Raising Grey: Chapter 45—Doing What Must Be Done

I do not own Fifty Shades Trilogy, or the characters. They belong to E. L. James. I am only exercising my right to exploit, abuse, and mangle the characters to MY discretion in MY story in MY interpretation as a fan. If something that I say displeases you, please, just leave. If you don’t like this story or me, please don’t spoil this experience for everyone. Just go away. For the rest of you, the saga continues… 

Chapter 45—Doing What Must Be Done

ANASTASIA

True to his word—and probably out of a sense of duty—Christian comes to the connection room with me in the morning and tries to meditate, which is probably the reason that it doesn’t work.

“It’s no use, Butterfly,” he says, interrupting me ten minutes into my meditation. “It’s not helping.” I sigh.

He’s sitting cross-legged lotus style in front of me. I move to sit in front of him in the same position.

“Are you comfortable?” I ask.

“Yes,” he says, almost sarcastically.

“What are you thinking about?”

“Work and us and the twins and…”

“That’s your problem,” I tell him. “That’s not meditating.”

“It’s so quiet!” he says, somewhat whiney. “When I try to clear my mind, a million thoughts pop up. Our trip to Detroit, having to deal with Freeman, what color is the sky…” I think he threw that last one in there to be sarcastic. “It’s the same as when I was trying to do it before. The only difference was that then, the quiet let the monsters in.” I move closer to him until our knees touch.

“Give me your hands,” I instruct him. He dutifully gives me his hands. “Now breathe with me… slowly. Slow deep breath in, fill your lungs completely…” I take in a deep breath. “Now count slowly to yourself as you exhale through your mouth.” He blows his breath out a little fast, so I have to instruct him a little more.

“Make an ‘o’ with your lips and exhale soft and slow, like you’re blowing on a dandelion. Count at least three seconds.”

“I’ve never blown a dandelion,” he protests.

“Okay, pretend like you’re blowing something else,” I say. I thought of gently blowing out a candle. I can tell by his facial expression where his mind goes.

Figures.

“In through your nose, deep breath,” I coach again. “Out through your mouth…”

Of course, it’s perfect this time, and I have to fight the visual of him blowing on my clit.

“In through your nose, out through your mouth… In… Out…” Once I see that he’s gotten the hang of the breathing, I move to the next step.

“Now, close your eyes and calm your breathing,” I tell him. “Breathe normally, but still feel the good air coming in, and the bad air going out. Concentrate on that serene feeling of cleansing and freedom.”

I can see when the serenity hits him. His face softens, and his shoulders relax. His breath becomes more and more even and a few moments later, he sinks into a complete sense of calm.

I don’t release his hands. I just sit there with him, close my eyes and finish my meditation.

Several minutes later, I stretch my neck and come out of my meditation. I open my eyes to see Christian still sitting across from me, still breathing, still relaxing. I gently stroke his hand with my thumb so as not to startle him too much. He slowly opens his lids, and cool, gray irises look back at me.

“How was that?” I ask. His eyes shift for a moment, then he breathes again and nods.

“Good, actually,” he replies. “Better than the last time. My mind still wandered every now and then, though.”

“That’s okay,” I tell him. “Meditation is about focus, but the silence tends to make you focus on the wrong things. We’ll try this a bit and see if it works for you, then we’ll try some more advanced techniques. Tell me, how do you feel?”

“More… relaxed,” he says as if searching for the word, “like thinking isn’t such a trial. Maybe ‘trial’ is the wrong word…” He trails off.

“I think you’re getting it,” I say, rewarding him with a sweet smile. His expression is soft, though he doesn’t smile. I gaze into his eyes and see a myriad of emotions there, things that I know he can’t verbalize. Last night at the lake was the first time I’ve ever seen my husband so sadly and desperately passionate about anything. If there was another time, it’s been erased by the accident. Even Montana didn’t have him this passionate or openly maudlin, that he showed me. The Elliot misunderstanding was certainly maudlin, but not this passionate. This time…

God, we’ve been through so much in such a brief period of time, and goddammit, we’re both amateurs! My only gauge is a psychopathic cheating ex who eventually hanged himself in a jail cell. Christian has no prior gauge at all. Some days, I wonder how we make it out alive.

At first, I think it’s my imagination, but I realize the space is closing between us… like in slow motion. The emotions prevalent in his eyes now are longing and, I think, hope.

Kiss me…

He doesn’t say it, but I hear it. I release his hands and take his face gently in mine. Closing the space between us, I press tender kisses on his lips, closing my eyes and feeling the softness. I slant my mouth over his and deepen the kiss only slightly, and he slides his hands around my waist. I push my hands into his hair and massage his scalp with my fingertips. He pulls me to my knees while rising to his own and envelops me in his arms, pulling me closer to his body.

We taste one another, slowly and gently, and I feel our connection—like it was before Madrid… and Liam. I feel my Christian, my lover and my protector, and I chance the moment of feeling safe and loved in his arms, like we used to be. He pulls slightly away from me and looks into my eyes.

“We… should get our day started,” he says, his voice soft, but raspy. “There’s a lot we need to do.”

“Yeah,” I say, gently brushing his uncut hair off his forehead. We share another gaze before he rubs his nose against mine and I reciprocate with another gentle kiss to his lips.

Crawling…

He lifts me effortlessly from the floor and places me gently on my feet. He takes my hand and leads me out of the connection room.

“I’m going to work from home today,” he says as he closes the secret door, “get some things settled for the trip to Detroit. Leave the twins here. I’d like to spend some time with them.” I smile. He’s been quite the doting father since his return. He was attentive before. I mean, he never neglected them except for his momentary check-out after Burt died and then this time—going off to Madrid and not seeing or speaking to them for weeks. I’m sure that he wants to make up for lost time, but he has his whole life to do that, as long as he doesn’t continue to do that check out thing when times get tough.

Try to think positive, Dr. Grey. It’s all you’ve got right now.

“I need to go to the Center, but I won’t be gone long,” I tell him. “I’d like to spend some time with them, too.” He smiles at me and releases my hand before going off to his bathroom. There’s still a small rift between us, but we’re working on it. I just want things to be the way that they were before Liam darkened our door.

Liam…

I swear to God, if I ever see that guy again, I’ll nail him square in the balls!

*-*

“No, we’re not going, dear,” Grace says to me while we’re sitting in my makeshift office. My office is being painted for my self-funded remodel. “Unfortunately, it’s too short notice. The Center will once again be without administration and I also have my shifts at the hospital. I couldn’t go if I tried. And Luma has a job, too, though I’m sure her generous boss would be willing to give her time off for this,” she says playfully. I often forget that Luma works for Christian. I just see her as family.

“Nonetheless,” Gail continues, “she has the girls to tend to. She needs to get them off to school in the morning and such. I do wish we could go, but to be honest, Christian is the one that’s going to need the moral support. Detroit was home to Carrick and Herman. Their worst memories are probably of Freeman, and they can handle that. Christian, on the other hand…”

She doesn’t finish her sentence, but she doesn’t have to. The monsters of Motown are often still chasing my husband during his darkest hours.

“I sincerely wonder what made him agree to go to Detroit in the first place,” she continues. “I certainly know that Carrick wouldn’t have asked him. We’re both only too aware of the horrible impact that place has had on him.”

“If I know my husband like I think I do, he just wants to be there to support his father,” I reply. “Don’t worry, Grace. He’ll be okay. I’ll keep my eye on him.” She sighs and shakes her head.

“You know how it is, dear,” she says, looking at her feet, “or at least you will. You never stop worrying about them no matter how old they get or how successful they become.” I squeeze her hand.

“Let’s go look at my office space,” I say, changing the subject. “I hear the painting is just about done and I can tell you what I’ve got planned…”

I’m delighted to find that the painting is completely finished, but unfortunately, it’s not dry yet. No matter, the furniture isn’t set to be delivered until Monday anyway as I was certain that the painting wouldn’t be done until then. Once we moved the furniture out, I realized that there was much more space in there than I thought. So, I’ve decided to make the office into two distinct spaces—a sitting area and the office area. The “office” portion is painted two tones of yellow, both muted, and the “Zen” sitting area is covered in a textured gray wallpaper. I wouldn’t have thought the two would go together, but when I looked at the furnishings that I chose, they were both the perfect choices to blend and separate the offices at the same time. Tongue and groove wood flooring will be laid over the weekend to finish things off.

“It’s going to be pretty minimalist,” I tell Grace as she’s eying the two separate colors of the room. “The need for change is prominent in my life right now… for obvious reasons.”

“Mmm,” Grace says in contemplation looking around the office. Does she not like the colors?

“What is it?” I ask.

“Oh, nothing, it just… This made me realize how long it’s been since I’ve changed my office,” she says. “It’s never been a priority. I came here, I did what I did, and I left. I’m only just realizing how much time I spend in that room.” She looks at me. “My office at the hospital is pretty cozy—warm and inviting. My space here looks like the principal’s office! I was so dead set against using any outside funds for the Center that I didn’t think about using my own funds for my personal space.” She turns to me. “Even though I’m only here on a part-time basis, it’s still something like 20 – 25% of my life.” I gesture around my empty office.

“You don’t have to convince me,” I point out. “I’m here more than you are, but then, I don’t have a full-time job either. How long has it been since you’ve updated the space?” She folds her arms and leans against the outside door jam.

“Like… never.” I just look at her. “Yes, I think it’s definitely time for a change,” and I can see the wheels turning.

“Grace, have you spoken to John?” I ask. He’s been MIA and mute for months now, even before Pops died. Exactly what’s going on with his son?

“Yes, I did,” she says, and her voice turns somber. “I’m not sure he’ll be coming back, dear.” My eyes widen.

“Why not?” I ask. “What happened?”

“His son is very sick,” she says. “I told you that he contracted something when they went home a while back. Well, the doctors here were no good in diagnosing what it was. They kept treating the flu and he kept getting worse—knocking on death’s door, in fact. So, they took him to a doctor overseas. They began treating him and he began to show improvement. What’s more is that they were able to isolate the virus. It’s a coronavirus that behaves a lot like SARS…”

“Were they treating him for SARS?” I ask.

“They weren’t treating him for anything because they thought it was the flu,” she replies. “You don’t treat the flu. You treat the symptoms and wait until it passes. When it didn’t pass, they started treating him for pneumonia. He was getting marginally better, but you’re looking at a virus, not an infection. That’s when John and Rhian decided to take him overseas. Too much time had gone by and he wasn’t showing enough improvement. Long story short, after lots and lots of brutal testing and agonizingly long nights, he’s been diagnosed with MERS.” I frown.

“What the hell is MERS?” I ask. I may need to do some continuing education for this one.

“Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome,” she says. My frown deepens. It’s sounds just like SARS.

“Is this something somebody made up?” I ask. “I swear, this sounds like somebody trying to get into a medical journal or something, and they’re using this kid to do it.”

“Well, he’s not the first case. In fact, several people have died from it over the last two years.”

“But you said he went to England,” I protest. “How can a kid who went to England contract something from the Middle East? Did they visit Iran, too? And why do they name illnesses after regions? It makes it sound like the entire area is infected.”

60662cdbb617d5bbbfb4c15950e146c6The West Nile Virus and the German Measles immediately come to mind. I’m seeing the old pictures in my head of children singing Ring Around the Rosie during the time of the Black Death. I know those origins are questionable, but the impact is just as strong as the uncertainty around this MERS thing.

“There were cases if it across parts of Britain as well,” she says. “It’s not unheard of that John’s son could have contracted it.”

“Well, what’s different about MERS? Why not just call it what it is? It’s SARS.”

“I’m not completely versed on this, dear, but the virus is a different mutation. It doesn’t spread as quickly as SARS, but it can be deadly nonetheless.” I sigh. It frustrates me when I can’t clearly understand things.

“Okay, so, that still doesn’t tell me why John’s not coming back,” I say.

“Well, the government won’t let his son back into the country until he’s well.” Now, I’m appalled.

“What?!” I nearly roar. “He’s an American citizen! Wasn’t he born here?”

“Yes, but he has a very aggressive strain of a disease that we’re not really schooled on yet, and if they have advanced knowledge and feel like he’s going to infect other ‘citizens,’ the government and the CDC can deny him re-entry. As a result, John is discontent with the United States right now and is questioning his intent to return.” I shake my head in disgust.

“I’d be discontent, too, if I were him,” I say. It’s not that John is one of my favorite people, but we’re talking about watching your son suffer, then being told that you can’t return to the land of the free and the home of the brave because someone slapped a label on what he has and they’re still discovering what’s under this label. I still think it’s SARS, but I’m not qualified enough to say.

“Have you told Christian?” I ask. She shakes her head.

“I only just found out… this morning, in fact. I was going to tell you, but you asked me first, so…” She trails off.

“I’ll tell him,” I say. “I won’t spring it on him yet with the lovely trip that we have ahead of us, but I’ll find the right time.” He considers John a friend, so he would definitely want to know.

*-*

“Help!” I hear Christian declare. “I’m being baby-mangled!”

I follow Minnie’s maniacal giggles to find my family. Christian is on the floor on his back, dramatically pretending to struggle to get free of a smiling and drooling Mikey, who’s on his hands and knees on top of Christian, pounding his flat hands on his father’s chest. Minnie is sitting up on a blanket nearby surrounded by pillows, bouncing and laughing hysterically at her brother and her father. I quietly take out my phone and begin recording.

“This looks like the end for King Christian,” my husband says in a narrating voice. “The Incredible Mikey has him subdued with no hope of escape!”

“No! No!” he continues, changing his voice to remain in character. “I’ll never yield!”

“Try though he might…” the narrator is back, “King Christian cannot defeat the Incredible Mikey. He tries one last tactic—the Terror Tickle!” Christian tickles his son and Mikey bursts into joyous laughter, his sister following suit for no particular reason whatsoever as she launches a plush toy across the pillow fort that connects with Christian’s tickle hand. Christian throws a mock-horrified look at his daughter.

“Hey!” he protests. “That’s outside interference! Whose side are you on?”

I have to cover my mouth to keep from bursting into laughter. Mikey’s hard guffaws result in a healthy amount of drool leaking onto Christian’s shirt.

“Uuuuugghh!” he exclaims. “The Toxic Droll Attack! I’m done for!”

I’m nearly choking on air over here. I can barely hold my phone straight.

“That’s it, ladies and gentlemen,” the narrator says, “King Christian is throwing in the towel, which he needs now for the toxic baby drool…”

Oh, dear Lord, help me.

My husband uses a burping cloth to clean the drool from Mikey’s mouth and as much of it as he can from his shirt before declaring the Incredible Mikey the new babyweight world champion. He stands to his feet, lifting his son in the air and presenting him as the new champion, spinning around and imitating crowd cheering sounds…

And then he sees me and stops in his tracks.

I’m finally able to release the laughter I’d been choking on ever since I started recording. My husband twists his lips.

“How long have you been standing there?” he asks, acting perturbed.

“Ever since you cried about being baby-mangled,” I tease. His expression doesn’t do anything to curb my laughter. “Do you realize how hard it is to take that stern look seriously while you have drool on your shirt and that adorable baby in your hands?”

He looks at his shirt, then at Mikey.

“She doesn’t understand how hard this Daddy thing can be,” he says to Mikey, “but that’s okay. You get me, don’t you?” I chuckle as I stop recording.

“It can’t be any harder than being the milk-producing snack bitch for two little people,” I laugh. Christian frowns.

“Oh, Butterfly, that sounds terrible,” he laments. I laugh it off.

“Well, it’s true,” I say, grabbing my swollen boobs. “Have they eaten?”

“They have, in fact,” he says, “maybe about an hour ago.”

“In that case, I have a date with a breast pump… and you might want to stop swinging the babyweight champion around or he might give you back his lunch.” Christian looks at Mikey who only laughs at his father.

“That might be a good idea,” he says, securing his son in his arms.

“Ms. Solomon is there anything ready that I can eat?” I ask as I’m passing through the kitchen. “I skipped lunch and just came home.”

“What are you in the mood for?” she asks, opening the Sub-Zero.

“Anything quick and dead,” I tell her. When I’m hungry, I’ll inhale whatever’s in that refrigerator. Ms. Solomon laughs.

“Give me fifteen minutes,” she says. “I’ll put something together for you.”

It only takes a few minutes this time to empty my pounding tits and change into some genie pants and a wrap shirt. I take a few moments to myself to meditate and re-center before I go back downstairs to join my family.

A heavenly smell greets me as I bend the corner from the hallway to the dining room, causing me to nearly sprint to the kitchen.

“My God, what did you do?” I ask when I see the spread on the breakfast bar.

“Nothing,” Ms. Solomon says, “Glorified grilled cheese and tomato soup.” She has a place set at the breakfast bar with a steaming bowl of creamy tomato soup. I sit at the breakfast bar and she sets a plate next to the bowl with the grilled cheese sandwich that she made—thick slices of bread with oregano and parsley grilled with Canadian bacon, Monterey Jack cheese… and something yellow. I bite into the heavenly creation and realize that it’s a slice of pineapple. I never would have thought to put that combination together, but it’s absolutely delicious!

“What made you think of this combination?” I say, rudely talking with my mouth full as she puts a cranberry spritzer down next to me.

“My stepmother was Samoan,” she says. “She used to make them for me and my brothers all the time.” I nod and take another healthy bite of my sandwich.

“Damn, what smells so good?” Christian comes into the kitchen and sees my sandwich. “Can I have a bite?”

“Touch my food and you’ll pull back a nub!” I exclaim, still chomping on Canadian bacon and pineapple. Holy cow, Batman, this is delicious. Christian actually looks at me in surprised horror. Ms. Solomon laughs.

“Sit down, Mr. Grey,” she chuckles. “Five minutes.” She turns around and gets to work on his sandwich.

“What happened to what’s mine is yours and what’s yours is mine?” he says while taking a seat next to me at the breakfast bar. I swallow the bite of heaven that I’m chewing.

“She’s fixing yours,” I say, as I take a spoonful of the creamiest tomato soup I’ve ever tasted. I groan in satisfaction and he tries to take my sandwich again. I smack his hand so fast and so hard that he snatches it back swiftly.

“Ow!” he exclaims. “Okay! I believe you!”

“You better,” I say, taking another spoonful of my soup and groaning again in satisfaction.

“Here, sir,” Ms. Solomon says, sitting a bowl of soup in front of him. “Work on that while I finish your sandwich. I don’t want to be responsible for any death or dismemberment.” I chuckle as Christian picks up his spoon and tastes the soup.

“This is delicious!” he says taking another spoonful. “Tomato bisque?” Ms. Solomon shrugs.

“I guess you could call it bisque,” she says. “I use different ingredients, though.”

“Another recipe from your stepmom?” I ask. She shakes her head.

“No, from my mom, before she passed away.” I get quiet. I don’t know anything about hers or Windsor’s family, but I just didn’t think to assume that her mother was dead.

“I’m sorry,” I say.

“Don’t be,” she replies, waving me off as she flips Christian’s sandwich. “It was a long time ago.” Christian tastes some more of his soup.

“This is so good,” he croons, taking spoonful after spoonful of the soup. I’m glad he likes it, so he can leave my damn sandwich alone.

“I’m glad you like it,” Ms. Solomon says, plating and slicing his sandwich before putting it in front of him. “What would you like to drink?” He looks over at my spritzer.

“I’ll have what she’s having,” he says before taking a huge bite of his sandwich. “Mmm… mm, mm, mm…” He chews the sandwich hungrily like a savage, so much so that I have to stop eating to observe the spectacle. He pays me no attention as he devours his food.

“I knew it would taste good,” he says, taking another monstrous bite that annihilates half of the half of sandwich that he had in his hand. I shake my head and tuck back into my food. It’s silent in the kitchen for about three minutes and then it dawns on me.

“Where are the twins?” I ask between bites of food.

“Still in the family room,” he says. “They’re safe in their Pack-n-Plays watching television. Keri’s in there with them.” He has already gobbled down half his sandwich—in three bites! And he wanted a piece of mine. I don’t think so, Hungry Jack!

“Is it safe to approach?”

Christian and I both stop eating and turn our heads to the voice coming from nowhere. Elliot is hiding behind one of the marble columns and all we see is his arm and a white handkerchief waving in the air.

“You tattled on me to my father, you fucking snitch,” Christian scolds. “I should kick your ass, you pussy.”

“Hey, I just wanted to make sure everything was okay,” he excuses. “You weren’t giving me any information and you looked like shit. No offense, but so did you, Montana.”

“Thanks,” I say sarcastically as I’m finishing off my soup.

“And now, you insult my wife. Don’t you have a home, now? Hell, for that matter, don’t you have a fucking job?” Christian snaps.

“I could say the same thing to you,” he says coming over to the breakfast bar and looking at what’s left of my sandwich. Without making eye-contact with him, I quickly grab what’s left of my sandwich and gobble down the last bite.

“You’re in my house,” Christian retorts. “Don’t ask me why I’m in my house. Why are you here?”

“I was in the neighborhood,” he admits, taking a seat next to Christian and now eying the other half of his sandwich.

“Elliot, so help me, if you touch my sandwich, you’ll leave this house in a body bag.” I look horrified at my husband.

“Damn,” I protest. “I only threatened to maim you.”

“Well, can I have one?” Elliot says. “I’m starving… and you know I’d never take your food.” He rolls his eyes at his brother.

“Well, then, you should have eaten before you got here…” The entire time that they’re sparring, Ms. Solomon has already put another sandwich in the frying pan and started the microwave to rewarm the tomato bisque. I shake my head and take my dishes to the sink.

“I could have done that, Mrs. Grey,” Ms. Solomon says.

“It’s alright,” I say, wiping my hands on a dishtowel.

“Go find lunch somewhere else, you moocher,” Christian says, still antagonizing his brother.

“So, Elliot, you said you were in the neighborhood,” I say, breaking the sparring match. “What were you doing in these parts?”

“Oh, the Miller place,” he says. “Mrs. Miller hasn’t changed anything since her husband died. It’s been ten years and she’s ready for a redo.” Christian finishes his lunch just as Ms. Solomon is putting the soup in front of Elliot.

“Careful, it’s hot,” she says as she takes Christian’s dishes and put them in the sink.

“You’re doing less building and more remodels now, bro?” Christian says.

“No, still doing builds,” he says, blowing a spoonful of soup to cool it. “Gia called me on this one. Said Mrs. Miller saw the pictures of your house on a preview of that show that supposed to be coming on, where you guys did the interview…” I look at Christian.

“I thought we were supposed to approve the showing before they aired it,” I say.

“We are,” he says, pulling out his phone. “Mac… call that woman, Sanchez… we’re hearing through the grapevine that people are seeing previews of our interview and we haven’t approved anything… yeah, my brother’s getting remodel requests because someone’s already seen the inside of my house… I’ll wait for your call.” He ends the call with Vee. “She hasn’t heard anything either. I hope we haven’t made a mistake letting this woman into our lives.”

“I’m sure it’s just a misunderstanding,” I say, afraid to let on that I’m thinking the same thing. By now, Ms. Solomon has set yet another of her delectable sandwiches in front of Elliot. He has already dug into it and opted for apple juice. “So, Elliot, who’s Gia?” I ask, trying to change the subject until we hear from Maria.

Elliot was thoroughly enjoying his sandwich but stops mid-chew at the mention of this woman’s name. He looks over at Christian, then back at me.

“She doesn’t know about Gia?” he asks, his mouth full. What’s in this damn sandwich that makes us all forget our manners? Christian shrugs like, “No big deal.”

“Why should I know about Gia?” I ask.

“Elliot used to fuck her,” Christian blurts out before finishing his cranberry spritzer. Elliot quickly swallows his food.

“More importantly,” he retorts, “she did your boat.

Aah, the plot thickens. This is the woman’s touch that I saw all over the Slayer.

“I see,” I say, taking my husband’s glass and walking over to the sink.

“Thanks, Lelliot,” I hear him hiss. “I think I’d like for you to leave now!”

“I just started eating!” Elliot protests quietly. “Besides, you’re the one that blurted out that we used to fuck.”

“Oh, but the fact that Gia did my boat—that needed to be known, right? I don’t talk to the woman anymore, but you’re doing remodeling jobs with her…”

I know exactly what Elliot’s doing. He’s trying to take the focus off himself by casting it on Christian. I know how to deflate that agenda.

“So, Elliot,” I turn back to the bickering brothers, “Gia’s a decorator?” He nods. “And how does Val feel about you working with an ex-girlfriend?” He stops mid-chew again and raises his eyes to me.

“She doesn’t know,” he says after swallowing his food, “and she wasn’t a girlfriend.”

“Do you think it’s a good idea for you to be working with someone whom you’ve previously bedded, and your wife doesn’t know?” I press.

“I’m not screwing the woman now,” he protests. “It’s just a lead. A lead is a lead.”

“So, she’s not working on the remodel with you.” It’s a question formed as a statement.

“Well, yeah, she’s working on the design plans but… I’m not messing around with her…”

“But you used to,” I press. Elliot gets quiet. “Trust me, Elliot, secrets in a relationship can be disastrous.” I look over at Christian, who raises his gaze to me. I know only too well of what I speak. I could have lost my marriage because I didn’t come to my husband when I knew Liam was attracted to me and I still had to work with him.

“Tell her before she finds out from somebody else, like some gossip rag that may see the two of you together at the Miller mansion.”

Before he has the chance to respond, I leave the kitchen and go into the family room with my babies. The topic is a bit too much for me to stomach right now. My mood immediately turns sour and I need little bundles of pink and blue to reverse its affects.


CHRISTIAN

“Nice fucking going, Elliot!” I hiss. “Did you intentionally come over here to upset my wife or do you have a purpose?”

“You know I wasn’t trying to upset her…” His excuse is weak.

“What the fuck were you doing, then?” I counter. “More importantly, she did your boat.” I mock his voice in a very unflattering manner. “I realize that you were in the Caribbean enjoying the sun and surf, but I’m certain that Valerie told you what we just went through.” He slaps his forehead.

“Shit, man, I forgot all about that,” he laments.

“I. Haven’t!” I bark. “I’m still fucking living it! You wanna know why we looked like shit last night? It’s because we were out on the lawn crying over whether we should even continue being married or not!” Elliot’s eyes widen.

“Dude… I’m sorry. I just panicked. The spotlight shined on me and I just… panicked.”

“So, you thought you’d get the heat off you by throwing me under the bus? How’d that work out for you?” I glare at my brother.

“It was a fucked-up thing to do, man,” he admits. “I’m really sorry. I wasn’t thinking.” I twist my lip.

“Yeah, whatever.” I stand from the stool. “She’s right. Tell your wife that you used to fuck Gia and that you’re working together. Now, finish your fucking lunch and get the hell out of my house.” I brush past him.

“Christian, really, I’m sorry, man. It was a bonehead…”

“I agree,” I say, interrupting his apology. “I heard you the first time, and I accept your apology, but I can’t talk to you right now. Finish your lunch and leave.”

I turn away from my brother and walk into the family room. My wife is sitting on the floor with a baby on each shoulder. She’s humming softly while simultaneously and masterfully rocking them to sleep. I sit on the sofa next to where she’s sitting on the floor and watch my children contentedly falling asleep on her shoulder as she sings to them. I can’t make out the tune, but they’re slipping comfortably into slumber. I take out my phone and snap a few pictures of my son and daughter lying peacefully on their mother’s shoulder. When she’s certain that they’re asleep, she asks me to help her put them down. We put each of them in their Pack-n-Play. They’ve gotten too big for the nappers. We stand there for a moment, silently looking down into the Pack-n-Plays.

“I… slept with Victoria once,” I blurt out. She turns her gaze to me.

“Victoria who?” she says, and then it hits her. “Vickie?” she asks incredulously. “Courtney’s Vickie? She’s gay!”

“She… was indecisive at the time,” I say.

“Indecisive,” she says in the same incredulous voice, low enough not to wake the twins. “So, you made her realize she was gay?” I roll my eyes.

“No,” I say defensively, “I mean, she was already gay, but I was her last hurrah,” I clarify. I sigh. “I was still Elena’s submissive and I didn’t want a girlfriend, but I was away at college and I wanted to fuck. She wanted one last round. It was a means to and end for us both.” She raises her brow at me but says nothing.

“Elena beat the hell out of me when she found out,” I continue. “I think that was the last real punishment she ever gave me. I resented it. I was young and horny, and she was always there to fulfill that need when I had it. Yet, at college, she wasn’t—so what was I supposed to do?” I sit on the sofa as I recall my short stint at college. Two years. Two agonizing years, the first year I was completely celibate. It was torture.

“She wanted me to be all hot for her when I came home on vacations, and believe me, I was, but this time…”

I recall the not-so-fond memory of telling my Mistress that I had been with someone else…

“What’s going on?” she asks while were having dinner at her estate. “Something’s different.”

“No, Mistress,” I say, trying to hide the truth from her.

“Don’t lie to me, pet,” she purrs… more like growls. “What’s going on?” I sigh. I can’t keep if from her. I couldn’t if I tried.

“I’ve… been with someone… else,” I choke, unable to raise my gaze to my Mistress. There’s a long pause before she responds.

“I see,” she says, putting her wine on the table. “So, I assume you’ll be wanting to end our arrangement.”

“No!” I retort, quickly, raising my eyes to hers but dropping them just as quickly. “No, Mistress, I don’t.”

“You can’t mean that!” she barks. “You’ve been with someone else. You touched someone else without my permission, and you let her touch you! Surely, that means this is not what you want anymore.”

“That’s not true, Mistress,” I say, nearly begging. “I was counting the days to get back to you…”

“While in the arms of another woman!” she scolds viciously. “Then, I had to pull the truth out of you. Would you have even told me?” I nod.

“I would have,” I choke, “eventually. I just… didn’t know how.”

“I’m sure you didn’t!” she hisses, tossing her napkin on the table before standing. I stand as well, just like she taught me. “Go to the playroom. Strip, and wait for me there.”

I listen to her heels click angrily across the marble floor. Son of a motherfucking bitch…

I’m in for it now…

I remember some pretty bad beatings at the end of the Pedophile’s tools, but that was one of the worst. It was awful. Then while my skin was bruised and on fire—broken in some places—she made me fuck her and fuck her until she had enough, commanding me not to come. Then she sent me away, horny and in pain. She didn’t see me for the rest of spring break.

I remember coming home that summer and announcing that I wouldn’t be returning to school. It was a two-fold reason, the main one being that I could do what I needed to do without a Harvard education. The second was her. I was back at school afraid to even look at another girl for fear that Mistress had a bird on a wire somewhere that would fly back to her and tell her what I was doing. I was miserable. I wanted to be back in Seattle with my Mistress, where I could fuck. And I wanted to start my own business.

“How did she end up in Seattle?” Butterfly asks, breaking the silence between us. “Did she follow you?” I shake my head.

“No,” I tell her. “That’s how we connected. We were both from here. She finished her degree and with her business knowledge and her design savvy…” I flourish my hands to demonstrate that Victoria is now exactly where she wants to be.

“Well,” she says, walking over to where I’m sitting and stands in front of me. “You should be more worried about her with me at this point than I should be about her with you.” I shrug. “You told me because of what I said to Elliot?” I raise my eyes to her, then drop them again with a nod.

“It would have come out at one time or another,” I say. “It really didn’t mean anything… to either of us. It was just sex, but it’s better that you hear it from me than you hear it from anyone else.” There’s a short silence.

“And Gia?” she says. I raise my eyes to her. “You were a bachelor before you met me,” she says. “There was no reason for Jack and Jill bathrooms in the master suite. There was no reason for his and hers parlors/saloons when it was just you. The whole place should have been decked out like a bachelor pad, yet there were areas specifically designed with a woman in mind. You’re saying that there was no reason for Gia to think that woman was her?”

“Absolutely not!” I say definitely. “I was under no misconception that she was hopeful of wanting more, but that was by no encouragement from me. With the exception of Victoria in my college years, my only sexual relationships before you were with submissives… and one Domme.” God, I’m glad that part of my life is over.

“Fine,” she says, leaning down taking my hand. “That’s all that needs to be said about this issue. Let’s go get packed for Detroit.” She gives my hand a pull and I rise from the sofa. I look back at our children once more to make sure that they’re asleep and fall in line behind my wife.

Butterfly removes a garment bag and puts three outfits in it with lingerie, accessories, and toiletries. We’re only going to be there overnight—why is she packing so much?

“Is that, like, a rule with women or something? Pack enough clothes for a long weekend when we’re only staying for a day?” She looks at me.

“I have something casual, something business, something semi-formal. You never know what’s going to happen.”

“I know that we’re not going to be there long enough for you to need all those clothes,” I say, packing a single suit, linen shirt, shoes, and accessories in my garment bag, along with my toiletries pouch.

“Then if we don’t, no harm done,” she says as she begins to brush her hair. I don’t harp on it because I know she’s been having this doomsday mentality about everything lately. This could be another one of those things.

I’m heading to my bathroom when I hear my phone buzzing on the nightstand. I go back to the bed and pick it up. I don’t recognize the number.

“Grey,” I answer.

“Christian, I am so sorry!” I don’t recognize the voice immediately. “It’s Maria. Sanchez. I swear to God, I don’t know who dropped the ball, but those promos were not supposed to run until I spoke to you.” Indeed. I just bet.

“One minute.” I get my wife’s attention when she comes back out of her dressing room.

“It’s Maria Sanchez,” I say, waving at her and changing my phone to speaker. “You’re on speaker, and my wife is here.” She clears her throat.

“I was just telling Christian that I don’t know how the promos started without my knowledge. We’re still trying to find out who dropped the ball on this one, but I was going to call you tomorrow to see if your weekend was free. I was going to bring the footage to Seattle and we could all view it together in that beautiful theater of yours—promos and all—and you could tell me what you think.”

“Before we discuss that,” my wife interjects, “I’d like to know how footage of our interview—promo or not—made it on the air without our permission and apparently, also without your knowledge. Isn’t there some kind of order about things, some kind of clearances that have to be in place and some programming manager that has to organize what’s being shown and approve the lineup or something before it’s aired? Or is there some buffoon like grip boy grabbing things and handing them to someone and they just put it on a reel?”

Bravo, Butterfly! I couldn’t have said it better myself! I’m having flashbacks of the conversation that I had with Maria about Butterfly being the real firecracker between the two of us, and my beautiful wife is showing that it doesn’t do to fuck with her.

“Ana, I assure you, this doesn’t happen often. I’ve had all your footage placed under lock and key—the clips, the finished product, the promos, everything. The only thing that I can say as an explanation is that we’re planning for you guys to lead Sweeps Week, and this is the time that we start showing the promos for that week. Someone may have seen the schedule and pulled the promo not knowing that we didn’t get clearance from you yet. I’m so sorry about that. I know that this incident along with the incident with Reggie doesn’t really give you a feeling of security and faith in my network right now, but please, this was my fault for not being clear in my communication and handling of the promos. I take full responsibility for this and I beg your forgiveness for my carelessness.”

At least she owned the mistake. That counts for something and restores some of my faith in her. Butterfly, I’m not so sure.

“What’s next, Maria?” I ask impatiently. She sighs.

“We need you to view the footage as soon as possible,” she says. “Like I said, I can fly out to Seattle on Friday…”

“We won’t be here,” I interrupt. “We have urgent business in Detroit and we’re flying out tomorrow.”

“Will you be there all weekend?” she pries. “I can meet you in Detroit if you like…” Oh, hell, no!

“No, that won’t be necessary,” I tell her. “Plan to meet us Sunday morning back here in Seattle. We should be done with our business by Friday evening and that gives us a day to get back home and settle down.”

“Good, I’ll do that. And again, I’m really sorry.” I nod as if she could hear me and end the call. I raise my gaze to Butterfly.

“You never know what’s going to happen,” she reinforces.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” I say as I go back to my closet for casual wear and another suit to pack for our trip.

*-*

I hate this place.

I sincerely hate this place.

The last time I came anywhere near this hellhole, I discovered that the man who tormented me as a child and haunted my dreams for decades thereafter was indeed not tucked away in a jail cell somewhere but is somewhere wandering the world right now free as a fucking bird. Then I returned home to find that my wife was nearly killed by one of my crazy ass ex-subs. This place has absolutely no good memories for me—coming or going.

The minute we enter the airspace for DTW, my stomach starts churning and my spirit drops. My only comfort is that I’m holding the hand of my beautiful wife as we descend into Dante’s hell. My father doesn’t think I see him eyeing me out of his peripheral, and I think he’s more concerned about me than he is about the purpose of this trip. That’s exactly the opposite of what I want. I want to be moral support for him. It’s counterproductive if he must worry about me while we’re here.

“Are you okay?” my wife asks as I gaze out the window at the view beneath us while we descend into the airport. I nod.

“I’m fine,” I fib, “but I wouldn’t be lying if I said that I’ll be glad when this trip is over.” She squeezes my hand and smiles at me. She’s probably thinking the same thing that I am—It’s too late to back out now, so I might as well be useful.

We land at Detroit Metro at a little after 5:00pm local time. Jason has secured two vehicles for us while we’re here–one for Dad and Uncle Herman, and one for the three of us. Dad will be going to the private investigator’s office to see if there’s any information that he can get from them. He knows that legally, they don’t have to tell him anything, but armed with the fact that he’s an attorney and that his and Uncle Herman’s notices of the will reading mysteriously disappeared from the US Mail, he’s hoping that he can get someone to break under pressure. There’s no confidentiality between the agency and Freeman; they’re just not under any obligation to tell my father anything.

“No Audis, huh?” I ask when I see the generic SUV that my best friend has procured… maybe not generic, but generic to me. He raises his eyebrow at me.

“You’re kidding, right?” he asks. “In the land of the Big 3? You’re lucky if you find a Volkswagen.” I shake my head and help my wife into the large Lincoln Navigator. Thank God this is only for one day.

The attorney, who used to have an office in downtown Detroit, has now moved his practice to Troy. Thank God! We reserved a hotel room in Birmingham, halfway between Troy and Uncle Stan’s place in Farmington. Since Detroit Metro Airport is in the southeastern portion of the Mitten, and Farmington, Birmingham, and Troy are all in the northern metropolitan suburbs, the drawback is that unless we want to take some insanely crazy and unnecessary detour, we have to drive through the west side of Detroit.

The good news is that we don’t have to stop.

Dad drives the Navigator with me, Uncle Herman, and my wife inside to Uncle Stan’s house, while Jason takes the MKS to the Townsend Hotel in Birmingham to get me and my wife checked in. He’ll meet us later at Uncle Stan’s house to take us back to the hotel.

I’m in contemplation as we travel down the I-94 headed for the Southfield freeway that will take us to the northern suburbs. I fucking hate being here. I fucking hate it. I see nothing that rings any bells or causes any feelings of déjà vu, but I hate being here anyway. I hate what this place represents. I hate everything about it.

There’s a giant ass fucking tire on the side of the road. A giant ass fucking tire. It’s great advertising, but whose fucking idea was that? Uniroyal… yeah, while I’m driving down the fucking freeway, I’m going to remember Uniroyal.com, right? Shit, I’ll remember it if I have a blowout right there by the damn giant tire.

We turn onto Southfield Road and there are more residential areas—nice ones, and I realize that we must not be in Detroit yet. Even at night, I can tell that we’re in a nicer area.

“Remember the Glass House, Rick?” Uncle Herman’s voice breaks my train of thought and I see him pointing to a ten or twelve-story glass building to the right of the freeway.

“How can I forget?” Dad says as we pass the building. “Dad used to take us to every event that ever happened at that place,” he says to me in the mirror, “like he owned the place.” He turns his attention back to the road. “He was really proud to be a Ford employee. It meant something back then.”

“It doesn’t anymore?” I ask, turning my attention to my father. He half shrugs.

“I don’t know, son,” he says, his voice nostalgic. “Back in those days, everybody wanted to work at Ford or one of the Big Three. It meant that you made it in Motown, because even though it was hard work, it was really good money. For a lot of people, the factories made the American Dream come true. It… just doesn’t seem that way anymore.” He falls silent and that’s when I see the sign.

Joy Rd, 1 mile…

We’re in Detroit.

I take a deep breath and look around at my surroundings. Again, even in the dark, you can tell by the change of scenery that we’re in the city. It doesn’t look run-down that I can tell, except for certain patches of it, but it’s not as vibrant-looking as the neighborhoods and areas surrounding the airport. Sensing my tension, Butterfly squeezes my hand. I squeeze back but continue to look out the window at the city. Large, vacant fields can be seen by the sides of the freeway—lots where buildings once stood. The landscaping is splotchy and some of the grass that lines the inclines has died. Even the freeway itself is unkept—badly patched tar jobs that look like someone just spilled the compound over the road; brown stains dripping down the concrete of bridges and overpasses from badly rusted fences. I’m sure this is not the only city in America that looks like this, but right now, I’m only seeing Detroit.

Plymouth Rd, Schoolcraft Ave, 1 mile…

There are orange construction cones on this part of the freeway, but I swear that I can’t see any work being done—just the right lane of the freeway being blocked off and slowing our commute out of this God-forsaken city. I think Dad says something to me, but I’m not sure. I see a few more houses on the edge of the freeway, and then we pass another main street.

I feel like I’m holding my breath. I feel like my bio-mom’s decomposing body is going to jump in front of the car at any moment… or one of the fucking Myricks… or somebody—another crackhead or a john or…

96, Downtown Detroit, Lansing, 1 ¼ mile…

Trash discarded from cars or from God knows where collects in masse at the base of fences where the wind has carried it as far as it can go and the metal acts like a net gathering the debris. Graffiti lines the concrete walls and even some of the overpasses and medians. How the hell do you vandalize a median on a busy freeway?

5, Grand River, Fenkell Ave, 3/4 mile…

More small houses line the side of the freeway and even though they don’t look as bad as some of the prior houses, the neighborhood is still run down. I hold my breath as we drive under an overpass that’s so rusted and corroded that I’m afraid it’s going to collapse on our car!

McNichols Rd, 1 mile…

I can see more trees. The houses are getting larger. A church with a steeple… but still quite a bit of debris and dead shrubbery on the freeway.

More trees, more houses. The grass is greener down here, but the road and the medians and walls are still very unkempt.

7 Mile Rd, ¾ mile…

Another church. Damn, how many churches are on this road? With this many churches around, there shouldn’t be a junkie, a pimp, or a crack whore in sight, and yet…

The walls are tall in this part of the freeway. It makes me feel… trapped. I take a deep breath, but I don’t think I release it.

102, 8 Mile Rd, ¾ mile…

Eight Mile. Eight Mile Road. Eight Mile marks the end of Wayne county and the beginning of Oakland county. This far west, that means Southfield and Oak Park, three-quarters of a mile away.

As if the grass and the trees know that we’re about to leave Detroit, they begin to show beautiful autumn colors and the lush fullness of green that precedes a long winter’s sleep. There’s very little—if any—debris in the road and the overpass we just went under actually looks ornate, with fresh, black wrought iron fences lining the banister. Even the road itself looks newer.

102, 8 Mile Rd, ½ mile…

Now the signs are taunting me. None of the other signs had any ½-mile markers, just ¾ and 1 mile. Come on, Oakland county…

The walls get tall again, like prison walls, and as the road rises towards the 8-Mile exit, there are more houses—a lot more—and another ornate overpass with wrought iron fencing. And then we cross 8 Mile, and that breath that I took in a mile or so back comes rushing from my chest with so much force that I nearly choke on air.

North 10 to West 696, Lansing, ¾ mile…

39, Freeway ends, ¾ mile…

Southfield Rd…

I’m still choking on air and my wife is squeezing my hand and rubbing my back. Dad says something about pulling over and Uncle Herman is asking if I’m okay.

“I’m fine,” I gasp, “Keep going. Keep driving.” For God’s sake, please don’t stop.

Smooth roads, beautiful lush trees and grass, quaint houses and impressive businesses and office buildings… Not the crème de la crème of the area, but we’ve definitely left Detroit.

I made it.

*-*

“God, am I glad to see you guys,” Uncle Stan greets us when he opens the door. “I hadn’t heard anything, so I thought you just decided not to come.”

He gives Uncle Herman a robust hug before looking at his brother with sincere adoration in his eyes. They say a few words about missing each other and such before Uncle Stan takes Dad in his arms and hugs him just as robustly. I somewhat usher my wife in front of me to give myself more time to prepare for my hug. I’m still very uncomfortable with people hugging me, and even though Uncle Stan is family, he’s still a virtual stranger for the most part. I don’t want to offend him, though, by shunning his hug or stiffening up when he embraces me. Dad whispers in his brother’s ear, squeezes his forearms and smiles widely. Uncle Stan returns the smile and nods before turning to my wife.

“May I?” he says, opening his arms to Butterfly.

“Of course, you may,” she says sweetly, opening her arms to welcome him. “It’s so good to see you again,” she says as they embrace. I plaster a half-smile on my face and wait for their exchange to end, steeling myself for my turn. When they part, Stan’s smile widens, and he grabs my hand, shaking it vigorously and jovially with the other hand clasped on top.

“It’s wonderful to see you again, Christian,” he says cheerfully. “I don’t know if I thanked you properly but thank you… thank you for everything!”

His smile is bright like sunshine, like a naïve child. If I had to categorize the brothers, I would say that my dad is the intellectual, Herman is the caretaker, Freeman’s the asshole, and Stanley is the sensitive one.

“Anytime, Uncle Stan,” I reply, still waiting for the death grip hug.

“Welcome! Welcome to my home.” He releases my hand, but only touches my arm. “Please,” he says, flourishing his other hand in front of us to usher me inside, “come in. Make yourself comfortable.”

“What smells so delicious?” Butterfly asks, as we enter the living room. I realize that Dad must have quickly said something to Stan about my haphephobia. I try not to sigh audibly when I realize that he’s not going to hug me, but he still managed to make me feel as welcome and loved as everyone else.


A/N: DTW—the airport code for Detroit Metro Airport. It stands for Detroit/Wayne.

Christian references “the Mitten.” For those who may not already know, the lower peninsula of Michigan looks like a mitten.

~~love and handcuffs

Raising Grey: Chapter 42—Unbreak My Heart

I have to admit that I was surprised to see so many people express a tone of disappointment in Ana’s feelings. I’ve had times and events in my life where I had to get up every day and push myself just to get to the next minute—where I felt like the world was just going to gobble me up, and I couldn’t talk about it. Talking about it gave it life and I was just trying to deal with it so that I could have the strength to open my eyes the next day. I really thought most people would be able to relate to that… to that feeling of, “My God! What else can go wrong in my life? The minute I sit down and get comfortable, something else happens.” I guess I’m the only one, or at least in very lean company. It’s sad that I appear to be one of the seemingly very few that can empathize with that, but I guess it’s a good thing that the vast majority apparently hasn’t had that experience.

So, this is my second to last prewritten chapter, but the Muse is finally stirring a bit, so I wouldn’t worry about the future.

I do not own Fifty Shades Trilogy, or the characters. They belong to E. L. James. I am only exercising my right to exploit, abuse, and mangle the characters to MY discretion in MY story in MY interpretation as a fan. If something that I say displeases you, please, just leave. If you don’t like this story or me, please don’t spoil this experience for everyone. Just go away. For the rest of you, the saga continues… 

Chapter 42—Unbreak My Heart

ANASTASIA

I spend more time venting and crying with my friends, trying to release the anguish and the hopelessness I feel about the situation. I cry and cry and cry with my best friends holding me for I don’t even know how long. I’m exhausted when it’s all done and glad that Christian didn’t walk in on the display. I’m broken from the self-pity and mourning by the two-way coming to life and telling me that one or both of my children have stirred.

“I’ll go,” Val offers as she stands from the sofa.

“No, I’ll go,” I say, standing behind her and drying my eyes with my sleeve before Al gives me a handkerchief. Those two little bundles of love are the light and joy of my life. Right now, I don’t want to miss a moment with them… even if some evil monster is waiting in the wings to snatch them away from me.

“I’ll come with you, then,” she says with a smile before looking at Al.

“I’ll clean up and put the leftovers away,” he says, his brow furrowed as he examines me. “I’m worried about you, Jewel,” he adds. I smile sadly, my eyes tender from crying.

“I’ll live, Al,” I reply before leaving the parlor.

I’m glad that Keri and Gail didn’t get to the nursery before I did. I really didn’t want to enter into the room to inquiring minds about my obviously red and puffy eyes. We walk in and both children are unsettled. Val gestures me to Minnie’s crib while she goes to Mikey.

“Hey, little man,” I hear her say. “What’s all that noise?” She lifts him out of his crib and quickly checks his diaper before taking him to his changing table. I do the same with Minnie, cooing at her and taking comfort in her beautiful cherubic face with my blue eyes staring back at me under a mop of Christian’s red hair. I had noticed that just in the last month or so, both my children gained their eye color, and Minnie definitely has my eyes while Mikey sports his father’s under my deep mahogany hair. Minnie is happy to get that soiled diaper off her bottom and I let her skin air out a bit before putting another on her.

“Mmm,” Val says, “I love changing diapers.” I grimace as I look over at her and she laughs. “Not the dirty diaper part,” she says. “The part where they’re all clean and you get to use the powder and stuff and they have that new baby smell.” It causes me to chuckle and I welcome the warmth of laughter. As I’m closing Minnie’s onesie, Gail and Keri enter with fresh warmed bottles for the babies. Val throws a look at me and I keep my back to the door. Reading my actions, she takes over.

“Take a break, ladies,” she says, sweetly, heading them off at the door. “We’ve got this watch.”

“Oh,” Gail says in surprise. “You’re fine?”

“Sure,” Val says confidently, “but thanks for the vittles!” The ladies all laugh good-naturedly before Gail adds, “Okay, call us through the two-way if you need us.”

Not wanting to seem rude, I look slightly over my shoulder without revealing my face to them and say, “Thanks, guys,” as normally as I can and attempt to throw them off by concentrating on cooing at my baby. “Is that Mommy’s precious girl? Yes, you are…”

It works.

When Keri and Gail clear the room, I sigh in relief that I didn’t have to convince more people in my life that I’m okay when, in fact, I’m not.

“Thanks,” I say to Val, lifting Minnie into my arms and setting up shop in the window seat with my baby and a bottle since I just had wine. The window seat is what I’m accustomed to, now.

“Don’t mention it,” she says, sitting in Mikey’s rocker and testing his bottle before giving it to him. “Why don’t you come and sit in the rocker? It might help to break old habits.” I look down at my nursing daughter.

“Maybe next time,” I tell her. “I don’t want to disturb Young Miss when she’s eating,” I lie. The truth is that the seat gives me some form of familiarity and comfort now that I’m no longer watching the bridge. I just don’t feel like explaining that to everyone. It would be like telling them that the cliff where I fell is now my favorite spot. It was once, but now, I’ll just be reminded that I could have fallen to my death on a drunken binge.

Val distracts me from my own problems by telling me more about her and Elliot’s Caribbean cruise. I wasn’t surprised that the cruise took them to St. Maarten but not to Anguilla. The boat would probably be larger than the island. She told me about Harrison’s Cave and the beautiful 17th-Century plantation houses and it made me long for our trip to Anguilla. I definitely need a vacation right now to cleanse my body and soul of what’s going on in my life. We had to postpone our Italian vacation, probably until next year since we plan to stay for quite some time. I can’t lie, though. A cruise to anywhere for a week or two would be right up my alley right now.

There’s a tap at the door and Val and I look at each other. It’s one of the men, we already know, but Christian would have just walked in. So, it has to be Al or Elliot. Jason and Chuck would already know that their women are not in the nursery. The door opens and sure enough, there’s my best friend, but behind him is my husband—my tall, beautiful, muscular husband… the cause and cure for my distress all wrapped into one.

“Hey, ladies,” Al says. “How’s it going?” His bad attempt at nonchalance coupled with Christian’s deeply examining gaze on me lets me know that these two gentlemen have been talking… about me. Al is only concerned about me and I love him for it, so I sigh in resignation.

“Better,” I say, unable to hide the crack in my voice from my earlier crying. Christian is obviously uncomfortable looking at me, and I think it’s the window seat. It has definite connotations, and he and Val would much rather that I not sit in it. He stops at the rocker on his way over to me.

“How are you feeling, Val?” he says, placing his hand on her shoulder. She smiles up at him.

“Good,” she nods. “The vacation was fantastic—just what I needed.”

“I’m happy to hear that,” he says to her, genuinely. “You look very well.”

“Thank you,” she says, sincerely and they both turn their eyes to Mikey.

“Hey, Mikey,” Christian says. “Have you been taking good care of these ladies?” Mikey squirms and coos as if in response to his father’s question. Christian gently strokes his hair and turns his attention to me. He walks over to the window seat where Minnie and I sit, Minnie gazing dreamily up at me after being fed and changed. That look would make me move mountains for her. Christian looks intently at me before turning his attention to his daughter.

“Hey, Mouse,” he says, softly, stroking his daughter’s hair like he just did his son’s. He looks longingly at her for a moment before kissing her forehead. Then he gazes at me and does the same, stroking my cheeks where tears stained earlier. He examines me wordlessly before saying, “Al, can you take over? I’d like to talk to my wife.”

“Absolutely,” Al says. “Give me that bundle of pinkness!”

“Oh, no,” Val chides. “You take our godson. I want a little time with our goddaughter. I haven’t seen them in a month!”

“Fine by me,” Al says, relieving Val of Mikey before she comes over and takes Minnie from my arms. I ache a bit when she leaves my grasp but follow Christian out of the room nonetheless as he leads me by the hand. When we get to the hallway and he closes the door, he embraces me solidly and kisses me deeply, catching me totally by surprise. I gasp at the longing, giving nature of the kiss, my hands falling lazily at my sides as his hand flattens against my back, pressing me firmly into his body. My head lulls back and I let him have my lips, my mouth, my tongue—feeding me while he feasts on my kisses. I don’t know if I’m breathing or not, but I bask in the warmth and safety of his arms, the tenderness yet firmness and possessiveness of his kiss… giving and taking at the same time. When our lips part, I can feel the breath between us. I keep my eyes closed to commit the moment to memory—for cold nights when…

“You know how much I love you, don’t you?” he says, his lips only brushing mine.

“Yes,” I breathe, my eyes still closed, drunk and a bit wobbly from his kiss and his presence.

“Good,” he breathes, taking my lips again.

After an intense, but quick impromptu make-out session in the hallway, Christian leads me to our room. I moved back in a few days ago, realizing that it didn’t really make much sense to sleep in the guest room anymore. I still have problems getting to sleep, but it’s getting better. It’s especially easy when Christian finds that I can’t rest and finds some way to worship my body until I’m tuckered out. I can really see that he’s trying. I wish I could just settle into the comfort.

Instead of stopping at the bedroom, he leads me right into my bathroom and lifts me up onto the marble vanity. He turns on the cold water and retrieves a clean washcloth. After wetting the washcloth and wringing most of the water out of it, he stands in front of me, lifts my chin and begins to sponge my cheeks.

Can’t hide anything from Mr. Grey.

I close my eyes and the cool cloth moves to my eyelids. The relief on the swollen orbs is immediate. I hear him moistening the cloth again and this time, he holds my head all the way back and places a compress over my eyes. A few moments later, a second cloth is sponging my cheeks, my jaw, and my neck again.

“Your cheeks are still tear-stained,” he says softly, “and your eyes are red and puffy. You look tired.” I don’t respond. I just sit on the vanity and let the protector and caregiver have his way, savoring these moments and committing them to my mental Rolodex. He let me sit there for several minutes—or at least it felt that way—replacing the compress one time, and letting the cold water soothe the ache from my eyes as he gently sponges my face with the other washcloth. He stops at my lips and sponges them gently. He’s now caressing my lips with his fingertips and the cloth and my breath catches. He adds gentle kisses to the mix and I melt at the sensation. My senses are all hyper-focused on my lips and his lips and his fingers when his mouth softly covers mine again, molding gently into them and against them.

Somehow, I feel this is not enough for him.

His arms move to my waist then quickly up my body, lifting my arms and placing them demanding over his shoulders. I immediately take my cue and wrap my arms around his neck, thrusting my hands into his hair. He gasps into my mouth and wraps his arms around me again, curling his body around mine while taking and giving feverish kisses. My body is alight again as he holds me and kisses me, melding into me and devouring me and I wrap my legs around his hips. He pulls my shirt out of my jeans and caresses the skin on my stomach and back.

My back… the garden.

I blaze like fresh, new embers as my body fires with arousal. My breath quickens and his tongue leisurely and sensuously explores my mouth until I feel that I can’t take it anymore. He pulls back from me and gazes into my eyes. Seeing whatever it is that he needs to see, he lifts me from the vanity, my body still wrapped around him, and takes me to our bed.

Lying me down on my back, he removes my hands from his neck and places them on the bed, holding them down in both of his while he kisses me. I can barely stand it; I’m suddenly so goddamn needy again. His lips travel from my lips to my neck while his hands slide down my arms to the buttons at my breast. I leave my hands by the side of my head. I keep my eyes closed as his lips follow his fingers, unbuttoning my shirt, down my breast, my torso, my belly.

Christian…

That familiar yearning swells up in me and I can hardly breathe. I want him to make it right—take away this feeling of fear and sadness… make it like it once was between us… please, make it like it was…

He unhooks the clasp of my bra between my breasts and pushes the cups aside, gently cupping my breasts while he kisses the mounds. His tenderness is driving me mad. I’m almost dysfunctional with need.

He kisses along the waistband of my jeans as he opens the button and unzips my pants, kissing along the waistband of the hip-hugger panties underneath. I bite my lip to keep from making a sound, taking deep breaths to control my passion and my body. There’s a bit of movement on the bed, and then he pushes his hands into my jeans, grasping the waistband and pulling them and my panties off at the same time, pushing my ballet flats off my feet before my pants and underwear pass my ankles.

There’s a pause for a few moments, but when he climbs back up to me, I feel his skin against mine—his whole body. He’s naked. I feel his erection against my thigh as he lifts me from the bed, kissing me deliciously while pushing my bra and shirt off my shoulders. He lays me back on the bed, his face never more than a breath from mine. He kisses me again as his hands run down my body, caressing my sides and hips until he reaches my thighs.

He pulls them up, roughly opening me to him, his rock-hard erection pressing into my stomach. God, I want him so badly. I need to feel him, need to put another moment in the reservoir—another cherished time… please… hurry.

He slides his arms under mine until he’s cupping my shoulders in either hand, then he nestles his erection between my legs, between my lips. God, he feels so good. I throw my head back as his lips find the valley of my breasts and he grinds the length of his shaft up and down along my lips, my labia, my clit…

Oh, my God… Oh, my God, this is torture.

Neither of us says anything or makes a sound. He just continues to drag his length up and down as he kisses wherever his mouth can reach. When he clamps down on a nipple, then teases it with his tongue, I feel my orgasm building, knocking at the door in no time flat. Just as I think it’s about to blow, he stops and rises off of me a bit. He looks hungrily into my eyes and pushes my legs open farther with his body. Simultaneously, he takes both of my hands and plants them above my head, my arms bent with his fingers entwined in mine, while raising his hips to position the head of his long hard cock at my vaginal opening.

He pauses for a minute, holding my gaze while his hips are suspended in the air. Without warning, he thrusts all the way into me, balls deep, pulling my hands down at the same time for leverage. A searing pain rips through me like I’m losing my virginity all over again, but it’s quickly replaced with the pleasure that left my loins only moments ago. He trembles at the first drive into me, both of us still managing to remain silent through what was obviously a very powerful feeling in our nether-regions. Three strokes later and I’m gasping through my orgasm as Christian pushes slowly and deeply into me, kissing my cheek, my neck, the corners of my mouth.

I’m whimpering out the aftershocks as he settles his weight onto me and begins to make love to me, holding my hands down and pushing into me, his full body lying over mine, his skin rubbing against me as if he needs as much of it to touch as possible. His mouth covers mine and he bestows upon me the most delicious, succulent kisses my soul can take. I’m lost in him and he’s owning me, pushing himself into me—mind, body, and soul. I relish in the feeling, absorbing every stroke and every emotion—the hot, hardness of his dick; the meticulous concentration in his stroke; the possessiveness of him holding my hands down; the luscious kisses that give and take from my lips. It’s only minutes after the first orgasm that the second one begins to creep into my loins. The onslaught of sensations overwhelms my senses and my second orgasm burns against his cock once more, this time leaving lots of juices to coat his erection.

He finally releases my lips and I can feel his gaze on me even though my eyes are closed.

Open your eyes.

I think I heard it, but I’m not sure. Nonetheless, I open my eyes, my gaze no doubt swimming in satisfaction from my prior two orgasms.

You’re so beautiful.

Again, not sure if I heard it, but I see it in his eyes and feel it in his delicious grind. I feel myself rising again and wonder how many times I can come in quick succession. God, it feels so good, and this one decides to give lubrication before it strikes.

“Oh, God, baby,” he says softly in my ear, “your so wet… so hungry for me…”

“Yes, Christian,” I breathe as my third orgasm quickly creeps up on me, “only you.” He raises his eyes to me, never losing his rhythm.

“Say it again,” he whispers.

“Yes… Christian…” I gasp as the feeling crawls through my thighs and up my pelvis, “only you.”

“Again… please…” His stroke deepens, and my pelvis threatens to implode. I throw my head back in sweet agony as it approaches quickly… almost… almost…

“Only… Christian… only you…” He groans, sweet and deep, his face buried in my neck, pushing me so high, so deep, my God…

“Please…” he beseeches me deep from his chest, “… again!”

I can’t withstand it any more.

“Ho… ho…” I try to speak as my third orgasm crashes down on me. I grip his fingers tight to force the words out of my mouth. “Ho… honly… y-you…Christian… only… only you… only you!” I cry out as my orgasm rips through me again, bringing passion and relief that I didn’t feel with the first two. My back arches and my hands tighten as I helplessly repeat the last two words through a climax blasting through my extremities and leaving me helpless to its wrath.

“Jesus!” he bites out as I feel him stiffen and empty hard, throbbing, and thick into me. His teeth grit and the same noise comes from his throat as he presses hard into me, unable to move through his paralyzing orgasm. He squeezes my hands until it feels like the blood flow stops and I lay there, allowing him to use me as the vessel that he needs right now and savoring every moment of it—his weight pressing down on me; his hands painfully gripping mine; his breath caught and held in his chest as his body is pulled taut, stretched like a rubber band and helpless until his passion releases him.

“Jesus… Jesus, Jesus…” he gasps as the orgasm finally releases his muscles. He showers my neck with kisses as he catches his breath, his cock still throbbing inside me, my core still throbbing around him.

“I didn’t…” he begins as he gently massages my hands. “Did I…?”

“No, no,” I silence him as he continues to catch his breath. He still kisses me as he moves to roll me on top of him.

“No, please,” I beg, wanting to feel his weight on me a little longer. He looks down into my eyes and I gaze back at him, beseeching him not to move. He lies back down on top of me, one hand cradling my cheek, the other still holding my hand over my head while he kisses my exposed cheek softly.

“And only you, my love,” he says softly, between kisses. “Only ever you…”

*-*

“This wasn’t my intention when I pulled you away from our children,” he says, caressing my stomach gently in our post-orgasmic haze.

“No?” I say, turning my gaze to him. He shakes his head.

“I really did want to talk… really do,” he replies, “but I saw you in the window and at first, I just wanted to get you out of there. Then, when the light hit your face, I knew that you had been crying. Al told me that you were upset, and he told me why, but he didn’t tell me that you were crying. I just wanted to wash your face and get rid of the puffiness in your eyes… but most of all, I just don’t want you to cry anymore.”

That’s not likely, dear. The fates are even using you against me right now. That’s why I’m internalizing every good moment, every precious and tender moment, every sensual moment, so that I don’t lose my mind when they decide to attack again.

“Jason and Gail want to have another… session with us, if you’re up to it. They were waiting in the den when I came to get you. They’re most likely off doing something else by now. Do you want to talk or would you rather not?” I sigh. Again, I know he means well, but right now, I don’t see that talking will help me.

“Sure,” I concede, wanting to appease him. I move to get up and he stops me.

“Not yet,” he says. “Just a few more minutes.” Fine by me.

“Okay,” I say softly, relaxing into his touch.

As agreed, a few minutes later, we rise and get back into our clothes. He takes me by the hand and leads me to the elevator. He stands behind me with his arms protectively wrapped around me while we ride to the ground floor. We go to his den, intent on calling Gail and Jason, only to find them tangled in each other’s arms, kissing passionately on the sofa. Though they are fully dressed, the distinct smell of sex hangs in the air. Christian stands there frowning for a moment and I’m in stunned awe. They didn’t even hear us come in. Christian clears his throat and although Gail jumps a bit, Jason just looks over at Christian.

“You better not have fucked on my piano,” he says, leading me into the room and examining his piano for—I don’t know, ass marks?

“No, we didn’t fuck on your precious piano,” Jason says. Gail hides her face while I stifle a laugh. “I won’t bother asking what took you so long. You look fresh as a bunny.”

“You should talk,” Christian says, satisfied that there was no coitus on his baby grand. “Don’t fuck in my den, Jason.”

You should talk,” Jason retorts. “Is there any room in this house you haven’t fucked in?”

“Yes, there is, and that’s beside the point,” Christian replies. “I fuck in my den. You don’t fuck in my den!”

“Okay, boys, that’s enough,” Gail says, after her face has turned fifty shades of red from pastel to crimson. “We got in a quickie while we were waiting we’re sorry it won’t happen again!” She spit it all out in one breath without raising her eyes to me or Christian and I’m fighting with all my might not to break out in hilarious laughter. I’m immune to this. Among other things, last year, I walked right in on these Neanderthals settling a bet on whether or not Christian and I were upstairs fucking. I remember leaving Chuck with a visual he’ll never forget. I also won’t embarrass her with the time that I was shoved under Christian’s desk pleasuring him when Jason walked in unannounced and it was my disembodied voice that convinced him to leave. I’m not modest about our sex life, but apparently, Gail is modest about hers.

“You should take a page from your wife’s book about humility, Mr. Taylor,” Christian says. “Thank you, Gail. It’s quite alright. Butterfly and I did take a while. We apologize.” She nods quickly, obviously anxious to change the topic. “As requested, we are here, though a bit detained.”

Gail straightens her clothes and sits up on the sofa. Jason sits up, too, and zeroes right in on me.

“You don’t talk much anymore, Your Highness,” he says, examining me. “Are you afraid that you’ll say too much?”

I shrug. I didn’t realize that I wasn’t talking. I just don’t have much to say.

“I… uh, it’s not intentional. I just don’t have much to say.”

“That’s not the Ana I know,” he says. “The Ana I knew before this whole mess was outspoken and had a lot to say. You’ve turned into a bit of a mute and you’ve missed four appointments with your therapist.” My eyes widen, and I glare at him.

“Are you keeping tabs on me?” I accuse. He looks at me with a surprised, horrified look on his face.

“Um, yah, that’s my job!” he retorts. “I knew what you were doing even when we weren’t here.” He gestures to himself. “Head of personal security? Everybody reports to me? Chuck, Ben, Chance, Rebe, Tate, Lurch… they all report to me?” He’s saying this waiting for me to catch the hint on how ridiculous my question was, which I do… I shrug and shake my head, murmuring my apologies.

“Accepted, but you still haven’t answered my question,” he says. “You haven’t seen Ace and you haven’t seen Dr. Baker,” he points an accusing finger at Christian. “What’s going on?” I turn my gaze to Christian. He hasn’t seen Dr. Baker?

“I see Dr. Baker on an as-needed basis, not regularly,” he defends.

“You don’t think it’s needed?” he asks.

“She can’t help me in terms of my marriage,” he protests. “Butterfly feels that she has a completely distorted view of what’s going on with her and that affects what advice she can give me about our relationship.”

“But what about what’s going on with you?” Jason asks him. Christian frowns.

“What do you mean?” he retorts.

“You thought your wife was cheating on you. You cut her off and ran away to the other side of the world without giving her the chance to explain. You don’t think that’s a problem on your part, like for instance, your trust issues? Your ability to give the woman you love the benefit of the doubt? Being able to control your anger reflex and ‘snap’ response?”

“I’m dealing with those things,” he says, running his hands through his hair. “I admitted that it was the wrong thing to do…”

“But it doesn’t stop it from happening again,” Jason says, interrupting his excuse. I hold my head down and wait for him to tear into me. I didn’t have to wait long.

“And you,” he begins. Here it goes. “You were seeing your therapist weekly before any of this happened. You shocked him so much that he showed up at the door! What gives?” I shrug again, noncommittal.

“I haven’t found the words,” I say, honestly. “I’d be wasting his time and mine.”

“So, you’re just going to sit here and let this thing tear you apart day by day where we can all see it,” he says. “You think I’m the only one who’s noticed that you’ve changed? You are a force of nature, Ana. You have the ability to move mountains with the flap of your little Butterfly wings, but lately, you’ve been as mute as a church mouse and as affective as a drizzle. You’re not talking to anyone, not even your therapist, and you as a mental health professional don’t see this as a problem?”

I don’t know how to answer him. The feelings that I have right now, nobody can fix, and talking about them just lays them out on plane for everyone to see and makes me feel like shit. When I don’t answer, Jason turns back to Christian.

“You say that you don’t need your therapist,” he begins. “What do you say about her not seeing hers? Is everything honky-dory between you guys?”

“I wouldn’t say honky-dory,” Christian admits. “I know she’s holding something back.”

Holding something back… you all want me to release? Fine, I’ll release…


CHRISTIAN

“Things aren’t terrible, but I can still feel a little distance between us,” I say honestly.

“Ana?” Jason prods, “What do you say to that?” She doesn’t raise her eyes.

“I would never want to leave him or anything like that, but…” She trails off.

But? There’s a but?

“But what, Ana?” Gail presses. “You have to be honest or you’ll never move forward.” She sighs and drops her head.

“I’m scared,” she says, softly, barely audible. “I’m afraid that as soon as I let my guard down and try to be happy, something horrible is going to happen. I never would have thought for a moment that something like this would happen between my husband and me. I thought our bond was unbreakable and unshakeable and could withstand anything. I thought that no matter what, no one would ever come between us—that when and if that crucial moment ever presented itself, we would both know that there was no room for anyone else and there was no way that someone would be able to work their way into our space. But when the time did come, I was wrong…”

“How were you wrong?” Jason asks. “That someone did work their way into your space?”

“No,” she says. “Liam never worked his way into our space. My eyes may have been stricken with what I saw, but that man never made it to my heart. Hell, he barely made it to my mind until he was in my sight or unless I was pissed about his presence. He never stood a chance. There was no room for him. So, what? He’s attractive. He’s not the first attractive man I’ve ever seen, and he won’t be the last. Have you met my therapist? My best friend’s husband? My brother-in-law? All attractive men that made me do a double-take when I first met them, but I never ended up in their arms or in their beds.

“When that man made a move on me, I stopped him. I did not see my husband and I stopped him. I didn’t have my arms around him pulling him in for a kiss—I stopped him. And the reward I got was that my husband left me for two and a half weeks and didn’t speak to me. The truth is that I can beat myself over the head for what I could have done differently over and over again, but it won’t mean anything. It won’t do anything. I didn’t meet this man at a hotel or even make a date for dinner. He invited me out to lunch and I turned him down for just this reason… for the speculation it could have caused. I can pick this situation apart more than I already have, and you know what I’ll get from it? The same thing that I already got…

“Don’t step wrong, Ana.
“Look straight ahead, Ana. Don’t look left or right…
“Don’t get comfortable, Ana. The moment you do, all hell is going to break loose.”

“You’re sounding a bit like the martyr, Ana,” Jason says. Butterfly laughs ironically and does a disbelieving nod.

“Of course, I do,” she says, defeat and resignation lacing her voice.

“Don’t discount her feelings, Jason,” Gail defends. “She has a right to her feelings.” Jason turns to look at his wife and back at Butterfly.

“You’re right,” he says. “I’m sorry. Maybe you can help me understand what it is that you’re feeling.” That’s pretty insightful. Butterfly looks up at him with a sad smile.

“I can understand why you feel that way, because if I wasn’t sitting in this body—in this life and mind, experiencing this shit first hand—I would feel the same way. This is one of the reasons why I don’t want to talk about it… none of it. It won’t make a difference.”

“Please, Ana,” Gail presses. “Tell us.” Butterfly shakes her head.

“Every time I got comfortable, something happened,” she says, still smiling. “Every time I thought I was going to be happy and I could sit back and take a breath and relax, something happened. Every single time! I’m a walking tragedy,” she says with a laugh. I don’t see what’s funny, but I think she may be going a little hysterical.

“It can’t be every time, Ana,” Jason protests. She laughs again, this time, with tears threatening her eyes.

“No?” she says, still sporting a wide smile and threatening to cry at the same time. “Let’s review, shall we?

“Right when I thought my mom and dad were happy, my mom suddenly became dissatisfied and left my dad. It only got worse—she ripped us apart deliberately, so set on hurting him for not being what she thought he should be that she didn’t care that she was destroying me, too.

“I was miserable at first, but I coped with it until I was able to settle comfortably into obscurity. Then what happens? The most popular boy in school pays attention to me and I was foolish enough to believe that he liked me… until he raped me. We all know how that turned out.

“Yes, I wanted to die, but I didn’t. Then Daddy came and got me, took me away from the horrible nightmare that I was living and nursed me back to health for a few months. I was right at the promise of tranquility—it was right there in arm’s reach—and they came and snatched me back to hell.

“I finally escape—finally escape—come back to Washington and start my life back over again… from scratch… all on my own. During that time, I meet this guy. He treats me like a princess. The cutest, most considerate guy I had met to that point and what happens? He turns out to be the goddamn spawn of Satan! My already shredded heart was put through such hell that it took years—years—for me to let anybody near me.

“Enter Christian Grey. After a tumultuous beginning, we fall in love only for me to find out that he has a psycho, stalker, pedophile ex-lover and—oh, yeah, Satan’s spawn is hanging in the bleachers waiting for his chance to attack!

“Crazy pedophile wreaking total havoc on our relationship and me and Mr. Grey have a brief falling out. The moment I come to my senses about the cause of the fallout, Satan’s Spawn kidnaps me and his fucking psycho sidekick damn near beats me half to death while I’m cuffed to a bed.

“I’m rescued! Yay, right? Only we go to Anguilla and shit happens where I lose my mind there, too—more than once!

“So, we get back and announce our relationship to the world, and the crazy blonde pedophile continues to wreak total fucking havoc on our lives for months… restraining orders; crashing my father’s wedding; kissing my boyfriend; trying to kill Jason; trying to kill Christian; trying to kill me…”

This is playing out like a goddamn Greek tragedy. If I hadn’t been present for most of it, I’d swear she was exaggerating.

“In between there somehow, I apparently mistakenly thought my wedding was called off and escaped to Montana, rethinking my entire purpose in life, only to return to the whole aforementioned murder-death-kill scenario.

“Oh, and let’s not forget Mommie Dearest!”

Yes, let’s not forget her.

“Once we finally do get married, halfway through our honeymoon, Satan’s Spawn pulls a hole card and we have to come back and I discover the most joyous revelation of my life after vomiting on the prosecuting attorney and passing out on the goddamn stand.”

At least she didn’t mention me having a spy at her bachelorette party.

“Then comes the hacker and the fundraiser fiasco, and immediately after we put those things to rest, I get T-boned by a fucking ex-sub who almost kills me and Chuck! Nearly a year later, I still don’t have all my memories back.

“After more hiccups than I care to count, I finally bring two healthy babies into the world, a joyous occasion that was overshadowed a few months later by Val’s tumor and Pop’s unfortunate passing—not things that directly happened to me, but deserve inclusion due to the fact that a) when Pops’ died, my husband turned into an emotional infant and locked me out of the bedroom that we shared, b) I sat for days wondering if my best girlfriend was going to die after we had treated each other like shit for months and c) they were both cause to postpone our Italian vacation.

“A few months later, I find that all my hard work for Helping Hands is being questioned by a spiteful, vindictive bitch with an ax to grind and then, the last thing… the very last thing I ever thought could happen happened! I feared that maybe one day, my husband would seek something that I wouldn’t be able to give him and might look for it in the company of another, but I never, ever thought that another man would come between us. It was never on my radar, not even in the furthest recesses of my mind. And then…” She holds her head down and shrugs, shaking her head and still chuckling sadly.

“I know I’ve forgotten something, but I think you get the idea,” she adds, still laughing tragically. “I. Am a walking. Fucking. Tragedy. I’m the goddamn damsel that’s always getting tied to the fucking railroad tracks in those badly made, corny, black-and-white silent films. And what a horrible thing to happen—being tied to the railroad tracks and seeing your demise coming at you full speed and hoping and praying that someone’s going to save you because you can’t save yourself. And trust me, the train has run me over more times than I’ve been rescued, yet there I am… dismembered on the railroad tracks, trying to put myself back together again. Those attacks and accidents weren’t even merciful enough to kill me… just scar me forever—physically, mentally, and emotionally—then set me back in this ragtag, patchworked body with my ragtag patchworked heart and my ragtag patchworked mind to fight another day.”

She laughs again, but by now, tears are streaming nonstop down her cheeks. She shakes her head and drops it before she adds, “For when they shall say, Peace and safety, then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.”

Now she’s quoting scriptures? This is really getting bad.

“Ana, can’t you see that this is exactly why you need to talk to Ace?” Gail tells her, leaning in like it’s a one-on-one conversation. “You can’t stop bad things from happening. You might be right, the fates may be cruel, and they may be waiting for things to get great so that they can drop another test on you, but you can’t spend your life waiting for that. You can’t do that to yourself… or your children. What kind of freedoms can they have if you’re always waiting for them to get run over by a bus?”

Butterfly sighs, now fully weeping while listening to Gail.

“I lived in mourning for many years after God gave me a wonderful man and then decided to take him back. We have no children and now, I can’t bear any children of my own. Lo, and behold, another wonderful man happened into my life.” She looks over at Jason.

“He was the worse person for me,” she laughs. “We work together; he has a dangerous job… but those damn fates…” She looks back down at her hands before she raises her eyes to Butterfly.

“He was almost killed, and I thought that destiny was going to punish me again, but he wasn’t. He came back to me and even though it happened in a pretty cruel way, he even brought me a daughter.”

Jason’s gaze softens, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen more love in his eyes… except on their wedding day in Anguilla.

“And then you welcomed me into your family—even against the wishes of my employer…” I drop my head and twist my lips. She’s right. I didn’t want to blur any lines between me and my staff, but Butterfly had different plans from the very beginning. “…And you had two beautiful babies, and I get to help raise them. So, I didn’t get to bear any children of my own, but I sure as hell have a family.

“One thing that I learned from losing my Douglas and living in mourning for all those years before I found my Jason, gained a beautiful daughter, and a beautiful family is that yes, bad times are always going to happen for as long as you’re alive. But think about it really hard… The bad times don’t follow the good times. The good times follow the bad.”

Butterfly raises her eyes to Gail, her lip trembling. She swallows hard.

“I want to believe that so badly,” she says. “It would make all of this so much easier to bear… I just can’t see how to get past this huge, crashing abyss I feel in my soul.”

“I just want us to get back to being us,” I say, disappointed, “but… from what you’re saying, that might not happen.” She shrugs, smiling sadly.

“I love you too much to lie to you,” she confesses. “Give it time. You never know. Maybe I’ll see what Gail is saying. I’ll go back to Ace and maybe… maybe I’ll get comfortable enough to forget this feeling of impending doom.”

It’s not until this moment that I fully realize what my leaving really did to her. It shook her foundation in everything she believed in. Maybe there was too much of her inner security wrapped up in me, but didn’t I make it that way? Didn’t I make her the most important thing in my life, bumping heads with her several times on matters of her security, safety, and well-being? I’m Christian Grey—self-proclaimed possessive and controlling asshole. I must have everything important to me encased in this protective bubble so that I know that it’s safe. She was in that bubble—figuratively and literally—and that’s what she became accustomed to. I took care of her life, her body, and her heart, and she expected me to keep doing that…

And then, one day, I didn’t.

I left her out there in the elements without any shelter and she had to fend for herself against the foul weather. As a result, she got a really good look at just how bad the hurricanes, tornadoes, monsoons, typhoons, blizzards, avalanches, sandstorms, wind and hail could really be. Every bad thing that ever happened to her all came back at     once and all the progress that she had made in all of her therapy sessions went down the drain. A lot, if not all, of her safety and progress was directly linked to me and I took it away in one fell swoop…

I was the one who opened the door to finally finding out what happened in Green Valley.

I was the one who swooped in with my whirly-bird and rescued her from the clutches of the bad guys.

I was the one who held her as she cried when she cut ties with her mother.

I was the one who stood by her side and fought her friends when she was catatonic for several days.

I was the one who was there for twelve days when she was in a coma and waiting when she woke up, even though she didn’t know who I was.

Then, she turned around looking for that safety net at a very crucial moment in our relationship, and I wasn’t there… I was gone… and she fell, and she might still be falling.

I’ll make it up to you, baby. I swear I will.

“I guess I just have to work harder at showing you that everything’s not impending doom,” I say, matter-of-factly, “at making sure that you know that I realize that I wasn’t there when you fell and I’m really sorry for that; letting you know that I know I’ve shaken your trust to the very core and it may take me the rest of my life to get it back, but I’ll fight that long if it means that in the end, you know that I’ll never let you fall again. I don’t care how long it takes… I love you and I want you to trust me again, trust us again, trust life and love again. I’ll do any and everything to restore that trust. It may take a really long time, but I don’t care. You won’t have to forget that impending doom, because I’m going to chase it away. I’m going to spend every day of my life chasing it away until you trust again. I made a horrible mistake, Anastasia. I ran when I should have listened. As a result, everything we’ve built has been destroyed. Please, forgive me. Please, please, forgive me.”

“Not… everything,” she says, her voice small. I raise my eyes to look at her. “I still love you… with all my heart…”

“But you don’t trust me,” I say. “That is everything, but I’m not giving up hope. I’ll do everything I can to make you trust me again.”

I suddenly ache inside. That pull—that connection that we’ve always had suddenly feels stronger than it ever has, and I feel that if she doesn’t come to me now, I just may pass out. She leaps from her seat and launches herself into my arms. She’s as light as a feather and as heavy as lead at the same time and it feels like the wind has been knocked out of me as I hold her to me with all the inner strength I can muster.

“I don’t know…” her small voice begins, her face buried in my neck.

“Sssh,” I soothe, rubbing her back and holding her close to me. “I do…”

*-*

I’m sitting at the breakfast bar resting my face in my hands and watching Gail put the finishing touches on an exquisite homemade seven-layer German chocolate cake. Only moments after our emotionally taxing discussion, Butterfly excused herself and went to take a nap before dinner. I immediately felt that hopeless feeling again and only wanted to make things right in her life… when I suddenly made a horrendous discovery.

“Today is Butterfly’s birthday,” I lament right after she leaves the den. Gail and Jason look at each other and back at me.

“Fuck! It is,” Jason responds, slapping his hand to his forehead. “We fucking forgot. How could we fucking forget?”

“Look at everything that’s been going on,” Gail interjects. “My birthday would be the last thing I would be thinking about in the midst of all this shit!”

“I’ll bet that’s not how Butterfly feels,” I say, pulling out my phone to see if Al is still in the house.

“Yep,” he says when he answers the phone.

“Today is Butterfly’s birthday,” I say into the phone.

“Yep,” he says, with no surprise. I roll my eyes.

“You didn’t think to remind me of this when we talked?” The line is silent.

“Are you serious?” he asks. “Are you fucking kidding me? You’re her goddamn husband and you forgot her fucking birthday? Now you wanna blame me? Seriously?” Oh, shit, I’ve pissed the man off.

 “Look, I’m sorry. There’s a lot going on, okay?” I apologize.

“No shit, Sherlock,” he replies.

“Did she mention anything while you all were visiting?”

“Not a word,” he says. “I think it’s the furthest thing from her mind.” Like Gail said.

“Are you still here?” I ask.

“Yes, but she just went up to bed. I think she’s down for the night…”

“No, she’s not. She’s taking a nap. Come to my den. I need your help…”

I used to sit in the kitchen and watch my mother like this on those few occasions when she would make something special. She was a very busy doctor and she didn’t get to cook much until we got older. She spent as much time with us as possible when we were kids instead of in the kitchen. She’s the reason that I don’t want my children raised solely by nannies. My mom was the best, and even though I may not have acted like she was the world to me, she really was. There was this one time when she made this chocolate cake for me from scratch. It was just for me, and I remember how special she made me feel making that cake just for me…

“I need you to do me a huge favor and I don’t want you to laugh at me.” Gail’s eyes widen as she puts the cake spatula down on the counter and turns her attention to me.

“Okay,” she says, waiting for my request. I sigh heavily and spit it out.

“I want you to teach me how to cook a nice meal for my wife,” I say finally. “I’m not trying to be a master chef. I just want to cook her a nice meal and I’m afraid that if I try to do it alone, I’ll burn the house down.”

I raise my head to look at her and she’s glaring at me like she’s just seen a ghost. I try to understand that this is a strange request but give me a fucking break here. I’m trying to do something nice for the woman I love.

“You want to cook?” she finally says, astonished. I nod.

“Yes,” I reply, already afraid that this will be an impossible task. Gail sighs.

“It takes patience, Christian,” she says. “You’re not a very patient man.”

“I at least want to try,” I say. “I just want to do something nice for her. I buy her shit all the time. This will be different, something I can do myself. It doesn’t have to be a gourmet meal—I know that would take forever, but something nice… and edible.” A small smile plays with Gail’s lips.

“We’ll try,” she says. “When do you want to do this? You all are always home at the same time, unless you don’t care if she knows.”

“No, it has to be a surprise,” I tell her. She nods.

“Sophie has been asking to learn to cook a few dishes. You’re in luck, we’ve only just started. I can kill two birds with one stone if you don’t mind a teenager in your cooking class.” I sigh again. I don’t care who’s in the cooking class as long as she agrees to help me… and Butterfly doesn’t find out.

“Thank you,” I breathe. “I’ll come home early, when Sophie is getting off school. We’ll work out some form of communication so that I’ll know if Butterfly is at home…”

Just like that, Gail becomes my co-conspirator.

Having unlimited resources affords you the luxury of not only being able to put together a birthday party in only two hours, but also to be able to secure the perfect gift that’s not only thoughtful and somewhat extravagant to the average person, but also utterly necessary. As luck would have it—bad luck, that is—I’m the only person in the inner sanctum that forgot it was Butterfly’s birthday. Everyone else had presents at the ready and was only looking for a good time to “engage,” so to speak. So, when Al activated the contingency and managed to get Butterfly’s closest friends to the Crossing on short notice, everyone came bearing gifts. Mine is an Australian cruise that we’ll be taking in December, no excuses or postponing.

At 7pm sharp, I send Val to rouse my Butterfly from her slumber and bring her to the dining room. As much as I’ve promised that birthdays will no longer be a day of angst for my wife, this one was nearly ruined again—this time, because of me. Three birthdays this woman has spent with me and not one of them have gone off without a hitch. Oy vey!

After fifteen minutes have passed and still no sign of my wife, I begin to worry until I see a beautiful vision in sunshine yellow bend the corner around one of the large columns.

“Surprise!” everyone yells. The gathering is small, not everyone that I would have hoped but enough of our closest friends and family.

“Wha…?” Butterfly is stunned. An impromptu Food and Libations with the Scooby Gang and plus ones, the extended family from the Crossing, and my parents made it, too. A small table is set up with the gifts and the German Chocolate cake made by Gail and decorated with large chocolate flowers and the words “Happy Birthday Mommy.” The twins sleep in their Pack-n-Plays on either side of the table, guarding the cake and gifts from possible interlopers. Little Mindy occasionally peeks into the Pack-n-Plays under her mother’s watchful eye. Little Harry had just been put down to sleep and as I am told, has been battling a small cold. So, even though Ray is here, Mandy and Ana’s little brother couldn’t make it.

“I couldn’t let her come down when she first awoke,” Val apologizes. “She looked like she had been attacked by wolves. She never would have forgiven me.” I walk over to my sweet, stunned bride and put my hands on her forearms.

“I want to say that we had this elaborate plan, but we didn’t. We all just wanted you to know how much we love you.” She looks around the table at her friends and the family we could gather before she throws her arms around me and buries her face in my neck.

“I totally forgot,” she breathes in soft sobs. “I love you, too.”

*-*

She had a wonderful time. She spent the evening listening to what was going on in everyone else’s life since it was already known that the last month of her life had been a complete disaster. Having spent most of the summer taking care of Val, then being there for me and my family when Pops died, followed almost immediately by Mia’s wedding then yet another event that we’ll come up with some horrible nickname for, there hasn’t been any time to connect with her friends on the frivolous and fun level that friends should.

After two years together, Marilyn and Gary have decided to move in together. There are still no wedding bells on the near horizon, but they’re both so busy that they don’t spend nights apart at all and, according to them, it makes no sense to pay rent in two places when they most often only stay in one.

So… Courtney and Vickie are a real-life couple. Yeah, that’s news to me. I wouldn’t have been surprised that they were fucking around, but a couple… yeah, I’m surprised. Courtney’s going to school for social work, which is a real shocker to me since she was truly a lost cause a year ago as far as I was concerned. But, I have to admit—Aunt Tina, Mom, and Butterfly were right. She has changed significantly. I don’t think her grandparents would even recognize her now.

Valerie and Elliot will be moving into their house next weekend. The house is ready, but they didn’t want to come straight home and then have to prepare for packing and moving. Valerie’s things are all in storage since she let her apartment go right after her diagnosis and Elliot’s refusal to let her out of his sight. Elliot still has his apartment, but he’s going to be shedding most of his bachelor gear—as is my understanding—for new furnishings in the new house. They should be ready for a housewarming in a few weeks.

Maxine announces that she has decided to open her own practice. She feels that it’s time that she offers her services in a different arena without being under someone else’s payroll. Butterfly encourages her to do that and jokes that she will come and see Maxine should she find herself in need of a job again. A scoff and a dirty look come from both my mother and me to the party’s amusement. Butterfly also informs her friend that she owns an office building downtown with empty office space. I had completely forgotten that I had gifted Butterfly’s office downtown to her and there is currently space for rent. So, Maxine now has the new location of her practice.

There’s no sex tonight. The day was just too heavy, even with the successful joviality at the end of the evening. Butterfly and I watch Disney movies in the family room with the twins in their Pack-n-Plays. She finally falls asleep somewhere after their midnight feeding and I lay in bed with her in my arms staring at the ceiling, thinking how close I came to losing it all over a terrible misunderstanding.

My wife could have died when she fell off that cliff. Chuck saved her life yet again. She may never recover from this impending doom syndrome. I can see it in her eyes. She used to be such a free spirit and now, she’s approaching everything with a level of emotional caution that’s clearly visible to everyone around her. She’s agreed to start seeing Ace again. I’ll give Dr. Baker a call, too. Somebody’s got to help us out of this situation in which we’ve found ourselves or we’ll never be able to get ourselves back.

Having laid awake next to my wife for about three hours with no hope of falling asleep, I slide out of bed and go to my old faithful companion in hopes of calming my nerves enough to find slumber. I stop at the bar in the entertainment room and pour myself a brandy, then stop in my office to get my voice recorder before escaping to my den and my baby grand.

I never know how to verbalize my feelings, which is why I ran my cowardly, selfish ass to Madrid instead of staying here and communicating with my wife. I thought I had come so far during the time that we’ve been together. I’ve come a long way, granted, but not nearly as far as I need to if I can come this close to losing her because of this. I start the voice recorder and just start playing. At first, I have no idea what I’m doing, what I’m playing, or why I’m recording… but I do. I just keep playing, keep recording… and keep singing.

You look at me and I begin to melt, just like the snow when a ray of sun is felt…

She’s so broken, and I broke her. Just like she always does, she put on a good face for the rest of the world, but deep inside, she’s fragile and afraid. Somehow, I—or something else—always exploits that fear and that vulnerability. I have to make sure that she knows that I’ll never be the one to do that to her again. I have to know that I’ll never do that to her again. She can’t take it. She won’t survive going through this too many more times.

And now that your rose is in bloom, a light hits the gloom on the Grey…

Yeah, I know that’s not the Grey the song meant, but that’s how I feel—lost without her and so found when she’s near me. Song after song flows from my soul, my fingers, and my mouth. I don’t really know the purpose. I just sing and play what I’m feeling, what I need her to feel.

And when you smile, the whole world stops and stares for a while…

How I could have thought that for one second her thoughts and heart would stray to someone else is beyond me. Even now, playing the probable kiss over and over in my head, I no longer see her gazing in his eyes. I no longer see him closing in to touch his lips to hers. I only see her hand on his chest, pushing him away, fending him off from our bubble, our life and our love…

I knew I loved you before I met you, I think I dreamed you into life…

I have to get her back… back to the sassy Dr. Steele that I met in that community center, the woman who calls me Grey when she’s cross with me, the woman who cries adrenaline tears when she’s pissed and wants someone to pay for whatever has her feeling that way instead of shrinking into sofas or in fetal positions on the floor—not for myself, but for her… and yes, for me, too…

If ever I believe my work is done, then I’ll start back at one…

She has to know that I love her, what she means to me, what she’ll always mean to me. She has to know that, yes, there will be some bad times—some shadows and some tears, we can’t avoid them—but I’ll always be there to love her and hold her, to make sure that she’ll never feel the way she feels right now ever, ever again. God, I love you, Butterfly. I love you so much. I’ll spend the rest of my life proving to you that I love you and I’ll never let you down like this again… never again…

I never knew what my life was for, but now that you’re here, I know for sure…

I have died every day waiting for you, Darlin’ don’t be afraid, I have loved you for a thousand years…

You make me feel so brand new and I want to spend my life with you…

All of me loves all of you, love your curves and all your edges, all your perfect imperfections…


A/N: Ana’s quote about sudden destruction comes from the Bible: I Thessalonians 5:3

Here are the songs that are referenced in Christian’s midnight serenade.

On the Wings of Love—Jeffrey Osborne
Kiss From A Rose—Seal
Just The Way You Are—Bruno Mars
I Knew I Loved You—Savage Garden
Back At One—Brian McKnight
Spend My Life With You—Eric Benet ft. Tamia
A Thousand Years—Christina Perri
Let’s Stay Together—Al Green
All Of Me—John Legend 

Other songs that were on the recording, not mentioned in the chapter:
Nothing’s Gonna Change My Love for You—George Benson, Glenn Medeiros, Westlife… take your pick
I Will Be Right Here Waiting for you—Richard Marx
Thinking Out Loud—Ed Sheeran
Because You Loved Me—Celine Dion

Not sure if anyone cares, but years ago, I used to watch a sitcom called The Facts of Life. One of the characters—Tootie—wrote and performed a dramatic reading that I never really understood until I became an adult and people were always expecting something of me. When my Muse deserted me (and believe me, y’all, she deserted me—I thought I was going to be wrapping up the Butterfly Saga), Tootie’s dramatic reading came to me. To me, it translated into, “You can’t expect for me to just keep churning out shit when you need it and just take what I can get when you’re ready to give it to me.” 

These last few chapters, my Muse took a beating… and she shut the fuck down. 

Now I know people may look at this and say, “We can’t say what we want to say or she’s going to stop writing.” That’s not necessarily true, but people do need to understand that creativity is a lot of hard work, and I’m feeling what’s being said. As many times as I’ve tried to explain things logically, my Muse—as is anybody’s—is as “at will” as they come. She was like, “I don’t have to explain shit! and took the fuck off. 

For those who think she’s overly sensitive, do me a quick favor. Start from chapter 37, and don’t read anything else but the comments(suspicion started in chapter 33; the “embers” started in chapter 37; the blaze started in chapter 38) . Start from the first comment in chapter 37 to the last comment in chapter 41. Read it first with an open mind, then picture that this was a piece of clay that you worked on months ago for several weeks, and these people are talking about your piece of clay. No matter how thick your skin is, no creative soul can walk away from that unscathed. 

If you’re interested in Tootie’s dramatic reading, it starts at the 15:45 mark and it’s only about a minute long. 

I’m done. I apologize for subjecting you all to my diatribe. I’ve actually lost readers for that. 

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

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

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

~~love and handcuffs

 

Raising Grey: Chapter 19—So Much For Normal…

I do not own Fifty Shades Trilogy, or the characters. They belong to E. L. James. I am only exercising my right to exploit, abuse, and mangle the characters to MY discretion in MY story in MY interpretation as a fan. If something that I say displeases you, please, just leave. If you don’t like this story or me, please don’t spoil this experience for everyone. Just go away. For the rest of you, the saga continues…

Chapter 19—So Much For Normal…

ANASTASIA

I don’t know what the big deal is about leaving us the fuck alone. Yes, I’m still looking for a little bit of normal in a whole lot of crazy. Yet, somebody somewhere feels like I’m not entitled to that.

Judd Loser went on a total tirade in the days after the Pacific interview. I addressed everything he could possibly throw at me, so every time he tried to cut me down or retort, they’d just throw a sound bite at him from the interview. It just made him angrier and what’s worse—for him, anyway—even more women came out with sexual harassment claims. One woman at his old job even went past sexual harassment and said he actual physically pushed himself on her. There was no sexual act or penetration, but it was enough to shed a really bad light on the current allegations and may result in some sort of criminal investigation.

There’s been no peace this week. Radio and local television shows are now trying to get me to make appearances, and I know that all they want is to rile me up over Judd in hopes of getting a bad reaction from me. As a result, I’m refusing any new appearances and only agree to do the three that I already had scheduled over the next two weeks with strict instructions that there would be no addressing the Judd Rossiter issue.

Al has kept a close eye on mine and Daddy’s adoption petition and so far, there’s been nothing from Nevada. I know that the court won’t contact Carla, but hell, there’s just no telling what might happen between now and the time that everything becomes legal. I’ve come to hope for the best, but expect the worse in light of everything that has happened to me in my life. It doesn’t matter, though. I don’t care what my mother does; this adoption is going through. Daddy will be my legal father and that’s that.

I’m doing my best to ignore Judd Loser for the weekend. Any time I see his name in the news or someone brings him up in conversation, I ignore it, change the channel, go to another website, or change the subject. In other news, Helping Hands receives some kind of form-letter-cookie-cutter response from the licensing board about the letters that I’ve been sending them—something about the process of approval or whatever the case may be. In response, I send two more letters on Friday with different wording, but the same questions… what’s the damn hold up?

Sunday is mine and Daddy’s big date—behind the dugout at the Mariners game versus the White Sox. Oh, my Daddy and his baseball. He gets quite passionate when his team is slacking, and quite colorful, too. If I wasn’t partially raised with a sailor, I’d be blushing the entire time.

“I’m gonna freeze with that breeze! Hit somethin’ for Christ’s sake!”
“You asshole! The plate hasn’t moved in 100 years and you still can’t find it!”
“Hey Morse, they killed a cow to make that glove! You could at least try to use it!”
“The ball is behind you, fuckhead!!!”

Even the bullpen isn’t safe…

“Shut up! You been sittin’ on that bench for so long, you should have enough splinters to make your own goddamn bat.”
“Yeah, I bet it’s hard sittin’ around for nine innings and twelve games. Stand up and stretch your legs.”

The best one is after a strikeout while gesturing to his torso…

“Just in case you forgot, when the ball comes in this area, you swing!”

It’s really fun to just let loose with Daddy at the game. I can understand his frustration, though. We’re in the fifth inning and the only scoring in the whole game was when a rookie hit a line drive down to left field with bases loaded, allowing the Mariners to score three runs. Thank God it was our team that scored or Daddy would have had a conniption. Just before the bottom of the sixth, I have to use the restroom, but I’m almost afraid to leave Daddy on his own. I nod to Chuck sitting a few rows behind us and he gets up to follow me to the ladies’ room, signaling Ben and Chance to keep an eye on Daddy.

Of course, there’s a line at the ladies’ room and I have to sing songs and think of ridiculous things to distract myself so that I don’t pee on myself. It was a close call, but I made it. After I wash my hands and join Chuck to return to our seats, I swear that I see Judd Loser get a beer at one of the stands, but when I look again, the guy is gone. I assume that I must have imagined it since the asshole seems to be flooding my conscious and my subconscious mind and just go back to my seat.

Of course, I get there just in time to miss the same newcomer knocking in another run for the Mariners. I thought this would make Daddy happy—his team is winning! Instead, he has more heckles for the seasoned players…

“Hey Seagar, rough night? The newbie’s makin’ you look bad.”
“Hey Miller, that’s a $200 bat. If you’re not gonna use it, can I have it?”

I’m in pain with laughter by the end of the game and very happy that the only four runs made possible by a newcomer name Jackson was enough to give us the win. The final score—Mariners, four, White Sox, two.

We stop at the souvenir shop on our way out and I can’t help but buy an 18” Mariners souvenir bat to give to Daddy after the crack he made to Miller. Just as I’m paying for my wares and I’m about to leave, I hear a voice over my right shoulder that I don’t recognize, but it still gives me a fucking chill.

“Wanna see my tattoo?”

I whip around right into the face of Judd Rossiter. I fucking knew it was him at the beer stand. Shit. I gotta get out of here. I turn and look for Daddy, anxious to get away from this asshole as quickly as possible.

“What’s your hurry, doll? That ass looks a whole lot better in those jeans than it did in that get-up you were wearing before!”

Do not engage. Do. Not. Engage. Where the fuck is Daddy?

“Not so big and bad with no mic shoved in your face, huh?”

Oh, this is bad and it’s only going to get worse. Just when I’m getting desperate to find my father, I run right into him.

“Annie! What’s the matter?” he asks, holding my arms.

“We have to go—now, Dad,” I say quietly.

“Aw, Annie, that’s so cute!” Loser taunts. My father raises his eyes to Loser, clearly not amused.

“Something I can do for you?” Daddy says coldly. Oh, shit. This will not end well.

“What happened to your billionaire?” Loser hisses. I can tell he’s had a few beers. “You like ‘em older now? He’s old enough to be your father.” Daddy moves me behind him.

“That’s because I am,” Daddy growls. Loser laughs loudly, drawing attention to himself.

“You should’ve asked for a blood test there, Pops! She looks nothing like you!” His two friends laugh heartily at his tasteless joke.

“Daddy, let’s just go, please?” I beg.

“I make it a point not to allow anybody to chase me from anywhere,” Daddy says, facing off with Judd Loser. He’s taller, bigger, younger, and drunker than my father. Daddy’s going to get hurt.

“Daddy, it’s fine. He’s not worth it, please, Daddy…”

“Fuck you, bitch!” he hisses. “Listen to your bitch daughter and leave, Daddy…” Judd Loser is poking my father in his chest, which infuriates me, but immediately sets off the Marine in my father. Daddy moves so quickly that I don’t even see what he does. I think he grabs Loser’s finger, because the next thing I know, Loser is kind of bent over going in the same direction as his hand, yowling in pain. Once Daddy releases his hand, he recovers quickly and comes back at my father with a clenched right fist.

… And all hell breaks loose.

I don’t know what exactly is going on, but all I can see are my father’s fists flying and two men about to jump him from behind. I have immediate flashbacks of the fight in Anguilla and the drunks jumping my husband in the barfight… and I have a bat in my hand that’s half a meter long. It’s about to go upside somebody’s head.

“Get away from my Daddy!” I scream, pulling the bat back for action. A hand catches my wrist before I’m able to swing.

“Whoa! Settle down, killer! We got this!”

I turn around to see Chance disarming me while Ben and Chuck quickly subdue the two men that were about to attack my father. Daddy has beaten Loser Boy down to the floor and has him face down on the concrete. One hand is holding his neck down so that he can’t move his head. The other hand has Loser’s arm bent in some kind of really uncomfortable-looking submission hold behind him while Daddy’s knee is pressed firmly in the small of his back.

I breathe a sigh of dread as the whole thing plays out before me. Chuck and Ben have produced cuffs from I don’t know where. Daddy doesn’t need them. Somebody’s calling the cops. Everybody here will be detained until they get to the bottom of what happened. In the meantime, Loser is still trying to get from under my father.

“Get off me, you old fuck!” he demands. “You’re hurtin’ my goddamn arm! Get the fuck off me!”

“Son, the more you fight, the more it’s gonna hurt. Wait for the cops,” Daddy says calmly.

“I’m gonna fucking sue you!” he threatens, his voice muffled since his cheek is pressed into the concrete.

“Good luck with that,” Daddy says calmly. “You’ll have to wait until after I press assault charges against you. There are witnesses and surveillance cameras that saw you poking me in the chest and taking a swing at me.” I roll my eyes and take out my phone.

“Ana! What is it?” Vee’s voice is frantic. It should be. I’m calling her on a Sunday.

“Vee, call Al, call my husband. We have a situation.”

“Why did you call me before you called them?” she asks horrified.

“Because the press is everywhere, and they’re going to see it first, so he might see it live.” Vee sighs.

“Give it to me…”

*-*

I’m sitting on the same bench in the same spot at police headquarters that I sat when we came to get Sophie the night that Shalane was arrested. I want to just bury my head in a hole and disappear. I keep my face covered since the sea of paparazzi outside have a bird’s eye view right into the precinct doors. It’s not hard to do since I’m so sick with anguish that my dad is back there in a cell with that asshole that I can’t lift my head anyway.

A commotion at the door causes me to look up and I see an angel burst through the crowd.

Christian. Please hold me. I feel like I’m going to die.

I can’t even find the strength to stand when he walks into the door. Sensing my weakness, he strides quickly over to me and squats down to me, gathering me in his arms. I can’t even speak. I just cling to him like life itself and lay my head on his shoulder, trying to find a way to cope with all this bullshit. My father’s in a cell along with Chuck and Ben and this asshole and his drunk friends who accosted us at the ballgame. A normal day out with my dad has turned into an utter fucking nightmare.

“We had such a great time,” I mutter into Christian’s shoulder. “Daddy was a total nut, and the Mariners won.”

“I know, baby,” Christian says softly, caressing my back and hair.

“He made a crack at Miller about the bat. I just wanted to get him a bat…” My voice is shaking.

“Sssshh,” he soothes. “This is not your fault…”

“It’s totally my fault,” I weep. “If I had kept my mouth shut in the first place, none of this would have happened!”

“I’m not going to even address everything wrong with that statement,” Christian says. “Let’s just get Ray and the guys out of here.” I nod into his shoulder and he reaches into his jacket and retrieves his ever-present handkerchief. He lifts my head and gently dries the tears from my cheek. Even though I’m already crying, I feel the adrenaline rushing through me at a back-breaking speed. I can hear my blood rushing through my ears. It’s sounds like a baby’s heartbeat and just as fast…

Whoosh, whoosh, whoosh, whoosh, whoosh, whoosh, whoosh, whoosh!

I don’t know how much longer I sit on that bench while Christian and Chance and Al talk to whomever they talk to over and over and over. Christian had Marilyn call Mandy, but we insisted… somebody insisted… that she stay with Harry while we straighten things out. I’m not weeping anymore, but the tears haven’t stopped falling. And the blood hasn’t stopped rushing.

Whoosh, whoosh, whoosh, whoosh, whoosh, whoosh, whoosh, whoosh!

I put both hands on my forehead in pure frustration. Yet another open case in the life of Anastasia Grey. Dear God, will I live to see a year without a courtroom?

“This is getting ridiculous! Should I have just let the guy sit there with the pussy in my face?” I ask aloud to no one in particular. I want to scream. This whole thing is so fucking ridiculous. He was clearly trying to antagonize me and I called him on it, and somehow, I’m the bad guy?

The sun has gone down… and the two guys who tried to jump my father from behind are released. They walk right pass me. They don’t even look over at me. I really don’t think they even know who I am. I wonder how it feels spending Sunday afternoon in jail simply because your friend is a classless, arrogant, uncouth piece of…

“Sunflower?”

I think I get whiplash snapping my neck in the direction of my childhood nickname. The only other time I remember my father looking this good to me was when he showed up in the hospital after the Green Valley beating. My body is moving before my brain and I only remember being on the bench, then being in his arms, squeezing him for dear life and saying his name over and over again.

Daddy… Daddy… Daddy… Daddy… Daddy… Daddy… Daddy…

“It’s okay, Sunflower,” he says into my hair. “I’m okay.”

“I’m sorry, Daddy,” I say softly, my voice barely audible.

“No,” he replies, just as softly. “That blowhard ran his mouth the entire time he was in the cell. There’s no way I’m letting you take responsibility for that. He’s a real piece of work and my only regret is that I didn’t break his jaw so he would shut the hell up.”

“Everybody’s out now,” I hear my husband say. I release my grip on Daddy to look over at him.

“Everybody?” Daddy asks.

“Yes, everybody, so let’s make it quick.” I take the hint and try to walk to the door, but my head starts swimming and I feel like shit. I’ve been crying for hours and the whoosh, whoosh, whoosh has only just now started to calm. Daddy’s on one side of me in a moment and my husband is on the other. Trying to look as normal as possible—as normal as two large men can look holding up small woman—we head for the door.

The flashes light up the night like the first dawn of morning and the questions fly like crazy as Daddy and Christian maneuver me down the stairs and to a waiting Audi. Daddy gets in on the street side of the car while Christian helps me into the back-passenger seat. Just as I sit my butt down on the leather, I hear that loudmouthed fucker projecting from the top of the precinct stairs.

“That bitch is trying to ruin my life! Just because she can’t take a picture of a pussy!”

Christian’s neck jerks in the direction of the voice and before I have the chance to say a word, he has put me in the car, closed the door, and is now running back to the stairs… towards that horse’s ass. The crowd splits immediately, leaving a straight path right to Judd Loser. Fuck! You won’t let us out of the hospital when the babies are born, but you’ll make a fucking pathway for Christian to get up there and kill the guy!

In the mayhem with cameras flashing, I can see a fight ensue in my mind’s eye, one or both men being beaten to a pulp in front of the police station, and my three-second funnel produces the inevitable outcome.

Christian spends the night in jail.

I could barely stomach the thought of my father in a holding cell without vomiting all over the precinct floor, but the idea of Christian doing time is more than I can handle.

The tears start before I can stop them. I can’t take this shit anymore. I have to think fast before my husband finds himself with another assault charge. I leap out of the car with clenched fists. It’s time for another sacrificial lamb.

Me.

“I have had enough of this shit! Christian, get in the goddamn car!”

My sobbing, screaming voice pierces over every sound in what seems like a 50-mile-radius and all eyes are on me… including my stunned husband’s. Don’t lose your nerve now, Steele… um, Grey.

“Nooooooooooooooowwww!” I scream through my tears, shaking my fists like a toddler having an uncontrollable temper tantrum. My husband is horrified and everyone else is frozen in place until…

“Yeah, Christian, get in the goddamn car…” he says in a taunting voice. Christian turns his gaze back to Judd Loser, but before he can move or speak, one of the reporters close to him says,

“You’re a real asshole, you know that?”

I’m almost shocked that someone came to my defense, and like lemmings often do, the others fall in line behind him, criticizing Judd Loser and snapping pictures of his shocked face, but I don’t have a chance to enjoy it. The adrenaline is getting the best of me and I feel myself going down. I don’t know who catches me. All I know is that I see flashing cameras, I feel strong arms, then muffled sounds, then darkness.

*-*

“There she is,” he says softly. I’m cradled in my husband’s arms in the back seat of the slowest moving Audi on the bridge. My head is fuzzy and my vision is blurred, but I feel him stroking my cheek and kissing my temple… and I feel like there are leprechauns tapdancing on my skull.

“Wha…” The word is a breathy sound, and that’s pretty much all I can muster.

“I didn’t panic,” he says. “I remembered… crying or fainting.”

I think I nod, glad that he didn’t waste the rest of the night rushing me to the hospital just to hear that I had one of my adrenaline fainting spells. It’s been a really rough, very emotional, extremely fucked-up day. It’s a wonder that all I did was cry and faint. I wouldn’t have been surprised had I given birth to a unicorn on the precinct stairs. That would have given the press something to talk about.

The press… fuck!

I think I’m going to hide in the mansion for a few weeks. As if reading my thoughts, my husband quickly addresses the issue.

“I think we moved too fast for them to get pictures of you,” he says. “They were too busy taking pictures of the asshole.”

I don’t know what I do after that… I’m too damn tired…

Christian and I had the same idea Monday morning… no work for me. I’m certain the paps are camped at the end of the driveway and I just can’t deal with it today. I won’t stay in bed all day, though, although I’m certain that my husband would like to convince me otherwise.

“You’ll see it anyway, so you might as well see it now,” he says as I join him for breakfast in the dining room. He hands me the paper and who do I see on the front of the local page.

Judd Rossiter. What bullshit is he spewing now?

The headline reads, A Real A**hole. Priceless! This I gotta see…

A stunned Judd Rossiter stood at the top of the stairs in front of the doorway of police headquarters yesterday after a reporter called him out for unseemly behavior. Rossiter allegedly assaulted Raymond Steele—local small-businessman and stepfather of Anastasia Steele-Grey—at the gift shop of Safeco Field after the Mariners game. Rossiter, Steele, two members of Grey’s security team and two other unknown men were all detained at police headquarters after the incident. Pictures below depict a clearly distraught Anastasia waiting at the precinct for her stepfather along with a very caring Christian Grey trying to calm her.

The paps had a field day with the cameras yesterday. The pictures could have told the story without any of the narrative.

Me with my hands over my face sitting on the bench lamenting the entire situation.
Christian squatting in front of me holding me protectively in his arms.
Christian wiping my tears as I sob.
Daddy on one side of me and Christian on the other side, both of them basically holding me up as we leave the precinct.
A not-so-flattering picture of Rossiter taunting us from the top of the precinct stairs—they didn’t even bother to blur out his horrible tattoo.
My husband rushing the stairs.
Me with my mouth open, fists clenched, and screaming—also a very un-flattering picture.
A stunned Rossiter staring into the camera.
Christian carrying me, my head on my husband’s shoulder, my face shielded.

How did he get to me so fast? He was easily half-way up those stairs when I started screaming at him?

Rossiter was charged with assault while the other men face no charges. All men involved were released late last night. Rossiter continued to taunt the Greys after his release, prompting Christian to charge him on the stairs of the precinct. Anastasia clearly suffered some kind of breakdown, screaming for her husband to “get in the g**d**m car” before he tore Rossiter to shreds. Rossiter continued his taunting, prompting a freelance reporter on the stairs to call him out as a genuine donkey’s poop chute. Anastasia lost consciousness after her screaming fit and can be seen here once again cradled protectively in her husband’s arms before the Steeles and the Greys are whisked away in a fleet of Audis, leaving Rossiter to face the angry press alone.

Rossiter and Steele-Grey have an ongoing feud about Rossiter’s inappropriate behavior during a live taping of “Rapping with Rob,” and the subsequent fallout. So far, a total of ten women have come forth with allegations of lewd and lascivious behavior on Rossiter’s part—a situation for which he continues to hold Steele-Grey responsible as she dared to speak up about his X-rated tattoo.

There’s a close-up of the same picture of him at the top of the stairs with a zoom-in of that disgusting tattoo. The photographer—or the paper—had the decency to blur out the woman’s clit, but the rest of it is in grand detail. So, one can easily imagine what the entire thing looks like without even seeing it.

Rossiter tried to defend himself, taking another moment in the spotlight to degrade the Greys and their relationship, but to no avail. For the most part, he just came off as a drunken, cursing buffoon defaming a distraught woman for calling him out on bad behavior. Exactly how many beers did you have at Safeco Field, Judd?

I bet his inebriation is going to be my fault, too.

I fold the paper closed and place it on the table, not even bothering to finish reading the story. I pick up my cell phone and dial Daddy’s number. I’m so hurt and humiliated that he had to be brought into this. The phone is answered on the first ring.

“Hello?” What the fuck? Who the…? Oh, shit.

“Brian?”


CHRISTIAN

We could barely get out of the driveway with the paps blocking the street. I thought I’d get used to this shit after a while, but I have to admit that I was falling blissfully into my wife’s quest for “normal.” So, I’m resenting the presence of the noisy press more now than I ever have before.

“So, when did he get into town?” I ask Alex during the drive to the office.

“As near as I can tell, yesterday evening. It looks like Mandy may have called him once she found out that Ray had been arrested.”

It appears that our friend, Brian Cholometes, is in the Seattle area visiting Ray and Amanda. I can’t say that I blame him. His best friend was being detained at police headquarters, but I still don’t fucking trust the guy. We’ve been keeping an eye on him and his Ana-look-alike girlfriend, but nothing has given us cause for concern… until now.

I just don’t like him being here.

“What’s he been doing since he’s been here?” I ask.

“Nothing that gives immediate cause for concern,” Alex says. “He got in last night and went straight to the Steeles’ home. He stayed there until Ray was released, and then he left about an hour after Ray returned home and went to the Fairmont. He’s at Ray’s office right now. I would just say he’s checking on his friend and he’s no cause for us to be worried, but I know if he’s here and you don’t know, somebody’s head is going to roll.”

He’s right about that shit.

“Let’s hope that’s all it is. Keep your eye on him,” I say. “Is she with him?”

He knows who I mean… Colostomy’s Ana look-alike.

“No,” Alex says, “Not that we can tell.” That means that either he doesn’t plan on staying long or that he’s hoping to get a glimpse of Ana.

“Just keep your eye on him,” I reiterate. Out of respect for my father-in-law and my wife, I will not engage, but I need to know if he tries to. At that point, all bets are off. My next call is to Allen.

“I’m on my way into the office. I want a restraining order on Judd Rossiter. I don’t want him to be able to come anywhere near my wife, me, or any of her family.”

“Do you really think that’s necessary?” Allen protests. “After they massacred him in the news, I don’t think he wants to see any of you guys any time soon.”

“That man attacked my wife and her father in a public ballpark. He continued to harass and taunt us on the stairs of the police station in front of the press after he had been charged with assault. I don’t know if he’s desperate, unstable, or just plain stupid, but whichever it is, you’re getting a restraining order for his protection. I’m ordering my security to shoot to kill if he comes anywhere near my wife or our family again. Hell, I’ll shoot him myself!” Allen sigh.

“’Nuff said. I’m on it,” he says, before we end the call. “Cholometes is in town,” I say to Jason. He sighs.

“Yeah, I got the text this morning,” he replies.

“How soon before he speaks to Butterfly? Any bets?” Jason shakes his head.

“I’ll give it until noon,” he says while pulling into the parking garage at Grey House.

*-*

“Did you know that Brian is here?” my wife says when I call to check on her. I look at my watch. Ten thirty. He didn’t even make it to noon.

“Yeah, I found out on the ride in,” I reply. “How did you discover?”

“I called Daddy’s office and he answered,” she says. I’m quiet for a moment, waiting to hear the rest. “He didn’t dawdle,” she continues. “He asked how I was and about the twins. I told him that we were all fine and he handed the phone to Daddy.” I sigh and try not to say anything about what I think of the asshole. Instead, I just change the topic.

“I’m getting a restraining order against Rossiter,” I tell her. “I don’t want him to come anywhere near you or our family. I shudder to think what might happen if the twins are with you and that guy approaches you again.” She’s quiet for a moment.

“I suppose it’s for the best,” she says. “I would imagine that he wouldn’t have a single friend in the city willing to be seen with him after yesterday’s fiasco, so I can see him feeling the need to settle a vendetta now. My question is why does everybody feel the need to come after us? The things that people do or want to do to us are so damn drastic, I just don’t understand it. I had people who didn’t like me when I was just Anastasia Steele, but nobody came after me. It can’t be the money, because nobody has tried to get any except my mother and Ginger Creepy Guy, so what the hell?”

“It is the money, honey,” I tell her. “They may not want money, but the money makes us a bigger target if for no other reason than that people think that we can buy our way out of any situation. You know, ‘More Money, More Problems,’ ‘With great power comes great responsibility,’ and let’s not forget ‘What’s she got that I don’t.’ The list is endless as to why they want to come after us—we have everything, or we’re capable of having everything—and they’re not. They had one of us or want one of us or want something we have or are upset that we’ve got something they don’t or don’t think we deserve what we have or are angry that we can get whatever we want. Fill in the blank, baby, but trust me… in the end, it boils down to the money.” I hear her sigh.

“I’ve got one last radio show that I’m doing next Monday, then I’m done,” she says. “It’s one of those live shows that runs simultaneously on camera on a local cable channel. I think I’ve gotten enough publicity for my causes for now… I need to let it rest. I need to focus on the accreditation of Helping Hands anyway. The process is taking way too long.”

“I can make some calls if you want,” I offer.

“Oh, God, no, please don’t do that. We already know that Gloria Felton is holding us up somehow. If you get involved, it’ll just throw fuel on the fire. No, we just have to figure out what needs to be done to get this thing moving the right way.”

“But here’s the thing,” I protest. “If you know that she’s holding you up, then the reason is obviously personal and there’s going to have to be some sort of outside involvement or interference, if you will. If this is a personal vendetta, she’s going to run it into the ground. She’s going to wait until you give up or she’s going to hold you back forever.” I hear my wife sigh.

“Just… don’t do anything, please,” she beseeches me. “Being on this side of things, I understand now why Grace didn’t want you to give money to the center. You’re a very powerful man and the last thing we need is the impression that you somehow bought or finagled our accreditation… and believe me. That’s exactly how she would make it look if you got involved.”

I understand what she’s saying, but she doesn’t understand that people with the slightest bit of power and an ax to grind are going to grind it in your ass until there’s no blade left. Whether she knows it or not, at some point, I’m going to have to get involved, but for now, I’ll respect her wishes… and just wait.

“Whatever you want to do, baby,” I say. “So, what’s on the agenda for the rest of the day?”

I listen to my wife talk about what she plans on doing with her afternoon, the entire time thinking about Cholometes presence in this part of the state and the Felton woman that’s holding up the accreditation for the center. I make a mental note to talk to Allen about exactly what’s needed to acquire accreditation and to discreetly look into whether there could actually be a legitimate delay in the approval. We should just wait it out for now, but I want to know first-hand exactly what the delay is.

Now, Cholometes.

I know from experience that waiting to see what move someone is planning to make can often be disastrous. I want to know what his intentions are and I want to know now—how long he plans on staying in town, what he’s going to be doing while he’s here, if he’s really here in support of his friend or in hopes of getting a glimpse of or a moment or two alone with my wife. I still don’t trust him. I’ve seen determination before—I’m the epitome of it. I’ll burn down cities for that woman and so will he. I know he will, and some Ana doppelganger isn’t going to change that. David was living, breathing proof of that.

“Put another tail on Cholometes,” I tell Alex. “Have him conveniently be discovered.” He’s silent for a moment.

“You’re playing with fire, Christian,” he warns, “or have you conveniently forgotten your last encounter with that man?”

“Just do it,” I reinforce. He sighs into the phone.

“Yes, sir,” he agrees skeptically.

*-*

“You’re leaving breadcrumbs again. What do you want?”

His voice is impatient over the phone and even though I engineered his contact, I fucking hate this arrogant asshole and really could do without talking to him.

“I don’t know what you mean, Brian. I’ve kept my eye on you ever since my wife kicked you out of our house and our lives. You’re a wildcard and I don’t trust you, so just like you’re watching me, I’m watching you.” He’s silent for a moment. Yeah, I know, asshole. “So, if you’re just now finding breadcrumbs, you haven’t been paying much attention…” I wonder just how overt Alex made the men I had him put on Cholometes? It’s only been a couple of hours and I didn’t tell them to go and wave at the fucker.

“Are you that insecure in your relationship, Grey?” he asks. “I realize that your world begins and ends with your wife, but here’s a news flash for you. There’s life after Ana.”

Did I mention that I hate this arrogant asshole?

“You could’ve fooled me,” I retort. “You followed her around for years sniffing her ass and hoping she would fall into your arms, even after we were married and she was pregnant with my children, and now you’re going to pretend that you’re suddenly disinterested?”

“And now you’re following me,” he counters, “and what am I doing? It was okay when you thought your men were being covert, but then you stick them right in my face to summon me like errand boys. And now, you’ve got my attention, so tell me, Grey. What the fuck am I doing?”

“Well, right now, you’re hanging out with a woman who looks exactly like my wife. So, while your mouth says you’re over her, your actions say that you’re not. In fact, your actions say that you’re dangerously close to obsession and that you’re trying to recreate a woman that you can’t have. Ana’s important to you and I know that she is,” I continue, “To you and to me. She gets into your blood and you don’t just shake her off. So, don’t try that coy shit, because it doesn’t work with me. I know exactly what you’re doing, and trust me—I’m keeping a really close eye on you and your new girlfriend.” Another pause.

“Is that what this is about?” he says, his voice actually rising an octave. “This is about Shawna? Oh, boy, I could have saved you some trouble,” he chuckles. “I have a type, Grey, just like you. There are things that I find attractive—that I’m drawn to—just like you, and I find Ana attractive. What’s the matter? Your feelers all up in the air because my girlfriend looks a whole lot like your wife?” he accuses. Yes, asshole, that’s exactly why my feelers are up in the air.

“Take a good look at all of your past submissives, you ass,” he continues. “How many of them could be sisters? Some of them twins? Don’t try to find something wrong with me having a relationship with a girl who looks a whole lot like the girl I fell in love with. Sha knows all about Ana, all about how I pined over her for years and was forced to finally let go. We don’t have any secrets. And yes, I know some of your subs changed to fit the bill…”

How the fuck did he know that??

“… But to answer your unasked question, no—Sha didn’t change. She didn’t dye her hair. She doesn’t wear contacts. She’s exactly three inches taller than Ana and she looked like that when I met her. So, stop thinking you have the monopoly on brunettes. Sorry to burst your bubble, but I don’t covet your life, even though I may have coveted your wife at one time, and there are other attractive women in the world that don’t want you!”

I know that’s supposed to be a stab, but for some reason, it’s not. I only want my Butterfly. As long as that sucker isn’t trying replicate her, which can only turn out badly when he discovers that the person he’s connected to is not Ana, I’m fine. He can get as many fembots as he wants. Hell, he can have my ex-subs—all of them, since he appears to know who they are.

“It might surprise you to know that I really don’t care who you fuck, as long as it’s not my wife. My only concern is for the people you might hurt and who might be hurt because of you.” He scoffs into the phone.

“You’re one to talk,” he jeers. “You’ve got one dead sub—because of you, one living in total obscurity—because of you, one off her fucking rocker in jail—because of you, and your wife was almost killed—all because of you, and those are just the ones you know of. If you don’t want me nosing and poking around in your life like I was before, get the fuck out of mine.” That leaves me uneasy. What the fuck don’t I know? “Listen to me carefully, because I’m only going to say this once. You’re harassing me, Grey. Don’t make me show you just how untouchable you’re not. Stay the fuck out of my life.”

“Don’t give me a reason to go nosing and poking around, and I won’t,” I retort.

“Keep it up, Grey, and you’re going to get more than you bargained for!” he ends the call without another word.

I fucking hate it when people hang up on me. It gives them that superiority that they’ve put me in my place. That shit does not sit well with me at all. I call Alex.

“Who the fuck did you put on Cholometes?” I demand.

“Is something wrong?” he asks.

“He just called me basically taunting me for incompetence!” I retort.

“You told me to make sure they were discovered…”

“What did they do—wave a flag at him?” There’s silence for a moment.

“Look, sir, I’m confused,” he begins. “I told you that this was a bad idea before we even embarked on this endeavor. You told me to do it anyway, and I did. I followed your directions exactly as you said and now you’re yelling at me. Did I miss something?”

No, you didn’t miss anything. I’m just fucking pissed! And I want to hold somebody responsible for me being pissed!

“No. Nothing.” I end the call. There’s no use in dwelling on this. I might as well get some work done or this conversation is just going to niggle at me all day.

I manage to forget my conversation with Colostomy and dive into some documentation and projections about a Spanish company that I want to acquire. I spend the better part of the afternoon picking apart the financials and synopses of the company when I’m interrupted by a text from Butterfly.

**Check your email. **

Well, this can’t be good.

I open my email and go to the folder that I have specifically for emails that come from my wife. And there’s a forwarded email:

To: Christian Grey
From: Anastasia Steele-Grey
Date: Monday, August 11, 2014, 16:14
Subject: FW: Curiosity Killed the Cat

Do I even want to know what this is about?

Dr. Anastasia Steele-Grey, M.D.
Assistant Director, Helping Hands

—————————————————————————————————

To: Anastasia Steele-Grey
From: Brian Cholometes
Date: Monday, August 11, 2014, 15:59
Subject: Curiosity Killed the Cat

I’ve respected your wishes. I haven’t bothered you. I haven’t called or emailed you. I haven’t even spoken to Ray unless he initiated contact until he was arrested. Tell your husband to stop poking around in my life and my business unless he wants me to go back to poking around in yours.

Brian Cholometes

What the ever-loving fuck? I’m dialing his number faster than I can even think. He answers the call, but doesn’t say anything. He knows who it is.

“You threatened my goddamn wife? Seriously?” I bark into the phone.

“I didn’t threaten her,” he hisses. “I told her to keep you out of my goddamn hair just like I told you and you’re in it again. I don’t want your fucking wife anymore and I don’t give a fuck about you! Ray is my friend. He was my friend before you ever fucking came along and he’ll be my friend when you’re gone. I’m going to see about him when something is going on with him, and you can’t fucking stop that. Now you and I have nothing else to say to each other. Call off your fucking dogs and get out of my goddamn business. I’ve already told you that I’m not going to repeat myself and I’m a man of my fucking word. Don’t push me!”

The call ends abruptly—again—and I find myself at a crossroads. I. Am. Pissed. I want to drag this fucker through the mud just because I don’t fucking like him, but what’s worse is that I hate for people to get the last word on me! And he did it twice in one day!

However, I’m a smart guy. Yes, I’m a hothead, but I didn’t get as far as I am by doing dumb shit. Cholometes has something on me. He’s got information on my past submissives which is damaging enough, but more so, he’s got information about the outcome of a certain hacker situation last year. There are three guys who conveniently disappeared off the face of the earth and I have no idea what happened to them or where they are, but I’m certain that he does. So, even though it goes against every Alpha-male cell in my body, this is one time that if he says that he’s willing to stay out of my life if I stay the fuck out of his, I should stay the fuck out of his.

I sit back in my chair and think about what he said to me earlier. Part of me knows that I shouldn’t take what he said to me to heart, but this time, I can’t help it…

One dead sub…
One living in
total obscurity…
One off her fucking rocker in jail…
My wife was almost killed…
All because of me.

I don’t get it. All I did was fuck ‘em and beat ‘em and that’s the truth. The only tenderness I showed was aftercare. I didn’t show any true emotion until I met Ana. Yes, there was a time when I thought I had feelings for Elena when I was a teenager, but she beat and fucked that out of me, made sure that I knew that it was all about pleasure, pain, and sex and nothing else. I learned. I learned from the best… or the worst, depending on how you look at it, but I learned. So how is it that all these women losing their mind is my responsibility?

And why is it that I feel like he’s right?

I open the file containing the information on my prior subs. One has a Dom. One is a Domme. Four have moved on and are married. Three worked for Elena until she was arrested—not 100% sure what’s going on with them right now. One was chased into obscurity… by me. One hopeful is sitting on the sidelines, most likely losing her mind and plotting my demise as we speak, and three are dead—one as a result of trying to kill my wife. Two of them seem to have disappeared into thin air.

“It was just sex,” I say aloud. “I never promised them anything more. I told them I didn’t want anything more. How is it my fault?”

Is it my fault? Can I really be held responsible for someone wanting more than I could give them when I told them I couldn’t give them any more from the very beginning? Look at Ellison, for Christ’s sake. She went completely rogue and all we did was talk!

Would my wife check out like this if we ever split up? Of course, she would. I’ve unleashed all kinds of sexual, passionate, emotional hell on that woman. She’d go completely out of her mind, just like I would if she left me. It’s a good thing we’ll never find out.

I couldn’t have been all bad. Some of these women have moved on with their lives and forgotten all about me. Others… well…

I really have to know.

I click on one of the names and scroll down to the contact information. This is something I never expected to be doing in a million years.

“Hello.” I swallow hard.

“Hello… is this Charity?”

“Who’s calling?”

“It’s… Christian Grey.” There’s a pause.

“One moment.” I hear her talking to someone in the background before then a door closes a few moments later. “Well, I can’t say that I expected this call.”

“I can imagine,” I concur. “I never expected to make it.”

“Are you looking for a submissive? Because I’m not in the lifestyle anymore…”

“No. No, that’s not why I called. I’m married now.”

“I know,” she says. “The whole world knows,” she adds facetiously. “Christian Grey, married. I never saw that coming in a million years.”

“Trust me, neither did I. I… heard that you were married, too.”

“I am,” she replies, “very happily.” I nod.

“That’s good. I’m glad to hear that.” I really am… one less psycho bitch to worry about. I run my hands through my hair. “I…” I trail off.

“Well, this is definitely a first,” she acknowledges. “Mr. Grey is at a loss for words.” I sigh.

“I wouldn’t say that,” I say. “I just don’t know how to ask this question.”

“It’s the same thing,” she says, and I can tell that she’s smiling. “Just ask it. What’s the worst that could happen?”

You could tell me that I’m a living, walking, breathing, real-life monster and totally responsible for driving these women batshit crazy.

“When we were… together, did I ever give you the impression that I wanted more?” She scoffs.

“Not in the slightest!” she responds, “and for the record, we were never ‘together.’ I was your submissive. It was nothing more. I served a purpose in your life and you served a purpose in mine. When it was done, it was done. When I wanted a relationship, I left the lifestyle because I knew that I wasn’t going to find what I was looking for in that arena. What is this, some kind of ‘come to Jesus’ moment?” I nod as if she can see me.

“Yes, it is,” I admit. “There are several women that I engaged that seemed to have just lost their fucking minds. You’ve seen what happened to Elena. It was all over the news.”

“Yeah, but I didn’t know that you engaged Elena!” she retorts. “That explains a lot.”

“It’s a long story… and like what?” I ask.

“Like why she was always so particular about your girls. Like why she was always around. Like why she fawned over you and pawed at you when nobody else could touch you. She pissed all over you and anybody in the lifestyle knew that getting close to you meant going through her first. Girls were auditioning to be under her just to get to you. Being Christian Grey’s submissive was almost like being a part of this weird ménage à trois.”

How did I not know that?

“Are you still in the lifestyle?” she asks, curious.

“Not as such, no,” I reply. “I’m in a monogamous relationship now.”

“You were monogamous in the lifestyle,” she retorts. “At least that’s what you told me.”

“Well, yes, but you all were contracted… temporary…”

“So, your wife is your only submissive now.” I’m silent. Do I want to answer that question? “Don’t worry, Christian. I have as much to lose from exposure as you do.” It’s strange to hear her call me Christian when I was accustomed to her calling me Master or Sir.

“Yes, she’s my only submissive,” I confess. “I love her very much.”

“Oh, trust me, the world knows,” she replies.

“If that’s the case, then why are they acting so crazy?” I blurt out before I think about it.

“You’re asking me?” she says, puzzled. I sigh.

“I really need the point of view of someone that used to be my submissive,” I say honestly. “I told you all that I didn’t want anything more, and I didn’t offer anything more until I met my wife. So… why the crazy?” There’s another pause.

“I can only explain this from my point of view and from what I think I know,” she says. “You bring out feelings in women that they’re not accustomed to feeling. Your technique as a Dominant keeps a woman on the edge of her sanity, and for those who are already teetering on the edge of reality, that’s a dangerous combination. It’s very easy to topple over the edge and when you go over one of them, you go over them both.

“You were looking for something when you wielded that cane or when you cracked that whip. We were looking for something, too. Some of us are and were not willing to admit that we were hoping that you would fall in love with us. You’re a powerful man, Christian, not just in your money and your position. You’re powerful in every way. You overtake a woman, and when she turns her body over to you, you can best believe that she’s turning her mind over to you, too, and sometimes, her heart.”

“But I told these women,” I protest. “I didn’t have a heart, and if I did, there was no way that I was giving it to them.”

“And then you proved yourself a liar and gave it to Anastasia!” she retorts. “You clearly found everything that you ever wanted in Anastasia. Now, imagine finding that, having it for a period of time, and then being told that you can’t have it anymore. Would it matter when or how many times she told you that she couldn’t give herself to you, that she couldn’t give you anything more? Would it matter that she told you that she was incapable of loving you? How would you feel?” 

“I’m not sure I could imagine that,” I admit. “Anastasia’s ability to love me despite how fucked up I was, is what drew me out. So, if our relationship had been solely physical, I don’t think I ever would have fallen in love with her in the first place.”

“You couldn’t see yourself falling in love with anyone, Christian, so just go with me for a moment,” she counters. “If after you realized that you were falling for your wife, she told you that she couldn’t be with you, would you have been able to just walk away?” I physically shiver at the thought.

“No,” I reply finitely.

“Now, imagine her giving to some other man what she claimed that she would never be able to give to you…”

I don’t only shiver—I actually squirm at that thought. I can feel my teeth grind inside my mouth.

“You and I both know that Dominance and submission is a totally different animal than these flighty ass relationships with these people talking about ‘I looooooove you….’”

She drags the word “love” out in a comical manner to demonstrate her point.

“The amount of trust that goes into a D/s relationship is often deeper and more intimate than some marriages. You were a master, Master, and then you snatched that away from women who were probably hanging on by a thread and told them to just get over it. You told them that you couldn’t give them what they wanted and then they had to stand by and watch while you publicly gave it to someone else.

“I didn’t pine for you, Christian. I just wanted more. If I could have gotten it from you, I might have taken it, I don’t know… but I just wanted more. Not so for other women. I’ve had some before you and a few after you and trust me, you were the best. You can’t turn a woman’s body inside out and expect her heart not to follow. If that happens and she’s rejected and her mind is already fragile, what do you think will be the end result?”

“These women aren’t fragile!” I retort. “They’re psychotic! Possessive of something they never had…”

“But they did have you, Christian!” she counters. “We were your submissives, but you were our Dom… exclusively. That small part of you belonged to them and then you told them they couldn’t have it anymore. You took them on the ride of their lives. Then when it suited you, you stopped the car and told them to get out. I know from experience that some of those women are hanging on to sanity like a rubber band ready to snap, and you cut it. You gave them a drug and then you cut off the supply.

“You’re obtuse and unattainable, but what you do offer is magnificent and completely out of this world. Women would give anything to have it—that kind of passion and devotion, even if it’s not real. A dream is real while you’re in it until you wake up. Oftentimes, when you wake up, you’re broken-hearted that the dream has ended, and when you’re faced with your reality, it’s too much for you. That’s when they snap. That’s when they look for the object of their dismay… or affection. It may not be logical, but it’s true. You leave an impression on women that can never be removed or undone. You have stalkers that have never even touched you…”

Don’t I know it.

“… Imagine what it’s like for someone who has experienced the full impact of your passion or your fury… or worse yet, both. Imagine what it’s like for a woman who’s barely holding on to herself to withstand a Christian Grey punishment fuck, or one of your never-ending infernal orgasm-denial sessions.”

Shit. I remember how that left Butterfly the first time I did it to her in Anguilla. It was almost unbearable to watch her reaction. I had to make her come.

“So, it really is my fault that these women lose their minds,” I conclude. She pauses again.

“Not totally. You can’t take it all on yourself,” she says, “but there is a responsibility when you impose yourself upon someone the way that you do. You’re remarkably superb as a Dominant, but when someone has the skill that you do, it’s not something that should be passed out like a deck of cards. You did it because you couldn’t commit to one person, but with your talent and ability to consume someone the way that you do, with the passion that you have and the seduction that you emit, you did right to get married. You can’t hand that out like party favors and then tell people they can’t have it. In your defense, you took precautions—or at least you thought you did—to avoid attachment or expectation. But fragile or hopeful or even delusional minds can’t see that. They see happily ever after and one day, he’ll be mine no matter what he says.”

“Did you ever see that?” I ask. She laughs, a little sadly, I think.

“Not even once,” she replies firmly. “Which is a good thing, don’t you think?” I nod as if she can see me again.

“Are you allowed to say things like this?” I ask. “That I’m seductive and passionate and the best you ever had… and you’re married to someone else now?”

“I didn’t say that you were the best I ever had,” she clarifies. “I said that you were the best, meaning that you were the best Dom. You were passionate and powerful and you made me feel things that I had never felt before and will probably never feel again. But it was different… much different than it is with Niko and I sure that you know how that feels.” I nod again. She has effectively answered all of my questions, and maybe left me with a few more, but her last statement brings to mind the times that I told my wife that my dick knows “the difference.”

“Yes, Charity,” I say, “yes, I do…”


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

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

The Email That Became A Post

Okay, we gone try this one mo’ gin.

I hope you all will forgive my frustration, but I keep getting asked the same questions, and then I keep answering them. And then I get the same question over again, like people aren’t listening to what I’m saying.

I realize that my little stories don’t make the world go ‘round and they’re not the center of everybody’s life. But when I must answer the same questions because people aren’t listening the first 10 times that I answer them, it’s gets a little irritating. So, here is the answer to all of your questions… again! Please, try to pay attention this time if you didn’t before…

  • Golden is not my baby. The Butterfly Saga is my baby. Golden is an itch that my Muse and I are trying to scratch. It’s probably only going to be about 15 chapters long. I don’t know if it’s going to be an HEA yet because I’m letting these characters battle it out and let me know how it’s going to end. You might be surprised to know that there are about four more itches that’s been needing to be scratched for about a year. One of them just died. They come as they come, but they are not my primary focus, so there won’t be weekly updates like there are of Butterfly Saga.
  • I have a limited number of emails that my emailer will allow me to send out per month. There are nearly 2000 people on my mailing list. While I’m working to sort the list into people who regularly open emails versus people who haven’t opened an email since Raising Grey began (16 weeks), it’s a process. To that end, I can’t send an email out every time I post “Golden” because that’s 2000 more emails to send when I post it. So, I send out an email for Golden with the email for Raising Grey. Posts from my WordPress automatically go to my social media sites. So, yes, those who follow me on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+, and Tumblr will know even before I send out an email. Those who do not will not know until I send out the email for “Golden” and “Raising Grey.” If you send me a request to follow me on Facebook, send me a message so that I know who you are or you most likely may not be added. I have stalkers and creepers.
  • Once you’re on the mailing list, you’re on the mailing list for ALL POSTS. You are not required to join a second mailing list for “Golden.” I just don’t send out separate emails for each post right now. I don’t have the capacity (see #2 above).
  • Not only does “Golden” have a disclaimer that is an entire chapter, it also has this disclaimer at the beginning of every chapter…

This ain’t your everyday Christian and Ana story. Don’t expect anything. Just read it as it goes along or go away.

And yet, I’m still getting, “How are you going to make this work? I don’t see how you’re going to make this work. I can’t see how this is going to turn out. Is this going to be an HEA? If this isn’t an HEA, I can’t read it. How can they possibly get together?” That’s because you’re still looking for hints of the original Christian and Ana, even though I’ve already told you this ain’t them. If you don’t want to read the story, that’s fine. If you want to read the story, just read the story… please? Don’t try to get me to explain my theories and outline the synopsis unless it’s already come up in a chapter. I’ll explain all that as the story goes along… in the story.

  • Somebody somewhere had the question, “Is this how this is going to go?” The short answer, “Yes.”

 

Hopefully, I have addressed all of the questions that have come over my email, my messenger, my social media, and in comments. Feel free to ask questions and I will answer them at my convenience and discretion. However, if I feel like I’ve already answered it here and it’s asked again because someone feels like they deserve a separate response all to themselves because they didn’t feel like reading this one, I’m not going to answer it again. This email will now be a post and I will politely send you a link or refer you to it if you continue to ask the same repetitive questions.

 

Paging Dr. Steele: Chapter 41: It All Goes South

This is a work or creativity. As such, you may see words, concepts, scenes, actions, behaviors, pictures, implements, and people that may or may not be socially acceptable and/or offensive. If you are sensitive to adverse and alternative subject matter of any kind, please do not proceed, because I guarantee you’ll find it here. You have been warned. Read at your own risk.

I do not own Fifty Shades Trilogy, or the characters. They belong to E. L. James. I am only exercising my right to exploit, abuse, and mangle the characters to MY discretion in MY story in MY interpretation as a fan. If something that I say displeases you, please, just leave. If you don’t like this story or me, please don’t spoil this experience for everyone. Just go away. For the rest of you, the saga continues…

Chapter 41—It All Goes South

GREY

Her voice is soft and cold, and it’s very evident that she has been crying.

“Long and lonely without you.” I answer as I approach her cautiously. “What’s wrong, Baby?”

“How did things turn out with Mr. Whitmore? Did everything go as planned?” She asks, her voice still soft. No malice, but very cold. I still can’t tell if she knows.

“Yes, it did. That’s something that I need to talk to you about,” I say as I stand by her side.

“Oh?” she says, wiping away some tears, but not making eye contact with me.

“Baby, please look at me,” I plead. She wipes away more tears and looks up at me, her beautiful blue eyes pooling and glassy, faded azure orbs screaming with pain and confusion, her arms folded protectively around herself.

She knows.

wanted to be the one to tell her. I wanted to tell her that I had found some answers for her, that we can finally bring these assholes to justice because we know where to start—but I know that look. That look is screaming pain and betrayal. So much for dinner at Rover’s and breaking it to her gently.

“Baby, I should have told you this sooner, but I know who Whitmore is,” I confess.

“You do?” she asks, no surprise in her voice. She lets me take her elbows in my hands, but she doesn’t reach out to me.

“Yes, I do. I know what his son did to you.”

“How do you know?” she asks flatly. I sigh.

“I… followed some leads that led me to Whitmore.”

“Leads? What leads?”

“Baby, can we please go sit down? There’s so much that I have to tell you,” I say.

“Things that you probably should have told me before you left,” she says, again—cold and soft, no malice. This Ana is making me nervous. I hope I haven’t fucked up beyond repair.

“You’re right. I should have,” I say, dropping my shoulders.

“Then why didn’t you?” she snaps, her anger growing with each second.

“Because I didn’t want you to try to stop me,” I answer honestly. “If I had told you what I was doing, you would have told me not to go—and if you had told me not to go, I wouldn’t have gone.”

“But I did tell you not to go,” she cries. “I told you not to go when you first asked me about this… and you said you wouldn’t. You lied to me, Christian!”

The words stab me like a thousand knives. I could dress up my words and tell her that I didn’t lie to her, I just changed my mind and didn’t inform her—that’s the truth. From the moment that she told me not to pursue it, I told myself that I wouldn’t pursue it yet, but I always knew that eventually I would get to the bottom of what happened to her.

“Butterfly, I’m sorry…”

“Sorry for what!?” she spit, cutting me off. “Sorry for lying to me? Sorry that you went? Or are you just sorry that you got caught?”

“You didn’t let me finish,” I say, curtly, and she jerks from my grasp. “I’m sorry that I wasn’t completely honest with you, but I’m not sorry that I went. I’m not sorry that I was able to find some of the bastards that did this to you, and I’m not sorry that I’m going to be able to bring some resolution to this situation.” She drops her arms and her mouth is gaping.

“Resolution!? For whom? For you? For me? Who?” She is very angry Ana now.

“For both of us,” I say, my voice rising more than I wanted. “Every time I see the evidence of what those monsters did to you, it makes me love you more, it makes me want to protect you, but most of all it makes me angry beyond measure that someone could do something like this to another person—least of all, you! I couldn’t be that powerless that I couldn’t get you some form of justice!”

“Is that what this is about for you? Power? You didn’t have power over this situation, so you go traipsing off to Green Valley to throw your weight around a bit?” She’s roaring now. If I scream, this’ll be a screaming match that’ll only end badly—not that I don’t want to fucking scream right now, fuck knows that I do. I sigh and drop my head, running my hands through my hair.

“Do you know what it’s like to see someone that you love hurt and you can’t do anything about it? Do you have any idea how helpless that makes you feel—how sick you feel inside that they were in pain and you couldn’t stop it?” I ask, my tone measured.

“Yes, Christian, I do,” she says, matter-of-factly. “I felt that way last weekend when you were unconscious and starving yourself to death!” I take her arms in my hands again.

“Exactly! I hurt myself! I almost died. You had to watch that… but Ana, you helped me! You sat with me in the hospital. You slept with me when I could barely move. You spoke for me when I couldn’t speak. You took care of me and made me feel cherished. You stayed with me and nursed and loved me back to health. I just wanted to do that for you… I wanted you to have some closure, not to have to worry if one of those fuckers was walking behind you and you had no idea who it was. Please, Ana…” I drop my head. I don’t know how to tell her what I’m feeling. I know that fear that she must have felt as a teenager. I know how you bring those feelings into adulthood with you. “You’re such a good and kind and beautiful person. I… I didn’t want you to feel like me.” She takes a step back from me. I look up and see her expression and she’s puzzled. What door have I opened now?

“Is this about you, Christian?” she asks. “Is this about what you went through? By getting justice for me, you somehow get justice for yourself?”

“No!” The word is out of my mouth before I could even think about it. “How could I look at that scar and not want justice for you? What’s the use of having money and power if I can’t use it to help the people that I love? You’re my world now, Anastasia, and I couldn’t let this situation go on the way it has for the last 11 years! Now, I’m so glad that I went! The cover-up was atrocious—this thing goes deeper than you can even imagine!” If my motives were selfish at all, it was only to the degree that I couldn’t stand the thought of her suffering at the hands of these bastards, and nobody paid for it. It was all for her… all for her.

“You should have told me, Christian. You should have explained it to me, at least let me have some kind of say-so in the decision instead of doing this behind my back.” She walks into the penthouse and picks up her purse. Oh, fuck, where is she going?

“Anastasia…” She puts her hand up.

“I need some time to myself. I’ll be back… please, just leave me alone,” she says as she walks to the door.

“I’ll text Chuck,” I say in defeat. She turns around.

“I said alone!” she screams. “If you send one of your goons behind me, I’m going to shoot him in the balls!” she declares as she storms out.

“Fuck!” All this pent-up anger and nothing to throw. Although it’s not a good idea to start throwing shit when you live in a glass house… literally. Taylor emerges from wherever he was.

“That went well,” he says sarcastically.

“You were listening?” I ask appalled.

“I didn’t have to, sir. They heard her in Bellevue,” he responds. I push my hands through my hair.

“Now is not the time, Taylor,” I warn. He puts his hands up in surrender and I brush past him to my study and close the door behind me. I’ll admit that I didn’t expect her to be falling at my feet with gratitude, but I didn’t expect this. Can’t she see that I had to do this? She fell apart at the mere mention of Whitmore’s name. No matter how she tried to deny it, no matter how well adjusted she is, this situation carried the weight of Atlas on her back. I just want her happy… that’s all I want. I can’t help but consider what she mentioned—about this being partially for me…

Was I really doing it for Ana? Could it have been for myself—restitution for what the crack whore and her pimp did to me, vicariously through justice for Ana? I don’t know. I can’t be 100% certain that there wasn’t a bit of vengeance mixed in with my actions, but ever since she told me her story, I have wanted to see those bastards pay. It was always about her from the very beginning.

I love this woman, but I haven’t had one quiet, simple weekend since the day that we started dating.


STEELE

We have never had an argument—a real argument—since we’ve been together, but I can’t just let it pass that Christian lied to me. I hate nothing in the world more than a liar—nothing. Once someone lies to you, you look at them differently. You never know if they’re ever telling you the truth. You question everything that they do, and you just can’t function the same with that person.

I listen to him give me his reasons for making the trip, his impassioned pleas about having to find justice for me and all I can focus on right now is his dishonesty. Why was it so important for him to pursue something that in a fit of stuttering tears, I asked him not to? Anger and betrayal boiled up in me until I listened to him explain his feelings of helplessness and I could see and hear the pain on his face and in his voice. I had to get out of there. I have to clear my head, to think about this logically. I’m so hurt that he went behind my back that I can’t even stick around to hear what he discovered. I’m happy to discover that he respected my wishes to be alone and, as I turn off 4th Avenue and onto Lenore, I notice that none of his prized Audis are following me.

Only a mile away from Escala, I find the refuge that I seek to soothe my troubled thoughts—the Seattle Aquarium at Waterfront Park on Elliot Bay. I take my Magnum out of my purse and put it in the glove box—they wouldn’t like my bringing it into the aquarium. I walk into the Aquarium as one of the last patrons of the day and turn off my phone so that I won’t be disturbed by endless phone calls and text messages from Christian. This place always calms me… something about the water. The fish are beautiful, but it’s the water that draws me here. It helps to cleanse me—my mind and my soul. It was one of the first places I came to when I moved to Seattle. But now I have a pressing matter on my soul and I’m not sure the water can cleanse it this time.

Christian lied to me.

He told me that he would drop the Green Valley incident when the whole time, he was digging up more and more information. I don’t want to relive this. I want to forget it. I want it behind me…

But every time something goes “bump,” you’re looking over your shoulder wondering if they are coming to get you again.
It’s not that bad. Stop exaggerating.
It is that bad. I’m here, remember? I’m part of you and I say it is that bad. You’re carrying your guns again for Christ’s sake!

The Bitch does have a point. But why couldn’t he just tell me? Why did he have to lie about it? Why did he hide it from me and let me find out from somebody else? I told him from the beginning that I could not accept dishonesty. Why would he do that?

How would you have reacted if he had come to you and told you what he was doing?
I would have been pissed!
Would you have let him continue?
Hell, no! I want to let this go.
He wants that for you, too. And you can’t let it go—not without closure. And if you had closure, you wouldn’t be so pissed about it.
Where the fuck did you come from?

I put my hand on my forehead as I look at the triggerfish and the wrasses in the coral reef exhibit. I love the bright colors of this tank. It makes me feel like the world is such a big place and my problems are so small. I thought I had closure on this until people and circumstance started bringing it up again!

Then why does it still scare you so much?
I don’t know.
You don’t have closure, hon.

I walk through the Life on the Edge exhibit. I love sitting on the rocks running my fingers through the tide pools. Although I hate the hermit crabs, I love the sea urchins. They don’t have brains, you know… kind of like many humans I’m acquainted with.

So now he’s brainless because he wants to protect you.
I didn’t mean him, and you know it.
Yeah, but you were kind of thinking it.
Well, it is pretty brainless to keep something from someone that you claim to love when they have repeatedly asked you not to.
Ahem! Ahem! Are you serious Steele? Are we really going to have this conversation?
Yeah, I guess I am sort of the pot calling the kettle black since Christian had to find out about Cody on his own…

The Bitch and I argue—or reason, I should say—all the way from the Window on Washington Waters, around the Ocean Oddities exhibit and back around to the Seal and Sea Otters exhibits. By the time we’re down in the Underwater Viewing Dome, I’ve lost the fight.

He needs to do this. He needs to know who hurt you. He loves you.
I know.
Then what’s the problem?
He lied about it. I can’t deal with that. He can’t lie to me. He can’t keep things from me.
Then maybe you should go back to your man and talk about this instead of running away.

And there’s the knife. I don’t want to fight. I don’t even want to be right. I just want Christian. I sit in the area watching the fish go by for a few more minutes… or what I thought was a few more minutes… until I‘m interrupted by a man’s voice. “Ma’am?” Security has startled me from my thoughts. “The aquarium is closed, ma’am.”

“Oh! Oh, I’m sorry. I lost track of time!” I rise from my thoughts and head towards the exit. Just as I get outside, someone snatches my purse!

“Hello, bitch!” he greets with an evil smirk on his face. Fuck, it’s Harris. What the fuck is he doing here? Without thinking, I immediately kick him in the balls. When he goes down, I kick him in the face. While he’s on the ground I lean down and relieve him of my purse. When I stand up to make my getaway, I feel a sharp pinch in my neck. As the world goes dark, I hear a familiar voice say, “Nighty night, Rosie.”

*-*

I’m still so groggy. I can’t see anything yet. I hear a voice… very faint.

“You are so beautiful.”

Christian? Is it Christian? I try to speak, but it only comes out as a whimper. I’m cold… and I can’t move my arms. Christian, untie me. I don’t like this.

“I’ve wanted this for so long.”

That’s not Christian, but the voice is familiar. He’s touching me now, but I still can’t see clearly. I’m cold. I’m naked! What’s going on? His lips are on me… on my nipples. I try to speak again, but only a whimper.

“You like that, baby?”

No! No! I do not like that! And I’m not your baby. Who are you? Where’s Christian? Where am I?

My eyes are focusing a little more, but everything is still a blur—and I recognize the voice. It’s Edward! Why is Edward touching me? How is Edward touching me?

He’s on top of me now. Oh God! He wouldn’t. Not while I’m damn near unconscious! He couldn’t! I’m still so weak that I can’t prevent him from opening my legs. When he positions himself at my opening to drive into me, I find my voice and scream:

“CHRISTIAN!”


DAVID

It’s time. I’ve followed her from her office to her apartment. She’s pissed off about something because she’s driving like a bat out of hell. Her guard is having a hard time keeping up with her and I’m having a harder time keeping up with him. So, either she’s pissed at him or she’s pissed at Grey. This is perfect, especially if she sends him away. I drive right into the parking structure behind them in the borrowed Taurus that we’ve been driving.

“Man, what are you doing?” Bob says lying down in the back seat. “They’ll see you.”

“No better time to test this disguise, right?” I drive right past them and they don’t recognize me. They don’t even look at me. Rosie gets into the elevator while her guard stands outside. After a moment, he gets in with her. Damn! That would have been too easy. They seem awfully comfortable with each other. I wonder if he’s fucking her behind Rich Boy’s back? That would be his just desserts! I push the thought out of my head as quickly as it enters. I can barely stomach the idea of Grey drilling my girl… only just barely. I exit back out of the garage and park down the street.

“You can sit up now.” I say to Bob. He rises and takes in our location.

“I take it they didn’t recognize you,” he says, lighting a cigarette.

“They didn’t even look at me,” I respond. “She’s pissed about something. She wouldn’t even let him get into the elevator with her. He talked her into it though.” Last week when they were fighting, she sent the guard away and stayed at home alone—except for when the faggot was here with her. If she does that tonight, it’ll be perfect. She doesn’t recognize me with the facial hair and shit. I’ll disable that security camera and go right up to her door and knock.

“So, what do we do now, Loverboy?” Bob says sarcastically.

“We wait.”

After about an hour, she and the guard are on the move again. This time, they’re back at Rich Boy’s glass tower.

“I think you missed your chance, Casanova,” Bob taunts from the back seat.

“Maybe. Maybe not,” I say. She’s pissed at somebody. I know her. I’m going to wait for a while to see what happens.

“Yeah, I’d say you fucked up,” Bob says, after we have waited another hour.

“Man, just give it a little more time. We’ll get to her,” I snap.

“If you say so. I’d just like to know how you’re going to get through that.” He points to a black SUV speeding up the street. Please don’t turn into the garage. Please don’t turn into the garage. “Wish all you want, Buddy. That’s Grey.” Sure enough, the SUV turns into the garage.

Fuck! I probably have missed my chance.

“I thought you said he wasn’t supposed to be back until tonight!” I snap at Bob.

“Hey, that’s what my information said,” he says, callously.

“Does this look like night to you?” I snap. I hold up my watch. “Does this even look like evening to you?”

“Look, I gave you the information that I had. Don’t bite my fucking head off!”

“I’m fucking paying you for this shit! If your information is no good, what the fuck am I paying you for!?” I spit.

“Well, excuse the hell outta me if the guy had a last-minute change in plans! This shit is not my fault!” he defends.

“Man, I’ve paid you all this money and as soon as I’m ready to make my move, your information is faulty. Shut the hell up and sit back there and let me think!” I bark. Bob lights up another cigarette and we wait a while longer. As if the planets are aligning themselves in my favor, I see her 300 come out of the garage. “Get your ass ready—we’re making our move,” I say. We wait until she goes pass Virginia Street and turns on Lenore. Still no Audi. I look at Bob and I know that we’re thinking the same thing…

“No security? Shit!”

I drive quickly down 4th and catch up with her on Lenore before she turns onto Western. Is she going where I think she’s going? I laugh aloud.

“What’s so funny?” Bob asks.

“This is going to be like taking candy from a baby.” I answer. He snickers.

“Did you forget that bitch carries a gun… Oh, I’m sorry, Princess Perfect carries a gun?”

“Even so,” I say. “Where she’s going, she most likely won’t take her gun.” If I know my angry little Rosie well enough, she’s going to look at some fishies.

*-*

Like I said, candy from a baby. The exit to the aquarium is concealed enough to block a clear view from the street. So, while Bob finally earned some of the money I’ve been paying him by distracting her, I subdued Rosie with a tiny—well, maybe not-so-tiny—dose of Propofol. And now, here she is… lying in bed, in front of me—naked. She’s less likely to run away if she can’t find clothes. Since Bob is so afraid of her “toxic pussy,” I’m not concerned about him seeing her naked, her hands cuffed together on the headboard.

“Isn’t she beautiful?” I ask, admiring her.

“Yeah, yeah, whatever. So now you’ve got Sleeping Beauty. When do I get the rest of my money?” he asks. I laugh.

“Did you think that my having her here would make me so euphoric that I would forget our deal? Five days, or until she agrees to come back to me… whichever comes first. If after five days I can’t convince her, we go somewhere not even you can find us, and then you get the rest of your money. Now if you don’t mind, I need some alone time with my girl.”

“Whatever, man.” He leaves and closes the door behind him.

I didn’t have enough time to furnish the room like I wanted, so this old country look will have to do for now. I sit on the bed next to my Rosie… beautiful Rosie. The Propofol is starting to wear off and she squirms. She looks like a beautiful nymph, writhing delicately on top of the bedding.

Oh, God, I have to have her.

I quickly shed my clothing and climb in bed with her. I caress her beautiful skin, just like I used to.

“Remember when I use to make your body sing, Rosie?” I say as I stroke her soft thighs. “You told me that nobody could make you feel like I could. I bet that’s still true.” I kiss her navel and her tight stomach. I’ve missed her so much. I don’t know how I could have ever thought there could be anyone else for me except Rosie… my Rosie. I move her hair away from her face and she whimpers a bit. So fragile… so perfect…

“You are so beautiful.” I kiss her lips, her neck, her shoulders and she whimpers again… just like old times.

“I’ve wanted this for so long.” I cup her beautiful breast and take her nipple in my mouth. Oh, Rosie, my body still yearns for you. After all this time, I ache to be inside you. She moans in response to my lips.

“You like that, baby?” Not another moment. I can’t wait another moment. I’ll make love to you, Rosie. I’ll make love to you, like I use to and you’ll forget all about anyone else. I lay on top of her and gently part her legs. Just as I’m about to enter my Nirvana…

“CHRISTIAN!”

What the fuck?

Is she delirious? I’m not Christian! Even with this blonde hair, I don’t look like fucking Christian. She finds super-human strength from God knows where and she is kicking the fuck out of me!

“OH GOD! NO! NO! CHRISTIAN! HELP ME! OH GOD!” She’s hysterical. Does Propofol do this!?

“Rosie, it’s me!” I yell, but she’s screaming like a banshee. I can’t stop her. I put my clothes back on and sit on the bed next to her. She screams until she’s just too tired to scream anymore.

“Rosie, it’s Ed. Calm down.” I try to soothe her. She’s pulling frantically—but uselessly—at her cuffs.

“Why am I here? What’s going on?” she wails mournfully. She looks at me like she doesn’t know me. Oh! The disguise! I remove the beard and carefully take out the contacts. She’s still breathing hard, but the crying stops as she begins to recognize me. Oh, thank…

“You sick fuck! What the hell are you doing!? Have you lost your ever-loving mind!?” She screams as she fights maniacally to free herself from the cuffs. Oh, shit…this isn’t going as planned at all.

“Rosie, stop it! You’re going to hurt yourself!” I say.

“Get these off me! Let me out of here! Oh, God, help me!” And she’s screaming again. Fuck, I didn’t expect it to be this bad.

“Rosie, let me talk to you, please,” I beg.

“I don’t want to hear anything you have to say! Let me go! Let me out of here!”

“Rosie, stop screaming. Nobody can hear you,” I yell. The screaming stops like someone pulled the plug on a radio. Thank God for that. However, I would have taken the screaming to the look that she has on her face right now—pure unadulterated fear. I don’t want her to look at me like that. She won’t let me anywhere near her like that. I reach out to touch her and she scrambles to the head of the bed like a scared rabbit.

“No,” I say. “No, Rosie, I won’t hurt you. I would never hurt you. I love you.” She just looks at me, like she’s a cornered animal and I’m a wild beast about to rip her to shreds. I can’t take her looking at me this way. She just needs a moment to be resigned to her fate. I pull the blankets back and cover her. She shrinks at my touch. I thought I could talk to her, finally explain my feelings to her now that I had gotten her away from everyone. But she can’t hear me. She’s frightened right now and she has to be assured that I won’t hurt her. I’ll leave her alone for a while and go fix her something to eat. When I leave the room, I hear her sobbing uncontrollably.

Bob is sitting at the kitchen table, smoking a cigarette with a smug ass look on his face.

“Not quite the reception you were expecting, was it?” he says through cocky laughter.

“She’ll be fine, she just needs a little time,” I reply, trying to make myself believe the words.

“Well, good luck with that. If this little reunion of yours doesn’t work out, I still want my money,” he says.

“You’ll get your fucking money,” I reply as I start to prepare dinner for Rosie.


GREY

It’s 9:00pm and the sun is setting over the sound… and still no word from Butterfly. She said she would be back and I’m trusting that she will, but it’s been hours now. I try to call her cell phone for the 100th time this evening and it goes straight to voice mail. I haven’t left a message all the other times, but I finally decide to leave one now:

“Butterfly, please talk to me. I only did what I thought was best. Please, I miss you so much. Call me.”

I end the call and Gail comes to the door of my study.

“Mr. Grey, your dinner… please eat, sir,” she coaxes. Butterfly’s TPE comes to mind, and then Grace crying in my arms. I rise from my chair and go to the breakfast bar to eat my dinner alone.

I thought we would be making love tonight. I thought I would be holding her in my arms and declaring my undying love to her. Instead, I sit here choking down some beef dish that Gail made so that I won’t disappoint her when she returns. My heart aches… again. I didn’t think she would be so angry with me. I thought that once I explained to her what I did and what I found that she would understand why this trip was so necessary, even if neither of us knew just how necessary it was in the beginning.

Gail sits a bottle of water next to my empty plate, and I obediently take several swallows. I know what I put them all through and I won’t do it again, but I feel just as forlorn now as I did then. I don’t know if I can go without her for days again. I don’t think I could take it. It would just be too much for me. I would rather she leave me and never come back than to keep putting me through this repeated torture…

What the fuck am I saying!?

Before I know it, I’m back on my piano again, and Moon River is keeping me company.


STEELE

I awake and it’s dark in the room. I have no concept of time and I think it’s still Friday night… or early Saturday morning. I had screamed and cried myself into exhaustion and now I’m awake. I’m still chained to this damn bed and my throat feels like sandpaper… and I have to pee! Badly! Did anybody allow for this contingency or are we just playing this shit by ear?

“Oh, boy.” I whimper to myself. Suddenly I hear movement in the room. A light comes on at the foot of the bed and as I adjust my eyes, I see Edward with eerily blonde hair sitting at a desk.

“What do you need?” he says softly. Oh, how nice… my kidnapper is kind—fucker. I don’t want to say a damn word to him, but if I don’t I’m going to piss on myself. Second only to being cuffed to this damn bed in this strange place with this fucking psychopath sitting over me, the last place I want to spend the night is in a puddle of my own piss.

“I have to pee,” I murmur. He comes over to me and pulls a bedpan from underneath the antiquated faded brass bed.

Oh, you must be kidding me!

The look on my face must have said it all.

“It’s either this, or you wait until I bind your hands and feet and gag you to carry you to the bathroom,” he says, calmly.

“Why would you gag me? You said no one could hear me.”

“So that you don’t bite me,” he responds. I’m definitely not going to be able to hold it until he’s done binding and gagging me, though part of me wants to give it a shot just so that I can piss all over him. I decide against it since I’m hopelessly cuffed to the bed and opt for the bedpan. It’s still not the most sanitary decision since I can’t clean myself afterward… and he thought I was going to let him do it. I decide to part my legs slightly under the covers and let air do the rest.

“You need to eat, Rosie.” I just glare at him. I will starve to death, and I mean that I will starve to death, before I eat anything that he puts before me. This man drugged me in broad daylight. I’m not putting anything in my mouth that he presents to me… Not food, not water, not anything. “You’ll have to eat sometime,” he says.

“You think so, huh?” I mutter. He sighs heavily. “What are you doing Edward? Why am I here? Do you hate me that much?” His face changes to something I can’t read.

“No, Rosie. I love you,” he says. What!? What in the blue hell…?

“You call this love?” I say, holding my raw wrists up for him to see. “You have me chained to a bed, naked, peeing in a bowl. This is your idea of love?”

“I had to talk to you, Rosie. I had to get you alone, but you wouldn’t let me. You got that damn restraining order. You pulled a gun on me, and that fucking guard is always around.” His voice is almost whiny and he’s pleading, but I can only hear the devil himself. “You’re always with him… with Grey. At your office, at his office, at your place, at his place, that house in Bellevue… even in the hospital. You couldn’t even leave him for one night in the hospital!”

Oh, my God. This man has been watching every single move I’ve been making for weeks! What good is a damn restraining order if he was still able to follow me everywhere I went?

“I didn’t break the law, Rosie.” Huh!? “I was always 1001 feet away from you and your location at all times, but I just had to be near you, to see you.” He drops his head. “I just couldn’t take it anymore. I couldn’t be without you one more minute. It took everything that I had in me not to throw you over my shoulder and take you away the day that you wore that red dress.”

This is insane! Where was his tail? How could he get that close to me? Even with the blonde hair and blue eyes…

Oh, fuck!

Of course, they didn’t know it was him. Hell, I fucked him for two and a half years and I didn’t know it was him. Oh, God. He could have been in the room right next to me and I wouldn’t have known it.

“I just had to get you away from them—from all of them—so that I could talk to you. I just want things to be the way that they used to be, before I turned into the asshole that had to sleep with everybody in Seattle; when I was your whole life and you were mine. Remember when we talked about getting that place in Richmond Beach?” he laughs, like we’re sitting here reminiscing about old times. Maybe he is, but I’m horrified. “You remember, the two-bedroom with the vaulted ceilings and the view of the Sound. We said we’d expand when we had kids. Somebody bought that little house a while back, but it’s back on the market now—still on that huge plot of land and still as beautiful as ever. I want to buy that house for you, Rosie, get you away from Seattle and the distractions there.”

Well, wherever we are right now, we’re not in Seattle.

“We could make all new friends and have a whole new life. You would love it. I know you would.” I can’t believe what I’m hearing. I don’t dare answer him or dispute him. Right now, I’m scared out of my wits. What does he plan to do, keep me prisoner? Chain me to the stove and force me to be his happy housewife? Drug me whenever we need to leave the house? Keep me naked and tied to a bed for the rest of my life? This has to be a nightmare! I was on my way home to Christian! This can’t be real? Why did I leave without Chuck? Why didn’t I just let Chuck follow me? Oh, God, this can’t be happening. This just can’t be happening…

The entire time that he’s describing this scene, I’m hearing The Turtles singing “Happy Together” in my head while Edward and I are holding hands, skipping across a field of green towards a little house in Richmond Beach. The only problem with this lovely scene is that I’m wearing a filthy, muddy wedding dress, my hair is nasty and putrid, and my wrists and ankles are shackled leaving only the freedom to skip. Edward, on the other hand, is wearing dirty, tattered clothing and a hockey mask and carrying a machete!

“Why did you sleep with him, Rosie? You broke my heart when you slept with him.”

Is he going to beat me… like he did those two girls? I can’t even defend myself. The most I can do is kick and he can immobilize me by sitting on my legs. Oh, God, please, no…

“You had dinner with me, you got my hopes up, and then you dumped me and slept with him.”

I didn’t dump you. We weren’t together!

“And when I came to talk to you the next day, he was there, leaving your apartment…” He’s getting angrier, I can hear it in his voice. “All I wanted to do was talk, but you’re standing there damn near naked with this fucker leaving your apartment! Then the minute he comes back, you kick me out!”

He’s blaming me again. He was harsh and cruel to me that day, and my hands were free. Now I’m helpless, and he’s getting pissed all back over again.

I curl my body up to the headboard and bury my face in my arms. I make myself as small as I can and hopefully, when he hits me, he won’t have much area to hit. I close my eyes and think of some other place… any other place but here. I can’t hear him anymore as my mind drifts to many of the wonderful memories Christian and I have made in the brief time that we’ve been together. I think of watching the sky while lying on the grass in the backyard at his parents’ house; playing Charades when he had no voice last weekend; walking out of the bedroom and watching him comfortably chatting about the Mariners at our first dinner party.

I feel a hand touch me and I immediately know that it’s not Christian’s. This is it! Here it comes! I pull myself in tighter and shriek like the touch is burning. Actually, it is. It’s burning my soul and my heart. He’s going to hurt me and he’s going to keep me away from Christian.

“Rosie! I’m sorry! Did I hurt you?” His voice is full of concern. No, he didn’t hurt me. I was just afraid that he would, but he might as well to keep me away from my love. Oh, please go away. Go away so that I can be with my love, even if it’s only in my mind. The hopelessness of the situation envelopes me, and I begin to weep. How will I get out of this? What am I going to do?

I miss Christian.


GREY

The sun is rising over the buildings and I still haven’t heard anything from Butterfly. She said that she would come back, and we promised one another that we wouldn’t do anything like this again. I only spent half of the night at my piano this time before going to my bedroom and running my hands over her clothes hanging in my closet. I aimlessly tried to get some sleep, but I ended up only lying there looking at the ceiling until the sun invaded my bedroom. I purposely make myself do everything I would do if all was well with Butterfly and me—six miles on the treadmill, shower and shave, get dressed, eat breakfast, check my emails…

Still no Butterfly.

Should I go to her apartment? I truly don’t want to barge in and I know she’s mega-pissed at me, but I can’t go without her like I did before. I have to see her, to hear her, even if she’s angry with me. I grab the keys to the RS7 and walk to the elevator.

Her parking spot is empty when I get to her condo. She’s not here. I try her cell again. Still going to voice mail. I send her text number 12 begging her, again, to please call me. With nothing else that I can do at this point, I turn around to go back to Escala. Ray LaMontagne strums a guitar softly on my iPod playing through my radio, and I just want to hold my Butterfly. The ache that I feel for her is getting stronger and stronger. I keep driving and trying to figure out what I can do to fix this. I want to say that I would have done things differently had I known she would be so upset, but I can’t. I love her, and I still would have to get to the bottom of what those monsters did to her… even if it was possible that she never speak to me again. I could still give her the peace of knowing that those bastards are going to pay—even if was never at peace again.

I’m still driving, past trees and houses, and Frou Frou sings about the beauty in breaking down. If that’s true, then I must be fucking gorgeous right now. I just want her back home and the pain of being without her is killing me. My blackberry interrupts my maudlin thoughts as well as my iPod and I answer it without looking—not wanting to be hopeful that it’s her.

“Grey.”

“Sir, Gail asked me to find out if you were returning for dinner.” I know this is just an excuse to call me and make sure that I hadn’t driven my sports car into the Sound.

“Yes, I am,” I respond. “Taylor?”

“Yes, sir?”

“Can we track her phone?” I ask hopeful. I just want to see her.

“Not unless it’s on, sir.” I know that it’s off so that’s a no-go.

“I’ll be there later,” I say before ending the call. I pull the car over to the side of the road and just sit there. I clear my mind and let the music play from the iPod. I don’t want to think of anything right now. I want complete nothingness… if only for a moment.

Several hours and a near-empty tank of gas later, I pull into the garage at Escala. Her car isn’t in any of the parking bins. I was hopeful, although I know someone would have contacted me had she returned. Dusk has now fallen over Seattle and I’m feeling a combination of anger and sorrow. I choke down my dinner once more with a bottle of water, then call Butterfly again. When her voice mail immediately picks up, I’m unable to holster my feelings:

“Anastasia, why are you doing this? We promised that we wouldn’t do this again. Why are you shutting me out? I don’t understand. I gave you your space and I accept that what I did was dishonest, but this behavior is so unfair to me… to us. I’m eating and drinking, but I’ll admit that I’m not resting well. I’m trying but sleep just won’t come to me. I miss you, Ana. I need you. I only did this because I love you. Please call me, baby. Please come home.”

I end the call feeling completely helpless. I don’t know why she’s doing this. I didn’t do this to hurt her, she knows that. I know that I should have handled things differently, but this is not solving anything. She has got to call me so that we can talk about this. I go to iTunes and search for the song. I should have found it way before now, but something always seemed to sidetrack me. I find it and download it to my iPod. Instead of going to my piano, I go to my bedroom and put on my pajama pants and a t-shirt—one of the ones that has her scent in it. I put in my ear buds and lay on her side of the bed. I put the song on repeat. I don’t know how long it takes, but I finally fall into a fitful sleep.


STEELE

Daylight is invading my senses, but I do not welcome the dawn. I’m not in the soft, warm king-sized bed that I was dreaming about, wrapped in the arms of my beloved. I’m in a room with ugly yellow walls plastered with hideous flowers, old ugly nightstands and an equally ugly desk and chair at the foot of the bed—an uncomfortable, outdated, tarnished brass bed with knotted bedding from the 1960’s and old pillows that smell of mildew. Nothing in this room matches, including the heavy drapes that show signs that they were once lavender, but are now a nasty faded gray.

Gray… like his eyes…

Edward returns to the room with a tray of breakfast food, the smell of which only serves to turn my stomach.

“I know you’re hungry, Rosie. You didn’t eat dinner.”

I know how he felt now. I know why he couldn’t eat… I hope he’s eating now. I turn away from Edward without a word.

“Dammit, Rosie, you have to eat!” he says, forceful but concerned. I don’t respond and I don’t turn around.

“Well, I know you have to pee.” Damn! That’s one bodily function that I can’t deny, but I still don’t move. He gets the bedpan and positions me so that I can pee. I take pleasure in that small relief, the only relief I will afford myself today besides thinking of Christian… and sleep. I don’t know how I could do it, but ever since I was a kid, I could sleep at will—tell myself to go to sleep and then I’d sleep. When he removes the bedpan, I turn away from him again. He abandons the effort of trying to make me eat, but leaves the tray of food on the desk. I guess he figures that the smell will be so overwhelming that my hunger will get the best of me.

Nope, not working.

I close my eyes again and dream of the bathtub at Escala filled with lemongrass bubbles.

*-*

“How do you expect to win her over? She hates you.” I hear voices outside the door.

“You let me worry about that. I’m working on it. I’m talking to her.” That’s Edward.

“Well, one of your five days is already up, man, and she don’t seem no closer to seeing things your way.” Five days? What’s happening in five days?

“And again, you don’t have to worry about that. When our five days are up, we’ll go our way and you go yours.” He’s talking to Harris. That must be Harris. How did they know that I would be alone at the Aquarium? Nobody knew where I was going! And what’s happening in five days? His words play over again in my head.

When our five days are up, we’ll go our way and you go yours.”

Fuck! He’s going to move me to another location, and nobody is going to know where I am. Hell, I don’t even know where I am now! This is fucking insane. He can’t believe he can get away with this. The door opens and now Edward has appeared with a lunch tray.

“I know you must be hungry, now, Butterfly,” he says as he sets the tray on the desk. My head snaps over to him immediately.

“What did you just call me?” I gasp.

“Butterfly. Isn’t that your name now?” he says, smiling. I have gone from hopeless and helpless to seething and livid. The hell if I let him taint that name for me!

“You don’t get it, do you, Edward?” I say, turning to him, my soul full of rage. “You just can’t see the forest for the trees. I will never love you, I will never be with you. I don’t care what you do to me, because there’s nothing that you can do to me that is worse than what has already been done to me. So, nothing that you can do to me can scare me, coerce me, or convince me to be with you. This whole thing is an exercise in futility. There’s nothing that you can do to me that hasn’t already been done except kill me, and although I do not want to die, I am not afraid of death.

“Do you even understand the magnitude of what you’ve done here? Christian is never going to rest until you’re dead or in jail. No matter what happens to me, he’s never going to rest until he takes you down. You don’t understand what you’ve done at this point, do you? You have no idea how serious your actions are. I don’t know what’s wrong with you. I will never want you, Edward. Ever! And everything that you do just further enforces the fact that I will never, ever want you. So, beat me, rape me, kill me, torture me, do whatever you want to do. But in the end, you are still not. Going. To get. What you want. Get over it. Understand it. Now you’ve made a decision that guarantees that it will be impossible for you to even just get on with your life. You have now even thrown that option away. Are you happy now? Was it worth it? What is wrong with you? What screws are loose in your head that you can’t figure out when a woman doesn’t want you? Either she wants you or your rape her, torture her, and beat her? What is wrong with you?”

His face has lost all color. He didn’t know that I was aware of Camilla and Phyllis. Oh yeah, I know, Asshole.

“I would never do those things to you. I love you, Butterfly…”

“Don’t you ever fucking call me Butterfly again as long as you fucking live! You have no idea what that means, and it has absolutely nothing to do with you and never will. And what do you call this… some new love potion that I’m not aware of? You tried to fuck me when I was unconscious for Christ’s sake! You’ve got me chained up in a room in the middle of God knows where and you have the nerve to talk to me about love? Did you love those girls when you raped them and beat them? Am I next if I don’t fall in line?” I spit.

“Oh, God, Rosie, I would never hurt you, I swear,” he pleads. Well, at least we’re back to fucking Rosie!

“You’re hurting me now, you sick, sadistic, twisted fuck! Are you enjoying this!? I don’t know what in the world made me ever love you in the first place. I don’t know if I was just in a bad place in my life, or I was just fucked up and screwy as you are, but I can’t see for the life of me what made me think that I wanted to spend more than a moment with you, much less a lifetime! This is insane. Why would you even want a woman that doesn’t want you? What major malfunction is going on in your mind that you would want to be with a woman that doesn’t want you? Are you sick?”

I’m spitting the words out without even thinking. This man has pushed me beyond all limits and I no longer have anything to lose. He’s going to move me to parts unknown in five days—four now.

“You just need time, Rosie,” he says, his head down as he opens the door to leave.

“Time isn’t going to make one bit of difference, David. I hate you now, and I’ll hate you later,” I spit before he leaves. I turn on that automatic sleep mechanism and pray for dreams of my man.

*-*

“Rosie, wake up.” It’s getting harder to open my eyes now. My stomach is growling, and I do feel hungry—but I refuse to eat a thing. My head is hurting now, too—probably from lack of fluids—but if I lay still, it doesn’t hurt as much. “You need to eat, or you’re going to make yourself really sick. I don’t want to have to force feed you.” Doesn’t he know that there really is no such thing? Swallowing is not an automatic mechanism. You have to make yourself swallow. He’s stupid.

“You kept calling me a whore that day in the parking garage.” I say, my voice weak. He looks at me. “You knew, didn’t you?” He shifts uncomfortably.

“Yeah, I knew,” he confesses. This doesn’t surprise me.

“How?”

“Ev,” he says. Is this supposed to mean something to me?

“Ev?”

“Everest Billings. He was my roommate at U-Dub the year that we met. We saw you at that dorm party. He told me about it,” he answers.

“How did he know about it?” I ask.

“He graduated from Green Valley.” he says matter-of-factly. Fuck my life! Christian was right. I’ll never be free of this shit if he doesn’t get to the bottom of it—but that’s not all.

“Christian was right! You profiled me, didn’t you?” I ask in horror. He twitches a bit at the word. At least he had enough conscience to feel ashamed about it.

“I wouldn’t call it profiling,” he responds, obviously searching for a better word.

“What would you call it then?” I snap. “You saw a girl that you thought was weak because of what happened to her years ago. Truthfully, I was weak. It was you and your crazy ass antics—your cheating and your lying—that made me strong. But you profiled me because you saw that I was weak, and you thought that you could control me. And for a couple of years, you did control me. That’s really twisted. You’re more sick and twisted than I even imagined.” He picks up a forkful of food.

“Enough of this yapping, you have to eat!” he says, forcefully. He tries to push the food into my mouth, but I won’t open. He pinches my nose to force my mouth open for air. I part my lips, but not my teeth. He loses his patience and grabs my hair, pulling it back forcefully. When I cry out, he shoves the food in my mouth. I spit the mouthful back in his face. His anger rises in him and he snatches my hair again. His free hand is in the air, in position to strike. I look at him square on with tears in my eyes.

“You’d never hurt me, huh?” I say. His eyes soften immediately, but his hand is still in position, the other one still holding my hair. “Go ahead. Remember, there’s nothing that you can do to me that’s worse than what has already been done… but of course you already know that.” A single angry tear rolls down my face. He releases my hair with a frustrated jerk, picks up the tray and leaves the room.

I now know that I have to put a plan in motion or I’ll never see the people that I love again. This man is sick and unstable, and I can’t play his game… I have to play my own.

Christian went down after four and a half days. I weigh considerably less than he does, so that should take me down at least one day. Even though I’m getting rest and he didn’t, Dr. Fischer said that it wasn’t exhaustion that made him drop… it was dehydration. Christian ate breakfast on Monday and was hospitalized on Friday evening. I’m at least 60 pounds lighter than he and almost a foot shorter. My last meal was breakfast yesterday. Even with rest, by tomorrow night—Monday morning at the latest—I’ll be down for the count. Ed will either have to let me die or get me some help. By then, I’m praying that Al has kicked in the contingency plan. If he hasn’t, I’m fucked


A/N: Atlas—again with the Greek mythology. After losing a war with the Olympians, Atlas was sentenced to hold up the sky to keep it from combining with the Earth. Classic art shows Atlas holding celestial spheres that represent the sky, which lead to the misinterpretation that he was actually carrying the Earth on his back, hence the origination of the saying “Carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders.” This is how Christian envisioned Ana must have felt bearing the burden of the Green Valley incident all these years.

Unfortunately, if you have the right connections, you can get Propofol recreationally. I would have thought “not so” after the death of Michael Jackson. But alas, it’s true. 😦

Edwards clothes are a tribute to Jason of Friday the 13th. Ana in the dirty wedding dress is just… sad and twisted.

I’m sorry that I can’t remember the reviewer’s name that gave me the idea for “Happy Together” but thanks and let me know who you are.
Be Here – Ray LaMontagne
Let Go – Frou Frou
The song that lulled Christian to sleep was their song, Love All the Hurt Away.

As always, pictures can be found on Pinterest at http://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/paging-dr-steele/

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

 

Paging Dr. Steele: Chapter 40: Drawing to a Close

This is a work or creativity. As such, you may see words, concepts, scenes, actions, behaviors, pictures, implements, and people that may or may not be socially acceptable and/or offensive. If you are sensitive to adverse and alternative subject matter of any kind, please do not proceed, because I guarantee you’ll find it here. You have been warned. Read at your own risk.

I do not own Fifty Shades Trilogy, or the characters. They belong to E. L. James. I am only exercising my right to exploit, abuse, and mangle the characters to MY discretion in MY story in MY interpretation as a fan. If something that I say displeases you, please, just leave. If you don’t like this story or me, please don’t spoil this experience for everyone. Just go away. For the rest of you, the saga continues…

Chapter 40—Drawing to a Close

GREY

Mrs. Crestwood didn’t tell me much of anything that I didn’t already know—except that I didn’t know that Butterfly had depended on her so much during those last two years, and I can truly see that Mrs. Crestwood cared about her. This wasn’t just a favor to “family;” she was genuinely concerned about Butterfly. I’ll be happy when the time comes that I can tell Butterfly about this trip. I think it would do Mrs. Crestwood some good to see how well Butterfly is really doing.

Williams has taken Taylor and me to a little bar on the east side of Vegas called Dylans. It’s nothing spectacular or even seedy. It’s just one of those neighborhood, side street bars and gambling halls that the locals frequent to unwind. There’s one particular local here that has my interest this evening… Stephen Morton. He’s a fair distance from home tonight. In fact, he’s closer to Mrs. Crestwood’s neck of the woods. I’m wondering if Whitmore may have tipped him off that someone is snooping around. He would certainly want to get his money’s worth… and my little trip to the bank will insure that I get mine.

Once again, Taylor’s positioned at the end of the bar and I’ve taken a seat closer to Morton.

“What’ll ya have, friend?” The bartender asks.

“I’ll have what he’s having.” I say pointing to Morton. The bartender looks over to Morton, who looks at me suspiciously, “and I’ll buy him a refill.” After an expectant pause, Morton murmurs, “Gin and tonic.” As the bartender goes to fill our drinks, Morton asked, “Do I know you?”

“I don’t know,” I reply, “Do you? Christian Grey.” Morton turns back to his drink.

“Can’t says I do,” he says, bottoming out his glass. “So, to what do I owe the pleasure of your company? I’m sure you want something. Not accustomed to seeing expensive suits wander into this place.”

Stephen Morton is a shell of a man. I can’t really gauge his height, but whatever it is, he’s shortened further by the stance of a man who appears to be carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders. His skin is that clammy gray color that comes from too much alcohol and not enough nourishment. He looks like he slept in his clothes—they’re wrinkled but not dirty. He has the stale smell of alcohol that has saturated his body and now seeps through his pores. I can tell that he’s harmless enough, he’s just not there anymore. He’s one of those people who just floats in and out of a day with no particular purpose. The bartender brings our drinks to us and I send him away with a $50 bill.

“You look like you could use a meal,” I say. He raises his head slowly after swigging his gin and tonic.

“What’s it to you?” he asks, his voice clear and concise. He appears to have just crossed over into the Land of the Drunks in that his appearance and language has not completely deteriorated, but he clearly doesn’t care anymore.

“Nothing really,” I say, sipping on the grotesquely watered-down drink made with obscenely cheap gin. Yeah, I won’t be finishing this. “But we have a mutual acquaintance in common… a few in fact.” He turns on his bar stool.

“I’m friends with someone who’s friends with you?” he asks, incredulously.

“I didn’t say friend, I said acquaintance,” I say, turning to face him. “Before I tell you that, I’d like to know something. What do you hear of your stepdaughter these days?” Morton’s head jerks back quickly.

“My stepdaughter!?” he asks. “I haven’t seen her for years! It’s a shame she doesn’t even call her own mother,” he adds. I wonder why that is, Asshole?

“Why do you think she wouldn’t want to speak to her mother? Could it have anything to do with the incident at the bonfire?” I ask casually. His eyes narrow.

“What do you know about that?” He asks coldly.

“Everybody knows about it. Young girl horribly beaten at a bonfire… no suspects. That’s no secret,” I continue.

“Yeah, but that happened 10 years ago. Why are you so curious about it now? What are you, a reporter? Looking for a story?”

“No, I’m no reporter.” I entwine my fingers on the bar. “But I am looking for information.”

“For what?” he asks.

“I want to know exactly what happened to Anastasia. I can’t for the life of me figure out why something so vile happened in an affluent community and you were all willing to sweep it under the rug—particularly you and her mother.” I say the last word with more disdain than I intended. He looks at me and back at his drink.

“All I know is that Carla called me to the hospital telling me that the girl was there, and she wasn’t waking up. She didn’t wake up for a few weeks. She didn’t finish that school year either.” He swigs his drink again. I gesture to Taylor, who comes over and occupies the stool on the other side of me.

“I’m sure you know more than that,” I say to Morton and Taylor pulls a ream of bills out of his jacket and puts it on the counter in front of me. Morton eyes the bills and then looks at me.

“Who are you?” he asks.

“I told you. I’m Christian Gray.”

“What is this to you?” he presses.

“That’s of no consequence. What’s important here is that I want to know every single little thing you know about this situation, including how it involves Cody Whitmore.” Now, Morton sits up straight and has that Green-Valley-ready-to-run look on his face.

“I don’t know nothing about Cody Whitmore,” he says quickly, like the phase is a rehearsed answer to the question; practiced, ingrained, and perfected over 11 years—name, rank, serial number, and I don’t know nothing about Cody Whitmore.

“Oh, yes, you do,” I say calmly. “I have a record of $750,000 that guarantees that you do. You want to try again?”

“Look!” he says, leaning in to me and looking over his shoulders to see if anyone can hear him. “If you know about that money, then you know damn well that I can’t say shit. Nobody has asked me anything about that shit in 10 years. So, tell Whitmore that his fucking secret is safe with me!” he spits. I didn’t think I could dislike this man any more than I already do. I was wrong.

“Morton, I already know your kind,” I sneer. “You’d sell your soul for a dollar and you sold your stepdaughter for three quarters of a mil—part of which I’m told was supposed to have been her college fund. Now, she’s buried in student loan debt because you, what, drank away her future? I don’t work for that phony, fake, small-time, fucking poser Whitmore. When I’m done with that asshole, he won’t know what hit him, and if you’re afraid of him then you should be fucking terrified of me!”

I’m glaring in his eyes and he’s completely devoid of arrogance or haughtiness of any kind. I only see uncertainty and fear.

“I’m making two lists of people to take with me when I leave Vegas. Which list will you be on?” I say, picking up the stack of bills and slamming them down on the bar in front of him.

Morton looks from the bills to me a few times, then begrudgingly asks, “What do you want to know?”

“Where to begin? Ah, how about your first meeting with Whitmore, when Anastasia told you that little shit raped her. Let’s start there,” I growl. He swallows.

“Well, we went to Whitmore’s and confronted him and the boy. The kid swore he didn’t rape her… that they went to the desert and had sex and that she was trying to blackmail him or something. I was suspicious at first, but then, Whitmore starts talking about how his kid was an honor student and on the football team, well-known around school. While we were talking, the kid’s girlfriend shows up—gorgeous little blonde thing that shouldn’t have been in high school! It’s illegal the way these girls look—like grown women! And their mothers don’t have the good sense to make them put on some damn clothes!” Well, that’s new—an asshole with some morals.

“Anyway, one look at that Carly girl and I thought there’s no way this kid would have raped Ann. Rich, good-looking, popular kid with a hot little girlfriend is taking this poor little dusty nobody to the desert to rape her? Come on, man…” He finishes his drink and gestures for another. My blood is boiling.

“So, you took the word of some stranger over your stepdaughter because he had money and a hotter girlfriend? Did you expect the lecherous little dick to wave his hands and openly admit to it?” Is this guy for real? He suddenly turns to glare at me.

“I’m not going to let you sit here and put me in judgment for this shit. I’ll tell you what I know, but you’re not going to cut me down for my decisions. Whether they were right or wrong, you don’t get to judge me, and I don’t give a fuck who you are, Mr. Grey!”

You have to admire the man—he’s got a pair. I respect his chutzpah, but that’s all I respect about this guy.

“By any chance, did you take a look at Anastasia when you left that day? Did you pay any attention to her behavior after that day?” I ask, coldly. He shrugs.

“I was pissed that she was trying to pull me into this—whatever game she was playing with Whitmore. I wasn’t paying any attention to her. She was always kind of a quiet kid, but if you’re asking if I noticed a broken little girl that turned into a recluse because she had been raped and nobody believed her, no! I didn’t notice that!” He’s very sarcastic, spitting the words at me as he knew exactly where I was going.

“Listen, you sarcastic worthless piece of shit. I already have enough information to ruin the lives of a whole lot of Green Valley’s good citizens, including you. My only reason for speaking to you today is to try to understand the mechanics of this situation because I already have my primary targets! To say that I’m losing my patience with you would be a lie. My patience for you was gone before I even took a seat. I want to try to fill in some blanks, but I don’t fucking need to sit here and listen to your shitty ass attitude because you don’t want anybody drawing conclusions about your feeding a young girl to the dogs! Contrary to how you feel I should judge this situation Mr. Morton, I do hold you responsible for what happened to Anastasia. Now, are you going to talk to me with some manners and behave like a good little boy, or do I take my wads of cash and go?”

Almost on cue, Taylor takes out another ream of bills and places it in front of me on the bar. Morton reaches for the first ream that I placed in front of him.

“Touch those bills before I tell you that this transaction is concluded and my bodyguard here will break your fucking arm… assuming that the one at the door doesn’t shoot you first.” His hand freezes midair and he turns to see Lawrence sitting at a table near the door watching him.

“Are you mafia or something?” he asks, his voice unsure. Are you kidding me?

“Why would I tell you that?” I spit. “Are you a slimy little man that marries divorcees then effectively sells their daughters’ virginity to young violent rich pricks with hot girlfriends?”

His shoulders deflate at this statement. Fuck the kid gloves; this asshole is getting on my nerves. I just want to see if he can fill in any blanks for me. As I can see that he’s duly chastised, I continue with my questioning.

“How soon after your meeting with Whitmore was Anastasia attacked?” I ask through my teeth. He pauses to think.

“I don’t know… a couple of weeks, maybe. Not too long,” he answers.

“And let me guess—you had your head stuck so far up your ass that you never thought the two could have been connected,” I sneer.

“I was sure that they were connected. That’s how I got the money from Whitmore,” he says. What the fuck!? It’s very hard to maintain the CEO impassive face right now.

“Elaborate,” I say, placing the second set of bills in front of him. He licks his lips and bottoms out his drink, gesturing for another one. Good Lord, his liver must be pickled.

“When Carla called and told me that Ann was in the hospital and she had been beaten, my mind went immediately to Whitmore. I went to the hospital and saw her beaten all to hell and I was scared, okay? I didn’t know if she was going to die or wake up and start talking or what the hell was going to happen. The doctors told us that she had lost her baby. I didn’t even know that she was pregnant. Something changed in Carla that day. She sat there by Ann’s bed for three days not saying anything. On the fourth day, she left the hospital and only came back a few more times to check on her before Ann woke up.”

So basically, Ana woke up all beat to hell in a hospital, alone. No doubt, she thought they blamed her for what happened to her and she still feels that way. No doubt, they did blame her for what happened.

“When she woke up, she didn’t remember anything that happened. She didn’t even remember being pregnant.” That’s because she didn’t know, you asshole. “Once she was released from the hospital, Raymond came and got her. He said he would take care of her if Carla allowed him. They went off to Washington somewhere and that’s when I approached Whitmore.”

He approached Whitmore? All this time, I thought it was the other way around.

“I told him how much of a coincidence it was that my daughter had been beaten so badly on the Madison Ranch weeks after she accused his honor-roll son of raping her.” The Madison Ranch! Carly fucking Madison!

“How do you know it was the Madison Ranch?” I ask coolly.

“You hear things. It was the Madison Ranch,” he says. The alcohol seems to be getting to him a bit. He’s starting to sound a little maudlin. I better get everything out of him that I can before he’s a useless mound on the bar.

“Madison, as in Carly Madison—Cody’s hot little blonde girlfriend?” I ask. He nods, still looking into his drink.

“I brought that to his attention, that it all seemed so strange that nobody had any information about what happened to her, but the cops found her on the Madison Ranch a couple of weeks after she accused his son of rape. I mentioned that they did a rape kit because of the violence of the act and that even though it came back that she had not been raped that night that they kept the embryo and could run DNA if Ann were to give them a suspect.”

“They had to know that meant nothing. That just means that Cody got her pregnant—it didn’t mean that he had anything to do with her attack,” I point out.

“Apparently, they didn’t know that—or they were too frightened or too nervous to think about that. All this stuff put together gives the police probable cause…” Except the police had their own reasons for not pursuing the matter. “… That was enough to take to Whitmore. I originally went for answers. Ann was gone, and Carla had changed. People were looking at us like some circus side show. Yeah, the community was shaken since everybody claimed not to know what happened. But hell, I had to go outside of the city just to buy a bar of soap! It was fucking ridiculous.”

I guess not as ridiculous as a young girl being beaten nearly to death and never seeing justice.

“What happens next?” I keep my voice flat. Morton is still throwing back gin and tonics like water.

“Whitmore tells me that he needs some time to talk to his kid and find out how true this shit could be. I thought I had lost my meal ticket. About a month later, he comes to me telling me that we had a deal, but I had to get Ann back to Nevada so that we could be sure that she wouldn’t talk. Carla and I had a terrible fight about that. She didn’t want Ann to come back. She wanted her to stay in Washington with Ray so that they both could have some kind of normal life,” he says.

“Ray and Ana?” I ask.

Carla and Ann,” he corrects me. “She talked about how young she was when she had Ann and how it basically ruined her whole life and now that Ann was gone and Carla was still somewhat of a young woman, she could have a life now. Carla was being accepted into some of the social circles before this shit happened with Ann, and she was fighting to get back what little standing that she had with the snobs of Green Valley. Ann had picked up where she left off in Montesano, so according to Carla it was working out for everybody… except for me, that is.” He’s taking another swallow of his drink and I’m getting sicker and sicker listening to this man.

“What finally convinced Carla to bring Ana back here?” I ask.

“The money… and the fact that I wouldn’t let up on it. We showed up at Ray’s and told Ann that it was time to go home. That was the fight from hell. Although Ray had given Ann his name, he never adopted her, and he wasn’t on her birth certificate, so he didn’t have any legal rights. Just like I couldn’t force Ann to come to Nevada, Ray didn’t have any rights to fight for her to stay in Washington. Ann begrudgingly came back to Nevada and she was an unbearable little shit from the moment she got there.”

“Fuck! Wouldn’t you be?” I spit before I could stop myself. “Just consider this just for a second. You’re a young girl and you’ve been raped, and nobody believes you. Two or three weeks after you’ve been raped, you’re brutally beaten by unknown assailants in the community in which you live. You manage to escape the community only to have the people that should be protecting you come and get you from your safe haven and bring you back to hell! How would you feel, Mr. Morton? Erase that whole money thing you’ve got going on and the fact that you had to go to Walmart in Sunrise Manor instead of Green Valley and consider for a moment how that young girl must have felt. Think for one second—just for one fucking second—that she may have been telling you the truth about what happened to her! That she was the undeserving victim of a violent crime twice in one month and you sold her like a piece of cattle!”

“I know that she was telling the truth.” He has the nerve to have a little shame in his voice… and again, I’m shocked.

“How did you know?” I spit.

“He was too willing to pay me off. He was too willing to shut me up. He would have given me anything that I asked for, I knew it. I asked for 750 and he agreed immediately. I did plan on giving some to Ann, but she acted so fucked up when she got back…” He trails off.

“That you decided to punish her further,” I finish, steam coming off my forehead. He doesn’t respond.

“I probably could have gotten some money from that Madison kid, too, but I didn’t want to press my luck,” he mutters.

“What happened after she came back here?” I spit, seething.

“Nothing. She went to school in Vegas. She got a job. She was never home. Her mother and I rarely saw her and when we did, she was aloof on good days and a terror on bad ones. Carla stopped dealing with her completely.” Neither of you would have had to deal with her if you had left her in peace in Montesano with Ray.

“Any idea why nobody was ever arrested or even questioned about this?” I ask.

“I don’t know. Maybe somebody paid off the cops, too. That one cop kept coming around asking if Ann remembered anything, but she didn’t.”

“Oh, she did. She remembered everything,” I say. A look of pure horror comes over his face. “She remembers being attacked from behind, thrown into the trunk of a car, dragged naked to a bonfire, and being brutally beaten and burned with no idea as to why this was happening to her! As I listened to this atrocity—this complete and utter travesty of justice—I can’t believe that something like this could happen in 21st century America! This has the look and smell of the brutal lynchings of the 50’s and 60’s. I can’t believe something this monstrous could still be happening in my lifetime! If I hadn’t seen it unfold with my own eyes, I would believe this was the conspiracy theory of a sick mind running around with a tin-foil hat! I hope you got your money’s worth!” I say, pushing the bills into his face and standing to leave.

“This is not my fault!” he defends, and I walk pass him. “I didn’t rape her, and I certainly didn’t tell her to go swinging her ass around some young kid! These young girls are out here being prick teases and then want to scream rape when they’re expected to deliver!”

I realize this is probably the alcohol talking… or maybe he’s just being an asshole again. Unfortunately for him, my fist can’t tell the difference when it makes a clean connection with his face, sending him sailing out of the barstool and landing on the sticky saloon floor. I stand over him as he is lying on his back holding his jaw.

“Now you get to know the importance of who I am. I’m in love with Anastasia. I hope that one day in the future, she’ll consent to be my wife, and spend the rest of her life with me. I plan to bring down every single person involved in her attack. I plan to have Whitmore and his snide little rapist son begging me to release my clutches from them, which by the way, I won’t. I haven’t decided what you deserve yet. I do know this… that little comment just cost you one.” I take one of the stacks of bills from the bar and throw it over my shoulder to Taylor without looking. I have absolutely no doubt that he caught it.

“You fucking asshole!” Morton shoots, trying to get off the floor.

“Do you want it to cost you both?” I say glaring at him. Morton purses his lips so tightly that it almost looks painful. “My regards to your wife!” I sneer as Taylor, Lawrence and I leave the bar.


DAVID

I just about have my plan in place, but I hate having to depend on this asshole Bob. I’m still not sure if I really trust him, but so far, he’s come through with everything that I need so I don’t have much of a choice. As long as I keep syphoning money to him, I can buy his help and loyalty, but I don’t doubt for a second that he would sell me out to the highest bidder—even Grey if Bob wasn’t so pissed with him.

I’m ready to get things moving. I’m normally a patient man, but I’m not sure that I can be without my Rosie for one more minute.

“We have a development,” Bob says coming into the house.

“What?”

“Grey is out of town until Friday night. If we want to move on this, we probably want to do it before he gets back. Not much he can do from a distance, but it’s going to be all hell when he gets back.” I couldn’t care less about that fucking Rich Boy as long as I can get to my Rosie, but Bob’s right—it’ll be easier if he’s not around to influence her in any way.

“Friday, then, before Grey gets back. You’ll take care of her guard,” I confirm.

“Friday it is, then,” he nods. One more day, Rosie. Just one more day.


STEELE

Christian and I were both completely exhausted when he Skyped me last night. Not only had we both had terribly trying days, but it was after 11:00 when he finally got a chance to call me. I know that he bought a beautiful new desk and filing cabinet for the library for me and I was pleasantly surprised when I got back to Escala this evening. It was wonderful not to have to use the small table that I had commandeered for my laptops and files—and I had somewhere to put important documents. He’s such a wonderful man. He doesn’t make room for me in his life—he makes sure that there is room for me in his life, which is completely different. I told him about my visit to Helping Hands and my breakthrough with Marlow. He informed me about tracking down one of Whitmore’s shady business deals that’s making him more and more certain that he won’t be doing business with Whitmore.

Thank fuck for that!

I ask Christian when he’ll be home tomorrow and he informs me that it’s looking more like late afternoon or early evening than tomorrow night as he had originally planned. That makes me happy as my soul is aching for him. Even though we’re both too tired for Cyberplay, he still stays on Skype with me until I fall asleep.

Friday, I’m refreshed and ready to face my day, thrilled beyond thrilled that my man will be home this afternoon. I see my regular Friday patients and I’m sitting at my desk when my iPhone rings. It’s Ray.

“Hey, Dad. How are you?” I answer the phone. Maybe he’s coming down for the weekend again. I’m wondering if I should introduce him to Christian. Is he ready for that? Hell, he introduced me to Mandy.

Hey, Annie. You got a minute?” Oh hell, please don’t ask me if you can marry Mandy. I’m all for happily ever after but give me a chance to absorb the whole Dad’s got a girlfriend thing before we start hearing wedding bells.

“Sure. What’s up?” I brace myself.

What do you hear about Green Valley these days?” Green Valley!? What the hell!?

“Absolutely nothing!” I spit, Whitmore’s name bubbling up in the back of my throat like bile. Why in the hell is Green Valley rearing its head at me right now? “Why do you ask me that? What do you hear about Green Valley these days?”

Well, I got a call from Carla this morning.” I gasp.

“What the fuck does C… I’m sorry, Dad. What does Carla want?” I spit. Why the hell is this woman calling my father?

I was wondering the same thing. She called me trying to find out if I had someone down there looking into that incident that happened to you all those years ago. I have no clue what she’s talking about. She told me that there’s some suit down there asking questions about your attack. You know how I hate talking to that woman.”

“Dad, I need you to tell me exactly what you’re talking about because right now I’m a little clueless.” Somebody is digging into Green Valley again? What the hell? Why can’t this nightmare just fucking die already?

Some guy cornered Carla’s husband in a bar. She said the guy roughed him up to get information out of him about your attack. I don’t know how true that is since Stephen is heavy on the bottle these days, but Carla says he came back bruised and beaten talking about some guy named Grey digging into the… situation.” 

Christian.

“What the hell? What do you mean? I know that he went down there, and I know that he was talking to Whitmore…” And then the light bulb goes off. The last time someone was asking questions in Green Valley, Christian was doing a background check and where is Christian now—in Nevada!

Who is this guy and why is he in Nevada? And who is Whitmore?” Ray has gone many years without any answers to these questions. Now I think the chickens are coming home to roost.

I sink back in my chair and tell my father everything about Green Valley—the rape, Stephen’s unsuccessful confrontation of the Whitmores, what I remembered about the beating. Ray falls deathly silent listening to me tell the horrifying tale that was the last two years of my childhood. I inform him that Christian was the one that initiated the background check that scared me half to death, and why he did it. I think I knock the wind out of him when I tell him that Christian and I are now dating.

You’re dating again? I think that’s wonderful.”

“Thanks, Dad.” I respond, less than enthusiastic.

What’s wrong, Annie?” Ray presses. I sigh.

“He lied to me, Dad. He told me that he was going to see Whitmore about K&R Insurance. He knew the whole time why he was going down there to talk to that snake, and he lied to me.” Some Mistress I am! I can’t get him to tell me the truth about something so vital… we’re just playing games here. Of course, I didn’t ask him about this in Domme mode… it might have turned out differently—but that’s beside the point. “I asked him not to pursue this… and he said that he wouldn’t. Now he’s down there stirring this pot all over again.” I put my hand on my forehead. This shit will never just die, will it?

He must care about you a lot to single-handedly try to find out what happened to you,” Ray points out.

“Dad, you don’t understand. The cornerstone of our relationship is trust. It’s extremely important.” More important than even you know, Ray. “If we can’t trust each other, we simply can’t continue.” I’m fighting back the tears that are threatening my eyelids. “I have to be able to trust that he’s truthful with me and he needs that same guarantee from me.” I sigh. “I gotta go, Dad.”

Annie, before you make any rash decisions, just hear him out, okay? I don’t know this guy, but if he’s willing to take on a town to find out what happened to my daughter, then he’s okay in my book.”

“I will, Dad. I love you.”

I love you, too, Annie.” I hang up the phone and resist the urge to scream. I snatch my purse and phone and breeze out the door, telling Marilyn that our day is over. Chuck is nearly running, trying to keep up with me. I get to elevator and punch the floor before he can catch me. I’m not trying to get away from him, I just need to get the hell out of here. He must be wearing Mercury’s winged shoes because he’s on the ground floor before the elevator gets there.

“Ana?” he questions, but I just run past him and out the door to my car. He’s hot on my tail in the Audi as I break several traffic laws to get to my apartment. I’m damn near out of my car before it stops moving to get to the elevator. I stop Chuck before he gets in.

“I need to be alone. You don’t have to leave, but right now, I need to be alone.” I say, fighting back angry tears.

“Let me ride up with you and I’ll stand outside. Is that okay?” he bargains. I nod.

We ride up the elevator in silence and I dash to my apartment once the doors open, slamming and locking the door behind me. He can’t be down there doing this… he can’t be. After the whole ordeal we had last week… he couldn’t possibly betray my trust this way. I feel like my chest is going to cave in on me. There must be some mistake. Someone is mistaken—that’s what it is. If Christian had gone to Green Valley, George would have called me. I’ll call George. He’ll know what this is about.

My heart sinks when I get George on the phone and he doesn’t want to talk to me.

“Why would I want to talk to you when you sent your dogs after me after all of this?” George says.

“I have no idea what’s going on, George. I just got a call from my dad. What’s happening?” I yell. After a pause,

“You really don’t know, do you?” George asks incredulously.

“No, I don’t! Every time something happens, you call me. Why didn’t you call me this time?” I bark.

“Because he threatened me! He told me that if I called you that there would be problems for me. So, whoever you tell him that you heard this from, you didn’t hear it from me. Are we clear?”

“You got it, but you have to tell me what’s going on.”

George proceeds to tell me that Christian is down in Green Valley questioning anybody and everybody that he can get his hands on to find out what happened with my attack. I can’t believe what I’m hearing since I asked him not to pursue this matter.

“He said he wouldn’t do it,” I say, my voice squeaking. “I told him not to dig this up. I told him to leave this alone!”

“Well, you need to call him off,” George says. “He’s making a lot of people nervous and angry down here.” What the hell? He must’ve forgotten to whom he’s speaking!

“Well, they should be nervous!” I exclaim. “They beat me, and they burned me. And you may not know this, but one of them raped me—and that’s why I was beaten and burned!”

“Well, why didn’t you say any of this!?” George exclaims, horrified and something in me snaps.

“Because I told one person—one person, my stepfather—that I got raped and look what happened to me. What happens if I tried to take him to court? My word against his… a poor girl who happens to live in a nice Green Valley house against a Whitmore. I can’t even imagine what would have happened to me if I had identified anybody from the mob that tortured me, not that I really could since the fucking cowards all wore masks and only one of them spoke to me. Oh, they could all beat the shit out of me, but none of them could fucking say shit to me.

“But now the tables have turned—and those pompous, self-absorbed, entitled, rich little brats are now dealing with someone who has just as much money and power as they do if not more. This man owns more companies than they have vacation houses. Now, they’re shaking in their boots because they’re dealing with one of the most powerful men in America now trying to get to the bottom of who attacked me 11 years ago.”

“Well, you’re going to have to do something, Ana, because he’s getting pretty close.” I fall silent for a moment. What the hell does he mean by that?

“Getting pretty close?” I ask. “Close to what, George?” George remains silent.

“George, close to what?”

Still silence on the line. And then it hit me. Mother fucking demons and bitches from hell! George knows something.

“George, what do you know?”

“Ana, I don’t know anything,” he says, flatly.

“Don’t give me that, George!” I spit, my voice shaking. “If you didn’t know anything, you wouldn’t have said that he’s getting close. You’ve kept in touch with me all these years…”

And the other shoe drops. He kept in touch with me to see if I was doing anything on the case, to see if I had gotten any closer to finding out who attacked me. He always needed to know what I knew; and when anyone went digging into my past, he knew that I would do anything in my power to stop them to keep the Lambert/Steele saga under wraps. He knew that I didn’t want that to be public knowledge. So even though the law says that I had to be notified of any developments in the case, I didn’t have to be notified personally. George has a personal stake in this. All this time, I thought he was doing this for me—but he’s not. There’s something else. I feel so fucking betrayed!

“George, I think you better give me any information that you have, because if you don’t, I’m going to set the full fury of Christian Grey loose on Green Valley. And if you think feathers have been ruffled now, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet, Buddy!” There’s a long pause.

“Don’t think about it too long, George, because I’m out of patience!” I snap.

George sighs heavily before telling me, “Vince was out past curfew the night that you were attacked, and Mom called me at the station. I hated chasing that little bugger down, but I had to find him so that Mom could get some sleep. He knew that we had installed the tracking system in his car in case of theft or car trouble, and the idiot still took his own car.”

“What does your little brother have to do with me?” I say, impatient and confused. George sighs again.

“When I located Vince’s car, he was at a bonfire. When I went to the bonfire, everybody scattered like roaches, so I couldn’t see who all was present… but I knew my brother’s car was there. I don’t know all the details, but when everybody left, Vince’s car was still there. I really believe that he thought he was at a harmless bonfire and he took off somewhere to get laid or something. I don’t know if he was there when everything was going down—he swears that he wasn’t there, and he had nothing to do with it… I had to protect my little brother, Ana…”

Am I hearing what I think I’m hearing!?

“Wait! Wait! Wait a minute!” I yell. I feel cold, pure, undiluted horror rise from my stomach, into my chest, and begin to take over my thought processes. I have to fight to form my words as my brain-to-mouth functions seem to be failing. “Are you telling me that the same bonfire where you found your brother’s car is the same bonfire where they were mutilating my body?” George is silent for a moment.

“Yes,” he says, solemnly. “I had to know if any information would lead to my brother. He swore that he had nothing to do with it, Ana, but if I pursued anybody, I would have had to pursue Vincent, too.”

I’m feeling a little dizzy hearing this story. I fall onto the sofa simply because my legs can’t hold me up anymore.

“You know who did this to me, don’t you, George?” I say with as much conviction as I could muster. He pauses… he’s stalling again.

“I’m not 100% sure, Ana…”

“Don’t fucking play with me, George!” I snap. My wits are at their complete end and I can’t take many more secrets at this point.

“I recognized some of the cars there, Ana. I can’t say for sure who all was there—but I knew some of the cars. But just like Vince claims that he had nothing to do with it, they could claim that they were just in the area, too. I know Vince, Ana. He’s not that kid and he’s not that man.”

“But you know who was there. And you know that some of the people that were there were that kid…” George has fallen silent again. “… and you just let them go?” Still no answer. “You found me! You saw what they did to me! You know the whole story. How could you just let them go?” I say, my voice quivering.

“I tried, Ana,” he says, desperation in his voice. “I tried to pursue them the best that I could, but somebody knew that Vincent was there. Every time I tried to investigate a lead, I got a threat against Vincent. Ever since my father died, my mother made me swear to protect him… I had to protect him Ana… I had to…” His voice trails off.

Was the entire world against me? I was the victim. I was the one that was raped, beaten, and burned. Was everybody against me? Did I have no one in my corner? Not my parents? The school? The community? The owner of the ranch where I was tortured? Not even the fucking police? Would the doctors there have even bothered to try to save my life if they hadn’t been bound by the Hippocratic oath? This can’t be real. This absolutely, positively can’t be real. Who did I piss off in a past life to deserve this kind of treatment? At 15, no less?

“I could’ve died, George. I could’ve died out there. Did you see what they did to my back? Those weren’t just burns, George. Those were brands! I still have the letters on my back!”

There’s a sharp intake of air on the other end of the line. Apparently, George never knew that the burns were actually a word.

“Ana… I…” Yeah, I would be at a loss for words, too, you bastard.

“You let an entire community of brutal bullies get away with damn-near killing me—with murdering an unborn child—to protect your brother, and you’re not even certain that he didn’t have anything to do with it. Are you proud of that, Officer Sullivan?” I spit the last two words at him. I know he can’t respond to me. What can he say to that?

“I was raped, Officer Sullivan,” I remind him, my voice flat. I hear an almost inaudible groan on the other end. Yeah, I know. I didn’t tell anybody but dear-old-pretend-Dad, and look where that got me.

“I was raped by the son of one of Green Valley’s upstanding well-off citizens. And when I told my stepfather and we went to confront my accuser, he denied it. He said it was consensual. He told his girlfriend that I lied on him, and she told her friends, and they told their friends, and the next thing I know, I’m being dragged naked from the trunk of a car to be beaten and burned by hooded strangers.

“The only reason I was able to connect the two incidents is because one—only one—of my attackers spoke to me and told me why this was happening to me… and I recognized her voice. They spit on me; they laughed at me; they urinated on me. I remember every slap, every kick, and every punch. Thank God I only remember one burn, because I passed out from the pain—and woke up in the hospital three-weeks later. The doctors told me that I had been attacked and that I had lost my rapist’s baby—a baby I didn’t even know I was carrying. I tried to get away, and even my parents couldn’t afford me that luxury.

“I’ve had so many nightmares about that night that right now, here in the state of Washington, I hold a license to carry a concealed weapon and I own three firearms. I’m wondering where in the world these people are and if I’ll ever have to see them again—not that I saw any of them the first time, but they would sure as hell know who I was when they saw me.” The tears are falling freely down my face as I spit the words at him.

“Now you know the full extent of my nightmare, but I’m so glad that you were able to sleep soundly at night knowing that you protected your brother from such a horrible fate. Goodbye, Officer Sullivan, and good luck with Christian Grey.” I end the call. I stand up from the sofa, walk to my room, bury my face in my pillow, and scream until I have no voice.


GREY

It’s about 11:00am on Friday morning and I’m only too ready to get the fuck out of Nevada. My bags are packed, and I’m checking out of the Bellagio. I can’t wait to be back in my Butterfly’s arms. With all the shit that I’ve learned being down here and all the new leads I now must follow, I don’t know how these people have been able to live with themselves. I would be just as outraged by this action had it not been the woman that I love. How could this happen? The entire community conspired against her and she never found justice. Well, that shit ends now. I’ll take her to dinner tonight at Rover’s and tell her everything. It’s not going to be easy, but I don’t want to keep any more secrets from her, and I want her to know that we can now bring these bastards to justice.

We’re on our way to McCarran when I realize that I’ve settled affairs with everyone except one person in particular. All the parties involved that have met me pretty much know where they stand—except for one person.

“Taylor, contact Sean and McCarran and let him know we will be slightly delayed. Williams, we’re making a detour…”

Security at this place sucks and if this ever happened at GEH, I would fire an entire department full of people. But I strut right into the work area of Daddy’s Little Boy, and my determined stride along with the two CIA-looking gentlemen assured that we had the attention of everyone in the office.

“I know who you are, and I know what you did. I’m going to make you pay for it. And not Mommy, Daddy, the Governor, or the fucking President is going to be able to save your ass,” I say glaring down at him in his seat.

“I’m sure I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Cody Whitmore responds, not making eye contact with me.

“I’m sure you do!” I bark. “Or after all these years have you finally convinced yourself that it was consensual? Have you rewritten the story to make yourself believe that she wanted it? Did Daddy’s little payoff make you think rape would go away? Did the fact that you and a mob of hooded cowards have been able to frighten her into silence for a couple of years make you think that you would never have to face this again? She was 15, you sick fuck—15! And you and a heartless bunch of animals beat her damn near to death because she didn’t want to fuck you!”

I can hear various people mention Ana’s name. Yeah, the story is still alive and well in Green Valley. The Golden Boy here has finally been forced to see the levity of his actions. I can see the fear in his eyes and hear it in his voice when he speaks.

“You got it all wrong, man. Girls say ‘no’ all the time when they really mean ‘yes.’ You know that…” he protests.

Oh no the fuck he’s not trying to convince me that Ana wanted him to screw her in the back of his jeep and dump her in the middle of the desert after he has clearly admitted that she said, “no.” I try very hard to swallow the bile that’s rising in the back of my throat seasoned with the flavor of sheer contempt for this man as I stare coldly into his eyes and say:

“Go back into the recesses of that sick, twisted, fucked up mind of yours—back to that place where you won’t let anybody else go and you’re afraid to go yourself—and recall that fateful day that’s about to change the rest of your miserable fucking life. Recall that day that you have no doubt recalled hundreds of times between then and now. Look at her face. Look at it good. Observe her carefully—observe her screaming and crying and most likely begging you to stop while you forcibly ripped her virginity from her and try to tell me that she wanted it. Go ahead… try!” I growl that last word at him and I’m willing the words to come out of his mouth as I would like nothing more than to kill him… right here… right now.

The office has fallen completely silent… even the phones have stopped ringing. Whitmore has turned a sick shade of greenish-gray as I glare at him and wait for him to speak.

“The only good thing that came from this whole ordeal is that she lost your baby in the process.” His face goes from gray to flaxen white with this news. “Oh, you didn’t know. Yeah, she was pregnant. And thank God that she doesn’t have to spend the rest of her life raising a reminder of your sick ass, but what’s more is that I can sleep a little better at night knowing that your ass hasn’t procreated!” At that moment, I feel a hand on my shoulder. Without turning around, I say, “Since I haven’t laid my hands on this man, this had better be my bodyguard with his hand on my shoulder, because if it’s not, you’re about to have a bevy of attorneys on your ass.”

The hand quickly moves from my shoulder as simultaneously I hear Taylor’s voice say, “It’s not me, Sir.” I turn around to look into the familiar face of one Officer George Sullivan.

“Sullivan! You have got to be kidding me! They sent you?” I say with disgust.

“Mr. Grey, this is private property. You’ll have to leave,” he says, flatly.

“Are you the only cop in Green Valley? Is that why this whole thing has been swept under the rug all these years? Is that why the police department has failed to do their job and has allowed a group of teenage murderers to roam the street? Is that why Anastasia was made to suffer the physical and emotional pain and humiliation all these years? All to protect one person? All to protect Vincent?” I shoot. Sullivan is now turning the greenish-gray shade I previously witnessed on Whitmore’s face. “Oh, yes. I know all about it. You didn’t think I’d find out?”

“Mr. Grey, you need to leave,” he repeats, his voice shaking, and now I step to him.

“That’s fine. I have everything that I need now. And I’ve already warned you, I’ll pick this little piece of shit town apart until I get to every single person who is responsible for what happened to Ana—including your little brother.” I spit. I throw a look back at a sickly-looking Cody Whitmore and then make an announcement to the office.

“Congratulations, citizens of Green Valley. Your little city is about to be the most popular place on the map…” I look from Whitmore to Sullivan, “… again!” With that, Taylor, Lawrence, and I walk out of the office.

Las Vegas is a beautiful city full of color and lights. People come from all over the world to visit the Oasis in the Desert—Sin City—What happens in Vegas… you know the rest. Money is spent, and drinks are flowing, good food and gambling. There’s something for every taste in Vegas… and yet, I can imagine that the people that live there must be pretty miserable. Yes, it’s an oasis in the desert, but it’s just that… a desert! A barren land with barren people who muddle about in their barren lives. The only thing I found pleasant about Las Vegas… was leaving.

When we landed at McCarran Airport in Nevada two days ago, I couldn’t help but notice the view and wonder how it was possible for people to live there. All I saw was brown… dirt and sand. Gray buildings, no life. There were tall buildings off in the distance, but there seemed to be nothing vibrant anywhere. Nothing but desert…

Landing at SeaTac this beautiful early afternoon, I’m greeted with Puget Sound and the wonderful Pacific Ocean. Rows of coastal houses and businesses on beautiful green grassy hills surrounded by trees in full bloom. Here was a scene that spoke life when you saw it… and I’ve never been so happy to be home.

It’s about 2:30 Seattle time when we land, and I immediately take out my Blackberry and call Butterfly. Her phone rings, then go to voicemail. It’s odd for her to have Friday afternoon appointments and that’s the only time that she doesn’t answer her phone. Maybe she’s doing something with Grace at Helping Hands. I send her a text so that she’ll see it as soon as she’s free.

**Back home in Seattle. Can’t wait to hold you in my arms. Love you. **

Lawrence and Williams are putting our bags in the SUV when Taylor comes to my side. “Sir, I think there may be a problem.”

“A problem with what?” I ask, my eyebrows furrowed.

“Ms. Steele. I got a text from Chuck that just says, ‘something is wrong with Her Highness.'”

“Well, did you ask him what was wrong?” I bark. What the fuck is going on?

“Yes, but he doesn’t know. And this text is time stamped at 12:18… while we were in the air,” he responds.

“Shit,” I say, scrambling to get into the SUV. That’s why she’s not answering her phone. I pull out my blackberry to check my texts. Nothing. “What else did he say?” Taylor is scrolling through his texts.

“She left the office very upset and went back to her apartment…”

Her apartment?” I ask.

“Yes, sir, her apartment. She told Chuck to wait outside, but she went inside alone and locked her door. I’m waiting to see what else he says.”

“Williams, get us to Ms. Steele’s apartment. Quickly please.” What the hell has happened now?

“Wait!” Taylor exclaims, and Williams pauses. “She’s back at Escala. Still very upset, but Chuck doesn’t know why.” I run my hands through my hair.

“Get me home. Now!” I order, and Williams proceeds towards Escala. She was fine when I talked to her last night. What the hell happened? “Did Chuck say that anybody came to see her at the office?”

“No, sir, but I didn’t ask. I’ll ask him now.” I don’t want to alarm anyone trying to find out what’s wrong with Butterfly, but it is taking everything in me not to call every one of her friends and find out if someone has spoken to her today. “No unusual visitors, sir. She had two appointments this morning and was staying in the office to do some work. Suddenly, she got up and left. Chuck had to run to keep up with her and ran several red lights following her to the apartment. So, we’ll probably be getting some traffic tickets.”

“I don’t give a fuck about traffic tickets. I’m trying to find out what’s wrong with Ana.” The ride from SeaTac to Escala is only 20 minutes, but I swear it’s taking hours.

**Butterfly, please answer me. **

I’m racking my brain to figure out what’s wrong. If someone were hurt, she would have told Davenport. She wanted to be alone in her own apartment, and she locked him out. She’s upset about something, but nobody knows what it is, and from her behavior, she’s really upset.

“Sir… could she know?” Taylor asks.

“Know what?” I ask, bemused.

“Where we’ve been?” Could she?

“Who would have told her?” I ask. No one that we spoke to knew how to get in touch with her except…

“Sullivan?” Taylor suggests. It’s a possibility, but why would he tell her? He has more to lose by telling her than he would by keeping it a secret.

“That man was scared shitless. There’s no way he would have told her,” I say. Taylor shrugs.

“Maybe not, but I have a feeling that she knows,” he says, solemnly. I tell him to ask Davenport if there is any indication that Butterfly knows the details of our trip. Taylor confirms that there is no indication, but that doesn’t mean that she doesn’t know.

After the longest ride in the world, I burst from the backseat of the Audi SUV and sprint to the elevator, leaving my security staff behind. When I walk into the apartment, Gail greets me like everything is just fine.

“Well, hello, Mr. Gr… Mr. Grey are you okay?” she asks, obviously taking in my demeanor.

“Where is she?” I ask. Gail frowns.

“Who?” she asks bemused.

“Anastasia!” I bark.

“She’s here!?” Gail exclaims. I sigh heavily. I call Taylor who’s still in the parking garage waiting for the elevator. “I thought you said she was here!” I snap into the phone.

“She is. Her car is here, sir,” he says, calmly. I end the call and go through the apartment. This is a lot of space, but not that much, and I can’t find her—the bedroom, the library, my study, the playroom. I check the guest room and panic immediately when I see that most of her clothes are gone. Taylor is bringing in my bags when I come back out to the great room.

“Gail, did Ms. Steele take her things back to her apartment?” I ask, almost timidly. Taylor freezes in his spot.

“No, sir, she moved what she could fit to your closet on Wednesday,” she replies. I breathe a huge sigh and go to my closet to confirm that Butterfly’s clothes are still there.

Good. She hasn’t left me… but where is she?

“Sir?” Taylor’s voice interrupts my thoughts. “She’s on the balcony.” I quickly run to the balcony to see her standing there looking out over the city of Seattle, facing away from me, her arms folded. When I open the sliding door, she doesn’t move.

“Butterfly?” I say, stepping out onto the balcony.

“Hello Christian,” she says, her voice thick with tears. “How was your trip?”


A/N: Among his many titles Mercury was the Roman god of communication (the Greek is Hermes… and OMG here she goes with that damn mythology again!) He was also messenger to the gods, so he wore magical winged shoes that gave him super-godly speed.

You don’t want to miss Pinterest this time… that’s all I’m saying. http://www.pinterest.com/ladeeceo/paging-dr-steele/

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