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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 23 What You Thought You Knew

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 23 | What You Thought You Knew

GREY

Ring…Rin…

“Hi Dad, how are you? We were gonna call you later. Yeah, Ana and I are finally home.” We managed to get away from the Brown Bullshit Family Meeting, pun intended. I could live a million years and stand to miss that suck-ass circus.

“Good. I’m well son. Mia mentioned in passing that you called. I knew you planned to talk with Brown, so I thought I should check in with you. Did you get the information I sent to you?” He sounds…anxious somehow.

“Yes, thanks again Dad. Ana helped me look through it. We’ve come to the conclusion the penal system needs to Go Green.” I have to keep the tone of this conversation light. It could get too heated, too quickly if I’m not careful. I don’t want my parents worried about me and I don’t want any of them here with us. This place is for Ana and me…*only*. We don’t have anyplace only she and I have been. Somehow, I want to be selfish about Townsville; about the entire continent of Australia actually.

“HA! I’ll see what I can do, but I can’t promise you anything son. Now, did you meet with Edward?” I’m stunned. On a first name basis huh Dad? Interesting way to address someone you only recognize from educational reading and/or legalese.

“Yeah Dad, apparently a Family Meeting was called and I was ordered to attend. Ana went with me, but because she’s not a Brown she wasn’t eligible to attend the festivities.” I know my voice is oozing contempt.

“Well, that makes sense Christian. Granted it wouldn’t be an issue in our family, but if that’s how the Browns conduct themselves then who are you to question it?” I guess.

“First I argued that I wasn’t one of them and when said I’d have to check my calendar both Ella and Everett lit into my ass with both feet then they proceeded to hang up on me. They fucking hung up on me! I still can’t fucking believe it.” Thinking about the shit makes my blood boil. I look over to my right to see Ana shaking her head, scolding me for reliving the nasty experience. Somehow, there’s a twinge of a smile on her lips.

I have to move the phone away from my ear, fast. “HA, HA, HA! OH HELL NO! THAT’S RICH…I’D HAVE PAID A MINT TO SEE THE LOOK ON YOUR FACE BEHIND THAT ONE!” Why exactly is he laughing?

“Care to fill me in on the joke Dad? It wasn’t a pleasant evening, at all. That little scene happened over the phone and pissed me off. It only got worse once the flick went live.” Dad kept laughing and mumbling, to himself. I only caught parts of his monologue.

“…old bastard hasn’t changed a bit…apples don’t fall far…not what he expected I’m sure…” He kept on like that for a few minutes before I simply continued my story.

“Glad to amuse you Dad.  When we arrived, we were escorted to our room and I was told to change into brawl-worthy clothing, just in case the discussion got out of hand, which in my opinion it did with those instructions.”  Dad gasps. Not so funny now, huh?

“What are you saying Christian?  Someone actually told you to prepare for a fight?  They certainly haven’t…” He catches himself when he realizes I’m listening.  I refuse to let it affect the conversation, at least for right now.

“That’s right Dad, we all met in the Great Room. The space doubles as a normal part of the house, but it’s been modified so Family Meetings can get as rough as they need to be.”  Now he’s quiet, too quiet, and I don’t like it.

“Mm hmm” is all I get from him, so I continue.

“Edward proceeded to cite the Rules for the meeting then the spotlight turned on me.”  Carrick snickers.  I’m glad someone is amused by all of this bullshit.

“How do you mean the spotlight turned on you Christian?  What happened to make you feel as though you were being put in the hot seat?”  Talk about mood swing, he went from happy to hostile then back again in less than six-seconds.

“Well, first I was asked if I had any questions, then I was told my real name, then…” I didn’t get the phone away fast enough.  He was so fucking loud he startled Ana, who let out a squeak.

“WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU MEAN YOUR REAL NAME?” I’ve never heard Carrick roar. Nice to know I’m not the only Grey who behaves that way.

I went on to give Dad highlights of the Brown Family Meeting. For some odd reason, I didn’t feel comfortable going into great detail about Emmett’s sister or his emotional state during and after the meeting, especially not about his nightmare. I don’t know why, maybe because I understand that kind of fear. It felt like I’d be betraying an unspoken trust. He is a businessman and while no one signed a NDA, I wouldn’t feel comfortable exposing that type of information to anyone…other than Ana of course.

“So, Christian, there was a lot of conversation but no concrete information given to you? Other than a bedtime story, they didn’t offer you anything you could hang your hat on in the way of proof. Is that what you’re telling me…son?” WOW! Talk about possessive. If I’m anywhere near that way with Ana, I need to get on my knees and beg for past, present and future forgiveness.

“That’s right Dad. I haven’t been given any tangible documentation yet. I’m sure the discussion isn’t over though.” Based on the tone of this chat, I’m not going to give away too much too soon. Anastasia is shaking her head at me. She can’t possibly think I’m going to get into a full-blown discussion about this mess with my father and I don’t have any concrete proof. I mouth ‘What?’ to her. ‘Nothing’ she mouths back and leaves the room. I shrug and go back to listening to my Dad rant.

“…and another thing Christian, don’t let them try to pull on your heartstrings. Use that CEO mindset of yours and keep a good distance between you and any, scratch that, all of them, including that little tart you’ve become so fond of…”

I know I called Ella out of name just the other night, but…well…I was wrong, but…that was different, somehow. I don’t appreciate Dad saying it. I really need to talk with Ana about this. Why in the fuck do I care what my father calls Ella? Why do I feel ‘protective’ of any of them? I don’t understand this.

“…do you understand me Christian? Christian? Are you listening to me?” Huh? Wha? Oh shit.

“Yeah Dad, I got it, distance, concrete proof, CEO mindset. I know the drill, believe me I do. Look, I’m gonna let you go now. Tell Mom and Mia we love them. Thanks again Dad. Bye.”

“Alright I will. Bye Son.” Whew…man, am I glad that shit is over. The conversation was worse than I thought. Carrick was actually offended. I guess I can’t blame him. I’m sure he feels threatened to a point, but he sounded jealous as well. How can you be jealous of a Crack-Whore? That’s like Ana being jealous of a contractual relationship. There’s no basis for the emotion.

You do understand what you’re feeling…don’t you?

I’m not feeling anything, except horny, again, and tired…in that order.

That too, but why didn’t you want to tell Carrick every little detail? Why not confide in your father?

I haven’t told him about the Bitch-Troll or my Subs either. Do you suggest we make a day of it?

You know that’s not what I’m saying. And why are you getting defensive? There’s nothing wrong with having feelings, ya know? Emmett reminds you of yourself to a certain degree and you became friends with Ella. Plus, she reminds you of Steele so much it’s scary. It’s understandable for you to be offended when your father called her a…

DON’T SAY IT! I need to apologize to her. It was absolutely unforgivable. I’d fucking explode if someone called Ana out of name. I had no right and I will apologize to her.

Not a bad idea.


“Baby? Can we talk?” I find Ana in the Library, snuggled up on the couch…our couch…my cuddly little bookworm, reading a novel.

“Sure baby. Come here.” She moves the throw from over top of her magnificent body, inviting me to snuggle up with her. I rush from the doorway and practically dive on top of her. I run my hands from her shoulders, down her arms, over her breasts and tweak her nipples just a little bit. My hands continue their downward journey over her abs to her hips where I hold her in place so I can grind myself into her as deeply as possible. My hands come to rest on her thighs and my knees gently part her legs, giving me better access to her.

“Hmmm. It’s warm under here. Why are you wearing jeans? Aren’t you getting hot…yet?” I smile then kiss her cheek, her neck and trail gentle kisses down to her shoulder. I put my left arm around her waist and hold her against my body. God, she’s so soft and supple. My dick is throbbing in my jeans and against the inside of her thigh. I can’t fucking get enough of her. I’d fuck her all day and make love to her all night if she’d let me.

She arches her back. “I thought you said you wanted to talk?” Panting, she pushes her breasts against my chest.

“Mmmm hmmm, I do and we are. Can’t you hear my heart racing? I can hear yours going a mile a minute. They must he speaking to each other.”. Slowly, I glide my tongue from the base of her neck to that heavenly little spot behind her ear, “You smell divine Ana and you feel sooo fucking good.” I move my right hand to the waistline of her jeans and begin to caress her abdomen. Leisurely, gently but with a goal in mind I slip my hand it into her jeans. As I near the ultimate treasure…

“STOP!” She says suddenly.

Huh?  We’re just getting started.  What does she mean, STOP?

I don’t let her deter me. I kiss the tip of her nose, then slide my hand back up her stomach, put my right arm around her waist then switch my left hand to her right breast. I massage, knead and rub her, the way I know she likes. I’m the only man who knows her this way. I’m the only man to see her this way, to touch her precious body and I fucking love it.

I can feel this nipple harden under my palm. I give it a sharp pinch then smile while I watch her eyes roll back in her head and i hear her let out a deep, deep sigh. “Yeah, it feels really good don’t it baby?” She can’t even nod. She just takes a deep breath and pushes her breast into my hand.

STOP my ass.

Somehow, she manages to collect herself, “Christian, while I love your body language, I thought you wanted to talk…verbally.”

“I do baby…and we will…just, gimme a few more minutes baby. Pleazzzeee.” I whisper seductively in her ear. “You know I can’t resist you and I told you I’d never look at this room the same way again.” I press my lips to hers, switch to her left breast and give her the same attention I gave her twin. Ana gasps with each pinch of her nipples. When she opens her mouth, I take full advantage and slide my tongue inside. I love how sweet and innocent she tastes. Her tongue meets mine in a slow, erotic dance, rolling, tickling and grinding against each other. As I deepen the kiss and press my pelvis between her legs, she surprises me by taking my lower lip between her teeth and softly biting down on it.

“Ow,” I feign a hurt look on my face and pout at her, “you bit me. No fair.” I whine.

“I never said I’d play fair baby.” She winks at me. Little minx stole my line.

“Very well Miss Steele. We’ll talk instead.” I move to sit up, but she holds my shoulders and kisses my forehead.”

“I didn’t say you had to move for us to talk.” My Ana.

I settle between her legs, wrap both of my arms around her tiny waist and lay my head on her chest. “What’s on your mind Christian?”

I take a deep breath then kiss her breast, all while grinding my cock between her legs some more. “Besides sex…”

I chuckle, “Can’t blame a guy for trying baby.” I let out a sigh.

“You heard my conversation with Dad about the melee. He got angrier than I imagined. He seemed almost…possessive. It’s not a side of him I’m used to seeing.”

Dad always keeps a lid on his emotions. Being a courtroom lawyer he can’t let anyone see him sweat or even hear a note of emotion in his voice. While he’s never hidden his emotions from our family, he seemed overly aggressive during our call.

Ana puts her hand under my chin and turns my face so my gloomy greys look into her baby blues. “He doesn’t want to see you hurt. It’s a reasonable response. Plus, this is your biological family. He may feel threatened because they’ve made contact with you.”

“Are you trying to say he’s jealous Ana?” I raise an eyebrow at her. Nah, not my Dad. Not over me at least. If this were Mia or Elliott I would understand, even understand his reaction. They’re perfect, kind, loving children. I’m the monster of the brood. He wouldn’t feel jealous of someone pretending to be my family.

“He’s human Christian. He very well may be jealous, but no that’s not what I was implying. He may just be hurting because he isn’t here with you, to help you on this journey.”

I pull my chin out of her grasp and snuggle into her breast again. “I guess it’s a good thing I didn’t tell him everything that went on.” I take a deep breath and wait for her reaction to my statement.

Seconds turn into minutes and minutes turn into hours. I don’t look up at her. I let her take her time to think about what I just said.

“You didn’t tell him about your nightmare.” Without raising my eyes, I shake my head no.

“You didn’t tell him about Emmett’s nightmare.” I shake my head no again.

“You told him about Emmett’s story, but not its the emotional undertone.” She’s right again. This time, I nod.

“Are you ashamed of what you heard?” I shake my head, vigorously.

“Are you embarrassed by what happened to you, and Emmett, afterward?” I shake my head.

“Baby, this has fast become a one-sided conversation.  What do you want to talk about?”  I lift my head from her soft, warm chest and look into her eyes once more.

I take a deep breath, “I think I believe them Ana, at least I believe Emmett, no one else really said anything. I believe he misses his sister and I believe he scoured the places he believed she was, trying to find her. The part that surprises me the most is…I believe he was looking for me as well. I believe he cared about me and wanted to bring me” I swallow hard, “bring me…home.”

“Does it bother you that you believe him or does it bother you that you don’t want to believe him?”

Why do you pay Flynn anything?  Please remind me.

“Well, it’s like how a kid feels when they learn there’s no such thing as Santa Clause, Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy. It’s best to know the truth, but it hurts and right now I’m at a loss at what the truth really is. They didn’t know the woman I lived with just like I don’t know the girl they remember. I don’t want to taint his memories of his sister, but I can’t relate to who he thinks of so fondly.”

“I feel bad for liking the things they have to say about her. I would like to have known her then, even get to know my birth father. At the same time, I’m pissed because of what I went through. She knew better. She didn’t grow up the way I did. Why did she put me through that? I guess the biggest issue for me is why didn’t someone save us?” I get pissed when I think about them knowing she and I existed and they didn’t come and get us.

“Christian, you said Emmett tried. You said he left his home, his wife and his children to look for you and your mother. You told me how he begged you to believe him Christian. Then he had some God-awful nightmare. Do you really think he was just lying to you and if so, for what reason? Even under the guise of the standoffish, rational CEO can you sit there and honestly tell me you believe Emmett was lying to you?” I want to say yes. I want to say that with all their money and resources they should’ve looked harder, done more. In true Anastasia Steele style, she reads my mind.

“My phone and computer were hacked into and a virus put on each that prevented me from contacting you. The press took pictures of you in some questionable situations. While there was nothing to found any of their stories on, it didn’t make the hurt any less when I read about you ‘jet setting’ around the globe and appearing to spend time with what looked like a different beautiful woman on your arm whenever you were spotted.”

“Emmett told you his security team didn’t do their job and lied to him to cover up their misdeeds.” I nod. “How do you expect him to contest with people he trusted lying to him? And don’t tell me how you would’ve handled things Christian. You weren’t the one looking for your missing sister and nephew. You weren’t the one with a wife and children seven thousand miles away wondering when you were coming back to them. You told me his wife was sick and then died without him ever being able to speak to her again. He couldn’t tell her what he found or didn’t find. He couldn’t apologize for being away from her. My God Christian, why can’t you stop and think about him? What about Emmett’s peace of mind then and now.” She shudders a little.

“Baby, all I know is, I would give the man all the opportunities he wanted to talk with me and help me understand whatever he thought he could. I truly believe Emmett, Everett and Ella love you. I believe Emmett looked for you. I didn’t even hear him speak or see him after his nightmare Christian. Just listening to your description of the situations, I believe him. I know how I feel isn’t important here…” That’s where I stop her.

“Ana, don’t say that. I need you.” My hold around her waist tightens. “I need to know what you think and how you feel about all of this. I don’t want to run home to my parents or security or lawyers to figure this out. I want to do this on our own…just you and me. How you feel, what you think and how you would react are all important to me. Please don’t ever doubt that again.” I’m holding her as tightly as I can. I need Ana now more than ever. “Baby, I want this to be about us. I want to build a life with you Ana and I want to be able to come to you with everything, but I want the same from you baby. I want you all to myself and I want to be all yours.”

Looking me straight in the eye, she nods her head “Ok then, like I said, I believe him. I would give him all the time and space he needed to open up. Christian, you spent time and bonded with Ella, why not do the same with Emmett? Give him a chance to be your friend. If he gets close enough to prove himself as an uncle so be it, but don’t put that kind of pressure on him.”

Hmmm. Get close to him huh? Pick his brain for a while?

Stop it Grey.  You know exactly what Steele is saying to you and we know in that heart you say you don’t have you want to do just that.  You only came to her to try and justify your ‘feelings’ for the man.

Maybe, but I can’t let him…let them hurt me again. I’ve come too far for that to happen.

“I know what you’re thinking Grey, don’t you dare try to manipulate that man. This isn’t a Merger or an Acquisition. This is about real life, real feelings and real family. Remember that.” Ma’am, yes ma’am.

“What time is Emmett coming over here? If he hasn’t already eaten, he’s more than welcome to join us for dinner. It would be nice to entertain him our way. You know, casual, calm…fun.” She smiles at me. I know what she’s trying to do and I can honestly say I’m thankful.

I don’t know what it is about Emmett that makes me want to believe what he told me. Somehow he just seems straightforward and untainted.

Kinda like a kindred soul, huh?

I don’t know about all that, but somehow there’s a connection I can’t explain.  His anger at the situation, his disappointment at not making progress, his hurt at the loss of his sister and nephew and the sacrifice of his only family for someone else’s sake.  He puts up a good front that’s for damn sure.  I wouldn’t be surprised if he was a Dom in disguise.

HA!  A family trait?  That would be the icing on the fucking cake.

Whatev.

“I’ll text him and see what his plans are.” She looks at me questioningly. “The man is in back-to-back meetings baby. Phone calls will go to directly to voicemail. I don’t know how well he multitasks so I don’t know if he can read an email and still concentrate on the happenings going on around him. A text is quick and to the point.”

“Christian, at the risk of pissing you off…”

“Yes.” I say slowly and deliberately. Whenever she says that her next sentence usually ends up pissing me off.

“If, and I use the word loosely, for your sake. If Emmett Brown is even remotely related to you, there was no fucking need for him to go to those meetings today other than to show his face and probably take out some of the aggression he was feeling from the Family Meeting last night.”

“Text him, email him, call him…Hell send up a fucking smoke signal for all I care. Just find out what he would like to have for dinner and what time he’ll be here.” She kisses the top of my head and pushes me off of her so I can contact Emmett.

CG: Hello Emmett, Ana wants to know wat u’d like 4 dinner and wat time u’ll b here.

EB2: Hello C, I’m not finicky…watever Ana wants to cook I’ll eat. I’ll b dun at 630. I can b @ yor place by 7

CG: I’ll let her kno. C u @ 7

EB2: C u then

I let Ana know about Emmett’s response. While she is making dinner plans I check my emails and make sure my Seattle office still exists. I’ve talked with Ros a few times this week and everything seems fine. I just have to be sure.

Of course there are hundreds of fucking emails to read. The Fourth Quarter P/L Report looks good. Maybe we can do a conference call for the Year End Meeting. I’m really not interested in going back to Seattle for that shit.

Sigh…oh the trials of the rich and famous. Hee,hee,hee…

I didn’t hear you complaining when I bought that R8,

…well…

…this house…

…yeah, um…

…or all of those fucking clothes.  You don’t have a problem drinking all that wine or eating in those fancy-ass restaurants. And let’s not start on the travel.

ALL-FUCKING-RIGHT DAMMIT! You made your fuck-ass point.

That’s what the fuck I thought.

Ass-WHOLE!

Whatev.


Standing here waiting for Emmett, I realize I’ve never stood in the doorway of my home, or apartment, and welcomed anyone inside. This is something Mom and Dad do for their guests.

Hmmm. Doesn’t feel too bad, does it?

Nope. Not bad at all. I could get used to this.

“Good evening Christian.” Emmett smiles as if the weight of the world has lifted off his shoulders. There’s got to be something wrong in that fucking house. This man seems totally different when he’s not there.

“And good evening Anastasia.” He smiles even brighter, if that’s possible, as he takes Ana’s hand and lifts it to his lips. I can feel my blood begin to boil.

Down Grey, he’s being polite. You should try it sometime.

I manage not to rip his arm off for touching Ana, let alone kissing her hand, but she has to pinch me in the side to get the scowl off my face. Ma’am, yes ma’am.

“Can I get you something to drink Emmett?” Ever the little hostess.

“Actually, I brought a bottle of Pouilly-Fumé. I hope you don’t mind.” He offers Ana the bottle, which she graciously accepts.

“Thank you Emmett, that was very thoughtful of you. If you gentlemen will excuse me, I have to put the finishing touches on dinner.” She gives me an all too chaste kiss on the lips then practically runs to the kitchen.

Smooth Steele…NOT!

“Come Emmett, I’ll give you a tour.” There’s a bit of a smirk on his face. “Is there something wrong?”

“Nope.” He pops the ‘p’. “Nothing at all. Lead the way.” His grin firmly in place. This is definitely a different man. Tonight is gonna be interesting that’s for sure.

I try not to let on, but this is another normal gesture I’m not exactly used to performing. Ana’s the only person who ever ‘toured’ Escala. It made me feel proud to hear her ‘oo’s and ah’s’ as we went from room to room. I wasn’t trying to impress her and I’m not trying to impress Emmett. For some odd reason, I wanted to share with him a little piece of us and how we live.

After the tour, Emmett and I sit in the living room, glasses of wine in hand, and chat.

I didn’t know you knew how to chat. Hee, hee, hee…it’s funny.

Fuck you.

“You have a wonderful view of the city from here Christian. I’ve forgotten just how beautiful Townsville is…” He trails off, not finishing his sentence.

“I’m sure business keeps you busy. I’ve learned from my fiancée and your daughter not to take life for granted. Nothing’s promised to us.” And I don’t intend to take Ana or my life with her for granted any longer.

“Very true. How are wedding plans going? You don’t seem like the type of man who would tolerate a long engagement very well.” His eyes twinkle. Oh, he has jokes does he?

“No, I’m not. However, my fiancée sets the tone and pace of this relationship and whatever she want or how ever long she needs I’m all for it.” I can’t force Ana to marry me. However, I can foolishly force her out of my life if I push her unnecessarily, which most definitely is not an option.

“I know Ellie would be more than ecstatic to work with Anastasia on her wedding plans, if she would like some help. Ellie thinks of you two as the modern day Cinderella and Prince Charming.” He shakes his head.

“What’s wrong with that?” I think I’m offended.

“Nothing’s wrong with it. It’s not something you see anymore and it’s refreshing. My daughter is a romantic and although she doesn’t act like one most days, she has a tendency to get ‘girlie’ about love. It gets tedious for the men in the house.” His smile slowly fades at the mention of ‘the house’.

“Since I have no idea what she has planned, I’ll let Ana know.”

“Let Ana know what?” She strolls into the room and takes my glass of wine from of my hand. I raise a questioning eyebrow at her as she sips away.

“Ella is willing to help you with wedding planning, should you choose.”

“That would be nice. We were thinking about holding the wedding here in Townsville. It would be great to have someone help me. I know Mia will be disappointed though.” Ana’s brow knits together as she considers Mia’s feeling over her own happiness.

I reach over and take her chin between my thumb and forefinger. She looks me dead in the eye as I tell her, “She’ll live. Our wedding day is for you and me, not Mia, Kate Mom or Dad. We’ll be the center of attention and if anyone doesn’t like what we have planned they can fuck off. Baby, you work with Ella, Mia, Santa Clause or Houdini. Do whatever you want and spare no expense. I want us to remember our wedding day as one of the bests days of our lives together.” She begins to turn pink and tries to pull away from me, but I hold her firmly and place a soft, chaste kiss on the tip of her nose. “I love you Anastasia.”

She smiles brightly as she tells me, “I love you too Christian.”

A slight movement to my right reminds me we’re not alone. I turn to see Emmett sporting his own five thousand megawatts smile.

DAMN!  Is that were it comes from?

It appears so.

“Dinner will be ready in about 15 minutes gentlemen.” Ana hands me back my wineglass and heads back toward the kitchen.

“What are we having? Whatever it is, it smells delicious.” My baby can cook her delectable little ass off that’s for damn sure.

“We’re having Bruschetta, stuffed mushroom caps and an Iceberg and Romaine Lettuce salad with pecans and mandarin orange slices for our starters. Cajun Seafood Pasta for the main dish followed by chocolate cake and vanilla ice cream for dessert. I hope that’s alright with you both.” She looks a little nervous all of a sudden. I know my girl is a fabulous cook so I have no worries in the world. If that fucker doesn’t like it, as much as I hate to see anyone suffer, he can fucking starve.

“That sounds scrumptious Anastasia, thank you for your hospitality.” Emmett raises his wineglass to Ana and I do the same.

“I second that sentiment.” She begins to turn a darker pink almost red as we praise her. All for you baby. All for you.


“Anastasia, are you certain you’re happy with Christian?” Her eyes widen and almost pop from her head.

“Of course I am Emmett. Why would you ask just a question?” Oh shit, is that a note of hostility I hear in her voice? I know that bastard’s not trying to make a move on my Ana. This’ll most definitely be his last meal if he is…he’ll fucking loose his teeth.

Just as I’m about to come to her rescue, Emmett raises his hands in mock surrender and chuckles heartily. “You misunderstand me Love. Your cooking is out of this fucking world and I’d gladly steal you from him” he tilts his head at me “in a second if it meant I could enjoy your culinary expertise on a regular basis.”

Turning to face me he says, “You really are a very fortunate young man Christian. Anastasia is beautiful, sincere and she can cook like all Hell. You better be good to her forever.” He flashes that smile again and I half expect him to wink at her like ole man Brown did, but Emmett doesn’t take it that far.

“You don’t have to tell me, I still thank God everyday she came to interview me and not Katherine fucking Kavanaugh.” Ana raises a censorious eyebrow at me, but I don’t give a fuck. It’s how I feel and I’ll scream it from the mountaintops if I feel like it.

“What interview?” Emmett sounds genuinely interested. Is it possible he doesn’t know everything there is to know about me?

“Ana came to Grey House from WSU in Vancouver to interview me for the graduation edition of her school’s newspaper.” Emmett seems shocked.

“Really! You don’t strike me as the journalistic type Anastasia. You are full of surprises aren’t you?”

Ana immediately rights his train of thought.  “Oh no…not me, my roommate, Kate Kavanaugh, is the journalist.  Kate was sick and she drafted me to go to Seattle and interview The Christian Grey.  She worked so hard to secure a meeting with him and she didn’t want the newspaper to miss out simply because she was sick.”  I’ll pick up the story from here.  She’s too modest.

“Emmett, she was a God-send. She stumbled into my office and literally landed at my feet. During the interview she was demure, catty, challenging, demanding and defying. She breezed into my world, turned it on its axis then swept me off my feet. When she left, I didn’t know which way was up and as frustrating as it was…I loved it.” I smile at my baby. She is the better part of me. She loves me like no one else could. She’s taken the key to my heart and I don’t care, as long as she holds it forever. “My own Princess Charming.” I take her hand, turn it over and kiss her open palm.

“You two really are a modern day romance story. It’s refreshing to see young people so happy and in love. Too many people take love, friends and family for granted, behaving as though they’re entitled to anything their heart desires. The two of you complement one another. You’re the strength and guiding light for one another. It’s not something you see anymore.” He says the last sentence in almost a whisper, as if it wasn’t meant for our ears.

“Shall I serve dessert and coffee fellas?” Ana hops up from the table. She hates being the center of attention and so do I, but when it comes to our relationship I can’t be proud enough to have Ana by my side.

“Actually, I’d like to wait a little, if that’s alright with you all. I’m stuffed.” Emmett says.

“Me too Baby. Maybe a little later, ok?” She nods and begins to clear the table. Emmett and I both help her.

The three of us clear the table, put the food away and load the dishes into the dishwasher before settling down in the living room to continue our chat. “Thank you both for all of your help in the kitchen. Hard to believe CEOs make such good busboys.” We all laugh at the thought.

“If you two will excuse me, I have a few things to do.” Do? What does she have to do?

Both Emmett and I have the same questioning look on our faces. It must be a genetic reaction. He has no reason to question her whereabouts. He even beats me to the punch. “Please don’t leave Anastasia. I was hoping you’d join this conversation. As Christian’s fiancée this all affects you as well.” He’s totally different when he’s away from *that* place.

“I’ll be back. I have to check into my Visa application and what all needs to be done. I’ve never taken on a task like this and it’s…”

He cuts her off mid-sentence. “You’re applying for a Visa?” He sounds as surprised as I look, I’m sure. She nods.

“A work Visa?” He continues. She nods again.

“That’s wonderful Anastasia. If you don’t mind my asking, where are you applying for employment?” He sounds as hopeful as I feel about her staying here…with me.

“I applied online with the Townsville Writers & Publishers Centre and I’m checking into volunteering with a few of the local literary community groups.” She smiles proudly.

Yep, she’s doing this all on her own.  Stay the fuck out of the way Grey.  You fucked this up once, I’m not gonna be here for the fallout if you fuck this up again.

I got it…damn!

“Good to hear Love. If you need help, Christian or you are welcome to contact my PA, Elaine. She’s a whiz with paperwork and she’s gone through the process numerous times. EB hires individuals from all across the globe including interns from the United States. I’m sure she can help you complete the process.” Ana nods.

“Thank you Emmett, I’ll keep her in mind.” Still standing, Ana is determined to leave the two of us alone to talk.

I guess we must look like a pair of lost lambs because she actually takes pity and says, to the both of us, “I’ll be back before either of you realize I’m gone.” We nod our heads.

“Gentlemen, here at home there are a few rules.” We both raise an eyebrow at her. “Oh, yes. NO laying hands on one another, NO destroying any inanimate objects and most importantly, NO lying. Be honest with each other no matter how hard it seems or how bad it hurts.”

Emmett and I stare at each other a long while before we nod, reach out to shake hands and say in unison, “Deal.”

Ana smiles and heads off to the Library. Leaving us alone…together.


“I know I sound like a broken record, but I can’t say it enough, you’re a very fortunate man Christian. It’s rare to find such love.” Emmett smiles ruefully at me.

“She saved me Emmett. Look, I’m gonna cut to the chase and I don’t mean in a business sense. I tell Ana everything…period. She knows about the Family Meeting, Carrick sent me documents about my adoption and Ana has helped me sift through the legal nightmare.” He listens attentively without saying a word, his fingers in a steeple over his lips, no doubt to keep him from interrupting me.

“Emmett, I’m tired. I’ve been tired of this subject for a long time. Although I may not show it, I realize family is important and I feel like my birth family let me down. I have no idea where to lay blame. All I have to go on is the abuse and neglect I remember. Like it or not, your sister was a crack addict and a whore. She had a pimp or some other bastard that she tended to who beat me and used me as his personal ashtray.”

In an uncharacteristic gesture to emphasize my point, I quickly pull off my t-shirt. My eyes blaze with hate and hurt as I whisper to him, “This is what I went through.” I stand up and turn my back to him and whisper again, “THIS is what I went through.” I put my shirt back on and pull out a picture of me, taken when I first appeared in the hospital emergency room. I guess Dad got a copy from the police or the social worker. I can’t imagine him wanting to put this photo in our family album. “This is what I looked like when all was said and done. I didn’t talk for two years after my adoptive parents brought me home with them. I wouldn’t let anyone touch me, including my adoptive parents and brother for fear of the pain I would surely feel when they did. Another person’s touch made me feel as though my skin was on fire. I couldn’t get away fast enough. My mother has only recently been allowed to put her arms around me.” Although he remains quiet, I can see his eyes screaming their apologies. “I didn’t trust anyone Emmett. HELL, I barely trust anyone now.” There, I said it. No prodding, no prepping, just plain and simple.

Emmett gets up, without saying a word, and retrieves his briefcase. He sits it on the coffee table between us, opens it and takes out three manila envelopes. He hands me one and says, “This is not scientific proof. I have that as well. I believe I know you well enough to understand your need for concrete evidence to support what I’ve already told you; for it to be valid in your mind. I believe this will begin the process.” He releases the envelope to me and sits back against the seat cushions.

I don’t say a word. I break the seal on the envelope and dump the contents out on the coffee table. It’s filled with pictures. A young pregnant girl laughing with a smiling young man, the same couple walking along the beach holding hands then the same two seated, watching the sunset.

It seems like there are hundreds of pictures of this young couple. She’s breath-taking, absolutely gorgeous. As much as I tell Ana she’s beautiful, this young girl is even more so. Her clear blue eyes, long auburn hair and petite size make her a ringer for Ana and Ella, but it’s the shape of her eyes, her nose, her mouth, even her jawline that are familiar to me. where have I seen that look before? My eyes widen and I look up at Emmett, “She looks like me.” I whisper. I can barely speak.

Emmett smiles, “On the contrary my dear Nephew, you look like her. My sister was a beautiful girl. This dashing young man is your father. You get your height from him.” Emmett smiles as he remembers something. He looks up to see the question in my eyes, “We always made fun of your mother’s size. When she found out she was pregnant, our mother, your grandmother, was worried about Ellie’s health. Christian was 6’7” and 200 or 225 pounds. There was no doubt you were going to be a big baby. Mom worried how Ellie would carry you and how difficult your delivery would be on her. Of course she had no trouble and even managed to have a natural childbirth. Your father and I were both there.” Emmett smiles again, broader this time, like he won a gold medal. “He fainted when he heard her scream and saw the first tinge of blood. After we rolled his carcass out of the way, I tended to my sister and helped you come into the world.”

The picture of him cutting the umbilical cord is among the photos, “It was the proudest day of my life. More so than my wedding or the birth of my own children.” He shakes his head again, clearly chastising himself. “Forgive me. I get extremely emotional when it comes to my sister and her son. My daughter tells me it’s improper to feel like I do, but I can’t help it. My little sister was our princess and her son was the crown prince of our family.” After a few minutes he mumbles, “I miss her so much…still.”

“These are sentimental and of no concrete value to you, I understand.” I can’t form the words to tell him how much this does prove to me. There are pictures of my parents, my natural parents and me, each of them holding me, kissing my forehead and my little fingers grasping onto theirs. Pictures of me with Emmett, a teenage boy I believe is Everett and even sleeping on Edward’s chest, His hand laying protectively on my back! while a woman leans over his shoulder to kiss my head. Everyone is smiling so broadly. All eyes are on me, as if I wasn’t real. I take a deep breath and release it in what would approximate a stutter.

I’ve never conceived of such happiness at my presence. I’ve never believed anyone could enjoy my being alive. It’s bittersweet to see this young family enjoying this happy time, being told this is me and mine, but having no recollection of it. I feel lonelier than I ever have in my life. I never believed I would think this but…I want to go back. I wish like all Hell I could remember this. I’d give all I own to be that boy in that family with that love around him. I’m not just bought out of my reveries, I’m snatched away from them when Emmett says, “This envelope”, he hands me the second sealed manila envelope, “contains your Birth Certificate, Genetic Coding for each member of our family and Christian Ryan’s family who was alive at the time of your birth as well as Paternity Testing. Edward had it all done in a desperate attempt to disprove Ryan was your biological father.” The scathing look on Emmett’s face speaks volumes.

“Edward never liked Ryan, even before Ella became pregnant. He didn’t want Ryan to have any kind of foothold in our family so much so he would rather his daughter have slept with more than one man as long as he could prove Christian Ryan was not your father. Edward was obviously not concerned about how the entire experience would affect you or your mother, as long as his point was proven.” I inwardly shake my head. I know the need for that kind of control. I know the need to be that right, to be that disparate to have my way.

Genetic?

“In this instance, the plan backfired on him. Christian was man enough not to hold the situation against Edward and gentlemanly enough not to rub his nose in it. Mom was livid; that’s her in the photo with you and Edward. She refused to speak to Dad and refused to sleep in the same bed as her husband. She spent all of her time with you and your mother trying to comfort her and make sure you felt loved and cherished. You were much too young to feel otherwise, but Mom was a firm believer that children can sense emotions in the aura of those around them. She didn’t want you to have any inkling anything was amiss in your family. Everett was young teenager. He knew something wasn’t right, but he didn’t understand exactly why we were all on tenterhooks. So he took his queues from his grandmother and was the best cousin he could be to you. Eran and Emerson, while older than you were still young and in their own world, even back then. Of course, little Ellie hadn’t been conceived let alone born yet.”

“There was never any doubt in Ryan’s, Ellie’s or my mind about him being your father, but when the test results solidified everything, Edward went off the deep end. I managed to secure the original test results and have had them in my personal safe deposit box since the day they arrived. I gave Ryan a notarized copy for his records and Mom asked for a copy as well. I don’t believe Edward ever knew where the results ended up.” With that statement, a gleam of mischievousness lights up his eyes, but in a flash…it’s gone.

“After Ellie died and I couldn’t find you, I swore I would have these records on hand, should you come back one day and require proof as to the validity of my claim. All of the documents are notarized and witnessed by a disinterested third party. Everyone’s contact information is in the envelope in case you want to speak with them, have them deposed or run background checks. Do with the documents what you will.” I read each piece of paper, not letting one letter pass me by. This is more important than any fucking contract I’ve ever read. This is a record of my life.

I’m lost in the words when he clears his throat for me to look at him, ahem. “Christian, in here, he hands me the third sealed manila envelope, is your inheritance.” I stop breathing.

“My what?” I can barely get the words out, because my throat’s so fucking dry.

“Your inheritance Nephew. Edward is an arrogant, hostile, manipulative bastard, but he has a heart of gold and will give you the shirt off of his back. He’ll tolerate a lot, but he’s not quick to trust anyone.”

“While I love my father dearly, we are very different men. I have a persona that suffers me through my professional life, I have an evil streak that lives to fight everyday and will do so to the death then I have a softer side I reserve for my children. The three seldom, if ever, cross paths let alone meet.”

Hmm, Dom, Street Brawler and Big Brother…sound familiar?

I’m not talking to you tonight.

Whatev.

No seriously, not tonight. If anything, I need you to help me pay attention and absorb as much of this as possible.

I gotcha back kid.

“If you like, we can discuss this last.” I swallow hard.

“I’d rather not discuss it at all Emmett. I have my own company. I don’t want anything from you. You have four children to consider. I’m noth…”

“DAMMIT CHRISTIAN! Stop right there. You have scientific evidence of your parentage. You have photographic evidence of your relationship with Ella, Ryan, me. Hell, there are pictures of us all, as a family, including Edward and my sons. There are pictures of Mom, Ella and my wife is in there as well. My daughter had not been conceived at the time of the photos. What more do you want?” I want to say he’s pissed because that’s a word and feeling I’m very familiar with, but I can’t say that about him right now. He’s not mad at me, he is mad and I’m certain he’s mad at himself and maybe Edward, but not at me. No, when he looks at me, I see hurt, pain, grief and sorrow in his grey eyes. All are emotions I understand so well in an expression I’ve carried for many years.

“Fellas, how’s everything going?” Right on cue, my Ana appears in the living room. Neither of us heard her come in.

“I apologize for raising my voice Anastasia.” Emmett says to her contritely.

I manage to straighten out my facial features and say, “We’re good Baby. We just got a little heated, but all’s well.” I plaster a smile on my face in the hopes that she’ll let it die. I believe she will. Ana’s not one to make a scene, especially in front of someone she considers company.

Curious about the mess of papers and pictures, she walks closer to us then stops abruptly and raises an eyebrow at Emmett and I, “You both understand there’s no cleaning staff here. You both will sort this mess out and return this living room to its original condition.” Those were commands, not questions and not statements…commands. “Do you gentlemen understand me?” She has her arms crossed over her chest, feet shoulder-width apart and her best authoritative look on her face. Domme Steele…hmmm.

Emmett and I look at one another then back at Ana before responding in unison, “Ma’am, yes ma’am.”

“Good, now, would either of you like dessert or would you rather continue your conversation?” Emmett and I look at each other again, gauging each other’s expressions and reading each other’s body language. Emmett nods at me.

“No to the dessert Baby and yes, I believe we will keep talking for a while. That is if you’re up to it Emmett.” I can’t demand he sit here and be grilled, but he seemed so eager to talk with me, to give me as much information as he could, to be open with me. I’m hoping he won’t take off yet. I guess I had a hopeful look on my face because his eyes soften and the look of pain fades ever so slightly.

“Nephew, I promised to give you all the proof I had, tell you everything I knew and answer, to the best of my ability, any and all questions you asked, of course I’m up to it. I have a good feeling we’ll tell each other when we’ve had enough. The next conversation can be had at my home if you like.” My eyes widen and I feel my heart begin to race.

We’re NOT going back to that place!

“Um…no.”  I get queasy just thinking about being there.  “I have no desire to return to the Family Home.”

Much to my relief, as well as surprise Emmett says, “I understand, not the Family Home, my home. I have a place of my own, not far from here actually. I generally don’t stay in my father’s home, but last night, between work and our meeting, I was spent. There was no way I’d make it home safely, so I opted, wrongly, to stay at the Family Home. I won’t make that mistake again…ever.” He mutters the last sentence to himself. I have to listen closely to hear what he’s saying.

“Why was it a mistake for you to stay there?” He looks at me shocked. “If you’re willing to open up to me then I’m going to ask you about you and the Crac…” the look on his face and the images of the girl in the pictures stops me, “I mean my…your sister’s lives.” that’s the best I can do.

Ana slowly takes a seat beside me then gestures for Emmett to move closer to us. “Christian, may I?” I know what she’s going to say.

Let her get the ball rolling. I simply nod my head and lower my eyes.  I don’t want to be here anymore.

“Emmett, how much has Christian told you about himself and his life with his birth-mother?” Always so politically correct.

It’s the English Lit Major coming out.

It’s the kind, compassionate Human Being in her.

Touché.

“He told me he was abused, neglected and abandoned. He told me the condition of my sister, from what he remembers. I’m not able to reiterate his words without becoming in-sensed Anastasia, please, don’t make me say them. I don’t treasure thinking of my sister and nephew in those conditions.” She nods her head as she listens to him intently.

“I would never force you to call your sister out of name Emmett. Christian was very young when he suffered the abuse and neglect he told you about. When your sister died and he was taken away from her body…” Emmett gasps.

“Taken away from her body?” He looks at me in bewilderment, “I didn’t know you saw her dead Christian.”

“She died with me present, it took four days for someone to find us. I can honestly say the feelings of abandonment came about when the police took me away from her. I remember calling for her and begging the police to put me down. All I wanted was to stay with her, even though she never protected me or saw to my needs I wanted to stay with her.” I frown deeply at that thought. How stupid was I?

It’s not stupidity. Like Steele told you, you were four and you loved your mother. What four-year-old child doesn’t love their mother? You became bitter over time. As your vocabulary expanded, so did your epithets toward your mother. You didn’t always refer to her as the ‘Crack-Whore’. She was ‘mommy’ to you at one point in time, whether you remember it or not.

I don’t know what happened after that. I saw Anastasia sitting next to me then I felt myself being jerked into a standing position. I expected to be met by Emmett’s fist. Holding me by my shoulders, an arms-length away from himself, looking me directly in the eyes he tells me with fervor, “Christian, I can’t apologize to you enough. I don’t know how to make you see that the situation you were exposed to was not the norm for her or for you. My sister loved you. Our family loves you. I failed to protect you both and I failed miserably in my search to find you. Please forgive me…please.”

I don’t know what to say. I never dreamed this scenario existed, let alone that I would come face to face with it. “Emmett…I…I mean…” before I can formulate a response, I’m engulfed in a super human hug. He caught me off guard, but I don’t tense up and I don’t push him away, instead, I return the gesture with an intensity I’ve never experienced. Before Ana, Mia was the only person who was ever allowed close to me or to hug me. Yet here I stand, hugging this grown man with no fear. I sense his regret and self-admonishment. It’s oozing from his essence. When I hear a small sob from him, I know what I have to do.

Still holding the older man I need to calm his mind and easy the pain in his soul. I draw from the times Ana’s comforted me, “Emmett…Emmett stop. This is not your fault. You’re as much a victim as your sister or me. You and I are alive and we can start from here.” He takes a deep breath and with one last strong squeeze, he releases me. He’s still very emotional and embarrassed to have tears running down his cheeks.

When we hear a small sniffle, we remember she’s here. Emmett speaks first, “I apologize Anastasia. I didn’t intend to disrupt your home or your happiness.” His eyes shift between Ana and I as he says this. “I’ll go. I’ve tormented you each enough for a lifetime. Thank you for speaking with me Christian and thank you for your kindness and hospitality Anastasia.”

He grabs his jacket and quickly turns to leave the room when we both yell, “EMMETT NO! DON’T LEAVE, PLEASE!”

I’m rooted to my spot, but Ana jumps to her feet and strides over to grab him by his waist and hold him in place until I find the ability to move. She looks up at him, “Emmett please don’t leave. Christian needs you and you need him. You’re his family, his natural family and he needs you now more than ever. You obviously love him and need to share as much of yourself and your sister with him as you can. To say that you have catching up to do is a grave understatement. You can’t retrieve those lost years and you can’t take away the old pain, but you can learn about one another now and move forward as a family…together.” She stands between us looking from one to the other. Family means so fucking much to her.

Emmett looks at me and gives me a small smile that doesn’t reach his sad, grey, tired eyes. I make my way over to he and Ana, I reach out my arm and place a hand on his shoulder, “Uncle, please stay.” Dumbfounded by my choice of address no doubt, he simply nods and hugs Ana back as she rocks him side to side.

“My words were sincere Emmett. I wasn’t just talking. I meant what I said. We’re all victims in this. At least we have this time together. I’d like to get to know you. I gave Ella that opportunity. I see no reason why I can’t give you the same.” Emmett nods his head again before walking back to the living room with us.

We spend the rest of the evening and well into the early morning talking about the pictures and the past. Emmett knew quite a bit about me, but there were still particulars he didn’t know. I thought long and hard about what to tell him and what to keep to myself. He and Ana could see the wheels spinning in my mind throughout the conversation. They called me on it every time. “Nephew, this is not an inquisition. You don’t have to share anything you don’t want to and you don’t have to have a reason why. We are all entitled to our privacy; except in business I’m afraid, but then I’m certain you understand that.” I nod.

“I most certainly do. Emmett, it’s not that I want to…I mean it’s just that…” I sigh. “The things I have to share aren’t pretty and they aren’t pleasant until I reach the point where I met Anastasia.” I look at Ana, “You may not agree Baby, but I was there, I know.” She doesn’t say a word. Those baby blues speaking volumes to me. She knows my pain, she feels it and she wants so badly to take it away.

“Emmett, I drank and fought, a lot, I got into a lot of trouble and was kicked out of a few schools. I dropped out of Harvard when I was almost finished. Business-wise, I’ve done well for myself, but personally, I’ve made horrendously poor decisions and monumental mistakes, all of which caused me a lot of anguish that I felt I deserved…I still do.” I say the last few words looking at Ana, just in time to see a tear roll down her cheek.

“Baby, don’t cry for me, please. You know I can’t stand to see you cry. Please don’t waste your tears on me.”

“Anastasia…Love”, Emmett gets Ana’s attention, “you must be exhausted. Go on to bed.” She smiles weakly at him then looks to me.

“He’s right Baby. He and I function just fine on little to no sleep. You, my dear, are not so fortunate.” I lean over and give her a quick kiss. She hugs Emmett as if his life depended on it then heads off to our bedroom.

She stops when she reaches the doorway and turns back to face us. “You both deserve to be happy. Please be good to one another. I believe you each can be the key to ending the other’s pain. Good night.” She doesn’t wait for either of us to respond. I don’t think either of us knows what to say. Could we somehow ease one another’s souls? Can I help him let go of the pain he carries? Can he help me let go of mine? Do we even want to delve that deeply into one another’s minds?

“Nephew,” the sound of his voice brings me out of my musings, “I’m about to earn your absolute rancor and for that I apologize. While I meant what I said about not having to divulge your personal demons to me, I want to know Christian. I want to know what happened to you, with my sister and without.” His worried look mirrors the one I feel when Ana refuses to talk about Husband Number Three.

“You haven’t said what stifled your happiness Christian. You were a wonderful child, energetic, strong willed, curious and always thinking of others. What caused that to change?” I swallow hard.

“Emmett, you’re not going to like the things I have to say or the way I say them.” I try to prepare him for what he thinks he wants to know.

Grey, think before you speak.

What! He asked the question. Remember, be careful what you ask for?

All I’m saying is choose your words carefully. How would you feel if some man told you Mia was a crack addict who let her pimp beat your nephew?

I know what you’re saying and I understand the sentiment, but this shit is at the crux of who I am and why I’m this way. Paraphrasing diminishes the explanation.

Emmett watches me closely while I struggle with myself. Eventually he says, “Nephew, you’ve already told me Ella was a crack addict. You’ve already shown me the cigarette burns that litter your torso. What else happened to you? I need to know.”

I take a deep breath to steady my feelings. I have to preface this conversation. “Emmett, I’ll try to be respectful in the words I use, but that’s all I can promise. Please, keep in mind I hate this subject, I hate being put on the hot seat and you will reciprocate by telling me what happened in your life during this period of time.” I raise an eyebrow for emphasis and Emmett nods.

Simply put, I proceed to tell him everything. We discuss her drug abuse, the physical and verbal abuse, the filth, the hunger and ultimately his sister’s death, but in much greater detail. I describe my dreams and how they haunt me to this day. We move on to my being taken to the emergency room and how Grace and Carrick Grey, my Mom and Dad, saved me.

I tell Emmett more than I actually planned to about my childhood, my adolescence and even my adulthood. We discussed it all. I mean all. My shrinks, drinking and fighting, my fear of being touched and how it affected me socially. The fact there were never any girls in my life and how my family, and pretty much the world, believed I was gay. I was surprised when he admitted he thought the same thing.

Of course, all of that lead to the first time Elena slapped me to the last beating I took before becoming a Dom and all of the lies I told to be with her. We talked about Harvard and how history pretty much repeated itself, except for the drinking; some fights, no girls and my monsters plaguing me. We talked about my rowing and still keeping in touch with Elena, even if I couldn’t see her as much as I wanted.

As the hours went by we talked about the various women I have paraded in and out of my BDSM lifestyle and what it did and didn’t mean to me versus my subs. When we finally reach the part where Ana stumbled into my office, I’m spent. It was a very long and very emotionally charged conversation on both our parts.

I could see the anger, pain and disgust he felt about everything that happened to me, especially the abuse and molestation. He didn’t lecture me though or try to psychoanalyze any part of my narrative, which I greatly appreciated and I told him so. I didn’t want this to be a Flynn Session.

“Emmett, are you gonna be alright?” He’s placed his hands over his mouth and simply shakes his head no. “Do you want me to call Ella or Everett?” He still shakes his head no. “Would you like to rest? There are several guest rooms here. Please make yourself at home. You’re not fit to drive anywhere after the discussion we’ve had.” When did I become concerned for his safety? He’s a grown man for fucks sake.

Around the same time you felt the compulsion to open up. Face it Grey…

Later, remember?

Yeah, Laters baby.

Can’t We Just Be Happy | Chapter 20 What A Tale It Is

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 20 | What A Tale It Is

EMMETT

I take a deep cleansing breath to try and steel myself for this tale. We don’t discuss this topic, I simply relive it night after night. I know for a fact I’ll regret this. Nevertheless, Christian has a right to know what went on before the experiences he remembers.

“Christian, Ella attended Harvard.” I tell him. In response to this statement, his eyes begin to glaze over, as if wandering back to his own memories. “Your mother was brilliant Christian. She attended Harvard to get her degrees in Economics, Mathematics and Music. She was an accomplished pianist for her age. I supported her decision, against the express wishes of our father.” I look back over my shoulder to see the anger emblazoned on my father’s face. When I turn to face Christian again, I can feel Dad’s eyes burning holes in my back. He refused to speak to me for the longest time and the more his animosity toward me grew the less I wanted to be his son.

Despite my father, I continue. “I felt she had the right to attend whatever school she pleased. Harvard is a good school and I considered attending there at one point in time. I am not as free-spirited as my sister was so I followed the beaten path and went to Melbourne.” Ella always told me how boring I was to simply ‘do what Dad told me to do’. She somehow believed I was the straightest arrow she’d ever seen.

Oh, my baby sister, how wrong you were.

“Ella became pregnant with you during her sophomore year, when she was home on Holiday. She and your father were ecstatic, our families less so. Ella wanted you, end of story. Ryan wanted Ella, so what Ella wanted, Ella got. She returned to school and worked as hard as she could to remain in Boston up until you were about to burst from her. We convinced her, before it was too late for her to travel safely, to come home and have you. The plan was for you to remain with us while she finished her studies then the three of you would do as your parents saw fit.”

It was all settled. Ellie and Ryan had full say in the matter and they were content with the arrangements. I was proud of she and Ryan at their willingness to negotiate with all of our parents.

“Mum and I made sure Ryan spent as much time as possible with you while Ellie was at school. He is no stranger to us nor was he a stranger to you.” I raise an eyebrow to stress my point.

Mum liked Ryan. The two of them had a connection similar to the one Ellie and Dad shared. Many’s the time Mum would chastise Dad for his treatment of her grandson’s father and soon to be son in law.

“Ellie returned home every chance she got as she stuck it out in school. She was determined to get her degrees. Ella and Ryan had a strong relationship. He supported her efforts and maintained a relationship with you, both in our home, at his own place and with his parents. He was your father in every way, feedings, spit-up, nights without sleep and diapers, oh how much fun I had watching you fire-hose your ole man. Ryan did everything Ellie couldn’t do from across the pond. They were committed to stay the course and each content with the role they would play in the end. Ryan was working for EB at the time. His business acumen proved to be incredible and he had a nice savings accumulated in anticipation of their reunion.”

“The summer following her junior year, Ellie returned home, as usual, for Holiday. She said she missed her son and wanted you by her side. She consulted with your father and he agreed, as long as she stuck to the plan and got her education. Ellie promised Ryan she was dedicated to him and their goal and she would be back, with you, after the school year ended.”

Ryan and Mum did not doubt Ellie’s ability, although they were very leery of seeing her go and take Christian with her. I chocked it up to missing their loved ones. I wasn’t happy with her leaving and taking my nephew with her either, but Christian’s parents agreed and as always, I took Hell fire and brimstone from my father for supporting my sister’s wishes.

“Ellie collected you and went back to Boston, or so we believed. Things went well at the start then, after some time passed, Ryan and I had a Hell of a time contacting her. So, I went to Boston myself to see you both and make certain all was well. I went to her apartment and some woman answered the door, informing me Ella Brown no longer resided at that address and she had no further information. The woman gave me Ellie’s mail, my letters, Ryan’s letters and cards from both of our families, to pass along when I saw her. I went directly to the Bursar’s Office and found out Ellie never returned to Harvard for her senior year. She withdrew before she came home that summer.”

“I contacted Dad and Ryan immediately and together we began to search for you both. Dad’s Security Team, as they called themselves, swore to us the two of you had simply vanished. You could not be found.”

I shake my head, still in disbelief. Those bastards didn’t even look. We later found out they took Dad’s money, repeated our personal investigations then called it a day. They took 12 months to tell us nothing and it took us another 12 months to discover their lies. By then it was far too late.

“Ellie sent me, Mum and Ryan postcards from New York City in the spring of what would have been her senior year. I dropped everything and raced to New York. Ryan did not have the leeway to simply pick up and go at a moment’s notice. I stayed in close touch with him while he, and then later Everett, kept record of my searches and findings, if any. I scoured the streets and homeless shelters of New York and hired private detectives to turn over every rock in each of the Five Burroughs. All to no avail.”

“In the summer, Mum Ryan and I received postcards, from Chicago. I dashed to Chicago and annoyed the fuck out of everyone, from the mayor to the city street sweepers. The following fall, the postcards were from Detroit. I ran there too. That time, Ryan told my father to fuck off and he accompanied me.”

“We searched Christian. Please believe me. We searched, on our hands and knees, what we thought was everywhere for both of you. I swear on my life we searched for you. We couldn’t find you.”

Ryan was a mess and I was having nightmares about what my baby sister and young nephew could be going through. They could be homeless, hurt or even dead and I was powerless to save them. Ryan was my friend and my brother in our search. My mother was our source of solace and comfort at every turn and dead end.

“The next spring, there were no postcards. Ryan and I went back to Detroit anyway and resumed our search.” Mum said something to Edward and my father never gave Ryan a hard time when it came to looking for Ellie and Christian. Mum would never tell either of us why Edward was so accommodating.

“Your father and I retraced our steps then ventured on to new ones. We did the same thing in the fall and again the next spring. We kept going back to Detroit because that was the location of her last postcards.”

“In June 1989, we got word that…” I almost can’t say the words. I can’t believe so much happened in such a short period of time. My baby sister was happy one day then…and my nephew was gone. I clear my throat and try again, just above a whisper, “We got word Ella was…dead…and buried in a potter’s field on the outskirts of Detroit. The police reports indicated a male minor was found with Ella’s body and taken to Henry Ford Hospital. People acted as if my hair was on fire as I ranted about finding my nephew. Ryan had to be restrained when we were told you were simply gone, vanished into thin air, never to be seen or heard from again. We knew it wasn’t true, but we couldn’t get anyone to listen to us or help us in the least.”

Ryan learned, sometime later, that by the time he and I became involved in this situation Christian was already through the American Foster Care and Adoption processes and in the custody of the Greys. The question of uprooting Christian to bring him home was a hot topic between Ryan, Me, Edward…and Mum.

“I was arrested for assaulting a city worker in some office who gave me a hard time about retrieving Ella’s remains and finding my nephew. Ryan, while at my side, had tried to stop me. I actually knocked him out in the process. It was a blessing because he was able to finish our latest search then return to Melbourne, with Ella’s remains. He reported it all to Everett, who had taken on the role of secretary and search analyst.”

I look over at my eldest son. Yep, he was a real Hardy Boy. He discovered the Security lapse.

“My actions didn’t endear me to anyone in Detroit or bolster my cause. Edward, much to the dismay of my mother and Ryan, felt as though I needed to spend those 30 days in jail to calm down.”

Again, I turn toward my father recalling his harsh words and the feeling of repugnance I had for him. I didn’t care that I was in jail. I was in the United States and I was in Detroit. I was going to find Christian.

My own life was taking a turn for the worse. My wife was none too pleased with me for all of the time I spent away from her. Everett and Ryan took control of my household, making sure all was in order and no one wanted for anything, Yvonne never let go of her jealousy over my relationship with Ellie and the time I spent in our search, but her feelings were meaningless to me.

She never forgave me and, somehow, I couldn’t blame her. Still, I refused to return without Christian. “By the time I was released from jail, Ellie’s body had already been taken back to Australia and buried in the family plot, in Melbourne. Our mother joined her, not long after.”

My personal conclusion was Mum died of a broken soul and a broken heart. Her only daughter, dead. Her only son, in jail. Her youngest grandson, gone. No one ever told me any differently leaving me to feel personally responsible for another fatality.

The final straw, my wife suffered a ruptured appendix not long after my return to Melbourne. We weren’t on the best of terms, but we did still share a home and semblance of a marriage. I found her unconscious on the bathroom floor when I got home from the office. We rushed her to the hospital where surgeons were able to remove her appendix, but she developed a general sepsis and couldn’t fight it off. She never regained consciousness. She was the last death I recall feeling responsible for. From that point forward, I was of no use to anyone.

My night terrors escalated. I didn’t go to work, I didn’t tend to my family, I just didn’t. Everett took care of everything, including Eran, Emerson and Ella. At the same time, Edward worked at and succeeded in having me declared an unfit parent, taking first guardianship then custody of my youngest sons and only daughter. Aside from Everett and Ryan, I was alone with my thoughts of ‘what if’ and ‘if only’ and my nightmares of ‘what is’ and ‘what was’.

I drop my face into my hands in defeat. I can’t go on anymore. I can’t make Christian understand how I felt then or how I feel now. I couldn’t explain it to my father or my wife and I don’t expect this young man to comprehend or even give a fuck about the ravings of an old man.

I raise my eyes to see the impassive mask returned and firmly set on Christian’s face. I’m locked in this Hell and I will be forever. Resigned to my fate, I take a deep breath and shake my head as if chastising myself for wasting his time.

At the sight of my weakness Christian growls, “Are you finished?” I smile and actually laugh, but it sounded off, almost maniacal, to my own ears. I deserved that, I know I did. I raise my hand to silence Everett when I see him part his lips to speak.

I shake my head for emphasis, “Leave it Ev, just leave it. The man is entitled to his thoughts, feelings and emotions, you all are. Do not forget, you were in his place at one time.” Everett lowers his eyes and nods.

Yes, my eldest son was none too pleased with me either in the end. He was given the same Family Meeting where he and I tore at each other’s throats. Our relationship survived and has evolved over the years, but there are times when I see disappointment in his eyes.

Ryan told me I was being paranoid. He assured me Everett let go of his anger after that meeting and is on my side. Ryan claims Everett understands everything and holds no grudge against me. I still wonder though.

I get up from my seat on the ottoman and look down into my nephew’s face, the spitting image of his mother. I breathe deeply again then ask, “Do you have any questions Christian?” He doesn’t speak. “I’ll take that as a no. I have more to say, but if you are not interested then I will not regale you any further.” I look, unseeing, around the room before saying “Goodnight all” then I move, wearily, toward the door. Damn the Rules. I’m spent and I’m going to get a few drinks before I head off to my nightmares.

Of course Edward won’t leave well enough alone, he has to have another word, “Emmett, we are not finished here. I have some things I want to say to my grandson.”

Oh for fuck’s sake.

I spin around to look at my father, anger and defeat oozing from every pore of my being. “THEN FUCKING SPEAK UP!” He’s got two seconds then I’m done. The children, Christian included, have never seen Dad and I go toe to toe.

I’m not beyond standing up to my father. Mum always told me to treat him with respect if for no other reason than his being my father. At times, like this, her words are the only thing keeping me from wringing his fucking neck…and he knows I can do it.

“Does anyone of you have pressing business tomorrow?” My father’s eyes scan the room. That old bastard knows good and well I have meetings with several Russian scientist about a power plant tomorrow.

“I do.” I respond, my voice deadpan. They all look at me as if I’m speaking in tongues. Ella and Everett know Family Meetings are not to be taken lightly. Christian simply hears the venom in my voice. “I have back to back meetings all day. I can be finished by 6PM, at the earliest. I would appreciate the opportunity to have dinner prior to another episode of the Brown Bullshit drama series.” I know I sound nasty and I couldn’t give a shit less. Every fucking time I think about this subject means I’ll get no sleep and now I’ve spoken on it for the past two hours. Gimme a fucking break.

“Fine Emmett, if you must…”

I cut him off, the fucker will not patronize me, “WHAT? SLEEP? IF I MUST SLEEP? That’s a fucking joke. With the exception of Christian, we all know that’s not going to happen tonight or for a few nights to come so save the condescending attitude father. Good night!”

As I turn to leave I see Christian looking at me expectantly. “I suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. This conversation brings about a myriad of emotions for me and I tend to have rather violent night terrors as a result.”

Ellie whispers, to no one in particular, “That’s why he occupies the furthest wing of the house.” I nod my confirmation. I’m as far away as possible so as not to disturb anyone.

Christian seems intrigued by my pain when he arrogantly asks, “And when did that start?”

Fucker.

I glare at him with my own hatred for his abominable behavior then I spit back, “The night some woman told me my only sister and only nephew were gone.”

Suddenly, there’s a look of contrition on his face, but it does nothing for me. I turn again and proceed to quietly leave the room. My final sound, the click of the closing door.

GREY

…Please believe me. We searched, on our hands and knees, what we thought was everywhere for both of you. I swear on my life we searched for you. We couldn’t find you…

“Find me…no one…alone…hurt…alone…” I feel my heart beginning to pound harder in my chest.

“Find me…no one…alone…hurt…alone…” I feel beads of sweat trickling down my face.

You’re forgetting your education Pet. You’re letting the world dictate your actions. This is a sign of weakness and weakness deserves punishment.

Yes mistress.

Not this day…any day but this one…please.

You’ll always need me.  People like you and I will never be loved.  No one will ever care.  No one will ever understand our needs…our desires.  You need me, you need our lifestyle to help you stay in control.  I am your reminder, my beautiful Pet.

She dragged her fingers through my hair and her nails down the side of my face to my mouth. She removed the ball gag she had in place so that she can hear me.

People want to confuse you Pet. No one else wants you…No one else understands you… You can depend on no one but me. I’ve taught you everything you know. I’ve given you everything you need. You’d be in jail or dead like your whore of a mother if it weren’t for me…for our lifestyle. COUNT PET!

One…two…three…four…five…

I’ve done this to myself. I chose this lifestyle. I chose to be here. I came here of my own free will.

Twenty…twenty-one…twenty-two…

I’m unlovable…love is for fools…No fool would love me.

Forty-five…forty-six…forty-seven…

Grace and Carrick tried, but it was all for naught…I deserve this…I was made for this…this is what I have to look forward to for the rest of my life…

I hate this day. I hate my birthday. I…I…Yellow Mistress…yellow.

You will learn Pet.  No safewords, not today.  This is my birthday gift to you.  You will remember your 18th year.  You will remember this time in our playroom while you are away at Harvard.  YOU WILL NOT RELEASE PET!  COUNT!

I’m trying to take the pain, but that’s all this is…pain. There’s no pleasure. There’s no… RED! RED MISTRESS! RED!!!

NO!

Fifty.  I gasp. I can’t breathe. I can’t believe she did that. I can’t move. What happened?

Remember this gift Pet. Remember, you were destined to be here…to be with me… You’re mine Pet. You will always be mine. I’ll be here when you come to your senses Pet.

Love is for fools…

Love is for fools…

Love is for fools…

I can’t breath. Why is my chest hurting? I feel like I’ve run a marathon and…what the fuck is that sound?

“…here baby…back to me…here Christian, please…” I know she’s there. I can almost hear her, my Ana.

“Here Christian…”

Just as I think I can reach her the sound changes. It’s familiar. The smell is familiar too. Then, I see it…the sticky rug.

You good for nothing little shit! Get the fuck out of my way! Fucking waste of space, that’s what you are. You’re lucky I let that bitch keep you around here.

MOMMY, MOMMY…HELP ME MOMMY PEASE! HIM’S HURTING ME!

Where is she? Where is she?

Shut the fuck up you little shit. She can’t fucking help you. NO ONE can help you. NO ONE can save you from me. Little BASTARD!

When he looks away, I crawl, as fast as I can. I almost made it to my hiding place under the kitchen sink when he catches my leg.

NO THE FUCK YOU DON’T! GET YOUR ASS BACK HERE! I’M NOT FINISHED WITH YOU!

My head hurts, my chest hurts my legs hurt, my stomach hurts…OW! NNNOOO!!! HHHEEELLLPPP MMMEEE!!!

I hear the cries in my head and all around me. The sound is distinctive and sharp. It spears my consciousness and burns my ears as well as my throat. OH GOD! THAT’S ME!

He’s beating the shit out of me. The strap he’s using is almost like a whip. The sound scares me as it snaps through the air and cuts into the flesh on my bare back.

“Help me…no one…alone…hurt…” He’s holding me down. I can’t get free.

“…Alone…hurt…” I feel myself thrash around. I feel like I’m being shaken…pulled.

“Ana.” The utterance is more of a thought than a spoken word. “Ana.” Suddenly, I can hear my voice, but it sounds strange, almost muffled. “ANA!” I finally yell. Sweat pouring off of me when I wake panting for breath.

I smell it, as if I was covered in nicotine and cheap booze. I can’t pull my t-shirt off fast enough. I scramble out of a strange bed, in a strange room, in a strange place. Where the fuck am I?

Oh yeah, that’s right. I remember now, the Brown’s, that fucking Family Meeting. They’re to blame for this.

The bathroom. I need the bathroom NOW! I manage to reach the toilet just in time to empty my stomach contents. Once I finish, I slowly sink to the tile floor trying to catch my breath. Trying to forget the scenes that just played through my mind’s eye.

I must have passed out. When I open my eyes I see Ana. She’s in the doorway to the bathroom. Edward is holding her as tears stream down her face. When she sees my eyes open she breaks free of his hold and runs to me. She holds me tightly and whispers calming words in my ear. Her body close to mine, her arms around me, her breath in my ear. I cling to her for dear life. I bury my face in her neck and, eventually, she calms my racing heart and slows my whirling thoughts.

My peace is short-lived. “CHRISTIAN!” A wail, that’s the only way to describe it. A painful wail echoes through the empty halls of this cavernous house. “CHRISTIAN!” I look to Edward who appears as though he wants to bolt from the room in the direction of the sound. It’s then I see Everett in the bedroom doorway, blocking Edward’s escape.

“HE’S MY SON! HE NEEDS ME EVERETT! LET ME PASS!” Everett slowly shakes his head. He will fight the older man to keep him from leaving, I’m sure of it.

“CHRISTIAN! ELLIE! CHRISTIAN!” The sound has become shrill, a blood curdling scream, as if someone is being murdered. This time I struggle to get up from the floor and stumble to the door Everett is still blocking.

“Get out of my way.” I snarl directly in Everett’s face, my nose actually touching his.

“It’s nothing new Cousin. He’ll survive. Are you…” I punch him in the gut then in the face as he bends over to grab his midsection.

“It’s something to him…and he’s calling my name not yours.” I roar at him as I rush from the room not knowing which way to turn. The sound is uttered again and again, more and more painful each time. It’s so dreadful and so loud bouncing off the walls, yet and still I feel like I’m being pulled to its source. Finally I reach what I surmise is Emmett’s bedroom door where Ella is standing, key in hand, but not entering the room.

“What are you waiting for? Open the damn thing.” I demand, winded and still shaking from my own dance with the demons.

What the fuck is wrong with these people? Don’t they understand what’s going on?

She shakes her head vehemently. The closer I look at her I see her eyes are red and swollen with streams of tears striding down her cheeks. “No,” she chokes out, “he’ll see it as a sign of weakness. He always does.” She breathes deeply several times, like she warring off an anxiety attack. She shutters then tells me, “I’ll wait here until the screams stop then I’ll enter.”

She’s got to be fucking kidding me.

I pound on the door, “Emmett! Wake up! It’s Christian! Wake up Emmett!” I turn quickly and look over my shoulder, “Dammit Ella, open the fucking door or I’ll knock it…” I’m cut off by a gasp from inside the room. It sounds as if he’s being strangled.

He can’t breathe. We have to get in there!

Then he begins to whimper, “Please forgive me. I tried Ella, I tried. I couldn’t find you. I can’t find Christian. Tell me where he is Ella. Help me find my nephew.” His pleading is followed by a loud crash and the sound of glass breaking. I won’t stand here anymore.

I wrestle the key from Ella and fumble to get the door open.  Inside, the room is pitch black and all sounds have stopped. It’s eerily quiet. “Emmett?.”  I say, caution in my voice, as I slowly venture into his room. “Where are you Emmett? It’s Christian. Where are you?”

Ella opens the heavy drapes, letting a stream of moonlight flood the room, to show Emmett on the floor beside the bed. Ella kneels next to him.

“Is he alive?” My voice is wavering.  She simply nods.   “Does this happen often?” I ask as I kneel next to him as well.  She nods again, new tears falling from her eyes. I shake my head and run my fingers through his hair, as if comforting a small child. He has nightmares about me.

We know nightmares don’t appear out of nowhere.  We know there’s something deeper here, right?

Inwardly I nod.

In the doorway behind us, the others have gathered. Everett clears his throat, “Cousin, would you help me put Dad back into bed?” I nod my consent and together Everett and I get Emmett back to bed.

As Ella tucks her father in, his eyes pop open and he sits up to quickly scan the room. When his gaze rests on me, we share a look of bewilderment. “We can talk tomorrow if you’re up to it.”  I tell him.  He nods and slowly lays his head back down on the pillow.  His eyes never leaving mine.  I pat his arm and move to leave the room, but I turn back to add, “If you like, it can be just you and I.” He nods again and we smile weakly at one another. I leave him, running, no sprinting, back to my Ana.


The Hardy Boys are fictional teenage brothers and amateur detectives.  The characters were created by Edward Stratemeyer, the founder of the Stratemeyer Syndicate, a book-packaging firm, and have been written by many different ghostwriters over the years.

Can’t We Just Be Happy | Chapter 9 Temper Tantrum

The original characters are the property of E.L. James.  I’m just having a lil’ fun.  No copyright infringement intended.

Chapter 9 | Temper Tantrum

GREY

“Hello sir.  You have no security in this residence whatsoever.  It was not difficult to cross the threshold without notice.  Welch and I are in the process of remedying that situation.  Mrs. Jones is shopping as we speak.  She said water, wine, milk and Fruit Loops were not a balance diet and no way for a college student, let alone a grown man, to live.  I told her you most likely dined out.  She is very, and I do mean very, upset with you.  After reminding her how things were when she joined us at Escala she seemed slightly mollified.”  This must be “Shock the Shit Out of Me-ville” because once again I’m standing around with no fucking clue about what’s going on in front of me.

“Mr. Grey, may I speak freely?”  All I can do is nod my head, although I do manage to close my fucking mouth this time.  “There are a great many people who are concerned about you.”  He actually has a worried look on his face.  I haven’t given anyone reason to be alarmed, have I?

Not as far as I’m concerned, I mean, you contacted all of the staff, they knew their jobs were secure since Escala and Grey House Seattle both needed to be maintained so I don’t see the big deal either.

“Taylor, I’m not following you.  Why is anyone concerned?  All positions were maintained, no one has been put out of a job, except Reynolds and that was for a valid.  Security hasn’t been necessary here.  As for the house, you and Mrs. Jones vetted several qualified applicants.  I just have to make a final decision.”

“While I appreciate your loyalty, I don’t understand your visit and I use the term loosely.  I won’t get pissy this time, but don’t ever break into my house, wherever it is, again.  Do you understand?”  That’s a fucking hard limit dammit.

He nods then goes on to give me the update on all things Seattle.  All of this “catching up” makes me feel like the weight of my world is on my shoulders again, in spades.

When he finally reaches the topic of Anastasia, I have to shut him down.  “PAUSE!  Taylor I appreciate the information, but I left all of this to you and Welch.  As for Miss Steele, she knows my telephone number and she knows the extent of the situation.  There is nothing more for us to discuss about her.”  And that’s final.

However, in true Jason Taylor fashion he keeps going.  I swear he’s like my mother.  “Mr. Grey, permission to speak freely sir?”  Oh shit.

“Taylor, just say whatever it is you have to say.  I have a sneaking suspicion I’m in for an earful no matter what.”  Since I heard Gail come in I yell, “Mrs. Jones, please join us.”  Once she seats herself I lay down the ground rules for this conversation.  “Neither of you have to ask for permission speak freely.  When the talk gets to be too deep for me, the safeword is red.  Get it?”

“Got it.” They say in unison and Gail nods her head for emphasis.

“Good, go on.  Spill.”  I sigh, sit back and resign myself to my fate.

Gail starts off, “Miss Steele came to Escala in tears.  She said she tried to contact you on several occasions, but your phone always went straight to voicemail and then cut her off so that she couldn’t leave a message.  She didn’t know if you were hurt, ill or if you simply were no longer speaking to her.”

“I was nervous because I hadn’t heard from you directly since you left for Taiwan.  I knew at first you weren’t thrilled about having to go overseas.  Jason and I…I mean Mr. Taylor…” we just said this was a heart to heart talk so all formalities are out of the window.

“Gail, if I may call you by your first name”, she nods her head and I continue, “we established this is a ‘Come to Jesus’ meeting so other than what’s common courtesy and respect, formalities aren’t necessary.  Ok?”  She nods in agreement then continues her story.

“When Jason and I got back from our vacation, you were nowhere to be seen.  You called Jason and told him about Reynolds and when your call was done, Jason went ballistic and I began to worry.”  She tries to blink away her tears, but ends up having to dab her eyes to stop them from flowing down her cheeks.  Jason puts a comforting arm around her shoulder and she steadies her breathing enough to go on.

“Your parents, brother and sister called several times before you contacted them.  Afterwards, your father began speaking with Jason on a regular basis.  Ros only had information pertaining to GEH and I have no interest in that”, she is beginning to feel more comfortable with this conversation, she is speaking about her own feelings.

I know you’re not shrinking someone?

Besides business, what other field do I know?  Degree or not, my crazy ass can tell you about psychology and psychiatry for that matter.

Listen up…

“…finally, Ana came to Escala.  She told me about your few chats before you left for Taiwan and since you’ve been overseas.  Jason told me about your move here and…well…I couldn’t stay away any longer.  I understand your separation of personal and professional relationships and I respect that.  Mr. Grey, I’ve been worried about you and how you were dealing with your separation from Miss Steele.  Whether it’s my place or not, I still worry.  All I can do is not tell you.”  See what you did?  You made a grown woman who has absolutely no biological or romantic involvement with you worry like hell.

What is today’s date?  I have to mark this one off on the calendar as “Astound Grey Day”.  What have these people been thinking about?  Fuck.  I went to work.  I always go to work.  I work constantly and no one gives it a second thought, but let me step off US soil and all of a sudden emotions run high.

I’m totally out of my comfort zone.  I look to Jason and mouth the word ‘red’ so that he can take care of Gail.  I let her know she’s welcome to stay or she can finish the interview process for the applicants she approved, the choice is hers.  “Gail, Jason, please don’t be offended.  I didn’t expect either of you to pick up and relocate to parts unknown at a moments notice.  I thought it was best to undertake this endeavor alone.”

“I sent you and Taylor on vacation because you deserve that and so much more for putting up with me and my shit on a continual basis.  My actions may be unconventional, but they come from a good place.”  She nods again then goes to the kitchen.

At this point I decide to ask, “Gail, do you want to stay here?”  Her expression softens but the tears are still flowing down her cheeks.

“Mr. Grey, I have no problem remaining here with you.  However, my home is with Jason, I’m certain you know that.  If Jason is prepared to move to this lovely area then I am as well.  My sister is a big girl.  She’ll be fine without me tagging along on the weekends”, with that she gives me a little wink and turns to work on dinner.

“Taylor, we can continue this discussion here or in my study, which ever you choose.  However, I’ve been in these running shorts and t-shirt so long they are dry and I need to take a shower.”  I’m not really prepared for all of this talking.  I wanted to sit around and eat my leftovers before delving into the facts and figures Ros faxed over to me earlier today.

Jason laughs at me and says, “Actually I would like a tour or to wander around a bit.  Go take your shower and we can pick up where we left off after we eat. “

“Ok Taylor, make yourself at home.  I suggest you take your belongings to the third floor.  It’s a replica of your living area at Escala.  If not, there are guest rooms on the second floor that are available to you.  The elevator is on the left of the foyer.  My room is here on the first floor.”  He nods and we part ways.


I turn on the shower to as hot as I can stand it and let the steam fill the room.  As the water falls over me I think about Ana.  She’s been trying to contact me?  Why haven’t I received her calls?  I haven’t missed calls from Ros or Andrea or the staff at the new office.  I don’t remember seeing any missed calls on my phone and the few texts I have were from Ros.  I don’t really talk with anyone else.  Why didn’t Ana send me an email?  My address hasn’t changed.  This is strange.

Once I’m out of the shower, dried off and dressed I head out toward the kitchen.  Mrs. Jones stops in her tracks, blinks a few times and stares at me with her mouth wide open then turns to look at Jason who seems equally taken aback.

“What?  What did I miss?”  I don’t understand the looks I am getting.

“Well…um…Mr. Grey, it is just…I am used to seeing you in your white linen shirt and black jeans.  This is a change for you.”  Am I correct?  Is she blushing?

I’ve dressed like this since I arrived in Townsville.  The new setting seemed to warrant a lot of changes for me.  My attire was one of those things.  I no longer don my linen shirt and jeans.  Various color athletic fit t-shirts or a wife-beater with plan blue jeans, for out in public, or my bare chest and shorts for around the house.  Since I have house guests, I thought the bare chest and shorts weren’t appropriate.

House guests huh?  These good people have walked in on you fucking a woman’s mouth in the kitchen, heard women counting out lashes and calling you ‘Sir’ and ‘Master’, if you saw fit.  Mrs. Jones in particular has cleaned come stains from various inanimate objects throughout Escala and NOW you get bashful.  REALLY GREY?  Get fucking real.

No one asked you so fuck off.

Fucking off ‘Sir’…hee, hee,hee

“Just a small change Gail, nothing to worry about.  I’m still the same overbearing, pompous, jackass I’ve always been, but I’m trying to get a grip on that too.”  I shrug my shoulders.  Taylor, thankfully, clears his throat then actually glares at Gail.  Apparently she likes what she sees.  Now it is my turn to hide a smile.

“Oh yes, dinner.  Cesar Salad with Red Wine Vinaigrette, broiled steak, medium-well and baked potato Mr. Grey?”  She seems a little flustered.  This is too much fun.

I was going to flash her my mega-watt smile, but I won’t do that to Taylor.  I’d be pissed if someone did that to me so I think better of it, “That is wonderful Gail, it’ll be good to eat real food again.”

I sit down to a Gail Jones masterpiece.  The best meal I’ve had since I left for Taiwan.  I think about everything I left behind and what I have achieved since being away from Seattle.  Part of me is happy I left and part of me does miss home.

All of this must be written on my face because Gail says, “We all miss you Mr. Grey and I’m not just saying that.  You have no idea how we feel about you because of the ‘Separation of Church and State’.  It’s hard to get close to you, but once we do you prove to be a wonderful person.”  She pats my hand and leaves Taylor and I to talk.

I look at Taylor for a clue of what Gail’s statement was about, but all he tells me is “She is right.”  I nod my head even though I do not truly understand all the fuss.

Finally I ask Taylor, “Do you want to finish our exchange here or in my office?”

“Where ever you feel most comfortable sir.”  I smile at the word ‘comfortable’.  Comfort has never really mattered to me, business was business and personal was off limits.  Things have definitely changed.

“Here is fine then.”  I take our plates to the sink, rinse them and put them in the dishwasher.  When I turn around, Jason has an all out, full-blown smile on his face.

“I know, I know, I don’t have anyone to clean up after me so I went back to basics.  The kitchen came with the place.  Since the world knows I can’t cook it could easily have been another bedroom as far as I’m concerned.  I can run the dishwasher, do my laundry and pick up after myself like a good little boy.  My mommy would be proud.”  At that statement, the smile falls from his face.

In horror I immediately ask, “Is something wrong with my mother?  Please tell me she is alright.”  I’ll be on the first thing heading stateside if she’s not well.

I talk with my dad more regularly now, but he’s always in his office in the city so he can blow up at me without fear of my mother walking in on him.  My ears start to bleed every time I see his number on the Caller ID.  The only thing he does anymore is chew me out.  It’s the ‘Harvard Drop-out’ scene over and over and over again.

“Mrs. Grey is fine sir.  She misses you, that is all.”  I let out a sigh of relief and nod my head.

“Would you like a lager?”  Taylor nods so I grab a couple Townsville Bitters hen lead the way to the living room that over looks Rowes Bay.

“What else is going on Taylor?  I’ve spoken with you, my father, Ros and various people here using the same cellphone with no problems.  Not to mention my email address has not changed so what’s the issue with Anastasia trying to contact me?”

“We believe someone has tampered with Miss Steele’s phone and computer.”  WHAT?!

The look on my face must say it all.

“She received a text and an email containing photos of you and a young woman.  The text was sent from an unidentified number, while the email was from a generic marketing company that sends out random announcements and coupons.  Barney says her email address could have been sold to any number of marketers simply from making an online purchase.  He gave her cellphone and laptop a once over and found spyware that could monitor her online movements and a zombie virus, which can be used to perform malicious tasks under remote direction, including but not limited to denial of service attacks.  Her emails were not reaching you due to the virus’ effects on her computer.”

“She is able to access her email from her BlackBerry as well.  Since BlackBerry maintains there is no such thing as a BB virus Barney is still looking at the phone.  During his research, Barney found articles to the contrary where the phone’s calling ability was affected in part or in full.  For now, we are working with the premise that both hardware items were attacked and prevented her from contacting you.”

There is only one person on Earth who would bother to keep Ana and I apart.  Taylor simply nods his head before we say in unison, “Elena Lincoln.”

STEELE

C’mon, c’om…Ring, Ring, Ring, Ring… “Grey.  Leave a message.” Beep.  Buzzz…

WHAT THE FUCK!  How the hell am I supposed to communicate with him if my calls keep going to voicemail?  And why the fuck can’t I leave a damn message?  What the fuck is he playing at?

Ring…Ring…Ring…”Hello…Chri…”

“Hey Steele, Mia and I are going to the Zig Zag for a few drinks. wanna join us?”  I guess alls well in the land of Katherine Kavanaugh

“Kate, I have a throbbing headache and booze is not going to help me.  You two enjoy yourselves.”

She sighs, “Steele, you cannot mope over…” OH NO!  NOT THIS TIME!

“KATE STOP!  Stop right there.  I CAN mope and I WILL mope.  The last time I looked in the mirror you were not there.  I appreciate you wanting to look out for me and wanting me to be happy, but I AM NOT HAPPY!  Do you understand that Kate?  No amount of Hagen Das, Chinese take-out, pizza or booze is going to make me happy.”

“All I am trying to do is…”  She has the nerve to sound defensive.

“Kate, I miss Christian.  I want to be with Christian.”

“I do not see what it is about him.  How can you stand him Steele?  He is so contro…”  REALLY?

“You mean like you are?”  I hear her gasp.

“Yeah Kate.  Where are you going to sleep tonight?  Where is Elliott?  When is the last time you spoke with him, huh Kate?”  Silence.

“That is what I thought.  Christian is not here to defend himself against you and your tirade.  And for the record, what the fuck has he done to cause you to hate him?  Huh?  What is that all about?”  Silence.

“I am waiting.”  Still nothing.

Let’s test the waters, shall we?

Be my guest.

“Kate, did I tell you Christian bought SIP and shortly afterward I was made editor?”  I cannot remember if I told her all about it or not.  That is an abridged version of the whole mess, but it is the salient information.

Another gasp, “How dare he try to buy you?”  Huh?  “What, does he think you can’t do it on your own?  Why does he want to keep you under his thumb Ana?  This is what I mean, why does he want to control your every move?”

“Do you think I should turn it down, move on to another publisher?”  Be careful Kavanaugh.

“Has his interference hurt your reputation there?”  The ‘R’ word,  “I know you are a hard worker Ana and your reputation means everything to you.  Has he damaged that with this asinine stunt?”

I grit my teeth and say, “Well, at the last staff meeting the other editors were looking at me funny, but no one came out and said anything.”  I know for a fact a few of them wanted to.  Even Roach seemed disappointed that my HR scores were high enough to allow me to stay.

“If it were me, I’d leave Steele.  I mean, I’m sure your boss would give you a good recommendation for wherever you decided to go, but you know we both worked so hard it’s a shame he couldn’t leave well enough alone so you could make it on your own.”

“You mean like you did Kate?”  Silence.

“Kate…Kate are you still there?  Do you mean like your getting an internship at your father’s company?”  Crickets.

“That is what I thought.  Kavanaugh, lets put it like this.  I love you, think the world of you, but this is my life not yours.  You have your man and I am going to have mine.  A friend will listen when I need them to, hand me a tissue when I need it or buy me a box of the damn things when I run out, but a friend is not going to tear down my confidence or self-est…”

“ANA!  I ‘ve NEVER done that to you.  How could you think that?  This is what I mean.  That self-righteous, salacious, asshole is fucking with your head.  You don’t even know who your true friend is.”  NOW DO YOU FUCKING BELIEVE ME?

“Kate, I have to go.”  I disconnect the call.

Well?

I know.  You are right about her.  I never thought of Kate as a jealous person, but then…you learn something new everyday huh?

Yepper.


First he says he loves me then I see him with some other woman, what is the damn deal?

WHOA…WHOA…WHOA!  Down Steele…down girl.

WHAT!

First of all you need an attitude change.  Second of all the man is F…I…N…E…FINE, no one can blame a woman for looking or even DROOLING at him.  You’re the one who gets her tights in a twist when that happens.  Third, YOU told the man “yes” THEN you turned around and told the man to “wait” and you practically bit his head off each time he tried to address the situation.  So WHO THE FUCK is being unreasonable here?  Wait for it…wait for it…BUZZ times up.  Still don’t know the answer?  Here, let me help…YOU!  YOU ARE BEING UNREASONABLE, CHILDISH and now you have the nerve be JEALOUS?

I told you and told you and I told you again to stop being an ass.  I told you to make sure you had your priorities straight and what did you do Miss High and Mighty?  You first sent the man around Seattle to attend any and all obligatory events stag, then you let him go to Taiwan, stag and as article after article came out you did and/or said nothing to him.  What the fuck gives you the right to utter a sound now?

Do you need assistance recalling the conversation, here let me help you:

NO!  I do not need to go back in time I was there.  I remember scripture and verse what I said to Christian and what he said to me.

Good.  There’s a reminder you do need to hear.

What the fuck could that be?

“…I want to prepare you for what the world takes seriously.  I do not want this to affect your time away from me.  I do not want you to question my love or fidelity to you no matter what the situation between us.  My heart is always in your hands baby.  I love you.”

This is not about money.  This is not about your feelings for him or his feelings for you.  This is about your insecurities and you misguided sense of independence.  What does his love have to do with your independence?

Uh…well…

Wrong answer.  He doesn’t care about what anyone else thinks.  He cares about and loves you Steele, that’s it, that’s all there is to it.  You can’t ask him for anymore.  You can’t hold your insecurities against him anymore than he can hold his insecurities against you.  You projected your fear about a situation no one can control on the man you claim to love.

Does the world take you seriously yet?

I do not know.  I mean, I go to work everyday and I carry my share of the load, so I guess I am taken seriously.

I understand you’ve shown yourself to be a dependable worker, but that’s not what I asked you.  I asked you if ‘the world’ takes you seriously yet?

HOW THE FUCK DO I KNOW?  I have not taken a before and after poll.

How do you intend to gauge the world’s view of Anastasia Rose Steele then?

I did not think about it that way.

WHAT?  WHAT WAS THAT?  I DIDN’T CATCH THAT LAST SENTENCE.  REPEAT THAT!

I SAID…I DID NOT TAKE INTO ACCOUNT HOW TO GAGUE WORLD OPINION OF ME!  DAMMIT!

Anastasia, what world are you even talking about?  Do you know?

I want my co-workers to take me seriously, I want my boss to take me seriously, if I get ahead in my field I want every little step to be MY win not a hand-off because someone knows Christian is part of my life.

So what world are you talking about?

ARE YOU STUPID OR SOMETHING?  I JUST TOLD YOU WHAT WORLD!  MY CO-WORKERS, KATE, JOSE, MY DAD, MY MOM!  I WANT THEM TO TAKE ME SERIOUSLY!

Where are your co-workers right now?  Where are Kate, Jose, your dad and mom right now?

I have no idea and at this very second I do not give a fuck.

Why don’t you know where they are?

I am no one’s babysitter.  My co-workers have lives of their own.  Kate is at the Zig Zag with Mia.  Jose and my mom are each somewhere in the world, I do not know where exactly.  My dad is at home in Montesano.  What does this have to do with my being taken seriously?

It has everything to do with it.  Your co-workers have lives of their own.  They’re not thinking about you sweetie.  They know you come to work on time and fulfill your assigned tasks.  Kate had her own shit-soup to sip on.  She doesn’t even work in your field, has no idea what you do for a living unless you tell her and between you, me and the lamp-post does she even give a fuck?  I think not.  What has she done to deserve to have that kind of power in your life?  Please explain that to me.

Kate graduated from college then proceeded to “inherit” an internship in her father’s company.  You see she doesn’t mind what anyone has to say about that?  Does she care what you have to say about it?  No, because that’s Kate and she knows you’d never judge her.  How does she know that?  You never have.  Why do you feel the need for her to accept you as anything other than her friend?

I wish you would see Kate for what she is.  You went to school together and she bullied you the entire time.  Her nasty attitude finally brought some good into your life that’s all.  She needs to worry about her own man before she looses him and has no one but herself to blame.  Although I’m sure she’ll come up with a way to pin it on Christian.

Your relationship with Grey is no more her business than her relationship with Elliott is yours.  The two of you have got to grow the fuck up.

Jose, well…Jose has wanted to fuck you for ages.  How you do or don’t feel about him is of no consequence.  How Jose feels has remained the same whether you reciprocated those feelings or not.  Is Grey a jealous ass?  Yes.  Does he have a valid reason to dislike Jose Rodriguez?  Yes, I believe so.  Do you have the right to expect Grey to simply forget what he saw that night outside of the bar?  No, I don’t believe you have the right to expect that from him.  You had difficulty watching him handle Leah when she had you at gunpoint and you still manage to harp on it by questioning his feelings for you.  How do you think that makes him feel?  Why is it you can walk away scot-free and Grey is left holding some kind of blame or is ‘guilty of crossing some imaginary line?  Why is he always the bad guy’?

I don’t know what else to tell you except you need to get your priorities straight.  Seeing him in a picture with another woman isn’t reason enough to contact him.  Think about it and I mean really think.  Let’s go to sleep, I’m tired and we have to be at work early tomorrow.  I’d hate for ‘the world’ to see you slipping.

Fuck you.

HA!  Is that the best you’ve got?  Grey deserves better than the way you’ve treated him and you know it.  You can lie to someone, but not to yourself.  Now, good night John Boy


As we go into SIP I ask Sawyer, “Have you heard from Christian?”  Sawyer looks at me as if I asked him to explain the meaning of life.

“No Miss Steele”, he shakes his head for emphasis, “I am assigned to protect you.  I have no knowledge of Mr. Grey’s whereabouts.”  We step to the far side of the Reception area so Claire is out of earshot.  I remember Christian saying Sawyer was head of security while Taylor was away, so he must know something. “Aren’t you currently head of security?”

His eyes widen and I raise an eyebrow.  He did not think I knew this little tidbit of information.  See caught you.  At least I thought I had until he tells me, “I was head of security while Mr. Taylor was on vacation, but he returned a while ago.  Anyway, I never spoke with Mr. Grey.  I spoke with Reynolds once or twice before Mr. Grey fired him and…” I did not let him finish.

“Mr. Grey fired Reynolds?”  I hiss as quietly as I can.  I do not remember being told this.  I remember Christian took him along to Taiwan because Taylor was on vacation and Ryan was assigned to Grey House and Escala.  What the fuck is going on here?

“Sawyer, I need to get to my office, but you and I need to have a heart to heart about what has been going on.  I am being left out of the loop.”

Ahem…

Not now.

Yes now…RIGHT NOW!

What the fuck do you want?

What the fuck makes you think you’re entitled to know about security for Grey?  Thought as long as you were free to roam about wherever you choose all was right in ‘the world’?

Ok, look.  I am going to tell you just like I told Kate.  I miss Christian.  I want to be with Christian.  I guess that means I am going to have to grow a set and fight with him tooth and nail when I feel like he is overstepping some imaginary line.  Until I get the opportunity to speak with him then I want to know WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON!  Do I make myself clear?

WOO HOO…OH SHIT!  CRYSTAL!

What the fuck is so funny?

You are.  Keep in mind, anything worth having is worth fighting for.  SWAK!  No, get to work.

Sawyer takes a deep breath before telling me, “Miss Steele, with all due respect, the actions of Mr. Grey’s security detail are none of your concern.  I am not privy to that level of information therefore I do not make inquiries about it.  I know Taylor is back from his vacation.  He is the formal Head of Security.  I recommend you speak with him concerning Mr. Grey.”  The look on his face is stern.  I nod, turn and proceed to my office.

Before I walk away I tell Sawyer, “Then speak with Taylor is what I will do.  Thank you Sawyer.”

After work is finally over, I practically sprint to the front door.  “Sawyer, I need you to take me to Escala.  I need to speak with Taylor.”

“Miss Steele, Mr. Taylor is probably still at Grey House right now.  I can call him and we can make an appointment for you to…”

“AN APPOINTMENT!  WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT ABOUT?  Let me tell you something Mr. Sawyer, Christian may not be in the United States, but until he tells me in his own voice to fuck off, not you, not Taylor not Kate, NO ONE is going to stop me from communicating with or seeing Christian Trevelyn-Grey.  Do you fucking understand me?!”  I have been pissed all day and his statement was the last straw.  I am tired of this shit.

Everyone, and I do mean everyone, in the lobby stopped to listen to my none-too-quite episode, but you know what?  I…do…not…care.  I take a step back allowing Sawyer to lead the way to the door so we can get this horse and pony show underway.

Sawyer is silent all the way to Escala.  I do not know if he calls to warn Taylor that I am on my way or not.  If I were Sawyer, I would.  I want answers.  What the fuck is going on?  Who the fuck is the bimbo?  Why can’t I get in touch with Christian?

You know you are being a…

YOU SHUT THE FUCK UP TOO!  I have had enough of your mouth.  I was wrong to think anyone’s opinion mattered other than my own and Christian’s.  OK?  I WAS WRONG!

I have told Christian so many times that I love him and I will never leave him.  This is the second time I have broken that promise.  He deserves better than for me to be wishy-washy about our relationship.  Not just for general human respect, but because he has had enough shit go on in his life.  Now, I am adding to that.

Why now?  How much did the woman in the photo affect my decision?  I would be lying if I said this has nothing to do with her.  I know how handsome, caring and fun Christian is.  I know any woman in her RIGHT MIND would be a fool to walk away from a man who loves her.  Let alone one who is willing to put up with my brand of bullshit.

From what I can tell of the photograph, she looks like me and he looked star struck.  He is mine.  He will always be mine.  He said so himself before he left, “…Quite the contrary my love.  I want to prepare you for what the world takes seriously.  I do not want this to affect your time away from me.  I do not want you to question my love or fidelity to you no matter what the situation between us.  My heart is always in your hands baby.  I love you.”

We pull into the garage at Escala and I barely wait for the car to stop moving before I jump out and race to the elevator, with Sawyer on my heels.  I punch in the code but nothing happens.  Oh shit.

I look up at Sawyer and he tells me, “The codes were changed because Reynolds is no longer part of the Security Team; it had nothing to do with you Miss Steele.  We cannot risk him bearing a grudge against Mr. Grey and getting back into the apartment.  The access codes here and at Grey House have been changed.”  I nod my head as we enter the elevator.  It makes sense.  I cannot see Reynolds bearing a grudge, but…STOP IT!  It’s not your decision to make.  Isn’t that what you tell Grey all of the time?  Well this is about his home and his responsibilities to Gail, Taylor, Ryan and Sawyer as well.  They live here even if you and he don’t, so BUTT OUT!

I stand corrected.

We enter the Great Room and no one is there.  I walk over to the breakfast bar and see Gail looking through the cupboards with her back to me.  “Hi Gail.”

I tried not to startle her but it did not work.  “AH!”  She puts her hand to her chest and tries to catch her breath.  “Hello Miss Steele.  Oh, my…I wasn’t expecting anyone.  How are you dear?”  Once her breathing calms down her eyes soften.  She looks at me like I am her long lost child.  She comes around the breakfast bar and gives me a good, hard hug.

I manage not to cry and when we break apart I ask, “Have you or Taylor heard from Christian?  Do you know how he is or where he is?  I have been trying to reach him, but he is not taking my calls and my emails keep bouncing back to me.”  I take a deep breath then continue, “He has someone else doesn’t he?”

Gail takes me in her arms and rocks me side to side.  “Oh dear, I don’t know Ana, but when Jason gets home we’ll get him to tell us everything he knows; alright?”  I nod my head without leaving her embrace.  “You go and lie down and I’ll make you some tea and put together something for you to eat, ok?”  Again I nod my head.  “Good.  I’ll bring you your tea in a few moments.”

I slowly walk to Christian’s bedroom.  It is perfect.  Just as it always is when we get home from work.  I go into his closet and see where all of my clothes are gone.  I took them with me when I told him I needed space.  What confuses me is, all of his clothes are still in his closet.  He did not take anything with him?  The first thing that catches my eye is his grey tie; our favorite tie.

As I reach for it Gail appears behind me and clears her throat.  “He didn’t take anything with him.  He usually has a wardrobe available, but then he typically only goes as far as New York.  I imagine he purchased what he needed when he reached Asia.  These things will be here for when he returns.  I am making chicken potpie; it’ll take a little while to bake.  You freshen up and rest.  I’ll call you when it’s done.  I placed a cup of water and a Twining’s, English Breakfast Tea bag on the table beside the bed.”  She pats my shoulder then quietly leaves the room.

I cannot lie down here.  It feels wrong to be here when Christian is not.  I can smell his scent throughout the room and I see the picture of him and that woman in my minds eye.  What am I going to do?


“Taylor what does this mean?  How can a cellphone get a virus and how can any of that stop me from getting in touch with Christian?”  I am confused and frustrated at all of this technology mumbo-jumbo.

“Miss Steele, I am telling you what Barney found when he remoted into your computer and the results of his overview of your phone.  Here, take this BlackBerry.  It is brand new with a different phone number, which is here.  I recommend you only give it to your parents until we can resolve this issue.  Do you have a landline at home?”

I look at him puzzled.  Doesn’t everyone have a home phone?  “Yes, but we do not really use it.”

“Good, do not use it until I give you clearance to do so.”  Huh?

“Taylor is this all really necessary?”  I mean come on dude.

I do not know what I said, but whatever it was, I pissed him off because he glares directly into my eyes and asks, “Miss Steele, do you want to see him again?”

He has got you there.  I nod without saying a word.

“That is what I thought.  Follow my instructions to the letter.  Gail and I are going to Australia.  I will update him on what is going on here.  Please keep Sawyer close to you.  If you like, you are more than welcome to stay here at Escala.”  I shake my head no, that is too much to ask, besides, I cannot stand to be here without Christian.

“That will not be necessary Taylor, but if I change my mind, would it be alright to come back?”

“Of course it is alright, anytime, no matter what.  Now if you will excuse me, I have things I need to do.”  He gives me a quick nod and a pat on my shoulder before going into his office.

I look at Gail who asks, “Ana, are you certain you don’t want to stay tonight?  You’re already here.  I’m sure Jason and I won’t be leaving immediately.  How about it?”  I know she worries about me and I miss her terribly, but I just can’t.

“Thank you, but no Gail.  I really can’t stay here without Christian.  You both travel safe.”  I give Gail a final hug before we say goodbye.


“Good night John Boy” closing dialogue from the television series The Waltons (1972-1981)

Can’t We Just Be Happy | Chapter 8 Déjà Vu

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 8 | Déjà Vu

GREY

I have absolutely no fucking idea how long I have been standing here with my eyes popped wide open.  I feel like I have just seen the Easter Bunny.

“Ana?” I whisper again.  The difference is I did not feel the current that unmistakably runs between us.  The charge, the pull is always so strong I can feel her presence before I see or hear her.  I did not feel it when I looked at that woman.  But she looks so fucking familiar.  Maybe not exactly like Steele…think Grey.  We’ve seen that face before, I’m positive.  Think DAMMT!

Huh?  What did you say?  I shake my head, more than a little confused by the situation.

All of a sudden I hear it, click-click…click-click…click-click, FUCK.  I look to my left and see a photographer a few yards away, but the clicks are in stereo.  I look to my right; yep there is another shutter-fucker.  I look over my shoulder; yep there is a third one.  These bastards must be on their coffee break.  Why in the hell are they taking pictures of me?

We have to get out of here, NOW!

I get back in the R8 and take off.  I left the top up and growl as I pull away, “Fuckers”.


 

I have been working harder than I have in years and I fucking love it. Grey House Townsville is fully functional with 25 new acquisitions under its belt.  The Taiwan shipyard is managed from this location.

I found a gym in the area and Claude recommended a kickboxing coach for me.  Claude seemed a little off during our conversation but I just wrote it off to his being busy.  “Thanks for everything Claude.”

“Not a problem Grey.  You know you can always fund my way over there for a game of golf or a good old fashioned ass kicking when ever you need it.”  Whatever fucker.  He’s just ticked he’s loosing a client.

I know, have funded his niece and nephew through college.  They both went to Stanford.

He will find another cash cow I am sure.

Me too.  “I will keep that in mind.”  I shake my head as I end the call.

I can run from my place to the gym, workout, come home, shower, dress and be off to the office.  Oddly somehow this all feels like déjà vu?  This is how things were when you first started GEH.  The only difference now is you have back up established in Seattle.  You don’t have to find a number two, so you can move forward.  This expansion thing was really a good idea.

Andrea still manages my calendar and the minute details of my life from Seattle; I cannot afford to loose Andrea.  She is the best fucking PA in the world.  She miraculously can synchronize between Australian Eastern Standard Time and United States Pacific Time. Of course, with the changes in her responsibilities managing my time between two locations she got a considerable raise.

Ros is still pissing and moaning about my office.  I told her in no uncertain terms if I find out she has been in my office I would have a bounty on her head.  She told Gwen what I said in the hopes of creating a united front against me.  Gwen simply replied, “Then keep your ass out of his office.”  Thank you Gwen.

Ros keep me up to speed on the Seattle office and she is fully aware of the operations in the Townsville office.  I love the way that sounds.  I never dreamed GEH would get this big and the sky is the limit.

It is with a light heart and clear mind I wander around the Townsville City shopping area where I find The Sweatshop Coffee House.  I grab a Chai Latte, the Financial Times and settle in for a peaceful Saturday morning.  Then, I see her.

She is probably five feet four inches tall, thin but still has a wonderful figure.  Her long auburn hair is pulled back in a loose ponytail that hangs to her shoulder blades.  She is wearing yoga pants and a tank shirt.  She places her order, a drink and a muffin then turns around.  Our eyes lock just like they did the first time we saw each other.  Though, she does not lower her head this time and she does not blush.

I do not take my eyes off of her as she pays for her order and looks for a table.

Lights…camera…action Grey!

Damn straight.  I smile to myself and get up to see where she sat down.  The shop is not crowded so it is easy to spot her in a window seat.  I run my hand through my hair and take a deep breath.

Just as I reach her table she raises her head and gives me the most beautiful smile.  It almost eclipses the sun shinning in the window beside her.  I’ve seen that smile before.

“Hello, my name is Ella.  We saw each other a few days ago in the park.  You have beautiful eyes.”  I’ve heard that voice before too.  I am stunned into silence.

LMAO!  That’s a first.  I like this little girl already.  Pull yourself together Grey.  SAY SOMETHING, STUPID!

“Hi, my name is Christian.  I have just moved here…” I do not get to finish my thought let alone my sentence when she begins to ramble.

“Yes, I know.  You emigrated here from the United States.  You really have been the talk of the town.”  The smile never leaving her face and her eyes seem to twinkle with humor at my expression.  “Please, have a seat.”  She motions me toward the chair across from her.

“I apologize for staring.  You look amazingly familiar to me, but I cannot say how.”  At closer glance, she really does not look like Ana, but she still looks like someone I know.  Not a submissive…dammit.  I know I must look like a fool staring at this woman.  This is gonna fucking drive me crazy

I shake my head and try to hold some sort of intelligent conversation.  “Are you from Townsville?  Did you grow up here?”

Ella smiles again and begins to tell me about herself.  She is originally from Melbourne, Australia.  She went to college in the United States.  I held my breath waiting for the other shoe to drop, “What school did you go to?”

“I went to Hawaii Pacific University and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Economics as well as a Bachelors and Masters of Science in Marine Biology.”

“Oh, you want to be Jacques Cousteau when you grow up?”  I aim for lighthearted and she runs with it.

“Exactly.  What do you do for a living?”  She is almost laughing at me as she sips her coffee and nibbles on her muffin.  She is cute.  She is not shy, but not pushy either, just a welcome mix of a good sense of humor, confidence and intelligence.

“I started my own business a while back and have been fortunate enough to expand it.”  Ha, ha, ha, if that ain’t the biggest understatement I don’t know what is.  Modesty don’t become you Grey.

“Must be a hell of a business for you to be in that house up there”.  She points in the general direction of my new home.  It has more space than Escala and is absolutely ridiculous for one person, but I liked it so I bought it.

“Yes, well…like I said, I have been fortunate.”  For some reason, I am desperate to change the subject.  I do not know why but talking about my success is bothering me.

“My grandfather, father and three brothers are in M&A as well.  Did we say anything about M&A?  “I guess that is why I chose to delve into the ocean for a living.  Being stuck in an office would cramp my style.”  She wrinkles her nose like she smelled something horrible.

“Anyway, after a while it is just a bunch of zeros on paper.  It seems to be a game to them all, where real people and real lives are bartered and sold.  I know they take each transaction seriously and to their credit, the goal is to be fair as well as equitable.  However, sometimes the two are mutually exclusive.”

“I do not know about Marine Biology, but you have strong opinions about money and business.”  Now she bushes.  Hmm.

We then talked about the weather, the things to do and places to go here in Townsville.  After a while Ella says, “I don’t know about you, but I want to get out of these sweaty clothes and lounge about for a while.  It was lovely to meet you Christian.”  She extends her hand to me and we shake.  Her grip is firm for such a petite woman.

I know we’ll see each other again.  If you like, we can meet here next week.  Same bat-time, same bat-channel.”  She gives me a little smile and a wave, which I return then she is gone.

Congratulations Grey.

What are you congratulating me for?

A well maintained conversation with a woman that was completely devoid of all things BDSM.  She’s a pretty girl and she’s right, we’ll see her again.

I stay in the window seat for a while longer thinking back on our conversation.  FUCK ME SIDEWAYS!

WHAT…WHAT’s  WRONG?

Her name is Ella!  I put my head in my hands and moan as if I am in excruciating pain.  I cannot believe this, her name is Ella.

Ok, lets get out of here Grey.  We need to talk and this ain’t the place to do it.

I pace back and forth in my living room analyzing my encounter with Ella.

Now, aside from the obvious, what is wrong with the name Ella?  It’s a name not a character trait.  You can’t hold a grudge against a name.  Wait, let me rephrase that because I know you CAN hold a grudge better than Monkey Tape.  It’s unreasonable to hold a grudge against a name and project it onto someone you don’t even know.

I know you are right.  Somehow, it is more than just her name.  You said it yourself.  There is something too familiar about her.  Like I have known her a long time or knew her a long time ago.  I would remember meeting someone else named of Ella; that would stick with me for an eternity.

Relax.  We have work to do anyway.  Put the déjà vu aside for now.

True.


 

Little did I realize Ella and I have become friends.  She’s taken me rollerblading, water skiing, surfing and to a pig roast on the beach of all places.  These activities aren’t foreign or new for me.  It’s just great to go with someone who’s not family or security.  I’m sad Anastasia’s not here to enjoy this, but I’ve left all communication up to her.

By now Ana is well aware of my step back form SIP, so that can’t be a bone of contention between us.  One of my conversations with dad filled me in about the goings on after my call home.  Apparently Kate tore her ass and Elliott put her out of his place.  Just peachy.  That means she’s back at the apartment with Ana spouting off about how you ruined her relationship with El.  Ain’t that just dandy.  I guess that explains the radio silent treatment I’m getting.

After work and my workout, Ella and I have been going on expeditions in and around the area.  I had Charlie Tango brought to Townsville and we’ve taken several flights across the Coral Sea following the route of the Magnetic Island Ferry to visit the National Park there.

I’ve seriously considered having The Grace brought here as well.  Although, for some reason I can’t pinpoint, I haven’t made that of kind of commitment.  I haven’t had a session with Flynn since before I left for Taiwan and I really don’t want his point of view.  I’ve been talking things out on my own and making solid decisions so I’ll stick with my gut instinct.

I’ve enjoyed listening to Ella discuss her family.  She’s the youngest of four and the only girl.  Although she’s the princess of the family, she is by no means a prima donna.  Strong-willed, intelligent, gracious and compromising are a few of the adjectives I use to describe Ella Brown.

“Our family business has been ingrained in us our entire lives.  All five men in my family, grandfather, father and three brothers are graduates of the University of Melbourne.  They each went though the Chancellor’s Scholars Program in their chosen field and completed graduate and postgraduate degrees.”

“My grandfather, Edward Brown, obtained his Bachelors and Masters of Arts in Economics.  He went on to begin EB, Pty on his own.  He prided himself on the fact that no one helped him finance his company.  He doesn’t like to feel beholden to anyone.”  We can respect that.

“Since the company is his, he made stipulations with regard to its composition, function and maintenance.  We each were required to pair the study of Economics with another unrelated course.  His rationale was we should understand money and its function in the world and extenuating circumstances that affect money and its function in the world.”

“We make for an interesting mix.  My father, Emmett, added Commerce, my first brother, Everett, added Politics and International Studies, my second brother, Eran, included Psychology and my third brother, Emerson, included Media and Communications.”

“The psychology major was laughed at until the company met with an attempted takeover.  Eran, “the shrink”, attended one of the business meetings.  Afterward, he was able to explain the thought process of their opponent and my family was able to out think, if you will, the other company’s moves thus saving our company from being overrun.”  Interesting tactic.

“They really are a sneaky bunch.”  She smiles again and shows a definite pride in her family.  You need to keep all of this in mind Grey.

“I suppose I’m the rogue child.  While I studied Marine Biology, I included Economics, in the event the males of my family were able to thwart my effort to pursue a career in Oceanic Research or Oceanography.  Therefore, I too have met the criteria allowing me to join them in “their work” should I choose to do so.”

“I have no desire to work in the family business, but I can advise them about proposals from companies related to zoos, aquariums, fisheries and governmental research and analysis.  So I guess I can pull my weight if I am ever needed.”

“Tell me about your family Christian.”  At first I consider giving her the condensed generic pries of my family history, but seeing how she has been so forth coming about her own life it seems only fair that I do the same.

I tell her about Carrick, Grace, Elliott and Mia, how we came together, our education, or the lack thereof in my case and our professions, including the lack thereof in Mia’s case.

We end up discussing Mia in some detail.  Finally Ella says, “Sounds like your little sister could use a dose of reality.  It can be a hard pill to swallow, but well worth the effort.

“I may tell her you said that.”  Mia really could stand to talk with Ella.  Ella smiles and nods her head.

Suddenly, she raises one eyebrow then asks me, “When was the last time you spoke with your family Love?”  Love?  What the fuck is that about?

“I spoke with them just before I came to Townsville.  Why do you ask?”  I guess I had a frown on my face.

“Well, you get a faraway look in your eyes when we talk about my family, as if you long for your own.”

Just then, I feel the walls go up around me.  I actually feel myself shutdown and close off from her. “Ella, I really do not see where my personal life is any of your concern.”  That is final.  However, I am about to learn a little more about Miss Ella Brown.

Ella straightens her stance, squares her shoulders and marches directly toward me.  She then looses all facial expression and her baby blues seem to glaze over.  “Really, you think so?  Well let me tell you something Mr. Christian Grey, first it doesn’t take a degree in anything other than the fundamentals of life to see the affects of a broken heart and feel the presence of a troubled soul.  So if you think you’re hiding, you’re only fooling yourself.  Next, I may be female and diminutive in stature, but I can hold my own in any confrontation, so you can change your carriage and tone of voice if you wish to continue our little chat.”

“Believe it or not Love, we have internet access ‘Down Under’ as well.  For all you know I’ve already Googled your ass and have your basic story in mind right this minute.”  Then she raises her brow again and says, “However, that is not how I do business.  I give a person enough rope to hang himself then I move on.  At this point Mr. Grey, you’ve earned yourself a head on my mental game of hangman.”  Her arms are at her sides, her fits balled and she is on her tippy toes trying to get in my face.  Feisty huh?

“There is a way to speak to people Christian and you need to learn it.  Bullying isn’t the way to win friends and influence people for the better.  My grandfather has a mantra he recites for situations where deliberate thoughts and actions are of the utmost importance, Marcus Aurelius from Meditations, ‘You have power over your mind, not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.’  Keep it in mind the next time you are faced with a predicament you don’t like and temper your reaction accordingly.”  She takes a step back and stares at me without blinking.  I know I look like a goldfish with my mouth opening and closing with no sound coming out.

Ella smirks and says, “Shall we continue our walk or are you going to stomp off like a little girl?”

I smile, take her hand and continue on our way.  She is an insightful woman.  Like it or not, I believe some of her grandfather’s business sense rubbed off on her.


 

Ella is preparing for her internship interviews and I’m bogged down with the new deals I have in the works.  After my usual run I’m dog shit tired when I get home.  I walk through the door and am greeted by a familiar pair of dark brown eyes filled with rage.  “How the fuck did you get in here?”  Breaking and entering is against the law all over the world isn’t it?

Can’t We Just Be Happy | Chapter 6 Carry On

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 6 | Carry On

GREY

So sleep is out of the question I take it.

My, aren’t you perceptive and for so early in the morning too.  I am impressed.

Don’t get our balls in a bunch fucker it was just a question.  We have no meetings today, Grey, so we can finish researching the Australian building site and possibly schedule a tour, that is, if you truly intend to leave Seattle.

Relocating GEH Headquarters means nothing to me.  I can run my company from anywhere on the globe and I know it, all I need is internet access and a cellular signal.  I am leaving Seattle to give Ana space.  It is all up to her now.

I never took you for a coward Grey.

That is because I am NOT a coward.  What the fuck do you suggest shit-head?  Do you have some words of wisdom to make all of this magically go the fuck away?

I do not know, you tell me.  How about we talk this through without Flynn and without Steele, hmm?

Fine, you talk…I am tired.

Ahem…we have established that Steele is not your submissive, correct?

I am going to stop you right there.  If all you are going to do is take mental inventory of the obvious or replay conversations we have already had then you might as well shut the fuck up now because I am in no mood.

As I was saying, before I was so RUDELY interrupted, we have established that Steele is not your submissive, correct?

GRRR!

GRRR all you want motherfucker, ANSWER ME!

NO!  Anastasia is NOT my submissive.  I wanted her to be my submissive when I first met her, but at some point in this bizarre bullshit we fondly refer to as our relationship, my feelings on that changed.  I want to spend time with her outside of my Playroom and outside of my apartment.  I want her to be comfortable with my family.  I want her to be actively involved in my day-to-day life.  I care about what she thinks, how she feels, her opinions and I want her love.

I find myself thinking about her for absolutely no…fucking…reason, and before you make another nasty-ass comment, I do not only think about her sexually.  I think about all of her, mentally, physically and spiritually, makes me smile.  I cannot maintain my tough guy, Master of My Universe persona when she is around, she sees right through that and gets at the heart of whatever caused me to “go Dom” in the first place.  It is all part of what I love about her.

You spend a vast majority of your time thinking about what to do for her and what to give to her.  What do you want from her?

What do you mean?

Hello there, Harvard.  We dropped out, but that was from boredom not stupidity.  It may be a difficult question for you to comprehend, so let’s ask again, slowly, what…do…YOU…want…FROM…Anastasia?

Oh, you have digs , huh? Well…I want her to be happy. I want her to feel loved and cherished. I want it to return my affection and let me express my love for her. I do not want her to shower me with gifts or to kneel and beg me to be with her, if that’s what you mean. Does that answer your question, smartass?

Oui, oui it does Mr. Grey. So this has nothing to do with money or power? I mean, you are not just out to make her a trophy wife?

No, this is not about control, power or money.  If I tried to take control of Ana or exert some kind of power over Ana, she would leave me.  Not to mention, it is an impossible feat because, as I just stated, I cannot maintain the will to do that when she is involved.  I cannot stand to hurt her in any way.

I want to make her happy and take good care of her.  As it stands, if I want to take her to Monte Carlo for a night on the town, what am I supposed to do?  Tell her to save up and pay her share?  Do I take a tugboat to get there or am I just supposed to not do anything for her that she cannot do for herself?

All you can do is wait.  We already discussed this.  It is not your fight.  You cannot make her accept you.  And I mean the entire package.  We know you do it big, from yachts to jets, from helicopters to penthouses.  You cannot force her accept those things.  Then it is no longer your Ana sharing with you, it is your submissive following your instructions.

Something is preventing Anastasia from enjoying what you have to offer. Something is causing her to have a negative impression of your actions.  It is not your job to figure out what that something is; it is hers.

Go play the piano.  How about some Rachmaninoff?  Play the one with all of the rifts and scales and please, watch your phrasing.  The challenge will do us good.

You know me so well my friend.

That I do.

And play I do, Rachmaninoff, Tchaikovsky, Haydn and numerous others.  I played until I saw the sun on the horizon.

Fuck this, I did not come over here to waste away.  I came over here to conduct business and conduct business is precisely what I am going to do.  I went to more business dinners and network lunches than I care to acknowledge.  Every fucking single time, there is a rogue flash or a multitude of clicks going off around me.  The next thing I know…BAM!

The article following a visit to the hotel’s pool area was particularly entertaining.  I chuckled as I read the headline, “Go Get ‘Em Grey” with a picture of me naked from the waist up.  There were two women on their knees, in the submissive pose, on either side of the doorway where I stood.  I could not keep from laughing.  This clip apparently made it back to the US because it resulted in a text from the Bitch-Troll:

BT: Hello Pet.  It is nice to see you are not brooding over there.

Grey: GO THE FUCK AWAY!

BT: Now Pet, there is no reason to be hostile.  I am proud of you for exploring your surroundings and not pining away for the same ole same ole here in the States.  Enjoy Pet.  I will see you when you return.

I do not care if she is proud or not, her opinion means nothing to me.  I do not want to have contact with her ever again.

My last night in Taipei consisted of dinner with the Executive Leadership Team from my shipyard.  I was seated between the wife of one Director and the fiancée of another Director.  Of course they were beautiful women, which only lead to speculation about the seating arrangement.  You could hear the camera clicks a mile away.  Whoever the journalist was the fucker did not have the decency to find out the identity of the women seated beside.  The news about that dinner read “Business or Pleasure” 

Seated here, Mr. Christian Grey is being entertained by executives from a local shipping company.  Who are the mystery women?  Does Mr. Grey have a bigger investment here in Taipei than he is admitting?  Rest assured, we will find out.

Needless to say the outcome lead to the photographer being blackballed and Reynolds’ dismissal.

“Just where in the fuck were you?  All you have to do is look and listen.  A deaf child could hear those camera clicks.  I thought you FBI guys could hear a fly fart from 100 miles away.  Obviously I was wrong.  YOU ARE FIRED!”

“Yes sir.  I will notify Mr. Taylor immediately.” He says with his eyes looking at the floor like a kindergartener caught in a lie.

“Did I ask you to notify Mr. Taylor?” I growl, “I will take care of any notifications.  Hand over your GEH identification and that fucking BlackBerry.  I have half a mind to let you figure out how to get a commercial flight back to the States.  However, the jet is available so get your ass on it.  You are welcome; you can thank Miss Steele for my change of heart.”

“Yes sir.  Thank you sir.”

What the fuck ever, stupid little prick.  He thought no one saw him trying to make time with the maitre’d.  Well he thought wrong.

I sent Taylor a text letting him know about Reynolds and told him to immediately change all of the pass codes and locks for the areas Reynolds could access and let me know about his progress.

Just as I hit Send, my phone rang, “Sir, this means you are alone and unprotected.”

“Yes Taylor, it means I am alone and unprotected, but it is a mute point because I will be in a new location in a few hours.”

“Reynolds is returning to the US by commercial flight I take it.”  Nope, you got to give it to the bastard Grey he is thorough, nosey as all fucking hell, but thorough.

“No Taylor, the jet is taking Reynolds back.”

“Then how will you be traveling sir?”  Nosey prick.

“I have my ways Taylor.  Look, you are just returning from your vacation.  I hope you had a good time and tell Gail I said hello.  So settle in, liaise with Sawyer then take care of the security updates.  I will be fine.”

“Sir, this is…” Shut this fucker down Grey.  What the fuck did we do before Taylor came along?  We’ve been in more than our fair share of street fights, most of which we initiated by the way, beaten and fucked by a pedophile and threatened for a majority of our life over whiners and haters who cannot manage their own companies so who the fuck is he to ‘protect’ us now?

“Enough Taylor.  I will be in touch.”  I say as I hit the End button.  Give me a fucking break.  Maybe we need to be totally on our own.  There is no need for a fucking babysitter.

I spoke with Ros and updated her on the shipyard situation then told her I was on my way to Townsville Australia.  The city is on North Queensland’s east coast.  Building for the new Grey House is underway and I will have a perfect view of the Great Barrier Reef.

“…and let Human Resources know they will be receiving employment applications shortly.  I want everyone checked five times over so get Taylor and Welch involved ASAP.  We should treat this even more carefully than when GEH started.  Brush off your pointy hat and broom and be ready for Skype interviews.”  I laugh.  She loves employment interviews.  It is her time to shock the shit out of perspectives, vent her frustrations of the day and flex her muscle all at one time.  I have seen her in action.  She is a true bitch at interview time.

“Do not give me any shit Grey.  You know interview time is better than Christmas for me.  So this is really going to happen, huh?  You really are not coming back here?  Oh hey, can I have your office?”  I know good and well she is fucking serious.

“Yes it is real and FUCK no you cannot have my office.  When I DO come to Seattle I do NOT intend to be some redheaded, homeless stepchild in my own building.”  Shit.

“Whatever, it was just a question.”  And I just gave her the answer.

“Anything else Ros?”

“Yeah, SIP is doing…”  OH NO YOU DON’T.  Not this shit. She knows protocol.  When there are no issues affecting my pocket then she can have it.  We knew it was doing well based on its ratings in Barron’s and because she would have lead off with its fucked up shit if things were going badly.  So, we do not want to know.

“STOP!  Is there a problem at SIP that requires my attention?”

”No, I just thought…” I do not pay her to think for me.  I pay her to be my second and think for GEH.

“STOP!  You thought wrong.  SIP is just another GEH subsidiary.  You do not discuss subsidiaries with me unless there is a situation that only I can address, correct?”

“Yes.”  She knows this.  We have never had to have this conversation and I do not ever intend to have it again.

“This is not new protocol.  We have conducted things this way since you came onboard with GEH, correct?”

“Yes.”  Plain and simple, I wish the rest of my world functioned this way.

“Then why in the fuck would things change now?  Think very carefully before you answer that question Ros.”

“No reason, Grey.  Other than to brag on their standing with GEH.”  Good answer.

“Ok then, they are doing well.  I know that from the financial news that you know I read every fucking day.”

“Yep”, she pops her ‘p’.

Then changing the subject she says, “I will let you know when I have scheduled the interviews.  Since this year is over, will you be coming back here during the First Quarter?  If so, we should schedule the End of the Year Reports meeting.”

“I will think about that and let you know Ros.  Bye.”  Mission GEH update accomplished.

Now it is time for Operation Family Confrontation.  I am truly dreading this.  I did not call at Thanksgiving or Christmas on purpose.  I did not want to overtly ruin my mother’s holidays.  For some masochistic reason I feel the need to contact her before the New Year to let her know that I moved my company and myself to Australia.  “Please God be with me.”

She answers on the second ring, “CHRISTIAN!  Where are you son?  How are you son?  When are you coming home?  We all miss you so much. Anastasia is devastated.”  Damn caller ID.  Talk about let a guy get a word in edgewise, but that is mom for you.

I do not have the opportunity to speak when I hear a commotion in the background.  Based on the ear-piercing scream I know it is Mia.  I take it mom was trying to keep the call all to herself.  Not going to happen with Mia around.  She should have been on duty instead of Reynolds, that picture would never have made it to press.  True, very true.

“Is that Christian?”

“Yes darling it is him.  Just give me a moment…” then there is a struggle for the phone.  I have never heard my mother and sister tussle over anything.  I am picturing Mia struggling over an article of clothing at Niemen’s; it is too funny.

“…Let me talk to him mom…”

“…Mia, calm down.  I will give you the phone when I am finished.”

“Please mom…” I am on the edge of my seat betting on which one will end up with the phone.  This is better than any gift.  I should disappear more often.

“Give me that damned thing.  Christian Trevelyn-Grey, where the fuck are you?  You are killing your mother.”  Uh oh, the party is over; it is dad.

“Hello dad.  I am still in Taipei.  I thought I should call and check in before I move on.”

“Just a fucking second mister.  You will just be spending a shit-load of money on this long fucking ass distance call.  That is what you will be doing.  Now, I want answers, but your mother has been in tears since you told her you would not be in Seattle for the holidays so I will let her speak with you first.  Then you will touch base with your sister and brother and finally, you will answer to me.  Do you understand?”  Now you know why the man is a good lawyer.  If you cannot get me out of this shit-storm then just give it a fucking break and let me suffer through this.  Be my fucking guest.

“Yes sir,” I say very quietly.  He is pissed, my mom is pissed, and my sister is pissed.  I know Elliott will not give a fuck so I am not worried about him.  Mom mentioned Ana, what are you going to do about that?  That is when you can cash in your two cents, but for now, piss off. Hee, hee, hee you will need me sooner than you think.  The thing that pisses me the fuck off is I know he is right.

“Christian?”  I can hear the pain in my mother’s voice.  God I hate this.  I knew I should not have called.

“Hi mom.  I am fine.  I am still in Taipei Taiwan, but I will be leaving here on my way to Townsville Australia.  I wanted to let you know about the change in my location.”  Did I answer all of her questions?  After all the fuss, I forgot what she asked.

“I am glad you called son.  I miss you terribly, we all do.”  I want to laugh.  I know she misses me and Mia does too, but as for dad and Elliott, I know better.  My father and I have never seen eye-to-eye on a damn thing and that only got worse when I dropped out of Harvard.  Elliott, well, he is a big brother so it goes without saying.  I am too big and too ugly for him to worry his pretty little head over.

“Well, that is all I wanted to say mom.  I just wanted to give you an update.”  You did not give her an update.  You forgot one question.  What was that?  Wait for it.

“When are you coming home son?”  Oh, shit.  I did miss that one didn’t I?  Deep breath Grey, just give it to her straight.

“Mom, I am relocating myself and GEH to Australia.  Building is underway for the new office, new employee interviews will begin shortly and I have a few local companies I am looking into acquiring, so things will be really busy for me.  I will be back sometime next year for business in the Seattle office.”  That should be enough.  I am not going to promise I will visit because I probably will not.  Escala will be available for me to stay the night, as I do not plan on staying for long.

“Christian, what happened between you and Ana?  Why have you distanced yourself from us all?  It has been impossible for me to contact her and she just lives in the city.  While finding you is like looking for a needle in a haystack.”  Mom says with tears in her voice.  I can hear Mia sniffling somewhere beside her.

“More like looking for Waldo.”  Elliott yells.  For once, I am glad for his stupid sense of humor.

“It is a long story mom and not one I want to discuss.  Suffice it to say, I am expanding GEH and Anastasia is building her career.”  And she is doing it the way she wanted to, without our interference and even our knowledge at this point.

I have not spoken to Ana in about a month.  The days and nights are running together anymore.  All I have are my dreams to keep her with me.  To protect me from whatever is out there, especially at night.

“I do not believe you Christian.  You have no reason to expand GEH.  You have more money than is necessary for the Brady Bunch, let alone a single man with no dependents.  I want you back here and I want you back here now!”  My bossy mother; she makes me smile when she acts this way.  It reminds me that she is the parent and I am the child and that she really does give a damn.  The thought makes me smile.  You can never get too grown up for mommy.

“Mom, no disrespect intended, but I would if I could but I can’t so I won’t.”  She takes a deep breath and simply passes the phone to Mia.  No goodbye, no fuck you, nothing.  So I know I have fuck up that relationship for good.  Way to go Grey, two down three to go.

“Christian? “  I cannot take this.  I am going to say this shit once more then I am getting off this damn telephone.

“Mia, would you put the telephone on speaker please?”  I am trying to keep my composure.  I know I have not called and I have been gone for a while, but it is not the first time in my life that I have been away on business so I do not get the big fucking deal.

Mia announces, “Ok, we are all listening.”

“I am currently in Taipei City Taiwan and am on my way to Townsville Australia.  I am moving GEH Headquarters to Townsville.  Building is underway, sorry El, you would love Townsville.  According to the Australian Conservation Foundation, Townsville is the fourth most self-sustainable city in Australia, including building and transportation.  It is wonderful.  That is it.”

“What about Ana you pretentious, self-centered, uncaring motherfucker?”  she shouts in true self-righteous bitch fashion.  Then there is dead silence.  I mean dead silence.  Libraries should have such sound control.

Finally, I hear the low growl I recognize, without a shadow of a doubt, is my father.  In a bare whisper that sounds like a faint spring breeze I hear, “Get the fuck out of my house and do not ever return.  Do you understand me? Elliott, if you bring her back on the premises, I will have you both arrested for trespassing and you of all people know I will do it.”

So much for the ball-buster, hee, hee, hee, the bitch deserves that and worse.  It is a mystery just what the fuck Elliott sees in her, aside from possibly a decent fuck and a blowjob.  With the filth that comes out of that bitches yap it is a wonder he has not needed shots because of the tea-bagging tart.

“Mr., Mrs. Grey, I apologize for my language.  Ana has been upset and distant from me for months and it is your son’s fault.  She will not tell me what happened, but I know she never behaved this way before she met him.  And…” she does not get to say another insincere word because Elliott finally takes control.

“Kate, we have discussed this a million times.  I am tired of you belittling my brother.  Ana is a grown woman and she can stand up for herself.  Being her friend may mean listening to her when she needs you, but it most certainly does not give you free license to attack my brother.”  Now step the fuck back bitch.

“If you did not like Christian because of something he did to you personally, then I would understand the contempt you constantly display, but even then your actions, especially tonight, would not be acceptable.  However, that is not the case.  You do not like him because of the goings on in his relationship with your friend and that is not only unreasonable and utterly ridiculous on your part but also none of your fucking business,” which we have all told this whore for the longest time.

“I cannot stand by and let this continue anymore.  I will call a cab to take you back to your Pike Market Place apartment and I will pay to have your personal items delivered to you tomorrow.  Keep the key because I will have the locks changed before you get back to the city.”  Oh shit, that has got to hurt.

“Now, I believe my father told you to leave and do not for one instance think you can apologize satisfactorily enough for disrespecting my family so do not even try.  Get out.”  WOW!  YOU GO BOI!  Never in our wettest dream did we believe he had it in him.

As proud of him as I am, I do not know what possessed me, but I cannot be the reason he ends up unhappy in life.  I am not worth it, even if he does not understand why.  “Elliott don’t, I am a big boy.  She can say whatever she likes to me, although Miss Kavanaugh, I demand you make penance to both of our parents and our sister.”

“My relationship with Anastasia is none of your concern so you can stop wasting your vile breath attempting to disparage me because I know for a fact Anastasia would not appreciate your effort.”  I want Elliott to get rid of that bitch, but that will be his own choice based on whatever parameters are set in their relationship.  I want nothing to do with the situation at all, ever.

I do not need to hear anymore so I try to make my escape, “I bid you all ado.”

I am trying to give my dad the slip, when all of a sudden, the same soft, stinging voice says, “Just a fucking second son.  I am not done with you yet.  Tell everyone else good bye, but you are not getting away from me that easily.”

DAMMIT!  “Bye mom, bye Mia, bye El, take care and I love you.”

“Good-bye darling.  I wish you would come home.  I do not understand why you left, but I will not press you for an answer.  I love you too.”

“Bye Christian.  I do not care why you left.  I just want you to come back.”

“Hang tough lil bro, give the babes hell for me, will ya?  Oh, I did like that pic of you by the Jacuzzi, although, you need to workout dude.  You look like you are getting flabby around your middle.”  He does not understand what he just stepped into does he?

I cannot let that one go, “Above or below the towel?”

“EWWW, touché lil bro, touché.  Laters Chris.”  He says with a chuckle in his voice.  Score one for us.

“Laters El.”  This is the first time I have ever enjoyed his humor.  Hmm, I kind of like this feeling.

Then all is quiet on the western front again and I know my dad has taken the telephone into his office.  If he had FaceTime the damn thing would be sitting in the chair on the opposite side of his desk so he could stare at me, just like he did when I was a kid.  Thank God he has no interest in Twenty-First Century technology.

“Ok Christian, start talking.”

“What do you want to know dad?  I said my peace a few minutes ago.”  This is going to be a do not ask do not tell conversation.  He is getting truthful responses to his expressed questions, only.  He better remember you are only as good as you are specific.  No doubt.

“Why did you go to Taiwan Christian, why are you relocating GEH to Australia and when will you be back in the United States permanently?”  Pretty good, but not good enough.

I repeated the answers I gave to mom, verbatim.  I am not discussing my personal life with either of them.  This conversation is over.  “Dad, I have a flight to catch.  I need to get going.”

“Bullshit Christian, that plane leaves when you say so, even when you have a flight plan mapped out you can always arrange a delay.”

“I am not using the jet.  It is taking Reynolds back…” OH SHIT!  What have you done?

Then, we are back to the whisper, “Taking who back where?”

“Taking Reynolds back to the States.  He failed in his duties and I fired him.  I put him and his belongings on the jet and sent him back to Seattle for Taylor to handle.”  Open mouth, insert foot; you really should be conducting a seminar on your method because you are hitting the mark directly today.

“DO YOU FUCKING MEAN TO TELL ME YOU ARE ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE GLOBE WITH NO FUCKING SECURITY?  ARE YOU REALLY THAT FUCKING STUPID?”  I can hear him panting for breath and mom beating on his office door.

“Carrick, what is going on?  I demand you open this door.  Let me in Carrick Grey…NOW!”  Grace is frantic.  She is calling dad by his full name, he best watch out.

I hear the doorknob click then I hear, “Christian, are you without security?  Where is Taylor?  Son, what is going on?  You are never without security.”  Good grief, remind me never to call home again.  I cannot take this shit.

“Mom, yes I am without security.  Taylor is at Escala because I gave him vacation time with Gail.  I was fine without him because I had Reynolds with me until he managed to let a shutterbug get some pics and put out articles that should not have happened.  I have notified Taylor and I will be fine.”  E-fucking-nough already.  Get off the fucking telephone and it has nothing to do with call charges.  This shit is exhausting and we have traveling to do.

“Look mom, dad, I will be in touch.  I really have to go.  I love you both.”  I am trying to be sensitive to their position in all of this but I am not there, I am not coming back anytime soon and they just have to face it.  I will not be guilted into returning to Seattle.

“Alright son, I will give you a pass for now,” thank you Heavenly Father, “but if you insist on remaining out of the country and you want to avoid this type of situation in the future, I recommend we hear from you on a more regular basis.  Do you understand me?”

“Yes sir.”  Once again, the child is chastened.

“Good.  Be well Christian and travel safe son.”  My father says with as much finality as he can muster.  There is a twinge of emotion in his voice, but I cannot make out what it is so I just end the call.


I have spent what feels like hours just sitting on the balcony of my new Townsville City home with a 180 degree north facing views taking in Castle Hill, North Ward, The Palms, Magnetic Island, brilliant ocean views and surrounds proud of my decision to move.  I could not stand to be in that hotel any longer.  Do not get me wrong, Taipei is beautiful and there were any number of places to visit and sites to see, but Ana was not with me so there was really no point in a spending a night on the town alone, plus, I was ready to be somewhere more permanent.

I have to get out of here; the fucking walls are closing in on me.  I get in my new Audi Spyder R8 and drive off to parts unknown.  I get on Cape Pallarenda Road and head toward Cape Pallarenda Conservation Park.  As I ponder my next plan of action Darren Hayes’ Walk Away pulls me out of my reverie:

I’ve been polishing blame for so long now
My pride and joy
A bit of tragedy never hurt
Somehow this man become a boy
You took the blame but maybe I was wrong

Walk away now and be gone
You don’t have to want to go on
I can see it’s killing you
You don’t always have to be so strong for me
Every angel had dirty hands
Even Judas planned to just carry on
Just picking up the pieces
Of what lies behind those sorrowful eyes
You can walk away

You have been silent for so long
I let the world know
I turned a bit of my pain into a song
Then carried on
You took my shame but maybe that was wrong

Walk away now and be gone
You don’t have to want to go on
Even when they’re killing you
You don’t always have to be so strong for me
Every angel had dirty hands
Even Judas planned to just carry on
Just picking up the pieces
Of what lies behind those sorrowful eyes
You can walk away

Now and be strong
I know you can carry on

Ana is telling me to go.  I put the top up and get out of the car.  As I do, I am met by a beautiful set of crystal blue eyes staring at me.  I am speechless.

What do they tell you?  When you least expect it be prepared.

She stares back at me for a moment then lowers her head as her face turns a lovely shade of pink.  I almost call her Ana, when she suddenly turns and walks away from me.  It is a dream?  I am nailed to the spot, my eyes wide in disbelief.

Was that…?”

No, it could not be.  She would not be here and not tell me.

Then who was she?

I have no fucking idea.

They say everyone in the world has a twin. Maybe this is your second chance to make a first impression.

Do you know what angers me most?

Yes.  You are thinking it and we are saying it.  Grey, Steele left you remember not the other way around.  She told you she loved you then she walked away from you.  She got mad that you purchased SIP and when you tried to explain your actions she treated the situation as an overt attack on her free will.  Her friend and her foolish pride are misguiding her; that is the long and the short of it.  Keep in mind my friend, she had you and she let you go.  Let the chips fall…

Touché mon ami.


Touché mon ami |Touché my friend

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