking my eyes from the road. “It’s no secret that I’m concerned about your health, so you shouldn’t be surprised. And I already told you about Christian’s food issues and your visible loss of weight—20 pounds, Marilyn? For Christ’s sake! I know from my own weight that you’re not much over 100 to begin with and you lost 20 pounds! Jesus! The last thing any of us needs is for you to be stuck in one of the oh-so-loving facilities in fabulous Las Vegas! I don’t know if they’ve improved at all, but they were pretty shitty when I was in residence, and I was in a suburban hospital. Had she said anything different, I would have quickly put the kibosh on your trip to Vegas, which would have pissed both of us off, so hate me later.”

I’m suddenly lost in thought about why we’re going to Las Vegas and my horrible experience at the hospital—wanting to die and wondering why my mother didn’t want me, why any of this had to happen to me.

“Bosslady?”

I’m concentrating on the road, but I honestly don’t know how I got from point A to point B, and I forgot Mare was in the car until she just said my name. I feel the tears on my face, and I realize that I’m in no condition to drive. I don’t know if I blinked out for just a moment or for several minutes, but I immediately pull over to the side of the road and put the car in park.

“You have to drive,” I say as I release my seatbelt and leap from the driver’s seat. I can only imagine the panic going through Chuck’s and Carol’s mind as they watch us switch seats while traffic is whizzing by, but in no time flat, we’re back on the road.

“It’s not that serious, Ana,” Mare says. “Well, it is that serious for me, but I’ll be okay.” I go fishing through my glove box for napkins or tissue and find one of Christian’s handkerchiefs in there.

“I’m very fond of you, Mare, but that’s not why I’m crying,” I say, wiping my face and my nose. “I’ve done everything possible to carry on with my life without thinking about that place and now, in less than a week, I’m going back—back to the horror; back to face those awful fuckers who did this to me. I don’t know how I’m going to do it. I just know that I have to.”

“And in the meantime, you’re trying to take care of me,” she says, without looking over at me.

“You’re my friend,” I say. “You need me as much as I need you. I can’t lose you now.”

“I’m not going anywhere, Bosslady,” she says.

*-*

I’m white-knuckle gripping Christian’s hand as the GEH jet lands at McCarran Airport on Sunday afternoon. This is the last place in the world that I want to be, and to make a bad matter worse, the Paparazzi is here.

“Don’t worry, Butterfly,” Christian says. “The limos are coming right to the private hanger.” I nod, but don’t reply. Sure enough, a few minutes later, limos are lined up outside of the jet.

As we descend the stairs, I can see various members of the “press” off in the distance trying to get a shot of us. It gives me the willies and I nearly run down the stairs to the nearest limousine. Christian has to struggle to keep up. These are not rented limos; they’re directly from the Waldorf Astoria. Jason will secure our cars once we’re settled at the hotel.

There are several people in our party—my dad and Mandy, Al and James, Christian and myself, Vee, Marilyn, and various members of our security staff. Josh is holding down the fort at GEH, handling any PR questions or situations that may arise, but Vee is here with us to head off the press as this is an open case and none of us can say anything to them.

We’re here. We’re actually here. After all these years, it’s finally happening. Will I be able to tell my story in front of a jury? An audience? The people who attacked me? Dear God, give me strength.

“You alright, Sunflower?” my father asks, taking my hand from across the limo. I close my eyes and nod.

“I will be, Daddy,” I say, lacking the conviction of my words.

Mandy tries her best not to look awestruck as we travel down the Strip. No matter the time of day or night, it’s always Saturday afternoon on the Strip. I didn’t come down here a whole lot when I lived here, but whenever I did for whatever reason, it was always the same. Some little odd job or something would have me taking the Deuce down Las Vegas Blvd to downtown or to Fremont St, and I would have to sit in gridlocked traffic, watching the throngs of tourists walking across the street testing the cars and pretending that their bodies are made of “some other metal than earth.”

You know the theory that if you hate something, your friends are all supposed to hate it, too? I think everyone on this trip is trying to maintain that chain of thought. “Ana hates this place and we’re here on business, so we all have to hate it, too. Boo! Hiss!”

The car is eerily silent and out of respect to my utter abhorrence of this place, my family are all looking straight ahead—neither left nor right—some of them vainly attempting to ignore the splendor that is Las Vegas. I lay my head on my husband’s shoulder and close my eyes. I don’t have the strength to be “grown up” right now.

We pull up to the Waldorf Astoria to only a bit of press. I know they’ll be more before the week is out, probably before the night is over.

“How did they know where we were staying?” I ask in dismay.

“The limos,” Christian replies. “You know the drill, baby. They would have found out anyway.” I sigh. I want to cry.

“Yes, I do,” I say before donning my Jackie O’s. Christian squeezes my hand.

“Okay, so here’s the drill,” Vee says when the limos cruise to a halt. “Waldorf has agreed to keep the press out of the hotel during our duration. With the size of our party, the caliber of our rooms, and the reason for our stay, they were only too happy to oblige. As such, the Waldorf is Switzerland. You can go wherever you want inside the hotel, but if you leave the building, you must take security with you. Each of you will have your own detail and 24-hour access to them for when you would like to go somewhere.

“We’re all here to support Ana, and we all know how she feels about this place. With her permission, I can tell you all that she’s okay with it if you all decide that you want to go sightseeing or see a show or something. Once again, I just ask that you’re sure to take security with you when you do. Not only are we all strangers in a strange land, but as Ana’s support system, we all have proverbial press targets on our backs.”

Mandy shivers a bit at the analogy.

“Al is having the same conversation with James and Marilyn in the other limo if he hasn’t already. Ray, do you have a pair of sunglasses?” Daddy shakes his head.

“The sun has never bothered my eyes,” he says. She pulls a pair of Raybans from her purse.

“You’re going to need them here,” she says. “This is desert sun, it’s a whole different breed. Not only that, but the press can smell fear and curiosity and they’ll zero right in on you. It’s easier if you just hide your eyes.” She hands the glasses to Daddy and he scoffs.

“Young lady, I’m a Marine,” he says. “Two tours in the Gulf and I’ve dealt with the press before, but I won’t be difficult. I’ll wear your glasses.” He takes the glasses from Vee and puts them on.

“Thank you, Ray,” she says kindly. “No one—no one—speaks to the press but me. They’re going to say things to push your buttons, to try to elicit a response from you. You’ve got to tune them out. This is an open case and we can’t say anything about it—nothing. So, I have prepared responses and my own security detail if I have to be a decoy.”

While Vee was briefing us, security has flanked both cars and is waiting for us to exit. On Vee’s signal, they open the doors and create a wall between us and the press. The cameras are flashing and they’re all clamoring, so I can’t hear what anybody is saying, which is a blessing to me. Without looking left or right, and in the protective grasp of my husband, I walk into the hotel.

I breathe a sigh of relief once we’re inside, happy that I’m safe behind these doors from the prying questions of the press. Apparently, I deflate a little more than I intended because Christian catches me around the waist and quickly leads me to a seat.

“Annie?” I hear my dad’s concerned voice.

“I’ll get some water,” Mare says from off to my right. Jesus, am I going to be able to do this?

“Grey, party of 16,” I hear Jason say at the counter.

“Baby? Are you okay?” Christian’s voice now floats through the voices and I raise my head to gaze at him through my sunglasses.

“I’m fine,” I say, rubbing my forehead. “I just got a little light-headed for a minute, that’s all.”

“Give her some air,” Vee says, and my family all part like the Red Sea. “Jason is collecting keys. Why don’t you all go over there and see which rooms are yours? Christian?”

Christian looks up at her like she has two heads. I touch his hand and he looks back down at me.

“I’m fine,” I tell him. “I just need to catch my breath. Get everybody situated. The sooner, the better.”

He looks at me uncertain and nods. Then he throws a glare back at Vee.

“Go,” she says, shooing him off. “If she swoons again, do you want her to be sitting here in the chair? Get things going!”

Reluctantly, he and my father walk towards the counter.

“I’ll go see what’s keeping Marilyn and that water. You’re okay?” Vee says.

“I’m fine. I’ll just stay here…” I look at all the security standing around me, “… with Agents K, C, B, and R.” I drop my head in my hand again in an attempt to stop the spinning. I’ve got to get a grip on this. I can’t be swooning and girly in court. I want to get these fuckers.

“Excuse me, aren’t you…”

I’m lifting my head to see who dares invade my space, but before I even make eye-contact, one of the security detail steps in front of me.

“Move on, please, ma’am,” he says in a completely official capacity. I hear the woman scoff, but I just put my head back down.

“I was just going to say ‘hello,’” she says affronted. I don’t have the strength to raise my head to greet her.

“Please, ma’am,” security says again, “move on.” He’s being as polite as he can be, telling her to move along and leave me be.

“Well!” she says, and finally moves on. A few moments later, Marilyn comes back with a bottle of water. I drink it down even though it doesn’t do much.

“What do you need, Bosslady?” she asks.

“I need to lie down,” I say, my voice low.

“Coming right up,” Christian says. “I’ve got our key.” He holds his hand out to me and I rise from my seat. I blindly follow him to the elevators, and I assume everyone else is getting their keys as well. Chuck rides with us all the way up to one of the upper floors—I don’t see which—and Christian leads me out of the elevator. Soon, Chuck is opening the door to the room and Christian leads me in.

Beautiful, as usual. I wouldn’t expect less.

The lobby was an elegant statement in marble, various textiles, and abstract decorations. Even in my compromised condition, I could appreciate the splendor.

Our suite is huge, decorated in black and white like a fancy condo, with sleek lines, luxurious textures, and geometric accents, complete with a baby grand piano. It has a large living room area, a large dining area, a huge bathroom with a sunken and jetted tub, hanging lamps, full open kitchen, a wet bar, a fitness room, and an enviable view of the strip. Home away from home, I guess. Right now, I’m only interested in that king-sized bed…

*-*

Christian wakes me in time to meet the family for dinner. I could do without it right now, but we need to go over the game plan, and I need to see Marilyn and make sure that she has gotten her Pedialyte, Ensure, soup, and Gatorade.

I lay in the bed, trying to find the strength to rise and face my family. I have no freaking idea how I’m possibly going to get through this. I was all gung-ho to nail these bastards to the wall, and now, knowing what’s ahead of me and with it being so close, I just want to run. I just want to go back home.

“God…” My voice is so squeaky that I barely recognize it. “I know that we haven’t had any intimate conversations lately, and I’m sorry about that. I know that when things go well, we often forget to pray. I think that should be the time that we pray the most because hell isn’t falling into our laps and we should be thanking You for peace. So… thank You for peace. Thank You for a wonderful life, and beautiful children, and a supportive family, and for having everything that I need. Thank You for all of my blessings and forgive me for not being more thankful more often.”

This is starting to sound like a speech.

“I’m having some trouble, God,” I continue. “I need Your help. I know in Your omnipotent wisdom that you will allow things to proceed as You see fit, but God, I need strength. I’m falling apart. I don’t know if I can do this.”

I begin to weep.

“All this time, this has been something in the future… something that I’ve been looking for and waiting for, and now it’s here. A few hours away, it’s in my face. I can’t chicken out now, but I don’t know how I’m going to do this. I need Your help. Please, I can’t do this without You. Give me strength to face these monsters and not cower in front of them. Please, don’t let me digress into this attack so far that I can’t function. Please, God, give me strength to say the right things and do the right things so that these bastards get what’s coming to them…”

Did I just say bastards while praying?

“Just… don’t let me fall apart, please? I appreciate it. Amen.”

I wipe the tears from my eyes and sit up on the edge of the bed. I see that my phone is blinking with a notification from Facebook Messenger. It has to be Laura since I don’t have any other friends on Facebook yet. I open my messenger.

I didn’t know you were already in Vegas. I hope everything goes well. Keep me posted as much as you’re able.

You’re in the tweets, by the way—some good, some bad as you would expect, but I thought you might want to see this one about a certain lady who approached you this afternoon.

Oh, shit. I haven’t even been here for three hours yet and somebody’s already tweeting about me. Not totally sure if I should, I click the link to see the bad news.

There’s a picture of me looking like someone just shot my dog. It’s a profile and my head is down. I’m wearing my Jackie O’s and seriously, my face says that I’m just ready to climb under a rock and die. The caption, however, from sassyvelmalou is very insensitive.

Here sits Queen Anastasia Grey. She’s staying at the Waldorf in Vegas. She’s a snotty elitist who thinks she’s too good for the rest of us. I was only trying to speak and her security pushed me away like I was a panhandler begging for a dollar.

Now, I don’t know about Twitter at all or how to comment or follow comments or anything else, but this does nothing for that whole falling apart thing I was just praying about, until I see that Laura has linked some responses:

@sassyvelmalou Look at her, you insensitive twit. Don’t you know why she’s here? She’s here about that assault case when she was a kid. She probably wants to be anywhere else in the world and here you come acting like she’s here for your entertainment. Some people, I swear!

And another:

@sassyvelmalou She looks like somebody died. Leave her alone, for fuck’s sake!

And a third:

@sassyvelmalou Have you been living under a rock? Haven’t you been watching the news at all? Would you feel like sitting and chit-chatting with a stranger if you had to come to town rehash a to brutal and vicious beating? Go out and buy a clue, you idiot!

I must admit, I didn’t expect anyone in Vegas or the surrounding areas to be sympathetic to me. It’s refreshing to see, even though I know that there are just as many—if not more—who feel the same way as the invasive bitch who wrote the first tweet.

I’ve got enough on my plate to contend with to have to deal with some hateful bitch who’s angry that I didn’t take time out of my misery to say, “Hi!” You want to see a snotty elitist, bitch, you’re about to see one.

I screen shot the picture of me along with her Twitter handle. I click on her handle to see if she has a profile picture. Oh, goody! Her handle doesn’t only have a picture, but it also has a name. I didn’t get a chance to look at the woman, so I don’t know if this is really her, but we’ll find out soon enough.

I forward all the information to Christian with specific instructions. Then, I stand and find something comfortable to change into for dinner. By the time I come from the en suite from washing my face…

“What the fuck is this?” he says as he walks into the room with his phone in his hand. I begin to get undressed.

“That’s a picture of me in the lobby downstairs,” I say as I remove my travel clothes. “A woman was trying to speak to me while I was having that episode and security politely asked her to move on—emphasis on the politely. I lay down, I take a nap, I wake up, and Laura sends me this.” His expression hardens.

Laura saw this?” he asks, appalled. “Australia Laura?”

“It’s on Twitter, Christian,” I say. He shakes his head.

“I don’t know anything about social media,” he says.

“That’s okay. You don’t need to. I’m not on Twitter and I saw it.” I remove my pantyhose and put on a red sarong skirt.

“I want you to find out her real name and if she’s staying in the hotel, have her kicked out. I don’t want to run into her again.”

Of course, Christian put his Amex Black on file. We’ve booked two penthouse suites with one bedroom, four Presidential suites with two bedrooms and three beds, and one Presidential suite with one bedroom—and we’re booked indefinitely. These people are at our fucking beck and call.

“Really?” he says. He almost sounds excited.

“Really,” I say once I tie my sarong and pull on a black crop top that crisscrosses at the abdomen with extra-long sleeves. “If it’s a problem, and only if it’s a problem, offer to pay for her room, but she has to go tonight. I’m not spending one evening in a hotel with that woman! She took a picture of me while I was trying to compose myself. Look at me! I look like hell—there’s clearly something wrong with me. Then, she posted it on Twitter with a derogatory caption!”

I begin to brush the sleep kinks out of my hair.

“Isn’t this exactly why we paid extra not to have the press in here? This is worse! This is personal! She called me an elitist because I felt like shit and my security told her to leave me alone. They don’t owe her an explanation. I don’t even know her.”

I retrieve my tinted moisturizer.

“If she doesn’t go, we go—us and all eight of our high-priced rooms, and you can make that clear. The Aria is right behind us. I’m sure they’ll be glad to take our money.” He’s fucking giddy.

“Your wish is my command, Your Highness!” he says, and he’s tapping into his phone as he’s leaving the room. For some reason, I don’t so much mind when he calls me that.

I cover my face with my moisturizer before I retrieve my lip gloss from the dresser and coat my lips. I slide into a comfy pair of black Jimmy Choo wedges and spritz on some perfume before I go into the living room.

“Perfect,” he says into the phone. “Take Jason with you, Mac. Meet us at Twist when it’s all done.” He ends the call.

“That was Vee?” I ask.

“She saw the tweet before you did,” he says. “She was trying to do damage control. As it turns out, the fact that we paid extra to assure that we wouldn’t be bothered by the press is a perfect reason to have her thrown out, not to mention the threat of losing eight premium rooms for an indefinite period of time. She did warn me, however, that this does in fact make us look elitists and that we may find that we are untouchable in some establishments.”

“Right now, Christian, that’s fine with me,” I retort. “I’m just trying to get through this damn trip. If I was here on vacation, traipsing happily through Sin City, I could understand her thinking I was elitist in having my security tell her to leave me alone. I’m here to testify in a case that involves a crime where I almost died, and an unborn child was killed. It’s not my fault that people are out of touch and she should have done some research before she tweeted that shit. If people are going to deem us untouchable because I don’t want to be bothered because I feel like I’m in hell, so be it. For every one establishment that won’t touch us, ten more will take our very green money and you know that I’m right.”

I march around him and head to the door, and he mocks an angry cat meow behind me.

Jason and Vee join us shortly after we’re seated at Twist, and Christian informs us that we’ll probably be having nearly everything on the menu. Twist is a themed restaurant built around the chef. So, that means really small servings that are meant to be tasted by everyone. Hence, there’s going to be a lot of food at the table tonight.

Marilyn barely picks at some of the food, taking very small tastes to appear to be eating. I know better, but I also know why.

“She’s still not eating,” Christian whispers.

“We talked about this, Christian,” I remind him. “She’s doing the best she can.”

He looks at me, then down at the food and continues to eat.

Small talk goes around the table through dinner and desert—and Marilyn’s nibbling—and once coffee is served, Christian takes the floor… or the table, so to speak.

“First, Butterfly and I would like to thank each of you for making this trip. I know that it means so much to her for you all to be here, and that means that it means a lot to me, too.

“Some of you haven’t experienced the kind of publicity and scrutiny that Butterfly and I have. You’ve seen it, but you haven’t experienced it. To that end, we definitely have a game plan for our stay here.

“Please, keep your room keys with you at all times. They’re not only your identification, but they’re also your keys to any services in the hotel—any services, and for what I’m paying these people to maintain our comfort and privacy, trust me—they’re like gold. If you lose a key or misplace it, let Jason know immediately. Also, if you have any excursions or shows that you want to see while you’re here, let Jason know. He’ll get it set up for you. Each of the rooms has a tranquility day pass, so ladies—and gentlemen, if you wish—the spa is at your disposal.

“We’re all here to support Butterfly. She needs each of you here in one way or another. So, please, don’t nitpick about the price of anything. Whatever you want to do, whatever show you want to see, wherever you want to go, please let Jason know. When we’re not tied up in that horrible trial, Vegas is your playground. My only request is that you don’t go out and get stone-cold pickled drunk and not be able to be in court in the morning. That is, ultimately, why we’re all here. We have to be in court by 9:00am every morning. The cars will be ready to leave at 8:00am each morning because we have to contend with the traffic on the Strip and the rush hour traffic on the I-15. Please govern yourself accordingly.

“Butterfly and I plan to be here indefinitely—from trial to sentencing. It’s our understanding that once the verdict is handed down, the sentencing will be very shortly thereafter. As we don’t have a timeframe for this, if anyone needs to get back to Seattle on short notice, let me know. If you give me at least 24-hours-notice, I can get the jet out here. If not, we can get you the soonest commercial flight. Depending on the length of our trip, Butterfly and I will be flying back some weekends to see our children. Anyone is welcome to fly back with us.”

By our children, I’m certain that he means Minnie and Mikey… and GEH.

“You already know not to speak to the press. Mac, how did that situation go?”

“As planned,” she says. “It will be executed upon her return to the hotel.” Al looks at me, then at Christian.

“What happened?” he asks succinctly.

“Someone took a picture of Butterfly in the lobby earlier and Twittered that she’s a snobby elitist because she wouldn’t talk to them while she was indisposed,” Christian replies.

Tweeted, Christian, tweeted,” Vee says. “I can’t believe you’re this ignorant to social media.”

“I have no use for it,” he excuses. “I have you.” She just rolls her eyes.

“Each of you have a security detail for when you decide to go off on your own. Even if you go to the bathroom in the courthouse, someone’s going to follow you to the door. If you’re approached by the press or anyone else, please do not engage. I can guarantee you that they’re all looking for information, especially when they discover that you’re with us. They can be vicious, and they will try to egg you on.

“To give you an example, I saw a clip a long time ago where Rebecca Romijn Stamos was leaving the airport. The paparazzi was trying to get her attention, and when she didn’t respond, one of the reporters yelled out that it was no wonder John Stamos divorced her. I only remember that because I thought it was pretty shitty, and I use it to remind myself that reporters—and anyone trying to get a story—can be real fucking assholes.”

Jesus, that was cold.

“So, if someone gets too pushy or aggressive, lean to your security. That’s what they’re there for,” Christian adds.

“Good grief. This is going to be an adventure,” Mandy says. Ray takes her hand protectively.

“Are there any questions?” he asks. No one speaks up. I think they’re all a little shell-shocked. This isn’t Marilyn’s first time at the dance, but I don’t think Al has had this much exposure and I’m sure that Mandy and James haven’t. Daddy’s had a taste, but probably only as much as Al.

“I have a question. If I may ask, I’m just curious… how many different names does she have?” Vee asks, pointing to me. Everyone looks at each other.

“Butterfly… or Anastasia,” Christian says. He better not mention Pussycat!

“Annie or Sunflower,” Daddy says.

“Jewel,” Al chimes in.

“Ana,” James says, with a shrug. “Sorry, not very original.”

“Bosslady,” Mare says, and everybody looks at her. “It was my choice I like it!” she says all in one breath. “I heard this girl call her boss Bosslady on a sitcom once and it just stuck.”

“No need to explain it, Mare,” Al says.

“I like it, too,” I chime in quietly.

“Her Highness,” Jason says, and I groan. “You started it.” I roll my eyes at him.

“I don’t call her Her Highness,” Chuck clarifies. “I only do it when they make me.”

“That’s a lot of names,” Vee says.

“Val calls me Steele; Mia calls me Anakins; Elliot calls me Montana… That’s all I can think of right now.”

“That’s enough!” Vee says. “I only have Vee and Mac. I feel deprived.”

The table breaks into some much-needed laughter.

“Well, campers, tomorrow is day one. We set the stage for how the week is going to go. I’m going to take my girl back to the suite to unwind and get some rest. I have wake-up calls set for everyone at six. If you need a different time, call down to the front desk and change it. Just be mindful of the 8:00 meeting time. We’ll see you all in the morning.”


CHRISTIAN

As we’re passing the front desk on our way to the elevator, we hear a bit of a commotion.

“What do you mean I can’t stay here tonight? I have a convention to attend in the morning! I can’t find anywhere to stay on such short notice!”

It’s Velma. She has just been informed that she won’t be welcome at the Waldorf Astoria, and she’s kicking up some dust! She’s being told that she violated the privacy of one of the guests and that’s against the policy of the hotel. My wife suddenly detours from the elevator, to my surprise, and goes over to the seat where she was sitting earlier, and she now has a bird’s eye view of the front desk and can hear the entire conversation.

“You’ve got to be kidding me!” she nearly screeches. “So, her money says that she can stay, but I can’t?”

“No, ma’am,” the night manager says. “Your money is as green as hers and I resent the implication. Your behavior says that you can’t stay here and making a scene isn’t going to change that.”

“I’m calling the corporate offices! This is ridiculous! You can’t just throw me out! Where will I find another room this late?” She’s on the verge of having a conniption. Butterfly crosses her legs, leans her chin on her hand, and turns purposefully towards the front desk to watch the show. I perch on the arm of her chair and Chuck stands protectively behind us.

“Feel free to call the corporate offices, ma’am. They’re closed right now, so you’ll have to call them in the morning. In the meantime, hotel security will accompany you to your room to collect your things.”

“I have nowhere to go!” she says, bursting into tears. I almost want to tell the manager to let her stay the night… almost.

“Las Vegas Blvd is full of hotels, ma’am. I’m certain that you’ll be able to find somewhere else to stay,” the manager contends.

“I’m not leaving!” she says, folding her arms. “You can’t just put me out like this!”

“That’s your choice, ma’am, but if you refuse to leave, I’ll be forced to call the authorities.” I can see her face pale from here.

“You would have me thrown in jail?” she asks, appalled.

“I don’t know what the authorities would do, ma’am, but I would be forced to call them to have you removed,” he says calmly.

“Get your boss on the phone right now! My company spends just as much money at this hotel as she does, and I’ll make sure that you’ll lose all of their business!” she threatens.

“And who is your company?” the manager asks unfazed.

“Bolding Industries,” she announces proudly. I scoff involuntarily. Butterfly looks at me.

“One of yours?” she asks. I shake my head.

“No, but I have a bit of influence with them. She’s giving me so much more information than I could have found on Twitter.” I fold my arms.

“Well, ma’am, we would hate to lose Bolding’s business, but nonetheless, you have to leave.” He turns to hotel security. “Please escort Ms. Hearns to collect her things.” Velma folds her arms again. The night manager is done talking and picks up the phone.

“Yes, this is Stannis Barley at the Waldorf Astoria on Las Vegas Blvd. I have a guest here who has been ejected and she refuses to leave… Yes, sir, in front of the Aria… She’s making a terrible scene and I’ve asked her several times to leave…”

Velma huffs and heads to the elevator with hotel security close behind her. She doesn’t look left or right as she walks to the bank of cars and never sees me and my wife sitting in the main lobby. When she boards the elevator, I walk over to the night manager, who’s still talking to the police.

“Please come,” he says. “She’s uncooperative and I don’t expect her to leave without incident… thank you.” He ends the call and turns to me. “I apologize for that, sir. How can I help you?” I pull out my business card and slide it to him.

“I doubt that you’ll have any problems with Bolding Industries, but if you do, please call my office.” He looks at the card.

“Oh!” he says. “You’re Mr. Grey?”

“Yes, I am. Thank you for taking care of that. My wife was devastated to see that ridiculous post.”

“No problem, Mr. Grey. The police are on their way and Ms. Hearns will definitely be escorted off the premises. I don’t know who you called, but this order came straight from corporate. So, if she calls them like she said she would, she’s going to be disappointed.”

Mac is getting a raise.

“Thank you, Mr. Barley. You have a good night.”

Butterfly is in a good mood when we board the elevator, but her mood plummets the moment we get to the suite. The reason for our visit must have hit her again like a wrecking ball.

She walks to the bedroom like she’s going to the gallows. I enter behind her as she has started undressing.

“Do you need to talk?” I ask. “It’s been one hell of a day.” She shakes her head.

“No,” she says, and it sounds like she’s about to say something else, but she doesn’t. She’s lost, and I can tell. I hate when she’s like this and I can’t do anything to help her.

Except…

I watch as she strips down to her underwear and removes her bra. When she’s standing there in nothing but her panties, I stand behind her and put my arms around her. I kiss her neck and gently cup her breasts. She smells divine, and I can tell that she’s still very tense. I take her hand and lead her to the bed. She dutifully lies on her back looking up at me. I bend down and kiss her gently on the lips before looking into her eyes.

“This is for you… not for me,” I say softly. Her brow furrows a bit and she looks at me questioning. I kiss her again and move to her neck, then the valley of her chest. I unbutton my shirt and move to her breast, suckling the nipple gently. A very small amount of milk seeps from her nipple and turns me on. She hasn’t been producing as much milk since she stopped breastfeeding a week ago, and I must admit that I’m going to miss it, but I won’t aggravate it since she has agreed to stop.

I remove my shirt as I move to the other nipple and remind myself that this is not for me. This is for her, to help her relax.

I move down her body to her taut belly and trace the lines of her abs, amazed that she’s still so fit after giving birth to twins. I toe out of my shoes as I run my tongue above the elastic line of her panties. She gasps as her stomach quivers slightly, and I move further down and settle between her legs. I delight in the feel of the skin of her thighs on my biceps taking what joy I can from this skin-to-skin contact.

I place my nose directly over her core and sniff deeply through her panties. Dear God, I don’t know how I’m going to do this without wanting her. I’ll take care of her, then go rub one out in the shower when I’m done.

I lick the surface of her pretty little nylon panties and she nearly erupts. Oh, yeah, she’s wound really tight. If I’m not careful, she’s going to blow in 30 seconds.

“Relax, baby,” I coach. “I’ve got you.”

Her body is still quivering, and her chest is heaving slightly. I lick her pussy through her panties again… and again. She mewls as I lick her and I’m trying to prepare her for when I lick her raw, but I see that nothing’s going to prepare her for it, so… why wait?

I lift the crotch of her panties from her core and press my thumb through the seam. The threads give way easily and I rip the seam up to the top of her pussy, effectively creating crotchless panties and exposing her entire delicious cunt. I pull the sides of the panties open and her clit pops out anxiously, plump and wet and ready for action.

I run the stiff tip of my tongue from the bottom of her inner lips, up and over her clit. She yelps, so I do it again… and again. I can see her grabbing the pillow over her head as I torment her, taking a break for about a second between each lick so that she doesn’t rise too fast.

“Christian… yes…” she breathes, and although I adore the taste of her, I’m so happy that she’s finally loosening up. I lick a few more times before I change my rhythm. Still using the stiff tip of my tongue, I flicker over the same area—inner lips to clit. She begins to rise higher, of course, now squirming underneath me and moaning deeply in pleasure, calling to God every few flicks. It sounds a bit strange to me as I heard her praying earlier, and I can’t help but wonder if she’s thinking of the same “God” as she calls out in pleasure that she does when she calls out in prayer.

Focus, Grey. I know you’re trying not to come while you’re salivating on this hot, delicious pussy, but this train of thought is ridiculous. Back to the pussy…

She’s settling into the rhythm of the flicker. It’s time to change again before she comes too soon. I move from a flicker to a circular motion over the same area, this time inside the inner lips and around to just underneath her clit and back. The flicker gave her so much stimulation over the tip of her clit that if I circle over it, she might detonate before I’m ready. An orgasm that comes too quickly may relieve the need to come, but it does nothing for stress.

Her hands have moved down to her sides and are now clutching the duvet. Her body is convulsing a bit and she’s anxious to come. I’m anxious for you to come, baby, but not yet.

I want this to be deep and hard for her, so after a few minutes of the circular cooldown, I move back to the flicker with a combination of the bottom-to-top lick that I started with. The stiff tongue is merciless; it concentrates stimulation right where you want it instead of spreading it across the entire pussy. She’s calling out to God again as I hold that pussy open and that tender flesh effortlessly reaches out to my tongue. Her body is starting to stiffen, and her legs have just the slightest tremble. Not too much, Grey, not just yet.

I go back to the circular motion, but this time, I lick deep inside the inner lips, up, under, and over her tightening clit. I know that it’s maddening, but she still won’t come just yet. This is just enough pleasure to keep her burning. I don’t torment her for long with that move, just a minute or two before I move on to my final rhythm.

Up and down and up and down, stiff tongue over and under that clit—up and down and up and down and up and down and up and down…

“Christian! Oh, God!” she’s panting hard now, signaling me that she’s about to come. I wait and continue my rhythm… up and down and up and down and up and down…

Her legs stiffen, her mons hardens, and her clit is starting to pebble, but still not yet… up and down and up and down and up and down…

Her head drops back, her hands are gripping the duvet with a fury, and her pelvis stiffens. She’s quiet—no more calling to God. She’s preparing for the explosion. That light sheen shows up on her torso.

Now, she’s ready.

Just when I’m sure that she can’t take anymore, I clamp down on her pussy with my entire mouth, devouring her core like a starving man, my tongue still firm and manipulating her clit. Almost instantly, she grabs my hair violently and howls out her orgasm, her body bowing forward into me and her juices nearly gushing into my mouth.

It’s fantastic!

I have to hold her down and her howls become whimpering cries as her orgasm seeps out of her, and when it’s too tender for her to bear, she begs for me to stop my ministrations. I gently kiss her inner thighs, causing her to shiver and protest softly. Her hair is wild, and her chest is heaving madly as she tries to catch her breath. I remove what’s left of her panties and drop them on the floor, then I remove the rest of my clothes and drop them with her panties. I crawl into bed next to her and gather her in my arms.

“Are you cold?” I ask. “Do you want to get under the covers?”

“Make love to me, Christian,” she simpers, “please…” I pause.

“Are you sure?” I say, my brow furrowed. “I meant it when I said this was only for you.”

“Yes,” she breathes, “please…”

“You don’t have to ask me twice,” I say as I roll over on top of her. She thrusts her hands into my hair and kisses me hungrily. Shit, she’s on fire, and I’m rising very quickly. She wraps her legs around me before I even have a chance to get inside of her.

“Please… please…” she begs against my lips, and her pleas go straight to my already hard dick. I pull my hips back and she’s already wide open and so wet that my head slips right inside of her.

“Jesus!” I hiss and she gasps, pushing her hips forward onto me. Son of a bitch, she’s fucking hot.

“Ana… baby… slow down,” I warn. I have the vision of her pussy in my head and the taste of it on my tongue. She’s wrapped around me, pulling me into her and she’s gobbling my mouth like she’s trying to suck her flavor from my tongue.

“I can’t… please…  I need you…” Shit, I’m at her mercy. With the perfect angle and her pussy sopping in cum and her newly heightened arousal, I slide right into her balls deep.

“Aw, fuck, Ana,” I lament. “This is gonna be quick.”

“Please, please…” she beseeches as if she didn’t even hear me. I’m blind with pleasure. This hot, gorgeous, sexy nymph wrapped around me and riding me from beneath—I have to thrust only slightly to get full penetration because she’s pumping so hard onto me that I can feel everything, all her insides everywhere! I thrust my tongue into her mouth and lap hungrily, succumbing to the passion as I grasp her shoulders, holding her as close to me as I can. She matches my fervor as she holds handfuls of my hair, lapping my tongue just as wildly and pulling every bit of pleasure from me imaginable.

I bend my knee for leverage so that she doesn’t push me away when she pumps up onto my cock. We’re both lost in the moment, the only sound in the room is our feverish breathing. God, she’s so sexy and so beautiful and she feels so good…

“Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm!”

She screams into my mouth only a few minutes after I enter her, never breaking our kiss. The tortured sound coupled with the insane clamping on my dick, our unbelievable closeness, and the fact that she’s still fucking me like a goddamn racehorse sets me off so violently that my knee buckles and I fall onto her with my full weight. This doesn’t hinder her, though. Somehow, with my entire body weight pressed onto her, she’s still fucking me, crying out her orgasm and drawing every bit of semen involuntarily out of my balls.

I dare not move my mouth until she stops. She’s stuck in one of the longest, single orgasms I’ve ever seen her have and my cock is giving it his best fight. Her pussy is clamped so tight onto me that even if I was flaccid, she could still get results. My balls are empty, though, popping and tender, and my dick sighs its own sigh of relief once my wife’s body falls limp on the bed.

Dear God!

We’re both panting and sweating, trembling and nearly crying. I didn’t intend to have sex with her. I just wanted her to come so that she could relax… but then she begged me, and dear God! I can’t even move.

How are we going to get under the covers now?


A/N: “Some other metal than earth”—Beatrice’s character in Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing says that she would not fall in love until God made men out of “some other metal than earth,” meaning never. She ended up falling in love with Senior Benedict, by the way.

“The Deuce” is the name of the bus that travels down the Las Vegas Strip from the south end at the Las Vegas Premier all the way downtown and back.

Yes, that incident with Rebecca Romijn Stamos really happened. I think I saw it on TMZ.

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

Pictures from the trip to Las Vegas can be found at https://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/grey-continued-las-vegas/

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 on the menu or 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, or 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

Grey Continued: Season 5, Episode 6

No email this time. Still training for my promotion. I’ll post as often as I can.

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 6

ANASTASIA

It’s my babies’ first birthday!

I’m walking on sunshine making mental plans for their first birthday party tomorrow. I’ve counted the guests and I’m going through my phases of Better Homes and Gardens again, only this time, it’s the birthday edition—if there is such a thing—and I’m not depressed or running from dread. I’m so filled with glee that I could just burst. There’s no GEH or Helping Hands today as I have to be sure that everything is just right for Minnie and Mikey’s birthday.

My guest list is all set—small but large for a birthday for a couple of one-year-olds, but who cares? Nothing could ruin my mood today, but surprisingly, something pretty damn morbid made it a whole lot better. The television is playing in the family room and I’m listening to the local news channel. I’m sitting at the breakfast bar working on the menu for tomorrow’s party when something on the news catches my attention.

“Within the last hour, we’ve learned that Washington State Penitentiary inmate and former Seattle socialite Elena Lincoln has suffered a massive stroke…”

I rubberneck to the television and feel my body floating into the family room. I don’t even remember getting out of my seat. I watch as a picture of an extremely much older-looking Elena Lincoln flashes across the screen. She didn’t look like that when she went in. I know she didn’t. Her natural hair had grown out, and it was brown. This woman, though she looks much older, has blonde hair… and she’s smiling… and she’s outside! And she looks like she’s wearing makeup! Where did this picture come from?

I’m pondering what the fuck is really going on in that goddamn prison when this bitch is supposed to be in maximum security and she’s able to get her hands on hair dye and makeup… and she’s fucking outside! I can’t see the surroundings behind her or if she’s wearing prison garb, so she could be in the exercise yard for all I know, but hair dye? And makeup? Tupac couldn’t even get a decent haircut when he was in jail!

I’ve missed the entire newscast lost in my wondering, and I scramble for the remote to rewind live TV. I’d die of suspense waiting for the story to come back on.

“Ana, what is it? You look like you’ve seen a ghost!”

I hear Gail’s voice, but I’m too focused on getting back to the story that I don’t even respond to her. I get back to the point where I see She-Thing’s picture on the screen and stop the rewind just before the story begins. I listen to the last bits of a story about the homeless people under the viaduct before the story begins to play again.

“Within the last hour, we’ve learned that Washington State Penitentiary inmate and former Seattle socialite Elena Lincoln has suffered a massive stroke. Lincoln was administered a routine flu shot when shortly thereafter, she began to show symptoms of a stroke. Prison officials indicate that Lincoln complained that she was dizzy, so she was instructed to lie down. Her symptoms became increasingly worse until she became unresponsive…”

“Is she dead?” I ask aloud. The words shocked me coming out of my mouth, but I don’t regret it. I want to know if the Pedo-Bitch is dead!

“Lincoln appears to have been in a coma since Wednesday, but has regained consciousness a short while ago…”

The Bitch is stomping her feet like Rumpelstiltskin while I attempt to appear unaffected.

“Although she is awake, Lincoln appears to have suffered extreme paralysis as a symptom of the stroke. At this time, she is unable to walk, move, or speak. There is currently no information on if the condition is permanent.”

Well, that’s something. The Bitch settles a bit.

“Questions arose as to whether Lincoln could have had an adverse reaction to the flu shot. Toxicology reports tested for the flu vaccine and revealed that she was given the same strain of the virus given to all the inmates and staff of the prison. Reports indicate that there was no way the flu shot could’ve caused a stroke.

“Lincoln will be moved to a minimum-security prison where a special team will oversee her care in hopes of a recovery.”

“She had a stroke from a flu shot?” I ask aloud.

“That’s impossible,” Grace says, and I forget that she was in the room. I look over at her.

“Not that I really care what happens to the bitch,” I tell her. “To be honest, it would have been good news had they said she was dead, but a stroke from a flu shot? I’ve never heard of such a thing.”

“Well, they clearly said it couldn’t have been caused by the flu shot,” she replies. “It has to be coincidence. Maybe she got some really bad news, or she had high blood pressure or something. There has to be an explanation.” She shrugs.

There is.

It suddenly dawns on me—my husband’s words a few days ago when I asked how things went with Greta Ellison.

“Nobody’s dead… except the book, and it won’t be back.”

Nobody’s dead except the book, and it won’t be back. That is so ominous, but I guess he’s right. The book, indeed, will not be back.

“Damn,” I say, gazing at the television, the news moving on to another story. “Karma’s a real bitch.”

“You look relieved,” Gail says, her brow raised when I turn to look at her.

“I am,” I reply. “There’s no use in lying. That woman is pure evil, and I’m surprised that it hasn’t consumed her from the inside out well before now.” Gail twists her lips.

“You’ll get no argument from me,” she says matter-of-factly, “the bitch shot my husband.”

Once I get over the initial shock of Elena’s fate, I walk around for the rest of the day on a damn cloud. I consider whatever happened to that bitch a necessary evil. She’s one miserable person who was hell-bent on destroying the lives of potentially dozens of families. I wholeheartedly believe that the world would be a better place without her, and I don’t regret those feelings. I only regret that the stroke didn’t finish her off.

Second only to my two darling bundles of joy, it’s the best present I’ve gotten in a year.

My husband didn’t seem surprised.

“Did you hear about She-Thing?” I ask when he gets home.

“I sure did,” he says, coming into the family room as I’m decorating for the birthday party. “I wish the bitch had died.”

“I said the same thing,” I reply. “Maybe we should ease up on that before we bring some bad Karma onto ourselves. “

“No problem. I don’t want to talk about her anyway. So, a month ago, Santa Claus shit all over the house. Now, we’ve got Minnie and Mickey Mouse droppings.” I glare at him.

“First of all, you better be glad my children aren’t down here to hear you cursing or I’d find some way to make you pay for it, and I don’t mean a swear jar. Second, I’m having a great time, so don’t you come raining on my parade, Christian Grey!” I’m pointing at him with a Minnie Mouse wand made of a black glitter Minnie head with a pink glitter bow on it attached to a wooden dowel.

“Careful where you shake that thing!” he warns. “I don’t want fairy dust all over me!”

“Fuck you, Dr. Killjoy,” I declare.

“Oooh! Who needs the swear jar now?” he teases, capturing me in his arms and tickling me, his fingers madly manipulating my ribs.

“Christian, stop!” I giggle helplessly.

“What? What was that? I don’t think I heard you…”

“Stop or I’ll pee myself!” I warn. He stops tickling me and pulls me into his arms.

“Well, we don’t want that,” he says, kissing me softly.

“You seem in a better mood today,” I observe, closing my eyes as he peppers gentle kisses on my lips, my neck, and my jaw.

“It was a better day,” he says between kisses. “Somebody came in there and put the fear of God into my staff and they’ve been getting their shit together.”

“Mmm… have they now?” I say, still absorbing his tender kisses.

“Mmm-hmm,” he says, gently tasting my skin.

“Sheesh, get a room,” Jason says, coming from the mudroom and through the family room.

“We don’t need a room. We have a house,” Christian retorts, “and you’re in it.”

“Along with a very impressionable teenager,” he remarks. Oops, he’s right. Sophie should be around any minute to help me with the hors d’oeuvres and sandwich fixings for tomorrow.

“Look who’s talking,” I say as Christian releases his embrace. “You come in kissing Gail every day.” He pauses as he reaches his wife to do just that.

“I kiss her,” he concurs, “I don’t maul her in the middle of the family room. We’re not making out amongst the Disney paraphernalia. Hello, Love,” he says, turning to his wife and kissing her sweetly.

“Yeah, yeah, whatever,” Christian says, forcefully pulling me back into his arms. “I’ll maul my wife whenever and wherever I damn well please… but I will be mindful of the teenager.” He looks at me again and pops a fast, hard kiss on my lips eliciting a giggle from me.

“So, what’s going on at the Ivory Palace?” I ask my husband. “Finney and Ros finally get their asses in gear?”

“Among other things,” he says. “Everybody’s waiting for the Queen of Hearts to come breezing into the office… ‘Off with their heads!’” he jests, still holding me close to him while ceasing his kissing. “It’s one thing to have one hardnosed boss, but two… and then whatever gets pass me or—heaven forbid—you, is now being picked up by the executive team who are also afraid of having their craniums severed.” He raises a brow.

“Aha! Now we’re getting somewhere!” I declare. “That’s all we needed in the first place. Why the fuck did I have to come down there and put some fire under these assholes? And what’s with the Queen of Hearts analogy? That woman was insane. I’m not that bad.”

Queen of Hearts

“Well, get used to it because that’s what the ‘peasants’ are calling you,” he says. “And the Queen of Hearts may have been insane, but she was powerful. Insane or not, if she said a head came off, a head came off, and you proved that by sending Mosele home for a short ‘vacation’ to ponder his position. And let’s not forget the fact that you came breezing in there that Monday morning in this fierce red dress daring someone to test you. And those who did were made quick examples—not down the line, but in that same meeting. I think these people know who their dealing with.”

“Must we refer to them as peasants?” I ask. It sounds so unpleasant and elitist.

“If they can call you ‘Queen of Hearts,’ I can call them ‘peasants.’ And trust me, they have a plethora of unsightly names for me, so I’m being kind.”

Jesus, I would prefer not to have the company have the us/them mentality, but unfortunately, it looks like it may be what we need to get things done.

“Speaking of the executive team, how’s Ros doing with her dilemma?” I ask.

“I have no idea,” he tells me. “I don’t want to be in her personal life that way. While I truly do sympathize with her familial woes, I’m sure that I would prefer not to be in her proverbial bedroom that way. I can’t empathize with her at all because she made a vow to one woman when her heart was with someone else. I can’t speak to what she should have done or what she should do now. I can only say that it’s not my arena.”

I try not to frown. Ros is his second in command, so he very well should be concerned about her familial woes. However, I guess as the psychiatrist between us, I’m going to have to keep an eye on the situation myself. However, his reaction—though very calm and PC—is not getting past me.

“What?” he asks, obviously noting my contemplation.

“You have some very distinct opinions about this,” I say. He raises a brow. “I live with you. I’m married to you. I fuck you. I can read between the lines,” I say, answering his unasked question. He adjusts his posture, about to make a point.

“I can clearly say that’s something that I would never do,” he says. “When I asked you to marry me, that’s where I wanted to be. I had the choice to stay in my lifestyle and be with whomever I chose whenever I chose—that’s not what I wanted. I wanted you. I want you. So, the concept of wanting someone else after I said that I wanted you is something I can’t fathom. But you…”

He pauses. What the fuck? What about me?

“I’m with you. I love you. I know you well enough to know that this is where you want to be. That whole Westwood bullshit was a blip in the radar for a few different reasons, but I know this is where you want to be. The thought that you would marry me while you still had unclear feelings for someone else only to have those feelings resurface years after we said our vows—I would be murderous. I wouldn’t even know how to handle that.

“So, right now, while I am concerned about Ros, I have to compartmentalize this whole thing. What she did was selfish and cruel, and now she’s trying to find the easiest way out of the situation she created. She totally created this monsoon, and now she’s trying to get out of it without getting wet. And where the fuck does that leave Gwen?”

He’s beginning to get angry, but I can see him visibly trying to shake off his anger with Ros.

“I see,” I say, calmly. “So, your empathy strikes again, but this time, it’s striking with Gwen. How does that feel?”

He raises his gaze to me and I’m looking at him with soft but inquisitive eyes, nothing confrontational. He couldn’t empathize with Ros because he would never do that. The only thing that he could do is put himself in Gwen’s shoes, and it’s infuriating him.

“Pretty pissed off,” he says, his voice calmer, “which is why I can’t talk to her about it. When her personal shit interfered with her job, I got involved. Where it doesn’t interfere with her job, I’m out of it.” He shakes his head. I nod and put my hand on his cheek.

“I think that’s best,” I tell him. “I’ll handle it. Like you said, as long as she does her job, right?” He closes his eyes and nods, leaning into my hand.

“Thank you for not getting mad,” he says. I scoff a laugh.

“You almost had me for a minute there, Grey, but luckily, I learned to listen,” I say with a wink and a smile. We hear the clearing of someone’s throat, and we turn to see Marilyn standing there.

“Um, I hope I’m not disturbing you,” she says. Christian laughs. I turn to him.

“What?” I ask.

“She just did a ‘Jason,’” he says with mirth. My brow furrows.

“A ‘Jason?’” I ask. Christian cocks his head at me.

“If we’re in the midst of a conversation—or anything else—when Jason walks into the room, what does he do to get my attention?” I roll my eyes.

“You mean besides tell us to get a room?” I say, turning to Marilyn. “You’re not interrupting, Mare, what’s up?”

“I got a call from Alex. He said he tried to call you twice but no luck.” I begin looking around for my phone. Where is my phone?

“Hell, I don’t know where my phone is. Is everything okay?”

“Yeah. He said that you were looking for a final background check on Jade Goldwin. He emailed it to you,” she says. Oh, yeah, her.

“Thanks, Mare. Did he say that there was anything to be concerned about?”

“Not to me,” she says with a shrug. “I would think if there was cause for concern, he’d ask me to get you to the phone, so I would say not.” I nod.

“I agree, but I’ll look at it anyway,” I say. She nods and smiles before heading back off towards the elevator.

“Jesus, has she lost more weight?” I was hoping he wouldn’t notice that, but she has. My silence is enough for him. “Butterfly, this is not good. She’s really going to hurt herself if she doesn’t stop this!”

“I know, I know,” I lament. “I’m the doctor, remember?” He gazes at me for a moment.

“Her parents aren’t here,” he says, firmly. “She doesn’t have a significant other anymore. I hate to do this, but it’s you, baby. It’s all you.” I roll my eyes.

“I know, Christian, I’m just trying not to ambush the girl right now…”

“You may not have a choice. She’s slowly killing herself!”

“She just got back…” I excuse.

“Nearly three weeks ago!” he counters. I deflate. He’s right. She needs to eat.

“I’ll talk to her,” I say.

“You may need to do more than that,” he cautions.

“Like what?” I recounter.

“I don’t know, but you may need to do more than that! This is serious! She’s really hurting herself right now.”

“Okay, okay, I get it,” I say, hoping to halt the conversation. Jesus, I’m not the one starving myself for crying out loud. I just have to figure out what to do.

“So…” he says, stalling, “what’s with this Jade Goldwin?” Holy cow, that’s the way to change gears.

“She’s coming to the party,” I tell him. “She’s in Maxie and Mindy’s Mommy and Me class, and she has a son the same age as Mindy. I just wanted to vet her before she came to my house and head her off if necessary.”

“Oh? How did you meet her?” he asks. Now he’s interested. Good grief.

“Maxie and I were shopping, and we bumped into her at the Marketplace.” He nods. I know he wants more information. I roll my eyes for the umpteenth time. Where the hell is my phone?

“Keep doing that and they might get stuck that way,” he says, swiping his phone and touching the screen. I’m about to roll my eyes at him again when I hear the muffled sound of our song playing. I look around and back at him, and he’s holding his phone up, showing me that he’s calling me. Where the fuck is my phone?

It goes to voicemail and he calls it again… and again. It took four times for me to find the damn thing between the sofa cushions. How the hell did it get there?

I swipe the screen and the battery is nearly dead. It’s a good thing I found it, or I may have never found it.

“Don’t you have a case or a clip or something for that?” he asks.

“No, Mr. Grey, I keep it in my purse, and I didn’t go anywhere today!” I snap.

“Touchy,” he teases.

“Annoying,” I counter in the same sing-songy voice. I open my email and click on the pdf attached.

“Yeah, she’s Jane Q. Housewife,” I say, scrolling through the document. “Twenty-nine, married, four boys just like Maxie said.”

“And her husband?” Christian asks.

“Sells insurance for a local company,” I tell him. “Small beans.” He nods.

“Who’s coming?” he asks.

“Just Jade and her youngest,” I say, closing my phone. “Maxie vouches for her, so she can’t be all bad.”

“Who all is coming?” he asks.

“All the grandparents, the godparents—Mia bowed out this time, the Scooby Gang… except for Gary, Luma and Herman and the girls, Marlow’s bringing Maggie and probably a date…” Sophie will love that, “… and our newest guest Jade and her little boy, English.”

“English?” Christian says in horror.

“I didn’t name the kid,” I say, with a shrug.

“Dear Lord,” Christian says. “That poor kid is going to be teased incessantly.”

“You don’t know that, Christian,” I scold.

“Baby, I’ve traveled the world and I’ve never met anybody anywhere named English,” he points out.

“Okay, so he has a unique name,” I argue, “It’s not wild or crazy, like Fallopion or something. It’s just different.”

“You’re so sweet,” he says, stroking my cheek. “He’s going to get teased. Whoever came up with that name, that’s grounds for divorce.” I gape at him.

“You’re kidding, right?” I ask in horror. He raises a brow.

“Am I?” he asks, impassively.

“You’re saying that when we have another kid, if for some reason you’re indisposed and I come up with a name that you don’t like, you’ll divorce me?” My voice rises to a squeak on the last two words and I think hearing it come out of my mouth makes him realize just how ridiculous he sounds.

“Well, no, but you wouldn’t name our child something ridiculous like English!” he quips.

“And what if I did?” I say, putting my hands on my hips.

“Then there would definitely be some papers filed somewhere,” he says, “maybe not for divorce, but we would be changing that kid’s name. And anyway, it’s a moot point because we sat down and picked our children’s names together, months before they were born. So, why are we arguing about a kid who isn’t even ours?”

I twist my lips and fold my arms. The argument does seem a tad ridiculous.

“You were the one who started talking about divorce,” I pout.

“Yeah, and you were the one to actually take it literally,” he retorts. “Divorce you? Over a name, even? Seriously?” Asshole.

“Be useful and grab that garland,” I pout.

“Hey, wait, I’m not getting roped into decorating,” he protests.

“Oh, yes, you are!” I whirl around on him. “You came in here pissing on my happy place then we’re talking about everything from Elena to Queen of Hearts to Ros to Westwood to Marilyn to some random kid named English to divorce and dammit I want my happy place back!” I say the entire sentence without breathing and he just gazes at me.

“I got your happy place right here,” he remarks, matter-of-factly and I roll my eyes for the 101st time today.

“Grab the damn garland, Christian.”

*-*

It’s Saturday, the day that we meet with Artemis and Savvina, but that’s not until much later. Right now, Minnie and Mickey Mouse decorations are exploding all over my dining room and family room much like yuletide exploded all over my house for Christmas. I’m definitely in the mood to celebrate.

There are two giant Number One balloons to greet you at the door. One has a Mickey Mouse head and the other, a Minnie Mouse head. There’s also a Minnie and Mickey sign that reads, “Welcome to the birthday clubhouse.” Once they don their Minnie or Mickey Mouse party hats, the kids get to munch on “Daisy’s garden vegetables,” “Goofy grapes,” or various melons cut in the shape of Mickey’s head and garnished with blueberries and pineapple. There’s always a way to get kids to eat healthy if you make it fun.

They also get to build ham and turkey sandwiches out of bread, turkey, ham, and cheese all cut in the shape of Mickey’s head with choices of lettuce, tomato, pickles, and condiments as well—or they can choose to have Mickey shaped chicken nuggets or a hot dog from the “Hot Diggity Dog” bar. There are games and bubbles and prizes to keep them occupied, but let’s face it—who’s not going to have fun in Mickey Mouse land?

I was smart enough to know that “Hot Diggity” dogs and chicken nuggets wouldn’t cut it for the parents. So, we have the option of what I call “Chicken Bacon Crack Pinwheels,” Rueben pinwheels, quinoa salad, and seven-layer dip, along with the aforementioned fruits and vegetables. The drinks were either “Pirate Punch” or “Sea Water” from the Pirate Mickey drink bar, and various Mickey and Minnie Mouse cupcakes are spread around the house, along with the Mickey/Minnie birthday cake on the kitchen counter.

Sophie has help me with most of the same-day preparation, like she always does. She wants to be a chef or a caterer, and she loves preparing the food and decorating the house. She’s so grown up for her age that I’m a little afraid that she might be missing her childhood. With a mother like Shalane, though, she’s probably already missed it. She’s seen too much for her age, and once you see certain things, you just can’t unsee them.

Sophie shed her purple tresses shortly after her last altercation with Marlow’s most recent date on Christmas, and after a visit to Miana’s, Jason is glad to see her enter with shiny, beautiful, billowing blonde waves. She actually looks a little older, but it’s most likely because that purple hair made her look so much younger to me.

She gleefully helps me finish setting up for the twins’ party which, as we all know, is really a celebration for the parents, but I don’t care. My little brother will be here. Max is bringing Mindy and I even told her that she was clear to bring Jade to the party since they’re such good friends. I should definitely get to know her if they’re that close.

Celida and Mariah will be here. At the tender age of 6 and 8, they love parties for whatever reason. Maggie’s coming, too. I don’t know if Marlow will be bringing a date this time, but I almost wish that he wouldn’t. It usually ends miserably for him and for Sophie. Until she gets over this crush that she has on him, she’s not going to behave. She’s a woman scorned at 13, and most women scorned don’t even know how to behave as adults!

Mia has decided to sit this one out, but the grandparents and godparents will be here, and of course, our resident waif, Marilyn. I hope I can get her to eat some cake or something before Christian declares martial fucking law!

The guests are now arriving and surprisingly, Maxie, Phil, and Jade arrive before Al.

“Forgive me,” Jade begins, “if I seem a little out of place today. I can’t believe I’m here—this place is absolutely astonishing. And the decorations—dear God! Did you do this all yourself or did you have help?”

“Well, both, actually. I did it myself, but I had a little help, too. My biggest helper was this young lady right here…” I snag Sophie as she’s walking by. “This is my resident party helper, Sophia. Sophie, this is Jade, and you know Maxie and Phil.”

Sophie smiles and waves shyly.

“Hi,” she says sweetly.

“Hi, Sophia,” Jade says, “or do you prefer Sophie?”

“Sophie’s fine,” she says. Jade smiles.

“This is my son, English,” she says. English is older than the twins, but he manages a smile and a wave from his mother’s arms.

“English,” Sophie says, as if testing the word, “I’ve never heard of that as a name before.”

“He’s named after his paternal grandfather,” she says. “My husband insisted.”

“Oh,” I say, “so it’s a family name.” She nods.

“I would have chosen something normal, like Chad, or Blake, or Worcestershire,” she says, rolling her eyes, and I know the last one was a joke, but with a name like English, you can’t be too sure.

“It’s unusual,” I say, “but it’s nice.”

“Thank you,” she says. “It does sound distinguished at the very least.” I see my husband and decide to poke a little fun at him.

“Christian, come, meet our guest,” I say loudly so that he can’t ignore me or try to get away. He raises his brow at me because he knows what I’m doing, but I don’t care.

“This was my other helper,” I say to Jade when he comes over to us. “He hung a piece of garland or three.”

“A piece of…” My husband trails off in mock horror and I pretend to ignore him.

“Christian, this is Jade and her son, English,” I say, introducing them.

“It’s very nice to meet you,” he says with a nod of his head.

“Likewise. Thank you for having me,” Jade replies cordially.

English is an unusual name, isn’t it, Christian?” My husband throws a side gaze at me. “It’s a family name,” I tell him. “He’s named after his grandfather.” Still grounds for a divorce, Sir?

“Is that so?” Christian says. “Tell me, what is the origin of that name.”

“I have no idea,” Jade says. “As ridiculous as it sounds, I’m assuming it’s English! I can’t even derive a nickname from that, so I just call him Eddie.

My knees buckle and I’m literally choking on nothing. Christian catches me as I’m going down and makes an excuse to get me away from Jade. He takes me over to the pirate bar and I sit down.

“I’m fine. I’m fine. I just wasn’t ready. It caught me off guard,” I excuse.

“Okay, so you can just sit here until you’re back on guard,” he says, kneeling in front of me.

“Really, Christian, I’m fine,” I assure him. “That’s just the last name I expected to hear at my children’s birthday party.”

“Well, maybe Maxine should tell her friends to do some homework before she brings them around,” he states.

“Oh, please,” I lament, “aren’t I considered enough of a prima donna to the public without people having to know my life history before they visit me? Besides, what would we do, tell her to change her son’s nickname because of my ex-boyfriend? Just let it go.”

I raise my head just in time to see Maggie giggling with Sophie, and a few moments later, Marlow enters… with a date, and not the girl from Christmas. Jesus, what was that, a month ago?

“You may need to talk to him,” I say to Christian while gesturing to Marlow. He looks over his shoulder at Marlow, then back at me.

“What?” he asks

“The girls,” I whisper harshly. “He brings a different girl to every event.”

“He’s young, Butterfly,” he excuses. “He’s not attached to anybody and I know he practices safe sex.” I know that too, but…

“He brought one girl to Mia’s wedding in September; another one to Thanksgiving; another one to Christmas; and now another one to the twins’ birthday. That’s four girls in five months! You don’t see anything wrong with that?” Besides the fact that it’s totally tormenting Sophie, it just doesn’t look good… and it’s not smart!

“He’s a young boy sowing his oats like young boys do. He’s no dummy. He won’t get caught up in a bad situation. I don’t see the problem.” I cock my head at him.

“Oh? So, if Michael brings a string of girls home from the ages of 15 to 18, you wouldn’t have a problem with that?” I ask.

“No,” he says matter-of-factly. Is that so, Mr. Grey? I fold my arms and square off.

“And if Mackenzie brings home a string of boyfriends?” I say, and just let the words hang in the air. His face blanches and he begins to look a little ill.

Mm-hmm, that’s what I thought. What’s good for the goose is going to be good for the gander in this house, Grey. So, if you don’t want to see your little princess doing it, don’t think I’m going to allow little Master Grey to get away with it either.

“Talk to him,” I say, firmly before rising from the breakfast bar and going back to the dining room.

I greet my guests and assure everyone that I’m okay, chalking my coughing spell up to an unexpected bout with my own saliva. Marlow introduces me to his date—Tasha, I think her name is. It doesn’t matter. I’m sure that I won’t see her again after today.

Sophie and Maggie have taken to getting the children situated and playing “Pin the bow on Minnie” when Al finally decides to grace us with his presence.

“Sorry we’re late,” he says, and that’s all he gives me by way of an explanation, not that I need one. He and James are both as loose as a noodle and look like fresh, new daisies. I’m sure sex was involved.

“You nearly missed your godchildren’s party, you sex fiend,” I say, my voice low.

“Don’t be so dramatic,” he says waving me off. “You haven’t even opened presents yet.” I roll my eyes. “Who’s the bird with Maxie?”

“That’s Jade,” I tell him. “She’s in a Mommy and Me class with Maxie, which they probably had to miss to come to this party.” He looks at me.

“You sound a little snippy,” he observes. I glare at him.

“Jealous,” I say, honestly. “Maxie got married before me; had her baby before me; and now she’s moving on to new friends without me. Yeah, I’d say I’m just a little snippy.” I look over at Jade and Maxie having a conversation with Val.

“Jade calls her Max,” I say with disdain. “Her son’s name is English.” Al frowns.

“English? That’s his name?” he asks. I nod. “That’s odd. Where did that come from?”

“Apparently, it’s a family name. And get this, his nickname is Eddie.” Al literally winces at the mention of the name. “Yeah, my sentiments exactly, only a little more graphic.”

“Well, she seems like a nice enough person,” he says.

“She is,” I admit. “I just resent the fact that she’s apparently taking my place.” Al scoffs.

“Darling Jewel, she may be friends with our Maxine, but trust me—nobody can replace you.” He puts his hand on my shoulder.

“You’re sweet,” I tell him as we go to join the party.

Everything is going well, and the children are having a really good time playing games, opening prizes, and blowing bubbles. I’m with Minnie most of the day, standing her on her feet and coaxing her to walk with me, which she does. She’s doing very well keeping her balance and standing for several moments until she realizes that she’s standing, or she moves too fast to get to some new toy or adventure. Then she’s back on her hands and knees again. I think it’s adorable and, sure enough, after a few hours of guidance, she’s toddling around more than she’s crawling. Christian gets a few videos on his phone since I’m detained with entertaining. We’re just finishing singing “Happy Birthday” to the twins and I’m cutting and serving cake when I hear it.

“Is constantly twirling your hair an art form or can anybody do it?”

Oh, dear God. I raise my gaze to see Sophie, once again, facing off with Marlow and his date. Tasha looks at Sophie, appalled.

“Is this little brat talking to me?” she asks Marlow while pointing at Sophie. Marlow appears to be trying to smooth things over while Sophie stands there looking like she had nothing to do with Tasha’s current mood.

“No, Marlow! Does she speak to any other adult in this room that way?” Tasha shoots. I know what that means. Marlow is 17, so this girl is probably 18, and by pointing out that she’s an adult, she most likely just turned 18 and she’s smelling her adultness. I sigh.

“Nice one, Sophie,” I lament quietly.

“I don’t care,” I hear Tasha say. “In our house, children know to stay in a child’s place. Someone apparently forgot to teach her that!” She is furious. She throws a murderous look at Sophie and walks away.

“Seriously, Sophie?” Marlow hisses. “Jesus Christ, what’s going on with you?” and now, he’s livid, too as he goes after Tasha. I take this opportunity to make my way over to Sophie.

“Sophia!” I say quietly, “seriously, you’re going to have to stop this. Marlow is going to despise you if you keep this up.”

“I wasn’t trying to tease her,” she excuses, “it just slipped out. She stood there the entire time twirling her hair around her finger. Jesus, is she that flighty or is it a nervous tick?”

“And if it wasn’t her hair, it would be her shoes, or her dress, or her voice. This is getting out of hand!”

“What does it matter what I say?” she says. “He still going to do her.”

“Sophie!” I exclaim appalled.

“They’re so obvious! How can he not see it?” My question is how can you see it so clearly? “How can he even like these girls? They’re scatterbrains. They have the attention span of a goldfish. None of them even show up again after the first time!”

That’s what I said, but that could have a lot to do with you.

“Well, for whatever reason he likes them, he likes them, and you’re going to have to stop being rude to them. For one thing, it’s not very ladylike at all. And for another thing, I defended you when that girl passively aggressively insulted you at Mia’s wedding. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to see how she made you feel although Marlow was clueless. What ground do I have to stand on right now when you’re behaving the same way she did? And third, and most important…” I put my hand on her shoulder and hold her gaze.

“I’m very fond of you, Sophie,” I say. “I consider us good friends, but I don’t like for anyone to insult the guests that come to my home and you do that repeatedly with Marlow’s dates. If they lash out at you first, I completely understand your need to defend yourself. But when you say disparaging things against them for no reason, that’s unacceptable behavior, Sophie.”

This is the first time that I’ve had to scold Sophie and I really don’t like it, but it’s necessary. She shrinks a bit as my words sink in.

“I really didn’t think about it that way,” she says. “I still think they’re flighty little thots, but I don’t want to make you guys look bad. I’m sorry, Ana.” I nod.

“You might want to apologize to Marlow and his date,” I tell her. She grimaces.

“I can’t do that,” she squeals quietly. “He already hates me, and I couldn’t face him right now… or her. Please don’t make me do that I’ll die!” She says the last part all in one breath, and I really believe she would just keel over and die if she had to face Marlow right now.

“Well, I can’t and won’t force you to do anything, Sophie, but you might want to think about your behavior and what damage has already been done.” She sighs heavily as if I’ve just pardoned her from the death penalty.

“Sophia!”

I discover that I may have spoken too soon. Gail’s voice interrupts our conversation and she is none too happy as she comes marching over to us.

“Sophia, is it true that you said something unkind to Marlow’s date?” Gail accuses. Sophie’s mouth falls open and she looks in horror over at Marlow. When I glance at him, he and his date are looking in our direction like they’re waiting for the ax to fall. Oh, this is just great.

“I can’t believe it,” Sophie says incredulously, her voice three octaves higher than normal. “He snitched on me?”

“So, that means that it’s true,” Gail accuses, a statement not a question.

“I was just kidding around, Momma Gail,” Sophie excuses. “It’s not my fault she can’t take a joke.”

“That’s because she didn’t find it funny,” Gail says. “You can’t say mean things about people and think it’s okay. It’s very unbecoming, and you owe them an apology. You march over there right now and apologize.”

As if Sophie’s face could show any more horror, she glares over at Marlow and his date then turns her gaze back to Gail.

“No,” she says, calmly, her voice resolute. You could knock Gail over with a feather right now.

“Excuse me, young lady?” Gail says in disbelief.

“I’m sorry, Momma Gail, but I’m not going to apologize. He already won. He snitched on me for hurting his girlfriend’s feelings, and now they’re staring at me waiting to see what kind of trouble I’m going to get in. So, he won. I’m in trouble, I already know it, but I’m not going to apologize.”

Sophie stands firm on that sinking boat that she’s not going to apologize. To already be convicted of the crime, she pled her case very well for a 13-year-old kid. Right now, Sophie would rather run naked down the I-5 than to go over there and apologize to Marlow and that girl. Gail looks at her stepdaughter and knows that it’s a lost cause to try to make her apologize.

“The party is over for you, young lady,” Gail says firmly. “Go to your apartment. You’re grounded for the rest of the weekend.” Shit, there goes my helper.

“Yes, ma’am,” Sophie says dutifully, and marches past Gail without looking back at me or at Marlow and his date. I roll my eyes before Gail turns around to look at me.

“What?” she says. “She was wrong. She’s going to turn out to be a bully if we don’t nip this in the bud.”

“I highly doubt that,” I say, “but don’t be too hard on her. You know, teenage angst, sibling rivalry… She was probably just giving her ‘brother’s’ date a hard time, nothing more.” I do the finger quotes around the word brother knowing damn well that it’s more than that, but she’s not a bully. She’s lashing out because she’s jealous.

“I don’t know,” Gail sighs. “I hope you’re right.” She walks over to Marlow and his date and says something to them. I turn away and head over to the food table. I can’t help but empathize with Sophie again. Even though she was clearly wrong, he told Mommy on her. There’s no better or more thorough way to drive home the fact that he looks at her as nothing more than a child than to tell Mommy that she said something wrong. There’s no way in hell Sophie was going to apologize after that. She’ll most likely gladly take the grounding and hide under her bed for the next two days.

“Trouble in the happiest place on earth?” My husband’s voice breaks me out of my thought process as I fill my plate with a few pinwheels.

“I just lost my party helper,” I say, taking another pinwheel. “Sophie was poking fun at Marlow’s date, something about twirling her hair on her fingers, and Marlow didn’t like it. Apparently, he told Gail and now Sophie’s grounded.” Christian frowns.

“He snitched on her?” he says. I raise a shocked gaze at him.

“That’s exactly what she said!” I say, surprised.

“Well, yeah, me and Mia used to do shit like that to each other all the time—me and Elliot, too—but we didn’t snitch on each other.” I smile and shake my head.

“I think it might be a different dynamic here, Christian,” I say before I realize that I’m saying too much.

“How so?” he asks, and before I get the chance to trip over my tongue, he continues. “He considers her a little sister and that’s just how she’s acting, like a bratty little sister trying to embarrass him in front of a girl. But hell, he snitched. He broke the sibling code.” I frown.

“There’s a sibling code?” I ask incredulously.

“Well, apparently not with him,” Christian says. “I know there are some siblings who’ll squeal if you left the top off the mustard, but in our family, Vegas rules applied—what happened outside of Mom and Dad’s knowledge stayed outside of Mom and Dad’s knowledge.”

Well, that’s scary. Stuff was going on right under their nose and they didn’t know it. That’s probably why Pedo-Bitch could so easily get to Christian and almost to Elliot. Everything was so hush-hush.

At this point, I don’t know who’s side I’m on.

“Yeah, well, I’d say the lines are drawn in the sand now,” I say, eating a pinwheel.

“I’d say you’re right,” my husband concurs.


CHRISTIAN

“When you are in a submissive role, your duty is to serve. However, it cannot only be your duty. It must be your desire. You cannot force this relationship–it has to be something that you want… crave or desire, even. Some soumises are born, some are cultivated. Either is fine, but this must be something that you want to do for yourself, or you’re wasting your time.”

Pussycat and I are sitting in our mentors’ den. The sessions with them and our attendance at the Munches have been highly rewarding and very informative. Pussycat has done lots of research on her own along with several assignments given to her from Savvina. She has brought several questions to our sessions, and today’s question has to do with tasks.

Tasks are generally set in a 24/7 D/s relationship, which ours is not. However, Pussycat points out that she can see how having a task or even several tasks would help her to maintain a submissive mindset. It doesn’t mean that she is releasing any of her independence. It just means that she’s acknowledging that I’m her Dominus and she, my soumise—and that in that role, she has the attitude of service, which is why Savvina is speaking on the duty of a soumise to serve.

“Service is a relative term,” Savvina continues. “It may mean that you perform direct duties required by your Dominus or it may not. It may also mean that you make yourself available for what he needs, or that you assist him with a skill or ability that he may not have. The possibilities are endless, and the two of you will set the guidelines for how you will serve him or what your specific tasks will be, if any.” Pussycat looks at me.

“Are there any specific tasks that come to mind that you think you may require of me?” she inquires. I ponder for a moment.

“None come to mind immediately,” I admit, “but I’m certain that we’ll come up with something.”

As we’re speaking, the coffee service arrives and is placed on the table in front of us. Savvina dutifully prepares two cups of coffee—one for Artemis, and then one for herself. She prepares Artemis’s cup with cream and sugar, and then her own before she sits back to enjoy the coffee. Pussycat’s and my cup remain empty.

I immediately see this as a test from our mentor if Pussycat is willing to serve—literally, although I’m not sure this is what she meant when she asked about tasks and service.

Noting that Savvina didn’t pour any coffee for us, Pussycat pauses only for a moment before retrieving the silver coffee pot and pouring a small amount into her cup. She replaces the coffee pot and takes a sip of the coffee. Then she retrieves the coffee pot again and fills my cup nearly to the brim. She adds a bit of cream and sugar before stirring it and handing me the cup and saucer, which I graciously accept. She then prepares her own cup and relaxes in her seat to enjoy her coffee.

“Why did you pour your cup first?” Savvina asks.

“I didn’t pour my ‘cup’ first. I poured a tasting in my cup,” Pussycat responds.

“And why would you do that?” Savvina asks. “Why would you pour coffee for yourself before pouring coffee for your Dominus?”

“Because I didn’t make the coffee, and it wasn’t made in my home,” she says. “How he takes his coffee is dependent on the brew, so I had to taste it to know what to put in it.” Savvina raises a brow and looks at me.

“Does she normally serve your coffee at home?” Savvina asks.

“Never,” I reply. “As of late, I’ve been leaving the house very early–before she wakes. It’s not something that I require her to do. Our staff makes sure that the coffee is prepared before either of us wakes. I sometimes leave so early that I just get coffee at the office.”

“How do you know how he takes his coffee if he’s never home or you’re not awake when he drinks it?” Savvina asks Pussycat, and she’s at a loss for words. If I didn’t know better, I would swear that she was affronted.

“If you are serving your Dominus, you should never drink or eat before he does,” Savvina says, and crosses her legs definitively. Pussycat is silent for a moment, her brow furrowed, and just as Savvina begins to speak again, she interjects.

“I disagree,” she says, crossing her legs as well. Savvina’s brow rises again.

“And why is that?” she prompts Pussycat.

“If I make my own coffee, then I want it strong and black. If he drinks my coffee, he wants it black, too. It’s been that way since the first cup of coffee he drank at my apartment more than two years ago. Coffee in restaurants or at the office are a good, robust blend, but not as strong as mine—as is the coffee made by my staff at home. In that case, he’ll take a little creamer, but not sugar. Designer coffees usually have a flavor of their own, so he won’t take anything in those either, unless he opts for a shot of espresso. If coffee is particularly weak, it’s nothing but English tea to his palette. So, he takes it with cream and sugar. So, I beg to differ with you, because if it’s coming from a strange pot, unless he’s pouring his own coffee, I don’t know what’s in the pot. So, I have to taste it before I serve him.”

Touché.

“Well,” Savvina says, “The teacher has been duly chastised.” She takes a sip of her coffee. “This is a perfect example of service being a relative term and the two of you setting your own guidelines for your definition of service. You came to me with a question about tasks and service, and you ended up educating me on one of the most important aspect of the D/s relationship—that it’s totally a la carte, and that each couple writes their own rules and guidelines for their relationship.” She turns to me. “You should be proud.”

I look at Pussycat, who’s unsuccessfully resisting the urge to smile. I reach over, take her free hand, and kiss it gently.

I am, very proud.

*-*

“I’m going to stop breastfeeding.”

I’m shocked to hear this announcement come from my wife as we’re riding into GEH on Monday morning. She lives to breastfeed our children and now she wants to stop?

“May I ask why?” I probe. She drops her gaze.

“There are so many reasons to stop,” she admits. “I’m more active outside of the home, with GEH and all, and even without GEH, I’m going to be more active with Helping Hands. We’re going to Vegas in a week and we don’t know how long we’re going to be there. I can’t go to the bathroom and pump every few hours and I don’t want to risk leaking all over my clothes. Most importantly, our children are drinking out of sippy cups and eating solid food. They just turned a year old. It’s time.” I twist my lips.

“You don’t seem too happy about it,” I tell her. She sighs. Breast-feeding was how and when she bonded most with the children. Now, she’s not going to be doing it anymore.

“We all have to be weened in one way or another,” she says with a shrug. “We might as well start doing it now before I start suffering from separation anxiety.” I take her hand and kiss it gently.

“I’ll be here for you,” I say. “And if I’m honest, I’m being a little selfish, too. Watching that nectar drip from your breast when you’re full and you come is very sexy.” That elicits a giggle from her.

“I know. I guess we’ll just have to ween you, too.”

I try not to stare at Marilyn throughout the morning, but she’s getting thinner and thinner and it’s not looking good on her. When she catches me staring at her, I ask her for a moment of her time.

“You’re going to Las Vegas with us, right?” I ask.

“That’s my understanding,” she replies.

“You know Las Vegas has some of the best cuisine in the country,” I inform her. “World-renowned chefs have restaurants there in some of the casinos and hotels. Have you possibly thought about which ones you may want to visit?” She sighs and rolls her eyes.

“I hadn’t given it any thought,” she says, her voice a bit perturbed, but I don’t allow it to sway me.

“Butterfly and I are hoping to go to Americana one night while we’re there. You’re welcome to come. I hear the food is exquisite…”

“I know what you’re doing, Christian,” she says. “You haven’t talked about any of the shows, none of the sights, not the nightlife or even the spas. You’re only talking about the food.” I purse my lips.

“I’ve known you as long as I’ve known my wife,” I say. “I’ve never seen you this thin… and you’ve gotten thinner just over the last couple of weeks. You barely touch your food at dinner if you eat anything at all and I have no idea what you’re eating throughout the day. You’re fading away in front of us…”

Marilyn hugs her iPad to her body like a shy schoolgirl as I drone on about eating and meals, and I get the feeling that I’ve lost her, so I stop talking.

“I’m not trying to preach to you,” I say, softening my voice. “That’s the very last thing I’m trying to do. I just don’t want to see you cause undue harm to yourself.”

She nods, and a single tear falls down her cheek. Shit.

“I’m sorry if I spoke out of place or if anything I said offended you,” I add.

She nods again, but doesn’t raise her head.

“Can I get you anything?” I ask.

“I just need to go to the restroom,” she says, her voice small.

“Yes, of course, by all means…”

She’s out of the office before the words are out of my mouth. My en suite would’ve given her more privacy, but I get the feeling that she wants to be as far away from me as possible. She brushes past the reception desk and nearly runs into Butterfly on her way to… the restroom.

“Mare?” Butterfly calls after her, but she continues her bolt down the hallway. Butterfly turns to me and storms into my office.

“What did you say to her?” she demands, Momma-Bear loins girded for battle. I roll my eyes and thrust my hands into my hair.

“I didn’t say anything wrong,” I say, my voice squeaky as I explain myself to Mistress. “I just informed her that Vegas has a lot of good cuisine and world-renowned chefs and that she was free to try any of them. I just thought that something may awaken her palette again and encourage her to eat.” Mistress deflates immediately.

“Oh… that,” she says, her voice somewhat small as she falls onto my sofa. “I don’t know what to do, Christian. I know this isn’t good for her. I can’t force feed her, but she’s got to stop this.”

“At the risk of sounding insensitive,” I say, sitting down next to my wife, “she’s going to have to address this before she gets on that plane. She’s going on this trip in an official capacity. She’s flying on a GEH jet, and she’s staying on a GEH dime. There’s all kinds of liability involved if something happens to her while she’s on this trip. Though it was small, she had a medical procedure two months ago and she’s not looking well at all. She needs to be medically cleared to travel, not to mention her doctor needs to see what’s become of her.”

“Don’t you think that may be a bit drastic?” she replies. I can’t even find the words to respond to that. My face must display utter horror as I scoff and gesture wordlessly to the door that Marilyn just hastily exited.

“Alright, alright,” she says, raising her hands in surrender. “You’re right. I’ll talk to her. I’ll get it done.” I lean over and kiss her.

“It’s for her own good, Butterfly,” I say. She drops her head and worries her scar.

“I know,” she says, her voice full of defeat.

Son of a bitch, where the hell is Garrett? The girl could die, and he wouldn’t even know. Would he even care? He’s a real fucking prince among men, I swear!


A/N: Pictures of places, cars, fashion, etc., can be found at https://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/grey-continued-misadventuresseason-v/

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~~love and handcuffs