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Sweet & Simple

What Life Ought To Be

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Family

Can’t We Just Be Happy | Chapter 26 I Want My Son

I do not own the Fifty Shades Trilogy or its characters; those belong to E. L. James. However, my characters do belong to me.

Chapter 26 | I Want My Son

GREY

“I have to tell you, I’m scared now.  The look on your faces has me on high alert.  Do I need to go get my boy? I’m a pro at enduring jet lag so if I need to leave right this second I will.”

“Yes.” I growl the simple one word answer.  He has to understand how serious the situation is.  I haven’t had time to talk to Ana about Elena and the things I learned before leaving Seattle.  We’ve been so caught up in our reconciliation then this family shit was dumped into my lap. I haven’t given the Bitch-Troll a second thought.

What about that phone call?

I’ll get back to that.

I’ll make sure of it.

No doubt.

Right now, how do you tell a man, your new-found, volatile cousin that your former confidante, and pedophile, is now molesting his son?

There’s no easy way. You can either give him the details now then send him off to get his son or you can just stress the need for him to get the kid and deal with the emotional shit later.

I know I don’t want to involve Mom or Dad in this mess.  I’ll have to call my legal team in Seattle.

And Taylor…

And Taylor, then there’s the fact the kid’s father wants to take him out of the country, which is definitely the safest bet.  My head is spinning, I think I’m going to be sick.

I forgot I wasn’t alone all this time, but when I hear, “GREY!” It snaps me out of my tailspin.  “What the fuck is the deal?”  As I start to speak he’s dialing on his Silent Circle Blackphone, putting his hand up to halt me.

What the fuck? Who the fuck does this prick think he is?

I look at Ana, “Do I do that shit?”  She raises a ‘now you know how it feels’ eyebrow and nods. I turn toward Everett and just stare.  If people think I bark, this fucker woofs.

“This is Brown 3. Get that fucking thing ready for me to leave. YESTERDAY DAMMIT!  When I say it, YOU do it.” Whoever it is had best arrange his transportation toot-sweet.

“Destination, SEA TAC. And I want to land in the fucking front yard, I pay enough for the shit.” Oh fuck, he’s getting outlandish now. “YYYEEESSS,” he hisses loudly, “you need to have the helicopter ready.  How the fuck else do you think I’m going to land in the fucking front yard?” I just shake my head.

There’s a slight pause then he makes a deep growling noise. Suddenly, “I DON’T GIVE A RAT’S ASS ABOUT THE FUCKING POLICE!  I WANT MY SON AND I WANT HIM YESTERDAY!  Get that flying fucker ready for me to get my son.  I’m on my way NOW!  FUCK EDWARD!”

Damn he’s a son of a bitch ain’t he?

“If you fucking defy ME, you’ll lose MORE than your job.  I’LL deal with Edward Brown.  If I have to buy the fucking plane from him to get my way I WILL!”  Then he hangs up.

WOW! I’m mildly impressed.

I know, me too, but I won’t show it.

Everett rubs his forehead so hard there’s a huge, red smudge left in the wake of his hand.  “Everett, I’ll go with you.”  I’ll have to brief him on the way.

“I’m going too.”  Ana jumps from her seat totally ignoring the disapproving look on my face.  She puts her hands on her hips and informs me “I’m going too Christian and that’s final.”  Everett smiles at the two of us.

Once again calm and collected, Everett tries to decline our offer. “There’s no reason to disrupt your lives for a quick trip to Seattle. Security says he’s running errands right now or I’d have them pick him up and hold him until I get there…” the look on my and Ana’s faces cut him off. “He’s in danger isn’t he?”  Ana and I both slowly nod as I spin Everett around and push him out the door.

“You’re in no condition to drive Everett, just get in the Audi and let me know which runway.”  He doesn’t give me any trouble, thank God.  He’s worried about his son and truth be told, so am I.


The flights from TSV to BNE and from LAX to SEA TAC are about two hours each…no big deal.  The time warp is from BNE to LAX, which is about 27 hours, give or take.

Ana tried to stay awake, but she fell asleep on the flight to LAX, which I knew she would.  Once I got her settled in bed, Everett and I went into the same emotionally charged conversation Emmett and I had over my childhood with and without my birth mother.

He was appalled, sorrow-filled and enraged all in one foul swoop. I knew it would be a lot for him to take in all at once and I’m positive he has unanswered questions. He had to know as much as I could tell him ahead of time. I didn’t want him to walk in and be completely blindsided. However, his, like Emmett’s, reaction was likewise a lot for me to take in. When all was said and done, we were descending into LAX.

I contacted Taylor to have the GEH jet ready to take us to LAX and I told him we needed covert surveillance on Elena and Christopher as well as all the other boys Welch tagged her with seeing.  Everett sent Taylor a picture of Christopher. Never loosing his professionalism, the brief pause on the phone alerted me to Taylor’s shock as we went through our final checklist.

We landed in Seattle at about 3AM. It took Sawyer, Taylor and I to persuade Everett not to take his helicopter, also readied at SEA TAC as instructed, and land in his son’s front yard as he had originally intended.  I understood his vehemence, but being arrested would put the kibosh on his soon to be custody battle with Chris’ mother.

I refused to contact Mom and Dad. Anyway, I’m in no mood to field questions I have no intention of answering. We all went to Escala for a sleepless few hours then I’ll force Everett to go to Grey House with me and Reynolds while Taylor and Everett’s security team intercept Christopher somewhere near his school.  Ana will stay at Escala with Gail and Sawyer to rest; plausible deniability.

“I’m not fucking interested in your fucking company Grey!  Now is NOT the time to show off!”

I’m sick of this motherfucker’s bullshit. I’m not his fucking underling and I won’t take-down to him or any-fucking-body else. I’m done being nice to this son of a bitch, “Look, Cousin,” that grabbed his ass, “I’m not interested in showing off.  I don’t have anything to prove to you or anyone else in the business world.  The only person I have to prove myself to is my fiancée and that’s none of your business.”

“Now you’ll bring your raving, fucking belligerent ass to my building and behave like the fucking loud, obnoxious, COO bastard you are or I’ll beat your crazy, arrogant ass like I would my brother’s!”  My fists are balled and little did I know, I’ve moved into Dom mode. His shit-eating grin breaks through my annoyance to makes me smile as well.  I know what he’s going to say before he opens his asinine mouth.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah…I know.”  He raises an ‘oh, you know what I’m thinking, huh?’ eyebrow and interjects anyway.

“Cousin?”

Whatev asshole.


“Christian, Everett I know you’re in a rush, but you have to eat something. Passing out during one of your egocentric adrenaline rushes won’t help anyone’s cause.”  Ana stands in the middle of the kitchen with her hands on her hips, tapping her toe while Everett and I look at each other and smile.

“Bossy lil thing ain’t she.” It’s obviously a statement, not a question as Everett gives his take on the situation at hand.

“I wouldn’t have her any other way.”  I smile and wink at Ana.

“Save it Grey, you too Brown.”  We wince at her use of our surnames.

“Baby, I’m not…”

She holds up her hand, much like Everett did, and finishes my sentence, her own way, “…gonna give me any trouble, exactly, neither of you are.  Now EAT!”  She points to the egg white omelets, bacon, toast, fruit and coffee sitting on the breakfast bar waiting for us.

As is becoming the usual and customary, we look at each other than at Ana and respond in unison, “Ma’am, yes ma’am.”

After breakfast and quick showers we each don our executive attire. I dress in a dark grey Canali, Fine Tonal Stripe suit, crisp white Canali Herringbone dress shirt with my Harrods Of London Mother of Pearl cufflinks, burgundy Harrods Of London Grosgrain silk tie and onyx black Kurt Geiger London, Grant Derby shoes.

Apparently Everett intends to scare the dog shit out of anyone he meets today. While it took a lot of coaxing from Ana, my dear cousin opted to buy a black Paul Smith London, Soho Windowpane Check suit, snow-white Paul Smith London, Contrast Cuff Byard dress shirt with Tateossian, Cabochon Onyx Round cufflinks and polished black Paul Smith, Berty Punched Oxford shoes from the clothier who met us at Escala in the wee hours of the morning. Ana had to fucking humiliate Everett to reconsider the Alexander McQueen, Knotted Skull cufflinks he saw, which was no easy task. All I could do was shake my head.

As we reconvene in the Great Room, Ana surprises us both when she asks, “Ok fellas, will Christopher come directly here or is he going to Grey House once Taylor picks him up?” I don’t want her involved in this mess in any way, shape or fucking form. I didn’t want to bring her with me so how in the Hell does she think I’m going to let her babysit this kid until we get home this afternoon?

NO FUCKING WAY!

Everett and I decided, somewhere during the time warp flight, to keep Christopher with us at Grey House until we finished the workday.  We intend to pick Ana up at Escala then all board the GEH jet to LAX. Our intention is to be between LAX and BNE before Christopher’s mother realizes he’s gone. It should be easy to do since the woman’s background check shows she’s not a suitable guardian for a house pet let alone a child, particularly a teenage boy, so neither of us sees a problem with our plan. The catch being how rested Steven and his co-pilot are. We may have to wait until tomorrow afternoon to leave, since neither of us wants to risk anyone’s life.

I let Everett run through our intentions. I’m very pleased when he stresses to Anastasia that Christopher will come to Grey House. “There’s no reason to burden you with him or any possible fallout accompanying our ‘acquisition reclamation’. Get your rest Love.  Besides, Christian and I need to speak with Christopher about just what the fuck is going on. If things are as bad as they seem, you don’t want to be subject to my histrionics and your fiancé’s ass-whipping as he and his Keystone Cops will, no doubt, attempt to restrain me from leaving his castle and storming to my Kirkwood estate where I’ll deal with Christopher’s mother in my own fashion.”

Ana shakes her head then softly reminds him, “You’ll only make a bad situation worse Everett and you know it. Don’t be foolish. Let security handle this as much as possible. Focus on getting Christopher back here then on to Townsville.” My baby handled the great, big mutherfucker as if he was a fine violin then she gives Everett an encouraging hug before we leave.


The trip to Grey House is silent.  Each of us is lost in his own thoughts.  I feel like an ass for not reporting that bitch years ago and an accomplice for not turning over the evidence we have on all the boys.  Welch assured me we didn’t have enough concrete documentation to convict her.  We also hadn’t worked out how to approach any of the boys, so she was only under covert surveillance.

We enter my building through the underground parking structure. As we exit the vehicle and approach the entrance I vaguely hear someone say, “Stop it Cousin.”  Huh, stop what? Without acknowledging his statement, I give Everett a questioning glance as we continue into the building.

Ignoring the shocked stares, gasps and butterfly fluttering eyelashes, we make our way across the lobby to the express elevator. Apparently my staff are in awe and getting an eye-full of Everett Rockhold-Brown and Christian Trevelyn-Grey together.

Makes you wanna laugh don’t it?

Hardly.

Once the elevator doors close I address Everett’s prior demand, “Stop what?”

As if addressing the elevator doors, his feet shoulder width apart, his hands crossed in front of him, looking military, but still nonchalant, Everett explains, “Emmett gets the same look on his face you had. I know immediately he’s chastising himself about something. It usually concerns you and Aunt Ellie.”

“You’ve explained the fact this disgusting whore is under covert surveillance while you gather evidence. I understand you don’t have enough information to make the authorities take notice and you didn’t want to risk tipping her off by approaching the lads involved with this menace to even the dregs of society. Logically, I understand it all.”

While his gaze remains focused on the polished, reflective, elevator doors , his voice changes, infinitesimally, to that of a disheartened parent lamenting the predicament of his child. “What I don’t understand is how Chris’ mother didn’t know and why she didn’t care where our son spends his time. How could she turn a blind eye to what he’s doing and what’s happening to our flesh and blood.” He shakes his head, as if to ward off a thought or wipe one away. I observe Everett very closely as he speaks about his son and now his son’s mother. If I don’t know anything else, I know people. There’s more than meets the eye with this situation.

I let the subject drop for the time being, but Everett’s not finished, “I don’t understand my son not talking to me.  I know I’m not here every day, but he’s talked to me about a lot of rabbit-ass crazy, kid stuff.  Why not bring this to me?”  He utters the last sentence so softly I almost missed it. He sounds defeated and the closer I watch him I can see he looks distraught.

I wonder if Emmett looked that way about his sister…and you?

It’s my turn to wipe away an errant thought, “I don’t know your relationship with your son Everett, but regardless, this isn’t something you run home to tell your folks. Believe me, I know.” He nods, recalling our conversation on the flight. “We’ll get him back, sit him down and talk to him about what he’s been through then see if he can tell Taylor and Welch how to contact the other boys. Once Taylor and Welch have the information they need, you, Christopher, Ana and I can go back to Townsville.  It’ll work out. It just won’t be pleasant.” I place a hand on his shoulder and he nods again, restrained and solemn. I’ve not seen this side of The Great Everett Rockhold-Brown. I don’t like what I’m seeing, although I can’t determine why.

Not now. We’ll toss it around later.

You’re right, there’s too much to do at the moment.

The elevator doors slide open to my direct reports standing in the foyer. Everyone at attention.  Andrea doesn’t miss a beat, “Good morning Mr. Grey, Mr Brown.

Mr Grey, I moved your morning meeting to tomorrow as you requested.  You have a 1:30 PM call with Taiwan and a 2 PM call with Mr. Welch.  The remaining End of the Year Reports are on your desk.  Would you like to schedule the Executive meeting for some time during your stay or will you be returning to Seattle at a later date?”

Everett looks at me and smirks.  Ok, ok, so I fired off some emails this morning about business.  Kill two birds you know.  I narrow my eyes at him as I say, “What?”

He narrows his right back at me and retorts, “Watch it!”  Our spectators grimace at the exchange, but neither of us take notice of them.

Fuck you Brown. I’m in charge here.

“My office is this way, unless,” I turn to look at Andrea over my shoulder, “Ms Bailey managed to commandeer it.”

“No sir, it’s still your office.”  She says proudly.  I wonder what kind of discussions they’ve had over my office.

“Thank you Andrea, that’ll be all for now.”  Andrea nods and goes back to her spot at the Reception Desk.  All this time people are looking at Everett and me like we’re lab rats on display.

After closing my office door Everett asks, “Do you deal with that eyelash batting bullshit all the time?” as he flops into the chair in front of my desk.

I turn on my computer, preparing for my day as I tell him, “You’d be surprised. I see them, but I don’t see them.” Turning to face him, I point out the obvious, “I only have eyes for my Ana.”

“No fucking wonder you like Townsville.  I mean, the office building is nice and all, but those women are a fucking nuisance.  How do they keep their jobs? Emmett and Edward would send them off to the gallows at first glance.”

Everett pulls out his phone, preparing for his business day, no doubt. “Those bitches are right up Eran and Emerson’s alley though.  I can let you borrow ‘The Bookends’ if you ever want to clean house.” He says with a huge smile.

I laugh only because I know he’s 100 percent serious.

Hmm, Ana wouldn’t mind that at all.

I know.

“I may take you up on that Everett.  I’ll let you know.”

“No problem Cousin” I shake my head and proceed to work.

Everett tends to EB business from his customized Silent Circle Blackphone with a converted and secured iOS, as opposed to the customary Android OS. He waits for a call from his son on his iPhone.  Apparently family and Christopher’s school administrators have his International iPhone number. Everyone else, including his son’s mother, contacts him on his Silent Suite secure line, which gives him the ability to record calls. Seems precise documentation is needed when it comes to Ms Yvonne Brenda Pope. He figures the kid’ll call once my security team approaches him.

I agree to let Everett sit in during my business call to Taiwan. The mutherfucker makes more noise about incompetence than I ever dreamed possible.

I already knew the P/L Report lacked information from the last two days. I planned to address the faux pas. However, when the Execs tried to give some weak-ass explanation about ‘the report being prepared a week in advance’, Everett beat me to the punch, which is rare, if not impossible. My dear cousin pointed out to the newly acquired Taiwanese executives they were full of shit. He proved himself by directing their attention to the document’s property information, which clearly stated the file was updated last night. He also reamed them for trying to take advantage of the time difference as an excuse for submitting the original report to me after its deadline.

Everett went on to remind them we each could read and make decisions regarding a P/L based on the first few lines, basically calling out their figures as elementary and riddled with mistakes, making the entire report null and void. Everett’s tirade went on to chastise my employees for what he unaffectionately referred to as ‘fucking kiss-ass fluffy shit’ in an attempt to draw attention away from their overall dismal performance. I almost lost it. I had to put the call on mute so many times it was ridiculous. It was comical.

They all but forgot I was involved once Everett started speaking, so I was able to take Taylor’s call and let Everett vent for a while.  It seemed to be a welcome distraction for him. “Taylor, give me an update.”

“We have the boy and we’re on our way to Grey House.”  Fine with me, but his ole man is gonna have a coronary. Reading my mind as he always does Taylor added, ”He didn’t have his phone with him. It’s the reason he didn’t call Mr. Brown.  We did a search of him and his belongings, much to his dismay, and verified he didn’t have the phone.” I see, Elena wants this one all to herself.

What’s so special about this kid?

Snapping my out of my pondering, I hear Taylor’s distress, “Sir, there was a tracking device found on young Mr Brown. We found it in the…the…um…” I know what he’s trying not to say.

“Let me help you Taylor.  There’s a tracking device in his collar?”  Taylor quietly, almost silently, releases his breath.  In his professionalism Taylor forgets who he’s talking to and what he’s talking about, which I can and do appreciate…greatly. “I understand Taylor.  I’ll let his father know you’re en route.  What’s your ETA?”

“Yes sir, we’ll be there in 15.”  With the way Everett is ranting and raving on the phone, that’s not enough time to explain why his son didn’t call and what Taylor found on the kid in private.  I’ll get a feel for the boy. Depending on how defensive he is, I’ll ease the information out of him in front of Everett. I basically prepped Everett on the trip over. I told him a lot, but that’s never going to be enough. This topic isn’t a casual conversation for those unfamiliar with the lifestyle.

“Thanks Taylor.”

When I re-engage in the thrashing Everett Brown, COO of EB, Pty is giving Soon Liu, the Executive Director of my new Taiwanese shipyard, I have to stop Everett from going through the fucking phone.  The nutty bastard even promised to stop off in Taiwan on the return trip just to kick someone’s fucking ass.

DAMN!  He’s worse than me. You can’t tell me I’m anywhere near that bad.

Hmm, you have your moments Grey.

Whatev.

“Gentlemen, gentlemen,” I shout. “Thank you for the enlightening information Mr. Brown.  Mr. Liu, please review the documents you provided, make the necessary changes then resend the report to me. Andrea will reschedule this meeting.  You and your team have two days Mr. Liu”. I say, trying to prevent a fucking walkout in my new acquisition.

“MAKE THAT 36 HOURS YOU INCOMPETENT ASS!”  I throw Everett a censoring glare, which goes completely unacknowledged.

“Um…Mr. Brown, we need to…”

This isn’t Everett’s show. He can save his fucking, crazy-ass bullshit for his own boardroom. Once again, Dom Grey steps into view, “As I stated Mr. Liu, make the updates and Andrea will contact you in two American business days.  Do you have any questions?”

“No Mr. Grey.  Thank you.  Goodbye” and the fucker hangs up on me.

“Père céleste me donner de la force” [1]

“Our Father in Heaven has nothing to do with their incompetence, Cousin.”

“Unless you can run a shipyard, stop berating my staff.”

“I can do better than those assholes with my dick in my hand.”  He mumbles.

“Tais-toi Cousin” that made him smile, anything to make the guy feel better. [2]

Face it Grey, it’s kind of nice having family around, ain’t it? Even if it is crazy-ass family.

I have a family.

Not like this one.

That’s for damn sure.

Thankfully, the intercom goes off, Andrea to the rescue, “Mr Grey, Mr. Welch is on line three and Mr. Taylor and young Mr. Brown are here in the reception area.”

“Tell Taylor to take young Mr. Brown to the Executive Boardroom then come back to my office. The senior Mr. Brown will tend to his son shortly.”

“Yes sir” she says.

I look over to see glistening, deep, blue eyes. It’s clear Everett wants to bolt from his seat. I soften my voice, simply because I can see the yearning and terror on his face, “Go to your son Everett.  I’ll let you know what I find out.” I don’t have to tell him twice, immediately he’s up and at Andrea’s desk.

Andrea sends Olivia to show Everett to the boardroom. I know this is a mistake, so I stand at my office door, which is uncommon for me, waiting for the show. Andrea sits up in her chair preparing to speak, I presume to see if something’s wrong. With my index finger to my lips, I shake my head to shush her the I mouth, “Wait.” Three, tw…

As they walk away I hear Everett bark, “If you’re gonna bat your fucking eyelashes at people use less mascara.  The shit makes your lashes look like fucking, creepy-ass tarantula legs.”

The laughter escapes my chest, “Shut up Cousin” I call after them.

Without missing a beat or turning around Everett shouts, “Retour à tu Cousin” [3] and laughs as they continue down the corridor.

I turn my attention to my stunned Personal Assistant and Head of Personal Security, “Come in Taylor.” Let’s get this shit over and done.


While Everett gets reacquainted with Christopher, Taylor and I hold a debriefing with Welch.  Basically there’s no more information than before I left the United States.

“Mr. Grey, if you can get young Mr. Brown to tell you anything it may help, but there’s no guarantee.  Taylor, you said the kid had a tracking device on him?”

“Yeah, it was in his…collar.”  Taylor best lose his inhibition. I guarantee this situation is going to get worse before it gets better.

“Ok Welch.  Maintain surveillance and we’ll get back to you with whatever Christopher does or even doesn’t say.”

“Yes Sir” he says and I end the call. I take a deep cleansing breath as I run my fingers through my hair. There’s got to be a way to tag this bitch. She has to fuck up somehow and this kid knows how.

Tracking device in the collar huh?  Why’s she got the kid on such a short leash?  Pun intended.

It’s my question as well.  Perhaps he knows a lot or even too much. At the risk of being arrogant…

Never stopped you before.

Fuck you.

No thank you. Now get to the point.  At the risk of being yourself, what?

I need information, I need it now and that kid is the lynch-pen in her whole monkey-works. “Taylor, let’s meet with Everett and his son.”

“Yes sir.”

Taylor and I get to the boardroom door in the nick of time.  Everett is more than berating his son. His shouts can be heard in the hall. Luckily, you can’t discern exactly what he’s saying.

If that bastard causes this to get out, I’ll beat his ass on the return trip then hide the body until Taylor can get rid of it for me.

My sideways glance at Taylor reminds me just how well he knows me. Taylor simply shakes his head, telling me to reconsider my plan. To drive his point home he speaks, “No way. Ana will have *both* our asses.” It’s enough to redirect my thoughts.

“Then the soundproofing on that room has to be improved.”

I know he’s relieved with my decision when I hear, “Yes sir.”

I open the closed boardroom door to a roaring Everett and shut the damn thing as fast as I can. “DAMMIT CHRISTOPHER!  What the fuck is going on! You can tell me when your mother gives you shit, school gives you shit, Hell, when the fucking silly-ass kids in the neighborhood and at school get on your fucking nerves, whatever that means to a teenager. But some OLD-ASS BATTLELAX wants to BEAT and FUCK you and you’re quiet as a fucking church mouse on Easter Sunday!  WHAT THE FUCK!? And don’t give me any shit about ‘you just wouldn’t understand Dad’ because that shit won’t work.  Now SPILL!”

I wave Taylor off through the floor to ceiling glass wall of the boardroom. He, ever so appreciatively, returns to his office while I see about my…family. What a fucking way to meet, ‘Hi Christopher, I’m your long-lost cousin who used to be molested by your now pedophile Domme.’

I look to the Heavens for help.  Dieu du Ciel, give me the strength to have this conversation. I lower the privacy screen on the boardroom walls then turn around to face the duo. Thankfully, Everett’s huge back has completely blocked the scene from passersby. [4]

I walk around the left side of the conference table and stop cold, ”Oh mon Dieu. C’est moi.”  My eyes have to be as big as saucers. [5]

The look on his face and snide tone in his voice say it all, “Bonjour Cousin, good to finally meet you.” [6]

He’s me…all over…my hair, my eyes, even the shitty scowl on his face.  It all screams Christian Grey. Still staring at my reflection I say, “Everett, your picture didn’t do him justice.”

An irritated Everett flippantly remarks, “What do you mean?”  Everett either can’t see it or he doesn’t understand the ramifications. Since he doesn’t know Elena, it’s the later of the two.

“I mean he looks more like me than either Emmett or Edward do.”  Everett squints his eyes then tilts his head from side to side.

“I guess, but that’s just you copper-headed pretty boys with those funny color eyes.  It’s no big deal to me, remember.”

“No, but it’s a big deal to her.  Ain’t it Kid?”  Christopher stares at me, like this is some kind of competition.

Oh yeah, he’s a special one.

“What does she call you Kid?”  A look of surprise sparks in his eyes, but he recovers quickly.

I guess he thinks he’s gonna shock someone because he gets a shit-eating grin on his face before proudly uttering, “Second.”

As sad as it is I still laugh, out loud.  My chuckle takes the grin right off his face.  “Really?  Second?  And you’re proud of that?”

I take it, from the now sour look on his face, he didn’t appreciate my making fun of his pet name.  Everett, looking very confused narrows his eyes at me and asks, “Just what the fuck is so fucking funny Grey?”

Unfazed by his expression or tone, I wipe the laugh-induced tears from my eyes and explain, “Everett, Cousin, the Bitch-Troll, as Anastasia so unaffectionately refers to her, gives her submissive pets names.  I was simply, Pet.  I’m laughing because, sadly, it appears Christopher is pleased with his name.  He fails to realize, one, having a pet name is degrading and two, his name implies he is second…to her favorite.” I narrow my eyes at my reflection.

Obviously displeased with my reaction, Christopher asks his father “Dad, are we staying here or are you gonna take me home?  I’ve got fencing practice in a few…”

“YOU’VE GOT NOTHING BUT TIME DAMMIT!”  Everett really needs to get control of himself. I guarantee this shit is going to get more emotional before it’s over.

“Everett, Taylor will take you and Christopher back to Escala?  Rest up and have something to eat.  I’ll let Ana and Gail know to expect you both. I’ll be there in a few hours.  I’ve got some more calls to make.” Everett nods his consent and I simply ignore the nasty look from his son.

That kid needs his ass kicked.

My sentiments exactly.


Buzz…Bu…

“Christian!  How did everything go?  Did you get Christopher?  Are you coming home?”

Even barraging me with questions, it’s absolutely wonderful to hear Ana’s voice and know she’s mine.  I immediately recall how I felt the last time I spoke to Ana while sitting in this chair, “Hey Baby, everything’s fine.  Taylor got Christopher.  I’m sending Everett and his son back to Escala right now.  I’ll be there in a few hours.  There are some calls I need to make.”

The line is quite for a moment.  I can feel the tension building when she quietly asks me, “Who do you have to call Christian?”  Ana’s not going to like this, but I have to do it.  Elena trusts me and knowing how fond she is of her Second, now I have some leverage.

I take a deep breath and sigh, “I need to call Elena, Baby.  I have to…” I knew she wouldn’t let me finish.  I barely got the phone away from my ear fast enough.  I’m glad as fuck I didn’t put her on speaker, not that there was a need.  They can hear her in Townsville.

“YOU’RE GONNA CALL THAT BITCH?!  Over YOUR dead body GREY.  Now you listen to me and you listen good, I don’t question you or tell you what to do, until now.  Christian Trevelyn-Grey, if you call that whore I’ll stay in Seattle.  You can go back to Townsville…alone.”

What the fu…I didn’t get to finish my thought.

“It’s up to you Grey, but if Everett and Christopher walk through that door and you’re not with them, don’t bother calling, texting, sending Sawyer, Taylor or anyone else to look for me.  You won’t fucking find me, I’m sure Kate will see to it”  then she slammed the phone in my ear.

FUCK!  The sound of the dial tone reminds me there’s no need to hit the End button.  Tossing the phone across my desk, I run my fingers through my hair.

When I look up, I see Everett in my office, leaning against the closed door, arms folded across his chest, a ‘she told you’ smile on his face, waiting for me.  As engrossed as I was in having my ass handed to me, it’s no wonder I didn’t hear him come in.  “Come on Cousin.  I need to cool down and you need to get home before I have to keep your fiancée from beating your ass.”

I guess my expression was less than receptive to his suggestion.  “You can narrow your funny-color eyes and tune up your pretty face all you want.  There’s no fucking way in Hell I’m going to let you save my son and ruin your future.  Besides Grandmom would fucking haunt us both.”

“Everett, I have calls…”  He cuts me off, finishing my sentence his own way.

“…that you can easily make from that lavish penthouse of yours.  Wait.  We need a solid game plan before you make contact with this…Bitch-Troll anyway.  It may mean another trip to Seattle, but if you don’t mind dealing with this, I don’t mind giving your Executives Hell while we sort out that pedophile.”  He looks gleeful at the thought of harassing my employees.

You know he’s right.  You need a strategy and you need Steele.  Get your sorry ass up and go back to Escala before you fucking regret it.

I get up and tell him, “Let’s go…Cousin” and we’re out the door.


“Nice digs Cousin.”  Christopher strolls into the foyer of my penthouse ahead of Everett and me like he owns the place.

SWAT!

“Hey Grey, what the…” the boy spins around expecting to see me behind him, after his father gives him a good, hard smack to the back of the head.

In a low, menacing tone Everett declares, “That female you’ve lived with all these years may not have introduced you to the concepts of etiquette and decorum, but times…they are a changing my boy.  You will behave with a lot of dignity or I will kick the shit out of you…a lot.  You are Christopher Ellis Brown and you will live up to the name.  Get it?”

Maybe Grace should’ve let Carrick light into you on occasion.

The world, will never know my friend.

Rubbing the back of his head and looking down at the floor, obviously chastened, Christopher mumbles, “Got it.”

“Good,” the conversation forgotten as Everett turns to me and asks, “Now, what are we having for dinner Cousin?”

I move ahead of Everett and Christopher and smile when, out of the corner of my eye, I see the boy still rubbing the back of his head.

Shut you the fuck up didn’t he.

We walk into the Great Room as I call out, “Honey, we’re home.”

“CHRISTIAN!”  Ana yells as she comes barreling through the Great Room and leaps into my arms.  She wraps her arms around my neck and her legs around my waist so tight, I don’t know if I want to fuck her or gasp for breath.  After a strong, but all too brief, kiss on the lips she pulls back and looks me in the eyes as she whispers, “Thank God.  Townsville is really too lovely a place to leave.”

“And here I thought it was me.”  I pout.

“Your smiling face, twinkling eyes and close proximity are also appealing factors Mr Grey.” She kisses me on the lips again then jumps down out of my arms to greet our guests.

“Hello Everett, I’m sure I have you to thank for bringing him home safe and sound” Ana gives Everett a hug.

Looking at the sullen teen standing beside his father, first Ana gasps then she says, almost in awe, “You must be Christopher.”

Christopher has that mischievous look in his eyes again as he smiles and offers his hand to shake with Ana, “Guilty as charged.”

SWAT!

Everett nailed him again.  No words are spoken this time, just a menacing glare from father to son does the trick.  The boy contritely changes his tune to correct himself, “Yes Anastasia, I’m Christopher.  It’s wonderful to meet you.”

Ignoring the parental exchange, my Baby greets the kid warmly, “It’s wonderful to meet you as well Christopher.  I’ve heard a lot of good things about you.  It seems your dad tries to keep you busy, even from overseas.”

Christopher gives her a knowing glance and nods his head, “He says it’s to keep me out of trouble.” then with a bit a sadness in his voice he mumbles, “I only wish it worked.”

Everett puts his arm around his son’s shoulders, in a silent promise to the boy that it’ll be alright once Christopher gets to Townsville.  At this point, my wheels are spinning as I try to figure out how to resolve this once and for all.

Everett ruffles his son’s hair then goes to one of the guest rooms to change into some comfortable clothes and Ana returns to the kitchen to check on dinner, leaving Christopher and I alone.

I find my way to the sofa, nose stuck in my BlackBerry.  It’s almost like old times until I’m reminded otherwise, “So, what was it like for you?”  The kid catches me off guard.  My finger stops mid-scroll through the emails I’m reading on my BlackBerry.

I shake my head.  Surely I heard him wrong.  Did he just question my relationship with Elena?  “Excuse me.”

He smiles like he’s got me between a rock and a hard place.  “You heard me.” He has the nerve to snap.  “What was it like for you, Pet?”  I guess he’s trying to impersonate his father by crossing his arms over his chest and raising he voice.  I’m sure he’s seen it work a number of times.

Not here sonny-boy.

This isn’t a fucking game Kid.  My time with Elena was nothing to brag about and I’ll be damned if I do the cock-strut with this little fucker.  “Christopher…” he cuts me off, just like his old-man.

“Second.”  He says with an impish grin.

“What!?”  I whisper in shock.

“I’m called Second.”

“And you’re proud of that…why?  You understand you’re Second to her favorite Pet, right?”  He furrows his brow and nods his head.

“And do you know who her favorite Pet was?”  I’m sure to reiterate the name Elena used to refer to me by, as much as possible.  His expression darkens and his eyes turn the color of storm-clouds as I watch him fight to maintain control.  I take it he’s had this conversation with his Mistress, possibly more than once.

“I know of him.” The boy finally growls.  “He can’t be all that if she let him go.” he says trying to mask his the disappointment at not being all that himself.

I shake my head and try to remember how I felt at his age, but the Dom in me will not be disrespected.  No matter what.  I bend over and get in his face, nose to nose.  The kid is tall, but he hasn’t caught up with me yet.  “He aged out, became her Dom then cut her loose.”  His eyes widen and I slowly nod my head to emphasize my point.  “Remember thatSecond.”  I snarl.


Airport Abbreviations

TSV | Townsville Airport
BNE | Brisbane International Airport
LAX | Los Angeles International Airport
SEA TAC | Seattle Tacoma International Airport

GREY

[1] Père céleste me donner de la force. | Father in Heaven give me strength.
[2] Tais-toi Cousin. | Shut up Cousin.
[4] Dieu du Ciel | God in Heaven
[5] Oh mon Dieu, c’est moi. | Oh my God, It’s me.

EVERETT

[3] Retour à tu Cousin. | Back at you Cousin.

CHRISTOPHER

[6] Bonjour Cousin. | Hello Cousin.

Can’t We Just Be Happy | Chapter 25 Relatives

I do not own the Fifty Shades Trilogy or its characters; those belong to E. L. James. However, my characters do belong to me.

Chapter 25 | Relatives

EVERETT

In the comfort of the TV room, with a tumbler of 12-year-old Johnnie Walker Black Label Deluxe Blend in my hand, I feel better. “Thank you Christian.”

“Certainly Everett.” He has a deep, pensive frown on his face.

“What’s wrong Christian?” I’ll let him take the lead here.

Quietly he asks, “What happened to Emmett while he was in jail?” Hmm…he starts with my father. Ok. I take it Dad breezed past that part. None of this is fun, but *that* subject is particularly painful.

“By his accounts, he spent the time fighting.”  Christian’s frown deepens.  “Face it, Christian, Dad’s a good-looking guy and twenty some odd years ago he looked even better.  A good-looking guy, obviously far from home, in jail would have some difficulties.”  I raise my eyebrow as I stress the word difficulties.

“He never told me exactly what did or didn’t happen to him. He only said he had to fight and keep his back against the wall. When he finally came home to us, he was a totally different man.” I can see him in my mind’s eye, thin, tired and terribly, terribly depressed.

“Dad…Hell, all of us, is demonstrative. We use our hands a lot when we speak, we pat each other on the back, shoulder, we punch and tackle, in and out of fun. Dad was the first one to hug you when you came in the door, pat your back in congratulations or pick you up by the back of the neck to get your attention.”

“After being in the States, he wouldn’t let any of us touch him, at all, not even by accident, without going batshit and lashing out at us. He went to several shrinks, but none of them seemed to help him. They diagnosed him with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, as if it took a degree to put a label on his actions then they left him to his fate.”

“It was Ellie who brought him out of it.” I smile to myself remembering her blatant dismissal of Dad’s attempts to keep his distance from her. “She would simply remind him that he hadn’t hugged her on any given day or climb up in his lap for no reason, other than it was what she wanted to do. She was the first person to get close to him.”

“Nothing has stopped his nightmares.” Grey raises an eyebrow, a silent request for more information. “The things the later learned that happened here, while he was in the US, and the things he went through personally, while in the States, converge on him, even now…when he’s asleep. It usually happens when he’s stressed or even angry. I believe he was a little of both after the “Family Feud” the other evening.” I shake my head knowing the part I played in the may-lay then I sigh heavily and continued.

“Ellie was born while Dad was away. Edward had the nerve to question her paternity, which pissed me off. Granted Dad travelled, but it’s not like it takes a million tries to get pregnant. I heard the fights and Dad explained it to me later. As bad as it sounds, Dad is always upfront with me.”

“Mom got sick just before Dad got home. He was actually the one who found her when she passed out, almost minutes before he walked in the door. When he got home from the hospital after Mom’s first night there, he went straight to Ellie’s bedroom and held her for hours.”

“Following Mom’s death, little by little, Dad opened up and told me about searching for you and Aunt Ella, as well as…a little bit about his time in jail. I always thought the stuff you saw on TV was bullshit, but Dad told me how the inmates perceived you dictated how they treated you.”

“My Dad is a quiet storm. He stays to himself and thinks. He ponders a situation and strategizes an approach. Often times, his quietness and patience are taken for weakness and inability, that’s how outsiders perceive him.”

“If Dad’s given too much time to think, he comes up with rather creative measures to approach a situation. He turns those arrangements into business propositions, leading to some particularly nasty take overs.”

“After his experiences in the United States those scenarios became especially cunning. Talking with Ellie and I enabled him to hone them to the situation as it presented itself.” I shake my head at how clever my ole man can be. “He’s calmed down a great deal over the years.”

Christian frowns when he says, “He doesn’t seem like the calculating type.”

“No, he doesn’t. People believe my father is weak-willed, soft…nothing. Businessmen think Edward and I are reckoning forces, which is a joke. I yell, curse and have temper tantrums. I can also create and execute a business model better than anyone, but to systematically choreograph and bring to a complete end another company, no matter its size…that, dear boy…is my Dad.” I say proudly.

“Edward isn’t even that good. He rules from afar, anymore. In his heyday, Edward was suave, sly and serial in his approach to business. He can still manipulate those who are foolish enough to try to engage him.” I reminisce about the fools Edward has left with nothing. Poor fuckers were luck to walk away with their manhood sometimes.

“Ellie thinks Dad learned his strategizing while he was in the military. He learned a lot of things there, but his more abrasive lessons were received during his residency in the Wayne County Correctional Facility.”

I take a long sip of my scotch. The smooth amber liquid helps wash down the emotions that bubble up whenever I consider all my father has endured. He’s the strongest man I know.

“Everett.” The tone in his voice brings me back to him. I look into those grey, sorrow-filled eyes. “Tell me about my mother, please.” He wants to know. Merci Dieu.

My voice shakes a bit as I begin. “Well, aside from those weird color eyes of yours, she looked just like you. I mean you’re her spitting image. You got those eyes from Great-Grandmom, Edward’s mother, I don’t know if Dad told you that or not.” He shakes his head.

“Aunt Ellie looked like her, thus you look like the two of them. No one knows where the blue eyes in our family came from. Edward always blames my mother for those, but he forgets Grandmom, his wife, had blue eyes too. Hers were just light enough that in the right light, they appeared to be grey.”

My physical description of Aunt Ellie matches what Dad told him at the family meeting. Dad is more eloquent than I am. I remember her as Dad described, but my verbal illustration can never hold a candle to his.

I tell Christian what I remember about Uncle Christian as well. Apparently Dad didn’t discuss him much at all, which is strange. They were pretty tight…still are as a matter of fact.

“Uncle Christian is treetop tall, still. You have his voice, that smooth, suave sound. I bet you can sing your ass off too can’t you?” He just blinks, a bit of a shocked look on his face. “I thought so. Your ole man is a fantastic singer. Dad and Granddad would get sour looks on their faces whenever Ryan even hummed or whistled, let a lone sang, around women.” I smile remembering the catty comments Dad and Edward would make about Ryan’s singing. I love my uncle very much. He’s been my only tie to Aunt Ellie for so long.

“He used to sing you to sleep.” The eyebrow raise causes me to explain. “Uncle Christian, or Ryan, Dad calls most men by their last name, would sing you to sleep.” He gives me a ’Yeah, right, sure he did’ look, but presses on.

“How old is everyone?” He sounds like we’re talking about a science experiment.

“Well, I’m the oldest, I’m 44, I’ll be 45 soon. Eran’s 43, Emerson’s 38 and Ella’s 24.” I smile at his interest.

“What about that Beckett character?” He snarls Liam’s name. Hmm. What doesn’t he like about Liam?

“Liam’s 30. He and Ellie were actually born on the same day, six years apart. Ellie’s had a crush on Liam from the time they were small. She always took the birthday thing as a sign they’d be together forever. Kind of girlie for my liking, but who am I to knock her theory. She tries to come off as gruff and hard nose, which she can be both and much more, but that’s not her natural persona. Ellie is a frilly little girl at heart. She just had the misfortune of growing up with a bunch of men. We kind of discolored her world so to speak. She managed to come into her own once she left for college.”

He frowns some more so I take this time to ask, “Why are you interested in Beckett? He’s no relation to us and he’s basically harmless.” My statement doesn’t seem to assuage his concern.

“He was abrupt with Ella at the Beach Party and I sensed it was because of me.”

“What did he say?” If that fucker hurt my sister I’ll kick his Yale ass all the way to Melbourne and back again.

“It was in Italian. I speak French so I don’t know exactly what he said. It was his demeanor and tone that caught my attention. When Ana and I introduced ourselves you would’ve thought I pissed in his face. Ella seemed heart-broken after he made his statement then stormed away.”

“Do you remember what he said? I understand it’s not your second language, but do you remember any of it?” Please let him remember this shit. I’ll break Beckett’s neck.

“I remember what he said, I just don’t know what he meant. He said, ‘Parleremo più tardi il mio Amore. Questa conversazione non è finita’ then he stomped off like a little girl. Taken out of context I don’t believe the sentence meant anything, but his behavior angered me. Ella was obviously embarrassed by his performance. She claimed she was alright so I let the whole thing drop, but I’ve been meaning to ask one of you about him.”

“You’re right about the sentence. He said, ‘We’ll talk later my Love. This conversation is not over’ my question is what was the conversation about in the first place. I’ll find out.”

“You’ll let me know won’t you?” Huh, appears Ellie does have a friend.

I wave my hand at him dismissively, “I’ll take care of whatever it may be. No need to concern yourself.” I realize a fraction of a second too late how flippant that sounded.

“Look, you may think I don’t give a fuck about her and that’s my fault because of my behavior, but aside from Anastasia, Ella is my friend. She was the only person who showed me this fucking city and she dealt with my shitty attitude when it came to Anastasia not being here.” There’s no mistaking the strength in his voice or the conviction in his eyes when he talks about Anastasia…and Ella.

“Before this familial funny farm opened, Ella was the only person who cared. She was even gracious enough to steer clear of Ana and I once my fiancée arrived, so don’t treat my concern like it’s some obligatory sentiment. If that bastard means trouble for Ella then I want to know about it.” He seems to have worked himself into a bit of a tizzy.

I slowly raise my hands in surrender, “Down boy, down. Good grief Charlie Brown. I thought Emmett had a short fuse. What the fuck happened to you?” All that just slipped out. FUCK! I’m not trying to piss him off. It’s good to see he gives a fuck about Ella. He looks like he wants to leap out of his seat. He’s even white-knuckling the tumbler of scotch in his hand.

“Look Christian, you can’t blame me for wondering. As shitty as you can behave, it doesn’t make sense for you to get yourself into a huff about a guy you don’t know over a girl who basically lied to you. Don’t get me wrong, your concern is greatly appreciated, but it’s a bit of a surprise.” He sighs. Poor guy, he’s just as confused about this situation as I am.

The look of confusion and…dare I say…pain on his face makes me remember what Grandmom told me.

This is what she was talking about Ev.

“She was right.” I say absent-mindedly.

“She who?” He snaps.

I sound like I’m in awe. “Grandmom, she told me, when you were small, you’d need my help and I should always be there for you.”

“Oh really…” His sarcasm showing through clearly…that’s enough.

“Watch it Cousin, that old woman loved you more than anyone on this planet could ever dream. She always said you were special, but not invincible. I’ll blacken one of those funny-colored eyes for you.” I growl at him. He doesn’t take down though.

“Special? What’s that supposed to mean?” Pompous ass.

“Christian, Grandmom had an innate sense of right and wrong, good and bad. She followed her gut instinct on everything and she was always right. She took care of you from the second Aunt Ellie stepped in the door with her little blue bundle. You were fucking adorable too. Has Dad shown you the pictures?” Christian nods his head, but there’s no emotion. I remember the day Aunt Ellie brought Christian home. It was almost like Christmas. My cousin was home!

“Christian, I’m gonna be honest with you ok?”

“That’s what this is all about isn’t it?” Asshole!

Deep breath Ev. Your here to answer his questions and tell him about the family. He’s one of you, so be prepared for goading, sarcasm and histrionics to a certain degree. It’s all for the greater good. If Emmett can get through this, twice, then…

Emmett is a better man than me. I haven’t worked up to that level of adulthood. I get just as pissed just as quickly as this fucker does. He’s looking at me like I’m some weak-ass executive he’s about to fire. You really want a piece of me Grey? You’ll have to work for it.

“It was just like Dad told you. Aunt Ellie was the princess of our family and you were the crown prince. I had no problem with it. Eran and Emerson have always been in their own world so it didn’t matter to them if you were here or not. By the way, don’t let it bother you, they feel the same way about me. They dote on Ellie though and I can’t blame them, she’s a wonderful little sister so she deserves it.”

You’re off topic Ev.

Oh yeah…um, what was the question again?

He asked ‘Special? What’s that supposed to mean?’ Get with it Everett.

Shut up, I’m busy.

“Grandmom saw something special in you…and me. I guess since we were each the first child…Hell, I don’t know. She would tell me how gifted and handsome you would be. She put emphasis on the pureness she saw in you. She stressed her sentiment that I must protect you in order for your pureness to be preserved. She felt an aura of goodness around you. She told me that one day you would need me and I should recognize the need because you would never ask anyone for help, not out of pride, it just isn’t in your nature. You don’t ask for help.”

“She said you were an old soul and would be very self-sufficient. She said you needed that to stay strong. She insisted you wouldn’t want to bother to anyone and you would always feel as though you could take on the world…alone.” He’s hanging on my every word.

“She would hold you for hours, Christian. Oftentimes she would cry, but she wouldn’t say why. I believe she missed you even though you were in her arms. She knew we would lose you. She never came out and said it, but if you looked, you could see it in her eyes. She mourned Aunt Ellie and she feared loosing you.” I have to take a deep breath before I can continue. I loved my grandmother deeply and I know it broke her spirit, not just her heart the last time Aunt Ellie left and took Christian with her.

“Grandmom would say things people thought were silly, especially Edward, but when I look back I can see exactly what she was talking about. She said you would struggle and at some point you would fight the world, even us. She told me something else Christian. It was very personal and if you don’t want to talk about it I’ll respect that.” His expression begins to change. He protecting himself, I can tell. Well, he definitely won’t like this.

“Grandmom said there would be people who would take advantage of you. They would cause you to doubt yourself, who you really are deep down. They might even turn you against yourself and it would be hard, but not impossible, to reach you, because you would want to be alone. You know, not ask for help. She didn’t say who would do this to you or how it would happen, she just said it would happen.”

“Was she right Christian? Aside from the customary business rivals, have you been used or manipulated?” He thinks for a long moment and I take another long sip of my drink. When he simply doesn’t respond, I take that as my cue to keep talking.

“Dad already told you about going back and forth to the United States. While he was gone, things here were an absolute shit-storm. Grandmom never forgave Edward for his behavior toward Uncle Christian or toward Dad for supporting Aunt Ellie’s decision to go to Harvard.”

“Grandmom believed if Edward had treated Ryan better then Aunt Ellie wouldn’t have left or at least she would’ve been more comfortable leaving you with us. Grandmom passed away before we received notice that Aunt Ellie’s body was found. My mother died just as Dad returned from the States. They say death comes in threes. It took three women from our home. So, Ellie was the new light in our family”

“Grandmom taught me, as I told Anastasia earlier, a woman’s presence dictates the light in a home. Good, strong women bring a vibrant light and animation with them. Weak women cause the light to haze until they find themselves then the light shines through. Evil women, however, cause light to dim and darken. They give off shades from grey to black and the murkiness of their soul dominates those within its reach.” He has a look of sincere understanding on his face and I know the answer to my prior question.

“What was Edward’s take on all of this? What about your brothers, they must have been hurt by the disappearance of their father, only to have their grandmother and mother taken from them. It must have caused some chaos for them as well.” Apparently he doesn’t know any truly self-absorbed individuals.

Not a bad thing.

“Well, Edward thrives on control. It’s his life’s blood. When Edward isn’t in control of a situation or when he’s wrong, God forbid, Edward lashes out, verbally and physically. He doesn’t fight first, but he will kick ass without taking names. Edward decided to have Dad declared an unfit parent; he took us away from him.” Christian nods he remembers this from Dad’s telling. Edward was trying to bring Dad to heel, but it didn’t work.

“Eran and Emerson don’t understand what happened with Aunt Ellie, Uncle Christian and you. All they know is one day you were all here and the next day you all were gone. They knew everyone was hurting, but rather than inquire about it or investigate it they brushed it off, became apathetic.”

“Like Dad told you, apathy is detrimental to a relationship. That’s what’s happened to them. To keep from thinking about or being involved in a stressful or confusing situation, they belittle it, act as if it’s not worth their time or effort then it doesn’t exist. It’s their defense mechanism.”

He looks at me questioningly. I hold up my hands in surrender again. “It’s true. It’s their way to avoid being hurt. They steer clear of misunderstandings and avert the unknown. When you swim in familiar waters you know how to handle whatever situation might occur, physically and emotionally.”

“They have their uses. The ‘Bookends’, as I call them, are intelligent and knowledgeable about a lot of things and they can work a business deal without batting an eyelash. Stress doesn’t touch them because they don’t acknowledge stressful situations. Just their ‘depth perception’ is limited. They aren’t bad guys, believe it or not, and I have a good time with them, but that’s about the size of it. ”

“I want to apologize for not recognizing you right off. I heard the elusive Christian Grey was as a shrewd businessman, entrepreneur and philanthropist. I don’t pay attention to what I unaffectionately call ‘rag magz’ so I had no idea what you looked like. When I got a glance at you the first thing I thought was that looks aren’t everything. Yeah, you looked like Dad and Edward, but that could simply be a coincidence.”

“What changed your mind?” He’s not going to like this either.

“Ellie did one of Dad’s jailhouse moves on you and apparently she drew blood. Our little Marine Biologist had the sample tested and compared with the Genetic Code Dad has on file. Later she told me about the background check too, but that was just a formality for Edward’s sake. She and Dad had conclusive evidence even before going to Edward.”

He’s white as a sheet, poor lad. “You people are…” I have to laugh.

“Ella told you about us didn’t she?” He shakes his head. “Oh come on, she had to tell you what she considers the Family Motto. She loves to freak people out with it.” He looks confused, but that’s just a symptom of information overload. “We really are a sneaky bunch.” He gives me an ‘oh yeah’ expression.

“So Ellie and Dad knew before anyone else. By the time she told me, I had already treated you like shit. I apologize for treating that way. Like you or not, I’ve had better home training than I let on at times. It’s all good in the business world, but not so good otherwise.”

“It’s no problem Everett. Anger is an emotion I understand perfectly and protecting Ella should be her brother’s number one priority. There’s nothing to forgive.”

“Good. Do you have any questions for me Christian? I feel like I’ve said a lot of nothing. I don’t know if I’m helping or just muddying the waters.”

“I’ll admit Everett, things aren’t as clear cut and dry as I would like them to be, but I have a pretty good understanding of what went on. Although we’re not married yet, I know Anastasia is my life. For Emmett to leave his home and family to look for my mother and me is really something. To find out what he lost, his sister, his children, his wife and his freedom for either of us doesn’t go unnoticed either.” I nod my head. At least he recognizes Dad’s sacrifices. It’s a start.

I look him square in the eyes and tell him, “Cousin, when you and Anastasia have children, please be careful what you say, even when you think the kids aren’t paying attention. Kids hear a lot and kids pick up on adult behaviors very well. Keep that in mind.” He looks stunned at me for giving parenting advice. I pray he heeds my suggestion. I’ve witnessed the aftermath far too many times.


We talked for a while, longer than I anticipated actually. I had lunch and dinner with he and Anastasia. It’s magical to see the two of them interact. Dad was absolutely right, she is his shield against the world and she doesn’t even know it. He does and I can tell, he’s not going to let her go…period.

“Thank you both for your hospitality.” I say to Anastasia and my cousin. “You must come to my place for dinner sometime. My son will be here soon and…”

Just as we clasp hands to shake he freezes and says, “Your son?” Oops, didn’t I mention Chris did I?

“Yes…” I say slowly, “my boy. He should be here for holiday. I’m trying to get full custody of him. He’s a good kid, you’d like him.”

I’m a bit puzzled at Christian’s reaction. “Anyway, the two of you should come by my place for dinner whether he’s here or not.” Christian hasn’t said a word and his expression is still one of disbelief.

“What? I’m old enough to have a child. What’s the problem?” I’m no spring chicken even I know that. Guess I’m not the jet-setting playboy he thought I was.

“You never mentioned him, why not?” I didn’t think it mattered actually. This was about Christian, not Christopher.

Guess he’s more into family than you thought.

“You don’t seem the type to discuss children or child rearing so I didn’t bother. Do you have any questions about my boy? I’m not ashamed of him. I’ll answer you.” Christopher has brightened many a day for me. He’s brought Dad and I closer together as well.

Granddad Emmett is a sight to see.

As Christian is still stunned, Anastasia speaks up. She knows when to step in and take point for him. “Tell us about him Everett.”

“His name is Christopher, Christopher Ellis Brown. He’s an only child, the last time I checked at least.” I mumble the last part. “He’s my only child anyway. He’s fifteen, goes to Bellevue High School. He’s on the…”

Out of nowhere Christian bellows, “BELLEVUE HIGH SCHOOL?” I know my eyes are the size of the salad plates. My mouth immediately goes dry. I simply nod.

“As in Bellevue Washington, in the state of Washington? In the United States of America?” Now his eyes are wide.

“Yes.” I manage to rasp out. “Is there something wrong? It’s a good school and a great area to live. Dad’s security is different than Edward’s old fucked up bunch and they…”

He lowers his eyes and puts his hand to his forehead. “Security wouldn’t know about this. FUCK!” Then, all of a sudden, he stops breathing. The sound from his throat is almost a death rattle. “What’s his name?”

“Christopher. Do you know my son Christian?”

Anastasia looks up at him and with worry in her voice she asks, “What is it Christian?”

His mouth presses into a firm, straight line as he looks at Anastasia and utters one word…a name actually. “Elena.”

I look at Anastasia and see the color drain slowly and dramatically from her face. She looks at me with undiluted fear in her eyes. Now I’m pissed. “I would appreciate it if either , or better yet, both of you tell me what the fucking hell is wrong and don’t try to give me any shit about my question or my tone GREY!”

Christian combs his fingers through his hair and asks, “Do you have a picture of your son?”

I reach in my wallet and snatch out his most recent school photo. He’s wearing one of the suits I bought him. I toss it to Grey, “Here…Now what the fuck is this all about?”

“How involved are you in Christopher’s life Everett? How involved is his mother?”

“Well, I, unlike his mother who lives a stone throw from the school, am present for all of my boy’s firsts. I make it to Rugby matches, Fencing matches, even Track meets when he gave that a go.”

“His coaches and teachers know how to contact me directly. I got an American cellular phone service so no one has to worry about country codes and the like. They call me on all issues and I ask for at least 36 hours notice when it comes to conferences or official school business. Since the school publishes its calendar well in advance, it’s not difficult to arrange to be at any and everything. His mother is just a money-grubbing whore who sees my boy as her meal ticket.”

“In Washington State, children have no voice concerning which parent they prefer, that’s one of the reason’s his mother moved him there. I’ve promised Chris I would bring him home with me as soon as I can arrange it.”

“I’ve also told him to be ready for a fight because it won’t be pretty. He claims he understands and will help me any way he can, but I don’t want him involved in my mess. Security is watching him and his mother. They have plenty of dirt on her. I make surprise visits just to keep Chris on his toes. His mother is shoddy and doesn’t know that he skips school or that he only goes so he can participate in the sports matches.”

“He’s working with a community service group as a part-time errand boy for various people in their neighborhood so I’m hoping that will keep him out of trouble. Things were rocky for him when they first moved, but he’s straightening out fairly well. He’s a kid after all and I have to keep in mind how I was at his age.”

Neither Christian nor Anastasia look comforted by my information. “I have to tell you, I’m scared now. The look on your faces has me on high alert. Do I need to go get my boy? I’m a pro at enduring jet lag so if I need to leave right this second I will.”

A tear slips down Anastasia’s cheek and Christian looks at me through narrowed eyes filled with malice. His single word makes my blood run cold, “Yes.”


EVERETT

Merci Dieu| Thank you God.

Can’t We Just Be Happy | Chapter 24 One Down

I do not own the Fifty Shades Trilogy or its characters; those belong to E. L. James. However, my characters do belong to me.

Chapter 24 | One Down

GREY

While I wasn’t expecting a call, I really wasn’t expecting this one. “Hey Lil Bro! How’s things Down Under…there?” I shake my head. Forever Elliott.

“Things are good Lelliott.” I love calling him that. I can hear him wince every time. Aside from knocking him on his ass, which I can do and have done, calling him Lelliott is a sure way of bringing him down a notch or two.

“Whatev Chris. Anywho, ‘I just called…to say…I love you…” I didn’t get the phone away from my ear fast enough. I had to hear him murder Stevie Wonder’s song. He sounds like a wolf baying at the Moon.

“DAMMIT LELLIOTT! Stop! You’re ruining a beautiful song and making my ears bleed!” He stops as suddenly as he started and now I get the mock boo hoos.

“WAAAHHH!” Sniffle, sniffle…he goes so far as to blow his fucking nose. REALLY Elliott? He must be in a particularly good mood to go this far. “You…you…you don’t like my…my…singing…WAAAHHH! I’m gonna tell Mom you made me cry Christian!” Sniffle…

Dom-time “Elliott,” I bark, “let it go. It’s obvious you’re either drunk or just got the fuck of your life to put you in this good of a mood. To what do I owe the dishonor of your singing?”

“Well,” he peps right up “actually, I was thinking I could come visit. Mia wants to come with, but I wanna go Babe-Hunting so I told her it would be a guy’s weekend, then she reminded me Ana was there so she told me to ask if she could come too.”

Cher Dieu, NON! There’s no fucking way in Hell they can come visit. I can barely keep my mind straight enough to work, there’s no way I can entertain them and I refuse to put Ana in that position. She’s been my rock through all of this. She has her hands full being my fiancée fuck the Brown Family bullshit. NO! NO FUCKING WAY!

“Elliott, that’s not a good idea, maybe sometime, but not right now.  Ana and I have been dealing with a lot and…”

“Nuff said Lil Bro. I was only half serious anyway. I figured this would be time for you and Ana to get your shit straight.” Whew…Merci Père céleste.

“Thanks Elliott. Really, thanks a lot.” The relief is more than clear, even to my own ears.

I know, he thinks he understands.

“Ok, so no sunny climes. How trix? Ana treating you ok? I’ll come down there and tickle the shit out of her if she’s not” always the ray of light.

“She’s good, better than I deserve really.” I mumble the last part to myself. “We’re getting along. No horrible fights or anything like that. I’ve asked her to marry me…”

“AGAIN? You already asked her dick-head. Are you trying to make guys all over the world look bad or did she give you what for when she got there and you had to ‘beg and plead for her sim-pa-thy…” there go my eardrums again.

“Elliott” he’s still humming “Elliott.” He’s got to be the only person alive who can’t sing Mary Had a Little Lamb.

“ELLIOTT!” Whew! Finally…silence.

“YYYeeesss Lil Bro.” You can hear the smile in his incapable of carrying a tune voice.

“There are laws against caterwauling, being a public nuances as well as disturbing the public you know. And if you check with Dad, I’m sure there’s a law or two about decimating songs. I’m sure The Temptations will be all too willing to swoop in from Motown and beat the shit out of you.”

“What? I like Ain’t Too Proud To Beg. I did a good job with that one…” I shake my head “…didn’t I?” NOPE!

“N…” He cuts me off in his stupid way.

“No doubt? Thanks Bro, I knew you loved my singing.” He gets quiet for a moment. So quiet I’m just about to check he’s still on the line when I hear, “All joking aside Bro, how are you? You sounded real down during that call you had with the family. Mom and Mia said you called for Dad a few days ago, but I was sure that was just an obligatory ‘Get Your Ass Handed To You’ call. I’ve had those before.” I can hear him cringe. We’ve both dealt with Dad’s brand of long distance discipline so I know he understands.

“Yeah, something like that.” I don’t want to lie to him, but I’m not exactly prepared to give him all the gory details yet.

“I figured as much. So…” Here we go, the real reason for his call. Mom and Mia put him up to this, bet. Miss Kavanaugh probably had a hand in it too, due to her concern about Ana. “When are you two lovebirds bringing your asses back here so we can get your marital situation secured? You know, so you can stop living in Sin, Mom’s expression not mine. Mia’s looked at every bridal magazine the state of Washington sells. She’s considering having a few French magazines sent here.”

Oh merde.

“Elliott look…” but he’s quick to cover his tracks.

“Chris, man, if you all want to live together forever it’s fine by me. Your mother and sister have been on me about calling and putting some ‘brotherly pressure’ on you to ‘make an honest woman of Ana’, again, their words not mine.”

“Between you, me and the telephone company, like I was trying to tell you, I asked Ana to marry me right now…right here…in Townsville. She hasn’t given me an answer, but she agreed to start looking into wedding plans.” Again, the line is quiet for a minute, which turns into five then twenty-five. This has touched him somehow. “Elliott, are you still there?”

“Yeah I’m here Christian, just stunned I guess. I mean…I knew you wanted to marry Ana in a rush and we all thought she was pregnant, which she obviously isn’t. I’m wondering why you’re so stuck on Australia? When are you coming home? I mean to stay.” Point blank, not the Elliott Grey I grew up with that’s for sure.

“Mom and Mia miss you two like all Hell, I’m beginning to feel like chopped liver. Dad won’t come out and say it, but I can tell he’s worried about you. I’m at a loss.” He’s on a roll so I just listen. He needs to get this out.

“I mean, I want you and Ana both to be happy. If you tell me your happiness is in Australia then so be it. Just know, folks are falling apart around here Chris.” I sigh. I’d like nothing better than to be able to confide in my brother, but Elliott’s mouth runs faster than Niagara Falls, there’s no capping it.

I have to approach this topic with care. “Elliott, like I told Anastasia and Mom and Mia, I don’t know when or if I want to return to Seattle. I may have to be there for business and I’ll spend time with the family when I’m in town, but to move back…I can’t say when or if that will be.”

Before he can jump in I continue, “I made it clear, Ana isn’t my prisoner. She can come and go as she pleases and I’ve told her exactly that. She and I spoke with Ray and he knows she’s here and that I want to get married now. No offense, his is the only opinion that could affect our marriage, because he means so much to Ana.” Done. My stance is taken and out in the open…sort of.

I wait as Elliott mulls this over. Elliott’s not slow by any means, unless it’s for dramatic effect. He can be mindful of other people’s thoughts and feelings when he wants to, so, when it counts, he chooses his words very carefully before he speaks, unless it’s one of his stupid ass jokes, which materialize out of nowhere.

“Chris, what happened?” His voice has a tone I haven’t ever heard before. He sounds almost, hurt. “I know you keep things from us and since you’re an adult no one ever challenges you. I’m not trying to start an argument, I just want to know what happened to cause you to leave Seattle and not want to come back.” I’m shocked, truly shocked at his no nonsense approach. I’m not mad I just didn’t think he had it in him, at least not toward me.

My silence gives him cause to continue, “I’m thinking back to how things were after you dropped out of Harvard and took off for parts unknown. I told Ana a little about it to try and explain how serious it was for you to simply leave.”

“I know you Christian. You have temper tantrums, but not like this. You get bitchy and tear shit up, but you don’t just leave. What is it? I may surprise you and actually be able to help.” Again, I’m floored. I didn’t believe Elliott paid any more attention to me than a fruit fly. I never believe he noticed me unless I was in trouble or causing trouble because it took the spotlight off of him, for a while.

I clear my throat, stalling for time to settle my mind. I need to be just as thoughtful as he was. “Elliott, thank you for noticing and thank you for asking, but I’m not going to answer and I’m sure you knew that before you asked. I love all of you and I miss you. I’m not trying to hurt anyone, please believe me.” The last thing in the world I want him to take away from this conversation is sorrow.

“I will tell you this Lelliott, I feel stifled in Seattle. I’m ignored here, until I get into a business negotiation or a conference room full of suits, of course. No one and I mean no one here gives a shit who I am, not even to brown-nose me. I’m not trying to be arrogant, Elliott, but do you understand what that means to me?” If that were truly the only reason I came here, it’d be a believable one.

“I have to admit I understand the words you’re saying because I know how people are toward you, but I don’t understand wanting to blend in only because I’m not in your situation. I live a low-key life Bro, even with all the girls I live a low-key lifestyle so, no, I don’t understand where you’re coming from, but yes, I understand what you’re saying.”

“Keep in mind Christian, Mom and Mia don’t care about how many people hound you or how many women fall at your feet, they just want their son and brother back home.” He sighs into the phone sounding defeated.

“I can appreciate that and I’ll see what I can do to lessen their anxiety, but I can’t lie by promising to come back to the US then not show up, they’d hate me for sure.” I won’t string them along.

“So, you’re not gonna tell me what’s going on.” It’s most definitely a statement, not a question.

I shake my head, forgetting he can’t see me. “I can’t Elliott.”

Just like that, good ole Lelliott is gone, “Oh you can, but you won’t because you don’t trust me.” Damn, now he’s offended. I think back, quickly, I don’t think I’ve ever offended Elliott.

Wouldn’t you be offended if you wanted to help him and he wouldn’t let you?

He can’t help with this. It’s ugly and painful and I won’t drag him into it.

He’s a big boy Grey. I have a feeling he can handle a lot.

He’s never been faced with this and you know it. I won’t taint his heart and mind like that. I won’t.

Having made up my mind to shut Elliott out I respond, “You’re wrong there Big Bro. This isn’t about trust, it’s…”

“BULLSHIT GREY! You’ve never trusted anyone enough to let them into that precious life of yours! Least of all your family…your brother. That’s fine though, fucking forget about it! I’ll let Mom and Mia know you said ‘hey’.” and he ends the call. DAMMIT!

“I wish I could tell you Big Bro. I really do”, I whisper to the empty room.

STOP!

Stop what? What the fuck are you going on about now?

I’m going on about, this is one of those situations you’d take to the Bitch-Troll that’s what I’m going on about now. That child-molesting whore is the reason your mind is in this condition.

No she’s not. She…

Go ahead, say it. Tell me how ‘she helped you’ then I want you to get ready for the worse nights of your life because I’ll leave you to the nightmare demons and monsters forever.

It’s time to get a few things straight. That bitch abused you. You were so used to being abused and didn’t recognize her actions for what they were. You wanted to fuck someone and her pussy was as good as anyone elses. You’ve said it yourself lots of times, had she been a whip-welding fifteen-year-old hottie you’d have let her tie you up and whip your ass for a good fuck. Lincoln just got to you first. She didn’t help you Grey, she made a bad situation worse and she solidified it by dangling her ass in your face; literally

Where is Steele? You need to take this shit to her.

I already know what she’ll say.

Do you? What will she say?

“She’ll agree with you in spades. She doesn’t understand my dark side. She sees the good in everyone and I love that about her. She can’t act as though I’m not dark or a monster forever…”

“Yes I do and yes I can because I know the truth.”

Huh? What the…shit! I said it out loud.

I guess the look on my face is giving away my thoughts because Ana says, “Yes Christian you said it out loud and yes Christian I heard you. Baby, have you hid anything from me? You’ve told me about your childhood abuse, your adolescent behaviors, your sexapades and the reason you chose the women you chose. What else is there Christian?”

I open my arms for her, but this time Ana doesn’t come to me. She shakes her head and slowly walks up to stand in front of my desk. “What else is there Christian? Why are you so Hell bent and bound to believe you’re some kind of monster?” Standing there, in front of my desk with her arms crossed and her brow furrowed, she looks like a fucking Domme.

“There’s nothing new Ana I just know me, the real me, and I don’t want to share that with my family, ever. I’m not proud to have shared it with you, but you have to know. It’s unfair for you not to have an idea about the man you care about. The man who wants to share his life with you. It doesn’t make me feel warm and fuzzy inside having that shit on your mind and I’m the one who put it there.” I rub my hands over my face.

I don’t understand why she’s here. I don’t understand why she wants me. I don’t understand how she can love an evil demon like myself. I must disgust her. I don’t see how I can’t.

“Christian, STOP IT DAMMIT!” I’m surprises by her outburst; that’s not my Ana.

“I’m a big girl. I can come and go as I please. I can love and not love as I see fit. Not you, Kate, Jose or anyone else can dictate who I love. Do you want me to leave Christian? Are you tired of me?” What the fuck? Has she lost her mind? My heart actually stops just hearing the words.

“Oh my God NO Anastasia! What in the fuck would make you say something like that? I love you Baby! I can’t live without you.” The fear in my voice can’t possibly match the fear in my heart. “Please don’t leave me Ana…please.” I’ll beg at her feet if she wants. Anything to keep her from leaving me.

She walks around the desk and opens her arms to me. I grab her around her waist and bury my face in her chest. She cradles my head then slowly and gently strokes her fingers through my hair. “I love you Christian,” she says after kissing to top of my head. “I will always love you. Please believe me.” I feel her kiss the top of my head again.

“I’m trying Baby,” I say as I lift my head. When I raise my eyes to meet hers I see her beautiful blues, filled with tears again. Tears I’ve caused her to shed. “Baby, please don’t cry especially not for me. I’m trying, it’s just hard. I’ve wanted someone to love me all my life. I wanted to love someone all my life and it just never happened. I’m afraid I’ll wake up and this will be some wonderful, horrible dream. I’m afraid I’ll wake up and that interview never happened. I never met you. I’ll go back to Escala to Gail and Taylor and…” I bury my face in her chest again, unable to finish my sentence.

“Your subs.” She states, matter-of-factly.

I squeeze her tightly and nod my head. I don’t want to go back there, ever. She knows my fears, she’s seen my nightmares and she’s still here.

She loves you putz.

I know that’s what she says, but it’s like saying e=mc2. It’s true because I’ve been told it’s true, but how do I really know.

“Baby, Everett’s here to talk with you. If you’d rather, I can ask him to do this some other time.” I shake my head, still safely buried between her breasts. I might as well get this shit over and done with. I’ve put it off all week. I guess it’s time to face some more music.

“No Baby. We both know this has to happen.” I look up at her like a lost child, “Doesn’t it?”, if she says it does then I’ll do it.

Those magnificent ocean blues gaze down at me as she confirms, “Yes Baby, it does, but only when you’re ready.” As she strokes my face, I lean into her touch and calm immediately.

I take a deep breath then tell her, “I’ll be out in a minute or two.”

“Would you be more comfortable in here?”

I look around my study. While this is where I conduct business, somehow it doesn’t feel right to discuss my personal life here. It’s too much like a home court advantage and I’m not looking for that with this subject. I look up into her baby blues again and tell her, “No, I’ll be out. Talking in here is tantamount to the Brown Family Home and I have no intention of darkening that doorway ever again.”

She nods her understanding then takes me by surprise, as only Anastasia can, “You do understand you’ll have to go back there when you talk with Edward, don’t you?” Huh? Who the fuck said I was going to talk with Edward? He had his chance at the Family Fiesta. He let Everett goad me and forced Emmett to bear his soul. What the fuck gives her the impression I’m going to talk with Edward?

“Christian, as much as I know you don’t want to talk with him, not only because it’s indelibly seared in your eyes, but also because of what occurred the last time, unless he agrees to come here, which I doubt he will or you’ll even consider inviting him, you’re going to have to speak with him. His home is a secure place to have a conversation like this. I’m sure of it.” Sensible, sensitive and sincere, that’s my Ana.

I stand, then lean down to kiss her forehead before telling her, “We’ll see Baby, first things first. Is Everett in the living room?”

“Yep” is all she says as she marches out of my office to lead the way.

“Well, here goes.”

EVERETT

Ok Ev, it’s now or never.

Why does never seem rather inviting right now?

Because you never thought this day would come and you aren’t prepared. Just remember what Grandmom told you about helping him and you’ll be fine.

Easy for you to say.

I’m caught off guard bickering with myself on the way to Christians’ when my phone rings. “Brown.”

“Hello Son, are you on your way? Remember him and punctuality.” I laugh. Dad keeps Edward waiting on purpose, just to piss him off. He always makes it look like an accident or carelessness. Now here he is, lecturing me about getting to my cousin’s place on time.

“Yeah Dad, I’m en route. To what do I owe this call? A little pep talk,” God knows I need one, or is this my preliminary reprimand?”

“A little of both Everett. I want you to tell him everything you remember, everything you know and how you know it.” He sounds desperate. Since the family mêlée Dad’s been fanatical about Christian knowing everything and that knowledge has to be the undiluted truth.

“Dad, are you sure about that? I mean, he seems to be very much like you and I remember how you felt when I finally opened up. Are you sure he can handle something like that?”

“He has Anastasia. He can handle anything the world brings to his doorstep as long as that wonderful woman is by his side. Be certain to offer her the opportunity to stay during your conversation. She’s a very gracious girl so she’ll probably decline your offer, but be sure to extend it nevertheless. If things get out of hand she’ll be there to help calm him down and she may have to take the lead from that point. Just don’t stop until your narrative is absolutely finished and don’t…leave…anything…out.”

“Alright ole boy. You’re the boss on this one. Is Christian going to meet with Granddad at all? You know the ole man is chomping at the bit to get to him. He’s a tad offended you and I are speaking to Christian before him.” I say with a chuckle in my voice. Serves the old bastard right. Ellie tried to tell him not to assault Christian, to let her converse with him and Anastasia, once she got here.

Dad’s laughing now too, “Well, Edward’s feelings are of no consequence at this point. It’s all about Christian now. He decided to speak with us of his own volition. One day your dear Granddad will learn such a thing exists and honor it. Get going Lad. Give the Lovebirds my best will you?”

“Will do ole man.” He laughs again then ends the call.

Dear Dad, our father is stoic and loyal to family regardless of their proximity. Granddad is smooth and suave with his intimidation, but Dad…HA! People think because he’s quiet and not interested in being out in front of the pack that he’s weak and useless, quite the contrary.

Dad is sensitive, just like Grandmom. Ellie gets it from him. Dad was never more relieved in his life than when Ellie confirmed Christian Grey was our Christian. His elation was short lived due to Edward’s rather blatant faux pas at that damned Brunch, which I’m glad I missed. Edward seems to believe Grey is stupid because we didn’t raise him. Some things are innate. Some intuitions, gut instincts, don’t come from a nurturing environment, they come from your core and Grandmom is at his core.

Anyway, when Grey called last night I was ready to run to his house that second, of course I didn’t. I didn’t want to and I don’t intend to press him. I just want to get to know him. I’ve missed *so* much; we all have.

As I enter the property I am surprised he doesn’t have security around this place then I remember he told Ellie he didn’t feel it was necessary because no one seemed to care who he was. That is due to Dad’s security detail. Talk about a fanatic. Dad’s security team, unlike Granddad’s before them, has been impeccable for as long as I can remember. I know for a fact Dad wishes we had these guys when he was looking for Christian. I shake my head just thinking about it. I ring the doorbell, only to be greeted by the beautiful Anastasia Steele.

“Hello Anastasia. I would never have dreamed you would answer the door. Is everything alright with Christian’s staff?” She furrows her brow and looks at me as if I were speaking Dutch, then a spark of understanding appears in her eyes.

“Oh, no, everything is fine. We, I mean Christian, opted not to have staff here. He’s been taking care of this place on his own.” She smiles proudly. I have to remember Anastasia didn’t come from wealth and isn’t impressed by it. No doubt Grey tending his own needs is of far greater value in her eyes.

“That’s wonderful Anastasia, just make sure he gets the dust webs in the corners of these high ass ceilings.” I point and look up to see…there are none. “Oh, I guess you have him under control.”

“Christian pays close attention to detail all on his own. I don’t allow him in my kitchen though. He can’t cook to save his life.”

“I’ll keep that in mind. Where is The Christian Grey anyway?” She cringes at my use of his title. “I apologize Anastasia, I meant no harm. I take it you’re not impressed by his title?”

She shakes her head, “No I’m not. It’s cold and callous and whoever came up with it should be fired. People who know Christian understand how horrible that title is. He doesn’t say it, but I believe it hurts his feelings every time he hears it.” She looks a bit sad as she tells me all of this. She’s rather instinctual herself; an impressive character trait.

“I’ll bear that in mind Anastasia. My goal is not to offend or hurt Christian in any way. I hope you believe me.” She nods her head.

“I do Everett, but I’m not the person who matters, Christian is.” She shows me through the foyer to the Great Room.

“On the contrary Anastasia, yes, Christian will hear what’s said to him, he’ll have to process the words and decipher his feelings, but ultimately you, the woman in his life, will have the final say, whether he or you know it or not.” She looks shocked. This is where nurture does outdo nature.

“You see Anastasia, in my family, a woman’s presence dictates the ambiance in the home. She interprets situations and makes them plain enough for the men in that home to understand. Without a woman, men are lost.”

“We males are very proud and very ignorant. Lots of times we can pass that ignorance off as stubbornness or even strength, but if you get a real man to admit it he’ll acknowledge true power is behind the throne and behind any good man is a better woman.” Anastasia blushes then excuses herself to retrieve Christian.

I sigh inwardly. This is a day I never believed would happen. I never thought I’d see Christian again, not alive at least. I would have nightmares about having to identify his body like Dad did Aunt Ellie. This is most defintely a bittersweet moment. I pray he’s open to this conversation.

I only wait for a few moments before he arrives. “Hello Everett. Good to see you.” I stand as he enters the room holding Anastasia’s hand.

You say that now Cousin. We’ll see how you feel in a few minutes. He seems nervous and you can tell by the way he’s clutching Anastasia’s hand he doesn’t want to do this alone.

“Good to see you as well Cous…I mean Christian.”

Don’t call him that Everett. He’s not ready.

Dad called him Nephew why can’t I call him Cousin, that’s what he is to me.

Just follow my instructions and don’t do it.

Fine!

“Have a seat.” I take to the burgundy Chesterfield wingback chair adjacent to its matching couch.

Ever the gracious hostess, Anastasia offers, “Would you fellas like something to eat or drink.” I shake my head. I’m too nervous to eat.

“Do you drink Scotch Everett?” Christian asks with a hopeful tone in his voice. A man after my own heart.

“I do.” And I know he can hear my thankfulness. There’s no doubt in my mind it’ll come to good use…soon.

“We’re good Baby.” He kisses her hand and goes off to the bar. A few moments later he hands me my drink and takes a seat on the couch.

Anastasia makes a point to tell us, “Ok, but let me know if either of you change your mind.” We each nod like good little boys because that’s the expression on both of our faces right now.

Further demonstrating her understanding of the situation at hand, I’m not surprised when Anastasia says, “It will be fine. You each need this conversation. Just like Emmett did. Now, keep your hands to yourself.” She looks at each of us sternly as she states this first rule. “Do not destroy anything and be absolutely honest with each other. All is for naught if you aren’t.”

We look at each other, then back at Anastasia and say, “Ma’am, yes ma’am.” We look at each other again and smile the same million-megawatt smile before shaking hands.

Anastasia giggles as she turns to leave the room and says, “Boys will be boys.”

Oh shit, I almost forgot, “Anastasia.” She turns back around and looks at me expectantly. “You’re welcome to stay. You’re going to be family as well and I’m pretty sure Christian would like you by his side as we chat.” I look at Christian for confirmation and he nods to Anastasia.

“You’re welcome to stay Baby. You know that right?” Her expression softens and she comes back to embrace him warmly and stare into those funny colored eyes.

“All you have to do is yell and I’ll be here.” She looks at me and says, “That goes for you as well.” Without another word, she squeezes him once more then turns and leave us alone.

Once she’s gone I say, absent-mindedly, “Dad’s right, she’s a wonderful young lady.” Christian nods his agreement.

“So Everett, I’m not sure how much your father told you about our conversation or about my reaction to what he said.” I hold up my hand. Let’s get a few things straight right now.

“Dad didn’t tell me anything about your talk and I don’t want to know about it.” He looks surprised at my statement. “Christian, I wasn’t in his shoes. I can’t tell you how he felt or what happened when he was in the United States because I wasn’t there. I can tell you what happened here at the time, I can tell you how I felt about what I heard versus what I was told and I can tell you what Dad said to me when he finally came home, but as far as his portion of the situation goes I’m of no use to you. I’m not here to plead anyone’s case and I’m not here to try and win you over. I’m here because I want my cousin back and I want you to know that we all love you.”

“Being a Brown automatically means you don’t believe me and you want to know everything.  I know our family doesn’t have the lock on those types of feeling, but I wouldn’t expect anything less from you because you are a member of this family, like it or not.” He’s just like the rest of us, he demonstrated that during the meeting, so I know this preface is required.

“If I tell you something you don’t want to hear, something you feel contradicts what Dad has said to you or something you want to challenge, please remember this is from my point of view then please call me on anything you wish. Deal?”

He gives me Edward’s blank stare before absent-mindedly nodding his head as I speak then, softly, he says, “Deal.” He sounds resigned to his fate.

I lean forward and put my elbows on my knees. “Christian, the horrible part is over.” Quickly, he scoots back away from me, fear his distinct expression. Maybe it’s not over…not for him.

“Christian what is it? I’m not going to hurt you.” The fear in his eyes dissipates and his mask sets firmly in place.

It takes me a few minutes to understand what happened, but once I do I drop my head and shake it to rid myself of the memory then groan out loud, “Not you too.” He looks at me with confusion written all over his face. This conversation is over before it started.

I slowly raise my head and feel a tear roll down my cheek, “When Dad was released from jail and finally came back to us, he was a totally different man. He couldn’t stand to be too close to any of us, he would fight to the death if we touched him and when you asked him why he would put on the exact same impassive expression you’re donning right now.” I point at Christian. “I didn’t mean to invade your personal space Christian. I’ll go.” I rise quickly from my seat and actually sprint to the door.

I pass Anastasia, but I’m moving so fast I can’t see the expression on her face. As I grab the doorknob I hear him yell, “EVERETT! EVERETT DON’T! IT’S NOT YOU EVERETT IT’S ME! DON’T!” Too late Cousin, I recognize the signs and I’m not one to press the button.

I manage to get the door open and make it to my car. As I open the driver’s side door, a strong hand comes out of nowhere and pulls on my shoulder spinning me around.

What the fuck?

“Don’t leave him Ev. He hurts and he needs us to help him.”

“Dad” I whisper. “How did you know?” How did he know I would need his help?

“I know you Ev and I understand Christian better than any of you think. I didn’t think to mention it to you then I remembered how you approach family, we can’t address Christian that way. I remember how it affected you when I came home so I knew you’d need my help.” My father is holding me by both my shoulders, as if I were a child being scolded.

Of course, by now, Grey reaches us in time to get a birds-eye view of the spectacle, even Anastasia can see the show. I groan again and lower my head. Dad releases my arms and ruffles my hair like you would a little kid. “Don’t be embarrassed Lad, we’re all family here.” I look up at him and see the shit-eating grin I hate so much on his face.

Christian seems put out at how fast I got away from him. “DAMMIT Everett, did you fucking run track or something?”

Dad laughs, “My boy ran for the Melbourne University Athletics Club in almost every category.” Looking at me with that damned twinkle in his funny colored eyes he asks, “Shall I list them Son?”

“Since I’m legally an adult, when I tell you no will you do as I say?” He twists his mouth and taps his finger on his chin for a moment. Long enough to cause me misery at my possible embarrassment.

“Since Christian isn’t familiar with this type of treatment and in the interest of time…I’ll spare you. Just remember, you owe me.” I take note he didn’t say one, so I know I owe him *a lot*.

“Thanks Dad.” I mumble. When I see that fucking eyebrow go up, I straighten my stance and give him a proper thank you.

“Now, do I need to follow you Lads back into the house and mediate your discussion or can I trust you to face this situation head on?” He looks between us.

“This incident was my fault Dad. Christian didn’t do anything wrong. I didn’t approach him correctly and he simply reacted to a perceived threat.” Dad nods his head at my description of the event then looks pensively at Christian.

“Nephew,” I notice Christian doesn’t wince at the address, “Everett must have startled you. Is that correct?” Christian simply nods. “Ok, simply put, Everett routinely expresses himself with hand gestures and arm punches. It takes some getting used to.”

Then Dad turns to me, “Everett, Christian is more reserved than you or I anticipated. Do you remember how I was when I returned from the US?” I nod. “Increase that 100-fold. Don’t expect an explanation, unless Christian deems it necessary. Just keep your distance.”

“Yes Dad.” What happened to my Cousin?

I look at Christian, “I apologize Christian.”

“Thank you Emmett. Thank you Everett.” He shakes Dad’s hand and looks at each of us as he states his appreciation.

Christian then focuses on me and with a gentleness you would show to a small child he says, “Everett, let’s go back inside and talk. Would that be alright with you?” I look at Dad first who tilts his head toward Christian as if to tell me ‘go on’.

I frown for a moment, considering all I wanted to say and all I wanted to accomplish. Somehow, it seems tainted. Somehow, if I were Christian, I wouldn’t trust me. I don’t know why I feel this way, I just do. In that instance the two men realize if I leave, I won’t come back.

“Everett, I’m not holding this against you. My fears aren’t your fault. We can discuss those as well. We’ll have to if we’re being honest with each other.” I nod to him and Dad slaps me hard on the back.

“Good afternoon Lads”, he says as he walks back to his car. He casually gets in and drives away.

Leading the way back into the house Grey says, “Come on Everett, let’s have that Scotch.”

Even I can hear the thankfulness in my voice as I state, “Best offer I’ve had all day.”


GREY

Merci Père céleste
Thank you Heavenly Father

Cher Dieu NON!
Dear God, NO!

ELLIOTT’S SERENADE

I Just Called To Say I Love You, by Stevie Wonder, 1984
Mary Had a Little Lamb, by Sarah Josepha Hale and John Roulstone , 1830
Ain’t Too Proud To Beg, by The Temptations, 1966

Can’t We Just Be Happy | Chapter 19 Family Affair

I do not own the Fifty Shades Trilogy or its characters; those belong to E. L. James. However, my characters do belong to me.

Chapter 19 | Family Affair

EMMETT

I’m standing in the open doorway when they arrive. I wonder how much truth there is to the argument of Nature v. Nurture. I’m certain Grace and Carrick Grey taught their children right from wrong and other basic necessities. I simply wonder how much weight true-blood is given in the equation.

Christian really is a striking young man. His physique reminds me of myself at his age, he resembles Everett in that aspect as well. His height, about 6’7” I would venture to say, broad chest, narrow waist and you can tell he’s meticulous in his exercise because his legs balance his upper body proportion, perfectly symmetric.

My poor nephew also has that damned hair color. A gift from his grandfather. It’s truly a blessing and a curse. Women love tall, virile men no doubt. I’m always surprised though how many women find copper-brown hair with practically red highlights attractive. I mean, being attracted to someone simply because of their hair color is astounding to me. I used to have to beat girls off with a stick in high school, college was even worse. They would follow me like lost puppies just to run their fingers through my hair.  Their fascination scared the shit out of me. At the same time, it could be used to my advantage. Christian’s father used to laugh as he offered mock pity at my plight.

I shake my head remembering the day my baby sister tried to convince me to dye my hair brown, she wanted us to look-alike. I was never more glad Mum got wind of Ella’s scheme and dared her to touch my head. Ella pouted and ran to Dad who, ironically, shared our mother’s sentiment. Dad cursed his hair time and time again, but was oh so proud to see it carried on with me.  The house, while not silent, was rather tense that night, to say the least.

All in all, it’s Christian’s face that causes my heart to melt. He is Ella. She was breathtaking as a child. One would go as far as to say she was angelic. As she matured she developed into an unbelievably beautiful young woman. Top models and actresses pay good money to look like my sister did naturally. Christian’s almond-shaped eyes, high cheekbones, straight nose and full lips are all hers; a mix of our parent’s best attributes. Although, the strong jawline is a Brown Family trait alone. The damn thing comes in handy when taking a right hook. Looking at Christian, I’m amazed at how a man and a woman can look so much alike and each be attractive. I shake my head thinking about my baby sister and her beauty.

However, the mental stress of what is to come is wearing on his face. He’s not simply apprehensive, he’s scared and I don’t fucking blame him. This young man is about to face demons he never knew existed. He’s also going to reincarnate demons I’m certain he believed were exorcised. All of this in an unfamiliar home, in a barely familiar city, among a room full of strangers. I’m proud of his bravery and I fear for his psyche. Had Eran and Emerson not behaved like little bastards we could’ve included them in this meeting. Alas, the show will go on without them. I’m sure they aren’t dismayed over that fact.

“Good evening Christian. Thank you for attending.” I offer my hand.  To my surprise he takes it to give me a strong, albeit brief, handshake. I turn and look down at his lovely fiancée, “It’s wonderful to see you again Anastasia. You look wonderful Love.” She too gives me a strong handshake and is courteous enough to include a small smile.

“Hello Mr. Brown. Thank you for inviting us stay this evening.” I frown at her greeting.

“Emmett my Dear, please, call me Emmett. I won’t lie to you, this is going to be a long evening and I have no doubt in my mind Christian will need your calming nature to enable him to suffer through. Also, it would be an unspeakable evil to expect you to remain alone at home without his protection.” I can tell she wants to comment and I can see the glimmer of ‘I told you so’ in Christian’s eyes. If he’s anything like the other men in this family, Anastasia’s safety is his primary concern and that means being by his side or under close personal surveillance.

“Come. I’ll have Ella show you to your suite. Christian, change into comfortable clothing and meet us in the Great Room, which is through here.” I point to my left off of the foyer. “Ana, please make yourself at home. We have staff who can bring you anything you wish. You can occupy your time in the Media Room, with television and movies, or the Library, as I understand you are an avid reader. You can also enjoy the fabulous sunken tub and waterfall shower in your en suite.” She smiled at the mention of the Library so I know where she’ll be tucked away tonight.

Now for the disclaimer. “Anastasia, I apologize in advance and ask that you please try to ignore the sounds you will hear. We generally fight during these meetings, but the authorities won’t be needed.” I try to give her a reassuring smile, although I am serious. We’ve had to call for medical attention in the past when things got particularly heated, but no one has gone to jail…yet. There’s a first time for everything and Christian is more like Edward than either of them knows. I’m very well aware of that.

Christian finally finds his voice enough to growl his comments, “It’s not like I was given much say in the matter Emmett. Ella and Everett were both emphatic about my attending tonight.” Just like his grandfather. It always made my head hurt to see Dad grind out not just sentences, but entire conversations with his jaw clinched the way Christian’s is now. I see his grandson has mastered the skill.

I chuckle a bit at my nephew’s comment then respond, “Yes, they were. All I can offer you is to say, you’re not as alone as you may feel.” I want to put my hand on his shoulder, but I think better of it. I froze in my spot the other night when I saw Everett pull Christian into that embrace. I fully expected to have to call an ambulance for my eldest son, but Christian surprised me. I’m all too aware of what has happened to my only nephew over the years and until he gives me permission, I refuse to invade his personal space.

Appearing as if out of nowhere, we hear, “Good evening all.” Ella stands near the far banister at the foot of the grand staircase, almost out of view. The lights are low and in her chosen attire my baby girl is difficult to see, that is, until we approach the stairs. She and Christian exchange knowing smirks and Anastasia looks at me, almost in horror. I know what it looks like, but it most certainly is not.

Grand Staircase.Family Home

 

Since Ella or Christian offers an explanation, I venture to do so, “Anastasia, Ella is dressed in her Ninja Girl costume. Has Christian told you how she kicked his ass in the park when he first arrived in Townsville?” Anastasia’s beautiful blue eyes widen and she shakes her head slowly. “I thought not. Suffice it to say, Ella can, and will, beat the shit out of her cousin should she feel the need. The only ones she will not touch are myself and her grandfather and that’s merely out of respect, not inability.” Even I can hear the note of pride in my voice as I describe my daughter’s adeptness. Good, bad or indifferent, my little girl can hold her own.

“Christian…Nephew,” his head whips my direction. The look on his face is one of shock and anger. “We mean business here…family business…and it’s not ever pretty. Change into something comfortable that you’re not overly fond of, in case you end up in a brawl of your own.” I know my family. Christian’s been in his share of fights and even brawls, no man is above it. Surely he doesn’t want to tear his linen sport shirt or get bloodstains on his washed linen pants.

I turn to address my daughter directly, “Ella, show Anastasia and Christian to their suite. Do not wait for Christian, simply show them to the door and come to the Great Room; immediately.” I raise an eyebrow to emphasize my instructions. In her current mood, Ella’s not beyond beating Christian’s ass on the spot. I want him to make it to the meeting area first.

“Alright Daddy.” She says brightly, almost singing the words. Ella also speaks pleasantly to Anastasia when she says, “This way Love.” And while it’s not surprising, it is entertaining to hear Ella’s voice quickly change as she snarls at her cousin, “Christian.” I shake my head as the threesome march up the grand staircase and off to the guest wing of the Family Home. Yep, it’s going to me a long night indeed.


Shortly afterwards we take our customary places in the Great Room. Ella, as usual, is ready for a fight and antsy to get underway. I shake my head at the thought of how this is going to go. I’ve been tempted all day to put the kibosh on this entire spectacle, but it truly is an opportune time for Dad and I to tell the three of them what really happened, at least as far as I’m aware. I’ve gotten the impression and heard bits and pieces from my old friend Ryan that things at home were not as they seemed on the surface. However, I’ve never been given a full accounting. It’s obvious there were happenings on both fronts that I was not able to control …let alone stop. My prayer is that Christian will see reason and let us all move forward…together.

Dad is Hell bent and bound to make this a family. As much as I loved my little sister and love my nephew, I couldn’t find it in my heart to tell Christian about us and I pleaded that case to Dad, which kindly fell on deaf ears. He wanted his grandson back and he wanted him back now.

Out of nowhere, I remember.  “Emmett, she is my baby.  She is my heart.  No man is ever going to be good enough for my little girl.”  With his hands digging into his hair my father and I rehashed my sister’s situation.  “That DISGUSTING SON OF A BITCH lured her away from me.”  Christian Ryan isn’t a bad guy.  He attended the University of Melbourne and graduated summa cum laude a few months before the two found out Ellie was pregnant.  When Ellie decided to go to Harvard, Ryan and I supported her decision, which made me Edward’s ‘bastard son’ and Ryan became ‘that disgusting son of a bitch’.  It was the best Dad could think of at the time and it stuck, much to Mum’s chagrin.  Sometimes I still have fun ribbing him about who my real father is.  He’s never impressed.

“How are they Emmett?  How is my beautiful daughter and my handsome grandson?”  The look in his eyes was one of desperation.  Ellie refused to communicate directly with Dad so I got to play messenger.  I was quite often damn near killed performing my assigned task, on both ends.

“They are good Dad, really good. Christian’s the striking image of his mother and of you too actually.”  Ryan was put out that his Irish genes lost to us Aussies. I told him he didn’t have a chance in Hell of contributing to that little boy’s make up, but seeing is believing.  “By the way, Ellie mentioned coming home for a visit, without Ryan.” I knew that would brighten his spirits.  “I can talk with her then, see if she will stay for a while.”  The wheels began to whirl in his mind.

If he could get away with it he’d build a tower, lock her away and post clergy to guard the damn thing.  I stared at him and said, as harshly as I could muster, “You stay out of the conversation and do not try to broach it with her yourself.”  I was willing to be the weak-willed brother and beg my little sister to come home.  I owed it to Dad…and to Christian.  “You tend to Christian.”  My sister made it a habit to pick Christian up from our home and the two of them would spend her visit with Ryan.  It seemed appropriate to Mum and I for the young family to spend as much time together as possible.  Again, Dad’s opinion was contrary to ours.

”Oh,” I feigned my absentmindedness “Ellie wants to hold Christian’s christening while she is home.”  Dad silently nods, but he couldn’t fool me.  I saw the twinkle in his eyes before, the drapes closed.

He furrowed his brow and an evil scowl enveloped his face, “Really, and what other name has that fucker talked her into giving my precious grandson?”  I sighed. Ellie loved Ryan and Ryan loved Ellie, more than life itself. She named Christian after his father and rightly so. I would kid Ryan that it was the least she could do for him. Of course Dad was furious.  ‘His initials are to be ‘EB…’ and that was all there was to the discussion. When the child’s Birth Certificate arrived and the name read ‘Christian’ I thought we were going to have to rebuild the house. Dad had to be sedated to get him to stop his tantrum.

However, Ellie was a true Brown and proud of her father, although he didn’t believe it.  I laid a finger on my lips as if trying to recall the name. I stuck an ‘ah ha’ look on my face before I uttered “Edward” then I turned to leave his study, but not before I saw the obvious surprise on his face change to happiness and finally pride. As I closed the door to his study I thought to myself, Yes Dad, your little girl loves you.

“…why in the Hell was Liam not allowed to attend? He is involved in this bucket of bullshit too.” My daughter’s colorful portrayal of our situation brings me out of my reverie.

“He is not a Brown. Even after you are wed he will still not be a Brown. He is not eligible for attendance at our Family Meetings. You know this.” And the lid is lifted from the powder keg. I can barely contain my laugh. Everett and I cover our mouths and drop our eyes to the floor. Dad LOVES fucking with Ellie about Liam and that statement is always ‘the shot heard round the world’. You would think she’d catch on by now.

In her most fluent Italian she rants, “SPOSA LIAM! E perchè cazzo dovrei sposare Liam? E’ un vero stronzo! Buon Dio Nonno, quanto hai bevuto? Dovresti davvero andarci piano con lo Scotch.” [1] Ella paces the floor with her hands flailing in the air shouting about not marrying Liam and my father being drunk. From the corner of my eye, I steal a glance at my eldest son. I see his shoulders bouncing up and down and I hear him gasping as he tries to hold in his laughter. She really is a site to behold.

Over Ella’s performance, we never heard him enter the room. “I am glad I am not the only one who finds your antics amusing Ella.” A deep, mellow and somehow familiar voice fills the room from behind us. I look at Dad while Everett and Ella dart their eyes to the door. I don’t even bother turning my head to acknowledge him.

“Good evening Christian.” I say as I look at my father’s face. “You are punctual. Good man. Yes, as you can see Miss Brown is providing us with a bit of a comical diversion. Takes the edge off actually.” My daughter tries to give me a scowl, which only makes me laugh out loud.

“Honestly El, you would think by now you would know not to take Granddad’s bait.” Everett raises an eyebrow and leans back on the couch, stretching his arms out along its back. I notice immediately the change in his dialect, and so does Dad. We all joke that my father doesn’t take shortcuts, that includes in spoken words. If he starts to use contractions, the shit has really hit the fan.

Dad sits in a chair, not far from the fireplace, and clears his throat, “Since everyone is here, we will begin. Christian, please take a seat.” No one looks directly at Christian as he finds his way to the plush, white loveseat on the far left of the room, away from everyone else. We all focus our eyes on Dad. It’s one of the Rules, to avoid attempts at intimidation.

“Christian, there are a few Rules included with this interaction.” Christian’s slate-grey eyes pop open and he looks over at me. I give him a weak smile and nod my head. “I see you doubted the sincerity of Emmett’s statement. Yes dear boy, this is a fight. Not to the death, although it may seem so.” Dad sits back in his chair, feigning comfort, while he explains to Christian, “This room has been witness to many a Family Meeting over the years and has been redesigned to afford all involved proper protection while remaining acceptable to the general décor of our home.” Christian looks around the room, to see the floor to ceiling windows that look out onto a garden terrace, tapestries and wall hangings above an inset fireplace and ancient vases decorate the room. The beige marble floor, covered with a black and gold Persian rug, complements the black marble accent lamps placed around the room. One would never believe a room containing plush, white upholstered chairs, sofas and loveseats would bear witness to ‘civilized barbarity’. I don’t believe the Grey’s raised Christian this way.

Once Christian’s eye fall on him, my father continues, “Intimidation is not allowed. You are to speak your mind and your heart. If you feel the need to lay hands on someone to get your point across or in retaliation, then so be it, but do not expect anyone to back down from a fight, which includes the ‘stature challenged’ member of the clan.” Ellie hates to be pointed out. My baby girl can give better than she gets. All her brothers respect her physical prowess and I believe her dear cousin does as well.

Great Room
Great Room

“Lastly, simply to afford it the emphasis it deserves, what goes on in this room stays in this room. Pillow talk is not allowed. This is a Brown Family Meeting, husbands, wives and significant others are not eligible for attendance and therefore are not privy to the happenings of this gathering.”

“Does everyone understand?” Collectively we nod. “Are there any questions?” No seems to be the general consensus. “Good. All of that said, Christian I want to tell you everyone in this room is privy to your life and lifestyle choices. Everyone in this room is aware of The Interference in your life and its extent. We are all committed to its disposal, regardless of this evening’s results. Everyone in this room loves you Grandson and we want to be part of yours, Anastasia’s and whatever beautiful children the two of you have lives.”

“Your feelings run deep, as do ours. No one wants to drive a wedge between you and your adoptive family. Nor are we trying to replace those who have raised and grown up with you. We simply want you to know you have a grandfather, uncle and cousins as well.”

“Your father,” Edward can’t put enough disdain in Ryan’s title, “is not a Brown and therefore does not have any rights with regard to this family, and yes we know who he is and where he is. To his credit, you are an only child, no half siblings exist.” Christian is quiet and impassive, giving the impression of apathy, throughout this monologue, but we can see the gears spinning in his mind and the emotions whirling in his eyes.

I guess I’ll start. I move to the edge of my chair, lean forward and place my elbows on my knees, “Christian…Nephew?” Again there is a flash of hate. “Plastic facial expressions and resolute silence will get you nowhere. Contrary to your belief, this will not be over anytime soon, so relax, as much as you are able, and think. Do you have any questions for us?” The ball is in his court and he seems insistent with holding it closely. Let’s try something else, “Nephew, how would Anastasia tell you to begin?” That should get this shit started.

At the sound of her name, Christian finds his voice, but it’s barely audible, while his eyes narrow and his brow furrows he says, “Leave her out of this. She has absolutely nothing to do with this dung heap built on a bed of lies. Do not let her name cross your lips again…Mr. Brown.” Everett laughs.

“Dammit boy. Is that really the best you can do Cousin? I expected more from Christian Edward Brown!” Christian moves to the edge of the loveseat he occupies, clenching and releasing his fists. The gloves are off now. I shake my head at Everett’s goading. I guess we should leave this one to the young people.

Christian rises to his feet as he growls, “What the fuck did you call me?”

Now, Everett does the same thing as the two meet, nose to nose, in the center of the room, “I called you by your given name you ass! Christian EDWARD BROWN!”

I look at Dad and shake my head. He has that ‘this is gonna be real good’ smirk on his lips. He only ever has that look in the boardroom. We most certainly should sell tickets to this shit-show.

My name is Grey, Christian TREVELYN-GREY, you self aggrandizing prick!” They’re not touching one another and neither man has made an aggressive move, however, neither has backed down either. I have to put a halt to this. We’re getting nowhere and wasting time.

Without leaving my seat, I call truce by saying, “Gentlemen…gentlemen…I see we have agreed on the first agenda item for this evening. Thank you, so much, Everett for beginning with that bullshit argument.” I say the last sentence through my own clenched teeth and suddenly realize how Dad does it.

I return my attention to my nephew, “Christian, although your parents were not married, they loved each other deeply. You are named after your father…”

Before I can finish my thought, an abrupt, “Ahem” sounds off at the front of the room. I don’t bother looking in the direction of the sound.

“…and your grandfather. Ellie loved Dad very much as well. Your name is nothing to be ashamed of.”

“Where is the sperm donor?” I figured he’d want to know about his father, at least I hoped he would. If all goes even relatively well tonight, I can have that discussion with Christian myself at another time. It will be utterly impossible to discuss Ryan adequately in Edward’s presence.

As expected, my father’s quip, “He is of no importance here” ignites a spark in me this time.

“If he is my father then he is of importance to me!” The boy is a quick study of not taking shit from anyone.

Edward better watch it with this one.

“Yes he is Nephew. Your father is Christian Lucas Ryan. He…” I don’t have a chance to finish my thought before I’m cut off.

“HA! Three first names.” As usual, Everett is trying to pick a fight. Despite his calm exterior, I know Everett is just as nervous as the rest of us. However, now is not the time.

Once again, I don’t bother to turn toward the cause for my interruption as I say, “Shut the fuck up Everett. Save it for when it is necessary.” I know Everett feels guilty about how he and his brothers have treated Christian since his arrival in Townsville. Gaming for a fight will help Everett assuage the feeling that he deserves some kind of punishment for his sins. I guess there is a masochistic trait in this bloodline after all.

I continue to focus on Christian. “Anyway Nephew…” Now it’s his turn to cut me the fuck off.

“Do not fucking call me that! I do not even fucking know you people! You have lied to me from the day I met your tart of a daughter!” Emphatically, with his chest heaving, he points at Ella, who managed to remain silent up until now.

“TART!” Ella and Everett shout in unison.

Oh, fuck me running this isn’t going to help anything. They’re just kicking sand around the playground now.

I look toward the front of the room and raise an eyebrow at Dad then mouth, ‘Now what’. The Patriarch of the Brown Clan rises from his chair and bellows, “All of you impudent fuckers sit the Hell down and shut the fuck up…NOW!”

As the vibration of his voice dissipates, it is replaced by the sound of panting.  You’d think we had all run a three-minute mile. Dad takes a deep breath, “Thank you. Now that we have each bared our teeth I will ask you again Grandson, do you have any questions for us? Do you want to know about your mother, about your grandmother, about me?” There’s so much information, neither Dad nor I know exactly where to begin without simply giving him our family biography.

“I spoke with my father briefly following Brunch.” Christian hisses. “He verified who you all are and he urged me to speak with you about what you want from me, so that is my opening question. What…do you want?”

I’ll field that one. “As my father and I have stated, Nephew, we do not want anything from you. We want you to know we love you and we are here to answer any questions you may have for us…about anything.” He’s a hard nut to crack that’s for damn sure. We’re not gonna finish this in one evening. Christian is not going to open up anytime soon. I figured as much and I warned Dad of the same. I guess my ole’ man will have to learn this lesson the hard way.

“Good. Since I have nothing to say to any of you I will collect my fiancée and we will be leaving. Excuse me.” As he stands, Christian reaches beside him and retrieves two envelopes he placed on the end table. We’ve all been eyeing the documents. He obviously wasn’t trying to hide them. My guess is he wanted one of us to bring them into the conversation for him by questioning their presence.

Well, he got his wish when Everett points at the letters and asks, “What is in the envelopes Cousin?”

Christian halts his retreat and says, “One is my Birth Certificate the other is a letter, left on my jet for Anastasia.”

Everett furrows his brow, looking at the envelopes, “They look unopened. Why did you bring them here?” He says, almost absentmindedly, before lifting his gaze to Christian’s face.

Christian looks at his hand, without raising his eyes, as if speaking to the documents themselves, he says, in a low voice, “I am not exactly sure.”

Their exchange continues while the rest of of watch. “Did you want us with you when did you break their seals?” Christian looks at Everett, and for the first time I see a little boy, lost in a sea of emotions. His only response is to shrug one shoulder. Everett takes on a less authoritative, more compassionate role when he coaxes Christian, “Sit down Cousin. Let’s have a look-see shall we?” Christian waits a long minute before retaking his seat.

Christian reaches past me to hand the envelopes to Everett, who nods his thanks and takes them. Everett flips the one addressed to Miss Anastasia Rose Steele over and over then puts it down. Everett reviews the blank envelope, front and back, then raises an eyebrow at Christian, silently asking for permission to open it. Christian gives him an almost imperceptible nod. The men remain bent forward with their elbows on their knees as we all turn our attention the envelope and, soon, its contents.

There inside is a copy of Christian’s native Australian Birth Certificate and his adoptive American Birth Certificate. I see Carrick Grey is one for preserving information as well, a blessing…and a curse. I see my father from the corner of my eye, elbows on the arms of his chair, hands clasped, as if in prayer. Looking intently at Christian and Everett, he steeples his index fingers and places them over his lips. He used to make that move when he and my mother would argue, or rather when my mother would give him a good tongue lashing. He knew, in order to lessen her wrath, he had to remain silent and pay close attention to what she was saying. I’m certain that’s his intention now, to pay close attention without interrupting.

Interesting…

Once the papers are released from their protective wrapping Christian almost jumps out of his skin and shouts, “What the fuck! I was born in Detroit. So was my brother. What the fuck is this shit.” Everett looks over at me. He remembers when Christian was born as well as when Ellie brought Christian home. It was to the place in Melbourne. The family hadn’t moved to Townsville yet.

Now’s my turn. As calmly as I can I reminisce as I explain, “Nephew. You were born in Waverley Private Hospital, Mount Waverley, Australia, a strapping 4 kilograms and 45 centimeters.” I can’t contain my smile. “You beat Everett by 1 kilogram and 5 centimeters. Your father never let me live it down” Everett similes at the remembrance as well. Ev later commented on how big the baby was when Ellie brought him home.

“Yes, you were a bit large to be considered a baby Cousin.” Everett teases. It was a happy time in our household. My adorable little sister and her precious newborn son.

Christian’s banal look changes to melancholy then morphs into animosity and bitterness, but he keeps his voice monotone when he begins to ask, “How did I end up in Detroit? How did my mother become a prostitute and a drug addict?” His breathing is labored and the real questions begin to surface.

“Why? How?” he whispers, looking at Everett then me…then…”YOU!” Christian’s head snaps to his left, so he can glare at my father, then my nephew leaps from his chair and rushes forward, toward Dad. “YOU BASTARD! YOU LEFT US TO STARVE! YOU LET HER DIE! WHY DIDN’T YOU FIND US? WHY DIDN’T YOU SAVE US!” Christian is millimeters away from snatching Dad out of his chair. Out of nowhere, Everett grabs Christian, but has a Hell of a time trying to stop Christian’s effort of mangling his grandfather.

I push Dad, chair and all, out of Christian’s reach, but my nephew simply lunges forward again in an effort to attack. I stand in front of Christian, between he and Dad, my hands on Christian’s shoulders, trying to prevent the well deserved ass-kicking my father so richly deserves. Damn, this fucker is strong as Hell. Ryan would be proud to see this day. Many’s the time I had to prevent Christian’s father from putting his hands around Dad’s throat, but it didn’t take all of this to hold Ryan back. Dad had best watch his step with this one.

As Christian struggles against Everett and I, he growls and even snarls at my father, “How DARE you speak to me about family. You were in your mansion overlooking paradise while your little girl was being hooked on crack and whored out to any bidder, while her bastard son was being tortured and starved. WHY MR. BROWN? WHY!?” His emotions are honest and his questions are valid. The man deserves answers from my father, his father and me.

I look to my daughter and mouth, ‘help him’. Immediately, Ella is by Christian’s side speaking to him in a calming tone of voice, trying to pull him out his red haze. My first thought was Anastasia, but, regardless of how much she knows, she cannot be admitted to this meeting; its the one rule even I won’t break. This gathering is a time where raw emotions are encouraged and with those emotions can come violence. Outsiders don’t understand that philosophy and rather than explain it to them or justify our actions, we simply don’t allow non-blood relatives to participate.

While there’s no rule forbidding anyone of us from approaching Dad, out of respect we try not to do so. My father may be old, but he’s strong and cunning. He has no problem in a fight. Each of the males in this family have had to learn that lesson the hard way. While I have a sneaking suspicion Christian could give Edward a run for his money, there’s no need to test my theory. I wonder if Dad would even fight Ella’s son.

Dad’s response to Christian is a mixture of anger and something else…something I can’t describe. “How fucking dare YOU! She was my daughter. I loved her, more than life itself. She left and she took you with her then and one day you both simply disa-fucking-ppeared!” At some point, in a flash, the look of remorse and sorrow on Dad’s face changes and I have no doubt in my mind Dad would fight Christian to the death if for no other reason than to do penance for his one true failure.  My ole’ man shouts in a voice I’ve never heard him use before, it’s that indescribable emotion…desperation, “LET HIM GO EMMETT!  LET…HIM…GO!”

I’ve got to get control of this scene before a malay ensues. I look over my shoulder at my father to remind him, “Dad, there is NO rule against physically engaging you so I strongly suggest you calm the fuck down and let us focus on Christian.” I turn my attention back to my nephew.

“Christian. Christian look at me. Look at me, please Christian.”  His struggling lessens and he turns his head toward me. It’s then I see it, the devastating hurt in his eyes. I’ve felt the same ever since I lost touch with my baby sister. He’ll never forgive me and he has every right to hate me with all of his life force, but I can’t let him blame his mother or his father for that matter. I know how Christian feels about himself and he has no reason to loath himself or his parents.

“We tried Christian. I tried.” I take his face in my hands and force him to look me directly in the eyes. “If you want to blame someone for ALL of this then blame me. Blame me. I supported her decisions…all of them. I let you both down.” He frowns as he looks at me. The fog of his emotions is clouding his mind so much that none of my words makes sense to him. He has to calm down and listen.

I let go of his face and step back, “Sit down Nephew.  Sit.” I point at the loveseat he rose from and stand nearby as he retakes his seat. I pull the ottoman up in front of him and begin the tale.


Family Affair, an American sitcom created and produced by Don Fedderson.  The series aired on CBS from September 12, 1966 to March 4, 1971 and aired 138 episodes.

ELLA
“MARRY LIAM! And why the fuck should I marry Liam? He’s (It’s) a real asshole! Good God Granddad, what did you drink? You really should go easy on the Scotch.”

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